Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Coming Up - Free Days (AGAIN!) on 20th-21st

The new, improved childrens' book "Lemons and Other Kid Tales" will be offered free for two days on Amazon.

For one thing, this new version is free to make up for the disastrous release of the book as produced by the Kindle for Kids product. My assessment is that the application is simply not ready for use for childrens books.

Kids' books are supposed to have big type for readability, right?

Unfortunately, no matter how large I made the font, by the time it reached Kindle book stage, it was reduced to unreadable for even those with sharp eyes.

If I can't read it with my reading glasses, then the type is too small. I pulled that version and re-did the book using normal Kindle processes.

Anyway, bad test out of the way, I'll be offering the short book free this coming Saturday and Sunday.

Here are the three "stars" of the book. These aren't the only pictures in the book. It has several nice photo illustrations. Adorable, aren't they?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Testing Kindle for Kids - Updated

UPDATE: The Lemons ebook is now available for 99 cents on Amazon. I can send anybody who wants it the preview MOBI file. Amazon KDP said they'd review the files for content differences to determine whether to replace the previously downloaded copies. They also thanked me for my input on Kindle for Kids. My "input" was more like a rant.

Rethinking going on.
This was going to be the second free day for the childrens picture book which I used the Kindle for Kids application.

After I had a chance to download the product and mess with it, I decided to short stop the giveaway because the book was caca.

Not my stories or the cute photos I used to build it, but the PRESENTATION as forced by using the Kindle for Kids application.

I unpublished the book (it was named "Lemons and Other Kid Tales." I was listing the problems related directly to using the application. If you want to read about this app and another for creating comic books, trot over to this page in the Amazon Help files: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2VWASVLHMBQ10

Here's my list of why I think this product stinks.
  • Requirement of PDF upload negates the ability to change fonts when viewing on your Kindle/Droid. I suppose there's some way to make the font larger on the input file, but changing margins didn't help.
  • Page counts on the product page are incorrect. I forced some page breaks and the page count went from 1 page to 8 pages. The PDF file was 16 pages.
  • HUGE download file. Forces a Kindle minimum price of $1.99.
  • Cannot look inside on the book product page.
That's as far as I needed to go to decide to rip it out by the roots and plant a more pleasant and amenable book in its place. Same text, same pictures, but produced from a simple .DOC file. The pictures were a bit weird until I figured out to attach them to a character below the picture and that character was centered on the page. The new product looks much better. It can be viewed in portrait and landscape modes, you can adjust the fonts to suit your fancy, the text just follows along with whatever you want to do.

For those of you who downloaded the yucky version of Lemons, my apologies. I'll see if I can get Amazon to unbuy it (since it was free), so you can get the better version if you're inclined. I will have the new one up for some free days in a few days.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Don't Spend Money, Get it Free - Cancelled


Pete the Sheepdog in LEMONS - One Fine Dog.

September 13th and 14th, the first two days of free Kindle ebook download of "Lemons and Other Kid Tales" will commence.

I really don't want people to spend money on a 16-page kids' book. I'm giving it away for a couple of days, so I can fully test the process of using the Kindle for Kids ebook application.

The version you can download (and look at in 30 seconds) will only work on Kindle Fires. Maybe Kindle for PC as well, but I just don't know until people download it and let me know what their experience is.

Help me test Kindle for Kids by downloading LEMONS for free on September 13th and 14th. You'll be seeing tweet overload on this. I beg forgiveness in advance. But PLEASE let me know if it works for you or not.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Oh, hi! I didn't see you standing there

One of the color photos in Lemons.
I haven't been posting over the last few days because I was busy with putting out a little illustrated book for kids (Lemons and Other Kid Tales). Today, I added popups to the book and anxiously awaiting being able to test them on my Kindle Fire. The book isn't much to look at on a black and white Kindle.

I will be running some free days soon. Whoever bought that copy of Lemons for $2.99. Bless you. Contact me, and I'll give you some more books to make up for it. I don't think you can return it at this point.

Biggest annoyances of Kindle for Kids:

  • Having to upload a PDF to the application. This means the pages are static when viewed on a Kindle Reader (of any type). You can't change font size, view in landscape mode (I chose to create the book in portrait mode). 
  • The product page doesn't have a See Inside feature and thinks the book is only 1 page long. It isn't. It's 16 pages, which still isn't much, but WAY more than 1.

I'll let you all know about the free book days. I'm thinking the first couple of days of October, then some more later.

That's it for now.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Kid EBooks in Color


Amazon just came out with an application to convert books with illustrations for kidlets. Hey, I have some stories for children, so I'm giving the application a run through. You format your text, add some illustrations, make a PDF, then upload to the app. It creates a MOBI file, which you can then use as a source file for a Kindle books.

The problem I see is that the books produced this way become static. When uploading word processing files, the text flows depending on the settings the user likes for their ereader. I'm just talking about Kindle here. As far as I know, EPUBs you might get for Nook or Kobo don't have any particular facility for producing color interior, illustrated ebooks. I may be wrong about that. Let me know if you have other information.

Back to the process. I took three of my short stories appropriate for the 8-12 age range and formatted them. I inserted photographic illustrations (I'm not an artist) and made it look all pretty.

Then I sent the completed PDF to the Kindle for Kids application. Pick Portrait or Landscape. Hm. Well, I kind of let everything flow go in portrait. I tried that. Here's the weirdness. Since I uploaded a PDF, then the text and illustrations stay exactly where you put them. Maybe I could change the font size, but the pages don't flow as they do with a .doc upload. What you see is what you get.

That's fine when making a print book (and exactly how I do it), but what if somebody wants to turn their Kindle reader on its side? They can, but the pages just get smaller; they don't expand or contract as needed.

I tried a few other variations on the uploads. I made my pages landscape. They stayed landscape no matter what. Just for grins, I tried a two-page view. Um. Those fonts sure get smaller than I can read. Well they adjust if I change my font size on my reader? Can I hold my reader for portrait if I've produced a landscape input file?

It was an interesting experiment, but until I can test the files in all the ways people might like to use them (portrait, landscape, larger fonts, smaller fonts, etc.), I'm not convinced this is a good way to make color interior books for Kindle ereaders. They're find if you don't give the readers the options they are used to having.

My assessment for now is it's not flexible enough for the many ways a Kindle (of any type) can be used. Maybe I just don't know what I'm doing. But, I did get a fun looking book if you want to read in portrait mode and don't mind not changing fonts.

As usual, I've included a graphic so this post will look more interesting. In this case, I used the quick and dirty cover I produced for my experiments.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Free Ebooks Now Available

Now, at Smashwords, use the code at checkout to get the book free.

Eagle Quest ZD57S https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/13407

Spellslinger TA93U https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/424221

Mixed Bag II SS89C https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/54863

I'm trying out using the DropBox application to let people upload books from my private stash (unpublished elsewhere).

Lemons is a very short story about a horse-crazy girl who's having a bad day.

This is a trial run using illustrations in an ebook. I used the Kindle Kids Book application to add a popup, but it will probably only work if I run the book through the KDP cruncher.

Lemons in MOBI format.

Lemons in PDF format.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

August Free Books Tally

So, I made three of my books in August. Many people took advantage of the deal. YAY!.

Witches of Galdorheim (3-Book Volume):  323 Units (3 free days, August 1-3)
The Tales of Abu Nuwas - Setara's Genie: 141 Units (3 free days, August 8-10)
Quest for the Simurgh - Faizah's Destiny: 331 Units (2 free days, August 24-25)

Total free books: 795

The next interesting thing will be to discover how many reviews might be attributed to these free books. If you availed yourself of one of these freebies, the books have clickable Amazon links in case you'd like to review. They're all also on Goodreads at these links:

Witches of Galdorheim

Tales of Abu Nuwas - Setara's Genie

Quest for the Simurgh - Faizah's Destiny

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Review: Side Trip by Renee Duke

Side Trip by Renee Duke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable tale of a trio of planet-hopping teenagers who end up saving a Prince's Kingdom and keeping one little brother out of jail. Fun and fast reading.

Meda and Kristy look forward to the edu-tour of multiple planets but the chaperone is bound and determined that no kid in her care is going actually have fun on it. The two girls form a plan to get off the tour and head out on their own, hopping between planets, getting jobs to make money for food and their next ticket. All is going well until they discover Meda's clever little brother has jumped ship as well. Unfortunately, he's hooked up with a couple of older boys who talk him into stealing an important item from an exhibit.

The chase is on! The girls and little brother are joined in their travels by a Jip, a girl who can move between different planes of existence. A very handy skill when the kids are on the run from various evil-doers trying to get that certain item back and won't hesitate to kill to do it. Meda, Kristy, Jip, and bratty brother are on the run and determined to help an alien prince become the Emperor he's destined to be.

It's a mad dash for the teens, avoiding the men who oppose the prince, a strange man who seems to be chasing them for no reason, and their parents who will most likely ground them for life for ditching the tour.

Very well written (as I've come to expect from Ms. Duke). My favorite of hers to date. I hope she turns this into a series.

I received a free advance copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

NEW! SIDE TRIP Time Travel from Renee Duke


Available at the following:

Earth-born adolescents, Meda and Kirsty, are eager to explore the Zaidus system. They just don’t want to explore it as members of an organized tour group. The chaperone’s a harridan, and most of the places they’re forced to visit are really boring. Striking out on their own holds far more appeal, and despite limited funds and unexpected mishaps, they manage quite well – at first. But thanks to a bratty little brother, a dimension-travelling alien girl, and a handsome alien prince, their independent tour of the Zaidus planets is not without its complications.


Mrs. Bromley’s decision to sit in the barge’s windowless main section did not go over well with Simon. Like most small boys, he likes to watch planets shrinking beneath him whilst transferring up to a ship. He took a seat, but having what one of his teachers once called a low regard for authority, he didn’t stay in it long. The minute Mrs. Bromley turned her back he headed for the doors leading up to the observation deck.

It was not until she went to take her own seat that Mrs. Bromley noticed Simon’s was empty. “Where is your little brother?” she demanded, looking down at Arlyne.

The query threw my sister into an immediate panic. The Brent siblings all have dark brown eyes, dark brown hair, and an average build for our respective ages. Except for our hair (she wears hers long; I keep mine medium length), she is, physically, a smaller version of me. That’s where the similarities end. Arlyne is compliant, sweet natured, and inclined to look on the bright side of everything. I am…not. I might not clash with the powers that be as often as Simon, but I don’t always find it convenient to fall in with all their edicts either.

Arlyne, well, let’s just say adult approval means a lot to her. The only time she wavers in her ongoing campaign to please them is if it involves telling tales on Simon. Bitter experience has taught her he has too many ways of getting even. Unsure as to how she should respond, she just bit her lip and looked helplessly at me.

“Simon’s not here,” I said, deciding to bail her out.

“I am well aware of that. What I want to know is, where is he?”

I considered the matter. “Well, he really likes window seats. Since there aren’t any down here, he’s probably gone up to the observation deck.”

“I told everyone to stay with the group.” The astonishment in Mrs. Bromley’s voice indicated that opposition to her dictates was not within her realm of experience.

“Och, well, Simon never listens to a word anyone says,” said Kirsty, tossing her short, copper-coloured curls unconcernedly. “Dinna fash yourself. He’ll come back when we connect up with the ship.”

“He’ll come back now,” Mrs. Bromley declared.

She wheeled round, but before she could go in pursuit of her errant charge, the barge’s launch siren sounded and she had to strap down. Thwarted, she could do nothing until we had docked beside the ship and Simon joined us at the connector doors. Elbowing aside several passengers, she seized him by the collar.

How dare you go off by yourself after I expressly forbade it,” she scolded. “You’re a naughty, disobedient boy.”

Having been called that, and a lot worse, by a number of harassed educators, Simon did not exactly reel from this rebuke. Before she could improve on it, the connector doors opened and we were forced to move onto the starliner’s receiving deck. By the time boarding officials had scanned our travel documents and pointed us in the direction of our on-board accommodation, her annoyance had increased tenfold. She had also got it into her head that everyone connected to Simon was responsible for his act of insubordination.

She ranted all the way to the row of double-occupancy cabins allotted to our group. “Such behaviour is totally unacceptable. I know good conduct is not your strong pointreports supplied by every school you have ever attended revealed thatbut you will find me far less tolerant than the people at your former institutes of learning. You four have got off to an extremely bad start with me.”

Arlyne started snuffling. Seeing how upset she was about this so-called bad start, Kirsty and I hung our heads and tried to look remorseful.

Simon didn’t bother. Had we known how the rest of the edu-tour was going to go, we wouldn’t have either.

About Renee

Renee Duke grew up in Ontario/ B.C., Canada and Berkshire, England. In addition to this young adult novel, she is the author of the middle grade time travel novels, The Disappearing Rose and The Mud Rose, the first two books in the eventual five-book Time Rose series, and has just completed the third book, The Spirit Rose.

Visit Renee's Blog Time Traveling with Kids for interesting historical facts and findings of interest to both kids and adults.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Tale of a Book's Evolution

I wrote "The Tales of Abu Nuwas" first as a series of seven stories following the adventures of a girl and her accidentally procured genie. The first few stories were published in on-line zines, then the full seven stories were combined into a single print volume published by Sam's Dot Publishing (no longer exists). In that iteration it was titled "The Seven Adventures of Cadida."

Then I decided to novelize the stories by putting them together a la Scheherazade using a frame story of an old story teller sitting in a bazaar in ancient Persia, offering his stories for whoever might pay a coin to hear. One day, a spice seller (I must resist saying Spice Girl) asks for a tale to ease her heart's woe. She has been promised to marry an older man she didn't much like. But, those were the days of forced marriages (Oh, right. We're still in the days of forced marriages some places in the world.) and the girl had no say in the matter. Her mother was very ill and only the money provided by the merchant groom would buy the medicine and care she needed.

I had the frame set up and alternated between the genie stories and the plight of the spice seller. The story teller, Abu Nuwas (named for a real 8th C. Persian poet), tells the tales providing some parallels to the spice seller's life.

I re-wrote and edited a bit, then submitted the book to MuseItUp Publishing with the title "Setara's Genie." I have my rights back for that book, then issued it myself under that title. But I wanted to return the book to Abu Nuwas' capable hands. Thus, I added the subtitle and went back to the original cover, Although the cover for "Setara's Genie" is beautiful, and I did use it with the print edition, I wanted to make it my own again. I want all of my books to belong to me, only me, and just me forever and ever, amen.

Now the book is entirely mine. All other iterations are wiped from the earth (except as sold in print by 3rd party vendors).

A girl, a genie, a few demons. Would could go wrong?

Available only at Amazon until KDP Select runs out in October. Free for KindleUnlimited customers. Print is available in other stores as well as Amazon.

Abu Nuwas sits in the bazaar telling stories to the passersby he can tempt to pay. He relates the adventures of the bored daughter of a rich merchant, Setara, and her genie, Basit, as they encounter the creatures of legend and folklore: a lonely cave demon seeking a home; a flying, fire-breathing horse who has lost his mate; a dragon searching for his family; an evil genie hunting for the man who bottled him; and a merboy prince cast out of his undersea kingdom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Who's Your Little Demon?

From Quest for the Simurgh - Faizah's Destiny

Encyclopedia Mythica has plenty to say about Persian mythology. The three demons in "Quest for the Simurgh - Faizah's Destiny" are minions of Dev, the war god.

Aesma is the demon of lust and anger, wrath and revenge. His wrath is mainly directed towards the cow (go figure). He is the symbol of violence, a lover of conflict and war. He's resting on his laurels these days since war just seems to keep going from inertia. 

Buyasta is an ancient Persian demon of laziness who tries to prevent people from working. He's even lazier than usual lately since plenty of people are out of work without his help.
Nanghaithya An archfiend, which is a demonic upgrade. Nanghaithya is busy making people discontented. It seems that this guy has plenty of work in this downturn economy.
My Mashup

Dev (the little devil) wants war to usher in Armageddon. Why? Because war is his thing and wiping out all humankind is on his to-do list.

To that end, he sends three daevas (demons, if you will) to turn Faizah’s companions on the quest to the dark side (sort of a Darth Vader thing).

Aesma appears to Parvaiz in the form of a bear with a serpent’s tail. Parvaiz was a slave and has a mile-wide chip on his shoulder. Aesma fuels that anger and convinces Parvaiz that the others are his enemies, not his friends. He’s told to wait for Dev to call him into battle. And, of course, keep his mouth shut about the little meeting.

Dev sends Buyasta in the form of a giant spider to Bahaar, who has always dreamt of becoming a warrior. The demon takes advantage of that dream to make Bahaar fall asleep (laziness) and dream of himself as a mighty fighter in a huge battle. The good part: Bahaar is kicking major butt. The bad part: The butts he’s kicking are those of his best friends.

Nanghaithya has a little un-pep talk (he’s a voice-over character) with Harib claiming that his friends all laugh at him and only keep his company because his father is rich. The demon attempts to make Harib discontented with his relationship with the others. Harib, however, is having none of it. He’s the only of the three boys who stays true to Faizah.

Who's your personal demon? For writers, it seems Buyasta (sloth) and Nanghaithya (insecurity) have alternating work schedules. Hopefully, the seesaw demons don't turn an author to Aesma (anger).

The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.
Buy on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002LLNDVY

The village magician has gone missing.  His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures.  They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains.  Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Village Magician - Faizah's Destiny


The Village Magician

The four teen adventurers in Quest for the Simurgh - Faizah’sDestiny are all students of the village magician, who also serves as teacher for the children who have some time to expend on schooling. Master Wafai is an all-round teacher, covering the academic topics such as mathematics and writing. As a magician with minor skills, he also loves to impart his knowledge of magical beasts that roam the earth.

Master Wafai wants more than anything to meet the elusive, all-knowing Simurgh. He feels it’s very important for his students to learn about magic, even though there is very little to be found around their tiny village. Of the Simurgh, he says:

“The Simurgh is a tutelary creature. It is so old, according to legend, it has seen the world destroyed three times over. Many believe it has learned so much that it possesses the knowledge of all the ages―a great teacher and a guardian. The Simurgh simply are. In the past for all of eternity and in the future for all of eternity.”

One day, Master Wafai isn’t at his little school. His four pupils are puzzled and concerned. Why is their teacher gone without leaving word? A possible answer is found on a page of the Magicalis Bestialis. The book was left open to the text describing the Simurgh.

Faizah, a farmer’s daughter and Wafai’s favorite pupil, knows how much the Master loves the Simurgh, she immediately believes the open page is a sign that she and the boys who are also students must seach for the home of the Simurgh.

The boys scoff at the silly idea, but agree to searching the nearby mountains for signs of Wafai’s whereabouts. They only decide to go on the search when they find the adults in the village are content to send word to the Sultan and have troops sent to search for the missing teacher.


Master Wafai sat at the small table that served him for both dining and desk. One of his prized books, the Magicalis Bestialis lay on the table before him, open to the section on the Simurgh. If only they were real. Wafai sighed. His advancing years never dimmed the hope that someday he would know for certain such magical beasts truly existed.

The stories he had heard of the flying, fire-breathing horse stabled in the Sultan’s palace, helped to keep that hope alive. Still, he longed to meet such a creature, to see it with his own eyes.

He sighed again and stood. He moved into the bare kitchen and carried a bowl of fruit back to the table. In this tiny village, there was not much chance of seeing anything magical. Wafai had long ago accepted the fact he would never be a great or powerful mage. A competent magician in an average sort of way, he could cure most common ailments, cast a spell to clear the air after a sandstorm, find lost livestock, and sometimes water. He could even generate a few small curses, though he seldom chose to do so.

Peeling an orange, he stared, unseeing, at his whitewashed walls, smudged with ochre chalk. His students provided the greatest joy in his life. A mediocre magician though he might be, Wafai was a born teacher. His pupils made jokes about him ‘putting on his teaching voice,’ but when he did, they listened. Although Wafai had always longed to meet a magical creature or two, what he really wanted was for one or more of his students to have the opportunities he had missed.

He thought about his three students and wondered about the new boy. Would any of them become adept? Would any of them ever meet a flying horse, a demon, or a Djinn? Most of the village children came to his school only until they were eight or nine, and then family duties called them away.

Harib, the son of a rich merchant, was the only one free to do as he pleased. He attended school to be with his friends. Left mostly to his own devices when his mother died, Harib had come to the school out of curiosity and boredom. He met Faizah and Bahaar there, and the three of them soon formed a close friendship. School was easy for Faizah and Harib, however Bahaar struggled a bit. They had all mastered the basics of reading and arithmetic and were now engrossed in learning what they could of the magical arts.

Wafai looked down at the Magicalis Bestialis and picked up an orange pip he had dropped. He closed the book and put it aside.

Bahaar, too, lived mostly on his own. Although an indifferent student, he preferred staying in Wafai’s classroom with his friends to begging in the streets. Still, he had his strengths―the fastest runner in the village, he could easily outdistance the bullies, but his bravado made him face them instead.

Faizah neared the age when Wafai would reluctantly release her to help take care of her father’s household, although he knew the girl really wanted to continue her education. He thought it most unfair that just because she was a girl, her parents expected her to stay home and help raise her younger siblings. Soon, it would be time for her to marry and have children of her own.

With her almond eyes and long dark hair, she was pretty enough to attract a prince, but with her parents’ low standing, the best she could do would be to marry a merchant. Particularly sad, Wafai thought, because of his three students, Faizah was the only one with a real talent for magic.

This talent provided the reason she was still in school. The herbs and simple cures she had already learned from Wafai earned a few extra coins for her family, so her parents considered Wafai’s classroom a better use of her time than doing laundry...for now. All too soon, they would take her out of his school and marry her off to some merchant or farmer.

Such a waste.

* * *

The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.

Kindle Only Free today: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002LLNDVY (always free for those on the KindleUnlimited program)


The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Just a Farmer's Daughter - Faizah's Destiny

Just a Farmer’s Daughter

Hi. I’m Marva Dasef, author of “Quest for the Simurgh - Faizah’s Destiny.” Today, I’m interviewing Faizah, the star of the novel, to find out a little more about her life and times.

(Marva) Keef haalak, Faizah?

(Faizah) Kowayyesah, Marva.

(Marva) Laww Smahti? Actually, Faizah, I don’t speak Arabic, so if you could indulge me by using English, I’d appreciate it.

(Faizah giggles) Min fadlik. No problem.

(Marva) You attend a small school run by Master Wafai. How did you start school when you’re from a poor family of low status?

(Faizah) Luck, I guess. When I was only five, my mother was giving birth. The delivery was difficult, and my mother was in great pain. My father sent my brother, Ali, to Master Wafai. He came, of course, and helped ease my mother’s birth pangs. Without him, she might have died. Unfortunately, my sister did not survive.

(Marva) I’m sorry to hear that. But you credit Master Wafai for saving your mother’s life. Is that what got you interested in the medicine he practices?

(Faizah) Indeed. I watched closely as he blended the pain killing mixture. Beid el djinn is the root of the mandrake plant. It stifles pain and helps a person to sleep. Too much, however, would kill. It’s the knowledge of which plants to use and how much I wanted to learn. Master Wafai watched me watching him. He asked my father’s permission for me to attend school to learn the healing arts. My father saw the wisdom of his daughter having this knowledge.

Laughs Of course, he doesn’t know that Master Wafai also taught me to read and write, mathematics, and some simple spells. Master Wafai says that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, which is why one pursues as much knowledge as possible. It leaves off being dangerous and, instead, becomes useful.

(Marva) Master Wafai is wise. How about Bahaar and Harib, your friends. How did they happen to go to Master Wafai’s school?

(Faizah) Bahaar was sent by his brother, Sayid. Since they have no parents, Sayid must leave the village for days as he works for the caravan drivers. Being a good brother, he sought to keep his hot-headed little brother out of trouble by making him go to school. Harib’s father is wealthy, but he comes to school mostly because Bahaar and I are his friends.

(Marva) Now that the adventures recounted in your book are through, what do you plan to do with yourself?

(Faizah) Master Wafai is staying with the Simurghs for awhile, so he encouraged me to continue my studies of the healing arts at the Temple of Anahita in Gamaal. After that, who knows?

(Marva) I wish you the best. Finally, can you tell us about the day Master Wafai went missing.

(Faizah) Perhaps reading about it in the words you have put down in the book with my name upon the cover is the best way to do that.

(Marva) Absolutely. Thanks for talking to me today.


One by one, they stepped through the archway into the courtyard. The air hung heavy with the heat, and only the hum of insects broke the silence. The door into Wafai’s house hung open.

Faizah thought this strange. “He’d not leave the door open. It lets in the heat.”

Bahaar glanced around the courtyard. “You wait here. I’ll look.” He entered the house while the other three gathered under the palm tree for whatever relief its shade could provide. Faizah soon grew impatient; Bahaar was taking a long time inside. She was just about to go in after him when he appeared in the doorway.

“He’s not here, and everything’s a mess!”

“Should we wait outside for him?” Parvaiz asked. “What is the proper thing to do?”

“No, we can wait inside. He should be back soon,” Faizah replied. Bahaar stepped aside as she walked through the open door. Harib and Parvaiz followed close behind her.

“Goodness. It’s hotter in here than outside,” Faizah said, fanning her face. “Close the door, Harib. Maybe it will cool off some.”

Harib reached for the door string and gave it a tug. The top hinge broke free, and the door slumped across the opening.

Startled, Harib gasped, “Uh oh, I didn’t mean to break it!”

Parvaiz examined the hinges. “You didn’t. Someone already pulled the hinge right out of the wall.”

“Something’s definitely wrong here,” Harib voiced what they were all thinking. Master Wafai usually kept his home neat as a pin, but not today. Besides the broken door, someone had scattered Wafai’s possessions on the floor. The chair was askew from the table and the curtain partially pulled back from the alcove where he had his bed.

Harib continued, “Maybe he had to leave in a hurry. Maybe somebody got hurt or something.”

Faizah considered this and then answered slowly, “Maybe.” She pointed toward the shelf. “But he didn’t take his medicine bag. Let’s check with the neighbors. It’s possible someone saw him leave.”

They filed out through the courtyard and turned left into the lane. The inn three doors down showed the only signs of activity, so they headed there. The public room was dark and cool after the stifling heat outside. The four friends clustered just inside the door while their eyes adjusted to the dim light. Bahaar carefully latched the door behind them to keep out the heat.

“What do you kids want?” Faluj, the innkeeper asked when they entered.

Harib stepped forward to do the talking. His father’s status in the village guaranteed Faluj would pay more attention to him than any of the others.

After salaaming to show his respect, Harib told the innkeeper, “We’re looking for Master Wafai. We were supposed to have lessons from him this afternoon, but he’s not at home, and his door is broken. We’re worried. Do you know anything?” he asked.

Faluj rubbed his stubbled chin for a moment in thought. “There may be no connection, but some mountain nomads came in here last night. I overheard one of them say their chieftain’s son was sick.” He shrugged, “Maybe they wanted Wafai to treat him.”

“Possibly,” Bahaar agreed, “but it doesn’t look like he left voluntarily.”

“That’s right.” Faizah didn’t try to hide the concern in her voice. “His medicine bag was still on the shelf. He wouldn’t go to treat someone without his potions.”

The four exchanged worried glances. There might be some innocent explanation for all of this, but it didn’t look good. What could have happened to their teacher?

* * *

The gods are at war and only a farmer’s daughter can save the world from Armageddon.


The village magician has gone missing. His four pupils think he has left a clue to his whereabouts in the Magicalis Bestialis--the book of magical creatures. They must seek the help of the elusive Simurgh, the mythical birds who know all the secrets of the universe.

However, this is not an easy camping trip into the mountains. Spirits, gods, and demons confront the four friends, who are not aware they’re being set up by otherworldly forces for a much larger task.

A farmer’s daughter, Faizah is chosen to lead the humans in the battle. She must persuade a slave, an orphan, and a rich merchant’s son to join in the battle on the side of good. Although divided by Dev, the evil god of war, the teens must band together to find the Simurgh, rescue their teacher, and stave off Armageddon.


Marva Dasef lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two ungrateful cats. Retired from thirty-five years in the software industry, she has now turned her energies to writing fiction and finds it a much more satisfying occupation. Marva has published more than forty stories in a number of on-line and print magazines, with several included in Best of anthologies. She has several published books.

Twitter Handle: @Gurina