a collection of stars

A Collection of Stars.png

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.

Please click here to check out A COLLECTION OF STARS in its entirety.

finding a good home for your creation

I recently received some heartwarmingly positive feedback on a short story I wrote for a contest. As happy as I was with the story I'd written, it hadn't won. So I'd sadly moved on. But after the feedback I unexpectedly received recently, I'm now putting some thought into what else I can do with this story. I know it seems shortsighted, but it hadn't occurred to me to submit it anywhere else. My focus has always been on writing novels. The odd short story I've submitted for a contest here or there was always in a separate space in my mind. But just because a story didn't serve its initial purpose, doesn't mean you can't still find it a good home.

For a lot of people, a book that didn't survive the querying trenches (or ensuing the submission stage) eventually gets shelved. It's viewed as a learning experience, having served its purpose as a book that needed to be written before an author could go on to write the book that gets them where they're going. For others, shelving a book they've slaved over is too heartbreaking, and self-publishing is an option.

Which route is better? Well, that depends. If you're still pursuing a traditional publishing career, self-publishing could potentially hurt you down the road, especially if the book you self-publish is vastly different in style and genre than the book you're eventually signed for. It's hard to develop a strong debut author brand when an old self-published novel is kicking around. The power of your debut is diminished, especially if the self-pubbed book really wasn't up to snuff.

But if you've decided the traditional publishing route isn't for you, isn't self-publishing better than letting your story collect dust in a drawer? Again, that depends. Personally, I'd never recommend that someone invest their savings into self-publishing a book (unless they're an established author who has a strong following and is making the jump from traditional publishing to self-publishing, but that's a whole separate issue). If you have the money to do it (without the spend having adverse effects on your family/life) then I'd say self-publishing is a good option if you'd really like to see your story in book form (or ebook form).

"I'm so glad I decided to self-publish my book about reading with your eyes closed..."
A story is more than just words on a page (yes, even the muddled NaNo story you may or may not be avoiding as you read this). It's something special. Even if you write as a hobby instead of in pursuit of publication, finishing a book is a huge accomplishment and beloved creations deserve good homes, whether that be through self-publishing, submission to contests, submission to magazines, or just a special spot on your bookshelf. If you're proud of something you've created, you should take it as far as you can. And if the route you dream of doesn't work out, find another good home for your creation. It never has to be an all or nothing thing.

Do you have prior works of art that didn't achieve their initial purpose? Did you go on to find them a good home elsewhere?

Anybody have good lead on where I should submit my YA sci-fi short story? :)

a collection of stars

Just a quick post to share my entry in HarperTeen and Figment.com's Defy the Dark contest. This is quite possibly the best contest ever! I'll take a chance to be published (alongside a slew of my fav YA authors!) over a cash prize any day (and this one actually has both!).

Actual contest aspects of this aside, this short story was just what I needed--something new and different from the book I  just finished, a challenge, a chance to experiement with a male POV and a different tense than I usually write in. I'm very pleased with the end result. It's also my first completed work of sci fi.

Here it is: A Collection of Stars