Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Strange Magic by James A Hunter!




 
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
ASIN: B00R7QEFN8

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

PRAISE FOR STRANGE MAGIC:

"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)

Excerpt:

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.

My Review

I think this is one of the most sarcastic, action packed, bad ass urban fantasy books I've read in a while! I happen to love it. It's gritty, dark, seriously sarcastic. When a monster is trying to kill him, yancy's own internal dialogue is hilarious with his descriptions. It's also very detail oriented and everything is described. But it is the first of the series so you need some of those info dumps to get a feel and a background. Yancy is a military nam vet, who has magic, and is a vagabond just traveling and gambling and having a good old time. Until his marine friend calls him for some help, and then it's like crazy chaos from there.  

Yancy is in his seventies but looks 40, due to his magic aging him slower. He seems to have adapted to modernized things well, except his love for his Camino car. Lol. And his love for classic rock. I like his crazy attitude. His friend Greg is an interesting soul as well. While you get a feel for their friendship, sometimes their chats felt a little off. Not sure if I can explain that though. And I'm still not quite sure I got the exact reason the crazy guy in the beginning was really trying to kill yancy. I know gang related feuds don't always make sense so I'll give it that. 

I did like the world building a lot and how magic- called Vis- is explained and used. There's a good bit of detail in that part too. I did like the writing style for the most part. I loved the action and the over all plot scheme. So, while some of the dialogue and characters and motives didn't make my higher end of expectations, a lot of other things did. There's some good potential here and I look forward to seeing where book two and three will go from here, which I will be jumping into. Hopefully some of those debut writer miscalculations are fixed because this has a pretty good foundation to grow from. And while I'm not sure if I'd give it 4 PAWS or 4.5 PAWS, I'll round up- because I can lol! 


 
Author Interview

Welcome Mr. Hunter!! 

Hey folks, 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 revolves around the adventures and various shenanigans of Yancy Lazarus, a magical, wet-works man turned rambling blues hound. I’d like to thank Maghon for having me on her blog.
 

First, tell me a little about your book ….
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 gray-skinned, 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 magical dark mage before he hexes Yancy into an early retirement. Easy right? Stupid. Bleeding. Heart.
 

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated or did you always just know?
A lot of my writer friends always knew they wanted to write. For me, the passion didn’t really ignite until well after high-school. I tinkered around with writing and storytelling in high school, but then drifted away from it for a good long while. It was during my time in the Marines, specifically on my first deployment to Iraq, that the writing bug wormed its way back under my skin. I’ve been writing on and off since 2007.
 

What inspired you to write your first book and what was it?
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. Mostly, that book was inspired by Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. The Wheel of Time was my first true exposure to the high fantasy genre, and it left me with a writing itch that just needed to be scratched.
 

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Each book, to a certain extent, has elements of my own life and experiences woven throughout. There’s an old writer’s axiom, Write what you know, and I think that shines through in my work. My main protagonist, Yancy Lazarus, is a travelling bluesman, a trait he happens to share with my father. Like me, Yancy is also a former Marine, and though he served in Vietnam (well before my time), my time in service—especially my deployments in Iraq and Africa—shaped much of his service history.
 

How do you chose when/which characters die in your books?
Generally, I hate killing characters; I love George R. R. Martin, but his grimdark style of fantasy is a little too bleak for me. In some sense, my characters are like friends, and though I understand the need for death, I prefer to kill folks off only when the story absolutely demands it. Plus, I think killing characters sparingly makes each death more meaningful and more emotionally shocking.
 

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
A couple of newer authors in the urban fantasy field worth checking out are Sam Witt (author of the Pitchfork County Series) and Domino Finn (Sycamore Moon Series and Shade City).
 

Who do you look up to as 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 teenager 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. 
 

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
I’ve grown a lot as an author since I wrote Strange Magic. Since its release I’ve written two and a half novels plus a novella, and I’ve seen my skill and talent as a writer and storyteller increase dramatically. I still think Strange Magic is a great book, but there are things both stylistically and story wise that I would tweak if I wrote it again.
 

What book are you reading now? Or what genre?
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.

Who designed the cover? And do you help with them?
Although I love the covers for all my books, Strange Magic is hands down my favorite—it has an iconic look that perfectly sums up the series. All of my covers were designed by the great folks over at EBookLaunch.com (Dane, specifically), though with quite a lot of input on my part. I picked out all the photos (cover model, magical effects, background), explained the general layout and vision for each cover, then left the execution in the hands of people far more capable than me.
 

Are there any books you think some of us should read, just because?
Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, is a phenomenal book that pretty much everyone should read. Period. Also, a Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, because it’s a brilliant piece of fiction: chilling, thrilling, and beautiful.
 

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 a guy shouting at an empty room. Knowing there are folks out in the world who enjoy my books makes writing worthwhile. So thank you.



 
About the Author:

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.