And I thought I was writing fiction

I started writing my book during NaNoWriMo 2005 (specifically on November 5, 2005). I discovered the NaNoWriMo site because of a headline I saw on Google News (before the days of iGoogle and it’s time-evaporating excellence). It was the motivation I needed. I had my kernel idea: the sick and the scared. I was off like a rocket.

I wrote each night after the children had gone to bed and did my research during lunch at work. I researched viruses that cause the white of an eye to turn red. I found tuberculosis to fit. Tuberculosis can cause coughing fits violent enough to burst capillaries allowing blood to seep between the conjuntiva & sclera (the white) of the eye. With a little creative license, I could bend the traits of the virus to meet my storyline.

Then I found this December 2003 press release from the University of California at Berkeley. It turned out that during an experiment to test a latent strain of TB, the researchers created a mutant form more deadly than the counterpart.

“These findings came as a complete surprise to us,” said Dr. Lee Riley, professor of epidemiology and infectious diseases at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study.

The test was to disable a collection of genes believed to impair the pathogen’s efficacy. As they discovered, disabling the collection made the virus more deadly.

“This is one of the very few hypervirulent organisms ever created,” said Lisa Morici, a lead author of the study who received her Ph.D. in infectious diseases from UC Berkeley in May.

The premise of my book: Research continued, fueled by government paranoia and the race to patent genes for profit (tip of the hat to Michael Crichton’s Next) with catastrophic results. My novel, Strain, follows the lives of a small group of people as they struggle to survive after the collapse. The fragile peace of the frontier town is shattered with the arrival of the first healthy newborn since the outbreak. The town’s power brokers tear the town, and one another, apart to gain control of the child and his mother. The child and mother’s only chance for freedom and survival is with one man, the last uninfected person in town – an outsider who lives in the shadows in fear of the virus, but who will risk everything to…

You get the idea.

Then today, I read this article on Wired listing the unnerving system and protocol failures at our nation’s laboratories handling the deadliest viruses and toxins known to man.

“It may be only a matter of time before our nation has a public health incident with potentially catastrophic results,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.

Even with all the research I’ve done, the story still gave me the shivers. It was as if Wired had plugged into my back story. Crazy.

So I need to finish the first draft. I’ve eclipsed 70,000 words with my ending in site. I took the last several days and nights to track down where everyone is in the story. I really needed to get my head around all the threads to test their strength; found a couple of weak ones and gave ’em a tug. Found a lot of strong ones and felt much better.

I’m overdue on my October 1 deadline, but I did manage to create a story that is tense and well crafted. The second draft is going to be just as challenging, but with the solid foundation, the finish work should go smoothly.

Fingers crossed.

2 days overdue (48:47:30)


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