Conventions, Contests and Horses - Oh My!

...had a FENtastic time at Fencon4 this weekend. I didn't make as many panels as I would have liked, but I got so much out of the workshop with Toni Weisskopf that I felt that it more than balanced out. I really enjoyed listening to her, and learned a lot from all the critiques, not just mine. I also found it interesting on another level - maybe only in my own mind - because of her parallel but different perspective of being the one who makes the decision to buy when the previous workshops were by well-published authors. Of course, Mike Resnick is an editor as well as an author, and on board with Baen now, but it seemed that she came at the work from the other direction - and umm. not sure where I'm going with that, maybe just that I found it interesting.

I know my masochistic tendencies are showing, but I loved that she marked the spot where it got tossed in the reject pile. I'm pathetically ecstatic to have gotten to the bottom of the fourth page. go!me.

A couple of things struck home for me. Mainly, that thing they say about researching your market. Yeah. Do that. Know your market, and know the editor or agent you're submitting to. It may not really be possible to find out if they like cats or not, but a good feel for the flavor of that house will help you land in the right place.

In other news, I gained my own bit of recognition - it was fun because they were nice about it, and a little funnier once I'd had a couple of drinks. Fencon always has a short story contest and they announce the winners at their opening on Friday night. Well. I work weeknights - luckily enough I can take my work with me when I travel - but it keeps me in the room Friday nights. So when they announced the winners on Friday, they made the point that I had also won third place the previous year and not showed up for that certificate either ... THEN, at the show on Saturday night - the announced it AGAIN! LOL! and I finally got to go up and get my little bit of spotlight for both years. So anyway - that was fun. I enjoy contests, although I don't think they count for much on the grand scale, I've had a nice little run lately. Four entries to the Cisco contest garnered two firsts and two thirds and I'm especially proud of my 2nd place into RWA Ohio Valley's Summer Sizzle contest. (A couple of those are announced under my married name, just because things are slow to change over.) But the best thing about the Fencon and Cisco wins are the stories. _Love Me_ is a fun rendition of the old-tyme serial cowboy sitcoms .... railroad coming to town, evil rancher, beautiful daughter, requisite sidekick and the handsome stranger that's the hero; and _Sunshine_ is a Pirate Vampires in Space story. I figure that if I can do well enough with fun stuff like space cowboys, pirates and vampires, I should be able to write just about anything. :)

I was glad to get home yesterday afternoon. It's hard for me to be gone with so many horses, there is always something going on, it seems like. But I think in this case, the extra day away was good. We've had such a weird year with so much injury and sickness that it's been getting me down but when I got back Sunday, the days away gave me enough perspective to see that things are on the mend. The spider-bit horse is healing (as is the snake-bit dog) and the snots, excuse me, "respiratory crap" that's been going around is finally getting better instead of worse.

The first visit back is always fun because it seems like their personalities really come out when they're pushing for attention. And believe me, after me being gone for three days - they're attention deficient. GWAIHIR, my stallion, is trick trained and has the personality to be a lap dog if he weighed about a thousand pounds less. He'll start spontaneously tricking when he's real excited and so when I was trying to feed him last night, he kept picking up his bucket and throwing it, and then he would trot over and strike it. (He's trained to charge and strike a target.) And when I leaned over to turn his feeder right side up so I could put the grain in, he starts bowing. All of which is cute enough that I finally just gave up and asked him for a couple of tricks - which I enjoy as much as he does. But then the thing you have to remember is that he does about fifteen trick and he has about fifteen or so cues, but it's like the cue is only a guideline, not a rule. So you're never really sure which trick you're going to get when you cue him. And that's something that's definitely needs to be in a story some day ... when the hero is trying to impress the princess and he asks his horse to bow and the durn beast sticks his tongue out. *grin*.

Even in today's society where horses are more pet than livestock in so many cases, it often gets lost in the shuffle that they all have their little mannerisms and as a horseman, I'm always delighted to see an author give a horse some simple bit of personality because it just seems to add a layer to the whole thing.

We have a mare, BERI, also has an odd eating habit. She eats standing on three legs with her left foreleg tucked up. I'm afraid I'm responsible for that. Her mother was a terrible 'digger', she would paw and paw at feeding time and any time was tied up. So poor Beri, I always used harsh language when she started to dig. Sometimes, she'll paw in the air, but more often she just holds that leg up while she eats.

Our chestnut horse, Glamdring, was aggressive at feeding time as a baby. A horse has to pin it's ears back to act aggressively, to bite or anything like that and so I taught him that he had to perk his ears (happy horse) in order to get his feed. He *knows* this, but he still fusses about it. Any of you who have teenagers know what I'm talking about. So there is me, standing at the feeder with a bucket of grain - and there is he, ears pinned, tossing his head up and down ... dipping his nose in the empty bucket then looking at me and pretending to chew - as if I don't know I'm supposed to pour the feed in the bucket. "Ears," I say. And he'll flip his ears forward and back too fast for me to pour the grain and so we start over with the pinning of the ears and the tossing of the head. Funniest thing is that sometimes he'll put *one* ear forward and keep the other one back. I'll pretend not to notice and he'll get mad but will eventually turn his head to SHOW me that he has an ear forward. As if I couldn't see his left ear from where I'm standing on the right side of the horse. (he clearly thinks there are times that I'm not so smart *LOL*). And the problem with that is that he's so cute when he does it that I usually give in, and, horses being creatures of habit, once you're rewarded them for something three times, it tends to become a regular habit. Which can be something of a problem if you laugh when they've done something bad or even the least bit obnoxious. So if you need an odd thing picked up and tossed, pushed over, stomped on, kicked, smashed or bitten - just work in a couple of incidents through the early parts of the story and if the horse suspects a carrot, a bit of oats or even a good scratch'n at the wrong moment he'll be more than happy to wreak havoc as needed.


Leah Braemel said...

I love that pic of Gwaihir - he really loves doing his tricks and I never got pictures of him doing them. Well, I got a 15 sec video of him kicking a bucket but it's not as impressive as that bow of his. Glad to hear that Phoebe's doing better after her tangle with the rattler.

And congrats again on the contest placings!

Anne P said...

OMG - I'm still laughing about your "3-legged" mare. There's a reason my gelding was named Digger from day #2 of life.

Sounds like you had a fantastic trip too!

Becky Burkheart said...

Thank you Leah.

and YES! Anne, the diggers just drive me crazy! Next time I write a villain on horseback, I'm going to give him a digger. My poor little flamingo mare, her mother would dig a hole to China if you left her tied. She couldn't stand still for more than about 30 seconds without dancing around and if you tried to make her, that leg would be going going going. She was a real energizer bunny!

Tricia said...

I got the comment for this in the wrong place where it makes no sense whatsoever. Oh, well, I'll learn. Excuse my fumbling, it isn't meant to be an insult or anything.

I'll try it again.

I was literally laughing out loud! My daughter has been trying to train her Chocolate Lab with both hand and voice cues. He has learned several commands so she started to try for lie down while signaling with the palm of her hand moving down. He gave her a funny look and raised his paw and copied her hand movement -- looking supremely confident.

Becky Burkheart said...

Hi Tricia, Thanks for posting! I deleted your extra post, but you have me laughing as well at your daughter's pup learning an extra trick with the wrong cue. If it's ok for me to copy the post 'up-stream', I'd like to do a new post on training because I've had some similar experiences with the horses.