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.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Christmas at Billy Graham Museum


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

For those of you who live within driving distance of Charlotte, NC or are interested in the ministry and history of the Billy Graham ministry, I'd like to tell you about Christmas at the Billy Graham Museum. The outside of the museum is built in the shape of a barn and looks like a renovated farm, obviously to represent the Graham farm.


It's a free and wonderful experience for the whole family everyday after 5 PM except on Saturdays. They offer free horseback carriage rides on the estate. The lines can get pretty long and it is on a first come, first serve basis. Last year it was cold and we let my father-in-law sit inside where it is warm because of his health. When we were getting close to being next, my husband went to get him. I only mention this as an alternative for the elderly or disabled. We brought those self-heating coffees and those kept us quite warm and so I would recommend it, although you can buy coffee or hot cocoa inside, as well as eat dinner.



They also give every family a free Christmas keepsake ornament. You can visit the Billy Graham farm house where Billy grew up to age nine. His father built the home in the 1920's and they have it decorated with furniture and appliances as it was back then. Please be aware that only the first floor is available for touring, but I still thought it was worth the visit. The photo to the left is the outside image of the house, which has been relocated to this spot. The original site was on Park Road, a few miles south of this location.


There is also a bookstore and a museum you can tour, as well as a live nativity scene outside, including a live camel and donkey. It's lit up and looks beautiful in contrast to the darkness. The photo to the right was taken by my phone camera. If you look closely you can see the camel sitting down on the grass in front of the nativity scene. You can also walk a short brick trail to the garden and where a monument is located.



Links to:
The Billy Graham Museum


The Billy Graham Library

Monday, November 23, 2009

What I'm Thankful For


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

In the spirit of giving thanks this week, I wanted to share some of my thoughts and the wonderful things I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for my salvation and the growing relationship I have with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

I'm thankful for my loving husband and sweet daughter, and my extended family who are always there to support me and encourage me when things get tough.

I'm so thankful that my daughter has been healed from her life-threatening seizure disorder. Even though this occurred years ago, I'm thankful everyday. Sometimes I'm moved to tears when I think of all she has overcome and the fears that my husband I no longer live with.
(Update: Her seizures came back 3 years later in 2012.)

I'm thankful my daughter is doing so well she was released from speech therapy and occupational therapy last month. We are seeing her overcome more of her delayed developments, and we are so thankful for God's grace to her.

I am thankful that my brother's back surgery went well this past summer and he's recovering just fine.

I am thankful that my youngest brother rededicated his life to God last month. He still has a long way to go to overcome some other issues, but I see him trying and I hear it in his voice every time we talk on the phone. God is so good!

I'm thankful I wasn't laid off from my job this year, and I still pray for my co-workers who were, as well as my family members who have lost their jobs--my father, my brother, and two uncles.

I'm thankful for our health--even though we're getting older and my hubby is now needing bifocals, dental work, and I'm struggling with dry eyes--we are healthy! We can exercise and we have so many abilities that we sometimes take for granted.

I'm thankful we had another year with my father-in-law. Even after triple by-pass heart surgery and lung cancer surgery, and a heart aneurysm that he has to live with, he has outlasted some of the grim projections we received from his doctors. God is still on the throne and with Him all things are possible!

I am thankful for the new addition to our family, my sister's new baby girl, Sarah Elizabeth Moore. She is so precious!

I am thankful that after thirteen years of writing, over 122 rejections, three agents, and seven full-length, completed manuscripts later--I finally have a debut novel coming out this spring! God is so faithful!

I am thankful for my life and this journey God is taking me on--and all the things I don't have time to list. When I sit down to really think about it--I am so humbled by God's grace.

For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)

Friday, November 20, 2009

19th Century Pianos


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

People in the 19th century didn't have radios, CD players, ipods, or live stream music from the Internet. If they wanted any kind of music, they had to produce it themselves. Therefore, among those that could afford it, one could walk into most any home and find a piano of some sort--much like today you'll find it rare to walk into a house and not find a TV. A young woman was expected to play the piano and it usually qualified as part of her studies.

The first photo in this post is of a mahogany square piano dated 1790. It was made by Charles Albrecht in Philadelphia. I apologize that the image isn't better or up close. I took this image in the Joseph Manigault Museum House in Charleston, SC.

Pianos first originated from the clavichord and the harpsichord. The clavichord was widely used through the Medieval period through the Renaissance era. The haprsichord is much larger as a winged shaped instrument with strings perpendicular to the keyboard. It was invented around the middle ages (abt. 1500).

In the 1720's Bartolomeo Cristofori of Italy inventend what we know as the modern piano. It virtually replaced the clavichord and the harpsichord in many homes. Throughout the next century, many changes where invented and adapted to the modern piano.

The second photo is of a pianoforte dated 1820. It is made by William Rolfe & Company in London and sold by Siegling Music House of Charleston, SC. I apologize for the lack of clarity. I snapped this photo through the glass at the Charleston Museum and I couldn't use a flash.

This final photo is of a beautiful piano that is one of my favorite antiques. I love the unique carving of the wood. It was made in 1860 by Timothy Gilbert of Boston, MA. It belonged to Mary Jane Williams (1833-1904), wife of James Harvey Carlson. It was donated by their great-grandson and now sits in the Rosedale Plantation House in Charlotte, NC.



I love piano music and I often listen to a CD of Beethoven or Bach, Claude DeBussy or Peter Tchaikovsky when I'm writing my Regency and Victorian era novels. I'll share a secret with you. I've always dreamed of playing the piano. When I was little, I begged my mother for piano lessons, but she said we couldn't afford a piano for me to practice on or the lessons. I never got my oppoturnity to play the piano. It's still a dream that I hope isn't too late in my adult heart. But now with working full-time, writing and researching all the time, and being a wife and mother, I don't know when I could squeeze it in. So I'll do the next best thing, keep pounding out my stories on my keyboard. It's ironic, but I suppose I was destined for a keyboard--just not the piano.

For now I'll listen to others play beautiful piano music.

But...maybe...one day...


Monday, November 16, 2009

"Writing the Christian Romance"


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

If you ever struggle with writing about relationships and showing them progressing at an appropriate level, then I would suggest reading the book, Writing The Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin. She builds insight into different kinds of personalities and how they respond to other personalities. I especially like the analogies and examples she uses in showing the gender differences in thought pattern, behavior, and responses.

When I'm writing the POV of a man, sometimes I'll have my husband read it and he'll tell me, " a guy wouldn't say that." And of course, then I want to know what he would say. My husband can give me ideas, but it usually comes in the form of a modern guy and I'm usually writing about 19th century England or medieval Scotland. Then I'm left to translate, which can be even harder, if I don't understand the character's train of thought.

Writing the Christian Romance helped me connect all these things together in my writing. When I started implementing some of these suggestions into my writing, I noticed a difference in my critique partners' responses to my work-in-progress. Some of the information in this book we already know, but it's presented in a way that helps us better utilize what we know.

The book covers the difference between sensuality and sexuality. Gail compares Christian romance to secular romance and gives you an idea of how much is too much and explains how different publishers have various thresholds. This is a huge topic of debate in the Christian romance publishing industry. She gives some great adivce on how to use sensuality to one's advantage without it crossing the line.

Some other great topics included in the book are: the power of emotions and senses, spirituality in romance, writing believable dialogue, introspection, plotting a Christian romance, and how to sell a Christian romance novel.

Writing a Christian Romance is a wonderful writing resource I wanted to share with you. It's available on Amazon and Writer's Digest.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Wading through Feedback on Your Writing


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The other day I sent out a book blurb for feedback on a couple of writing loops I'm on. In good faith, several writers sent back some comments and a couple tried to reword everything. I went through all their suggestions and realized I couldn't go with what each person said. Some comments contradicted others, and a few changes didn't sound any better than what I'd already written, and some suggestions were better. If I had been a new writer, I would have thrown up my hands in eternal confusion.

I took a day or took to evaluate the plot points that needed to be on the back cover blurb, and I realized that some of the motivational questions people were asking didn't need to be answered on the back cover. It stirred the interest I wanted to pique and that is the purpose for the back cover copy. I prayed about it and with patience decided what suggestions I wanted to keep and which ones I needed to ignore.


This is part of writing. Yes, what I had written would have worked--and in my humble opinion--it was good. But what I was after--was to make it better. My friends helped me do that, but first I had to wade through the varying opinions on how to make that happen. When you ask for opinions, that's exactly what you'll get, a wide range of varying ideas and thoughts that are as different as day and night, and very subjective.

I now have a great back cover blurb--or what I think is great. It wouldn't work for everyone, but I'm hoping it will work for those who have similar tastes as me. I believe these individuals will eventually become my core readers--the ones who like most of what I write--because we have the same interests and tastes. And as a result, I'm very thankful to my writing friends who took the time out of their busy schedules to give me suggestions. That is what these writing loops are for--to help each other.

What about you? Have you ever asked for help on something and the help you received seemed overwheing or confusing? How did you wade your way through it?

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Balance of Pacing for Authors


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Pacing is the steady flow of the story, whether it be a fast pace or slow. Action scenes increases pacing, while reflective scenes slows pacing. Too much action can cause confusion and give the reader no time to reflect on what is happening, while too much reflection bogs the reader with unnecessary insight and detail in a character's thoughts and risks boring the reader. This is why proper balance is so important for a book's pacing.

Depending on the type of novel, an excellent strategy on pacing is to write an action scene and follow with a reflective scene. A suspense or thriller novel may require a more intense strategy of action scenes before a reflective scene. Action scenes are also a great way to enhance a sagging middle.

Ways to Increase Pacing
1) Introduce Conflict -- Create an obstacle that would prevent a character from achieving a goal. As soon as one conflict is about to be solved, introduce another conflict, or if possible, one that is worse.


2) Dialogue -- Intense or amusing dialogue can also increase pacing. It makes the flow read faster and can reveal new conflict, show tension, or reveal backstory in a way that doesn't slow pacing, but increases curiosity.


3) Foreshadowing -- Alerting the reader to potential conflict, not only increases pacing, but gives something for the reader to anticipate without knowing how an event will happen or how it will affect the characters and their decisions.


4) Add a Subplot -- By adding a new element or subplot to the story, the stakes are raised and a character's motivation can change.

Ways to Slow Pacing
1) Layer in Backstory -- Use backstory where necessary to help a reader understand a character's motivation to achieve their goals.


2) Stretch the Tension -- During a reflective scene, delay a person's decision or action by showing another POV, or have a secondary character interrupt the action. These techniques slow the action, while deepening the impact.


3) Use Introspection -- Show the internal thought process of a character's reaction to an event in an action scene.

Are there any other ways you change the pacing in your novels? What are some reasons that motivate you to consider pacing?