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


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.


Novel Writing, Book Marketing, Event Planning… Oh My!

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

November began with a BANG, and I was JAZZED! I had completed my magazine writing assignments for the year (or nearly so), book events were falling into place, and I had new marketing strategies to employ. Last Friday I secured radio and TV interviews for upcoming events and sent out additional press releases in hopes of setting up another radio interview and getting some newspaper publicity. It’s exhausting work, but I’m feeling optimistic and energized as the holiday book season approaches.

National Novel Writing Month/NaNo

Pets are my passion; should make a great romance story, right? Two years ago I started such an endeavor because of taking a college writing class. I was surrounded by several romance writers. However, I wanted my work to reflect my concern for the welfare of animals, therefore, I created my primary female character as a writer who rescues pets (write what you know, right?!). I received positive feedback from the students, the teacher, and other writers with whom I shared the idea. However, the romance genre is out of my comfort zone, and therefore, I put the story away. But, I a niggling persisted the past few months, and since I had completed nearly 17,000 words with NaNo 2014, I decided to dust the manuscript off and use this year’s NaNo as a catalyst to finish the book. I’m progressing, not as well as I’d hoped, but progressing nonetheless.

computerBook Marketing

In October, I began a subscription to ThriveHive, a DYI marketing venture of Propel Marketing. Cost is about $50 per month, and through it I receive ability to schedule Facebook and Twitter posts, have a website (although I already have one), create an email list (which I’m in the process of doing now), and have other marketing tools to promote myself and my books. I haven’t done as much with this as I’d hoped by now, but I believe it will be a positive benefit as I learn and apply in the future. Additionally, I joined TribeWriters, a course and community by writer-guru Jeff Goins; writers grow through learning, applying, and engaging. It too costs about $50/month. Between the two new opportunities, I hope to increase my book sales and develop as a writer (author and freelancer). I also became a member of several Facebook groups through which I recently promoted my Kindle books during free and discounted price days. I’ve been hoping to guest blog on pet blog sites, but haven’t managed to make those connections yet. I’ll save that endeavor for next spring when I can plug into special times, like Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, Be Kind to Animals Week, and Children’s Book Week. There are SO MANY PLACES AND WAYS for a writer to promote books and articles, to engage with other writers and with readers or potential readers – sometimes the possibilities are overwhelming! I wish I had more time to research and apply the various techniques and opportunities; having a day-job can be confining to a writer, but until the writing pays all (or at least most of) the bills, this is the road I must travel.

Event Planning

‘Tis the season for booksignings! Every Saturday through Christmas I have at least one event, and for that, I’m thankful! From Casper and Douglas, Wyoming to locations in Montana, weather-permitting I’ll be out and about reading from and (hopefully) selling books. I had my first reading of my newest children’s story, BobCat Goes to School, on Saturday; another is scheduled at an out-of-town library on December 3 (praying for good travel weather!). I’m blessed to be able to share some of these events with my friend Chris who illustrated the book; this is her first illustrated-book endeavor and her first experiences at promotion events. I enjoy reading, signing, and selling events, but they are a lot of work, including creating press releases and emailing newspapers and radio stations, developing flyers and sending to store owners, and making sure I have enough books to sell at each location. I’m thankful for the additional money holiday sales generates, but I’d like to find new and steady ways to produce more online sales (hence, the book marketing activities above).

These various endeavors help the month of November pass quickly. I can’t believe the middle of the month has arrived! What writing-related undertakings are keeping you occupied in the weeks leading up to the holiday season?


Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallGayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults, including a Kindle e-book for owners of blind dogs. She is also a contributing writer to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as the summer pet anthology by Sundown Press titled Memories from Maple Street: Pawprints on My Heart. She is currently working on additional manuscripts and short stories, with hopes of new book releases in spring 2017. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

bobcat-front-cover   bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover   irwin_pawprints-on-my-heart-book-cover   cody-cabin-cover2   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014

My Name is Leonard

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

My name is Leonard. I am a beautiful, buff male kitten, if I do say so myself. I haven’t hadunadjustednonraw_thumb_1bd much of a life up until now because my sisters and brothers and I were turned over to the Humane Society. I had to share a big cage with lots of other kitties. I tried to get them to play but they weren’t too much fun.

A couple of days ago I was neutered, and if you know what I mean, you know I didn’t appreciate it much. Someone put a sign on my recovery cage that said I was up for adoption. I might have liked a couple more days to recuperate, but no one asked me.

The other day some people came in with a Service Dog (a Shih Tzu) and one of my handlers unadjustednonraw_thumb_200came in to get me and put me in a room with the people and the female dog named Patty. I tried to get her to play, too, but she told me to go fly a kite, so I sat on the man’s lap, and then sat on the woman’s lap. I was on my best behavior – after all, I wanted a forever home. I wasn’t sure about the dog, but I figured if she tried to bug me I’d just use my claws to let her know just who is boss.

I was very excited when I found out I was being adopted. Dreams of all the kitten chow I could eat and maybe at least one toy that is just for me floated through my head. I wasn’t too fond of the ride home, because they put me in a box. Can you imagine that? A box! Even if it said Cat Box I wasn’t too impressed.

When we got home I did get some toys just for me but the dog kept playing with my feathers and bell toy. That first day I got to know my new parents but Patty the dog acted very uppity.

I ignored her. My dad loves his coffee and I like to share it with him. Mmm, what a goodunadjustednonraw_thumb_1b3 taste. It has cream in it and, well, everyone knows cats like cream. I found a favorite place to take a nap but my mommy got a little upset with me. It’s the dish drainer, just long enough for me to stretch out.

Patty sits on my dad’s lap all the time. So I thought I’d show her who is boss. I climbed all around my dad’s head and then cuddled up next to the dog to be nice. She jumped off the chair – not very polite if you ask me.

I spent another day exploring the camper I am staying in for the summer. There are lots of places to hide and I like to torment Patty because she can’t get in the spots I can. Yesterday I finally took a nap on my dad’s chest and Patty stayed in his lap. Later she let me lay by her but she still doesn’t want to play with me much. I guess I have to be patient.

Update: My family has moved home from the lake for the winter and I’m happy to say I unadjustednonraw_thumb_1a2finally won over that darned dog. We have lots of fun together now, running through the house chasing each other, grooming each other and sleeping together. If my mom would settle down a little it’d be nice. She really doesn’t like it when I jump on the kitchen counters or the table. She squirts a water bottle at me and since I don’t like it I get down. But if she only knew the places I explore when she’s gone! I try hard to get out of the house every time the door is opened but so far I haven’t gotten very far. One thing I just love – when Patty has to go outside she gets a treat when she comes in. My dad gives me three little treats first and then gives Patty a bone. I’ve got it all figured out now and I stay close to the door when they go out ‘cause I really like those chicken treats.

That’s all for now, except I really love my new home. I feel very lucky to live with such nice people and Patty. I’ll keep you posted.

Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders



Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)



13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing

Linda's book


13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an Ebook



You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Books

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews





The Cat Lady* Writes Again


Posted by Kathy Waller


You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does — but you let a cat get excited once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you’ll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use.
~ Mark Twain,  A Tramp Abroad


Ernest Davis-Waller on back of recliner

I’m sitting in my recliner, feet up, laptop on lap, Ernest Davis-Waller stretched out on the wide overstuffed armrest to my right. His left foreleg stretches down so his paw rests against me. He’s making biscuits on my leg. Clothing doesn’t protect me: his claws pierce my flesh. I take his leg, move it up to the armrest. He reaches down and resumes making biscuits. I move his leg back up… he reaches down… If only he didn’t look so pleased with himself. But finally I give up. He’s had a difficult day. I guess.

William Davis-Waller is in the hospital. Friday night I noticed he was limping a bit, and I knew what was wrong. Saturday morning, the veterinarian diagnosed diabetes. We fed him special food the rest of the weekend and took him back to the vet early Monday morning to stay until his glucose stabilizes.

William Davis-Waller watching PBS

William and Ernest came to us from Austin Pets Alive, which rescues cats and dogs from the animal shelter and fosters them until the cats and dogs are ready to rescue people like the Davis-Wallers. They were six months old when we got them, Ernest first, and William a month later. They hit it off immediately and spent the first night practicing for the Daytona 500–from the bed to the floor to the closet to the bed to the floor to the closet, round and round and round, trampling the humans, all night long.

Five days after they met, Ernest developed a tummy complaint and was admitted to the hospital. Within twenty-four hours, William stopped eating and lay limp and unresponsive in my lap. I took him to the hospital, where he was found to be running a high fever. Ernest was better but not ready to be released. I left William and went home.

Ernest and William sharing recliner

That afternoon, I called to check on William. He was fine, said the vet. She’d put him in the cage with Ernest, and in a couple of hours his fever was gone and he was all perky and eating like a horse. She wanted to keep both over the weekend.

By Monday, however, things had broken down a bit. Ernest, it seems, had told William in no uncertain terms that the cage wasn’t big enough for both of them. According to the veterinarian’s assistant, he used some pretty sickening grammar.

William was moved, post-haste, to his own accommodations.

But back at home, they teamed up again, brothers in arms. And for the past seven years, except for the night Ernest spent at the emergency veterinary clinic–he ate ribbon again–they haven’t been separated. Until this week.

I dropped in this afternoon to check on William and, just in case, told the vet about his dependence on Ernest. He was doing well, his glucose level was down, and he would be ready to come home in a few more days. And would I like to visit him?

William on piano, where he is not supposed to be
William on piano, where he is not supposed to be

They put us in one of the examination rooms and closed the door. William didn’t say hi, how you, no pleasantries at all. Nothing. Instead, we wrestled. He wanted off the exam table. I sat down and held him on my lap. He wanted back on the exam table. He purred twice, for a total of four seconds, and only trying to get me off guard so I would loose my hold. In short, he wanted outta there.

The worst part was that for the full half-hour we were together, he engaged in projectile shedding. I’m used to that, it’s what cats do at the vet’s, but it’s darned uncomfortable when you’re using both hands to corral the beast and can’t spare one to get the fur off your tongue, where it shouldn’t have migrated to in the first place.

William by himself
William by himself

The really worst part, of course, is that he has diabetes. When he came to us, he was all ears, tail and tummy, and he vacuumed up every bite we gave him. He grew into a larger cat than I’d expected him to, based on his small, tapered feet, and the ears, tail, and tummy shrank to proper proportion. But he continued to put on weight. I knew he was becoming a candidate for diabetes. And though I tried to take weight off him, I wasn’t consistent in my efforts. Being a good parent means you sometimes have to do things neither you nor your child, nor your cat, enjoys. If you don’t do those things, you end up feeling guilty and doing things you both like even less. In this case dealing with needles and syringes and blood tests.

On the positive side, the veterinarian told me something I didn’t know–that with proper treatment, diabetic cats sometimes improve and can survive without insulin injections. Like Type II diabetes in humans? I asked. Yes. That makes sense. And now we have something to work toward.

And I can go to bed tonight without worrying that William is running a high fever because he’s lonesome for Ernest.

Ears, tail, and tummy

There was a post on Facebook yesterday that claimed the position you sleep in reveals something about you. If you sleep flat on your back, you’re quiet and reserved and have a high sense of self-worth. If you sleep on your side, you’re calm and laid-back when you’re awake. If you sleep on your back and snore, you’re irritable (reasonable, since you possibly have sleep apnea, but that’s not quite the same as being reserved or laid-back).

I don’t know how I sleep–except that in the morning the sheet and blankets are usually on my side of the bed. I’m afraid to ask what that means.

But for the most part, the position I sleep in depends on two things:

  1. how cold I am; and
  2. how many cats occupy the space that rightfully belongs to my legs.

I’ve taken so long moseying through this piece that Ernest has abandoned me for David’s recliner. He may or may not go with me upstairs to bed. Whatever happens, I know that for tonight, at least, one of my legs will be assured a place to stretch out.

But I’ll be glad when William comes home, even if it means I have to sleep sitting up.



*I’m not really a cat lady or even a cat person. I’m a dog, cat, horse, parakeet, cow, and chicken person, and I would like to be a raccoon person but I’m smart enough not to try that. But I can say, with Mark Twain,

When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.
~  “An Incident,” Who Is Mark Twain?


Mark Twain’s thoughts about cats appear at http://www.twainquotes.com

Of J. C. Penney, Robert Redford, and a Return to Civilized Dining






Posted by Kathy Waller


Writing this post won’t be easy.

ernestandkathy9 (2)
Ernest pinning down left arm

Sixteen pounds of Ernest lies across my right forearm, pinning it to the arm of the recliner. He’s on his side, positioned so he can turn his head and, with a moonstruck expression, gaze upside-down  into my eyes and/or reach across to pat my chest. At present, he’s making biscuits on my upper arm and, head thrown back, pushing with his chin at the mouse, which will soon fall to the floor. It doesn’t matter. With my arm weighed down, my fingers are the only movable part of that appendage, and they’re typing as fast as my brain can make up words. The mouse is purely decorative. I’m surprised to have gotten a whole paragraph down.

Well, no, not really surprised. We do this all the time. I say, “We’ve talked about this. You can’t lie on my arm when I’m using the laptop. So move.” He turns his head, gives me the coy But-I-wuv-you look, and thinks something like, Not on your old lady’s corset cover. I’ll move when I’m good and ready.

He’s good and ready when David brings bacon and eggs, or, rather, bacon and egg. David, bless him, has been providing chair service since I started chemo. I spent six months eating mostly Rice Krispies, because they tasted like what they were; David spent the same six months eating fruit and vegetables and ravioli out of cans, and Pita Pockets out of the freezer. I felt bad about letting him eat such shabby  meals until I realized he likes them. He’s just been polite enough (for twelve years) not to mention he prefers tinned pears to fresh.

Ernest is polite enough to raise himself up off my arm when I jiggle it sufficiently, but then he lies back down. While I eat, he watches and waits for crumbs to fall. If I were eating a biscuit, a muffin–anything that tends to shed–he would be crawling across me, snuffling my shirt. An iota of carbohydrate is enough to justify trawling.

Crumbs don’t fall. After David removes the tray, Ernest removes himself to the back of the recliner, above my head. That’s his new favorite place. Stationed there, he can sleep, pat my head, run his claws through my hair, occasionally kick me with a strong hind leg.

I slept late this morning, caught up in a dream I still can’t shake. I was sitting on a bench outside a new J. C. Penney store, waiting for a train (the tracks ran right by the front door), and Robert Redford, who had performed at the grand opening, was sitting beside me. The actress who had appeared with him sat on my other side. The actress said something to Redford about the skit they’d just performed, and he shot back a deadpan response.

Up to that point, I’d been pretending they weren’t there, as is polite when one finds oneself sitting between celebrities one doesn’t know personally,  but his response was so funny that I clapped my hands over my face and guffawed. The actress said something else, and this time his reply was even funnier than before, and I guffawed even louder.

It was a dream, so whatever happened next made no sense. I did wonder how J. C. Penney managed to talk Robert Redford into opening a store. As to why I dreamed about Penney’s: Yesterday David told me that after a thirty-year hiatus, the company is again selling appliances. I have no idea why I dreamed the store doubled as a depot. I don’t know why I dreamed about Robert Redford, either. But who needs a reason?


After a brief pause, we return, my laptop and I in the recliner, Ernest on the chair back above my head. I’ve just been through the dry run for my first radiation treatment tomorrow. The most recent PET scan showed cancer in one lymph node, but no evidence of metastasis from it. Lesions are gone from the lungs. At this time, only the positive node will be treated. I was once told to anticipate results from all diagnostic tests would be better than expected. These results were exactly that. Peace of mind is no longer an option, but my expectations remain high.

Infusions continue, but the evil drug, the one officially classified as chemotherapy, was withdrawn nine weeks ago. Until it was stopped, I had no idea how rotten the previous months had been. Still, the side-effects I experienced were relatively mild–the side-effect of a positive attitude, perhaps. I feel better now, stronger, more interested in pushing a cart through the grocery store.

I’m not interested in cooking. Several weeks ago I made half a pot roast–I wore out after preparing the carrots, so David had to deal with the potatoes and onions–that turned out to be simply wretched. Last week I bought a chicken whose disposition is still hypothetical. The doctor told me radiation will probably make me feel very tired. I’ll wait to see what happens before taking back the kitchen.

But at some point, I’ll have to do the right thing. I’ll return to cooking. David and I will return to civilized dining. And deprived of chair service, Ernest will continue cutting off circulation to my fingers, making biscuits on my arm, running his claws through my hair, and kicking me with his strong hind leg–but with no hope at all of crumbs.

DSCN1843 (2)


Kathy Waller blogs at Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at Austin Mystery Writers.
Her short stories appear in Mysterical-E
and in Austin Mystery Writers’
crime fiction anthology, MOW cover - amazon pix
She is working on a mystery novel.


Gayle_CHS booktable34This post by Gayle M. Irwin

On Saturday, I participated in the annual Community Appreciation event hosted by the Casper Humane Society (CHS). I joined about 20 other vendors in the CHS’s parking lot as we attempted to sell our wares. Jewelry, candles, clothing, household do-dads, gardening gadgets, and my books of course! graced the area. The shelter staff gave tours of the facility and promoted pet adoption, and food stuffs could be purchased for a minimal price. All this to thank the community for its support of a pet sheltering organization that has been part of the Casper, Wyoming area for nearly 60 years, and to remind residents that the group still needs support as it houses and cares for nearly 45 dogs and puppies and close to 90 cats and kittens. With Wyoming’s economy in the toilet due to the energy bust last year, not only are dogs and cats in need of new homes, but smaller animals like guinea pigs have also been taken in by the CHS, awaiting compassionate, loving human companions.

dog adoption

As most of you know, pet rescue is one of my passions, if not my highest one. I participated last year in the Community Appreciation event and was happy to do so again this year. Although I didn’t sell a truck load of books, I experienced decent sales, and was happy to sell several of the new Pawprints on my Heart books published last month by Sundown Press – having a new product is always a positive, especially when seeing readers and buyers of previous works. And, of course, the title of this short story collection was appropriate for this particular audience.

doeAfter the event, I joined my husband and our dog Mary at our cabin. The property is only 20 minutes from our home in town, so it’s an easy, fairly fast drive, even though I go from 5,200 feet in elevation to more than 8,000. Greg grilled our dinner and then I sat under some lodgepole pines and soaked in the quiet (the CHS event had music all day, so combined with talking to many people, the solace of Casper Mountain and our wooded acreage was very much welcomed!). I observed several mule deer during the course of the evening, including a doe with twins. Later, a large-racked buck (I saw at least 4 points on each side) sauntered through, and earlier, just prior to my arrival, a yearling doe greeted me on our access road (she’s the only one I got a picture of – the camera was in the car as I drove in but not beside me under the lodgepole; I’ll need to remember to have that with me no matter where I’m at on the property!).

As I watched the deer graze then sashay away, as I listened to the stillness of the woodland, and as I reflected upon a week that turned out to be a bit trying and tiring, I expressed appreciation to the Creator for many things, including the ability to help the CHS (I will be donating a percentage of my book sales back to the organization); the opportunity to engage new readers; the solace of my forested sanctuary; and the beauty in simplicity and nature, such as those fawns with their mamma and the majesty of the 4-point buck.

bird on branchWhen we are bombarded by difficulties, there are various pathways to choose, including anger, bitterness, and depression. Those are the easy roads. The toughest, yet most rewarding, I believe is to, instead, choose gratitude and forgiveness. There is always something for which to express, or at least reflect upon, appreciation. Here are some of the things for which I’m grateful this week:

  1. In light of the death of a friend’s father, I’m grateful to have been able to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday a few weeks ago, and I’m also grateful that, though my mother was diagnosed with diabetes a few months ago, she is doing wonderfully well, having lost more than 30 pounds and kept her sugar levels in good control.
  2. In light of the natural disasters, such as wildfire and floods, my home and my cabin remain in tact.
  3. In light of the violence in our country, around the world, and even in my own community, my family is safe.
  4. In light of an aunt being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, my immediate family remains comparatively healthy.
  5. In light of the distressing economic situation in Wyoming, I have a job, my freelance writing career remains strong, and my husband has work relatively often. We live paycheck to paycheck, but, for now, we indeed have paychecks.
  6. In light of so many homeless people, my family is not, and should the political climate remain unhealthy and unsteady and the economy in Wyoming continue to tank to where Greg and I significantly lose income and therefore, our house, we are blessed with land and a small cabin which are completely paid for and in which we can reside if necessary.

I have many blessings, and I am grateful!

butterfly on trunkAdmittedly, I am prone to negativity and depression, envy and fear. After attending a very inspiring conference last week, I am re-filled, re-energized, and re-focused. I purchased a book by one of the speakers, renowned leadership guru John Maxwell; the book is called “Intentional Living: Choosing a Life that Matters.” I’ve purposed myself to live that way, to not let negativity and worry consume me. I vow to live a more confident, purpose-filled life, and to be grateful for what I do have and not focus on what I don’t have. And, if I can change some of the “what I don’t haves,” through application, instruction, and inspiration, I will strive to do so. But, in the meantime, I commit to remember my blessings and to focus on my purpose and my passion, and anticipate seeing what amazing roads may lie behind the horizon.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Reinhold Niebuhr

What are you grateful for today?



Gayle M. Irwin is an author and freelance writer who enjoys helping pet rescue organizations. She has written seven inspirational dog books for children and adults, and she is a contributing writer to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She is also a contributor to Memories from Maple Street: Pawprints on My Heart, published last month by Sundown Press. Additionally, she writes for a variety of magazines and newspapers and speaks in schools, at libraries, and for faith-based organizations. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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


Miles of Memories – Part 1: Four-Footed Friends

Gayle & Mary outsideThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

My husband and I recently returned from a nearly 4,000-mile journey through several states as we visited friends and family. The journey brought back many memories as well as reconnections with people I hadn’t seen in many years (more on all that next week). Some of the memories stirred included thoughts on the four-footed friends I had, especially when I was a child growing up in Iowa.

Winding through the roads of the Midwest (Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, and a touch of Iowa) stirred the senses and the heart. From seeing great blue herons in ponds to listening to red cardinals chirp in trees (and I don’t mean the St. Louis baseball team, although we all chirped for joy when the Cards beat the Brewers 7 to 1 on the Friday night Greg and I sat in Busch Stadium!), my mind and heart drifted back to childhood days in and around Burlington, Iowa and the animals that impacted my life. Those impacts helped shape me into the person I am today: an appreciator of nature and a lover of animals, especially pets.

My first pet was a calico cat named Precious. She was a stray that followed me home as I walked from my friend Shelly’s house. I was seven years old, Precious was about three months old. My father disliked cats but because I could be cagey and precocious as a youngster (I am an only child afterall!), Precious became a member of our household, a role she had for the next 10 years.

My very first dog was a pup from a litter my dad’s German Shorthaired Pointer Lil had. Sadly, most in that family were sickly when born, and Whitey, as I named the skinny white with liver-colored spotted runt, only lived a few years. But, during the short time we shared, we ran the fields and forests of our Iowa property, chasing butterflies and lightening bugs together.

Bridgette and Gayle
Gayle and Bridgette, western Montana, 1983

When I was 16, I chose an 8-week-old German shepherd mix puppy as my canine companion. I adopted her with money I’d earned from chores done on the farm and at the house, as well as helping my aging grandmother at her home in town. I named the honey-colored, curly-coated dog Bridgette. She was my constant companion during the remaining years in Iowa. We explored the hills, feed the flocks of chickens, ducks and geese, and rested in the shade of hickory and cedar trees. When my parents and I moved to Wyoming in 1978, Bridgette helped calm my nerves with her tranquil presence as I entered a new school system (and a much bigger one!) during my senior year of high school. I became a busy college student and our walks together became less frequent, but my dear mother stepped in and filled my shoes as Bridgette’s human companion. When my parents moved to Montana, Bridgette went with them, and when I would occasionally visit, her forgiving, kind spirit welcomed me back as if I’d not deserted her. We explored the mountains of Montana near my parents’ home for the next several years, and today, her bones are buried on a striking vista overlooking the Bitterroot Valley of western Montana, a place she, and my parents, dearly loved.

Ama Cat_sleeping_haircut
I adopted Ama from the Bozeman, MT Humane Society in 1990. She lived to be nearly 19 years old.

The joy I received from those animals of my childhood stuck with me through adulthood, encouraging me to continue sharing my life with pets. Since those early days of canine and feline companions, I’ve experienced delight with other pets, including Sam, a cocker spaniel who shared my life from 1989 to 2000; Ama, a long-haired orange tabby who became princess of the household, reigning from 1999 to 2006; Sage, the blind springer spaniel Greg and I adopted after our marriage and whose life inspired me to write books and short stories; Cody, the cocker spaniel who came to us as a nearly 10-year-old and lived to be nearly 18; Bailey and Murphy, whose mother was a feral cat but who accepted help from our rancher friends in order to give her kittens a better, more stable life than she had – these sisters will be 11 years old next month; and Mary, the springer/cocker mix who helped Cody live to be as old as he did just by sharing the house, the couch, and the cabin with him (and us humans) – and who braved the recent 4,000-mile journey that’s refreshed and replenished my special pet memories.

Sage and Cody inspired many books and stories.

It is through gratitude to all these animals who have touched my heart and life in such magnificent, beautiful ways that I wrote “Lessons from Dogs – A Tribute” which is published in Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart, released last week by Sundown Press. Although Sage and Cody are the main focus of my short story, I wrote it with all my pets in mind, as well as the animals I’ve known through family and friends. I’m honored to be part of this publication, and through it, as well as my other stories (such as those found in Chicken Soup for the Soul and the ones published in Prairie Times) and books (like Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, Sage Find Friends, and Sage’s Big Adventure) perhaps I can impact the lives of pets, and those of people, for the better. Education and inspiration are the goals of my writing as well as to make a positive difference for pets and people, including adoption and rescue. For truly, pets adopt and rescue us when we adopt and rescue them. Animals, when we let them, certainly do leave pawprints on our hearts and upon our lives. I know mine surely have!

gayle and sage_smaller


Gayle_signing photoGayle M. Irwin is an author, writer, and speaker who enjoys sharing about the human-pet bond. She writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults. She is the author of six books, some for children and some for adults and families, and is a contributing writer to six editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She is also one of the writers featured in Memories from Maple Street USA: Pawprints on My Heart, released last week from Sundown Press, with a story about the positive life lessons dogs can epitomize. The book is available in both e-format and print format. Learn more about this new publication at http://sundownpress.blogspot.com/2016/07/new-release-memories-from-maple-street.html. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at www.gaylemirwin.com.

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

Waffles: Part Deux

This post by Jennifer Flaten

When I was pregnant with the twins the doctor put me on bedrest. For almost two months I couldn’t do as much as I wanted, although truthfully as my due date neared, there wasn’t much I wanted to do–except have the dang kids already! Anything to be done with the bedrest.

Bedrest is boring, so I can sympathize with Waffles, our cat, who as you might recall broke his leg. Not only is he in a cast, but he is essentially on the cat equivalent of bedrest.

He hates it. I hate it. In fact, everyone in the family hates it, because he is so unhappy. I mean, it’s not like he can read, or catch up on all his favorite TV shows. Yes, I know cats normally sleep 23.5 hours a day, but that his CHOICE, we aren’t the boss of him.

Let’s face it cats don’t like being told what to do, but we must to keep him safe. No one likes keeping him confined, but if we don’t he will run around like nothing was wrong.IMG_4622

Yep, for him it’s business as usual. Nevermind the giant cast on his leg. For about an hour after we brought him home from the vet, he struggled against the cast. Then he realized it was on him to stay, so now he acts like a regular cat. Which means, he tried to jump off the sofa with a BROKEN leg.

On Tuesday he somehow managed to shed his cast. That’s right, he slipped out of his cast. This necessitated a return trip to the vet for a new set of xrays and a new cast. The vet, realizing she had a feline Houdini wrapped his new cast all the way up to his tummy. He’s not getting out of it anytime soon.

This cast is bigger, if you can believe that, then his old cast and it still doesn’t slow him down. If we aren’t careful he will race away, thumping his cast along behind him.

Two more weeks of this by then I think I will need some bedrest.

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Sir Waffles and the Broken Leg

This post by Jennifer Flaten


There once was a little black kitten, as cute as can be. One day, the kitten, maybe egged on by the older cats, did something foolish and broke his leg. Now, the kittens mom & dad would love to know how the kitten broke his leg but he’s not talking. Anyway, the broken leg resulted in a trip the emergency vet, where the kittens parents waited 4 hours for him to get his leg set.

Right before his parents were set to take him home, the stinky little kitty ripped his bandages off. His parents would have to wait another hour for him to get new ones, as it was already 1am. His parents decided to leave him at the vet’s overnight.

The next day, the little kitty got to go home, but now instead of a splint, kitty had a huge green cast on his leg. The cast was so big it made the kitten look like he had a pickle attached to his leg.

He also needed to wear a soft collar, also known as an Elizabethan collar, because he wouldn’t leave the cast alone–good thing his name was Sir Waffles, so he knows how to wear formal attire to court.

IMG_4601(1)Little kitty was upset the first night he was home. What was this big thing on his leg and how was he expected to do anything with it following him around? And, really it isn’t helpful for the older cats to stand outside his crate laughing at him and poking him through the bars.

By day two, Waffles was getting the hang of maneuvering the giant leg around. He could even arrange himself in a comfortable position and meow pitifully at anyone who came by his crate. Ensuring that everyone felt terribly guilty for keeping him from hurting himself any further.


On day three, he was allowed out of the crate for a few minutes and he discovered he could stump around JUST like a pirate. What fun, how all he needed was his own parrot.

Of course, his parents wouldn’t let him to any of the stuff he wanted to do, they insisted on keeping him from jumping onto things or running around the house…they really are no fun.

Only 3 more weeks before the cast comes off and he can run and jump again.

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