What’s Your Theme for 2018?

Cole Smith







by Cole Smith


Do you have a yearly theme? 2017 was a fantastic yet terrifying year for me. Learning to drive stick-shift, finishing a novel and sending it to beta readers, starting a blog – there were a lot of overwhelming days when the couch and a book looked pretty darn appealing. To keep from succumbing to the siren song of quitting, I’d mutter my slogan for the year: “Do it scared!”

Notice, that slogan is neither original nor specific. But it was exactly what I needed to shift (sometimes literally from stalling at a traffic light) back to where I needed to be. Pick a personal motto for 2018 to set your intention for the year.


Do You Have a Yearly Theme?


It will start your year off on a positive note.

January is unspoiled and full of potential. Late December, on the other hand, often holds more stale failed resolutions than leftover fruitcake. Capture January’s energy and positivity by setting the mood for the months to come, and sticking with it.


It will keep you accountable.

One reason resolutions sputter and die by March is the lack of accountability. How do you check in with yourself? No one will know if you hit the snooze button instead of the gym. But you’ll have to face that slogan. You can crank up the pressure by giving a friend permission to say the magic words if you start slipping.


It will keep you going when you want to quit.

Feelings lie. It feels right to watch tv instead of knocking out 300 more words on your work-in-progress. It feels good to sleep in. And, at least in the short-term, eating that massive bowl of ice cream feels like heaven’s blessing.

Get a stack of sticky notes and wallpaper the house with your motto. Stick a reminder on the remote control, the freezer door, the alarm clock. Our feelings have a really short attention span. So remind them who’s boss by whispering your affirming slogan (or shouting it from your back porch). All that reinforcement will reprogram your brain and alter your habits.

Choose a Theme for Your Year


My focus for this year is to build on the momentum of 2017 (or, in the case of driving manual transmission, at least to coast on my momentum as long as possible… Please change, traffic light, hurry!). I’m still narrowing down themes for a motto that resonates with my goals, one that sings when I say it. I’ll know it when I find it.

May 2018 be a year that pushes you, but kindly. And, if you need to, you can whisper, “Do it scared!”




Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at www.colesmithwrites.com.


Let’s get social! Find me on Facebook or Pinterest.





Small Victories


propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Small Victories by author Ann Lamont is one of my favorite books. She is an inspirational writer and one can learn a lot by reading her works.

I think as a writer I always look at the big picture and am devastated when things don’t go my way. It is easy to want to give up and quit, just because things don’t go as expected.

But wait – what about the small victories? Ms. Lamont reminds us that the road can be motivation-721821_640long and bumpy, but if we take it step by step and give thanks for each victory, either big or small, we will reach the finish line.

Sometimes I think I’ll never get done with a project and it gets frustrating and annoying, often to the point where I set it down and let it rest for a while. But do I stop to give thanks for the small victories I receive every day? Sometimes it’s easy to forget.

kindness-710209_640It may be a pat on the back from someone you admire, it may be finishing a sentence or chapter, it may be meeting with a fellow writer to discuss your book, or it may be a bit of research you have been waiting for that suddenly drops in your lap.

It’s easy to get frustrated as we write and it doesn’t seem to be working well, but when you do stop to take time for the small victories, you’ll find yourself a much better writer and in a much better frame of mind.

Even if you need to take a break and come back to your writing refreshed, it’s a small victory.

lotus-1205631_640At night I write down all the things that made me happy during the day, including small victories. It is good fodder for sleep as I give thanks for what has been given to me, even when I have been frustrated and am ready to give up.

Have you read Small Victories by Anne Lamont? If not, I strongly suggest that you do. It’ll make you feel different as you go through your everyday work and writing and will make you thankful for all the small victories that occur in a day.

smallIs this a new concept to you? Does it sound like one you’d be interested in? Let me know in the comments!

Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders



Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)



13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing

Linda's book


13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an Ebook




You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Books

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews





An Open Letter

Post by Doris McCraw

edit hhj spc

I lost my mother in February of 2011. I still miss her, and thought I would share a letter she might have written to me about how to be a loving person and live in this world without letting define or defeat me. So, Mom, I hope you are looking down and smiling for you were a great teacher.

Dear Daughter,

First, I want you to know how much I love you. I know as you travel this world there will be times when it will not seem worth it. Times when you just want to give up on yourself and the world. I taught you better than that. In case you have forgotten or perhaps need to have a handy reminder, I’ll give you my thoughts about how to survive and thrive.

I will start with, forgive yourself. You won’t be able to forgive any one else if you don’t know how to forgive yourself. I know, you did some bad things, but remember, you were doing the best you could at that time. That does not mean you get to do them again. To do so is only going to make you feel worse about yourself. Sweetheart, give yourself a break and get on with your life. Don’t let the past ruin your future.

Remember the story of Mr. Flemming’s father. He chose to not like a whole race of people, but would and did hire individuals. As long as those individuals worked for him, they were treated like everyone else, including sitting at the table with everyone else and he would be angry if anyone made unflattering remarks. I’m not saying you should dislike a group of people. What I am saying is, respond to people as individuals. Do not let yourself get caught up in the rhetoric of if one, then all. Treat others like you want to be treated, even when they don’t return the favor.

Get over the idea of “it’s not fair”. Life isn’t fair, but it is good. Life and living will be what you make it. When you get caught up in the ‘not fair’ mindset you miss so much of the wonderful parts of life. When you get down, or are feeling put upon, give yourself ten minutes to feel sorry for yourself, then get up and do something productive. Let the hurt go. It may not be easy, that’s for sure. You can forgive and not forget. Think on that one for a while.

You can do or be whatever you want, just remember there are consequences. Consequences are not good or bad, they just are. You are totally responsible for the decisions you make about your life. Yes, you may have people who will help you, but you are the only one you have to live with your whole life. Make sure you’re the kind of person you want to be around.

I know there are many other ‘rules’ your could probably stand to hear, but these are a good use to help you survive and thrive. I wish you well, know I love you and whatever happens do your best to be happy, to be alive, for that is the true gift.

Love, Your Mother


Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page:  http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL
BUY LINKS  B&N     Smashwords     Kobo     iTunes



Monday, Monday


propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

As a 60’s child I was immersed in the music of the time and it’s still my favorite music. Is there anything better? Bob Dylan, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Little Richie, Peter, Paul and Mary, and way too many more to mention. This music filled us with food for thought (what do some of Dylan’s lines really mean?), sun-filled days (the Beach Boys), and of course, Monday Monday by the Mamas and the Papas. The first part of the song has lyrics that are everlasting and show off John Phillips writing excellence.

Monday, Monday so good to me

Monday mornin’, it wasn’t all I hoped it would be

Oh Monday mornin’, Monday mornin’ wouldn’t guarantee

That Monday evenin’ you would still be here with me

© John Phillips


The harmonies, Mama Cass’s strong lead voice and the cohesiveness of the band led the group to win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for this song on March 2, 1967. Also, Monday, Monday was the group’s only number-one hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. (Wikipedia)

As a writer it’s good to look at and listen to favorite music, as it can give you the feel for the plot and movement of your words. I have to write in complete silence, but I do research before and after I write. I often listen to favorite tunes to get a feel for the passion and reasoning the song presents so that I can make my own story flow. It’s also a good way to hear how songwriters create a plot.

As a songwriter myself, I often spend a lot of time reworking a song to get the story told in under 4 minutes – not an easy feat. As an author I have more time to play with, but I must be careful to fill in the cracks and keep the writing smooth and the plot in the forefront.

I love weekends. Although my husband and I are retired, Monday is the start of a new week527725_10151585269811000_632304641_n and all the things to look forward to. Mondays give us time to plan our week, do some new things, or sit back on the deck and watch the birds and squirrels eat the food we put out for them while I read and my husband putters in the flowers.

I have always liked Mondays. No matter how the weekend goes, Monday is the start of a new week and new adventures.

So, thanks to John Phillips for writing a song that will stand the test of time and be recognized for years to come. Even though the song has a feeling of uncertainty, the music is so uplifting that you can’t help but think of Monday as an exciting day of the week.

What about you? Which is your favorite day of the week? Why? I’d love to hear your comments!

Watch these videos on You Tube and check out the books on Amazon:

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders Video




Inzared The Fortune Teller Video













You can also find L.Leander in the following places:



L.Leander Amazon Page

L.Leander’s Reviews and Interviews





Google Plus

L.Leander’s Facebook Page



Finding Inspiration in Nature: Animals

Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame, Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.  ~ Black Elk


Yellowstone Sign_Gayle Mary_smallerThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Last week I wrote about being inspired by nature with regard to landscapes. Whether mountains, valleys, fields, forests, oceans, lakes, streams, city parks, botanical gardens, or your own backyard, you can find refreshment, replenishment, inspiration, and creativity in nature. You can also find inspiration in the creatures which inhabit these spaces, lessons that can be applied to life, and even to writing, and so today is Part 2 — Finding Inspiration in Nature: Animals.

I recently spent more than four days in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, sharing time with my parents for their 56th wedding anniversary and for Father’s Day. Not only was the experience pleasant from the standpoint of being with family members I dearly love, but we were in special spaces that I truly love. Each park is unique: although both have mountains, the stark granite of the Tetons contrasts with the forested hillsides that ring the Yellowstone caldera. Water can be found in both parks, including deep lakes and fast rivers. However, Teton appears more lush and verdant, possibly due to the deep valley known as Jackson Hole, whereas Yellowstone is more rocky and dry – except for the sections that received vast amounts of snow this past winter – and sprung this spring with wildflowers galore!!

daisies_yellow with aspen

The wildlife species which reside in the parks, however, are nearly identical, including elk, bison, pronghorn, mule deer, chipmunks, ground squirrels, swans, and sandhill cranes. As I spent time observing these creatures and considered the harshness of the environment, especially during winter, I felt compelled to consider what lessons these animals can teach us, and therefore, how they can inspire us, whether we are writers or not.

ground squirrel

Learning and sharing lessons from nature is part of who I am as a writer and speaker. For years I’ve shared what I learned from my blind dog, Sage, even writing a book called Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog. When I visit schools, I talk with students about lessons dogs can teach us, things I’ve learned from my own dogs; I even created a library program on that topic, and I shared that last Friday at the Sheridan County Fulmer Library in Sheridan, Wyoming – and since Friday was Take Your Dog to Work Day, it was an appropriate topic.


So what lessons can we learn and how can we be inspired by animals? I believe there are many ways, but here are just a few:

bull buffalo and carBison – these massive creatures have exited for centuries and Native Americans believed the bison were sacred and valued. The species nearly became extinct thanks to European-Americans slaughter of them during the mid to late 1800s. To live in Yellowstone during winter, to survive a massive massacre upon their kind, these creatures must be hardy, so I believe endurance is great lesson the bison can teach us.

Sandhill Cranes – Tall and elegant, these beautiful birds fly thousands of miles to and from summer and winter habitats. They must pass by powerlines, hunters, and storms to reach their destination.  Like the bison, these creatures, too, can teach us perseverance.

Elk – these majestic animals are also resilient and they are adaptable. A creature that used to live on the plains, they moved to the mountains to escape the relentless hunting pressure of the 1800s. Yet they never lost their luster. I believe the elk teach us to adapt, to deal with the hand we are dealt and modify whatever needs to be changed, in ourselves, our life, our writing.

swansSwans – these magnificent birds almost became extinct due, again, to humankind’s (primarily European-Americans) slaughter of them. Downy, pluming feathers caught the eye of the fashion industry and swans, along with hundreds of other bird species, were killed for ladies’ hats and other fashion statements. Thankfully, places like our national parks provided protection and respite. Watching swans fly or swim gives glimpse into gracefulness — I believe the swans remind us to be graceful (as best we can!).

Wolves – another animal nearly exterminated from the landscape (is there a pattern here of human behavior??!), wolves were returned to Yellowstone in the mid-1990s (something that remains controversial and contentious to this day). However, to witness the dynamics within a pack of wolves is truly an amazing sight! These animals were also revered by Native Americans (again, another pattern and one that vastly contrasts with “white culture) and they saw the majesty of the pack, a unit that works together to survive. Wolves can teach us the importance of family relationships and the value of friendships.

Grizzly_YNPBears – whether grizzly or black, these animals conjure up images of fear and distrust. Bears have been the thorn in many a side of ranchers and farmers as they sometimes prey upon livestock and gardens. Hikers carry pepper spray in case of a bear encounter (or at least they are encouraged to do so). Grizzly bears in particular have been known to attack humans, especially when startled. Once again, however, the bear was revered by Native Americans for its confidence, courage, and power – lessons we can all learn, especially when it comes to facing difficulties in life and rejections (or fear thereof) in our writing.

Each of these amazing species of wildlife showcase a number of lessons we can apply to life and for we who are writers, to our craft. But, our companion animals also can provide insights:

Mary in Greg's officeDogs – I don’t know of many animals, or humans for that matter, who will wait by the door or in the window for their special person to come home, even if gone for only an hour or two. A dog’s devotion is an amazing, beloved quality, and I for one am thankful that my four-footed friend loves me no matter what kind of day I’ve had or what type of mood I’m in. A dog’s loyalty is almost unfathomable, and it’s something for which I’m grateful – and from which I can learn.

Bailey_sleepCats – my cats are much more independent, although they enjoy a bit of social time with my husband and me as well. Their ability, however, to take long times of rest and to remain somewhat independent are both great lessons for which to apply to life in general and to a writer’s life – having the confidence to pursue publishing, whether indie or traditional, and to remain strong in the face of adversity, asserting an independence-type of attitude or being part of a team whatever the need calls for at the time, are good qualities to have. And remembering to rest the body and the mind instead of constantly being on the “go, go, go!” is also a great lesson to learn from cats.

We can learn so much from the animal kingdom and be inspired by the different traits found in creatures, if we only take the time to observe, to learn, to apply, and to appreciate the lessons … and the animals themselves.

bison calf

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.  ~ Chief Seattle

Gayle and Mary_river walkGayle M. Irwin writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults. She is the author of seven different books and has three works in progress, including a humorous children’s story called BobCat Goes to School. She is also a contributing writer for six editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the June release The Spirit of America, in which she has a short story titled “National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” Gayle also has a short story in the upcoming anthology Memories from Maple Street U.S.A.: Pawprints on My Heart, a collection of pet stories to be published in July by Prairie Rose Publications. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover   Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover   Spirit of America book

Finding Inspiration in Nature – Part 1


This post by Gayle M. Irwin

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” – John Muir


My husband and I own more than three acres of forest land 20 minutes from our home in Casper, Wyoming. At this location, I’ve composed short stories and books inside our cabin and under the towering lodgepole pines surrounding it. I’ve walked the wooded trails and listened to numerous songbirds. I’ve seen the landscape filled with snow, heard the crashes of thunder above, and touched pine needles kissed by rainfall. Wild turkeys, mule deer, red fox, butterflies, and hummingbirds call the area home, and many have visited our cabin site. Each experience makes my heart leap for joy, including my recent 30-minute encounter with a red fox just beyond the cabin porch door.

Red fox visiting my mountain property in early June.

Nature inspires many and has for eons, including the writings of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau and the paintings and photographs of Thomas Moran and William Henry Jackson. Moran and Jackson were part of the famous 1871 expedition to the Yellowstone region, painting and photographing scenes that became instrumental in educating those back East, including the U.S. Congress, which led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park. Muir, too, helped tout the majesty of landscapes; his was a significant voice for creating many U.S. national parks, including Yosemite, Sequoia and the Grand Canyon, among others. These, and many others, were visionaries, and their dreams and desires benefit us today. If you’ve not seen the Ken Burns/PBS documentary on America’s national parks, I highly recommend watching! (my husband and I own a copy of the series — the shows are WONDERFUL!).

Yellowstone Sign_Gayle Mary_smaller

The National Park Service, which turns 100 years old this year, administers more than 400 different sites across the country, from national parks and monuments to historical battlefields, trails, and other historic sites. Whether mountains, deserts, forests, valleys, or seashores, these special places provide respite, amazement, and reflection.

I love nature! Since I was a child growing up in Iowa, I’ve found tranquility, inspiration, and fascination in natural areas. My parents are particularly responsible for my affinity for wild places – we took family vacations out west to Yellowstone, made camping expeditions to state parks, and took fishing trips to Minnesota and Canada. Dad created habitat areas for song birds and small game, and I helped him create and install wood duck boxes for nesting sites along the shore of the Mississippi River as well as at the pond on our 14 midwestern acres. I found solace under cedar trees alongside my dog, Bridgette where I wrote stories and poems in those peace-filled woods. I dreamed of becoming a lady park ranger in Yellowstone; instead, I became a journalist living at the park’s west entrance, yet I was still able to interact with the area’s wild spaces and wild creatures.

bison bull_Yellowstone

I still interact with and am inspired by nature. Whether at my forest cabin, or traveling through my current home state, which is the site not only of the world’s first national park, but also the first national forest (Shoshone) and first national monument (Devil’s Tower/Bear’s Lodge), or visiting special sites in other states, like Rocky Mountain Park in Colorado, Glacier Park in Montana, or Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, each place whispers its own alluring grandeur.

Running Eagle Falls with 2 Med River
Running Eagle Falls and Two Medicine River – Glacier National Park

Whether you’re a writer, painter, photographer, or other artistic type, nature can speak to you and get those creative juices flowing. My husband is a videographer, and he uses the outdoors to create beautiful DVDs set to instrumental music that many find relaxing, for themselves or loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease. This has become a growing business, helping him help others relax and appreciate places they may not get to enjoy in person as he/we have.

Spirit of America bookAs this post goes live, I’m wrapping up a visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. I’ll be conducting a program about national parks this evening at the National Bighorn Sheep Interpretive Center as well as having a booksigning, all based on my story “National Parks – America’s Best Idea,” published in the recently-released Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Spirit of America. My reflective composition concludes, “Many generations have benefited from the visions and visionaries of 1872 and 1916…. The spirit of America reigns in our national parks, for they remain America at its natural best.”

Grand Teton National Park, Teton Mountains, and Jackson Lake – Wyoming

National parks are glorious, national seashores stupendous, national monuments magnificent, and national historic sites enriching. However,  a person doesn’t have to visit a national park, forest, or monument to find inspiration in nature. You don’t even have to live in a rural area. Cities have parks, botanical gardens, and green spaces. I encourage you to find your own special natural place and be inspired!

June is Great Outdoors Month, and 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. I hope that you’ll take the time to get outdoors, to be refreshed, be inspired, and be peaceful in an outdoor setting this month, or at least sometime this summer. Stop and smell the flowers, watch a sunset, or listen to birds sing. When you do, you’ll not only find refreshment and replenishment, but you may also find inspiration for that next novel, poem, painting, or video, by which you can inspire others.

Wildflowers_Idaho Meadow_with log
Wildflower meadow – Idaho side of Yellowstone Park

Gayle at EstesGayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer and author. She writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults with seven books, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Sage Finds Friends, Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, and Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, as well as a Kindle e-book called Help! My Dog is Going Blind – Now What Do I Do? to help owners of blind dogs. She is also a contributing writer to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the June release The Spirit of America, featuring her story about America’s national parks. Gayle speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various organizations. She enjoys sharing about the pet-human bond and the majesty of nature, hoping to inspire and educate children and adults about the beauty of creation and the creatures that share our planet. Learn more about her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover  Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover   Spirit of America book

The Ties That Bind…

Susann 2 croppedThis post is by Nancy Jardine.

Fun days, sad days and brilliant reflections – and –  funerals don’t have to be a time just for tears. 

Recent fun days for me were exploring Rome, a city that was new to me. Steeped in history, I was enthralled as I walked the legs off my husband. His groans must have been heard world-wide when he approached yet another flight of stairs in one of the many museums visits we squeezed into the short trip. Endurance was the name of his game because he’s not great with steps…

Immediately after my Rome trip I attended my first ever official high school reunion back in my birth city of Glasgow, shoulder-to-shoulder with 450 other ex-pupils. I topped up my reminiscence folder during the evening event but hanging out the following day at breakfast with 5 of my old school friends was magic! Our nostalgia natter was worth the 300 mile round trip.  

Some shadows followed our reunion but they’ve come with positive edges. A good part of our reunion time was spent rehashing escapades and happenings that were memorable at school. The teaching staff also figured a lot in the recall of our school days and that’s where it got poignant on Tuesday 3rd May, only 4 days after the reunion.

I received an email to say that Andy Stirling, one of my old teachers, had been taken to hospital and his time was limited. It’s probably not all that common for pupils to keep in touch with their teachers but I’d exchanged Christmas Cards with him for decades, though I’d only occasionally met up with him since I left school in 1970. On Tuesday, I was making plans to drive the 360 mile round trip (again) to visit him in hospital in Greenock ( south of Glasgow) along with my best friend from school who had kept even more regular physical contact with him since she lives near where he lived. Unfortunately, 85 year old Andy died on the Wednesday.

Andy and me at Gourock c. 2000
Andy and me c. 2000 at Gourock, Scotland

Andy Stirling was like the best sort of glue.

He was a Technical Studies teacher which in my day at school was a non-academic subject, only taught to the boys (My school was forward thinking and yet still very sexist). He was also Head of our school Guidance Department. I’m guessing he would have been called a Guidance Counselor in the U. S. though I’ve no idea what you might term it now.

Andy was definitely a superb candidate for that job. He was always interested in people and especially in his pupils. I’m told that he always listened carefully and gave sage advice without preaching or being too lenient- though I never had to be counselled by him. Due to his very positive influence he gave a lot of young people at my school the courage to hold themselves together and to move forward towards their future with better self-worth. He nurtured their insecurities and guided the kids in ways that would hone and polish their skills and aptitudes whether they were academic or vocational. My school was in a housing estate in Glasgow, a place populated by people who lived from week to week waiting for the Friday Pay Packet. White collar workers were rare in Drumchapel where I grew up and Andy had his fair share of mixed up kids to deal with but… his kind of glue was an invisible support—strong and long lasting. 

Weekend 3
Braeriach, Lochan Uaine (i think) where we camped near the peak, Summer Solstice 1970 Andy is 2nd L, I’m 3rd L front row.

My own experience of Andy was extra curricular. He was the founder of the School Ski Club and the Hill Walking Club (Not rock climbing). If he hadn’t given up his weekends to lead our expeditions, I would have missed out on many character forming experiences. My parents did a lot of hiking in and around Scotland but they didn’t do the kind of hill-walking that Andy organised.

Due to Andy, I can boast to having not only climbed Braeriach, the 3rd highest peak in Scotland (and the United Kingdom) at 4,253 feet, but I also camped near the summit of it to watch the dawn appear on the Summer Solstice of June 1970.

My best friend June, next to me in the above photo, recently reminded me that it rained so hard we were washed out of our tents yet, according to her, I slept on oblivious of the lack of shelter from our 2 man ‘bivvy’ tent and I missed the actual moment of the sun rise. Naturally, that’s the sort of fine detail I’ve shoved to the back of my memory banks! That kind of soaking was definitely character-building because we had to come back down the peak just a wee bit drookit and the tent was a dead weight dripping across the top of my rucksack. (Turn about with carrying the gear was the name of the game!) As I look at the photo above, I’m noticing the ratio of adults to pupils. We’re not sure who took the photo but think it was another teacher, which would put it at 4 teachers to five pupils. June and I were already 18 by then, the boys a year younger.

Scotland isn’t famous for predictable weather. It can turn on a whim and can be especially dangerous on our mountains. Even though we got washed out on the occasion above in June (and on many other occasions, if truth be told) Andy never ever took any chances with the safety of his pupils when we were out on the hills. His policy was to check weather reports and he phoned people in the vicinity of where we planned to climb or ski before we left Glasgow. Then he’d re-check, evaluate and re-evaluate. Sometimes he would change tack and re-plan something that was viable instead of the original concept—for example if there was no reasonable snow to be had for a skiing weekend then we climbed instead on lower peaks that were uncovered.

Our kind of ‘out in the wild camping’ meant site changes could be made relatively easily. Andy knew most of the head ghillies (gamekeepers) of the large estates around the Grampian Mountains and could readily get their permission for us to camp on the land. That was important because the ghillie knew when stalking or shooting parties were ‘out in the field’ which would have been dangerous for us walking across the land to the mountain foothill.

Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland (& the U.K), is only 4,409 feet above sea level followed by Ben Macdui at 4295 feet so Braeriach at 4253 feet is nearly as high. That’s peanuts compared to Mount Everest at 29 thousand+ feet, or to Denali Alaska at 19 thousand+ feet, or to Mount Elbert in Colorado at 14 thousand+ feet but like many mountain climbs the strain of the event is often over walking the long distance to access the foot of the peaks. In Scotland, there are often no roads near the mountain bases and a long walk over many fields and rough ground is necessary before the climb even begins. Endurance was the name of the game back then as well…

camping trip Braeriach
Braeriach climb, 1970, near Braemar. School Landrover. Andy 4th L Food break and equipment check before we set off.

On reflection, I remember my first ever hill walking weekend arranged by Andy Stirling. There was a mixed bunch of lads and lassies. I was about 16, some were older some younger. On that first weekend one of the accompanying adults was a female P.E teacher. She was the youngest of our trio of female P.E. teachers and a lot of fun. What my friend June and I didn’t really appreciate at the time was that the two of us (the only girls) were being ‘tested’ for more than just our ability to endure the long walk, the arduous climb, and cope with the basic countryside camping beside the River Spey. (The closest facility being a large bush for privacy)

I now see that Andy Stirling was maybe also being ‘tested’ for his ability to lead an expedition that included both sexes.

I can say he passed with flying colours. He never favoured June or myself. He never let us off any of the duties we all had to undertake re: equipment maintenance and the carrying of food stocks/cooking utensils, In 1968 there were few MREs i.e. packet meals. It was mostly heavy tins to carry and the empties to carry back home- the country code strictly adhered to. Boys or girls – we were treated no differently.

Andy treated us with respect for what we had chosen to endure. He encouraged us to push our physical boundaries when the going was very tough (and it often was with a howling wind blasting our faces) but most memorable of all, he treated us as adults. He set rules but we had fun within those rules!

I wrote a personal blog post last week as a tribute to Andy Stirling but also to Waverley Secondary School in general, applauding lots of the other teachers whose influence on me was equally great in other formative ways. (It’s a very long  one but it’s HERE) I was really cheered to find some responses to my blog post on the Waverley Secondary school Facebook Page. One fellow pupil said that if I got around to writing a proper ‘Memories of Waverley’ book he’d definitely buy it. (Maybe I’ll need to fit that in sometime!)

My appreciation and liking for Andy isn’t unique. He was the glue that bound a lot of us at Waverley and he is remembered with great fondness. As I publish this post I’ve just returned from the 380 mile round trip having attended his funeral on Friday 13th. Another 4 ex-pupils like me attended and one ex-teacher who is now  83 years old herself…so that’s where the brilliant positive edges come in- it wasn’t too sad a time because I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted that! The humanist celebrant gave a perfect speech emphasising the fact that the attendees were there because Andy had meant a lot to us at some point in his life, and that he also had memories of the many friends and pupils etc he had encountered.

His glue is still binding a lot of us together.

As I wrote this post, I was thinking that writing a book is a bit like the above story. Endurance is staying with the manuscript until it’s done. All of the other bits that Andy did for our expeditions can be equated to the writing process. Plan>organise more details> check> re-check>change tack if necessary> complete the main part of the project> hone and polish> evaluate> celebrate when completed. My books don’t all happen in that order so a bit of manoeuvering around can also happen.

I hope your weekend goes well.

Nancy Jardine writes: all sorts of things these days including historical romantic adventures; time travel adventures and contemporary romantic mysteries.

http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk   http://nancyjardineauthor.com/   Twitter @nansjar  Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG and http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G (for The Rubidium time Travel Novels.) email: nan_jar@btinternet.com

Amazon Author page for books and to view book trailer videos:   http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Most novels are available in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble; NOOK; KOBO; W. H. Smith.com; Waterstones.com; Smashwords; TESCO Blinkboxbooks; and various other ebook stores.

CFS End Sept 2015
Celtic Fervour Series- historical romantic adventures
3 mysteries
Contemporary Romantic Mysteries







Teen Time Travel Adventure


Post copyright Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

edit hhj spc


This short post is about what has inspired or stayed with me through the years.


Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Flint by Louis L’Amour


Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte- and the theme song still haunts me https://youtu.be/OyYMXjmzjwQ

Star Wars – best theraphy for dealing with life

Dr. Syn, Scarecrow- Patrick McGoohan’s performance, stunning


Do the right thing. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.
Mark Twain

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
Mark Twain


When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. Marcus Aurelius

Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone to accomplish. Marcus Aurelius


Danse Macbre by Saint-Saens https://youtu.be/YyknBTm_YyM

The Impossible Dream– From Man of LaMancha https://youtu.be/RfHnzYEHAow

Is That All There Is  https://youtu.be/3sWTnsemkIs

Old Man River  https://youtu.be/KWdZ3ZrwW9c

As I traveled these years my inspirations have changed. But these are some that have stayed with me. But perhaps the one thing that has stayed with me and still means as much to me as it did when I was about twelve.

There are four kinds of people in the world. Those who like you for the right reasons, those who like you for the wrong reasons, those who hate you for the wrong reasons and those who hate you for the right reasons. The only ones you need concern yourself with are those who hate you for the right reasons.

So there you have it, the thoughts and ideas that have impacted me in my life. I will leave you with my latest inspiration: https://youtu.be/J8vxiVIH7VY

What were your inspirations?

Until next time, here’s to a life worth living, inspirations to keep you going and creativity in abundance.

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page:  http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL


One Christmas Knight