Thursday, October 19, 2017

TAIRY FALES (Free Preview)

Once Upon a time there were three little pigs. Their names were Manny, Moe and Mack. And one day, they all left home to make their own way in the world and they each built themselves a house.

Manny's house was made of straw.

Moe's house was made of sticks.

And, of course, Mack's house was built of...gingerbread.

That was not the original plan, of course, but the hardware store was completely out of bricks so he went to the candy store next door and got gingerbread instead (it was on sale).

Everything was fine for a few weeks, but then the Big Bad Wolf came into town. He heard about the three pigs living in three houses in the woods (because, let's face it, that's not something you see every day) and figured this was his chance for a three-course ham dinner.

The Wolf knocked on Manny's front door (it's not easy to knock on a door made of straw, by the way) and said, “Little pig, little pig, let me come in!”   

“Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!” said Manny. Which baffled the Wolf, of course, but only because he'd never spent much time around pigs. If he had, he would have known that this was a very common expression in the pig community, with a long and fascinating etymology for which we do not have time in this story.        

The point is that, though the “chinny-chin-chin” bit was confusing, he understood the “not” part and said, “Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!”

The Wolf took a very deep breath and blew down the straw house. It collapsed all around Manny who ran screaming to the home of his brother, Moe.

“Little pigs, little pigs,” said the Wolf after pounding on Moe's door (much easier, as it was made of wood rather than straw), “let me come in!”

“Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins!”

Well, the whole “chinny-chin-chin” thing was started to irritate the Wolf and he said, “Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!”

And, just like Manny's straw house, Moe's stick house soon collapsed. Manny and Moe ran for Mack's house and the Wolf gave chase. Fortunately, he tripped on a pile of fallen sticks, so Manny and Moe had a good head start.

Imagine their surprise and confusion, however, upon arriving at Mack's house and seeing two small children eating it.

“Hey!” said Manny. “Who are you guys?”

“My name is Gretel,” said the girl. “And this is my brother Hansel.”

Mack, burst out the front door and saw his brothers and the two children standing there. Then he saw the holes in his wall Hansel and Gretel had eaten.

“What's going on here?” he demanded.

But by then the Wolf had appeared in the distance and there wasn't time. He ushered everyone inside and bolted the door.

“Now,” he said once they were all inside. “Will someone please explain this to me?”

So, Hansel and Gretel told Mack the Pig about how their family was very poor and had no food to eat. The two children had gone out into the woods to find some food, and had left a trail of breadcrumbs behind to find their way home. Then they found that birds had eaten their breadcrumbs, and they were hopelessly lost in the woods. That's when they came upon the gingerbread house, which was the first food they'd seen in a long time and, well, they couldn't resist and started eating it.

“We're sorry that we ate holes in our house, Mr. Pig,” said Hansel.

“Well,” said Mack, “in retrospect, gingerbread probably wasn't the best choice for a house-building material.”

“No,” said Moe,” definitely not.”

“Yeah,” added Manny, “I wasn't going to say anything, but what were you thinking? A gingerbread house? And that's coming from a guy who built his house out of hay!”

“Okay! Okay!” Mack was getting a little annoyed by all this talk.

“Little pigs and two small children!” came the voice of the Wolf who had finally caught up with them and was banging on the gingerbread door. “Little pigs and two small children! Let me come in!”

“Not by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins!” said Manny, Moe and Mack all at the same time.

“Not by...what?” said Gretel.

“What does that mean?” asked Hansel.

“Shhh!” said Mack.

“Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!” said the Wolf and they heard him inhale deeply.

“Why bother?” called Mack.


“Why bother blowing the house down? It's made of gingerbread! Just eat your way in.”

“Mack!” said Manny.

“Are you out of your mind?” said Moe.

“Trust me,” said Mack to his brothers.

The Wolf realized that Mack was right. It would be much easier to eat his way through the house than to blow it down. So he began to eat the gingerbread house.

He ate the gingerbread walls, the candy cane trim, the peanut brittle shingles, the cupcake doorknobs, the sheet cake shutters, the gumdrop d├ęcor, until finally the Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel were standing in an empty lot surrounded by a few sticks of furniture and facing the terrifying wolf.

“Well?” said Mack, with a smile. “Aren't you going to eat us?”

“No,” said the Wolf, with a pained expression on his face. “No, I'm not. After eating all those sweets, I don't feel very well. And I certainly don't have any appetite anymore. In fact, I think I might have diabetes now. Excuse me, I'm going to go check into a hospital.” And the Wolf left the Pigs and the Kids alone.

So, apparently, Mack wasn't quite so stupid as everyone thought for building a gingerbread house. I mean, he was a bit stupid, but not as stupid as...never mind. It's a happy ending, let's not ruin it.

Hansel and Gretel's father found them and explained that the reason there had been no food in the house was that he hadn't had a chance to go grocery shopping that week. They had sort of overreacted, but it all worked out okay.

As for the Three Little Pigs, they decided that the three of them could build a better house if they worked together and, by now, the hardware store had bricks in stock once again and they were able to build a beautiful, sturdy and wolf-proof home they could all share.

Oh, and the Big Bad Wolf? Well, after he was released from the hospital he resolved to be a bit more careful with what he ate, and ultimately decided to leave the pigs alone.

So, you see, everyone lived happily ever after.


Did you enjoy this silly story? Would you like to read more fairy tale mashups? Then order you copy of Tairy Fales today. Find out what happens when Snow White meets the Three Bears, when Cinderella finds a magic lamp, when a man no bigger than a thumb falls in love with a girl with long, long hair and other ridiculous things in this adorable little book of pure silliness.

BOOTS (Free Preview)

It all began, as these things so often do, with something very small. Sometimes it’s a pebble rolling down a mountain. Sometimes it’s a butterfly landing on the butt of a guy who’s sunbathing facedown. This time it was a hole in the fence. Not a big hole. Just a sort of crack at the bottom. A gap between two boards slightly bigger than the gaps between the other boards. Something most people probably wouldn’t even notice.

But it was enough for the cat to get out.

If you were to ask the humans who fed this cat in exchange for the pleasure of his company (they would describe themselves as his “owners,” but what do they know?) they would tell you that their faithful and obedient cat never left their yard. They would have been thoroughly shocked to discover that their cat was neither faithful nor particularly obedient and did, in fact, leave the yard through the hole in the fence pretty much every night.

What do cats do when they go out at night? All sorts of things. Sometimes they look for food. Sometimes they chase birds or mice. Sometimes they just prowl around looking cool, perhaps remembering a time when they were not so different from lions and tigers. But most of the time they’re looking for love.

Well, maybe not “love” in the sense that we use the word. In their case, the urge is less romantic and more…let’s say “primal.” In any case, this is supposed to be a kids’ book, so let’s just say that the cat—the one that got out through the whole in the fence and whose name history does not relate so let’s call him “Tom” to make things easier—went out at night to spend time with female cats before going home to his yard where his delusional owners were convinced he stayed every night.

One of the myriad female cats that Tom would spend his evenings with was the beloved, purebred pet of a Wealthy Woman who was just as clueless about her cat’s nighttime activities as Tom’s owners were about his. In fact, had she known that her perfect, elegant, immaculately groomed Puss (which is what we’re calling her for the purposes of our story) was involved in an assignation with a mangy beast like Tom, she would have been shocked.

But whether she wanted to believe it or not, the evidence was undeniable. After a few weeks of increased appetite, lethargy and barfing, the Wealthy Woman was forced to call the Veterinarian who came ‘round at once and declared, “Puss is going to have kittens!”

The usual number of months later, Puss did, indeed, give birth to a litter of six kittens. Five of them were the image of their mother, with barely any trace off their ne’er-do-well father in them. This pleased the Wealthy Woman as she was mainly concerned with the way things looked on the outside and cared not a whit for what things (or people) were like on the inside.

The sixth kitten however was, in this woman’s opinion, horrible to behold.

He looked almost exactly like his father, that is he was a tabby cat, orange fur with white patches. In fact, he had four white patches on each of his paws, which rather made him look like he had on shoes of some kind. But his feet weren’t the only reason the Wealthy Woman disliked him.

The kitten was disfigured…well, slightly. His left ear hadn’t quite finished growing and was short and shriveled. This is what the sixth kitten looked like:
“How horrible!” cried the Wealthy Woman.

“What?” said the Vet, who, of course, had come to deliver the kittens. “He’s not so ugly.”

“Not so ugly? Are you blind! Look at that horrible ear of his! And he looks like a mangy alley cat. He’s a freak!” And she called for one of her servants to take the kitten to the well and drown him.

“No!” said the Vet. “You mustn’t do that!”

“Well I’ll not have that thing living under my roof! Look, he’s frightening the other kittens!”

Actually they were frightened by the woman’s shouting and talk of drowning their brother, but, again, people aren’t too clever when it comes to animals.

“Then I’ll take him,” said the Vet. “I’m sure I can find someone to give him a good home.”

“If you must,” said the Wealthy Woman who, thankfully, will not be appearing in the remainder of the story.

The Vet walked back to his house with the newborn kitten in his arms. Of course, he would’ve been happy to look after the cat himself. But he was so busy taking care of other people’s pets he didn’t have time to keep one himself. But he was confident that, when he got to his own village, he’d find someone willing to adopt the kitten.

“What’s wrong with your cat?”

“Ugh! What a weird-looking thing!”

“Mommy, is that cat sick?”

Everyone he passed saw the kitten’s misshapen ear and wrote the poor little guy off as a freak. Nobody wanted to adopt a cat who was deformed (however slightly) when there were plenty of normal-looking cats in town.

The Vet was just beginning to lose hope as he passed through the marketplace to pick up some milk and bread before going home. And that’s where he met Corie.

“Ooooh! He’s so cute!”

A little girl had spotted the tabby kitten and ran straight up to the Vet.

“Yes, he is, isn’t he?” said the Vet. “Would you like to hold him?”

He handed the kitten to the girl. As she reached out for it, the Vet noticed a deep, red scar on her left hand, as though she had been burned and it had not healed properly.


A man’s voice called out and the girl stopped smiling at once. She turned around to face her father who was looking crossly at her. The Vet could tell at a glance that this was a successful businessman. He wore fine clothes, as did the two boys with him, who were clearly his sons.

That was the first time the Vet noticed what the little girl was wearing: It looked suspiciously like a boy’s suit that had been haphazardly resewn into a girl’s outfit. This struck the Vet as odd. If her father was so rich, why didn’t his daughter wear new clothes? Or, at least, girl clothes?

“What is that thing?” he growled at the kitten in his daughter’s arms as though it were something loathsome and unpleasant.

“It’s a kitten, Father,” said Corie. “He belongs to this man.”

“You can have him if you want him,” said the Vet. “I was trying to find someone to take care of him when I—”

“Absolutely not!” roared the girl’s father, eyeing the cat’s bad ear. “I know better than to buy damaged goods. Besides, I’ve already spent enough gold today.”

“On a hat for Brian and a flute for Sean,” said Corie, defiantly. “But I haven’t gotten anything. It’s not fair!”

“Life’s not fair, girl! And you’d do well to remember that and hold your tongue in the future!”

“The kitten is free,” said the Vet, quickly. He was now determined that this girl should have this kitten. At first his only concern was for the well-being of the cat. But seeing the way this girl was treated by her father, he felt certain that she needed a companion as well.

“Free?” said the girl’s father. He grumbled to himself as he thought it over. “Fine! But it had better not be any trouble!”

“It won’t be, Father, I swear.” She turned back to the Vet. “Thank you so much for…what’s his name?”

“You know, he doesn’t have one yet.”

“I get to name him?” said Corie, very excited. She took a good long look at the happy kitten in her hands. She saw his deformed ear, just like everyone else, but she thought it was kinda cute. And then she looked at his paws. “He looks like he’s wearing little boots…That’s it! Boots!”

“Hurry up, girl!” roared the girl’s father. “Or I’m leaving you behind!”

Corie thanked the Veterinarian again and ran after her father and two brothers, who were bragging about the expensive gifts their father had bought and teasing their sister for her ugly kitten.

But Corie didn’t care that her prize hadn’t cost a single coin. To her, Boots was worth more than all the gold in the world.

And, before our story is done, he would prove himself a most valuable cat, indeed!

The Vet was quite right about Corie’s father, Gregory. He was a successful and wealthy merchant. He and his children lived in a beautiful estate and had many servants to do their bidding. Gregory was very proud of his home, his money, and his two sons, Brian and Sean. But he had basically no interest whatsoever in his daughter, Corie.

Brian and Sean each had big, comfy bedrooms in the upper floors of the manor house. They had enormous, luxurious beds stuffed with goose down and dressed in satin. They also had a frankly staggering number of toys and so many clothes that they grew out of most of them before even wearing them once!

Corie, on the other hand, had a small bedroom downstairs among the servants’ quarters, a straw mat for a bed and the only “toy” she ever owned was a “doll” she had made which was, in reality, a tree branch on which she had carved a face. And for clothes, she pretty much had to make do with her brothers’ hand-me-downs and her skill with a needle and thread.

So the question you are doubtless asking at this stage is “why?” Why did Gregory love his sons and dislike his daughter so much? Well, there are three reasons. First, he wanted three boys. All his life, he had wanted three sons and had always intended to call them Brian, Sean and Cody, so he was more than a little disappointed when the third one turned out to be a girl. In fact, she nearly ended up being called “Cody” anyway. After she was born the midwife asked what name he had chosen.

“I don’t know,” he had said. “Cody.”

“Did you say ‘Corie?’ asked the midwife. “That’s nice.”

“No! I said…yeah, fine. Whatever!”

The other reason Gregory didn’t like Corie is because he didn’t think she was really his daughter.

Gregory had dark hair and dark eyes, as did his wife and his two sons. When Corie was born she had bright red hair and green eyes. Not that kind of orange that people mean when they say “redhead.” I mean red red. Red like the sky at dusk. Red like fire. Red like blood. And the greenest green eyes in all the world. Like the leaves of trees in spring. Impossibly green. She was, undeniably, a beautiful—and most unusual—girl.

But Gregory didn’t care about any of that. When he saw her, he became furious and accused his wife of being unfaithful to him. His wife would have denied these allegations, of course, and assured him that he was, in fact, the girl’s father, except that she died almost at once after the child was born.

Which is the third reason Gregory didn’t like Corie. He blamed her for taking away his wife and robbing him forever of his dream of a third son.

So, however grudgingly, Gregory agreed to let her live in his house and eat his food and even made her call him “Father.” But he never loved her as his own. Never spent a penny on her if he could help it. Her elder brothers took their cues from their father and they too shunned her, when they weren’t picking on her or playing pranks on her.

The closest things Corie ever had to friends growing up were the household staff, who were much kinder than the people for whom they worked. They were always much too busy to play, so she sometimes joined them in working. She helped the cooks prepare meals, she helped the maids clean, she helped the charwomen mend clothes, she helped the stable hands tend to the horses. While her brothers learned nothing except how to boss people around and spend money, Corie was learning many useful skills and trades.

But, kind as they were, the servants were grownups and, let’s face it, they were being paid to be there. That’s not the kind of playmate a child needs. Which is why the kitten, Boots, meant so much to her.

She was seven years old when her father let her keep Boots. However, he swore to take no responsibility for the kitten himself, so caring for him was entirely up to Corie. Between scraps from the kitchen and the mice in the yard, feeding him was no problem. Boots’ bed came from a discarded blanket Brian had decided he didn’t want anymore. She even made him little toys out of scraps of fabric.

“Your cat is ugly!” Sean would taunt.

“Look at its ear!” Brian jeered.

“It’s a freak! You should take it to the river and throw it in!”

Corie didn’t care. She adored Boots. And he loved her just as much.

Like most kittens, Boots was curious, and Corie liked to teach him as much as she could. She read to him, and told him stories, and even tried to teach him arithmetic. Her brothers would tease her for wasting her time, but she ignored them. After all, it wasn’t so much about teaching Boots to read and write (which she, of course, knew was impossible), it was more about her having someone to talk to.

“When I was very little,” she told Boots one night, “I used to have a book about a brave hero called the Marquis of Carabas. He went on such amazing adventures. But my brothers set the book on fire and laughed at me when I burned my hand trying to get it back.”

She held up her burned hand as she said this. A single tear rolled down her cheek at the memory. This was the closest she ever came to crying anymore, as she had learned young that crying made no difference when nobody who hears you cares.

“Anyway,” she went on, “I read the book about a million times so even though I don’t have it anymore, I remember all the stories pretty well. Would you like to hear one?”

Boots mewed, which Corie interpreted as a “yes,” and she began to tell her favorite story about the Marquis of Carabas.

“When the Marquis was born,” Corie told Boots, “he was ugly and misshapen and some people said he didn’t even look human. But a fairy came to see the queen and told him that he would be very, very intelligent. And, she also gave the baby a special gift: The ability to make anyone he chose as intelligent as he was.

“And, sure enough, once he was old enough to speak, he proved that he was the cleverest person in all of Carabas. Maybe in all the world!

“A few days after the Marquis was born, another queen in another kingdom gave birth to a daughter who was very, very beautiful. The same fairy who had been at the Marquis’s birth was here at this one, and she told the queen that her daughter would get more and more beautiful as she grew up, but she would never have any brains at all. But, she also gave this girl a gift: to make anyone she chose as beautiful as she.

“Oh! I forgot a part. The thing where he can make someone as intelligent as him? That only works once. And the same thing goes for the princess, who can make someone beautiful, but only once. Okay?

“Anyway, years went by and the Marquis of Carabas got more and more ugly and more and more intelligent. And the Princess got more and more beautiful and more and more stupid. And even though she was so beautiful, everyone in her castle laughed at her and made her feel ashamed because she was so foolish. So she ran into the woods and cried and cried.

“‘Why are you crying, fair one?’ said a voice.

“The Princess looked up and saw a very ugly young man addressing her. It was the Marquis of Carabas.

“‘Everyone hates me because I’m so stupid!’ she said and started crying again.

“‘I cannot believe that everyone hates someone as beautiful as you. I have seen many people in my life and never once met one so lovely. As for me, I am known to be very intelligent, but I would give up all my cleverness and wit to be only half as lovely as you.’

“‘No, trust me, you don’t want to be stupid. When you’re beautiful, people like you for a little while, but then they realize how dumb you are and they start laughing at you.’

“‘You say you’re unintelligent and I won’t be so impolite as to argue with you. But it seems to me that there is nothing so intelligent as admitting that you are ignorant.’

“This was the first time in her life anyone had ever called the Princess intelligent. She was so moved by the Marquis’ kindness that she threw her arms around him and kissed him. And he kissed her back. And when they separated, the Princess almost shrieked!

“The Marquis was no longer misshapen and ugly. He had become beautiful. As beautiful as the Princess! And the kiss had also made the Princess more intelligent. As intelligent as the Marquis! They were married and lived happily ever after. Isn’t that a great story, Boots?”

Boots showed his appreciation for the story by licking Corie’s burned hand ever-so-gently, almost as if he were trying to soothe the ancient injury.

Corie sighed. “I hope I can live happily ever after, some day. Well, good night, Boots.”

And the two best friends cuddled up and went to sleep.

And did they? Live happily ever after, I mean? Did Corie and Boots manage a happy ending despite the nasty people they lived with? Well, to find that out, you'll have to order your copy of Boots. I can tell you that there is an enchantress, an ogre, a magic cookie, a poetic mouse and a little trickery in store for our heroes before they can make their dreams come true in this new adaptation of Charles Perrault's classic story of Puss In Boots.


Way up North, in the Northiest Northernmost Northland (well, maybe not quite that North, but still pretty North as Northness goes) there lived a terrible Warrior King who traveled the land conquering every village and township he came across. He would just show up one day, announce he was in command, use up all the town’s resources, then move on, taking only the biggest and strongest with him to his next conquest. He was called Krieger Konig and this is the story of how he was defeated and how the world was changed not by force, violence or cruelty, but by love and courage and by the true strength of a clever girl called Gabria.

Gabria’s father, Kuzo, was Chieftain of the small village of Dorf, just on the outskirts of what was then known as the Fairying Forest, for reasons which we will go into in greater detail later in the story. He was the biggest, strongest and toughest man Dorf had ever seen so, naturally, he was chosen to be their leader. Under his rule, Dorf grew from a small collection of tents by a river to a…slightly larger collection of tents by a river.

Yes, the people of Dorf lived a very simple, earthy sort of existence. The river provided water and fish, the forest provided wood and small game and anything else they didn’t have, they simply did without. The children didn’t have much time to play, which was just as well as they didn’t have much to play with. Life was hard, and fun was very rare. Survival was the most important thing; it was a daily struggle for the people of Dorf and the number one responsibility of their leader, Kuzo.

Being the biggest and strongest (and therefore the best, according to the wisdom of the day), Kuzo demanded for his wife the most beautiful girl in the village, and he got her. Her name was Alainna and the first thing that attracted Kuzo to her was that she was so friggin’ gorgeous you actually felt a little woozy when you looked at her and had to sit down for a minute until the initial shock wore off and you were convinced that you weren’t hallucinating and that someone that beautiful could actually exist in real life and then you felt okay.

The second thing that attracted Kuzo to Alainna was that she didn’t immediately agree to marry him.

All the other girls in the village were throwing themselves at him (figuratively, not literally…actually sometimes it was literal, which was kind of weird), desperate to be the queen to someone so powerful and strong. But Alainna made him work for it. Made him go on dates with her and take an interest in her life and things like that. In this way, Alainna came to understand that Kuzo had a sensitive side which he kept hidden from the world. Likewise, Kuzo saw in Alainna a strength not that different from his own. So that when they finally were married, it was really for love rather than social standing.

Alas, their happiness was to be short-lived.

Soon after they were married, Alainna was heavy with child. Kuzo was overjoyed at the thought of having a son to carry on his legacy and rule the village when he was gone. Despite Alainna’s constant reminders that the child could just as easily be a girl as a boy, Kuzo got the idea in his head that he was going to have a son and nothing would dissuade him from that certainty. Even after the kid was born, he kept asking the midwife to check again.

But there was no mistaking it. The Chieftain had gained a daughter…and lost a wife. Poor Alainna died in the act of childbirth and would never know her little girl.

So, in one fell swoop, Kuzo had lost the woman he loved and had been saddled with a daughter, rather than the son he craved. And from that day on, life in the village of Dorf was forever changed. Their great, strong leader, locked himself away in his house coming out only when forced to by the duties of his office, which he executed with more anger and savagery than he ever had before. The smallest of infractions were met with the severest punishments possible. The grief and disappointment he had suffered snuffed out that tiny spark of kindness that Alainna had brought out and Kuzo had become a beast of a man, giving in completely to sorrow and despair.

And what of the child? The sweet, innocent baby girl who was now the only family Kuzo had? He simply turned away from her. Shut her out completely. The midwife tried to get him to at least hold the child after she was born, but he just growled, “Get that gabria out of my sight!”

“Gabria,” in the ancient language of this part of the world means, “Unwanted.” And it was the only name Kuzo ever gave his daughter.

She might have died had it not been for the kindness of the midwife, a slightly odd old woman known to the people of Dorf as Gramma Gamra. Though she was adamant that the girl should grow up in the home of her father, she came every day to look after the child and tend to her needs.

Understand, it was not that Kuzo treated her cruelly. It was not hatred that haunted Gabria’s existence, but indifference. He refused to acknowledge her, even when they ate supper at the same table. Even when she sat by him at official functions. Once, in a desperate attempt to get her father to notice her, she had found a porcupine and set it on her father’s favorite chair. To his credit, he maintained his charade that Gabria did not exist even while actively removing quills from his…well, the porcupine was sitting on his chair at the time and he wasn’t looking and…never mind, you get the idea.

If nothing else, one has to admire his commitment.

So, for the first nineteen years of her life, the only human being who ever showed Gabria any affection or even kindness was Gramma Gamra. Of course, there were other people in the village who liked Gabria and would have loved to be friends with her. But they were still frightened of their fierce and formidable Chieftain. If Kuzo insisted he had no daughter, the people of Dorf felt it was in their best interest to agree with him.

Which just left Gramma Gamra. That was the name by which she was known, though she didn’t seem to be biologically related to anyone in town. In fact, no one could remember a time when she wasn’t there. It was as if the village was built around her and she had just always been there and always would. It was also widely believed that she had never been any younger and would never get any older. She was just a constant fixture. Like the river or the trees or that unpleasant smell around her house, whatever that was.

Gabria adored her! She was one of the few people in the village who was even remotely interesting. Everyone else was boring and quiet and lived in fear and was just struggling to survive. Gramma Gamra was fun. Nobody else in Dorf was fun. Having grown up without a mother, the kind of attention she got from Gramma Gamra meant the world to Gabria.

“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Gramma Gamra,” said Gabria almost every time the old woman paid her a visit. A gentle pawing at her ankle would remind her of the presence of the porcupine. After the prank had failed to get a reaction out of Kuzo, Gabria had decided to keep the porcupine as a pet. She called him “Autsch” (actually, her father had unwittingly named the porcupine just as he had his own daughter) and after a few painful weeks, learned the proper way to pet and even cuddle him so as not to get hurt. “Or you, Autsch,” she added to the only non-human friend she had in the world.

“Do not judge your father too harshly, my child,” said Gamra.

“Why not? He’s gone out of his way to ignore me all my life. Sometimes I think I should just run away.”

“No, you can’t do that, dear! The woods are dangerous. And even if you get through the woods, there are the treacherous mountains. And even if you cross the mountains, what awaits you on the other side is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Besides, if you left Dorf…you might just break my heart.”

“Then I’ll stay. For you, Gramma Gamra.”

“Thank you, my child.” And they would talk about something else.

Gramma Gamra never did talk about what was on the other side of the mountains. But Gabria didn’t ask. What, she figured, could possibly be worse than this place?

Little does Gabria know that things are about to get much, much worse for her and her entire village very soon. Soon, she'll flee the only home she's ever known, make friends with the worst hunter in history, negotiate a peace treaty with some horrible monsters, meet a dragon and eventually...but I shouldn't give away too much. Order your copy of The Epic of Gabria today! 

1001 ARABIAN NIGHTS (Free Preview)

In ancient times there lived a sultan, a king, who ruled over his people with a kind and understanding hand. The rest of him was pretty nice, too. Why was the king so nice? Why was he so favorable and happy? Because he had the love of a beautiful woman. He made her his sultana (like a queen) and they lived together in wedded bliss for many years, and the people of the kingdom were very happy which, I know sounds more like the end of a fairy tale than the beginning, but just wait.

Because one fateful day, the Sultan found that his wife was unfaithful and had been deceiving him for many years. He was furious, and in his rage, he ordered that his wife be executed, which she was. But what the Sultan didn’t know was that his wife was actually a witch! And the last words she said on this earth were, “A curse upon my husband, on his marital bed and his entire kingdom!” She died, but her curse lived on.

From that day forward, those close to the Sultan saw a marked changed in him. He was gloomy and melancholy. He was paranoid and mistrustful, especially of women. The witch’s curse had turned his heart and mind and drove him mad with anger and fear. He declared that women of all kinds were the devil’s children and would have nothing more to do with their entire cursed sex.

The problem was that, by the law of the land, the Sultan needed a wife. If he did not marry again soon, he could lose his kingdom entirely. So, in the depths of his madness, this king conceived a solution. Yes, he would take a wife…for one night. He would marry that very day, spend exactly one night with his new bride, and, on the following morning, have her put to death. Then that night, he would choose another bride and so continue from then on. Not only would this satisfy his need for a queen, but he would be doing all the world a favor by reducing the number of wicked women in the world.

The Sultan ordered Ja’afar, his grand vizier, his most trusted advisor, to bring him a suitable bride, and to tell the executioner to be ready to ply his trade the next morning. This put the poor vizier in a terrible position. He was loath to disobey his Sultan, but at the same time, he could not sacrifice an innocent woman to die for the sake of the king’s twisted fancy. Ja’afar had known the Sultan since the great ruler was only a boy, and it pained him to see his master transformed so, and prayed to Allah that a solution could be found…And it was!

Ja’afar had a daughter named Scheherazade. She was beautiful, clever and possessed a truly great memory. If she was told a thing only once (a story, for example) she would remember it always. As such she held in her mind a truly vast collection of the most wonderful stories you ever heard. She had grown up alongside the Sultan, and played with him as a boy. It broke her heart to see her old friend and playmate twisted by that witch’s curse.

But she had a plan.

“Father,” she said, “is it true what they are saying? That the Sultan is to take a new bride today? That she will be dead by morning?”

“I’m afraid so, child,” answered her father, wearily.

“Then I humbly request that you present me to him.” Ja’afar was stunned silent at his daughter’s words. “I will marry the Sultan and save the women of this kingdom from a terrible fate.”

“My child,” said the vizier. “You cannot ask me to do this. You are all I have in this world. You are asking me to condemn you to death.”

“I won’t die, Father. I have a plan that will save us all. Myself, my sisters, you, the whole kingdom…and the Sultan, whom I love with all my heart.”

It is never easy to talk a strong-willed woman out of doing something she has set her mind on, even if you are a grand vizier…or just an okay vizier…so in the end, he agreed to help his daughter with her plan and, that very day, Scheherazade and the Sultan were wed.

Night fell and the Sultan’s mind, still addled by the witch’s treachery, was uneasy. He found he could not sleep. “Have you any skill?” he asked his new bride, who he did not recognize as the little girl he played with as a child. “Can you play a harp or sing to soothe my mind?”

“I can play a little and sing a little more,” said Scheherazade. “But perhaps his majesty would like me to tell a story instead. I know some wonderful stories, my love.”

“Very well, if you wish, you may tell me a story.”

“Yes, sire,” said Scheherazade, hoping to Allah that her plan would work. The king lay back in his bed. Scheherazade took a very deep breath and told her story

“It hath reached me, O auspicious king, that there lived in a faraway land a merchant…”

Scheherazade told the king the story of a good, happy, and successful merchant who had a wife and three sons. Everything was going very well for him until one fateful day when he was sitting under a tree, eating a few dates and spitting out the seeds. All of a sudden, a huge, terrifying genie appeared before him. “Murderer!” the genie roared. “You have killed my only son!”

“What?” said the Merchant, shocked and terrified. “What do you mean? I have killed no one!”

But the genie pointed to a beetle on the ground. It had been killed by one of the seeds the Merchant had spit out. Genies often take different forms, but they are vulnerable when they do. The Merchant had indeed killed the genie’s son.

“Now you must die!”

“No!” begged the Merchant. “I’m sorry! I didn’t know! It was an accident!"

“Accident or not my son is dead! And you must join him!”

The Merchant fell to his knees and pleaded with the genie. “At the very least, give me time. Give me a day to say goodbye to my family, set my affairs in order, then I swear by the Prophet that I will return to this place and let you do with me as you will.”

The genie agreed and swore to return to the tree in twenty-four hours to kill the Merchant. Then he disappeared. The Merchant thought briefly about simply running away, but he knew that genies, those powerful beings of light or smoke, were able to do incredible things and that it would be pointless trying to escape his clutches. Besides which, he had given his word. So he went home, told his wife and children of his fate and prepared himself for his demise.

The next day, as promised, the Merchant returned to the date tree to await the arrival of the genie. So distraught was he that he began to weep.

As it happens, a man traveling along the road passed the date tree and heard the man sobbing.

“What’s wrong, my good man?” he asked and the Merchant explained his plight. “Oh, I see,” said the traveler, a fisherman. “A genie, eh? Well, you’re in good company. I had some trouble with a genie a while back. Would you like to hear about it?”

The Merchant nodded. Perhaps, he thought, it will help take my mind off this terrible situation I’m in. So the Fisherman began to tell his story…

The First Traveler’s Tale

The Fisherman and the Genie

For many years, this Fisherman was able to provide for his family and, though they seldom knew luxury, they never knew hunger. But as time wore on—

 “Stop!” demanded the Sultan.

“What’s wrong, beloved?” asked Scheherazade, as innocently as she could.

“You are beginning another story. I told you that you could tell me one story and you were telling me about this Merchant and the genie. Tell me that story.”

“I am, my king. This story is just part of that story. I swear.”

“All right, go on. But don’t take all night.”

Scheherazade continued.

But as time wore on, the Fisherman’s luck changed for the worse. For days at a time, the Fisherman would take his boat out, and put his nets in the water several times each day only to bring them back empty.

One day, he took his boat out and cast his nets without catching a single fish. He grumbled about his bad fortune as he tried again. But, again, he brought the net back empty. Rashly, the Fisherman blamed Allah for his poor fortune.

“Though I suppose,” he said aloud, “I shouldn’t expect much from one who allows evil to flourish while honest, hard-working men such as myself cannot even support our families.” He grumbled some more and threw in his nets a third time, to no avail.

Bismallah!” the Fisherman roared. “I work and I slave and do what is right but I am rewarded only with failure and misery!” His furious blasphemy finished, the Fisherman threw in his nets a fourth and final time, and this time, they felt heavy as he pulled them back in.

He was disappointed however to find that he had not caught any fish, but rather a large copper vase which was shut tight with a lead stopper. It seemed heavy, but as he held it to his ear and shook it, it made no sound, as though empty. “Perhaps I can sell it in the market and buy some grain or corn for my family,” he thought, then to make sure it was truly empty, he took his knife and pried it open.

As soon as the stopper was removed, a thick plume of black smoke rose from the seemingly empty vase. He set it down on the bottom of his fishing boat and the smoke continued to come. It rose like steam from a blacksmith’s forge and billowed higher and higher into the sky. Finally, the smoke solidified and took the shape of a genie, greater in size than any giant from any fable. The Fisherman was terrified when he heard the giant’s powerful voice saying “At last I am free of my prison! Who was it set me free?”

“It was I,” said the Fisherman. “I set you free.”

“Then you will die!”

There was an uncomfortable silence. “What?” cried the Fisherman. “What are you talking about?”

“I was trapped in that vase four hundred years ago. When first I was imprisoned I swore that if someone set me free before a hundred years, I would shower him with wealth and power, and be his personal slave and grant him three wishes every day until he died. After a hundred years, no one released me. I then swore that if someone set me free before two hundred years, I would shower him in wealth and give him a palace of his own. Another hundred years, and I was still a prisoner. I next swore that if I was released within the next hundred years, I would shower my liberator in wealth. But after three hundred years of waiting, I was not released. So finally I swore that whoever set me free in the next hundred years would die by my hand! I grant you only one favor: You may choose the manner of your own end.”

The Fisherman tried to persuade the genie to be merciful, he tried to convince the genie that he was being ungrateful, he even begged the genie for his life, but the genie only asked him how he should like to die.

Then, like an inspiration from above, an idea came to the Fisherman. He said to the genie, “Before I decide how I should like you to kill me, will you grant me one favor? Will you answer me truthfully a question?” The genie considered this and agreed. “Were you really inside that vase I opened?”

“What? Of course I was. You saw me emerge, did you not?”

“I don’t know what I saw. There was so much smoke. Besides, a genie of your size could not possibly fit in that little jar.”

“You insufferable mortal! I tell you I did come from inside that vase!”

“I am sorry, but I just can’t believe it. Maybe if I saw it for myself…”

“So be it!,” said the genie, and in a fit of pique he transformed back into billows of smoke which receded into the vase. “There! Are you satisfied now?” he said, but it was too late. As soon as he was back inside the vase, the Fisherman fastened the lead seal back on the vase, trapping the genie once again.

“Before we met,” the Fisherman said to his captive, “I was cursing Allah for my bad luck at not being able to catch fish. But I think I was wrong to blame Him. Just because something unfortunate happens to someone, doesn’t mean that person is forsaken by God. And as for you, you were likely imprisoned in this vase for some crime of your own devising and have no right to take out your anger on innocent others. We could both learn a valuable lesson today, if we so chose. As for you, I believe I will drop you back in the sea and build a sign on this spot warning other fishermen not to open the vase if they find it, so that you will never be free to harm others again.”

The genie begged and groveled pathetically with the Fisherman, but the Fisherman was deaf to his pleas. Finally, the genie offered the Fisherman a deal. “Cast your nets in the water one more time. You will catch more fish than you have in your life. Plump, perfect fish of fine flavor which will be greatly in demand in your village. Only set me free, please!” The Fisherman removed the seal and the genie flew away in a cloud of smoke, never to be seen again. Then, the Fisherman dropped his nets in the water, and just as he was promised, he brought in the biggest catch he’d ever had.

“That is quite a story,” said the Merchant. “You were very clever to outwit that genie.”

“Then perhaps you will be as lucky.”

“I don’t see how. I can’t think of any way of avoiding my fate.” And the Merchant again began to weep. This attracted the attention of two more travelers. Princes, in fact, who were traveling together. They too took pity on the poor man and asked what troubled him. The Merchant explained that he was to be executed by a genie.

“How very odd,” said the First Prince. “My friend and I were just talking about our own run-ins with genies.”

“Really?” asked the Fisherman. “You have en-countered genies as well?”

“Indeed,” said one of the princes, and he began to tell his tale...

“No! Enough!” bellowed the Sultan. “No more sidetracks. Just finish the story of the Merchant.”

“I cannot if you will not let me tell you the—”

“Then never mind! I don’t want to hear any more.”

“As you wish, my king. If you don’t want to hear about the Transformed Prince.”

“Transformed Prince? What is he?”

“That’s what the story tells, majesty. That and all about the genie and the monkey and the great magical battle that rocked the heavens and shook the earth…but you don’t want to hear it so—”

“Who says I don’t? Transformed princes, genies, monkeys…sounds all right. Tell me the story.”

Scheherazade smiled and continued…

Would you like to know the rest of the story? Or, rather, stories? Then order your copy of 1001 Arabian Nights today! Read all about the Transformed Prince, Sindbad the Sailor, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and, of course, Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp. Not as long (or repetitive) as the original Tales of the Arabian Nights, my version is perfect for kids who want more than Aladdin but aren't ready for the "grown up" version. Excitement, adventure, magic, monsters and even a little romance? There's something for everyone in 1001 Arabian Nights!