Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On freedom, a very special parrot named William, and Indie publishing

The Folks at Fifty-EightOur guest blogger is Michael Patrick Clark author of the cold war spy thriller The Folks at Fifty-Eight (4.2 stars, 25 reviews).

On freedom, a very special parrot named William, and Indie publishing

It appears that Indie publishing has somehow become all things to all men. There are those who claim it has freed the artist from the shackles of conventional publishing, others who claim it has brought a decline in literarystandards, the like of which we have never seen before. For many, previously established authors, it is the devil. For those who once sat languishing in Rejection Slip Land* it is deliverance. For those who have published and been damned, by the fickle whims of amateur critic and book-buying public, it is a cruel and heartless judge of literacy and creativity.
But, there is another way to view the Indie revolution, and to do that we first need to meet William.
I met William on a number of occasions, and considered him a very special parrot and a very special character. Sitting in his cage by the bar, of the aptly named Port William Hotel in the picturesque North Cornish hamlet of Trebarwith Strand, William entertained passing clientele with his own special and unarguably ribald, commentary.
A pet adult Congo African Grey Parrot in Norway.Each syllable had been learnt, in true parrot-fashion style, from a succession of smiling faces, many of whom were the worse for drink. They would stand before his cage, and repeat vulgar and inane words and phrases, ad nauseam, until he had dutifully mimicked the sounds. Only when he had modulated his own high-pitched squawk with their inane commentary would they chortle in triumph and leave William to his solitude.
However, few of those who peered through the bars understood that lurking beyond William’s chirpy and cheerful facade was a depressive bird, with a dark and unhappy secret. What each of them failed to realise was that when William was alone he would cling to the bars of his cage, and peer out of the window across the rocky North Cornwall coastline to the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

In those moments of loneliness and solitude William would dream his dreams of fresh air and freedom, and remember a time long ago when he had been as free as the endless expanse of fresh air and space that he now so secretly coveted.
But then, one day, two humble cleaners gave William the opportunity he had dreamed of during all those years of captivity. While cleaning his cage, one cleaner had let him out to wander around the bar area, not realising that the other cleaner had left the door to the outside world open.
William took his chance. Like a shot he was out of the door, into the air, and away.
He flew first over the cove and along the cliffs, and for a while they thought he might return, but then William did the strangest thing. . . he turned to the west and headed out to sea.
It was only a matter of seconds before he began to tire; only a matter of a few hundred yards before untrained wings, left weak through so many years in that cage, began to fail him.
William was swallowed by the Atlantic Ocean that day. Some say he was disoriented and lost his bearings, others that he was just a bird-brained parrot who knew not what he was doing or why.
I disagreed. I believe that William chose freedom over servitude. I believe that, whether he had made it all the way to his homeland and natural habitat or drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, William cared little, because for those few brief moments of fresh air and ozone he was truly free.
I choose to believe that, as he headed out to sea, William resolved that he would never again be confined to amusing the drunk and the moronic from an ugly cage in a smoke-filled bar.
And that, to a certain extent, is how I and a great many other Indie authors feel.
We have no idea how successful we may or may not become. We may become best-selling novelists, or sink and drown in the deepest oceans of our own inadequacy, but there is one thing that we are certain of. . . We will never again be caged, and abused, and patronised, and ignored, by agents and publishers and those inane guardians of the literary slush piles.
Have a good one.

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