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Monday, August 17, 2015

Fearless by Elliott James: Interview & Giveaway

Pax Arcana Series, Book Three
Elliott James

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Orbit

Date of Publication: August 11, 2015

ISBN-13: 978-0316253444

Number of pages:  448

Book Description:

When your last name is Charming, rescuing virgins comes with the territory -- even when the virgin in question is a nineteen-year-old college boy.

Someone, somewhere, has declared war on Kevin Kichida, and that someone has a long list of magical predators on their rolodex. The good news is that Kevin lives in a town where Ted Cahill is the new sheriff and old ally of John Charming.

The attacks on Kevin seem to be a pattern, and the more John and his new team follow that thread, the deeper they find themselves in a maze of supernatural threats, family secrets, and age-old betrayals. The more John learns, the more convinced he becomes that Kevin Kichida isn't just a victim, he's a sacrifice waiting to happen. And that thread John's following? It's really a fuse...

FEARLESS is the third novel in an urban fantasy series which gives a new twist to the Prince Charming tale. The first two novels are Charming & Daring.

This can be read as a standalone.

Available at

Amazon and  BN



A sample from FEARLESS by Elliott James

A modern twist to the Prince Charming tale in this third urban fantasy in the Pax Arcana series.

Once Upon a Time, Ted Cahill had changed. The only real question was whether Cahill had changed too much or not enough.

For example, when I first met Cahill, he had been a mouthy homicide detective in Clayburg, Virginia. Now he was the sheriff of Tatum, New York, which basically meant that he was better paid, had more administrative responsibilities, and was forced to be a lot more polite to a lot more people. But when someone in Cahill’s jurisdiction died in a suspicious manner, he was still a homicide detective at heart. And Tatum and Clayburg had a lot in common: Both towns are nestled in mountains, both towns are hosts to small private universities, and both towns call themselves cities, as if saying the word could make it true. So, how much of the change in Cahill’s status and environment was really all that significant?

Another thing about Cahill that was different—but not unrecognizably so—was his physical appearance. Cahill’s skin was a little paler than when I’d first met him, and I was willing to swear that his freckles were disappearing. His excess body fat had melted off like wax from a lit candle, and his cheekbones were still pronounced, but in an angular way rather than chubby. His brown eyes were still small but now burned with an intensity that might be compelling or disturbing depending on how you looked at them… or how those eyes looked at you. This quality is actually fairly common among supernatural beings struggling with predatory instincts.

And that, of course, was the biggest change, the catalyst for all of the cosmetic alterations in Cahill’s life. Ted Cahill had become a dhampir, a vampire who still retained some of his humanity. It was when trying to figure out how much humanity Cahill still retained (or what humanity meant exactly) that things got confusing.

“So, what about it, wolf boy? Do you smell it?” Cahill had been pushy and snappish ever since we arrived. He seemed to feel like he was doing us a huge favor by letting us help him, because asking for help had been so difficult.

“I smell it,” I confirmed. Sig Norresdotter, Cahill, and I were standing in the middle of a frosty and fenced in horseback riding ring next to Kincaid University’s stables. It was that kind of private school. Tatum in January was a lot colder than Virginia, and I was wearing a grey hoodie under a brown Flying Tiger fighter pilot jacket. I was also wearing black leather gloves, thermals under my dark blue jeans, two pairs of socks beneath my running shoes, and a slight frown.

The scent in question had been dissipating for twenty-four hours and was now too faint for normal human senses, but I could discern a weird, flat tang in the air. It was the slightly off, kind of wrong, almost burnt smell that writers of the old tales used to describe as brimstone. When someone or something from another plane suddenly materializes on this one, molecules from the visitor’s dimension get shoehorned into ours, and molecules from our plane get sucked into the visitor’s home to fill up the empty spaces left behind. It’s like the alternate-universe version of swapping spit. And the surrounding air has a neutral but not quite natural feel to it afterward.

Cahill gave me an impatient look. “And?”

“And why don’t you shove an orange cone up your ass and go direct traffic, you doorknob?” I said. “I’m trying to concentrate so I can do your job for you.”

Well, okay, I didn’t really say that. I might have a year earlier, but I’ve been working on my social skills. Instead, I confirmed Cahill’s suspicions. “Something supernatural manifested in this corral.”

“Was this thing summoned?” Sig spoke up, wearing some kind of cream-colored, soft-shelled female outdoor jacket unzipped. She wasn’t bothered by the cold any more than she was by the heat of the huge steaming cup of drive-through coffee that she was gulping instead of sipping.

By way of answering, I fished out my wallet and flashed the driver’s license I was currently using. “Does it say Gandalf on here or something?”

I really did say that one.

Sig gave me a look, and her glare is a formidable thing: icy-eyed, intense, full-lipped, and framed by long golden hair flowing over Scandinavian cheekbones. I stared back and saw how smart and strong and beautiful she was, and smiled.

Seeing that smile, her eyes softened, and the corners of her lips curved upward slightly. Being around Cahill again had us both a little on edge, so I relented. “Yeah, it was probably summoned deliberately. Things that break into our universe without an invitation are rare, and they usually kick up a shitstorm right away. They don’t go bump in the night; they go boom.”

Sig nodded and addressed Cahill without looking at him or using his name. “This missing college student… What was her name again?”

“Lindsey Williams,” Cahill supplied. “I was thinking maybe you’d see her ghost around here.”

“I don’t,” Sig said shortly. She doesn’t particularly like the I-see-dead-people part of being descended from Valkyries, but she doesn’t deny it either. “So, a security camera caught this Lindsey Williams heading this way at three thirty in the morning, right? What was she doing here that early?”

“Normally, I’d say she was meeting someone she shouldn’t,” Cahill said. “Some married professor, maybe, or her BFF’s boyfriend, or her drug dealer. But after a little nudging, her roommate admitted that Lindsey used to sneak out here at night pretty regularly. She said that Lindsey was horse crazy and that the upperclassmen in the equestrian studies program get to choose all the best horses for themselves. So Lindsey liked to come out and take some of her favorites for a night ride.”

“You say it took a little nudging?” Sig’s voice was tight as she repeated the words. Cahill had carried a major torch for Sig back in Clayburg. I couldn’t really blame him for that, but vampires are low-grade telepaths, and as a dhampir, Cahill had some of those abilities. When he’d partially turned, he’d started broadcasting his feelings for Sig and made her experience them too. From what I understand, they flirted around for a few days before going out on a date. Then they had dinner, and at some point while talking about how strange it was that they’d known each other so long and now this new thing was happening, Sig had a distant idea in the back of her mind. Sig is nothing if not strong willed, and the suspicion kept drifting back to the surface of her thoughts despite the tide of hormones trying to bear it away. After dinner, while Sig and Cahill were kissing in the parking lot behind the restaurant, Sig wrapped her arms over Cahill’s shoulders and pulled him close… and broke his neck. Lo and behold, the sudden rush of new feelings that had come into Sig’s life completely disappeared.

Cahill’s neck improved. Relations between him and Sig did not.

Cahill claimed the whole thing had been an accident, a result of having new powers that he didn’t fully understand and was still learning to control, and that was entirely possible. On the other hand, Cahill had used Sig’s unavailability as justification for using other women like Kleenex to wipe off excess sperm while his marriage fell apart. So it was kind of hard to say whether Cahill’s feelings for Sig were real or whether they were just his excuse for being a player, and that was a difficult uncertainty to deal with. If Cahill’s telepathic seduction of a woman he truly cared about had been unintentional, it was tragic, and he was kind of a victim. If it weren’t an accident, Cahill had mentally raped Sig as a means toward physically raping her. People are complex, so there was the whole question of what Cahill had done consciously or subconsciously too, or how much of the event he had reinvented or lied to himself about.

Which was why Sig had compromised. She left Cahill breathing but told him to get his dick out of Dodge if he wanted to stay that way. And Cahill, whatever his other faults, knew Sig well enough to take her seriously. Hence Cahill’s new job running a small police force in a town in upstate New York. I don’t know if Cahill had called Sig reluctantly or if he’d been looking for an excuse, but when he came across something he didn’t know how to handle, he’d called her just the same.

And she had answered. Sig is like that. She tends to have an “it takes a village” attitude toward monster hunting. I have mostly hunted supernatural predators alone, partly because I had no choice and partly because I’m an idiot. But Sig is worth going outside my comfort zone for.

“I gave the roommate a mental push,” Cahill’s voice resonated with a complex mixture of defiance and anger and shame. “If I don’t practice using my powers, I’ll never get better control of them. And this was for a good cause.”

Sig considered that while taking a big slurp of her coffee coco mucho mocco whatever (I’m a coffee purist), then turned her focus on me again. “So, what are we dealing with here, John? I saw your lips do that I-smelled-a-fart twitch they do when you connect some nasty dots. Spill it.”

Being attracted to a smart woman has a lot of rewards. It also comes with a few challenges.

“Yeah, I’ve put some pieces together,” I grumbled. I would have liked another minute to think about them, but I went ahead and squatted down closer to the ground so that I could outline a wide area with a sweeping index finger. “Did you notice how this part of the corral has the outline of hoofprints frozen in the mud much clearer and deeper than the rest of the riding ring?”

They had not.

“This patch of ground got moister than the rest and then froze. I figure the creature that manifested a physical body here used water as its elemental base.”

Cahill made a “time-out” sign and gave Sig an exasperated look. “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I asked you to bring Professor Peabody here because I don’t know a lot about this stuff, remember? What do you mean, element base?”

Professor Peabody was a cartoon character on the old Rocky and Bullwinkle show who had a lot of doctoral degrees. He was also a talking dog.


Author Bio

An army brat and gypsy scholar, ELLIOTT JAMES is currently living in the blueridge mountains of southwest Virginia. An avid reader since the age of three (or that's what his family swears anyhow), he has an abiding interest in mythology, martial arts, live music, hiking, and used bookstores. Irrationally convinced that cellphone technology was inserted into human culture by aliens who want to turn us into easily tracked herd beasts, Elliott has one anyhow but keeps it in a locked tinfoil covered box which he will sometimes sit and stare at mistrustfully for hours. Okay, that was a lie. Elliott lies a lot; in fact, he decided to become a writer so that he could get paid for it.

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Please welcome Fearless author Elliott James to Diane’s Book Blog. 

If you could be best friends with one of your characters, who would it be? 

Honestly, it would be the Canadian guy in the dog park in book 4, because you never see him again and insane and dangerous stuff presumably doesn’t keep happening to him and around him.  I wouldn’t want to hang around any of these people!  But that’s not answering the question in the spirit it was intended, so, hmmm.  Most of my supporting characters are amalgams of real people that I know well.  Like I’ll take my friend Jim’s personality and put it in my friend Tom’s body and  then give the character a career I know something about because my friend Mike does it for a living.  Actually, that sounds a little mad scientish now that I write it out loud.  Anyhow, I have a character named Molly Newman who is a former Episcopal priest who may or may not be a little insane.  When you read about the real lives of saints and prophets, you sort of realize that a lot of these people walked a very thin line, and none of them were considered saints at the time because they flew in the face of convention.  In fact, a lot of them were burned at the stake or stoned to death.  And Molly is based on two people who I am very fond of, though I should point out that neither of them have been canonized or live out in the wilderness wearing animal skins and smearing feces on themselves.   But one of those people is very unconventional nonetheless.  What I love about her is that she is as close to a hundred percent genuine as humans get and says whatever comes into her mind, which is awesome because she is very kind and perceptive and funny.   If I said everything that came into my mind, I would be burned at a stake or stoned to death for reasons that had nothing to do with my holiness.  Umm…I guess the short answer is Molly Newman.

What is your typical day like? 

I get up a little before five every morning and kick anything that comes between me and the coffee pot.   I put something on Twitter – which I still get a lot of grief about from my friends and family because for years I told everyone to start prepping for the apocalypse if they ever saw me get a Twitter account or a smart phone.  Then I write from 5 to a little after 7, unless it’s a weekend.  It usually takes me about twenty minutes to get ready for work, mostly because I believe that showering weakens the immune system.  No, just kidding, I promise.  Then I become a high school teacher for a minimum of eight hours, which I mostly like.  After work I do something physical.  I love martial arts and yoga, but it’s hard to keep a good instructor around here for more than a year or so at a time.  I don’t know if that’s because I live in Southwest Virginia, and small mountain towns aren’t always fiscally supportive of activities that have some slight whiff of counter-culture about them, or whether yogis and sensei tend to be people who move around a lot.  But there’s never been a time in my life when I wasn’t a runner and a hiker. It’s important to sweat those stress toxins out after work with my job.  Next I go home and sacrifice a small ground mammal to my shadowy overlords from a parallel dimension.  No, just kidding again (like I’d really do something physical first). This usually puts me somewhen between 6 and 8, and since I get up at 5, that’s not a lot of time to do something about having a social life, but I try.  Being a high school teacher often entails committees or fund raisers or concerts or plays or athletic or scholastic competitions that my friends or students are involved in too, so work and personal life get tangled up a lot for me

How Do You Overcome Writer’s Block?

Well, I rarely just stare blankly at a page.  I do sometimes get stuck in a part of a book, writing and rewriting it, feeling like I’m just trying to get from point A to point B and having a hard time being happy with what I’m putting down on the page so that I can move on.  When that happens I’ll try a couple of things. 

(1)    I might just slog through it and trust that I’ll come back and fix that part of the book later, when I’m less burned out or in the editing stage. 

(2)     I might try to draw outside of the lines and get kind of silly or out there.  Some of the strangest parts of some of my books have come from that sort of thing.  Like in my first book, Charming, I have a chapter called “The Shortest Chapter in the Book” which is a direct result of that process.  Or in the second book, Daring, there’s a chapter written as a poetry parody of Robert Frost.  Fortunately the narrator, John Charming, is informal and a bit of a smart ass and likes to play around with language, and that gives me some freedom to experiment with narrative that can be a lot of fun. In the book I just wrote, In Shining Armor, there’s a section where the characters suddenly break out in Shakesperean dialogue.

(3)     If neither of those first two approaches is working, I’ll go back and re-read the section before the place in the book I’m frustrated with and then try to keep going.  This is a bit like stepping back and getting a running start before trying to bust a locked door down.  

What book are you reading now?

I’m going to go with a spectrum if that’s okay. The last book I read was The Martian by Andy Weir, which I loved.  It’s a beautiful thing when you can read about someone expressing true love for a passion in their life, even if you don’t share that passion.  I’m currently reading Armada by Ernest Cline which I like for similar reasons.  And the next book on my nightstand is The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.  That one was actually given to me by one of the people my character Molly Newman is based on.

Which do you prefer, paperback, hardcover, or ebooks?   

Paperbacks all the way.  I do a lot of my reading in a hot bath or outside, so I want something I don’t have to worry too much about destroying.  I can also get very cynical about the way technology plays out in a consumer driven society.  Take movies or music.  First there were reels and vinyl.  Then there were tape recorders.  Then people realized that people being able to record whatever they wanted gave them too many options, so we moved to DVDs and CDs.  However, moving to DVDS and CDS made marketers realize that people were having to start their collections over, which, aha, meant spending more money.  So they moved to streaming and MP3.  Same principle works with video games and phones and whatever we use for a computer.  Based on that trend, I’m pretty sure it’s only a matter of time before whatever device people use to read ebooks gets replaced by some new shiny toy or technological filter that will make their e-libraries obsolete, and I like to re-read books.  It’s also probably only a matter of time before advertisements start appearing between chapters or in the corner of the screen if that hasn’t happened already.  But a real honest to god book never becomes obsolete and can’t be upgraded. I don’t need any kind of technological filter to access it, and I know its non-digital contents can’t be messed with. Also, I just like the way books smell.  Used bookstores are one of my favorite kinds of places, and they’re on the way to becoming extinct.  Hell, so are regular bookstores.    And I love bookstores.  Sorry if that sounds like I’m going to wind up in a wood cabin protecting a stack of paperbacks with a rifle because I think the federal authorities are going to come take them away or something. It’s not like I’d prefer to be writing on a scroll with a quill by candlelight, and I’ll be the first to admit that the internet also has advantages.  It’s easier to narrow a search for a book down, or get a rare out of print book from Seattle, and a lot of my favorite authors like the aforementioned Andy Weir wouldn’t have gotten started without the internet.  But I do like to support nonline bookstores even if it’s a bit like Don Quixote tilting a lance at a windmill.


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