^^Click the cover to see it on Smashwords^^
One of the beauties of self-publishing ebooks is that there’s no question of where the rights lie, they’re all mine. So I get to post my covers, excerpts, or whatever I like from them where I please. Which means I get to get to talk about writing them without having to say “and if you want to know what I’m talking about, take a look at Holycrap Stories Magazine #37, page 15.”
I’m one of those writers who can’t help putting himself into the story in some way. Not all of the characters are me, or even partly me. Not all of the situations are either. But I haven’t written anything yet that hasn’t had, at some level, a personal meaning to me. A couple of them have been hard to write, and this was one of them. I wrote the first half, then set it aside for a couple of weeks and worked on other things, then picked it back up, sighed a heavy sigh, and finished it.
It’s not a long story, just a smidge over 2,000 words. Not the kind of thing you’d expect to take a month to finish. Now, to be fair, I’m the sort of person who gets sidetracked pretty easily. I start working on one thing, then get a second idea and want to hammer out the start of that before I go back and finish the first thing. That’s not really the case with this one.
This one was slow to write because I did a lot of editing for the length. I kept going back and changing small things, rewriting sentences, deleting paragraphs and then putting them back in with subtle alterations, trying to get the right mood.
That’s because I know the mood well. The story has a lot in common with my own story.
“To the kitchen. My stomach gives a warning twitch. It knows where I’m going. I open the freezer, pull out a half-deflated liter pouch of bourbon. My stomach churns up a belch, I gag on the odor of bile permeating my sinuses. I pop the cap on the thick frosted straw, put it between my lips, clamp down. My stomach relaxes. It knows anesthesia is coming. My brain revolts. Why am I doing this, I shouldn’t be doing this, I should be sitting down with the search crawler looking for jobs, not rotting worthless on the public teat having bourbon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I squeeze the bag. For the thousandth time my ambitions crumple like the cheap mylar foil. I squeeze again and sit down in front of the MC. I type ‘epic fail video’ into the crawler.
It seems to fit.”
That’s pretty close to a chunk of my own life. It didn’t make any sense, but I kept on living it. Until I got tired of it, finally, and did something about it. Until I went and got some help from people who had stopped their own alcoholic drinking and had sobered up.
The story is an expression of a couple of personal fears. One, while I was drinking, was the fear that I would never stop, that my life would be the miserable existence of an addicted drinker until it ended. The other, when I quit, was the fear that I would not be able to get away from it. I had quit before after a terrible medical crisis that nearly killed me, and had gone back to drinking once. There was no comparable medical crisis the last time I quit nearly five years ago… at the time, I thought, ‘what if I go back again? What if it comes and gets me?’
Live with addiction for long enough, and it becomes a monster in your mind, fully capable of crawling out from under your bed, clubbing you over the head, and dragging you back to its dank cave to have its way with you.
“Labor Of Love” is a story in which that last fear becomes real, in which technology not too far advanced from our own hands the monster that club, and a map to your house. Writing it was a process of pulling one of my own fears out into the light, so it didn’t turn out to be the most cheerful thing I’ve ever written.
But I learned a thing or two in writing it, and maybe someone will read it and get a sense of those things too.