This time, instead of doing the usual interview questions, I thought I would do something a little different as this young rodeo competitor, Zakk Tompkins of On The Edge rodeo apparel, has quite a story to tell. You can find Zakk and his brand on Twitter at @ . Check out his unique brand on his website at On The Edge apparel.
I’m a 23-year-old cowboy, entrepreneur and freelance writer born and raised in central,IL.
Running both a full service equine facility, and an apparel company, keeps me fairly busy! Average days consist of feeding and caring for the 18 horses we have on site providing full board, training and lessons. Whether it be cleaning stalls, fixing fence or working colts my days are filled with these chores for the most part.
We currently do about 20 lessons a week with folks of all ages. Lessons are western riding ranging anywhere from complete beginner to those wishing to compete in rodeo. The latter is perhaps the most important part to me and the motivating factor in continuing even during tough times.
As a young kid, like many others I wanted to be a cowboy. Although I didn’t fully understand all that the lifestyle and job entailed, I knew wanted to be a part of this amazing subculture. Unfortunately, I was already committed to competing in wrestling and martial arts.
I began training Muay Thai with my dad at age two, as he had competed professionally prior to my birth. I vividly remember religiously watching episodes of Walker Texas ranger and then having to “Walker fight” my dad after each show. This consisted of him being the bad guy and me of course playing the part of Chuck Norris. By about 4 years old, my cut kicks were leaving sizeable welts on my dad’s legs which apparently was a green light to further my training.
As the years went on my training continued. I began to compete across the country at national events. Although I loved the sport and travel, I always wanted something a little different. I just wasn’t sure what.
School work and sports came easy. I had many friends and a seemingly happy home life. Yet, even though I was only twelve, I was slowly loosing myself, slowly dying. As fear, doubt, and anger consumed me, I fell into a deep depression.
I don’t tell you this to make you feel sorry for me, I tell you this because I want everyone to see and realize that depression is a biological disease. One that does not discriminate between race, gender or socio-economic status.
The ridicule at school became nearly unbearable. I was withdrawn and depressed and couldn’t explain why. Being someone who relied on logic, the feelings of sadness and anger being inexplicable were totally unacceptable to me. No matter what I got or how good life was, I was depressed. Coming home only to lay under a blanket in total isolation. Weight gain and self loathing followed. I allowed the symptoms of the disease to consume me.
This was a mistake that at the time I wasn’t aware I was making, and had no idea how to combat it. As the symptoms worsened, I finally spoke with a professional. In the midst of getting the help I needed, things continued to worsen.
At age 13, I left a suicide note and ran away from school. I will never forget every detail of the steps I took that day. I was found very shortly by my father who had been contacted by authorities. As he eased my mind and convinced me to come home I felt some relief. I was admitted to a local mental health facility where I spent three agonizing days. Help was not immediate and it took years and personal dedication to make any headway.
Although I still suffer often from depression, I have found one of the greatest God-given coping mechanisms – purpose via horses.
One thing that drove me to get help from day one was that I knew others, who were less fortunate than me, were suffering the same as I was. As I slowly dropped out of traditional sports and grew older, I found various ways of becoming involved with horses.
I began dating a girl from school my freshman year who had a few Haflingers and was involved in Pony Club. Although English wasn’t my first choice for riding, it was my only option. My girlfriend at the time began teaching me to care for and ride the horses they had. Before long, I was volunteering full time at a local barn. I worked seven days a week doing the worst jobs you can find on a farm. I did this as a way to afford lessons.
I spent every free moment watching people ride and train, learning what I could. I watched and read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually, I got a paying job as a glorified stall boy at another local barn and took the horse I had purchased there. After about a year and working with several other trainers in both cutting and pleasure, I began leasing the property and running Westbrook Stable. This is the full service facility I now run.
When I took over, it was a small operation providing boarding only with about 8 clients a month. Over the past three years, it has grown to 18 horses, a lesson program and training.
Having struggled through the grind to get where I am, I wanted to find a way to give back. We began a rodeo team for youth and adults that provides all the necessary equipment, knowledge and connections at the most affordable rate possible. It is amazing how many young lives we have been able to touch, and honestly is better than any medicine I’ve ever been prescribed. It took a combination of correcting the chemical imbalance, professional therapy and a LOT of self-help.
My girlfriend and I now compete in rodeos across the Midwest in barrel racing and tie down roping respectively. And yes, we are seeking sponsors!
This eclectic background is what drove me to start my apparel company called On The Edge. I wanted a brand that represented a lifestyle. I began designing apparel with a message. The message was simple – Lose the fear and doubt, live on the edge and chase your dreams! The brand is still small, but is gaining steady business we sport my brand and travel the rodeo circuit.
As last year was my rookie year in IPRA, I had a lot of tough times and lessons to learn. I’m now practicing harder than ever. In tempo with my usual MO, my goals for this year are sky-high, yet attainable. I am currently working to gain sponsors as well as preparing myself to chance to compete in RFD Tv’s The American. I will also be part of a six shooter series put on by a popular stock contractor on the IPRA circuit and am looking forward to a chance at winning the series and buckle.
If any one person can take an ounce of motivation from my story of struggle and perseverance, then it has all been worth it. My personal strategy every time I back in the box is to improve on ONE predetermined area of my roping during that run. Perfection is great but only comes after the building blocks are set in place. With that in mind, I don’t expect to be perfect.
My pastor, Jason Schifo was a major factor in my mindset. After hours and hours of talking with him, I finally realized that perfection wasn’t ever going to happen. It was beyond my control. What was in grasp of my control was the proper mindset, and remembering to get better with each and every run to the best of my ability. Leaving it all in the arena, one run at a time.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged apparel, Author Interviews, Barrel Racing, boarding stable, brand, branding, clothes, clothing, English, equine, Hafflingers, horse training, horses, illinois, IPRA, midwest, On The Edge, Pony Club, RFD, RFD-TV, riding lessons, rodeo, roping, sponsors, The American, Westbrook, Westbrook Stable.
This week we are chatting with Pendleton Petticoats romance series author Shanna Hatfield. She’s quite an entertaining author to interview and one that I think many rural folks can relate to.
From Nov. 7-Dec. 24, Shanna will be donating 10% of the net proceeds from all her book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund which is a fund to help injured cowboys. Shanna is also hosting a Facebook Party with prizes this week. I’ve listed the details at the end of the interview along with ways to in
What is it like to live in your boots for a day?
Day to day, I treat my writing like a career, even though I work from home. I get up early, respond to emails, post to my blog and social media outlets then try to get in some exercise before I get ready for the day. After that, I generally spend the rest of the day in my office writing or editing. Some days I put in as many as twelve hours if I’m in the writing “mode.” My husband, Captain Cavedweller, refers to the mode as the times when I’m so involved in a story I forget about everything else like fixing dinner and making sure he has clean socks. On days when I’m editing or working on promotions, I like to cook and often experiment with recipes (you can find my latest and greatest culinary adventures at savvyentertaining.com) I’ve also gotten into western photography recently. My niece kindly provides much of my subject matter with her horses and cattle.
Are you a full time writer?
A little more than a year ago, I quit my job in the corporate world to pursue writing full time. My comfortable boots replaced the high heels I wore every day and I love every minute of my new life. I know I am very blessed and fortunate to be able to get up every morning excited to work at something I love so much. I don’t regret a minute spent pursuing my dreams.
What role do horses play in your life and your books? Any good horse stories?
I grew up on a farm with cattle, horses, and an older brother who worked on remote ranches next door to nowhere. Between the stories he’d bring home when he’d come to visit and the fact I always had a horse to ride, horses and cowboys play a big role in both my historical and contemporary sweet western romances.
I’ve got many horse stories, but one my family feels compelled to tell everyone happened when I was four with a red pony named Dynamite. I wanted to spend every waking moment with the pony. One afternoon, while I was supposed to be taking a nap, I snuck outside and around to the room where we kept the tack. I couldn’t carry my little saddle, but I managed to get the bareback pad and drag it out to Dynamite’s pasture. I slid it on his back and tightened the cinch then led him by the halter over to a stump so I could climb on. Things went along fine for the first few minutes as he walked around then he let out a big breath and the pad started to slide. By the time my mother realized I was missing and made a beeline out to the pasture, I was clinging upside down to the pad with my head dangling beneath Dynamite’s belly. After that, Mom put quite a damper on my horse-riding adventures.
What made you decide to donate a portion of your proceeds to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund?
When I was researching details for the first book in the Rodeo Romance series, The Christmas Cowboy, I learned about the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund through Rick Foster, program director of the Justin Sports Medicine Team. In the book, my hero, Tate Morgan, is a saddle bronc rider who gets hurt at the national finals rodeo. Trying to get all the details right is what led me to JCCF. It’s such a great organization. JCCF is a non-profit organization that assists rodeo athletes who sustain catastrophic injuries and are unable to compete for an extended period. I’m on a blog tour all this week with the Cowboys and Christmas tour to kick off a promotion I’m doing with the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. Now through Dec. 24, I’ll donate ten percent of the net proceeds from all my book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund.
What inspires you to write the stories that you write? What is your muse?
I find inspiration everywhere – even standing in line at the grocery store. My over-active imagination rarely shuts down. Captain Cavedweller is a great sounding board and I most always come up with story ideas when we go for a drive. There’s something about forcing him to be a captive audience, trapped in a vehicle with no escape, that gets the ol’ creative juices flowing.
Do you have any particular writing rituals?
As a visual person, before I start writing a new story, I gather photos of people who are my ideal of the characters. If the characters have pets (dogs, horses, cats), I try to find photos of those along with landscapes, house plans, anything that helps me visualize the story and my characters.
Any parting words of wisdom for those looking to be published writers?
Never give up on your dreams! You can do it!
If you’d like to find out more about Shanna’s books see below — you’ll notice she has a Facebook Party coming up soon with prizes!
You’re Invited to a PARTY!
You’re invited to join in the online Cowboys & Christmas Facebook Party Thursday, Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (PST). Drop in anytime during those four hours to enter to win great prizes, chat with guest authors, and more! Here’s the link to the party: http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasparty
Enter to Win Prizes!
As part of the blog tour, I’m giving away some exciting prizes. To enter the drawing for an Amazon gift card, autographed books, chocolates, original western artwork, and more fun goodies, fill out this form. http://tinyurl.com/cowboychristmasprizes
Find Shanna’s books at:
Follow Shanna online:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/shanna-hatfield
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Author, author interview, Authors, Barrel Racing, books, bronc riding, bullriding, cowboys, cowgirls, culinary, equine, horses, IPRA, Justin, Justin Boots, Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund, Justin Crisis Fund, National finals rodeo, NCA, NFR, pony, PRCA, rodeo, Rodeochat, romance, roping, roughstock, saddlebronc, Shanna Hatfield, steer wrestling, Vegas, Writer.
In a couple of weeks we’ll be chatting with Pendleton Petticoats series Shanna Hatfield. From Nov. 7-Dec. 24, she’ll be donating 10% of the net proceeds from all my book sales to the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund which is a fund to help injured cowboys. It’s a great cause and you’ll definitely enjoy learning about Shanna.
In the meantime, I thought I would update what’s been going on in my life as a horse show judge, competitor, and writer after the 40 hour work week in the office. As always, there never seems to be enough hours in the day and always a horse I want to ride or a story I want to write. I have to say though, my first year as a published author has been fun and a terrific learning experience for what works, what doesn’t and a lesson on how to fit it all in. Let’s just say most mornings I’m up at 3am, 4am if I’m sleeping late!
One new update that is really cool is that Everybody Needs A Little Romance invited me to be part of their blog. If you love romance, you really need to check it out because the site has several terrific romance writers that post blogs and write book reviews. It’s a mecca for anything romance!
Valley Farmers Co-op has been very gracious in inviting me to do a book signing at their stores in east Tennessee at Athens and Harriman. This year I attended three of their events and had a blast! Not only did I get to see old horse friends, I also got to chat with fans and meet new readers as well. One thing for sure, I’m more at home at a feed store than I am anywhere else besides the barn or the arena!
Book signing at Valley Farmers Co-op in Athens
Book signing at the Valley Farmers Co-op in Harriman
Pam Brown also invited me out this summer to sign books at the NBHA Tennessee State finals in Harriman, Tennessee. Fireman has had feet issues this year and I haven’t gotten to run a set of cans since the spring but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go to a barrel race! So I got the best of both worlds and got to sign books, see the barrel race and get some time in talking about horses. Needless to say, I was a little tired at the end of the day!
My next book signing event is at Foxleaf Bookstore in Cookeville, Tennessee on Halloween night! If you’re down that way, stop by because we’ll have plenty of hot cider and candy!
I’m also an OHSA Carded horse show judge and have the wonderful opportunity to judge some of the shows in the region. Smoky Mountain Horse Show Series is one my favorite places to show and to judge. Last weekend they held their first show series at Tri-State in Cleveland, Tennessee. I managed to capture a quick shot of their beautiful jump course before we got started.
I love to do everything from show hunter to run barrels and sort cows on a horse. I think different disciplines have a lot to offer and just make for a well-rounded horse. Read my horse blog, Musings From The Leadrope, and you’ll pick up on that pretty quick! A couple of weeks ago I managed to get one of our green horses out to her first show at the Smoky Mountain Horse Show. She went in the In Hand Trail Class and the walk/jog classes as well as a walk/jog Horsemanship class. Granted she wasn’t as finished as the others, but she did a fabulous job and I couldn’t be prouder.
Keith Mooney managed to get several shots of us at the show. Here’s the link to our Horsemanship class – http://www.keithmooneyphoto.com/HorseShows/SMHSS-October-5-2014/68-W-J-Horsemanship/i-tRn8smF
Then here’s a pic of her In Hand Trail Class.
So what’s new for the rest of the year? With winter coming, I’ll have a little more down time and I’m hoping to get back to work on The Searching Place, an untitled horse focused paranormal, and a thriller short story. My goal is to have a new book out after the first of the year. Sometimes life gets in the way so we’ll see but that’s the plan at the moment for this new author! Oh yeah, one more thing…
Lucky kitty sez don’t forget to buy a copy of Lost Betrayal! #catspeddlebooks
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged #EquineHour, #HorseHour, Adamo Equestrian, Athens, Author, Barrel Racing, books, boots, Co-op, colts, Cookeville, ENLAR, Equestrian, Everybody Needs A Little Romance, feed, feed store, Foxleaf Bookstore, Harriman, horsemanship, horses, interview, Justin, Justin Boots, Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund, Justin Crisis Fund, McMinn, NBHA, Publishing, riding, Roane, rodeo, Rodeochat, romance, Shana Hatfield, Smoky Mountain Horse Show, Tennessee, TN04, trail, training, Valley Farmers Co-op, Writer, writing.
This week we’re taking part of a Blog Hop thanks to talented freelance writer, author, and martial arts enthusiast from the UK, Mark Iles. Please visit his blog at http://markiles.co.uk/2014/04/the-blog-hop.html
What am I working on?
I’ve always got several projects going in various stages of development. There are three particular projects however that I’d like to focus on this year. The main focus right now is a western romance novella about a romance writer that’s down on her luck. The second is also a western romance with a curious paranormal element added. Then I’ve also been working on a sequel to Lost Betrayal.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Lost Betrayal is on the market as a Western Romance however the story is really much bigger than that. The drama and suspense throughout the story are just as big as the romance. In addition to writing big stories, another difference would be my insight to the horses and people in my books. As a trainer, I look at the world through a training view-point and tend to look a little deeper than the surface at the reason a horse or a person does something.
Why do I write what I do?
One of my biggest reasons for writing Lost Betrayal was to bring awareness to the fact that large animals are the last to be rescued in a disaster. They’re just not a high priority, they require special skills to rescue in most cases, they can’t be relocated to just anywhere and they receive the least amount of publicity when it comes to their needs. Writing the book was a way to open up discussions about that and bring an awareness to the public about that need.
Another reason that I write is that there’s always some lesson I want to share with the world. Stories are a great way to do that. Plus, my head is always filled with new ideas that just have to find a way out somehow!
How does your writing process work?
Working full-time and running a horse farm is already a full load. When you add competing, giving lessons and judging horse shows it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time! I’m as passionate about the horse industry as I am my writing so it’s hard to balance the two, really. Most work day mornings I get up at around 4 to 5am in the morning to get everything in. I do most of my writing during those early hours as it’s quiet and there aren’t many interruptions. Then I’ll also grab some writing time on rainy weekends as well.
As far as inspiration, I have a playlist of the Steel Drivers that I’ve worn slap out. Something about their music inspires me to write from the heart. Since I have several projects going, I usually don’t have any trouble with writer’s block. If I don’t feel like writing on one particular manuscript, I’ll feel like writing on another one.
In regards to the actual writing itself, I outline like crazy. I not only outline the story itself but I’ll also outline each chapter. I have to know where I’m headed. If I don’t outline, I tend to go down a rabbit hole!
Thanks for taking the time to find out more about my writing and what I do! Next week on May 12th check out Olivia Gracey’s blog at http://www.oliviagracey.com/blog.html. Olivia is a new author with Solstice Publishing. In addition to writing, she’s also a singer, songwriter, and photographer.
While we’re talking about wonderful authors, here’s a few more blog links to wonderful writer friends of mine.
Stephanie Hurt is a southern romance writer. A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of being interviewed for her blog. Here’s the link to that interview – http://stephanie-hurt.com/2014/04/26/interview-with-f-j-thomas-author/ Check out her blog site while you’re there to read more great interviews and read about her life as a writer.
Stephanie Berget is a fellow barrel racer and romance writer. Visit her blog at http://www.stephanieberget.com/ to read about her stories and the latest musings about her life.
Elle Marlow is another fellow barrel racer and romance writer. You can read about her latest book and shenanigans at http://ellemarlow.blogspot.com/
After ten years of working on a book idea, I finally managed to sell to Solstice Publishing in December 2013. My book, Lost Betrayal, will be coming out in March 2014 in ebook version on Amazon, and also on www.solsticepublishing.com
In lieu of promoting my book, I decided to start a blog – but not just any blog! I wanted something for readers and writers that were also horsemen, or had an avid interest in horses and the horse lifestyle. After all, no matter how hard you try it seems the horse element always shows up somehow.
So here we are. I’ll not only be talking to writers about their books, but also to artists and competitors about what motivates them, speaks to them, and how they got where they are. I want the inside scoop. Besides, I’m always curious about what makes people tick!
By the way, this won’t be a “discipline specific” blog. After all, we’re all horse folks!
Since I’m starting this gig I guess I’d better introduce myself and tell you a little about me and what makes me tick, and what brought me to this point.
I am a Tennessee native that now resides in east Tennessee on my small horse farm aptly named, Fairweather Farm. I’m married and have three step kids who are all enrolled with Uncle Sam for the next few years.
I work full time in the healthcare industry writing contract appeals. I spend the rest of my time judging open horse shows, giving riding lessons and training, and competing in anything from barrel racing and sorting to huntseat and halter. Horses are like air to me – always have been and always will be.
I started writing in high school and never looked back. Over the years, I’ve done some copywriting and have written articles that appeared in America’s Horse, Hoofbeats, Arena Talk, and Horseman’s Yankee Peddlar. It’s rather easy for me to talk about anything horse related. I also write a blog on WordPress, Musings From The Leadrope.
I might as well go ahead and talk about my religious and political views as I’m sure they’ll come up at some point. I have certain convictions based on a lot thought and study, and I know who I am.
I am a Christian and attend a Methodist church and am involved in ministry from time to time. I have Christian values and believe in the Bible. I don’t believe in telling someone what they should believe but I will say what I believe – I hope that my life speaks loud enough that I don’t have to say anything. I also don’t believe in making fun of another person’s faith. I believe regardless of faith, you should treat people with love and respect as none of us are perfect and loving each other is what I’m called to do by faith.
I do love animals and I do eat red meat, wear leather boots and ride in a leather saddle. I believe animals are here to help us and we have a responsibility to manage them well. I believe in being responsible and treating animals well, but I also realize they can be dangerous and there are times for discipline for the sake of our safety. Yes, I love rodeo but I also love English too.
ADDENDUM… Some of you have been asking about my full length leopard print coat in my profile and avatar pics. This coat was purchased at an antique store in Sweetwater, Tennessee. You can tell that it’s an old coat and the label indicates that it was made in England. The brand is “Shaytoon”. I have no idea whether or not it’s real. I’m sure if it was real, it would have been a lot more expensive than what I paid for it. I don’t condone hunting endangered species at all, and I don’t condone hunting just for sport. By the way, I don’t have a problem with people hunting for meat. The way I look at it, it’s an antique coat and even if it was real I wouldn’t ditch the coat because an animal already gave it’s life for it and nothing can be done about it. It’s better to wear it and honor the animal than throw it away and waste their sacrifice. By wearing it, you open up an opportunity to talk about hunting of endangered species. But again, I don’t think it’s real!
Now on to that book I was talking about. Lost Betrayal is a romance with a couple of big stories. In short, it’s a story about a girl who’s lost her best horse after a disaster and the journey they both take that eventually lead them back together.
The longer version…
Here’s the book trailer for Lost Betrayal – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=urkSTWnMNr0
THE FUTURE OF THE RANCH HANGS IN THE BALANCE
Sage is just getting her life back together when a tornado touches down and destroys her family ranch in northern Georgia taking her hopes, her dreams, and the very horse that the ranch’s future hinges on. An ex rodeo cowboy with a past, Garrett has sworn off rodeo and the last thing he needs is entanglement with a woman on a wild horse chase but there’s too many unanswered questions, such as how a horse could stay gone so long.
Refusing to believe her horse was killed in the storm and refusing to give up on the ranch, Sage begins the journey of rebuilding her life once again and searching for the horse that to her, holds the past, and her future. Garrett’s past and a malicious betrayal jeopardize her efforts. Is she strong enough to push past the hurt and the lies in order to get back all she holds dear?
Come visit with me next week as I talk with author Elle Marlow who seems to be taking the publishing world by storm. A debut author, she’s already sold 5 books in as many months! You’ll definitely want to visit for that in depth interview as Elle is a sassy little cowgirl from Arizona whose writing is just a vivacious as her life. Don’t miss it and I’ll see ya at the barn!
This entry was posted in Artists, Books, Horses, Writing and tagged agents, amazon, artists, Author, barnes & noble, Barrel Racing, Barrels, books, East Tennessee, ebooks, editing, equine, F.J. Thomas, Fairweather Farm, faith, farm, farms, film, Georgia, horses, kindle, Lost Betrayal, managers, Mountains, movies, nook, production, Publishing, Quarter Horses, Racing, riding, rodeo, rural, saddles, Solstice, Sweetwater, Tennessee, training, writing.