Origins of “The Wishing Lantern”

My first story that was ever published was “The Wishing Lantern.” It was a project from my creative writing class at San Jose State. Jerry Hannah was our instructor. I remember getting the idea over a weekend and spending a few hours on a Saturday pulling the whole thing together, writing it in one sitting. I loved how the moment just flowed, bringing the different ideas and characters together. There’s a wise and patient Ferzohg (eliminate every other letter and it spells f-r-o-g) named Hickem Tod and an ill-tempered Shimmer Faerie with a mouth full of insults called Estellionata (the name derived from Estella in Dickens’ Great Expectations, a favorite of mine). The characters practically wrote themselves. Add to that a riddle that no one could solve (not even Bilbo). After turning in the story to Mr Hannah, I remember getting it back, anxious to see his reaction. On top of the paper he wrote: “A+ you should publish this as a children’s story”

During that semester, I was writing the first drafts of my novel Landmoor and set Wishing Lantern in that world. The Valg Mordain is a swamp in a region far away that I haven’t revealed yet. Of course, there are mention of the “Sorian” Mages and other nods as well. Back then, I used Elves. In fact, the original title of Landmoor was Elven Pride. I didn’t like it either.

I submitted Wishing Lantern to several publishers and magazines and received a host of rejection letters. But I still remember the delight when it was accepted for publishing by a regional literary newspaper in New York called The Advocate. They published it first. What a milestone.

After getting more rejections from publishers, I still desired to see it published as a children’s story and decided to try it myself. I was working night shift at Intel’s factory in Santa Clara at the time. One of my co-workers had a brother who was a fantasy artist, Randy Gallegos. One of my best friends, Jeremy, was the editor and layout guy. My other friend Brendon was our attorney. Together, we created our own publishing company, Amberlin Books. What a learning experience! We hired Randy as the artist, contracted with a printer on the east coast, and came out with our first hardcover book: The Wishing Lantern. Because of the glue they used for the cover, each copy warped visibly after they came out of the box. We had to ship it back, have the covers re-done, and then delivered back to us. What an ordeal!

The Wishing Lantern has only been available in that original hardcover since it was published in 1999.

Until now.

I’m pleased to announce, finally, a Kindle version. I still have all the original artwork on my computer and put together the layout myself. I did write a sequel to the story, many years ago, called The Ogre Tyrant. Perhaps if enough copies of the Kindle version sells, I can hire Randy Gallegos back to illustrate the sequel. We’ll see.

Enjoy! (Over the years, I have read it to many classrooms and no one has ever figured out the riddle. See if you can.)


Jeff Wheeler

Jeff Wheeler

Wall Street Journal bestselling author of over forty epic fantasy novels.

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