Raven Tales is urban fantasy with a noir twist set in Detroit. J.B. Dane describes the paranormal side of the Motor City in this out-of-luck P.I. tale about a guy who’s been bugging her for years. Seriously, don’t’ we all have one of those? Well, this guy’s been waiting for his chance and so The Raven Tales series was born–er–hatched.
Detroit: Raven Tales-Wise
by J.B. Dane
There are days when I’m fairly sure the citizens of Detroit will arrive at my door with pitchforks in hand to get even for the things I dream up happening in their fair city in The Raven Tales. Fortunately, it would be a long drive for them to find me in Kentucky.
But who’s to say they don’t have neighborhoods where a troll family like the Lunds run a bar called The Bridge? If there is a vampire syndicate running things from an office high in One Detroit Center, well, the old don is only there at night so that’s easily overlooked, right? And the red dragon who loves brass instruments and runs a jazz club called The Red Dragon (because he obviously has no imagination) could be doing business in the Motor City.
Unfortunately for Detroit, when I went looking for a city that wasn’t featured in other urban fantasy series, I discovered all these marvelous ruins in the city. Building complexes that were abandoned when the automobile industry hit a slump and Detroit became the first major city to declare bankruptcy. It was nearly a ghost town. From 1.8 million people in 1950, the number had dropped to 700,000 in 2013. Could be that when the human population dropped that Otherworlders moved in. If, that is, there actually were things that were never human or were no longer human. Then again, they might just be considered…er…different.
I’ve always loved mystery novels, particularly those with down on their luck PIs, so I knew an investigation with lots of interviewing was required. But I also love stories with magic and movies with CGI. I needed a main character who was snarky. My stepsons apparently learned sarcasm from me while in elementary school—and still preferred to live with me rather than their mother! Comedy had to be the hero’s default mode of delivery.
It just so happens I’d had a guy sitting in my muse’s office reading all the back magazines waiting for his chance to step on stage. He’d been there since the late 1980s, but urban fantasy hadn’t existed back then, plus I’d been writing romantic comedy then. I think he had the magazines all memorized, though my muse seemed to think he’d been juggling balls of fire out of boredom. This patient dude had already decided on the type of character he was. He said his name was Bram Farrell and claimed he’d been the hero in twenty volumes of something called The Raven Tales, but his author/creator was an ancient witch who yanked him out of the fictional world and into the real world. All he wanted to know is where he lived.
Metaphorically, I told him about Detroit and the pictures of crumbling buildings with trees and vines and who knows what growing in the cracks weather had worn into the concrete. Practically a ready-made fantasy world! After musing a bit, he laid down a few laws: he wanted a car but only something that might have been made in Detroit. I let him have a Ford Mustang then destroyed it and blew up the replacement. And he wanted a chance to become something more than he was. He wanted to make the move into being fully human and stay in the real world.
So, in many ways, The Raven Tales morphed into a convoluted Pinocchio tale. To earn the right to become human, Bram’s is stuck enduring whatever I throw at him. So far, he ducks well.
A hero can’t exist without backup though, so I gave him a Hellhound partner, who prefers to manifest as a black and tan dachshund unless things seem headed to Hell, and he morphs to Great Dane—sorta gets his Scooby on. Among the people Bram counts on now are Naomie, the girl he met briefly at a writers group meeting in a bookstore then hired to turn his dictation into print (he was too lazy to learn keyboarding); Burt, the cab driver who knows the location and menu of every restaurant in the city; Durkin, the police detective who is the only fully human at the DPD who knows Otherworlders walk his city and that many are not law abiding. Toss in a coven of witches who are all career women and an elderly seer to consult, and the secondary players continue to grow with each new volume. Even archangels have shown up!
Not content with merely one fantasy Detroit, I went back and wrote a few prequel tales featuring Bram back in his supposedly original fictional world. That allowed me to expand this fantasy world to have two different versions of Detroit. Bram and I will revisit the one he was jerked out of again in the fourth volume of The Raven Tales. An entirely different cast of secondary characters, some that have surfaced in the prequels and some that haven’t, will be on hand then.
That’s a way off yet. On St. Patrick’s Day 2022, the third Raven Tales book releases. In the meantime, the Detroit of The Raven Tales continues to expand, adding not only places to revisit, but changes to Bram’s magical quiver. My Detroit may exist on this plane of existence, but it has a few additional quirks.
Valentine’s Day. The most dangerous day of the year.
Most guys wouldn’t mind that it’s practically raining females, some expected, some surprises, and one he enjoys sharing donuts with five mornings a week – his new secretary, Naomie. She thinks he’s human.
He’s not. Yet. Still mostly fictional though he blends in better than some of the Otherworlders he knows. And magic is 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. She wants a hits to the bank account and his reputation.
It’s definitely not Alexa Muldoon who landed a contract to write YA Raven tales. She’s 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. Everyone else may consider them fantasy but to him they qualify as true crime.
It’s probably not the slinky vampiress. She wants him to turn PI again and find her missing great-grandson, a fully human descendant. She sorta neglects to mention she has a stalker.
Still, life on this side is relatively good.
Except that someone or some thing fingered him for extermination. 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 someone has 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.
There’s a lot on Bram’s plate. The question is, will he live through it this time?
An Excerpt from Marked Raven
The dinger donged a third time before I got to the door. Beelz’s teeth were visible and perhaps a bit longer than regular dachshund dentures. His growl had passed WARNING and was revved for IMMINENT ATTACK.
“No going savage Great Dane, hmm?” I said. “Low profile for both of us around the norms. Got it?”
Beelzebub stayed alert rather than give me his usual nod of compliance.
I was not going to like what was waiting on the opposite side of the door, but there was no way around it. I had to open the damn thing and just hope it wasn’t someone interested in making a financial killing by killing me.
Just to play it safe, I planted a sturdy shield wall between us and whomever was on the other side of the door.
A blast of arctic wind swept in—and so did a woman in a long red dress and a furry white coat. I let the shield fall the moment I recognized our caller. Oh, she was dangerous, but not in an assassin-ish way.
“I need your investigative skills to find my great-grandson, Raven,” she said without preamble.
Considering the latest female to come visiting was a vampire, the day was just getting better and better, wasn’t it?
Timing-wise, she couldn’t have hit a worse one. Not that having a vampire drop by ever made it to my wish list. I could understand Beelz’s attitude now. The last time he’d seen Miss Sweden 1934, he’d turned her into a chew toy.
She got better.
Now she needed me to dust off my P.I. kit?
“Not exactly available to chat this minute, Ingrid,” I told her.
“Wendy,” she corrected. “Is it possible for you to meet me at The Red Dragon after midnight?”
“As long as I’m not what you’re drinking,” I said.
She ignored that quip and simply tugged the collar of the fur coat up to cover dangly diamond earrings and her own luscious neck. “I’ll see you then,” she murmured and turned back to where a cab waited in the driveway.
Once the taillights had vanished and our most recent visitor was on her way back to town, I shut the door. “Weird, huh?” I mumbled.
The dog sitting on my foot yipped in agreement.
I hunkered down to give his coat a rough-up and delivered a scratch under his muzzle. “You won’t be able to go into the dragon’s club, you know. The city has that pet discrimination law that’s tough to get around, but if you want to come along, there’s a nasty alley to hang out in. I barbecued a couple vamps in it, but I can’t guarantee that level of fun tonight. Still, you’re welcome to join me.”
He gave a double yip which I knew meant he was up to the challenge and looking forward to shaking down either rats or cats lingering near the dumpster behind The Red Dragon.
In the media room, I could hear Muldoon asking Naomie how she’d landed her job of Bram-wrangler.
My chirpy secretary was bubbling over with enthusiasm. “He even wrote me into the new book,” she gushed.
Sounded like she would award me a halo and polish it brightly. She was a major player in Beelz’s and my life now. We’d grown accustomed to her perk.
And everything else about her, too. We were keeping her, even if it meant lying like crazy to keep our secret life hidden from her. For her own good, of course. We were killers, after all.
There had been some rearranging of the seating during my absence. Naomie had stolen my spot and seemed to be painting me as her Galahad for rescuing her from food service. She didn’t mention that I also paid her extravagantly for what amounted to very little work. The fact that I’d wanted to rescue her within minutes of meeting her last fall had nothing to do with anything.
I was still new to this world. I needed to take things slow where Nomes was concerned. At least, that was my current mantra, even if it was a rather long one. I needed to do that extra Internet research about romance, after all.
Beelz hopped back onto his own place on the sofa and rested his muzzle on Naomie’s thigh, though he kept his eyes on Muldoon.
Oddly enough, she hadn’t asked what was wrong with his eyes. She couldn’t know he was a hellhound. Heck, even Naomie bought the gene pool disparity story and she’d recently typed an entire manuscript where he was identified as a hellhound. But then, it was just a story to her, right?
Muldoon shifted her attention to me. “I don’t know what your schedule is like, Bram, but will you have a few hours tomorrow to answer questions and possibly toss about some ideas for the junior series?”
“Morning, afternoon or evening?” I asked.
“Whichever is most convenient.”
It would mean sharing my breakfast pastries, but doing the Q&A in the morning would free me up to begin investigating after lunch and not need to worry about delaying follow-through on a lead if I got one.
“Naomie gets in around nine. Would that work?”
“Absolutely. I’ll just need directions on how to get here. I haven’t rented a car yet,” Muldoon said.
“No problem.” I took my wallet out and set a business card free. “We have Burt for situations like this.”
Burt knew hundreds of places to eat in Detroit. It was his purpose in life to introduce my stomach to every single one, too. I not only had Burt’s number on speed dial, I knew it by heart. I didn’t need his card.
“Just give him a call and he’ll swing by with his cab. I’ll give him a heads-up, so he knows you’ll be in touch.”
“Great. Thank you,” she said and reached for the card— Which is when the house exploded.
Meet 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 www.4TaleTellers.com, but leave a message to be picked up by a disguised courier and delivered to a secret location. Ditto via Facebook.com/JBDaneWriter or @JBDaneWriter on Twitter.