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!

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The Fresh Breath of Spring


This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

It’s time for planting and all around us are farms with tractors making rows and planting seeds. The smell of the fresh dirt never ceases to make me feel good – a deep earthy scent that you know will soon yield crops.


We have many Amish farms in our community and we see them with teams of horses and discs as they prepare their own fields for planting. It’s like being in a time standing still but I’d venture to say a lot more work than the farmers using machinery.


We’ve been planting, too. Last year my husband planted a wildflower garden for me just like one my mother had at our farm when we were young. It was such a good feeling to see and smell the flowers and watch them sway in the breeze and open up to the sun. This year we cleaned up our rock garden at the lake and totally planted all wildflowers. I can’t wait to see it bloom. Our tulips are up and beautiful as are our daffodils. Some of last year’s flowers are popping up through the ground and each day they get a little taller.


Ralph has planted his favorite (hollyhocks and sunflowers). Last year he had twelve, eight, six and four foot sunflowers that were grand. They are majestic and this year he planted all the seeds he took off the heads, plus more packages. We may end up with a back yard full of sunflowers!

When I was a young wife and mother I loved putting up food for the winter, but I wasn’t so good in the garden. The want-to was there, but I didn’t seem to have the know-how and a lot of my plants died. Thank goodness for a mother-in-law who grew a huge garden and gave me lots of fresh vegetables and fruits to can.

I’m lucky to have a husband with a very green thumb. We’ve given up planting vegetables and fruits and switched to flowers. I do a lot of the prep work and I love raking and clearing the spots for seeds to be sown. I even got to plant a few seeds of my own, with Father Nature standing over me, of course.

Now all there is to do is wait. Flowers, vegetables, fruits – all reaching to the sun and begging for gentle rain. I can’t wait for the corn to be ripe because in our area there are big corn roasts almost every weekend when it’s ready. Nothing better than getting an ear of corn from the roaster, dipping it in a can of melted butter and standing around with friends laughing as the butter drips down your arms 0nto the ground.


I’m ready to enjoy summer (already have a hoarde of books to read, writing, knitting, coloring, journaling and sewing). We are moving to the lake lot next week and won’t move back home until October 15. What I most look forward to in the summer is the sound of loons on the lake, geese returning home, red-winged blackbirds, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jays all chattering at the bird feeder, plus the squirrels and chipmunks yipping and gathering peanuts in their cheeks. Throughout all this gentle patter I sit on the deck, watch the lake, and listen to children laughing as they  play in the water while I read. Ah, the glory of it all!

Hummingbird Feedermale cardinal




L.Leander is the author of the Inzared series (available on Amazon):


Inzared the Fortune Teller

and books for authors (also available on Amazon):

10 Extreme Tips to Publishing an e-Book

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Let’s Talk Passion

Post copyright Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

edit hhj spc

According to Merriam-Webster a simple definition of passion isa strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. 

Can you imagine living with enthusiasm and excitement for everything you do? It would be fun doing the dishes, cleaning house, visiting a sick friend, gardening or just plain being. Perhaps over time, we’ve become frightened of passion, of giving something our all. Maybe we’ve been burned too many times.

The key is, it is our passion and what other people say or do has nothing to do with how we feel inside. If we are frowned upon when we laugh out loud, who ultimately loses if we bow to peer pressure? I’m not advocating doing things that harm others. I’m talking about the reason we get up in the morning, the things that make us happy. Telling the story of the women doctors is a passion. I love speaking and writing about them, and the research is a passionate challenge to me. March 19, I’ll be in Victor, Colorado sharing my passion with others about these women.

I don’t have children, I don’t like snakes, but that does not mean I should keep someone else from being passionate about them. Maybe they don’t like cats. That’s okay. Some people love to sing, others to write music or jokes or books. If we don’t enjoy what we are doing, if we can’t find the passion and excitement, why do we continue? Life is precious, don’t waste it. I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes about passion:

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela
Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks. Yo-Yo Ma

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. Martha Graham

and perhaps one of my new favorite:

There isn’t any great mystery about me. What I do is glamorous and has an awful lot of white-hot attention placed on it. But the actual work requires the same discipline and passion as any job you love doing, be it as a very good pipe fitter or a highly creative artist. Tom Hanks

What we are passionate about, I think, helps define who we want to be and our ability to try and get there. So here’s to a life lived with passions, following dreams and sailing our own ships.  I will leave you with a link to a song I’m passionate about. Listen to the words, be inspired and follow that passion.

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Originally from the mid-west, Doris now calls the Rocky Mountains her home. Doris is a writer, historian, actor,and teacher. An avid reader Doris loves to spend time in history archives looking for the small, unknown pieces of history. Many times these pieces end up in her stories or poems.  Like her author page to stay on top of her work. also make sure to check out her haiku and photographs at

“One Christmas Knight” Medieval Anthology

“Angel of Salvation Valley”






Post copyright 2015 by Doris McCraw








I confess to having a love/hate relationship with resources. They are a blessing or a curse to your writing. As I make this journey of being a writer, the use of resources is a must. Writing fiction as Angela Raines, the use of old newspapers, books, and diaries, add that note of authenticity to the stories of the Old West that I write.Writing nonfiction, especially the story of the early women doctors in Colorado, using resources can be a great headache.

For fiction, “At the End of the Santa Fe Trail”, by Sister Blandina Segale, 1850-1941, is a gem for events that occurred during the time of the western expansion as Sister Bandina makes her way alone from the mother house in Cincinnati, Ohio to Trinidad, Colorado and then onto  Santa Fe, New Mexico. Published in 1932, this wonderful book is composed of letters written by Sister Blandina to her sisters ‘The Sisters of Charity’ back east. A Google search of Images of Sister Blandina is quite fascinating.

Another great gem is “Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps” by Sandra Dallas; Photographs by Kendal Atchison. Published in the 1980’s, it is a wealth of tidbits about the time in Colorado, from 1859-1920, when Colorado was the place to be to find gold and silver.

The remains of an old cabin at Dyersville, Colorado. Founded and named for ‘Father Dyer’ a traveling itinerant Methodist preacher.

To write the book on early Colorado women doctors before 1900 is another completely different challenge when it comes to resources. Books like “Medicine in the Old West: a History, 1850-1900” by Jeremy Agnew, published in 2010, offer glimpses of how medicine was used and viewed during the time, but talks little of women physicians except to say they had a difficult time. (Although he does speak of a woman physician in Pueblo, Colorado briefly.) Even the primary source I have on Colorado Women Doctors, “Women Physicians of Colorado”, by Mary De Mund, published in 1976 has errors due to the lack of resources when it was written. Some women doctors, who died before licensing in the state began, are harder to locate. Newspapers have been a good resource as has, but even those can be a minefield. If a woman married, or didn’t advertise, many times they just don’t want to be found. Male and female names that are similar or have changed use with the sex over the years, further complicates the search. Beverly is now a female name, but in the 1800’s it was strictly a male name. Emley B. Queal, while listed in the women physicians of Colorado is actually a male who graduated from Harvard, but was a physician.

Here in Colorado Springs, I have access to cemetery records and the headstones of those buried here. That makes finding these women easier. For those in the rest of the state, well let’s just say there will be many a day spent traveling and ‘camping’ out at local libraries and newspaper offices.  In the meantime, I will leave you with a couple of ‘findings’ on these women you may find interesting.

Dr. Agnes Winzell is listed as graduating from the Nashville College of Eclectic Therapeutics in Indiana in 1897 and receiving her Colorado license, #2966, in 1899. However she shows up in the 1892 Seattle, Washington city directory as Mrs. Agnes Winzell, physician, 27 Douthitt Bldg.

Dr. Edith Root was the first woman to receive a Colorado license. In 1881, the first year Colorado started licensing physicians, Dr. Root applied and received her license #89. She was forty years old at that time. However she is listed in the 1878 Denver city directory as a physician, at 359 Larimer.

So you see, while research is quite fun, in fact I love it, it takes more than one source and many an hour reading unlikely books, newspapers and of course countless hours on the computer. No wonder I have this love/hate relationship with Cursed Recources. So until next time, see you in the research section.


home for his heart angela rainesHOME FOR HIS HEART
also available as an ebook on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.


Doris Gardner-McCraw/Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

Author Page:
Photo and Poem:



To the Rescue: Part 2 – How to Help Pets in Need

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

As far back as the mid-1800s, people in the United States rallied to the plight of animals. In 1866, Henry Bergh founded the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the first North American-based humane society. Nearly 150 years later, the ASPCA remains a fighting force for helping animal victims of cruelty and assisting pets and pet parents through adoptions and animal shelter assistance.

The ASPCA estimates there are nearly 14,000 animal shelters in America, and there are innumerable pet rescue organizations as well. From Rez Dawg Rescue, which focuses on helping homeless dogs on Native American reservations, to Kitty Keepers, a cat rescue organization based in Havre, Montana, from large sanctuaries like Best Friends in Utah to smaller, all-volunteer-based rescues like Western Border Collie Rescue, these organizations help the mutts and the breeds as well as provide sanctuary for horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, and other creatures.

October is National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, a time in which rescues and animal shelters bring greater awareness to the number of homeless dogs (Adopt a Shelter Cat Month takes place in June, and Adopt a Senior Pet Month is next month – November: more on that in another post!). Pets benefit people in many ways. In addition to wonderful companionship, many hold jobs as service and therapy dogs as well as K9 and search and rescue dogs. Pets provide people with mental and physical health benefits as well: did you know that a pet can lower your blood pressure, possibly helping you live longer? Some studies show that pet owners, especially those with dogs, have a reduced risk of heart disease and therefore, live longer. Dogs help us exercise physically so blood pressure and bad cholesterol levels can be lowered by owning a dog. Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression and to be calmer and more relaxed than people who don’t have pets.


So, how about adopting a dog this month? You’ll be healthier, mentally and physically! And, you may save a life. Approximately 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year because not enough people adopt them and because people don’t spay and neuter their own pets, creating an over-abundance of animals.

But, what if you can’t adopt? Perhaps your lifestyle or housing situation doesn’t allow for a dog (or cat) at this time … or someone in your household is allergic to animals. There are still many ways you can help pets in need, whether at your local shelter/rescue or even via one of the larger, national organizations.

  1. Volunteer/Transport/Foster.
  2. Support/Help at events.
  3. Donate money and/or supplies.
  4. Educate others/Be an advocate.
  5. Encourage spay/neuter.
  6. Report cruelty/neglect.


loca and family1Foster families are needed by nearly every rescue and by many humane societies and shelters. This is a way you can bring an animal into your home temporarily as it waits its permanent home, helping it to not have to live in a cage while it awaits its forever family. Fosters are volunteers and are often reimbursed for food and vet care. Foster families make amazing impacts on pets in need!

If you can’t foster, there are many other volunteer opportunities. One that I particularly enjoy is transporting: bringing pets into foster care or taking them to their forever homes. I’ve been blessed to help transport dogs through the state of Wyoming, and sometimes into Montana, Colorado, and South Dakota. It usually means a trek of two to three hours, but sometimes much further, especially if I’m traveling to or from my parents’ in Montana. If you enjoy traveling, why not help a dog or cat get where it needs to go? This is one of my favorite ways to help and volunteer!

You can also volunteer with fundraising events or go to your local shelter to socialize the animals: walking and playing with dogs and/or brushing and playing with cats. Interacting with volunteers, perhaps even being obedience trained by volunteers, keeps the animals be more socialized and therefore be more adoptable.


Rescues and non—profit humane societies always need funds and they always need supplies, such as pet food, treats, cat litter, laundry soap, and other cleaning supplies. Contact your local rescue or shelter and see what their current needs are. Perhaps even run a supply donation drive in your neighborhood, church, school, or club and get more people in your community involved.


Sage_Gayle_Children_LibraryHelp bring awareness of pet overpopulation and pet ownership responsibility by learning more about the issues of puppy mills, spay/neuter, and pet ownership – then share what you’ve learned! Be an advocate for the animals who have no voice of their own but whose pictures are worth a thousand words. Work with your local rescue/shelter/humane society to help them educate children and adults in your community. You can also be an advocate on social media using hashtags on Twitter and Facebook #NoKill, #AdoptAPet, #SaveThemAll, #NoMoreHomelessPets, and other relevant monikers. You can also work with your state legislators to change and update laws that better protect animals and punish those who exploit and hurt them.

Report Animal Cruelty and Neglect

Remember the Michael Vick dog fighting case? That’s just one of thousands of abuse cases, and of course one of the most publicized. But, animal cruelty happens constantly, even in the smallest of towns and by the smallest of people. Children who abuse animals often grow up to hurt people; there is strong evidence to show that serial killers start off as animal abusers. We can nip both in the bud by stepping forward and reporting to the appropriate authorities any time we witness an animal neglected or being mistreated. This is also opportunity to change laws to better protect pets and hold those abusers accountable. Protecting pets often also protects people, maybe even children who also suffer at the hands of adult abusers.


Pet overpopulation is a big problem. For every one puppy or kitten that finds a home, many others die because each litter adds 4 to 6 more to the population. Fixing the pet helps to fix the problem. Support low-cost spay/neuter clinics, encourage your friends and family to alter their animals, and if you have pets at home, get them spayed/neutered. Having that surgery done to your pets should be the responsible owner’s priority, to not add to the overwhelming number of animals that are killed in shelters every year.

Be A Hero!

inside carThere are innumerable ways we can make a difference in the lives of dogs, cats, horses, and other creatures. As a faith-filled person, I believe God’s word that says, “God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25). If the Creator calls it good, how can we humans exploit, abuse, mis-use, mis-treat, and call that creation invalid and invaluable? It is our responsibility as people of this planet to care for it and the living things upon it, to rescue and help those who rely upon our care.

There are many great pet organizations who need and rely upon volunteers, donors, and other advocates; unless one wins the lottery or is in someway a multi-billionaire, it’s hard to donate funds to all of them. So, consider what I’m doing: choose a few in which you can help most. I’ve chosen one in my community (the Casper Humane Society), three regional (Black Dog Animal Rescue, English Springer Spaniel Rescue and Big Dogs Huge Paws – the two later have a national reach but have a Rocky Mountain base/chapter), and two national, which also happen to be regional (Best Friends Animal Sanctuary and National Mill Dog Rescue) … and I occasionally donate to the national ASPCA. Because my books are about dogs, I donate a percentage of proceeds to these groups throughout the year as well as consider additional donations part of my tithe to the Creator God. That’s how I do monetary donations, but then I also transport for whomever whenever I can, take part in special events as I can, and advocate/educate on behalf of them all as often as I can – such as now.

It doesn’t take much to make a difference, therefore, I encourage you to be a hero: become part of the pet rescue movement in whatever way you can.

#NoKill! #AdoptAPet! #NoMoreHomelessPets!

Greg and MaryAll of my pets, including our newest dog, Mary, have been adopted. Fortunately, my husband supports adoption and advocacy, too!


Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNookGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at


SageBigAdventureFront-small     SageLearnsShareFront-small    Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014    Walking_FrontCover_small   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover

To the Rescue! Part 1

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin


On Sunday I helped rescue: I transported a dog for English Springer Spaniel Rescue of America (Rocky Mountain chapter – there are chapters across the country) to his new, although temporary home. I have served as a transporter for various dog rescue organizations for nearly six years, primarily helping Springer Rescue and Big Dogs Huge Paws (based in Colorado), but I have also transported for Black Dog Animal Rescue (based in Cheyenne, Wyo.) and I’m on the contact list for at least two other groups. I find great satisfaction in helping dogs go from neglect or other difficult situations into new homes, whether those are caring foster homes (temporary) or their loving, permanent homes.

I transported Pepsi, a springer/beagle mix, on Sunday; he had lived with the same family for more than seven years but was kept outside most of his life and the people spent very little time with him; he’s now in foster care with a friend of mine here in Casper. Last year I transported Boone, a senior beagle who found his forever home in Yellowstone Park with an middle-aged couple. And, more than four years ago, I helped Jazmine, a Great Pyrenees mix, get to her new home with a family in Calgary, Canada. Each dog has a story, and I am now a chapter in their life stories – that makes me very happy!








This month is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, celebrated and recognized around the country by animal shelter and rescue groups. Many such organizations reduce their adoption fees or at least take the opportunity to bring greater awareness to the plight of animals in need of loving homes. While touring Best Friends Animal Society & Sanctuary last month, I learned the startling statistic of how many animals die in kill shelters throughout this country. Even though I was aware of the annual statistic (3-4 million), the tour guide bravely broke it down to how many every day: 9,000. NINE THOUSAND dogs, cats, and other creatures (bunnies, guinea pigs, birds) DIE EVERY DAY in kill shelters. Yet, Americans shell out billions of dollars every year – in fact, more than $55 billion! – for their pets: food, vet bills, treats, toys, beds, clothing… Americans who love their pets REALLY LOVE their pets to spend billions of dollars every year on them. That’s so cool! Yet, we let 9,000 die every day in kill shelters. That’s very sad and to me, intolerable. It’s estimated that only 35% of pets in shelters are adopted – why do we think an animal is LESS THAN because it’s in rescue or a shelter? The fact is the #1 reason why animals are at those places is because of their human, not because of the animal; the #1 reason people give for giving up their pet is “I’m moving.” Yet, they move with their child, their car, their furniture … and leave their pet behind.

Best Friends has two significant campaigns: No Kill and No More Homeless Pets. Since October is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month, I think it’s a good time to get on the #NoMoreHomelessPets/#NoKill bandwagon and encourage dog adoption. So, I’m taking the stage with this post and asking my friends to join in. Tweet, Facebook, and tout however you can: #NoKill! #NoMoreHomelessPets! #AdoptaDog! #AdoptDon’tShop!

Boone_YellowstoneBoone singing in Yellowstone!


Even if you can’t adopt a dog, cat, rabbit, or other homeless pet, there are many things a person can do to help. Like me, you can transport, or you can donate supplies or volunteer. More about such ways in my next post.

I’ve volunteered and I’ve worked for animal shelters off and on for more than 20 years. Pets are my passion, and I do whatever I can to help. I’m fortunate – I’m a writer, so I can weave my passion into my writing. Whenever I have a book event, I always donate a percentage of sale proceeds to a local or regional animal welfare organization, and I will continue to do so. I’ve participated in animal events as a vendor, selling books and donating back to the group, and I will continue to do that as well.

The dogs’ stories of which I’ve played a part are playing a part in my current writings. I am working on two books that involve dog rescue: an educational/awareness book about dog rescue for children and families – that book idea sprouted from my encounter with Jazmine – and a romance story involving dog rescue (I imagine the hero of my story will rescue the heroine, or vice-verse!). Again, I’m weaving my writing with my passion for pets, and I’m looking forward to seeing how these stories come together. Also, I’ve written articles for our local paper on the various animal welfare groups and I hope to do more such stories in the future. I also write a pet column for different publications and I’ve written for online blogs, including my own pet blog. To me, pet rescue and adoption are vital, for communities, for the animals, and for people, and I’m happy to share my knowledge and passion with others.

How about you? Do you have some type of “rescue” as part of your stories? Or do animals play a role in your books?

Next time, Part 2: Things we can all do to help the animal groups in our area, even if we can’t adopt one.

Learn more companion animal statistics at this website:


Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNookGayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She is the author of five inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released in August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines and for the Casper Journal newspaper. She pens a pet column for the Douglas Budget and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She volunteers with several pet rescue and animal welfare organizations, and a percentage of proceeds from her book sales are donated to these groups. Learn more at



SageBigAdventureFront-small       SageLearnsShareFront-small      Walking_FrontCover_small     Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final     Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014     Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover

Treasures, Blessings, and Opportunities

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

“….to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” – Mission of National Park Service as ordained by the Organic Act of 1916

Dad and Gayle_CedarBreaksI recently traveled the areas of southern Utah and northern Arizona with my father. We visited five national parks (Zion, Bryce, Arches, Canyonlands, and the Grand Canyon) and three national monuments (Cedar Breaks, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Pipe Spring). We experienced sandy deserts, red sandstone cliffs, and high elevation forests, and we absorbed sights wondrous to behold! In those 2,000+ miles we encountered people from all parts of the United States and the world. We heard French, German, Japanese, Korean, British English, and American English (including Texan, Illinois-ian, and New Yorkan). One valuable lesson I learned: America’s natural gems are treasured throughout the world.

We Americans have environmental treasures throughout our country, from the high-plains deserts of Wyoming and Montana to the lush tropics of Florida and Hawaii. We are so incredibly fortunate that visionaries of the late 1800s and early 1900s ensured Grand Canyonplaces such as Yellowstone (set aside in 1872), Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon were set aside for those of us today and those who come after us can experience these unique, majestic areas for ourselves. Watching The Roosevelts on Public Television, I’ve been reminded that Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, saw the value in these lands; so did Bill Clinton when he expanded or established more than 20 national monuments, setting aside Grand Staircase-Escalante in Utah and the Missouri River Breaks in Montana, among others, as national treasures worthy of protection – both presidents received great flack for their stewardship strides, protecting places for future generations to enjoy. Had it not been for these men, and many other people, my dad and I would not have been able to experience these amazing vistas nor now have this great memory to cherish. Additionally, communities’ as well as America’s economy would not be primed with cash from international visitors who take bus tours, stay in hotels, rent cars, dine out, and buy souvenirs … and who experience something their country doesn’t have: natural national treasures.

Nat Bridge_BryceI was very blessed not only by encounters with other park/monument visitors, but by the incredible scenery and the memory-making time with my father. Sharing this trip with my dad is something I will never forget. Having such majestic places to enjoy with him, and with my parents together as a youngster, is a majestic memory that will never be erased.

I often wonder why so many Americans do not value these national treasures; I’ve heard several say, “if you’ve seen one tree you’ve seen them all,” or “What good is a pile of rocks?” Ask that question of the numerous visitors from Europe and Asia who have no such place to enjoy, who travel thousands of miles to experience the beauty and majesty of vistas, canyons, rocks, and forests. Ask that question of the multitude of creatures that call those landscapes home: a treasure-trove of birds, mammals, reptiles, and plants that exist in the varied environments. Sitting on the porch of a rented cabin near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon one morning, I counted no less than seven bird species, and throughout our trip we saw a plethora of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, rabbits, squirrels, lizards, and other critters – neither the desert nor the forest is devoid of life.

Best Friends SignThe third lesson I learned is that I’m given opportunity; I only need to be vigilant. My parents taught me at a young age to conserve, to respect nature and to honor the Creator. My faith is re-enforced when I experience nature: a glowing scarlet sunset, the myriad of colors in a forest meadow or a shimmering rainbow, the individuality and creativity of each species of plant and animal. As a writer and an appreciator of nature (thanks in large part to my wonderful parents!), I see opportunity in traveling to these special places. There are magazine articles and blog posts (like this one) to write, there are potential business endeavors to create (offering to write brochure and other marketing copy for tourism-based businesses), and there are books to sell (I met several dog-oriented people during the trip and also made contact with a bookstore at which I may be able to sell my books – it’s located in Kanab, Utah and named for an animal and when I mentioned I write dog stories and am a supporter of Best Friends Animal Society & Sanctuary, the store’s owner indicated interest in carrying my books). Passing out business cards, not being afraid to tell others I’m a writer with a passion for pets and the environment, and sharing my experiences with readers weaves the tapestry of my life – and knitting those treasures, blessings and opportunities together creates a firmer foundation and solidifies the calling upon my heart.

Red Cat Bookstore_Kanab

What experiences have added to the woven fabric of your life? What has influenced your writer’s calling (or whatever other passions are instilled within you?)

P.S. The National Park Service celebrates 100 years as an agency in 1916, and National Public Lands Day is this Saturday, September 27th – I encourage each of us to go out and enjoy the bountiful treasures that are our national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges. Volunteer, visit, write, wonder, educate, enjoy – you too may find a treasure-trove of blessing and opportunity!

Red Canyon_BryceSage_Gayle_Children_LibraryGayle M. Irwin is a writer, author and speaker. She’ll be speaking about “Dogs with Jobs” at the Natrona County Library in Casper, WY at 2 pm on Sat., September 27th. She is the author of five inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released in August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at

Whats in a Name? by S. J.

Sue profile_pp





This Post by S. J. Brown

Since this is my first blog post I wanted to say HELLO to everyone and tell you a little about myself. I am a wildlife photographer, writer, Mom, wife, and grandmother. I am thrilled to be part of this group and look forward to getting to know everyone. I plan to share my thoughts and a few photos with you so you can get to know me.

I thought I should address the name issue here. Those of you that have met me know me as Sue. In print, on the internet and on anything to do with photographs I am S. J.

My photography career has taught me names are important. As Sue Brown, the photographer my work wasn’t getting viewed and certainly wasn’t selling. By simply using my initials instead doors began to open. This wasn’t a decision I made lightly. I have had my name all my life. My family and friends used it on a daily basis. It is familiar, my parents gave me that name. They also gave me my initials.

I began my photography career over 12 years ago, but even I was surprised. It seems that if a publisher was looking for a wildlife photo they didn’t believe a woman would have what they wanted. They rarely took the time to look at my work.

Whats in a name- bear






Most publishers assume S. J. Brown is a man and have even written checks to him. That’s okay, the bank cashes them. Yes, this is the 21st century, but some misconceptions live on.

So names are important. The name of a fictional character says something about them. It can give hints into their family background. The use of a nick name says a lot too. Changing the names of real people in your work helps prevent you from being sueCover 3-26-23d. The name of a special place will stay with you forever. The title (name ) of your book says a lot about it’s contents.





For me S. J. Brown says I am not on most occasions sporting a dress and high heels. Instead I can be found in hiking shoes, jeans and a tee shirt. You will rarely find me at a cocktail party or formal event. Instead look for me in the woods, I could be on the ground, climbing a tree or in a canoe. I am sure this is not what Mom had in mind when she was attempting to raise a proper young lady. However she did grow to appreciate what I do, and her lessons have served me well in public situations.

I thought I would end with a photo taken by this proper young lady in Florida. I didn’t know his name so I just called him sweetie.

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How does your name relate to your work? Do you use the  name your parents gave you or another?



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Relishing Summer

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis blog post by Gayle M. Irwin


During summer it’s easy to “relish” – watermelon, apples, ice cream, ice tea, the occasional strawberry daiquiri or margarita (or both!): all quench a parched throat, dry from summer’ warmth.

But, there are other things to “relish” as well these days: the season itself with respite from snow and cold; hikes and walks in woodland splendor; laughter of children; companionship of family and friends – treasures of summer’s majesty.

Writers Group at CabinI’ve been fortunate to relish – and revel in – many things this season, like cabin solitude and cabin time shared with family and friends, including my parents, and good friends such as my writer’s group just a few weeks ago; and the spider-webbing of my writing through new magazine and blog opportunities, several of which will be published this fall. I recently received the new copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What? and had my first sales of the book last Friday! I spoke at a library and senior center in a town about 90 miles south of Casper and connected with more dog people, and later this month I travel to Colorado to speak at the Fort Collins Senior Center. I relish these opportunities to share uplifting presentations with a call to action – to help animal rescue groups in the area. During this particular weekend I will continue my travel south to New Mexico, to visit a friend I’ve known more than 35 years, and then drive back north with a stop in Colorado Springs to visit places I’ve not seen, like Garden of the Gods and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. I’m also planning to share dinner with Doris McGraw!

TetonsIn July I spent time with another friend, someone I’ve known about 30 years, when he and his family visited Teton National Park, therefore, I was fortunate to return to a lovely part of my state: Jackson, the Tetons, Yellowstone National Park. My parents visited at the end of July, and in September my father and I will visit national parks in Utah as well as the Grand Canyon. I’ve been to a few of these places; my dad never has. At 78 years of age, he’s put this trip on his “bucket list,” and I will “relish” sharing this vacation – and nature’s grandeur – with him.

I relish writing, speaking, travel, knowledge, my pets, family, and friends.

Many people make relish from summer gardens – I remember my mother doing that for years. I am neither a cook nor a gardener so my “relish” is a savoring of life’s sweetness when certain opportunities come my way: enjoyment of friends and family; sharing my passions, talents, and gifts in a variety of ways; and creating memories … and anticipating more in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

What “sweetness” will you be relishing soon? SAVOR!!



Gayle with book buyerGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What? to be released August 19, 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, Douglas Budget, and River Press newspapers, and she’s had articles published in Creation Illustrated magazine. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Learn more at


Walking_FrontCover_small       Dog Devotion Book_Cover_FinalChicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover    Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014    SageBigAdventureFront-small     SageLearnsShareFront-small

When is a song a story?


This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

If you listen to as many songs as I do you’ve probably listened to the stories they tell.  The trick is to tell a story in 3 1/2 minutes or less, although established artists can get away with much longer songs.  Some songs don’t tell a story but contain a line that gives a message.  For instance “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” makes you light up when you hear it but doesn’t tell a story like a book.

I’ve written and copywritten at least five hundred or more songs.  Some I didn’t like but figured I could come back later and work on, and some I’m proud of.  Today I’m sharing with you a song I wrote in Mexico.  I made several trips to Tucson by bus or car so am familiar with the city.  When the words came to mind I set this story song in Tucson.  When I write songs I pick up my guitar, start playing and it’s then the magic happens.  My mind starts with something I’ve seen, heard or read.  The music and words always come together when I compose but many people don’t write that way.  It’s a lot like writing books but in this case it has to be as much of a story as you can tell in a very short time.

Today I’d like to share with you “Painted Angel” a song I’ve sung on stage many times and a favorite of my audiences.  Unfortunately, a year ago, after  my concussion, I got really hoarse and can no longer sing.  I’ve been to doctors and am going in for a scope next week.  It hurts not to sing because it’s always been a passion and I’ve sung since I was very little (with my father).  However, I am lucky to have songs I’ve written, published or not, and I am learning to deal with the loss of my voice.  It’s all up to God.  I’ve used my voice for His glory in church all my  life and if this is something I must bear, so be it.

This time I actually have the song to share with you, but the only recording I can find is pretty  basic, so it’s definitely not professional.  But you’ll get the idea.

I almost always write story songs because I enjoy making the characters and settings tell a tale.  I hope you enjoy it too.



 Ridin’ on the rails of sunshineangela

Nothin’ could hold her down

Packed her bags goodbye mom and dad

Kicked the dust out of that town

Ran out of money in Tucson

Things weren’t ain’t been goin’ too well

Instead of the heaven she was dreamin’ about

She’s been out there goin’ through hell



She’s just one more painted angelKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Underneath a desert sky

If she don’t get home she’ll be

A painted angel ‘til she dies


Writes home to her sister

Says things are happy and brighthomeless girl

Her faded tears between the lines

Erase the hungry sleepless nights

Nothin’ left of her pride

It ain’t worth much these

Sleepin’ in a cardboard shelter

With a bottle of cheap rosé




She dreams about the old timesbride

When at last she closes her eyes

The boy she thought she’d

And the wedding she fantasized

She don’t care about tomorrow

Yesterday’s scattered on the ground

But if she had the bus fareOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

She’d be on the next Greyhound


©Linda Stewart

Here’s the link to the song.  Hope you enjoy it!


All photos courtesy of


Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders

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Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)








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