Ash and Dust and Strange Horizons

There’s a black market in breastmilk here.

Ash and Dust” is the second story I ever tried to sell. Sold, as well, but let’s focus on the trying instead. “Snowfall” was the first, and it was something else entirely–a little piece about family and what matters at the end of the world. Short, very short, the shortest story I’ve ever written.

When I first decided to send “Ash and Dust” out, I didn’t know the markets. I didn’t know what I was doing, really. I’d written a story that was just shy of 6,800 words, that included a miscarriage, a death from a postpartum hemorrhage, multiple births, and a lesbian midwife living in an refugee camp with her two children. And there was that opening line, which at the time I was writing it made perfect sense, but once I decided to send it out suddenly felt very very heavy.

Write the stories you want to read. Isn’t that the advice everyone gives? “Ash and Dust” was exactly the story I wanted to read at the time I wrote it. It was many things for me–a farewell to a chapter in my life, a love letter to an exceptional midwife, grief over someone who shouldn’t have died, an outlet for anger and fear, and a reminder of hope. The thing about writing a story like that is that when you get to the point of trying to sell it, you suddenly wonder who could possibly want it.

The answer is Strange Horizons. Not because they specialize in midwives and apocalypse, but because they believe in stories that explore the full range of the human experience. The thrill of that sale is one that stays with me, that encourages me when I’m wondering what exactly I’m doing as a writer.

It’s an experience I wish on many other writers. It is one of many reasons to donate to the Strange Horizons’ fund drive.

It looks like they’ve almost reached their minimum goal for the year–what they need to continue for another year with no changes. But I’d love to see their additional goals met. The poets deserve a raise. So do the reviewers. If you haven’t donated yet, there’s still a day left to do so.

And if you have? Thank you!


  1. I still love that story.

    • Thank you. I was thinking of you when I wrote the post.

      • Thank you. I am very glad to see your stories continue to find good homes. Hopefully the novels will too.

      • Bridgers is done. It is a bit of a shock to me still to have written a whole new novel so fast (for me). Now I am in the exciting phase of waiting for beta feedback… I often think I should ask Scott A.!

        I miss talking to you. Hope you are well.

        • Congrats on finishing! I’m sure S.A. would be full of opinions for you. 🙂

          Things are things. It’s that gray time of year. I miss our conversations too.

          • Regarding SA, I don’t know if I can deal with endless debates about commas, but in retrospect I feel that he taught me something about pacing and tension. I have no idea whether it’s good or bad.

            It’s gloomy here, but I usually enjoy it. November is my favorite month, but this year so far it’s been unpleasant. Perhaps things will improve.

          • There is always that question of whether an editor sharpens your work, or smushes it into something else entirely. (Comma debates aside, of course. A case could definitely be made for grammar duels at dawn.) It’s interesting to work with someone who gets as involved as SA in the process. I hope you felt good about the outcome.

            I quit writing for a while this year. It’s been a slow train to get started again. I suppose November still has plenty of time to redeem itself.

  2. I’m sorry you needed to stop writing, but it’s good to hear you are getting back to it. FWIW, I really liked the last reiteration of the Huntsman.

    Regarding Held Close, who knows.

    • Thanks–I was very pleased about Giganotosaurus, as I really couldn’t see Huntsman anywhere else.

      As for Held Close, I think it came through well, but I also understand how that process feels. It changes one’s relationship to the writing in a rather fundamental way. Sometimes it feels good, sometimes it makes it tempting to bury it away and never look at it again.

      • The process with Held Close was complicated and extended beyond BCS, but I am glad I had that experience.

        Ann Leckie is wonderful; I hoped to send her a novella earlier this year, but it swallowed me and morphed into a novel. Perhaps another time.

        I saw a deer last night, and thought about you.

        • Ann Leckie is indeed wonderful. I’d happily send more things to her, if only I had them. I had a novelette that attempted to morph into a novel this spring. I locked it away and told it to be quiet instead. I think charging forward is probably a much better approach.

          I saw a deer the other night as well. She had this year’s fawn with her. They were lovely.

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