The Jack James Saga

JACK JAMES AND THE TRIBE OF THE TEDDY BEAR

A Kindle Book Review 2013 Best Indie Book Award Finalist & An Amazon #1 Bestselling epic science fiction fantasy ~ Hit #1 on February 5, 2013

Welcome to the Tribe!

“TONS OF FURRY FUN HERE FOR KIDS little enough to be read to, older kids looking for something to replace HARRY POTTER or grown-ups who don’t mind a little healthy regression… I could easily see this as a hit film right up there with NARNIA.”
— C.M. Hunnicutt

The Kindle Book Review 2013 Best Indie Book Award Finalist!

Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear is a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review 2013 Best Indie Book Awards!

The WINNER of The 2013 Kindle Book Review Best Indie Book Awards will be announced on October 1st, 2013.

There are 8 Categories:

  • Suspense/Horror
  • Short Fiction
  • Non-Fiction
  • Romance
  • Mystery/Thriller
  • Young Adult
  • Literary Fiction
  • Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear is a Science Fiction Fantasy.

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Technology of the Teddy Bear ~ Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear

“Guys, I’ve developed a device that will harness the power of the omnidimensional field, giving its user the ability to basically become a…a superhuman!”

In JACK JAMES AND THE TRIBE OF THE TEDDY BEAR, not only does Jack James find a mysterious creature posing as a stuffed toy, his dad is also a genius inventor who’s developed a monumental new technology. The Omega/Alpha, or O/A, is Ben James’ lifelong dream, an interdimensional masterpiece, and he’s certain it will change the human race forever.

When most people think of different dimensions, they think of warping to other worlds, or traveling back and forward in time–the standard Dr. Who and Stargate stuff. The O/A represents a shift, a new idea in the realm of Science Fiction. To learn more, let’s hear from the inventor, himself:

“Essentially, it’s quite simple. Currently it’s common knowledge in quantum mechanics that other dimensions exist, countless other dimensions, actually. And in each of those dimensions is another Amelia Klein, another Jack James…I call them dimensional duplicates. Remember, there are infinite parallel universes, and therefore infinite duplicates. Now imagine having a device that combines the energy, the power of all of your dimensional duplicates into one.”

That’s right. The O/A gives its user unlimited power, both mentally, and physically…

Threateningly, two muscular agents stood in his way. He pictured himself tossing them aside with a flick of his wrist. The O/A responded. The dimensional energy fluctuated, creating in him strength unrivaled by any mortal. Using one arm, he swept the pair away easily.

He didn’t wait to see if they’d been hurt. Though he didn’t want them sneaking up on him, something told him it wouldn’t matter. He’d know, just like he knew where Savage had gone. A feeling told him. The O/A? Probably…He already knew it gave him clairvoyance. It made perfect sense, too. If it combined the physical strength of the multiverse into his body, why not the mental power, too?

Of course that power comes at a cost. Infinite numbers of minds melding into one can pose quite a problem to the unprepared, as Ben soon finds out…

Ben felt himself crumbling, unable to sustain the level of focus the O/A required. The relentless demands on his psyche were taking their toll. The thoughts came too quickly, layering over and over until his stomach convulsed. It was too much—too much to think, too much to comprehend. Under the mental barrage, his command of the O/A slipped away.

Each of the Archer Savage buildings rumbled at its foundation, dust and debris dropping from the rooftops. Ben noticed someone through the scarred concrete—Lily. The O/A gave him the enhanced senses to see his daughter, then his wife, rubble falling on them both. Right then he understood he had to turn down his machine. His failure to control it was putting his own family in peril. Again.

Ben has a difficult time keeping his new machine under control, and his mistakes are causing mayhem all over the town of Willow, Oregon. He needs to figure it out quick, though. Some dark and powerful forces are after his son, Jack, and Takota, the stuffed animal who turns out to be more than a simple teddy bear.

Need more? TRIBE OF THE TEDDY BEAR is available now!!

~8^D

Artwork: Transcendent Fantasy by MagicMan

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Meet The Tribe! The Characters from Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear: Takota

Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear begins with Takota–trapped, alone, helpless. After learning of a terrible plot to enslave his species, he uses his mystical powers to escape from ruthless businessman Archer Savage. A delivery truck transports him to a supermarket in a sleepy Oregon coastal town where 10-year-old Jack finds him…

On the dark concrete floor, a tiny animal stared at Jack with the most sincere expression. The size of a small dog, or a large cat, and covered in mottled gray brown fur that had seen better days, it seemed damp and cold and tired. Even so, it had a majestic quality. Shaggy hair fell over its forehead a little, and tiny ears stuck out from under tufts of fuzz.

Jack smiled, knowing he should have been afraid. A warm wave of contentment swept over him, though, when he looked into those enormous, coppery eyes. Weirdest of all, on the tops of each cheek, it had areas of slightly ridged, bare skin, both the color and shape of a leaf.

When Doug the deliveryman and Jack’s mom, Liz, try to see what Jack is looking at, something strange occurs…

Then an amazing thing happened. The little creature, which at first appeared so realistic, all of the sudden went limp and lifeless. Even its gaze went from glimmering and vibrant to dull and glassy.

Doug lifted it above his shoulders.

“It’s a…” he said with a chuckle. “Why it’s, it’s…”

The stockroom door flew open. Roberta dragged her mortified son behind her.

“It’s just a teddy bear!” she chastised Dillon, pointing at the lifeless thing in Doug’s hands. “You’re afraid of a teddy bear?”

Takota convinces everyone but Jack he’s a teddy bear. Jack is forced to put the supposed toy in the Lost and Found. After closing time, Takota learns the sweet rewards of life in a supermarket…

His nose twitched. He perked up, noticing a wonderful smell. The fatigue melted away when he ripped open one of the tiny bags, releasing its multicolored contents onto the floor. He picked up a green one and popped it in his mouth, allowing it to hit every taste bud on his tongue. The flavor exploded. A slight tingle cascaded into an avalanche of sweet delight, hard on the outside, smooth and sugary on the inside. After a few more mouthfuls, the pieces were gone and he contemplated eating the package, too. Instead, he licked it profusely, then examined the brightly decorated markings. ‘M&M’s,’ it read. There it was. M&M’s. His new favorite food.

However, life in the store isn’t all fun and games. Takota soon meets other Tanakee like himself, and learns they’ve been running from the same dark forces. Takota decides he needs to go, but a another fateful encounter with Jack triggers overwhelming feelings, and strange new powers…

Takota saw endless sets of situations, countless individual paths, all the different decisions he could make, a life-sized map going on and on. How and why he possessed the ability to read the mystical blueprints expanding before him, he had no clue. All he did was focus on Jack. Then a blinding streak guided him along the innumerable possible choices, enabling him to navigate the store full of wandering employees in less than a blink of an eye.

Feeling a duty to help Jack, he saves the boy’s life. Their bond solidifies when a magical storyteller informs Takota of the true reason for his not-so-chance encounter with the young human–to be his protector. The sinister forces sweep in. Savage and his evil boss, Davos, threaten Jack’s life. Takota fights valiantly to defend the young human, but his fledgling powers fail him. Luckily they escape, leaving Takota with serious doubts he’ll ever live up to being Jack’s protector…

Takota sighed. Then he half laughed. “It’s my job to protect you.”

Jack shrugged. “I don’t see it that way. The way I see it, we protect each other.”

“No!” Takota stomped his foot. “I protect you. That’s the way it goes. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to go,” he stared down again. “I can’t do it, Jack.”

“What do you mean?”

“I failed. When Davos tried to attack you, I couldn’t fight him off. I couldn’t protect you. I’m not a protector…I can’t do anything about Davos if I can’t use these powers. They only come and go, and sometimes they don’t come at all. Back there, when I was fighting, or trying to fight, I didn’t feel anything. No special abilities, no instant knowledge—nothing. Why? Why can’t I do it all the time?”

Can Takota overcome his crisis of confidence and learn to harness his budding supernatural abilities in time to help save Jack from further harm? Read JACK JAMES AND THE TRIBE OF THE TEDDY BEAR to find out!
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Join the Tribe! Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear is here!

It’s done!

Finally, after nearly two years of hard work, sweat and lots of tears, Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear is available on Amazon in eBook & Paperback formats!

These two years sure have been a journey. All the writing and rewriting, editing, reading, editing, and reading some more. SHEW! I’ll tell you, it’s much more work than it may seem to write a full-length novel, especially one with multiple characters and plot lines. In the end, I am so pleased with the book, and I truly think you will be, too. That is, if you like action, adventure, mystery, way-cool science fiction and magic, and, oh yeah, cute little furry critters who don’t take flack from anybody (no matter how big).

Tribe of the Teddy Bear truly is an epic adventure, and it represents an epic part of my life. I thought up the concept way back in 1988. At that time it was just a few sentences in my writer’s journal, a funny little idea about a group of creatures posing as stuffed animals and running amok in a supermarket during closing time.

Then the idea grew. Back in 2000, in a class at Portland State University, I decided to use the story for a screenplay and added a ten-year-old boy to the mix. But that class was only a few weeks long, and I was able to finish just one act of what was supposed to be a three-act script. Thus Tribe was relegated to the dustbin of unfinished manuscripts all of us writers seem to have.

Fast forward to 2006. I dug out that old idea, dusted it off, and started to do some research. Much like the discovery process Jack and Amelia go through in the story, I developed the idea of a new species of animal called, Tanakee. From there I created five creatures, all with their own special abilities and distinct personalities. But then life got in the way and I had to put aside the project once again.

Then, in 2010, after getting married to my life partner, Krystle, and moving into a peaceful place in the country, the stage was set for me to make a major push. I added some ‘oomph’ to the boy’s character (borrowing from a short story I’d written in high school) and made him a young genius who’s dad builds a revolutionary machine. To ramp up the conflict, I created what hopefully will be memorable antagonists in Davos Mann and his greedy subordinate, Archer Savage. Davos especially is pernicious. He’s fun, I’ll blog about Davos later.

Right now I just want to catch my breath. But not for long. I need to get started writing the second book in the series. Plus, this is when the real work begins, as all writers know–the self-promotion. I find it enjoyable, though, to be honest. It’s fun connecting with readers and other writers. I love the new paradigm we live in where an artist can deliver his or her work directly to fans without having to go through a gatekeeper or middleman. It’s truly a wonderful time to be a writer. And a reader.

So, if you have the time, go to Amazon and take a look at the free preview for Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear. I think you’ll be hooked after the first chapter!

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Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear Extended Synopsis!

Hello, everybody!

We’re gearing up for our grand release on June 30th. For everybody who’s as excited as we are about Jack James and the Tribe Of The Teddy Bear, here’s another sneak peek. This time it’s the flap copy.

Welcome to the Tribe!

Ten-year-old Jack James has a secret. In the supermarket where his mom Liz works, he’s made the discovery of a lifetime–a live animal, unknown to science, pretending to be a teddy bear. Or is it only his vivid imagination? Liz thinks it’s the stress of their broken family, torn apart by her husband Ben’s obsession with a revolutionary invention he calls the O/A, a device he says will change the course of history. But when Jack is rescued from a nasty fall by the mysterious being, he’s convinced it’s real…

Caged, alone, starving, Takota seems helpless–or is he? Upon learning of a dreadful plot to enslave his species, he escapes from ruthless businessman Archer Savage, launching a full-scale search in the sleepy coastal town of Willow, Oregon. On the run, he encounters others of his kind, the Tanakee, living carefree in a local supermarket, disguised as stuffed animals. With Savage and his sinister client Davos Mann closing in, Takota knows he has to leave the lap of luxury before he brings serious trouble to his new friends. But when he meets a young human named Jack, powers are unlocked inside of him, powers like he’s never known…

When one of the Tanakee is captured by the shadowy Davos, a dark scheme to destroy the universe moves forward. After a storytelling enchantress teaches them of a centuries-old bond between humans and Tanakee, Jack and Takota are thrust toward their shared fate. They embark on a journey which blurs the line between science and magic, encountering an aggressive Bigfoot army, a collection of mystical forest dwellers, a legendary monster from deep under the Graveyard of the Pacific, along with enemies from within. Takota must conquer strong inner turmoil and learn the true nature of his supernatural gifts, while Jack has to help his dad harness the O/A’s incredible capabilities in the hopes of rescuing them all from certain extinction.

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Presenting, The Cover ~ Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear

Exactly two months before we release Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear it is our special honor to officially unveil the cover.

Here it is! (click on the image for a better view)

Krystle really put some long, hard hours in on this. She took my original, primitive idea and designed a masterpiece, a work of art that stands on its own. As an author I’m proud to have my writing represented by this amazing design.

What do you think? Please leave a comment and let us know.

AND, as an added bonus, just for you, here’s a short description of Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear:

Welcome to the Tribe!

Ten-year-old Jack James has a secret. He’s found a teddy bear he swears is really a mysterious animal with supernatural abilities. Soon he discovers its name is Takota, a Tanakee on the run from some ruthless and sinister forces. After a storytelling enchantress teaches them of a centuries-old bond between humans and Tanakee as well as an ancient evil bent on destroying the entire universe, Jack and Takota are thrust toward their shared fate. On their journey for survival, Takota must conquer strong inner turmoil and learn the true nature of his emerging mystical powers, while Jack has to help harness a revolutionary device invented by his father in the hopes of rescuing them all from certain extinction.

Next week: The Flap Copy

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The Holoversarium ~ Jack James and the Tribe Of The Teddy Bear

Jack James and the Tribe Of The Teddy Bear is a Sci-fi/Fantasy about a boy named Jack James who finds a mysterious creature with supernatural powers posing as a stuffed animal. In this selection we learn that Jack has some interesting abilities of his own.

Amelia sat on the only uncluttered chair in the room, crossed her arms and stared at him. Then she raised her head and smiled. “Hey, what’s that thing?”

“Huh? What thing?”

“Behind you.”

“Oh that,” Jack shrugged. “That’s nothing.”

“Come on, tell me. It looks like something to me.”

“Really, it’s nothing. Just one of my projects,” he turned and picked up the black cylinder with its domed, crystalline top. “I call it my Holoversarium.”

“Your holo-what?”

He giggled. “Holoversarium.”

“Never heard of one.”

“That’s because there aren’t any others. I invented it.”

She ran her fingers along the outside edge of the dome. “What does it do?”

“It uses the latest high-definition space imagery to create a deep field holograph of the universe. Then it projects it at any scale I want.”

“Space imagery? You mean satellites? Like Hubble?”

He chuckled again. “Yeah, that’s one of them. The most famous one. There are others, too. And not just satellites. I use all kinds of observational spacecraft, some the public have heard of, some are top secret.”

She eyed him. “So what, you hacked into a top secret satellite?”

“I decline to answer the question on the grounds that it may incriminate me,” he smiled.

“Show me,” she gave him a look he couldn’t refuse.

He brought the shoebox-sized machine to the center of the room and placed it on a chair which had two large packages stacked already. It wobbled yet he managed to get it to sit still.

“There,” he said. “That’s probably high enough. This room’s pretty small so you won’t get the full effect, but here goes.”

He plugged it in and flipped the ‘on’ switch, letting its tiny motor hum. Then he turned off the lights and punched a command on his computer. A white beam came out the top of the dome, hitting the ceiling. He clicked then dragged his mouse, spreading the ray in all directions at once, making a three dimensional map of the stars. Tiny speckles surrounded both Jack and Amelia, masses and masses of glittery objects swirling in slow motion, churning in a vast interstellar sea.

He pointed to a pinwheel of light. “This is the Milky Way galaxy,” he pulled the mouse toward him. The small, bright dots slowed their movements and grew bigger and bigger, zeroing in on a ball of fiery gold encircled by smaller spheres. Amelia put her hand on her cheeks.

“Wow! That’s our solar system! Look! There’s earth!” she pointed at a blue and white orb as it circled the much larger sun, which was so bright it nearly blinded the both of them.

“Yep,” he rolled the mouse the opposite direction until the planets and giant sun got smaller and smaller and the swirling mass of glittering points came back into view. “I can zoom out twenty-eight gigaparsecs to show the entire known universe,” the field of stars grew even larger as the specks became tinier. Comets and cloudy nebulas and supercluster upon supercluster sped past them as he brought it to the extreme setting, a full virtual scope of the cosmos.

Amelia stood in astonishment, her hands drifting, trying to cup one of the tiny whirlpool galaxies as it glided next to her face, illuminating her eyes with its celestial glow. “Uncanny!” was all she could get out. She watched another mass of stars go by, this one more elliptical, reddish and hazy. She seemed almost overwhelmed by the nearly endless array of different groupings, the diverse colors. Yellow, blue and green—purple, red and orange. Some shined like beacons, some were dimmer and more subdued, all floated past her face, casting bold radiance on her olive skin.

Finally she managed to speak. “So, can you, like, zoom in on another galaxy?”

“Sure,” he answered. “Pick one.”

She pointed at a striking purple and cartwheel shaped galaxy with a yellowish center. “Here, this one.”

“Okay. Watch this,” a few strikes on the keyboard and the ring grew larger until it became the dominating feature in the room. A picture of the system showed on the computer screen. He maneuvered his cursor over a random area and double-clicked. The hologram zoomed in even further, penetrating the lavender fog. It looked like a camera mounted on a space ship as it sped faster and faster toward the interior of the galaxy, past star after star until it came upon one bright red giant with several tiny globes circling it.

“What is this place called?” she asked.

“No idea,” he read the screen. “This is way outside of our galactic group. It isn’t even in one of the named local superclusters. It’s uncharted space, so far.”

Amelia looked like she was going to say something then stopped with her mouth wide open. Her eyes narrowed. She bent in close. “What’s this here?”

“What’s what where?”

“Right here,” she pointed. “It gets really dark right here. Halfway into this solar system, it just like fades into nothing, look.”

He examined the area she was pointing at, not knowing what she meant. Then he did see something strange. “Hmm. You’re right. It is dark right there. Like the stars and planets just disappear.”

“What is it?”

He scratched his head. “I don’t know. It may be a blazar.”

“Blazar?”

“A supermassive black hole. Or it could be a void but I don’t think it’s either one,” he clicked and poured over the source code, searching for anything out of the ordinary. “I can’t find a reason for it. Must be some kind of glitch, I guess,” he half-smirked. “The Holoversarium isn’t one hundred percent perfected yet.”

“Whatever’s wrong I’m sure you’ll figure it out,” she watched a tiny planet with three tinier moons glide above her shoulders. “I gotta tell you, what you’ve made here is amazing.”

“It’s just a little project,” he pressed a key and the hologram collapsed, folding in until it was one solid, vivid line which drew into the black dome.

“A little project, huh?” she laughed. “Jack, that was amazing. I don’t think you realize just how brilliant you are.”

Need more? Jack James and the Tribe Of The Teddy Bear is coming to an online bookstore near you June 30, so tell your friends!

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What is a Tanakee? ~ Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear

Jack James and the Tribe of the Teddy Bear is a science fiction/fantasy story about a ten year old boy, Jack James. One day Jack finds a strange-looking teddy bear at the store where his mother works and right away he thinks it may be a real, live animal. In this passage his best friend, Amelia Klein thinks he may be right, and she scours the internet to find the exact identity of the mysterious creature.

“Jack James, you sure have some interesting hobbies,” Amelia smiled.

He chuckled. “Hey. My life’s not all about weird little creatures pretending to be teddy bears.”

“Um, since you brought that up,” she sounded hesitant. “I hope you don’t mind, but I did a little digging, and you might be interested in what I found.”

She slipped the SD card out of her phone, inserted it into the port on Jack’s computer and clicked the mouse, opening a folder with pictures, data and video files.

“I had no idea where to start. We don’t know what it’s called, we don’t even know if it’s ever been documented. So I thought about it. This might sound crazy, but I got a pretty good look at it and you know what I think it looks like? A Bigfoot. It looks like a baby Bigfoot, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah, kind of.”

“There’s a ton of stuff on the internet about Bigfoot,” she clicked on a video icon. A shaky, grainy, poorly-framed motion picture of a large, apelike being played on the screen. It lumbered through dense forest for three strides before turning over its shoulder at the camera. “This is the famous Patterson‑Gimlin film taken in California. Everybody’s seen this.”

“That was proven to be a hoax, wasn’t it?” he squinted.

“Maybe, maybe not,” she clicked and opened a text file. “So many sightings have been reported, not only in the US, but from everywhere around the world. There’s the Native American Sasquatch and Skookum, the Yeren of China, the Yeti in Nepal, and the list goes on. Stories date back thousands of years, but there’s nothing really about juvenile Bigfoot. So I thought about it some more.”

She clicked through several pages, searching.

“What if it’s not a baby Bigfoot at all,” she posited. “What if it’s full grown? A whole different species altogether?”

“Like a pygmy Bigfoot or something?” he wondered.

“Exactly!” She opened another file. “And guess what? I found something.”

Jack’s jaw dropped when he saw the picture. “That looks almost exactly like him! He’s brown instead of black and the fur’s a little different, but that’s him!”

Amelia read, “‘This small ape-like cryptid, like Bigfoot, inhabits mainly the forests of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States though some have been witnessed roaming the plains and prairies of the American West and Southwest. It has been described as tiny, less than three feet tall and weighing not more than ten pounds, with a thick coat of fur that varies in texture and coloration.’”

“That’s right. They were different colors.”

She read further. “‘Though it has been referred to by many names such as the furry forest baby and western wild child, the term the Native Americans use for the creature is Tanakee.’”

“Hmm. Tanakee,” he repeated, then he went back to the picture. “Takota the Tanakee.”

“There’s more,” she continued. “‘The Tanakee are thought to possess strange, almost supernatural powers. Their eyes are described as large and hypnotic, they have been known to lift objects many times their weight and can run at unnaturally high speeds.’”

“You might say that,” he muttered under his breath.

“Why? What did you see?” she looked at him.

“Let’s just say they’re fast,” he kept his eyes on the screen. “Freaky fast. And strong. He caught me, Amelia. I was falling down those stairs and he actually caught me. And there’s something I haven’t told you yet. They can talk. That’s how I know its name. Isn’t that incredible?”

She paused. “If you think that’s bizarre, then this will blow you away,” she closed the file and let the computer sit on a blank screen. “Jack, didn’t you tell me your dad’s working on a machine that he claims would let people look into other dimensions?”

“That and other things,” he said. “Omni-dimensional energy absorption is his ultimate goal, to transmit and receive energy and matter to and from other dimensions.”

“Other dimensions, okay,” she said, clicking open another file. “Listen to this: ‘It is well known in the world of crypto-science that the Department of Defense has been attempting to capture a Tanakee since the early 1960s. Each attempt at holding one in captivity has ended in failure, though, with the creature either seemingly vanishing into thin air or hypnotizing its captors with what has been described as a potent form of mind control. Because of these innate abilities, the Tanakee is thought to be an inter-dimensional being.’”

“What?” he leaned close to study word-for-word what she’d just read aloud. When finished he only managed a stunned, “Whoa!”

“You get it don’t you?” she sounded excited. “There’s a reason for all of this. You and that Tanakee are connected somehow, you and him and your dad’s dimensional machine, you’re all connected.”

“But, but how?”

“I don’t have a clue,” she shook her head. “Why did it save you? Why did it let you carry it around in your bag at school all day? From what this says, it could have easily gotten away from us, so why play possum for us like that?”

“It says people are trying to catch them,” he began to think clearly again. “What if they’re running from someone?”

“Or something . . .” she cut herself off, though she didn’t need to say another word. He knew what she meant, and it chilled his skin. They both had seen that strange entity hovering over them behind the store, and though they mentioned it to each other at the time, neither one of them had dared to speak about it again.

“Daddy!” Lily made both of them recoil. “Jack, Daddy’s here!”

 

 

JACK JAMES AND THE CALL OF THE TANAKEE

An Amazon #1 Bestselling epic science fiction fantasy ~ Hit #1 on August 16, 2013!

Welcome to the Eteeans!

“STAND ALONE BOOK in a YA trilogy.” — Carol Jane

Chapter One of JACK JAMES and the CALL OF THE TANAKEE

JACK JAMES and the CALL of the TANAKEE ~ Available Now!

The Citadel of Mashkan Shapir

The year: 3000 BC

A SUDDEN, VIOLENT shock forced Kubi to his hands and knees. Dust cascading from the ceiling stung his eyes. He wiped them clean with his palms. Quickly. No time to waste.

“Father! Are you okay!” he shouted into the grime and gloom. The stone walls held—for now. “Where are you, Father!”

A velvet sheen pervaded the soot, each and every particle of hovering flotsam flickering in the stuffy air. Kubi heard coughing, and felt awash with relief. His father was alive.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Shantu cleared his throat again and again.

Kubi jumped to his feet, hooked his elbows under Shantu’s arms, and heaved hard. He was only ten, and much smaller than his father, yet he possessed a will beyond his size. He tugged until his father, out of breath and trembling, dug in both heels and stopped him.

“All right, my son. You’ve saved me. The apparatus! Get the apparatus!”

Kubi spotted the purple glow and searched for its source, a light unlike any other. Neither here nor there, the illumination came from all angles. Luckily for him, the machine not only emitted light, but also issued a melody of chirps and whistles never so sweet to his ears than at that moment, in the heart of his father’s workshop, with the city’s fortifications about to crumble.

He found the apparatus concealed beneath an overturned table, surrounded by its own tiny halo, swirls of shooting stars tossing and turning deep inside. It made him gasp for air each time he laid hands on it. This time, it seemed even more breathtaking.

“What was that, Father?” he offered the device to Shantu, who had already gotten the table onto its four legs again and was in the process of relighting the candles that had extinguished in the commotion.

“Followers of the dark serpents…and they’re serious this time!” he placed the mechanism onto the table then rummaged through his scattered tools and sundry notes and vials of solutions. “Where did it go! Where did it go!”

“What, Father? What is it?”

“I can’t find anything! The apparatus needs to be completed, and my materials…they’re gone! I’ll never get it finished in time!”

“I’ll help you, Father!” Kubi knelt and gathered the precious papers, when another immense explosion rocked the floor and fractured the ceiling. More dust, spilling from the roof, spoiled Kubi’s vision and he felt constricted all of a sudden, unable to move a muscle. He heard shrieking, crying, orders shouted in haste. He felt someone grasp his ankles. Two strong pairs of hands pulled him free, into the blinding light and the musty, coppery scent of smoke and ash…and death.

“It’s okay, child,” a steady voice failed to soothe him.

“Where’s my father!” Kubi kicked loose from the man’s grip, only to be stopped by another, larger man. It was Lu, the city’s elected leader. “You’ve got to save my father!”

The rescuers shared long, sallow frowns amongst one another.

“What!” Kubi struggled harder. Lu held tighter. “NO!”

“He’s gone, son,” Lu said. “He’s—”

A dazzling bluish-purple eruption lifted the rubble pile upward, forcing the rescuers to scramble for steadier ground. Kubi was the only one to stand firm. He’d seen his father’s invention in action before. Shantu burst from the rubble, surrounded by a sparkling halo, driving off the suffocating debris. The dazed onlookers didn’t have time to do more than hold their breaths in disbelief. Round after round of flaming arrows spilled down on top of them, forcing a mad dash for cover.

“Father!” Kubi’s joy came despite the hailstorm of fire. He felt for and found Lu’s hand. “Come! Get into my father’s shield!” Lu’s weight overburdened young Kubi, yet he managed to tug the man inside the instrument’s lustrous and magical bubble of protection.

Lu stared in wonder as the translucent shield repelled the arrows. Then he regained his commanding presence rather quickly, spurred on by the sight of his beloved city being reduced to dust and ash. He took Shantu by the collar and pulled him close.

“You need to use your apparatus, Shantu…it’s the only thing that can save us!”

Shantu’s eyes lost all luster. He stared at Lu, then his invention, then again at the leader.

“I-I can’t. It’s not ready yet.”

“Not ready!” Lu towered over Shantu. “Our walls are all but breached. That apparatus is the reason the invaders are here in the first place. The city’s defenders are putting their lives at risk. The least you can do is show you’re not afraid to make a stand…use it!”

“I’ve tried,” Shantu lowered his head. “I’d do more damage than good.”

“But you have to try again, Father!” Kubi pleaded.

“The apparatus isn’t ready. It’s not ready!”

A particularly loud and unnervingly close detonation upset the earth. Several men up on the battlement fell from their stations. Screaming. Tumbling.

“Come with me!” Lu dragged Shantu up the narrow steps to a landing near the top of the fortification. Kubi followed, eager yet terrified. They had to push past a gauntlet of tower guards and militiamen, some headed down, carrying injured comrades, some hobbling and complaining. As they passed Shantu, each of them stopped and stared at the mechanism with stunned eyes.

When they reached the highest level, where the battle raged, Kubi saw the most terrifying image he ever could have dreamt. But this was no dream. This was the substance of nightmares. A sea of bloodstained, mud-blemished, battle-painted faces glared up at him, each scowl more menacing than the last.

Littered about the landscape, carpeting every square inch of ground for miles, were soldiers of all kinds, both men and beasts. Great and hairy pachyderms with decorated tusks and painted skin. Massive wolves with teeth so large Kubi could see them even from a distance. And other animals. Beasts so hideous and unreal, Kubi had to fight his own mind to accept the sight of them. Giants, the size of ten men, stomped about the terrain, writhing and reeling under their shackles. Harlequins clad in whimsical rags danced and flirted among the brutes, making light of the tension as if it were all a big game.

Kubi breathed hard when a hot blast of wind blew his shoulder-length hair asunder. The heavy stench of sulfur mixed with burnt blood. He tightened his stomach, trying to ward off the convulsions. He refused to accept this. There had to be a way out. His father’s invention was too important to be lost. Too priceless to be stolen by a bunch of bandits and freaks and scoundrels.

He heard his father behind him, begging.

“Son, we need your protector. Call him, Kubi! Call your protector!”

Kubi nodded, then focused his thoughts on his little, furry friend. Probing. Shouting on the inside, he called out for protection, for guidance, for help in this, his direst time of need. He called out mentally until he felt warmth in his gut, and a low rumble permeating the ground, shaking the support stones of the city walls.

A hush fell over the beleaguered valley. The formerly boisterous giants, big and muscle-bound and mean, now shook in their boots. Worry replaced rapture. Concern overtook confidence. Even the colossal animals quit stomping and tossing in their furious attempts at getting into the city. They halted, and turned their ears toward the ground.

A bugle call from in the distant woods created murmurs and grim whispers in cautious tones. The entertainers tried to lighten the mood, dancing about the soldiers in their motely garbs, manipulating stick puppets and juggling skulls and flying small kites. All smiles they were, moving playfully throughout the crowd with fanciful swiftness and ease.

Another deep, chest-thumping trumpet sounded, this time louder. No doubt the source was coming nearer. The attacking army, thousands upon thousands of hearty, rugged souls, stood still as statues.

Then the ground shook and the pachyderms roared and reared on their haunches, sending their riders tumbling. Horses whinnied and bolted through the crowd, trampling dozens of men in their paths. Another vigorous earthquake forced virtually everyone to hands and knees. The city’s defenders, a ragtag mix of farmers, shopkeepers and young men still without wives, took cover behind the ramparts.

“It’s coming!” one of the attacking soldiers cried.

“LOOK!”

All heads turned to the mountainside, to a solid slab of rock known as The Promontory. Silence. Not one soul dared take a breath. The entire valley, it seemed, had gone still, as a single figure appeared, climbing so quickly it was nearly impossible to follow. An initial, collective breath of fear. But then, when it became obvious the lone individual was but a tiny, furry thing no bigger than an overfed feline, another collective breath issued forth, this time one of relief. A tiny yet majestic figure stood firm in the distance. In the wind, its shaggy hair tossed and whipped about, blowing into its miniature face.

Giggles matured into laughter, then into an anxious flood of hysterics. Men slapped their own thighs and patted the backs of their comrades and stomped on the ground with their hand-sewn leather boots. The clowns and merrymakers stood from their hiding spots and reveled once again in the newly boisterous atmosphere, doing their best to create even more cheer.

“That? That is the fearsome and all powerful protector?”

“It’s not terrifying!”

“Look, it’s just a little thing!”

“How can such a small creature be so dangerous?”

Surly men jutted their jaws and tightened their lips, showing off black stubs for teeth, those who had teeth at all. Through the haze and the smoke, high above the mammoths and the towering platforms, Kubi’s protector stood proud and tall—well, at least proud—his steady gaze fixed on the marauding militia. From there things became confusing. To Kubi it seemed as if the rock cropping where his protector had been standing filled with shadow, though there was scarcely a cloud in the sky. The dark area increased in size, overtaking the mountainside in a hurry. With shocking speed, the distant landscape grew the same brownish tint, the same color as his little friend.

Kubi blinked his unbelieving eyes. Closer inspection told him what he already knew. The shadow, spreading like a plague, was actually a great number of Tanakee, thousands of them, all exactly the same—silvery brown with a blazing, determined glare.

“Orzabal!”

“Which one?” Shantu shouted over the panic beginning to spread among the invading army.

“All of them!” Kubi swept his arm.

“It-it can’t be!” Shantu’s jaw gaped open. Kubi knew better. His protector had mystical abilities. He’d seen Orzabal divide into duplicates before, though never like this. This was different, almost inconceivable. He tried to calculate the numbers, and found it too difficult.

The foothills rumbled with movement, and the besieging army cowered at the base of the ancient city walls. Kubi saw a line of Tanakee cresting over the soldiers like a wave. Men tried to fight, arms raised, swords slashing, arrows cutting the wind. The massive army of miniscule monsters was too nimble, too fast, and the soldiers became overwhelmed. Tanakee after Tanakee after Tanakee, suffocating and overpowering everything in their paths, reducing the once brutish and rowdy warriors to blubbering, whining, crying infants.

And just like that, the battlefield, strewn with bodies, smoky with the raging fires of war, lay in quiet. Orzabal, in an amazing instant, became a single individual again, returning to his regular self, a small and furry thing with eyes the color of the rising sun and the most spectacular emerald markings on the tips of each cheek. The teeming horde of little creatures, which had only seconds earlier conquered like a swarm of locusts, were gone.

Kubi smiled at his protector. In two deceptively large and quick bounds, the little creature stood on the parapet, his shaggy hair tossing in the breeze.

“Kubi, you must leave this place. It’s not safe here.”

“But my father’s apparatus,” Kubi protested. “It’s not completed yet.”

Orzabal shook his head. “Then it is not the time.”

“What do you mean,” Shantu stood over his son’s shoulder. “Time for what?”

Without words, Orzabal gestured upward, where the clouds had begun to take on sinister shapes, whipping with supernatural swiftness, swirling like dark dragons veiled in silver satin. The thick haze layer shrouded the menacing objects, yet they were plainly visible to Kubi.

“What are those things!”

“Nagas,” Orzabal’s stoic monotone made Kubi even more uneasy. “We must leave this place!”

The sky seemed to split open, and from the fissure spilled a legion of long, slender beings with sleek wings. They undulated in groupings much the same as flocks of birds, but these were no birds. Cutting through the wind in hungry pursuit of prey. Clacking and clicking with thousands of rigid talons.

Muscular men inside the city struggled to remove the bars from the doors and a mass exodus began. Mothers carrying children. Fathers leading oxen and horses. Young people rushing like deer, shouting and pointing up at the dark devils plunging from above.

“Come with me!” Orzabal took Kubi’s hand. “Run, young True Soul, run!”

“Father!” Kubi glanced back as they hurried from the shattered citadel. “FATHER!” he heard nothing besides the constant clamor of battle. The groans of the city’s defenders. The shrieks of the attacking serpents. Kubi felt a hole inside his gut where his stomach should have been. Suddenly he caught a vision, or the lack of one. An emptiness, a loss beyond comprehension. His father. Something was wrong.

He dug in his heels and forced Orzabal to stop, not such an easy task. When their eyes met, Kubi knew. He asked anyway.

“My father is hurt, isn’t he?”

“We must continue. We must go. You must live,” Orzabal pleaded. “Kubi, do not stop now. You must live.”

“But my Father!”

“He wants you to live. He sacrificed himself so that you would.”

“NO!”

“Kubi, listen. You must survive!”

The city walls behind them began to fall inward. The very metropolis was crashing down onto itself. Kubi didn’t care what Orzabal said. He had to help his father.

“I’m going back!”

“No! Wait!” Orzabal stopped him. “I’ll go! Get out of here!”

Kubi didn’t have the chance to argue. Orzabal left him in a cloud of dust, straight to the city entrance, now not much more than a mound of debris. Kubi wanted to follow, and did. For two steps. Then someone grabbed him up and carried him from the battle, from the destruction, from his father—and his protector.

“NO!” Kubi let out all his pain, all his loss, all his emotions in one final cry, knowing his protector was gone. His father and the apparatus—all lost.

TERESA EXHALED UNTIL she had no breath remaining in her lungs. She watched while brick and mortar and wood, as if by some unseen hands, built up piece by piece, until four solid walls hid away the mass of invading serpents, concealed the Tigris valley, and blocked Kubi from view as he sobbed on the mountainside. All of so-called reality bounced back into place when she closed the storybook, and Kid Castle, inside Winmart Food Store, in the town of Willow, Oregon, once again encompassed the storyteller and her bedazzled audience.

Before her were twenty-three pairs of wide, motionless eyes, along with twenty-three wide, motionless mouths. Each and every soul inside Kid Kastle had been transported to the sleepy dream realm where her stories became so real that every smell, every sound, every touch became truth. Each and every soul was convinced indeed, save for one strong-willed individual, a boy no older than six, red-haired and freckled and obviously suffering from hay fever.

“Did that really happen?” he crossed his arms and sniffled.

Teresa cleared her throat. “Children? Did that really happen?”

A little girl with pigtails and braces nodded with conviction.

“Of course it happened. We all saw it. Right, guys?”

“YEAH” the entire audience erupted. Well, not the entire audience.

“Oh yeah?” the boy held his convictions firm. “I don’t believe it!”

Teresa leaned and captured him with her enchanting smile. “Oh, you will believe, young man. You will believe!”

JACK JAMES and the CALL of the TANAKEE Available Now on Amazon!

 

 

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