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Author and teacher Judy Candis

I knew she'd been fighting breast cancer since the first writing class I took from her at USF back in 2002. And I knew she'd had a recurrence last year but still I wasn't ready when a writer friend emailed me this past week to let me know she died.

Judy Candis taught "How to Write Popular Fiction" as an adult education course for years. Her warmth and energy inspired me to finish my first novel; I left every class ready to go home and write, even at 9:30 at night! She was able to listen students' concerns, answer newbie questions, and teach by example various techniques for writing popular fiction. She didn't have much to say for litfic and I don't think it was a genre that appealed to her in any case.

Several of us from her Part 1 class met again in Part 2 and from there we formed a critique group. We helped one another write novels and short stories and essays and all because Judy had first urged us on.

What I learned from Judy, I need to pass on. To be helpful to new writers; to reach out to the shy and the unsure; and to be present for someone else when they need to talk.

She was inspiring.
  • Current Mood
    melancholy melancholy
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Writing report for the week

It's been a productive writing week for me!

Submission of two short stories to the Amazon Shorts program.

Submission of a short story to Crab Orchard Review. The editors were faculty at the Indiana University Writer's Workshop, which won't enhance my chances any, but they were certainly good teachers.

Submission of a book review to Vision.net. They accepted a previous review of "The Weekend Novelist" so it's a fair shot to sub this one for "Fiction First Aid".

Rejection from Aberrant Dreams magazine.

Rejection from Clarkesworld magazine- less than 3 hours, in fact. And with good criticism that makes me realize (sigh) that the damned story still needs an overhaul.

A tentative acceptance for the Country Boys anthology. I sent one reprint and one new story to Richard LaBonte. The new one I'd really written with his style in mind.

Invitation to participate in the St. Leo University "Celebrating the Story" panels to be held in December.

So, a slightly-busier-than-usual week when combined with a regular work schedule and Real Life. Plus, I'm waiting for the fall weather to mosey the hell down this way so I can get back to the barn and start riding again:).
  • Current Music
    Movie: Knockaround Guys- great soundtrack!
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Escaped tiger killed at Lowry Park Zoo


This makes me sad.

Unfortunately, when a big cat escapes its cage, being killed is the typical ending. And they do escape more often than you might think. I keep an eye on this site: http://www.api4animals.org/popups/a3b_captive_feline_incidents.php When I visited Bloomington earlier this year, there were reports of some type of cougar/leopard/big cat being spotted on the east side of town. Possibly a "pet" that had escaped or that someone deliberately let loose.

At Lowry Park, my heart goes out to the zookeeper who let a door go unlocked; to the zoo director who felt he had to kill the animal; and most of all to the poor cat, who was probably only confused and frightened by all the hullabaloo, not realizing that people were terribly afraid of her. :(

It helps to remember, too, that zoo cats are not *handled* in the same way that some refuge big cats are. Handlers at Big Cat Rescue and the Exotic Feline Refuge do sometimes get in cages with the tigers and play with them. Sometimes. And only under supervision and only with cats they know well. Zoo cats aren't treated like that; you don't cuddle up with a wild cat who's only known cages its whole life. Calling her to come to her cage or putting a leash on her neck wasn't feasible.

I wrote The Man Who Played with Tigers about just such a scenario. (http://www.beleakeeney.com/tmw_tigers.htm) (All rights available). I was fascinated with the emotional push-pull of that situation--knowing that the animal was incredibly dangerous and yet wanting more than anything to keep him alive--and how a handler, who loved his tiger, had to face the possibility of killing it. Anyone who's ever had to euthanize a pet can relate. It's the right thing to do, but oh, how it hurts.
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Florida Artists Enhancement Grant

Earlier this year, I applied for a Florida Artist Enhancement Grant. My goal is to attend the Writers in Paradise workshop (http://writersinparadise.eckerd.edu/index.php?f=events) in late January with the funding. I got an email yesterday from the grants funding office that they would be holding a conference call today to do the preliminary review of applications.

What a neat idea! It was a conference call arrangement and you could call in anytime and listen to the panelists look over apps and score them. I was number 72 out of 84 so I didn't call in until later in the time-frame and sure enough, got to listen to them "do me". One panelist asked me a question, I listened to them score my app, and they thanked me for joining in. It was quite a nice encounter.

Based on the average score I received and the app process, it looks as though my app will be moving into the secondary review, held in October, I believe. :) Squee!

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  • Current Music
    whatever's on the XM jazz channel
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Sara Gruen- Water for Elephants


I wish I were sophisticated enough about this stuff to put her cover here, but I ain't, so just click the link:).

Sara Gruen appeared last night at Tampa's Inkwood Books and charmed the bunch of us. She did it just right, IMO. A brief reading that was compelling and interesting (as opposed to 45 minutes of droning drabness), she had cute stories to tell about her process, and she answered questions with flair and a sense of humor.

Water for Elephants, from what I've read and heard, is a new path for Sara. Her previous books, Riding Lessons and Flying Changes, were both released as mass-market paperbacks. They were first-person POV women's fiction based in world of show jumping and that's what sold me on the books. (There may or may not be a third in the series; I'm not sure on this). WFE is new for Sara in that her POV character is a 90-ish year old man instead of a middle-aged mother. And it's released as a hardback, which means more sales when it goes to trade or MM paperback later. It'll be an interesting read.

Go see her when she comes to your town! http://www.algonquin.com/events/?event_var=author_events&author=Sara+Gruen
And buy the book.

Her website is: www.saragruen.com for more info.
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Barbaro: things are looking grim

In sad news today, Barbaro, the beautiful colt who broke his leg during the Preakness, has taken a turn for the worse:


This is such bad news, especially after he did so well after all his surgeries. He's only three! That's young, that's healthy, that *should* be enough to keep him going. It seemed he was healing up well and dealing with the surgeries well and dammit!

It may not be enough. Laminitis is a disease of the hoof that can be fatal. (It's why Secretariat was put down at the age of 17). Barbaro's case is due to his injury; the other leg can't sustain the weight of the horse and the infection develops.

I've been checking daily for updates on NTRA.com, half-nervous every time I logged on. Now a reason for nervousness and unease exists.

I'm so discouraged. A little hopeful... But mostly sad.
  • Current Mood
    gloomy gloomy
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Kentucky Horse Park


Wow, this is Disney World for horse geeks. I took a sedate trail ride on a horse appropriately name Tigger. Saw two shows of the “Best of Breeds” exhibition, visited with mares and new foals, got kissed by an 18-hand warmblood gelding who either really liked my blue hat or just thought I looked tasty.

The Hall of Champions is a must-see. The stallions there, one of whom is the thoroughbred champion Cigar, clearly believe that they are (still) Studly Hung-so-Well. They come out of their stalls, heads held high. They lean over the rope, literally pose for the visitors, and hold still for the cameras. And all just have the most “I am SUCH hotshit” ‘tude I’ve ever seen in a horse. Absolutely imperious, every one. Lotsa fun!

Lots of educational goodies, two wonderful museums, a trail ride, and hands-on with equines. Loved it, want to go back and Lexington is now competing with Savannah as the town I most want to live in someday.
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Exotic Feline Rescue Center- Indiana


I visited this refuge in June, 2006 and it was thrilling and saddening and kinda creepy. (There's one segment of the tour where you're walking between cages about eight feet apart. One side has Very Interested Tigers in it, walking along with you; the other has Not As Interested Lions. Still extremely intimidating). So many of the cats' stories are dreadful.

This refuge is unusual for a few reasons. One: the cages didn’t have rope barriers in front of them. Now rope barriers don’t prevent a halfwit (or child for that matter), from walking up and sticking his/her hand in a cage but it’s psychological barrier for a visitor. You have a sense that you’re safe from behind the rope and the cats have the same sense, that strangers won’t be invading their homes.

So, in the section where I walked between cages with enormous predators stalking alongside me, I was viscerally reminded that I am so not the top of the food chain. For a few minutes there I was really wondering,” Did I take a wrong turn? Am I supposed to be back here? And what if one of these cages has a hole in it?” I’m tellin’ ya: majorly creepy.

Two: unlike other refuges (and zoos) where only perfect physical specimens are displayed, some of the damaged cats are on the tour. It’s sad to see an abused leopard, limping around his cage, his tail permanently kinked from injury. But dammit, it’s supposed to be sad. Though it might be disturbing to see, it’s the reality too many of these animals suffer.

If you're in Indiana, it’s well worth the visit and they are always glad to have visitors and donations. They are located about 45 minutes west of Bloomington, off State Road 46 west. And if you’d like to buy a gorgeous book about the center: http://www.exoticfelinerescuecenter.org/merchandise.html