Author’s Notes: Bearing the Flame

What fantasy stories might you find inside a photocopied ‘zine handed to you on the streets of Constantinople by a like-minded time traveler? (Don’t forget to give him credit for making an additional trip to type it up on an electric typewriter, draw the cover with a Sharpie, and have it photocopied in the late twentieth century.)

I was trying to come up with story ideas from a medieval imagination, and the cliché magical ability of conjuring fire seems to have an obvious employer when setting things on fire is part of the daily routine at church. But imagining fire as a liturgical art requires facing the fact that some of us who like church and like art are not as good at it as we think we are. Fellow listeners of the Lord of Spirits podcast will recognize the idea of an idol as a trap, and fellow Orthodox will recognize a pale shadow of the early morning hours of Pascha.

Scratching at these ideas in a story that was intended to be fantasy, not theologically or historically accurate for our world, meant that this particular work fit one publication best: Mysterion, and I am beyond delighted that it was accepted there because I admire it so much. I would like to specifically thank the editors, Donald S. Crankshaw and Kristin Janz, for their suggestions on how to improve it.

It can be read early on the Enigmatic Mirror Press Patreon page, and I hope to meet you all in imaginary Constantinople.

Author’s Notes: The Healer of Branford

The events of this story began with thoughts about how the process of rejoining a community can be painful, since even the smallest community involves some work on yourself, treating festering flaws. Cats came into the story because I believe they are the best domestic animals to be medicine for the soul. Other pets may suffer nobly and silently if you are too self-absorbed with your own pain, but a cat will intrusively recall you to your responsibilities. His campaign of harassment when the kibble is two minutes stale is not based on moral superiority. It’s that he is more self-absorbed, and the two of you are negotiating a relationship.

I have also always remembered reading in Katherine C. Grier’s book about the history of pet-keeping that large populations of unowned cats were once part of urban life the way that squirrels and Canadian geese torment us now. That would be wonderful and terrible, and I intend to give “needs more stray cats” as worldbuilding advice to other authors whenever possible.

Finally, I’m proud to announce that this story was a Finalist in the Writers of the Future contest for the Third Quarter of Volume 37. It makes me giddy to know that my story advanced far enough to be read by authors who I have been reading since middle school.

Author’s Notes: The Candy Story

My submission received an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest for the second quarter of Volume 36.

It stars a candy-maker and is directly inspired by the fantastic mini-documentaries about candy making from Lofty Pursuits and Public Displays of Confection, so I’m eating a bag of their nectar drops to fuel my revisions in the hope that my story will see publication one day.

In case you’re wondering about the secret, historically accurate taste: honey and marzipan is my best description. The sweetness is more complex than white sugar, and I feel convinced that there’s a tiny almond note in the finish.

The pieces are smaller and more ornate than the last modern hard candy I bought, and feel very precious. The detail, particularly on the starfish, is amazing. The way the pieces fit on your tongue almost changes the taste.

I also realized that I have never actually eaten fresh hard candy in my life and it was as much a revelation as fresh green beans would be if you’ve only ever eaten canned. I was careless about resealing the bag and the last few pieces changed significantly, and dulled into something closer to sugar cubes. So I both recommend that you order some, and that you eat it before the magic fades.