Reversing the Wheel of Time

Gordrog finished his chant. Traveling to the distant grave had taken all day. There had been hours of preparation. The candles had been placed at the precise locations to funnel the spirit of the dead back into its abandoned body. The incense had been checked to be just right. The skull of power had been polished and placed upon the ground. The long chant had left his throat dry and cracked. Now, as he uttered the final black syllable, lightning tore open the sky and struck the grave before him with an ear-splitting roar.

In response, a leathery hand shot out of the ground and pulled back downwards, establishing its grip. Inches away, its twin did the same, and together they pulled free the rest of the mummified corpse, clods of earth crumbling away. The hollow sockets turned towards Gordrog, silently demanding his reasons for reaching across the veil.

"In life, you undertook a great task, old man, but you overreached your grasp, and death took you before you could finish. I, foolishly, have followed in your trail and run it to its end, but I will not be stymied. By the black arts I have summoned you to the lands of the living to complete your work. Do you accept the terms of your binding?"

The dead man faced Gordrog for a moment, then his shruken jaw ground against his skull and rasped out a single parched word. "Advance."

Gordrog stepped forward, but the corpse shook its head. "No, I want an advance."

"Huh?" The necromancer was at a loss for words.

"An advance. Hundred thousand. If you're bringing me back from the dead for this, demand has gotta be outrageous. Sales are gonna be through the roof."

Gordrog could get the gold, though he was loathe to spend it. Still, it would pay itself back many times over. "Very well, but I get to be your publisher."

"For the lands of the living. I keep rights of first publication in the realms beyond."

"Done." As he clasped the dead man's hand, a smile spread over Gordrog's face. At long last, he would know how his favorite tale ended…

Editors used to be ordinary people?

Voltraut von Prusser clacked her fingers over the key caps of her laptop. Clack, clack, and it was done—another chapter of Blood Slaves of the Ice Witch lay complete. Sighing, she leaned back and cracked her fingers. From outside, she heard the distant bleating of Steven Brust's goat. Naturally, her mind wandered from her masterful prose to the fresh goat cheese he'd given her on Tuesday, and decided it was an excellent stopping point for lunch. Editing could wait.

The better part of an hour later, her stomach had been bought off for the afternoon with a prosciutto-and-goat-cheese-on-sourdough sandwich and a salad made from the baby spinach that had been in her farm subscription that week. Sated, she popped a pair of Logix® and washed them down with crisp, cool water from the pitcher in her refrigerator door.

Returning upstairs, she noticed the steps were dusty. They would need to be cleaned when there was nothing of higher priority needing doing; 5:15 this evening would be appropriate. Sitting down at her laptop, she typed her password. It was really rather poor of a password, she noted, but her morning's self would have a hard time remembering anything suitably complicated, and sometimes one had to compromise, unfortunate though it was.

Her eyes scanned over her words from earlier. So many typos! Didn't she care about conveying her thoughts precisely? Still, it was a reasonable division of labor, leaving such tedium to the one who felt it necessary. Correcting the mis-steps as she went along, she began to ponder the chapter as a whole. Only ego could delude one into thinking this was "a liberating escape into the fantasy of desire" as she'd put it in her last interview. Truly, this was somewhere between turgid prose and utter crap, but turgid prose sold, so she did her best to move it towards the former and away from the latter. That had to go, as did that. What did she mean here? This gap needed another scene bridging it, so she made a note to add one after dinner, once she was creative again.

Hours passed as Voltraut massaged the text into a more practical form, taking into account the needs and desires of its intended audience. As the clock crept past five, she remembered the dusty floorboards. Somewhere, the goat was bleating again. It was awfully…cute…for an ungulate. In any case, with thoughts like those, it was clearly time to stop editing.

Chuck Ballooniac's Guts

All scholars of the literary works of Crumbly Snickerdoodle agree that the Holy Grail of their research would be to find a copy of Chuck Ballooniac's Guts, his first children's book about an overweight boy who avenges himself upon his tormemtors. Sadly, all known copies were burned to ashes by the League for all that is Good and Decent. Imagine my surprise when, at a literal fire sale, I discovered two charred pages that bookend this extraordinary tale. With careful handling and digital restoration, I can now present them to you as they were originally published:

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(The origin of this bit of madness.)