Image Credits: Amazon 

I first met Jason Cantrell almost exactly a year ago. We initially met on Twitter, which if you’re following him (if you’re not go ahead and do that ASAP…you’re really missing out on his witty tweets…) should come as no surprise. Jason is a pro at tweeting. I also had the fortune of meeting Jason in real life as we were both attending the same school, Rowan University, with the same major, Writing Arts, and taking separate classes with the same professor, Professor Wolff, at the time (I know that sentence was a mouthful…did you get all of that?). My favorite thing about my friendship with Jason is that it allowed me to take a step inside his writing process. I can watch him as he undergoes the process of constructing his stories from the early planning stages to the final, published product.

Jason’s short story, “Radiance” was especially special. He’s worked diligently on it for some time until he deemed it ready for publication. This was Jason’s first experience into the wondrous world of self-publishing. You can see more of his experience as he reflects on it in his blog. One of the most important aspects of publishing his short story was to have a nice, professional cover design. He even started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for it. His hard work most certainly paid off (no pun intended).

But lots of books have beautiful covers. It’s the first thing a person sees and what they ultimately judge a book by. While potential readers will certainly be drawn to the cover that Jason has chosen, they will be hooked once they begin reading the actual inside content. This is a very well written story that uses lots of beautiful, descriptive imagery to draw the reader in and keep them engaged.

The story starts off explaining how Maria’s mother is very ill and basically lying on her death bed in a hospital. The situation seems completely hopeless as doctors have already stated that there is nothing more they can do. This part of the story seems all too familiar to me, as I remember doctors saying that about my own grandmother as she battled an inoperable brain tumor two years ago. Maria seems to be full of regret and guilt for not being there enough for her mother. In the opening paragraph she reflects on how she cared for her own home more than her mother. Now she seems to think it is too late. Maria’s guilt and regret seems to be with her throughout the rest of the story.

One day when Maria visits her mother she seems to be overcome by a weird, supernatural form of radiance. I believe the radiance comes from outside initially, but it quickly becomes a part of Maria. Weird things start to happen to Maria. She seems to possess the ability to freeze things, which unfortunately includes a young girl that lives near by. Townspeople become furious with her over this. They believe her to be evil, possibly even murderous.

But the people are not dead, they are merely frozen. Maria is confident that they will soon thaw out and be restored to their normal conditions all in due time. One person that seems to be an exception is her own mother. The story explains that her mother will have to be preserved. This raises a number of questions within me…why do the people need to be frozen and why does her mother have to be preserved?

I feel like there are many religious undertones hidden throughout this story that only a deep, close reading can reveal. Maria’s mother is dying. Maria is suddenly RADIATING with weird, supernatural powers that allows her to freeze things. When we think of snow and ice we think of winter. Things die in the winter…Maria’s mom seems to be that thing that is dying.

I feel like the radiance surrounding Maria may be something from a higher being. Is Maria the chosen one — an angel or a prophet from God? The story does state  that the radiance or “feeling the light made her believe”. It also stated that the “radiance was holy and good”. I am drawing all kinds of parallels between “Radiance” and bible stories and prophecies.

The world was also facing strange, unexplainable supernatural events and disasters before Maria’s radiance came into play. These kinds of things happened throughout the bible, too. God and his chosen people helped to save cities from disaster and destruction. Is Maria’s radiance and her accidental freezing of people her way of saving them? Maria is said to be in dire need of change in her life, but perhaps she is not alone. In freezing people maybe Maria hopes to freeze them in their moments of time. They will thaw out when she is ready for them. Maybe she needs to change before she can be one with them, or maybe society and the world as a whole will need to change before they are ready to be thawed.

And what’s with Maria’s mom needing to be preserved? It sounds as though she is dead now, or will be within days. She doesn’t need to be frozen because she is already headed to the afterlife. She is described as being in an “eternal sleep where the plague cannot get to her”…this sounds very peaceful and well, heavenly. But if she is not yet dead maybe Maria is going off and freezing people in hopes that she can freeze time so as to have more time with her mother to make things right before her death.

Radiance is a short story that raises many questions and offers few, if any, answers. I kind of really like the way the story works in this manner. Jason trusts his readers enough to give them the freedom to reach their own conclusions and to interpret the story however they choose. This I think shows true strength in the writer.

I believe that Jason’s debut into the world of self-publishing with “Radiance” was highly successful. He has managed to take a giant leap from student writer to professional. I look forward to reading his next published work and his full-length novel, Manifestation, when it is released.

You can purchase a copy of Jason Cantrell’s E-book, “Radiance” through Amazon for only 99 cents. Trust me — it’s worth all of those 99 cents and many more.