Today I’m welcoming Gayle Irwin to the Campfire. What’s your preference, coffee, tea, cocoa, wine? The camp fridge is like the Star Ship Enterprise, you speak it, you get it.
Today, I feel like a glass of Pinot Grigio – it’s a warm Wyoming day!
Pinot is one of my favorites. Let’s pop that cork. Tell us have you ever camped, or as I call what I do, Glamp?
My parents and I camped often when I was a child. Dad invested in a pickup truck and over-the-cab camper after we tried tent camping when I was three and four years old. The end of sleeping on the ground came after a major rainstorm flooded the tent. Now, I’m more into “glamping” – staying at the cabin my husband and I own or staying in cabins in other settings, such as around Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks or other places we enjoy visiting, including Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah. Today, I don’t camp very often – but my husband and I are blessed to own a cabin on some forested acres in the mountains of Wyoming. We use a woodstove for the chilly nights, and the flames from the fire not only warm my physical body, but also my heart and mind. Hearths and campfires play important roles in my romance novels, Rescue Road, released last fall, and Finding Love at Compassion Ranch, which released in May 2020.
Campfires – I grew up with them. During my childhood years, my parents and I camped every summer! Whether locally in Iowa or on major vacations out-of-state and into Canada, camping and campfires were a significant part of my world.
Tell us about your latest project. What’s the title and genre?
Yes, and you can see that scene on the cover. Finding Love at Compassion Ranch is the story of Erin and Mike, who knew each other in high school. They haven’t seen one another since, which is more than 30 years. Both lost their spouses and after they connect once again at Compassion Ranch, which is a sanctuary for former research animals, sparks ignite. This is a second-chance romance story, and of course the animals at the sanctuary also receive a second chance – in fact, Erin ends up adopting two cats (I put that in specifically when I decided to release the book around June 1; June is National Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month). Both books, Rescue Road, which released last year and is the first book in this line I call the Pet Rescue Romance series, and Finding Love at Compassion Ranch, are clean, contemporary western romances.
Rescue is a passion of mine. All my furbies have been adopted. My doggo, Hali came to us last year from a rescue run out of Mississippi. Do you have a tagline?
A ranch like no other …
For some authors like me the time spent in a manuscript is quite extensive. How about you? How long did it take you from conception to publication?
Whereas Rescue Road took a few years to complete because I changed ideas mid-stream, Compassion Ranch only took me three months to write because I knew the direction I wanted to go after Rescue Road released. My primary female character, Erin, is a secondary character from Rescue Road; she’s the sister of that book’s primary character. The story takes place five years after the end of the first book. Erin has lost her husband and has been visiting her sister in Montana. While there, she learns of Compassion Ranch, a sanctuary for former research animals, and she decides to volunteer in route to her home in Florida. The story is based on an actual place called Kindness Ranch, located in eastern Wyoming (I place the sanctuary in western Wyoming near Yellowstone National Park, as I’ve planned for the first four books in the series to be set in that area). My husband and I have visited and stayed at Kindness Ranch, and it’s one of the animal rescue organizations I support financially with my book sales. I wanted to highlight the unique and incredible work done there while creating a second-chance romance story.
What a inspiring story, Gayle. Here's the link if anyone wants to check it out. www.kindnessranch.org/ I have a myriad of projects at various stages of development, how about you? Anything you’re itching to get to?
I’m working on a Christmas novella for the series titled In the Shadow of Mount Moran, taken from the name of one of mountains in the Teton range of western Wyoming near Grand Teton National Park. Again, I’m using a secondary character (very secondary!) from Rescue Road, a woman named Rachel who rescues dogs, and I’m placing her at a dude ranch during the holiday season where she embarks upon adventures such as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. After her 20-year marriage dissolves due to her husband’s infidelity, she seeks refuge in the winter wonderland near Grand Teton National Park where she meets a tour guide and finds a lost dog. After all, it is a pet rescue romance!
Life Hacks for Authors. Gayle, do you have any tips, tricks or anything you specialize in that you would share with others.
I’ve started doing Facebook Live readings. Due to book event cancellations, like Wild Deadwood Reads in South Dakota (I had planned to go there this month for the first time but because of COVID-19 the event cancelled) and bookstores not having author signings, I’m taking to online readings and events. I plan to host my next one, which I’m calling “Visit Yellowstone Virtually with Author Gayle M. Irwin” on Monday evening, June 29 at 7 pm Mountain time. I find these readings fun and I love to introduce people to my work through this medium!
Also, connect with other writers whether online or through a local writer’s group. This is a great way to bounce ideas off other people and receive feedback on your work. Sometimes you may even glean a new idea for a chapter or scene. That happened to me with Finding Love at Compassion Ranch – because of another writer’s suggestion, I incorporated horse therapy into Erin’s healing process, something I never thought of before my friend suggested the idea.
Those are great ideas! I'm definitely going to check it out on the 29th. Please shoot me an email with the link the day of so I can share on my social media. Now on to the fun questions
Gayle, thank you so much not only for joining us today but for the important rescue work you're part of. Please let us know where we can find your books and learn more about you and your passion for animals.
Here’s a campfire scene excerpt from that story:
That evening, Mike and Erin rode horses into the high pasture. Shadow tagged beside Cisco, who carried two saddlebags. Their dinner was packed on one side, consisting of baked chicken, roasted zucchini, and cucumber salad. Mike also had slipped in a bottle of Pinot Grigio and utensils, along with stoneware dishes and glasses, all wrapped in cloth napkins. A blanket awaited in the other saddlebag for comfort while sitting on the ground.
A fire crackled amid the ring of rocks Mike had gathered. As Erin sat next to him, gazing upon the meadow, warmth enveloped her. The horses stood nearby, munching on grass. Shadow lay to her right. The blaze took the chill from the late summer evening, but Mike’s presence, with his arm draped across her shoulder, also warmed her physically and emotionally. The meal and wine filled her stomach as well as her heart and mind. Erin realized she hadn’t felt this relaxed and comfortable in more than a year, since Daniel’s diagnosis. Now, here she was, in a beautiful part of the world amid an animal rescue sanctuary, doing positive work and experiencing the love of a kind, caring man.
Mike’s whisper close to her ear disrupted her thoughts.
She looked at him and then in the direction on which he focused his eyes. A herd of ten elk, cows, and calves captured her attention. Her eyes widened as she inhaled deeply.
“Oh, wow!” she whispered.
Shadow responded either to their voices or to the smell of the animals, for she suddenly sat up.
“Easy, girl,” Mike said in a low, but firm tone. “Stay.”
Erin captured the dog’s leash, affixed to her red collar, in her hand.
“Thanks,” Mike acknowledged, still speaking in a soft voice. “We’re seeing females with their young. The males will start coming out, and they will be bugling soon.”
“What does that mean?” Erin asked in a quiet voice.
“Usually in early September the bulls, male elk, come into what’s known as the rut – the mating season. They make this incredible noise, called a bugle, that announces to other bulls it’s time to fight for females. It’s an amazing sound and an incredible experience to witness.”
“I’d love to see that sometime.”
Mike’s gaze turned to her. “Whenever you want to come back in September, I’ll bring you back up here, and we’ll do just that.”
She smiled and snuggled into his shoulder. After a quick pat to Shadow’s head, Erin returned her gaze to the majestic wild creatures. A contented, soft sigh escaped, and she felt Mike’s embrace tighten around her.
And here’s an outdoor scene from Rescue Road:
Rhiann sat across from Levi at a bistro-style table. She marveled at how he arranged this so quickly—candlelight, a bottle of Pinot Grigio, Italian food, table and chairs, white tablecloth. The nearby stream hummed a melody while the stars and full harvest moon cascaded a natural chandelier. Her ankle-length denim skirt, the three-quarter-sleeve-length blue and green blouse overlaid with a cobalt cardigan helped keep the night chill at bay.
She looked at Levi dressed in black jeans that hugged his frame, a red long-sleeved shirt with a black and silver bolo at the collar, and a woolen black and gray jacket. Stylish, rugged, and handsome, Rhiann thought, admiring Levi for the hundredth time tonight. Thoughtful, kind, romantic, genuine—how did I get so lucky? I wouldn’t trade this for any evening with Dallas Patterson, and I’m thankful I didn’t.
She smiled. He must have noticed, for she heard him say, “Are you enjoying yourself?”
“How could I not?” she responded, looking into his eyes. “You did all of this for me.”
“For us,” he said, his hand enfolding hers. “We met here. I thought it would be nice to come back, but in a special way. And we have a dog, a different one, but one to help bridge the memory of three weeks ago.”
She watched him look down at Jax, laying on a blanket at their feet. Rhiann shook her head in wonder. “You are something, Levi Butler.”
He kissed the top of her hand. “So are you, Rhiann Kelly.” He raised his wine glass and, upon withdrawing her hand from his, she followed suit. “To us, wherever that journey takes us,” he said.
She simply smiled and clinked her glass to his. After they each sipped their wine, Rhiann took a few more bites from her food.
“Wherever did this delicious lasagna come from?”
“Marnie’s—it’s one of her specialties.”
“She makes wonderful food,” Rhiann said.
“She was a chef in Baltimore,” Levi stated. “Once she discovered Montana, she sold her business back east and stayed. That was twenty years ago, from what I’m told.”
“I can see why. I’ve been here less than a month and I’m already hooked.”
“Hopefully, that also has to do with the company you’ve been keeping the past few days?” His gray eyes twinkled.
“Oh, I love spending time with Trisha. She’s been such a joy to reconnect with,” Rhiann responded, trying to sound nonchalant.
“Trisha, uh? No one else?”
“Umm, let me see. Oh yes, there’s this EMT guy …”
“Do I know him?”
Rhiann grinned. “You might have heard of him—Phil Kimball. He keeps a great dog named Max and is training him to be a therapy dog.”
“Oh yes, I have heard of that guy. I hear his supervisor is a pretty fine fella, too.”
“Really? I might have to meet him sometime.” Rhiann’s eyes sparkled at him
Gayle M. Irwin is an award-winning author and freelance writer, being recognized by Wyoming Writers, Inc., and the Wyoming Press Association for several of her works. She is a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books and the author of many inspirational pet books and stories for both children and adults. Her first novel, a clean, contemporary pet rescue romance titled Rescue Road, released November 8, 2019; the second book in that series she calls Pet Rescue Romance is titled Finding Love at Compassion Ranch – the book released in May 2020. Gayle subtly weaves important life lessons within the lines and pages of her stories, including the importance of pet rescue and adoption. An animal advocate, she volunteers for various dog rescue and humane society organizations and donates a percentage of all book sales to such groups. Gayle resides in Wyoming with her husband and their adopted animals. Learn more about the author, her writing endeavors, including a weekly blog, and her pets, and receive free stories and resources by visiting her website: www.gaylemirwinauthor.com.
For Finding Love at Compassion Ranch:
For Rescue Road:
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