Thursday, 25 August 2016

Career Change

Today’s guest blog is by debut author Erik Storey who is the author of the Clyde Barr series set in Colorado.  Nothing Short of Dying is the first book in the series.

I once met an eighty-year old cowboy who’d always ask little kids, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” He didn’t really care for the kids themselves, he told me. But he still hadn’t figured out what he wanted to do with his life, and he was always looking for ideas.

His comments were funny at the time, but I soon realized that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up either. I decided to explore life, and see where it took me. When I graduated high school, my senior quote was: “Learn, try, see, do, and experience as much as possible in a lifetime.” So I tried.

As a young man, I worked on cattle ranches, riding herd on hundreds of cattle as we moved them from the winter feeding ground to the high country, then moved them from pasture to pasture. At the time, I longed to be a cowboy, and I thought I’d finally fulfilled my dream. But it wasn’t all romance. After a couple of summers looking at the tail-ends of cows and eating dust, I decided to find something else to do.

One summer I guided dudes (tourists) on horseback tours around Steamboat Springs. Then I went to college to study American Literature and, while there, learned how to guide hikers and backpackers into the high wilderness outside the old mining town of Leadville. I ventured out on some trips, but it wasn’t for me. I guided some folks on hunting and fishing trips, but again, it wasn’t for me. I worked one winter at a hotel in Breckenridge, then did a stint in a restaurant in Death Valley, then the next winter I found myself taking people on dogsledding tours near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. A winter full of blizzardy days that combined temperatures of twenty degrees below zero with complaining tourists from sunny Florida and Spain didn’t appeal to me, so I continued my quest for something to be when I grew up.

The next fifteen years or so were filled with more odd jobs. At one point or another, I’ve worked as a bartender, locksmith, exterminator, utility locator, truck driver, Forest Service technician, weed sprayer, construction laborer, and janitor. What those years weren’t filled with was writing.

I dabbled a bit in college. Then pretty much gave it up for a decade. Then I scribbled a bit again when I got married and had children. Then I gave it up again, realizing that I’d never write the Great American Novel or win the Pulitzer or Nobel. It was only after my oldest daughter started going to school, and I was working seasonally, that my wife suggested I start writing again. It would be a way to fill the long winter days.

I told her how I felt about my failed literary aspirations, and she told me to write something I’d like to read. That got me unblocked. I recalled the paperbacks that, in my younger days, I used to love reading in cabins and bunkhouses, and I started writing again. The first time I got stuck, I again sought out my wife for advice. She told me to write what I know.

It’s a cliché, I know, but one I don’t mind repeating, because it worked. I based characters and events on things I’d seen in my travels and odd jobs, and eventually I had a novel. It had only taken a couple hundred revisions to see the light of day, but thinking about it in its finished form, I realized that all those odd jobs I’d taken had been subtly pushing me to become a writer. They were, as Louis L’Amour once said, “grist for the mill.”

I still haven’t figured out what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m much, much closer. This writing thing feels right, like something I’ve been working on since high school. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Nothing Short of Dying by Erik Storey is published on 25th August by Simon and Schuster (£12.99)

Sixteen years. That’s how long Clyde Barr has been away from Colorado’s thick forests, alpine deserts, and craggy peaks, running from a past filled with haunting memories. But now he s back, having roamed across three continents as a hunter, adventurer, soldier of fortune, and most recently, unjustly imprisoned convict. And once again, his past is reaching out to claim him.  By the light of a flickering campfire, Clyde receives a frantic phone call from his sister Jen. No sooner has she pleaded with him to come rescue her than the line goes dead. Clyde doesn’t know how much time he has, or where Jen is located, or even who has her. All he knows is that nothing short of dying will stop him from saving her.  Joining Clyde in his against-all-odds quest is a young woman named Allie whose motivations for running this gauntlet are fascinatingly complex. As the duo races against the clock, it is Allie who gets Clyde to see what he has become and what he can still be.

You can find out more about Erik Storey on his website. You can also find him on Facebook and also follow him on Twitter @erikstorey

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