Category: Uncategorized

A Writer’s Inspiration and a Give Away!

Welcome to Diamond Lake! I had a different blog post planned, but also didn’t plan on staying a few extra days camping here at Diamond Lake, Oregon. My family and I have been coming here to camp every summer since the summer of 200. The annual family camping trip consists of anywhere from 12 to 20 people depending on how many are able to show up that year. Tack on people that bring a friend and the numbers can get up there. I often end up doing a little work while here, but this year, none of my kids could come so my time was my own. As I had to re-adjust my book schedule (my editor and I decided to move some things around) I needed something for this month’s release and so wrote almost an entire novella while here. It was fun and easy and I had to stop and think about how I was able to write almost every day, still play games with the family, go for walks, bike rides and all the other camping stuff we do, and came to the conclusion that I write well when staring at wide-open spaces and nature.
Maybe I need a lake house …
Too bad it’s freezing cold here in the winter.
But different things inspire different people. At home, I live in a log cabin in the word but it’s in a canyon, so no wide open space there. I have a separate office as well as often time there are too many distractions at home to write for long blocks of time. But being able to stare at Mt. Bailey while writing does something for a soul, and as the story I was working on is one my readers have been wanting for years, I think it gave them something special. The story is about a broken young woman who went through a lot, and as an older woman, the age she is when my readers first encounter her in my books, they have to wonder how she got so cranky. This story explains things and gives clarity to a lot of things. I don’t think I would have written the same story in my cabin in the woods. But the majesty of the lake and surrounding mountains made it special.
Writers draw inspiration from all sorts of different things. I often listen to music while writing, especially if the scene is an emotional one. Other’s have their special writing place. I know one woman who literally used to write in a closet. She writes in an alcove near her stairs now. For others, it’s the kitchen table. Others have their office set up just so, while some write outside, look at their garden, and get inspiration that way. Me? I love to travel.
I once wrote the second half of a book in the car, between Dallas and New York, while helping my daughter move. I sent chapters to my editor in the evening every day and we got the book out on time. It was some of the most fun I’d ever had. My daughter drove and I dictated the chapters, read through them at the motel before going to bed, then sent them off to my editor. The book was the Easter Mail-Order Bride and I wanted to release it the day before Easter. We did it, and it’s a fun story.
Writers need inspiration to stay fresh, enjoy the writing process, (which can be grueling at times) and come up with fun, new ideas for their stories. If everything remained the same, day and and day out, a writer can become stale and it shows in their writing. This is true of most artists, be they writers, painters, illustrators, are in film or music, or whatever their art consists of. We need inspiration on different levels as we’re all different.
What are some of the things that inspire you to do the work that you do? I’ll pick a random winner from the comments to win a free e-copy of Irene and the Neighbor, when it releases on August 31st, the book I wrote here at Diamond Lake. I’ll be driving home from the lake the day this posts, so will be commenting at different times throughout the day! 

Updated: August 18, 2019 — 4:54 pm

Pickup Riders

Our local rodeo season is about to head into full swing next week. We are fortunate enough to live in an area where we can attend four big rodeos, one every week, for a month.

Since Captain Cavedweller and I both enjoy rodeos, this is a grand thing. 

Thoughts of rodeos and the athletes that compete in them, both human and animal, made me think about a group of folks who largely go unnoticed at rodeo events — pickup men. 

(If you’re thinking about the drunk guys who hang around after the rodeo ends, wrong kind of pickup men!)

The pickup men I’m referring to today have one of the most important jobs at a rodeo because they are there to keep the athletes safe. In the arena, they look after the cowboy at the end of his ride as well as the horses and bulls used in rough stock events and they help with the overall production. They might work for the stock contractor or be employed directly by the rodeo association.

Regardless of how they come to be there, pickup men are often referred to as the ghosts of an arena. They ride in, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere, help a cowboy off a ton of twisting, bucking beast, then guide the animal from the arena before vanishing again. 

Depending on the size of the rodeo, you might see two of them working together while bigger rodeos have as many as six working at a time. 

Pickup men are in the arena from start to finish, but if all goes smoothly, rodeo fans might not notice them at all. Riding horses is second nature to many of the men who work as pickup men. They have to be able to rope a bucking bronc or a rank bull. They also have to be ale to think on the fly and make quick decisions. Out in the arena there isn’t time for talking and deciding what to do. They have to act intuitively. 

Once a cowboy and horse bust out of the chute, the pickup men are watching every move, ready to ride to the rescue or offer a hand when the eight-second buzzer sounds. 

During a ride, most anything can happen and does. 

Competitors can get hung up in rigging or stirrups and find themselves being dragged around the arena or getting an eyeball of dirt while dodging flying hooves. 

While their actions aren’t choreographed, the way pick up men work together can appear so flawless and performed with such ease, it looks like they’ve practiced the intricate dance that is based on their quick reactions and know-how.

Pickup men have cowboys crawling all over them and their horses which makes it essential they can handle a cowboy hanging off his shoulder.


Or his neck, or whatever else the athlete happens to get a hold of in his scramble to get off a wildly bucking bronc. 

The equipment a pickup man uses is vitally important to a smooth, successful rodeo, too. His saddle has to fit just right, many use specialized bits, and they all have a favorite brand of rope they use. Many use breast collars on their horses to keep their saddle from sliding back if they have to rope a bull. And it gives a little added advertising space to their stock contractor or sponsor.

The pickup man might wear shin guards, or kickpads, around their lower legs to protect from flying hooves, scrambling boots from the rodeo athlete as he tries to get off a bucking animal, or even just a saddle bronc saddle rubbing against it when he has the horse snubbed to get it out of the arena. 

Another piece of equipment no pickup man would work without is his chaps. They provide another layer of protection against the bucking horses and their saddles. 

It’s also important for their horses to be well-trained and able to keep up with a reaction that happens in a split-second. Many pickup men have a string of horses they use, rotating them out between each event.  One horse might do better picking up bareback riders while one might do better when it’s time to chase bulls out of the arena. Most pickup men will use splint boots for their horses for protection against injury. 

Some pickup men work smaller rodeos they can catch on a weekend and still keep their regular job (like ranching). 

Others travel non-stop on the rodeo circuit right along with the rodeo athletes, gone from home for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. 

At the end of the day, the pickup men are the unsung heroes who might have prevented a cowboy from receiving a serious injury, or kept a bull from charging into a crowd.

So, the next time you are at a rodeo, take a moment to watch these men at work and think about all they do to make the rodeo a safe place for everyone to enjoy. 

If you enjoy reading about rodeos, check out my Rodeo Romance series. Each book can be read as a stand alone and features a different rodeo event or personality. Right now, Racing Christmas is on sale for just 99 cents! The hero in the story just happens to be a pickup man.

“From the realistic rodeo scenes to the tender love scenes Shanna Hatfield keeps you reading.”

Jodi Thomas, New York Times Bestselling Author

She’s racing to save the ranch

He’s struggling to win her heart. . . again

Brylee Barton has just one goal in mind: win the barrel racing world championship. Not for the glory, but for the attached cash prize that could save her family’s ranch. When an injury leaves her at the mercy of the very same copper-headed, silver-tongued cowboy she once vowed to loathe forever, she has no choice but to swallow her pride and accept his help.

Fun-loving, easy-going Shaun Price has a million dollar smile, more charm than he can channel, and a string of ex-girlfriends rumored to have started their own support group. When the one woman he’s never quite managed to get out of his head or heart needs his assistance, he jumps at the chance to help. Little does he realize how challenging it will be to keep from falling for her all over again.

Will Shaun and Brylee discover the gift of forgiveness, and experience their own happily-ever-after?

Available on Amazon

Answer this question for a chance to win an autographed copy of The Christmas Cowboy, book 1 in the Rodeo Romance series! 

What is your favorite rodeo event? 



I’ve got…TWO winners tonight! TRUDY C. and TONYA LUCAS! Be on the lookout for your prize in your inbox, ladies! 

Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by and commented! I always enjoy seeing what other people think about different characters and stories! Now I need to go back and re-read some of these books that were mentioned and pick up The Summer Remains.

Updated: August 12, 2019 — 9:24 pm

Pearl Hart by Vickie McDonough

You’ve probably never heard of Pearl Hart, but she committed one of the last
stage robberies in the Old West. Pearl was born in Lindsay, Ontario, to
affluent and religious parents, who afforded her with the best education
available. She was enrolled in boarding school at the age of sixteen, where
she met her future husband, who seemed to have various first names, but
most often was referred to as Frederick Hart.


Unknown photographer (Historian Insight)

[Public domain]via Wikimedia Commons

Frederick Hart was known to be a drunkard and gambler. Pearl eloped with
Hart, but quickly learned he was abusive, so she returned to her mother’s
home. They reunited and separated several times, resulting in two children,
which Pearl left with her mother.
Pearl’s husband worked a stint at the Chicago World’s Fair, where Pearl
developed a fascination with the cowboy lifestyle while watching Buffalo Bill’s
Wild West Show. After the fair, the couple moved to Colorado. Hart described
this time in her life: “I was only twenty-two years old. I was good-looking,
desperate, discouraged, and ready for anything that might come. I do not care
to dwell on this period of my life. It is sufficient to say that I went from one city
to another until sometime later I arrived in Phoenix.” During this time Pearl
worked as a cook and singer. There are also reports that she developed a
fondness for cigars, liquor, and morphine during this time.
Hart ran into her husband again, and they lived in Tucson for a time. But
things went badly, and the abused started again. When the Spanish-American
War broke out, Mr. Hart signed up. Pearl shocked observers by declaring that
she hoped he would be killed by the Spanish.


Pearl resided in the town of Mammoth, Arizona in early 1898. Some reports
say she was working as a cook in a boardinghouse. Others say she operated
a tent brothel near the local mine. While she did well for a time, the mine
eventually closed, and her financial status took a nosedive. About this time
she received a message asking her to return home to her seriously ill mother.
Hart had an acquaintance known as “Joe Boot” (most likely an alias), who
worked at a mining claim he owned. When the mine didn’t yield gold, Hart and
Boot decided to rob the stagecoach that traveled between Globe and
Florence, Arizona. The robbery occurred on May 30, 1899, at a watering point
near Cane Springs Canyon, about 30 miles southeast of Globe. Pearl had cut
her hair short and dressed in men’s clothing, and she was armed with a .38
The trio stopped the coach, and Boot held a gun on the robbery victims while
Hart took $431.20 and two firearms from the passengers. Reports say Pearl
returned $1 to each passenger to aid them in getting home. Less than a week
later, a sheriff caught up to them and both were put in jail. Boot was held in
Florence while Hart was moved to Tucson since the jail lacked facilities for a

The room Hart was held in was not a normal jail cell but rather made of lath
and plaster. Taking advantage of the relatively weak material, Hart escaped
on October 12, 1899. She left behind an 18-inch hole in the wall. Just two
weeks later, she was recaptured near Deming, New Mexico. After their trials,
both Hart and Boot were sent to Yuma Territorial Prison to serve their

In December 1902, Pearl received a pardon from Arizona Territorial Governor
Alexander Brodie. After she left prison, Hart disappeared from public view for
the most part. She had a short-lived show where she re-enacted her crime
and then spoke about the horrors of Yuma Territorial Prison. Tales from Gila
County claim that Hart returned to Globe and lived there peacefully until her
death on December 30, 1955, other reports place her death as late as 1960.
Hart’s exploits have been popular in western pulp fiction. The musical The
Legend of Pearl Hart was based upon Hart’s life, and her adventures are
mentioned in the early 1900s film Yuma City. Pearl Hart was the subject of an
episode of Tales of Wells Fargo that aired on May 9, 1960, played by Beverly
Garland. She was also the subject of a Death Valley Days episode from
March 17, 1964, titled “The Last Stagecoach Robbery”, with Anne Frances
playing the part of Pearl.


The Lady and the Lawman:

4 Historical Stories of Lawmen and the Ladies Who Love Them

My novella in Lady and the Lawman collection:
On Track for Love by Vickie McDonough
Missouri, 1875
A new job and a move to a new state put Railroad Agent Landry Lomax on track to meet Cara Dixon—a spirited woman holding a derringer on a train robber. This stubborn woman is not one he wants around his young sister, but then they end up in the same St. Louis boardinghouse. But could Cara’s gumption help him trap a gang of train robbers?
Vickie will give away one print copy of Lady and the Lawman to a US winner. To enter for a chance to win the book, please answer this question:
Would you have been an outlaw or a lawman?
About Vickie McDonough:
Bestselling author Vickie McDonough grew up wanting to marry a rancher, but instead, she married a sweet computer geek who is scared of horses. She now lives out her dreams penning romance stories about ranchers, cowboys, lawmen, and others living in the Old West. Vickie is a best-selling author of more than 50 published books and novellas, with over 1.5 million copies sold.

Winner! Winner!


Many thanks to all you came to the blog yesterday — and also many thanks to those who left a message.

I had fun.  I hope you did, too.  Loved all your comments.

And the winner of the e-book, WOLF SHADOW’S PROMISE is:                        QUILT LADY

Many, man congratulations to you, Quilt Lady.  If you could please email me at — we’ll arrange to get that book to you.

As Roy Rogers and Dale Evans used to sing:  “Happy Trails to you.  Till we meet again.”


Updated: August 7, 2019 — 3:31 pm

Winner! Winner!

Well, we had a lot of fun on game day.  At least I did, and I want to thank you all for playing along with me.  We had some really good times there on that puzzle, also.  Wow!  Some of you are brilliant.

We do have a winner for the e-book THE LAST WARRIOR and that winner is:  KATHY RADER

Congratulations to you, Kathy!  If you will contact me personally at we can make arrangements to get that book to you.

Again, many thanks to all those who came on in and joined in on the fun!

Updated: August 1, 2019 — 3:23 pm

Wednesday’s Winner

The winner of the signed copy of A Cure For the Vet and the Looking Sharp wine glass…



Look for an email from me regarding how to claim your giveaway.

Again, congratulations, and thank you to everyone who stopped by to talk about making our environment more bee friendly. And remember…Bee kind. 



Updated: July 31, 2019 — 8:30 pm

Plant Lavender. Save the Bees!

Albert Einstein said, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live.” I don’t know what he claimed is true or not. I’m not sure there’s a way to know before it’s too late, but I for one, don’t want to test his theory.

Ever since we had honeybees in our side yard/dog run I’ve been more aware of their plight and how bees are connected with our survival on this planet. Bees pollinate most of the crops that feed the majority of the world’s population. No bees. No food. Pretty simple.

With their habitats shrinking and pesticides doing damage, I’m working on creating a more bee friendly space in my yard. Don’t have a huge plot of land for a bee garden? No worries. Even space as small as a window garden will help make for a bee friendlier world.

Here’s what I’ve learned in my research:

  • Choose single flower plants such as daisies or marigolds. These plants produce more nectar than plants with double headed flowers. It’s also harder for bees to access these flowers to get the pollen.
  • Avoid hybridized plants as they produce little pollen.
  • Provide a constant food source for bees by planting at least three different kinds flowers for each season.
  • Help bees create nesting spaces. This requires different action depending on the bees you have. For example, burrowing bees need a sunny spot uncultivated in a garden. Other bees need branches, bamboo sections, or hollow reeds for nesting.
  • Avoid using pesticides and herbicides. Ladybugs, spiders and praying mantises are nature’s pest control. When I had aphids I discovered many nurseries sell bags of ladybugs to add to a garden.

Provide a watering hole for bees. Fill a shallow container with water and add twigs or pebbles for bee landing places. If you do this, make sure to continually refill the water so the bees know they can return to this spot every day.

  • Create a “bee hotel.” The website Discover Wildlife says tying together bamboo canes or drilling 5–10mm holes a block of wood and hanging it I’m a sunny, south facing spot will do the trick. I’ve found examples/how to’s on Pinterest. Click here to check out my Bee Friendly Garden board.
  • Add Fruit trees to your landscaping.
  • Plant bee friendly plants in large mass plantings if possible. This lets bees arrive and “tank up” before moving on. Mass planting are also easier for bees to find.

Now that we know what to do and not do, let’s talk plants. Here are some plants I found listed as bee friendly. Remember to have different type, so hopefully you’ll have something flowering all the time.

  • Herbs: Mint, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, salvia
  • Annuals: Marigolds, aster, poppy, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, zinnia
  • Perennials: Crocus, Geraniums, hollyhock, allium
  • Others: Bergamot, lantana, borage, butterfly busy, black-eyed Susan, yarrow, Roman Chamomile, milkweed, forget-me-not, pansies, sweet peas
  • Lavender and borage flower for a long time, making them super for bees.
  • Blue and yellow flowering plants are extra great for bees. From what I discovered, it has to do with what colors they see best.
  • Choose plants with easy access center. This usually means “old-fashioned” versions rather than hybrids.

I’m a big believer that small changes can make a big difference, especially if we all do our part. So, I’m off to my local nursery to go shopping for a few plants. 

One lucky person who leaves a comment will receive the Lookin’ Sharp wine glass and signed copy of A Cure For the Vet.


Updated: July 30, 2019 — 3:59 pm

Horsing Around …

Hi! Kit Morgan here and today I want to talk about research and unexpected inspiration!

Last weekend, my sister invited me to a party she had to go to. It’s not that she didn’t want to go alone, she just wanted to tear me away from my keyboard for a while. It was a party at her place of employment. Now you might imagine me thinking, “oh, great, a party at Marijo’s work. Boring. Did I take one for the sisterly team and tag along? Of course. But was it going to be a boring party? On the contrary. You see, my sister is my resource for all things “Horsey” as she’s been in the horse industry since she was sixteen. The “work party” she was attending was held at Big Dog Horse Stables, a Certified Equine Association (CEA) facility where adults and kiddos can learn how to ride well, form life-long friendships and be part of a fantastic and friendly community. And what a pretty place it was (and by golly, the perfect setting for a  western romance!)

The original barn was built in 1915 and is the focal point of the farm. There are newer barns of course and a huge indoor arena along with a couple of outdoor arenas as well. What makes this facility unique is that you can not only learn how to ride, but take an inline-dancing class, or how about a class in self-defense or yoga? Wreath making, anyone?

The old barn is special too. The owners renovated the upstairs hayloft and put in a stage, a bar, and a dancefloor. Oh, and there’s hay up there as well.!

Kids camps are also a big thing at Big Dog. The camps are held in June and August and last about a week. Each camper shares one horse with another camper. They start their day by taking care of that horse. Feeding and watering it and of course mucking out the horse’s stall. Campers also spend time in the barn learning important topics on horsemanship and of course get to ride for an hour. The goals of the individual campers are discussed with the head instructor and then instructors work one on one with each camper to achieve them. 

But enough about the facility. Let’s get to the party! What does a party for campers and employees at a stable look like? FUN! There were kids of all ages there with their parents. They had a woman teaching everyone line dancing. There were “horse races” (the horses were made from foam floaties and socks) and a taco bar. Parents and kids alike were having a grand time. So did Big Dog Stables big dog! He wandered around and said hello to everyone! And my sister gave me a grand tour. Here are a few pictures I took around the place. Talk about inspiration! Is it any wonder I got some story ideas?

So, we have a stable, barns, kids, horses, one big fluffy dog and loads of fun. The perfect setting for a western romance, don’t you think? It could be contemporary or historical. Remember how old that barn is! So be inspired! What sort of western romance might blossom here?

By the way, I’ll be on a plane to New York today, so won’t be able to comment until this evening! I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with! 



Updated: July 21, 2019 — 11:26 pm

Billy the Kid…the Five Million Dollar Man

I subscribe to a magazine called True West. It’s free online.

And it comes into my inbox and has some of the most interesting stories in it.

A recent one was about the picture of Billy the Kid. They call it The Tintype. And they know it’s him because he had it in his possession when he was arrested and he said it was and back then, I guess they could just look at the guy and say, “Yep, that’s you.”

So this picture is a for-sure, real-deal picture of Billy the Kid. But it turns out just recently two MORE tin type pictures have surfaced both claiming to also be a picture of Billy the Kid. And there is no way to prove it except to hold it next to the proven tin type and look at them both and say, “Yep, that’s him.”

Well, if it IS him, then it’s worth $5 million dollars. And if it’s NOT him it’s worth the $5 paid for it at the flea market. So a lot is riding on it. This article in True West has experts claiming it’s bogus.

But then other sources online claim it is really him.

While I was reading…and reading…and reading… (I’ve got a book to write, ok!!??) I found the second unverified picture with an equally shady provenance. Also worth either millions or nuthin’. And, being a historical research addict even if there is NO BOOK RELATED POINT TO IT, I started reading other things about Billy the Kid.

And there are two schools of thought on Billy. Either he’s a vicious killer, or he’s a folk hero.

I’ve always been in the vicious killer camp.

But reading all these articles, then watching documentaries, then watching a movie…(and My Cowboy Husband comes up behind me while I’m “working” and says, “Are you STILL reading about Billy the Kid?)

But anyway, I’ve changed sides to an extent. Billy the Kid was caught up in the Lincoln County War. In this battle for power in Lincoln County, New Mexico, over seventy people were killed.

One man was caught and shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett for it. Billy the Kid. And before this he was arrested and charged,convicted and sentenced to hang for it while everyone else got off scot free.

It’s believed (though some numbers are wildly inflated) that Billy the Kid killed six men. One, the first man he killed, was a blacksmith and it was generally considered to be self-defense. But instead of standing trail, Billy escaped jail and ran and became a wanted man.

Then in the course of the Lincoln County War he killed the town sheriff William Brady and one of his deputies. The sheriff and his staff were the hired men for James Dolan who had a monopoly on all the stores in Lincoln County. He charged brutally high prices and burned out or drove out anyone who came in to compete with him.

This made Dolan a hated man in Lincoln County which was at the roots of the Lincoln County War.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to write about that. Maybe in another blog.

So Billy killed this villainous sheriff who ran the town for Dolan, in a shoot-out. So it was generally considered self-defense, too, except it was the sheriff so not exactly, except the sheriff was a villain, so kinda…You start to see why people have mixed feelings about Billy the Kid.

Billy was arrested after this killing and Dolan, too. The governor of the territory of New Mexico came to Billy and said if he’d testify against Dolan they’d let him off on the murder charge.

Billy said no way, because they’ll kill me.

The governor—they have paperwork that admits this—told Billy he’d protect him. Billy agreed to testify but Dolan was still acquitted. Then Billy’s turn came for trial and the judge said, “No territorial governor is going to tell me how to judge a case…” and he denied Billy the deal the governor had made.

So, Billy broke jail…this was about the fourth time he’d done it. But this time right in front of waaaay too many witnesses, he killed a sheriff’s deputy guarding him—sheriff’s deputies who were loyal to the man he’d killed, Sheriff Brady.

Billy escaped but now he was wanted for murder.

BUT if the governor had stood by his deal Billy would have gone free. Billy put his fate in the hands of the governor and he was betrayed.

So yes, Billy the Kid was a killer. But the Lincoln County War was treated on all sides like a war. No one was charged with any crimes except Billy the Kid.

It gave me some sympathy for him and some understanding of why he is considered a folk hero.

I wasn’t sure about putting the two supposed pictures of the Maybe Billy Tin Types up. I understand they are old enough to not be copyrighted, but there are some murky laws about using someone elses PHOTOS of old photos. So, I can’t afford to pay any fines.

Here’s a link to what they call Billy the Kid Crochet Photo. I will tell you the True West photo specialists are universally skeptical. But other sources take the picture more seriously.

And the second unconfirmed photo is of Billy the Kid with Pat Garrett (and others). This is a great photo whether it’s Billy the Kid or not just because I love the attitude of these tough western types sitting together getting their picture taken acting cool. Seems like something people would do today.

So opinions? Is Billy the Kid a murderer or a folk hero? 

If you went to study and read about all these photos, what do you think?



Updated: July 18, 2019 — 8:04 am