This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

Path of Freedom, Quilts of Love series

1858 North Carolina - When Quakers Flora Saferight and Bruce Millikan embark on the Underground Railroad, they agree to put their differences aside to save the lives of a pregnant slave couple..

Highland Sanctuary, (Highland series - Book 2)

1477 Scotland - A chieftain heir is hired to restore Briagh Castle and discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world.

Highland Blessings, (Book 1 - Highland series)

1473 Scotland - The story of a highland warrior who kidnaps the daughter of his greatest enemy and clan chief to honor a promise to his dying father.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Book Review - "The Falcon and the Sparrow" by MaryLu Tyndall

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Book Description
When Mademoiselle Dominique Dawson sets foot on the soil of her beloved homeland, England, she feels neither the happiness nor the excitement she expected upon her return to the place of her birth. Alone for the first time in her life, without family, without friends, without protection, she now faces a far more frightening prospect, for she has come to the country she loves as an enemy-a spy for Napoleon.

Forced to betray England or never see her only brother alive again, Dominique has accepted a position as governess to the son of Admiral Chase Randal, a harsh man, still bitter over the loss of his wife. Will Dominique find the strength she needs through God to follow through with the plan to rescue her brother? Will Chase find comfort for his bitter heart in God's arms and be able to love again?

And what new deceptions will they both find in France when they arrive to carry out their plan?

My Review
This is MaryLu Tyndall's first attempt at writing a Regency romance and in my opinion she did a superb job! I would love to see her write more historicals set in this time period. The plot is thick with danger, mystery, and an intriguing conspiracy of blackmail and a desire to do what is right and how that conflicts with the heroine's Christian faith. The romance evolves at an honest and believable pace. The author does such a wonderful job of layering in descriptive details in each scene that I felt like I was watching a movie, not reading a book. MaryLu is so talented! I highly recommend it!

Visit MaryLu Tyndall.

Buy the book on Amazon!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Building Hooks in Your Story

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

In fiction, a hook is an opening line or paragraph to a story that grips a reader’s interest and lures them into turning the pages to keep reading. Most authors think of a hook as the beginning of a story, but there are several other places to use a hook besides the beginning. I call this building hooks in the story.As authors we tend to concentrate so much on the opening hook, that we forget about building and incorporating page hooks, scene hooks, and chapter hooks into our stories.

How many times have your read a book that started out with a great hook, but several pages or chapters later, you lost interest? That’s because somewhere along the way, the author forgot to build in hooks that kept building the plot and it fell flat.

Each paragraph builds into the next paragraph. As one character says something, don’t you want to know what the next character’s response will be? If it’s punchy, intense, and emotional enough, I would think that you would. Each paragraph can lead into a hook and build suspense by having someone or something interrupt the response. Who says a character must respond right away? The interruption may build additional suspense. Now it’s time to turn the page. End the page on a hook. Force your readers to turn that page.

In my short historicals my chapter lengths are generally 9-12 pages. In longer books, my chapters are 12-15 pages. This means I may have 2-3 scenes in a short chapter and 3-4 scenes in a longer chapter. For each scene I concentrate on building the scene to end on a hook. I look for a pivotal statement or action that will leave the reader wondering about something. A question must hang in the balance between scene breaks.

I may continue the same scene, but switch point of views between characters, and simply insert a scene break. How is the other person going to react? What is he/she thinking regarding the other person’s statements? Who has the most at stake at this point? Keep in mind how this scene can end on another hook. What can this person say or do that will be detrimental to the whole scene leaving it with unanswered questions.

Build each scene to end the last scene of the chapter on another hook that is even bigger than the last few scenes in the chapter. Never resolve a situation without first introducing another situation that will leave the reader questioning what will happen next. If you finally resolve a conflict or question, introduce another person, event, act, or behavior that will instill more questions or strengthen the plot with more obstacles to the characters’ goals.

The key is to never allow your characters to resolve their problems until you are winding down to the end of the book—the last couple of chapters. Otherwise, end on a hook!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Invoking Emotion in Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 

Most people pick up a novel because they want to read a good story that will invoke some kind of emotional response inside of them. It could be humor that they’re looking for, romantic suspense and the adrenaline that pumps through their veins, or transported to another place and time in history where tenderness and faith inspire them with the people and relationships in their own lives.

As an author, how do you accomplish this?

It’s much harder than it seems. A reader can pick up a book and read through it in a few hours, while the author labored on it for six months to a year, not to mention the number of revisions it probably went through.

Regardless of your approach to writing or the length of time it takes you to finish a novel, if you can tell a good story and invoke an emotional response in your readers, your books will sell.

Have you ever watched an animated movie about cars, ants, bugs, animals, toys, veggies, and felt some kind of emotion from the story? What made you care about that make-believe character? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the blue paint on the female Porsche and her long eye lashes on her headlights in the Cars movie. Could it be because you understood her passion and love for the long-forgotten town? She had realized that life was more important than money, fame, and fancy titles. She wanted to do things that would help others, inspire them, and bring the town back to life. That little car made you identify with her purpose and goal in life. It was self-sacrificing.

Before your readers can care about your characters and feel the same emotional impact they are feeling, your readers first have to be invested and “hooked” by your characters. They need to be introduced to your characters—not formally through your telling, but personally through showing their actions, behaviors and reactions to people, situations and environment.

Invoking emotion is linked with characterization. Readers need to know who the characters are by:

  • What they think in introspection. They will know whose thoughts they are reading without being told whose POV your they are in.

  • What they say in dialogue. They can read a line of dialogue and know him/her without a tagline.
  • How they behave. They can almost determine how a character will react to a situation, because they know that character’s fear, likes and dislikes, and background. This is where the author has to be consistent with how that character should behave, but manage to still surprise readers so the character doesn’t become too stereotypical and the story unimaginative. This is one of the most difficult feats to accomplish and it takes lots of practice—thus, all your rewrites.

    Below is an example of two different scenarios of the same scene. Determine which one invokes more emotion as you read them.

    Example 1:

  • The hospital room beeped with all kinds of machines, babies lay in tiny incubators in neat little rows. Tiny voices cried wanting to be fed, changed, or cuddled. But Nancy’s little girl lay with her fists balled under her chin and slept as if she dreamed of angels. Nancy hoped and prayed this wasn’t a sign that her passive child wouldn’t fight to live and be strong.

    Example 2:

    Nancy walked slow, fearing what she may find this morning. After the code blue sirens yesterday on her premature baby girl, she hadn’t slept through the night and food lurched in her stomach like a bad case of poison. Images of a tiny blue face gasping for air kept reeling through her mind on replay.

    Each beeping machine that she passed made her heart skip. Her breath caught as an infant beside her burst into a fit of crying. Nancy took a deep breath and forced it out slowly as she passed the rows of clear incubators, until she came to her daughter’s. No movement. All was quiet from this corner of the room. Nancy gulped as she leaned on her tiptoes, covered her mouth, and peered inside.

    Does one invoke more emotion than the other?

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    Book Review - "On Sparrow Hill" by Maureen Lang

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    My Review
    I love the unique and complex subject matter that Mareen Lang has chosen to write about in her book On Sparrow Hill. She and I have something in common--a special needs child. While my daughter's issues are different, I understand the challenges her characters face, as well as their loved ones.

    Lang has combined a contemporary story with the discovery of a beautiful historical woven into one book. As a reader who loves to read and write historicals and does genealogy research, I thought this book was wonderful.

    Rebecca Seabrooke and Quentin Hollinworth research his family history on his English estate and discover a historical school that his ancestor Berrie Hamilton started in the mid-1800's. This isn't just any school. It's a school for children that has special needs and certain disabilities. This shows a wonderful contrast between how people viewed these issues back then and how they view them today. Lang managed to layer in a realistic romance between Rebecca Quentin in the present day, and a historical romance between Berrie and the overprotective brother of one of her students.

    On Sparrow Hill portrays a 3-dimensional plotline that interweaves two different centuries with human issues that cross all time barriers and show a growing faith and love that conquers all things.

    Backcover Description
    As the curator for Quentin Hollinworth's family estate, Rebecca Seabrooke is focused on just two things: making hers the most successful historic home in the country and forgetting the childhood crush she's had on Quentin since her father worked as his family's valet. After all, they don't exactly run in the same social circles.

    But when she and Quentin uncover letters in the family vault written over 150 years ago by Berrie Hamilton--one of Quentin's ancestors--Rebecca discovers that Quentin isn't the only one with a legacy to appreciate. Only Berrie's words can prepare Rebecca for the dramatic turn her life is about to take.

    Monday, July 14, 2008

    Creating Memorable Characters

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    What is it that makes us cry and laugh when we watch movies? Beyond emotion, it's characterization--personality. We come to know and identify with the characters in the movie. We want them to achieve what they are trying to do. We hate to see them in pain. So when you're moved by a vegetable or a robot that is the main character in a movie, you know that story has done its job.

    As authors, its our job to create memorable characters in our stories so that our readers close our books and walk away with those characters still on their minds. At least, that's what I hope to achieve in my writing. But how do you do that?

    First Layer in Characterization
    Think of characterization as having many layers. If you've been writing long enough, you'll eventually hear authors describe poor characterization as cardboard characters. This means the characters are flat with only one or two dimensions. Writers need to try and create 3-D characters, layering them with physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental traits that create a whole personality.

    Choosing Names
    Chose the perfect name. This can be harder than it sounds. A character's name has to have the right flavor to match the person's ethnicity, time period, personality, etc. If you don't know some basic things about your character, choosing a name may be a little difficult for you. One of my best resources is "The Character naming Sourcebook" by Sherrilyn Kenyon from Writer's Digest. This book has been invaluable to me.

    Names give people an impression of what a character might be like. Some names sound like strong heros, others sound like a nerdy professor, or an old man. Likewise, women names can make a difference between a young, beautiful heroine, or a old spinster who carries lots of bitterness. Names mean things too. Check out the meaning of a name before you use it.

    Physical Traits
    The first layer of your character will be their phyiscal traits. What does the person look like? Is he bald, long hair, short hair? What color is his hair? Gray indicates middle-aged, white could mean extemely aged. If it's a contemporary, is it dyed? If it's a historical, does he wear a wig?

    The color of the eyes is very important, wide eyes hints at innocense, while narrow eyes brings to mind suspicion. Don't forget to describe the face. Is it square, oval, long, chubby, thin? Are there scars, moles, birth marks? These phyiscal flaws make your characters seem more real. Don't make them too perfect.

    You can give a person's height away by comparing them to another character's height, or some other fixture in the setting. An overly tall character may have trouble bending under doorways, fitting into small vehicles, hiding in small places. These things can produce conflict in your story and make it more interesting as your character tries to carry out his day. Likewise, a short person will have other issues. Most likely a short woman won't be able to reach things and will need to climb stepping stools, ladders, could be easily missed in a ball room.

    The shape of a person gives lots to a reader's imagination. A tall, thin person may have bones pertruding from every joint. A heavy set character will give a very different image. A woman with shapely curves is going to appear to the hero. As you create the body of a character, make sure you remember to give them some realistic flaws. No one is perfect, and neither should your characters be. A character with a limp, a lisp in his or her speech, someone that walks with an airy gate, a heavy step, these are what makes a character memorable. The challenge is how to make them different without making them unappealing, unless its the villian.

    Second Layer of Characterization

    Mental Traits
    You will use your character's mental traits for narrative or introspection. This is your character's thought process. And the things that will determine her thought process is her background. How, when, where she was raised. What experiences has she had that have left a lasting impression on her? Did something happen that makes her afraid of a particular thing or person? What does she dislike? She must have a reason for disliking it. What does she prefer? Motivation will often come from a person's background and their mental traits.

    A quiet person will be much different than a loud person who has to be the center of attention all the time. A dishonest person will hurt, deceive, and betray others. A friendly and outgoing person will be able to make lots of friends, probably various social circles, belong to lots of membership clubs. A vain person will forever be concerned about their looks, always buying the latest styles, condemning others who don't dress as nice, will have and collect lots of things just for the purpose of showing them off, will live in the best neighborhoods.

    Spiritual Traits
    In Christian fiction your characters will always need to show a spiritual trait of some kind, if not at the beginning of the story, then at least by the end of the story. Each main character should have a spiritual strength and a spiritual weakness. Perhaps you have a character who faithfully attends church, volunteers for every church activity, prays for everyone, but lacks faith that God will move in his or her own life. Or maybe you have a character who believes in God, but continues to question why God allows things to happen. Maybe a character believes God has deserted them, and so this person prays harder, works harder, until they are about to have a nervous breakdown.

    These spiritual traits will also come from a character's background, experiences, teachings, etc. So be sure to include things in the character's background that will give them a motivation for believing the way they do. Then have a solution or plan in the story that will enable them to overcome this spiritual flaw.

    Emotional Traits
    This is the stage that invokes emotion in your readers. If you've done a great job of portraying the character's goals, motivation, and conflict or challenges, your character is going to have a reaction to everything that happens. This is showing how he or she feels about what is happening to them. These feelings must be true to the type of person you've created. If a person acts out of character, such as a quiet person throwing a huge tempertantrum in public, then you must have sufficient motivation for this to take place. What drove them over the edge? On the other hand, it isn't out of character for a loud-mouthed bully to throw tempertantrums, but it would be out of character for a bully to sit down, be quiet, and say something nice that's full of wisdom. What huge event changed this person? What opened his eyes?

    To create emotion, you must have your character face the one thing they've been afraid to face throughout the book. To do this show them going out of their way to avoid it. Heighten the emotion and tension by showing their anxiety, stress, pain, fear, and desperation. Build the emotion to the climatic moment. This is the turning point in the story. You will want to show emotion throughout the book to keep your readers turning the pages, but save that BIG moment for the climatic chapter so that your readers are drawn into the emotion of the story. They can't wait to find out what happens next. What's the main character going to do? By now your readers know what your character is afraid of, they know why, and they know what he or she wants and it doesn't look like it's possible, so how will this all end?

    Third Layer of Characterization
    The final layer of chacterization pulls the other two layers together and creates the third dimension, the whole personality of your character.

    Personality Traits
    Personalities are ususally gender specific, but you can have some traits that overlap each other. The best resource I've found for personality traits is "The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines" by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders. This book is a must if you write fiction and it doesn't matter what kind of fiction. They layout sixteen master archetypes, eight for each gender. Below I've briefly listed them.

    Male Archetypes

  • The Chief

  • The Bad Boy

  • The Best Friend

  • The Charner

  • The Lost Soul

  • The Professor

  • The Swashbuckler

  • The Warrior

  • Female Archetypes

  • The Boss

  • The Seductress

  • The Spunky Kid

  • The Free Spirit

  • The Waif

  • The Librarian

  • The Crusader

  • The Nurturer

  • For each archetype, the book gives examples of behaviors, usual flaws, typical backgrounds, qualities and virtures, and occupations.

    One way I create my characters is to begin by creating a Character Sketch. I've included a basic form for this in another blog I wrote here. Other resources you will want to read is Gail Gaymer Martin's new Writer's Digest book, "Writing the Christian Romance."

    Saturday, July 12, 2008

    Rosedale Plantation

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Rosedale Plantation is located in Charlotte, NC and dates back to 1815. First of all, let me say that I don't know how this plantation house survived in this busy city. Everything is built up around it. I had been in Charlotte two years and had driven by the house so many times, I'd lost count, and I never knew it existed. If you blink while driving by it on the now busy street of Tryon, you'll miss it. I only found out about it while looking up historic places in Charlotte on the Internet. Of course, we had to go see it for ourselves.

    The house is located in the Sugar Creek Community, although the nearby church spells their name as Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church, which I suspect is derived from the south's accent. The church is within walking distance of Rosedale and it dates back to 1755. One of the interesting tidbits of information I learned on the tour, was that other children in the community stayed at Rosedale so they would be close enough to walk to school each day. The original school is still located on the corner of the church grounds, as well as three of their historical cemeteries.

    Rosedale is a beautiful home, and Archibald Frew spared no expense during its contruction. He made several trips on the "Great Wagon Road" to Philadelphia for lavish items he wanted. Throughout North Carolina you'll see gray signs on the roads that refer to the "Great Wagon Road" a well-known path that many settlers took from the north to settle into the Carolinas. Most of the people in the Sugar Creek Community were Scotch-Irish.

    Much of the furniture in the house have been purchased as period pieces from nearby auction sites or estates. For instance, this piano belonged to Mary Anne Williams (1833-1904). She was the wife of James Harvey Carson, Owner and Operator of Rudisill Gold Mine.

    The piano was built around 1860. It has 85 mother of pearl keys, and has the ability to switch from the sound of a piano to an organ. I think it is absolutely beautiful. I love piano music, but I never had the blessing of lessons.

    In the 1830's David Thomas Caldwell and his family occupied Rosedale. He was a medical doctor. The clothes below are similar to what David would have worn. The dress below is a recreation of a dress that would have been worn by the lady of the house.

    Here is my daughter in the beautiful gardens beside the Rosedale plantation house. At this point we had already toured the house and I think she was getting tired, but I had to have more pictures. The one below is absolutely gorgeous. Notice the chained link fence behind it. I'm sure it is necessary to keep people off the property.

    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Research Writing Tips Using the Library

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Over the last decade research has evolved into relative convenience with the stroke of a few keys and exploded into immediate answers that would have taken days and months from the old days. When I refer to the old days, I’m actually referring to the days before the Internet—not so long ago.

    Public Library ResearchEven if you still prefer to go to your local library in person and browse through reference books and files, you’ll most likely be using a computer for their catalog system. Public libraries and universities have switched over to computerized databases to catalogue most of their resources.

    Now that most files are in a computerized database system, many libraries are choosing to include an online database that allows you to research by subject, title, and author. This saves you the trouble of driving to a library branch looking for information that might not be available at that library branch. However, in order to access some of these database systems, you might need a library card with a number you can punch in, or you may be required to register online. Believe me, it’s worth it.

    Without leaving your house, you can request a reference to be shipped to your local, public library by using their online system. Most public libraries are now linked together through the Internet service and have inter-loan systems in place for circumstances such as these.

    The inter-loan service is particularly helpful to authors as they need access to geographical details in the various places where their stories may be set. The best information will always be in the local area of the place one is researching. If you don’t live there and can’t visit in person, this is the best way to locate those rare, but specific facts. While there are plenty of Internet sites that give some great information, sometimes those sites only give brief summaries and we authors need details.

    University Library Research
    Don’t forget the university and college library systems. You don’t necessarily need to be a student, professor, or faculty member of the university in order to access their library. Depending on the university’s area of concentration, some college libraries specialize in specific medical research, scientific studies, archaeology, law, concentrated histories, etc. Their professors and graduate programs are always conducting new research and they are on the cutting edge of new discoveries.

    Universities and colleges provide the experts. Make a few phone calls or try and email one of the directors or professors who have a background in the area you are researching. You could also try and contact the author of a study you might find interesting. Many of them don’t mind being interviewed and have a passion for their subject. They would rather take the time out of their busy schedule to educate you on the topic so you don’t misrepresent facts, rather than have more people having the wrong impression. Also, they might appreciate the publicity or the acknowledgement as a reference in your book. They need credentials for their career just as much as we do.
    Browse university websites and check out their course descriptions in the areas you might be researching. This will give you a better idea of a person’s expertise on particular subjects.

    Local Research for SettingsTypically, authors automatically go to the General Reference section of the library. If you really want the history, culture, climate, dialogue, slang, and intimate knowledge of a specific location, you need to hit their Genealogy Reference section of the library. Sometimes this area is separate from the General Reference section.

    You don’t need to research a particular family history, although you can. What you need to do is research the people in the area. Browse through a few family history books, local census records and you’ll see the unique surnames that are present in the area. Some families are notorious for using biblical names in the south—even today. What differences would a new individual from the west have from someone that has grown up and lived in the heart of Alabama their whole life? This kind of research will give you characterization ideas, conflict for your story, and intimate details you won’t find anywhere else.

    What strange laws were in existence in the early 20’s, 50’s, and 70’s for the area? Are they still on the books? How would that law influence or change your story? Can it build more conflict for your characters, or create a loop hole to get one of them out of trouble?

    Genealogy rooms are full of historical maps showing the progression of the change of time. What might a present day contractor find if he started clearing land for a new building, residential neighborhood, or power plant?

    Are there any unclaimed lands in the area that the local government has overlooked confiscating? Any families still own water rights? Browse through old obituaries or newspaper headlines and find a goldmine of unique story ideas. How could these be translated into a present day story? How could a historical event affect your current story?

    Read old letters that families may have written to each other. What kind of language did they use? Join a few online groups in the area and listen to the way they talk in their emails. You’ll get a flavor for the dialogue in the area.

    In a few weeks I’ll post on Using the Internet for Research.

    Friday, July 04, 2008

    Managing the Edit Muse in Fiction

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    The edit muse is that internal instinct that makes you want to stop and evaluate everything you write to make sure it is worthy before you go on. It's the perfectionist coming out in some of us. Writing a novel is a process that isn't done overnight. You have to work on one scene at a time. It's a building block of words that need to be cut, rearranged, and replaced. Because the process is so long, reworking the same chapters can be a huge temptation.

    While the edit muse can be a blessing to some, ensuring that we turn in a clean and polished manuscript to our editors, it can be a curse to others. If you keep reworking the same chapters, you will never finish the novel. You need to move on to the next stage of the book and come back to it later when you've finished the first draft. But how do you do this when you know that what you've written isn't as good as you can make it?

    It's like any other temptation, remove it from your sight.

    If possible, don't read over it again. Reading it may tempt you to edit what you read and you'll waste time reworking the same material rather than writing something new.

    If you are the type that must read the last section of what you wrote to continue moving forward, then don't read the whole chapter. Read only the last scene or the last few paragraphs of the last scene. You only need to read enough to refresh your memory and get back into the story so your writing muse can take over your edit muse. This will open up your creative ideas and imagination to write new material.

    If you are in critique group or receive feedback from a contest entry, don't even open up the files. Create a folder for these critiqued chapters and drop them into that folder. Keep writing. Don't stop to read through what your critique partners have said about your work. Criticism is hard to take regardless of how well we know and trust our critique partners, and it can effect or stifle your creative writing muse.

    Wait until you've finished writing the first draft of the whole manuscript to read through critiques. The only exception to this rule is the first three chapters. I have two reasons for this. 1) You may want to submit some of your work to a contest and only the first three chapters or less are usually required. 2) It takes the first three chapters to really get to know your characters well, and to get a feel for how the story should be told.

    If you are the type of person that will be tempted to read through your manuscript as soon as you open the file rather than just scrolling down to where you left off, then I have a few other suggestions for you.

    1. Create a new file for each chapter and merge them together in one file after you finish writing the manuscript. This will help you have your material ready for your critique group, since most groups only submit one chapter at a time.

    2. Write your new material on a different computer, such as a laptop, or borrow your spouse's desktop computer. If you don't see the file, you can't open it and be tempted to edit it before you've written anything new.

    3. Invest in an Alpha Smart where you can create new files each time you write a new scene. This way you only see a small window of your typed words. It's too inconvenient to scroll up and down to revise what you've written. It will force you to keep writing new sentences. When you finish, download the files right into a Word document on your computer or into your original file.

    The key to managing the edit muse, is to avoid the temptation of seeing what you've already written.