rosemary edghill: Paying the Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Paying the Piper at the Gates of Dawn


Paying the Piper at the Gates of Dawn
by Rosemary Edghill
Five Star (ME) (May 2003)
ISBN: 0-786-25345-2

One of the finest practitioners in fantasy fiction working today, Rosemary Edghill has been enthralling audiences around the world with her artful blend of rich mythological and historical lore deftly blended with characters that leap off the page and demand to be heard.

Five Star is pleased to present this new collection of her finest short fantasy works, including: THE PIPER AT THE GATE -- Mary Frances Baynes longs all her life for Real Magic and finally achieves it ... at a price; THE INTERSECTION OF ANASTASIA YEOMAN AND LIGHT -- A midlist SF-writer-turned-successful-editor gets a glimpse of the way her life could have gone; THE LONG DIVORCE OF STEEL -- In the Edge, men live by the blade, and only the best become professional duelists. For Nain Cinchon -- a man without either swordskill or magic -- to destroy one of them, it will take everything he has; PRINCE OF EXILES -- The story of Ator, Jannifer, Ancel, and the Grail, set in Ancient Britain and told by the son that Ator tried to kill as an infant.

These stories, and many more, show the extraordinary voice and talent of Rosemary Edghill in this exciting new collection of her work.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Piper at the Gate
  3. The Intersection of Anastasia Yeoman and Light
  4. The Long Divorce of Steel
  5. Prince of Exiles
  6. A Gift of Two Grey Horses
  7. The Sword of the North
  8. The Maltese Feline
  9. Killer in the Reign
  10. War of the Roses
  11. The Fairy Ring
  12. We Have Met the Enemy
  13. And King Hereafter
  14. May Eve
  15. Scandal
  16. Haut-Clare
  17. For I Have Sworn Thee Fair
  18. Lizzie Fair and the Dragon of Heart's Desire


Paying The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn is a fairly-representative sampling of my short-fiction work -- a bit less than half of my output -- covering about the middle section of my short-story-writing life.

Why these stories?

Well, from among the ones that are available for reprinting -- and that haven't been previously reprinted elsewhere -- I think they're my best. I think you'll like them. We'll all have a good time. And that's the point, isn't it? At least from where I stand.

The great SF entertainer Robert A. Heinlein said that writers wrote for "beer money" -- by which he meant that the writer was competing for money that the reader would otherwise spend on other things, like beer . . . though these days, I suppose a more accurate comparison would be video rentals.

But it's also true -- at least these days -- that while it's possible -- if you're lucky and talented -- to make a living as a novelist, the same isn't true in short stories. There just aren't enough places to sell short stories for a writer to sell enough of them to make a living at it. So here at the turn of the new millennium, writers write short fiction -- or at least I do -- to try out new ideas and styles, for fun, for freedom, to test a theory . . . and yes, for beer money, from the other side of the equation (if you happen to drink beer.)

And sometimes -- though it's less true now than it once was -- to make that First Sale, the toehold on the Cursus Honorum of the Writing Life.

My first short story was published in Amazing Stories in 1984, a piece that would later grow up to become three novels, rather in the fashion of Topsy. But I'd been writing, off and on, for about a decade before that, and selling, now and again, though not in short (prose, SF) fiction.

What I'd been selling was comic book continuity, and therein lies the tale of how this collection -- and my career -- almost never happened.

We'll get to that in a moment. But first, a short digression.

Since my first short fiction sale, I've dreamed of the day I'd publish a collection. I was, of course, making the possibly-unwarranted-at-that-time assumption that I'd write, not only a second short story, but enough short stories for a collection -- drawing a veil over the market realities of folks below the Stephen King level getting the opportunity to publish such collections, since editors and publishers, just like writers, like to eat and live indoors, and single-author collections (as they are known in the Trade) are an iffy business in the Marketplace.

Writers live on dreams as much as on royalty checks. That's why we're here, after all, spending our days doing solitary-for-life in quiet rooms listening to our interior monologues. So I dreamed of that short fiction collection. I even had the title all picked out. I'd call it FIND ANOTHER HOBBY (obviously cooler heads prevailed there, even if they were mine own.)


Believe me, I yearn to tell you.

Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear: the mid-seventies. Black-and-white large-format horror comics were on the stands, and I was writing stories for them -- which is why, Gentle Reader, that I can truthfully say that I once killed vampires for a living. I did: in every imaginable fashion.

I love the comics. Certainly they're my first love: from the time I clutched a copy of the Batman Annual (I think it was the very first one) in my chubby baby fist, they've taught me all I've ever needed to know about mystery, wonder, heroism, and adventure. I learned to read from comic books and never looked back: I grew up with James Bond, Doc Savage, Simon Templar, and Sherlock Holmes, and in the worlds of Andre Norton and Robert Heinlein (to name only two out of dozens of my childhood author-heroes) and I had a great time.

So it was only reasonable that, once I'd started selling in one field of wondertales, I'd want to sell in another.


You'd think so.

So did I. So one day, there in the 'seventies, I wrote a short story, stuck it in an envelope, and mailed it off to . . . well, let us just say one of the then-current magazine markets.

And awaited the reply with a certain amount of hope, just like any other fledgling writer.

Eventually I received a postcard in the mail. It was the traditional pre-printed "your manuscript is not suitable to our needs at this time" postcard, but someone at the magazine's office had taken the time to run it through a typewriter (yes, indeed, back in those days typewriters were still a common item of office equipment) and add a personal postscript.

Words of encouragement? Please show us your next?


They'd typed "Find another hobby."

I've spent about a quarter of a century now wondering just what was going through the mind of that anonymous typist that day, and I still can't figure it out. Yes, I'm sure the story I sent was bad: it took me another ten years or so and a couple of novels to actually learn how to write a halfway-decent short story. But that bad? Bad enough that somebody down at the office decides to take precious time out of their work day to add an extra message of cheer?

Let me assure you: nobody's story is that bad. Not when magazine staff are even more chronically overworked than their book world counterparts. Let me assure you, from the vantage point of a brief sojourn on the editorial side of the desk: nobody has the time or the energy to spend engaging in elaborate vendettas against writers. Even bad writers. It's just a matter of rejecting the manuscript and moving on.

So color me, with the benefit of distance and experience, gently puzzled. At the time, however, I was pretty much shattered. I took the postcard, and put it in my file drawer, and for all intents and purposes stopped writing entirely. About then the black-and-white market folded up, and I couldn't make the transition to the color books anyway.

And that would have been that for the career of Rosemary Edghill, thanks to my anonymous typist, except for the galvanatic action of two things a few years later:

Star Wars and Georgette Heyer.

At the time I was doing production and design at a New York graphic arts studio, a location which later found its way as background into some of my books, so I figured all my artistic impulses were pretty well taken care of. Nobody sends you anonymous postcards when they don't like your chapter-opening layout, after all. Having read through all of Heyer, I was trying one of the then-current crop of Regencies, and had just gotten to the part where the heroine takes a train from London to Malta in 1805, ignoring all the rules of both history and geography. (Think about it)

And in spite of all of my best intentions and impulses to emotional self-preservation, The Writing Fairy landed on my shoulder and whispered in my ear: even YOU can do better than that.

It was not long before I had settled myself down once again in front of my by-now-venerable IBM Selectric III and typed: The early morning sunlight of the brilliant late March day sparkled off the sills and railings of the quiet row of townhouses in this fashionable section of London . . . .

How hard, I thought, could this be? I didn't, after all, have to show it to anyone . . . .

We will draw a veil over the subsequent Year of Living Dangerously. Suffice it to say that there I was around 1982, in possession of a 150,000 Regency novel (Turkish Delight), a 5,000 SF short story (Hellflower), and (with one thing and another) several years of practice, during which time I'd managed to make every single Beginning Prose Writer error. Twice. But I had also fallen among small press editors -- notably Poison Pen Press' Devra Langsam, who gave unstintingly of her time and energy to point them out. I was tanned, rested, and ready.

Both items -- the novel and the short story -- sold. And then I sold a sequel to Hellflower-the-short-story, also to Amazing Stories, which made me feel way cool and very much like a Freelance Master of the Universe.

It was, of course, years before I wrote another short story that sold. Short stories are really hard, you know? Lots harder than novels. A novel has elbow-room. A short story has (on the average) an absolute drop-dead maximum of 7500 words to get the job done, six-two-and-even, over and out, so every single word and image has to work overtime. Think of something on the order of mounting a full-dress production of Oklahoma! in a New York studio apartment and you'll get the idea.

But if I haven't yet mastered the form -- I'm not quite that cocky -- at least I make fewer mistakes these days. And I catch most of them early on. So you know, I don't think I'm going to need to "find another hobby" any time soon.

Sometimes I wish I still had that postcard, but alas, both it and the story that inspired it are gone, lost in the exfoliation of many moves. And there are actually some days -- when I'm in deep deadline for the latest book, for example -- that I don't even think about the postcard at all.

And there are other days that I think about it quite a lot.

And smile.

Here's hoping you feel the same.