Sheep, Sheepdog, or Wolf?

I was having an email conversation with a friend of mine about this essay, “On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs” by Dave Grossman, who wrote the incredible book, “On Killing.”

The gist of the essay can be summed up as such:

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

It was, in my opinion, an interesting read. It makes a lot of sense, until you start pushing the metaphor until it breaks, as I am wont to do. It got me thinking about whether any of these types is capable of change. If so, were they really the first kind to begin with?

Sam-n-RalphFor example, a sheep is genetically different than a wolf. Obviously, right? But could a sheep, if thrust into the right set of circumstances, become a wolf or a sheepdog? If so, was the sheep ever a sheep to begin with?

I know admittedly little about the heights of violence possible when a person is backed into a corner (thank God) but I kind of feel like the potential for violence is possible in everyone, particularly in instances of self defense. Or in the defense of one’s children (which is, I would argue, by virtue of the parent/child bond, an extension of the parents’ selves).

So, this is where I push the metaphor until it breaks. In nature, obviously, the line between a sheep and a wolf is extremely clear. Wolves never act like sheep, sheep never act like wolves, and the sheepdog is a domesticated version bred for a specific purpose.

In the metaphor, however, I have to wonder whether the lines are that hard and fast. My friend, during the course of our conversation, mentioned that the line between a wolf and a sheepdog isn’t a bright one. Sometimes, a person with wolf-like tendencies will put him/herself in the position of being a sheepdog so as to stay out of prison. In that case, the line between the two is extremely dim.

Still, I would say I fall squarely in the sheep camp. I’m a stay at home mother, I’m a productive member of society, I seek peace whenever and wherever possible. Sheep, sheep, sheep.

And yet, I feel like I would easily throw down if anyone ever threatened myself or my kids (I don’t include Wes here because he can handle himself). Any time I see a dog growl at my kids, or think about how I would handle things if I was assaulted, I imagine some decidedly non-sheeplike behavior. I mean, come on. I wrote espionage fiction. I’ve written enough fight scenes at this point I’m starting to run out of creative ways to say “punched in the face.” I’ve always been on the aggressive side for a sheep (and I say aggressive meaning, ‘Don’t mess with me.’ I’m not a violent person).

My question then is this: Is there a sheepdog in every sheep, or are sheep capable of violence only in the service of self defense? Or, am I not a sheep at all but, rather, a very maternal, lazy sheepdog?

What about you? Sheep, sheepdog, or wolf?

The Best Book Review Ever Written

Just one of many gems from her review. Image courtesy of Patents Patented.

Just one of many gems from her review. Image courtesy of Patents Patented.

When you’re an author, you toe a fine line between telling everyone your book is out and being that annoying person who is only capable of talking about her book and asking you whether you’ve had time to read it. No one likes that person.

When Blood Money came out last year, I asked a friend of mine from high school if she’d review it. She writes a hilarious, raunchy blog populated by homemade Microsoft Paint illustrations and I thought it’d be fun to see what she came up with.

Then, I left her alone. Because we’re busy people and I figured she’d get around to it when she was darn good and ready.

Today was that day. And oh my gosh, I need to have her review every single one of my books for now until forever because I laughed so hard I cried a little.

Seriously, this is not hyperbole, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and read this review. Right now. Don’t pay that bill, or answer that call, or have that baby, or whatever it is you’re doing right now. Just read this review.

You can find it here. My friend’s name is Jamie, and she’ll totally review your book too. Though for you she might charge money.

Seriously. Go read it. Read it and laugh forever.

I Was Captured by The Heist

Macklemore-Ryan-Lewis-The-Heist-Album-Artwork1I was stuck in traffic for an hour last night so I decided to try exploring some Macklemore, an artist most people have already heard of. You’ll have to pardon me for being so very far behind the curve here, I have very few opportunities to listen to music away from tiny, impressionable ears and there is less than nothing appropriate for little kids on a Macklemore album.

I’ll admit, I was stunned. Both by his frank honesty and the way his songs tell a story. It was fascinating and made the traffic fade away as I listened carefully to what he was saying. I didn’t love everything I heard, but the ones I liked I very much enjoyed. He seems to pull no punches when it comes to be being honest with his struggles, and I find that impressive. It takes a lot of guts to be that honest, especially when so many people are paying attention.

It’s commendable, and also a little convicting. It reminds me of what a friend said to me the other day: The people who seem to have their lives the most together are usually the ones closest to falling apart.

Macklemore wears his dysfunction on his sleeve, and not proudly, either. He speaks openly on one of his songs (Starting Over) about relapsing in his sobriety, and having a fan come tell him right afterward she looks up to him as inspiration for her own sobriety. The shame and anger he feels at himself sears through the speakers and makes you feel like an emotional voyeur.

I find that convicting, though I’m very curious to know how he copes with critics and naysayers. I can’t imagine being that honest about my struggles and then having someone use it to more effectively hurt me.

This suburban stay at home mom (and published author yadda yadda) gives the album two surprised thumbs up, because I was not expecting to like it so much. It’s well worth checking out, so long as as lots and lots of profanity doesn’t ruffle your feathers.

My WiFi Addiction

MjAxMy05MjdiYjM3ZWY0NjA2YzViI’m writing this while sitting at a Panera. It’s 8 AM on a sunny Saturday morning, and my husband shooed me out of the house to go get an early start to my haircut-followed-by-sanity-time day.

Why am I at Panera? The whole sleepy world is my oyster, I could go anywhere. So why am I sitting in a Panera? One, I like their food. More importantly, however, is the fact that they offer free WiFi at Panera.

If you’re the kind of person who frequently enters establishments laptop in tow, you quickly come to appreciate the gift of free WiFi that connects without a fuss and works the way it’s supposed to.

Have you ever sat down at a cafe with your laptop and opened it up only to realize there’s no WiFi? You feel like you paddled out to the middle of the lake but then lost your oars.

Or, you go somewhere that offers free WiFi but then it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. You’re sitting there with your hot coffee and your pastry, at the complete mercy of a router that has, for unfathomable reasons, decided to flip you the bird.

You could make the argument that a writer doesn’t need an Internet connection in order to write. I have writing friends who make a compelling argument for increased focus and productivity in the purposeful absence of an Internet connection.

I suppose it just depends on your style. I rarely know where a book is going to take me, and I love doing research at the moment. If I’m going to write a scene about an explosion, for example, I want to look up the different kinds of explosives and their ignition points while I’m in the middle of the scene. I feel like it informs me on the circumstances, which then means I can figure out how my characters will react.

But that’s just me. Many authors are capable of doing their research beforehand and actually plotting out their stories before they start. Others don’t need to do so much research because they are already subject matter experts in the fields in which they write.

As for me? Give me WiFi or give me, um, frustration I guess?

I feel like this post is all the proof you’d ever need to establish that I have, indeed, become one of those people who panics if they don’t have WiFi. I’m sure when SkyNet inevitably becomes sentient and we all have to answer to our computer overlords, I’ll be one of many who asks, “Okay, but will we still have WiFi?”

Word Sweatshop Shutdown

The more books I write, the better I feel like I get to know myself as an author. I’m trying out a new approach at the moment that is, so far, working out well. In a different way than my previous approach worked out well. Let me explain.

My brain cells during a 3,000 word-a-day writing session.

My brain cells during a 3,000 word-a-day writing session.

In the past, I’ve jumped headfirst into new projects and immersed myself to exclusion of all else. The minute my kids were down for naps, I’d sprint to my computer and force out as many words as possible. I’d end up with some spectacular word counts at the end of those days, upward of 3,000 words a day on many days, and be done with my first drafts in about a month and a half.

Pretty great, right? Lots of momentum, continuity, and focus, and no languishing over drafts for months at a time.

The down side to this sweatshop approach, however, was that my kids and husband would have to deal with an exhausted, distracted, stressed-out me every day during writing season. I was productive, but not at my best for my family.

I’ve come to the realization that if I’m going to be a writer, I should just be a writer. That sounds weird, so I’ll elaborate. Writing should be something I just do, not something that shuts my whole life down for a few months at a time. I’m a mother, I can’t afford to shortchange my kids for weeks on end every time I’m working on something new.

Just being a writer is a much slower way of doing things, but I (and my family) like it a lot better. My daily word counts are piddly (I’m lucky if I break 1,000 words a day unless it’s a Saturday) but I’m a lot happier and, to my surprise, the work is of better quality (in my humble opinion). Go figure.

I think this is the benefit of being a relatively unknown author at the moment. I have liberty to experiment with who I am as an author before the pressure of being anything bigger has a chance to set in. I may never make it as a big time author, but I’m grateful for the journey.