Keep the Promises You Make to Yourself

CindyCarrollESome promises take longer to keep than others but promises you make to yourself are important. Promises for me come in different forms. Goals I set for myself every year. Daily, weekly, or monthly promises I’ll make. They’re easy to off handedly say, “I’ll read more this week.” Or “I’ll watch what I eat.” Even promises to take better care of yourself are easy to think and forget. This year I’m doing a better job at keeping those promises I made to myself.

Copyright JanPietruszka from Bigstock

The first promise I make to myself every year is to lose weight and get into better shape. But this time the promise had another one attached to it. Something I desperately wanted to do but not if I was overweight. So maybe that promise was promise number one. In any case, I’ve stuck to my weight loss plan because I had the other promise in mind. The Supernatural convention in Toronto this year has been a goal since I found out they had the conventions in Toronto. This year’s is even more important because they aren’t coming back to Toronto next year. I didn’t know this when I made the initial weight loss goal so I’m glad I stuck to the weight loss plan all these months. As of last weigh in I’m down 42.6 pounds. Those photo ops I have planned should turn out really well!

Another promise I make every year is to save money. But what does that look like? How much money? I tended to be vague but this time I knew I needed the money for something specific. The Supernatural convention. Targets help a lot. I had a weight loss target for a specific date so I’ve stayed on track. I had a monetary target so I could go to the convention and do the photo ops I wanted so I went without shopping, specialty coffees, buying lunch at work so I could save.

I promised I would actually publish something longer than a short story. I still haven’t done that yet but that’s in the works. Success at publishing can’t happen unless you release your work into the wild and let people read it. For the longest time I’ve been concentrating on getting words written. Have to get more words done. Have to write when I get home. Have to take a week off to write. But I wasn’t revising works that were already written and releasing them. After a talk with my husband and a good friend who is also a writer I realized I’m afraid to release something in my name. I have over twenty stories up under pen names. But only four short stories under mine, three of those are in anthologies. I made the decision to work on revisions of two completed stories so I can release those. Then I’ll work on new words.

I promised I would read more this year and so far I’m on track but I’m still behind where I wanted to be. So far this year I’ve read two books. I was hoping to be at four by now at least. The year is still young and I can do more to read more.

What promises have you made to yourself? Are you keeping them?

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newcomer-coverI have a new story out in an anthology! The Newcomer has twelve science fiction short stories from authors across the globe.

From a young couple struggling to look after their baby to a new captain’s reluctance to take command of her ship, and from a sun-addled stranger’s appearance in town to the emergence of a sentient AI, the twelve tales presented here explore the central theme of an arrival by someone or something new. There’s even an alien puppy.

The stories are:

Tithe by Griffin Carmichael
Exodus by Alec Hutson
First Bonding by Tom Germann
Ice Dreamer by J J Green
The Nanny by Cindy Carroll
Right Hand by Jonathan C Gillespie
What Make is Your Cat? by Richard Crawford
Kaxian Duty by Cherise Kelley
Lessons Learned by J Naomi Ay
The Humra by Laura Greenwood
The Hawk of Destiny’s Fist by James S Aaron
Repulse by Alasdair Shaw

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Storms

Gayle_signing photoThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

 

I debated what to write about for my first blog post this month. Originally, I wanted to write about visiting national parks this year, the centennial celebration of the National Park Service. Then I thought I’d write about dogs as October is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month. But, I’ve written about that in the past, and I do write a lot about pets and my passion to help them. And many people have written about the autumn season, although as I write this, it appears winter has arrived in Wyoming and other parts of the Northern Rockies (thankfully, only temporarily, as temps are supposed to rebound to autumn-like in my community…. for a bit of time, anyway). So, what to write?

March 2016 snow_neighborhoodIn light of the devastating and frightening Hurricane Matthew on the East Coast and the destructive winds that ripped through Casper earlier in the week, I decided STORMS would be appropriate. Winter is coming, and with that season often comes blizzard conditions and heavy piles of snow – at least in my neck of the woods. Ice storms often grip the Midwestern and Eastern states, and dust storms envelope parts of the southwestern U.S. Whether torrential rains, thunder, hurricanes, tornadoes, snow, or dirt, natural storms occur. Even fires can whip up into storms, racing at tremendous speed and leaving destruction in its wake.

Storms also present themselves in our life. Waves crash on our hearts when relationships crater. Our minds swirl when a troubling health diagnosis comes along. The dust-storm of job-loss wrecks our self-confidence. Yet, through each storm, if we’re patient enough and look hard enough, the sunlight of strength and the rainbow of hope appear. One of my manuscripts-in-progress parallels seasons in nature with seasons in life, including blizzards, drought, storms, renewal, harvest, and thanksgiving.

woman-at-computer2As writers, we also know storms: rejection, doubt, lack of time (or being pulled in too many directions); even the business aspect of our work can be stormy. So much vies for our attention in this world, and people’s lack of attention (or demand for “give it to me quick”) makes writing challenging. We face a lot of competition for readers and many avenues to try to reach them – sometimes the whole business of writing is overwhelming. But, if we focus not on the sales but on the joy of writing, of telling that story that desires to be told, we will enjoy the journey, even if the winds knock us off our feet now and then.

Nearly 10 months of this year has already gone by. My desire when Jan. 1, 2016 rolled around was to be a fulltime freelance writer before year-end. I’m not there yet. I’ve experienced a few storms in my life in 2016, but nothing compared to many friends, colleagues and family members. There is always next year. And, I’ve taken a few extra steps to pursue that goal even more during the coming months, including signing up for a copywriting course and to become part of copywriting community. There seems to be a demand for such work and something that be done at home. We’ll see where this road may lead. Hopefully, it will lead to achieving my desired goal in 2017.

Meantime, National Novel Writing Month begins in a few weeks. I have a work-in-progress that I plan to pick back up and earmark to finish by November 30. In that story, a number of storms happen to my characters, molding and shaping them, growing them, and yes, setting them back somewhat. That’s what happens in storms – beaches are eroded, roofs are ripped off, and areas are burned. But, when the menace is gone, rebirth and rejuvenation begins. The natural world is reborn, our lives are rebuilt, and our characters develop. Storms can be scary, but they can also be life-shaping.

Maybe next time I’ll talk about something less frightening and challenging – like dogs, or national parks!

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Gayle_CHS booktable34Gayle M. Irwin is the author of seven inspirational dog stories for children and adults. She is a also a freelance writer for various magazines and newspapers and is a contributor to six editions of the Chicken Soup for the Soul as well as to the short story collection Memories from Maple Street: Pawprints on My Heart, released in July 2016 from Sundown Press.  She is currently working on new books, including BobCat Goes to School, a humorous children’s story about a cat that gets trapped in a school building; Tail Tales: A Short Story Collection About Pets that Have Touched My Heart & Impacted My Life; and Seasons of Life, Seasons of Nature, which parallels the seasons in nature with the joys and challenges of life. Learn more about Gayle and her works at www.gaylemirwin.com.

Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Walking_FrontCover_small     SageBigAdventureFront-small Sage Finds Friends_front cover   BookCoverPreview_Codys Cabin_Aug 2016.do     Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover   Spirit of America book   Pawprints Book

I am a Writer!

Gayle_signing photoThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

I have an anniversary coming up. Nine years ago next month I attended my first writers’ conference. I traveled to New Mexico thanks to a free airline ticket I received when I was bumped from a full flight six months prior. Two months after that conference, I left my full-time, good-paying federal job, seeking to become a freelance writer and author. Oh, the dreams and visions I had for my future as a writer!

Nine years … I haven’t actually “made it” and I don’t necessarily have less stress in my life from that time as a federal employee, but I am thankful for the journey. I still work a “day job” but one that gives me (usually) two weekdays in order to focus on my writing. My current day-job is also stressful, especially now as we’re gearing up for a major fundraiser and going through bumps in our data/computer system. Balancing that job with my writing work, such as interviewing people for stories for various magazines and newspapers, can be tricky, especially now that I’m middle-age (I don’t juggle as well as I used to).

soldier and flagI love the writing work, even when it’s challenging. I recently received my final check for They Served with Honor – Vietnam Veterans, having turned in my final story for that project in early September. Those interviews were often quite emotional, both for the veteran and for me. I’m now in the midst of six articles for Crossroads, a magazine published annually by the Cheyenne, Wyoming, Chamber of Commerce. This is my third year writing for that magazine, and it’s more challenging this year as I have three stories about new projects at F.E. Warren Air Force base; finding people willing to talk about those endeavors has been difficult, even with the help of the base’s public affairs office. But, I believe we’ve found a solution and I look forward to composing, and completing, this assignment within a few weeks.

Writing isn’t easy. I struggle to create books sometimes and, as testament above, not always do article sources pan out. Oh, some days the words do just flow, like when I sat down at the Gillette, Wyoming, library last Friday as I drove to a writer’s workshop. I’d been toying with the idea of new book, a collection of short pet stories I’d written for other publications that either weren’t accepted or were published quite some time ago – my own Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul collection, if you would. The works are good, and I’ve been editing them to make them better, and so instead of letting them sit or keep trying other venues, I’m creating my own. I believe pet owners will enjoy these “tail tales,” stories that touch hearts and impacts lives.

During the drive to the workshop, I thought of the cat from my childhood, and when I sat in that chair in that library, the words eased from mind/heart to computer/page like maple syrup flowing from northeastern trees. Of course, I’ve edited the story, but it’s amazing when the mind is clear, the words can, and do, come forth.

computerI’ve been blessed this year with various articles, projects, and publications. As the article-writing dies down, I’m looking forward to picking back up the manuscripts I’ve been desiring to complete for the past year or so, including three children’s stories and a book project I started after that first writers’ conference. Nine years – that’s awhile! I likely won’t complete it this year, but it gives me a new book project for next year; maybe a 10th anniversary book!

The writers’ workshop I attended last weekend was located in the Black Hills region of northeastern Wyoming (my reason for stopping at the Gillette library was for a break… but it became more!). The workshop was a fiction-writing program and though the presenter writes works that are outside my box, I have a manuscript that I started a few years ago which remains unfinished; it was outside my box of comfort.  Yet, I feel compelled to finish it, and I’m hopeful what I learned at last weekend’s workshop will spur me to do so. I came away from the workshop excited and considering that WIP. But, I have others to work on first.

Getting away from home and spending time with other writers, and later at the quiet of some friends’ ranch, spurred my creativity – I wish I could have stayed a week!

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During the past year, I’ve also been fortunate to have some of my children’s works turned into a serialized story, published in our local paper which produces a kids’ section. One of my latest works is producing another such story with hopes it runs this winter. The story is nearly finished and deals with sibling spats. I’m looking into how I might get this and other children’s stories into other publications via syndication.

And just this week I signed up for Thrive Hive, a small-business marketing endeavor from Propel Marketing. This aspect of authorship has been the greatest challenge for me, and I believe this company will be of great help. For a low monthly rate, I will be able to reach out to more people through various means, and though it’s DYI, the company provides a platform, helpful marketing people, guides, and services that will keep me on track and motivated. A new step for me, but one that I hope will yield positive, encouraging results.

Gayle_CHS booktable34My desire is to be a fulltime writer. That would consist of being a book author, an article writer, a short story creator, a blogger, and other measures that would bring in an income. I’d hoped by the end of this year to be at that point, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. There is always next year.

At times I’ve wondered if I’m truly a writer. When people don’t show up at booksignings, I truly doubt.  I’ve asked for the thoughts to stop, to turn off like I can turn the TV or radio off. Then, when the stories and ideas won’t stop, I realize that yes, I AM A WRITER! That was apparent last Friday when new children’s book ideas popped in my head and when I stopped at the Gillette library, sat at my laptop and cranked out a new pet story for my upcoming Tail Tales short story anthology.So, I guess since the ideas won’t stop, and I since I was inspired by the fiction-writing workshop, I need to accept that I am a writer. And, I’ll just keep working on stories, articles, and books… for that is my calling.

I AM A WRITER!

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Gayle M. Irwin is the author of seven inspirational dog stories for children and adults. She is a also a freelance writer for various magazines and newspapers and is a contributor to six editions of the Chicken Soup for the Soul as well as to the short story collection Memories from Maple Street: Pawprints on My Heart, released in July 2016 from Sundown Press. Gayle is passionate about pets and animal adoption and supports several animal welfare organizations through donations from her book sales, assisting at events, and transporting dogs for rescue groups. She is currently working on new books, including BobCat Goes to School, a humorous children’s story about a cat that gets trapped in a school building; Tail Tales: A Short Story Collection About Pets that Have Touched My Heart & Impacted My Life; and Seasons of Life, Seasons of Nature, which parallels the seasons in nature with the joys and challenges of life. Learn more about Gayle and her works at www.gaylemirwin.com.

Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover   BookCoverPreview_Codys Cabin_Aug 2016.do   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover   Spirit of America book   Pawprints Book

 

 

 

Back to School Means Goals

CindyCarrollEA new school year always means goals to me. Like the goals I create at the beginning of every year, when a new school year starts in September I feel the need to create goals again. Or at least look at the ones I had and reassess. For us the schools start again on Tuesday next week. I live in a University town so the coming weekend will bring lots of students back to the city and we’ll welcome new students here for the first time. Some of the major roads going through town are closed next Saturday for most people to help the students moving in get where they need to go.

From Depositphotos Copyright kzlobastov
From Depositphotos Copyright kzlobastov
This year going hand in hand with the goals reassessment is end of summer cleaning. My brother in-law is going to be visiting in October for Thanksgiving so this is the perfect time to scrub the house and get everything (my office included) in order. I will be going through all the rooms in the house and getting rid of things we don’t use anymore. Donating things that can be used by others in need of them. Once the house is spotless and my office looks like an office it will stay like that. I’m actually looking forward to diving into the rooms this weekend. Tossing things that I meant to get rid of years ago. The garage has turned into my replacement storage unit. When I empty the storage unit I did no purging. We just moved everything from there to the garage. I loved getting rid of the monthly bill but now I’d like my garage back.

Also part of my back to school plan is a writing goal. It’s lofty. It’s going to be hard. But I’m determined to succeed at this goal. I can’t reveal what it is yet but I will go into it in my September post. It involves a lot more writing than I’ve been doing and lot more publishing. I think I can do it.

Once the house is order again I think I’d like to have a dinner party. Or a party period. It seems we haven’t had people over to the house in ages and it would be nice to entertain again.

What does back to school mean to you?

Get free reads, new release pricing, members only contests, access to Campus (a behind the scenes website for my Standpoint Trilogy and still under construction) – sign up for my mailing list:

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ReflectionsFinal2A road trip without a plan sounded like a good idea when Lena and her friends hit the road. After hours of driving in the heat in a cramped car they’re all ready for something to eat and a good night’s rest.

Reflections Inn looks perfect for the group of friends. A little run down, it hides a supernatural horror. A curse that replaces people with their repressed alter egos forces the friends to fight for their lives. Duplicates who lack restraint, crave gratification emerge from the mirrors. Too late they realize they didn’t know each other as well as they thought.

One by one, Lena’s friends learn the truth about their repressed emotions, their suppressed violent urges.

What doesn’t kill them can only make them stronger.

Get this story free by clicking the button above and join my mailing list!

Writing, Reading, and the Watermelon Buffet

MOW BOOK LAUNCH 003 (3)

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Posted by Kathy Waller

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We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room,
drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched.
Maybe this year, to balance the list,
we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…
not looking for flaws, but for potential.
~Ellen Goodman

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If you don’t know where you are going,
you’ll end up someplace else.
~ Yogi Berra

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“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
~ (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)

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Goals drive me crazy. ~ Kathy Waller

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On last week’s Austin Mystery Writers blog , I said I don’t like goals. I like to set goals, to list them in a nice, neat column in a nice, neat notebook.

But as soon as they’re on paper, claustrophobia sets in. I dig in my heels, I fret, I resist. I have a severe case of the fantods. Out of respect for my sanity, I lose the list. Which means I lose the goals. I achieve some of them, in time, but others drift away, gone with the wind that perpetually sweeps through my mind.

I know it’s crazy, but there’s something about the list that just drives me up the wall.

Several years ago I found a way to list my goals without risking my sanity–A Round of Words in 80 Days: The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.* With ROW80 I don’t feel the (self-inflicted) pressure I feel with the list-them-do-them method.

And the challenge is fun. I meet other bloggers, check out their goals, watch their progress, and see how they achieve their goals–and not just in writing–in a world where life sometimes gets in the way.

A ROW80 friend who blogs at shanjeniah’s Lovely Chaos offered a perspective on goal setting that complements ROW80. “What I do now is set lots of goals – but set them as a buffet,” she writes. “That way, they’re a selection of lovely options I can sample, nibbling or devouring as mood and life allow.”

“A selection of lovely options.” How could anyone not sample lovely options? Chocolate mousse, fried chicken, cheesecake, prime rib, fried oysters, East Side Cafe chicken artichoke soup… Watermelon!

"watermelon" by Harsha K R is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0
“watermelon” by Harsha K R is licensed under CC-BY-SA-2.0

Why does the buffet metaphor work for me? Once again, we look to Shakespeare for the answer:

…there is nothing either good or bad,
but thinking makes it so.
                                             ~ Hamlet, II, ii, l. 241-2

Or, if you, too, have the fantods over goal setting and need a stronger statement, then look to John Milton:

The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.
~ Paradise Lost, Book 1, lines 254-5

 To wit:

Mind → goal = bad = hell

but

Mind → goal = watermelon = good = heaven

So. I am aiming for heaven.

From now on, I will waltz up to the buffet and load my plate with watermelon.

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Why have I posted a second time about goals?

First, because after writing the earlier goals post, I learned about the buffet method and  thought it worth passing on.

Second, because through another ROW80 friend, The Writerly Reader, I learned about 746 Books and 20 Books of Summer. Some of the titles I’ve chosen for 20 Books appear below. Because I read the first two this summer, I’m counting them. Considering my late start, I probably won’t be able to read them all, and I might subtract some and add others. But then, this is a buffet, and etiquette demands restraint. If I sampled everything, Emily Post would not be amused.

20 Books of Summer Buffet

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
My thoughts on Anne Tyler appear here.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Saw it, liked the cover, bought it. Serendipity.

The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
I’ve read about half. Delightful.

Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning by Sol Steinmetz

White Heat: The Friendship Between Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen

The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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*For an informal overview of ROW80, see my post at Austin Mystery Writers. Official information can be found at

What Is Row80?;
About (Where ROW80 Came From); and
The ROW80 Blog.

My goals for Round 3, which began July 4th, are posted on Telling the Truth, Mainly. A progress report appears here.

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We spend January 1 … Ellen Goodman

If you don’t know where you are going... Yogi Berra

“Would you tell me, please,… Lewis Carroll

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Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at the Austin Mystery Writers group blog.
Her stories appear in Mysterical-E and in
Austin Mystery Writers’ crime fiction anthology,
Murder on Wheels.

MOW cover - amazon pix

Bloom Where You’re Planted

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis blog post by Gayle M. Irwin

Spring sprung late this year in Casper, Wyoming (unless you count the few weeks in February in which we experienced some days of record-breaking temps and sun-filled skies!). The rain, snow, and cold, although contributing to greening grass and colorful, fragrant flowers, about did in the people I know in Casper and other parts of Wyoming. When mid-May comes, you desire sunshine, warmth, and outdoor activity… not clouds, cold, and confinement.

tulips 2As moisture fell from the sky, both in the form of rain and snow earlier this month, I took some time when the clouds dried up briefly and explored my yard and my neighborhood. I noticed tulips in vast arrays of color, from deep red to striped pink, from vibrant yellow to dusky lavender. Lavish lilac bushes separated one house from another, and hedges of honeysuckle with pink blossoms enticed a variety of songbirds to eat and sing from the branches.

One bush especially captured my attention. An old lilac shrub in my backyard, which my husband had cut back many years ago, and which I suggested last year we give up on and dig up, sprung to life this year. It’s small, but there is life, including a few fragrant flowers. Obviously, I’m glad we didn’t destroy the backyard lilac! Seeing the resurrected bush, and all the varied plant species in royal array, made me think of the old adage “Bloom Where You’re Planted.”

lilac flowers

That slogan is truly applicable to life and career, especially for me. I work part-time for a non-profit, and in many ways, my job is a gift: I work with wonderful colleagues, we do an important service in our community, and the three days a week allows me time to write, to speak, to travel, or to be at my cabin. Financially, it’s not bad either, considering it’s non-profit and part-time. I have four-day weekends, for the most part, giving me a few days each week to visit schools and/or to travel. At work, I’m often able to help write newsletters and share client stories (using fake names, of course) with donors, so I can use a skill/gift I’ve been given as well as use my brain at various other levels. Therefore, even though there are days when I wish I was not working outside the home, I can bloom where I’m planted.

Likewise with writing. I may not be the most well-known writer, even in my own state – we have successes like Craig Johnson, whose Longmire book series is a TV show available on Netflix and who travels the world, and Nina McConigley, who won a PEN award, got a book review by “O” (Oprah’s magazine), and is sought after as a speaker at literary and writing conferences as well as an educator on university campuses across the country. I will likely never be at their level, yet I have my niche, and it’s one I enjoy. Through my passions for writing and pet rescue I’m able to speak to children and adults, in schools and libraries, about the importance of the pet-human bond and then donate part of book sales back to those rescues that do such incredible work. Although I wish I was more successful financially in the writing and speaking arenas, perhaps that will come in time (and then, it may not). Meantime, I’m blooming where I’m planted.

City News Cheyenne_Oct 2015As the weeks of May wane and June (and hopefully summer) arrives, I’m looking forward to more “road-time.” I have at least three speaking and booksigning gigs lined up (waiting for two others to confirm), and I’m hoping to garner a few more magazine editor “okays.” In fact, I’m looking ahead to my writing future with the desire to write more short stories and articles. Chicken Soup for the Soul has new call-outs, including proposed pet books, and since I’ve had six successes with that publishing enterprise, I’m going to try for a few more. Perhaps this niche, short stories and articles, will be my future flowering shrubs; book authorship for me has grown daunting with lots of work that I’m not sure I want to continue doing. I have a few works in progress that I’d like to complete – but it hasn’t been, nor am I sure it is – the season. Maybe those will sprout and grow eventually, like my backyard lilac.

How about you? Are you blooming where you’re planted? Do you see growth in your work, whether that’s writing or a “day-job?” (or both?) Wherever you are, may the fruit of your labors be pleasantly fragrant!

apple blossoms

 

Gayle M. Irwin is the author of inspirational dog stories for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Sage Finds Friends, Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest, and Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with my Blind Dog. She is also a contributing writer to anthologies, including the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Spirit of America, to be released in June, and Prairie Rose Publishing’s July release Pawprints on My Heart. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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

It’s a Spring Thing!

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

According to the calendar, spring starts today. Where I live (central Wyoming) spring seemed to start at the end of February. We experienced record-breaking (or close to it) temperatures, and lack of snow. That changed for many parts of the state this past week as a significant system rolled in. Most of the major snow hit the more mountainous areas, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. I’m okay with that – moisture in the mountains is good, especially this time of year, and if rain falls on the plains off and on for the next few months, that’s good, too.

Ever since I lived in West Yellowstone, Montana, for several years during the 1990s, I’ve not been a big fan of snow. The last winter I lived there, temperatures dropped to -50F for about a week and more than 25 feet of snow fell. I was trapped in my little rental house for a day and had to crawl out a window and shovel out the doorway. As I said, that was my FINAL winter there, and I’ve disliked harsh winter conditions ever since. If all goes and I do retire somewhat comfortably, I plan to spend winter months in warmer western climates – like Arizona. No one knows the future, we can only hope and make some plans and see how it all shakes out, but being a snowbird is my desire.

Gayle_CactusForest_nearLakePleasant

I love spring – I enjoy seeing colorful flowers and buds on trees as they emerge from their dormancy. I enjoy warmer temperatures of 60s and 70s (even 50s are okay in March and April!), and I like to hear the patter of raindrops on my windows. New life bursts forth in nature, and oftentimes in people, when spring arrives.

Last week I took my dog Mary to the local, fenced-in dog park (I like safety for my spaniels) and we saw MANY dogs and their guardians. Mary gets to meet new friends, both two and four-legged, and gets to run through the two-acre fenced-in park, sniffing and learning and enjoying. She and I both get exercise and make new acquaintances. It’s much more fun to walk the dog park in warmer temperatures and no snow or mud. Again, it’s like new life emerges … for all of us who use the dog park because of the spring weather.

Mary dog park_fence and river

Writing is similar. Sometimes as writers we’re dormant, unsure of what we want to write or occasionally even HOW to write. Then, a vacation, an outing, even a walk breaks the stagnation and new life springs forth: new thoughts, new energy, new stories (or even old stories that have been quiet in our brains or on our computers).

I’m in the process of creating two new children’s works, one about a rescue dog and one about a cat that needs rescuing (well, needs to get out of the school building after he gets locked in, at least!) I’m excited for these stories to finally break forth, much like the daffodils and apple tree buds. The dog story has been in my head and on the computer for nearly five years; the cat story more than one year. Just like spring is the right time for flowers and trees to blossom, this must be the right time for my two children’s stories to emerge and bloom.

Even though the calendar says “spring,” in my area winter can return, at least for a short time. That’s true for my stories, too – the edits can bring a lurch to my heart and be hard to accept, like the return of winter to my landscape. But, it’s only for a short time, and that extra moisture from a March or April snowfall is good for the prairie, just as it’s good for me to edit, slice and re-create the stories. Spring will come again, both to my writing and to the natural environment where I live – I look forward to what spring (and winter-like spring) produces, on the page and on the land.

wildflowers in forest

How about you? What do you envision “springing forth” in your writing and in your yard or landscape this year?

Happy Spring, everyone — I hope you have opportunity to get outside and walk through a park/dog park and to enjoy the nature around you!

 

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin writes inspirational dog books for children and adults and has had short stories published in five Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her books include: Sage’s Big Adventure; Sage Finds Friends; Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest; Walking in Trust – Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two devotion books for dog lovers. She is also the author of the Kindle book Help! My Dog is Going Blind – Now What Do I Do? A former humane and conservation educator, Gayle once lived next door to Yellowstone National Park, and served as editor of the West Yellowstone News. Gayle volunteers for various animal rescue organizations. Her pets have been adopted from such great organizations. Learn more about Gayle and her writings at this website: www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small  Sage Finds Friends_front cover  Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage  Walking_FrontCover_small  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final  Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover  Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

Ranch Retreat

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

An earlier January blog post mentioned a self-imposed retreat I was planning, so I decided to do a follow-up about the experience. One word describes it: AWESOME! Although I could end my thought with that word, I’ll share a bit more.

On January 15 , 16 and 17, I “retreated” to my friends’ ranch about 70 miles northeast of Casper. I’ve known this couple for nearly 12 years. They live on acreage owned by the husband’s family for more than 50 years; he inherited the ranch after his parents died. Although my friends don’t do as much ranching as he did growing up and until about 10 years ago, they still maintain livestock, including horses, cattle, and llamas. They rent out pasture to others who have more cows, horses, and even some sheep. My friends bought an additional 40-acre parcel adjacent to the original family ranch and built a new house on it a few years ago. They kept the original modular home on that 40-acres, which serves as a guest house. When their children and grandchildren visit, when other family and friends visit, they stay at the guest house. That’s where I stayed, where I slept, where I ate (although I shared a meal with my friends at their home), and where I wrote.

ranch retreat home
Kaycee, WY Ranch guest house — my writing retreat in January.

And, did I write! I composed several articles, including a new story to submit to Chicken Soup for the Soul which was due the end of this month. I re-purposed some articles that had not been accepted into Chicken Soup when I submitted them a few years ago, added to, subtracted from, and edited through those and have since sent on to other publications, two of which have been accepted to Prairie Times in Colorado. A few other of those re-purposed stories will be sent to Prairie Rose Publishing, the company our friend Doris McCraw writes for and tells us about. I’ll be submitting for the company’s upcoming anthology “Pawprints on my Heart” with hopes one or two will be picked up for that publication.

turkeys and chip the llama
Some of my ranch retreat “guests”!

I learned about Prairie Times from the publisher of my book, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, who resides in Greeley, CO. She encouraged me to contact the editor because Prairie Times publishes animal stories. I did, the editor said to send a few samples, so I worked on those and submitted them — she accepted them! One is slated to be published in May and the other in June. It’s a paying market, and I plan to submit more with hopes she’ll publish them in the fall; October is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month and November is National Adopt-a-Senior Pet Month. I certainly have stories appropriate for such recognitions.

Additionally while at the ranch, I started a new children’s book, about my rescue therapy dog, Mary. I have opportunity to have that story serialized later this year in “My Trib,” the children’s section of the Casper Journal. Two of my children’s stories have run since September, and when I spoke with the publisher earlier this month, he indicated an interest in running more of my children’s work. I’ve wanted to write a story about Mary, her adoption, and her therapy-dog nature, so that conversation, and my ranch writing retreat, prompted me to get that going. I also wrote more of my children’s story, Jasmine’s Journey: Story of a Rescue Dog, a story I started a few years ago but left shelved on my computer. It’s time; it’s time I write on my manuscripts once again, and that’s one of the main reasons for the retreat. When I’m home, I work on other people’s work: the Vietnam veterans stories for the Casper Star Tribune, the articles for WREN magazine, the compositions for Our Town Casper. Plus, the various interruptions at home: the phone, the internet, the pets, the husband; the laundry, the dishes, the television… at the ranch there was none of that. I purposely chose to ignore the Vietnam writings, even though I had done two interviews; my WREN and Our Town articles were completed for the month; and I left the dogs and husband at home. There was no TV and no internet, even though I did watch one DVD on Friday night – a fun movie that helped me laugh and relax, both of which I needed. I slept in on Saturday until 8 am, NOT normal for me, and usually NOT an option for me at home. That added rest probably contributed to my ability to sit and type, to let the muse flow, and to feel stronger and more creative. My spiritual side also benefited, as I brought along instrumental CDs of Christian hymns and also brought my Bible and two devotion books. I reviewed my goals and prayed over each project and each plan. This retreat is exactly what my emotional, spiritual, creative, and physical sides needed.

Kaycee house_woodstove
My friends’ ranch guest house is quite cozy! Interestingly, the futon used to belong to my husband and I — our friends bought it from us when we decided to obtain a regular couch and they were looking for more furnishings for their ranch guest house.

Wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, and great horned owls were among my visitors. A few stray cats, whom my friends feed, and three llamas made up the guests near the guest house. The sun shone, the wind remained calm, and the snow didn’t fly (much anyway!). Although the temperature was cold, especially in the morning, a woodstove helped heat the house and provided an extra comfy atmosphere for writing.

I hope to do this again, even if just for one night and one day, at least once more this winter (maybe twice if my friends and my husband allow!) My goal is to finish both children’s books by early spring. To do so, I’m going to need to learn to block out time at home, to ignore the distractions (well, most of them anyway). Time management – it’s something else that’s on my goal list for this year. Perhaps I can find a way to block out at least four hours in one day, and another hour or two on another day to simply spend on my manuscripts and weave the other writing assignments and school speaking engagements around those blocks of time in addition to continuing my part-time “steady job.” I hope to figure all that out and start next month (which is just a day away now!) as I’ll again be working on magazine assignments.

I highly recommend self-imposed retreats. Perhaps a day at the beach, in the desert, or even at a library. A place to be by yourself and get quiet and simply spend with your heart, your mind, and your computer (or writing notebook). I am blessed with these great friends and I am blessed to have the mountain cabin (which for me is too difficult to get to during winter – and too many distractions, like feeding the woodstove constantly and being cold!)… so I look forward to being there in spring, summer, and fall.

I’m looking forward to what lies ahead this year in terms of my creative writing! How about you?

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstore

P.S. Just as I was about to post this, I learned that a magazine article I wrote last month for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News) won third place in the Single Feature magazine category at the Wyoming Press Association awards. One of my stories from the same publication took a third place at WPA the year prior. I love writing for WREN and I’m so honored to be part of that publication and to have been bestowed these awards! Now I can officially say I’m an award-winning writer! If I put more time and effort into learning and polishing the craft and seeking opportunities to publish, I can grow as a writer and continue making positive impacts on readers. Spending time in reflection and on retreat can help in all those arenas – retreat ranch, I’m quoting Mr. Arnold and saying, “I’ll be back!”

turkeys at ranch
Wild turkeys headed toward the river which flows through the ranch.

Gayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational dog books for children and adults, including Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog; Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God, Sage’s Big Adventure, Sage Finds Friends, and Cody’s Cabin: Life in a Pine Forest. She threads life lessons into her work, such as friendship, courage, and perseverance. Her blind dog, Sage, was the inspiration for many of her stories. Gayle has also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Additionally, she’s contributed short stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul books and writes regularly for magazines and newspapers. Gayle has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. She speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various groups, weaving topics with lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014   Sage Finds Friends_front cover

Leaping into This Leap Year

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

This new year is also a leap year, which, according to Wikipedia, adds an extra day “to keep the calendar year synchronized with the astronomical or seasonal year.” One extra day this year – an extra day to write!

This weekend I’m taking myself on a writing retreat. My husband and I have friends who live on a ranch about 70 miles northeast of our town of Casper. The ranch plays host to a variety of wildlife, including turkeys, white-tailed deer, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, and many species of songbirds… as well as cattle, sheep, and llamas. The ranch also hosts a guest house. Greg and I have stayed there a few times, and I’ve stayed at the modular house, complete with fireplace and jacuzzi tub, on several occasions alone. It’s here that I completed “Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog.” Sage was with me. Little did I know that February weekend in 2012 that one month later my beloved blind dog would be diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and, within a week of that diagnosis, pass on.

llamas at ranch

So, here we are, about four years later, and I’ll be “retreating” to the ranch once again to write amid the quiet. The Powder River flows nearby. Bluffs and hillsides add to nature’s song. The guest house has no wi-fi, and cell phone service is a short drive down the country lane. My friends’ main house is a few stones’ throws from the guest house, so if some emergency does arise, I can get help (however, I’ll need to be able to walk or drive!). One of the lessons Sage taught me was to have a deeper faith, so just as I have faith all will be well at our cabin, which also doesn’t have cell or wi-fi service, I have faith all will be well at my friends’ ranch guesthouse while I’m there. Taking “a leap of faith,” so to speak.

Powder River

Writing is also a leap of faith. When we create characters, compose stories, and call upon the muse, we trust we will develop something we’ll enjoy writing and that people will enjoy reading. We trust we’ll connect, market, and sell. Writing is art, but it’s also a business, especially if we want to earn a living doing it, whether full-or part-time.

I’m blessed to be very busy part-time writer. I not only write books, but also magazine articles, short stories, and newspaper pieces. During the past few years, my platform has expanded, and in this year another opportunity has come my way: a third magazine through the company that creates WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric News) and Crossroads (an annual publication of the Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce). This new publication, called Advancement, is not something I’ve heard of, but the editors have asked me to take part in the project because they know me – they know my style, they know I’m thorough in my interviews, and they know I meet deadlines. I’ve written for WREN for three years and for Crossroads for two; the editors know I’m reliable and so when this new publication opportunity arose, they contacted me – and I said “YES!” We’ll see what I’m in for, but I am excited and I am grateful.

Sage Finds Friends circleAnother exciting happening for me is that the Casper Journal has serialized another of my children’s stories; it began running the week of Christmas (Merry Christmas to me … and Casper’s young readers!). “Sage Finds Friends” reminds youngsters of the value of friendship; the book is available on Amazon and I should have my first copies later this month. I’m excited! This book took nearly three years from conception to birth (it sat on my computer’s hard drive for quite a few seasons). Now that I’m “on a roll” book-wise, I’m planning to complete other WIPs that are sitting on my hard drive as well. I’m motivated, and I look forward to what this three-day, self-imposed writing retreat will produce … and to what this new year, this leap year, unfolds for me creatively.

Paralleling the writing is speaking. This month I have five school visits plus another scheduled for February 1. I plan to line up library visits and booksignings for the spring in conjunction with Children’s Book Week, which coincides with Be Kind to Animals Week (both in early May). I hope to have my children’s dog rescue book (one of my WIPs) published by then to share with audiences (young and older) – an objective I’ve set for this year. That’s a project I’ll focus on while at the ranch.

Denton Library_kids

My desire is to be a fulltime writer and speaker. My goal is to be at that point by the time 2017 rolls around. We will see if that comes to pass as that is also “a leap of faith.”

How about you? What do you hope to “leap into” this year? What leaps of faith are you contemplating? My best to you all always!

 

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker who lives in Wyoming. She is the author of several inspirational dog books for children and adults and has also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. Additionally, she’s contributed short stories to five Chicken Soup for the Soul books and writes regularly for magazines and newspapers. Gayle has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. She speaks in schools and for civic and Christian women’s groups, weaving topics together with lessons people can learn from pets. She is currently working on three books, including a pet rescue story for children. Visit her website at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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

 

The New Year Brings a New Chapter

CindyCarrollEIt’s a new year so you’re going to be bombarded by posts this month on goals and resolutions. And yep, that’s what I’m going to be talking about for this post too. It helps to get your goals down, put them out there in the universe. Speaking them aloud makes them more real somehow. You’re accountable to whoever might remember and ask later on – “Hey, did you do that thing you said you were going to do?”

Copyright Flynt - purchased from Bigstock
Copyright Flynt – purchased from Bigstock

Some of the posts on the blog this month haven’t talked about goals but a few have. Mike has two goals that are very doable. I liked Kathy’s post about having a word for the year. In the comments section of Kathy’s post I decided that my word for this year would be positivity. It’s easy to be negative when bad things are going on but being positive can help the bad to not seem so bad. I’ve cut negative people out of my life because they suck the soul out of you. I don’t want to be one of those negative people. The sucktastic year that was 2015 is gone. It’s time to move forward.

There will be setbacks. There always are. It’s how you deal with the setbacks that make the difference. I wallowed last year. I let the bad things get to me more than they usually do. I’ve had bad years before but for some reason last year just broke me. I need to remember that I have family and friends I can talk to that will help me get through the bad stuff. And others are going through worse stuff than I was.

So for this year I’m being positive. I have attainable goals if I work hard to accomplish them. I can be the writer I’ve always wanted to be if I put my mind to it. Last year I was muddled, all over the place. I wanted to write stories that spoke to me but I wanted to make money too. I wrote short sexy stories that sold well (before I jumped on the bandwagon) thinking I would be all set. But even though the writing was good, the rules changed when Amazon brought out Kindle Unlimited 1.0 and then Kindle Unlimited 2.0. I was just starting to get traction on the stories with KU 1.0 when they decided to pay writers per page read for their work in Select. Something had to change.

That’s when I decided to start ghostwriting. I needed the money faster than Amazon would pay me, and it would be more in a month than I had ever earned for any of my writing. But I still want to tell my own stories. I decided to follow the advice of a wise man on one of the boards I read who said to focus on one pen name. Face palm. It seemed so simple. Last year I wrote under five pen names, none of them my real name. I split my focus so they all suffered. By trying to get works out under all my pen names there was too much time in between releases.

This year I’m focusing on me. My brand, my name, my stories. I’ll still allocate some words a month to ghostwriting but the rest will be for me. I will finally finish my trilogy. I will get the first book in my urban fantasy series finished and write book two (maybe even book three). I will focus on building my mailing list, connecting with my readers. To that end I am blogging again on my personal blog. Once a week to start to see how I manage that. Then I’ll do more if I can fit it in. I have lots of ideas to attract readers but I need the books done and available to implement them. And to do that I need to focus. I’ve been known to flit from one thing to another but this year to accomplish my goals I will focus on releasing books I’m proud of.

What will your focus be this year?

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ReflectionsFinal2A road trip without a plan sounded like a good idea when Lena and her friends hit the road. After hours of driving in the heat in a cramped car they’re all ready for something to eat and a good night’s rest.

Reflections Inn looks perfect for the group of friends. A little run down, it hides a supernatural horror. A curse that replaces people with their repressed alter egos forces the friends to fight for their lives. Duplicates who lack restraint, crave gratification emerge from the mirrors. Too late they realize they didn’t know each other as well as they thought.

One by one, Lena’s friends learn the truth about their repressed emotions, their suppressed violent urges.

What doesn’t kill them can only make them stronger.

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