William Doonan

I write books and stories.

Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Guest Blogger – James R. Callan

with 13 comments

Greetings Friends,

Today, novelist James Callan has some choice words about Internalization, the subject of his new book.  Hope you enjoy.


 How many times have you said, “What was he thinking?”  Sometimes that may be in disbelief: how could he have done that?  Or perhaps: what he said doesn’t sound like him. Or maybe: what is his real motivation for that? Or even: he’s not saying anything, but he’s got to be thinking about it.

And more often than not, we never know what he was thinking.  Even the NSA cannot know what we are thinking – unless we choose to put it in an e-mail or a phone call.

That’s where the fiction writer has the advantage. We can know what one of our characters is thinking.  And we can share some of that with the reader. This is a great weapon.

We do this with internalization, internal dialog.  Internalization has three important advantages for the writer.  First, it can tell the reader how the character really feels about something rather than what the outward appearance of the character might reveal.  (For my examples, I’ll put the internalization in italics.)

Example: Two women meet at a class reunion. Natalie says to Janice,

Hi. Glad to see you here. Someone had said you wouldn’t be able to make it this year.” 

Here we have two friends meeting, apparently glad to see one another. But suppose we have a little internalization from Natalie.

And if I’d known you were coming, I’d have stayed home. 

We get two attitudes from Natalie; “Hi, glad to see you.” And “I’d have stayed home.” Which is the reader going to believe? Without a doubt, the internal thought. Why? Since no one else can hear this, why wouldn’t it be the truth?

Second, internalization can reveal the true moral compass of a character.  This is different from number one above which is just her true feeling about a specific thing.

Example: Ryan leaned against the booth, hoping no one else came to try and pitch a quarter into one of the small dishes. I hate these charity things. If the poor people would get out and get a job and work like I do, they wouldn’t be poor. If I didn’t think this might help me get Mildred in the sack, I wouldn’t be within a mile of this sham.

This tells the reader much more about Ryan than Natalie’s bit of internal dialog. This goes to the core character of Ryan.

The third advantage of internalization is the most important: the reader will believe it. Internal thoughts are private. No one else is privy to them. We can think them. It’s okay. They’re private. So, they might as well be the truth.

We all have some feeling that we don’t share with anyone, not our mother, or best friend, or spouse. So, we know the internal thoughts of a character will be true.  We will believe them.

Three quick caveats. Internalization can only come from the POV character.  Second, don’t overwhelm the reader with too much internal dialog. That means, don’t use long segments, and don’t have too many segments. It will lose its power and you may lose your reader. And third, don’t give the reader access to the internal dialog of many characters, even if they have the POV at the time. That may lead to confusion. As a rule, limit it to the protagonist and possibly the antagonist.

Internalization is a powerful tool. Use it, but use it wisely.

Internalization is discussed at length in James Callan’s new book, How to Write Great Dialog, Oak Tree Press, 2014.


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 written articles for a national magazine, and published several non-fiction books.  He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense, with his fifth book released in 2013.  His work has also appeared in a number of anthologies. In addition to writing, Callan presents workshops in the U.S., Mexico, and on the Internet on various phases of writing



Written by williamdoonan

January 14, 2014 at 2:49 am

Posted in Writing

Raiders of the Lost Tombs

with 9 comments

Greetings, Friends!

Today my good friend and fellow author John Daniel has some wisdom to share, and a couple of choice recommendations about some archaeology novels you won’t want to miss!  I’ll turn it over to John:

JMDauthorphoto.2photo by Clark Lohr

I’m presently reading American Caliphate, a spellbinding novel by William Doonan, published in 2012 by Oak Tree Press. It’s an archaeological novel about a “dig” (archaeologists prefer the term “excavation”) on the north coast of Peru, the ancient home of the Moche Indians, who built adobe pyramids. These pyramids, and one pyramid in particular, are of particular interest to a team of North American academic archaeologists, but in this high-stakes adventure novel there are other parties equally interested in what might be found inside a certain tomb. The CIA, for example. The Vatican. A strong-minded old Muslim woman in Lima. And whoever it was that shot and nearly killed Ben and Jila, a pair of romantically involved archaeologists, the last time they poked around the Santiago de Paz pyramids.

American Caliphate has a cast of intelligent, risk-taking characters driven by academic jealousy, political intrigue, religious rivalry, love and lust, outright greed, and insatiable nosiness about the ancient past. The plot is full of danger and discovery. And what these archaeologists discover may confirm rumors that Muslims fleeing the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal brought Islam to the New World.

I won’t give away the ending of American Caliphate for two reasons: I haven’t read the ending yet, and I don’t give away endings. I’ll tell you this much, though: if you haven’t read William Doonan’s American Caliphate yet, you’re in for a treat.


Another archaeological adventure novel I highly admire is Barry Unsworth’s Land of Marvels, which is set in Mesopotamia in 1914, during the twilight of the Ottoman empire, on the verge of the First World War. Here again, we have an excavation by an academic archaeologist, John Somerville, and his team. They feel they’re about to uncover a treasure of history from the Assyrian empire, but they know their work is being threatened by the advancing construction of a German railroad that will connect European capitals to Baghdad. What Somerville doesn’t know is that there are other forces equally covetous of the same patch of desert real estate. There’s a Swiss couple of Christian zealots who join the excavation’s encampment; their goal is to establish a Christian theme park on the supposed site of the Garden of Eden. There’s a dashing American adventurer who poses as an archaeologist but who is really more interested in seducing Somerville’s wife, and even more interested in helping American and/or British oil companies discover and develop oil fields in the same territory. Somerville is further “helped” by an Arab messenger whose concept of the truth is defined by whatever will profit himself the most.

In Land of Marvels, practically nobody is who he or she pretends to be. This is another novel about duplicitous diplomacy, greed, religious rivalry, love and lust, and the conflict between the lessons of the past and the economic opportunities of the future.

Land of Marvels is also a ripping good story. Again, I won’t give away the ending, but I guarantee you a breath-taking surprise.


Now. Have you read The Egyptologist, by Arthur Phillips? Oh boy. Talk about characters who aren’t who they seem to be or claim to be. This is a thrilling, hilarious, frightening tour de force, a delightful puzzle, an outrageous tale of archaeological obsession, greed, love, deception, and madness.

Not up to the task of summarizing the plot of The Egyptologist. I’ll cheat and quote the back-cover copy from the Norton paperback edition:

…a witty, inventive, brilliantly constructed novel about an Egyptologist obsessed with finding the tomb of an apocryphal king. This darkly comic labyrinth of a story opens on the desert plains of Egypt in 1922, then winds its way from the slums of Australia to the ballrooms of Boston by way of Oxford, the battlefields of the First World War, and a royal court in turmoil. Exploring issues of class, greed, ambition, and the very human hunger for eternal life, The Egyptologist is a triumph of narrative bravado.


I see I’m running out of time and space here, so I’ll be brief with my plug for my favorite tomb-robbing novel. Yes, I wrote it. I don’t claim it’s the best of the four, but it is my favorite because I dug through the past to find it, and then I watered it and watched it grow. Then I published it on Kindle, so you can read it.




On the night of June 8, 1918, five officers in the U.S. Army, all of them recent Yale graduates and members of the secret society Skull and Bones, sneaked into the Apache graveyard at Fort Sill Oklahoma, opened the tomb of Geronimo the Terrible, and stole his skull. Whatever happened to that skull, and whatever happened to the ringleader of that moonless, midnight raid? This legendary crime and its consequences are central to John M. Daniel’s novel Geronimo’s Skull, which takes place over twenty-five years in the early twentieth century, from the Saint Louis World’s Fair in 1904 to the stock market crash in 1929. It tells the story of Fergus Powers, and his development from a boy of nine, fascinated by energy and machinery, to a young man in his thirties, poised to take charge of a failing company and turn it into the largest manufacturer of oil drilling equipment in the world. Geronimo’s Skull is romantic and fantastic, full of love and war, friendship and family, magic, danger, and moral quandary. Fergus Powers, the leader of the grave-robbers, is the novel’s guilty hero, hounded for the balance of the book by the Indian warrior’s ghost.

Kindle link: http://www.amazon.com/Geronimos-Skull-John-M-Daniel-ebook/dp/B004IWRCB6

John M. Daniel’s new book is called Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery. For info: http://www.danielpublishing.com/jmd/hooperman.html

Written by williamdoonan

December 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Continent Incontinent: Chapters 1 & 2

leave a comment »


NOTE: Chapters can be found after the CAST OF CHARACTERS.  Please scroll down.  By doing so, you will expend approximately one calorie.  You will become slightly more fit, healthier, and slightly more attractive to members of the opposite sex, or your own sex.  You can’t control who you become attractive to, but you should still scroll down.


on the west coast

Wentworth ‘Daddy’ Burbank – industrialist, age 79
Lila Burbank – Daddy’s sixth wife, age 23
Bradley Burbank – VP of Burbank Banking, age 45
Gary – Bradley’s “friend”, age 30

on the east coast

Hilton Pine – CEO Pine Pharmaceuticals, age 74
Mavis Pine – Hilton’s wife, age 70
Ebenezer Pine, Hilton’s father, age 99
Bort Pine, VP of Pine Pharmaceuticals, age 50

in the old country

Festus MacDuff Burbank – landowner, sheep herder, age 64
Duncan MacDingle Pine – landowner, Festus’s neighbor, age 64

down under

Crocodile Pine – tour guide, age 30

at sea

Briny Burbank – fishing boat captain, age 90

Coming up next: Chapter One – in which Daddy Burbank discovers a puddle.


“Railroads built this country.”  Wentworth ‘Daddy’ Burbank slammed his fist on the desk.  “And railroads built this company.  I’ll be damned if I let that vulture Hilton Pine take over my railroads.”

“Easy Daddy.”  Lila Burbank rubbed her husband’s back, paying special attention to his knobby spine.  “Your blood pressure is rising faster than the hackles on a hungry bloodhound.”

“And I might add, Pops,” Bradley Burbank began, “we’ve already lost the railroads along with everything else.  You’ll recall it was Lila’s idea to invest with Bernie Madoff.”

Lila glared at him, drawing her index finger across her throat before Daddy could turn around.

“In any case,” Bradley continued, “all we have left of the railroad are nine abandoned ticket offices in Wyoming and one caboose.  Hilton Pine has offered us $50,000 for the caboose.  And given the state of our finances, I think we should accept.”

“Never.”  Daddy slammed his fist on the desk again, this time breaking a finger.  “We’ll rebuild.  Start a new railroad.”

“And another thing,” Bradley interrupted.  “Gary and I are buying a timeshare in Coral Gables.  It’s on the beach.”

Daddy looked up.  “Son, it’s time you stopped spending so much time with that boy.  He’s a bit touched.  You’re twenty-four years old.  It’s time to find a nice girl, a big buxom girl, and get married.  Give me some grandchildren, Bradley, before I pass from God’s fine earth.”

“I’m thirty,” Bradley said, “and Gary and I are in love.  That’s why we bought the timeshare.  It will bring us two weeks of pleasure each and every year.”

“Damn, damn, damn.”  Daddy slammed his fist on the desk again, breaking the rest of his fingers.

“What’s wrong, Daddy?”  Lila helped her husband to the couch.  “You knew about Bradley and Gary.  You even like Gary.  He’s good with small engines.”

“It’s not that,” Daddy told her.  “Lila, I think I’ve gone and soiled myself.”

coming up next:  Chapter 2 – in which Lila Burbank makes peace with an old enemy, and with her own urinary sphincter.


Hilton Pine was in no mood to negotiate.  “As long as I’m CEO of Pine Pharmaceuticals,” he told his family, “I’ll never let Wentworth Burbank buy my shares.”

“Easy, Pops.”  Bort stared at the portfolio in front of him.  “It’s a good offer, a generous offer.”

“I built this company from the ground,” Hilton growled.

“Say what?”  Ebenezer Pine lifted his ninety-nine year-old frame from the chair.  “Son, it was me built this company.  All you ever did was run it into the ground.

Hilton cringed.  “I did my best.”

Ebenezer had just about had enough.  “Back in the day we were producing vitamins for babies, vaccines for foreigners, and pain relievers for everyone.  Do we even make any pharmaceuticals anymore?”

Bort opened the portfolio.  “No, Grandpa, we sold off the last of them, the hemorrhoid products last spring.  All all we sell now are pine nuts, pine tar, and Pine-Sol”

“Make the call,” Ebenezer told his grandson.  “Sell it all, except for the Pine-Sol.  I like the smell.”

Bort picked up the phone.  “I’ll tell Lila.  She’s the most reasonable of the bunch.”  He waited as the phone ring.

Lila Burbank was lounging by her pool when the call came.  “Have you fools finally come to your senses?”

“Grandpa says it’s a go,” Bort told her.  “Everything but the Pine-Sol.  He likes the smell.”

Lila giggled.  “Don’t make jokes,” she told him.  “You know I pee when I laugh.”

coming up next: Chapter 3 – in which Ebenezer Pine has an accident.

Written by williamdoonan

October 5, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Fiction

MedicineLand: Chapter Sixty-Eight

leave a comment »

Adam had it planned perfectly.  It would be over in an instant.  He had been waiting nearly 45 minutes in front of the capital building for the meeting to be over.  The governor would exit the main door and then walk the three blocks to the Convention Center to meet the Mexican trade delegates.  There were maybe three hundred people waiting outside here, behind the barricades, waiting for a glimpse of the man, maybe get a chance to shake his hand.  He’d have an entourage, but all Adam needed was a second to shake his hand.  That’s all it would take.

Time to give the governor a taste of his own medicine, he told himself.  Governor Zombie.  One quick dusting, blow the powder on the man’s shirt.  He might not even notice, and if he did, he’d get confused pretty fast.  The powder was so fine it was almost invisible.  Adam’s heart began pounding as the doors opened and the governor stepped out, flanked by several members of the Assembly and Sacramento police.  He was shorter in person than he looked on the big screen.   Adam spotted Billy St. Clair in the group.  He was smiling and waving at the squirrels in the branches overhead.

Adam opened the little case and withdrew one of the white tubes.  Shaking, he put it in his mouth.  Just don’t inhale, he told himself.  That would be bad.  He waited as the governor approached, shaking hands with the crowd, even kissed a baby. He was three feet away when he turned and looked Adam straight in the eye.

Adam nearly wet himself.  He stared back as Arnold Schwarzenegger frowned and shook his head.  The governor walked straight toward him, looking angry.  “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he told Adam.

Adam’s mouth opened and the tube fell to the ground.  “Do what?” he asked.

Schwarzenegger held up his hand and waved a finger back and forth.  “Smoke,” he said, pushing along, looking back to frown at Adam one more time.

Adam backed his way out of the crowd and ran.  He didn’t stop until he got to the rose garden, until Erzulie ran up to him.  He picked her up and reached for Celeste’s hand.  Maybe it was OK to relax now.

Written by williamdoonan

September 19, 2013 at 10:52 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand

MedicineLand: Chapter Sixty-Seven

leave a comment »

Rocky wiped the crumbs from his mouth and opened a bottle of water as he watched Julia swim.  “So this is the end of it?” he called to her.  “You’re just going to give up?”

She swam toward him and rested her arms on the edge of the pool.  “It’s not about giving up,” she said.  “It’s about refocussing.  I just don’t have that much interest in immortality anymore, which is actually good since they took away my funding and my robot.”

Rocky picked up the tray and came over to the edge of the pool.  “You’re telling me you don’t want to live forever now?”

“Well now I know how,” she said.  “It’s simply a matter of very precisely mixing some of the most potent toxins ever found in nature and inducing a massive assault at a cellular level.  It was almost a lost art, Rocky.  But we have it all written down.  All of it.  And Carson will come around.  He’s a scientist before he is anything else.  We were just perhaps unwise not to think through the implications of all of this before we started.”

“You really don’t want to live forever?” he asked, pressing her.

“Not without you, baby,” she said.  “And it only works on women, remember.  Humanity could make it without men, Rocky.  We really could as a species, at least for a few thousand years.  But it wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun.”

“So no more new zombies.”

“Let’s hope not.  What did you find out about ours?”

Rocky ate another piece of cake and showed her the front page of the Sacramento Bee.

“You’re kidding,” she said, climbing out of the pool and grabbing a towel.  “Let me see.”

“Secret Human Experiments at Folsom,” read the headline.

“California State Prison at Folsom – Authorities have yet to respond to the claims of three men who claim they were unjustly prisoned.  Wigbert Gomez, Angel Rivera, and Randall Townsend left Folsom Prison today.  Family members are concerned that their loved ones had been drugged.  Psychiatric evaluations of the three men reveal similar stories; they were sitting on their Harleys outside Petunia’s, a popular bar in Galt, when they were accosted by a woman in a van.  None of the men were able to account for the time period between that encounter and their awakening in the medical ward at Folsom Prison.

“It wasn’t like we’d done nothing bad-like,” Randall Townsend said at his home in Vacaville.  A biking aficionado, Townsend is a full professor in Berkeley’s Physics Department.

Or was, until students began complaining that Professor Townsend was not actually teaching his classes, was actually doing little more than maneuvering through Powerpoint slides.  While students were quick to point out that this was not unusual for Berkeley, the fact that Professor Townsend had done little more than advance the slides for two weeks gave rise to concern.  Berkeley’s Physics Department has temporarily suspended Dr. Townsend from active teaching pending a psychological review.

Wigbert Gomez’s associates at Paint My Car, asked that he be relieved of duty when he insisted on applying paint to windshield wipers.  “It’s pretty,” Wigbert noted before he was ushered into the waiting room.

The sad case of Angel Rivera is by now known to most readers.  After his release from custody, Angel failed to show up for his job at the South Sacramento office of the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Instead, according to family members, he insisted on a surfing trip.  “He was acting strange,” his wife, Annabel Rivera noted.  “First, he suggested I drive to the beach, which he never does because he likes to drive.  Then once we got there, he didn’t want to have anything to eat, which is so not like him.”

According to his daughter-in-law, Mavis Fuente, Angel took his surfboard and headed out into the sea, paddling ever outward without looking back.  “We finally called the police,” Mavis told this reporter, “but by that time, you could barely see him.”

As reported on national television, Angel Rivera apparently kept paddling his board until a rogue wave swept him overboard.  His body was recovered by the coast guard early the next day.

Authorities at Folsom State Prison again declined to address the conditions or circumstance of the incarceration of these three men, and their families are left to wonder.  Our calls for comments have to date gone unanswered.”

“I feel so bad for their families,” Julia said.

“The two still alive, do you think they will ever recover?

Julia shook her head.  “They’ll learn some coping skills.  Repetitive tasks will become second nature, but they’ll never regain the lost cognitive capacity.  This poison destroys entire regions of frontal lobe, almost as effectively as a surgical lobotomy.”

Rocky said nothing.

“You’re thinking about Billy, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” he said.

“How is he?”

“He seems happy enough.  He started his new job.”

“No way,” she said.  “You didn’t really go ahead with that plan.  Please tell me you didn’t.”

“I had to,” Rocky said quietly.

“I think it’s cruel.”

‘We made a deal,” he reminded her.  “That’s why I’m here right now eating cake by my pool with you and not sitting in jail.  I killed a policeman, remember.”

“A zombie policeman.”

“Try selling that to jurors.  We killed thirty-four people, Julia.   And we burnt down a twenty million dollar historical landmark.  Who do you think cleaned all that up after we drove away in a stolen police car?”

“I know,” she said.  “You made a call and Rick Biondi covered it up.”

“No,” he said.  “It was too big.  Schwarzenegger covered it up.  No police, only his personal security on the scene before the firemen got there.  Or maybe after the firemen got there.  It’s hard to say, but read the headline on page twelve, you’ll see that the California Firefighter’s Union just got some major pension dispensations from the governor.”

“Why would he want to cover it up?” Julia asked.  “He got nothing out of it.”

“He wanted a zombie.”

“Well he didn’t get one.”

“Yes he did,” Rocky reminded her.  “That was the deal to keep us all out of jail.  Biondi had Billy’s paperwork done in just a few hours.  Billy is a state worker now, a proud new member of the governor’s security detail.”

“It’s cruel,” she said, slipping into her sandals.

It is cruel, Rocky told himself.  “Wait,” he called after her.  “Can you bring me another one of these cupcakes?  I think I’m addicted.”

Written by williamdoonan

September 16, 2013 at 10:45 am

Posted in Fiction, MedicineLand