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, January 29, 2010

Historical Herbal Creams & Lotions


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

While I'm struggling to apply my daily moisturizers, creams and lotions to ease the chapped skin I always suffer in winter, I'm reminded of what women must have dealt with in the past. For one thing, they couldn't run down to the nearest Wal-mart or Clinique counter at the mall. Unlike us, they had to do everything by hand--all their clothes washing, dish and pan washing, milking, butter making, soap making, etc. All these necessary tasks would have made their skin even worse. 

Before the Industrial Revolution, they had to make their own creams and lotions. This meant they needed to know enough about the available herbs and ingredients, quantities, and how to mix them to create specific items. This information is especially beneficial to historical authors who need their characters to pass the time with authentic activities.
Moisturizing Hand Cream
3/4 cup apricot oil and/or sweet almond oil
1/2 cup coconut oil and/or cocoa butter
1 tsp anhydrous lanolin
1/2 oz grated beeswax
2/3 cup distilled water, rose water, or orange flower water (Note: do not use tap water which can contain bacteria that can cause molds in your creams.)
1/3 cup aloe vera gel (Note: you could also include a few drops of essential oils that contain Vitamins A & E)

1. Heat the oil based ingredients over low heat in a double boiler until all are melted. Stir gently to mix well.
2. Pour the oil mixture into a glass measuring cup and cool to room temperature. The mixture should become thick, creamy, semi-solid and cream-colored. 
3. Mix the water, aloe, essential oils, and vitamins. Then drizzle in the oil-based mixture. The cream should resemble a butter-cream frosting. It should be rich and thick and will continue to thicken. (Note: you may not need to pour in all the oil-based mixture.)
4. Pour into a jar, label, date, and store in a cool place.

Softening & Smoothing Calluses
Do to all the plowing, harvesting, and other household and outdoor tasks, people often wore blisters and calluses on their palms and fingers. Green Rub will ease this condition.

Green Rub
1-2 tbsp cornmeal
1 tbsp fresh mashed avocado or avocado oil

Mix both ingredients in a bowl until they form a meal-like mixture. Rub this over the calluses once or twice a week. 

Other homemade herbal cream and lotions are listed below. If you are interested in learning more about these, please leave a comment letting me know. If I receive enough responses from people wanting more info, I'll compose another blog post with more recipes and ingredients on these hand creams.

Other Hand Creams and Moisturizers
1. Horsetail Nail Cream
2. Aubrey's Olde English Lyme-Ginseng Men's Hand Cream
3. Honey Ointment
4. Olive-Oil Softening Soak
5. Chatham Chap Cream
6. Honey Paste
7. Paraffin Hand Bath
8. Almond, Comfrey, and Honey Soothing Ointment
9. Hand and Nail Butter
10. Avocado Skin Cream
11. Calendula Oil 
12. Onion Juice & Vinegar Wash for Age Spots

Source: "Making Herbal Hand Creams and Salvves" by Norma Pasekoff Weinberg.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Writing the Critical Moment

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

It's important to write building scenes as we work to heighten the tension, drama, and plot of a story. When we get to those critical moments, the writing must be different. One way to change the tone and heighten the intensity is to slow the pacing. Concentrate on each beat, breath, thought. Think of the movies and how you can hear a character's heartbeat and breathing while everything is moving in slow motion. We can do this with our words.

First Example:
The gun exploded. Jake's shoulder burned in pain as the shot lifted him off his feet and on his backside upon the compact dirt. Warm liquid soaked his shirt as he realized no one would find him in the darkened alley--not until it was too late.

Second Example:
The gun popped and exploded. Jake's pulse quickened like a drum through his ears. His chest pounded against his ribs as he braced for the impact. The bullet burned into his shoulder...ripping through his flesh...searing muscle...and crashing into bone. He shot through the air like a cannon ball. His body collided against the compact dirt as he gasped for breath. He lay in a mind-numbing heap as the pain consumed him. The scent of blood and dust encircled him. The only sound was his heartbeat. Bum-bum...bum-bum...bum-bum. How long before it weakened and silenced forever? Fear slinked up his spine as warm liquid soaked his shirt. No one would find him in this remote, black alley--not until it was too late.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Devotion - A Woman of God


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

At one time I wanted to leave my mark on this world. I wanted to be remembered after I'm gone. In my mind, I was thinking of my name on famous novels sort of the way we remember Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Burns, Anne Bradstreet. C.S. Lewis, etc. These people are long gone, but not forgotten. But this thought pattern is the way the world thinks, not in long-term, eternal thoughts as God thinks.


After a period of unwanted trials and tribulations, I was forced into a position of re-prioritizing my life. I stopped writing for three years, and we allowed God to purge the world from us. For quite a while we fasted from TV, Internet, movies, video games, novels, we even stopped certain entertainment activities unless it was church related or a Bible study at someone's house. Details of why we were led into this phase of our life are irrelevant. It is the end result that counts. And--it wasn't by choice, I assure you. It was a purging that burned and squeezed the life out of us--or so we
thought.


When all the things of the world are taken from you, it is tempting to become bitter and blame God. Instead, we turned to Him for deliverance. We began to concentrate on what we did have, not what we didn't have. We had each other, our health, our lives. We had hope that this would soon pass and we could go back to "normal".



By turning to God and having all the distractions taken from us, we read more of the Bible for ourselves, not relying on a pastor's sermon to teach it to us. Guess what? It was then that the Bible came ALIVE! It was no longer some old-fashioned, hard-to-understand Bible that I'd always tried to read in the past. The words leaped off the page at me with clear understanding--much like my novels! This is when God became a living being to me, not some distant, invisible Lord I had always known in the clouds somewhere or in some spiritual world apart from me.


My life changed. My relationship with God changed. My thought patterns changed. The life that I thought had been squeezed from me--WAS. It was the world that was being squeezed out of me. A NEW LIFE was given to me. During the process of being purged, it was hard. It was painful. I'm reminded of the poem, Footprints in the Sand. A person asks God where He was when they were going through all the difficult times because there is only one set of footprints, and God replies that He was carrying that individual through it.


Sometimes we expect God to sweep down and deliver us from the storm--to carry us away. But if what we are going through will give us wisdom and will change us for the better in the long run, He doesn't deliver us FROM it, He delivers us THROUGH it. He carries us through the storm and that is why there is only one set of footprints in the sand.


I could write several books on the wisdom we learned through this process, but suffice it to say that my purpose in life has changed. I no longer want to be remembered as the "famous author" and leave my mark on this earth. I truly want to be known as a woman of God who made such a difference in people's lives that I've made a mark on eternity--not earth.



I don't want to teach my child the ways of the world. I want to teach her the ways of eternity and how to cope in this world until her time comes to pass through it. That became one of my purposes in life the moment I gave birth to her. I didn't know it then--but I know it now. I thank God for the purging He allowed in my life--and I pray that I will always live according to what He taught me through it.

Try not to despise the trials in your life. Pray to learn quickly what God can teach you through it.

Book Review - "Dawn in My Heart" by Ruth Axtell Morren


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The hero and heroine in this book are both non-Christians at the beginning, but are redeemed by the end and saved by God's grace. I enjoyed this book because it is true to life. It doesn't gloss over the characters' sins--their bad behaviors--their inappropriate thought patterns. We were all in that place at one time or other, and if we ever become so self-righteous that we forget that, I fear we will lose the ability for God to use us in full capacity for His glory. I say this because I've read some "bad" reviews attacking the author for showing who these characters are before they become children of God. To me, the way she has written this book, makes God's love and grace shine even greater!


If you are looking for perfect little characters who rarely do anything wrong, and the only conflict in their stories are simple misunderstandings, then this isn't the book for you. If, however, you are interested in true-to-life characters who make mistakes, who make bad decisions, who go down the wrong path in spite of how God is calling them, then this book is for you. Keep reading, you will see these characters redeemed.

Some Spoilers to Warn About
Before the book begins, the hero has spent time on an island in the Indies with natives where he was exposed to voodoo. He brings back a footman who takes care of him and believes he is cursed. This man is very loyal and tries to heal the hero and fight the curse with old superstitions. The hero has a sister who is a Christian. She isn't frightened by this curse, and she fights it with the Word of God, prayer, and fasting. She teaches them to believe by reading the Bible to them.


In contrast, the heroine comes to the marriage having deceived her husband into believing she is a virgin. This indiscretion happened years ago before the book opens. Her husband is so angry and unforgiving that he sends her away. It isn't until he discovers God that he can find the ability to forgive her. She is tempted by her ex-lover once more, but she overcomes the temptation. She realizes what a fool she's been. She reminded me of Scarlett O'Hara--young, beautiful, an illusion of innocence, bold, determined, but not as wise as she thinks she is.

Description
Called home to Regency London after his brother's death, Tertius Pembroke, Earl of Skylar, must marry quickly and produce an heir. Lady Gillian Edwards seems the ideal bride: young, beautiful and innocent. But Sky is no ideal husband, having returned from the Indies gaunt, ill, and plagued by a darkness that he dare not reveal--even to his betrothed.

Lady Gillian had promised Sky her hand in marriage, but cannot give him her heart--not when she gave it to another man three years ago. Afraid of repudiation, Gillian buries her secret so deep inside herself, no one will ever know--or so she hopes.

Through lies and deceit, their marriage slowly unravels. Then Sky becomes deathly ill, and his newfound faith offers two virtual strangers a second chance of becoming husband and wife.

For more about the author, visit Ruth Axtell Morren's website.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Promoting Unique Subgenres


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I don't usually get into Sci-Fi and Fantasy, but the new Avatar movie has both my husband and I intrigued. We both want to go see it. What is it about this movie that has pulled us into a sub-genre that doesn't normally appeal to us?

It's the promotion--the presentation.



They didn't just promote the story itself. The creators promoted how they made the movie using new innovative technology that has never been used. The marketers promoted the story behind the story. That--and the awesome graphics. Now we're hooked. We'll definitely be seeing this movie, whether it's in the theater or on DVD.


It's the same way with our stories and our promotion. If we want to appeal to people who may not typically read the kind of stories we write, how can we promote our work? I believe it's through our blogs and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Shoutlife. Through these avenues, we give readers a glimpse of who we are as authors and as regular people behind the stories.

A couple of months ago, I made a comment on Facebook about my day job--nothing negative, but in reference to getting off. Someone responded that she assumed I wrote full-time. In a sense, we connected, and she learned something new about me. Sometimes when we feel like we know someone, we're more interested in what they're doing--what they write.

I've seen many interviews of actors and actresses making a movie that didn't appeal to me, but after viewing the personal side of it and all the hard work that went into making it, I then wanted to see the movie. It's the same way with authors. I've read interesting tidbits about an author, what they might have been going through when they wrote a novel or something in their lives that prompted them to write a specific story, and suddenly, I had a desire to read their book.

What specific things have made you want to watch a movie or read a book you wouldn't typically watch or read?

Friday, January 08, 2010

The History of Fox Hunting

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The image to the left is of a fox hunt scene on a rug that we use as a welcome mat to our home. When I decided to write a fox hunt scene in my Regency manuscript, I had no idea how much research would be involved. A couple of critique partners from England alerted me that much more research needed to be done. They were right!

It's a very detailed and organized activity that began in 16th century England as a way to eliminate annoying foxes who plagued local farmers by killing and wounding farm animals. The activity was considered pest control in England. It later became a sport for those that could afford it as keeping and maintaining purebred hounds are quite expensive, and it requires excellent horsemanship. Fox hunting involves men and women on horseback who follow several packs of hounds who are trained to track, chase, trap and kill foxes. The leader of the group is the Master of Hounds or Master of the Hunt, who keeps them, trains them and knows them.



The main hunting season typically runs from early November to the end of February. In September and October, Cub Hunting occurs in which puppies are taken out on training hunts. These are a little less formal and are not quite as large as a regular hunt. People usually meet at a private house or club, which are referred to as lawn meets. The gathering will consist of refreshments and a social time of animated conversation in anticipation of the day's events.

The Master will sound his horn and he and the hounds will take off on the hunt. Everyone else follows. The hounds are cast or let into coverts, which are rough brush areas of undergrowth where foxes often lay in hiding during the day. Sometimes the huntsmen must move from covert to covert, recasting the hounds until a scent is discovered. Once the hounds pick up the scent of a fox, they give tongue.

The hounds will trail and track for as long as possible. Either the fox will go to ground or find an underground den for safety and protection or the hounds will wear him out and overtake him in a kill. Temperature and humidity are huge factors in how well hounds keep the scent of a fox. Often the chase involves extreme speed through brush and growth. A rider will need to be skilled in racing, jumping brooks, logs, brush, and the horses must be in excellent condition as well. The fox hunt is the origin of equestrian races like the Steeplechase.

This is a brief account as there is much more history and details that can be found in the sources below. The second image above is of a framed print of a fox hunt scene that I have had in my home for several years now. However, if you are looking for historical fox hunting images that are out of copyright, I found an excellent resource below.

Sources:
Huntwatch Info (Site that gives info on how to monitor that hunts are following new laws)

The New Forest Hounds: Continuing 900 Years of Tradition in the Forest

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia

Prints Old & Rare - Fox Hunting (Out of copyright images of fox hunt scenes)