A lag in the housing and construction market may have prompted the emergence of a talented new author in Yellowstone County.
Ray Gorham of Shepherd, owner of Paramount Log Homes, confronted with the cancellation of some contracts in 2008, which meant he wasn't going to be very busy that winter, decided to write a book during his "down" time.
That book, 77 Days in September, has since sold 63,000 digital copies, and is ranked 22 on Amazon's top selling fiction list – and he has an agent who wants to publish the book in print.
Sales from the book are "paying the mortgage," for the Gorham family, which includes his wife, Jodi, and five children.
No one is more surprised than Ray, about his success. Ray has no background as a writer. In fact, he went to college to be an accountant, but decided that was too boring. After working for companies like Walmart and Flying J, Ray got tired of "working for big companies," and started his own business.
The business had a roaring start for the first few years, but the recession, set it back, just as it did for most of the construction industry.
The idea of writing a book was something Ray had had in mind for several years— in large part because he didn't like the way most books portrayed men.
Ray's not sure how he came to want to write but he said, "I like watching movies and reading books, and afterwards I would always analyze why I liked it or 'why did they lose me?'" He would analyze the characters other authors created, and that's when he became "frustrated" with how poorly men were often portrayed.
So many books portray men as easily being unfaithful to their spouses, said Ray. "They portray men as these philandering scum bags. I wanted a character, who despite all the odds against him, remained a dedicated husband. I wanted to portray a guy who was committed and loyal and decent."
The dilemma for Ray was to figure out "in what kind of situation can I put him that would be the ultimate challenge to him."
That's when he came up with the idea of an EMP – an electro-magnetic pulse. "I knew that an EMP was pretty devastating," said Ray, but as he researched the topic he became increasingly alarmed about the threat that it really does pose to the nation. To inform the public about it became just as much a purpose for his book as creating a decent- guy kind of hero.
Just before he began his research on EMP's, a 300-page report about the subject was prepared for Congress, said Ray, who is perplexed that little effort is being made to inform the public about the threat.
The report predicted that in an attack, which could be rather easily perpetrated by an enemy, there could be a mortality rate of 90 percent — 250 million people in the US. But advance knowledge, which would allow the population "a little bit of preparation, would make a huge difference, in that rate," said Ray.
So the book took on a dual purpose for Ray.
The plot begins in Texas. It's a Friday before Labor Day weekend and Kyle Tait is settling in for a flight to take him home to Montana. Neither he, nor the rest of the continent is aware of a long-planned terrorist plot about to be launched against the country.
As the book is described on Amazon: "They detonate a single nuclear bomb 300 miles above the heart of America. The blast, an Electro-Magnetic Pulse, destroys every electrical device in the country, and results in the crippling of the power grid, the shutting down of modern communications, and bringing to a halt most forms of transportation.
"Kyle narrowly escapes when his airplane crashes on take-off, only to find himself stranded 2,000 miles from home in a country that has been forced, from a technological standpoint, back to the 19th Century. Confused, hurt, scared, and alone, Kyle must make his way across a hostile continent to a family he's not even sure has survived the effects of the attack. As Kyle forges his way home, his frightened family faces their own struggles for survival in a community trying to halt its slow spiral into chaos and anarchy."
The book is exciting and grabs the reader from the first page. It is thought provoking and raises exactly the kind of awareness that Ray hoped it would. It is well worth the $3.99 asked for on Amazon. It is also available on most other internet book sites.
Ray said that the first month he sold 12 books. The next 59 – "enough to pay the phone bill." And, then he sold 112 books – "enough to pay the mortgage," which was something weighing heavily on his mind. While Jodi works at Shepherd School, the slow-down in business for Paramount Log Homes was having an impact for the Gorham family.
"Each month was exciting," said Ray.
Reviews of the book of which there are now well over a thousand on-line, from book sites and blogs, are for the most part very positive. Ray said that because most of reviews gave the book four and five stars, is the reason his prospective agent contacted him.
Ray is originally from Calgary, Canada. Growing up he had an opportunity to live in many different places in the world, but went to Brigham Young University in Utah, when it came time to go to college. And, that is where he met Jodi.
The Gorhams lived in California for a while, where Ray tried his hand as a restaurateur. But, they finally came to Montana to start a business, because it is closer to family, who still live in Canada. Ray became a US citizen 12 years ago.
Ray said that he discovered that the process of writing a book is hard – much harder than he anticipated, but in the end he enjoyed it. The process of reading it, and re-reading it; writing and re-writing, was grueling.
Ray said that Jodi was his editor. She made suggestions about the story line, characters and events in the book, as did a number of friends, who he asked to read the book and to make suggestions.
The book is not perfect, concedes Ray, and he hopes to get many of the imperfections, corrected before it goes to print.
Ray has plans for at least two more books – one a sequel to "77 Days in September." There's still more story to tell about Kyle and Jennifer Tait, he says. But, his agent wants him to wait on the sequel until the first book comes out in print, which Ray is hoping will happen by this time next year.
And, who knows, maybe after that, the movie?