Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Welcome James Callen

Welcome to my Reading Nook, James Callan, Please make yourself at home and let my cabana boys/girls get you a drink.

Comfortable? Wonderful. Now let’s get started.

Tell us about your favorite character from your books.
That’s tougher than it should be.  I love my protagonist in A Ton of Gold, Crystal Moore.  She is very bright, but has been emotionally abused by a man she really admired.  As she struggles to regain her confidence, someone tries repeatedly to kill her 76 year-old grandmother, her only living relative.  It’s a tough time for her and I like the way she pulls through.

But, her housemate, Brandi, is very interesting.  She’s not as smart as Crystal, but Brandi is street smart and turns out to be a great help to Crystal in dealing with the man who had been so destructive to Crystal.

Tell us about your current/upcoming release. What inspired this story?
I had been thinking about an expert in information retrieval, and how IR would have an impact on the plot.  Then, I happened to read an old folk tale. I asked, how could a folk tale affect the lives of people today.  I married those two ideas and out came A Ton of Gold, released in February, 2013 by Oak Tree Press.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?
I write mostly at night – after 8 or 9 p.m.  How long depends on how the writing is going.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?
Weaving two themes together so that the reader believes it is logical and natural that these two should intertwine is hard.  I do not like anything to seem artificial.  I don’t like to depend on coincidences, and luck should be used sparingly.

What does your family think of your writing career?
They are very supportive.  My wife is my first reader and an excellent critique and proof reader.  But, she thinks the social media work takes too much time.  (I agree with her.)

What do you think makes a good story?
I have a book with a February release date titled Character: The Heartbeat of the Novel.  I believe that the characters are the story. So in this book, I challenge the readers to make memorable characters, and I give them many pointers on how to do that, and exercises to help them practice.  Of course, there needs to be a plot.  The story has to move.  But characters are why the reader cares.

Plotter or Pantser? Why?
I guess I’m a mixture.  I need to have in mind where the story is going and some possible resolution before I start.  That makes me a plotter.  However, frequently, in the writing, the story doesn’t go that way.  It may take a very different direction, and I’m okay with that.  So at that point, I’m more of a pantser.

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?
No formula.  I pick up ideas from all over.  A 95,000 word book to be published in 2014 came from a three paragraph story in the L.A. Times.  I overheard a woman say one sentence in a restaurant.  It will become a future novel.  And as I mentioned above, a folk tale got me started on A Ton of Gold.

What book are you reading now? Any favorite authors/books you want to do a shout out for?
I’m reading David Baldacci right now.  Just finished a book by Stephen Woodfin.  And I have a new book by Jory Sherman waiting in line.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
We have lots of trees on our Texas property, so there’s always work to be done to keep the place looking like we want it to look.  And we like to travel.  We’ve visited all 50 states and 5 continents.

Morning Person or Night Person? 
Definitely a night person.

Coffee, tea or other drink to get you moving in the morning? 
No coffee. No tea.  The morning starts with orange juice.  The day continues on Dr Pepper.

What is coming up from you in 2013? Anything you want to tease us with?
I have the mystery/suspense novel A Ton of Gold released this week.  I have the writing book Character: the Heartbeat of the Novel out later this month.  Both are February releases.  I’m polishing a second Father Frank mystery (following Cleansed by Fire, 2012) which might make it out in 2013.  The sequel to A Ton of Gold will be a 2014 release.

Contest Information:
Leave a comment as well as your email address to be entered to win a print copy of A Ton of Gold from James R. Callen.

A Ton of Gold
A contemporary mystery / suspense novel

Can long forgotten, old folk tales affect the lives of people today? In A Ton of Gold, one certainly affected young, brilliant Crystal Moore.  Two people are killed, others threatened, a house burned and an office fire-bombed – all because of an old folk tale, greed and ignorance. 

On top of that, the man who nearly destroyed Crystal emotionally is coming back.  This time he can destroy her career.  She’ll need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, her streetwise housemate and her feisty 76 year-old grandmother.

On Amazon, in paperback, at: 
Or the Kindle edition at:    
Or from Oak Tree Press at: 


Mark stopped the truck a short distance from the police cruiser. Crystal had both hands on her face, covering her mouth. Her eyes were wet. Her entire body appeared as tight as a banjo string. A faint gasp escaped her drawn lips. Several seconds passed before she could move a hand to open the door.
The sheriff walked over to meet them.
"I'm so sorry, Crystal.” He put an arm around her shoulders and held her.
The officer appeared to be in his mid-sixties, a short, stocky man with a weather-beaten face and a nose that had obviously been broken a few times. His hair was a bit longer than generally found on a law officer, but not long enough to hide large ears. A wide belt with a huge silver buckle cinched in most of an ample stomach, the rest bulging out like a squeezed balloon. His brown, western-cut shirt and brown jeans looked much newer and cleaner than his boots, which clearly had ridden many a dusty trail. He wore an old, but clean, buckskin Stetson.
After a minute, Crystal stepped back. She blinked excessively and the light in her eyes had faded to darkness. Stress lines formed across her brow. She swallowed and in a voice edged with fear said, "Sheriff Glothe, this is Mark O'Malley. I work for him.”
The sheriff stuck out a hand that seemed a size too large for his height. "Howdy. Pleased to meet you.” He had a slow Texan drawl that seemed so contrived in movies, yet was absolutely natural from him.
"Hello," Mark replied. "Was anybody in the house?”
The question had been lodged in Crystal’s mind, but she could not ask it.
The sheriff looked a little surprised, perhaps that the question came from Mark. He stared at Mark for a moment, then turned his attention to Crystal. "They had a hard time getting the house under control, and then it was too hot to enter for a while. So, we don't know too much yet.” He paused. “But there is a body in there."
Crystal gasped. She turned toward the house but her feet didn’t move. Instead, she sank to her knees and began to sob quietly. “Not Nana. Not Nana, too.”
It was barely a whisper, but it screamed in Crystal’s head. Her parents, her grandfather, and now her only remaining family.
Mark knelt beside her and put his arm around her, pulling her to him. She folded in like a rag doll, limp against his shoulder, the soft sobs continuing.
For a long time, Crystal wept for her grandmother. Mark simply held her. After a while, she pulled back a little and without looking at Mark, said, "I think I'll go sit by the lake for a bit."
"Would you like me to come with you, or would you rather be alone?"
"Alone, I think.” And she started down the hill toward the lake.

Brief Bio of James R. Callan

After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing.  He wrote a monthly column for a national magazine for two years, and published several non-fiction books.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mysteries, with his fourth book released in February, 2013.

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