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.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Category to Single Title

What do you do when you’ve written a short novel around 50,000 – 60,000 words and the only two publishers that accept that length of fiction give you one of the standard responses:

  • The writing has potential and the characters are intriguing but the premise isn’t quite right for us.

  • We recently contracted a similar storyline, if you have anything else, I’d be happy to take a look.

  • Other elements in the story seem to be just as strong as the romance and in our novels the romance must be the priority element.

    Do you set the manuscript aside and forget about it? Do you go back and rewrite it to meet their needs? Do you give up and write another book?

    Over my ten plus years of writing, I’ve had all the above responses and plenty more. I’ve set the manuscripts aside, I’ve tried rewriting them and resubmitting, and I’ve given up and started writing other books. Ten years gives you plenty of time to try all the options.

    But I’m a firm believer that no manuscript is ever wasted, and God can help us create something beautiful out of nothing. He is after all, THE CREATOR!

    You may have your heart set on a particular publisher, and my advice would be don’t give up. Try writing something else for them once you have a clear understanding of their guidelines and what they’re acquiring. But I would also advise that you not give up on what you’ve already written. Perhaps God is trying to guide you on a wider path that He has tailored just for you. It may be that your writing style isn’t right for the publisher you strongly admire, be open-minded to unexpected blessings.

    Consider Writing a Single Title
    Before you rewrite a short novel that can only be submitted to one or two publishers, consider adding a new element or a couple of unexpected plot twists to your storyline. This will lengthen your novel by 20,000 or more words. Longer length novels are often referred to as single titles and range from 80,000 – 100,000 or more words. This will open your submission options to fifteen or more publishers. I don’t know about you, but with the fiction market being so tough to break into, I can use all the available options.

    Category lines are set up for a particular reader that the publisher has done extensive research on and knows what those readers are looking for in a book. Therefore, category authors must write to a particular theme, and concentrate on only one or two elements throughout the book. The elements of romance, faith, mystery or suspense, depends on the type of line you’re writing for.

    Single title novels generally have fewer restrictions since they are longer and have a more varied audience of readers. Typically, you aren’t limited to themes unless you’re writing to an author brand you’ve selected for yourself, or you’re contracted for a particular series.

    How do you lengthen your story?
    If you are writing a Christian romance, you could always throw in a new element of suspense or mystery. What would happen if your heroine didn’t know something important about your hero? How would her actions and reactions be different? Would it create more tension, suspense, or an air of mystery? Perhaps you could have two or three villains instead of one, to thicken the plot and add more mystery. Who is the real villain? Could they all be working together in one big conspiracy?

    Throw in a tragic scene where one of the main sub-characters dies unexpectedly or suffers some cruel twist of fate. Make readers turn those pages with more fervor. These kind of plot twists are great for a sagging middle. How will this new tragedy affect the hero and heroine? Will it throw them together or create an obstacle in their path? Could one of them be to blame, or appear to be responsible?

    If you’re writing a contemporary, how can you create a historical sub-story where the past affects the hero and heroine in a modern setting? These are even better than time travels because then they seem more real. The past of our ancestors do affect who we are and where we are born today. What secret, legend, or curse has been hidden for generations that have made a line of descendants live in blatant fear? Will the truth and a new faith in Christ set them free if they have the courage to believe?

    There are so many ways to lengthen a story. If you’ve tried to get your short story published, and you believe in the potential of your story and your writing, give it a chance with more options as a single title. You can always try to write another short story. Maybe the next one will be right for the category line you want to target.
  • Sunday, April 27, 2008

    Colonial Land in the Carolinas

    In 1663 King Charles II of England appointed eight men as the Lords Proprietors over the Carolinas land in the colonies for their loyal service to him. At this time, the Carolinas included what is present day, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennesee, Georgia, and Florida.

    Anyone who wanted to purchase land south of Virginia had to go through one of these eight lords and/or their representatives. Some of these lords never set foot on colonial soil. The Lords Proprietors included:


  • 2nd Earl of Carendon (Henry Hyde)


  • 1st Earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley-Cooper)


  • 1st Duke of Albemarle (George Monck)


  • 1st Earl of Craven (William Craven)


  • 1st Baron Berkeley of Stratton (John Berkeley)


  • 1st Baronet of Carteret who also later became Earl of Granville (George Carteret)


  • Marquess of Berkeley (William Berkeley)


  • 1st Baronet of Colleton (John Colleton)

    The Earl of Granville mostly issued property in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Many of these land grants were purchased in England before the colonists ever left their mother country. So they had no idea what they would find when they arrived in the Carolinas. I can only imagine the courage it took to cross the great Atlantic and settle in a foreign land with only wilderness around.

  • Thursday, April 24, 2008

    CFBA Book Review - "Winter Haven"



    Athol Dickson's university-level training in painting, sculpture, and architecture was followed by a long career as an architect then his decision several years ago to devote full time to writing.

    Athol Dickson’s writing has been favorably compared to the work of Octavia Butler(Publisher’s Weekly), Daphne du Maurier (Cindy Crosby, FaithfulReader.com) and FlanneryO’Connor (The New York Times).

    His They Shall See God was a Christy Award finalist and his River Rising was a Christy Award winner, selected as one of the Booklist Top Ten Christian Novels of 2006 and a finalist for Christianity Today's Best Novel of 2006.He and his wife, Sue, live in Southern California. Visit AtholDickson.com for more information.


    Boys who never age, giants lost in time, mist that never rises, questions never asked...on the most remote of islands off the coast of Maine, history haunts the present and Vera Gamble wrestles with a past that will not yield. Will she find refuge there, or will her ghosts prevail on...Winter Haven.

    Eleven years ago, Vera Gamble's brother left their house never to be seen again. Until the day Vera gets a phone call that his body has been found...washed ashore in the tiny island town of Winter Haven, Maine. His only surviving kin, Vera travels north to claim the body...and finds herself tumbling into a tangled mystery. Her brother hasn't aged a day since last she saw him.

    Determined to uncover what happened in those lost years, Vera soon discovers there are other secrets lurking in this isolated town. But Winter Haven's murky past now seems bound to come to light as one woman seeks the undeniable and flooding light of truth.

    Purchase the book here.

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    Using Family History to Write Fiction

    Every family has a story to tell. And many families have several stories. You don’t need to know what every ancestor looked like, their personalities, all of their customs, or every conversation they ever had. All you need to know is the basics and let your creative imagination devise the rest. It can be a pure fiction story or a novel based on a true story.

    What are some of the verbal histories or legends your grandmother or grandfather told you? If you have any older relatives still living, make a point to visit them before they are gone. Each day we lose a part of our oldest generation. Once they are gone, all their memories will go with them unless it is recorded by someone like you.

    Not only will you have a novel (maybe several) to write from your time and effort, but you’ll have a rich history you can pass on to future generations of your family. Pay attention to how your elderly relatives talk and make note of it for dialogue.

    Most people are interested in where their family came from and knowing more, but they don’t know where to start. Others don’t understand the importance of knowing their family history.

    For me, the desire to know was always there, but the catalyst that kicked me into gear was when my daughter was born with a life-threatening seizure disorder. Once they had performed every possible test, the hospital then brought in professional genealogists. They wanted to know our family tree, specifically the medical history of any ancestors we could remember as far back as possible. My husband and I stared at each other like two dummies. We didn’t know anything beyond our parents and grandparents.

    When I realized that my lack of information could possibly prevent them from discovering a way to help my daughter, guilt rushed through me and I cried for days. I vowed to find out everything I possibly could. I’ve kept that promise. I now have a 3-inch notebook filled with obituaries and death certificates stating how many of my ancestors died. Along with this information is a rich history of stories to be told.

    When you discover your family history, you not only learn about facts as to who married whom, and what children they had, but you might find historical court minutes, family Bibles from other relatives, photos as to how they looked and dressed, old journals, and newspaper articles. Back then people didn’t just gossip amongst themselves, they printed gossip, especially in the society columns. You would be amazed at the personal and trivial details they included in newspapers in the name of “news”.

    There's a story waiting to be discovered—in your family history.

    Find out if you're related to me at Our Carolina Roots.

    Saturday, April 19, 2008

    Charlotte Colonial Plantation


    This is the original restored Hezekiah Alexander house on the colonial plantation here in Charlotte, NC. Hezekiah was born in 1722 and came to North Carolina from Maryland. He built this house in 1774 just before the American Revolutionary War.


    The boundaries on a deed of land was usually identified by a branch of a creek, a nearby river, or some other landmark. If there were neighbors, their borders were often named in the deed to identify boundaries. The corners of a deed were referred to as poles.
    This plantation was located on a branch of Sugar Creek. The Alexanders attended Sugaw Creek Presbyterian Church. At first I thought the name was misspelled, but it isn't. It is officially, spelled with a "w" and is pronounced as "sugar", although I'm sure most people back then said "sugaw" and that is why it's spelled that way as many spelled things phonetically.

    In 1663, King Charles II of England granted eight lords land in Carolina for their loyal service. They became known as the Lord Proprietors. This land extended from the western part of VA all the way down past GA. The first land grants sold in the Carolinas were given by these lords or their acting agents. Prior to that, no one owned the land here except the American Indian tribes who lived here. They were the Cherokee, Catawba, Santee, Croatan, Pee Dee, Waccamaw, and Lumbee to name a few.

    Most plantation homes did not have a kitchen within the house due to the potential of fires. This way if a fire grew out of control, it would only burn down the kitchen and save the family home. Often, the floor in the kitchen was dirt. The fire place was much larger than what we have in our homes today so that they could hang pots over the fire and set dutch ovens inside the fireplace for cooking. 

    The Alexander house had a small window on the side where meals were brought from the kitchen to the house where they would eat at a family table with chairs. The glass was imported from Europe and is isn't clear like our glass today. It looks wavy and distorted.
    The doorways were not built low because they were short people, but for the purpose of maintaining a cool breeze in the summers and keep in heat during the winters. They built a front door directly opposite the back door so that a breeze way would flow through during the hot seasons.
    Only those with considerable wealth actually painted their homes and furniture. They also imported wall paper from Europe. Colored furniture such as a china cabinet was a sign of wealth and prosperity. Even strange colors that would seem ugly to us today would be bright and cheerful in their homes since it was so rare.

    In the picture to the left, a tour guide is telling us about the house, but look at the brown paneling in the background. The walls are two feet deep and they actually built cabinet space in the walls to hold things which created less of a need for furniture and more space in the rooms.

    Most of the time one might think of a bed being stuffed with feathers (and later cotton), but here they stuffed them with corn shells and they tied ropes from one side of the bed frame to the other to hold their mattresses.

    This plantation has a spring house and their well is only two feet deep. The way it is built keeps it cool and it's right over the creek. A photo of it is on the left and it matches the same type of stone that the main house is built of.


    Next month I am going to visit the Jacob Kelley plantation house in Hartsville, SC. This house survived the Civil War and the occupation of northern troops. The Jacob Kelley house is special to me since the Kelley's were neighbors to my Hudson ancestors. I'm hoping to find remnants of the Hudson house, but from the information I've managed to gather, it was in terrible condition back in the 1970's and I'm concerned it has since been torn down. I'll be sure to blog about what I find.

    Thursday, April 17, 2008

    Book Review - A Passion Most Pure


    By Julie Lessman

    Description

    Faith O'Connor refuses to settle for anything less than a romantic relationship that pleases God. She arms her heart against her desire for Collin McGuire, a man with a rakish reputation and a magnetic appeal that keeps tugging at her. But when Collin tries to win her younger sister's hand, Faith isn't sure she can handle it. Tension escalates in the O'Connor household when Collin sets his sights upon Faith, while still courting her sister.

    With the Great War raging overseas, new fears arise as America initiates the draft. Filled with passion, romance, rivalry, and betrayal, A Passion Most Pure is a captivating saga that will grip readers from the beginning and not let go until the last page.

    Review

    I loved this book! Many books I have read in Christian fiction are so careful to keep the romance on a surface level that you hardly see the relationship developing, until the end when they suddenly declare their love for each other. At the end of a book like this I'm left wondering, when did that happen? But not with A Passion Most Pure. This book shows Faith's simultaneous attraction to Collin while she wrestles with the choice to reject him. It doesn't hide temptation, but shows how a Christian must sacrifice certain desires for the sake of our Lord's blessing.

    Through this story God's faithfulness to his servants in granting them the desires of their hearts is so vivid as Collin develops a sincere relationship with God. Collin isn't only converted to Christianity, but the book shows his faith walk as he too must make decisions and choose new paths different from what he once took.

    Since this is Julie Lessman's debut novel, I'm very excited to see what the rest of her books in this series will hold. A Passion Most Pure is appropriately titled, as the passion is definitely present on so many levels--both romantically and spiritually. This is one of those satisfying stories that will move you to the same emotional level that the characters are experiencing. And when you finish reading it, you're sorry it's over.

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    Getting Started with Characterization

    Even when I was a panster rather than a plotter, I still wrote out a character sketch on my main characters. I planned who my characters were going to be before I started writing the story.

    For those of you who might be new to writing:

    A plotter - is a writer who plans the storyline from beginning to end, including all or most of the highlights and twists in the middle.

    A panster - is a writer who writes by the seat of their pants. It just flows out of them as they type. Some pansters may have a general idea of how to begin the story and end it, but they haven't decided all that will happen to get them from the beginning to the end.

    All fiction writers have one thing in common whether they are a panster or a plotter - and that's characters. Every story must have characters with physical traits, speech patterns, personality traits, a background, motives for their behavior, and future goals. Without characters, there is no plot or story. Characters that lack any of these elements puts your story in jeopardy of having originality, realism, emotion, or the ability to make readers care about what happens to your characters.

    I start out with a Character Sketch form that I created years ago. It helps me get ideas flowing and I modify it as needed for each character. I fill in as much detail as possible on the main characters and only what I need on the secondary characters. As I progress into the story, I may add more details.

    Physical Traits
    Try to conjure an image of your characters. Remember that they need to be likeable (except maybe the villian), but not perfect. Perhaps your hero has a problem with cowlicks in his hair, premature gray, a scar on his face, a birthmark, or some other physical flaw. Could he have a disability with his hand, arm, or leg? Maybe he could limp, drag his leg, or walk with a unique gate. What is his sense of style? Can he match colors? Does he dress neatly, expensively, poorly?

    Likewise, don't be afraid to give your heroine a physical flaw. Even if she is perfect to you, does she see herself as perfect? Maybe she has beautiful curls, but she thinks she looks like an Amazon woman who spent too much time in the rainforest. Remember to use dimples, freckles, moles, scars, anything that can make her unique and memorable.

    If you have trouble imagining an image, think of a few celebrities or find a model in a magazine that you can use as an example of your character. Clip it out and put it in your reference folder for that particular novel. It will give you something to refer back to when you need it.

    Speech Pattern
    Your characters need to speak appropriately for their region, education, personality, and mood swings. A mild mannered character experiencing an attack will seem out of place. He might yell in his defense or be so frightened that he is speechless, but he isn't likely to keep drinking his coffee and continue his table conversation.

    A person from a foreign country will have a dialect from that language. Someone who is well educated will use refined language and a strong vocabulary, while an uneducated individual will have a different dialect of dropping the "ing" ending of words, the "r" sound in pronunciation, especially contractions.

    Characters with uplifting personalities may tell jokes, have witty replies, and say encouraging things that bolster other characters. Negative characters will always be pessimistic and blurt out warnings, unnecessary caution, and angry responses. Keep the words, phrases, sentence structure and tone true to that character.

    Try listening to people's conversation at church, in the mall, and all around you. How do they respond? A child isn't going to sound the same as an adult, and a teenager won't sound like an adult or a child. Writing a good speech pattern for a character requires listening to others.

    If you can write a character sketch and determine a speech pattern, then you are half-way there in creating your character. You have the foundation, the bones that will hold up your character in any scene. Now you need to create personality traits and motives behind behaviors, another layer to your character consisting of muscles that will move your reader with emotion. The more you exercise these elements, the greater the muscle will grow in moving your reader to where you want them to go whether it be laughter, grief, anger or suspense.

    In a few weeks I'll blog on Layering Personality and Behavior.

    Saturday, April 12, 2008

    Fog Over the Deep

    Recently, we moved to a new neighborhood. I now drive by a pond and a lake each morning on my way to work. I leave at daybreak. Each time I notice that there is a fresh morning fog hovering over the waters. I'm reminded of the following verse.

    "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1:1-2)

    With each new day, it's a new beginning. We have no idea what we might face. The day is without form and it is a deep unknown until it unfolds with the passing of each second. But regardless of what happened the day before, or what we might have done, one thing is certain. God's mercies are new each day.

    Thursday, April 10, 2008

    Book Review - Trouble the Water

    About the Author

    Nicole Seitz is a South Carolina Lowcountry native and the author of The Spirit of Sweetgrass as well as a freelance writer/illustrator who has published in numerous low country magazines. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Journalism, she also has a bachelor's degree in illustration from Savannah College of Art & Design. Nicole shows her paintings in the Charleston, South Carolina area, where she owns a web design firm and lives with her husband and two small children. Nicole is also an avid blogger, you can leave her a comment on her blog.

    Note to Readers: We will have an upcoming interview on the Carolina Christian Writers Blog in the fall.

    Seitz's writing style recalls that of Southern authors like Kaye Gibbons, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Sue Monk Kidd, and this new novel, which the publisher compares to Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees, surely joins the ranks of strong fiction that highlights the complicated relationships between women. Highly recommended, especially for Southern libraries.

    About the Book

    In the South Carolina Sea Islands lush setting, Nicole Seitz's second novel Trouble the Water is a poignant novel about two middle-aged sisters' journey to self-discovery.

    One is seeking to recreate her life yet again and learns to truly live from a group of Gullah nannies she meets on the island. The other thinks she's got it all together until her sister's imminent death from cancer causes her to re-examine her own life and seek the healing and rebirth her troubled sister managed to find on St. Anne's Island.

    Strong female protagonists are forced to deal with suicide, wife abuse, cancer, and grief in a realistic way that will ring true for anyone who has ever suffered great loss.

    "This is another thing I know for a fact: a woman can't be an island, not really. No, it's the touching we do in other people's lives that matters when all is said and done. The silly things we do for ourselves--shiny new cars and jobs and money--they don't mean a hill of beans. Honor taught me that. My soul sisters on this island taught me that. And this is the story of true sisterhood. It's the story of Honor, come and gone, and how one flawed woman worked miracles in this mixed-up world."

    "...a special sisterhood of island women whose wisdom and courage linger in the mind long after the book is closed."- NEW YORK TIMES best-selling author SUSAN WIGGS

    Monday, April 07, 2008

    Judging & Critiquing Improves Editing Skills

    Most writers enter their manuscripts in contests and submit to critique groups hoping to receive valuable feedback. They need someone who hasn’t already seen the manuscript to give them a fresh perspective.

    Authors read their own manuscripts so many times that they lose that critical eye for detail. Something in our subconscious mind says, “I’ve read this a thousand times. There can’t possibly be anything wrong with it.” Yet, we get that same manuscript back and things are marked that we missed. And all we can do is stare at it and ask ourselves, “How on earth did I miss this?”

    Those of us who rely on critique partners may feel a slight panic when we get one of those requests or short deadlines that won’t give us time to send it to a critique partner. Relying on others is necessary, but not to the point that it diminishes your self-confidence in your own work.

    So how can you improve your editing skills and your critical eye for detail? My answer is don’t just enter contests as a contestant for feedback, but volunteer to judge. Don’t just join a critique group to be critiqued, but join to critique others. Every manuscript you critique or judge improves your editing skills with practice.

    You may be thinking, “But I don’t have a lot of free time. Any work I do should be spent on my own manuscripts. Can’t that count for practice?” The answer to this is the same as why you need a fresh pair of eyes to catch mistakes in your manuscript that you can’t catch. You will see mistakes in other writing that you may not see in your own. But once you get in the habit of identifying writing mistakes in other manuscripts, the habit will transfer to your own writing when you go back to edit it.

    I wrote for several years before I joined my first critique group. I knew most of the writing rules and I still missed instances in my writing where I broke these rules. But if reading someone’s manuscript, I could easily catch backstory in the first chapter, unnecessary taglines in dialogue, reaction before action, wordy sentences that needed to be tight, too many ‘was’ and ‘ing’ verbs, characters behaving out of character, etc.

    After a year in this critique group, the critical eye for detail I’d developed when reading other manuscripts began to naturally flow over when editing my own manuscripts. If you haven’t joined a critique group, I urge you to consider it. On the other hand, if you were or are in a critique group and this wasn’t your experience, consider approaching it with a new attitude with this concept in mind. Also, it may be time to try a new critique group. Sometimes we outgrow where we are and change is necessary to keep growing.

    One thing is certain. Judging and critiquing other manuscripts improves one’s editing skills and helps to develop a more critical eye for detail.

    Thursday, April 03, 2008

    Book Review - "When Zeffie Got a Clue"

    About the Author:

    Peggy Darty is the award-winning author of twenty-seven books, including two cozy mysteries set in Summer Breeze, Florida: When the Sandpiper Calls and When Bobbie Sang the Blues. She has worked in film, researched for CBS, and led writing workshops around the country. Darty and her husband live in Alabama but spend time in Colorado, Montana, and on Florida’s Emerald Coast.

    ABOUT THE BOOK:

    It’s an ordinary afternoon in Summer Breeze, Florida, when a young, wide-eyed girl steps into I Saw It First, the trash-to-treasure shop Christy Castleman and her Aunt Bobbie have opened. Clutching a jewelry box, Zeffie Adams tells Christy she needs money to pay her grandmother’s medical bills, prompting Christy to offer this curious visitor more than the jewelry box is worth–or so she thinks.

    But complicated questions form when Christy rips out the box’s lining and uncovers a clue to a cold case murder mystery from eight years ago. Despite warnings from her family and handsome boyfriend Dan Brockman, Christy decides to do a little detective work of her own. After all, the infamous murder happened close to her grandmother’s farm. How risky could it be to take the jewelry box back to the Strickland plantation and ask around about it?

    Soon Christy finds there is more to the small box than someone wants her to know. A jewelry theft. A mansion murder. Dangerous family secrets buried in history. Can Christy convince others to let go of the past before it’s too late?