Saturday, July 16, 2016


John M. Daniel’s Blog
July 16, 2016

Greetings, writers and readers and appreciators of stories. This week I’m happy to feature guest wordsmith James R. Callan, author of several books about the craft of writing, as well as quite a number of mystery and suspense novels. Good ones. He shows us in his essay the quandary faced by amateur sleuths: to leap into the fray or to play it safe and stay home.

First, though I’m going to paraphrase a lesson I learned from one of my early teachers, novelist Herbert Gold. He said that all great stories are about love and death. He went on to say that if anyone contested that statement and wanted to suggest a great story that was not about love and death, he would patiently explain why the story wasn’t great, or why the story was, in fact, about love and death.
Certainly among the stories I’ve read, the ones that matter most to me and the ones I reread for pleasure and wisdom, are about love and death. That all great stories are about love and death does not mean they all are modeled on Romeo and Juliet. Love and death come in many forms, including the love of death and the death of love. Some great stories of love and death are funny, some are angry, some are uppers, some are downers. But if they’re great, they are important.
Writing should be important. It should be about what matters. Since I don’t know a lot about the cosmos, or about politics or economics or science or religion, I write about love and death. Why do I think I know so much about love and death? Because I’m a live, sentient human being, and love and death are basic ingredients of the human condition.

Now let’s move on and read what Jim Callan has to say about amateur sleuths in general, and Crystal Moore in particular.


James R Callan

Many pieces have been written on the amateur sleuth. Quite often, the amateur is pulled into the case and reluctantly takes it on. In my Crystal Moore Suspense Series, Crystal admits the most dangerous thing she ever did was say “No” to a man who had never heard the word. And in that incident, she was pulled into the situation against her will. But, she had the will to extract herself, even if at a great cost. However, this is not the main thrust of the book. In fact, this is revealed only when she tells her sidekick about the incident two years later.
As unadventurous as Crystal sees herself, in both of the first two books in the series it is Crystal who pushes herself into harm’s way.
For the main plot line of A Ton of Gold, Crystal jumps into the fray. She gets in the middle of things when she believes someone is trying to kill her grandmother, her only remaining family and the woman who raised her.

My latest book is A Silver Medallion, published in June 2016. Here, Crystal decides to undertake a dangerous mission to rescue two young girls from a drug lord in the jungles of Mexico. Everyone tries to talk her out of it. Her grandmother, Eula, “who is tough enough to charge hell with a bucket of water” [description of Eula courtesy of a Caleb Pirtle review], tells her it’s a bad idea. Brandi, Crystal’s street-wise sidekick, says she can tell a dumb idea when she smells one. And Crystal’s boss, a former bull rider, tells her it is too dangerous. Lucita, the mother of the two girls, is not certain she wants Crystal to go, afraid a mistake might mean harm for the children.
Even Crystal is reluctant. Several times, she convinces herself not to go. But her conscience keeps pulling her back. She is plagued with nightmares about the two young girls and their mother, slaves for the rest of their lives. She tries to think of some other approach. But the circumstances eliminate all of them. Finally, she is convinced if she ever wants to sleep again, or have a normal life, she must go and at least try.
Fortunately, she gets hooked up with mysterious Juan Grande. But if she is successful, she will have two ruthless and powerful men, one in Texas and one in Mexico, who now want her dead.
In A Silver Medallion, as with A Ton of Gold, Crystal enters into the dangerous situations willingly, yet fearfully. She has the unusual combination of reluctance and eagerness. It makes for an interesting and engaging character. She is the kind of character that adds to the joy of writing.

John takes pleasure in announcing this late-breaking News!
A SILVER MEDALLION has won First Place in the East Texas Writers Guild Book Awards—in the mystery/thriller category.  They had entries from all over the U.S. and one of the finalists was from England! Bravo, Jim!

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 has had four non-fiction books published. He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense. His eleventh book was released in June, 2016.

Author’s page on Amazon:
Buy link for A Silver Medallion on Kindle:
Buy link for A Silver Medallion paperback:


Calling all published authors—

I feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at


Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories

The deadline for August’s 99-word story submissions is August 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for August 13, and will stay posted for a week.

note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.

Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to:

THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Imagine a special place you like to go, a place that has much meaning for you. Write a story about going to that place, and being surprised to find someone there whom you haven’t seen in a long, long time.


Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week.



  1. John, I think you're right about every good story being about love and death. If I ever come across one that isn't, I'll let you know. ;-)

    Jim, I enjoyed learning about Crystal, who she is, what she does and why. You know her well, which is important to be able to write her well. And congrats on your big win!

    1. Thanks, Earl. And thanks to you, too, Jim. Fine post!

    2. Thank you, Earl. Yes, I know her well. She is a very real person to me. And I hope that comes across to the readers and they see her as a real person. Good to hear from you.