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, February 22, 2010

Making an Impact on the Web


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Regardless of whether you're published or unpublished, you need to make an impact on the Web. The difference in being published is that you want to make an instant impact to sell your books now

Why then, are some websites so hard to find? How many times have you seen an advertisement with a URL address and think to yourself that you didn’t even know they had a website? Or how many times have you found something that looks really promising from a search engine description, only to find that there was little to offer when you got there?


The two largest mistakes include: 

1) Designing a really fabulous website and then only performing basic marketing measures to promote it. 

2) Hardly taking the time to build a well-designed website and promoting it like crazy. Neither technique will work. You must develop an online marketing plan and follow through with it. You cannot cut corners and skip chapters. It doesn’t work like that.

Do you even have a marketing plan? If you do, does it include online marketing? How old is your marketing plan? When was the last time you updated it? The answers to these questions could be the solution as to why you might not have the success you want.

Unfortunately, people look at marketing the same way they view fitness. It seems like too much work. Starting out we have great intentions, much like joining a fitness center in January because of a New Year resolution. We go full force with determination until we burn out or life gets in the way. Marketing isn’t something you can do for a while and stop. It isn’t a business fad, and it isn’t a business hobby. It is your business. Think of it as your house or rental payment. As long as you need somewhere to live, you will pay a mortgage or rent payment. Marketing is the same. As long as you are writing books, you will need to market your books to keep selling them.

Marketing plans are designed for a reason. When written effectively, updated appropriately, and followed consistently, they work


Marketing plans fail because of three things:
1) They aren’t written and designed for you--to meet your writing needs and your schedule. You don't want a boilerplate template of someone else’s marketing plan. You need something that is realistic for you. Your writing pace, publication deadlines, family needs, obligations to other jobs and/or church are different from other writers. Therefore, your marketing plan should be realistic to other needs in your life.

2) Marketing plans are not updated consistently each year or proactive in taking advantage of new developments and technological advancements.

3) People don’t follow-through consistently with their marketing plan. Somewhere in the middle they want to make adaptations without proper planning and research.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Antebellum Homes in Charleston


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I love visiting Charleston, and it looks like I'll be going back to do some more research on one of my historicals. An excellent excuse for an adventure, don't you think?

Anyway, I thought I would share some photos of some antebellum homes from my last Charleston trip. The first image is of the Joseph Manigualt House built in 1803. At that time this was Wragg Borough and was considered "the country", outside the city limits of busy Charleston. The setting of this home will suit the new features of my story quite well. There were lots of planters and plantations near Charleston back then and they would go to "town" for business, church, shopping, and other attractions and social occasions.

The second house is 1 East Battery. This is on the eastern side of Charleston overlooking the bay. East Battery is named for the cannons that deployed here during the War of 1812. Thomas A. Coffin built this 3-story stuccoed brick mansion in 1850. He sold it to Louis deSaussure in 1858 and it is still referred to as the deSaussure House. 


This third house is on 52 Murray Blvd. It was the first to be built on this street. It is a 15-room home, built of Summerville brick with red Ludovici tile roofing. Many 19th century homes were built beside it creating a row down the street forever altering the surroundings of the nearby White Point where the famous pirate of the high seas Stede Bonnet was hung. 

In 1718 the famous Black Beard arrived in Charleston with a fleet of pirate ships. He seized several merchant ships and captured Councilman Samuel Wragg and his son and held for ransom. If only these homes in Charleston could talk--I can only imagine the tales they would tell!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Celebrating the Beautiful Years with My Husband!


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I had intended to post this on Friday, but as usual things happened and I didn't get around to it. So I'm posting it today. 

It's true that some people search a lifetime for the right spouse, but I was fortunate in that I had a strong faith (thanks to my mother), and as a young girl, I began praying for the qualities my husband would have. I didn't know it then, but I was sowing seeds for my long-term future, not my immediate future. God answered my prayer right away, I met Dwayne in a grocery store when I was 15, but we were too young, and God was still working on molding us into the people we would one day be for each other. After 20+ years of knowing each other, and 16 years of marriage--I'm so thankful that God brought Dwayne into my life. 

He keeps me from being a work-a-holic. He reminds me to laugh. He creates spontaneity in my life, and he loves me whole-heartedly. He thinks of the small things that slip my mind. He's a solid rock in a crisis. I know I can always depend on him. He's sensitive and thoughtful, but strong and supportive. He's a wonderful father to our daughter. My husband is a Godly man who helps me grow spiritually. 

No other couple could be more opposite. I love to read. He hates to read. He loves hockey. I tolerate hockey. I love history. It bores Dwayne. I squeeze the toothpaste in the middle. It drives him crazy. He likes to swim. I'd rather jog. He likes to cook. I'd rather mow the lawn. My idea of a vacation is a quiet secluded place with lots of historical places to visit. His idea of a vacation includes lots of entertainment with something to do--all the time. 

Yet, we do have our common interests where it matters most. Our faith. Our morals. Our values. Our beliefs. 'This is what gives us the foundation we so desperately needed to endure hardships--like when our daughter was born with life-threatening seizures and spent so much time in and out of hospitals, when our finances hit rock bottom, when deaths occurred in our extended family, and when dreams were shattered.

Our relationship works. Our marriage is wonderful. Not only do opposites attract, but such a relationship brings balance. Of all the things I enjoy doing, none of it would mean anything without Dwayne by my side. He makes everything more vibrant, because he completes the other half of me. My life has so much more meaning because he is sharing it with me. 

I love you, Dwayne!


Monday, February 08, 2010

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Writing Contests

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I have a confession to make. I don't like writing contests. Now that I've made that statement, I also want to make it clear that there are many advantages to entering writing contests. It is for these reasons that I used to enter and I was very selective.

Now that we're in the new year, it's time to enter contests again. Writers around the world will be revising and polishing their manuscripts for another chance to see their work shine forth above their peers and be noticed by an agent or editor that can move their writing to the next level--publication. .

Prior to my publishing contract I had only entered 7-8 contests in eleven years, and I only finaled in a few of those contests. I wasn't impressed with some of the comments. A few of the judges gave some very bad advice. Others gave good advice. I put the good advice to work on my manuscripts and ignored the rest. In one contest I entered, a judge insisted on critiquing a one-page synopsis that wasn't supposed to be critiqued. It was optional to include, and I assumed the contest rules would be adhered to, especially by the judge. I was wrong.

Keep an open mind to entering contests because not everyone is going to love your work no matter how well you write. Not everyone enjoys historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy, women's fiction, or whatever it is you write. This is a fact that all writers must learn to accept. Your goal will be to target people who like your writing style and sell your books to them. In the meantime, contests will help you prepare and deal with the compliments and criticisms you receive from others when your books are released.

Other advantages include getting your manucript in front of an editor or agent, building writing credentials on your bio, givng feedback and gaining a better writing experience.

Contests cost money, so do your research on them, be selective, and make sure your investment will be worth it. Over the years, I learned a few lessons to determine which contests to enter.

1. Choose a writing contests that has a category for what you write. Some contests do not have categories for women's fiction, young adult or inspirationals. Don't waste your time and money if they don't have a category for which you write.
2. Enter a contest that will have an agent or an editor judging the category for which you are entering. If your manuscript finals, you will be given a chance to have your manuscript read above the slush piles on their desks. This can take years off your "waiting to be discovered" period.

3. If you are entering a contest to receive feedback on your writing, only enter a contests that provides written comments from judges. If the contest uses generic score sheets, you might not be getting the kind of feedback you want written directly on your manuscript.

4. Only enter contests with reasonable fees. The average contest should be no more than $15-35 per manuscript. If it is a huge contest where hundreds are entering, the fee might be anywhere from $50-$150.

5. Don't assume that trained judges or published judges are the final word on what is right. Research their comments and suggestions to determine if they are valid before you revise your whole manuscript on a few comments.

6. Don't have any expectations. If you final and win -- wonderful! If you don't, use the good suggestions and discard and forget the bad suggestions. Some comments will be totally off and you will know in your spirit whether or not to ignore them.

7. Judges are volunteers and writers themselves. Therefore, they may recognize a manuscript they have critiqued for a friend in a critique group from online or a local chapter.

8. Keep an open mind and prepare your heart with prayer and supplication. You may honestly need some of the critiques you receive.

I pray your submissions will go well in your next contest.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Old Grist Mill of Guilford

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

All Grist mills were important to our local historical communities, but the old Grist Mill of Guilford County, NC has always fascinated me. I can't help but imagine what it was like when this place was the center of so many lives back then. Most everyone loves to eat bread, but back in 1764 when Daniel Dillion was granted a license to build a public grist mill, people grew the grain on their land, then they had to grind it into flour before they could bake bread. Before the grist mill, they used a wooden mortar and a pestle to grind the grain by hand. It was a long tedious process. I can imagine an aching back and a sore arm by the next morning. 

When enough people moved into an area, they built a grist mill to ease their work load. Everyone in the community participated in the effort. Most grist mills were located along the bank where fast-moving water was available like a river or a waterfall. A location that was also near a wooded area for the timber to build the grist mill was ideal, and also because the trees soaked up moisture and helped prevent flooding.They would build a dam across the water to create a small millpond. It not only provided a home for fish and birds, but created a beautiful scenic spot.

Most earlier grist mills looked like huge barns. Most were made of Oak because it is a solid, sturdy piece of wood and termites dislike Oak. Wooden pegs were more common in the building process because in early America nails were hard to come by. Many grist mills were three levels. The top stored the grain and flour. The middle level is where the grinding occurred and the shop was located. The bottom level contained the gears to operate the machinery. The mill wheel was most often outside the building and turned through the water to create power.

The miller was a skilled tradesman. The position would be advertised in neighboring cities and towns. Many were trained in Europe and transferred to America. Now there is a story idea! He would work from sun-up to sun-down. Everyone in the community was the miller's customer. The miller was often well-respected and elected to political positions after his mill began to earn significant wealth. 

The old Mill of Guilford County was where my ancestors took their grain. My 7th great-grandfather, Henry Safewright, purchased his first tract of land on Beaver Creek in 1763, a year before the license was issued to build the grist mill on the mouth of Beaver Creek. Daniel Dillion attended New Garden Friends Meeting Church, where my Quaker ancestors also attended church.

The photos above were taken by me in the late-90's. The Grist Mill of Guilford County is still in operation and so is the store where goods are sold. 

Don't be surprised if a village grist mill becomes a central location for the backdrop of one of my Carolina historical novels.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Author Interview & Book Giveaway with Jennifer AlLee

>I would like to welcome fellow Abingdon Author, Jennifer AlLee. Her novel, The Pastor's Wife, just released this week and she has graciously agreed to give away one free copy to one blessed reader on my blog. All you need to do is leave a comment with your email address (on my blog--not Facebook) and I will draw a winner on Friday. I will make the announcment in the comment section of this post on my blog (not Facebook). Click the title of this post to go directly to my blog.


    Tell us about your latest book.
I served as a church secretary for many years which definitely gave me a unique perspective on the lives of a pastoral family. When I was working on the original concept for this novel, I thought about the pastors’ wives I’ve known over the years. They’ve handled themselves with amazing grace under pressure. But what if another woman couldn’t? What if a young woman thinks she knows what she’s getting into, but the reality of losing who she is and becoming a “pastor’s wife” is more than she can handle? What if some other tragedy pushes her over the edge? Would she run? And what would happen if she had to return to the scene of her heartbreak years later? All those questions eventually became The Pastor’s Wife.

Do you edit as you go or wait until completing the first draft? How many drafts?
I used to edit as I went but a month would go by and I'd have three lovely chapters and nothing else. Now, I limit my editing. Each day, I let myself read what I wrote the day before. I do this to get back into the flow of the story and try not to do too much editing. Then I move forward. I won't do a real, heavy duty edit until the first draft is done. As for how many drafts... as many as it takes. I think there were four or five drafts of The Pastor's Wife before it was finally done.

     What kind of planning do you do before writing a novel?
When I started writing, I was a 100% seat-of-the-pants writer. I'd sit down at the PC with a thought in my head and run with it. Over the years, I've refined my approach. I still can't plan too much. No offense to the authors who use them, but character sketches drive me batty! However, I've learned it's important for me to have a very basic outline. I write the equivalent of a simple synopsis. It's only about a page or two, but it hits the high points and cuts down on the time I spend staring at a blank screen.

Favorite scripture:
2 Corinthians 5:17 – "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
I consider this my life-verse. I went through a really bad time during the mid-eighties and hit my personal rock bottom. The Lord pulled me right out of that, redeemed me, and set me on a new path. I'm thankful for the new creation He made me.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I'm a movie buff. I don't get to the theater as much as I'd like, but I catch up with DVDs. I also love playing non-traditional strategy games, like Carcassonne, Munchkin, and Settlers of Catan.

What advice or tips do you have for writers who are just getting started?
It's important to realize that every writer's journey is different. The longer you write, the more you're going to hear about this person's multi-book deal, or how that person sold their very first manuscript and now has a movie deal. The temptation is to then think, "Why isn't that stuff happening to me?" Trust me, I know. I've had those kind of thoughts. But no matter what stage your career's at, you can't compare yourself to another writer as a way of measuring your own success. God has a unique, special, wonderful plan laid out just for you. It's a lesson that took me years to learn and relearn, but once I got a handle on it, I became a much happier and relaxed writer.

Jennifer, thank you for joining us!
If you would like to learn more about Author Jennifer AILee, visit her website at: http://www.jenniferallee.com.

Don't forget to leave a comment with your email on the blog post if you would like to be entered in the drawing. 

Monday, February 01, 2010

Why You Should Revise After You Finish the First Draft

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Too many writers are tempted to write a chapter, reread it, and revise it before moving onto the next chapter. My recommendation is--DO NOT do this if you can help it.

I'm not a full-time writer--YET! (But, if the Lord is willing, one day I will be!) Anyway, I cannot sit down and write several chapters at one sitting. I must squeeze in paragraphs and scenes wherever and whenever possible. For this reason, I often have to reread some the previous chapter to immerse myself back into the story before I can move forward with the next scene or finish the scene I've started. The problem with this method is that it slows down the writing and it thoroughly tempts one to revise and edit while writing the first draft.

You're already rereading it. You see a few mistakes. You think of gaps and things that are missing. You realize ways that can be better phrased to make it sound much better. Why not go ahead and do it now while you're thinking about it? While you're in this section already reading it? Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

The dangers of giving into this temptation are:
1. You will always find better ways to phrase things, mistakes, typos, etc. If you keep doing this and give into this temptation too often, you will never get the first draft written. I've known writers who take years to write the first draft of a novel. If you talk to them long enough, it's because they keep revising what they've already written rather than leaving it as is for a while and moving on with the rest of the story. Don't fall into this trap if you can help it.

2. Finding so many mistakes is daunting and it wears down a person's self-confidence. Then one starts questioning themselves, their ability, their whole purpose for writing. Am I really meant to be an author? What if I never get this published? Am I just wasting my time? Am I missing out on life with my family for nothing? Has God called me to do this or is it just a fancy idea I've come up with? If you go ahead and finish the first draft, you have that security or safety net that at least the book is finished when you start revising and seeing so many mistakes. If you haven't finished the novel yet, fear is a HUGE temptation.

3. You don't yet know what you WILL know by the time you finish your first draft. It doesn't matter if this is your first book or your tenth. Writing is a growing and learning process. It is always evolving within us. With each book, you will learn more and more as you write each chapter. You will develope a style, and you will polish those skills, and you will learn from others whether it be from reading novels, critique partners, or workshops. If you will only wait until you finish the first draft, you won't have various stages of writing experience to overcome at the revision level, because we all know that consistency is a must.

These are just a few reasons why you should wait to revise your novel AFTER you finish the first draft. Other authors can probably give you more reasons.

How to Avoid the Temptation to Revise
1. Don't read the whole chapter of what you have last written. Read only a few pages of it or the last scene. You only need to read enough to immerse yourself back into the story, the mindset of your characters, and where you need to go with the next scene.

2. If you see minor edits, go ahead and make those minor edits, but don't rewrite unless something is extrememly bad or you have a brilliant statement that just cannot be ignored.

3. If you see gaps and major revisions that are needed. Make a notation in parenthesis and highlight it in a different color. Believe me, you won't miss that difference in color when you come back to revise later. If it is a printed copy, just make a notation in the margin.

4. Reward yourself for each new scene or chapter you write as a rough draft. It doesn't have to be food! It can be a fun movie, an outing with the family/kids, a shopping trip, something that you enjoy. We all need encouragement, so set small milestones so you can feel like you are progressing toward your long-term goal of finishing that entire first draft of your novel.