Around The Fire
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Only a few more days until actual winter kicks in on December 21, 2021, sometime during the night. The solstice is when the sun reaches its most southerly point in the sky for the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the shortest day and longest night. The Southern Hemisphere has its longest day and shortest night.  I for one enjoy the daylight. A few years ago I went to Alaska near the end of April. It stayed light until nearly eleven p.m. So as the days begin to grow longer here in New Jersey I’ll be looking forward to spring. How about you?  Though if I had to pick a time of year, fall is my favorite. The colors, smells, and crispness is my happy place. But spring is always a happy time. It feels like a promise of good things to come. What season is your favorite and why? One of my favorite guests has returned today. Gayle does animal rescue which is something close to my heart. So, Gayle let’s hunker down next to the fireplace and chat. You love sitting around a fire as much as me don’t you? There’s something magical about a wood stove or fireplace, especially during the holiday and winter seasons. Living in Wyoming for more than 25 years, plus 14 years in Montana, taught me the value of using wood for heat … but also for the joy and intimacy such a source brings. A woodstove sets between the living and dining rooms of my home, which was built in 1924. A large, brick chimney once graced the house, but before my husband and I purchased the Craftsman-style dwelling, someone enclosed that with a wall. Now, a black stove pipe elevates through the ceiling and a marbled hearth under the stove accents dining room tile. We use this heating element periodically in autumn and frequently during winter. The woodstove warms our home – and our hearts. An electric fireplace graces my home office. From a bank of six windows, which enhances the room, I watch leaves fall in autumn and snowdrift from the sky during winter. The fireplace radiates heat and brings a coziness to the room as I work amid the seasons’ chill. Fireplace warmth plays a role in my recently-released book, Paws-ing for Love: A Pet Rescue Romance Christmas Story. Rhiann and Levi live in Montana, where winters can be brutal. The fireplace in their home serves as a gathering place as the couple hosts a Christmas party for friends and family or simply spends time in the home by themselves. In addition to my home office and living/dining area, the cabin my husband and I own provides a fireside heat source as does the guest house of a ranch owned by friends that I visit periodically. These are two of my favorite writing spots – nature-filled areas that often inspire my creativity. The Nikon camera my husband and I own makes the journey to these locations, too, where I’m blessed to photograph a variety of songbirds as well as wild turkeys, mule deer, and other special creatures. Because I enjoy nature and romance books, I read books with those elements, including stories written by Peggy Henderson and Danni Roan. Both women, whose husbands work in Yellowstone National Park, incorporate western themes into their stories. Speaking of authors, I’m hosting my writers’ group on Monday evening, December 20 – the woodstove and fireplace in my home will warmly welcome my guests. The intimacy of the group and the flickering flames will fuel the festivity of this season … and intensify warmth within my heart! I love that and wish I could join you. Do you remember years ago, there was a commercial that talked about a Kodak Moment? It’s a moment in time you catch in a picture. One you never want to forget. What is yours? One of the favorite moments of my life was receiving my bachelor’s degree. I was the first person in my family to receive such a degree. The smile on my face, and on the faces of my parents (I’m an only child) reflected the pride and joy I felt as I crossed that stage on the University of Idaho campus. Wow, they must have been so proud of you. Do you have a favorite childhood book or writing that inspired you to become an author. As a child and pre-teen, my favorite author was Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House series. I was fortunate to visit several of her homes during my life, including the last place Laura and Almanzo lives, near Mansfield, Missouri – that was extra special because my maiden name is Mansfield! – and Walnut Grove, Minnesota, and DeSmet, South Dakota. The museums and historic houses were a delight to visit! I grew up with those books as well and remember them fondly. Let’s pretend you just won the D. V. Stone Lottery of a  Lifetime. What would you rather have, unlimited international first-class tickets, or never have to pay for food at restaurants? Because my husband and I are not much for eating out, I’d enjoy having unlimited international first-class airline tickets. There are many countries I’d enjoy visiting, including Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, and Austria – my husband and I have ancestors traced to those countries, and though he has visited the first two, I’ve never been to any of those nations. I’d also like to see Australia and New Zealand. There are so many amazing, beautiful places in the world – and flying first-class is the way to go, I understand! Up up and away! Gayle, living where you do must be something else, can you share the most amazing natural occurrence you’ve witnessed? When the solar eclipse happened in the U.S. in 2017, it passed right over my community in Wyoming. I’d never witnessed an eclipse before, so that was pretty special. Watching geysers in Yellowstone National Park is amazing, too, and I’ve been fortunate to see many of those. Every time there is supposed to be a heavenly event it’s cloudy in New Jersey. I’ve stayed up and gone outside for so many events and nope, nada, nuttin. Let’s talk a bit about writing? How do you select the names of your characters? For character names, I go online. If I have a special ethnicity, I search for names connected with that culture. I also consider names I like that I’ve heard, whether ‘real life’ or fictional, such as television programs and movies. When I visit began writing romance, I found creating character names difficult. Now that I know where to search online or have found fun names through other books, TV, or movies, I love to create names and characterizations! Great tip for those looking for inspiration. For many authors the budget is tight. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? I’ve ‘attended’ several virtual workshops and conferences during the past few years. I believe learning from other writers or those in the publishing world is a positive investment as an author. I’ve discovered new ideas for writing and marketing by attending conferences and workshops, and by participating in virtual sessions, a person doesn’t expend money in travel. I look forward to next year and the numerous offerings that will be given to us as writers in 2022. Important information right there. I belong to several online zoom discussions and sharing with other authors has been invaluable. Gayle, thank you so much for being a fireside friend and visiting. Before you leave can you give us a peek at your book and where to get more information about it and you? Paws-ing for Love: A Pet Rescue Romance Christmas Story By Gayle M. Irwin Sweet Contemporary Romance Holiday Novella ​Christmas Hope or Heartbreak? Colter, Montana waltzes in brilliance during winter, with glistening snow on mountain peaks and diamond-like frost on trees and rivers. Romance and dreams flourish in this Christmas card setting. However, news of friends missing after a raging blizzard and a later accident and subsequent illness disrupt the lives of Rhiann and Levi Butler, who operate a horse ranch and pet rescue sanctuary. Will the joy of Christmas be silenced or strengthened after a pair of stray animals take refuge at the Butlers’ property? Can a cat named Mina and a Corgi christened Maverick deliver hope or will they add more heartache for a couple and community struggling with fear and sorrow? Get your copy today at one of these online retailers Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and other platforms at At a Special holiday price on e-books – JUST .99 cents! Author Bio: Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning author and freelance writer. She is a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books and the author of inspirational pet books for children and adults, including the Pet Rescue Romance series, a collection of sweet, contemporary romance stories set in the Rocky Mountain West. She weaves life lessons within the pages of her works, including courage, kindness, trust, perseverance, friendship, nature appreciation, and the importance of pet rescue and adoption. She volunteers for rescue organizations and donates a percentage of book sales to such groups. Her own pets are adopted rescues. Visit her website here: Social Media Links: @wyoauthor1