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, August 31, 2009

What Kind of Plotter are You?


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

There are many different plotting styles. The detailed plotter, plans the story from beginning to end, outlining every scene with a goal, motivation, conflict and has each plot twist charted before writing the story. Some writers write a basic 3-5 page synopsis, while others write a chapter-by-chapter outline. Other authors use the index card method to record facts, plot twists, and rearrange them as needed when they begin developing the story. Seat of the pants writers make up the story as they go. They sit in the chair and just write. Chart plotters, answer questions, regarding character style sheets, and plot questions and fill out organized charts before they write.

Me? I've tried every method except the index-card method. I started out writing as the seat of the pants writer and converted to the Chart/synopsis plotter. I like beginning with my characterization chart. I need to know my characters before I can build a plot. Then I need to know the basic story line so I begin with a title and a TV script sentence. I expand that sentence into a paragraph like a back cover blurb story. From there, I write a 3-5 page synopsis. At his point, I can usually write the story, or at least the first three chapters and get the proposal off to my agent. If I build a chapter by chapter outline, I write 3-5 sentences for each chapter outlining the main plot points and twists for each each scene. I try not to be too detailed so I can allow enough room for creativity as I write.

I've read several books on writing and how to write fiction, but no source has proved to be a better teacher than trial and error. Sometimes it's necessary to learn by doing. Through my 10+ years before earning my contract on Highland Blessings, I've finally developed a style that works for me. Once you've completed a few novels, you'll have a sense of confidence--a routine of writing--that comes with experience. Highland Blessings was written by a panster, but it was revised and revised by a plotter.

By the time we reach the revision stage, the outline draft is done. At this point, we all become plotters in a sense, as we revise. We have ideas, notes, scene drafts and we rewrite from there.

If you are a writer, what kind of plotter are you? If you are a reader, I'm sure you've written papers for high school and college. What kind of plotter are you?

Friday, August 28, 2009

1920 Electrola


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The Electrola was developed in 1913 to replace the hand-cranked Victrola Phonograph Machines. This one was developed around 1920 and manufactured by the Victor Talking Machine Company. It was equipped with an electric motor which could be turned on and off by clicking a switch.

Even though it was developed as early as 1913, the device didn't experience many sales because of the high price tag and due to the fact that most families still had not incorporated electricity into their homes until the 1920's.

Encased in a wooden frame like a piece of furniture, the machine was quite large, heavy and bulky. The bottom contained an open compartment in which to store things. If you open the top lid, you could slip in a record-like device and move the arm with a needle onto the edge of the record and it would play the sound.


To me, it looks like the one of those old-fashoioned albums I remember my parents playing on those big stereos back in the 70's. My uncle had a record player that looked similar to this, but I don't think it was quite this old. It looked more like a record player from the 50's or 60's.

I apologize for the quality of these photos. They were taken at the Charleston Historical Museum and I could not use any flash and it was through one of those clear protection glass or plastic pieces. I thought it might be helpful to some of you writers who might be writing a story set in the 1920's.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Author Interview - Kay Marshall Strom


I'd like to introduce Kay Marshall Strom, Author of The Call of Zulina, part of the new fiction launch by Abingdon Press. I first met Kay at Abingdon's Writer's Retreat in Pennsylvania. (We are in the photo to the right in our rocking chairs. I'm on the left and she is on the right.) Kay has a strong faith and warm heart that touches everyone around her. I admire her for all she has allowed God to do in her life. I can't wait to read her latest book. We'll be giving away a free autographed copy to one blessed reader who leaves a comment with an email address. We will draw a name out of the group of comments. I'll draw the name on Friday and contact the winner by email.


1. Describe your writing journey. How did you first get published?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t begin my own journey until my children started school. I took my first manuscript to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and showed it to an editor. I beamed; she yawned. But I attended her writing track and learned the things I should have known in the first place, then I resubmitted my manuscript to her. The result was my first book. That was over twenty years ago. Since then I have written 36 books, more articles than I can count, several movie and TV scripts, curriculum—you name it, I’ve written it. I also teach writing through colleges and writers conferences.


2. What advice or tips do you have for writers who are just getting started?

Learn your craft. It doesn’t work to just start writing and trust that somehow your words will weave together and carry you to best-sellerdom. Write right, then keep on writing and don’t give up. Everyone gets better and better; no one gets worse and worse.



3. 3. Tell us about your latest book.


The Call of Zulina is the first book of a three-book historical saga. Set in West Africa, it centers around Grace Winslow, whose mother is African royalty and her father a British sea captain. She escapes a marriage arrangement to a pompous, offensive white slave trader only to end up in the middle of a slave revolt at Zulina slave fortress. It is there that she comes to understand the horrific nature of her family’s involvement in the slave trade. With one foot in each of two worlds, she is forced to choose a side—slave or slaver—and to pay the price of her choice.


4. What are you currently writing?

I have two more books coming out in the Grace in Africa series. Book 2 is mainly set in London in 1792, and Book 3 (which I’m working on now) is mainly set in the new United States in 1793. I’m currently talking with Abingdon about a trilogy set in India, a saga covering thee generations of a family of “untouchables” and the high caste family that controls their lives. In these books, we would see Christianity collide with Hinduism.

5. Where do you get ideas for stories?

Getting ideas is no problem. My idea file is bulging. This one came while I was researching two non-fiction books. While I was in West Africa working on Daughters of Hope, I toured an old slave fortress and was struck dumb by a set of baby-sized manacles bolted to the wall. Not long after, while I was researching Once Blind: The Life of John Newton (the author of the hymn Amazing Grace was a slaver turned preacher and abolitionist) I “met” a couple who had run a slave business in Africa in the 1700s. I wondered, If that couple had had a daughter, who would she be, English or African? And where would her loyalties lie? Story question—the birth of a book!

6. How long does it normally take you to write a book? How many books do you write per year?

Depending on how much research and foreign travel are required, it usually takes me about three months to write a book. Last year I wrote four books…made research trips to Egypt, India, Nepal… and moved from California to Oregon! I never want to do all that in one year again!


7. Do you edit as you go or wait until completing the first draft? How many drafts?


I am a pretty organized writer. I gather info, then I make a fairly detailed chapter outline and attach all my research to the appropriate chapter. (This is a time-consuming step, but the better I do this, the easier and more trouble-free the actual writing.) Then I write a first draft: no corrections, no rethinking—just pouring it out. (I love this step!) Then I write a second draft: bringing order to the first, rewriting, switching info to another chapter, and so forth. (This is the painful step.) Then I do a final draft: polishing, fixing, double checking info. I move away from the project for a week or two and do something completely different and my husband reads it and makes corrections and suggestions. (He’s great!) I consider my husband’s comments, then I go back and reread the entire manuscript out loud one last time.


To learn more about Kay, visit her website at: www.kaystrom.com.

________________________________________________________________


And the Winner is...


Patricia Woodside!


My hubby pulled your name out of the pile. I hope you enjoy The Call of Zulina! I'll be contacting you by email.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Creating Characters Beyond Expectation

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Readers want to feel an emotional pulse when they read your story. You can't just tell them how a character feels. Make a reader feel what a character feels. A writer's goal is to make a reader's pulse quicken and their heartbeat race as if they are the one inside the story.

Does the sentence below move you?
Donna frowned, angry Jerry had the nerve to raise his voice.

Or is this better?
Jerry's booming voice penetrated her past into the leering, taunting tone of her father. The memory of his hand raised with a black leather belt took her breath away as she squeezed her eyes tight. She cringed, waiting for the hot sting to slice through her flesh. Her heart pounded. Blood pumped through her head, but one determination steeled her heart. She wouldn't cry. Not now. Not ever.

Now Donna can open her eyes and her reaction to Jerry will be warranted. Whatever she does, will not only be understood by the reader, but approved and cheered on by the reader. Your characters must win over your readers. Only then can you get past what is "expected" by your characters. Once your character has won the reader, then that character can step out of line, over-react, make a bad decision, to up the stakes. Just make sure there is sufficient motive and the character has good intentions or reacts of out strong emotion. When your readers feel the character's pulse, they will understand why that characters has to say what they say, and do what they do. It must be believable.

Seeing is believing and a reader sees with the heart.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Layering Introspection

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Layering introspection into your manuscript is an excellent way to deepen a character. While in a particular character's point of view (POV), the reader is given insight into that character's thought process and the details of one's emotional reaction to other people and things that are happening in their environment.

Since a character should not describe oneself, introspection is a great way to provide a description of how the POV character sees and reacts to someone else. You can layer in the POV character's feelings about that person. This is essential in using different scenes written in the hero and heroine's POV to show insight into each person's thoughts and feelings. Below is an example of introspection I've used in one of my works in progress (WIP). It is an English Regency and written in the heroine's POV.

The man dressed fashionably in a white linen shirt and tan trousers that enhanced his muscular thighs. He wore tall back boots that shone bright in the sun, a short waistcoat over his shirt with a double-breasted riding coat that was long-tailed in back and had large lapels around a white cravat. His shoulders were massively wide, his posture upright. Heat crawled into her face as Elyse realized she stareed at him. She looked away.

In the above passage, you get a detailed physical description of the heroine, but you also know her reaction. She's staring at him and she's embarrassed once she realizes it.

While it isn't appropriate to dump huge paragraphs of backstory in the first three chapters, you can layer it in through introspection since a character's goals and motivations are so essential to understanding a character's behavior. A writer must balance enough of this information in the first three chapters to keep the reader from misunderstanding the plot and the characters that are still being developed in the reader's mind. Below is an example of layering backstory from the same WIP in the heroine's POV with her stepfather.

He balled his fist again and came at her. She cowered and hated herself for it. With age Elyse had learned to avoid making him cross. It had been a while since she'd suffered from his physical blows. But tonight she hadn't been so wise.

In the few paragraphs above, we learn that this isn't the first time her stepfather has beat her, but over the years she had learned how to avoid being beaten or rousing his anger. We also see her reaction, that she's blaming herself for not staying to her true character by acting with caution and reserve.

Introspection can also reveal conflict. A character's dislike of another character when one is forced to hide that dislike is best shown through introspection. If a character learns that a particular action will prevent him/her from achieving his/her goals, introspection and reveal what that character intends to do about it as a result. That character isn't likely to announce it to everyone, but by reading his/her thought process, the reader knows and can anticipate how the other characters will react. An example of this is from the same WIP in the hero's POV. He has struck a bargain with Elyse's stepfather and promised she could stay with his neighbor, an elderly widow while she served as a nursemaid to his son.

Now all he needed to do was convince Mrs. Warfield, his neighbor, that she could use some company around the house. The sooner he got Elyse away from her stepfather, the better.

In the passage above, we learn that Preston has made a commitment on Mrs. Warfield's behalf without first consulting her. This builds the expectation of potential conflict. The reader doesn't yet know how Mrs. Warfield will react. Also, we know Preston's goal, he intends to get Elyse away from her abusive stepfather. He wants to save her.

The key to introspection is to layer it in your manuscript to deepen characterization and to reveal motivation, goals and conflict to the reader without making it too wordy or lengthy. It shouldn't be more than a few sentences in a paragraph and paragraphs of introspection shouldn't be more than a page without significant reason. If you allow it to go on for several pages, it will slow the pacing of your novel and possibly bore the reader.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Revisions for Multiple Editors & Agents


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Sometimes editors and agents will request a writer to make some serious revisions before they offer a contract. This is good news. They see promise in your writing and potential with your story. Editors and agents are busy individuals and don't have the time to develop authors to a level of publication. If they offer any constructive feedback, you should take it with an open mind.

However, I do want to offer a little wisdom that I had to learn the hard way with good old-fashioned experience. What one editor or agent will suggest, isn't necessarily what another one will recommend. Like authors, they have varying opinions. Additionally, they work for different houses and agencies that aren't looking for the same thing. If they ask you to make changes, they are trying to make your work better, but they are also trying to make it fit into the parameters with which they work.

This is why it is possible to make the requested changes and still get a rejection. Maybe you couldn't make it work for their particular fiction line or meet their expectations, but it is also possible that by the time you make the revisions and send it back that they've already moved on to other projects they've made contract offers on. They no longer have the time to make your project work, or the open slots they had a few months ago have gone to other authors.

Even after going through all of this, other editors and agents may request revisions to change it back to the way you had it before. Remember, stories are subjective and this CAN happen. I'm living proof.

My advice is to create a separate folder with that agent or editor's name or the name of the publisher or agency for which they work. Set up another folder inside that folder with your manuscript name. This is where you need to place a COPY of your original manuscript. This is the copy on which you will make those requested revisions.

Go through the revision requests and decide which suggestions would be good to make to your original regardless of which house or agency reviews the manuscript. In other words, if there are some loop holes in the story that need attention or grammar mistakes, you will want to fix these issues even to your original. But if it is a request to rename a character or a conservative change that may not be a problem at a different house or agency, you don't necessarily want to make these changes to the original.

If a contract is offered after you make your revisions and resubmit them, you probably won't care about the original. The new version will become your original--because more changes will probably be requested--and no other publisher will see it until it is in print and on the shelves.

But, in the meantime, while you try to make it the perfect fit for the right publisher, having different versions of the same manuscript will make additional revisions easier and help save time in between your full-time job and taking care of your family.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Author Interview - Rita Gerlach


Please welcome debut author, and a wonderful friend of mine, Rita Gerlach. I first met Rita online through American Christian Fiction Writers when Abingdon was considering my manuscript and they had already contracted hers. Since then we've shared lots of emails and phone conversations. Rita is someone who is always uplifting, encouraging, and her faith is a beautiful witness. I'm thankful that our paths have crossed and that we've become such good friends.

If you would like a copy of Rita's book, please leave a comment with your email so I can contact you for your mailing address if you win. We will draw one blessed winner out of the pile and Rita will send you a copy of Surrender the Wind.

Describe your writing journey. How did you first get published?

Early in 2000, I went with a print on demand publisher. POD was a new concept at the time and several authors that I knew encouraged me to try this route. There were a lot of drawbacks, and it was an uphill climb with promotion. I learned a lot, and instead of focusing on the stones in my path, I looked at the experience as a stepping-stone.


I began submitting Surrender the Wind to literary agents in hopes that having one would advance my career. God had other plans. In July of 08, I asked Him to give me guidance. Fifteen minutes later, I was reading Brandilyn Collins’ blog. She posted about Barbara Scott, the acquisitions editor for Abingdon Press and the new fiction line they were starting. I queried Barbara and she asked for the manuscript. She championed my novel to the fiction committee and it was accepted.


Surrender the Wind waslreleased August 1, 2009.


What advice or tips do you have for writers who are just getting started?


Read best selling books on writing. Learn everything you can about the craft, from character development to plotting, to how to write tight. Study how to edit your work. Study the industry and get an understanding of how publishing works. Read best selling books within your genre. Above all do not allow discouragement to get the best of you, and do not write for fame or fortune. If that is your goal, you are starting out for all the wrong reasons. Write because you love it.


Tell us about your latest book.


Surrender the Wind is based on Ecclesiastes 2:17-19. These verses of scripture rang as true in the Georgian and Regency periods as they do today. Benjamin Braxton, an English squire, inherited his fortune from his father and his father before him. When facing death the question of what it all meant, what purpose did gaining wealth play in ones life, creeps into reality. It becomes meaningless in the grander scheme of things. The only comfort he would have is hoping his grandson would use his inheritance for good. Seth, the hero in the story, does this, but yet he too sees that love for God, love for his wife, and his duty to others is far more important than land or money.

The Premise: An American patriot of the Revolution struggles with his loyalty to his country, by accepting an inheritance from his loyalist grandfather in England. A nephew is believed dead. A woman is found murdered in the woods, and he is told his wife has perished in a fire. Readers will ask, what is the truth behind these tragedies? As the novel moves forward, they will discover there is one man that holds the answers, one that despises his American enemy, Seth Braxton, for gaining two things he wanted most, Ten Width Manor and the woman he desired---Juleah Fallowes.


Seth's journey brings him many trials, where his devotion to those he loves is tested, and his faith is brought to the mere size of a mustard seed. For our heroine, Juleah, she must stand against all odds to be with Seth, no matter what the cost. In so doing, she discovers how very deep the waters of love can flow.


While Surrender the Wind focuses on relationships both marital and within a family, it is in every sense of the word a romantic historical novel with the historical ambience of the period in which it is written, with twists and turns that take readers back to a time of raw courage and ideal love. It will keep fans of historical fiction turning the pages.


What are you currently reading?



On my stack at the moment are the books in the fiction launch through my publisher Abingdon Press, The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow is the book I am currently reading, and enjoying I might add. I’m also reading Linore Rose Burkard’s Regencies, and Marylu Tyndall’s Charles Towne Belles Series.


What are some ways that readers of your books can help you as an author?


Word of mouth is one of the best ways to help an author, and it’s the best way my readers can help me as an author. In addition to chatting up Surrender the Wind with their friends and family, readers can do a few other things.

  • Post a link to my website on their site or web blog.
  • Feature my book with its cover on their blog one day.
  • Suggest to their book club that they select Surrender the Wind for discussion.
  • Set up an interview with me and post it online.


Thank you, Jennifer, for this interview. I am so pleased you and I are with the same publisher, and I look forward to reading your novel Highland Blessings when it is released.


You can find Rita online at: www.ritagerlach.com.

__________________________________________________________

We have a Winner!


Congratulations go to Dina Sleiman!


I'll be contacting you by email for your address.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Sifting Through Writing Critiques

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Last Monday I talked about how I incorporate edits before I send out my manuscripts to my critique partners. Through all your comments it was interesting to see how so many people work differently.

Today I want to talk about my method of sifting through all the critiques I receive. It's hard not to feel overwhelmed when you have a number of critiques or lots of feedback from several contests with so many different comments and thoughts. How do you know which ones to go by?

If you go ahead and make changes from one or two critiques, by the the time you get to the third, fourth or fifth critique, you may not be able to find the same phrases or sentences or paragraphs that were commented on because you might have made so many changes from critique one and two. Guess what? I've found a method that works for me, and I hope it might help you too if you are still struggling with this.

Unlike my personal edits, I incorporate all my critique comments on the computer. I open up my original manuscript or a copy of it to the beginning of the chapter that I've received critiques on. Then I open up every critique I've received to the beginning of that same chapter and minimize each one. I compare all the comments and suggestions one paragraph or a couple of paragraphs at a time by maximizing each critique as I get to it. This allows me to view my work from a broad perspective the way others see it.

If everyone seems to be saying the same thing or similar things about a section, I know I need to make changes to that paragraph. I'll choose the best suggestions that resonates with me, or I may go back to that section in my document, reread it and rewrite it with those suggestions in mind. If I feel it needs significant rewrites, I'll pray about it first and then start rewriting.

I'm amazed that only one person might catch something out of 6-8 people, but it happens, and I'm so thankful. Sometimes I receive comments about something that only one person seems to be nitpicking about. If none of my other critique partners are picking out the same thing, and if I don't agree, I ignore that person's suggestions.

The great thing about working with critique partners over feedback from a contest is that you get to know them, their quirks, and where they are in their own writing by critiquing their work. Writing experience is very important when working with a critique partner. You need to work with people who have strengths and weaknesses that are opposite yours so that you can benefit them and they can benefit from you. As you grow and develop, you are going to outgrow critique partners and need to move on to other critique groups or partners. I say this because we all go through seasons.

You may find that a particular person keeps making the same suggestions over and over, but they never find the mistakes that others are finding. If this happens, pay attention to what that individual keeps missing. It may be that he/she hasn't developed enough in their own writing. He/she may not feel confident enough to comment on certain things. If this is the case, you may not want to consider their comments as heavily as the others. I say this because bad advice on a manuscript can be worse than no advice.

Inexperienced writers go to workshops and hear this and that and then they start making changes all over their manuscript without judging the context of what was said. They don't know when to incorporate the advice they've heard and when to not incorporate it. As a result, they do the same thing, unknowingly, to their critique partners. Learning doesn't happen over night. Learning is a process and so is learning what critique comments to incorporate and which ones should be ignored.

Pay attention to how a person critiques. Some people will make suggestions and comments and they rarely make actual changes to your document. Others will try to reword everything you write. When this happens read the sentence you've written aloud to yourself. Then read what they've rewritten aloud. Which one sounds better? Go with the one that sounds best. Make sure you don't rewrite your manuscript to sound like someone else. You have to learn balance.

Going paragraph by paragraph with 6-8 critiques can take a while. If you get interrupted and you have to stop in the middle, highlight the paragraph where you are in a particular color so you'll be able to scroll through the chapter and quickly find your place again. When you have time to finish, open up all the documents and use the search and find feature by typing in the first few words of the paragraph where you stopped.

I hope this gives you some ideas. Let me know if you have any questions. I'll answer them as best I can in the comment section.