Thursday, May 14, 2015

Cozy Den: Guest Author James Callan



The Story behind the stories, by James Callan

People always ask me where I get the ideas for the books I write. My answer is always the same: from the news or things that happen around me. I don’t write those stories. But they provide the genesis for the book plot. They act as a spring board. They lift me into a story often quite different from the idea that served as inspiration.


The first Father Frank Mystery was Cleansed by Fire. Several years ago, a number of churches were torched in a part of northeast Texas not far from where I live. The police finally caught the two men who committed the arsons. But throughout the trial, the only reason for the arsons was, “Could we get away with it.”

I couldn’t imagine creating such destruction for, basically, no motive. I began to ask what might be a motive to burn multiple churches. That thought tumbled around in my brain until the plot of a book began to emerge. When the book was published, it was complete fiction. But the idea came out of my mulling over aspects of a real event.


clip_image004[6]Quite some years ago, our youngest daughter sang with the Sweet Adelines, women who sing barbershop harmony. One year, her chorus made it to the international competition, and eventually her chorus was named the fourth best in the world that year. Of course, we went to the weeklong competition. Imagine 10,000 women dressed in bright, gaudy costumes. Everywhere you went that week, there were plenty of sequins, and you could expect a group to break out in song any place, any time. Our youngest is also a writer. Afterwards, we began tossing ideas around. Wouldn’t it be fun to weave a murder investigation into the singing competition. Sequins and bullets. Out of that came Murder a Cappella, which she and I wrote together.

For the past three or four years, the Keystone Pipeline has been in the news. It is still a point of contention between the Congress and the President. My involvement with the Keystone came when they used eminent domain to run the pipeline through my land. With court order in hand, they clear cut a swath one hundred and fifty feet wide and about a third of a mile long across our property. They bulldozed down hundred-foot pines and forty or fifty year-old oak and hickory trees.

I decided I wanted to write a murder mystery where eminent domain played a part. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I clip_image006[4]couldn’t make it about the Keystone. First, to my knowledge, there was no murder connected with the pipeline. Second, I could foresee future problems if I weren’t extremely careful how I handled Keystone. And by moving away from the pipeline, I had much more freedom to weave the story any way I wished.

Last week, Over My Dead Body released in paperback and Kindle editions. The use of eminent domain to the benefit of a private corporation was the flash point for this murder mystery. While it is completely fiction, the real incident involving eminent domain and our property was the writing prompt for the book.

The same thing is true of other books I have written. So, where can you get an idea for a book? Just read the newspaper, watch TV news, or listen to what your friends are saying happened in their lives. You will have plenty of ideas before the sun sets.

Back Cover Blurb for Over My Dead Body

A large corporation is taking land by eminent domain. Syd Cranzler stands in its way, threatening a court battle. After a heated meeting with the corporation representative, Syd is found dead from an overdose of heart medication. The police call it suicide. Case closed.

But Father Frank, Syd’s pastor, and Georgia Peitz, another member of the church, don’t believe Syd committed suicide and begin to look for clues of what really happened. Will this affect Georgia’s romantic interest in the lead detective?

When the priest is almost poisoned, they convince the police to investigate further. Immediately, Father Frank becomes the target of rumors and speculation he might have had something to do with Syd’s death.

The more clues Father Frank and Georgia uncover, the more danger they find themselves in. Can they find the real killer before they become victims?


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. He has had four non-fiction books published. He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his sixth book releasing in 2015.

Thank you so much, Jim, for accepting my invitation to join me in my cozy den. I thoroughly enjoyed our visit. As a writer myself, I know that story ideas are everywhere…one just has to be aware. But I so love hearing how my fellow writers come up with the starters for their book. You satisfied my curiosity. You’re more than welcome to come back for another visit.


  1. Peg, it was my pleasure to visit your cozy den. I hope what I have written will be of interest to some of your readers. Thanks for inviting me. Jim

  2. Peggy Blann PhiferMay 19, 2015 at 4:24 AM

    You're more than welcome to come again, Jim, any time.