Born and raised in Napa, California, James served in the Army as a scout (reconnaissance) from 2000–2007, and served two years in the Iraq War. His unit (A Troop 1/10 CAV) deployed to Iraq in 2003, was the spearhead for 4th Infantry Division, and was influential in the mission to capture Saddam Hussein (Operation Red Dawn; Objective Wolverine). After leaving the military, James lived in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he taught conversational English and began writing his first epic fantasy series. At 33 years old, James returned to the US to attend college, graduating from Mesa Community College with an Associate in Arts Degree in philosophy. Afterward, James transferred to the University of Arizona and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy.
James continues to donate his time to tutor students from elementary school to college. September 2015, James founded Arizona Veterans Helping Veterans, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to help prevent veteran suicide, reintegrate veterans into society, and help veterans to strengthen their communities. When published, James will donate earnings from his books to AZVHV, to help establish veteran wellness centers throughout the state and nationwide.