The MacGregor Legacy - From Scotland to the Carolinas

(Book 1 - For Love or Loyalty) (Book 2 - For Love or Country) (Book 3 - For Love or Liberty)

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.

Awakened Redemption (Inspirational Regency)

1815 England - A story that pierces the heart and captures the Regency era.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Victorian Gowns Worn in NC

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Women in America were often unable to obtain certain materials and fabrics from Europe (especially during the Civil War) and had to either sew their clothing by hand or make do with a local seamstress in a nearby town. Even if they could afford it, gowns made of silk, satin, and velvet were not practical for Southern women as daily wear on rural farming plantations. These fine fabrics were reserved for receiving special visitors, church on Sundays, social gatherings, and balls when they visited nearby towns or the larger cities of Charleston, New Orleans, and Atlanta. Day gowns were often made of sturdy fabrics that could endure several washings such as wool, calico, and cotton.

The photos and descriptions in this blog are from the North Carolina Historical Museum in an attempt to give historical writers an accurate visual impression of some of the better gowns worn by the elite here in North Carolina during the late 1800's (Victorian Period).


1886 - The green gown to the left actually belonged to a lady in Duplin County, NC. The bodice and bustle skirt was worn as part of her trousseau. It is made of velvet and silk, cut in a feather design with a skirt elaborately decorated with ruching and pleats.

1880 - The brown dress to the left has a cuirass bodice and bustle skirt made from brown and black fabrics that were popular for clothing, quilts, drapery, and upholstery during the late 1800's. The low bustle skirt has an asymmetrical drape trimmed with fringe and alternating bands of velvet and taffeta.



The other photos below do not have descriptions, but will give writers a good idea of other colors and styles available to women in North Carolina during this time period.

While the royal blue dress is more elaborate, the plaid colored dress is more simple in style and material. Please enjoy!





Monday, March 24, 2008

Conquering Writer's Block

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Writer’s block is something all writers eventually deal with and must overcome. There are a variety of techniques in conquering writer’s block, and they are as varied as writers themselves. I’d like to share some of the methods that have helped me.

Discover the SourceIf you can figure out the source that is causing the block, you might be able to avoid the trial and error method and deal with the problem straight on. Some of the causes of my writer’s block in the past have been:

Stress1. I was simply overwhelmed by health issues with my little girl and financial struggles with lots of medical bills and debt. Other times I was stressed from grief over the loss of a loved one.

Solution: Time, more prayer and reading God’s Word. There are times in life where nothing can comfort us better than God himself. The problem is out of our control. It isn’t necessarily going to disappear and no loved one can say anything that will make you feel better. I finally learned to write on the good days and not force it on the bad days. I had to accept my limitations. Sometimes the only thing that poured from my heart and fingers were journals. That’s okay. Let it out. Journaling is a healing process. Allow yourself this experience and the stories will follow. This is where time comes in.

2. Work Responsibilities consumed me and I received unfair treatment from my boss. I had anxiety attacks over the thought of going back to work one more day.

Solution: I tried everything to make the job work. I finally realized I couldn’t change my circumstance on the job, but I could change the job. The idea of updating my resume, writing cover letters, and going on job interviews seemed so daunting. What if my next boss turned out worse? I set aside my writing to concentrate on getting a better job in a better environment. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I prayed for the kind of job and environment I wanted and God blessed me. After that I had no trouble writing.

3. An overwhelming schedule.

Solution: Delegate to other members in the family and stop saying yes to everyone at church. Cut back on unnecessary things. Ask yourself, is this activity more important than my writing? What is God calling me to do? Don’t agree to anything or do anything until you know the answer to these questions. Sometimes spouses and children can do more than we are asking—and often they are willing.

Not Knowing What to Write Next1. If you’ve just finished writing a book or a series and you’re not sure what to write next, this is normal. Perhaps you have so many ideas you can’t pick one, or you don’t have any ideas for the next one. The solution is same.

Solution: Take a short writing break and pay attention to which story drifts across your mind most often. You may find that God wants to reveal a new story to your heart and the others need to wait. Jot down the ideas that come to mind. Pray about it and one story will start burning in your heart and won’t go away. When this happens, go with it.

Not Knowing Where the Story Should Go1. This often contributes to a sagging middle. Writers will start out writing a strong story and somewhere in the middle lose their way or miss the connection that is supposed to take them to the ending they have in mind. This problem plagues writers who write by the seat of their pants with little or no plotting beforehand. It happens to plotters when the plot isn’t working or they’ve deviated from their character’s goals.

Solution: Stop writing. Start with chapter one and write down the climatic points for each scene. Pick out the goal, motivation, and conflict. Do this for the remaining unwritten chapters. Write down the highlights of what you want to happen. Estimate 3-4,000 words per chapter which equals about 12-15 pages. This helps with word count. For more words, think of a plot twist to add. For less words, look for scenes to cut.

No Inspiration to Write
1. Sometimes inspiration goes dry and we feel depleted. No drastic changes in life have caused it and lack of time to write isn’t a problem. Staying focused and on task seems impossible. The motivation just isn’t there.

Solution: Perhaps you need a change and that is the problem. Alter your routine. Instead of writing at home, try writing at a coffee shop, in the park, or go on a writing retreat. Think about some of what sparked your motivation to write in the past. Was it a movie, vacation to some historic relic or exotic place, a book you read? Try another creative outlet to inspire you. Do you like to draw, paint, sculpt, knit, golf, swim, jog, or bicycle? Doing something different will inspire you to finish a story or write a new one.

Fatigue1. We are not super humans with tubo-charge power. We grow tired and need to rest. Colds, allergies, illnesses, extra projects, changes in our schedule will slow us down.


Solution: If you miss writing a few days, it isn’t the end of the world. Sleep extra, take a warm bubble bath, read a book, go for a walk, get away from the computer. All of these things contribute to rest. Your eyes, brain, fingers, neck and shoulders need a break. Take it. A little rest can give you the refreshment you need to break through writer’s block.




Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Devotion - Exercising Faith

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I go through roller coaster rides where I'm up and down about my writing. For a while I'm okay that publication is taking so long. But then I get weary and I start whining again. Fortunately for most, I complain to God and my husband--and once in a while to close friends or my mom. The rest of the time I'm holding it in like a helium balloon about to burst. In the meantime, I keep writing, learning, and trying to get better. 

My daughter is going through a little trial in life that has a few growing pains with it. I can't discuss it here, but everyday she asks, "Mommy, will you get off the computer and spend time with me?" I spend all day working for another company, but I need the paycheck. So I have to split my awake hours between family and writing or go without sleep and then I'm ill. She comes first. She's my precious girl and will only be young once. 

On and on goes the guilt. Am I neglecting my husband, my daughter, or God? Did I write enough this week? You can't expect to get published if you don't keep writing--or at least that is what most everyone in the industry says. And then there are the days when I come home and I don't think I can stand looking at another computer screen after eight hours of it. My eyes hurt and burn so bad.

Yesterday my husband said, "Have you ever considered that maybe God has you in a holding pattern for Celina? She needs you right now and if you had to work a full-time job, plus work around deadlines that you couldn't avoid, you wouldn't be able to give her the time she needs."

Yes, I have considered this, but sometimes I need to be reminded. 

Then my faith kicks in. God is God. He's the ultimate! He's the Alpha and Omega! He's Everything Good and Holy! He's my Deliverer! He's a Miracle God!

God can always make miracles happen. I'm still praying, hoping, and believing God will bless my husband's business and my writing so I will not have to work outside the home. Therefore, my writing deadlines can be met while Celina is in school. I have to keep hoping for this--isn't that part of faith? Sometimes exercising faith is to keep believing when everyone around you is shaking their heads and giving you looks of pity like when is she ever going to learn?

Come on God, give me the strength to outlast them another day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Digging Into Deep POV (Part II)

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 


III. Courting Your Characters
A. Get to Know Your CharactersYou've got to spend some time getting to know your characters. What makes your dark haired, blue-eyed FBI agent different from any other agent? What is his history? Where did he come from? Who is his family? What part of his childhood made him into the man he is today? What are his quirks? His flaws? His favorite foods? Habits? You need to know these things before you can write about them in deep POV.

B. Create a Character Sketch
Do this for all your main characters and any significant secondary characters. This will give you a reference to go back to when months later you are wrapping up the ending. It will also give you a guideline to go by when you're in the editing stage and trying to determine if your critique partner is right about your hero acting out of character in a pivotal scene.

You can't write deep POV if you don't know every intimate detail of your characters. The people in your book are not just some fictional characters you created for the purpose of writing a story to entertain and inspire readers. They are real. Somewhere out there is a lonely FBI agent who has become hard and cold with the ugliness of life. He's built the walls of protection to shut out any pain, and in the process, all the people who could have loved him through the pain.

For every character you create, there is someone in this world who is going to identify with your character's life because they are living it. These characters are real, because real people are out there in a similar situation.

Just as God is our Creator and knew us before we were knit in our mother's womb, and the very hairs on our head are numbered, we have to follow our Creator's example. When we create our characters, we need to know who they are, their goals, what motivates them, how they will react to conflict and overcome it.

B. Speech Patterns
Your characters need to have a certain speech pattern that will distinguish them from the rest of your characters. How a person talks and the way they phrase their words reveals a lot about a person. Take into consideration their geographic location, ethnicity, education, and culture. You can definitely tell a northerner from a southerner by listening to them talk.

Then break down your character's speech even further. If he’s northern, how will his speech differ from other northerners? Is he likely to be considerate of someone's feelings before he speaks, or just blurt out whatever comes to mind? Will he tease people? Tell jokes? Or recite famous quotations or poetry?

C. Thought PatternsA character's thoughts reveal more about them than dialogue or actions. This narrative is where a reader will learn what motivates a character. Some people are day dreamers. Others are analyzers who question everything. Some are pessimistic, while others are optimistic. Choose the most likely thought pattern that matches your character’s personality, speech, and actions.

In Christian fiction, you can show the beginning stages of a character’s spiritual growth through their thoughts. Perhaps your character will ponder a sermon, a prayer they heard, a verse, or something someone said. While there is no outward change in his behavior and speech, the reader will see changes in the heart as he develops a conscience, experiences caring thoughts for others, and feelings he isn’t used to. Before this character can act on his change of heart, you must first give the reader a glimpse of the upcoming change so you don’t jolt your reader out of the story by later having him do something that is out of character for him. Change is a process, and you have to show the process in the story.

IV. Deep POV Techniques

If you can learn to effectively write in deep POV, you will automatically eliminate several writing mistakes that plague a lot of authors, especially new authors. There are so many rules that a writer can’t possibly remember them all. If you master deep POV, you won’t have to.


A. Trim the FatDelete any unnecessary words that only hold space and add no value to your story. This concept not only includes words, but sentences, paragraphs, and scenes. If a scene doesn’t progress the story forward, cut it.

B. Use Action VerbsWhere possible don’t use “was” and an “ing” verb, or a dull verb that is overused in clich├ęs or other works. Writing is supposed to be creative and if you aren’t giving the reader something they’ve never read before, you aren’t giving them your best work.

C. Limit Adjectives
Using words that end in “ly” are not forbidden, but their use should be limited. It’s considered a sign of laziness and stifles creativity. Try to rephrase sentences to avoid this and you’ll see how much of a challenge it can be, but well worth the effort. Replace weak adjectives with strong adjectives. Also, don’t use double adjectives in a sentence to describe the same thing. Choose the stronger adjective and delete the other.

D. Simple is BetterYou don’t need a whole page of narration to describe the layout of a scene. A single paragraph will do, or layer it throughout the action. This will keep the pacing of your book flowing and won’t bore the reader. Also, tight sentences that are directly to the point often leave a lasting impression. Long, wordy sentences are easily forgotten.

E. Limit Prepositional Phrases
Literary fiction uses a lot of prepositional phrases. Commercial fiction does not. Try rephrasing the sentence or simply deleting it if the sentence will still make sense without it. Wordy sentence makes readers tired and puts unnecessary strain on them. It’s frustrating to readers if they have to read over the same paragraph multiple times to understand it. Don’t lose your reader through a maze of beautiful adjectives and flowing adverbs that lead through prepositional phrases and direct objects that link nowhere and go on forever.

F. Avoid Red Flag Key Words
I’ve picked out a few “red flag” key words and phrases to spot during the editing process. These words are not always a problem, you need to pay attention to the context of how it is used in the structure of the sentence. Usually if the author is describing a character’s emotion, trying to show an attitude, or is building sensory in a scene, that is when these words are “red flags”. Therefore, don’t go through a manuscript and highlight every use of these words. There are times when these words should be used.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Book Review - "Hearts in the Highlands" by Ruth Axtell Morren



Book Description

Maddie Norton had long since resigned herself to her spinster's lot. Her life was devoted to her simple yet enduring faith, to good works and to the elderly lady whose companion she was. She believed herself content. But that was before her mistress's handsome nephew returned to London after many years spent abroad as an archaeologist.The shadows in Reid Gallagher's memory-haunted eyes touched Maddie's heart. When he asked her to travel with his family, to help with his work, she could scarcely refuse. And as she came to know this man better, amid the breathtaking beauty of the Scottish Highlands, she began to wonder if two solitary souls might yet find new life--and love--as one.

My Review

This is a wonderful Christian story set in Europe with a romantic setting that will sweep you away to another time and place for a pleasurable experience. Not only is this an entertaining read, but one learns about archaeology and how biblical artifacts were discovered and preserved in the nineteenth century. The writing is true to the time period and the way Maddie and Reid come to care for one another is a true delight inspite of a few obstacles.

Maddie is submissive to her faith, yet willing to take chances and seek adventure and live life to the fullest. Reid encourages her to ignore social protocol and do what is appropriate for the sake of her health, safety, and comfort. The two of them are an encouragement to each other. I would highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a faith-filled and enjoyable read.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Digging into Deep POV (Part I)

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 


I. Point of View ElementsA. What is POV?Point of view is the viewpoint or perspective of how a story or event is told. For writing purposes, it’s whose head you're writing in--whose emotions and feelings you're letting us experience.
B. Types of POV1) Omniscent POV – This is the author's POV since it is the all-knowing perspective. Nothing is unknown or hidden. When an author has been writing in a character's POV and suddenly slips in a sentence or two that only the author could have known, this is often called Author Intrusion.

Example: Little did Ben know that today's events would change his life forever.
2) First Person POV - One person's personal perspective or experience. The author uses key words such as "I" or "my" or "me" to tell the story. It reads like an autobiography.

Example: His words cut me to the core, until my insides trembled and despair overwhelmed me.
3) Third Person POV - Told through another person's perspective. The author often uses the character's name, or key words such as "she" or "he". This POV is most in fiction and allows a smoother transition from one character's POV to another character's POV.

Example: His words cut Cindy to the core, until her insides trembled and despair overwhelmed her.
C. Head-Hopping
Head-hopping is when you start a scene in a character's POV and within the same scene you switch to another character's POV without a scene break. It's best to indicate a scene break with # # # signs. Editors and contests often do not allow specialized symbols.

Note: If you are a huge author with a proven track record and millions of books sold under your penmanship, then most likely you could get away with head-hopping as several of the "big-name" authors do. However, if you are a new author or a midlist author, you aren't likely going to get away with it. Therefore, you will have to play by the "no head-hopping" rule until you make it big.

D. What is Deep POV?
Deep POV is telling a story in such a way that the reader's emotions are engaged in the character's thoughts and perspective. The reader essentially sees, hears, speaks, tastes, and feels what the character experiences. The character is real to the reader. And the reader cares about the character. The reader becomes part of the story and connects to the character.
E. Why Use Deep POV?Using deep POV allows the reader to experience the story, instead having someone tell them the story. It ties emotion to action and reactions, and connects the current action to what the character is thinking. In deep POV, a character doesn't hide secrets from himself.

II. Choosing the POV Character

A. Always Begin in the Main Character's POV
Readers usually identify with the first character as the main character. If you don't do this, readers feel disconnected from your characters and have a harder time feeling engaged in the story. They may feel lost and confused. If they get too frustrated, they won't finish your book, recommend your book, or read future books you’ve written.

B. Using Multiple POVs
You can write in more than one POV, but never head-hop. Set a section break before switching POV characters. A general rule is to keep your POV characters to no more than 4-5 different characters throughout the whole book. Make sure your main character has the most POV scenes.
C. Choose the Character with the Most RiskWhen you sit down to write a new scene, consider your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflict (GMC). Decide who in the scene will have the most risk. This is whose POV you should use in this particular scene.

D. Remember Your Readership
Choose a character your target audience will best understand. For instance, if you are targeting a junior audience, your main character wouldn't be a 40-year-old male. You would probably choose a 12-year-old.
E. Using Secondary CharactersThere are limited times you might want to write a scene in a secondary character's POV. It could be to reveal the villain's goal or motive, or when a secondary character is playing a pivotal role in the story.

In a few days I'll post Part II of this series, which covers Courting your Characters and Deep POV Techniques.