Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chapter Two, Part One

Time passed as quickly as the young filly grew, turning winter into spring, and now spring promising summer to follow. Delicate foals on gangly legs became sturdier, more graceful models, losing their baby fur and developing the characteristics that would make them racehorses — or not.

Green had gradually overtaken the gently rolling pastures of Triple Stripe Stud. The large maples that dotted the landscape now wore a fresh cloak of leaves, providing shade that would become vital for the horses’ comfort as the days brought increasing heat.

Pete Miller slowed from a run and sauntered up to the white stud rails of a large field where a group of foals frolicked. The warm sun was finally convincing him that winter was a thing of the past. If this late May afternoon was any indication, the summer was going to be a hot one. The lining of his black nylon pants was damp, and he mopped the sweat off his brow with the arm of his loose t-shirt.

Running had become a ritual for him since the more agreeable weather had returned. Last summer, shortly after his arrival, he had discovered the wooded trails weaving through the farm’s acreage, though winter had put an end to this outlet and forced him to go into a gym in the city for exercise. Even though he was in the city at the track just about every day now, he still preferred to come home for a run now the trails had started to dry up. He wouldn’t call himself anti-social, but he needed this time alone in the solitude of the trees to balance the people and activity of the track and the city. It was relaxing out here, and Triple Stripe Stud was not lacking in pleasant scenery, with well-kept grounds and more beautiful, classy Thoroughbreds than he had been exposed to in his life.

The black filly he had helped deliver back on that freezing January morning stood out amongst her pasturemates, and it wasn’t just because of her diminutive stature or her rare colour — she had turned out to be a true black, something he hadn’t seen before he’d arrived at this farm and come across the stallion Sheol for the first time. Her coat had the same brilliant blue sheen, revealed when she’d lost her fuzzy foal coat. There was undoubtedly something special about this foal. She was tiny, there was no denying that, but otherwise, he found her pretty hard to fault. Pete liked her spirit. For a filly, she was incredibly tough — she acted more like a colt. There were a lot of hopes resting on her, that much was obvious. So far the filly showed every indication she had what it would take, though picking Plate horses at this age was hardly a reliable practice.

It was the stud manager Geai Doucet who had dubbed the filly “Chique,” and Pete knew enough French to recall the meaning — she really was no more than a quid of tobacco to look at. The Anglophones, initiated by Pete’s intentional mispronunciation, had started just calling her Cheeky, and that was appropriate enough. Every ounce of her lived up to that title.

Her desire to run was strongly apparent. Pete’s eyes settled on her small black form as she reared and struck out at the group of other foals, enticing them to play, starting them off on a wild race around the field. Chique led the way, pinning her ears as a chestnut colt attempted to move up beside her. A snap at him with quick teeth and the colt backed off. Pete shook his head. The chestnut looked like the Northern Dancer colt Claude Lachance and Geai Doucet were both pretty high on. That filly sure was a pushy little thing. Her determined attitude was just what everyone liked to see.

She wants to be a front runner, that one, he laughed to himself. He wondered if she’d be where she was supposed to be three years from now — a month away from a start in the Queen’s Plate, as Lise was hoping? Lise was pretty close-mouthed, and he could tell she kept a pretty tight hold on her emotions, but her dream for this filly had leaked out. He wondered where he’d be by then. It would be good to stay associated with an outfit like Triple Stripe as he broke into the Woodbine riding ranks, though he was sure Lise would keep the mount on that filly herself when the time came.

The lively filly took the group for a lap before spinning to a halt by the mares. Pete saw her nip at the chestnut colt and both half reared, but the colt seemed to think it inappropriate to be playing with a girl, and wandered over to his dam to nurse. Pete laughed, thinking the little black looked insulted, left standing there. She turned around and trotted over to Sotisse, but the mare was no more willing to join in on her game, pinning her ears in warning at her daughter. Finally, resigned, Chique dropped her head to graze.

Pete smiled and turned away. The lining of his nylon pants was almost dry now from the warm breeze. He walked past the large broodmare barn, the wooded area extending to his left, and before long picked up an easy run once again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Notes on Chapter One

Yes folks, two posts in one day. :-) I took a quick glance over what I had already posted. I've already been thinking Chapter One needs to be seriously looked at, tightened up, that sort of thing, but some of the commentary may remain.

The filly's destiny is supposed to be the Queen's Plate -- ironically, this year's installment is this coming Sunday. I was looking through the current condition book last night (that's the book that the track handicapper writes outlining prospective races for two weeks at a time) and the Plate is the feature on the last day of this current book. It includes pertinent info such as the nomination process for this prestigious stake. Things have changed in the process since I started writing my novel, and I determined I would keep it in the period of the early 1980s. Things have changed a lot in Canadian racing in general. My story takes place before Canadian Triple Crown race distances, surfaces and timing were altered to be more like the American series. Back then you would still see racing stories in the Toronto Star, where now the Star is so pathetic in its reporting on the local racing scene it might as well be non-existent. I used to look at the Star every single day. A story such as the birth of a notable foal likely would have made it into the Sports pages. That sure wouldn't happen today!

The reality of a breech presentation, from what I've been told by friends with more extensive foaling experience than I, is that it's the sort of case that would be referred immediately to the nearest Large Animal Clinic. Could a 100-pound female manipulate that foal? Might be a bit of a stretch, but for dramatic effect I'm going to go with it. It's not the most unlikely thing that will happen in my story. It's not impossible, either. It's what they taught us in high school English - the willing suspension of disbelief.

I hope you enjoyed meeting the three main characters -- Lise, Pete, and of course the filly! Please excuse my bad Photoshop job. Filling in for the Sotisse filly is Peaker!


I know I started this blog with the intent of including snippets of the infamous LGN, but besides turning out to be a lot more work than I anticipated, I wondered about the sense of it. Why not finish the silly thing once and for all and get it in print, one way or another? I'm not sure I have the time or energy to try and pursue publication in the traditional sense, what with the demands of my art career and layup business, so I may well consider different options. It's quite amazing when I start to realise how many of my fellow horse artists are also writers, closet or otherwise. Perhaps we'll form our own group!

In the meantime, I keep writing (well, re-writing) away as time and my commission avoidance allows! I lurk on a writer's forum called Absolute Writer, and came across a thread asking one to consider what song might be a theme for one's novel. I found out I'm not the only one who has a "soundtrack" of sorts for my novel, but to pick just one song is a bit more challenging. I think my choice would have to be Dan Fogelberg's These Days, from the Captured Angel album. There are other songs on the album that are relevant as well, but this, the opening song on the album, recurs in my head throughout the story. The irony is that the main character is Lise Lachance, but the male protagonist, Pete Miller, refused to take second billing. So These Days is really "his" song.

I used to think of myself as a soldier
Holding his own against impossible odds
Badly outnumbered, and caught in the crossfire
Of devils and gods.

...Oh but these days are just like you and me....

My apologies to Mr. Fogelberg for so blatantly quoting the lyrics! Copyright 1975! While I know that using lyrics in the actual manuscript is a no-no, I do keep Dan Fogelberg as Pete's musical hero. He's not stupid, Mr. Miller -- he knows DF is the "thinking woman's heart-throb!" ;-D

So perhaps this blog will take a slightly different path, just to keep it active. A paragraph here or there, some of my delusional thoughts -- what more could a reader ask for? Haha...what reader(s)?????