Category: Horses

I didn’t win in the 2014 IPPY Awards – neither did 4,900 other people

Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem (Bloodsong 2)

It’s amazing how the Universe reaches out shows you what really matters. I was getting all anxious about whether or not I’d win anything in the 2014 IPPY (Independent Publisher) Awards. I put my new book Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem in maybe four categories, doing a shotgun approach and entering it in any category that it might conceivably win. I thought I’d win something. In the past, I’ve won Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medals in the IPPYs with other books. I know my stuff is pretty good, and I think Mogollon is the best I’ve written. The cover is amazing.

These concerns were swept aside when my hands began REALLY HURTING in the days before the 2014 IPPY winners were announced. Do not make the mistake of thinking that itty-bitty joints will only have itty-bitty pain. They can have REALLY BIG PAIN.

I have been blissfully abusing my shoulders, arms and hands for almost twenty years, since I began writing full time in 1995. I wrote in eight-hour marathons, producing torrents of words, book upon book, with no physical problems.  Yes, my shoulders would occasionally refuse to move after a writing session, but nothing prepared me for the full scale physical rebellion that occurred as the 2014 IPPY Award contest approached its close.

When your hands REALLY HURT and you’re wondering how you’re going to produce the ten or so books you’ve got as drafts on your hard drive, or if you’re going to be able to keep doing what you love most in life, how you did in a friggin’ contest pales to insignificance.

* * *

A realization threaded through the tenderness of my painful pinkies: if I pulled a big zero, so did approximately 4,900 other entrants! We are the majority! In any democratic system, we’d be the winners! Even though my focus at the moment is on my digital woes, I realized that many of those 4,900 people might like  a pick me up about the whole thing.  Fortunately, I have an article about losing in contests prepared and ready for you. [I've lost before! ;-) ]

If you feel badly about spending a bunch of money and getting nothing back but heartburn, read and enjoy:

While winning is fun, you can learn a lot from losing. Maybe even more than from winning. The last time I lost big in the IPPYs, I wrote a lengthy true story about what I’d learned from losing in horse shows. I’m linking it here and above.  I’m gonna do a short recap below. I think I’ve got about ten minutes more typing in me for the day. (No, my hands haven’t stopped hurting.)

* * *

What you can win from losing: I’ve ridden horses most of my life. My family operated a  ranch where we bred, birthed, raised, trained and showed horses for twenty years. We still have five, even though we’re in retirement mode.

To show horses and win, you have to be a killer.  Getting a horse trained and in shape for showing, getting yourself in the same shape, learning to ride well enough to perform in the show ring, and handling everything that goes on at a show [your nerves and the horse's] is a HUGE job. Huge. You have to really want to win to master all that. You need to develop “one-pointed consciousness” like meditation masters and martial artists. A horse show championship is the black belt of riding.

The Monterrey Trails Classic Peruvian Paso Horse Show was one of the most prestigious shows in the Peruvian Paso breed. One balmy day, I found myself in the arena mounted on Vistoso, one of the best horses we’d bred in twenty years. A gorgeous bright chestnut (think the brightest red Revlon hair color ), Vistoso was an amazing horse. Beautiful head carriage, collection. Gait up the wazoo. Plus I had a jacket that exactly matched his coat. We were on as we cruised around the ring. That horse did not take a false step the entire class.

AZTECA DE ORO BSN & I AT MONTEREY This isn't me on Vistoso, this is me on his full brother, Azteca. Don't have a pic of Vistoso.

I figured we had it made in the shade. The class was ours.

The announcer began calling out the winners. The way Peruvian shows go, everyone who didn’t win is dismissed first, then the awards are announced lowest place to highest: fifth, fourth, third. Second.

For some reason, they called my number. I got second. What!? Impossible. We were perfect. More than perfect. Way better than the winner. She was a petite woman I knew from hanging out at shows. Her horse was a small liver chestnut. Liver? Yes.

She won. I got royally pi**ed. And stayed that way.

Later that evening, the dinner dance that the show hosted was rockin’. Food, drink, everything. And everyone. Threading my way through the crowds, I ran smack into the judge. She beamed at me and said, “Boy, you really rode that horse this afternoon.”

I’m not a  wimp. I’m a liberated woman. I’ve taught assertiveness trainings. I fired back, “If you thought I rode so well, why didn’t you give me first instead of second?” My eyes were not shooting daggers, they were machetes.

She rocked back and said without pause, “This is a really good show. A second here is the same as a championship somewhere else.”

I left, glad I’d asserted myself. I felt righteous.

* * *

Fast forward to the end of the show season. I was at Griffith Park in Los Angeles, the mega-horse park where our National Championships were held that year. That competition was too tough for me; I didn’t make the first cuts in my classes. With nothing else to do, I watched the show from the stadium. My back went up when that woman, the one  who stole the class from me in Monterrey, rode in on that rotten little liver horse.

I leaned forward, a growl turning over in my throat. She was a petite, slender woman with rich brown hair. Her spine was erect, perfectly balanced as she sat the horse. She held her hands low, almost touching the front of the saddle. Her equitation was plu-perfect.

Her horse, the grubby little thing I’d dismissed, wasn’t so grubby when I looked at him carefully. Liver chestnut is actually a rich medium brown, very correct and conservative. The horse was small and fine, elegant, like its rider. They were a brilliant match of type and style. The animal moved along, relaxed, but alert, and precisely gaited.

Riding is one sport where the better you are, the less you do. You can see dressage riders in the Olympics whose horses are doing unbelievable things, but you can’t see the rider doing anything. The pair before me were like that. Exquisite. There’s good riding, and then excellent riding. This was riding touched by angels.

My mouth fell open. My hands went cold. I didn’t win that class in Monterrey because I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t see my competition because I was busy riding my own horse. Seeing that woman in that arena told me that she and that little gelding were world class. (In fact, they would win the National Champion of Champions Performance Gelding title later in the show.)

I remembered what I had said to that judge. My cheeks flamed.  I had been so rude to that nice woman. I am still embarrassed about what I said.

* * *

So there it is: I didn’t win because I didn’t deserve to. I didn’t know I wasn’t the best because I was busy riding my own horse and couldn’t see the others.

Addressing my fellow 4,900 “losers”, am I saying that our books didn’t win in the IPPYs because they weren’t good enough? Well . . .

Let’s take a look at that. When you enter your book in a contest, it’s like entering the arena on Vistoso that day in Monterrey. You can’t see the competition. You don’t know how good the other entrants’ books were. And you’ll never know. Remember me mouthing off to that judge when you feel like screaming over your placement. Don’t do something similar and embarrass yourself.


1. Never enter a book contest again. This is a pretty good option. Book contests are expensive. Aside from the cost of editing, proofreading, having my book designed and printed, along with the nineteen (yes, nineteen) years of my life I spent writing my book, Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem, I forked out perhaps $300 in entry fees for the categories I entered.

Here’s a big question: do indie authors need awards from book contests to sell their books? Let’s look at some of the most successful authors––indie or traditional––of our time. Take John Locke, the first indie published author to sell one million ebooks. What did that get him? A lot of money and a contract with Simon & Schuster, one that he designed that meets his needs.  And then we’ve got Amanda Hocking, who parlayed her young adult series into millions of book sales and dollars, and a contract with St. Martin’s Press. Darcie Chan, who published her book as an eBook after being rejected my the major publishers. She’s probably getting close to a million eBook sales by now and is a NYT Bestselling author, not to mention having a lot more loose change. What list of successful indies could leave out JA Konrath, the father of the “you can do better publishing it yourself” movement.

Did any of these people use awards from book contests for independent presses as their springboards to success? No. Did any of them enter such contests? Not that I know of. (I don’t think they do blog tours, either.)

From these success stories, it looks like not entering book contests may increase your chances of success. Figuring out how to effectively sell your book is way to go.

2. Say you want to win prizes and enter more contests. What then? I’m like that. A compulsive competitor. I like to say, “Hi, I’m Sandy Nathan, award-winning author. I’ve won . . .” I like stickers and medals and certificates. I like to increase the number of wins I’ve got and post the new totals all over. Look at my website, for Pete’s sake. If that isn’t ever conspicuous flashing of glitz I don’t know what is.

You’re like me, you didn’t win the IPPYs this year, but you want to try again. Read the linked article and do what it says. This is my famous “What I do to win book contests” article. Do all that and enter your new book next year. [Caveat: you don't need to include press kits anymore, so putting together a winning entry isn't as awful.]

Or–change contests. The IPPYs are a huge, prestigious contest, like the National Championships I described above. Are you up to that competition? If you don’t think you you can make it in the rarefied atmosphere of the IPPYs, pick a different contest. My article on how to win book contests has links to some very nice smaller contests. Maybe one is just perfect for your book.

3. If my recitation of what you actually get out of book contests tells you there’s no sense at all in entering, try picking a contest with really good prizes. Good prizes are a reason to compete even if you see no reason to enter anything after my little pep talk above.  The National Indie Excellence Contest has killer prizes for the top books in the competition. Check ‘em out on their web site. They have regular winner and finalist prizes for the various categories, but the overall winners get stuff like thousands of dollars of services from top publicists.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy (Earth’s End 1) This is The Angel's original cover, which won the Gold.

4. What does winning  mean?

A WINNER! In 2011, I was thrilled and delighted when my book The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy won the Gold Medal in Visionary Fiction at the 2011 IPPYs. I’d won in previous IPPYs, but never a Gold.

The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy is the first book of the Earth’s End series. The series is a fantasy/sci-fi/visionary fiction tale about people pushed to the literal ends of the earth. In The Angel, nuclear holocaust looms as the characters work to mend their past “business” and figure out how to survive the destruction of the planet.

The Angel is a good book. It’s an important book treating the possibility of nuclear weapons destroying our world, as well as what can come from an economic disaster which is not successfully resolved. It’s beautifully produced and has a killer cover. I like this book very much.



Lady Grace & the War for a New World

A LOSER! Lady Grace & the War for a New World is the second book in the Earth’s End series. I entered it in the 2012 IPPY Awards. Lady Grace sets out what happens to a small group of survivors of the nuclear war as they begin to create a new world. Every book professional who has touched Lady Grace has told me that it’s not just better than The Angel, it’s way better.

“Your pacing, the plotting, the characters––all are terrific. This is the best writing you’ve done.” That was my editor, who is one tough cookie. Others professionals said the same sort of thing: I’d hit my stride with Lady Grace. I knew it, too.

How do you tell when you’re getting accurate feedback? A woman who told me she’d hated everything I’ve written called me babbling in rapture after reading Lady Grace “It’s fantastic, Sandy. It’s the best book I’ve ever read. How did you do that? Where did you come up with all that?” And more, she went on and on. I loved it.

So, even though everyone loved Lady Grace and it was a better book than the Gold-winning Angel, it got Zippo in the 2012 IPPYs. A big nothing. However,  Lady Grace’s original cover sucked. It was a case of me directing my designer too much and in the wrong direction. We changed the cover and title. Voila! A repackaged book that’s way better that the WINNER! But it’s still a LOSER!


Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem (Bloodsong 2)

ANOTHER LOSER! Mogollon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mayhem is the best book I’ve written, in my opinion.  My little band of fans also says it’s the best book I’ve written. It’s got a killer cover with Rick Mora, a famous Native American actor, model, and philanthropist on the front.


SO WHAT ABOUT JUDGING? I’m not doing the snotty thing that I did to that poor judge in Monterrey.  I don’t know what the competition was in 2012 or 2014, or what the competition was in 2011 when The Angel won the Gold.

It’s just really weird to me that a lesser book should win the competition and a superior ones not even place. Did the judges read it? Maybe totally different judges were working in 2012 and 2014, and they had different preferences. A lot of things could have happened, and some of them must have.

What does the judging mean? What do you win when you win? Are the winners really the best books? What does an award mean?

The more I think on these things, the more I tend to agree with my husband. Maybe twenty-four awards is enough.

So, to the 4,900 friends and fellow campers who did nothing in the  2o14 IPPYs, we’ve finished our romp through Book Contest Land. I don’t know if I made you feel any better after your non-award, but maybe I made  you more thoughtful.

HERE’S BREAKING NEWS ON THE POWER OF BLOGGING AND THE INTERNET: I posted the article you’re reading and thought nothing more of it. A few days later, I Googled 2014 IPPY WINNERS and was stunned to find that my blog article was the #6 ranked entry, with only posts by those who ran the IPPY Awards above me. I Googled again the next day and found my article was #5th and #6th listed out of a total of 247,000 results. It was ranked above ALL THE WINNERS and the gigantic GOODREADS! I’ve got it on my Facebook pages, asking people to share. (If  you’d like to share this blog article, I’ve got a share mechanism on the page somewhere. Have a ball!)

Remains to be seen how this will shake out, but losing that contest may be the biggest break I’ve had!

So long friends, win or lose–blog about it!



So long for now! Keep losing, everyone! The company’s great and you may get lots of recognition from it!
Sandy Nathan: My old, really cool website with all the award stickers and a free eBook download through May, 2014!

My New, Interactive Website


MOGOLLON – This is not a COVER REVEAL – repeat NOT – This is a conversation with FREE BOOKS attached

My new book, MOGOLLON: A TALE OF MYSTICISM & MAYHEM is poised for release. Poised, but not there yet. At this point in a book’s production, everyone involved is just a little touchy and very tired. But decisions must be made.

Mogollon is a story of conflict, contrast, and personal growth. Will Duane, the richest man in the world, and his key executives are thrown together with Grandfather, an old Native American shaman and his People. The conflict plays out at a Native American spiritual retreat hosted by the shaman.

This is where I need your help. I’ve got the coolest cover in the universe. Scroll down. The extremely attractive guy on the horse is Rick Mora, a Native American actor, model & philanthropist. When I write a book, I usually do a video incorporating images of real people that I think look like my characters. It makes the character more real to me. In search of images for the video, I searched for “beautiful Native American men.”  Photos of Rick covered about half the page.

Rick looks exactly like my idea of a key character in Mogollon: Wesley Silverhorse. Wesley is Grandfather’s most advanced spirit warrior and expected to succeed  the shaman when the time comes. Wesley has all sorts of spiritual powers, but he’s a really nice guy and very modest. In wanting Rick on my cover, I wanted more than just a pretty face. Wesley is beautiful, and he’s also moral, kind and generous. And very sweet. To me, Rick embodies those qualities.

Here he is, riding across the New Mexico sand. Or ocean.

OK. I’ve got this great cover. So why am I holding a NOT COVER REVEAL? I’ve got another great cover and I can’t decide between them. I’ve asked all my friends what they think. They say all sorts of things. I’d like to see what you think. Here’s the other cover:

Not much difference, is there? Except for the shaman floating in the sky above Rick. Shaman or no shaman, that is the question. Scroll up and down on the page, comparing both of them.

And then leave a comment on this post and tell me which cover you like better and why. I’ll randomly select people and send them a free eBook of Mogollon. I’ve got ePub and mobi versions; tell me which you need. You can’t get Mogollon anywhere; the book is not out yet. When will it be out? That’s a good question.

Let’s discuss the shaman in the sky from an art critic’s position. The version without the shaman is a superior piece of art, hands down. Most art professionals frown on anything hovering in the sky: buffalo, fairies, hearts, you name it. They are tacky, unsophisticated, and trite. Sorry, lovers of floating wildlife.

Most of my friends and one editor said exactly that. “No shaman! No shaman! No shaman!” Some threatened to hold their breath until I promised to get rid of him.

But my eye just grabs onto that shaman and won’t let go. Why? Here’s something you probably don’t  know about me. I was associated with a meditation school based in India for, oh, about thirty years. We did all sorts of spiritual practices, but my favorite was the spiritual retreat. Go away for a few days, come home with all your demons singing in harmony.

I stopped counting how many retreats I’d done when I hit sixty. Yes, sixty. I don’t know how many more I did. My brain is thoroughly fried. People ask me where I get the ideas for my books  and how I write them. The ideas come from spending lots of time on the other side, the home of bliss and visions and creativity. I write the way I do from hard work.

Do you know what it’s like sitting in a meditation hall with a meditation master? When I got within ten feet of my first meditation master, my mind shut down. The energy blasting off of him made it hard to breathe, much less think. A still mind reveals what’s underneath the busyness of ordinary life. What’s that? Bliss. An ecstatic universe underlies the world around us.

And–you can get seriously intoxicated meditating. I did, as often as possible. Nothing is better than the high you can get through spiritual practice. Nothing. That’s why all those monks are smiling.

Bliss is the hallmark of  spirit.

So I go for the shaman.

What does this have to do with which cover I should use? Not a lot, because my developmental editor gave both the covers above  a devastating blow:


Ooh. That smarts, but it’s true. Mogollon is set in 1997. Will Duane, the richest man on earth, made his fortune by starting the tech revolution in the late 1950s. He’s kept ahead of all competition since then. His corporation has the most advanced technology available on the planet. To offset business cycle ups and downs, Will’s diversified into other industries.  He rules the economic world. Will and his team are Silicon Valley hotshots all the way, even if they’re in the New Mexico wilderness. Mogollon isn’t a western at all.

But I love the cover and don’t want to change it. How can we get the existing cover to reflect the contemporary and cutting edge status of the corporate side of the equation? We’re working on it.

Meanwhile I had the best idea:

The perfect merging of tech culture and a spirit warrior.

If I was better with Photoshop, I’d show Rick riding the horse while using the laptop.

That’s it for now. Sometime soon I’ll have a real cover reveal.

Write a comment any maybe you’ll win an eBook of  Mogollon.


  Sandy Nathan and Tecolote
Sandy’s Amazon Author Page
   Sandy’s Web Site

Here’s the text from the rear of the cover. It will give you a better idea of the book:


Will Duane owns the tech revolution. It’s 1997; Will’s been the richest man on the planet for twenty years. He sways governments and ruins lives. Will has a new mission, one that brings him into conflict with all that’s holy. He and his corporate hot shots have reached their destination, a Native American spiritual retreat in the New Mexico desert. Their caravan enters the Mogollon Bowl, a geophysical anomaly where anything can happen. Now Will can spring his trap.

Grandfather, the shaman leading the retreat, has different plans. He has a vision of a world where love is king, a world of peace and harmony. His corporate guest is the key to making his vision real.

Another force watches them, waiting for an opening. Both men’s hopes are dashed, as a sacred place becomes the playground of evil. A malevolent power reaches for them, trying to claim their lives and souls.

An unforgettable modern day fable, Mogollon is a high-speed, high stakes fantasy with visionary roots.

Award-winning Author Sandy Nathan’s Poem Is Featured in Cowgirl Magazine!

Author Sandy Nathan riding the real Azteca at the Monterey Peruvian Paso Horse Show.

Click on the link below to see a pdf of the entire Cowgirl Magazine article. Some great photos of beautiful people and horses. (Plus a selection from my poem.)

COWGIRLmag_The Peruvian Horse

Here’s what Cowgirl Magazine printed of my poem:

AZTECA - This is the selection from the poem in Cowgirl Magazine.

Wow! When editor Deborah Donahue contacted me to ask permission to feature portions of my poem “Azteca” in Cowgirl Magazine I was really surprised. Why? I’d forgotten about it. I wrote Azteca in 1996. The poem swept the Peruvian Paso world when I wrote it. I heard it was translated into Spanish and sent to South America. I stuck it on one of my websites and went on to write other things. (See the end of this article for information about me and my writing.)

People are largely unaware of the spiritual synergy possible when humans meet horses. I’ve been aware of it for many years. My first spiritual experiences happened when I was a young teenager riding my horse through the redwood forests of California’s Coastal Range. Riding through those silent places with the redwoods reaching for the sun like living spears became magical, sometimes. All that existed was me, my horse, the redwoods and motes of light drifting down lazily from the sun. Boundaries shifted and broke down. All of it merged, the forest and my horse and I became one.

This unitive experience is only the beginning of the spiritual gifts horses can bring, which I found out as years passed. In the poem “Azteca,” I toss together what happened to me in those early trail rides and the explosive, transcendent experience that I found in the show arena.

“Azteca” is based on an experience I had in the Amateur Owner to Ride class at the National Championships in LA’s Griffith Park. Happened the first time I rode in national competition. It happened again the next year on a different horse, also in the National Championships. The stress of competing at that level tossed me into Nirvana. Such experiences are the best reason I can think of for showing horses. Shows can pop out transcendent experiences such as the one described in “Azteca.”

Azteca is a real horse. We bred him and owned him for many years. He was one of the hottest––most energetic and spirited––horses we’ve bred. Azteca is now in his mid-twenties, sound and healthy and doing occasional work on a ranch.

Here’s the whole poem. I hope you enjoy it.


Azteca, as noble as his name.
Flaxen locks tumble down his classic face,
splash hard on a shoulder sloped so fine.
Slick copper flanks slide
into flashing legs,
stop at tendons, carved taut and dry.

Azteca, as noble as his name,
steps out over rocky paths,
picking through obstacles,
white legs dashing
a four beat gait.

Azteca, as noble as his name,
carries me up rocky roads,
past people, cars and town.
Our far beyond it all, to lands
where panthers roam.

Azteca, swinging his Spanish gait,
tireless legs slashing,
carries me through the
brilliance of it.
Moves me past
mountains, lakes and eagles
into another realm.

Suddenly––we are higher than the eagles,
flying past the stars.
The heart of me is pierced by it,
the awful, roaring beauty
of sky and rocks and sun.
Of my horse and I alone in it,
a solitude of joy and pain.

My heart aches with what I see
above, below, around me:
nothing but exquisite space.
And streaming through that vapor,
God’s true face.

The bliss of being part of it rocks me,
sweeps me wide.
Tears burst forth so sweetly
as my soul shouts out its cry––

“Thank you, Lord, for making me,
for making this good horse.
Thank you for this moment,
your gift of grace to me.”

These words of thanks
raise me high again,
’til the mind’s distinction
‘tween world and horse and I
loses fascination,
lets go its deathly hold.

In a flash, all fades out–
no horse, no rider, no mountain,
neither sky nor sun.
Naught but God’s creation–
mountain, horse, and I are one.

Sandy Nathan
Copyright 3/17/96

Sandy Nathan and Tecolote

Author Sandy Nathan writes to amaze and delight, uplift and inspire, as well as thrill and occasionally terrify. She is known for creating unforgettable characters and putting them in do or die situations. She writes in genres ranging from science fiction, fantasy, and visionary fiction to juvenile nonfiction, spirituality and memoir.

Mrs. Nathan’s books have won twenty-four national awards, including multiple awards from oldest, largest, and most prestigious contests for independent publishers. Her books have earned rave reviews from critics and reviewers alike. Sandylives with her husband on their California ranch. They bred Peruvian Paso horses for almost twenty years. She has three grown children and two grandchildren.

Would you like to know more about Sandy Nathan’s writing?

Sandy’s Amazon Author Page. Click here of on image.

They range from wild sci-fi to adorable children’s nonfiction. You’ll find something you’ll like in the list below:

  • NUMENON,  a novel about the richest man in the world meeting a great Native American shaman
  • STEPPING OFF THE EDGE, a modern day spiritual companion
  • TECOLOTE, the adorable kids’ book about a baby horse.
  • EARTH’S END––the new, three book sci-fi/fantasy/visionary series that takes you to the end of the earth, and beyond.
    The Angel & the Brown-Eyed Boy––An angelic girl shows up on the sidewalks of New York City in 2197. Or is she a girl? Jeremy Edgarton, teenage genius and revolutionary decodes the transmissions. They say the world will blow up tomorrow morning.
    Lady Grace––The radiation has cleared. A few survivors make it back to Piermont Manor to start a new life. What they face is a battle more deadly than any they’ve fought. Evolution can work for evil as well as good.
    Sam & Emily––Can love live in an echoing cement bomb shelter three hundred feet below the earth’s surface? Find out in Sam and Emily as headman Sam Baahuhd falls in love with a beautiful assassin.

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