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!