Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Edition: Paperback, 432 pages
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Mystery
Do I want to read more Pathfinder Tales? HELL YES.
In late 2016 Jim finished his 11th SF&F novel, The Witch of Val d’Ossa, and with the release in early 2017 of Never Dead Enough, the 3rd book in The Dead Among Us, he has ten published SF&F books. He’s been unusually successful as a self-published writer; Child of the Sword went word-of-mouth viral about three years ago, and among all his self-published books he has since sold close to 60,000 copies. With that success, he was able to quit his day-job as a running-dog-lackey for the bourgeois capitalist establishment, and work for himself as a fulltime writer. He says his new boss is a real jerk. The self-pub success also led to traditional contracts with Open Road Integrated Media, and Harper Collins Voyager.
Jim is also a scientist with a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering; his specialty is laser physics. He has a big pet peeve regarding lasers as weapons in science fiction. He spent decades working in the laser and electro-optics industry, even did some research on laser weapons in the 80’s. And when writers use a laser as a weapon in a story, they invariably get it wrong, usually by violating some basic law of physics. Jim gives a presentation on laser weapons, and what writers do wrong—no names please.
Jim was born in Seattle, but he’s lived most of his life in California, though he did live on the east coast and in Europe for a while. He now resides in Arizona with his wife Karen and three little beings who claim to be cats: Tilda, Julia and Natasha. But Jim is certain they’re really extra-terrestrial aliens in disguise.
Science has always been a passion of Jim’s, but writing is an addiction. In April 2016, Of Treasons Born, the prequel to A Choice of Treasons, was published by Open Road Integrated Media, and in August The Thirteenth Man was published by Harper Collins Voyager. He just finished The Witch of Val d’Ossa, the first book in The Valley of Bones series. Right now he’s working on By Treason Forged, the 2nd book in The Treasons Cycle, The BlackSword Regiment, a new military science fiction series, and the 2nd book in The Valley of Bones.
Jim intends to keep on writing and publishing more stories, but no laser weapons.
I’ve been asked a few times how I came up with the storyline for The Dead Among Us, my urban fantasy series, and I had to stop and think a bit to recall the process. I’d been writing traditional fantasy and hard science fiction for years, and I was ready to try something different, something in a contemporary, urban style of speculative fiction. I began with the concept that wizards, witches, demons, and all the denizens of Faerie, are living among us, but hidden in plain sight, and we mundane mortals are completely ignorant of their presence. One goal I set for myself was to write something that would be a fun read, though not a comedy.
I looked carefully at Irish, English, Scottish and Celtic folklore, and delved into demonology as it is depicted in various religions and cultures. That provided the inspiration to develop my own spin on the supernatural, which evolved into the Three Realms: the Netherworld, the Mortal Plane, and Faerie. The Dragon Realm is a mythical fourth realm, but since no one has ever been there, or met a dragon, everyone believes it’s pure legend.
As many other urban fantasy writers have done, in Faerie I adopted the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of Scottish folklore, though King Ag and Queen Magreth are my own fictitious characters. The non-aligned fey, the assassin Sabreatha of the black fey, and the whole concept of Leprechauns as neutral arbiters in the constant strife between the Summer and Winter Courts, are inventions of my own twisted mind. I must admit I had fun with Leprechaun’s names like Jim’Jiminie, Boo’Diddle and Dan’Dandio, and they provided a nice counterpoint to the more serious moments.
With regard to the Netherworld I needed some sort of hierarchy for demon rank, so I created a cast structure. At the bottom are non-caste demons like imps, succubuses and incubuses. Next are Tertuis cast, weak-willed creatures that, if physically manifest on the Mortal Plane, will feed on mortal souls in an uncontrolled frenzy. That invariably draws the attention of mortal wizards, and the Tertius is hunted down and annihilated rather quickly. A Secundus cast is stronger, will feed carefully, remain hidden, and with caution, might reside on the Mortal Plane for centuries, eventually building up enough strength to appear human. The most dangerous of all are the Primus caste, basically the nine princes of hell. The last time a Primus physically manifested on the Mortal Plane, the Roman Empire fell, and civilization plunged into the dark ages.
Enter our hero and heroine, Paul Conklin and Katherine McGowan, both thirtyish. Some time ago Paul’s wife and little daughter, Suzanna and Cloe, were killed in back-to-back accidents about a month apart. Paul took it hard and crashed emotionally. But he’s doing much better now, because the two have come back to him as ghosts, and are living with him in his San Francisco apartment. Paul knows that ghosts don’t really exist, so he’s pretty certain he’s simply lost all contact with reality and is hallucinating.
Paul is a wizard, but doesn’t know it and is completely ignorant of wizardly ways. When he spontaneously produces a powerful conjuration, he finds himself in a lot of trouble with dominant senior wizards like Katherine’s father, Walter McGowan, and Vasily Karpov and his Russian thugs. The situation is further confounded by the fact that Paul exhibits unusual powers not available to normal, mortal wizards. His strange abilities lead the senior wizards to wonder if Paul is demon possessed, or perhaps a demon himself. Karpov wants to execute Paul first and ask questions later. But Katherine sees two leprechauns help Paul, which they wouldn’t do if he delved into demon magic. So while everyone else is trying to join the let’s-kill-Paul party, Katherine takes his side, teaching him about magic as they try to survive.
I had a lot of fun with this story.
Creepy Serial Killer Guy (SKG) has relocated from Dallas to San Francisco so he can hunt down Paul and Katherine. The demon in his soul can’t rest until it possesses Paul. But in Dallas, Paul and Katherine badly weakened it. So SKG’s master needs to gain strength before attempting to take them. He prowls the streets of San Francisco and the Bay Area looking for more Alices.
While creepy SKG hunts Alices, Vasily Karpov conspires with Ag, King of the Unseelie Court. If they can bring over a monstrous legend from the past, even if it doesn’t kill Paul, they hope to blame him for the damage and destruction, and discredit him with the senior practitioners.
Paul is haunted by thoughts of a powerful rune sword. Anogh, the newly restored Summer Knight, keeps interfering in Paul’s life. Sabreatha, the black fey assassin who tried to kill Paul with the heart arrow, les flèche du coeur, takes an interest in Paul and Katherine. And of course, the Summer Queen and her High Chancellor, Magreth and Cadilus, keep messing in Paul and Katherine’s lives.