By now, those of you following along undoubtedly know the premise of LEAGUE OF STRAYS–a shady character pulls together a group of misfits, introverts, and loners, organizes them into a band with a catchy name and a singular purpose, then gradually pushes them into doing bad things for his pleasure and benefit. It is a tense and dramatic story, in which the reader wonders when or if Charlotte will get the strength to escape the dangerous sociopath before she is in too deep to redeem herself.
The story carries important messages about the dangers of peer pressure, temptation, bullying, and the desire for revenge. But I want to talk about something else here. About the ease with which someone can fall into this trap if the shady character happens to be smooth enough, charismatic enough, and deeply sinister enough.
It is a cautionary tale about how easily life can imitate art.
It is a dreadful little real-life horror story I like to call:
Let me take you back two years. To the very beginning. To right about this time of year in 2010, when both L.B. and I were eagerly awaiting the completion of our debut book deals. This is a nerve-wracking, email-checking, nail-biting time for a writer. A vulnerable time. A times when a person feels desperate for a connection.
And thus, I set my plan into action.
“Hey, L.B. I hear you’re about to have a book under contract. What would you think of joining me in a debut author blog,” I enthused innocently.
“Gosh, Jeannie,” she expounded, “It’s a little creepy that you know such secret information about me.”
“Never mind that,” I laughed lightly. “Join me. It will be great.”
“Okay,” she agreed. “Hey, I know. We can call it EMU’s Debuts.”
I smiled at how well the plan was coming together, and let her believe she had come up with the name, while meanwhile I gathered others to me:
One by one, I reeled them in, promising them camaraderie in their lonely author’s journey.
Then, Mike Jung’s deal with this dream editor Arthur Levine came through. At once, I pounced.
“Hey Mike,” I crooned in my sultriest voice, “Wouldn’t you like to join us?”
“Gosh, I don’t know,” Mike hesitated. “I have young kids, a day job, a lot on my plate.”
I batted my eyelashes in a way he could not ignore, even though we were communicating via email. “But Mike. EMUs NEEDS your masculine, manly touch.”
(Yeah. When I bat my lashes, I’m that hot.)
And so I had them, and could set my master plan into motion. None of them suspected my true intent; my desire to exhaust them creatively and humiliate them publicly until my book–MINE I TELL YOU–would dominate at the expense of all others!
What’s that you say? You think I am making all this up? Exaggerating, to make our EMU’s journey sound just like LEAGUE OF STRAYS? You don’t believe I would push them all to humiliating extremes?
Need I remind you of this?
Or, God forgive me, this?
And as for exhaustion, I am the one who first suggested we do release parties that last all week.
“It sounds like a lot of work,” one of them mused.
“I don’t know if I have that much time,” remarked another.
“It’s only a week,” I encouraged warmly. “And it’s for dear, dear Michelle. You wouldn’t want to disappoint dear Michelle, would you?”
Yes, that’s how the release party plan began, in July of 2011. Little did they foresee the outcome: Five release parties in seven weeks in the fall of 2012 (mine, of course, being the first, while they were all still fresh as daisies.)
Coincidence? I think not.
So take your own lesson from this. Sociopaths are out there–one in every twenty-five people, as L.B. will tell you. They seem nice. Normal. Charming, even. Don’t be drawn in. It can happen to anyone, even Charlotte. Even L.B. Even a manly man like Mike Jung.
The best defense is a strong offense. So read LEAGUE OF STRAYS so you can see the risk, and learn to be your own guide in life. Before it’s too late and you find yourself eating a whole chocolate cake under duress.
And the best way to get your hands on a copy of LEAGUE OF STRAYS? Post a reply any time this week, for our drawing. For a book, not a cake.