Caleb James on Writing Habits and ”Exile”, his latest release (guest blog)



Exile (Haffling #2) by Caleb James
SP Publications

Available for Purchase at

DSP Publications



How to write a book in Thirty Days


Caleb James/Charles Atkins

It’s four in the morning. My oldest cat, Lulu, reluctantly relinquishes my lap and I turn to the computer. Hi-de-ho, hi-de-ho, this is how we go. I boot up Microsoft Word, make a blank file, and change the font to Times New Roman twelve point. Let’s begin.

This is how I write. This is how it gets done. Today it’s a blog post for the virtual tour of my novel, Exile. It’s a high-fantasy story of redemption, and it’s book two in the Haffling trilogy—an intense and lush tale that asks the age-old question, “Can the leopard change its spots?”

But whether I’m prepping a workshop−I give over fifty a year, including ones on writing−working on a novel, or writing an article, short story, or blog piece, my writing habits are a set, daily process. Most successful authors have similar routines. And after fifteen traditionally published books and more than two hundred articles, essays, and short stories in everything from The Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama) to Writer’s Digest Magazine, I know my stuff.

But why, you might ask, do I need to a routine? How boring. Isn’t it all about inspiration and being moved to heights of orgasmic creativity? Not so much. And… it’s the daily regimen that allows for those beautiful and unplanned moments.

On the one hand, it’s absurdly simple. Whether you’re shooting to be the next Stephen King, JK Rowling, or Nora Roberts, or have less lofty and lucrative ambitions, it comes down to the daily word count. Did you meet it or didn’t you? For those who take this stuff seriously, if you didn’t hit your quota, you’re not leaving that keyboard or notepad until you do. By the by, in Stephen King’s On Writing he famously discusses his own ten-page-a-day habit. When I’m plowing through the rough draft of a novel, I do the same, at least on the days I don’t have to go into the office. On the suit-and-tie days, it’s still two to three pages.

The flip side derails many. When it’s time to get the book, essay, op-ed, short story, or recipe out of your head and onto the page, that’s the goal. It’s not about neatness, or grammar, or prose so exquisite that tears stream as you type. Those things can happen, but when you’re vomiting out that rough draft, they’re unimportant. Trying to get it right the first time leads many to the quicksand of writer’s block. Just get it on the page. Here’s a useful mantra, “You can edit later. You can edit later.”

Let’s recap, because we’ve almost got that book written. Set yourself a daily time. It need not be at four in the morning, though serious writers seem to favor either early morning or late in the day/night. Set yourself a word or page count and stick to it. If you go with ten pages a day, the math is simple. After thirty days you’ve got a three-hundred-page manuscript. Oh look. It’s a book.

Yes, it’s a mess. And no, you should show it to no one in that form. But give yourself a pat on the back. Let the manuscript sit for a couple of weeks, maybe even a month, and then take it out. Set yourself a new page count for the first edit, grab a machete, and don’t stop until you’ve got a readable first draft. And there’s an idea for the next essay. So if you want to know how to tighten that manuscript, join me and my good friend and editor extraordinaire, Liz, for the next stop on this blog tour. I think we’ll call it Ten Steps to a Publishable You.


Blurb (EXILE):

Liam Summer, with the face of an angel and the body of an underwear model, has done bad things. Raised as the cat’s paw of a murderous fairy queen, his beauty has ruined many. When Queen May’s plot to unite and rule the fairy and human realms fails, Liam wakes naked and alone in a burning Manhattan building. Unaware the blaze is arson and he its intended victim, Liam prepares to die.

Enter ax-wielding FDNY firefighter Charlie Fitzpatrick, who Liam mistakes for an ogre assassin. As Charlie rescues Liam, he realizes the handsome blond has nowhere to go. So he does what he and his family have always done… he helps.

As for Queen May, trapped in the body of a flame-throwing salamander, she may be down, but she’s not out. Yes, she failed the last time, but Liam and others will pay. She knows what must be done—possess a haffling, cross into the human world engorged with magic, and become queen and Goddess over all.

As Liam realizes the danger they all face, he discovers unexpected truths—that even the most wicked are not beyond redemption, and that love—true love—is a gift that even he can receive.

About the Author


(Caleb James/Charles Atkins)−Caleb James is a pen name used by psychiatrist and author Charles Atkins, MD for his paranormal fiction. He lives and works in Connecticut, is a member of the Yale volunteer faculty, loves a flea market, gives a lot of workshops (including experiential writer’s trainings), and lives with his partner and too many cats.


Web site:


Twitter: @CharlesAtkinsMD

A Free Dreamer Review: Dark Blood by Caleb James


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Dark BloodHandsome, brilliant, and surrounded by good friends, twenty-three-year-old medical student Miles Fox has a secret—and it’s not that he’s gay. Though he harbors a crush on his straight best friend, Luke. Miles, like his grandmother, Anna, possesses the healing gift, an ability she’s made him swear never to use or divulge, lest horrible things befall those he loves. It happened to her when Nazis butchered her family.

But it all goes to hell when Miles heals a terminally ill man on a New Orleans cancer ward and wakes locked in the psych unit. Worse, news of the healing miracle spreads. For millennia, its carriers have been hunted by those who would steal it. Dr. Gerald Stangl and his teenage son, Calvin, know what Miles possesses. They, like their predecessors, will stop at nothing to take it, including kidnapping, torture, and murder. As the Stangls’ noose tightens, Miles and Luke are trapped in a death match with stakes higher than they could ever imagine.

The first sentence of the blurb pretty much made up my mind that I had to read this book. While there’s nothing wrong with a closeted MC, I tend to find stories that solely revolve around coming rather boring a lot of the time. And Miles really doesn’t make a secret of being gay. His love interest, however, is so very deep in the closet he won’t even really admit to himself that he might just be attracted to his very male best friend. While the romance definitely isn’t the driving factor to this story, I still couldn’t help but be a little disappointed by that.

“Dark Blood” does get rather gory. There was talk of vivisection, heads in jars and other atrocities like infecting somebody with a deadly virus on purpose and watching them die. It was a little too gory for me, to be honest. I really didn’t need quite such vivid descriptions.

I quite enjoyed the general idea of the story. Miles has a secret healing power that runs in his family. But his (damn scary) grandmother made him swear that he’d never use it and never, ever reveal it to anybody. Her reasons go back to WW2 and what she witnessed in a concentration camp. That’s where the gore really started.

There’s tons of action and I was most definitely never bored. Everything about Miles’ gift is a big mystery and the unravelling is intriguing.

“Dark Blood” features a set of truly unique characters.

Miles’ grandmother was an awesome secondary character. She’s a kickass woman, who doesn’t hesitate to drive halfway across the country to rescue her grandson. She’s fiercely protective of Miles, even if her methods are a bit questionable at times. I really liked her.

Then there’s the psychopathic Doctor Stangl and his very creepy son. Dr. Stangl was definitely the villain of the story. But his son was a different matter. Yes, he did commit some pretty bad crimes, but he did also show regret and only committed those crimes because he was terrified of his father. He was intriguing.

That brings me to the one thing I genuinely didn’t like about this book: the “villains”. They were Nazis. I hate it when a book set in modern times has Nazi villains. I don’t like reading about WW2 and I definitely don’t want to have Nazis and concentration camps and all the horrors dumped in my lap in the middle of a supernatural story set in the year 2015. And those horrors were described in vivid detail.

It always makes me doubt the author’s creativity. Nazis are such obvious villains. Nobody will question their evilness. Maybe Dr. Stangl wasn’t strictly a Nazi, but he definitely sympathized with them. And to me, he read like one anyway.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be any stories with Nazis in them or about WW2, I’m only saying that I, personally, don’t like to read them and that I’d like a warning, if it’s not obvious from the period the book is set in.

Overall, though, I did enjoy the book. It was intriguing and full of action, with quite a few surprises. If it weren’t for the gory parts and the Nazi villains, this book could have been truly brilliant.

If you can stomach the gore, I’d recommend this book to any fan of supernatural m/m. Just don’t expect an epic romance. This is a DSP title, so the romance is not the most important part of the story.

I’m not entirely sure if I will read the sequel when it comes out. The ending did make me curious, but I’m worried there’ll be even more gore and Nazi conspiracies. I guess it all depends on the blurb.

Cover: The cover by Alan M. Clark shows Miles surrounded by heads in jars. It’s kind of gross, but really fits the story.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 294 pages
Expected publication: June 28th 2016 by DSP Publications
Edition LanguageEnglish