My book Racing the Gods will be published some time next month — its official release date is May 1 — so I thought I’d tell you all about how the book evolved and some reasons it’s worth reading.
This book began with stories from back in the day. Whenever a group of motorcyclists gathered someone would eventually ask what it was like in the “old days.” I liked telling these old tales. My wife, after hearing several, said “You ought to write these stories down while you still remember them. After all, you’re an engineer who can spell!” I thought why not, I’ll write a book. It should be quick and easy, just start writing down my motorcycle and racing adventures in chronological order.
It was quick and easy to write a really bad book. Starting with my first motorcycle and proceeding, by the time I got to 1980 I had 100,000 words. That’s pretty much a 250-300 page book, depending on the number of photos. I showed it to a trusted friend who asked a few key questions that brought me to earth with a thud. The book was awful. The stories were OK but the “glue” I used to tie them together was not OK. I look back at that now and wonder what was I thinking? That was version one.
So I re-wrote it and version two became more or less a history book, an insider’s history of the first four years of Superbike racing. It still stopped in 1980, now with about 80,000 words. It was better than the first one. I showed it to another friend whose reply was, “I don’t care who won what race in 1978, I want to hear your story, especially how you ended up in that wheelchair.”
Sigh. I told him he was talking about a complete second book and many more hours at the keyboard. So I removed or severely shortened all the stuff I wasn’t personally involved in, and added the story of my accident and the struggle of recovery. The book, now version three, ended around 2010 and had ballooned to more than 130,000 words with probably another 30,000 or so removed – which was way more than I ever expected to write. Mind you, I have no training in writing in any form except for a 1 term rhetoric class I took in college in 196mumble.
I sought more advice, this time from some published authors. I was told I had a nice journal – this happened, then I did this, then that happened, and so forth. But it wasn’t a memoir yet. It needed more of me in it – what were you thinking when that happened, how did you feel about this, what were your emotions? Time to edit, edit, edit. Version four if you are still counting.
I went to a writers conference in Portland and took a seminar on writing memoirs given by a successful author. She explained that a good memoir is not just a diary. The protagonist (she used the word hero) needs to confront an issue, a problem of some sort, overcome the problem, and thus is changed in a fundamental way. Oh. I can do that. That has been my life. Time to edit, edit, edit. I took out a number of stories, good racing stories and rehabilitation stories but ones that didn’t move the main focus forward, and added more of my thoughts and feelings, more about overcoming. Version five was created.
Then in 2012 I stopped writing and started looking for a publisher. I found out that the major publishers don’t accept unsolicited material — you need to be represented by a literary agent. So I tried to find an agent. Hoo boy! I thought writing the book was hard. Finding an agent was impossible. Often there would simply be no reply. Sometimes here would be a polite form letter rejection — “Sorry but your work doesn’t fit our needs. Good luck with it.” And sometimes the agent would reject my book but actually offer suggestions. After sending out many queries and getting a healthy number of rejections, a small number of agents suggested I try smaller “niche” publishers with a motorcycling theme. I went to my bookshelf and wrote down the publishers of my motorcycle-related books (I have many) and my recovering-from-spinal-cord-injury books (I have a few of those), and tossed out all the big publishers, leaving me with a collection of about a dozen small publishers.
Most of the small presses, bless their hearts, will accept material directly — you don’t need an agent. So I sent proposals and writing samples to these small presses and Octane Press picked it up. The publisher wanted a few changes, nothing major, but enough I consider that the final version is number six.
So here we are – several years and many, many hours at the keyboard since I wrote that first “quick and easy” book.
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Why is it interesting, why should someone buy it? There are a few reasons.
It’s not a history book, but it does contain a lot of history. It covers the formative years of Superbike racing, why the class was created, why it flourished. There are personal observations of many of the early Superbike riders and tuners. If you are interested in Superbikes you should buy this book.
It has some good racing stories. A few of them have been re-printed here. If you like the pages in this blog identified as excerpts you should buy this book. There are a lot more stories like that in the book.
If you want to know why I, a street rider, turned to road racing, or what it felt like when I won my first Professional Superbike race, you should buy this book.
If you like inspirational stories of people overcoming long odds, and about a successful recovery from what should have been a fatal accident, you should buy this book.
There’s also a couple of love stories tucked away in the pages for the romance fans.
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People write books for a lot of different reasons. Some do it to make money, hoping their book will become a best seller. Some folks, my mom for example, wanted to record her family history for future generations and don’t expect to sell except to their descendants and close acquaintances. Some people are compelled to write — it’s in their blood and they can’t help themselves.
I didn’t write this for money. I don’t expect to make any money, but it would be nice to break even. I hope to sell enough to cover the costs of the “how to publish” books I’ve bought, the classes I’ve taken and the conferences I’ve attended.
I’m not a natural born writer. Putting this book together was sometimes fun but mostly it was hard work, and at times looked like it wasn’t going to happen.
I wrote this book because I and the other Superbike Pioneers did something
special, and I want it to be recognized. Nobody has written much about the genesis of the Superbike class until now. I also wanted to show people that with hard work and determination you can recover from what appears to be a hopeless situation.
And I wrote it because my wife told me to.
If you read the book I hope you enjoy it.