Friday, September 18, 2015

Dream Chaser: Taking Chances

I’ve always been adventurous. Skydiving, hiking, mountain climbing, exploring strange places, and much more. Often, I stray from the beaten path, venturing into unknown territory. Even though I do these things from an educated approach, there are always risks and dangers. They say it’s the ones who know better who often find themselves in the most trouble. I don’t know who ‘they’ are… but they are right.

Let’s start with a true story:

As I said, I am adventurous but I know all the rules, precautions, protocols, and I’m a firm believer in being over prepared. But, I’m not perfect. Not long ago, my girlfriend and I decided it was a good day to drive to the mountains. We loaded two dogs into our 4x4 and headed up Rampart Range Road. We didn’t pack hiking gear or supplies since we only intended to drive. We came across Rampart Reservoir. Wanting to walk the dogs, we stopped. We had water in the trunk, but since we were just taking the dogs for a short walk, we left the water behind.

The reservoir was beautiful. It was a clear day over blue waters. Wild flowers were in bloom. It was quiet and peaceful. We walked the dogs and I started taking pictures with my cell phone. We ended up on the other side of the lake. I looked around, assessed the situation, and we chose to go a little further. We saw some runners coming from the other direction. Thinking we were still in good shape, we went even further. Then my dog hurt his paws and could barely walk. We tried to encourage him along, but it was getting late. The sun was going down and I knew we were in trouble.

I’ve made many difficult decisions in my life, but this was the hardest. We had no supplies, no water, and the sun was falling faster than we were walking. My dog could not keep up. We were about to be stranded. I knew we could move faster without my dog who was too heavy for me to carry. I knew he had a better chance of surviving if we got to safety and returned for him. I removed his leash. We left him behind, listening to his heartbreaking cries echo over the reservoir, growing more distant until he went silent.

Unfortunately, the sun fell behind the mountain quickly. The trail was twisting, turning, and becoming more dangerous. Then it became so dark I couldn’t see the way forward. At one point, I had found a spot with the faintest of cell signals. For the sake of everyone involved, I opted to return to that spot and call for help.

A team of four showed up. We had walked twelve miles around the lake and were less than two miles from the car. One member of the rescue team escorted my girlfriend to safety. I went with the other three to find my dog, I called for Lycan, and was thrilled when he called back. He’s a stubborn pup. We eventually met him on the trail, he could barely walk but he was still trying to catch up to me. We carried him almost two miles on a litter before reaching a road and rescue vehicle. The entire family made it off the mountain and our bond is stronger than ever. My dog, he’s walking fine and always at my side.

How does this relate to writing?

We acquire vast amounts of knowledge and try to use that knowledge to make the best possible decisions for our manuscripts. Still, even though they know the dangers, many of the great writers take risks. They ignore the rules and that sense of reckless abandon leads to stories they never dreamed possible. I’m not saying you have to risk losing yourself or your family on a mountain. In fact, I don’t recommend it at all. You have to develop an instinct, know when to break the rules and when to adhere to them. But I encourage you to take the occasional risk. The stories we don’t plan for often turn out to be some of the best.

We all love a happy ending, but don’t forget to make the journey memorable.


FYI: El Paso County Search and Rescue is a non-profit organization. All rescuers are volunteers and don’t get paid for the incredible work they do. They risked their lives to help my family free of charge. I will become a regular donor, and would love if you could give a little as well. Every cent helps save a life. http://www.epcsar.org

When he's not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, Jason P. Henry is lost in a world of serial killers, psychopaths, and other unsavory folks. Ask him what he is thinking, but only at your own risk. More often than not he is plotting a murder, considering the next victim, or twisting seemingly innocent things into dark and demented ideas. A Suspense, Thriller and Horror writer with a dark, twisted sense of humor, Jason strives to make people squirm, cringe, and laugh. He loves to offer a smile, but is quick to leave you wondering what lies behind it. Jason P. Henry is best summed up by the great philosopher Eminem “I'm friends with the monsters beside of my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head.” Learn more about Jason at JasonPHenry.com

11 comments :

  1. Perfect example of a tense story! Glad everyone made it out okay, especially the poor dog. Kudos to rescue teams who save us from our own folly. Good lesson about publishing too. Be true to your vision, but listen to those who try to save you from your own folly.

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    1. Thank you! I could have disclosed the happy ending first, but where is the fun in that?

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  2. Mercy, Jason! I can't imagine leaving your dog and having to listen to him howl as you were walking away. That's the point where I start making emotional vs. logical decisions. We could certainly come up with different stories from that juncture in the story. I'm so glad it all turned out well! Yikes.

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    1. yeah... had I been the only human on the mountain, I would have waited things out until morning and kept my dog with me. I knew that I personally would have been fine. It was definitely one of the hardest risk assessments I have ever had to do.

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  3. I'm all about risk ... well, not the physical kind described by Jason ... and maybe not the intellectual kind either ... but I do risk missing out on any kind of achievement by sleeping on the couch, daily! In fact, just reading about the hair raising adventure has made me tired ...

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    1. Christopher, my goal in life is to inspire others. Even if it was to inspire a nap, I am glad to have made a difference!

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  4. I would much rather take risks with my writing than on a hiking trip. An armchair adventurer of the highest sort, I do love following others on their risky journeys via blog and Facebook....

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    1. There are days when I wish I would allow myself to resign to an armchair, but Gremlins always lead me to mischief. Oh well, one thing I will never be able to claim is a boring life.

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  5. Missed the post on Friday as I was out of town, but so glad I took a moment to check it out today. And also so glad to read the happy ending to your adventure. And you are right that sometimes we writers need to venture out of our comfort zone. Just not so far we fall off a cliff. LOL

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  6. My dog woke up late and came into my office from my bed to say good morning. I'm so glad he weighs only 14 pounds, though I'm sure that 14 pounds would feel like 100 after carrying him for an extended period of time. I could never leave him.

    Glad your "adventure" turned out well. I'm sure you learned a good lesson.

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  7. Love this post, Jason. A life without adventure, a person who takes no chances...these make for a dull existence. Your comparison between a real-life experience and novel writing makes great sense. Also, your reply to Diana about not giving away the happy ending is an excellent reminder to tell the reader just enough to keep him/her turning pages, but never give away the ending (unless, of course, the story is told in retrospect, which is a different ballgame altogether).

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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