Welcome Author Robynn Gabel to The Creative Muses as this weeks Wednesday's Author.
When I was a little girl, my mother was in despair over my tall tales. She would scold me saying, "I hope you can put that over-active imagination of yours to use someday, like writing books!" So I finally decided to be an obedient daughter and follow her advice.
My love of literature began with Dr. Seuss and hasn't stopped since. I read avidly and since the advent of the Internet I'm never at loss for material. Through the years I have written extensively for business. Proposals, letters, advertising, convention fliers, and promotions have just been some of the material I've blindly produced.
Several years ago, I was talked into becoming the editor and producer of the church newsletter. During a search for material and formats I ran across the Christian Writer's Guild. They were having a writing conference in Colorado Springs and it caught my attention. I convinced a friend of mine to accompany me on this adventure. I was star-struck to be in the same room as publishers, moved by the speakers and in awe of the attendee's seeking to be noticed and hawk their wares.
TCM: What inspired you to become a writer? –
RG: I find this question a lot in interviews, but what made this one different is the word “inspired.” People inspire me. I’ve watched people all my life. They fascinate me. Their behaviors can sometimes be predictable, and then again, mysterious. The ranges of emotions in humans make mountains of stories. The survivors are the ones that inspire me the most and give me the desire to tell their stories.
TCM: What part of the book is the hardest for you? Why? -
RG: The easiest for me to write is the ending. I always know how it’s going to end, but the first line intimidates me! I know as a writer the opening of any book is the most important part. I must get the reader interested, hooked and immersed if I’m going to get them to read the rest of it. I struggle sometimes up to a month, just to get that first chapter right.
TCM: As an author, what do you consider your most difficult obstacle? -
RG: Sharing my work with the outside world because being a very private person, it is hard to share. There is so much wrapped up in it. There are pieces of my soul in each book. I have a fear that my writing is poor, not worthy of the public. Then there is the psyching up I have to do to allow my ‘baby’ to face the world. When I let go, I take a deep breath and for a while enjoy the accomplishment of completing another story. Then I start all over again, and lose myself in the next project.
TCM: What advice would you give new authors that have been newly published? -
RG: Take a deep breath, the ride has just begun. Be wise in your marketing, don’t spam. Don’t get discouraged when sales aren’t what you expected. Get ready for that first negative review and don’t respond when you get it. Embrace it and learn from it. Toughen up. You have done your best, so start writing the next story.
TCM: What new project can we look forward to from you and where can we find them? -
RG: The story that has been trapped in my head and started this journey 20 years ago, a historical romance that is set in late 600 AD, is being written now. I had thought I would fill in the back story of the prologue as I wrote the book. When I got done, I realized the prologue was a book unto itself, much to my dismay. That meant before I could publish the book I had just written, I would have to write the prologue story, as it came first! So one story actually became two books. As soon as Norse Hearts (tentative title) is finished, I will be publishing it through Kindle Direct on Amazon. I’ve decided to give this program a try, which means exclusivity for the title’s release through Amazon. Right now, the first chapter sample can be found at Bookrix.
TCM: How has writing changed your life? -
RG: Oh, let me count the ways! Opened doors in my mind that have been locked, waiting for this time of my life. I was always too busy to write while raising children. Now in retirement, all those stories I’ve waited to let loose are pouring out. I’ve never been happier or more fulfilled. I’ve met so many wonderful people along the way. I’m glad I waited until now with the world of the self-published author growing by leaps and bounds. I wouldn’t have had this much confidence 20 years ago. My first two books were written about life in Wyoming. One is a contemporary western romance, Windswept Hearts. The other is the real life story about how a Missouri Fox Trotter, named Elvis, taught me to be a horseman in, The Heart of Elvis.
Thank you Robynn! Now here is a treat for our readers!
Chapter 3 – Roundup
Anna put the breakfast dishes in the sink as the sky blushed with the first morning kiss of the sun. Gazing out the window, she caught sight of a coyote scurrying across the ridge behind the house. She thought of her grandmother who must have looked out this window every morning for over fifty years.
Wanting to know more about the family history, she decided to read her Grandma Charlotte’s diary. At first it had felt invasive reading her grandmother’s thoughts and feelings as she fell in love with John Hanson, a shy, hardworking rancher. But, as Anna read on, she began to see Grandfather John through different eyes. She understood now why her grandmother had so often joked about chasing him until he gave up and married her.
Anna’s grandmother also chronicled her daily life of riding horses, working with cows, cooking and cleaning. She found it hard to imagine Grandma Charlotte riding a rough, spring bronco out to roundup cows.
Well, if she could do it, I can. Feeling a surge of confidence, she chuckled to herself. Hopefully old Ginger won’t be feeling any residues of spring fever. She was fond of the old sorrel mare she’d ridden for the last 10 summers. Heading out to the barn to saddle-up, the cool morning air helped to quicken her step. On the worn path to the barn she stopped and turned, hearing Emily’s sedan pull up to the house. Two excited little cowboys scrambled out of the car.
“Hey, Aunt Anna, wait for us!” John called to her. It wasn’t often that the two boys got to ride horses and work on a ranch: a lifestyle that had been part of Emily’s childhood.
Emily had offered to make lunch for the crew that would be working the herd. Calling a cheery “good morning,” she bustled into the house.
Within half an hour, Anna’s front yard filled with an assortment of cars, trucks and horse trailers. She spotted Herman Miller, a lean, athletic man with a straw, cowboy hat pushed down over his cropped, graying hair. He chatted with his son, Rob, who was a younger copy of his father and three years older than Anna. During the summer, Rob used to ride the fence line, checking it and occasionally dropping by for a visit. Her grandmother always had a cool glass of lemonade waiting for him. He’d taught Anna how to do a roll-back on Ginger, and read where a cow was going to head.
Anna welcomed the volunteers as they came in, visiting and catching up on the last year’s happenings. Rob grabbed her in a bear hug. Uneasy, she pushed away from him.
“Hey, Anna, it’s been a long time. How are you doing?” Rob’s face was wreathed in a huge grin. He towered over Anna, a tan offsetting his blue eyes. His ornate belt buckle, won in a roping circuit, accentuated clean jeans and narrow hips. A blue shirt clung tightly to his wide shoulders.
“It’s good to see you, Rob. I really appreciate you coming out to help.”
“I never thought I’d see you running the ranch, being such a city girl. Heard you graduated. You plan on taking a job in the area?” He took in her slim figure with a cursory glance.
“No, I got a job in Wellington, outside of Fort Collins. I’m very excited about teaching kindergarten. It’s exactly what I was looking for.”
“Congratulations! You needed something to go right after the year you’ve had. Sorry to hear about your mom.” He looked over her shoulder towards the last incoming truck and trailer.
“Thank you,” she answered, following his gaze, noticing the Johnson Hardware sign on the truck door. She felt a curious twist in her stomach.
“Everyone gather round and we’ll get this started up,” Herman hollered. Anna excused herself and headed towards Ginger, who waited patiently.
Herman divided everyone into groups, giving each a job. The out-riders would gather and push the cows down off the ridges and into the fields below. Swinging ropes, slapping thighs, whistling, and shouting encouraged the cows to move off and join-up. The rider and horse worked together to block any cow that didn’t want to go in the right direction. Herd-holders would keep the waiting herd in the field bunched by quietly riding the outside perimeter, going after any cow that would try and leave. This gave mothers and babies time to find each other, pairing up.
Herd-holders also took turns pushing cows into the holding corrals beside the barn. There, between the two corrals, was a corridor where riders could separate the momma cows from their calves. A chute blocked the east end of the corridor.
In the calf-holding corral, a branding fire was burning hot, and medical supplies had been neatly stacked in plastic bins, on-hand for any problems. After branding was over, the mommas and their calves were pushed out to the field down by the gate. The tired bovines were happy to pair-up and grab a few blades of grass, so only a few riders were needed to hold them. A good day’s work would see the herd out to summer pasture by late afternoon.
The air filled with low calls from worried Moms to their calves as the riders started the round-up. Anna rode alongside Herman and Rob to separate the cows at the corrals. The morning flew by as Ginger and Anna worked. With a squeeze of her leg and a touch of the reins, the little mare would quietly move between the reluctant mom and her baby, pushing the calf into the branding corral. The men took turns taking down the calves for the brand, giving any medication or vaccination needed. Released calves darted away, some kicking and others bawling for their concerned moms.
The coolness of the morn had left now, the summer heat bringing a sweat. Flies flocked to the cows, mingling with the dust. The lowing of the momma cows to their bawling calves was a strident chorus. During a pause in the work, due to an unruly cow, Anna had a chance to rest her horse.
Rob reined his muscled Quarter horse in beside her, his gaze leisurely traveling over her. “So what are you doing this summer besides settling the affairs of the ranch?” he asked congenially.
Anna wiped her brow with the back of a leather-gloved hand. She noticed the appreciative gleam in his eyes. Had she been fourteen again, she’d have been flattered by the attention. “Just cleaning and going through my grandparents’ things. Hard to do; it seems so final.”
Rob nodded sympathetically. A noisy clatter instantly brought their attention to a frantic mother cow, jumping and crashing over a weak board in the holding corral. Riders scrambled to pin her, but she charged through them, heading for Anna and Rob. Ginger reacted, going into a roll-back to get out of the way while Anna grabbed the horn, almost going in the opposite direction. Suddenly a chubby little appaloosa appeared in front of her and Ginger, heading the cow off, turning it back towards the corral gate. Steve flashed Anna a ruffian’s grin as he tipped his hat in her direction.
Straightening up in the saddle, she realized she’d been too busy to notice he’d come in from holding the rest of the herd. He seemed to have forgiven her the embarrassment of the other day. Mike was right behind him on a leggy, rangy-looking sorrel.
With a slight pressure of the rein, she guided Ginger towards Herman. “How about we call a lunch break? That will give me some time to find a replacement board. We need to get that corral repaired right away,” she hollered over the calls of irritable cows.
Herman nodded in agreement, standing in his stirrups, bellowing, “After that last calf, let’s close the gates to keep them in and go grab some lunch. Make it quick cuz we need to spell everyone in the field for lunch too.”
Anna dismounted and led Ginger to a stack of old lumber alongside of the barn.
“You go grab yourself lunch. Let me fix it,” Rob said behind her as she sifted through the pile.
“Thanks, Rob. I’ll go up and get us both something to eat if you want to start on it.”
“That sounds like a plan.” He helped her pull out a cob-webbed board.
Emily had set up in front of the barn and was handing out food and water. “Well, girl, how’s it going? My kids being any help at all?”
Anna smiled affectionately at her. “Yes, they’re a great help! They’re both natural riders, Emily. Thanks for bringing them.”
“Yeah, they love it all right. Sometimes I worry about bringing them up in town. It seems they just learn more about life and gain confidence working out here in the real world.”
“Emily, why did Uncle George sell off his ranch? How come you didn’t get it?” Anna asked, gathering up sandwiches and water.
“Well, because I got married and my brother Dan went off to the Army. I think Dad just figured neither one of us had any interest. It was too hard to try and split it between Dan and me. It wouldn’t have pulled any profit that way. Then Dad got cancer, and Mom just couldn’t run it by herself. There were medical bills to consider as well. The final sign for Dad was when that dude ranch outfit contacted him, offering a dream price; it just seemed time to sell. But I miss it, Anna, more than you know. If it weren’t for the economic ups and downs of it, I’d have loved to run Dad’s spread. Just didn’t have the finances for it.”
Anna was thoughtful for a moment, and then she lit up with an impish smile. “You know, Seth is doing great out there on old Midnight! He’s looking downright handsome!”
Emily snorted. “Would you knock it off?!”
Anna giggled. She’d delighted in teasing Emily about the love of Emily’s life since tenth grade. Seth had been oblivious about Emily’s feelings until Prom in their senior year. Anna couldn’t think of a better match than those two. But it was true: Seth seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself playing cowboy.
“It looks like Rob is enjoying your company as well. That sandwich for him?” Emily now had an ornery look of her own.
“Yeah, he’s just a big flirt. You know Rob. He’s probably already planning how he’s going to get the ranch from me. Herman made a fair offer for the herd. I looked over Grandpa’s records and even with the vetting, feed, and new heifers he bought last summer, Herman’s offer will actually put the ranch in the black.”
Emily nodded in understanding. “Girl, you just take your time. You can sell the herd anytime. But watch out for Rob. He’s had his eye on you for a while, forget the ranch.”
Anna flipped her ponytail back over her shoulder defiantly. “He can look all he wants. He’s a big windbag.” Anna never forgave him for his snub when she was fourteen and had a very embarrassing crush on him. When she finally got the courage to ask him to a movie, he had laughed, saying she was too young for him. Anna thought she was just too plain for him. Rob Miller had his pick of swooning possibilities. Popular, outgoing, wealthy and athletic, he was a huge catch.
When she came back, the corral board was in place. They sat down on the stack of wood to eat. Down at the lower end of the pile, Steve, Mike and Emily’s boys had already taken up residence. Anna tried hard to ignore the little surge her heart did at the sight of Steve.
Rob was in rare form today, trying to impress her with his manners and wit. “So Anna, seen any good movies lately?” he said after a swig of water.
“Not really. Between finals, getting Mom’s affairs in order, and graduating, I haven’t been able to get out much.”
“Well, let me remedy that! There’s a great romantic comedy playing right now. Let me treat you to dinner and a movie. Don’t break my heart--say you’ll go with me!” He looked at her expectantly with eager, blue eyes.
She had misunderstood his question, walking right into the trap. Anna examined her sandwich with great interest, taking a long sip of water while her mind raced. What should she say? How could she turn him down? She was at a disadvantage with his helping her today. Would it be rude to say no? She couldn’t go on a date with him. There was just no way.
She looked into his confident face. He was certain of victory. “I can’t, Rob. I’m just not in a position right now to have the time or the inclination for any dating. I’ve so much to get done before I can spend any downtime. I hope you understand.” She gave him her most winning smile in return.
Rob turned, staring at the milling herd. “Well, I understand you need some time. I’m just around the corner when you’re ready.” He tipped his hat back, giving her an arrogant smile. “I got to go check on Dad--see if he needs anything.” He unfolded his frame from the boards and sauntered off.
Anna watched him leave with a bemused smile. That went better than I thought it would. Now I can enjoy the rest of my lunch in peace. A snort at the other end of the wood pile caught her attention. She noticed Mike looking at her while Steve’s shoulders shook with laughter. What is it with those two that they find me so amusing? She picked up her empty water bottle and sandwich bag, heading back to the house, giving them a good view of her stiff back.
Taking the feed bag off Ginger and leading her to the water trough, Anna waited until the horse was finished drinking before mounting. Rob was back to separating the cows and she noted that Steve and Mike had joined him. A lively conversation was going on, an angry frown crossing Rob’s face. Anna didn’t have time to be curious. She was needed at the vetting chute to decide on what to do with an injured calf.
By early afternoon, the branding was done and it was time to push the herd out to the freedom of summer pastures. Outriders opened the big gate to the Bureau of Land Management land behind the ranch and reunited momma cows and calves lazily wandered through, looking for greener grass. Anna was swiping at the annoying flies when Steve rode his chubby appaloosa up to her.
“Ever thought of putting that horse on a diet?” she said archly.
Steve flashed a good humored smile. “Yeah, well, Corky’s owner loves him a little too much. That’s why I’m working him today. The sorrel Mike is riding is actually my horse. Hey, I have a deal I want to work out with you.”
Anna looked at him for a moment, and then prompted, “Okay?”
“How would you like to earn an easy fifty bucks and get a free meal in the deal?”
She stared at him, liking the way his skin crinkled around his eyes, giving him an impish look. Coming out of her reverie, she asked cautiously, “How?”
“Well, this Sunday after the service there’s a Friendship potluck. I’ve a bet with your pushy admirer over there that I can get you to go on a date with me. Of course he didn’t specify when or where, and I figured you’d feel safe at church, and it wouldn’t really be a date, but would look like one. What do you think?”
Anna felt someone staring at her. Glancing to her left, she saw Rob smiling smugly at them on the outside of the herd. This is too much, she thought, a chance to rid myself of any more date offers and zing his pride all in one. It was more than she could resist. Besides, there was some logic to Steve’s offer.
Anna carefully crafted an irritated look to hide her delight. “I see your point, yes; we can do that. This Sunday, right?”
Steve nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah, we can sit together through the service and the ladies of the church can really cook, so you’ll get a first-class lunch.”
“Yes, I know. I set up a potluck last Sunday to thank everyone in the congregation who helped when my grandfather died last fall, but I didn’t see you there.”
Steve shifted in his saddle uncomfortably. “Nope, you didn’t. I had a meeting.”
“Okay, well, I accept. See you first thing Sunday morning.”
For a split second, shock registered, and then an ear-splitting grin crossed his face. He reined Corky away from her, letting out a whoop that sent the cows bolting, and rode over to Rob, who looked stunned. She pushed up behind the cows, not daring to steal a glance at Rob. Maybe now he’ll get the hint.
The evening grew hushed, the crickets starting their serenade. Anna helped Emily put up makeshift tables to feed the hungry crew who were done with a long day. The mouth-watering smell of barbeque drifted on the slight breeze while donated side dishes started appearing.
“Don’t know what you did to piss off Rob Miller, but you are certainly getting some dark looks from him,” Emily said casually.
Anna grinned. “Yeah, I noticed. It’s because I took Steve Johnson up on his offer.”
Surprised, Emily looked up. “What offer?”
“Well, old Rob there bet Steve I wouldn’t go on a date with him. This was after Rob had asked me out and Steve overheard me refusing him. So Steve offered to split the winnings with me if I go to church with him and stay for the potluck this Sunday.”
Emily’s laughter rolled out. She finally calmed after getting some curious stares. “I can’t believe you did that! Anna, you’re so rotten!”
“What? It wasn’t my idea! But Rob deserves it,” Anna answered saucily.
Emily was still grinning as they set the last table.
Anna raised her voice, calling all to dinner. “I just want to thank you all again for your help today. Without it, we could never survive out here. Also, let’s give a big hand to the ladies who brought all the extra goodies to add to this feast and to Emily Higgins for all her hard work and cooking. So dig in!”
Clapping erupted, and soon, all that could be heard was the clink of silverware and low murmurs as everyone hungrily scooped up food.
Anna caught Rob’s glare from across her head down, digging into the beans on her plate, pretending not to see him. As people finished eating, Emily and Anna started to clear the tables. Steve joined her, coming alongside to help.
“So have you decided what you are going to do with the ranch yet?”
Anna stopped to watch as Emily separated her two wrestling boys, directing them to help with clean-up. “I’ve an idea or two. Know a good lawyer in town?”
Steve frowned. “Unfortunately, I do. I can give you his name and number.”
“What did you need a lawyer for?” Anna had caught his sarcastic tone.
Steve looked at her for a few seconds, debating. “Well, there’re some things I’m not proud of, but it’s over now. Someday when you have some time, I’ll tell you all about my dark past,” he said, his tone teasing now.
With Rob on his heels, Herman Miller came up to them, nodding a quick hello to Steve. “Anna, you think on what we talked about. Just need to make the transfer before the end of the summer.”
“Yes, I agree, Herman. Unless something comes up, I’m pretty sure I’ll be selling them. I couldn’t have done this without you. You’ve been such a terrific friend to my grandfather and me. Again, thank you.” She held out her hand and Herman shook it vigorously.
Anna turned to Rob and extended her hand. “Rob, thank you. I really appreciated the help today. Hope you can forgive me.”
Rob averted his eyes, the flush of embarrassment creeping up his neck. He held out his hand awkwardly and she shook it gently.
He shot a dark glare towards Steve, and then followed his father to their truck.
To find more about Robynn Gabel and her books, visit at the following sites:
FaceBook - www.facebook/AuthorRobynnGabel
Blog - http://www.dupler.org
Author Website - http://www.robynngabel.com/
To purchase a copy of Windswept Hearts –
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/212460
Bookrix - http://www.bookrix.com/_title-en-robynn-gabel-windswept-hearts
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Windswept-Hearts-ebook/dp/B008AL4F8E
To Purchase The Heart of Elvis –
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/303639
BookRix - http://www.bookrix.com/_ebook-robynn-gabel-the-heart-of-elvis/
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Elvis-Robynn-Gabel-ebook/dp/B00C9GUH3S
To purchase Norse Hearts –
BookRix - http://www.bookrix.com/_ebook-robynn-gabel-norse-hearts/