Five years before I started work on my current WIP, THE BONE HARVEST, I wrote a short story called A COLLECTION OF STARS. My original reason for writing it was in response to a call for submissions for an anthology titled, Defy the Dark. My story didn’t make the cut, but I did receive a completely unexpected and heartfelt response from anthology editor and author-extraordinaire, Saundra Mitchell, that remains some of the most-meaningful praise I’ve ever received. She said:
“I loved this story. Really rich science fiction can be a rare thing in YA, and I think you did a beautiful job here. The world building is fantastic, the characters are strong. Your language is evocative—I really did think this story was great. I had to put it aside because not because of its flaws, but because I already had a ship-bound science fiction story in the anthology.
As an editor, that breaks my heart. As a sister author, it drives me absolutely crazy. So I wanted to drop you a note and let you know, this story is *great*, and you really, really must submit it elsewhere. There's a home for it out there, and it so deserves to be seen by the world. I wish you the best of luck, and I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.”
Responses like this can be heartbreaking for an author. But it made me realize I wasn’t alone in feeling this story was special. It’s one of my favourite pieces of my own writing. Maybe I wrote it for that anthology, but that didn’t mean it couldn’t belong somewhere else. So, I did as Saundra suggested and submitted it to a few places, but the response was always the same: Thanks, but not what we’re looking for right now. So, eventually, I filed it away. And that was that.
That is, until I stumbled across it again one day and my writer brain started firing on all cylinders. I’d been carrying an idea for a YA sci-fi in the back of my mind for a while, but I could never seem to fully flesh out the plot. Re-reading this short story suddenly made everything click. And so, THE BONE HARVEST was born into a universe directly linked to A COLLECTION OF STARS.
As I said, I never did find a home for this short story, so I figure it’s time to give it a home right here. Because I really do love this little story about a teenager’s first night on-planet after living his entire life on a passenger spacecraft, and I hope you love it too.
Here’s a snippet from the text, which you can read in full at the link below.
A few feet ahead, Natalie is nothing but a silhouette in a pale sheath of fabric. She’s walking faster than me, her pace confident and sure. I jog to keep up, terrified of losing her in this creeping dark, but the unthinkable happens. I stumble, tripping over a section of rutted ground, and though I don’t fall, I lose enough balance to send the torch flying from my grasp. My reaction is like the victim of a landslide—panicked, desperate and ultimately incapable. The torch lands in a puddle of muck that extinguishes the flame on contact.
“Dammit,” I hiss, the word a crumbling pillar. I crouch to the ground as though I can somehow retrieve the lost light, but every last ember has gone out.
My world is black and cloying. I’m choking on claustrophobic thoughts, my lungs filling with muggy air and this terrible thing called night. My breath hastens as I open my eyes wide, but I can’t see a damn thing and it makes me miss the stars. It terrifies me.