IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

Have you ever wondered what goes into a field trip for a wildlife photographer? January is when I plan out large portions of my year. As snow piles up outside Jay and I spread books, maps and the trusted atlas on the dining room table. We have notes from shows we have watched on the public broadcasting station and migration maps as well.

SJBrown1After reviewing all this we pick a direction and plan out one trip at the time. The desired destination dictates if we will be on the road for just a few days or 10. This year’s 10 day trip will have us zig zagging from state to state and spending extra time in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
We budget for things like gas, food and places to stay. While we spend our days in refuges, parks and out of the way places. We need to plan to be in areas that offer food and lodging each night, but still close to the next day’s sunrise destination. I promise Jay one decent meal a day, and a bed to sleep in, anything beyond that is a bonus.

SJBrown2Before we hit the road we stock up on things like film and snacks. All the camera equipment needs to be ready to capture that magic moment when I encounter a critter. Over the years I have accumulated a number of camera bodies and lens’. This year my largest most expensive lens needed to be replaced before we hit the road. The only good thing about this is that it didn’t happen while I was on the road.
We plan out shorter trips as well. Two or three day trips include locations in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. On each of these trips I load the car with two camera bags, a tripod, raincoats, hiking boots, water shoes, and a duffle bag. Jay packs his duffle bag and the cooler. Longer trips require us to find room for additional duffle bags and food. What I may need to grab in a hurry goes in the back seat for easy access.

SJBrown3Over the years we have learned to plan for anything. Weather, traffic accidents, and lack of critters can divert us from our planned route. On a trip to Tennessee we spent very little time in the state. Instead I captured most of my critter images in Kentucky.

SJBrown4While in Main we struck out at our planned destination and traveled another 3 hours north to get shots of a mama moose and her offspring. The rainy conditions in Georgia pushed us to spend an extra day in Florida on another trip.

SJBrown5Wildlife photography is so much more than having a camera and a love of critters. However this is something I am passionate about and I plan to keep doing it for many years to come. Our next trip is just a few weeks away.

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you plan a few adventures of your own.

As a wildlife photographer and author I have been traveling extensively throughout the United States for over 15 years. I am always accompanied by my husband and spotter in my pursuit of the next critter encounter.
My work has been published internationally in books, calendars, greeting cards, magazines and newspapers. Sharing my photographs and written words are a way to share my wildlife encounters with others and possibly inspire them to explore their creative side.
My books, Close Ups and Close Encounters, All the birds I see, Clancys Cat Nap and two coloring books based on my images are all available through my website

Connect with me on Facebook and be one of the first to see what I have been up and view my Sunday Shares.

Join my E mail list and be the first to hear about my latest adventure.

Visit my website to view more of my images

S J Brown Photo vertical

Looking Back at 2016

imgp6488By S. J. Brown

Since 2016 is almost over I thought I would reminisce a bit.  For several years I have been sharing my images on Facebook.   I share a new photo each Sunday so there are many photos that my blogging buddies don’t get to see.  So I thought I would include the 10 most popular photos from 2016 on my last blog of the year.

For many of us 2016 was a roller coaster year, with plenty of ups and downs.  The snow in the beginning of the year came up over 3 feet here.  When I was finally able to get my feet down on solid ground Hubby and I headed out for a few photo trips.

This year I collected nearly 900 books for one of the libraries that flooded in Southern West Virginia. I helped plant over 150 trees and spent time with some gardening friends, when I wasn’t out taking pictures.   I tagged 20 monarch Butterflies and flipped dozens of horseshoe crabs.

My sister and I completed a Memoir and are currently working on books 2 & 3 in the series.  Perhaps years from now we will collaborate on Senior Sisters together.  2016 brought us scorching hot temperatures, new adventures and lots of fond memories.  I photographed Tree Frogs, Bald Eagles, bunny rabbits and baby birds.  I trudged through the snow to capture White Tailed deer, and sunk in the mud to zoom in on Water Fowl.

  I am currently working out the details for a few photo trips in 2017.  I will be heading North for one trip, East for another and South for yet another.  While I work out the details I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season. 

I hope 2016 was kind to you.

May 2017 welcome you with open arms and make you smile. 


Connect with S. J. Brown on Facebook , be one of the first to see what she has been up and view her Sunday Shares.


S. J. Browns coloring books feature sketches based on her photographs.

CBCover Acover

Cover 3-26-23Back Cover 4-24-2013Close up and Close Encounters is available on Amazon  at

Or get your autographed copy at S. J. Brown website

S. J. Brown’s children’s pictures books are only available through S. J. Brown.

You can order your copies from her website S.J. Brown

Cover All the Birds I See Cover

Thank you for stopping by. I hope I can count on you to comment and share this blog.

Fork in The Road

propic11_1By L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

I received the letter “F” for the A-Z Blog challenge.  Since my maiden name is Flory I thought about writing about that, but the Forked Road seemed better-suited to this blog.  I hope you enjoy it.

We have all been down the forked road, but why do some take the left fork and others take the right? Is it that left-handed people take the left and right-handed people take the right? I don’t think so.

I read an article once before I took my children to Disney World. The author of the piece said “Most people tend to take the right entrance to an attraction, while fewer take the left”.  In other words, if you want to get in to the attraction, bathroom, or gate, take the left line because you’ll get there faster. We tried it and the advice was right. We did find the time it took to get in on the left was speedier than the right.

We’ve all seen and traveled down many forked roads or trails throughout our lives.  Some curve Forked Roadaround an ancient tree while others are man-made. They may lead to the same place, or not.

Pretend you need a solution to a problem or have a big decision to make. You sit at the tip of the forked road trying to decide which way to go. Confused and anxious, the decision is waiting to be made. It may be a new move, a new relationship, or anything that will make a big impact on your life.  As you sit contemplating, you cannot decide, thinking about all the “What ifs?”

Deepak Chopra, an internationally known  New-Age guru says, “Get rid of the what-ifs.  It’s not an A or B situation. Don’t control or predict what will happen.”  His suggestion is to sit alone in a quiet place and be still. The answer will come; in fact, your heart always knows the right answer. It’s up to you to tune into your thoughts to know the right way to advance.

Decision-making is generally difficult for me and perhaps some of you who read this post have the same problem.  I know the issue, I really want to decide one way or the other, but the thoughts go around and around in my head until sometimes they make me physically ill and unable to reach a verdict at all.

I am definitely not a critical thinker and I’ve made snap decisions that ended up without the answers I sought. Sometimes the decision I made was not a good one, so when the next one comes along I worry that I will make the same mistake again.

A Therapist I know shared with me some insight about the forked road. She told me “A decision is just a decision and if it’s not right you can make another decision.”

That advice helped me to see more clearly that even if I make a wrong decision, I have learned from that one and can make a new choice next time. It also made me think about my fear of making good decisions and why it can actually be a learning experience that will help me each time I have an issue.

Here is a passage from the Bible that speaks of a “fork in the road”.

Ezekiel 21:19  Mark out two roads for the sword of the king of Babylon to come; both of them shall issue from the same land. And make a signpost; make it for a fork in the road leading to a city;roadsign

What do you do when you’re picking an editor for your manuscript? Do you research several editors?  If you get the list down to two do you waffle back and forth between the two choices or do you confidently choose the one you believe will have your best interests at heart?

Do you write your latest novel and at some point come to a place where the protagonist must go one way or another? Which fork in the road do you choose for her/him to follow?

Another bit of advice from Deepak Chopra says; “Find a place of total quiet. Make sure there are nomeditation distractions. Clear your mind and sit silently for maybe fifteen minutes. During that time don’t let thoughts race through your mind, instead, focus on the quiet. You may need to do this more than once, but it will put you in the right spiritual place to make the choice, and the answer will be there. Prayer is a very important part of the journey.”

When you stand at the fork in the road, remember this advice and you’ll make the right choice. But if you don’t, remember, you can always make another one!

Here are a couple of quotes on decision-making.

“Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clean and straight; indecision, a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind it.”

Gordon Graham

“Don’t even leap to actions and decisions before you’ve found that sense of natural calm, well-being, or enthusiasm.”

Frederick Dodson, Parallel Universe of Self

Courtesy of

I’d like to share one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost. I’ve always loved it but it means something different to me now that I’m an adult. See if the same applies to you.

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 Poem courtesy of

 Here is a link to an article on decision-making.

The meaning of Fork in The Road.

Bios of Deepak Chopra and Robert Frost

There’s even a joke about the Forked Road (a 2000 year old classic)


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)


You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander Books Blog

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews





Plannig More by SJ

Sue profile_pp This Post by S. J. Brown

The brutal cold we are experiencing this winter has turned out to be perfect for taking time to plan. This year I plan to do a bit more. Like most people I am longing for springtime. This springtime will be different for me in more than one way. This will be our first spring in the new house. The gentle signs of spring I have looked forward to for over 20 years won’t be here this year, but they will be next year.

1 Crocus

At our former home I had spent years landscaping with plants and flowers that returned year after year. The new house is a semi blank canvas I plan to paint with the more than 50 plants I brought with me when we moved. The flower pots that protect them have been safely tucked under layers of mulch all winter, just waiting for spring to arrive. So I will be doing more digging. I plan on adding a tree or two as well.

2 Flowers

For the third year in a row I was part of the Great backyard bird count. This year I did a bit more counting. I counted birds in both West Virginia and Delaware. I plan to count Moths during National Moth Week, July 23rd to the 29th

As in years past this year I will be taking part in a monarch butterfly tagging3 Monarch program. However this year I will be traveling to a number of new locations to find these fluttering wonders. Hopefully this will lead to more butterflies being monitored. If you to want to help Monarch butterflies check out the Monarch Watch website at

4 Horshoe CrabIn May I will once again travel to Delaware to flip horseshoe crabs. This year I am taking a few volunteers along. That equals more hands and a bit more help for the horseshoe crabs.

New for me this year are a few more volunteer opportunities. Citizen Scientist like me aid in projects like The Great Sunflower Project. How easy is this? You plant Sunflowers and note the insects that visit. Yes, I will be planting organic sunflower seeds. At the end of the growing season I will harvest the seeds to feed to the birds over the winter. For more information about the Great Sunflower project go to

5 Sunflower

So I am going to be planting more, counting more, tagging more, and yes, I plan take more photographs and travel more. I think everyone should plan to do more. More of what they love, more to help others, more to make a difference. What will you be doing more of this year?


6 HummingbirdI plan to be part of a team that keeps track of migrating hummingbirds this year as well. You can get more information out this project at



Anyone can be a citizen scientist and do more. There is a real need for volunteers with a variety of interests history, animals, water, weather, just about anything. Here is a link to an informative website that will help you get started

So I am going to be planting more, counting more, tagging more, and yes, I plan take more photographs and travel more. I think everyone should plan to do more. More of what they love, more to help others, more to make a difference. What will you be doing more of this year?

Keep up with S. J. Brown on Facebook

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Available through CreateSpace, Ingram, Baker & Taylor,,,

and Everywhere Fine Books are Sold

All the Birds I See CoverCover

All of S. J Browns books are available at

Thanks for stopping by.

New Year Brings New Goals and an Uncertain But Hopeful Future

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin


Looking back on my goals for 2014 recently I realized I didn’t attain as much as I’d hoped. Yet, despite what I thought and planned to attain, new opportunities and possibilities did emerge, and I walked those pathways. Another new year is upon us, and though we never know the future, we can continue striving toward goals, old and new, revived and updated.

For example, last year I had hopes of securing new children’s magazines for which to write. I received several rejections on various articles and by the time I thought I’d re-write, re-submit, and re-think topics and queries, I received three new assignments in addition to the four already given to me by WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News). I also continued my article writing for the Casper Journal newspaper, and, starting in July, my pet column ran EVERY WEEK in another newspaper (I’m used to writing one a month for two other publications). Plus, I gleaned two additional feature articles for Crossroads magazine, published by the Cheyenne (Wyoming) Chamber of Commerce (I wrote two articles for them in 2013). So, whereas I envisioned writing for children’s magazines, I received instead various other opportunities with an array of publications.


Now that 2015 has risen like a new day’s sun, I anticipate new opportunities and new pathways once again. I’m cutting back on submitting to the Casper Journal; WREN has assigned me only three articles for the entire year (though that may change); my weekly pet column is dormant for at least a few months while the newspaper undergoes layout and management changes; and I won’t know about Crossroads until mid-year. But, what I looked upon at first as negative I’ve now re-focused to the positive. I’ve been contacted and contracted by a state senator to write new releases and ghostwrite a few guest editorials for him. I’ve also been asked to contribute at least two stories on veterans for a special Wyoming Veteran’s project. So, not all my freelance opportunities have disappeared; new ones have emerged.

Baby New YearEven though there aren’t as many freelance gigs this new year as last, there is advantage to this more “quiet time”: ability to re-focus on my books as well as help my husband with some writing projects for his business. I now have five manuscripts in progress (including that pet rescue romance started a few months ago), and I am determined to finish them. Two manuscripts that I started more than three years ago simply need to be reviewed and edited as I completed the drafts in 2013 and just left them on the shelf because I wasn’t sure which publishing direction I wanted to go and 2014 became very busy. I am two-thirds of the way done with two others (both children’s books), and the pet romance is still in its infancy since I didn’t write as much during November’s NaNoWriMo as I had hoped. So, I have new writing goals for 2015, and I am excited to see where these stories, projects, and new pathways (including developing an emailed newsletter for my husband’s Alzheimer’s video business) take me.

How about you? What do you hope the new year has in store for you, personally and professionally? What are some of the goals and hopes you have for 2015 and into the future?


Happy New Year

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle 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 two dog devotion boos: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the August 2014 dog book The Dog Did What?. 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


Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Walking_FrontCover_small   SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small

A soaking day out!

12Feb2014This post is by Nancy Jardine

Writing styles vary a lot and some authors gravitate towards what they feel most comfortable with. I guess as an ex-teacher, the most standard form I expected my class to become accomplished in was 3rd person, past tense. Sometimes the actual past tenses varied quite a bit and there would be a mish-mash of – past perfect, imperfect, past historic… No, I won’t go on any more about the past, suffice to say it wasn’t always simple to correct the ‘had hads’. We then moved on to present tense, 1st person writing which seemed easier but actually is generally harder to sustain over a long piece of work by 12 year olds. And sometimes, me.

I personally feel comfortable writing 3rd person, with a smattering of present past, future and conditional and rarely write in 1st person- blog posts forming the bulk of those rare times.

Today is different. I want the readers of this post to experience what I’ve seen today. So, here’s how it goes:

I’m rolling out of bed at seven o’clock- early for me, yet late for the organisers of the event I’m attending. The spectacle is ‘Roman Chariot Racing’ plus other exciting displays of Roman vs Medieval Battle tactics, Archery, Fire Performances, Costume Parades, Birds of Prey display and much much more at my local National Trust for Scotland castle – Castle Fraser. Castle Fraser side

Castle Fraser is only 4 miles from my home. It’s a fabulous little castle built in the Scottish baronial style and I visit it often to just walk in the grounds. I want to see all of the exciting activities planned for today. My family has decided to make it a day out – 3 generations – granddad, my daughter and husband and my 2 grandkids. So why am I not joining them?

BOOKS! I’m going to sell my novels which are about Celtic warriors who are upended when the Ancient Roman Empire sends its forces to conquer all of Britannia- including my own part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. I’ve been beavering away these last days making sure my Gazebo will look beautiful- my promotional materials self printed and ready. The problem now is not being unprepared – it’s that Scottish weather thingy! Rain is predicted. On. Off. Light. Heavy.

As I leave my house, it’s cloudy, reasonably warm and dry. Stay positive. Maybe it’ll not be too bad.

Oh, oh. I’m arriving at the field where the stalls are being set up. I’m trying not to believe it but that insidious kind of moist low cloud – we call it haar in Aberdeenshire- is gravitating into fine misting rain. 15 minutes is all we need to get the ‘Summer Gazebo’ up and another 20 minutes to set up my signs and table. Will the rain stay off? We’re all mucking in and a very nice brawny steward, Logan, is helping my husband and son-in-law to set up the gazebo. Hurray! It’s up.Dsc02554

Wait! I was wrong. The event attendees are milling about now but those thundery downpours they were predicting- they’ve arrived good style. Out comes the plastic cover to go over the books because – guess what? My gazebo being shower proof does NOT mean real Scottish pouring proof.

The planned events are carrying on regardless but the expected turnout isn’t here. The Roman Gladiators are doing their bit out in the rain and aren’t bothering a hoot! The period costume through the ages display is wonderful and they’re getting wet but sadly are only seen by a few hundred people, not thousands. The display of horsemanship is being cheered by the spectators and I’m really glad the field isn’t too wet under-hoof.

Castle Fraser 2014 3
The eagles are flying beautifully and the handler is really pleased with his birds but I’m watching the fire eating duo, who are amazingly talented and funny. The rain is off again and it seems more people have appeared.

I don’t want to miss the Roman Chariots so my husband is manning my stall. It’s a great display from a professional company who are currently being filmed for ‘Game of Thrones’ series and other exciting films soon to hit the silver screen. I’m really enjoying the chariot racing which is skilled and hilariously entertaining.20140719_153721


The day seemed quite short, but that was because my family stayed all day to spell me at the stall so that I could see some of the action. Sadly, no matter how much I try to be positive books do tend to get damp and wet and even worse is that people who are damp and wet are less inclined to linger to view the material sold at the stalls. My sale of novels wasn’t as great as might have been on a warm and sunny day. Will I go back tomorrow? The weather prediction is for heavy rain all morning till around 2 pm.

Since the event runs from 11a.m. till 4 p.m. I’ll leave you to decide what I may do.

Enjoy your weekend!

Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures

amazon , Smashwords, Barnes & Noble

Celtic Fervour

Blogging for Gold!

AWBR x 600This post is by Nancy Jardine

No, I’m not talking about earning myself money from blogging, or winning an Olympic medal for blogging: it’s more that I need to ensure that the content of my blog is ‘pure gold.’

Flip back to the end of May 2011. Along with the copy of my first book contract, there was a list of things an author could do to help sell their book among which was:

Get yourself a blog… (image acquired for personal use) (image acquired for personal use)

In June 2011, I got going with my first blog and gradually joined all sorts of social media sites, but what have I learned since then about blogs? I’m not sure I have learned all that much and definitely not enough. The advice given was that running a blog would draw people to my writing, and that in turn might eventually help with book sales. Do I think this has happened? NO-I’m not convinced it has helped much at all in terms of sales, but I’ve got into a habit about blogging and now rather like it.

If I can’t seem to ‘get into’ my WIP writing making a blog post often appeals as a writing substitute.

In late 2013, I thought I was making headway with my own blog. I had no idea, and still have no real idea, who is reading my posts, but it seems a few hundred pageviews a day is pretty normal. At some points towards the end of 2013, I was pleasantly surprised to find some days had more like five or six hundred pageviews. Wonderful, I thought, but I had no idea which type of post was drawing reader attention. I know some authors aspire to having thousands of daily visitors to their blog but that’s not my intention.

I don’t have the time for proper analysis of each post, but some were clearly more popular than others so I set myself a small task to identify which got more pageviews.

  • Was it the purely marketing of my own work? No- those days seemed to have fewer ‘peeps’. (I just hope my use of that word is correct)
  • Was it the days when I was posting promotional material for other authors? Maybe – but that wasn’t consistently drawing more readers either.
  • Was it when I posted new historical material I’d researched for my writing? Maybe – since some of those posts drew quite a lot of attention. Though perhaps the credit was due to my more humorous images, like this one on the left which I’ve acquired the use of from to put on the web. 8663677_s paid www.123rf
  • Was it when I posted an author interview?  Yes- some of those were very popular.
  • Was it when I posted a character interview? Sometimes there was a spike for those posts but not consistently either.
  • Was it when I posted things about my garden or domestic situation? Again- only sometimes did garden/family updates make a spike in viewing.

Since the beginning of 2014 I’ve been quite distracted by domestic duties and haven’t done as much blogging as the back end of 2013. Has that affected my viewership? Yes, I believe it has, since the numbers have dropped -though they are still sitting around the few hundred a day. I’m beginning to think it doesn’t really matter which topics I post so long as I post something every day, and I’m thinking that it’s maybe the variety on my blog that draws attention.

So what am I going to work on to make it better, and get that shine of pure gold for my readers?

Ø      Make a spectacular heading to grab reader attention (I sometimes have to work hard to do this but will continue to strive at making good ones)

Ø      Keep it ‘shortish’ (I read that somewhere yet some of my popular historical posts are much longer than that and have had good responses)

Ø      Cover only 1 main idea in the post (That seems sensible but I sometimes digress a bit…)

Ø      Make my blog easy to read by using BOLD fonts, use COLOUR in fonts where it draws attention,  and maybe even bullet points where appropriate. (HEY! – I really enjoy doing these ‘secretarial’ bits.)

Ø      Add suitable IMAGES to inspire or improve the content (I’m  anal enough to adore

doing this since, as an ex-teacher, I know images can definitely hold the attention better for some readers. The images I’ve acquired from inexpensive sites get a very good airing here and there across the web, and I get my money’s worth- penny  pinching Scot that I am! 🙂 )

Ø      Use humour where possible. (For me forcing humour rarely works- ain’t got no  sense of humour to speak of but I will try harder!)

Ø      Offer something different (That’s a really tough one but I think it’s what might work better)

Ø      Use a touch of controversy to spur the readers to interact (I’m not a natural at this but it’s an avenue I maybe need to be better at.)

Ø      Make it easy for readers to comment by posing more questions (This is a really difficult one because almost NONE of my visitors comment)

You can see I need some help here! What do you think draws people to continue to read your blog? Do you know of a very popular blog and what makes it so?

Having written all of the above I’m now off to find some fantastic new and inspired topic to post on my own blog for today’s  issue. But maybe I’ll be like Bilbo, Frodo and the Hobbits and have a really nice second breakfast first.

Nancy’s novels can be seen at her:

Amazon US Author page

Amazon UK author page

ps -She’s got this fantastic new cover for Book 3 of her Celtic Fervour  Series- AFTER WHORL: DONNING DOUBLE CLOAKS – which is due for publication on March 25th 2014.

Front cover

I almost forgot to say that my Crooked Cat Books are all on SALE on Amazon on Saturday and Sunday as a Valentine’s special treat:



AND award nominated TOPAZ EYES…. are all available at 99p/ 99c dollar quivalent.

Have a fantastic weekend and wherever you are – stay safe – since our world weather is playing major tricks in some places!

Turn Setbacks into Stepping Stones

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

You might think I’m writing about football after yesterday’s “big game,” and perhaps I am because there was a winner and there was a loser. However, I’m not into football, even if one of the two teams is located “just down the road a bit.” You can apply these thoughts to any endeavor, including the Super Bowl …  if you want.

Rarely do we humans not experience some setbacks in life. Last week was “one of those weeks” for me. It seems that for every step forward, I got pushed three steps backward.

The saying goes, “Bad things come in threes” – I counted four within a few days if you include the hurricane force winds that ravaged my community and took part of the front yard fence and more tree limbs. And though my “bad days” last week pale in comparison to those who’ve lost loved ones, face a terminal illness, or experience divorce or job loss, my spirit wounds deeply, and when I have emotional trials such as I did last week, the setbacks can be great.

But, setbacks don’t have to mire us down; they can be stepping stones, and that’s what I decided to make happen from last week’s events. I’ve resolved to move ahead with my freelance plans and continue exploring various avenues. My goal is to be a fulltime freelancer (creative writer, copy writer, copy editor) by the end of the year. Though I’m on my way with five magazine assignments and two additional projects for two different businesses (projects that will last for a good half-year yet), I need these to also serve as stepping stones, advancing myself into more projects for the last half of the year. Our progression can evolve from both the challenges and the triumphs in life, and though I’d rather not experience trials and setbacks, it’s how we respond to those events that help us grow. Do we get stuck in the stream, afraid to move, or do we determine to forge ahead?

rocks in a streamWhen I experience setbacks, such as rejections from publishers and editors, I have a tendency to question my skills and creativity. One of last week’s disappointments was the rejection of an article for a children’s magazine that I thought was engagingly and wittily written. I wondered why I bothered submitting, especially in light of submitting a different article last year to a different magazine and also having that idea rejected. I began to wonder “why do I bother?” When the questions persist in their nagging, I can sink into a quicksand and get stuck. This time, however, after a brief time of grieving, I developed a new query letter and re-submitted to yet another children’s magazine. I’m determined to break into another new magazine market this year!

My resolve stemmed from recalling a phrase Bill Hybels used in the last two Global Leadership Summits:“getting from here to there.” I have done that in life, and though I’ve experienced many challenges, my “there” at this point in life is not bad: the author of five books, freelance writing for four different publications, and helping two businesses with some of their communication endeavors. I’m not making tons of money, but I’m making in-roads financially and creatively. I continue to strive to get to a more enriching “there,” emotionally, spiritually, creatively, and financially, despite setbacks in my career and my life. I am determined to turn setbacks into stepping stones and make my way to “there.” Receiving a first check from Kindle book sales was a helpful stepping stone as well!

Where is “there” and how do we get to it? “There” is different for each person, each writer. It is your own aspirations, dreams, and goals. Reaching “there” takes persistence and planning … and stepping on stones. Whether the stones are setbacks or triumphs, each one is important, helping you reach the “there” that you desire.

Where do you want to go with your life? Your writing career? The next time you experience a setback, step on it like you’re walking across a stream bed, and allow the experience to get you “from here to there.”

rocks in river

Gayle 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, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazine, and in the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. This year she will serve as a contributing writer for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network) magazine. Her future plans include creating newsletter and brochure content for businesses and writing more magazine articles for children’s publications. Learn more at

SageBigAdventureFront-small     Walking_FrontCover_small    Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final

It’s The Alligator’s Christmas

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

I’m looking out my window as I write and it’s a winter wonderland outside.  The sun is shining (even though it’s 13 degrees) and the trees are wearing their winter coats of snow.  We’ve shoveled the driveway four times in the last week but don’t mind.  It’s just another adventure, but definitely not as warm as Mexico.

We decorated the tree and when we turn on the twinkling lights it gives us joy and brings back happy times of Christmases past.  christmas tree  We look forward to meeting our daughter and son-in-law halfway between our homes on the 27th of Dec after spending Christmas Day with my sister and her family.

All around I hear Christmas carols and the  familiarity and traditions they proclaim.  Usually I’m a part of the Christmas program at our church but this year I’ll listen, as we moved recently and have only been to our new church a couple of times.   We try to stay out of the holiday shopping crowds but I do enjoy hearing the tinkle of the Salvation Army bells as their ringer welcomes each and everyone.  Each store has Christmas music playing and it puts one in a festive mood.

nativityTo me Christmas is about Christ being born, the nativity scene, church services, the three wise men and the faith that fills my heart.  While I have no problems with the commercial end of Christmas I do think it has gone a tad overboard.  It’s a family time and one to spend remembering that night long ago when a child was born in a manger because there was no room at the inn.

There have been many songs written about Christmas and as I have eclectic tastes in music I enjoy listening to both traditional and non-traditonal holiday songs.   My favorites are:

The Little Drummer Boy

I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

Angels We Have Heard on High

Mary Did You Know.

As a songwriter myself I’ve written a few Christmas songs and there is one that I get asked to do at most of my gigs, even during the summer months.  I lived in Florida when I wrote this particular song about eleven years ago when asked to do a Children’s benefit.  Unfortunately I have never recorded the song so I can’t give you a link but thought you might get a kick out of reading the words.




It’s the alligator’s Christmas just look at that big wide grin

He knows that lots of girls and boys will soon be dropping in

It’s the alligator’s Christmas don’t you get too near

Or you’ll be his Christmas present under the tree this year

The alligators gather to sing and dance and play

While they all make merry Santa will come their way

It’s the alligator’s Christmas just look at that big wide grin

He knows that lots of girls and boys will soon be dropping in


Papa alligator is proud of all his children

They’re big and strong and healthy so you better not go swimming

‘Cause it’s the alligator’s Christmas just look at that big wide grin

He knows that lots of girls and boys will soon be dropping in


When they open presents their laughter may sound funny

Be careful you don’t end up as supper in his tummy

‘Cause it’s the alligator’s Christmas just look at that big wide grin

He knows that lots of girls and boys will soon be dropping in


©Linda Stewart

When things get settled down I’ll record this on my computer and share on another post so you can hear the music.

What’s your favorite Christmas music?  I’d love to know.  Merry Christmas!

Books by L.Leander: