Fellowship, Family, & Friends

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

This is my last post (for now, at least!) with this wonderful group of writers… and people. Since this is the week my parents are visiting, and also when I’ve spent time with wonderful friends, I thought I’d write a little reflection on fellowship, friends and family (which, of course, includes pets!).

I have been writing on this blog for several years, introduced to it by another Wyoming writer (remember Alethea Williams?) I’ve enjoyed my tenure with Writing Wranglers & Warriors, getting to know you, my fellow writers, who live in various states and even different countries. You’ve opened my eyes to new sights and ideas, and taught me many things about history, romance writing, and various ventures and adventures. I’ve learned from you, traveled with you, and celebrated with you… and I’ve enjoyed our virtual association (and been blessed to meet a few of you in person!)

gayle-and-mom-and-dadRelationships are important. My parents (ages 81 and 78) arrived at our house Sunday afternoon; they are staying all week. I’m giving a talk on Saturday morning to a ladies’ group regarding the devotion of dogs and the importance of pet adoption; my mother will be in attendance. This is the first non-school, non-library speaking engagement she has been present for. I’m very excited that she will be in the audience. My mother is not just my mom, but she is also one of my very best friends! I’m extremely thankful for our relationship! I’m also grateful for my dad and his dedication to his only child; he and I have different viewpoints on many things, but we have a good relationship and he’s been a devoted father all of my life. Since they are getting up there in years, each moment I’m able to spend with my parents is precious, and I’m thankful for those times.

Gayle and Cindy
Gayle and Cindy

One of my good friends (someone I’ve known since high school) spent part of Wednesday evening with us. Mom and I made a Thanksgiving-style dinner, with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and lettuce salad; my friend, Cindy, brought dessert (carrot cake!). We shared memories of younger years, her family (who passed away several years ago), as well as activities we’re currently involved in and future endeavors we are about to embark upon (Cindy owns and manages a business plus has commercial real estate investments). She plans to take us (Greg, Mom, Dad, and me) out for dinner tonight – she is SO GENEROUS, especially when my parents visit (which is now only once a year). A thanksgiving dinner was very appropriate this week, and I thank Cindy in advance for inviting us out to dinner this evening. I treasure our 30+ years of friendship!

On Monday, several of my female friends in town (including WWW’s Neva Bodin) came to the house for lunch; also part of the entourage was my neighbor, Marian, who helps care for the dogs when Greg is out of town and I’m at my day-job. We enjoyed a fall fare of soup and salad with brownies for dessert. We laughed, visited, talked a bit about writing, and doted on my new doggie, Jeremiah. We had a great time!

And, just a few weeks ago, I hosted a small gathering of writers (again, including Neva) at my home. Generally, we have a mini-retreat at the cabin on the mountain, but the weather was uncooperative this September; we couldn’t even sit in the backyard. So, with a fire in the woodstove, we shared, visited, and wrote, and shared some more, as well as encouraged each other. Being among other writers is motivating and joyous for me!

Fellowshipping with people I care about, whether other writers, friends, or family, is deeply important to me. Oh, I love my alone time, and I look forward to a few days in October when Greg is out of town, all my article-writing is done for the year, and I can simply take a deep breath and then plunge full-steam ahead with my works in progress…. And hang out with my pets!

Jeremiah and Mary_futonThey, too, carry a special place in my heart. Jeremiah is settling in very well with our household after less than three weeks (although one of the cats is still holding out/hiding out in the basement).  He is learning his new name, responding to a few obedience commands, and snuggling with me on the couch while I read or watch TV. I’m so thankful he’s come into our lives – he needed us, and we (at least me) needed him (Greg’s gotten pretty attached to the little fella, too). And, Jeremiah and Mary have become great friends! Both of my dogs play a big part in my talk on Saturday – where I hope to inspire the women gathered to do something (adopt, volunteer, donate) with animal rescues and shelters.

So, as I leave you, my Writing Wranglers and Warriors friends, I do so with prayers of blessings and a heart overflowing with gratitude. As I look for pet blogs on which to guest post and podcasts on which to speak, as well as develop additional products to sell, I will never forget the friends and fellowshipping, the lessons and information, I experienced through this wonderful group of people. May each of you be fulfilled and successful in what you do and may you always have colleagues, friends, and family (and a pet or two!) with whom to fellowship, share and celebrate!


Gayle_signing photoGayle M. Irwin writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults. In addition to her own books, she is a contributing writer to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the latest dog book “The Dog Really Did That?” released in August. She also writes for magazines and newspapers as a freelancer, plus she continues working on more books about dogs and pet adoption and scheduling speaking engagements and book signings. Visit her website to learn more: www.gaylemirwin.com.



Friends are Great by Cher’ley


This Blog by Cher’ley Grogg

Del and I had a wonderful visit with a fellow WW&W, Mike Staton. I don’t know what his plans for the day were but he reminded me of this poem by Robert Frost:

A Time to Talk

By Robert Frost

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, ‘What is it?’
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.


Del and Mike:                           Mike and Me:

20170925_145313.jpg            20170925_162224
Friends are a wonderful treasure. I cherish each of mine the ones I have known for a long time and the ones I have met online. It is exciting to meet one of our online friends in person. I have known

SJ BrownImage may contain: 10 people, people smiling  (She’s in the middle back, long hair) for a while, then a couple of years ago I met

Barbara Lindquist Schlichting and now

Mike Staton 

And no post about friends would be complete without one of my

best friend: FB_IMG_1506382821485


My hope is to meet each of my fellow bloggers in person, and I’d love to meet many more of my online friends in person.

***How many online friends have you met in person? How many of your fellow WW&W bloggers have you met in person? ***

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. The Advanced Coloring Book is the newest. 

Stamp Out Murder”.


The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren.

The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey BackThe JourneyBack 3

Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology

 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

Memories from Maple Street U.S.A: Pawprints on My Heartlink coming soon

Wonders of Water      Advanced Coloring Book

Please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell

Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE

The China Wall

My husband and I in front of a “china wall.”

by Neva Bodin

Recently we loaded our ATV, hooked up our camper, and headed for the hills—the Black Hills that is, in South Dakota. A group of mountains, made mostly of rock, the tallest peak is 7,244 feet. They are covered with dark green evergreens and from a distance appear very dark, hence the name Black Hills, derived from an Indian name for them—The Lakota name of Pahá Sápa—according to Wikipedia.

Riding the trails I noted much other vegetation, including poison ivy and beautiful oak trees. One of our first stops, by pickup, was Mount Rushmore, a LARGE sculpture on a mountain side of four of our presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. The sculptures are 60 feet high. They are so impressive. The project lasted from 1927 to 1941.

I do have a picture where Teddy Roosevelt isn’t getting poked in the eye, but kind of liked this one.

The Black Hills were given to the Lakota Indians until gold was discovered there in 1874. It has a controversial and I believe sometimes bloody history. Following is a quote regarding Mt. Rushmore:

“As Six Grandfathers, the mountain was part of the route that Lakota leader Black Elk took in a spiritual journey that culminated at Black Elk Peak. Following a series of military campaigns from 1876 to 1878, the United States asserted control over the area, a claim that is still disputed on the basis of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie (see section “Controversy” below). Among American settlers, the peak was known variously as Cougar Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, Slaughterhouse Mountain, and Keystone Cliffs. It was named Mount Rushmore during a prospecting expedition by Charles Rushmore, David Swanzey (husband of Carrie Ingalls), and Bill Challis.  Keystone Area Historical Society Keystone Characters. Retrieved October 3, 2006.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Rushmore 9/26/17

We rode through the ghost town of Galena. (Galena is also an ore containing lead and silver.) There are still some hearty souls living there, and they have a restoration society, working on the Vinegar Hill Cemetery, partway up a mountain outside of town. You have to pass through some private property to get there. I love old cemeteries as I look at the ways people honored their dead, and try to recreate their story in my head as I study the graves. I believe the booklet to sign at the gate said they had identified about 125 graves but still had over 40 to identify.

Short histories were recorded in the booklet. One man died from a gunshot wound, standing in the post office door, (no longer in existence). A fight over a mine.

A small tombstone to the first white baby born in the town had coins laying on top. Name of baby? Galena! Known as Lena.

One of the most interesting graves to me was that of the first black woman in the Black Hills—General George Custer’s cook with his expedition to the Black Hills in 1874 to check out the gold story and possibly a site for a fort. “Aunt Sally” chose to stay in the region.DSCN4905

But another intriguing site and story, or should I say stories, have kept our interest and peppered our conversation since then to friends and family—the china wall.

A series of approximately 20-foot high rock walls, about 1/3 city block long maybe, march up the side of a mountain near Galena. There were four walls I think, with evidence that another was about to start.

We talked to two different couples who gave us the facts: Couple number one said they were built by the Germans as part of a mining operation; Couple number two said they were built by Chinese slave laborers as part of a mining scam to bilk eastern investors in gold mines. I have searched the internet but find little to corroborate either story yet. I plan to call the museum in Deadwood, SD someday and see if they have more to offer. Fascinating.

You can see three walls here, and a chasm behind one.

They are a wondrous feat, built from the mountain itself, with much sweat and fortitude. But for what reason? And by whom? I hope to find out some day.


post (c) Doris McCraw


If anyone has followed my timeline on Facebook, they would have seen the post about the theft at Colorado Springs Evergreen Cemetery. Someone came in and stole the metal fencing from around a small grave in the pioneer section. The headstone, which was leaning against the fencing is now lying on the ground, having been damaged at some time in the past.

I’ve thought about this act of ‘violation’ since the event. It also brought back memories of working with delinquent teens. There were times during my conversations with those teens, while they were in lock-up, where I would ask them why they thought it was acceptable to take from others. Usually they would say something like, ‘I wanted it’, or ‘they had more than they needed’. When asked how they would feel if someone took their things, they would get defensive and say that no one should touch their stuff. There was a total disconnect from what they were doing and how it made them feel if it happened to them.

The grave that had the fencing stolen was from a young girl, Ida May Cumming, who died on August 6, 1879 in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Her parents were J. (John) F. Cumming and T. Cumming. He was a teamster according to the city directory. The newspaper gave her age as 5, but the record I found of the actual burial stated she was 3 years, 6 months and 18 days. There is no record of her parents burial in the cemetery.

The above event and memories bring up a feeling of frustration that respect has flown out the window. I agree, we can’t keep everything, but to lose history because someone wants what belongs to someone else hurts. Do people have no respect for that which is outside themselves because they have none themselves? Is it that they feel entitled? I don’t know. I do know somewhere something was lost, and perhaps it’s time we started bringing it back by showing and expecting respect for ourselves, others and our history.

One commenter on my page told of two young men who were caught being disrespectful and destructive in their local cemetery. They had to research and write about the people whose stones they had damaged, and present it to the public. Some may say, ‘they are dead, they don’t care’, but if we chose to not care, then what happens to our caring about the living?

Do I have the answer? No, but I feel by asking the questions I get closer to answers, and that is important. We can’t fix it if we don’t ask and listen for answers. It is not a one size fits all, except the part about respect. As Aretha Franklin sang, “All I’m asking is for a little respect”.

Angela Raines FB photo 
Doris Gardner-McCraw –

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History
Angela Raines – author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines Facebook: Click Here



Do you remember Annie Oakley? by Barbara Schlichting

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Annie Oakley (born Phoebe Ann Mosey; August 13, 1860 – November 3, 1926) was an American sharpshooter and exhibition shooter.


Annie Oakley was born Phoebe Ann (Annie) Mosey on August 13, 1860, in a cabin less than two miles (3.2 km) northwest of Woodland, now Willowdell, in Darke County, Ohio, a rural western border county of Ohio.  Her birthplace log cabin site is about five miles east of North Star. There is a stone-mounted plaque in the vicinity of the cabin site, which was placed by the Annie Oakley Committee in 1981, 121 years after her birth.

Annie began trapping before the age of seven, and shooting and hunting by age eight, to support her siblings and her widowed mother. She sold the hunted game to local shopkeepers in Greenville. She also sold the game herself to restaurants and hotels in northern Ohio. Her skill eventually paid off the mortgage on her mother’s farm when Annie was 15.

Traveling show marksman and former dog trainer Frank E. Butler (1847–1926), an Irish immigrant, placed a $100 bet per side (worth $2,181 today) with Cincinnati hotel owner Jack Frost that Butler could beat any local fancy shooter.  The hotelier arranged a shooting match between Butler and the 15-year-old Annie, saying, “The last opponent Butler expected was a five-foot-tall 15-year-old girl named Annie.” He soon began courting Annie, and they married. They did not have children.

Here is a picture of the Buffalo Bill Traveling Wild West show which she participated in.


Oakley continued to set records into her sixties, and she also engaged in extensive, albeit quiet, philanthropy for women’s rights and other causes, including the support of specific young women she knew. on a comeback and intended to star in a feature-length silent movie.

Her health declined in 1925 and she died of pernicious anemia in Greenville, Ohio, at the age of 66 on November 3, 1926. Her body was cremated in Cincinnati two days later and the ashes buried at Brock Cemetery near Greenville, Ohio. Assuming their marriage had been in 1876, Oakley and Butler had been married just over 50 years.


In the third First Ladies mystery book series, I feature Edith Roosevelt: the Clue of the Dancing Bell.  It begins with a National Park Exposition in St. Paul, MN where a murder occurs. Needless to say, the Annie Oakley imposter is considered a suspect.  Many imposters factor into this mystery, including Teddy Roosevelt.

The links for my website, Barb’s Books, and Goodread’s are below.



Barb’s Books

Many thanks to Wikipedia for the information.











The gist of…Tassilaq, Dimmuborgir & Trollstigen Mountains


This post is by Nancy Jardine.

Full length novel completed. Own edits thoroughly done. Manuscript is ready for next stage. What might that be for you? Me? I’d be focusing on finalising: 1) Title  2) Tag Line  3) Blurb  4) Synopsis… before submitting to a publisher.  I find it incredibly difficult to do those last stages even though, by then, I know my story inside out. So how do I decide on what is the gist of it? – gist:   main points; general ideas; general picture; substance of the thing…

I want the person who reads my submission to immediately know the essence of my story. I want the main highlights to be pointed out but not the full happenings. I want to get across the impact of certain developments in my story and strategic moments within it where my characters are faced with situations that they love being in/ hate being in/ or perhaps need to change to reach the finale of the events.

Like my story writing I’ve been realising that my recent cruise holiday to Greenland, Iceland and Norway was quite similar. Sailing to those places meant a lot of water to cross before setting foot on the land. The days spent at sea were part of the preparation for the on-shore events and were the background to strategic and particular moments.

Reykjavik, Iceland

My last post on this Wranglers blog mentions what led to my husband choosing our cruise. Those details can be found HERE  However, part of our advance planning was also booking our on-shore trips. From a wide range of options, we chose on-shore activities that would allow us to experience the essence of Iceland and the parts of Norway that we visited by using different travel methods. In Reykjavik, Iceland, we booked a Tuk-Tuk ride to experience the old city. Actually the old city is neither large, nor very old, but a 3 wheeled Tuk-Tuk  is a novel way to ride the cobbled streets.



At Akureyri, Iceland, we booked a 4×4 ride across terrain that a normal coach wouldn’t be able to travel on, the idea being to see hidden waterfalls and ancient ‘ghostly’ places.  At Eskifjordur, Iceland, we booked a coach tour that would take us to tiny seaside towns where we could visit a small fishing museum, and a rocks and minerals museum.


At Alesund, Norway, we booked a long coach tour to the interior where we would take a short train ride on the famous Rauma Railway which goes past the incredible Trollstigen Mountains.  At Olden, Norway, we booked a short coach ride to the brand new Cable Car which goes to the top of Mount Hoven Loen (opened spring 2017).

Can you see the Gryla the Troll frowning up there at Dimmuborgir, northern Iceland? There’s a folk tale on my blog about this psychopathic troll!

There was only one port of call on Greenland to the tiny coastal town of Tasiilaq, the largest settlement in eastern Greenland with a population of 2,000 people.

Tasillaq, Greenland

For this shore trip we opted to just take the tender ashore and wander around for a while to explore on our own. This was a good choice since it was around 4 deg C/ 40 deg F, a little windy and showery, so a short visit was just fine. From my vantage point up the hill as I took this photo I was still 105 km from the Arctic Circle!

Like writing a novel those were our original on-shore plans but plans have a tendency to be derailed. Thankfully, not literally – the Rauma train was a lovely little ride! But… due to horrendously bad weather as we sailed from Greenland eastwards to Iceland the captain had to seriously change our plans. We experienced 36 hours of continuous Force 9 Gales with intermittent gusts at 10 and 11. That means Force 9 winds around 55 mph; Force 10 storm gusts of up to 63 mph; and Force 11 violent storm gusts of 72/73 mph. Those Beaufort scale numbers of wind speed sound insignificant when compared to the hurricane winds recently experienced in the Caribbean area but at sea even violent storms are pretty scary.

Observation Lounge on Deck 9

I’m so glad my husband and I are very good sailors so the huge swells didn’t affect us at all, though that wasn’t the case for some cruisers. It also became clear that although those gales are a nuisance to all on board, most of those who return again and again to cruising don’t suffer seasickness. At mealtimes, the restaurants were still pretty full and the wait staff carried on regardless and as though the shifting floor wasn’t happening. They still carried trays at their shoulder stacked with 9 heavy and full dinner plates and the beautifully presented haute cuisine never slipped a fraction on those plates. During the whole cruise, I was highly impressed by the quality and presentation of the food and professionalism of all staff, including the ‘turn down’ room service. (BTW- My husband was glad it was his Jardine Tartan Trews Outfit that was packed and not his kilt! )


But back to those Force 9s…As I battled with my camera on our tiny balcony on Deck 8 the Bridge Deck, I thought about the driving force our little ship needed to plough through those huge breakers. Later that night, after dinner, as I watched some of the breakers splash up to the windows of the Observation Lounge on Deck 9 of 10 decks on board it also made me think of the exhilaration needed to drive forward the plot of an adventure novel. I knew that my current WIP was lacking some of that exhilaration and I resolved to change that when I got home. I’m now working on that every chance I get.

Godafoss Waterfall, Iceland

The impact of the storm force winds meant huge delays to our arrival on Iceland, so in essence we experienced a much longer sail time. We missed our scheduled ‘slots’ for berthing at the ports of  Akureyri and Eskifjordur. The best our captain could do was to get us a late berth at Akureyri, half a day late. That meant changes to all the various on–shore tours that had been booked but we were so lucky that Icelanders are very resilient and adapt well to whatever weather is thrown at them. Instead of tours beginning at 9 a.m. with lunch included, they shifted tour times to start at 2.30 p. m. just after we docked. The longer tours included dinner instead with a very late arrival back to the ship which was now booked at port overnight (This ‘overnight stop’ was not on the original itinerary but meant less battling of the continuing high seas for the captain and bridge crew).


My husband and I didn’t get our 4×4 trip because the poor weather on Iceland meant off road driving was too skittery and dangerous. We went on an alternative long coach tour that proved very good considering it rained all day and the mist lay low across the landscape so visibility was vastly reduced. Dimmuborgir, the home of the Trolls, was fabulous as were the out of this world geo thermal ‘mud pots’ at Namaskard.

Geo-thermals ‘mud pots’ at Namaskard, Iceland

I was gutted; I admit it, when our captain informed us that we had to totally miss out our stop at Eskifjordur. The knock on effect of waiting for a new berthing slot at Eskifjordur would have made us too late to stop at 2 places in Norway. The weather was expected to be better in Norway so it was a ‘no brainer’ for the captain to make his decision. He had to ‘cut out’ what wasn’t going to be viable. And…that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do fairly soon in my writing—there will be a lot of slash and burn and removal of unnecessary scenes.

The gist of my cruise experience? Be adaptable. Be prepared to make changes. Be flexible about the outcomes that are achievable. Those things apply just as much to my writing.

How about changes to your writing or to your ‘life/leisure/vacation’ plans?

You can read my Cruise Diary blog posts on my BLOG and see a lot more of my photos of my experiences on Greenland, Iceland and Norway. Whether I can use my experience in any future writing remains to be seen…

Nancy Jardine writes historical fiction, contemporary mysteries and time travel historical for early teens. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers and the Federation of Writers Scotland. She’s published by Crooked Cat Books and has delved into self publishing.

multiple new TEYou can find her at these places:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk  Website: www.nancyjardineauthor.com/   Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com  Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine



I Stayed Up All Night Writing This

Posted by M. K. Waller

[Forgive me. This post is longer than I intended, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop. I had no idea I’m so enlightened. If you stop reading before the end, I’ll forgive you. But you’ll miss the good part.]

My husband once told me that when I tell stories, I should start with the headline. So here it is.


My CT scan twelve months after completing radiation treatments was clear.

The first time I posted about having cancer, I said I would write about the experience. I am a writer, I said, so I will write, or words to that effect.

The statement dripped with drama. You can practically hear the rolling r‘s: I will wr-r-r-r-r-r-ite.

Such overstatement is normal. We newbie writers are always trying to reassure ourselves. We’re just starting out, we haven’t published much (or anything at all), we don’t make a living from writing* (we may make nothing at all), we ‘re not confident in our abilities, and–let’s face it–much of what we write stinks (and we don’t know it stinks until a member of a critique group tells us).

Established writers encourage us: If you write, you are a writer. Believe it. Say you’re a writer.

We believe it until someone asks what we do. Then we either clam up; shuffle our feet, look at the floor, and mumble, I’m a wmbrl; or declare, too loudly, I’m a WRITER. Then we blush and shuffle our feet. 

After publishing the aforementioned post, I re-read it, then blushed and shuffled my feet. I’m been shuffling ever since.

But moving on:

When I said I would write, I probably had the idea I would learn secrets of the universe and share them in capital letters and red ink.

But I’ve had no mystical experiences. Altogether, it’s been mostly humdrum. But I’ve learned a few things about myself, and about life in general, and I’ll share those:

  • Chemotherapy isn’t the same for everyone. I went around saying the side effects were mild.  When I’d been off the evil drug for a month or two, I realized I had felt pretty rotten. Still, I was lucky. It wasn’t that bad. Surgery wasn’t difficult either. Radiation was nothing: I showed up for twenty consecutive days, let the techs admire my cute socks, and went home. That was it. Lucky.
  • Being complimented on my taste in socks makes me feel good. The radiation techs liked the ninjas and the cats wearing glasses the best. The oncologist asked what the ninjas were; I had to tell him I didn’t know. One of the techs told me. I don’t know why the oncologist was looking at my socks.
  • Phase I


  • I have no vanity. Hats and turbans were hot. I tossed them, went around bald, and discovered my head, just like Hercule Poirot’s, is egg-shaped.
  • It’s possible to survive for months on Rice Krispies, as long as you don’t run out of sugar.
  • If you don’t drink enough water, you keel over in the oncologist’s office, where you went just to check that great big lymph node that popped up under your jaw, and end up in the hospital. If your temperature doesn’t go down, the night nurse comes in and jerks your three blankets off, and you spend the night under a thin little sheet, slowly turning into an icicle, but your temperature goes down. (That’s opposite to the way my mother did it, but whatever.) They call in a specialist in communicable diseases who orders tests, and when you ask the nurse what they found, she comes bopping in about midnight and says, “Guess what! You have the common cold.” And she’s so sweet and so cute, you feel bad about nearly (deliberately) knocking her off the bed while she was trying to do that nasal swab.
  • Airports have wheelchairs. Thinking you can get from gate to gate without one is dumb. Don’t try it.
  • Phase II

    Chemo brain is real. At present I am dumb as dirt, and not in the way mentioned above. I picked up a brochure about chemo brain at the clinic and, I am proud to say, was able to read (most of) it with my forty-five-year-old Spanish. Because I knew what it said before I picked it up: It’s real, don’t worry, talk to your family/friends/counselor/minister/doctor/whoever and tell them to get used to it, make a habit of writing-things-down-putting-your-keys-in-the-same-place-when-you’re-not-using-them-everything-you-ought-to-be-doing-now-anyway, and it’ll go away, maybe. I may have missed a couple of points. If I ever want to know what they are, I’ll google.

  • Chemo hair is curly. I knew it would be curlier than before, but it is c u r l y. I’m tempted to get it buzzed off again.
  • TRIGGER WARNING: THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL AUDIENCES: When a twelve-year-old flat-chested surgeon you have to see because your surgeon went on vacation–my doctors always go on vacation–insists you must wear a sports bra and says, “We’re going to get you out of that pretty lacy bra,” do not hold back. Tell her that pretty lacy bra is made of cast iron, and that all the bras you’ve ever had since like 1962 have been made of cast iron, and that sports bras might as well be made of spider webs, and she can take a long walk off a short pier. You’ll feel a lot better if you say that. I would have felt a lot better if I had.
  • The kindness of strangers is real. When they see a woman with no hair, they understand what’s going on. Women wearing turbans whisper, “Good luck.” People smile. If you wobble a bit, they run to prop you up and offer to help you get wherever you’re going. I didn’t have to take them up on the offers–my wobbling, like my reaction to chemo, was mild–but I appreciated every one of them. Mr. Rogers’ mother told him when things got scary, to “look for the helpers.” She was right. They’re out there.
  • In addition to boosting your immune system, a smile can lift your spirits. It’s good for your doctors, nurses, and everyone else in the clinic as well. Oncologists don’t have it easy. They need all the support they can get.
  • Phase Now

    According to my radiation oncologist, cancer is now a chronic disease. But in one way it’s the same as it was when I was a child: It’s kept under wraps. The word isn’t whispered as it was then, but it isn’t spoken too loudly. That’s one reason I didn’t cover my head. The topic needs to be brought out into the open. People need to see.

  • On the other hand, a little denial can be a good thing. And it can be balanced with acceptance.
  • I didn’t fall apart when told my prognosis, including the average length of survival. I’d always wondered what I would do under those circumstances, and now I know. That time, at least.

Most important, and over and over, I learned that David is good. Not a good husband, or a good man, but good. I knew it when I married him. Every day, he proves me right.

Finally, I learned something else I already knew: There isn’t enough time. We all know it, but the knowledge carries more weight for some of us than for others.

I think of Andrew Marvell:

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime….
   But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.

And of Keats:

When I have fears that I may cease to be 
   Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain, 
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery, 
   Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain; 
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face, 
   Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, 
And think that I may never live to trace 
   Their shadows with the magic hand of chance; 
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour, 
   That I shall never look upon thee more, 
Never have relish in the faery power 
   Of unreflecting love—then on the shore 
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think 
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

My brain isn’t teeming, and certainly not at the level of a Keats, but I would like to write more than I have. I’d like to do a number of things I won’t have time–would never have had time–to do. Time’s winged chariot is following close. Still, I commit the crime of wasting what I should spend. The post I wrote last month about playing Candy Crush is not fiction. But…

The next CT scan comes in March. Till then, I’ll write what I can, do what I can, and say what Anne Lamott calls little beggy prayers.

The Usual

In other words, I’ll go on with life as usual.





“Statue of Angelina Eberly” by Kit O’Connell is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikipedia.

The Usual photograph is detail from a statue of Angelina Eberly, the “Savior of Austin,” that stands at the corner of 6th Street and Congress Avenue in Austin, Texas. In 1842, following the Texas Revolution, Sam Houston sent Texas Rangers to Austin to remove the government archives to Washington-on-the-Brazos, where the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed (and very near the town of Houston). Houston claimed Austin was too vulnerable to Indian attack for the documents to be safe there.

Angelina and other residents of Austin, the capital of the Republic of Texas, claimed Houston was stealing the records because he wanted to make the city of Houston the capital. Angelina knew Sam Houston didn’t like Austin; he made no secret of his dislike, and while president of the Republic, had lived at her inn instead of at the official residence. The fact that the Rangers came under cover of darkness gave more credence to the her view.

When Angelina heard the Texas Rangers up to no good, she hurried to 6th and Congress and fired off the town cannon. She missed the Rangers but blew the side off the General Land Office building. Noise from the cannon alerted the populace, who came running and scared off the Rangers.

Thanks to Angelina Eberly, Austin remained the capital of the Republic of Texas, and is  capital of the State of Texas to this day.

The statue of Angelina Eberly was sculpted by cartoonist Pat Oliphant. The accompanying plaque attributes Austin’s continued status as Texas’ most premier city to Angelina’s combination of “vigilance and hot temper.”


*Stephen King makes a living by writing. Danielle Steel makes a living by writing. Mary Higgins Clark makes a living by writing. Agatha Christie made a whale of a living by writing. Other writers either have a day job or have won the lottery.


Literature does have its purpose. If you doubt it, see my post on Telling the Truth, Mainly: “A Mind Unhinged.” It isn’t as long as this one.

John Keats, “When I have fears”

Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress”


I am a writer and I wr-r-r-r-r-r-ite. My short stories appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthology, Murder on Wheels; in the anthology Day of the Dark: Stories of Eclipse; and in the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 issue of the online magazine Mysterical-E (which I like to think of as the one with the dog on the cover). Another of my stories will appear in Austin Mystery Writers’ second anthology, Lone Star Lawless, coming soon from Wildside Press. I at Telling the Truth, Mainly and at Austin Mystery Writers.

Hurricanes come again no more

Mike Staton
Mike Staton wrote this post.

All the Facebook posts from people living in Florida about the sounds of chainsaws and generators has prompted me to write this post about my hurricane experiences. So let’s go back to the mid to late 1990s.

Ever hear of the names Bertha, Fran, Floyd and Bonnie? They’re hurricanes that took aim at Wilmington and the mouth of the Cape Fear River. I lived in Wilmington from 1989 to early 2014.

Bertha was my first. Here’s what the National Weather Service says about the storm: “Hurricane Bertha was an early season Cape Verde hurricane that started from a tropical wave that moved off the African Coast on July 1. It was the first hurricane of the 1996 season and the first major hurricane in July since the 1926 season. It quickly progressed on a west-northwest track over the Virgin Islands before turning north-northwest and just missing Puerto Rico. It reached its peak intensity on July 9 with maximum wind speeds of 115 mph and a minimum pressure of 960 mb. Eventually the storm would turn on a north-northeast track and make landfall between Wrightsville Beach and Topsail Beach, NC, as a Category 2 hurricane (104 mph) on July 12.”

1-Hurricane Bertha
Here’s Hurricane Bertha Smashing into North Carolina in July 1996.

I remember sitting on the couch and listening to the wind shriek and howl. We’d hear pine trees snap and wait to hear and feel their landing – sometimes in a yard, sometimes on a car, sometimes on a shed or deck, and sometimes on the roof. Two trees landed on our roof but at an angle that allowed them to roll down off the roof onto our deck, destroying the deck. Better the deck than coming through the roof and landing in our laps.


One time I decided to open the front door and feel the roaring wind slap and punch my face. My roommate Jayne disagreed with my decision, grabbed the back of my belt and tugged me away from the open doorway. Reluctantly, I closed the door. Jayne was afraid I’d get hit by flying debris.

2-Hurricane Fran
Here’s the course of Hurricane Fran in September 1996… Wilmington bound.

Charles, the brother-in-law of another roommate, Debbie, came over with his chainsaw and helped us cut up the fallen trees. We ended up with a giant pile of storm debris at the front-yard curb awaiting pickup by an outfit hired by the county. We went more than a week without electricity, sleeping in a hot house, our only light flashlights and camping lamps. Our casualty list for Bertha? Some roof damage, several downed trees and destroyed back deck and shed.

We made a major decision post-Bertha… we bought a generator to provide power to the refrigerator, a mini-TV and a lamp in the living room. We’d need that generator in two months when Fran made landfall in the Cape Fear Region on Sept. 5.

Fran Floording-Carolina Beach
A couple wades through Fran’s storm-surge flooding at Carolina Beach.

Here’s what the National Weather Service says about this storm: “Hurricane Fran developed from a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa on August 22, 1996. After becoming a tropical depression on August 23, Fran strengthened into a powerful category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph while north of the Bahamas on Sept. 4. Weakening slightly as it approached the North Carolina coast, Frank made landfall near the tip of the Cape Fear with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph on the evening of Sept. 5. Fran was responsible for 26 deaths and was at the time the most expensive natural disaster in North Carolina’s history.”

Hurricane Fran at Topsail Island
Some of the damaged and destroyed beachfront homes at Topsail Island after Fran made landfall near Wilmington.

At the Wilmington airport (I lived about half a mile from it), winds reached 86 mph. Rooftop weather monitors measured winds as high as 125 mph at Wrightsville Beach. Fran made landfall near low tide. Still, total storm tide reached as high as 12 feet at the beach towns of Carolina Beach, Topsail Island and Wrightsville Beach. The storm surge destroyed beachfront dunes and flooded many locations along the barrier islands. Wilmington Star-News accounts said Fran knocked out electricity for 1.5 million people. Fallen trees blocked major highways – Interstate 40, U.S. highways 17 and 74/76 and College Road near Castle Hayne close to where I lived. Fran killed 26 people and caused 4.16 billion in damage. In Wilmington, 75 percent of homes sustained some damage, with 24 percent sustaining major damage.

Here’s Hurricane Bonnie bearing down on the Cape Fear Region in the summer of 1998.

Again, I sat in the living room with roommates Debbie and Jayne. This time I didn’t try to open the front door and take a peek. I didn’t want to incur Jayne’s wrath. The wind during the night was a constant roar. Sometimes there’d be a shriek, and I knew that meant a mini-tornado was whirling through the neighborhood. Bertha had taken out many pine trees back in July in our neighborhood. Frank finished the job. The winds would snap off the upper halves of the trees. Behind us, a pine crushed the roof of a house with debris falling on a baby. Luckily, the infant wasn’t injured.

Fran’s eye went over the neighborhood. With the winds temporarily subdued, we stepped outside and hobnobbed with other neighbors. Off in the distance we could see the seemingly alive eye wall – sparkling with lightning. It was a scary yet awe-inspiring sight. When the wind picked up, we returned to our houses to wait out the back end of Fran.

4-Hurricane Bonnie rainfall amounts
A National Weather Service illustration showing Hurricane Bonnie rain amounts.

Just like Bertha, Fran took down our electricity. This time we had a generator. My job was to take trips to one of the few gas stations open in the Wilmington area, brave the long lines, and get gasoline for the generator. Something else we bought… a chainsaw. That was Jayne’s job, one she seemingly enjoyed – until a wasp or yellow jacket stung her. She had a bad allergic reaction, so we rushed off to the emergency room. We were nervous wrecks, but Jayne’s allergic reaction was brought under control. For those who have never been in a hurricane, bees, yellow jackets and wasps are not happy campers after a hurricane.

The generator kept the food in the refrigerator and freezer safe. We lived in a hot, sticky house for more than a week, like Bertha. At night, I’d lay atop my bed and listen to the generators scream their familiar off-key songs. A few days after the hurricane, we took a drive to view the damage. We shared the road with convoys of electric repair trucks from all of the U.S. When the lights and air conditioning finally turned on, I was a happy, happy man.

5-Floyd 1999
Here’s Hurricane Floyd in all its glory in the summer of 1999.

Fran was the second of four strong hurricanes to directly strike Southeastern North Carolina during the mid to late 1990s. Hurricane Bonnie struck in August 1998 followed by Hurricane Floyd in September 1999.

I was working as a consultant at an Arkansas paper mill in late August 1998 as Bonnie approached Wilmington. A co-worker, Jonathon, and I helplessly watched a flight schedule screen at the Charlotte airport show cancellations to other North Carolina airports. One remained, a flight to Florence, South Carolina. We grabbed it, and after we landed in Florence, rented a car and got to Wilmington ahead of the slow-moving hurricane.

6-Rain-Hurricane Floyd
Here’s some of the rain amounts from Hurricane Floyd.

Bonnie struck Wilmington on the morning of August 27 as a category two hurricane, then meandered up into Virginia and re-entered the Atlantic. There were reports of downed trees and powerlines (once again we lost power), as well as blown-out windows and roof damage. The storm washed ashore thousands of tires that had been part of an artificial reef. The damage was less than feared — $1 billion. The Cape Fear region received about 12 inches of rain and a storm surge of 5 to 8 feet along the Brunswick County beaches north of Wilmington.

In our neighborhood, the street in front of the house flooded (like it always did during hurricanes and even during thunderstorms). Often, I could look out and see folks canoeing down the flooded streets, passing marooned cars and trucks that stalled out in the deep water. Down the road from us houses with yards that did not incline were flooded on the first floor – for many the third time since 1996.

Bonnie was a prelude to Floyd, which brought torrential rains and flooding to everywhere in its path except where it made landfall – Wilmington. Many of you reading this may remember new video of the flooding in Greenville and East Carolina University.

Long Beach Floyd 15 foot surge
Some storm-surge damage at Long Beach near Wilmington from Hurricane Fran.

Floyd was a 110-mph hurricane when it made landfall in Wilmington area. At one time out in the Atlantic it was a much stronger hurricane. We considered evacuating, even began loading our cars, but the street flooded, preventing escape. Luckily, by the time it made landfall on Sept. 19, 1999, it had weakened considerably. Wind measuring devices recorded winds of 138 mph at Wrightsville Beach and 130 mph in Wilmington. A top wind speed of 123 mph was recorded in Topsail Beach.

Besides bringing rain to the region, the eyewall ushered in a 15-foot storm surge that damaged oceanfront homes in towns like Long Beach and Oak and Topsail Islands. Shoreline erosion and dune retreat were greater than the effects of Bonnie. Hurricane Dennis, which slammed the North Carolina coast less than a month before Floyd, exacerbated Floyd’s flooding. Floyd caused hog farmers’ retention ponds for hog waste to overflow, causing pollution problems in counties like Duplin.

As you can see, I’ve had my fair share of hurricanes. I’m glad I’m living in southern Nevada far from the Atlantic coastline. I hope I never again hear the shrieks of mini-tornadoes, the snap of breaking pine trees, and the hubbub of generators and chainsaws.

# # #

I’m an author with three published fantasy novels – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The books make up a trilogy titled Larenia’s Shadow. A fourth novel, this one a historical romance set during the Civil War, is scheduled for publication in October. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Adoption Time, Part 2: His Name Is…

Gayle and Jeremiah_Sidney NEThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

His name is Jeremiah, and no, he’s not a bullfrog! Back in the early 1970s, a song by Three Dog Night rose up the charts and remained at #1 for several weeks. “Joy to the World” starts off “Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine….” See the delightfully-cartooned video below:



On my post last week, I mentioned that my husband and I were adopting a new dog and the reasons for that. I also mentioned we planned to re-name the dog. Greg and I had a list of names; ones I liked he didn’t and vice-versa. So, we began looking at other possibilities, including “Yaddy” (Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals award-winning baseball catcher); “Jackson” – a town in western Wyoming (we had “Cody” already, another Wyoming town, so that was out); and “Joseph” (our other dog is Mary, but that just seemed too strange to have “Joseph” as well). So, we explored other options. Because we are Christians, we went through a list of Biblical names (of course, Mary, is in the Bible, so another Biblical name could be appropriate, just not “Joseph”) – we decided “Jeremiah” fit.

Jeremiah_resting_Sidney NE
Jeremiah, formerly Stormy

The name means “exalted of the Lord,” or “appointed by God.” We truly believe this little dog was appointed to be ours – we went through many inquiries about dogs not only at this facility (Hearts United for Animals), but also via a few other, more local, shelters and sanctuaries. “Stormy” at that time was the one still available. And, perhaps he will be exalted living in our house – certainly he has been from the horrible conditions of a puppy mill. So, as I mentioned in last week’s post, new home, new life, new name. He is still learning his name, but he’s a smart little guy, and he’s quickly learning a lot of new things: commands, like “sit” and “come;” housetraining (puppy mill dogs are rarely, if ever, living in a home – generally they are kept in tiny cages outdoors; and how to interact with cats. He is also learning about toys and cuddles – and liking both!

Everything is new to him. He barks at the TV. He is afraid of going down steps (but he’s acclimated to going up them, hopping like a rabbit!). He’s never been groomed except at the shelter with just scissors, so his trip to the “doggie spa” yesterday was frightening. Thankfully, and as I suspected would happen, our Mary-dog has become a wonderful “big sister” – she is helping to teach him many things, including (1) going potty outdoors is more fun than indoors because there are trees and bushes to smell and a big yard to explore; (2) a person’s hand is not always for abusing, but most often (at least in this household) for affectionate pats and pets; (3) sleeping on a comfy bed is WONDERFUL; and (4) having friends, both human and other animal, is FANTASTIC!

Jeremiah rode very well in the car from Nebraska to Wyoming; we overnighted in North Platte so we could all have a break. Considering his background, Greg and I were happily surprised that our new dog didn’t get motion-sick. I held him on my lap for a while and then he rode sweetly in the backseat beside Mary.

Mary and Jeremiah
Jeremiah and Mary in the Nebraska hotel room.

This is our first puppy mill rescue dog (you can read more about this nasty places on my pet blog from this week: www.gaylemirwin.com/blog). Mary was adopted through English Springer Spaniel Rescue, but she didn’t come from an abusive, horrific, neglectful background; she was loved and cared for but her special person died unexpectedly, and therefore, the rescue helped to re-home her. Cody, our cocker who passed last year, was a stud dog, and at 10, the people let him go; so though his background was somewhat similar to Jeremiah, Cody was treated better and was housebroken and used to, at least some, affection. He was turned over to the Casper Humane Society. And Sage had just recently lost her home due to a divorce. So, each of our dogs have their own story; each also came from a different place and a different state (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nebraska).

I’ve christened Jeremiah with a middle name: “Story.” It’s similar to “Stormy” and therefore, has a familiar sound to his previous name, but, most importantly, it reflects what I do (write stories) and the fact that he, story and dogs like him, have a story. Needless to say, there will be a “Jeremiah Story” book one of these days!

Jeremiah_after groom
Jeremiah in his Wyoming home after his vet visit and groom appointment.

The journey continues. Travel, a new home, vet visit, and doggie spa, all in less than one week. “Jeremiah’s Journey” is probably a great title for a book — maybe I better get on that pretty soon!

What pet adoption stories do you have? What ones have you written? Or is there one you should write if you haven’t? Do you struggle with names for your book/story characters as Greg and I did with our new dog’s name? How do you come up with names for your characters?


Gayle_signing photoGayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming author and freelance writer. Her inspirational pet books for children and adults teach valuable life lessons, such as courage, perseverance, friendship, and nature appreciation. She is also a contributing writer to magazines and newspapers, as well as Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the August 2017 release Chicken Soup The Dog Really Did That? Gayle is a pet rescue and adoption advocate. Learn more about her and her work at www.gaylemirwin.com.


cody-cabin-cover2   bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover   Chicken Soup book_Dog Really Did That_2017   Mary Book Cover   Mary Ranch_Front Cover Option


IMG_1664aby Neva Bodin

Recently I sat for two hours to sign up for OLLI classes at our local college. OLLI stands for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and is a program started by a very successful business man named Bernard Osher with his Osher Foundation. He began giving grants to colleges to begin offering non-credit courses to older adults who wished to continue learning. Our college has a very successful program. The instructors are local people who have something to offer on almost any subject you can name, from local history to expertise in olive farming.

During the two hour wait I met a very nice lady with whom I easily visited the two hours away, making my wait more enjoyable. She found out I have ancestors who came to this county in 1660 and mentioned the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) to me and asked if I would like to join. To join you must have had a prior relative as a member or prove you had ancestors who fought in the American Revolution.

I thought an aunt and grandmother had belonged years ago, but found out the talk I absorbed as a child was their “wanting” to join, not that they had. (Is that a lot of unnecessary filler words?)

The American Revolutionary War took place between 1765 and 1783, a long time for a war. The result was thirteen American colonies winning independence from Great Britain.

On looking through a two inch thick book of Ostrander geneology book, put together by members of that family, I find those ancestors came to America from the Netherlands in 1660 on a ship called De Bonte Coe, which I thought was a nifty name, until I learned the English meaning is “The Spotted Cow!”

I also found in just the first few pages that three of those ancestors did fight in the war, and there may be more. However, one apparently had mixed loyalties and after fighting on the colonies side, fought as a “Loyalist” on the British side. I probably won’t mention him if I decide to join.

“The DAR, founded in 1890 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women’s service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history, and securing America’s future through better education for children.”

According to the lady I visited with who is a member, they attend the naturalization ceremonies, bringing refreshments for the new citizens. It sounds like a worthy organization and I am considering joining it, if they are able to accept my lineage for it. I have a cousin in another state who would like to join also.

Has anyone else had any experience with the DAR?