Friday, 12 July 2013

Lone Wolves and Prides of Lions--by Reb MacRath



    Dark dreams afflicted me: torn throats and treacheries beyond the heart's endurance. I saw a blur of fur and fury, a red mist of spiritual rot on the rip. I saw myself discovering the lone wolf in my heart.
    You can imagine my predicament, since I don't even like wolves. I once called a wolf a thug in a hair suit and I stand by that assessment. Wolves in packs aren't any better--a step up from hyenas--though they have the sense to bounce the thugs out only for themselves. No, I don't like wolves at all and I believe Jack London was probably pure wolf himself.
    Nevertheless, there I was at the end of 2012--with 4 ebooks that hadn't sold five copies and hadn't attracted too many more reviews. As I glanced about EbookLandia, I saw a frightening, icy terrain with lone wolves lording over hoards of starving beasts scrounging for crumbs. The lone wolves loved attention; and they loved reviews; and above all they loved their fat paychecks. But they shared little in return. And nobody knew where they'd buried their more revolting past tricks. Those who knew did not tell; and those who guessed, by and large, didn't have a clue.
    The theme song that played in the background was Schadenfreude. (Per Google: An English expression with a similar meaning is Roman holiday, a metaphor from the poem Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by George Gordon, Lord Byron, where a gladiator in Ancient Rome expects to be "butchered to make a Roman holiday" while the audience would take pleasure from watching his suffering.)
    Was it any wonder that dark dreams afflicted me...and that I seriously wondered if I'd sell my soul to become a lone wolf? I took no action on my thoughts. The bitter metamorphosis would have taken years. And yet, God forgive me, I wondered...
     But something astonishing happened in January 2013. And this astonishing something turned my thoughts to prides of lions. At the urging of John A. A. Logan, I was invited to become the first non-U.K. member of Authors Electric. The honor stunned me. This was the first time since I'd arrived in icy EbookLandia that I'd been invited anywhere. And I now found myself in the presence of a tightly knit, supportive group of true-blue professionals--some of whom had also been legacy-published and dumped. 
    It got better still, and quickly, when AE opened its private page on FaceBook. In this cozy lounge members could open up about agents, publishers, contracts, promotion--and, bless me, technical things like formatting, changing type on Amazon, etc. It was possible here to ask for help in the form of reviews or promotion. 
    Now, the help in itself was most welcome. But more welcome still was the knowledge that prides of lions also roamed where I had gotten whupped. And lions banded together to hunt here for all required to help their books live--not because they are weak...but because they find strength in resources pooled together. I received quick help when needed from: Sue Price, Debbie Bennett, John Logan, Valerie Laws, Bill Kirton, Catherine Czerkawska, Cally Phillips,Chris Longmuir, Mark Chisnell, Kathleen Jones, Pauline Fisk--and Elizabeth Kay for the photo above.


    
    This still left me with the challenge of reconciling my inner lone wolf with the new joy of belonging to a pride of lions. I resolved it in good time with no inner long division. The lone wolf rules when I work on a book: my decisions are mine and I'm out for the good of the story, the style, the pacing and tone. When I write, I'm at war with Committees: six hacks to write a screenplay, six more to revise it, twelve studio executives to tear it all to pieces...and then three orangutans to put it back together. The war isn't for MeMe--but me and my book. But then when I've done what it is that I do, I return to my place with the lions. And, man, it is good to be home.
    The rules of the pride are quite simple:
    You hunt together as brothers and sisters.
    You share as much as you can of your catch.
    You remember those who've helped you.
    You never dishonor the pride.


    

   

    
    

24 comments:

Lee said...

Well, Reb, after having lived in Africa for 18 years, I suspect you need to learn a bit more about the behaviour of lions. (BTW, I happen to be entitled to the name 'Shumba'!)

Dennis Hamley said...

That's a great post, Reb. And I agree. Being allowed on AE is the best thing writingwise which has happened to me for years. I may not have been much help to you myself, but our colleagues have haven't half helped technologically incompetent and social media ignorant me. There's nothing quite like being part of group of good people. There's nothing worse than being in the company of rats, who can be worse than hyenas - though not, though they'd like to think they were, as big.

CallyPhillips said...

Ha ha Reb. Nice analogy. The group has been previously described as 'herding cats' so it's nice to see someone refer to us as a pride of lions. Mind you, the thought of herding lions is actually even more scary!
And I'm not sure I fully get the 'lone wolf' thing - but remember that John Logan has a pretty interesting take on wolves in his short story collection.
I like wolves (mainly because I live in a country that doesn't have them native I expect!) but then I always think of Dances with Wolves which does tend to colour ones judgement! Why let reality get in the way of a good fantasy eh?
I'm still trying to work out what the time difference is from your side of the pond to work out if you are up all hours or an early riser! So many questions... so few of them relevant (I know!) But - it's nice to be nice eh?

Susan Price said...

I think Reb's wolves and lions are of the heraldic, mythic kind rather than real, Lee.
And Cally - it's me who always refers to you as a herd of cats: that is, wilfully independent and impossible to herd because they leap over fences, go under gates and through hedges, run between the herder's legs, climb up their shoulders and sit on their heads... And in fact, I rather admire this quality even when it causes me problems. (I love cats.) How much more boring to herd obedient sheep. (That is, mythic sheep, as I'm told by a friend who has actually herded sheep that they are far more stroppy and difficult creatures than popular myth allows.)
But thank you, Reb, for allowing us to see ourselves, even if briefly, as a pride of noble, golden lions rather than a lot of little moggies.
And we're delighted that you're with us - and we welcome another American member soon.

Bill Kirton said...

Very enjoyable read, Reb. You're right, the very fact of being invited to be part of this group is seductive. So many of those lone wolves are puzzling since it isn't always obvious what lifts them above the rest of us. What they do, in fact, is brag about their wolfness whereas, however upbeat and convincing I am when encouraging wolflets (forgive me, I'm ruining your analogy) to shed their reticence, to delete the 'maybes' and 'perhapses' and 'possiblys' and be positive about themselves, I still question my own legitimacy. But now I can at least point to other members of the pride and say 'I'm with her/him'.

Lee said...

Susan, heraldic or not, hackneyed and belaboured metaphors should be the last thing a writer should want to flaunt!

Susan Price said...

But mythic and classical allusions are rather beautiful.

Reb MacRath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reb MacRath said...

So, Lee, what's going on here? 'Hackneyed and belabored metaphors' is pretty rude and insulting. I thought I put a few fresh moves on an old idea...left a twinkle in its eye...and powdered its nose for good measure. I'll apologize,though,to the rest of the pride if you can list 30 or 40 examples of writers who've done what I've done here, precisely the same way. That shouldn't be hard if I'm guilty as charged; examples should be everywhere. Meanwhile, I'm always happy to chance upon new writers. After visiting your website, I want to read your work. Cheers.

Felicia Moore said...

Great blog post! Interesting and thought-provoking read. I devour each and every one of your posts. You really have an amazing ability to drawn stunning pictures with your words. I, as always, enjoyed you imagery and metaphors. Congratulations on your continued success and growing recognition. I look forward to reading more of your wonderful works in the future.

Reb MacRath said...

Thank you, Felicia.

Felicia Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee said...

Reb, a writer must be prepared to accept public criticism of public work - not of his person, you may note, but his writing. If you find negative criticism insulting, so be it. I'm very strict when it comes to trite expressions like 'inner lone wolf' - nor do I believe that mutual support is the same thing as a steady stream of uncritical compliments.

Trite language suggests sloppy thinking.

And by the way, I'd be the first person to point out how badly I've erred in my own writing - lots of metaphors (and other stuff) that I wish I hadn't written.

Reb MacRath said...

Lee, I think it's best to avoid insulting language, just as it would be insulting for me to respond in kind, by saying something along the lines of 'Blow here, blowhard.' I won't. But if trite language suggests sloppy thinking, evasion suggests spinelessness. You leveled a charge of hackneyed and belabored metaphors. Thinking of the concept and execution, not just the phrase "inner lone wolf", I invited you to submit a list of 40-50 names of writers who've handled my combined metaphor exactly as I've done. That shouldn't be hard if I really am guilty of hackneyed and belabored writing. Examples should abound. When something really is hackneyed and belabored, it's in the very air. Examples, please.

Kelly Grote said...

I happen to love this post! I think the use of the metaphors were very appropriate in getting your point across to your readers. As a writer myself, I understand being the "lone wolf," as I am at that point in my writing. If anything, this post has helped me see that sharing my writing can be an awesome experience. Now, I have to muster up the courage to put it out there. From reading the other comments, I see that some people would not agree, and that is okay. We all have our own idea about what is great writing and what is not. That's what makes it interesting. Sometimes writing isn't about creating new and exciting metaphors. Sometimes it's simply about taking an old idea and making it fresh again. I think that is what you have done here, Reb! I'm looking forward to reading more of your writing in the future. Good luck!

Kelly Grote said...

I happen to love this post! I think the use of the metaphors were very appropriate in getting your point across to your readers. As a writer myself, I understand being the "lone wolf," as I am at that point in my writing. If anything, this post has helped me see that sharing my writing can be an awesome experience. Now, I have to muster up the courage to put it out there. From reading the other comments, I see that some people would not agree, and that is okay. We all have our own idea about what is great writing and what is not. That's what makes it interesting. Sometimes writing isn't about creating new and exciting metaphors. Sometimes it's simply about taking an old idea and making it fresh again. I think that is what you have done here, Reb! I'm looking forward to reading more of your writing in the future. Good luck!

Reb MacRath said...

Thank you, Kelly. The kind words were so welcome I enjoyed seeing them twice!

Debbie said...

Love it Reb. You've summed up AE perfectly for me!

Reb MacRath said...

Thanks, Debbie.

Nick Mercurio said...

Wow, I'd heard about the brouhaha over this post and I'm glad I checked it out. Cleanly written and well argued. It's also a lively reminder of why we celebrate Richard the Lion-Hearted, not anyone having the heart of a wolf. That said, cheers to Commenters for the lively discussion that followed.

Lee said...

Reb, I'm still of the opinion - and of course it's my own opinion - that 'inner lone wolf' and 'pride of lions' are common enough to be used with great care (similarly, expressions like 'sell my soul') and that extended metaphors are particularly tricky to handle.

Do you really believe you've offered readers a fresh approach by contrasting two overused metaphors? That no one else may have combined them wouldn't make them any less infelicitous; just the opposite, in fact. As I see it, this compounds the effect - and the problem - and I doubt that you'll convince me otherwise. You may not care for my frankness, but if I groan when I read something - my first reaction here - the piece is not likely to interest me, move me, offer me something to mull over (except, perhaps, in terms of what to avoid).

Style matters. Language matters.

Instead of reacting defensively, why not give my view some consideration? You have enough people backing you up here to be able to cope with the relatively minor irritation of my criticism, I should imagine.

Lee said...

Nick, a brouhaha is good for the soul! Who wants to live a life without conflict? (And a writer who doesn't offend is probably not worth reading...)

,-)

Nick Mercurio said...

Reb, say it ain't so, bro'! I've returned to my faaaavorite brouhaha-to find you've split the scene. Will you post again here? I've got some dandy metaphors, guaranteed original, that I can sell you on the cheap!

Reb MacRath said...

Thanks for your support, Nick. Save your strength, though, for tracking the beauty in Dan's photograph. I'm recovering nicely and have already begun work on a triumphant return here--sometime in 2018. :)