A Positive Spin #writerslife #amreading

By Ronel Janse van Vuuren

I’ve had an interesting month thus far. Well, “interesting” is putting a positive spin on things.

Tony spent a week at the vet’s: he was listless and losing weight for no apparent reason. After numerous tests (mostly to rule out the really scary stuff like cancer), it finally turned out to be a rare form of Addison’s Disease. And it’s treatable. Yay! He still needs ‘round the clock care by mummy (I have to watch his temperature, make sure he eats, make sure that what comes out looks healthy, give him his meds, keep him calm, etc.), but he’s home and looking a lot better.

Here’s a pic from last week at the vet’s:

Yesterday he barked at the neighbours! Fabulous improvement. I can only hope that he gets back to being my mischievous boy who always asks “why not?”.

I couldn’t write at all, of course. So I read. A lot. (I have reviews for Goodreads ready until end of September…)

One of the best non-fiction books I read was Jane Friedman’s “The Business of Being a Writer”. I only gave it four stars, but the reasons are explained within the review (see link).

The reason I really like this book is because I learned something new about my own published works:

“Short story collections are distinctly literary work.” And literary work doesn’t sell as well as commercial work.

Wow. And here I thought I was just a dark fantasy author. But it does explain the odd sales, amazing ranks on the different Amazon stores during launch week and glowing reviews

The book also gave me hope for the future:

“Committed writers succeed: recognise that most careers are launched, not with a single fabulous manuscript, but through a series of small successes that builds the writer’s network and visibility, step by step.”

Though the month hadn’t gone as planned – neither did last month – I feel positive that things can only improve from here on out.

On a side note: Tony is actually currently as grumpy as a faery dog character I’d based on him. Seems I know my boy a lot better than I thought.

Have you had any surprising revelations about your writing?

Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase on Amazon and other online retailers.

Connect with Ronel:

Amazon : Twitter : Pinterest : Google+ : Goodreads : Ronel the Mythmaker : Instagram : Newsletter


Mustang Grapes and Dewberries

By N. M. Cedeño


In the second week of March, the Bradford pear trees in my backyard burst into bloom, displaying a profusion of tiny white flowers. Within a few days, rain and wind caused the white flower petals to “snow” down from the tree, covering my patio in a layer of white. Following the flowers, came the tree’s budding leaves. And, what does the first burst of green bring to my mind? Jelly!

Signs of spring are my cues to start checking vines in the green belt by my house. I blame my father for this habit.  He learned to appreciate nature’s wild bounty in the form of dewberries and mustang grapes in his youth. Decades later, my parents moved to my maternal grandparents’ property in the piney woods north of Houston to be caretakers for my grandparents. There, the forest’s abundant supply of berries and grapes each spring and summer provided my father with a hobby: jelly making.

Mustang grapes by the gallon, picture by N. M. Cedeño

Each April, he would harvest gallons of dewberries from the property with the help of visiting children and grandchildren. Each July, the mustang grapes would ripen all at once. They had to be picked immediately or they would be eaten by birds. The mustang grape harvest typically lasted only one day.

After each harvest, my father would make dozens of jars of jelly with occasional help from my mother, my family, and my siblings’ families. The jars would be labeled with the date and contents and distributed to the family with instructions to return the empty jars.

For several years, my family enjoyed this process each spring and summer. We would make sure to visit my grandparent’s property during April and July. During those years, thanks to my parents’ presence, my grandfather died peacefully at home as per his wishes. When it became clear that my grandmother shouldn’t remain on the property, my parents moved her to the city, and her property was sold. My grandmother died about a year later. With the loss of my grandparents, came the secondary loss of the abundant dewberries and Mustang grapes that had thrived on their property.

Dewberries in a colander, picture by N. M. Cedeño

So, each spring as I walk my dog, I search the wild spaces around my home, keeping my eyes peeled for telltale signs of nature’s bounty. A few weeks ago, I found white flowers popping out on dewberry vines. As of last week, tiny green berries had formed where the flowers once were. The dewberries I’ve seen so far are disappointingly few in number. They are also surrounded by poison ivy. Picking them would require gloves, boots, hats, and insect repellent.

Dewberries, native wild blackberries, are typically much smaller than the large, plump blackberries available in grocery stores. So why go through the trouble, risking poison ivy and chigger bites, to get them each spring? We pick them because their flavor is so much better than the grocery store variety. As with grocery store tomatoes and peaches, blackberries have been bred to be larger, juicier, and prettier, but somewhere along the way, the taste got lost. Additionally, when I pick dewberries, I remember my grandparents, and I remember the fun we all had, siblings and cousins working together, picking berries.

Improvised dewberry picking tool: duct tape on a spaghetti ladle, Cedeño Family picture

In July, as I walk my dog, I will scan the trees for mustang grape vines. Unlike dewberries, mustang grapes straight off the vine don’t make the best eating. Their skin is thick, and downright leathery compared to other grapes. Their seeds are large. We pick mustang grapes because they make great jelly. I’m happy to have found an extremely large vine covered with small, unripe grapes in the flood plain by my neighborhood. When the grapes ripen in July, I hope to beat the birds (and the neighbor who also harvests them) and collect the ripe, purple-black grapes.

My kids will help me, and, hopefully, my father will join the fun. Then, of course, we will make some jelly.


N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her début novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).

One Page

IMGP6507By S. J. Brown

Recently I was reviewing some guidelines from a publisher. They wanted the usual information like my name, contact information, the name of the book I was proposing and the word count. Then I saw it the next requirement was an impossible task, a one page synopsis. I needed to share all the important parts of a 44,000 word book all on one page, all text.

SJBrown1 Goose

To give the publisher a true feel for the book I needed to relay the personalities of the two main characters and a sense of their lives. But there was so much to tell. There are roller skates, a sewing machine, costumes, telephone poles, oh and Betty stepped on a needle that was scary. I couldn’t add photos of the main characters when they were young and innocent, well kind of innocent.

SJBrown2 SistersLittle girls like ice cream, maybe if I took an ice cream break this would flow a little better. I had to remember to mention within the pages there is a race riot, a car crash, a séance, boyfriends, and the police, . Dribbled throughout the book were paper bags filled with mystery. This book is about life, there are airplanes, a hitchhiker, tumbling beer cans, and a circus.

SJBrown3 ElephantAt this point I was half way down the page and there was so much more to tell. This was a bit too long already. How was I ever going to get it all on one page? Maybe if I had a brownie I could figure out how to make this work. Nope, no treats until I am done.
I should have started with the title ”Suburban Sisters.” Did I mention this is a heartwarming tale about two sisters? The girls are good Catholics that attend church. There is a bit of a glitch in their perfect world when stolen money in the collection plate. However I need to let the publisher know that along with the jobs, men in diapers and guns there are touching family moments like Christmas morning, family outings and cute little babies.

SJBrown4 TreesOh crap, I am at the bottom of the page and I’m not done yet, DDELETE, DELETE, DELETE. Maybe a peanut butter cup would help.

The publisher’s guidelines state they respond to submissions in 4-6 months, it may take me that long to get this down to one page. I still need to add details like an ice storm complete with dancing power lines, a truck spewing a chemical fog throughout the neighborhood, fire, oh and a dog that shows up for Thanksgiving dinner. Now this blog is getting to long.

SJBrown5 TurkeyI haven’t even mentioned the girl’s parents yet. So much happens in the 12 years the book covers. Now I needed to DELETE, DELETE, DELETE and DELETE some more. I shortened a sentence here and omitted an event there but I need to add in details about when the girl’s world shatters. So I deleted some more. Two days later it was finished and I celebrated with some chocolate chip cookies.
In closing I will ask how do you tackle a seemingly impossible task. How do you reward yourself when you accomplished your goal?
Thanks for stopping by.

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Fellowship, Family, & Friends

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

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

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

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

Gayle and Cindy
Gayle and Cindy

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



North to Alaska!

Gayle Greg and Dad_HomerThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

My father always enjoyed the Johnny Horton song, North to Alaska (see the YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSt0NEESrUA). Starting June 9, that classic country hit became our theme song.

My dad, husband, and I started our northward journey flying into Anchorage via Alaska Air from Great Falls, Montana (about 90 miles from my parents’ home in Denton, MT). My father had been planning this trip for more than two years, saying, “If I make it to 80, I want to see Alaska.” He turned 80 last July so plans kicked into full swing autumn 2016. We didn’t go for the gold nor dog mushing, as Johnny sings about in the song noted above, but we did many other activities.

Dad couldn’t travel alone, my mother didn’t want to go, so he asked me to accompany him and he would pay my airline ticket and cover most of the lodging. My husband went with us for two reasons: (1) so he could see Alaska, too, and (2) to help me with Dad, especially in case of emergency. I’m happy to report nothing bad happened to any of us; the entire trip went smoothly and we visited all the places we planned. Well, one not-so-good thing happened: my luggage didn’t return to Montana with us and had to be FedEx’ed from Seattle to Casper. And, truth be told, the “land of the midnight sun” was difficult to get used to as far as sun sets between 11:30 pm and Midnight and sun rises between 3 and 4 am – thank Heaven for darkening curtains in the lodging facilities!

Alaska Range

Trip highlights include:

  1. Two cruises into Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska via Major Marine Tours out of Seward – one featured a national park ranger as we cruised through the Kenai Fjords National Park on a wildlife watching excursion and the other was shorter and specific for whale watching (we encountered 6 humpback whales during the journey!
  2. Trip to Homer (basically the end of the road, like Seward) and toured the Ocean and Islands Visitor Center operated by the Alaska Maritime National Park staff as well as visited with our friend author/writer/professor Nina McConigley who was presenting at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference in Homer.
  3. A stop at Potter Marsh, a bird and wildlife refuge on the outskirts of Anchorage where we saw (up close!) a mamma moose with twin calves.
  4. A bus tour in Denali National Park where we encountered Dall sheep, caribou, Alaskan brown bears (including a mother with two yearlings), and a single wolf; and we became part of the “30 percent club,” seeing Denali Peak/Mount McKinley on a clear morning! (The mountain rises more than 20,000 feet and is often obscured by clouds).
  5. Two days in Fairbanks with a dinner at Denny’s, the northern-most Denny’s Restaurant in North America (Dad’s dinner choice for one of the nights) and a visit to Creamer’s Field, a migratory bird refuge where we saw nearly 100 sandhill cranes!
  6. Glaciers, glaciers, and more glaciers! Including Portage and Exit, both south of Anchorage on the way to Seward, and a large glacial ice field near Palmer, northeast of Anchorage.
  7. Wildlife, wildlife, and more wildlife, including moose (many moms with twins), eagles, sandhill cranes (including one near someone’s front door outside of Homer! And hundreds of them at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks), sea lions, and (my favorite and what I really wanted to see) sea otters (including one up close in the Seward Harbor).

Sea Otter

What did I come away with from this trip? Memories with my father and husband, the joy of experiencing nature in some awesome and inspiriational settings, gratitude for the opportunity to see this amazingly beautiful state (and have the time with my dad and husband), and even a few writing ideas for a book and some short stories (I may weave Alaska into my pet rescue romance work-in-progress).


North to Alaska – that song rings ever more steadily in my mind, and I’m thankful to have had the privilege to do go north to Alaska! And, at least the temperature was higher than -40, as Mr. Horton sings in his other Alaska-oriented song, found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOT5VlbUsYk.

What places have you visited that inspire you to write, maybe even to write something new?

Alaska mountains and river

See more photos of our Alaskan vacation on my Facebook page where I’ve created a Photo Album titled Alaska 2017: https://www.facebook.com/gayle.irwin.12/media_set?set=a.10212859679117255.1547662963&type=3

Brown Bear_Denali Park.jpg

Gayle and Greg_Alaska

Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming author and freelance writer who enjoys traveling and nature photography as well as writing. She finds inspiration in nature and animals as well as history and people. Her pet books for children and adults teach valuable life lessons, such as courage, perseverance, and friendship. She is a contributing writer to magazines and newspapers, including pet stories in the Colorado-based Prairie Times, and her short story about a rescue dog, titled Jasmine’s Journey, will appear in the August Chicken Soup for the Soul release called The Dog Really Did That? This will be her seventh contribution to the Chicken Soup series. Learn more about Gayle and her work at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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



Ancestry Surprises

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

I recently received the results from my AncestryDNA kit, which I mailed into the company just after Christmas last year. It took quite a bit of time to get those results because of the influx of DNA kits around that time of year; at least, that’s what the email updates which I received in January and February said. Within the results I received, I found several surprises. More on that in a moment.

Lozane and Samuel Lonit Mansfield
Lozane and Lonit Mansfield – my great grandparents.

For as long as I can remember, my father and his siblings and their father claimed Native American heritage. I grew up thinking I was 1/16 Cherokee. My father often referred to his father’s mother as ½ Cherokee; her name was Lozane Ard. She married a man named Samuel Lonit Mansfield, whose father was also Samuel Mansfield and whose mother was Ella Locade Baham. I’ve been able to trace Ella’s (who is mostly known by her middle name, Locade) family several generations back. Dad’s grandmother Lozane had a father name William Pinkney Ard, and her mother’s name was Rachel Williams (we think – William P. Ard had three wives, at different times, thankfully, but still not quite sure which woman was Lozane’s mother at this point). William Ard’s mother was Margaret Ard – his father was possibly William Beavers but that is not a known fact either. It seems Margaret had several children but most records indicate no male (ie, husband) living with her other than her male children. So, there’s a mystery. Many of us wondered if the Native American lineage was brought in at this point, and that seemed to be the accepted fact, and the story passed down through generations, including to me.

Dads GreatGrandparents_Samuel Mansfield and Locad Baham Mansfield
Samuel Mansfield and Ella Locade Baham Mansfield, my great-great grandparents.

Now, for my DNA results. What was not surprising was that I’m 42% western European and 26% Scandinavian. My mother’s parents were German/Swiss on her mother’s side and Danish on her father’s side; in fact, her grandparents were full German and full Swiss on her mother’s side and full Dane on her father’s side. They are easy to figure out. Within the western European is also French, and that for certain is from my father’s side (the Bahams), so that wasn’t much of a surprise. What came next was: 9% Iberian Peninsula, which includes Spain and Portugal, and, an even bigger surprise: 13% African, with highest percentages traced to Nigeria, Senegal, and the Ivory Coast/Ghana. And, the biggest surprise of all: NO Native American, not even less than one percent.

Grandpa John's Mom_Lozane Mansfield
My dad’s Grandma Lozane Ard Mansfield – is she part Native American? Not according to my DNA results.

Interestingly, I used to joke that Dad’s side of the family may have African blood. Dad and all his immediate relatives grew up in Louisiana, and not much was really discussed about ancestors. Just snippets here and there, and of course, the claim of Native American heritage. So, lightheartedly, I’d say, “I wonder if there are skeletons in the family closet, like slaves.” And that may not be far from the truth. I discovered a possible ancestor: a slave a man named Honore Baham. However, the more I dug, the more I found that to be less possible. I did discover that Honore was still a slave when he was 30 years old; he belonged to the Baham family, and he was emancipated in 1820 by Renez Baham, brother to the man who seems to be my 4th great-grandfather: Louis Jeanbon Baham. So, Honore the slave, when he was freed, received the last name of Baham (and he could have been the son Renez and a slave woman – there are indicators to that possibility); therefore some of the mix-up in the family tree.

William Pink Ard
William Pinkey “Pink” Ard, Lozane’s father and my dad’s great grandfather.

Thus far, I’ve traced some of my heritage back to the 1600s, with people coming from France to Canada then to Alabama and on in to Louisiana, via different generations. Another branch came from France directly to Louisiana. There seems to be some mixed blood, likely a French ancestor marrying, or simply living with, a freed black woman. I’m trying to learn more about this branch of the family tree.

I’ve found family crests on some of the sides who hailed from France. I’m also learning more about this part of my heritage.

My neighbor, Marian Kingdon, is assisting me on this ancestral journey. She loves genealogy and has traced her family lineage as well as her husband’s, and she’s excited to help me; and I’m grateful for her help. I’m fascinated about the different findings we’ve discovered. I know there’s more about my family tree that I’ll be learning in the weeks and months to come.

Me with my parents, Earl D. Mansfield and Marcia L. (Christensen) Mansfield

Tomorrow is my 56th birthday; I’m more than half-way through my expected life-span. And I continue learning more about my heritage, surprises and non-surprises alike. I recently bought a DNA kit for my father and sent it off a few weeks ago. I likely won’t know results for several more weeks, but I’m looking forward to putting more pieces of the ancestry puzzle together. I wonder if we’ll find more surprises from Dad’s DNA results… or perhaps by further digging into the names and lives of our ancestors. It’s a fun, exciting, and yes, somewhat surprising journey!

Now more than a half-century old, and on the cusp of 60 years of age, I’m learning about my heritage … and I’m thankful I can do so, surprises and all.


Post (c) Doris McCraw


What is success?


Many times we have achieved success, but because we are looking at societies view of what is successful, we miss the joy of what we have. This thought came up again this week on the anniversary of my mother’s death.

Was my mother successful? Perhaps not by societies standards, but in so many ways she was gifted. She had a loving family that extended out to non-blood relations. She had the ability to make everyone feel like they were important, but didn’t suffer fools gladly. She succeeded in creating a life from challenging situations. From years of foster homes she learned how to support and love people. Perhaps she knew how successful she was somewhere deep inside, but she was always surprised at how people viewed her. How much they appreciated her.

Success is sleeping with a clear mind and heart

When we reach for success, when we want to go for the gold, a clear picture of what that really looks like is necessary. But, sometimes just living a life of joy, love and helpfulness can be more rewarding than the gold medal. Taking the time to see what society has deemed success and what our hearts tell us is the reality can bring peace of mind.

We all are really much more successful than we realize. Taking stock of just that fact can bring a peace that allows us to follow the dreams we still have. We are never to young or too old to be happy, to express ourselves sincerely and share the success of being alive and loved.

Happy Valentine’s Day – photo (c) Doris McCraw

While I have waxed philosophical, the truth is we need to let others know they are special, that their just being alive and in our lives is a success of the first order. So to all of you, you are an inspiration and a success in my eyes. Happy Valentine’s Day and love to all who read this. As Bacharach said “what the world needs now, is love sweet love”

Doris McCraw, pen name-Angela Raines, is an author, speaker, historian who specializes in Colorado and Women’s History.

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Click Here 
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gayle-and-mom-and-dadThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Last month I wrote about exploring my family tree and ordering a DNA kit from Ancestry. I received the kit and sent it off; I still await the results. Meantime, I continue my genealogy research, and I’ve made some interesting discoveries.

First, on my dad’s side: one of his distant relatives, 5th-great-grandfather, was brought to America as a slave when he was just three years old. He continued to be sold another five times before age 24. As close as I can ascertain, he and his mother were brought over from the West Indies and sold. He was again sold with his mother at age 6, and then at age 12, sold as individual, and again at age 15, age 17, and age 24. So, the issue of slavery hits home for me. For several years now I’ve donated to organizations that fight human trafficking. I’ve also written about the issue (see these links:


and http://casperjournal.com/news/article_341a75ec-7a99-5204-9fb0-fb87458d9e35.html)

I hope to find more information on this ancestor, hopefully to discover his emancipation papers and more information about his later life, including marriage, owning a parcel of land, and having children, which would eventually lead to my grandfather, my father, and me.

On my mom’s side, I discovered her grandfather was arrested in 1892 for assaulting his 70-year-old father because “the harness which Mr. Christianson the younger had oiled was thrown into the dung pile by Old Man Christianson.” Each filed charges against the other; eventually, all charges were dismissed, concluded the newspaper account. I shared the story with my mother last weekend and we had a good laugh, not only at the antics of our ancestors, but at the writing style of the newspaper reporter.

William “Pinkney” Ard – my father’s great-grandfather on his dad’s mother’s side -he died during the 1920s.

Digging into my family’s past has been intriguing. I’ve hit a few roadblocks, but with the help of my neighbor, who is LDS and an avid family history buff, and the local LDS genealogy library, I think I’ll be able to overcome some of the hurdles and make more new discoveries about deceased family members.

In addition to slavery and African-American heritage, my father’s side has Native American lineage. I haven’t yet found much about that nor have I concluded whether the tribe is Choctaw or Cherokee … perhaps both. That is the quest I’m currently on – I plan to go back to the LDS family heritage library this weekend to review some of the books they have about American Indian heritage. Hopefully, I will make some new discoveries about that aspect of my ancestry.

In my post last month I noted that I hoped to learn where my love for writing came from – that, too, remains a mystery. Although my maternal grandmother and great-aunts were well-versed in some creative arts like embroidery and sewing, no one it seems longed to be the next great author. However, according to my mother, one of her cousins dabbled in painting and was fairly good at it. Perhaps the creative aspect comes from my heritage, and from my individuality comes the love of writing, just as her cousin’s outlet was the visual arts.

Discovering more of who I am as a part of the Christensen and Mansfield clans leads me to know more about my family, especially generations back. But, it also leads me to discover more about who I am as an individual … and I’m grateful for both.

Samuel Lonit Mansfield – my father’s grandfather, my grandpa’s dad, born in 1884 and died in 1959.

Just as we can discover aspects of our family, past and present, we can also discover things about ourselves as writers – what is it we like to write, how we express ourselves (our writing style and genre), and how we engage our readers. And, we can discover things about the characters in our stories – maybe even develop them based on what we’ve learned about our ancestors. For instance, in my pet rescue romance, I could craft my hero as part French Creole and give him the looks of my great-grandfather, depicted in this post (does Samuel look like he could have been a firefighter who helps rescue dogs??). Discoveries can be intriguing, they can be fun, and they can be weird and worrisome!

What new discoveries have you made this New Year, about yourself, your family, your writing, or a combination thereof?


Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning Wyoming writer. She is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults, and she freelances for newspapers and magazines. Gayle has contributed stories to six different Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the 2014 release The Dog Did What? and last year’s release The Spirit of America, in which she writes about America’s national parks. She supports various pet rescue organizations with contributions from her book sales. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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Gratitude and Thanks


Post (c) by Doris McCraw

We are coming on my favorite time of year. I am partial to the Holiday of Thanksgiving. It is not a time of giving gifts. It has nothing except the heartfelt idea of being thankful. Despite how horrible we think life is, we really do have many reasons for gratitude and thanks.

The world around us is full of beauty, we have only to look.


We are surrounded by music, we have only to listen

How many of us have tried something new to eat, or savored the joy of eating an old favorite?


We hold our pets, our loved ones, the delight we take in that touch.


The smell of the air after a rain, of pine when you walk in the woods, or the rose you hold to your nose.


Take time to enjoy and employ all the senses, be thankful for all this world holds for us. No matter what happens, we have so much right in front of us, so much that makes our lives worth living. So tell that friend how much you appreciate them, hold your loved one close, and be grateful and thankful you get to experience life in all its glory. Remember the quote from my last post “It takes life to love life.”

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ” John F. Kennedy

Thank you.


Recipe for Fun

This post by Jennifer Flaten

I have a condition (completely made up) that prevents me from reading a  recipe from start to finish. I don’t know why, but I’ll start reading the ingredient list, and if it is more than 7 items long I start to skim the rest of the ingredients. And, you have no idea how much trouble 2 column recipes have caused. My eyes/attention just don’t last long enough for 2 columns!

It is the same with the actual steps to make the recipe. If they are long an complicated, or over max 5 steps long. I simply stop reading. Which means I miss crucial steps like say “chill for X amount of time”.

I have apparently passed this trait on to my daughter. Yesterday, I planned on making pancakes for supper, but my daughter wanted to do it. She had a recipe for cinnamon roll pancakes that she wanted to try out.

It was a basic pancake recipe (flour, sugar, wet stuff) but it had a “filling” of brown sugar, cinnamon and butter, that needed to chill for at least 20 min. Kid started making pancakes 15min before we wanted to eat them. She’d missed this step completely. OOPS!

It turned out okay, we simply made a cinnamon brown sugar mixture to sprinkle on the pancakes before we flipped them. They turned out absolutely delicious. A happy accident to be sure.

Has this ever happened to you?

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