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.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Reflections on 2010 ACFW Conference


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

As in every year I attend the ACFW Conference, it was fabulous! This year the conference had grown, in spite of a deep recession, to a record number of almost 630 attendees. While I'm only listing a few, there a some significant changes that I think will benchmark future conferences.

1) People were able to make Mentor appointments with seasoned authors who are published and who have experience in knowing what it takes to build a career in the Christian publishing industry.

2) Marketing appointments were available to those who need a little guidance in building their platform, promoting specific books, and focusing on strategies for their career goals. 

3) More press were there and available to authors than in the past. Romantic Times Magazine had a reporter who took the time to interview authors and learn more about ACFW. Christian Retail was there interviewing authors on camera and creating a YouTube video of these interviews. I also met a representative at Christian Book Distributors who wants to promote more Christian fiction.


4) Instead of having three winners in each contest category, there was one winner and a runner-up. This made the awards banquet go much faster. Also, Genesis certificates were waiting outside the banquet when it  was over rather than having each runner-up come to the stage to pick them up during the ceremony. 


5) For those who have finaled in the Genesis in the past, new label pins are available.


6) ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award was given for the first time to Carol Johnson, an editor of Bethany House Publishers. Janette Oke, who is well-known in the industry for pioneering Christian Romance with her Love Comes Softly series that have been made into the Hallmark series movies, was there to present the award. 


For a complete list of finalists and winners of the Genesis Contest for unpublished writers, and the Carol Awards, formerly known as the Book of the Year for published authors, go here


Changes to Publisher Acquisition
This is not a complete list as I could not attend every spotlight and workshop, therefore, I'm only posting what I heard at the 2010 ACFW Conference. I'm only listing specific changes since most of their boiler-plate guidelines are already on their website or typically known in the industry.


Abingdon Press - As a writer for Abingdon Press, I can tell you that they want "different". Their books are generally 85-100,000 words. They want depth to a story with deep emotion that will transform and touch readers. Even though they are open to some topics that some of the other publishers may not be, they do not want abortion, speculative, fantasy and science fiction. They may be open to stories with angels on a biblical basis. Everything must stay within the guidelines of a world Christian view and be biblical. They accept both historical and contemporary. (http://abingdonpress.com)


Barbour Publishing - This is one publisher that has always been open to non-agented submissions from unpublished writers. Starting in October/November, they will only accept agented submissions. They are still acquiring for the Heartsong line (45-50,000 words) and their longer mainstream line up to 100,000 words. They typically publish contemporary and historical romance, including anthologies up to 20,000 words. No fantasy, science fiction, or speculative fiction. (http:www.barbourbooks.com)

Harvest House Publishers -  While Harvest House has published Linore Burkhard's Regency romances, they are not open to more Regencies. Right now they prefer historicals 90-100,000 words set in America, prairie, westerns, and mystery. No young adult, chic lit, women's fiction, science fiction/fantasy. (http://www.harvesthousepublishers.com)


Summerside Press - You can pretty much go by their submission guidelines on their website. The only change is in international locations for their new historical line. Like Barbour, they do better with American set historicals. (http://www.summersidepress.com)


Tyndale - They are mostly looking for historicals set in the 19th to early 20th centuries. While they are not actively seeking Regencies, they are not opposed to them either. Tyndale is also open to women's fiction, suspense/mystery/thrillers. They do NOT want westerns, fantasy/science fiction, chic lit , or end times fiction. (http://www.tyndale.com)

To my disappointment, I did not get a chance to meet with the following publishers or attend their spotlights: Thomas Nelson, Whitaker House, Guideposts, Steeple Hill, Waterbrook Multnomah, Bethany House, Howard Books, B&H Publishing, Marcher Lord Press, Revell, or Zondervan. If you have any information you would like to share, please post it in the comment section or send it to me and I'll be happy to add it.


I've posted lots of photos of the conference on my Facebook Page.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Book Review - "The Country House Courtship" by Linore Rose Burkhard


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Back Cover Description
It has been five years since Ariana Forsythe married the Paragon, Mr. Phillip Mornay. Now, Ariana's sister, Miss Beatrice Forsythe, is seventeen and determined to marry advantageously as well. (Surely Ariana's society connexions all but guarantee Beatrice's success--especially if Mr. Mornay is created a baronet by the Prince Regent! Ariana would be Viscountess Mornay.)

But the Mornays have disappeared from high society as they raise a family at their country estate. Can Beatrice persuade them to chaperone her in London? And what about her business with the curate, Mr. O'Brien, whom Beatrice had rashly promised to marry years earlier? She is too sophisticated now to settle for a mere clergyman--despite his agreeable countenance and gentle, understanding ways.

When Mr. Tristan Barton becomes tenant of the Manor House, Beatrice's hopes seem to have found their object. But when Ariana falls gravely ill, secrets come to light, motives are revealed, and pretenses that were easy to keep up in the darkness begin to crumble. As hearts are bared and truths uncovered, a country house courtship like no other cannot be far behind!

My Review
The Country House Courtship is a delightful faith-based Regency novel that will that will keep you entertained and immersed in biblical truths as Beatrice learns the lessons of life. I love how Burkhard builds Beatrice's character from a young innocent girl to a woman of high morals and principles. The transformation is gradual, but appropriate as events unfold in the story. Additionally, I enjoyed the hero, Mr. O'Brien, and his struggle to remain proper while trying to prove how much he has changed from the young man he had once been with the many blunders he made in chasing Beatrice's sister in the past. As a result, Mr. Mornay thinks of him as a nuisance, a pest, but comes to realize the true character of the man Mr. O'Brien has become. The romance in this novel is so precious, and I enjoyed how the characters allowed their decisions and view of things to stay in line with their faith-filled beliefs.

At first the way the story is written, I thought there was some head-hopping as the reader knows each characters' thoughts and points of view within each scene. As I read and became accustomed to the author's style, I realized it was indeed her writing style and it wasn't head-hopping as much as the use of omniscient point of view in a way that I've not been accustomed to in a while. It took some getting used to as I've been "conditioned" to write within one point of view per scene, but in truth, I prefer to know what everyone is thinking. I didn't find it confusing, and I rather enjoyed it, especially not having to wait until the next scene to know what someone's reaction is going to be. Therefore, the next scene is free to move the plot forward. Also, there is a great glossary in the back of the book to help those who may not be quite as familiar with Regency terms.

If you enjoy wonderful faith-based Regencies, then I highly recommend The Country House Courtship by Linore Rose Burkhard. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel!

Learn more about Linore Rose Burkhard at her website, here.

Purchase The Country House Courtship, here.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Value of Social Networking

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Social Networking can either be a time consuming waste in chasing quantity over quality or a valuable opportunity to make connections that turn into relationships that convert into real sales. While it is true the larger your follower base, the greater your opportunity for making those connections, but it is also true that target networking is more valuable than blind networking

For years advertisers have known that it is best to invest in markets that target people who are interested in their products and/or services. Target Networking works the same. You need to network and create friendships and relationships with people that have the same interests as you do and in the products and/or services you provide. You may have 20,000 Twitter followers or fans on Facebook, but if none of them have an interest in the content, products or services you provide, every time consuming post you make, or paid ad you invest in, is a waste of time. Networking may be financially free, but free of time it is not. 

Each network site operates on a different strategy, and therefore, you need to have a different strategy for your method of networking on each site you participate on. Here are a few suggestions for the two most popular network sites.

Facebook
If you have a business or as in my case, you're an author, it is best to create a unique page or group for your product that is separate from your personal Facebook profile. Here are a few reasons why:

1) You may want to post personal updates for family and close friends, photos of your children that you don't want available to the rest of the FB world--people you've never met and personally do not know.

2) Other people who do not personally know you may not want to friend you on FB, but they might be willing to join your page or group. It allows you a way to connect with them and reach them that you otherwise wouldn't have. 

3) Your personal profile has a limit of 5,000 friends, but there is no limit to the number of people that can join a page or group. 

4) You can only send one message to up to 20 friends on your profile, but you can send an update to all the people at once who have joined your page or group. 

5) You can create events on a page and invite people who have joined your page, as well as friends on your personal profile. Also, you can filter the invites based on friend lists you've created, or other groups people have joined who have also joined your page or group.

6) You can send personal messages, updates, and communicate with people--let them know you care about what is happening in their lives and accept some of the friend/page/group suggestions they send you. Share their posts and links if you think they are interesting or relevant to those who have joined your page. You are being interactive.

How to Target People Who Join Your Page with the Same Interests
1) If you choose to accept people as a friend on your personal profile who you do not know, check out their Info page and determine if they are interested in similar things, and check out their wall posts, if it is available, to see if they post offensive things, play FB games all day, or post gifts all over people's profiles. Accept people who appear to have good morals, who won't stalk others, harass you with games, who engage with others, who appear active, and who might be interested in the content of your posts, products or services. You can always suggest that a friend on your personal profile join your page or group. If anyone becomes a nuisance, you can always unfriend them.

2) If you take out a paid ad on your page or group, make sure you filter it with people who have interests in what you provide, but with whom you do not already have a connection.

Twitter
Unlike Facebook, Twitter is more about following people who post about things and news you're interested in. Each post is limited to 140 characters, no photos are allowed in posts, only links. People post a combination of statements, news, verses, quotes, personal status updates, or a list of other tweeters to check out. You can't send a private message, but you can send a direct message. You cannot prevent certain people from following unless you protect all your tweets, and require everyone to request to follow you.

While Facebook does have third-party applications, their use allows a higher chance of virus attacks and are mostly related to games. However, Twitter third-party applications are more geared toward how to better use Twitter and make the most of it rather than a bunch of useless games and time wasters like on Facebook. Here are a few of those valuable applications:



1) TweepML - Is a site that allows you to create and manage lists of Twitter users who are interested in and who post on particular subjects. This is a great way for you to "target" people to follow who may follow you in return. (http:tweepml.org

2) Tweeterfeed - Is a site that allows you to set up RSS feeds from blog sites that post on topics of interest or related to your content/products/services. You can set up these feeds to post on your Twitter account page. These will auto-post for you without you having to manually post them. You can continue to work, write, or do whatever it is you do. You still need to retweet other posts, send direct messages, and show that you are on Twitter so people don't feel neglected or that you aren't truly active or interactive. (http://twitterfeed.com)

3) Friend or Follow - This site shows who is following you and who is not following you and who you aren't following, but is following you. You can choose to unfollow people who aren't bothering to follow you back, but you must do so one user at a time. The reason you might choose to do this is because they aren't seeing anything you post anyway. Unless their posts are extremely valuable to you, it is a one-way relationship--if you can call it a relationship at all. You aren't likely networking, educating, friending, or selling to someone you follow, but won't follow you back. (http://friendorfollow.com)

4) Who Unfollowed Me? - This site allows you to see who unfollowed you and identifies a list of people are not following you back. (http://who.unfollowed.me)

5) TrueTwit - This site requires people to type in a key word to eliminate Twitter spammers. It will not accept new followers until they go through this process. Lots of tweeters use third-party applications to auto-follow people and auto-unfollow them. (http://truetwit.com)

6) Twitpic - This site allows people to post photos on Twitter, but I haven't actually used it. I'm only including it because it is the #1 Twitter application. (http://twitpic.com)

7) Bit.ly - A site that takes long links and shortens them and automatically posts them on Twitter for you. (http://bit.ly)

This is only a list of a few Twitter third-party applications as there are many more, but these are the ones I've found to be most helpful. Create lists of people who post on certain topics and people who follow you can also follow your lists. In fact, the more lists people include you on, your tweets are also being seen by those following their lists, even if they are not following you.

Please let me know if this post is helpful, and feel free to include any additional information in the comment section that you feel might be helpful to others.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Inside Rooms of a Medieval Castle

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Just like with today's houses, the size and number of rooms inside medieval castles varied according to the owner's wealth. The first castles were built of wood and didn't last long, but were eventually made of stone for longevity and to withstand attacks. Most castles were made of stone by the 12th century. I've included the main rooms that would most likely be present in most castles.The Ground Floor Rooms typically contained the kitchen and storerooms. The First Floor housed the Great Hall, and the Top Floors contained the private chambers of the lord and his family.


The Great Hall
This was typically the largest room in a castle, used by everyone as the dining area, meeting room, and living area. Removable trench tables were brought in for dining and removed for other events as needed. A raised platform called a dais was located toward the end of the hall for the high table where the highest ranking lords and ladies sat. 



The Lords and Ladies Chamber
In some of the earlier castles, a chamber might have been located at the extreme upper end of the Great Hall where the Lord and his family slept. It may have only been covered only by a curtain as the only separation afforded from the Great Hall. These chambers were often referred to as the Great Chamber.

Solar
Later castles were built with private chambers on the upper levels for the lord's family. These private chambers were used as a bedroom at night and a private family sitting room by day unless important guests were present. The Solar was later extended to include a wardrobe.

The Wardrobe
This room was used as a dressing room and storage or personal items and things of great importance such as jewelry, heirlooms, spices, etc.. Dress making and hair dressing also occurred here. This room may have also been used as a bathroom, not the kind of bathroom we have today. They would bathe in wooden barrels. 


The Privy Chamber
Located as far away from the living quarters as possible, these rooms would often have a double door to reduce the smell as this was the toilet room--without the modern convenience of a toilet! A shoot was provided to dump the discharge where it often lead into the moat.


The Throne Room
This was a later addition to castles with lords of higher rank as it was designed as a receiving room for the king or queen when they were in residence.


The Kitchen
Often located beneath the Great Hall on the ground floor or a basement area in or near the inner bailey, the kitchen included huge fireplaces and cooking ovens for baking. It usually contained a water supply and drainage system. Next to the kitchen might have been a Bottlery Room to store wines and other provisions. The Pantry was nearby as a storage room for perishable food.

The Storerooms
 Various rooms of varying sizes and shapes where located throughout the castle for storage of unused furniture and goods. Sometimes these larger store rooms under the main living area might have been referred to as the Undercroft room.


The Chapel
This was a place of prayer and sermons for everyone who lived in the castle. Often, it was built near the Great Hall. If the Chapel contained two levels, the higher ranks sat in the upper lofts and the servants were on the lower level. Some chapels might have had an Oratory, a smaller room from the Chapel that was intended as a private prayer room for the lord as his family.


The Dungeon
This was usually a basement or underground areas used to contain prisoners. Cells may have been present as well as torture chambers. 


The Gatehouse
This was the guarded area at the entrance to the castle. Depending on the size and layout design of the castle, this may include the towers, bridges and complex walls protecting the entrance.


The Bailey
This was usually the courtyard out in the open sky, but within the main castle walls. 


The Barracks or Mess Halls
Was a location that houses soldiers and knights. They had their living quarters as well as meeting rooms. Depending on the castle design, it may have been located as a wing extension of the castle or a separate quarters within the main walls of the castle. 

Sources:
"Castles" at http://www.castles.me.uk/
"Wikipedia" at http://www.wikipedia.com/