Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Interview for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine

I recently was invited along with seven other authors to answer some questions for an upcoming article that will appear in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. The article, geared for teens, tackles the
Me wearing my granddaughter's
at a Bar-b-q restaurant
age-old question, "So, you want to be a Writer?" Once the article appears, I will post the link below. In the meantime, I thought it would be good for you, my readers, and the teen readers of this article to see my full responses to the questions asked.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
It really kind of grew into a passion. There really wasn’t one “Aha!” moment. No shooting star, skywriting finger of God, message in a bottle, nothing like that. I just started getting ideas, and the urge to get them down on paper would not relinquish.

What is your educational background?
I have a B.A. from Houghton College (Houghton, NY) in Bible, with a minor in theology. I have an M.A. in Christian Studies from Wesley Biblical Seminary (Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from National-Louis University (Wheeling, IL). I also have taken several courses from the School of Hard Knocks. J

How long did you write before you considered yourself professional?
I still feel that’s an ongoing pursuit. My friends and fellow writers probably see me as a professional, now with five books published, three more on the way and contracted, and a literary agent. However, there is always room to grow, learn, and gain perspective on your own writing, for you’re never quite as good as you think you are.  

What were some of the milestones on the way?
I currently have Book 4 of my Blake Meyer Thriller Series available in pre-order! It releases April 25. I also have the last two books of the series and another standalone novel contracted. All three will be out between Dec. 2019 and the fall of 2020. I have also submitted the first two novels I wrote (The Serpent’s Grasp & 30 Days Hath Revenge) to contests, because I wanted to see how my writing measured up. The Serpent’s Grasp was my debut novel, and it won the 2013 Selah Award at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference for First Fiction. My second novel (30 Days) was a Silver Medalist in the 2013 Reader’s Favorite competition in the Christian Fiction category. So, with that success, I’m planning on submitting my standalone novel, The Letters, to any and every Christian contest out there when it comes out in January 2020.

What is the most rewarding?
Most rewarding? To see my grandchildren take an interest in reading and writing because “Papa T” is an author. That’s better than any review I could receive, although good reviews are like the dessert!

What advice do you have for a high school student who is considering a career in writing?   
Pay very close attention in English class. As an assistant principal in a high school, I know what I’m talking about. The writer’s tools are words. His nailing, her sawing becomes the sentence. The sentences are pieced together to make a structure we call story. However, the story is the blueprint, from which all the other parts are derived. So, listen to your English teachers. Learn the language. Subjects. Verbs. Strong verbs. Weak verbs. Direct and indirect objects. All those things that cause your classmates’ eyes to glaze over are the diamonds, the pearls, for a budding writer. Then, pay attention in your other classes, too, for you never know what bit of information from a science class or a history lesson may spark something in your imagination that causes a story to emerge.

Please give a brief statement of the kind of writing you do and who you write for.  
I write suspense thrillers. The Serpent’s Grasp is a Jurassic Park meets Jaws kind of book. The Blake Meyer Series is for those who love the TV show 24 with Jack Bauer. Yet, my upcoming book, The Letters, is set at Christmas, and has been called “A Christmas Carol-esque” by some readers with a strong, redemptive message. As for who I write for, I write for everybody. But mostly, I write for me. It’s what I love to do. Some people like gardening. Others like fishing. I like writing. 

Until next time!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Author Behind the Story - Sandra Glahn

I was recently in a classroom wherein the teacher asked the students, who were all standing in a circle (participating in what is called a Restorative Practice circle), to describe their spring break in three words or less. Since I was in the room, I thought it would be fun, so I participated at the teacher's request.

Several answers were similar and could be summed up with these three responses: "Boring." "Went to Beach." "Stayed at home." When it got to me, my answer was, "Busy. Busy. Busy." We had just helped our middle daughter's family move three hours away in preparation for a new job (ministry) adventure. This coupled with writing, family life, yard work, and that thing called sleep, there was little time to do anything else but be busy...on of all things, a break.

Enter our next guest. I'm sure she knows all about being busy with life's requests, demands, and everyday requirements. So, pull up a chair, have a sit, and let us welcome to the Florida front porch professor and author, Dr. Sandra Glahn!

Hi, Sandra! Give us a quick bio. In fifty words or less, who is Sandra Glahn?

I’m a seminary professor, author, journalist, Hufflepuff, Enneagram 9 who loves to advocate for thinking that transforms, especially as it relates to art, literature, gender, and first-century backgrounds/history.

I have to admit, I had to look up the Enneagram 9 thing. I had never heard of it. Now that I know what it is, I'm an Enneagram 45 (that's all of them added together, because I can identify with at least one of those descriptions in each of the nine categories. Probably not how it really works, but I've learned I don't always operate as designed, either.)  

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life? 

When I was in the second grade, my teacher believed I could write. So she gave me a personalized assignment: I had to write her a new story daily. She never made corrections, but rather exclaimed about how brilliant I was. Third grade came as a shock when I had a teacher who corrected me. But by then it was too late—I had the writing bug.

Still I had missed something essential. When I was in sixth grade, my family moved from Keizer, Oregon, to an urban setting two miles outside of Washington, D.C.  I loved that I finally had friends to hang out with in the neighborhood. So I set out to gather the kids on my block to present a play I was going to write. And I got enthusiastic response. So I sat down at my parents’ typewriter, whipped the paper in… and stared at the page. In that moment I realized words would not simply form a plot by themselves. A story had to have characters, setting, and action that led somewhere. I had never noticed someone had to create all those elements—and in drama, they had to happen without the background info a story can provide. I went to the library and found a play we could use so I wouldn’t have to produce one overnight. And I started paying attention to “story” and how it worked.

What educational background do you have? 

I started high school in Arlington, Virginia. But in April of my junior year, my mountain-climber dad took early retirement from the government so he could return to the Pacific Northwest. I wore my cap and gown in Albany, Oregon. But ASAP I headed back to the DC area to college and my boyfriend. After we married and finished our bachelor’s degrees, we moved to Dallas so my guy could attend grad school. And I got hired by a big financial-services corporation and assigned to a boss who believed I could write—even though I had no formal training. He sent me to get some training on the company dime. And I became publications editor for an in-house magazine and started freelancing on the side. 

When the company sold, I opened a writing business and started taking writing classes at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS)—which has an arts and culture program. I had no intention of getting a degree. But if you “enroll and pass” enough times at a grad school, turns out you’ve earned a degree. So I got a master’s in theology with an emphasis in Media Arts and Ministry. And I began teaching writers there on the side, thanks to my portfolio.

Then I started my PhD at the University of Texas at Dallas in the Arts and Humanities—Aesthetic Studies. An Aesthetic Studies degree requires a three-part emphasis—art, philosophy, and history. For history I chose Ephesus from BC 100 to AD 100; for art I chose literature/the novel (by then I was publishing medical suspense); and for philosophy I chose the history of ideas about gender. Today I’m interim chair of the department at DTS where I started taking classes, working to help students integrate the arts/culture and theology.

I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite.

Favorite Song of All-Time: The Doobie Brothers’ “Listen to the Music.” Greatness.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Gospel Women is an academic book that looks at the named women in the Gospels. Seeing how badly we, especially in the West, have misunderstood some of them influenced my decision to serve as general editor of Vindicating the Vixens.
Favorite Bible Verse: I love Lamentations 3:22–23 at its most poetic in the English language—rendered in the King James Version (KJV): “It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Plus the hymn that puts these lines to music.
Favorite Movie: Three Days of the Condor, Robert Redford version; I love mystery + espionage. There’s no actor who can pull off subtlety like Redford.
Favorite Actor or Actress: I’m partial to Harrison Ford. Star Wars is the gold standard.
Favorite TV Show: My current favorite is Madame Secretary. I love learning government and civics via story vs. listening to lectures. And I appreciate that the show has a character who quotes Aquinas like it’s no big deal.   
Favorite Novel (other than your own): I adore The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. I once read the Amazon reviews—there were hundreds of them—and many reviewers claimed the book had moved them from atheism to belief in God.    
Favorite Author (other than you): Eugene Peterson, best known for translating “The Message,” has, methinks, the best pastoral helps in the world. Like…his book on Jonah, Under the Unpredictable Plant, is witty and wise. His stuff on subversive spirituality…so much great content.
Favorite Sport: I live in Dallas. Duh. Football.   
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level):  I’ve been a Cowboys fan since long before I moved to Texas. So I come by my fandom honestly.    
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: Whatever had the best teacher. Seventh grade, English. Eighth grade, Science. Ninth grade, Yearbook. Seeing a pattern here? Nope? Yeah, it was the teacher, not the subject. 
Favorite Subject Now: Give me history—those reclaiming women, especially. Even an academic book like Gender and Jim Crow. History and English are the best preps possible for a writer—the learning of the rules and the introduction to endless stories.
Favorite Teacher in School: My second-grade teacher at Keizer Elementary, Miss Fikan (later Mrs. McLaughlin), believed I could write. I wish I could find her to tell her how she inspired me.
Favorite Time of the Year: I love Thanksgiving with sweaters after the long Texas sweat-fests called July and August. No pretense or obligation to give in that holiday—just show up with great food to eat more great food and enjoy people you love. (We lived in the Fort Worth area for six months. Everybody said it was a dry heat. They lied.)
Favorite Place to Vacation: Grand Teton National Park is the most beautiful place on earth. Dornan’s for breakfast outside looking up at the range; hiking around Jenny Lake; dogsledding in the winter; powder-blue birds; elk drinking water while steam rises around their ankles.
Favorite Drink: Tall soy mocha, no whip.
Favorite Food:  I adore dark chocolate. But there is also this carbonara served by a restaurant in Orvieto, Italy, that makes me swoon.  

Do you have a favorite line from a movie or book? If so, what is it and explain why it is special to you?

I love the part in The Velveteen Rabbit about becoming real. And the “grace” scene in Les Mis when the old man hands over the candlesticks to the thief. But even more than these, I love the scene in A Wrinkle in Time where Meg realizes that perfect love casts out fear. I remember where I was standing as a sixth grader when I read that, because the truth of it hit me with so much force. It was several years before I realized L’Engle was weaving in a line from Scripture. The Tale of Two Cities had the same effect on me when one man laid down his life for another.   
Don't you love it when literature takes Biblical truth and weaves it into the story, bringing it alive? Besides storytelling, what talents do you have?

I love to sing. And I love to teach—but not in the conventional lecture format. Immersive learning. One course I created for DTS is “Medieval Art and Spirituality,” held biennially in Italy. We stay in monasteries, learn to read visual encyclopedias (i.e., cathedrals), and have long, deep conversations with scholars surrounded by local wines and pasta. The whole world is our classroom as we explore Aquinas and Dante and Catherine and mosaics and Roman ruins.

On the even years, I take students to the UK to explore “British Authors, Biblical Themes.” Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, Donne, Herbert, Lewis, Tolkien, Chesterton… I can hardly wait to teach these courses every year, because I love seeing my students’ eyes light up learning the content in embodied ways. For my Creative Writing course, I deliver a workshop in live time across the world—so now students don’t have to move to Dallas, but we still get that great in-the-moment, face-to-face feedback. I seem to have an inner GPS that helps me find the intersection of what people need to know and how they can best learn it. Also, I am good at discerning the difference between lousy and great chocolate. And I have a talent for finding good coffee shops.   

Hmm...I need one of those kind of jobs...

Tell us about what project you are currently working on.

I co-teach a seminary course on sexual ethics that looks at gender issues (e.g., male/female norms and stereotypes, LGBT issues, trans-sexuality), porn, and all sorts of other challenges related to life in the body that ministry leaders need to better understand. I’m working as a general editor on that compilation, with each chapter written by someone whose expertise lies in the subject of the chapter or in Biblical Studies relating to the topic. So I’m more curator than writer—though some writers do need more help with prose than others. The book has the super exciting title, Sexual Ethics.

Tell us about your writing day. How do you go about writing?

I start the day with a cup of coffee, and I try to complete a few pages in a published Bible study—rather than a devotional. I like the straight-up text, not a commentary about the text. In addition to deepening my faith walk, Bible reading affects the syntax and meter of my prose. Often after reading, I head for the gym, where I listen to Audible books while sweating. I listen to a wide range from The Nightingale to Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility to a Great Courses option on the Middle Ages. All of this I consider part of the writing process.

Mid-mornings is my peak butt-in-chair time. And I’m terrible at writing in snatches. I need blocks of uninterrupted time with no technology except my laptop—often offline. Not easy to pull off. I answer endless e-mails; these force me to write but suck the soul out of me. Though sometimes I copy what I’ve written to someone in an e-mail and use it in other prose. After dinner, I get back to the laptop to create.

That’s daily. But weekly, I work hard always to have one day off from doing any work—including writing. The day is generally Saturday evening to Sunday evening. That Sabbath for down time in my life is key to both my sanity and my writing creativity. A friend once observed that the thing that makes lace beautiful is the holes; and like lace, I have to have holes in my life, or my life and what I produce lack beauty.

Has your writing crossed over into other areas? If so, how? If not, will it?

I’m probably my agent’s nightmare, because I don’t stick with one genre (though he never complains). But my writing students love that I can connect them with publishers and editors I’ve worked with producing Bible studies, academic works, trade books, corporate publications, magazines, and websites. From my start with a corporate publication, I branched out to freelance non-fiction. From there I added books. I wrote a couple on infertility and pregnancy loss (When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden [Kregel] and The Infertility Companion [Zondervan]); and one for married couples—Sexual Intimacy in Marriage (Kregel), due out soon in its fourth edition. One of my coauthored novels, Lethal Harvest, garnered a Christy nomination. And my most recent novel was Informed Consent (Cook).

I especially love the non-fiction compilation I mentioned, Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible (Kregel Academic). Profits on that benefit the International Justice Mission. The book was released last year in the height of #MeToo and #ChurchToo, even though I’ve been working on it for ten years and had nothing to do with the timing. It was thrilling to see God use the work of sixteen scholars to help readers revisit the stories of a select group of women whose old, old stories we need to see through less prejudiced eyes. And in the middle of all these projects, I’ve written the Coffee Cup Bible Study series, which has eleven titles. The most recent is Earl Grey with Ephesians. I love variety more than I love one genre. Can you tell?

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

In terms of my writing and academic life, time with the apostle Paul would certainly help solve some mysteries in his writing! But in terms of simply hanging out, I’d go for the woman at the well in Samaria. In the post-Reformation West, we picture her as this young, flirtatious thang. But prior to the Reformation, she had a reputation as a solid widow. She even has a name and a post-script to her story in the Eastern Orthodox tradition: the martyr Photina (Svetlana).

Every Easter preachers remind people that women in Palestine were not a happening thing in courts of law. Yet when we teach John 4 about this woman, suddenly we say she dragged five men into divorce court before shacking up with #6. Since the number-one cause of death for men at the time was war, it’s much more likely this woman had her heart broken multiple times by men killed in action before she had to share a husband as a concubine in order to eat.

Jesus is so subtle about his identity, refusing to answer John the Baptist directly when he sends his people to ask if Jesus is the actual Messiah. The Lord keeps deflecting or telling people not to tell everybody when he heals them—the crowds are big enough to impede him as it is. But to this woman who is holding out hope that when Messiah comes, he will explain everything, Jesus comes right out and says it: Ego eimi. That’s Koine Greek for I AM (John 4:26), the very name of God (Exodus 3:4). With her, Jesus is willing to risk his disciples wondering why he would bother talking to a woman (v. 27). So I’d love to talk to her myself—or rather, listen to her tell her story.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

I backpacked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back when I had not worked out to prepare. I was 27 years old and considered my body indestructible. My dad and father-in-law, both of whom were over 65 years, handled that trek better than I did. Oh, the arrogance! It was so dumb. Months went by before I could go down stairs without pain in my knees. 

Why do you live where you live?

I’m a fifth-generation Oregonian living in Dallas, Texas. What is up with that? Do I get beauty withdrawal symptoms? Absolutely. I’ve lived in “Big D” for more than thirty years, and sometimes I still experience culture shock in this gun-totin’, gas guzzlin’, chaw-chewin’ place. When I recycle, sometimes people look at me cross-eyed. And when people insist, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” I mutter “except mountains and rivers.” But we love our jobs and the people with whom we’ve established decades of friendship here. And our daughter is Texas-born and -bred. So we hoard frequent-flier miles like squirrels with nuts and travel as much as possible.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover? 

I love to write. And I’ve found when it comes to biblical content that writing helps me clarify what I believe. Someone once asked Madeleine L’Engle if her faith influences her writing, and she said it’s the other way around—her writing influences her faith. The same is true for me. If my prose lacks clarity, it’s usually because I myself have some fuzziness in my thinking, so I have to go back and figure out what I actually believe.

I love the flexible hours and spaces of writing. If I wake up at 3 am with an idea, I can write. If I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Italy, I can do my work. I can write in my jammies. I can work from a hospital bed. I can do work I love virtually anywhere in the world—once on a boat in the expanse of ocean between the Galapagos Islands, where my father-in-law wanted to take a bucket-list trip. I could write when I stayed home with a young child, and God willing, I’ll still write when I’m old and frail.

I love this quote: "If my prose lacks clarity, it’s usually because I myself have some fuzziness in my thinking, so I have to go back and figure out what I actually believe." I'm in that very boat right now as I contemplate writing a non-fiction work on The Sermon on the Mount. 

Sandra, it's been a pleasure! And I'm sure our readers will wish to look up your writing ministry online, so where can they find you?

They can find me here:

Twitter: @SandraGlahn

Thank you, readers, for stopping by today! Feel free to share this interview (and any of the others on this blog site) with family and friends. Who knows, you may "turn them on" to a new author they may have not known existed otherwise. :-)

Until next time, 


(And don't miss Kevin's new release, When the Clock Strikes Fourteen (A Blake Meyer Thriller - Book 4! It's out in pre-order now...Release Date is April 25th!)

Friday, March 22, 2019

May This Blog Haunt You Pleasantly - Part 3 ( A Seriously Write Blog)

We’ve arrived. Part 3 completes this blog trilogy revolving around my reading of Les Standiford’s The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits (You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here). As I stated before, if you want to learn about the writing life and how other writers who have gone on before us have endured the trials and tribulations therein, reading about them is just as important as reading about the craft itself. For one thing I found when learning about Dickens’s life was how universal some things are. It truly is a small world.

To read the rest of the article, clock HERE! And don;t forget to come back and check out other articles, author interviews, podcasts, and more!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Kevin's a Guest on the Lena Nelson Dooley Show - Along Came a Writer Network - Blog Talk Radio

If you missed the interview Kevin did with Lena on critique groups as well as talking about his latest upcoming release in his Blake Meyer Thriller series, When the Clock Strikes Fourteen (Book 4), then click on the link below and you can
catch the 30-minute interview in its entirety!

Thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Author Behind the Story - Donn Taylor

It's that time of year...

Birds chirping. Bees buzzing. Warm wind blowing. And Christian writing conferences blossoming all around.

For those fortunate enough to attend this year, make sure you take full advantage of all the offers, contacts, and knowledge you gain in those few short days. You'll be the better writer for it.

Speaking of writers who are making the most of it, I want you to welcome my next guest on the Florida front porch. Please, pull up a chair, and welcome Donn Taylor!

Welcome, Donn! For those who don't know you (yet), in fifty words or less, tell them who Donn Taylor is?  

I grew up in small-town America, completed an Army career (Infantry in the Korean War, Army Aviation in Vietnam), earned a PhD in English literature and taught it for eighteen years. Afterward, I wrote poetry and novels, and taught poetry writing at writers’ conferences. At age 89, I’m still writing.

Okay, so you just described the life I want to live when I grow up. Wow. (And thank you for your service!) 

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

That was 1947. I was 17 and in my second year of college. I’d entered as a music major with a wild ambition to become a concert pianist. I loved the emotional expression of music, and I’d written several piano pieces and songs. But I also ran track—in my two years of college track I never lost a two mile—and that gave me the only place I could compete with the returning WW II veterans. So there was a conflict between track and piano, and there was a further conflict while I figured out what to do about Christianity. I kept asking for a call, but no call came. (It never did. I only got open doors or closed doors. That is the way God has directed my life.)

In that year, though, the emotion of music ceased to be enough. There had to be something beyond it. Track did not pall, but I always knew it couldn’t be the centerpiece of my life. But in that year of confusion I discovered literature: challenging ideas expressed in beautiful language, still with plenty of emotion. The romantic poets, of course, appropriate for my age. I thought I’d like to write things like that.

So I tried. I wrote some bad short stories and worse poetry. It hadn’t occurred to me that both prose and poetry had techniques that must be learned. So I floundered. I’d write a good line now and then, but the following lines would be clunkers.

These inner conflicts got interrupted, unresolved, in the summer of 1948. The Cold War heated up. Congress renewed the draft. To avoid being drafted for 19 months’ service, I enlisted for 12 with a reserve contract. So everything went on hold. Upon my discharge, I emerged into a different world.

Are you married? Single? Have kids?

Mildred and I were married for 61 years, seven months, and four days before the Lord promoted her to heaven. We fell in love while snowbound in a small town in Northeast Mississippi. When the snow melted (no help from us), we were engaged. We were married as soon as I finished college and was commissioned in the Army. She was the perfect wife through my twenty years of Army, several years of graduate school, and eighteen years as a professor. After retirement, we found a place in the Texas woods and enjoyed what we’d always wanted: unlimited time together. Our lifetime love story is told in a Valentine’s Day post at

We claim that our four grown children and their spouses have it all covered: There’s an engineer to build it, a CPA to cost it, three lawyers for the legal implications, an Air Force officer to defend it, and a liberal arts major to tell what it means.

We also have eight grandchildren, and the current count of great-grandchildren stands at four.

I’m going to give you a shotgun list of favorites. List your favorite in each category and then tell us in one sentence why it is your favorite.

Favorite Song of All-Time: “Skylark.” Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael threw off the usual restraints and wrote something beautiful on its own terms.
Favorite Non-Fiction Book (other than your own & besides the Bible): Mark Moyar: Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War 1954-1965. Moyar’s meticulous scholarship, including use of Communist sources, replaces journalists’ politicized versions of the war with genuine history.
Favorite Bible Verse: John 11:25. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” It has given me comfort and reassurance in the five years since the Lord promoted Mildred.
Favorite Movie: My Man Godfrey (1936). Screen writer Morrie Ryskind at his irrepressible best.
Favorite Actor or Actress: Eleanor Parker. She played an unusual variety of parts, all well, and she could sprint like a male.
Favorite TV Show: “Maverick.” It is an excellent blend of drama and humor made lively by James Garner’s acting.
Favorite Novel (other than your own): Gavin Lyall: The Wrong Side of the Sky. It has good suspense, and its flights are in the Mediterranean area where my pilots were flying.
Favorite Author (other than you): John Milton. His work has grandeur of thought and poetry that has never been equaled.
Favorite Sport: Basketball. I loved the intricacy of it, and I kept playing it until age 56, when my shoulders quit on me.
Favorite Team (Can be any sport, any level): Football by The University of Texas Longhorns. They are well coached and perform well—especially in the national championship years.
Favorite Subject in School Growing Up: Latin, I guess. I was fascinated by its grammatical patterns.
Favorite Subject Now: Renaissance literature. At its best it has a breadth and depth that have not been equaled since.
Favorite Teacher in School: Professor Norman Farmer at The University of Texas. Always helpful, he guided me into a deeper understanding of literature and supervised my doctoral dissertation.
Favorite Time of the Year: Winter. It’s my most memorable because Mildred and I fell in love while we were snowbound.
Favorite Place to Vacation: Heidelberg, Germany. I love the music, the wines, and the unique spirit.
Favorite Food: Filet Mignon at the Longhorn Steak House. The steak is so good that you award the cow a posthumous decoration.
Favorite Drink: Merlot (red wine). It’s the perfect complement to a good Filet Mignon.

Do you have a favorite line from a movie or book? If so, what is it and explain why it is special to you?

From a bit player in His Girl Friday (1940): “She ain’t no albino. She was born right here in the USA.” Screenwriters of the classic movies gratified their audiences with sudden and unexpected laughs in the midst of serious stories. I learned this trick from them and use it in my suspense novels.

Of all the stories/books you have written, which one is your favorite? And what compelled you to write this story?

It’s a hard choice, but I guess it’s my historical novel Lightning on a Quiet Night.  It’s set in 1948 in Northeast Mississippi, where Mildred grew up and where I lived for several years. She and I researched it together in the Tupelo, MS, public library and the state archives in Jackson.

We also believed that the ordinary citizens of Mississippi had rarely been treated fairly in fiction. So I wrote about them as we had known them--well-intentioned, practical small-town grocers, bankers, garage owners, and farmers who made up most of the state’s population. They were people content to make an honest living for their families and make their corner of the world a little bit better than they found it.

But they were not without the vices common to mankind. That combination let me portray greater depth and complexity of character than the suspense or mystery genres do. The result: “A town too proud of its own virtues has to deal with its first murder.” Which people in the town adjust to the newfound knowledge of evil? Which cling to the old self-image in spite of that knowledge? How do church-going people respond to the new conditions? How well are returned WW II veterans re-integrating themselves into the community? How do people contend with their own personal problems while this shadow hangs over the town? Are there old loyalties now brought into conflict? Questions like these allowed me to write directly about faith and Christian experience
while remaining true to the tone and pace of the community.

I must have done okay, for the novel was a finalist for the Selah Awards, and Publishers Weekly wrote, “Taylor’s powerful historical romance is filled with passion and heart, spiced with mystery and
a keen understanding of the human condition.”

Small world, isn't it? I went to seminary in Jackson. Preached in several rural churches in the small towns around the state. You're right. They are cloistered in many ways. 

So, tell us about what project you are currently working on.

I’m in the early stages of a fourth book in the Preston Barclay Mystery Series. This one gives Professor Barclay a different kind of problem in a different setting. In the first two books of the series he is on his home campus. In the third he is visiting the state university. This time he is vacationing at a small, remote resort in the mountains. The main writing problem is to see how his personality and methods change in this different environment. The working title is Murder at Rest.   

Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others?

I would begin by telling the aspiring writer to sit down and start writing because he’ll never get anything written if he doesn’t. That done, though, I would tell him to accept the fact that becoming proficient will take a lot longer than he thinks. Writing is a skill like playing piano or basketball. You don’t become proficient in either without learning techniques and practicing their use. Michael Jordan was not a champion the first time he walked onto the court. He became one through diligent learning and practice. It’s the same in writing: you have to learn techniques and practice them before you become proficient. For the techniques, study a good reference like James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure. Then write, write, write, incorporating those techniques into your work.

One other encouragement: I was already proficient in technical writing and scholarly writing when I began to write fiction. But it took me more than a year of study and practice to learn to write acceptable fiction.

It takes work, but you can get it done if you stay with it.

Isn't that true of anything worth doing? I tell that to the students I deal with day in and day out. Worthwhile endeavors never come easy or quick. 

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Let’s start with sources. I use books of names, of course, but for variety I also save a monthly magazine’s “In Memoriam” pages. For foreign names, I use foreign language dictionaries, e.g., Italian, French, German, and Latin. This doesn’t mean I know those languages. It just means I’m willing to dig.

But the fun is finding names to indicate the character of people and places. English literature is filled with suggestive names. Who can forget Shakespeare’s Doll Tearsheet or Sheridan’s Benjamin Backbite?

I do try to reveal character, but less obviously. In The Lazarus File, the hero is surnamed Daniel (God is my judge). The Cuban revolutionary is Tizon (firebrand) and a jealous, usurping younger brother is Ignacio (Burning). The mature heroine is Sol Agueda de Roca (Sunlight, sublime, strength like a rock). Places too, when the name can add something: The hometown of one villain is Malavispa (mal = evil, avispa = wasp). The elaborate hoax played on another villain occurs in the Bar Arenque Roja (Red Herring Bar). The sexy temptress says her home is Miraje (Mirage).

For the small country town in Lightning on a Quiet Night, the ordinary characters have ordinary names: Jack Davis, Hollis Wilson, Jimmy Fletcher—but some with local flavor (Precious Pendleton) or a suggestion of the town’s Christian heritage (Shiloh Simpson, Jacob Weaver). However, the town gossip is Mrs. Telebit.

The Preston Barclay mysteries, set on college campuses, required a different approach. The faculty needed names suggesting a certain dignity: Lincoln Sheldon, Robert Harkins. But a comic character is named Dean Billig (Billig = cheap). When he is made dean of the college he becomes Dean Dean Billig, or Dean-Dean.

I don’t expect readers to follow all of these names. But they say they enjoy them, and that’s good enough for me.

If you had one person you could meet (think outside the Bible here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be?

I actually can only get it down to two. The first would be Dante Alighieri (c. A.D. 1265-1321). I would ask about some of the obscure allegorical references in The Divine Comedy (e.g., the Greyhound). The other would be the British naval hero of the Napoleonic Wars, Horatio Hornblower (c. 1778-1858). I would ask how he rescued the Maltese slaves from the African despot without paying a cent or firing a shot.

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

John the Apostle. He could probably tell me more about Jesus than any other biblical character, and he would add a theological dimension to the narrative. 

We know “Readers are leaders, and leaders are readers.” Is there a book you’ve read in the past five years or so that has helped you become a better you? If so, which one was it, and how did it affect your life?

Yes. It is C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. I’d read it years before, but our church asked me to teach it to a couples’ class. It reinforced (once again) my perception of Christianity as the only viable philosophy of life, and it moved on into practical problems of Christian living. Pretty much by osmosis, I found myself thinking and living in the terms that Lewis lays out in that work. I’m still thinking and living that way.

Funny you should mention that book. It's the one I quote and use as the basis for my Blake Meyer Thriller Series. The quote about no being able to find peace apart from God because it is not there? Awesome words, they are.

What Bible scripture has impacted your life the most, and why?

I can’t tie this down to a single series of verses. So I have to cite the two books of Ecclesiastes and Hebrews, taken together and including the tone of each. In a tone of resignation, Ecclesiastes describes the drab quality of life “under the sun” and the limited satisfactions it affords. Despite its mentions of God, its vision of time is merely cyclic—repeated cycles of life and death with no particular destination for mankind: “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever” (Eccl. 1:4). But the tone of Hebrews is one of triumph. Its view encompasses this life “under the sun” but extends beyond it into the heavens. The view of time is not cyclic, but linear: Generations from the Beginning lead up to the life and crucifixion of Christ, and through His resurrection into a glorious future. “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels . . . (Heb. 12:22) To me, the two books contrast the colorless life without knowledge of Christ to a life in which the knowledge of Christ transforms the drab world into technicolor and the expectancy of a joyous completion in heaven.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

Ever since I can remember, some kind of music has been playing in my head. Usually it’s something I’ve heard, sometimes pop and sometimes classical. Yesterday the pop was a Tommy Dorsey recording, “Song of India,” and the classical was Strauss’s overture to die Fledermaus. And sometimes it’s music I’ve never heard. This experience and a New York Times article on musical hallucinations gave me the idea for the central character in the Preston Barclay Mystery Series. I hasten to say, however, that everything else about Professor Barclay is fictional. 

Is Preston any relation to William? Just wondering. :-)

Donn, it's been a pleasure. You're knowledge of literature comes through loud and clear. 

For those of you who wish to get to know Donn more, his sites are listed below:

Donn's page on Amazon, offering all of his books, is
Twitter: (He admits he doesn't tweet much, but it's here nevertheless.)
Donna also has a blog describing the action of God in his life titled A Quiet Assurance, and it can be found here:  
Donn's website is

Thanks to everyone for stopping by! 

Until next time, may God bless America, and may America bless God!


Friday, February 22, 2019

May This Blog Haunt You Pleasantly - Part 2 (A Seriously Write blog)

In last month’s Part 1 of “May This Blog Haunt You Pleasantly,” I stated how important it is for writers to read about other writers. Whether they were trailblazers or path-wideners, each writer has his or her own story. Being as human as we are, those stories paint for us pictures of triumph and tragedy…two things from which we can learn. 

As I read Les Standiford’s The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits over the holidays, there were some things that jumped off the page for me, and I thought I’d share them here at Seriously Write.

Last time, we looked at Gleaning #1, which was:

Authors have always wished to get their works in as many readers’ hands as possible, sometimes at the chagrin of their publishers (if they are traditionally published) or themselves (if they are independently published). And if not handled properly, it can become an all-consuming fire.

One little tidbit I didn’t mention at the end of last month’s post was how all-consuming that fire had become for Dickens. By the 1850s, his relationship with his wife Catherine had become so estranged, they divorced after twenty-two years of marriage and ten children. Rumors tossed about suggested Charles had been involved in “an illicit affair” (is there really any other type when married?) with a younger woman. Dickens took such offense that he used the front page of his then current magazine, Household Words, to argue to the contrary. 1

As much as this writing life can become a soul-wrenching conflagration on a personal level, this passion we often champion at writers conferences can worm its way into the writer’s business relationships as well, which leads us our next point of interest:

Gleaning #2: The constant tension between authors and publishers will always be a constant. So, get used to it.

For the remainder of the article, click HERE!


1 Standiford, Les. The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits. Broadway Books; New York, NY, 2017. pp. 210-211.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Author Behind the Story - Donna L. H. Smith

Snow is falling in Hawaii. Schoolchildren in Michigan, I'm told, have lost in upwards of sixteen days of school because of the frigid temperatures and dangerous driving conditions. Cars are piling up on the freeways in Wisconsin. It would seem global warming is definitely a myth.

Yet, it's 80 degrees and above here. I was sweating today. The mid-summer, sun beating down, no sweet tea to be found kind of perspiring. We truly live in a wacky world these days. 

However, there's nothing wacky about our next guest. So, without further reports of treacherous conditions, please welcome Donna L. H. Smith!

Donna, give us a quick picture of yourself. In fifty words or less, who is Donna L. H. Smith? 

Hi, I’m Donna L.H. Smith, and I write inspirational historical romance western with a touch of the supernatural in my stories. I’m originally from Kansas, but I live in Pennsylvania now. 

Ohhh, you probably like Punxsutawney Phil this year, eh? 

Has your writing crossed over into other areas? If so, how? If not, will it?

Oooh, well I’ve had people tell me that I should make Meghan’s Choice into a screenplay. I think I would love that. What you don’t know is that I was a broadcast major (TV, radio, film) in college. I wrote a script for a class midterm that got an A++ — so I think I could have been a good screenplay writer. It just didn’t work out that way.

And, it’s entirely possible that I may write a non-fiction book about rejection issues and how to be healed and delivered from them, that would coincide with those retreats I want to hold.

(I don’t have time to retire. I’m just getting started. I’ve been waiting my whole life for right now.)

Before you ever got a notion of becoming a writer/author, how old were you, and what were you doing in that time of your life?

I never had a notion of becoming a writer until I was in college at ORU in the 70s. I was a broadcast major, and for a midterm, we were to write a script for an existing half-hour series. I wrote a M*A*S*H script and got an A++. I’ve been everything from a secretary and word processor, to a marketing assistant/coordinator/consultant for engineering firms, to a certified balloon artist (decorating for special events), to a radio reporter, etc. 

Radio Reporter? Like Les Nessman? WKRP? 

Are you married? Single? Have kids?

Married, no children. Dog and my Mother for an 11-year overlapping period. That was enough.

Do you have a favorite line from a movie or book? If so, what is it and explain why it is special to you?

“If we don’t try, we don’t do, and if we don’t do—why are we here on this earth?” Jimmy Stewart in “Shenandoah.”

Sounds a little like Yoda. "Do or do not. There is no try." Hmmm?

Besides storytelling, what talents do you have?

I’m musical and can play (if I were in practice) four instruments: piano (which is the only one I’m in practice on right now), flute, clarinet, and guitar.

I also used to make organic chocolate truffles and sold them on the Internet some years ago.

I found out as an adult I could actually be fairly decent at crafts. My mother wasn’t at all, so I grew up not really knowing how to do much.

Do you have a crazy, interesting, behind-the-scenes story about the publishing world you’d like to tell your readers without boring them to death with industry gobbledygook?

Well…at one conference, I did run into the keynote speaker (without knowing who he was) in the elevator and struck up a conversation with him, that went like this:

He was wearing a Christian Coalition T-shirt. “Hi, are you here for the writer’s conference.” He said, “Yes.” I said, “So am I.” We got to a floor and the elevator doors open. He gestured for me to precede him. I said, “I think this is your floor.” He smiled and exited. A little later, I discovered who he was, and I felt really silly. (Randy Alcorn at ACFW 2017). 

Tell us about what project you are currently working on.

I’m currently working on my third novel in the Known by Heart series, Hannah’s Hope. It will be the third installment in this series set in 1871 Kansas.

I’m a pantser who needs to know where her story is going to end up, but how it gets there is great fun! I never know what’s going to come out in a scene.

What surprised you the most during the research for the book you are currently working on?

Most of the research was done before I wrote the first book, Meghan’s Choice, but I did find that
something I was putting in this story actually happened. That’s what fun for me. Finding an obscure fact of history and putting it in my story.

There was competition between millers, and some people’s mills got torched to eliminate rivalries and ensure the success of one mill over another. So, I’m putting that in there. I found that fascinating.

I hope none of our readers' last names are Miller... Makes things a little awkward. Everybody will be wondering if their ancestors were guilty of such things. :-/

Knowing what you know now about writing, publishing, etc., what piece of advice would you give to the person thinking about writing that novel they have always wanted to pursue since they were young, or the person who believes they have a non-fiction book in them that would be helpful to others?

Write it. Get into a writer’s fellowship. Learn the craft. Decide to persevere, because you never know what God’s going to do.

Boy, I needed that. "You never know what God's going to do." Amen!

If you had one person you could meet (think ONLY Bible characters here) and could spend as much time as you wanted with that individual, who would it be besides Jesus?

Deborah. How’d she do it? How did Lapidoth allow her in that time period to be a prophetess, judge, and warrior? How did she get that favor to be Israel’s only female judge? I just love her.

What’s the craziest thing you have ever done?

I’ve kissed the Blarney Stone. You have to lean over backwards, then grab the railing. It was interesting, and very unsanitary now that I think about it. Millions have probably kissed that thing. Ew.

Why do you live where you live?

I was born and raised in Kansas, but I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I came because I did a voluntary service term, then stayed. When I was young, I always fancied myself living in the East, because you had so many different big cities to choose to visit: Philadelphia, Baltimore, DC, NYC, etc.

The only big city close by (within an half hour of where I grew up) was Wichita. Kansas City. It was at least three hours away. Oklahoma City about the same. Tulsa was four hours away, etc.

When you look for a new car, what are the things that are important to you?

Funny thing. We just got a new car (for us) last fall. The number one thing: it had to be a Prius, it had to be no more than three years old, and of course, have “everything.” It didn’t matter this time, what color it was. We ended up with a silver 2015 Prius C hatchback, and we love it!

When you are looking for a book to read, what are the things that are important to you?

I read and write in historical romance western. I look for the romance, I look for exciting plot, and interesting characters and situations. I especially look for as much trouble as possible in that back-cover blurb. How much difficulty, especially danger, will those characters be in?

Beyond westerns, I love romantic suspense. Same thing here: the danger. And what must the characters overcome?

Covers are good, but the blurb is what will really draw me in. I’m rarely disappointed.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers about you, or anything we didn’t cover?

My second novel, Rose’s Redemption, was just released late last fall. Pre-published, it won two first place finishes at the Advanced Novelist Retreat contests in 2017. Meghan’s Choice, my debut novel, made the Selah Award and the Will Rogers Medallion Award finals last year after publication.

I am a member of ACFW and AWSA Protégé. I serve as managing editor of Almost an Author and as ACFW Mid-Atlantic zone director.

Donna, it's been a pleasure! We wish you well on your writing endeavors!

And readers, if you're looking to find out more about Donna, here are some places you can go to do just that!

FACEBOOK: Donna L.H. Smith––Stories Are My Passion and Almost an Author
TWITTER: @donnalhsmith and @a3writers

AMAZON LINKS to Meghan’s Choice
Kindle version:

Until next time, may God bless America, and may America bless God!