Thursday, June 30, 2016

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Donn Taylor

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Donn Taylor

In continuing with my Talkshow Thursday author interviews, I'd like to introduce Donn Taylor. A veteran of the Korean War, he writes novels and teaches poetry. A Renaissance man!

Linda: After serving in the military, you taught English literature. When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Donn: It actually began as an undergraduate. I entered college as a music major, but a year later (age 17) I discovered literature—the Romantic poets, of course, but also Robert Heinlein's sci-fi stories. I wrote some very bad poems and worse short stories. After a year in the Army, I came back to finish my degree, interested in ideas this time. I wrote some fairly respectable undergraduate short stories and poems, none publishable. But upon graduation, the Korean War intervened. So writing got put on the back burner while I stayed busy with Army, family, graduate school, and teaching. But after my second retirement, I said, "Why not?" And started writing poetry and then fiction.

LM: I love Heinlein! After writing several contemporary stories, your latest is a historical book set in  the years following WWII (Lightning on a Quiet Night). What made you decide to try your hand at a historical novel? Where did you get your idea for the plot?

Donn: As an undergraduate, I thought about writing a western in the manner of Ernest Haycox, using The Lazarus File, I learned that there was a specifically Christian market. To write for that, I revived my western idea, but transposed it into Northeast Mississippi in 1948. I also had a bee in my non-Amish bonnet. Books about Mississippi were populated by Snopeses, idiots, Klansmen, and other undesirables, but none of the ordinary well-intentioned folks that Mildred and I had grown up with. So without whitewashing, I wrote about that kind of people. They weren't perfect. My town of them pursues virtue until it becomes a vice. (As Shakespeare wrote, "'Tis mad idolatry/ To make the service greater than the god.") The originally planned murder, set in that town, provided enough conflict to keep the plot going. For publication, though, the novel had to wait for the definition of "historical" to move past WW II, and find a publisher willing to take a novel that partook of several genres without fitting clearly into any of them. In the end, the novel was just itself.
a small-town murder as the precipitating incident. That project didn't survive the Korean War. But after publishing

LM: Do you have an unusual research story to share?

Donn: I'll mention two. The Lazarus File featured the DC-3 aircraft in many of the flight scenes. I had never flown that aircraft, so I researched it carefully. Mildred and I actually tracked one down and talked about cockpit procedures with its owner. In an old movie, the actor James Stewart flew a DC-3 and looked out of the pilot's window to see if his landing gear was down. I sat in the pilot's seat and found that the gear was not visible from there. Lesson learned: Never trust a movie for research.
Mildred and I researched Lightning partly in newspaper files. One delightful item we couldn't use. In 1947, the US advisor to the Greek military during their war with Communist guerrillas was General James van Fleet. The Greeks referred to guerrillas as "mosquitoes." At the time, the usual insecticide was called Flit. So the Greeks had their pun: "van Fleet for mosquitoes." Research brings many delightful things that we can't use in novels.   

LM: The age old question for writers-are you a “pantster” or a plotter?

Donn: I'm a little of both. I plan the precipitating incident, the major plot points, and the climax. From there, I'm a "pantster." The characters start interacting and taking off on their own. I try to keep them headed in the right direction but otherwise give them free rein. The completed drafts of Lightning and Deadly Additive required extensive revision. The manuscripts of Lazarus and Rhapsody in Red required almost none.

LM: Are any of your characters based on real people?

Donn: No, that wouldn't be playing fair because the people they're based on can't fight back. I do use characteristics from people I've known, but blend them with others into composites. I don't want anyone I've ever known, friend or foe, to be able to say I put him or her in a novel.

LM: What is your next project?

Donn: My mystery Murder Mezzo Forte, a sequel to Rhapsody in Red, released on June 9, 2016. I'm at about the midpoint in a sequel to the sequel. Meanwhile, I'll continue to teach poetry writing at writers' conferences.

LM: What are your passions outside of writing?

Donn: My church, of course, and three others: The National Association of Scholars in its efforts to combat political indoctrination in universities and restore sound scholarship. The efforts of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to protect students and faculty against illegal actions by school administrations. And, third, the Alliance Defending Freedom in its defense of Christians deprived of constitutional rights by governments or other secular agencies. However, I confess that these passions also hover in the background in my mysteries.

LM: What else do you want folks to know about you?

Donn: The Lord has blessed me with one great love. Mildred and I were married for 61 years, seven months, and four days until the Lord called her home. Our story is told at I continue, though not now in Technicolor. My Web site is, my daily humor is posted at Come join the fun.

LM: Thanks for joining us Donn!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Book Review: Dawn of Liberty

Book Review: Dawn of Liberty

History, Mystery and Faith is pleased to be part of the blog tour for Amber Schamel's new book Dawn of Liberty. Pour yourself a "cuppa" and enjoy my review of this wonderful set of short stories.

Samuel Adams is often depicted as a heavy-handed rogue who used propaganda and violence to convince his fellow colonists to go to war with England. However, most scholars agree about the inaccuracy of that portrayal. Adams was raised in a highly religious, Puritan family that was active in the Massachusetts political scene. One of only three children to live to adulthood, Adams considered entering the ministry, but settled on going into business. Unfortunately, by all accounts he was unsuccessful in a number of enterprises, and finally settled on politics.

Dawn of Liberty features three short stories: “Dawn of Liberty,” “A Shot at Freedom,” and “Travail of a Nation.” In the first, the Pennsylvanian delegate is divided over the vote for independence. Two hours remain on the clock for Samuel to convince the men to put aside their differences to help birth a nation. In the second, Samuel and his friend, John Hancock, are on the run for their lives. Lexington is filled with British soldiers eager to take them into custody for their part in the colonies’ disobedience to the Crown. Samuel and John must decide whether to stay and fight, or escape to safety. In the third story, more British troops are on their way, and Samuel is must once again use his skills as an orator to convince his fellow delegates of the importance of unification among the colonies.

Through vivid description and effective dialogue, Samuel Adams becomes a living, vibrant character with dreams and goals of his own. He is no longer a two-dimensional man in the dry pages of a textbook. Readers are drawn into the era and the issues that everyday people dealt with as they struggled to raise their families, earn a living, and exercise their faith. Historical information is skillfully threaded throughout the story, giving readers an understanding of the controversies affecting the colonists.
By offering “slices” or vignettes of Adams’s life, the author helps us see Adams as a real person, not just a name on the bottom of the Declaration of Independence. Ms. Schamel has created a fast paced, intriguing collection of stories. Highly recommended.

About the Author: Author of over half a dozen books, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call “historical fiction at its finest”. She lives in Colorado and spends half her time volunteering in the Ozarks. Visit her online at

Giveaway: To celebrate her tour Amber is giving away a signed copy of The Healer's Touch and a $15 Amazon gift card. Click to enter:


Monday, June 27, 2016

Mystery Monday: Who is E.R Punshon?

As if I don’t have enough TBR (to be read) books on my nightstand, I continue to search for authors I’ve not heard of from the 1930s and 1940s. Thanks (again) to The Passing Tramp, I have discovered E.R Punshon.

A British literary critic, playwright and novelist, Punshon also wrote under the pseudonym Robertson Halket. He published a series of crime and deduction stories (perhaps called police procedurals today) that featured Inspector Carter, Sergeant Bell, and Constable Bobby Owen, who eventually rose to the rank of Commander at Scotland Yard. Owen was Oxford educated and reminiscent of the “gentlemen sleuths” found in writers like Agatha Christie and Margery Alligham.

Punshon’s ability to construct intricate plots has been compared to that of John Dickson Carr, considered one of the greatest of the “Golden Age” mystery writers, and author of the Dr. Fell and Sir Henry Merrivale series. In addition to well-written plots, Punshon also studied character in his novels-the motives behind crimes and what drives a seemingly normal person to commit them.

It is challenging to find books from the less popular writers of this era. Even if you find them, they are often cost prohibitive. The good news is that Dean Street Press has reprinted many detective stories from the lesser known authors, including E.R. Punshon. If you’re looking for a intriguing, well-constructed stories, give one of Punshon’s classics a try.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Book Review: Hold Me Close

Book Review: Hold Me Close

History, Mystery and Faith is pleased to be part of the blog tour for Marguerite Martin Gray's new book Hold Me Close. Pour yourself a "cuppa" and check out my review.

Louise Lestarjette is a young Frenchman whose family lost everything during the prosecution of the Huguenots (French Protestants influenced by the writings of John Calvin.) Tired of the elitism of French society and determined to make his own way, he flees to the American colonies. He lands in Charles Town, South Carolina where his aunt has settled after her marriage to an American merchant. Louis’s plan is to earn a tidy profit, and then be on his way. He doesn’t count on meeting a beautiful, intriguing young woman or members of the Sons of Liberty. As relationships between the colonies and England deteriorate, Louis struggles to remain non-partisan. Eventually, he must make a choice about which side he will support.

Elizabeth Elliott is not a typical colonial era daughter. Raised in a family where education is allowed for both genders, she is versed in politics, religion, and social issues. She teaches pianoforte to the students at Charles Town College, where her father is a founding trustee and vocal supporter of King George. Courted by William Burns, a soldier in the British Army, yet a member of the Daughters of Liberty, Elizabeth must somehow reconcile the disparate parts of her life.
Hold Me Close is a sweet romance set during the volatile times leading up to the American
Revolution. Although a work of fiction, some of the events are real, and many of the people and places existed. Partially told through the viewpoint of Louis, a Frenchman and outsider, readers are exposed to both sides of the issues that thrust the colonies into war with their motherland. Description and dialogue effectively evoke the flavor of the era.

Colonial America is not a time period I typically read, so I appreciated the historical information woven throughout the story. Christian themes of God’s love and forgiveness, as well as dependence on God are evidenced through the character’s lives without being overly preachy. The novel ties up all the “loose ends,” but does include a bit of a cliff hanger. Historical notes, sketches, and photos give readers additional insight into the characters and time period.

About the Author: Marguerite Martin Gray enjoys the study of history, especially when combined with fiction. An avid traveler and reader, she teaches French and has degrees in French, Spanish, and Journalism from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Recently, she received a MA in English from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. She has two grown children and currently lives with her husband and Cleo, her cat, in Abilene, Texas.

GIVEAWAY: To celebrate her tour, Marguerite is giving away a fun themed prize basket. Click to enter:

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Lisa Flickinger

Talkshow Thursday: Meet Lisa Flickinger

I'd like to welcome Lisa Flickinger today who has recently published her first novel!

Linda: Your bio indicates that you journey to writing began as a young girl. When did you know you want to pursue publication?

Lisa: Publication has always been a dream of mine, not so I will become famous or make a lot of money (probably a good thing as it won’t be happening anytime soon) but because I’ve always wanted to share my stories with others.

LM: Congratulations on publishing your first novel. Where did you come up with the idea for the story?

Lisa: My dad used to take us gold panning for hours along the rivers near our home. At the time we found it boring; but as I aged it sparked a fascination with gold rush history and led to the topic of my novel All That Glitters.

LM: The age old question for writers-are you a “pantster” or a plotter?

Lisa: I am most definitely a pantser. Characters come to my mind and play out scenes all the time. I usually have a vague idea of where I want a story to go but often new characters or plot twists will appear out of nowhere.

LM: Are any of your characters based on real people?

Lisa: Near the end of the novel, my main character, Vivian, and her friend, Alistair, visit a hospital to see if her sister Ginny might be a patient. They meet a Catholic Priest who runs the hospital and was famous in actual Dawson City history for his dedication and service. 

LM: What is your next project?

Lisa: My next project is another historical romance about a spunky young woman who sets out across country to deliver a team of mules to Death Valley, California during the Borax rush.

LM: Sounds very interesting! What are your passions outside of writing?

Lisa: I love antiques and decorating. My favourite shows are reno shows and when inspired I do some of that too. My newest passion is training as a Pregnancy Care Centre client advocate.

LM: What else do you want folks to know about you?

Lisa: I love the Lord Jesus Christ dearly, and my deepest wish is to discover what He wants me to do and to be faithful in the doing. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Traveling Tuesday: Resurrection Bay

My husband and I recently visited Alaska. Part of our trip included a boat tour of Resurrection Bay, a bay on the Kenai Peninsula, named by Captain Alexandr Baranov who retreated into the bay during a horrific storm in the late 1700s. The ship and her crew survived the storm that lifted on Easter Sunday.

The Russians decided they had harvested as much as they could from the territory, and sold it to the United States for 7.2 million dollars in 1867 (about $.20 per acre). The deal was negotiated by Secretary of State William Seward. At the time, the purchase was considered a foolish decision by many and referred to the transaction as Seward’s Folly. Ultimately the value of the land was realized, and the largest town on the Kenai Peninsula was named in Seward’s honor.  
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government realized its need to improve coastal defenses. A deep water port, Seward remains ice-free during the winter months. In addition, the mountains and islands surrounding the bay gave it strategic importance. Because of its position overlooking Resurrection Bay, the first site chosen was Caines Head. Over the course of several months, gun batteries, searchlights, communication sites, and supporting facilities were constructed. Six other sites around the bay were set aside, but only four were eventually used.
According to the National Park Service website, there were very few incidents of real or perceived enemy activity in the bay. However, a local fox farmer named Pete Sather made the mistake of heading into the bay without signaling. Within minutes, he found himself under attack. Soldiers turned the searchlight on him and boarded his boat. Indignant over the incident, he felt he should have been ensured safe passage. After all, he was carrying the mail.
The areas were demilitarized after the war, and the land was turned over to the Department of Interior. In the early 1960s, the state of Alaska Bureau of Land Management took over the property.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wartime Wednesday: Roald Dahl Before Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Wartime Wednesday: Roald Dahl

Before he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl served in the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot during WWII. He rose to the rank of acting Wing Commander. Born to Norwegian parents in Wales on September 13, 1916. In 1920, he lost his sister to appendicitis and his father to pneumonia within weeks of each other. He went to several schools while growing up, and had several bad experiences over the years.

Despite his unhappiness at school, he was an excellent athlete, primarily playing squash and football. In addition to his interest in literature, he was an avid amateur photographer, rarely seen without a camera around his neck. After he finished his schooling, he traveled to Newfoundland where he hiked extensively. In 1934, he joined the Shell Petroleum Company where he was first stationed in Kenya and then Tanganyika (now Tanzania).

In November 1939, Dahl joined the Royal Air Force. He received his pilot training and flew sorties until he was badly injured in a crash a year later. He fully recovered and was released for flying duties in February 1941. However, by May he began to experience debilitating headaches which caused him to black out. He was invalided out and sent home to Britain.

After nearly a year of treatment, he recovered and made his way to America where he served in several capacities including intelligence officer for William Stephenson. It was during this time, he met novelist C.S. Forester and began to write. Dahl’s first published story was “A Piece of Cake” issued in 1942. His first children’s book, The Gremlins, was published in 1943.

Considered one of the greatest children’s storytellers in the 20th Century, Dahl received numerous awards for his writing. Known for inventing new words in his books, he might be pleased to discover that The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary has been issued to celebrate the centenary of his birth.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Mystery Monday: A Master of Humdrum Mystery

Mystery Monday: Cecil John Charles Street

I continue to look for detective and crime novels written in the 1930s and 1940s. I have stumbled on a wonderful blog called The Passting Tramp that focuses on mystery writers from that era, discovering that there are more authors from that time period than Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

My most recent find is Cecil John Charles Street. Born in 1884 on Gibraltar where his father was serving, Street followed his father’s footsteps and went into the military. He served in WWI and the Irish War of Independence, and ultimately mustered out as a Major. Married twice, he had one daughter with his first wife. He was awarded the military cross as well as the OBE (Order of the British Empire) – some say it was for the prolific number of books he wrote.

He published an estimated 140 novels under six pseudonyms. (I cannot imagine! It’s all I can do to produce a full manuscript in 8-9 months!) Under the name John Rhode, he wrote a series of more than fifty books featuring forensic scientist Dr. Priestly. A second long series (more than 40 books) was written under the name of Miles Burton.

Street was often referred to as one of the Masters of Humdrum Mystery, a derogatory term coined by critic and author Julian Symons. (However, perhaps Street has the last laugh as his books are highly collectable, and commanding significant prices.) His claim to fame is his ingenious ways of “bumping off” the victims in his stories. Who knew there were that many ways to kill someone?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Forensic Friday: Toxicology

Toxicology: The Real Story

By definition, toxicology is a branch of biology, chemistry, and medicine that studies the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms. A toxicologist analyzes biological fluids and tissues from victims who are thought to have been poisoned accidentally or purposely. Different from a forensic chemist, the toxicologist primarily handles biological materials and can detect poisons in blood, urine, spinal fluid, gastric contents, bile, and tissues. Forensic toxicology is the use of toxicology and other disciplines in a legal or medical investigation of death, poisoning, or drug use.

Marie LaFarge
The various crime dramas on television shows would have us believe toxicology is a new science, made possible only by modern technology. However, there are ancient records that prove otherwise. A doctor, pharmacologist, and botanist, Dioscorides lived from 40-90AD (during the reign of Nero – a crazy man, but that’s for another post!) A medic in the Roman Army, he is thought to have made the first attempt to classify plants by their toxic and therapeutic effects. The Book of Poisons was written by Ibn Wahshiyya around 900 AD. Considered the father of modern toxicology, Mathieu Orfila was used as an expert witness in the trial of Marie LaFarge, who was accused of poisoning her husband in 1840.

The goal of the toxicologist is to identify and quantify the presence of drugs and chemicals in blood and tissue samples. The challenge to the process is that a chemical rarely remains in its original form once ingested into the body. For example, heroin is metabolized into morphine. A toxin also may become diluted as it passed through the body.

Toxicologists have their work cut out for them. With the media looking over their shoulder, and law enforcement officers anxiously awaiting results, I would imagine the temptation would be to rush tests and hurry through analysis. However, accuracy, validity, and reliability are the legs upon which reputation of a skill toxicologist is built.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Traveling Tuesday: Philadephia's Main Line

Philadelphia's Main Line

I love maps and geography. However, I’m not always successful in pinpointing a location, and my sense of direction is abysmal. In my work-in-process, the protagonist joins the USO in Baltimore (my hometown!). I wanted her to live a couple of hours away by train. Her parents are quite wealthy, so I needed to put them in a somewhat swanky area. I settled on Philadelphia. A FB friend shared my request for information about the area, and I was referred to the Main Line section of town.

The Main Line refers to the Pennsylvania Railroad route connecting Pittsburgh and Philadelphia via Harrisburg. Because the railroad owned much of the land surrounding the lines, the company was able to build way stations along the portion of its track outside Philadelphia. The area was touted as “healthy yet cultivated country living.”

It wasn’t long before Philadephia’s social elite began flocking to the area to build their “country homes” on the Main Line. Estates with acres of manicured lawns and landscaped gardens were designed by the most famous architects of the era. Debutante balls and recreational sites such as the Merion Cricket Club sprang up.

The communities along the Main Line became known by their station names, many of which may be familiar to you: Merion Wynnewood, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Rosemont, Villanova, St. Davids, Berwyn and Paoli. Today, real estate along the Main Line continues to be among the most expensive in the country.

Visit Bryn Mawr College’s collection of images of the Main Line Mansions. They bring to mind Newport, RI and Long Island’s “Gold Coast,” and an era gone by.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Book Review: Strategies of Social Media

Book Review: Strategies of Social Media

History, Mystery and Faith is pleased to be tour stop number four for T.H Meyer's book Strategies of Social Media: Discover Powerful Tools of the Trade without Losing Your Soul. Grab a "cuppa" and take a few minutes to read my review of this excellent book.

For many small business owners, the use of social media is a gift and a curse. It is a gift because it can create opportunities to interact with customer on a personal level; educating them, relating to them, and frankly, selling to them. Social media is also a curse, because it can become yet another task on an already bulging to-do list, not to mention the drain on precious time. In addition, for those less savvy computer people, learning to use social media effectively can prove difficult. New terms and concepts combined with constantly changing rules and interfaces may be daunting for some individuals.

As a result, the market is flooded with books, blogs, and websites touting to be the “latest and greatest” subject matter expert. However, many of them are iterations of information found on any number of sites, simply packaged with that particular author’s spin.

In her introduction, Social Media Strategies author T.H. Meyer indicates that the book is derived from her struggle between the negative and positive impacts of social media. Her aim is to equip readers with “technical knowledge to optimize your online efforts while also receiving encouragement for your soul in the same text.” She exhorts readers that “You control social media. Not the other way around.” Sound advice!

I was late to the digital age. I didn’t operate my first computer until I was out of college, and only joined the ranks of social media users when I realized it was the best way to stay in touch with nieces and nephews scattered across the world. My author page has only existed for the last few months, so I’m in desperate need of help.

I’m not someone who likes to read the manual in order to learn how to do something, so I approached Ms. Meyer’s book with some trepidation. Would it be yet another rehash of the same tips and techniques? Would it be dry? Would it be difficult to understand?

Social Media Strategies is none of these. The information provided is fresh and insightful. The book is written in a conversational style and laid out in an easy-to-follow format. Users can read it front to back or cherry-pick the particular chapter needed. Terms and concepts are defined, and the electronic version includes links where readers can access additional information or resources. At the end of each chapter, a section entitled “Navigating Soul-Care” exhorts readers about their spiritual well-being with a devotional style narrative that is tied to the topic at hand.

This is a highly recommended go-to resource for those looking to master the mysteries of social media.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book: In our current world, the internet puts every entrepreneur and creative artist smack dab in the middle of social media and marketing. With an online tsunami of informational how-to's, deciding which methods work best challenges the best of us. Social Media Strategies: Discover Powerful Tools of the Trade without Losing Your Soul uncovers the most relevant techniques, skipping unnecessary fluff by going straight to up-to-date tactics used by experts. Inside these pages, a wealth of simple, savvy tricks aids understanding of things like SEO, Facebook algorithms, top performing platforms, and key ingredients for engagement. You'll also have a treasure trove of links, templates, time saving applications, and what's projected to change in cyberspace so you can stay ahead of the curve. However, your worth is not the sum of hard numbers. No longer do you have to feel depersonalized by ranks and formulas. T.H. Meyer combines trending social media content followed by encouraging words that redirect your soul to God. In the right hands, social media is a powerful tool for entrepreneurs and small businesses or any person with a message to share.

About the Author: T.H. Meyer's writing has been featured in online magazines such as C'est La Vie: THE MAGAZINE and The High Calling along with guest posting for Amber C .Haines, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and at The Gift of Writing to name a few. Besides her current employment as a social media manager and content writer, she founded Outside the City Gates and worked as a creative director for the Sunday Circle Group, a worldwide collaboration of talented artisans, poets, photographers, speakers, and writers. She lives among Rye pastures on a farm in east Texas, far removed from big-city slickers. On any given day, eight resident ducks waddle under her bedroom window and quack like dogs ready to eat.. Her favorite pastimes are family, writing, juicy in-depth conversations, and unsweet tea. Connect on her blog Fear Not: Infusing Courage into Your Gifts & Talents, Facebook, or Twitter.