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Memories snob


Ava making snow angels, and memories

We had a decent snow a few weeks ago. The kind where you can actually bring out the sleds. It was a magical time for the kids.

It brought out a lot of comments on Facebook about “when I was a kid, we used to…fill in the blank.” Was the snow better back then or what?

I’m finding that as I (clears throat) get a little older, my friends around the same age and I talk about our childhoods a lot. We did have great childhoods. We grew up in the 60s and 70s with 3 channels on black and white tvs, vinyl records played on something called a record player, and the ice cream man wasn’t on a national registry.


The Willis kids’ snowman

I must confess it irritates me a little when I hear people my own age compare the magic of our childhoods to the childhoods’ of  kids these days. Who died and made us the ‘my childhood was better’ gods?

My grandkids play Minecraft. A lot. They play on ipads, Kindles, and the Playstation. I don’t even pretend to understand the game. But it’s okay—it’s their memories. We played Life, and Clue, and Masterpiece. Our games weren’t better. They were different.

We danced and acted silly and made up dance routines to the music of The Beatles and The Monkees. My grandkids do the same to the music of someone named Lorde and a group named One Republic. Thirty years from now their kids will be doing the same thing to music of an artist not even born yet. And it’s not wrong. It will be their childhood memories. Not wrong. Just different than mine and yours.


Aiden and Jeana’s pup, Wrigsley

They have Nickelodeon on demand. We had Bonanza on Sunday nights. Technology doesn’t make their childhood any less significant or wondrous. It just makes it different.

When I was a kid, my favorite meal was broiled hamburger patties, fat steak fries, and field peas. I still fix it sometimes and think of my mother fondly every time I do. Ava’s favorite meal is kielbasa, dirty rice, and green beans. One day she’ll fix it for her own kids and think of Nina when she does. Her childhood memory of her favorite meal will be just as sweet as mine, though it’s two different meals separated by several generations.


Emma making her own snow angel

Looking at the pictures of the grands playing in the snow made me laugh. I couldn’t help but to think of comments from my age group about the depth of snow when we were kids. “When we were kids, it snowed up to our knees!” Well, yeah…the knee-to-ground ratio of a six year-old probably hasn’t changed much over the years so don’t slight the grandkids’ snow memories because you think your snow was deeper.


Paisley. Making memories.

It’s their childhood. It will be their memories. And they will be just as wondrous and magical as ours.

The Rising finalist for Grace Award

So humbled and honored. The Rising was named a finalist for a Grace Award in the mystery/suspense/thriller category. What makes it all the more humbling is that the finalist are chosen by readers.

Fingers crossed.

For more on the awards, click here: Grace Awards

Wink of an Eye cover

It’s here….so exciting!

wink of an eye (1)

How to lose 500 Twitter followers in one easy step

1) Clean out your “following” folder.

That’s it. That simple.

I’ve been pretty active on Twitter lately (except for the last few days because I was rebelling at the need to) and when I went to follow a new follower, the Twitter guards wouldn’t let me. The reason it said was because my “percentage” of following vs. followers had reached a maximum. So if I wanted to follow anyone new, I had to “unfollow” someone. Twitter

I’d never unfollowed anyone so I went all the way back to the humble beginnings when I was happy to have followers and offered a follow back in gratitude.  But while perusing my following folder, I discovered there was actually a lot of dead weight. A lot of accounts I didn’t even know I was following. They were cogs in my wheel of progress, not allowing me to follow those I really wanted to follow. Their posts on my timeline were irrelevant to my interests. Their posts often prevented me from finding the real posts I wanted to see because I’d get frustrated having to wade through all the crap to find the real stuff that interested me. So I’d give up. My retweeting became sporadic because I couldn’t find anything worth retweeting.

So I did a mass cleanse. Spring cleaning if you want to call it. I unfollowed nearly 1000 accounts and it felt good. I could breathe again. Until, almost instantly, my number of followers started falling. I mean, not just following, but nose-diving. What the heck?

Twitter-Unfollow-ToolsDid every single one of the accounts I had unfollowed get a red flag notification that I had “unfollowed” them? I suddenly felt guilty. And a little like the deer caught in the headlights. How did they know? Come back! Come back all my little followers! No wait…

I unfollowed you first. I’d rather have meaningful cyber relationships (that’s kinda funny if you think about it) with a few thousand rather than just another notch on the bedpost to brag about the numbers.



What’s in a name?

Shaw Photography Group

photo by Shaw Photography Group

Had a friend recently comment on granddaughter Ireland’s name and asking about the history of it. Well, yes—it does have a history. And like almost everything else involving my grandkids, it’s kinda funny.

But first, here’s a list of the other eight grandkids and the story behind their names.

  • Jeana Ajaanna: A good example of what happens when teenagers have babies. I was a teen mom too and my son’s name is spelled funky so I’m just as guilty.
  • Landon Allen: Daddy Allen vetoed Garrett so Nina went with “Landon”. It fits.
  • Emma Rose: Garey and Ellen were in the old fashioned phase. Never known a name more suited to a child than “Emma”. Gorgeous name, gorgeous baby, gorgeous kid.
  • Ava Hailey: Allen wanted to go with Hailey but I asked him which name was more in tune with a CEO of a major corporation—Ava or Hailey. And, knowing he was a huge Sinatra fan, I threw in the fact Ava Gardner was the love of Frank’s life.
  • Paisley Rae: Brad Paisley’s song “I’m Still a Guy” was popular at the time and Ellen thought Paisley would make a cute name. It’s cute, quirky, unique—just like our Paisley.
  • Aiden Chandler: Garey and Ellen had his name picked out with their first pregnancy. Three daughters later, they were able to use it.
  • Ivy Leigh: Ivy was a somewhat difficult pregnancy which put Nina in the hospital a few times. During one of those emergency visits, a nurse told Nina she had named her daughter Avery and Nina and Allen kinda liked that. They liked that it was similar to Ava, so they changed it to an “I”, shortened it to three letters to match Ava’s and, there you go.
  • Casey Allen: Casey is daddy Allen’s mother’s maiden name and Allen liked it because it was a wee-bit Irish. Yes, Landon and Casey share middle names, named after their dad. By this time, Nina and Allen had run out of names.

And now for Ireland Chandler…coming up with a baby’s name is never easy but when you have twins, it’s double the anguish. We went back and forth with the twin cliche options—should they sound the same, begin with the same letter, compliment one another, be totally opposite, etc…

I suggested Casey and Chandler—the maiden names of each of the grandmothers. Nina and Allen liked the idea and decided that was what it would be. Casey and Chandler. Shower invitations were sent for Casey and Chandler. Everyone was excited about Casey and Chandler. Nina’s best friend Sananda McGehee made beautiful wall hangings for the nursery, one for Casey and one for Chandler.

And then sometime between the shower and the first labor pain, Nina confessed she didn’t want to name her baby Chandler. She really liked the name Ireland. She had heard it used before, and well, we are a wee bit Irish, right?

And that’s how our Ireland came to be Ireland. Possibly the only child with a wall hanging proudly displaying their middle name.image (4)

You call that work?

Remember when you worked a job where you were given a week, two weeks, maybe more each year for vacation? Some jobs even gave you a certain number of sick days, or personal time as some call it. Remember when you punched a time clock? Or signed your name at the end of the week to a time sheet?

You went to work. You worked. You clocked out and left work at the end of the day. Life was simple. writer's clock

And then you became a writer.

There is no time clock to punch. No scheduled vacation, sick days, or personal time. There is no time “off”. Why? Because if you’re really a writer, a true creative soul, there is no down time. You can’t shut off your inner self.

I worked at the local television station for a couple of years when my kids were small. I worked in the studio production department for the six and eleven o’clock news. It was a fun job but it ruined my ability to ever simply “watch” a television show. Or even see a movie for that matter. My mind is not only following the story, but I’m critiquing the lighting, the camera work, the background music, etc…

When I am able to stop thinking about the actual production of the show, I’m thinking ahead of the plot—the writer in me won’t let the show just unfold—I’m three scenes ahead.


Jeremy Davies as Dickie Bennett, “Justifed”

One of my favorite television shows is “Justified”. The acting, writing, direction, story lines, everything about the show is take-your-breath-away perfection. The second and third season featured the Bennett family—and I, ever the sucker for a great character, fell head over heels for Dickie Bennett (expertly played by Jeremy Davies). The character was so well written and acted, Dickie Bennett became somewhat of an underdog one might actually find a ping of sympathy for. And the whole time I’m crying for Dickie Bennett, I’m wondering why? Why—because although I’m fully engrossed in the show, there’s a part of my brain going “Wow! What a character! I wish I could write a character like that!” So I’m back to working.

It’s the same with a book. Fellow writers—do you ever wish you could just pick up a book and read for the pure joy of it? Or are you working when you read? I study the style, the dialogue, the pace…and sometimes, it drives me nuts! Because there I go, working again.

writers-quotes-story-writing-34823017-400-263I took Sam for a walk today around the block. Great being outside in the fresh air, away from the laptop, away from the pen and paper, away from the cell phone. Just me and Sam—and a thousand characters running around inside my head. Scenes played out, dialogue was spoken, opening lines were toyed with…a simple walk turned into a working break.

And then there’s social media. As writers, a lot of our books’ success or lack of can be traced to social media and how the book is “marketed” on such. So each time I sign on to Facebook, am I working?  Each tweet I send, am I working? Yes. I’m building and nurturing a relationship with readers. Sorry—playing Candy Crush probably doesn’t count.

So I’m going to wrap this up so I can go watch the Superbowl. I like the commercials. Advertising at its best. I’m always fascinated by the production that goes into some of the spots, the quick and to-the-point message delivered in thirty seconds, the words used to…oh darn. There I go again. Working.


Gathering the team

Wink of an Eye, my first private eye novel, will be released Nov. 18, 2014. According to my editor at Minotaur Books, she’ll have the first edits to me in a week or two. Things are rolling right along. And Nov 18 will be here before I know it.

istock_buildingteamSo I’m gathering the team. Team Gypsy. See Wink’s main character is PI Michael “Gypsy” Moran, a sexist jerk who has no clue he’s a jerk which makes him all the more likable.  He’s charming to a fault with a wicked sense of humor, gets his heart broken too easily and cares too deeply. And he’s actually pretty good at his job. I can’t wait for the world to officially meet him.

That’s where I need your help. I’m gathering a team of people interested in helping me promote Wink of an Eye in the coming weeks. We want to create a buzz. Generate excitement. Get the word out. How ever you want to say it—we want the world to know Wink of an Eye is coming. And that it’s good. And that they’re really going to like Gypsy.bookbuzz_category

What do team members do? Some ideas…

  • Spread the word through social media (Facebook, Twitter, Goggle+, etc)
  • Post a review (Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, etc)
  • If you’re a blogger, post a review on your blog or make your blog available for a guest spot
  • Spread the word through word of mouth (suggest Wink to your fellow readers)
  • Email me with your own ideas or with other avenues I may not be aware of

What do team members get in return?

  • The pride of being involved from the ground floor of a book launch (Yeah, right?)
  • Eligible for free stuff through giveaways (Now I have your attention, right?)

t-shirt_templateSo how about it? Want to join Team Gypsy? I’d be honored to have you.

To sign up, all you have to do is drop me an email through the form at the bottom. It’s that easy.



Playing favorites

I’ve been asked by different people on different occasions which of the nine grandkids is my favorite. Certainly you have a favorite, they say. It’s okay for grandparents to have favorites, they say. Well, the answer is rather simple. And may even be shocking to some. Yes I do have a favorite.

And my favorite is the one who needs to be grandma’s favorite at that time.

I’ve always been a believer in the who-needs-what-the-most form of parenting, and in this case grandparenting. Some days it’s Jeana, some days it’s Landon, other days it’s Emma, or Ava or Paisley, or Aiden or Ivy, or Casey or Ireland.

Shaw Photography GroupJeana is a teenager. Sometimes she needs a sounding board. I don’t mind listening. She takes school seriously and makes terrific grades. She doesn’t mind walking away from stuff or even friends when she’s uncomfortable. When she needs someone to sound off to, she’s my favorite “what’s it all about” teenager.




Shaw Photography GroupLandon is ten which is the new thirteen which is mega confusing. He told me the other day he used stick deodorant that day but wasn’t sure he was supposed to – “I don’t even have hair under my arms yet,” he said. So that day, he was my favorite “I’m not sure I’m ready to grow up” kid. He kept me and Ava and Emma laughing with silly jokes on the way home from school that day.




Shaw Photography GroupEmma has a way with words and at eight, she’s at the awkward age where we have to tell her sometimes it’s best to say nothing rather than always tell the truth. Like grandma’s car stinks. So Emma’s my favorite “tell it like it is” kid. Sometimes she needs grandma to help her find alternative words that don’t carry as much stink, er, sting.




Shaw Photography GroupAva is my walking medical condition. She had a broke arm, you know. Every day when I pick them up from school, I ask how their day was. One day last week, Ava’s answer, in one breath, was, “I had a migraine in the morning, threw up at lunch, and now my leg hurts.” She’s seven. I asked if she told her teacher and she said no. She ran off to play with Emma as soon as we got home and I don’t think ever mentioned her suffering to her mom. She’s my favorite “I used to be the baby and now I have three younger siblings” kid. 



Shaw Photography GroupPaisley is my contradiction.  She’s the most stubborn, independent, my-way-or-the-highway kid you’ll ever meet. Yet, Emma and Ava are her idols. Stuck like glue to their every word. Copies every dance move they invent. Sings every song they sing. But she is her own person. Lay her clothes out for her and she’ll come out wearing what she wants to wear. She’s my favorite “I’m five and I do know best” kid. I usually let her wear what she wants to wear. As long as were not going out in public. 



Shaw Photography GroupAiden is my tender hearted kid and knows grandma’s got his number but tries anyway. If he’s sad or had his feelings hurt, he’ll turn away and cry. When it’s real, grandma grabs him up and hugs on him. When it’s not real, he’ll look over his shoulder to see if grandma’s watching. That’s when I ignore him. Grandma’s got his number. He’s my favorite “sometimes I just need a hug” kid.



Shaw Photography GroupIvy, who is the middle child of five, does not share middle child traits like normal middle children. In Ivy’s world, it’s all about Ivy. She just turned three so I’m not going to get too concerned just yet. She can go from being your best friend to your worst enemy in a matter of seconds. Ask Aiden. He knows. So Ivy is my favorite “I love you I hate you” kid. It’s a hard fall from that pedestal so grandma will be there to catch her. 

Shaw Photography GroupCasey is, like Paisley, a contradiction. He will take Ireland’s sippy cup to her, only to snatch it back and run with it. He will offer her one of his little fruity snacks only to cry when she takes it. He’ll run to you with arms wide open only to veer off in a different direction as soon as he reaches you. He and Ireland just turned two but sometimes it seems like he has the thought process of someone much older. And then he puts his chubby little hands over his eyes and cries and he’s a baby again. So Casey’s my favorite “can’t he just be a baby a little while longer” kid.

Shaw Photography GroupIreland is the baby baby who thinks she’s old enough to hang out with “the girls” – Ava, Emma, and Paisley. She doesn’t want to play cars with her brother Casey or cousin Aiden. She wants to sit beside Ava and watch her play on the ipad or wants to dance when the girls are dancing or make plastic bracelets with them. She’s only two but thinks she’s ten. And when the older girls won’t let her play, she gets her feelings hurt and crawls up in my lap to hold her while she pouts. So Ireland is my favorite “I’m just going to sit here and cry” kid. And yes, grandma sometimes holds her while she does. 

So do I have a favorite? Nah. But I do have nine.

All photos courtesy of Shaw Photography Group

Blinded by the light

How many of you (if you grew up in the 60’s) stroked your gifts on Christmas morning with little child hands? Not because it was exactly what you wanted and you were so grateful and pleased, but because you were blinded by the light bar on your dad’s 8mm camera? Spent many a Christmas morning blinking and batting my eyes at that darn light. Even going as far as holding one hand up to shield the eyes.

I have a box full of those movies and say every year I’m going to have them transferred to DVDs. I love the graininess and the shaking and jerky motion. And the mouths moving but the only sound emitting is the whir of the projector. I love how my mom and other women of that day would pretend to be camera shy and shoo the camera away like a bothersome fly. Then they’d smile and roll their eyes.


Check out that play kitchen furniture!


Me and my sister. Apparently we liked baby dolls.


My favorite stuffed animal. I named him Tippy and still have him.


I think I might have been a little leary of the man in red.


Garey and his John Deere tractor


Garey and Nina. I miss those days.


Nina made a good stocking stuffer


Garey and my dad. No other words needed.

my1stChristmas 001

Still amazed by it all

What’s your favorite Christmas memory?


Wow! Santa has certainly gotten a little more real looking through the years.


My sister – happy with her new baby doll.

Christmas Miracles & Buttflies

We took the kids to the Country Christmas Train in Denton, NC Friday night. Eight of them. The other one, Jeana, went shopping. Imagine that. A sixteen year old that would rather go shopping. It’s nice to know she’s normal.

But the eight that did go were…well…good. Maybe I should define “good” in our terms.

  • It was very crowded and we didn’t lose a kid. It happens, okay.
  • While we waited in line, they were very content to run in circles. Kept them busy and let them run off some energy. The other kids who were forced to quietly stand next to their parents in line were envious.
  • Only one public announcement of the need to “pee pee” — while the others showed zero interest in checking out the bathrooms in groups of twenty or more.  Because you know, when one needs to go they all need to go.
  • No wailing cries for I want! Can I have? It’s only ten dollars! Sometimes threats do work. Don’t judge.
  • Casey let Uncle Garey hold him the whole time we waited in line to see Santa. The fact Casey let anyone hold him for an extended period of time is a miracle unto itself.

None of the above applies to Ireland. She cried the entire time. Well, she did like the train ride.  She got super excited to see the lights shaped like flowers and yelled out “Buttflies! Buttflies!” We’re assuming she meant butterflies. We’ve made an art form out of smiling at strangers who look on with knitted brows.

Ireland wanted juish. She wanted ookie. She wanted ish — translation apple juice, butter cookie, and Goldfish. She wanted to get down. She wanted to go. She wanted to be held. She wanted to stay. She wanted to go. She wanted to be held.  She wanted down. She wanted juish.

And then it was time to see Santa. She went into the little log cabin okay and had stopped crying and was excited to see the warm fire in the fireplace. And  then she turned around and what to her wandering eyes did appear? The old man in the red suit sitting in a corner.  She may need therapy.

All the other kids were like “Santa! Cool!” Even Casey walked right up and gave Santa a high five. Ireland was screaming in the corner. Totally traumatized.

After the pictures, Santa asked the kids what they wanted him to bring. Ava says “fart putty”. Landon says a “unicorn”. Emma’s list went on so long Santa’s eyes glazed over.

I love those kids.


The only way we could get Ireland in the picture was for Nina to hold her. And she’s still trying to escape. Back row: Ava and Landon, front row: Ireland, Nina, Casey and Ivy.



Emma, Paisley and Aiden with Santa


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