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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Book Review - "The Glassblower" by Laurie Alice Eakes


My Review
This is one of the most unique Heartsong Presents novels I've ever read, which is no small feat for the author, since there are so many guidelines to follow in category romance. It was well-written, interesting, and the characters were very likeable.This is one of those books you don't want to put down as you wonder how the conflicts will be resolved and the heroine, Meg Jordan, and the hero, Colin Grassick, will come together.

Colin is from Scotland and the author did a superb job with his Scottish accent. It made his character even more endearing, especially after he repeatedly comes to Meg's rescue and shows such tenderness in wanting to save his Scottish family back home from the destitution of poverty now that his father is gone.

While Meg is always being rescued by Colin, she is going around and rescuing animals and children. One feels Megs torn heart as she struggles with wanting to obey her father, but knowing that the man he has chosen for her is wrong.

I particularly enjoyed the faith theme of The Glassblower. The heroine is concerned that she is doing things her own way and not bothering to consult God in her decisions. As a Christian I want to please God, but I am living the only life I'll live on this earth and there are many things I want to accomplish before I leave it. As a result, I often find myself going about my own business and doing things my way, forgetting that I have given my life to Christ and it is no longer mine, but His. God may not mind me accomplishing my goals, but He doesn't want me to leave Him out of the process. He wants to be included, to help me, and for me to have faith in Him to handle the things I can't handle on my own. This book was a wonderful reminder of that.

Back Cover Description
Now that Colin Grassick, a master glassblower from Scotland has arrived to help at the Jordan glassworks, Meg Jordan'ss dreams of teach the poor, local children are coming true. Finally, someone will have time to make windows for the rural New Jersey schoolhouse, to keep out the cold--and vandals. But the vandalism continues and Colin, whom Meg as befriended, is injured in a suspicious accident at the glassworks.

To Joseph Pyle, the wealthy, arrogant man to whom Meg will soon be betrothed, the destruction of Meg's new windows iss inconsequential--as his wife, she will be forbidden from doing anything as common as teaching.

Why would Meg's father insist she marry a man like Jospeh and stay away from the endearing Colin? Me knows what--and who--she wants. But what does God want her to do?

Monday, March 29, 2010

My Source for Creating Characters in Christian Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I'm going to share a secret. My real source for creating the characters in my books--is the Creator. Who better? God has more experience in creating people than any human author dead or alive.

He gives me ideas through biblical characters, dreams, people I meet, and other stories I've read or watched, whether it be a book, movie, news, or the daily newspaper.

The key to developing characters is to make sure they have one or two flaws that hinders them from immediately achieving their goals. This gives your characters something to overcome and helps readers identify with them. These flaws are spiritual or personality weaknesses where the character can grow in Christ.

The complaint that many have had with Christian fiction is that it lacks characters with realistic flaws. This is not necessarily due to the authors lack of trying, but more to publishers reluctance to test the CBA market beyond tradition. While it is true that a Christian should not commit certain sins, it is also true that some Christians do. This is where we sometimes have trouble reeling in a nonbeliever. Non-Christians either think a sinning Christian is a hypocrite, or they think a perfect Christian is too hard to live up to. So how do we reach them? By teaching the truth and showing it in our writing.

In 1 Corinthians 15:31, Paul said, "I die daily." Why would he say this? Because salvation isn't a one time thing. The first time we come to Jesus, is the beginning of our salvation. Like nonbelievers, Christians sin. Sometimes we know it and sometimes we don't realize it. However, unlike nonbelievers, the part of us that sins dies daily with our repentance and through the spiritual washing of the blood of Jesus.

This realization of sin, and the growing pains of mercy and forgiveness, to the goal of defeating that sin is what we have to show in our stories. If we are going to write about the truth, we cannot hide it behind unrealistic characters. Instead, we must show the true flaws in our characters, and allow the Holy Spirit to give us creative ways to bring our characters back to God in our stories. This can be through a nonbeliever who finds salvation for the first time, a person who has returned to their faith, or a believer who learns a new and valuable lesson. The result, is that through their circumstances, characters either find Christ or grow closer to Christ. This is what makes Christian fiction different from other fiction.

We writers must keep writing the books that are born from our hearts, and in the right season, these books will produce fruit. What kind of struggled have you experienced in creating characters?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Highland Blessings Blog Tour

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

It seems like there is a blog on every possible topic imaginable. Some just spew out information like a newswire, others give delightful peaks into the lives and personalities of the blog author. What about you? What brings you back to your favorite blogs? Is it information or personality? Or are you blogged out, tired of blogging, and tired of visiting blogs?

I tend to hang around blogs on writing, book reviews, and publishing industry news. Once in a while, I stop in on a couple of historical blogs, especially if I'm browsing for historical research. 

Have you found any blogs that work more like a community? I'd be interested in your thoughts. 

In the meantime, below is an upcoming schedule of my blog tour for Highland Blessings. I'll be interviewed on each of these blogs on the date listed. I hope you'll be able to stop by a few of them. 

Blog Tours

April 2, 2010, Word Vessel Blog

April 20, 2010, Writing Roseanna Blog

May 1, 2010, Historical Novel Review

May 3, 2010, Book Reviews





Friday, March 12, 2010

Bodie Island Lighthouse, NC

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Popular folklore says that the island got its name because of all the bodies washed up around it from shipwrecks. The last time we visited Bodie Island Lighthouse, it was a dreary day as you can tell from the photo to the left. This is actually the third lighthouse in the area. 

The first was built in 1846 and only stood 54 feet tall. It was supposed to have a visibility of up to 12 miles, but there were problems with the lighting. An additional light had to be installed, consisting of a 10-foot lantern with 14 revolving lamps and reflectors. The structural issues were such a problem that the foundation developed major cracks and leaks. It tilted off-center and began to sink.

Eleven years after the first lighthouse was built, a second one was completed. This structure was 80 feet tall and constructed of white-washed brick. Two years later, the Civil War broke out. The Confederates lost control of the coast and blew it up to keep the Union from using it. 

In 1872 the current structure was built. The same foreman that oversaw the building of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse also oversaw the building of the third Bodie Island Lighthouse. It is located one mile from the ocean at 150 feet tall. It has a 1st-order Fresnal lens that illuminates visibility up to 19 miles. Before 1930 when electricity and a flashing light installed, the lamp operated on kerosene. A large kerosene container was lugged from the oil shed and up 214 steps to the top of the ower every day. The lamp was filled, the wick cleaned, trimmed, and then lit. It is said that the smell of kerosene is still present around the old oil shed after all these years.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Big Show vs Tell Debate


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Show don't tell. 
Every writer has heard this phrase if they've been writing for any length of time. The problem is there are times when you will need to tell rather than show. This is a fact that plagues rule followers and inexperienced authors. How does one know when telling is okay, and showing is a must?

Last night as I was working on my manuscript I came to a part in my scene where it was necessary for me to tell the nature of a particular charcter through the POV and introspection of my heroine. The telling was about a secondary character, so I didn't want to spend a lot of time showing this person's nature, although I've spent some time showing it. The key ingredient was to get the point across to the reader how the heroine feels about this secondary charcter. What happens to this secondary character later will be much more important if the reader knows how the heroine feels about this person. I kept it short--down to two sentences of telling. 

Unless there is something glaringly wrong with it, I probably won't change it because I have a purpose for those particular sentences. This is where experience and confidence will play a significant role in your writing, in spite of other's suggestions. You've got to learn when something is important, have a reason for it, and stick to your decision--and when to listen to others and let something go and change it. Writing is a balancing act. You learn by trial and error. I don't think there is any other way around it.

James Scott Bell said it very well in his book, Revision & Self-Editing, in chapter 8 on Show vs Tell. His words: You can't show everything. The rule is, the more intense the moment, the more showing you do. He goes on to give some excellent writing examples and reasons why, when, and how you would use each. Bell suggests using an intensity scale of 0-10 with 0 having no intensity and 10 being over the top in intensity. When the intensity level is above a 5, show. Anything below 5 is the tell zone.

Reasons for telling:
1. Transitions in scenes that you don't want to spend a lot of time on.
2. Low intensity scenes below a 5 scale.

In my case, the scene I was working on last night was a low intense scene, and I had a specific purpose for what I'm planning to do. I didn't want to spend a lot of time showing it, because I'm using that knowledge that the reader needs to set up and prepare for a more intense scene later. However, keep in mind, that when you do use telling, be very brief. A sentence or two will be enough to take care of what you want to do. Be sure you have a good reason to tell rather than show.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Cape Hatteras: The Historic Lighthouse We Almost Lost


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Of all the lighthouses off the coast of North Carolina, Cape Hatteras has always fascinated me. Perhaps it's because it is the first lighthouse my parents took me to visit when I was a young girl. I remember my mom and grandmother standing over the porch rail of the museum house posing for a photo. We still have those Polaroid photos. This was back in the 1980's long before it was moved to it's current location in 1999. So it was only fitting that we took our daughter to see Cape Hatteras Lighthouse a few years ago.

The first photo is of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in it's new location. 

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is America's tallest lighthouse at 198 feet. It is currently one of two lighthouses open to the public. At one time the upper half of the original structure was painted red and the lower half was white, not the black and white swirl that the current structure has. The second photo was taken from the top of the lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper's house is below, now a museum, also moved from it's original location.

Funds for the first structure were released in 1793, but due to illness among the crew and a series of bad weather, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse wasn't completed until 1802. It wasn't lit until 1803. Not only was the light insufficient at warning ships that kept wrecking, but local residents complained about it's dreary state. Erosion began to wither away the shore.

 

While building a new lighthouse, an outbreak of malaria among the crew occurred and a shipwreck destroyed much of the construction materials. The new Cape Hatteras Lighthouse finally opened on December 18, 1870. But it wasn't until 1873 that the black and white barber swirl paint design was added.

By 1936 erosion had eaten away at the shore to the point that the sea was washing upon the base of the lighthouse. The coast guard decided to abandon the existing lighthouse, removing the light one mile inland. Again, in 1999 the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was being overtaken by the sea. As a National Historic Landmark, residents rallied around the idea of saving the lighthouse, and Congress approved $9.8 million to move it 2,900 to safety further inland. It reopened in the summer of 2000.

Here we are in front of the entrance to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 2007.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Facebook is the Wal-mart of Social Networking

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Today I'm deviating from my typical book review or author interview to bring you some news of another avenue. I've been trying to spread the word that I didn't delete any Facebook friends. My FB acct has been disabled and I'm left to believe a virus may have tried to hijack it because FB will not return my emails and their phone system is set up to not allow you to talk to anyone. 

I've spent a couple of years trying to build up my networks and platform on FB only to have it wiped away in a day. Why would I do that again? I wouldn't. So I'm changing strategies. 

The problem is, Facebook is the Wal-mart of the Web, and so I cannot dismiss it as an avenue or tool to build part of my marketing platform as an author. With over 500 million FB users, I'd be crazy not to invest something into FB--even after my disaster of an experience there. I still hope my original acct will be restored. In the meantime, I've created a new FB account. 

Why is Facebook the Wal-mart of social media? 
It's the one-stop social network site where you can get everything. People like going to FB to get updates on family, friends, targeted news, to follow people of interest such as favorite authors, musicians, politicians, celebrities, religious leaders, etc. There are tons of social network sites to join, but none of the less popular ones have all my family. Some family members are on MySpace, others are not. None of them are on Shoutlife, only me. Some of my family members are on Twitter or LinkedIn, others are not. But they are ALL on Facebook. And they all ACTIVELY use Facebook.

As an author I cannot afford not have a FB Page since everyone's on FB! Find my new FB Page here. FB is where I find quick news from family members, and I get to see their latest photos. FB is where each individual can have their own personal place to share news in their life and to connect with people that are important to them, if they can get occasional news about my writing and book releases, they are okay with that and they don't have to go out of their way to find me on my blog or set up a seperate RSS feed. For these reasons, I must keep an FB page.

So what is different about my strategy? 
I'm not going to spend time networking as much on FB as I once did. I'm going to put more of my efforts into Twitter and my blogs. My blog posts will no longer go to my FB profile, only my FB Fan page. Why is this? Why do I even need an FB Fan page? Because it has more functionality like a website, people can join it who do not actually know me, but are interested in my writing. There are no limits to the number of fans a person can have, but there is a limit on the number of friends. Also, I can only email up to 20 friends at once, but a FB Page allows me to send out notices of events and announcements to all my fans at once. This is truly a blessing to me. (Update: This is no longer the case.)

I hope my FB Fan page will be a different kind of ministry to reach people who need to be uplifted, inspired, and who simply want to connect with me about writing, books, the publishing market, history, and God's Word. Instead of my blog being an additional resource or extension from my Facebook acct, I want FB to be an extension of my blog.

The way people think of the word "fan" is changing. It doesn't mean what it used to mean. In the Facebook world, it really means a professional businesss page on Facebook.

What are the changes to my blog?
I'm going to try and blog more during the week. Instead of Mon, Wed, Fri, I'm going to try blogging everyday, Monday - Friday. I need to offer more to my readers. This got me to thinking--what would you like to read on a blog? What would bring you back? What would encourage or entice you to load my blog into your RSS Feeder, join my FB Page to get my posts, or join as a Blogger follower? While I would love to give away a gift everyday, I can't afford it. Therefore, whatever I provide will have to be in the form of information. If I spend all my time writing blogs, I won't have time to write novels, so it must require a limited amount of time. It should be interesting and fun.

My target audience is people who enjoy historical Christian fiction--writing it and reading it--YOU. The things that you all have in common is Christ, a need for faith-building and inspiration, a love and enjoyment of history, reading romance and mystery. You have certain authors you enjoy, historical movies, favorite time periods, you like to learn about things. When I considered this, I realized you might enjoy some trivia on Tues and Thurs. 

So here is my new blog schedule:

• Mondays
Writing & research tips (occasional info on the publishing industry)

• Tuesdays 
Trivia on historical authors and books, including many of the classics

• Wednesdays
Book reviews & author interviews (includes contests and giveaways)

• Thursdays
Trivia on historical events, inventions, famous people and places

• Fridays
Faith devotions, Carolina history, and news and updates

I could offer a gift at the end of the month for whoever gets the most trivia questions correct, but keep in mind, only those who are the first to answer each trivia question correctly will be counted.  

Please offer your ideas and suggestions. I'm interested to know if the trivia on Tues and Thurs might be of interest to you. I'm especially interested in how to preserve FB connections with fans who have joined my FB page, but who aren't FB friends or who I don't have any other interaction with other than through FB--in case I ever get disabled again--or any of YOU have an acct that gets disabled. Please share.

Update: I no longer use this schedule or post trivia. As I signed new writing contracts with my publisher, I could not keep up with this blogging schedule.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Striving for the Next Level


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

One of the things our pastor said in his sermon yesterday is, "What got you to where you are today will not necessarily get you to the next level where you want to be tomorrow, without a change."

This statement has stuck with me, and I've been pondering it. He used the analogy of Tim Tebow, one of the greatest football players in college history. The way he throws the ball is a timing concern that could get him crushed before the ball leaves his hand if he moves to the next level, NFL.

Some people are saying he's a great player, why mess up what works? Because what works in a slower game of college football, but won't cut it in the NFL big league where football is much faster. Our pastor went on to name some great college football players who never amounted to much in the NFL league, because they didn't change their game.

I may not be a football player, but I am an author. When I look over my writing years to consider how my writing has changed and evolved, I had to switch from being a panster, writing by the seat of my pants, to a plotter, plotting out the major plot points and twists before writing the first draft of the whole story.

Without this change, I don't think I'd be able to switch from one plot in 19th century England to 15th century Scotland at a moment's notice. Thanks to my careful character sketches, my notes, and my plot outline, I can pick up where I left off weeks, months ago. If I was still writing as a panster, I think I'd be floundering right now.

My debut novel, Highland Blessings, was a panster novel. It's sequel, Highland Sanctuary, will be a plotted novel. As I continue to ponder my pastor's message, I can't help, but wonder what else in my writing must change before I can move to the next level. Perhaps it is the way I promote my writing. 

I've been relying heavily on Facebook, but when my account was unexpectedly disconnected this past weekend, I panicked. I felt disconnected from two years worth of connections I had built on FB. What other avenues can I reach these people? What must change in my promotion habits? Believe me, I'll be contemplating this issue and praying about it. 

What about you? Think about where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow? What must change to get you there?