Ali had little warning beyond an odd, metallic screech and a growing cloud of dust that moved across the sands. For weeks he had sought out the desert in an effort to decipher the cryptic diagram at the back of the travel diary. Not once in all that time had he spied another soul. To see a heavy-laden caravan now, traveling to the deep desert, far from any market or trade city, woke Ali’s sense of caution. Scrambling atop the tallest dune at the edge of the oasis, he crouched down, half concealed behind sand and arta bushes. He watched in silence as men riding sturdy desert horses led a train of heavy-laden camelids in his direction. At the sight of the great beasts towering above the riders, Ali’s heart pounded in time with the hoof beats. True ships of the desert, these camelids were not flesh-and-blood, but constructs; dull brass machines smoking and whirring as their long, pistoned legs churned through the loose sand. He wished that he could share the sight with Ustad Babbage. One of the constructs lurched oddly in comparison to the others. As any good artificer would, Ali wondered why. Part of him—a very foolish part—longed to observe the camelids closer, to examine the workings of such a grand invention. The rest of him embraced the wisdom of remaining unnoticed.
Where are they bound? he wondered. There are no villages nearby; Wadi Al-Nejd is two days travel in the other direction. Wherever they headed, he wished they would move more swiftly. The delay in achieving his goal soured his belly. He longed to finish the journey begun nigh seven months earlier when the box containing his grandfather’s safarnameh, with its hidden secrets, came into Ali’s keeping. He clutched the satchel slung over his shoulder with those prized items inside. Instinct warned him that now was the time for patience.
li watched as the camelids’ broad, shovel feet sank deep into the shifting terrain. He studied the men. He counted forty of them. Their garments were the same colors as the desert, as were their horses. As they drew closer he noticed two things. Their horses’ hooves were wrapped in cloth, and the riders carried with them sharp khanjars and an air of menace.
These were not signs of honorable men.
As Ali realized the possible danger, he flattened himself against the dune and tucked his head. “Allah, preserve me,” he said so softly it barely disturbed the fine grains of sand mere inches from his lips.
Come, Best Beloved, and sit you by my feet. I shall tell you a tale such as sister Scheherazade could have scarce imagined…
In the Nejd there is nothing at all…except secrets. A band of thieves wish such secrets to remain hidden.
In England, far from his desert home, Ali bin-Massoud serves as apprentice to the famed Charles Babbage. One night a mysterious box is delivered by a clockwork falcon and Ali’s world is never the same again. Heartache, danger, and thieves mark his journey as Ali is summoned home at the death of his father.
It will take faith, knowledge, and yes, love to realize his destiny, and more than a little skill with steam-driven technology. Can he unravel the mystery of the puzzle box and the clockwork djinn before it is too late? An ancient legacy and Ali's very life depend on his success.
Hear you the tale of Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn.
Award-winning author and editor Danielle Ackley-McPhail has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. Currently, she is a project editor and promotions manager for Dark Quest Books.
Her published works include five urban fantasy novels, Yesterday's Dreams, Tomorrow's Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court: and The Redcaps’ Queen: A Bad-Ass Faerie Tale, and a young adult Steampunk novel, Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Day Al-Mohamed. She is also the author of the solo science fiction collection, A Legacy of Stars, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Dragon’s Lure, and In an Iron Cage. Her work is included in numerous other anthologies and collections.
Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail, mother-in-law Teresa, and three extremely spoiled cats. She can be found on LiveJournal (damcphail), Facebook (Danielle Ackley-McPhail), and Twitter (DMcPhail). To learn more about her work, visit www.sidhenadaire.com, www.literaryhandyman.com, or www.badassfaeries.com.
Day Al-Mohamed is author for the upcoming novel Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn, written with Danielle Ackley-McPhail. Day hosts the multi-author blog Unleaded: Fuel for Writers, and in addition to speculative fiction, she also writes comics and film scripts.
Her recent publications are available in Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres anthology Oomph - A Little Super Goes a Long Way, and GrayHaven Comics' anti-bullying issue You Are Not Alone. She is an active member of the Cat Vacuuming Society of Northern Virginia Writing Group, a member of Women in Film and Video, and a graduate of the VONA/Voices Writing Workshop.
When not working on fiction, Day is Senior Policy Advisor with the U.S. Department of Labor. She has also worked as a lobbyist and political analyst on issues relating to Health care, Education, Employment, and International Development. She loves action movies and drinks far too much tea. She lives in Washington, DC with her wife, N.R. Brown, in a house with too many swords, comic books, and political treatises.
She can be found online at www.DayAlMohamed.com and @DayAlMohamed