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 27, 2009

Maximizing the Most out of Book Reviews

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Most authors worry about book reviews and whether or not it will be a good one. While we can't control how someone will like or dislike our books, we can take a few steps to help facilitate the process and make it more enjoyable for the reviewers, besides trying to write the best book possible.


As much as we authors would love to have our feelings and our career on the reviewer's mind, the bottom line is, the reviewer's first responsibility is to the reader. It's their job to help a reader decide if our books are the type readers will enjoy and would like to invest their time in reading and their money in buying. We must be prepared to hear anything from great, good, to not so good, and bad. Keep in mind that what one reviewer will love, another will hate. 

Research reviewers who you want to read your book. Make sure you know the type of publication that is reviewing your book, and if possible, the specific reviewer. How have they treated other books of your genre? What are their preferences? If you write romance and you send your book to a reviewer who hates romance, if that person chooses to do the review, your chances of getting an excellent review are slim to none and it may not have anything to do with the writing or the story. Remember, in some cases, bad publicity can be worse than no publicity. It's okay to be selective. 

When you contact a reviewer, be sure to include the "on sale" date as well as the "release month". Some reviewers need 2-3 months notice, while others may need 4-6 months notice. Be aware of their time frame and deadlines. There are no guarantees that the reviewer will review your book, your submission is for "consideration only". 

If your book doesn't get reviewed in spite of all your best efforts, try not to take it as a personal slight. Publications often make changes in their printing schedules that could have affected your review. Space allotments could have been adjusted for breaking news, too many books similar to yours may have come in, or a number of things could have happened. 

Be sure to send them a thank you note for their review, even if it wasn't all you had hoped it would be. A little appreciation could make a difference for next time. 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The History of Carolina Quakers


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

With all the Amish novels circulating the shelves in Christian fiction, it makes me think of my Quaker ancestors and possible story ideas with their faith. While they no longer live the simple life in our present day society with horses and buggies, farming, and plain clothing, there are some similarities in their history in that they are a peaceful people, opposed to violence, were staunch abolishonists against slavery, promoted plainness in speech and clothing, and here in North Carolina made a great impact in our community.

While many Quakers of today range in varying beliefs, my mother's Quaker family considered themselves Christians, believing in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and often concentrated on listening to the Holy Spirit within them before making decisions. Equality was vastly important to them in regard to gender, race and nationality. The same God created us all and the same Holy Spirit dwells in everyone who chooses not to reject Him.

However, please keep in mind that over the years many changes have taken place in the Quaker faith, which includes a liberal movement that some, but not all, embraced. A few years ago I sent out a prayer request to some individuals and on it was a distant relative whose Quaker branch had moved out west. He still considered himself a Quaker, but when I received his response to my prayer request, I was shocked. He told me he was an atheist. My first thought was, how can a Quaker be an atheist? All the Quakers I had ever known in my mother's family and around the Piedmont were known to be "Christians".

I did some online research and discovered this liberal movement that took place in the 20th Century (around the 1930's). Atheists were not welcome in other Christian religions, but since Quakers did not discriminate against them and makes an attempt to welcome everyone as "friends", many began attending the Quaker Meetings. But historically, and doctrinally, the Quaker religion was Christian. This also may explain why my great-grandfather, who attended Centre Friends Meeting and is currently buried there, donated land to build Community Baptist Church in Guilford County where my grandparents are buried.

This makes me wonder if an historical Christian novel with Quaker characters would be received in the CBA market. Since it would be an historical, it would be completely accurate as a Christian fiction novel. However, with the reputation Quakers have developed by accepting atheist friends, I wonder if this would be a problem. I'm thinking it wouldn't be as long as it is historical. Any thoughts?

The photo above is of a Quaker couple, William "Henry" Wall and his wife Martha Jane Zeek Wall, my gg-grandparents. They attended Marlboro Friends Meeting in Randolph County, NC where they are buried. Other Quaker meeting houses that my ancestors attended in North Carolina were, Centre Friends Meeting, New Garden Friends Meeting, and Deep River Friends Meeting. This couple actually met at a dance in Indiana, where several branches of our North Carolina families migrated to escape the destruction of slavery in the South. During the Civil War, Henry was a young teen and since the Quakers didn't believe in fighting, he was forced to work in a salt factory as his contribution to the war.

Quakers arrived in North Carolina in 1665 when the family of Henry Phillips settled here. Quakers called their church services, Meetings, and referred to themselves as Friends. The first Quaker Friends Meeting service was held in 1672 by William Edmundson, an Irish minister. Between 1665 - 1750, at least 13 meetings were established in North Carolina.

Around 1750 two important meetings were established in the Piedmont region where I grew up, Cane Creek in Alamance County and New Garden in present day Guilford County, which became the center of southern Quakerism. Across from New Garden is Guilford College Quaker Records. If you need to do any research on Quakers in the Piedmont of the Carolinas, this is THE place to go. They have a research room dedicated to Quaker history and genealogy research. I made some great discoveries about my own family history by visiting these archives in person.

For more information on Quakers and their historical doctrine beliefs, visit the following links:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fiction Submission Checklist

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

So many writers, especially first time authors, struggle with knowing when their book is ready for submission. They've attended a number of workshops, edited and re-edited their manuscript until the story is practically memorized line-by-line, and still, they wonder. Some have entered it in contests, made several critique group rounds, and always it comes back with more suggested changes, something new they hadn't caught or thought about. How will they know when it's ready to submit?

Below is a checklist that might be helpful.

  • Have you met the word length specifications for your target market?
  • Have you handled the appropriate points of view for your characters regarding his background, goals, and personalities?
  • Have you brought something fresh with a new angle and/or twist to the market?
  • Have you established a distinct personality for each of your main characters?
  • Is the tone and setting clearly established from the first page?
  • Does each main character have established goals and motives for both external and internal conflict?
  • Do your characters have depth, flaws, preferences, unique abilities, background, beyond their physical appearance?
  • Do you have a great hook at the beginning, omitted dumping too much background in the first 30 pages?
  • Does each scene raise the stakes of the main characters, while building to the next scene?
  • Does each scene open with a hook and leave the reader hanging at the end?
  • Have you used foreshadowing appropriately without giving away the event?
  • Does each character have his/her own unique voice in dialogue? Is it realistic and appropriate to their education, station, culture, and background?
  • Have you used, but not overused tag lines and dialogue tags?
  • At the end have you resolved all internal and external conflicts and moved the story through a gradual development?
  • Does the story end on a satisfying note?
  • Have you ran a spell check and grammar check or had others read through it?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Flying Over Charleston for Writing Research


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

While we were in Charleston, SC last month, we flew over the city to get an arial view of one of the settings of my most recent book, Beloved Liberty. It was a beautiful mixture of history and present-day culture from a broad view that many don't get a chance to experience.






The photo to the above is of the Cooper River Bridge. It opened in 2005, replacing Pearman Bridge.

This is the Ashley River. It was magnificent to see how it lays across the land.

This is Historic Charleston and Battery St. is lined along the harbor. Some of these homes are a couple of centuries old. It's hard to believe they've survived hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and weathered the test of time.




As I'm writing my story, I can just imagine what it was like back in 1810. Chalmer St. still has the cobblestone road and some of the street lamps look just like the gas lamps they had back in the Victorian period. And with all the carriage tours around the city, old church bells ringing, one can easily imagine living and existing in those by-gone days.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Argyll Colony of NC

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Gabriel Johnston, was a lowland Scot who served as North Carolina's governor from 1734-1752. He wrote enthusiastic letters to friends and family back in Scotland encouraging them to migrate to the Cape Fear region of North Carolina. He offered them free land grants of two crops each year, and possible exemption from taxation for a time. 

Most likely they landed at the port of Brunswick and then traveled up the Cape Fear Valley about 90 miles to what is now Fayetteville. They established a number of Presbyterian churches in the area, many of which are on the present-day property of Fort Bragg. 

Gaelic was universally spoken throughout the area from about 1739 until around the 1860's during the Civil War. As with many Latino families today, most of these families were bilingual and spoke Gaelic at home and at church. Fayetteville had a Gaelic printing press in the early 19th century and some of their publications are preserved in the Presybeterian Historical Foundation in Montreat, NC. 

For more information, visit:
http://www.theargyllcolonyplus.org/history.html

Or read:
Carolina Scots by Douglas E. Kelly and Caroline Switzer Kelly

Monday, April 06, 2009

How to Write a Compelling Synopsis for Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Most literary agents and publishers require an author to submit a 3-5 page synopsis. Some want a longer synopsis, while others want a one-pager or a detailed chapter-by-chapter outline. My advice is to create a 3-page synopsis since that will suffice most requests and customize it as needed, but always keep the original 3-pager as a template. 

Format
The format should be much like the manuscript itself, double-spaced, one-inch margins, a header with page numbers, and a font in Times Roman Numeral or Courrier. The entire synopsis must be written in present tense. 

Introduction
The first lines should contain a hook, introducing who the hero is and what he wants, and who the heroine is and what she wants. Then the next few lines should explain why they can't have what they want, making the external conflict immediately clear. 

Note: The synopsis is one place where you can tell the story rather than show the story. Do not use dialogue unless you have a great reason for using a character's quote to drive a point home or to help the editor feel the impact. Even then, I would only suggest no more than one line.

Setting
Give a brief overview of the setting, which would include time period, location, and culture. You don't need to get into specific details, but flavor the synopsis with enough sensory to make the editor imagine the story and feel the setting.

Characters
Concentrate on the two main characters' personalities and reveal their inner conflict. I usually alternate paragraphs that indicate each character's point of view. Try to only mention the hero and heroine, however, if you must mention a third or fourth character whose influence is essential to understanding the story, try to only mention them by their profession (doctor, lawyer), or relationship (mother, sister, brother). Introducing too many characters in so few pages can be overwhelming and increases the chance of confusion, a perfect reason to reject your proposal without requesting the full manuscript.

Genre
Show the development of the plot regarding the genre you're writing, whether it be romance, suspense, mystery, fantasy, etc. If it's a romance, this is where you tell about the characters' physical attraction, how they fight the attraction and for whatever reason, and how they admit the attraction. Then discuss the progression of the relationship to the caring phase and the love phase.

Faith
In an Inspirational romance or Christian fiction, make sure you indicate what kind of spiritual state both characters are in at the beginning of the story. Are they believers? If they are, what are their spiritual flaws? What are their weaknesses? Talk about new realizations and discoveries that begin to change their mind. End on how they've changed as a result. Either the characters must find salvation, or if they were already believers, then they must have grown in a spiritual area. Think about the different fruits of the Spirit for areas to improve upon your characters.

Climax
Just like in your story, build the synopsis to the climatic point. Bring the inner and external conflict to a head, relate the spiritual tension, and make the situation look impossible to resolve.

Resolution
Tell how the characters resolve their conflict and what plot changes occurred to enable them to achieve their goals or remove the problem. Be sure to include how the story ends. Editors and agents won't appreciate being teased. They want to know that you can bring the book to a satisfying end before they'll be willing to invest more time in reading the rest of it, or before they will consider advocating it to their team in consideration of buying it. 

Friday, April 03, 2009

Sullivan Island Lighthouse


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The Sullivan's Island Lighthouse is located off the South Carolina Coast not far from Charleston. It was the last lighthouse built in the state in 1962 as a result of the shifting channel in the Charleston Harbor.

Although this is a more recent structure, historical records from the archaelogical database of the National Maritime Initiative and the U.S. Coast Guard Historian's Office indicate that in 1848 a small lighthouse stood on four brick piers southwest of Fort Moultrie. In 1888 a red light was added as a reflective light on a pyramid-shaped tower.
The current structure stands 163 feet tall and is anchored by steel girders and a concrete foundation to withstand hurricanes. It is the only lighthouse in the U.S. that contains an elevator as well as stairs. Offices are located inside and they are air conditioned. Another modern convenience is a backup generator at the base. The lights have a range of 26 miles and are on an automatic rotation.
This lighthouse is a Coast Guard Compound and is not open to the public. You have to cross a drawbridge to get to the island, or go by boat.