Yesterday I took another tentative step in the direction of e-book self-publishing and put a collection of two short stories out there into the ether. At present, they’re only on Smashwords and you can check the collection out here. My intention is to put them up on Amazon via Kindle Direct Publishing too.
One of these stories, the eponymous Cage Life, has been published before under the title Still Life by [untitled] magazine here in Australia. When it was released, published in print in a slim volume with a garish illustrated cover, I passed copies around to several people to inspire them to admire me (it didn’t work!) although several lovely people even coughed up for a copy.
The story is written in first person from the point-of-view of a young wife and mother and, without giving too much away, starts off charting her carefree, drug-taking university years and spirals into tragedy. My intention was to explore the gamut of a woman’s feelings about liberation and love. How often women feel trapped by their own choices, how often we overlook the signs of love and mistake them for something else, and often we inadvertently fail to prioritise the most important things in life, even while simultaneously trying to put everyone and everything else above ourselves. But when the book came out, so many times the reaction from those who don’t know me well—or well enough to realise that I am begrudgingly unmarried (yes, I know! Talk to my hesitant loving partner and baby daddy folks) and my daughter is just 15 weeks old despite the story being written more than two years ago now—is, “It’s so sad. It’s not based on real life is it?”
My answer is, that it is fiction. I made it up. As a writer I am an incurable liar and I make shit up all the time. It’s what I do. So while it is entirely fictitious, it is, of course, based on real life. The events that take place in my character’s life are in part based on some of the experiences I have had. “The Cow” couch in the story, for instance, really did exist. Some of my best ideas were formed perching on its “furry flanks.” But now I get my inspiration the old-fashioned way (read: wine, or insomnia). I did, at some point, have an ex who was a lawyer and I did live in the “Dolls House.”
Having said that, the “crux” of the story, the tragedy that unfolds, thankfully never happened to me or to anyone I know and love, although such tragedies happen to families around the world every day. I suppose the story is a cautionary tale of just how easy it is to lose sight of the important things for just a few seconds in the midst of a busy life. Sometimes I need to remember that. Sometimes we all do. But hopefully it is a lesson none of us ever have to learn in such a painful and pointless way.
As for the second story … well I hope no one ever mistakes me for an 80-year-old!