My NaNoWriMo and what I wrote:
“BUG” a Novel
I thought it couldn't be done. Last year I scoffed at NaNo as a frivolous time-waster, this year I tried it, and determined it to be a real challenge. Write a novel in one month? Simple you say? Think again.
I have a slow working mind. I would rather savor an idea, let it stew a good long time, decide how to present it, and then delicately construct perfect ways of bringing forth the story, with the sort of judiciousness of a master brewer.
But this time, I was unemployed, going bankrupt, and about to lose my house. Good old 2008. I will always remember you. I was not even able to get a part time temporary job (too much education) for a few months to tide me over. I had just that much more understanding of a life that can go totally wrong. Perfect stuff for writing books
None the less, with uncounted others I banged out 50,000 words in thirty days, and felt the end result had a delicious satisfaction that I have not felt with the snail's pace I worked with in the past. I learned to steer with the lights off, to trust my instinct.
What I wrote: BUG
It was 1973, and Americans were seeing the Vietnam war finally end, a President go down due to greed and corruption. The Arab Embargo had hit and the country was in a deep recession. Suddenly, for a few months, the eyes of America were turned on the event that had been brewing since the three year old colt won the Kentucky Derby-- a real chance at the Triple Crown, a series of three races that had not been won for 28 years, since the great Cigar in 1948. I would say that one of the most exciting moments in sport happened when a Virginia bred Secretariat made a thirty-eight length lead in the longest and most arduous race in American horse racing.
My young protagonist, Griffy Graham is a “bug,” an apprentice jockey. He is about to find himself in the racing world of the late seventies, early eighties where drugs, graft, and money nearly destroyed the venerable sport. For a moment though, Griffy sees the personification of perfection in one horse as he inadvertently sees each of the triple crown races, once with a couple of drunk friends, once with a group of sophisticated socialites, and the last and most awe inspiring, the Belmont, with his father, a POW just home from Vietnam.
Griffy learns what it means to be a true winner after his best friend is killed on the track, and he must choose between what is right and what is popular, what is illusion, and what is real. My thought was to get as close to the realism of a racing book like “Seabiscuit,” or “Three Strides before the Wire,” and yet have a coming to age story like “On The Road,” or “The Travels of Jamie McPheeters” (which I admit was one of my favorite books growing up. In fact it is an ordinary young man coming of age under extraordinary circumstances.
Of course, this did not all come to me at the spur of the moment. I had been researching racing for several years. “Bug” was just one of several books I am in the midst of writing where horse racing predominates. I learned to handicap races. I've talked to jockeys, and trainers. I've read nearly everything I can find on horse racing. I guess I'm a fan.
What is it about races? I think they are a sometimes cold test of worth, as experienced through statistics, or the value of a stud fee. But they are also the emotional test of Heart. Obviously there is a high and low road in this. I am a vegetarian, and it seems odd that I write about racing, but really there is a good and bad. I feel with the new synthetic tracks that racing is being made safer for horses and men, but is it too late? It only takes the bad press of a great horse's demise, like Eight-Belles, or Barbaro, or the sad luck with Big Brown's hooves to work the public into a frenzy. As an author, the balance between the good and the bad make a subject worth writing about. I think as with Hemingway, it is the excitement of the thing, and maybe the timeliness.