Monday, June 17, 2013

Interview with Jim Callan

Recently, I interviewed author Jim Callan.

Bio: 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. 

James Callan, author


Jim:  I had intended to write books when I graduated from college, but soon found I could not support a family doing that.  So, I returned to graduate school in mathematics.  After a long career in math and computer science, one day I realized I didn’t have to support a family anymore – they were all out of college and self-supporting.  So, I went back to my first love – writing.


Jim:  I like the twists and turns of David Baldacci, the neat stories of Tony Hillerman, and the smooth flowing paragraphs of Dick Francis.  


Jim:  Write. Write. Read, then write some more.  Do not edit yourself as you write.  When you finish the book, then go back and edit.


Jim:  Haphazard.  I like to write six days a week, even if only for a short time.  Unfortunately, I seldom make that. 


Jim:  My latest suspense book is A Ton of Gold.  I asked myself if an old Texas folktale could affect people’s lives today. My heroine, Crystal Moore, would say definitely yes. Because of an old folktale, she faces murder, firebombing, and kidnapping.  And even as she tries to sort out the who and the why of those problems, the man who almost destroyed her emotionally comes back. This time, he can ruin her career.  So, she’s attacked on two sides.  She will need all the help she can get from a former bull rider, her street-wise house mate, and her feisty, 76 year-old no nonsense grandmother.


Jim:  Not much before I begin writing.  But I try to identify what I will need to do.  I might note that I need some expert legal advice or medical advice.  Quite often I recognize that I will need to study the locations carefully.  In A Ton of Gold, for instance, I actually drove all the streets that were driven in the book so I would know how long it took to get from point A to point B.  For Murder a Cappella, I video-taped the Arboretum in San Antonio because an important chase occurred there.  That way, my descriptions and actions were accurate.  But most of this will come after I start the story, sometimes after I have finished the first draft.


Jim:  Most interesting?  Hmmm.  Perhaps the details of flying a powered parachute.  That came about for a book not yet published, the sequel to A Ton of Gold.


Jim:  I have written eight books.  Three of those were non-fiction.  But fiction, specifically mysteries and suspense, is my favorite area.

Murder a Capella


Jim:  I live in the middle of a forest in east Texas. And I find it fulfilling to work on the property there. Then, we spend a lot of time at our home in Mexico. And my wife and I both love to travel.


Jim:  I have a website and a blog.  The website (  provides a lot of information on me and my books, plus I have included a lot of reviews on various books.  The blog ( has weekly posts. Many of these are interviews with other writers I know, so readers can get to know a little about the authors.  Of course, the website has a “Contact Callan” button to facilitate sending me an e-mail.

Thanks for inviting me to visit your website, Heidi.  It has been a pleasure.  

A Ton of Gold

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.

A Ton of Gold
By James R. Callan
From Oak Tree Press, Feb. 2013

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

Blog site:
Book website:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Interview and Giveaway with Nike Chillemi


Please welcome Nike Chillemi to Sleuths and Suspects. This is her first time with us. I hope you learn more about Nike and her writing from the interview. I've just heard from Nike and she is going to give away a copy of her new book "Burning Hearts." She will choose from the best comment. Be sure to leave your email address and be a follower. Without further ado here we go!

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. 
Nike: I grew up in upstate New York. My dad was an English teacher who read to my brother and me and I've had a love of books since. I wrote the requisite teenage poems filled with angst, which I read to my parents quite frequently. They were very good about not running out of the room screaming. I worked in marketing in the bridal industry before seriously throwing myself into writing for publication. Every once in a while I give my bridal industry experience away by writing something like: The gown, of pink tulle, having a sweetheart neckline and tulip sleeves, floated at her calves as she glided into the room.
Q: Tell us about your most recent book/or the book we are focusing on. 
Nike:  BURNING HEARTS (arson/murder, action, romance, and humor) is set on the south shore of Long Island in the mid-1940s. The story opens with an arsonist burning down a house, killing the owner. A young seamstress, Erica Brogna, make a rescue attempt, but the heavy smoke forces her to get help. Enter Harley Davidson riding Lorne Kincade, a WWII hero, who rushes into the inferno. The story is filled with action. The killer tries to frame Lorne for the murder. But it's also a "sweet" romance in which Erica and Lorne face trials together and fall deeply in love. It's actually my debut novel, which Desert Breeze first published as an ebook, but it's now come out in print and I'm very excited about that. I love ebooks and was completely happy with it in electronic format, but I do know there are readers who only read print and now BURNING HEARTS available for them.
Q: Why did you choose this particular genre? 
Nike: I love murder mysteries and detective stories. The vast majority of book I read fall into one of those two categories. I love to route for the good guys to win. My home, in New York City, has quite a few bookshelves filled with whodunits. I'm so wrapped up in this genre that I've been dubbed the Crime Fictionista. I write reviews of crime fiction and action-adventure novels for The Christian Pulse online magazine. I've judged several literary contests in the last three years, usually in the mystery/thriller category, but sometimes in the action-adventure category.  
Q: What was your journey to publication like?
Nike: It was filled with trepidation like everybody's. I had no idea what I was doing six and a half years ago when I wrote my first mystery novel. Not a clue. I keep the manuscript around just for laughs. It's that bad. I got a lot of help from more established writers and I hope I've returned that favor, helping newbie writers as they begin on their writing journey. 
Q: What is a couple of your favorite books and what are you reading now? 
The Roland March series by J. Mark Bertrand is one of my favorite Christian crime fiction series. He can't write them fast enough to suit me. COMES A HORSEMAN by Robert Liparulo is another. INJUSTICE FOR ALL by Robin Carol and EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE by M.K. Gilroy are two others I couldn't put down. Right now I'm reading the New York Times best seller BURNT HOUSE by Faye Kellerman.
Q:  What are you working on now and can you give us a little peek inside it? 
Nike:  I'm leaving the world of historical whodunits w/romance and venturing into contemporary mysteries w/romance. I'm constructing a series with really strong, spunky private investigator and law enforcement heroines. My stalwart male investigators may find themselves exasperated at times by these impulsive, but very capable females. My heroes are three-dimensional and ultimately can handle relationships with complicated women. The first work to introduce this new contemporary series is a novella, HARMFUL INTENT. My heroine is a girl-next-door private investigator from Brooklyn, NY who travels to Abilene, TX where she is accused of murdering her husband of one year. There is a huge amount of humor, some of it all out funny, or zany, with moments of satire. I'd compare it with some of the works of Susan Issacs (humorous romantic suspense) or Jaqueline Girdner (comic California murder mysteries) or Chris Well (Earl Walker series, hilarious Christian mysteries).  
Q:  What advice would you give authors who are on their own journey to publication? 
Nike: First of all, keep writing. In the beginning, don't worry about how good it is. Just write it. The first manuscript will most likely get rejected. I don’t know a single writer who submitted their first work and an agent went mad for it and published it. Everyone got the first one tossed back to them. At least everyone I know did. The other thing newbies should do is read in their genre. Read the very best writers in their genre. The ones who are winning awards. Then ponder what makes their writing so good. Don't copy them. Keep your own voice, but learn techniques from the best. 
Q:Do you have any books or websites that have helped you with your writing that you could share with us?
Nike: The one single thing that's helped my writing more than anything else is the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) critique groups. That's like bootcamp for writing Christian fiction. I highly recommend getting into an ACFW group. I've also taken ACFW writing courses and courses other groups have given. I belong to a crime scene writers group where a lot of the members are retired law enforcement personnel. That group concentrates on the police procedure and technical elements of writing crime fiction.  
Q: Please let us know where we can find you on the web. 
Nike: You can find me at Nike Chillemi ~ Crime Fictionista 
Purchas Links:
BURNING HEARTS at Amazon, now in paperback.
The Sanctuary Point, historical murder mystery w/romance series at Amazon.

Me, pix.jpg
Like so many writers, Nike Chillemi started writing at a very young age. She still has the Crayola, fully illustrated book she penned (penciled might be more accurate) as a little girl about her then off-the-chart love of horses. Today, you might call her a crime fictionista. Her passion is crime fiction. She likes her bad guys really bad and her good guys smarter and better. 
She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards and is its Chairman, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She writes book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. She was an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011 and 2012 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. BURNING HEARTS, the first book in the crime wave that is sweeping the south shore of Long Island in The Sanctuary Point series, finaled in the Grace Awards 2011 in the Romance/Historical Romance category. GOODBYE NOEL, the second book in the series released in December, 2011 won the Grace Award 2011 in the Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller category. PERILOUS SHADOWS, third in the series released July, 2012, and DARKEST HOUR, the fourth in the series released in February, 2013.  She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the Edgy Christian Fiction Lovers (Ning).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Interview and book giveaway with author Heidi Glick.

(Why does that name sound familiar?)

by Jeff Reynolds


I'm sure the name and photo of my interviewee are familiar to those who regularly frequent this blog. It's my delight to interview co-contributer Heidi Glick.

But first, a little backstory. (Or should I wait till the middle of the section of the blog before dumping any backstory? Sorry. A writer's joke.) A couple of years ago I joined ACFW and joined the large critique group. My favorite stories to critique had titles like Ten Degrees From Normal, Fuller Island, The Letter, and Dog Tags -- written by Heidi Glick and Jackie Layton. Thus, it was an honor when I was asked to join these ladies and Deb on this blog.

A lucky reader will be winning a copy of Heidi's book Dog Tags. More info at the end of this interview.

Jeff Reynolds:  Heidi, welcome to Sleuths and Suspects. As if you've never been on this blog before. I know this is an eventful year for you. I believe your second most exciting achievement of 2013 is the release of Dog Tags, your first novel. Please give us a story summary. What inspired it?

Heidi Glick: 
The story is about a marine, the woman he loves, and the stalker who is obsessed with her.

At first, Dog Tags started out as a romance novella. I subbed it to a publisher, and it was rejected. But the story wasn't ready for publication. I revamped it as a suspense novel. I wanted a hero with real struggles, and I wanted a villain who would capitalize on the hero's weaknesses. The book's themes include forgiveness, loss, and fear. Because these are common themes that most people deal with, I'm hoping that the book will speak to many readers. In 2011, my father died from ALS, and so I've used that experience to help me write this book as well as another work in progress (Ten Degrees from Normal).

 JR:  You might disagree with me, but I believe the real star of your novel is Sparky. Could you tell us about him and his real life counterpart? Is he involved in the marketing of the book? If I remember correctly, he had been interviewed once, correct?

HG:  In the novel, the hero owns a Schipperke named Sparky. In real life, I have a Schipperke named Sparky. He is a rambunctious dog, hence the name. He is involved in the marketing of the book. You are correct. I did interview him once:

JR:  Are you an outliner, a blank pager, or somewhere in between?

HG:  I'm somewhere in between but more of an outliner. I'm a planner by nature, and so I like an outline. When I first started out as a writer, I was more of a blank pager, but as I studied the craft of writing, I found that outlines save me time because I rewrite less when using an outline. Nonetheless, I still like to allow my characters to speak to me, and I like a few surprises.

 JR:  I've had the honor of critiquing this and a couple of your other stories in the ACFW's large critique group. Could you share how both the critiques of others on your writing and your critiques on your writing peers have helped your work on Dog Tags?

HG:  Singlehandedly, crits have helped me grow the most as a writer. I would not be published were it not for the crits of others. Other writers showed me areas of improvement.

JR:  People compare finishing and releasing a book with childbirth. Which brings me to your most exciting achievement of 2013. Would you like to tell us about that? How does this affect your writing and marketing? What is Sparky's take on this?

HG:  Let's back up a year. In 2012, I signed a contract with a publisher, but even more exciting than that was finding out I was pregnant (after infertility). In Februrary 2013, I gave birth to Aaron Samuel Glick. For more info. on the miracle baby:  I'm leaving my job to spend time at home with my son. He is my priority right now, so writing takes a backseat, which is fine with me. I still jot down ideas and work on writing while he naps, but I am allowing myself time to enjoy being a mother. Sparky whimpers when Aaron cries and likes to rush into the nursery to check on the baby. 

JR:  Okay, enough about the important things in life and back to writing. Am I correct that you have three blogs that you work on? Could you tell us about these, and how do they help you develop as a writer?

HG:  The Ohio State Parks blog is about some of my experiences visiting Ohio State Parks with my dogs. The Queen City Quill is a hodgepodge (posts on writing, authors, book reviews, etc.). Sleuths and Suspects is about mysteries, suspense, romantic suspense, thrillers, and anything related (book reviews, author interviews, and book giveaways).

JR:  I know you've been working on a couple of other stories. Do you work on multiple stories at the same time? How do you prioritize which one to focus on? Is there any "separation anxiety" with the stories you set on the shelf?

HG:  Sometimes I work on multiple stories at once. I prioritize by working on the story that I'd like to submit to a publisher next. So for example, I love working on my "Ten Degrees" novel, but I need to work on the Dog Tags sequel/spin off. I feel separation anxiety from the Ten Degrees characters.

JR:  Thank you for your time. Please share any websites you have, and any other information you'd like us to know.

HG:  I'd be glad to. Here they are:
Also check out the trailer for Dog Tags at

 Jeff back, talking to the reader. If you'd like to win a copy of Dog Tags (and who in their right mind wouldn't?), then there are four things you need to do.
  1. Leave a comment on the blog. (That sounds tough, doesn't it?)
  2. Become a follower of this blog. (Oh boy, I know how to make things difficult, don't I?)
  3. Include your e-mail address (Is it my imagination each one gets harder?)
  4. Now for the real challenge. Heidi has mentioned her Schipperke. Which out-of-the ordinary breeds of dog, or breeds of cats, interest you the most?