Dragon Con Nominations Are Out!

One of the oldest Science Fiction (etc.) Conventions is Dragon Con. The nominations for Dragon Con Awards are out. I want to urge you to register to vote. Then, vote! If I may influence you on a couple of votes. Best Paranormal Fiction: I would suggest Dangerous Ways by R.R. Virdi. I really enjoyed this book and it’s worthy of this award. I should note that this is his second nomination. The other book I would recommend is A Change in Crime by D. R. Perry in the Alternate History Category.

So, how do you sign up to vote? Go to the Dragon Awards Voting Sign Up Page and fill out the form. Then, when you get the form, vote! Both of those authors I recommended are good indie authors, and we need to support them!

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Every Little Bit Helps

There is a great way to support up and coming artists of all types: Patreon. With Patreon, you can choose artists that you like and support them by giving them as little as $1 per month. Artists offer different incentives for increasing levels of support, making you a part of an exclusive club. Let me put you at ease on one point: I am not asking for money through Patreon, so this post is meant for information only. Of course, I know many different people who have set up Patreon accounts for their work as an author. I want to highlight a couple. The link to their Patreon account will be connected to their names.

The first is E. A. Copen. She does a great job of crafting her stories and making you stay up way later than you planned when you start reading her work. She is best known for her Judah Black novels set in a small town in west Texas called Paint Rock. (And I love the stories not just because I’ve lived in Paint Rock!) She just released Beasts of Babylon which is different – a paranormal western horror story which I really enjoyed and she’s also got a new series called Broken Empire coming out soon. She’s an author that deserves any kind of support you can give.

The second is R.R. Virdi. He’s best known for his Grave Report Series (Grave Beginnings, Grave Measuresand the soon to be released Grave Dealings) and the first of the Books of Winter, Dangerous Ways. He has some other things coming out as well and the man’s creativity and talent are mind-blowing. He and Ms. Copen are friends. I found out about Ms. Copen through Mr. Virdi. Both of them are wonderful people and if you start supporting them, I have no doubt that one day, you will thank me.

Obviously, there are other authors and artists on Patreon. You may need to be on Patreon. Many of the artists of the middle ages had wealthy sponsors who allowed them the chance to paint. Your support can make you a digital age sponsor where, no one person can sponsor another completely, but working together, we can help support the arts.

The Awakening

The following post was originally intended as a short story. The author R. R. Virdi mentioned that one type of character had become a meme in Urban Fantasy – the wise cracking wizard. I thought about a different way to characterize a wizard, and, when I got an iPad, decided to use this idea to learn how to use the iPad’s writing app. When I got to the end, I realized that it would be decent as the first chapter of a book. So, I’ve begun expanding on this chapter, but thought I would share what was originally written as a short story, and is now a chapter in what I hope will become a published novel. I should note that Mr. Virdi and E. A. Copen both looked at this story and didn’t hate it. I love their UF writing and those two made me want to write this. You may see why I don’t write many short stories! 😀

The Awakening

written by Bob James

all rights reserved ©2017 by Bob James

 

“Oh crap!” I knew as soon as I said that, Pastor was there. I looked up from my phone into his laughing eyes. “Sorry, Pastor,” I said, after looking down to make sure my shoes were tied.

Pastor Sanchez chuckled. “Don’t worry, Jim. What’s wrong?”

“My dad,” I sighed. I showed him the text. “He’s always trying to find some excuse to keep me away from church.”

“Jim, I know that you’re frustrated. But you need to respect your parents.”

I took a deep breath. “When does that rule end? I’m 23 and halfway to 24.”

“As long as they live, if they don’t ask you to do something immoral.”

I glared at him. It wasn’t often I was ready to talk back to my pastor. After a few seconds I thought better of it and checked my shoes again. “I don’t like it, Pastor, but I’m gonna listen to you. You’ll need to get someone to do the sound for me.”

Pastor Sanchez gave me a sour look. “Then again,” he began. When I looked hopeful, he chuckled, “Sorry, God’s principles don’t change. Go on. We’ll take care of the sound.”

I wasn’t happy that my loophole didn’t work. Dad was always pulling me away on one emergency or another. “Urgent!” It said. “Come home now! 911.” Sure it was an emergency. “Maybe mom didn’t finish her breakfast again,” I grumbled as I slammed the car door shut behind me.

It took all my self-control to avoid peeling rubber out of the parking lot. I exhaled slowly and drove carefully as more people started arriving for church. My phone chimed again. “COME NOW! NOT MUCH TIME!” I saw out of the corner of my eye. I shook my head, then slapped it as I realized I hadn’t responded to dear old dad. “On my way!” I sent at the next red light.

I turned onto our street and sped under the leaf covered canopy. Downers Grove was one of the older suburbs and the maple trees still provided shade during the day. I squealed to a stop in front of the house and ran up to the front door. If they wanted me to think it was an emergency, I’d humor them.

As I reached for the door, though, my dad pushed it open. “Quick, get inside. I have,” he looked at his watch, “7 minutes to prepare you.”

He slammed the door behind me after I got inside, almost shutting it a little early. “What are you…”

“Son, listen to me just this once, and don’t interrupt.” Dad took me by the elbow and led me into the dining room. The windows were blacked out with dark purple drapes. The old oak table had been pushed against the drapes by where the windows would have been. Candles scattered around the room provided the only light. Before I could open my mouth, Dad warned me again. “Just sit in the chair, and let me do all the talking. Do you understand?”

I nodded and headed to the chair. I kept quiet, but wanted to ask my Dad where he had gotten the throne. And what a throne it was. The chair was a high backed mahogany chair with dark red padded arms.  The padding on the back was the same deep red and the upper edges of the back of the chair were plated with gold.

As I sat down, Dad began talking. “In 5 minutes and 15 seconds you will be exactly 23 and a half.”

I had to interrupt. “Seriously dad? I thought we stopped celebrating half birthdays after my 5th birthday.”

His glare stopped me. “Today you come into your inheritance. Today, you take your rightful place on the throne.”

“What the…?” he glared as I began asking and spoke over me.

“You were born to be the leader of the wizards of Chicago,” he said. “That responsibility is passed on to you at the age of 23 and a half. I have not been able to talk to you about this until now, because your mother wanted to give you the chance to lead a normal life.”

“What if I don’t want the job?” I asked. I had my friends. I had my church. This sounded like it would take a lot of my time.

“There is no choice, my lord,” Dad said with a bow. “In,” he looked at his watch again, “3 minutes the power will come upon you. Your fate was determined at birth.”

“But, but,” I stammered. ‘What about my beliefs. The Bible says…”

“The Bible and those who follow it are not kind to our people,” Dad said. “That is why I tried to discourage your association with the church. The days ahead will be difficult for you.”

“In what ways?” I was still trying to figure out what kind of joke my dad was playing on me.

“When your power comes, you will have the ability to read through all disguises. There are many who walk among us who are werewolves, or vampires, or fae, or other supernatural beings.” I didn’t seen even a hint of a smile in his face. “This power is only granted to the high council members of each group. As leader of the Chicago group, you will be on that council.”

“Father,” I said trying to get him to stop with the nonsense. “This is cra…”

“Stop!” He spoke with amazing vigor. “You are no longer to call me Father. Once the power comes, I, and all other wizards here, will be but subject to your rule.” He examined his shoes and I realized where I got that habit. “I would ask the privilege of being your advisor as you grow accustomed to your new office, my lord.”

“And why would I need an advisor, slave?” I decided to play along.

“You will soon be meeting other powerful people who would use you for their own ends, my lord,” he said, still averting his eyes. “You did not grow up learning the customs of your people by order of your mother. If you wish, I will use my experience to guide you through the maze of power.”

I thought about all the old movies I had seen with kings and decided to play the part to the hilt. “Very well,” I said as I waved my hand with a flourish across my body from left to right. “I shall call you my advisor. Give true and wise advice, upon punishment of death.” I was proud of myself for not giggling.

Then, my dad, or should I say, “My advisor” prostrated himself on the floor and said, “I am but your humble servant, my lord. My advice will be as true and as wise as I may make it.” He pushed himself back to his knees, nose still touching the floor. “My first advice to you is prepare for anything. The time is now.”

I was about to laugh in his face. It was time to end this charade. Then, the candles flickered and went out. I felt an overwhelming presence of darkness that left me breathless. The darkness wrapped around me, making it impossible to move. I couldn’t even struggle, I was so bound. My heart was pounding as I desperately sought a way out, but there was no escape.

Wind started whipping around the room. The chair started rocking from side to side, and then started rising in the air. The wind blew the chair in circles so many times that I couldn’t count and then plopped me back down hard. The wind died. The blackness receded and the candles flickered and started burning brightly again.

I started to get out of the chair, only to be stopped by my dad. “Don’t! Stay in that chair!” I sat back down. A thin ray of light beamed down on my head from the ceiling, that soon turned into a full beam of light illuminating me as I sat in the chair. I was blinded by the light even though I was squeezing my eyes as hard as I could.

“Listen,” I heard my dad whisper.

I strained my ears, but I didn’t need to, the voice was inside my head. “Stand,” it said. “Stand and take your place.”

I stood, eyes still shut. “Open your eyes,” the voice said. “Experience everything.”  I opened them. My dad was on the floor, covering his face. The room’s lighting had returned to normal.

“Prepare to depart,” the voice said.

“Advisor,” my dad sputtered. “Ask for your advisor.”

I spoke with a confidence I didn’t fell, or know I had. “May I take my advisor with me?” I asked.

The voice sounded surprised. “If you have an advisor, he may accompany you.”

Before I could thank the voice, I realized that I was floating through the air. I looked back and my dad was following. We rose through the ceiling and moved east towards Chicago. We flew over the western suburbs, headed towards downtown. I didn’t go into the city much, so I didn’t recognize the landmarks. All I knew was that we were moving quickly and it wasn’t long before we started descending towards an old Victorian house in the Austin area. I didn’t know how to stop as we headed towards the roof. I covered my face, only to find myself in a dining room, sitting at a table with five others.

“Welcome, Master. We have awaited your ascendancy.” It was the voice that had spoken in my head earlier. I turned to look at the voice. It belonged to an older man, about 50-55 years old. His dark brown hair had gray highlights on his temple and above his ears. He looked like any businessman might in his navy-blue suit that seemed to accentuate his bright red tie. “You have chosen your advisor well.” ***

I looked back over my shoulders. Dad had survived the trip and stood at my right shoulder as if waiting for me to make a request. “Thank you,” I said. Again, I wondered at the confidence in my voice.

My dad leaned down and whispered in my ear. “Master, you need not thank your servants. They are merely doing their job.”

I looked back at him, then looked at the voice. “Your advisor serves you well, Master. Each man, and woman, exists to serve you. From the time we summoned you here, we stopped being a ruling council and have become your servants. It may seem like a cliché, but your wish truly is our command.”

I looked around the table. The others, three women and a man nodded in agreement. I thought about asking them to do jumping jacks, but what came out of my mouth was, “Now that I’m here, do we have any business that we need to discuss?”

One of the ladies responded. “Today was our chance to welcome your ascendancy and pledge our allegiance to you, Master. If you have any commands for us, we will welcome them. Should you need us to gather together for any reason, all you need to do is think about it. We will be here, ready to serve you.”

She may have been in her late 40’s, but she was beautiful. Her brunette hair hung down on the shoulders of her yellow dress. I was young, and I began thinking about what it would be like to be with her. She looked at me, a surprised look in her eyes, then smiled and shrugged. “As you wish, Master.” She began unzipping the back of her dress.

“No!” I said. “What…?”

She stopped and looked back at me. “Your wish, Master. Your thoughts speak to us and we will obey immediately. However, your words will also be followed.” She zipped her dress back up. She placed her hands on the table and looked down, shyly. “If I may speak freely, Master, I am honored by your thoughts.”

I felt my cheeks burning. “Since we have no business, I’ll dismiss you as soon as I get my question answered.” I was wondering how I would get home.

“Just think about where you want to be, and you will be there,” my potential lover said. “And include anyone that you would like to have accompany you. Your advisor,” she said, “or perhaps…” she let the thought linger, and I realized I could read her thoughts also.

“Perhaps sometime in the future,” I thought as I smiled at her. I looked at the others around the table. Their smiles told me that our thought conversation wasn’t private. “You may leave,” I said, dismissing them.

“Begging your pardon, Master,” the voice said. “We will not leave until you do. It is a rule of the advisory council.”

I nodded. “I understand.” Then, I thought of home with my dad. And I found myself sitting at the dining room table with my dad standing across the table from me.

“Dad,” I began.

He interrupted me. “No longer call me ‘Dad,'” he said. “If you wish to show me respect, call me ‘Advisor.’ If I displease you, ‘servant’ or ‘slave’ is expected. You have ascended.” He bowed.

“Then, it…it wasn’t a dream?” I asked.

“No, Master,” he said not daring to meet my eyes. “You are the lord of the Chicago area wizards.”

“Are there other responsibilities I should know of? Is there some kind of nationwide organization, Advisor?”

He smiled on hearing that. “Yes, Master. All the information has been sent to your computer.”

I heard him think, “…and you don’t have much time to read it.”

I thought back to him, “How long do I have to read it?”

He didn’t respond. He kept looking at me, as if he waited for me to say something. “Am I safe in understanding that my thoughts do not reach you?”

“Yes, Master,” he said. “Only the advisory council has that ability. If you wish, you may prevent them from hearing your thoughts.”

“How do I do that?”

“That information is included in what’s been sent to your computer,” he answered.

“And how long do I have to read that information?” I asked.

“There will be a convocation of leaders in Washington in a week, Master. You are expected. The meeting was set for one week after your ascendency so that you would have time to read and learn.”

“Why me?” I asked. “What makes me so special when I have been involved with my church and have never learned of the existence of wizards until today.”

“Your mother was a leader in the North American Council when she died in childbirth.”

“But,” I protested. “You’ve called me back from church to help mom on many occasions. I remember her as I grew up. What do you mean she died in childbirth?”

“When my first wife, your mother died, I was ordered to take Mandy as my wife. She was charged with your upbringing. Although I am your father, and a good wizard myself, I was to be her servant and raise you as she ordered. Now, I am your servant, Master.”

As if on cue, Mandy walked in. “What your father has said is true, Master. Now that you have ascended, my task is complete.” She bowed. “If you have no other desires of me, I will return to the North American Council and return to duty here. I am your servant.”

“Would it be asking too much to ask you to stay here, mom?” I asked, not able to break the habit of 23 and a half years.

“While you may call me mom, I am but a servant, my Master. If you wish me to stay on in your service, I will do that.”

I nodded, which she took for a dismissal, and she left. “Well, da…er…Advisor, is there anything you would suggest I do to become comfortable in my new situation?”

“You have another unique power, Master,” he said. “We might begin to develop it by taking a walk.”

“And what is this power?”

“You’ll be able to sense the presence of other supernaturals,” he said.

I stared at him, my jaw on the ground. “Other wizards?”

“Yes, Master. And other supernaturals – werewolves, vampires, fae. You will be able to see all. Only the leaders of their councils, those who hold similar positions to you, will be able to recognize you as a wizard.”

“Who can recognize me other than people on the councils?” I asked, trying to get a grip on everything.

“Only those to whom you choose to reveal yourself, Master,” he said.

“May I call you ‘Dad’ in front of my friends who know you?” I asked.

He bowed his head. “You are the Master. If it suits your purposes, I won’t disagree.”

I was still having trouble understanding what was going on. We walked out into the street and dad led us towards the business district. Not many people were out on this Sunday afternoon. It struck me that it was still Sunday. So much had happened today. Then, I saw my first supernatural: a werewolf. It was Donte Holmes, a deacon at the church. He was outside, watering his flowers.

“Afternoon, Donte,” I called.

“Howdy, Jim. Missed you at church today,” he responded.

I nodded towards my dad. “Dad needed me at the house today.”

Donte broke out into a big smile. “Oh! You’re Jim’s dad? Nice to meet you.” He put the hose down and wiped his hands on his pants before sticking his hand out to Dad. As they shook hands he looked at dad and said, “We really need Jim at church. He’s an important man.”

Dad held back his laughter and nodded gravely. “I think he’s pretty important myself. I understand your feelings.”

“Thanks, Donte, I’ll try not to miss many more services. Dad and mom will be needing me a lot, but even when I’m not there, you know where I want to be.”

As we left, dad chuckled. “He doesn’t know how important you are.”

I was still trying to process this new world. “He’s a werewolf. What do you expect?”

Dad raised an eyebrow. “Oh, your power works?”

“A deacon in my church is a werewolf and all you can say is that my power works?”

“I don’t know about your church. I know and serve you,” dad responded. “I knew that you would have this power and position where you might not be welcome in the church if they discovered who you were.”

I paused, trying to imagine how Pastor Sanchez might react to the knowledge that his sound man was a wizard. He chuckled quietly as he remembered that Pastor had joked about him being a wizard with the sound system a couple of times when he had dealt with some major issues quickly during the services. “Could he have…” I trailed off mentally, not wanting to go where that thought led me.

“What’s so funny, Master?”

“Nothing, dad,” I ignored his evil eye, “but let me ask you a question. I can recognize other supernaturals. Can I recognize them before they change like I did?”

“That’s an interesting question, Master,” I wondered if he emphasized the word Master for my benefit. “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

“Just wondering,” I said. I started walking again.

We got downtown and started window shopping. Before long I had become adept at recognizing the various supernatural beings. Downers Grove had a few more werewolves than wizards, at least based on my quick observation. I saw a few vampires inside of the stores, but none walking in the streets. I had to ask my advisor about the ones who shimmered. He told me that they were were fairies, fae to use the preferred term.

I turned to head towards home. The sun was dropping in the west and there was a slight chill in the air as we walked. I looked at my dad. He was shivering, but tried to hide it when he saw me looking at him. “It’d be nice if we had some coats, eh?” I asked him.

He laughed. As I looked at him, there was a swirl of lights, and then he was wearing a coat. I almost missed it because I was trying to figure out how I had one also. When he saw the puzzled look on my face, he smiled and said, “You will be surprised at the extent of your power in days to come.”

“Not bad, Jim,” a familiar voice behind me said. He continued talking as I turned to look. “You might want to be a bit more cautious in the way you use your power.”

“Pastor, I can explain,” I said as I turned. When I faced him, I wasn’t sure what to say. Finally, I said, “We don’t all have our own fur coats.”


My first try at any kind of Urban Fantasy writing…feel free to comment!

Unleashing the Dragon! (A Review of Grave Measures)

I can’t imagine anything worse than waking up dead. Well, ok, you could wake up dead in a mental hospital. Want it worse? You could wake up dead in a mental hospital, in a strait jacket, and find out that one of the patients is someone who worked with you in the past…and that’s the reason she’s in the hospital. Yep, the wise-cracking Vincent Graves is in trouble again.

Grave Measures is the second book in The Grave Report series and R. R. Virdi outdoes himself in this tale. Patients are dying without explanation and Vincent Graves comes back as one of the dead patients. (Can you imagine the confusion for the staff and the other patients who knew that Charles had died. Who would they tell without someone thinking they were crazy?) At least this time it didn’t take Vincent too long to learn something about his body. And when he runs into the mysterious Church, he’s given 44 hours to solve the paranormal crime.

Helped once again by Agent Ortiz who had didn’t realize she had worked with Graves before, you know, the new body thing, she puts Vincent in a class of guys with tattoos on their arms. They pick up a child who converses with ghosts, especially her own sister, and embark on a case that involves many trips into Virdi’s fantasy world: the Neravene. The “extra time” Graves gets to solve this case is needed because Neravene time does not run at the same level as our time. Well that, and the story gets complicated.

Graves and friends race against time knowing that anyone of them could be the next victim. They chase the killer down through long forgotten passage ways of the hospital trying to save the little girl before it’s too late. As appears to be the case with Vincent Graves, cleaning up the mess creates an even bigger mess before it’s all over. The action is hot and heavy in this story so get yourself a nice, cool glass of ice water, sit back, and enjoy the book. Oh, and in case you didn’t know, Grave Measures was nominated for a Dragon Award!

Grave Beginnings – Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Die

Grave Beginnings – Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Die

You will see one more review of R.R. Virdi’s work after this one soon. Then, I will be unable to review his work until Grave Report #3 (title unknown to us common folk yet) comes out. I am expecting it this year. He is becoming one of the most well known Urban Fantasy authors around. I highly suggest you check out his books. My review of Dangerous Ways is here. In the meanwhile, Grave Beginnings was the starting point. Here’s my review of Grave Beginnings!

Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Die

What do you get when you cross Mike Hammer and Jack Bauer…and then kill him? Meet Vincent Graves, a dead detective who solves crimes and isn’t afraid to bash in a few heads in the process, as long as he does it by the deadline. A real deadline it is, too. If he fails, he dies. Lon Chaney may be the man of a thousand faces, but Vincent, is the man of a thousand bodies…probably…but who knows. He keeps coming back as the victim of the crimes he solves and no one knows exactly how many crimes he’s had to take care of. Except, perhaps, his enigmatic handler, Church. Church doesn’t help Vincent much; he just gives him the time that Vincent has to solve his cases. He doesn’t tell Vincent his new “name” or even what kind of creature killed him. Did I fail to mention that Vincent is a paranormal investigator?

In Grave Beginnings, Vincent begins his short-lived case by clawing his way out of a casket that had just been buried. Then, without knowing the name of the body he has come back in, he meets Church who gives him 24, no, make that 13 hours to solve the case. In that time he has to figure out who he is, who and what killed him, and then dispatch the monster to its eternal punishment. Along the way, Vincent is joined by an FBI agent who helps him figure out what’s happening. Meanwhile, she doesn’t know he’s dead. And she doesn’t realize that they are dealing with a supernatural world until things become obvious.

Vincent and Ortiz, the FBI agent, take on this case wisecracking their way through New York City as the clock keeps winding down. Along the way they meet all kinds of supernatural creatures: some who would be just as happy to kill as help, others who are out for blood, while others just enjoy killing their prey, and Vincent and Ortiz are their prey. In the end, as destruction reigns all around them, Vincent and Ortiz make life and death decisions that ultimately end the chase. Who lives and who dies? You’ll have to read it to find out. It’s a great read and I am looking forward to more Case Files from the Grave Report.

Fasten Your Seat Belts – A Review of Dangerous Ways

Dangerous Ways by R. R. Virdi

When R. R. Virdi was a young child, I am sure that people told him that he lived in his own world. In Dangerous Ways he doesn’t so much invite you into his world, as he opens a vortex that sucks you in from opening scene. Virdi’s world is the foundation for all his writing in the Urban Fantasy genre. His first series, The Grave Report, and this book, the first in The Books of Winter series, all take place in this amazing world and not only do we get a compelling story, we get another view of this wonderland from a different angle.

Did I say wonderland? Well, Alice surely wouldn’t recognize this wonderland as we see the ominous side of many fantasy creatures we have come to know and love in the writings of others. We follow the journeys of two characters, dare I name them? Yes, I will. Jonathan Hawthorne and Cassidy (Cassie) Winters lead us through this world popping into the most interesting and frightening places. Their journey is fraught with danger from the very creatures they need to contact.

Jonathan gets involved in Cassie’s problems knowing full well that his help could cost him his life. But, Cassie is a girl in trouble whose amazing powers have marked her for death from the creatures of this world while she has no understanding. The journey through the world also sees interesting growth in the characterization of Cassie as she adapts to this unknown world and its strange ways during her adventures. The adventures keep you guessing as new dangers and creatures beset the two all the way to the end of the book.

Given what I have read from Mr. Virdi there is a simple rule to follow: when he releases a book, buy it. You will be sure to be on a roller coaster ride of adventure and emotions that will keep you on the edge of your seat.