An Interview with characters from Genie Knows Best
Judi Fennell (JF): Please welcome Dirham, fennec fox and Magical Assistance Assistant, and his friend, Lexy, also a fennec fox, both of whom play an important part in my November release, Genie Knows Best. Kal, the hero and genie of the story, could never have gotten along without him.
Dirham puts his little orange paw on the table: “Um, excuse me? Ms. Interviewer? It’s Dr. Lexy. She’s very smart, you know.”
Lexy smiles. Surprisingly, it’s not a crafty smile you might think would come from a fox. Then again, these aren’t your typical foxes. (Nor are they two wild and crazy ones either…)
JF: “So, Dirham, why don’t you tell the readers what it is you do for Kal.”
JF: (Dirham tends to take everything very literally.) “How about you tell the readers, then, what it is you did for Kal when you did work for him?”
Dirham, resettling on his haunches: “Oh, sure. Well, see, djinn—or genies as your culture knows them better—who are in The Service to mortals can’t do magic for themselves, which can be quite problematic. So they need someone to help them,. Especially when they’re stuck in their bottles between masters. I ran errands for him, would pass along messages, kept him company, made deliveries, that sort of thing. Oh, and Kal liked to work out a lot, so I’d count sit-ups and stuff for him.”
JF: “So you’re a personal trainer as well as a personal assistant?”
Dirham, scratching one of his over-sized ears: “Yes, I guess you could say that. But I do lots of other things.”
Lexy: “If I may add something?” Lexy swishes her beautiful creamsicle-colored tail. “Magical Assistants are what makes the magic work in the djinn world and preserve the world order. You cannot have magical beings confined to The Service with no personal gratification of their powers. But if every djinni were to act upon his or her own desires, there would be utter chaos, both in the magical and mortal realms. Gandia, of the twelfth millennium before mortally recorded time, recognized the inherent dichotomy in providing beings with limitless magical powers yet restricting them from using those very same powers for personal satisfaction and/or gain, and instituted the Magical Assistance Program. Were it not for Dirham and others like him, the universe would have folded in upon itself eons ago due to the very basic nature of all djinn and mortals to persevere. Magical Assistants maintain the perfect balance between power and greed and do so beautifully.”
Dirham, snapping his jaw closed: “I do?”
Lexy: “Yes, Dirham, you do.”
Dirham looks at me and shrugs. “I just thought I was doing what Kal asked.”
Lexy: “You were, but because you have, you’ve kept him satisfied with his predicament, and enabled him to work himself free of it. Without your help, that would not have been possible.”
JF: (I’m not sure Lexy is 100% accurate with that assessment—after I, I do think I had something to do with the outcome, but then again, given the way my characters sometimes take over the telling of the story [witness Lexy’s little dissertation above], I could be completely wrong about that.) “Hey, Dirham, how about we show the readers what was happening before Genie Knows Best begins. What you and Kal were doing?”
Dirham: “Um, okay. He does have workout shorts on in this scene, though, right? He doesn’t always, you know.”
JF: (That, I do know. And I doubt you all will question why, since, after all, Kal is one hot guy, as Samantha, the heroine, finds out shortly after this scene.) “Here is the excerpt that didn’t make it into the final book, but you can see Dirham in his role as Magical Assistant.”
Genie Knows Best
© Judi Fennell, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2011
“Nine hundred ninety-seven. Nine hundred ninety-eight. Come on, Kal! You can do it!”
If Kal weren’t already in enough trouble with the Djinn High Master, he’d wish laryngitis on his four-legged, court-appointed watch dog—er, fox—just so he wouldn’t have to hear that number.
Unfortunately, that same High Master that had handed down this prison sentence for attempting to leave The Service had also banned him from fulfilling his own wishes, so hear it he would.
“Just three more, Kal. Let’s go!” The euphemistically titled “magical assistance assistant” waved his bushy tail like a pom-pom.
Nice of Dirham to include himself in the let’s part, but the fennec fox was thoroughly enjoying himself bouncing on the mini-trampoline in the spout end of Kal’s lantern, while Kal’s arms shook with the effort it took to force his body upward one more time. Or maybe it was the energy he repressed so he wouldn’t hurt Dirham’s feelings. Gods knew, not being able to use his magic had built up a lot of repressed energy.
“That’s it, buddy. Two more. You can do it!”
Kal rested his forehead on the cool polished floor of his lantern for a second, then worked into push-up number one thousand.
Dirham went wild, doing back flips that would make any cheerleader weep with envy. “One more! You’re almost there!”
That sentiment was the guiding premise of Kal’s life at the moment.
Grunting through the pain, he finished off the last push-up and got to his feet, twisted the pewter cuffs on his wrists back into place, then wiped the sweat off his face with a gym towel.
One thousand and one sit-ups done, one thousand and one push-ups. He should probably go for the pull-ups, but the stress of sitting here day after day, not knowing why Monty, his current master, hadn’t summoned him in the last six months was getting to him, both with worry and anticipation.
One thousand and one.
That number followed him everywhere. Sit ups, push-ups, pull-ups, tiles in his bathroom floor, divots in the lantern’s lid, songs on his iPod, probably even grains of salt in his salt shaker.
And masters. He had to serve one thousand and one masters with one thousand and one wishes to complete the sentence imposed on him by the High Master.
He was on number one thousand. So close to the end, he could taste it.
Or smell it actually. Was that fesenjān?
Kal walked around the exercise equipment and sniffed through the lantern’s spout. It was fesenjān. What was his master doing not sharing it? Monty might keep the lantern—and therefore Kal—locked in a safe in his office when he wasn’t around, but they’d often had dinner together in that office, with Kal doing the cooking, of course. Well, conjuring. One of Monty’s favorites was fesenjān.
And it was one more reason to worry.
Dirham hopped into the tunnel of the lantern spout, his paws sliding on the smooth copper finish. “Now for the pull-ups.”
Kal picked him up and set him on the sit-up bench on the Bowflex. “Not today, Dirt.”
“Hey, I’m not dirty. I just took a bath.”
Dirham might be a helpful little thing, but he had a major deficit in the sense of humor department. Everything was always so literal with him.
Take the time Kal had said he was so hungry he could eat a camel. He’d had to spend hours cleaning up the floor from the camel’s, er, “presents” until Dirham had shown up and led the animal out through the magic portal in the handle.
This no-magic-for-personal-use thing sucked.
“You’re right, Dir. And your fur looks great. Any special reason?” The fennec was in love with a vixen named Lexy—hopelessly so because Dirham thought she was way out of his league. Given that Lexy was the head of the thinktank headquartered in the magical outpost of Madeenat Al-saqf Al-zojaajey, Dir might have a case. Kal kept trying to beef up his magical assistance assistant’s confidence.
But when Dir toppled, slack-jawed, off the weight bench at the question, Kal figured it was better to let sleeping dogs, er, foxes, lie. No sense piling more pain on Dirt’s bruised heart and fragile ego.
Kal headed to the mini fridge, chucking the towel into the basket beside the sofa, then grabbed a V-8. He’d have to do laundry soon, and since he couldn’t use his magic even inside his own lantern, he was going to have to do it the mortal way.
Luckily, the stainless stackable washer and dryer had been magicked to contour to the curved wall, so he didn’t have to send his clothes out. The genie laundry service always took a while to get his stuff back. You’d think magical beings could zap laundry to rights in an instant, but apparently there was a whole lot of red tape to go through for demi-genies.
Demi-genie. The categorization bugged the kharah out of him.
Kal swiped the cold bottle across his forehead to cool both his body temperature and his temper. It wasn’t his fault he was a demi-genie. Well, all right—the demotion was a by-product of removing the gold cuffs that had bound him into The Service, but he’d only done it because of Faruq.
Bile churning in his gut, Kal uncapped the bottle and drank half. Faruq. The most vile ibn el-kalb who’d ever flown a magic carpet.
Dirham bounced over. “So, you need anything, Kal? Can I get you something? What about a body pillow? I hear they’re comfortable. Or water wings? Some taffy? How about a jar of foot cream?”
Where did the fox come up with this stuff?
“The combination to the safe would be nice.” Or Faruq’s head on a silver platter.
Kal shook his head and finished off the drink, restraining himself from flipping the bottle into the air. In centuries past—two millennia actually—the bottle would have simply disappeared into the spectrasphere. Now, it’d shatter all over the floor.
He sighed and set the bottle on top of the fridge.
“The combination?” One of the fox’s bat-like ears ticked forward as he leapt onto the recliner in front of the high-def. “Gee, Kal, that might be kind of hard.”
“I was just kidding, Dirt—Dirham.” Kal shooed him out of the chair and sank onto the cool leather. He’d have to wipe it down afterwards, but the beauty of not living with anyone was that no one would care if he didn’t.
That was also the curse of not living with anyone.
“So what are we going to do today, Kal?” Dirham hopped up and down like a rabbit. He was the size of a rabbit actually.
“Today? Let’s see.” Kal pretended to contemplate the vast opportunities he was faced with. Trouble was, there weren’t any. He was stuck in this lantern until a master summoned him. Bad enough he wasn’t able to move forward with his life, having to hang out until Fate passed him around to one thousand and one masters, but to be stuck waiting while he was waiting… Kal hated being an alpha male in a beta role. Hated treading water and this sentence the High Master had imposed on him was the ultimate deep end.
“Want to paint rainbows in the air?” Dirham asked, swiping his tongue over his lips. Mist-paint was like catnip to fennecs.
Kal shook his head. “I’m not in the mood, but don’t let me stop you.” He pointed to the pull-down table on the wall that he stored the supplies behind. Without altering the outer lantern dimensions, the interior could expand to house whatever he wanted to order through the Genie Supply System—a race track, football field, the island of Crete, a camel—but Kal was into minimalism. Give him his fridge, workout equipment, the recliner, and a high-def TV, and he was good. Oh, and the remote. Definitely needed the remote. It was the only magic he could do these days.
Thanks to Faruq.
Kal gripped the leather arm rests. The prick had stolen not only his High Master’s thesis and his magic, but also his reputation. Instead of the promotion Kal had expected all those centuries ago, his name had been dragged through endless jeribs of worthless desert sand and buried so deep that even Mudd was a better name than his.
Well, Karma could be a bitch and she’d finally bitten Faruq on the ass. The High Master’s vizier was currently under lantern arrest for exactly what he’d framed Kal for, trying to double-cross the High Master in an effort to gain the title sooner rather than later, so the job was back up for grabs. As soon as Kal was finished serving his next master, he fully intended the position to be his. Gods knew, he’d worked hard enough for it, but then that prick had come along and stolen it.
Kal had given up then—and it wasn’t something he was proud of. But genies were immortal, so it would have been a long time—if ever—until Faruq retired. There would have been no point in hanging around, and the surest way out of The Service was to get rid of the bracelets.
He should probably feel some pride in being the only djinni who’d ever figured out how to do that, but pride was a lonely bedfellow and a poor substitute for losing his magic.
“You know what, Dirham? I would like something.”
The fox turned around with seven paintbrushes sticking out of his snout. “Wwaah is ih?”
Kal stood up, then stripped off his gym shorts. He finally had a shot at getting the job; he might as well look the part. Dress for the job you wanted, not the one you had. “My uniform. The orange one. And don’t forget the scimitar.”
Dirham dropped the brushes. “Scimitar?” His tongue snaked around his snout and not with the same enthusiasm as it had for mist-paint. “Have I displeased you?”
Kal shook his head and forced a smile to his face. Dirham was the one being who still believed in his innocence. Probably because the fennec didn’t have a suspicious bone in his tiny body, but Kal would take every supporter he could get. Which, as of now, consisted of only one. “It’s been a while and I don’t want to lose my edge.”
“Phew!” Dirham’s tail twitched upright, a sure sign the little guy was happy. Some days he was so happy he looked like a show dog determined to win Best in Breed. “Okay, I’ll be right back.”
Kal took a quick shower while Dirham was gone. One more master; that’s all he had left. After two thousand years of having his hands tied, with pewter cuffs instead of gold, an end was in sight—
An end that might be sooner rather than later, thanks to the orange smoke that began to fill his lantern. Smoke heralded his transmission to the outside world, and that particular shade of orange meant only one thing.
He was about to get a new master.
JF: Oops. I guess Kal wasn't clothed the entire time. My apologies to everyone--unless you enjoyed it. Then I won't apologize. :)
Thank you so much for having me and if you'd like to check out an excerpt that actually made it into the book, you can find it on my website: www.JudiFennell.com, and, remember: every wish comes with complications...
Genie Knows Best by Judi Fennell – In Stores November 2011!
Be careful what you wish for…
Kal is very pleased to meet his attractive new master—especially since he intends to seduce her into granting him freedom. But when seriously dark magic spells trouble for both of them, Kal can’t help himself from falling for the woman who holds his fate in her hands…
About the Author
Judi Fennell is an award-winning author and writes what she calls “fairy tales with a twist.” Her romance novels have been finalists in Gather.com's First Chapters and First Chapters Romance contests, and have won numerous RWA Chapter Awards, including the FF&P Prism Award, and the New Jersey Golden Leaf Award. Judi lives with her family in suburban Philadelphia, PA, where she is working on the next book in the Genie Trilogy, Magic Gone Wild, set for release in August 2012. For more information, please visit http://www.judifennell.com/.