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 30, 2010

Preparing for Writing Conferences



By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Whether you are planning to attend your next writing conference or your first, a few minor preparations could make the most of your experience.

Creating Promotional Materials
The purpose of attending a writer’s conference is to learn and network. While you will receive a conference packet, you may want to bring an extra folder with a pad of paper and a pen to take notes and in which to place workshop handouts. As you meet new acquaintances and renew old friendships, you will want to leave business cards with people. Once the conference is over, a business card will entice them to look up your blog or website, and perhaps friend you on Facebook when they are back home.

If you’re unsure as to what you should include on a business card, I’ve written a blog post on Author Business Cards Are Different. In this post I discuss how author business cards are different from other industries and give suggestions on what to include and why.

If you’ve signed up for any Editor/Agent appointments, you will need to bring a Sell-Sheet, a one-page flyer promoting a book or series. I’ve written a blog post on Creating Sell Sheets and provided an image of an example.
              
On occasion an editor or agent may ask for the first five copies, but there would be no need to bring more than that. They do not like hauling more sheets than necessary on their flight home.

Editor/Agent Appointments
If you have an editor/agent appointment, I recommend arriving a little earlier and spending a few moments in the prayer room. It helps one focus, improves confidence, and eases the nerves. Bring your business cards, sell sheets, and sample sheets.
           
Be prepared to give your Elevator Pitch or High Concept Pitch, one or two sentences that indicates the hero and heroine’s goal. Think of a movie description you might see in the TV Guide. You're Elevator Pitch should be similar to this. Include the word count, genre/subgenre, location setting, time period if it is an historical, hero and heroines goals, and the danger or obstacle to achieving their goals. 

For example, I've written a 100,000 word novel set in Scotland in 1477. The hero is contracted to restore a local castle, but the heroine wants him and his men to leave before they discover a secret that could destroy her future and the entire village where she lives.
             
You should not sign up for editor/agent appointments unless you have completed at least one manuscript. Even if you are already published and have an agent, there is no reason why you shouldn’t set up an editor appointment if you are looking to try and publish something that your current publisher may not be pursuing in a particular subgenre. Also,even though your agent can submit your work to any editor, a one-on-one meeting will help you determine which editors you would prefer working with in regard to personality, mannerisms and work style.
            
I have written a blog post on Surviving the Pitch to Editors & Agents. In this post I discuss how to tell when you’re ready, the four elements a pitch should contain, what to expect, and possible scenarios.

Other Things to Consider
Be sure to bring a casual dressy wardrobe with comfortable slacks, skirts, and blouses with matching blazers and/or sweaters. Layers are best as the air condition can sometimes be quite cold. You’ll want to wear shoes that are comfortable since you’ll be doing a lot of walking. A writer’s conference is not the time to break-in a new pair of shoes.
             
You may want to smell nice, but be considerate of others and leave the perfume and cologne at home. Even a dab of this or that can cause another person’s allergies to flair up and make them miserable. I'm one of them. It isn't fun to spend your entire conference with a runny, stuffy, red nose, pounding headaches, watery, itchy, red and swollen eyes because the person next to you has on perfume or cologne.
            
You may feel that you have to attend every workshop and opportunity based on the cost of the entire conference, but you aren’t wasting your money if you skip a workshop and gain some much needed rest. Don’t be afraid to take a nap if you feel tired and overwhelmed. You can't pack everything into a 4-day conference. It's simply too much! Do what you can without wearing yourself out.
            
Remember to network, make friends, learn, and enjoy the conference! 

If you'd like to share some ideas and suggestions for others, please do!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Disabling Facebook's New Places Feature by Bonnie Calhoun


For those of you who may be on Facebook, but haven't connected with me on FB, with her permission, I wanted to post Bonnie Calhoun's wonderful disabling instructions for Facebook's new Places feature. She says everything much better than I can--especially her explanation on why this is dangerous if you don't disable it, not only for yourself, but for your children on FB. So this is from her blog, please go there and thank her if you get a moment!.


Bonnie Calhoun's Instructions for Disabling the Places Feature on Facebook
ROFLOL...just when you thought it was safe to go in the water...er, uh....Facebook. They've come up with a new way to annoy us to distraction. It's called Places. Anyone can find out where you are when you are logged into it. And it gives the actual address & map location of where you are as you use Facebook. Make sure your kids know how dangerous this can be.


Now I have no clue why anyone would want to announce when and where they were...when they aren't home...the burglars will love this one! And then we have the sleazy pedophiles who will use this to track unsuspecting kids that think it's cool to announce where they are with their friends.

Granted at this point in time you have to actually activate the app for your cell phone...and you are suppose to have to "check-in" to turn on the feature for it to work...right???

Oh conrare! Another Places feature may allow friends to share your location -- even if you are not currently there and even if you have already disabled self-check-in. Friends using Places can check you in or "tag" you at a certain place. Larry Magid, writing for CNET, explains the distinction between a "check-in" and a "tag":

If you're checked-in by yourself or by a friend, your presence at the location is visible to anyone that either you or your friend allows, based on your friend's and your privacy settings. Your name will show up on the location's Places page, if there is one, so everyone at the location can see that you're there. If you are tagged by a friend, your presence at the location is seen by your friends or whoever they allow to see their posts, subject to their (not your) privacy settings.

So enough of this cr...er, uh stuff already! Here's how to banish Places from your Facebook...*sigh* until they figure out another way to become the bane of our existence.

TO UNDO: go to"Account", "Account Settings", "Notifications", then scroll down to "Places" and uncheck the 2 boxes. Make sure to SAVE changes.

This new Places application is dug in like a tick! Here's more things you have to do!

There's more places you need to change!

Go to the Privacy tab in My Account. Click "Customize Settings". At the bottom of the first section, UNCHECK the box "Include me in people here now". Then at the bottom of the next section there's a selection for "Friends can check me into places". Disable that setting.

Then there's one more. Go back to the main Privacy Settings page. At the bottom of that page on the left there's Applications and Websites in bold. Click the "edit your settings" link. From there, click on the button next to "Info accessible through your friends". That opens a box with a checklist. UNCHECK "Places I check into".

It's not enough to just disable it on Notifications. That doesn't remove other peoples' ability to tell where you are. You have to do all of this to turn it off completely They really embedded this feature and made it difficult to turn off. Not a wise move on their parts!


Please be sure to stop by Bonnie's blog and thank her!

Also, forward and spread this information to as many people as you can reach!
By Bonnie S. Calhoun

I've Consolidated my Website and Blog

I was tired of handcoding the html for my static website, which was losing visitors to my blog. I didn't want to invest in more software programs that would soon be outdated. Yet, I didn't want to lose my domain names or any links to those names, so I needed a plan...

Whatever I decided had to require less time and be a zero learning curve.

For me, the answer was to consolidate my website and blog. 

Now, if you go to www.jenniferhudsontaylor.com, you will get the same thing as my blog at http://jenniferswriting.blogspot.com. This is an easy, affordable solution and it only took a few seconds to accomplish. All I had to do was point my domain names to my blog. 

Google Calendar
Another great feature I've incorporated to make my life easier is the Google Calendar. I was already using this feature for my book signings, workshops, and blog tour events, and had the code embedded onto my website, but I took this resource tool a step further. 

I added a blog schedule with icons to my calendar. The icons represent the type of event listed. Stars are for blog post topics, the plane is for travel, the question mark is for the historical trivia game, the open book is for book signings, the gift box is for announcing winners. This calendar is now available on my blog as a monthly scrollable calendar, and I've also uploaded a list in the right-hand sidebar of the next five calendar days--it gives blog viewers a preview of what is coming up in the next few days without actually going to the monthly calendar.

The great thing about using the Google Calendar is the fact that it is accessible from anywhere at any time, from any computer--even my Droid phone. It requires no complicated software, and as soon as it's updated, my website/blog is updated without me ever logging into my blog.

Inspirational Devotions
And finally, I've added a page of Inspirational Devotions. I've categorized them under subheadings such as Writing Devotions, Faith, Forgiveness and Mercy, God's Mysteries, Promises, Spiritual Journey, and Thankfulness. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sprinkling Sensory Details


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

When I'm writing a story, I try to layer in sensory detail to help the reader feel what my characters are experiencing. A little sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste brings the scene alive like nothing else. 

Here is an example of a scene with some sensory detail:

           The crisp morning air accosted her lungs as if she breathed chunks of ice. The sun peaked through thick layers of clouds, melting one by one until they would eventually evaporate. A dusting of frost covered the earth’s surface, the edges glistening like tiny sparkles of diamonds on the colored leaves and blades of grass.
            She passed under the oak tree she had fallen from as a child. Two birds perched on a limb singing a romantic tune that made Regina smile. An acorn dropped a foot before her. One more step and it would have landed upon her head. She glanced up. A gray squirrel appeared to be laughing as he opened his mouth. He squeaked and scrambled out of view.

 How many sensory details did you experience from this short passage? It only takes a few sentences, but then sensory sets the tone of the whole scene and setting. The reader not only imagines what everything looks like, but he or she can feel


One issue that plagues me is the fact that I want to write about whatever weather I'm currently experiencing. I struggle writing a beach scene if I'm cold and curled up by the fire under a blanket. Deep snow is hard to imagine as I rarely get to experience more than a light dusting here in the south. 

In my current novel, I purposely set the season to the summer and now the weather will soon shift into the fall, just like here in NC. I did this for a reason. I know my inclination to sift in my own experiences. If my story takes place in a different season than I'm experiencing, without meaning to, soon my characters will be experiencing the same season as me, and I may have to rewrite some scenes before I catch myself.


Anyone else ever experience this?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Georgetown Lighthouse, SC


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

One of our summer adventures landed us at the Georgetown Lighthouse in South Carolina. It is the state's oldest active lighthouse and stands 87 feet tall. Since 1986, the lights burn both day and night because it lacks a auto-mechanism. The town of Georgetown was established in 1732 during the colonial days and named for King George I of England. 

At one time, Georgetown exported more rice than any other port in the world. A light was needed to guide vessels between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean. Even though a local businessman donated a tract of land for the tower in 1789, government politics delayed the process and it wasn't until 1795 that the government bought a parcel of land for the tower. Construction didn't begin until 1799, it wasn't lit until two years later.

The lighthouse was built on North Island at the entrance of Winyah Bay and Georgetown. It was a 72-foot wooden structure. As you can imagine, it was demolished five years later by a storm. The first lantern was six feet in diameter and the beacon fueled by cheap whale oil. 

The structure was rebuilt in 1812 at the same height, but this time made of brick and painted white. During the Civil War, the lighthouse was used as an observation tower by the Confederates until captured by the Union in May 1862. 

It suffered severe damage throughout the Civil War and was rebuilt again in 1867 at 87-feet tall and is the current structure you see in the photos I've taken. At one time there was a 2-story white house for the light keeper and a white picket fence around it. The house and fence are now gone. Today it contains a 3500-candlepower light that is magnified through a 5th order Fresnal lens, visible up to 12 miles.

The lighthouse isn't open for people to climb the 127 steps to the top, but it is viewable by boat. We went on an excellent shelling tour to the island where the sea meets the harbor.


Sources:
Personal Visit and Tour
Lighthouses of the Carolinas: A Short History and Guide by Terrance Zepke

Monday, August 16, 2010

Writing the Home Stretch


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Whenever I get close to finishing a manuscript, I have to force myself to slow down and not rush the ending. It's like I'm coming around to third base and I've got to slide into home base before I get out. 

As a long distance track runner, I was always taught to set a good and fast pace, but to hold a little bit of energy and speed for a kick at the end of the race. Over the years, I've used this philosophy in many areas of my life to have a "great finish" to whatever it is I'm doing. 

Writing is a little different. It isn't a race even though I'm trying to meet a deadline. I need to write a "great ending", but it must also have a satisfying ending that closes all the conflicts and gaps to the story by answering all the questions in the reader's mind and be uplifting since I write inspirational fiction. It can't be rushed. Not only do I have to end the main plot line to the story, but I must bring closure to each individual character, their concerns, conflicts, and goals. 

But there is a mantra beating in my heart, the end, the end, the end. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm cranking out every word to get there. 

Yesterday I caught myself making a character react to a situation that was out of character for him. When I realized what I was doing, I put on the breaks and stopped writing. I spent the afternoon with my daughter doing other fun stuff. The mental break is allowing me to mull over the scene in my mind, carefully considering how it ought to be written. What would that particular character say and do based on the personality I've created for him?

Are you ever tempted to rush the endings and do you have to slow things down and re-evaluate the story as you near  the end? Please share. 

Monday, August 09, 2010

Using Faith to Build Confidence

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

There are days when it is hard to stare at a blank screen and know just what to type. Other days, it is even harder to read through what you have last written and think, "This is horrible! What was I thinking?" Confidence begins to dissipate. 

It's even worse if you compare yourself to other people and their successes. 

Writing is both a gift and a talent--but so is confidence. Just like God gives us all a measure of faith, I believe He also gives us a measure of confidence. Even though faith is a gift, we still have to build it and stretch it to get through attacks and disappointments in life and to take risks. 

We use our faith when we try to build confidence. We use our faith when we keep going in spite of all the odds stacked against us. We step out in faith, when we are completely aware of the risks.

Regardless of what you do, whether it is writing, painting, singing, sculpting, your day job, raising your children, leading a ministry, surgery, or teaching, you must have a measure of confidence to complete the tasks set before you. The more confidence you can build in yourself, the better your chances of succeeding to your satisfaction, and the approval of those who matter to you--whether it be God, your parents, spouse, children, boss, clients, patients, customers, readers, or friends.

If you need to build confidence in your abilities, the best thing you can do is practice. Keep trying and don't give up. Consider different strategies. Pray for wisdom. Pray for God to build confidence in you. Pray for God to give you creative thoughts and ideas you haven't considered before. 

Step out in faith -- by doing what must be done. 

For me, I've got to type words on that blank screen. It doesn't matter that I don't know where the story is going. I must put something there to give myself something to build on for tomorrow. Just as one idea can lead to another, so can one word lead to another. I must keep typing. 

Like me, you must keep going!
Here are a few verses on confidence:

"For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end." (Hebrews 3:13, NKJ)

"Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward." (Hebrews 10:35, NKJ)

"According to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him." (Ephesians 3:11-12, NKJ)