I have already mentioned the story of my own worst Christmas that inspired this tale, but we changed some details around for this version: would’ve felt too much like an invasion of privacy otherwise. And Chrissie’s forgiving lens is reluctant to assign the bad-guy role to either parent here, whereas I feel like the screwup was at least 95% mine.

Without the benefit of knowing it was taken from my life, readers thought we were going somewhere a lot darker with this. Spousal abuse? Spousal murder? Family murder-suicide and it turns out Chrissie’s a ghost? But this story was meant to be a palate-cleanser between our two most downbeat chapters, and I kinda liked the irony of Sepia World action getting unusually light at the same time “escapist” Arkerra is getting unusually heavy.

Twenty-twenty hindsight, I would’ve aged up Chrissie a bit in the flashback and maybe asked John to add a little facial hair. Showing her outwardly presenting as a boy was meant to be a quiet signal that she was trans, but it seems it was too quiet and some just read her as a cis girl who maybe looked a bit boyish at twelve. On the whole, though, I think it’s better to err on the side of subtlety than seem like you’re making the minority identity the character’s identity. I wanted to be sure her humanity was coming through strongly, partly to compensate for her pre-Guilded Age history… but more on that in a couple of days.