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T3C Blog

  • Chicago Writers’ Association

    Book Review: The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable

     

    The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable. J. Daniel Reed, Terra 3 Communications LLC, November 15, 2021. Paperback and eBook, 220 pages.

     

    Reviewed by Lisa Lickel.

    J. Daniel Reed’s fantasy tale of The First Wolf Pack draws the reader into an imaginary world of two mighty predators who must decide to survive together or fight to the death.

    When an accidental hunting convergence brings two of the greatest ancient wolves into mortal combat, they realize they are so equally matched that they must use their great intelligence to seek a common goal: survival. Versa and Arn begin to care for each other. Together, they derive an ethic called the Wolf Ways.

    Told in the manner of the great sagas, the narrator, a contemporary dog named Bingley, reveals the secret of contemporary dog heritage through Versa and Arn’s story. Bingley’s tale is filled with lofty wisdom and bits of advice on how to be a family; not just any family but the best at parenting, the best at sharing the role of an alpha couple in a pack, the best at finding nutritious food and cooperation—the first Wolf Way.

    Versa and Arn are notably the first at many things, including digging an inground den to raise their first litter. As the family grows into the First Pack, Versa and Arn form the first wolf council, the Magnificent Ones, and establish the first Wolf Utterance. Soon the offspring grow toward maturity and ponder their parents’ ways. Why do they prosper and live in a pack and work together and not fight like the lone wolves?

    When an intruder assimilates into the alpha family, they teach him their ways, leading to harsh consequences. Eventually, other lone wolves outside the First Pack hatch a plot to attack, and the scattered family packs reunite, hoping initially to make peace and teach the others the Wolf Ways.

    The story occasionally lapses into buzzable page-turning moments, such as when Versa turns to Arn and asks, “Are you as amazed at this crazy, unique life we created? There are no lone wolves who live like we or that know what we know.”

    When Tria is suffering from her turmoil, it takes her father to remind her of her greatness and uniqueness and why she’s driven: “Only you, daughter, share our genes, strength, and cleverness,” he tells her, “and only you can teach the wolf ways.” The advice changes his daughter’s heart, much like taking a Dale Carnegie class, the narrator explains.

    The author has created an epic saga of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, or other Norse legends of old, even faintly reminiscent of Eden and the first humans. We learn how humans and wolves intertwine. Those who love poring over those tales will thoroughly enjoy The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable.

  • J. Daniel Reed


    Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
    I enjoyed a very satisfying commercial real estate career until the pandemic placed a big speed bump on the road of my life. So suddenly out of work, I took the opportunity to chart a new course, to get off the hamster wheel, leave the world of responsibility and stress, and pursue a dream. For this last year, it has never felt like work.

    What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
    The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable, my first book, was inspired by several disparate factors; Love of dogs and wolves, fascination with ancient foundational myths, the grandeur of God’s creation, and contemplating the purpose of fireflies in the grand scheme of creation. Somehow these things coalesced into a story about overcoming ignorance, narcissism, suspicion, and self-pity.

    Do you have any unusual writing habits?
    I like to work early in the morning. I write for hours on end when it starts to flow. I don’t force myself to write when I am upset or agitated by things outside of my writing. Some evenings, especially while we are cooking dinner together, I love to tell Barbara (my wife and publisher) the progress of the characters, and the ways the plot and subplots are heading. Verbalizing this way allows me to hear things outside of my head, and my wife is very helpful with questions, comments, and suggestions.

    What authors, or books have influenced you?
    Dean Koontz, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage

    What are you working on now?
    A gritty story about xenophobia, bigotry, charity, and compassion set in 1920s and 1930s Chicago.

    What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
    As a newbie I am still learning. Right now, I use Facebook, Reedsy, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and am exploring others. My book is only available on Amazon at this time.

    Do you have any advice for new authors?
    Consider Keats Theory of Negative Capability. It gave me the freedom to not feel compelled to outline my stories, but instead, to tap into something creative that is within me but also something creative that is outside of me. I let the story tell itself, not trying to provide answers to every question that pops up during the drafting.
    If your characters wish to advance themselves, but you don’t know exactly where they might be going, trust them enough to follow them. They will tell you their story if you let them.

    What is the best advice you have ever heard?
    With respect to writing: I recently watched a long-form interview of Dean Koontz from 2012 that made me believe I could write novels and that I should. Koontz emphasizes that all work should have a moral purpose—there is an urgent need in our world for stories containing the hope to counteract the negative views that dominate our culture.
    Without quoting Keats, he did address something like Negative Capability when saying “Get in touch with something bigger than yourself, and let it speak to you.” And further described how his first best seller was born—he developed characters and then figured out how they became intertwined, at times following them.
    And he quotes T.S. Eliot: “the one thing that never changes, the eternal battle of good and evil.”

    What are you reading now?
    While actively writing fiction, I may read some non-fiction BUT I do not read the fiction of others. I am concerned that reading other works will potentially derail the uniqueness of my novel as it is in progress, and to potentially interfere with my creativity. While writing The First Wolf Pack, I read Ralph Martin’s A Church in Crisis. A long time ago my employer at that time gave personality surveys to people in leadership positions. I had a strong need to figure things out for myself, preferring to not follow instructions or to comfortably follow others. I needed to take things apart and rebuild them to know exactly how it worked, so to speak…then to rebuild it my way.

    What’s next for you as a writer?
    I want to finish my second novel during the summer of 2022. It is hard for me to look much further ahead than that. But, I do have two story ideas bouncing around in my head that might launch a third novel.

    If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
    The Bible, something from ancient Greece, perhaps Homer’s the Illiad and Odyssey, something from the height of English literature, perhaps Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and lastly, something by Steinbeck or Hemingway.

    Author Websites and Profiles
    J. Daniel Reed Website
    J. Daniel Reed Amazon Profile

    J. Daniel Reed’s Social Media Links
    Goodreads Profile
    Facebook Profile

  • One of the most enjoyable (but challenging!) aspects of writing fiction is the development of each character—their names, their behavioral traits, and the nuances of each character’s personality. I have been asked if any of the characters in The First Wolf Pack were modelled after real people and I can honestly answer both yes and no. The characters are amalgamations of certain personality traits of people I have known, blended with the personalities of dogs I have had the honor to adopt.  After you have read the book, I’d love to know who was your favorite character and why.

    Get to Know the Wolves of The First Wolf Pack: A Dog’s Fable

    -Arn and Versa:  the first Magnificent Ones who establish The First Wolf Pack

    -Tria:  the one who must overcome her viciousness and emotional flaws to become the greatest wolf that ever lived, and in the process, saves her species from extinction

    -Jett:  Tria’s “twin” brother who is her equal in size and strength, but with calmness of heart

    -Fic:  the wolf who sees into the hearts of wolves and men and saves Tria from insanity

    -Bord and Casso:  emaciated orphan wolves adopted into The First Wolf Pack who are willing to risk their lives for their newfound pack

    -Barr:  the only wolf great enough for Tria

    -Ellip:  the beautiful, clever, smart aleck bitch who steals Jett’s heart

    -Ket the Elder:  the most evil and cunning of lone wolves who seeks to destroy The First Wolf Pack

    -Bingley:  the modern Airedale Terrier dog who is granted the right to speak human by the great wolf spirit and narrates the story—hence it is subtitled “a dog’s fable”

  • How did you get interested in fiction writing?

    It had impetus from two sources. The first source was the story about two ancient wolves I made up on a long car ride to entertain my wife. It was entertaining enough that she suggested I jot down some notes, which lay dormant for several years. The second thing that stimulated my interest was hearing an interview with Dean Koontz. I was impressed by his keen view on life and his love of writing fiction. I then took the opportunity to read some of his books during commercial airline flights while traveling on business.

    What interesting facts did you learn about history, wolves, or other topics from your research for the book?

    • The history of the Lupa, the Capitoline Wolf, which dates back to 295 BC.
    • Wolves’ sensory ability to smell while inhaling and exhaling.
    • I was surprised by the approximate 10% genetic variation between wolf and dog; I thought the difference would be less.
    • The geological dynamics of the subduction zone around The Bay of Naples.

    Where did you get the idea for this book?

    The opening scene and the characters of Arn and Versa, including their names, came purely out of my imagination. A few years later a friend gave me an article that reported the earliest zooarchaeology evidence for the origin of wolves was from Italy. Once I matched my ancient wolf characters to Italy, adapting the legend of Romulus and Remus followed.

    Are any of the characters based on real people?

    Yes and no. Other than the historical characters who are obvious, my anthropomorphized wolves are amalgamations of certain personality traits of people I have known, blended with the personalities of dogs I have had the honor to adopt. 

    Which character(s) were the most fun to write about?

    That is a very hard question to answer. I love all of the members of The First Wolf Pack. If I had to pick one, I’d pick two—Arn and Tria. They each had the most psychologically-complex personalities, especially their recoveries from selfishness and ignorance.

    What is the central message of this book?

    The main message is the importance of humility to achieve courage and find fulfilment; plus the overall benefit of the immutable virtues of the Wolf Ways to maximize the success of family and community.

    What would you like readers to learn from this book?

    I hope that readers might contemplate where and when they see God in nature. Also, wolves are intelligent, regal creatures with a highly-effective social structure. The characteristics they exhibit in the story encourage us all to work together in a cooperative mindset.

    Do you have any new books in the works?

    Yes, I am focused on writing one book right now about prejudice and redemption in depression-era  Chicago. I have another set of ideas on the drawing board, but it’s too soon to speak of it.