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Monday, November 9, 2015

Strange Magic by James A. Hunter: Interview

Strange Magic:
A Yancy Lazarus Novel
Pilot Episode
Yancy Lazarus Series, Book One
James A. Hunter

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Shadow Alley Press, Inc.
Date of Publication: January 16th, 2015

ISBN: 978-1507706923

Number of pages: 221
Word Count: 75,000

Book Description:

Yancy Lazarus is having a bad day: there’s a bullet lodged in his butt cheek, his face looks like the site of a demolition derby, and he’s been saran-wrapped to a banquet table. He never should have answered the phone. Stupid bleeding heart—helping others in his circles is a good way to get dead.

Just ask the gang members ripped to pieces by some kind of demonic nightmare in LA. As a favor to a friend, Yancy agrees to take a little looksee into the massacre and boom, he’s stuck in a turf war between two rival gangs, which both think he’s pinch-hitting for the other side. Oh, and there’s also a secretive dark mage with some mean ol’ magical chops and a small army of hyena-faced, body-snatching baddies. It might be time to seriously reconsider some of his life choices.

Yancy is a bluesman, a rambler, a gambler, but not much more. Sure, he can do a little magic—maybe even more than just a little magic—but he knows enough to keep his head down and stay clear of freaky-deaky hoodoo like this business in LA. Somehow though, he’s been set up to take a real bad fall—the kind of very permanent fall that leaves a guy with a toe tag. Unless, of course, he can find out who is responsible for the gangland murders, make peace in the midst of the gang feud, and take out said dark mage before he hexes Yancy into an early retirement. Easy right? Stupid. Bleeding. Heart.

Available at Amazon

"Move over Harry Dresden because there's a new wizard in town. Yancy Lazarus a chain-smoking, take no prisoners S.O.B. with a heart of gold and a fistful of primal power. A stellar debut novel from James Hunter, the next big name in Urban Fantasy."  —Rick Gualtieri, Author of Bill the Vampire (The Tome of Bill) 


The piano keys bobbed and danced under the pressure of my fingers. Music—low, slow, and soulful—drifted through the club, merging and twirling with wandering clouds of blue-gray smoke. So many places have no-smoking laws these days, it seems like there’s nowhere in the country where a guy can take a drag from a cigarette in peace. Everyone is so worried about their health, they make damn sure you stay healthy by proxy.
Not Nick’s Smoke House, though. Nick’s—like some rare, near extinct animal—is the kind of bar where you can die unmolested by laws or ordinances. You can burn yourself up with cancer, drown yourself into liver failure, or binge on a plate of ribs until a heart attack takes you cold, and no one will say boo. And you can die to music here: the beautiful, lonely, brassy beats, of the like only ever found in New Orleans.
The house band was on a break, so I sat thumping out an old Ray Charles tune in the interim while I watched the man standing offstage in a pool of inky shadow.
I’d never met the guy before, but I instinctively knew he was looking for me, or rather The Fixer—a shitty alias I’ve been trying to ditch for years. It was in the way he stood: chest forward, back straight, arms crossed, chin outthrust. He was a man used to intimidating others, used to being obeyed. In short, he was a thug. A thug sporting an expensive suit, a three-thousand dollar watch, and a pair of loafers that probably cost more than most people paid on rent. At the end of the day, though, he was still just a thug—somebody else’s trained pit bull.
I don’t know why, but thugs are always looking for The Fixer. Either they’ve got something that needs fixing or they’re looking to fix me. I didn’t know whether this guy wanted option A or option B, but I figured he’d get around to it in his own sweet time. So, instead of tipping my hand prematurely, I continued to pound out melodies on the black and whites. My Ray Charles faded out, and I started up a gritty, ambling version of Meade “Lux” Lewis’ famous “Honky Tonk Train Blues.”
My left hand hammered out the thudding, rhythmic, rock-steady pulse of a driving train pushing its bulk across the rolling open space of some forgotten Midwest wilderness; the bass notes offered a mimicry of the ebb and flow of pumping gears. My right hand flitted across the keys, touching down here and there, sending up a rusty whistle blowing in the night. The dusty clatter of track switches being thrown. The braying of hounds, while bullyboys searched for stowaways. If there was ever a song to make a man dance his way onto the boxcar of a rolling train, it was this funky ol’ honky-tonk rhythm.
I let the beat roll on, hoping the thug would hop and jive his way right out of Nick’s Smoke House and out of my life, no harm, no foul. Though a whole helluva lot a people think of me as The Fixer, really I’m just an old rambler trying to get by and enjoy the time I have on this spinning little mud ball. All I wanted was for this overdressed clown to walk away and leave me be.
The man in the black suit just glared at me like I’d offered him an insult, and I knew then things would not end well between us. Still, I mostly ignored him. I should’ve been worried, but I wasn’t.
I’ve been around for a good long while, and I don’t scare easy.
After what felt like an age, the hulking suit stepped up to the stage and into a pool of soft amber light, illuminating his features for the first time. He was enormous, six and a half feet of pro wrestling muscle, with a pushed-in nose and military cropped blond hair. His face was a mosaic of scars, though the thick tissue on his knuckles put them all to shame. One meaty paw lifted back a coat lapel, revealing the glint of chromed metal: a Colt 1911.
A Colt 1911 is a big gun, not the kind of thing a person normally chooses as a concealed carry. The things are too large to conceal easily, and they can be awkward to draw on the fly, so he probably wasn’t here to assassinate me. A pro assassin would never have used something as ostentatious and conspicuous as this McGoon’s 1911. A hitter would’ve chosen a sleek, nondescript .22. The kind of gun that’s easy to hide, would go off unnoticed, get the job done without much mess, and could be disposed of in a dumpster somewhere. This guy’s choice of weapon told me he was intimidating muscle, but likely better with his fists than with his piece.
“Yancy Lazarus?” he asked with a low voice like grating cement. “You the guy who fixes things?”
Yep, a thug.
I could’ve denied it, but the guy had found me fair and square, so it was safe to assume he already knew the answer. I nodded my head a fraction of an inch. That was all. I went right on playing as though I hadn’t noticed his veiled threat or didn’t care. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not suicidal and I’m not a pompous jackass—at least that’s not how I see myself—but I knew I could take this guy. I had an edge, although Macho Man Hulk in the other corner didn’t know it.
I can do magic and not the cheap kind of stuff you see in Vegas with flowers, or floating cards, or disappearing stagehands. People like me, who can touch the Vis, can do real magic. Although magic isn’t the right word: magic is a Rube word, for those not in the know, which is precisely why we who practice call it the Vis in the first place. Vis is an old Latin word meaning force or energy, nothing fancy about it.
There are energies out there, underlying matter, existence, and in fact, all Creation. As it happens, I can manipulate that energy. Period. End of story.

Author Bio

Hey all, my name is James Hunter and I’m a writer, among other things. So just a little about me: I’m a former Marine Corps Sergeant, combat veteran, and pirate hunter (seriously). I’m also a member of The Royal Order of the Shellback—‘cause that’s a real thing. And, a space-ship captain, can’t forget that.

Okay … the last one is only in my imagination.

Currently, I work as a missionary and international aid worker with my wife and young daughter in Bangkok, Thailand. When I’m not working, writing, or spending time with family, I occasionally eat and sleep. Strange Magic is the first novel in the Yancy Lazarus series—the third, full-length novel, Wendigo Rising, just released on November 3rd, 2015.

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Please welcome Strange Magic author James A. Hunter to Diane’s Book Blog. 

Hey all, my name is James Hunter and I’m a former Marine Corps Sergeant, combat veteran, and pirate hunter (seriously). I’m also an Urban Fantasy writer—not that you’ll catch me making that confession in public. I’m the author of the Yancy Lazarus series, which follows around Yancy Lazarus, a magical, wet-works man turned rambling bluesman. Before we jump into the interview, I’d just like to say thanks to Diane for having me on her blog.

1. How long did it take you to write Strange Magic?

Strange Magic, the first book in the Yancy Lazarus series, took about a year to write and produce (editing, cover art, etc). But Strange Magic wasn’t my first book. The first book I ever wrote took a grand total of four years—it was a terrible high/epic fantasy novel, which will never, ever, ever see the light of day. Suffice it to say, my first full-length novel was a great learning lesson in how not to write good fantasy. My second novel, an equally terrible horror story, took two years. Strange Magic was my third full-length book and it took a year, but my writing time has sped up considerably since then. The second and third books in the Yancy Lazarus series only took around four months each to produce from start to finish.

2. What is your favorite book that you wrote?     

Since I just finished writing Wendigo Rising, Yancy Lazarus Episode Three, that happens to be my favorite book. Really, though, it changes. I love all my books, but the one I’m working on is always the one closest to my heart. Plus, Wendigo Rising rocks harder than a 1980s big hair band. Murder and intrigue. Snake-faced, black-market organ harvesters. Epic music battles and hulking, sixty-foot fat monsters. Bigfoot. Yeah, it has everything, really.

3. Who or what inspired you to be a writer?

I’d like to shout out to my top three most influential authors. First, J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books: this series, more than anything else, influenced me to start reading as a young teen ager and got me hooked on the fantasy genre. Stephen King, and pretty much every book he’s ever written, has had a huge impact on me as a reader and writer. And, of course, Jim Butcher and the Dresden Files. These books introduced me to the Urban Fantasy genre and made me want to write in this genre, abandoning my original calling as a horror author.  

4. How do you overcome writer’s block?

For me, writer’s block has a simple solution: Sit in a room, by myself with a computer. I don’t have to write, but I can’t do anything else either. No Youtube. No Netflix. No internet (not even a quick glimpse at my email). No books. No music. Nothing but writing. After an hour or so, boredom takes over and voilà, no more writer’s block.

5. Can you share a little of your current work with us?

The third book in my Yancy Lazarus series, Wendigo Rising, just released a few days ago (November 3rd), so I’ve decided to take a break and work on something else. Right now, I’m writing Mud-Man—an Urban Fantasy novel that takes place in the same universe as the Lazarus series, but which features a very different character. Here’s a little teaser:

Levi Adams is a soft spoken, middle-aged, Mennonite man—at least he tries to be when he’s not murdering people.
Levi’s a Golem, a Mud-man, crafted from the muck, mire, and corpses of a World War II concentration camp—killing is just a part of his DNA. He doesn’t like it, but unfortunately he’s been saddled with a divine commission to dole out judgement on those who shed innocent blood. After a lifetime as a cold-blooded, murder machine, however, Levi’s trying to change his grisly nature. And the AA meetings and church services are helping. A little. But when he runs across a wounded girl during one of his “hunting expeditions,” he realizes self-help may have to go on the backburner.
Someone is attempting to revive an ancient godling and the road to rebirth is paved with dead bodies. Lots and lots of them.
Now, Levi must protect the girl—the key to an unspeakable resurrection—and defeat a Nazi Mage from Levi’s murky past. But the shadowy Mage holds a terrible secret about the Mud-man’s unorthodox birth, one offering insight into Levi’s morbid compulsion for blood shed. It’s a secret Levi would pay anything to discover: maybe even the innocent girl in his care. If Levi isn’t careful, though, he may end up as the Mage’s final sacrifice.

6. What book are you reading now?

Currently, I’m reading Craig Schaefer’s Redemption Song (Daniel Faust Book 2), another in a long line of very well-written, urban-fantasy novels with a noir feel. If you’re a fan of gritty, fun Urban Fantasy, then I’d highly recommend the Daniel Faust Series.

7. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

To all my readers and fans, I’d just like to say thank you! Seriously. Writing is an act of communication, and without people willing to read my stories, I’d just be an awkward guy shouting at an empty room. Knowing there are folks out in the world who enjoy my books makes writing worthwhile. So thank you. 

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