Back in the 1970s there was a brief peculiar fad for blank books. Blank books have been around as journals or sketchbooks all along, but for a year or two they were trendy as gifts, with fancy bindings and so on. I bought a couple, and for Valentine's Day 1975 I gave my girlfriend (now wife) one where I'd written and drawn a children's story in it. I made a dustjacket for it out of a poster drawn by a friend named Robert Bentley, and illustrated the story with Flair pens (fine-point markers). There's a picture of it to the right.
For a few years thereafter I would sometimes steal the book back at some point during the year, and add another story, then give it back to Julie for Valentine's Day. After five stories it was about full, and I stopped. (Actually, I never finished the illustrations for the last story, "The Mysterious Box.")
The five stories were highly variable in quality and severely limited in content by my lack of artistic ability. Since these were intended for an audience of one, I was not constrained by any of the usual conventions. The five stories were "The Frog Wizard," "The Plants," "The Playful Demon," "The Ball That Lost Its Bounce," and "The Mysterious Box". "The Frog Wizard" was the first one, and probably the best.
(Later our kids read the book, too, and I was talked into reading stories from it to Julian's second-grade class.)
At some point it occurred to me that a couple of the stories were good enough it might be worth trying to sell them, so I rewrote "The Frog Wizard," without illustrations and aimed at general audiences rather than kids and/or Julie.
In fact, I wrote at least three different new versions -- arguably six. The original one had a framing story, and I rewrote it both with and without a framing story, and then I also wrote it as an Ethshar story, just in case making it part off the series would make it more marketable. There are also variations on two of these three -- there only seems to be one Ethshar version, but looking in my files I find three with the framing sequence (with two different endings) and two of the "Batrachia" version.
I don't remember how I decided which to submit, but I sent one with a framing sequence to Science Fiction Age, and they bought it for their second issue, January 1993. (The story is fantasy, but this was before Realms of Fantasy existed, and Science Fiction Age included some fantasy.)
And then in 2012 I assembled a collection of all the short Ethshar stories, with the completely unsurprising title Tales of Ethshar, and the Ethshar version finally saw print.
There are, therefore, at least four versions that have never been published, and the original version has only been published in a hand-written edition of one.
Was it worth all this effort? Probably not, but I think it's a fun little story.
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