Today’s guest is James R. Callan. He’s had a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA. He left the technology field to pursue his real love, writing. He has had four non-fiction books published, but his passion is mystery and suspense novels. His eleventh book is scheduled to be published in spring, 2016. James, I’ve downloaded your book and can’t wait to read it. I love mysteries.

Before we get to James’s word of wisdom, a little of my writing news. We enjoyed a grand party encouraging everyone to read through their Bible this year (or maybe longer) and celebrating the release of Beginnings: 30 Days in Genesis – Exodus. Thanks to everyone who attended.

My Great Escapes Mystery Book Tour starts today. I have a few other blog visits along the way. You can check out the list below or head to (link) which lists them all in one place.

1/11 StoreyBook Reviews

1/12 Babs Book Bistro

1/12 Sarah Ruut

1/13 Laura’s Interests, Giveaway

1/14 Island Confidential, Giveaway working

1/15 MHDeanCollectibles Book Blog

1/16 The Girl with Book Lungs

1/17 Cozy Up With Kathy

1/18 Christa Reads and Writes

1/19 Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

1/20 deal sharing aunt

1/21 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, &, Sissy, Too !

1/22 Book Babble

1/23 LibriAmoriMiei

1/24 dru’s book musings

Now let’s hear from James:

Learn to Use Dialog Signatures

James R. Callan

Consider making a dialog signature for your major characters. What is a dialog signature? Your signature is a unique representation of you. Put it on a document and people know that document is from you. Similarly, a dialog signature identifies the speaker. It is the unique pattern that makes it clear who is speaking.

So, what makes up a dialog signature? It is what makes a character’s speech unique, what sets her apart from others, at least in terms of dialog.

What does your character sound like? What is distinctive about his or her voice?

When you make up a bio, or character sketch, consider including the character’s dialog signature. What is her

* Cadence

* Vocabulary or word choice

* Diction

* Inflection

* Accent

* Regional dialect

* Sentence structure, or lack of

* Flow

* Volume

* Eye contact

* Mannerisms

* Ease

* Body language

* Favorite words

* Marker words

Each character should have a different set of these aspects of speech. You do not want all characters to sound alike. Ideally, the reader should know who is speaking by the way she speaks.

Does this character answer in as few words as possible ,or does she ramble on and on?

Does she have a regional dialect, certain words or patterns that are different from others in the book? Is her manner easy and smooth, or stilted? Is her body language significant? Does he have certain words he often uses? Does he always speak in complete sentences, or complex sentences? Or maybe he often speaks in fragments.

Write out a dialog signature for your major characters, pin it on the bulletin board behind your computer. Keep it in mind for that person’s dialog. Your readers will appreciate it.

my dead bodyA 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. And this has an ill affect on Georgia’s budding romance with 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? james callan

Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/1eeykvG

Over My Dead Body, is available at: http://amzn.to/1BmYQ0Q

Website: www.jamesrcallan.com/

Blog: www.jamesrcallan.com/blog


P.S. Remember to leave comments all month for chances to win these books, along with mentioning whether or not you’re signed up for my newsletter, twitter, and like my Facebook page.

I released another devotional this month, Beginnings: 30 Days in Genesis – Exodus. For those of you planning to read through the Bible this year, it’s an excellent aid to get started. And if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to read through the Bible, check out my suggestions at More to Life Magazine.

beginningsThis book gives me the goosebumps. I love reading the Bible. Even at my age, I keep finding things I never noticed before, that sense of “how did I miss that before?” Although Beginnings is presented in a devotional style, it shows how my mind works when I’m reading through my Bible. See how my mind works on subjects such as:

  • Timeline. Was Adam still alive when Noah was born? Maybe not, but check out Day Two, The One and Only.
  • What the Bible doesn’t say. Check out Day Three, Where Did All the Bodes Go?
  • Contradictions: Nimrod the “great hunter before the Lord” but also the man who built Babylon. “Righteous Lot” who lived in Sodom. Check out Day Four, The Great Hunter Before the Lord.
  • Does it really say that? Checking different translations of the Bible to arrive at the truth. Check out Day Eighteen, Pharaoh’s Final Solution
  • Why did God act that way? We may not understand God’s timing—look at poor Moses on Day Nineteen, Higher Standard
  • Ouch, God, that touched a nerve. When God shows us something wrong in our own lives—for me, it was Day Twenty-three, Customer Complaints.
  • I never noticed that before. How did I miss seeing something that neat in all the times I read it before? Day twenty-seven, God’s Tattoo.

I hope you join me as I begin this journey through the Bible. Next up, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—hopefully in March.

Beginnings purchase link

dressed for death 3 in 1Since I’ve offered three devotionals in a row, my featured book is the 3-in-1 volume of my mystery series, Dressed for Death. The first book, Gunfight at Grace Gulch, will be featured in a two-week long blog tour, with daily giveaways. Check it out at Escape With Dolly.


So it made sense for me to offer the 3-in-1 volume of the Dressed for Death series. It combines my state of residence – Oklahoma – with my love for history – of course, with a vintage clothing store owner for the heroine – and wacky characters galore.

In addition to the devotional series I am working on this year, I am writing a new mystery series, Murder by the Case. I wrote the first book, Case Closed, during November’s NANO and now I’m editing it. Read any of my Dressed for Death mysteries to discover Darlene the mystery writer!

Dressed for Death Purchase Link


Here’s praying you all had a wonderful Christmas and wishing you a blessed New Year! Today I’m introducing the first of my guests with writing tips, Jeanette Levellie. But first I’ll catch up with my writing news.

Wednesday is your last chance to leave a comment for a chance to win An Advent Journey through Matthew and 365 Fun Bible Facts. Please sign up and encourage others to do so! You can also go to past posts from December and leave messages.

Since last we spoke, I finished the rough draft of Infusion of Love, my Revolutionary War entry in the Teacup Courtship Novella series. I also sent Beginnings: 30 Days in Genesis-Exodus to the editor, and hope to have that published by mid-January. I’m working on edits to my new mystery, Case Closed, and the teacup novella.

No more blog appearances until my Great Escapes Book Tour highlighting my first mystery, Gunfight at Grace Gulch, starts on January 11.


Now let’s meet Jeanette Levellie. Her newest book is Shock the Clock:jeanette levellie Time Management Strategies for Writers and Other Creatives. She is also the author of Two Scoops of Grace with Chuckles on Top, The Heart of Humor, and hundreds of articles. She is the mother of two adults, grandmother of three children and servant of four (cats). Visit her at http://www.jeanettelevellie.com.

*Jeanette is giving away a copy of her book, Shock the Clock, with this post. Leave your email like belovedfranklin (at) msn (dot) com to be in the drawing.*

Top 10 Time Management Tips for Writers

  1. Ask the Lord to lead you on the unique writing/publishing path He wants for you, where you’ll be fulfilled and successful. Follow His leading, not others. He is the Shepherd; they are fellow-sheep.
  2. Take a book with you everywhere—you can read while you wait in line at the post office, at a restaurant, and rides at Disneyworld.
  3. Break chores down into baby steps. Satan wants us to believe we must finish tasks in one sitting, so we’ll get discouraged and never start. Every book and article began with the first sentence.
  4. Limit TV watching to a few shows. Don’t simply watch—analyze to become a better writer. What plot lines, characterization, and dialogue works, and what doesn’t? Apply those elements to your writing.
  5. Keep pen and notebook or dictation machine with you, to write down ideas as they come. This includes your bedside table—some of the richest ideas come at night, when your mind is relaxed.
  6. Jeanette Levellie Shock the Clock coverKeep your goals visible—if you see them often, they’ll get done. Use day planners, online tools, or whiteboards—whatever motivates you best.
  7. Reward yourself when you finish a less-than-enjoyable task.
  8. Set the timer for 15 minutes, half an hour, or an hour. Don’t stop writing ‘til it dings.
  9. Make your goals realistic and measurable. Put dates on them, so you can check them off or erase them when you reach them. Share them with others who will hold you accountable.
  10. Know your distracters, so you can avoid or manage them. Mute your phone and email notification; put a Do Not Disturb sign on your door; go to the library, café or park—whatever it takes to get the muse flowing.Adapted from Shock the Clock: Time Management for Writers and Other Creatives by Jeanette Levellie


For this blog, I tried to think of a wonderful Christmas message that doesn’t start with a Bible verse and become a devotional.

But the truth is, Christmas is a ho-hum day for me. The last special Christmas memory I have wasn’t all that happy. The Christmas after my daughter’s death, my mother treated us to a special weekend at a swanky hotel with all the trimmings. She was right. We needed a quiet, but memorable, place to survive that first empty feeling. Of course, it was also my granddaughter Jordan’s first Christmas.

I didn’t and couldn’t know that would be my last Christmas with my mother, either. A year later, she was in a nursing home and I was homebound by a blizzard. A year later, she was gone. Now I have no family left that celebrates Christmas. Jaran and his family enjoy Hanukkah—and I got to take part this year.

The nursing homes hold great Christmas parties, wonderful food, lots of presents—a week or even two before Christmas. We’ll be lucky to get ham or turkey on Christmas day. And the abundance of presents goes down when they’re things like a family-sized tube of toothpaste for someone with dentures! It did include a few lovely items, such as a round-the-neck cream scarf and a Monet calendar and sweet-smelling body lotion.

So I don’t expect much on Christmas day itself but to hold onto the feeling of Christmas. As I continue my study/devotional/memorization of Isaiah, I keep finding reference after reference to the coming Messiah. This week I reached the holy of holies, chapter 53: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6)

It’s powerful whatever version you read it in, but the first verse from The Message hit me like a ton of bricks.

“Who believes what we’ve heard and seen? Who would have ever expected God’s saving power would look like this?”

I felt like I was looking at the manger, seeing that tiny, helpless, adorable baby—under the shadow of the cross.

Once again, Christmas is in my heart. God is now here, where He can be seen and heard and touched.

365 days a year.


This month I’ve featuring two devotional books I’ve had part in.

I was saved about the same time I started playing piano—years before I wrote anything seriously. Over the years, I’ve had devotions published in about twenty books and in yearly magazines. I even went to Bible college, and then to Seminary. I’ve studied the Bible all the way through at least once, and read it so many times I can’t count.

That’s not to brag. . .it’s just the background to say: I have a compulsion to write a series of devotions about the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. An Advent Journey through Matthew is the first. I hope to publish a 30-day book covering Genesis and Exodus during January.

I chose 365 Day Fun Bible Fact Book as my featured book, because of the nature of the devotions. It’s didn’t start out as a “fun Bible fact book.” It started out as an unusual or even weird things in scripture. For instance, I wrote one asking about the Baker’s Dozen of the 12 tribes of Israel. It varies from place to place—check it and see.

And that’s how I approach my Bible study/devotionals. I look for those facts, for those things that make me say “How did I never notice that before?” And that becomes the focus of my story. I was excited to read and write the laws of Leviticus – in ways I’ve never felt before. That will be coming after the book on Genesis and Exodus.

Jump and enjoy!


AEvery month that has five months I’ll do something different with my blog, interact with other authors–you can chat with some of my writing buddies.

This month we’re talking with several authors who worked with me on the Christmas Mail Order Angels series. First up: I asked my fellow authors what they learned in writing their books, or what they enjoyed or found hard about working with this series. Here are our answers:

Darlene: Watching my idea blossom is so many imaginative way has been amazing. Thanks, everyone, for jumping aboard!

Susan Page Davis: Although I had it a lot easier than Isabella did when it came to communication, travel, and other concerns, there was still an element of uncertainty about the new life I would lead in Oregon, and of course, a sense of adventure. Writing this novella seemed like a natural extension of what I knew.

Cynthia Hickey: Love can come from even the most dire seeming circumstances.

Tanya Stowe: Yes. I loved getting to know these ladies and brainstorming ideas. Made the creative process come alive.

Patty Smith Hall: What I loved about writing this story is working with these amazing ladies–the encouragement and willingness to help each other is enough to keep me in the Christmas spirit all year round!

Martha Lou Rogers: Writing with 10 other authors was really an enjoyable experience. What I enjoyed most was reading the other stories and then gleaning from them things I could use in my own. Using characters from the others to interact with mine gave me more feeling of family and unity. Everyone was most cooperative and when I found my characters showing up in other manuscripts, I was happy. Also interesting was reading the different voices and styles of the writers in the collection.

Appearing here in the order their books were released:

Susan Page Davis – The Reliable Cowboy


Isabella Johnston lost her husband to the sea, and she wants to get as far from the coast as she can. When she leaves Maine to marry a cowboy in Wyoming Territory, she reasons that Edwin Gray will be safe on the ranch. But every time he is late for an engagement, she finds herself worrying. What could be horrible enough to make him late for their wedding? http://www.amazon.com/Reliable-Cowboy-Mail-Order-Christmas-Angels-ebook/dp/B012YLM1TK/


Susan Page Davis is the author of more than sixty published novels. She’s always interested in the unusual happenings of the past. She’s a two-time winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award, and also a winner of the Carol Award and the Will Rogers Medallion, and a finalist in the WILLA Awards and the More Than Magic Contest. Visit her website at: www.susanpagedavis.com


Cynthia Hickey Christmas Gold

christmas goldWhen Phoebe Ross’s employer dies, leaving her with a wedding gown, Phoebe feels she has no choice but to answer the call for mail order brides to Angel Vale, Wyoming. When she arrives her groom-to-be is nowhere in sight. With the other brides claimed, she sets off to find her groom. He is nothing what she expected. http://www.amazon.com/Evergreen-Wreath-Christmas-Mail-Order-Angels-ebook/dp/B015BVUKFW/cindy h

Cynthia Hickey and her husband run the small press, Forget Me Not Romances, which includes some of the CBA’s well-known authors. She lives in Arizona with her husband, one of their seven children, two dogs and one cat. She has seven grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer”. Visit her website at www.cynthiahickey.com


Tanya Stowe The Evergreen Wreath

tanya stowe bookTwenty-year-old Levi Harper needs help. Life is difficult after his father and brothertanya die in a mine cave-in but when pneumonia takes his mother, Levi can’t manage the mine and his four younger siblings alone. He signs up for a mail-order-bride. Virginia Pepper is determined to escape her father’s unrelenting anger and all-too-ready fists. She’ll do anything to get on that train…even agree to marry a stranger. But she has no intention of trading one abusive man for another. Paper marriage or not, she’ll be on her way first chance she gets, no matter how sweet and kind Levi seems. As Christmas approaches, Levi counts down the days with a waiting, hopeful spirit. Can the Christmas season create a path for Levi into Virginia’s heart? http://www.amazon.com/Evergreen-Wreath-Christmas-Mail-Order-Angels-ebook/dp/B015BVUKFW

Patty Smith Hall A Home For Christmas

patty bookIs she cursed? All of her life, Margaret Cobb has felt cursed, the port wine stain on her cheek a punishment for her mother’s death. But she dreams of a home and family. When the opportunity arises to be a mail order bride for a man in Angel Vale, Wyoming, Margaret risks everything familiar for her chance at happiness, only to be rejected once again. That is until assayer Avery Waldwin offers to marry her. Or the answer to Averyprayers? Avery Waldwin needs a mother for his young daughter, even if it means marrying a woman he’s never met. A marriage of convenience was all he’d hoped for, but there’s something about the kind, Godly woman that draws him to her.  As the Christmas season approaches, both Avery and Margaret discover there’s only one present they each want—the gift of love! http://www.amazon.com/Home-Christmas-Mail-Order-Angels-ebook/dp/B016EHG3NK/patty book

Patty Smith Hall is an award-winning, multi-published author with Love Inspired Historical and Heartsong/Harlequin. She currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter and calls North Georgia her home which she shares with her husband of 30+ years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters and a future son-in-love. Visit her website at www.pattysmithhall.com.


Martha Lou Rogers Christmas Blessing

 martha's bookAnnelle Pugh is the daughter caretaker of her retired sea captain father who is in poor health. As she approaches age thirty, he smothers any of her attempts at a social life, and Nelle becomes discouraged and fearful she’ll never have a home of her own. While her aunt is visiting and taking of the Captain, Nelle grabs the chance to go west and become one of the Mail Order Angels requested by a group of men in Wyoming. Riley Thornton is a rancher mourning the death of his wife and desperately needs someone to care for his three children. After several nanny attempts fail, Riley signs up for one of the Angel Brides who consented to come to Wyoming. Riley almost backs out when he sees how petite Nelle is and doubts she’ll be able to handle two growing daughters and a barely walking son as well as take care of the cooking and cleaning. Despite her doubts, Nelle begins to love Riley, but at every turn her fear of being sent back East keeps her from letting her feelings be known. As they work together, Riley comes to realize Nelle is special and truly his blessing from God at Christmas. http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Blessing-Christian-Historical-Romantic-ebook/dp/B016P05GSY/

martha rogersMartha Rogers is a free-lance writer and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston where they enjoy spending time with their grandchildren. A former English and Home Economics teacher, Martha loves to cook and experimenting with recipes and loves scrapbooking when she has time. She has written three series, Winds Across the Prairie and Seasons of the Heart and The Homeward Journey. Her new contemporary series, Love in the Bayou City of Houston and novella, Christmas Blessing are now available on Amazon.

Find Martha at: www.marthawrogers.com

Lynette Sowell Mistletoe Mistake

Lynette bookMatthew Thomas cooked up the whole idea of the Mail Order Angels, but when his own angel appears in the form of Sophia Webster, at first his feet get colder than a Wyoming blizzard. Sophia tries to make a new start in Wyoming by staying true to her word and helping Matthew establish the newspaper, but come spring, it’s back East for her–unless Matthew’s change of heart can convince her otherwise.lynette

Lynette Sowell is the award-winning and best-selling author of more than 20 titles for Barbour Publishing, Heartsong Presents, and Abingdon Press. When Lynette’s not writing, she works as a newspaper editor and columnist for the Copperas Cove Leader-Press. Lynette was born in Massachusetts, raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but makes her home on the doorstep of the Texas hill country with her husband, their dog, and a duo of cats who have them well-trained. She loves reading, trying new recipes, catching a good movie, and is always up for a Texas road trip.


My “have to” share story this month centers on my granddaughter and my son. I suspect they’ll show up in my blog fairly often.

My son calls himself “a son of the Living God,” who devotes himself to studying the Torah to deepen his relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, his Savior Jesus Christ, and to apply God’s revealed rules for daily living. Among other things, that means he observes the Sabbath from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday. Another family joins his on Friday evenings for dinner and Torah study.

This month I was able to join them for the first time. What a blessing! My son read three chapters from Deuteronomy with all the enthusiasm and talent that his drama training had ingrained in him. Every word rang with meaning. I love to see my son so in love with God and His Word, even if we don’t always agree on in its interpretation.


Jordan, my six-year-old granddaughter, decided to grill Grandma on her faith. “Grandma, do you know what a Shabbat service is?”

I’ve been asking God for an opportunity to share my faith with her, so I was delighted. Boy, was she surprised when I said yes and explained it to her.

Her mother piped in. “She asks total strangers, ‘Do you eat pork?’”

(I think it’s extremely unfortunate that so many focus on the issue of pork instead of all the positive aspects of following the law. A rabbit trail.)

I went in a different direction. “Jordan, if God was right here with us right now, do you know what question He would ask you? Your Mom and Dad will agree with me.”

Silence. Was I going to say something they disagreed with? “God would ask you, ‘What have you done with my son Jesus? Have you asked Him to save you from your sins?’”

That stumped Jordan for a minute. Then she asked, “Is Jesus dead?”

Okay. “He died, but He’s not dead. He came back to life, and everyone who believes in Him will go to heaven to be with Him.”

“So He’s with Mimi and Omi and Papi and Bella.” She listed the long list of family members and pets she’s lost in her short life.

Beautiful—perfect—she understands!

Then she circled back to her original question. “Did Jesus eat pork?”

“No, He didn’t.” End of discussion.

I thank God for opening the door to share the plan of salvation with my precious girl.

I could care less if she ever eats a bite of pork or not


WRITING NEWS & TIPS 9/21/15-10/12/15

Mark as many of these events as interest you on your calendar!



My hope is to give you bite-sized writing tips. I’m starting about with the most basic advice a writer must know:

Rule #1: Read, read, read. Especially the genre you want to write, but read a variety of books.

Rule #2: Write, write, write. Write every day, even if only for five minutes.

Follow those two rules, and you’re on your way to being a writer.