A witch–a PI–and plenty of noir! Read about the genesis of The Raven Tales by J. B. Dane in this week’s Novel Magic.
About Marked Raven–Book 2 of The Raven Tales
by J. B. Dane
As this is the second book in the series, let me fill in a few blanks.
Way back in the late 1980s (you know, the Jurassic Age before home computers were common), a character walked into my muse’s office. It’s situated in my head, naturally. He said he was fictional and that he’d gotten yanked out of a book into the real world. My muse told him to take a seat. As I was deep into spinning romantic comedy and historical romance and still unpublished, he ended up sitting there for decades. Probably read all the magazines more than once from cover to cover.
Then the 21st century struck. I’d now been published for over a decade and had recently suffered through a bout of clinical depression where I couldn’t think my way out of a paper bag. The doctor told me that was because clinical depression shuts down the part of your brain that is creative. Well, at least I had a reason for being depressed! And when I did a bit of research, I discovered that a lot of creative people got hit with this. I consoled myself by deciding that I must be very creative to have come down with it.
When medication got me over the hump and back to finishing projects again without medication, I was looking for something to read that would be like a palate cleanser, something that I knew I had no interest in writing. At the time the SciFi Channel (I believe they’ve altered their name since then) was running a show called The Dresden Files. I noticed that the show was based on an urban fantasy series and picked up my first Jim Butcher story at the library. What drew me to it was that the hero was a P.I., there was mystery and there was magic.
Little did I know that that guy who’d been sitting in my muse’s waiting room would jump to his feet and demonstrate an ability to juggle instantly materialized balls of fire. He said his name was Bram Farrell, that he’d been the lone PI at Raven Investigations in Detroit in a series of books and that his author was an ancient witch who yanked him across the seam stitched binding into real world Detroit. And just like that, The Raven Tales series was born.
Bram was relieved to find that Detroit outside of a book also was inhabited by things that weren’t supposed to exist. The kinds of beings he’d put down in the books, and not merely with droll dialogue.
There was a troll family running The Bridge Bar and (Burnt Comestibles) Grill. There was a vampire don running his syndicate from One Detroit Center. There was a red dragon running the restaurant/jazz club known as The Red Dragon. Samael, aka The Devil, could be found doing mundane things in an enchanted meadow on Bram’s previous author’s estate, and some succubae had a nice business under a lamppost where their meals came to them. Among the three cops he met, one was a werewolf SWAT team member, another a vampire working vice at night, and the fully human had a multiple of greats grandmother who’d turned banshee. He even met a couple of archangels along the way. However, he also ended up with a sidekick who was a hellhound that preferred to manifest as a black and tan dachshund.
The percentage of Otherworlders calling Detroit home was minimal, but they were there and occasionally in need of being taken down in the same ways he had used in those earlier (actually, non-existent) books.
These are detective stories with a touch of noir but with a lot of comedy. One reviewer was so misguided as to claim, “Bram is comedy gold”, which was only an error on their part because I drop that opinion into things all the time. Like I just did. Fortunately, other reviewers confess that they were surprised over who had dunnit at the conclusion and admired the twist. I buffed my nails against my blouse over that.
While Marked Raven is the second novel in the series, I’ve already turned in the third tome and also have written four prequel novellas, which are cases Bram was on that had nothing to do with those mythical books the witch wrote, and a “between the books” tale that takes place between the first of my Raven titles and Marked.
Actually, what I like most about writing the various Raven Tales stories is that I get to hang out with Bram. Always handy when you like a character. It keeps the ball rolling when spinning a series.
Marked Raven by J.B. Dane
Most guys wouldn’t mind that it’s practically raining females, some expected, some surprises, one P.I. Bram Farrell could do without, and one he enjoys sharing donuts with– his new secretary, Naomie. She thinks he’s human.
He’s not. Yet. He’s still mostly fictional. And the magic that dawdled in following him across from the page is leaking back into his play book. Which should be helpful considering someone has put a hit out on him.
It’s unlikely to be the reporter determined to prove he’s not the late Calista Amberson’s nephew. That hit would be to the reputation.
It’s definitely not Alexa Muldoon who is due to pellet him with nothing more lethal than questions about the direction the new stories he’s writing will be taking. Which depends entirely on what thrills and chills turn up in his life.
It’s probably not the slinky vampiress. She wants him to find her missing great-grandson. She sorta neglects to mention she has a stalker.
Still, life is relatively good.
Except for that hit contract. Among the contenders interested in bagging him is possibly one packing a mysterious alchemical weapon called Heart Burn because it incinerates the victim from the heart on out.
Except for someone having found a way to neutralize his protection shields, which shouldn’t be possible.
Except, if he’s not careful, Naomie will realize he’s not who she thinks he is and that there is magic in the world. Dangerous magic.
A Sample of Marked Raven
It wasn’t until I was standing at the booth that I caught a glance at the girl wedged as far back in the opposite seat as she could get. Her lipstick was definitely candy-apple in color and unsmudged, unlike her friend’s. Her eyes were heavily kohled and were unnaturally wide. Her gaze darted from the couple across from her to the strange assortment of other patrons. An untouched mug of troll beer sat before her and she had the lower edge of her bottom lip firmly gripped between her teeth.
“Naomie!” I gasped.
Beelz had lagged behind me in the crowd, apparently lingering to help himself to something’s unattended meal, plates being much easier to reach in Great Dane mode. At my exclamation, I caught his instant drop back to dachshund form from the corner of my eye.
“Boss!” Naomie gasped back at me. But I saw her shoulders relax. Her teeth freed her bottom lip. Yep, Sir Bram had come to rescue her. Everything was—or soon would be—fine in her world once more.
“What the hell are you doing here? Do you have any idea how dangerous this place is?” I demanded. Okay, maybe I snarled it. The Bridge catered to folks who snarled. It was catching.
The ghoul pushed to his feet and found that, even standing, I had the height advantage. I saw the balk, but he decided to brazen it out. “Clear off, slick. This party’s doing fine without you part of it.”
His shirt was unbuttoned to display a hairy chest and a gold amulet on a thick chain. I grabbed a handful of both fabric and chain, dragged him up on his toes, and leaned into his upturned glare. “Pal, the Seventies called and left a message. They want the wardrobe back.”
“You don’t scare me,” he growled.
“You know who I am?” I countered.
“Yeah. The guy in the books. The Raven.”
True, but Naomie and her friend didn’t know that. “Fictional character, bucko,” I said and added a nasty grin. “But if I were The Raven, what do you think I’d do to a slime ball like you?”
He tried to shrug me off and found he lacked the traction to do so. “I ain’t doing nothin’ wrong, Farrell. Leave me be.”
I glanced over at Naomie. “Time to go.”
She scooted across the bench so quickly I wondered whether Ruth had begun waxing the seats. Her friend, however, stayed where she was.
I leveled a glare at her. “You, too, sugar.”
She took a deep breath, folded her arms across her awesomely displayed rack, and turned mulish. “No,” she said. “I’m enjoying myself.”
“You won’t for long. This piece of shit”—I shook the dangling ghoul until his teeth rattled a bit— “has already slipped you happy drugs. He likes to make stupid little girls disappear. He’ll sell you to anyone with cash in hand and let them do whatever they want to you. If they happen to kill you, he’ll just charge them extra and arrange to have your body disposed of.”
“You’re just trying to scare me,” she insisted adamantly.
“Apparently doing a lousy job of it, too,” I said and turned my attention back to the ghoul, letting him drop back to his feet. He staggered a bit but caught himself on the table. “You’ve got a relative I’ve been asked to locate. Solomon Prisk. You think he’ll like hearing that you and I had a nice cozy chat?”
“We ain’t having no cozy anything, Farrell,” he said.
I smiled in a way that was far from friendly. “You know that, and I know that, but do you think Sol will believe it if I tell select people how helpful you’ve been in giving me information about him?” Not that I’d be grilling him about Prisk quite yet. I’d hunt him down for that treat in the very near future, though.
The ghoul’s expression alone said his cousin wouldn’t take his word as line-and-verse in the bible of the streets. His bravado packed up and left.
“Fine. Take ’em both with you,” he snarled, then pushed through the crowd toward the bar. Not a one of the self-absorbed customers had paid any attention to our contretemps, and they ignored his shoves as well. Life went on for the regulars at The Bridge Bar and Grill.
In his absence, Ruth surfaced and glared at both Naomie and her friend. “You’re both barred from this establishment,” she announced. “We don’t like troublemakers.”
Naomie’s friend gaped at her. “Troublemakers! He’s the troublemaker here!” She pointed at me.
“He’s the woodsman like Chris Hemsworth in those movies,” Ruth corrected. “I called him to save your scrawny neck. Now get the hell out.”
Naomie was already on her feet and buttoning a long trench coat that looked like it had seen duty in World War II. She spotted Beelz at her feet before she finished. “Oh, you brought back up!” she cried and swept him up in her arms, getting super emotional. Tears of relief leaked from her eyes.
Beelz took care of washing them from her face. Didn’t seem to mind that, with them making her eyeliner run, they wouldn’t be exactly tasty.
The much-less-warmly-dressed girl continued to glare at both Ruth and me as she shrugged into a dark anorak that left bare legs and toeless knee-high boots on display. Since I was pretty sure she’d been the one to drag Naomie to The Bridge, I wished the head cold from Hell on her.
About J.B. Dane
J.B. DANE is a pseudonym of a multi-published, multi-genre novelist who goes by many names. Not because she is in Witness Protection. Really not in Witness Protection. Really. She may start hiding from citizens of Detroit since her Raven Tales urban fantasy comedic mysteries have populated their fair city with neighbors who might be supernatural, paranormal or legendary beasts…or not so beasts…but probably ARE beasts. They could be hungry, too. She has also tampered with the lore of the Claus family, you know the one at the North Pole, and hopes this does not land her on the Naughty List, even if Nick Claus has landed on it frequently himself. She might be found at various media sites but leave a message to be picked up by a disguised courier and delivered to a secret location.