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 28, 2011

Christian Fiction with Special Needs Characters

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

October 2011 is Sensory Awareness Month and I'm going to be featuring parents as guest posts on my blog who are raising children with special needs. I have four parents lined up and need four more. I'm looking for parents with children of all ages and with varying special needs such as Autism, Sensory Integration Disorder, X Syndrome, Blind, Deaf, Speech Impediments, Seizure Disorder, Physical Disabilities, etc. Any parent who would be interested in submitting a guest post, may send me an email at jt4novels@yahoo.com.

As a parent with a special needs child, there were so many times I didn't know where to turn or what to do for my child. My daughter was born with a seizure disorder, which she is now healed from, but has delayed development, Sensory Integration Disorder, and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Now that she's 13, I'm seeing her overcome so many things. I want to encourage other parents with younger children, and I want to be encouraged by other parents who have high school children, college kids, and grown children. My goal is for us to share our stories, raise awareness and understanding, and to encourage each other.

Also, I'll be writing an article in the Christian Fiction Online Magazine featuring Christian fiction novels with characters who have special needs. I cannot interview and feature every book and author as I'd like, but I can at least try to compile a list. 

Will you help me? If you have read a Christian fiction novel like this, would you please leave a comment with the title of the book and the author name? Please consider forwarding this request to your friends who read Christian fiction. I would be most appreciative as I don't want to leave out any books.

I would be remiss, if I didn't mention that my upcoming novel, Highland Sanctuary, which will release in October 2011. Serena Boyd, the heroine, is born with a seizure disorder much like my daughter, but she must face the consequences of living in 1477 Scotland--a time when the word "seizure" wasn't well-known and understanding and mercy were scarce.

Thank you for your help!

Here's what I have so far:
1) A Touch of Grace by Lauraine Snelling (Deafness)
2) Grace in Thine Eyes by Liz Curtis Higgs (Deafness)
3) On Sparrow Hill by Maureen Lang (historical orphanage with several children with many different types of special needs)
4) Unlocked by Karen Kingsbury (Autism)
5) When the Snow Flies by Laurie Alice Eakes (Blindness)
6) The Preacher's Bride by Jody Hedlund (Blindness)
7) Double Vision by Randy Ingermanson (Asperger)
8) Another Dawn, Kathryn Cushman (Autism)
9) Sadie's Hero by Margaret Daly (Down Syndrome)
10) Second Chance Family by Margaret Daly (Autism)
11) The Power of Love by Margaret Daly (Down Syndrome)
12) So Dark the Night by Margaret Daly (Blindness)
13) Light in the Storm by Margaret Daly (Learning Disability)
14) Tidings of Joy by Margaret Daly (Physical Disability in wheelchair)
15) What the Heart Knows by Margaret Daly (Schizophrenia)
16) Tidings of Joy by Margaret Daly (Bipolar)
17) A Daughter for Christmas by Margaret Daly (ADD)
18) The Curse of Captain LaFoote by Eddie Jones (Epilepsy)
19) Courting the Doctor's Daughter by Janet Dean (Learning Disability)
20) Love Finds you in Bridal Veil, Oregon by Miralee Ferrell (Learning Disability)
21) John's Quest by Cecelia Dowdy (Blindness)
22) Rain Song, by Alice J. Wisler (Autism)   
23) How Sweet It Is by Alice J. Wisler (Mentally Disadvantaged)
24) Redeeming the Rogue by Cynthia Chase (Down Syndrome)
25) Beyond the Night by Marlo Shalesky (Blindness)
26) Shades of Morning by Marlo Shalesky (Down Syndrome)
27) Finding Alice by Melody Carson (Schizophrenia)
28) White Doves by Shannon Vannetter (Paraplegic)
29) The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson (Cerebral Palsy)
30) A Month of Summer by Lisa Wingate (Mentally Challenged)
31) The Summer Kitchen by Lisa Wingate (Mentally Challenged)
32) Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor (Deafness)
33) Highland Sanctuary by Jennifer Hudson Taylor (A Village of people who are outcasts because of their various special needs.)

Be Honest....What's Your Favorite Bookstore?


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Is it a local brick and mortar store? A Christian bookstore? Or a secular store with a religion section? Or an online store?

Over the years I've gone through stages. I used to love spending time at the Borders Books on High Point Road in Greensboro, NC. That store will now close over the next two months. It's where I would go to buy reference books and pour myself into material that would teach me how to be a better writer. I would spend hours in that store dreaming of having my books on their shelves. I loved their bargain books and they always seem to have plenty of them.

When I moved to Winston-Salem, I discovered The Master's Loft, a Christian bookstore with a cafe. This was a wonderful place. We would go in here and spend hours with church folks and hold Bible studies and fellowship. Then they closed the store because they made more money through online sales. After that we were forced to shop at Family Christian Stores down the street, but there wasn't a cafe and the atmosphere wasn't the same. We began meeting fellow church members at Barnes & Nobles on Stratford Road and hanging out at their cafe. It was more crowded, had music that wasn't conductive to Bible studies, and the effort didn't last long.

Since moving to Charlotte, we've spent more time at Books-A-Million and their Joe Mugs Cafe. They have a great Religion section with lots of Christian fiction and I love their bargain bins. Over the last couple of months they got rid of Joe Mugs and opened some yogurt shop that I don't care for. Since then, I've visited the store, but I don't recall buying a thing, and I don't hang out there anymore. I go in, look for what I'm after, and get out. A few weeks ago, we drove several miles out of our way to visit a Barnes & Nobles with a cafe.

I've discovered if a bookstore has a cafe, I'll hang out there longer, look at more books, buy coffee and dessert, and fellowship with others. Without that atmosphere, I just shop online and buy books from Amazon. If they take away the atmosphere, I lose interest. It's the overall experience that I enjoy. 

What about you? In your opinion, what makes a great bookstore?

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Birth of Greensborough, NC


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I'd like to tell you about the setting of my upcoming novella, New Garden's Hope. The year is 1808. The location holds sentimental value since I was born here, as well as my husband, daughter, and most of my extended family. My mother's ancestors were Quakers here while it was still a colony as early as 1763, and they attended New Gardens Friends Meeting, the first Quaker church in the area.

December 15, 1808 is the year Greensborough was established. It is also an election year, when James Madison was elected as President of the United States. His wife, Dolley Madison, was born in the Greensborough area before it was officially established, and serves as my heroine's cousin in my novella. Her maiden name was Payne, and therefore, my heroine is Ruth Payne. While Dolley only lived in the area for a year as an infant, in my fiction story, she returns to Greensborough with her husband on his campaign tour and visits her relatives.

You can imagine the conflict this brings since Ruth's fiance, Josiah Wall, is a Federalist, campaigning against Madison because he believes the Embargo Act of 1807 will lead America to war against Britain--and it did lead us to The War of 1812. A lot of interesting things are taking place in Greensborough, NC during the year of 1808 and so I thought it would be the perfect setting and time period.

The city was named for Nathanael Greene, the Patriot General of the Continental Army who fought British General Lord Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War. The photo above is of monument of General Greene on horseback. The battle took place in what is now the Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781. It is now a national military park where re-enactments are held each year.

The first skirmish of the battle took place on the grounds of New Gardens Meeting, and the original site of the meeting house served as a hospital for the wounded soldiers. Since Quakers didn't believe in war, they took care of both British and Patriot soldiers alike and buried them together. The photo to the left is a monument that was later constructed in remembrance.

Greensborough was shortened to Greensboro in 1895. It is believed that the name was shortened because the city's newspaper, The Greensboro Patriot, always spelled it that way for printing purposes to conserve ink and space on paper.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Benefits of Pre-Ordering Books

The advantages of pre-ordering a book before it's released:

  • By pre-ordering books at your local bookstore, you don't have to try and remember when it comes out. The book will be on hold for you when it comes out and they will notify you as soon as it's available.
  • You are guaranteed a copy. When my debut novel, Highland Blessings, first released, some stores only ordered one or two copies and they sold out within the first few weeks. This even occurred on Amazon.com and Amazon Canada and they typically have several copies at their distribution center. This caused several people to wait and people were driving all over my hometown looking for copies.
  • Often, you get a DISCOUNT when you pre-order a book. Saving money is always a plus
  • If you pre-order on Amazon and the price drops on sale by the release date, Amazon will only charge you for the sale price, not the price it was when you actually placed your pre-order. This is true for both print and Kindle e-books.  

    Do you ever pre-order books? Why or why not?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review - "A Touch of Grace" by Lauraine Snelling


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Back Cover Description
Eighteen-year-old Grace Knutson loves Blessing, North Dakota, and sees no reason to leave. She's more serious-minded than her twin sister, Sophie, and very sensitive to the feelings of others. In spite of her family's disapproval, Grace has always had a soft spot in her heart for Toby Valders, for she's seen the vulnerable side he keeps well hidden.

Jonathan Gould, the handsome scion of a wealthy New York family, creates a flurry of anticipation and speculation when he arrives in Blessing. Jonathan's father wants him to learn the value of manual labor and to appreciate the accomplishments of those not born to wealth. Surprisingly, the "city boy" takes to farm life and actually enjoys working from dawn to dusk alongside the others. Soon he finds himself inexplicably drawn to gentle, courageous Grace.

Review
This is a gentle, inspirational novel set during the turn of the 20th century that will whisk you from a small prairie town to the bustling city of New York. The things I liked about this book were the various points of view, the deep characterization of not only the main characters, but several of the secondary characters. and the historical detail of how people reacted to new inventions. 

Grace, the heroine is unique in that she is deaf and must not only learn to cope with her disability in a new, unfamiliar place, but dig deep into the courage inside her to share her vast knowledge and coping skills with other deaf students through her teaching job. The characters' faith is shown throughout the novel and how they rely on their beliefs to make decisions and overcome life's difficulties.

Since this is the first book I've read by Lauraine Snelling and the third book in a series, it was a little difficult for me to get into it from the beginning. I had a sense that I was missing some background knowledge from the first two books. It does help that there is a family tree listed at the beginning of the novel. The book began to pick up for me when Jonathan saved Grace's life. The romance is a little slow as there is a love triangle--Grace believes herself in love with a friend from childhood, while Jonathan is in love with her and must exercise lots of patience, understanding, and persistence. Theirs is a gradual love, not the kind of relationship where the sparks fly and lots of tension exists between them, but more like the "Love Comes Softly" themed romance. 

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to others, especially if you like prairie type romances and turn of the century settings.

Read more about the author, Lauraine Snelling.

Purchase A Touch of Grace on Amazon, here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Planting Life & Sustaining It

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Science recognizes that plants, grass, flowers, and trees are part of the life process. If a seed is planted, it will grow--especially if the conditions are just right with the proper amount of rain, sunshine, shade and food or nutrients. Most people wouldn't dream of ripping up the seed of a rose once planted--before it has a chance to bloom. As long as it has the capability to grow--it lives--has life.

Scientic Definition of Life
In biology, life is the condition which distinguishes active organisms from inorganic matter. Living organisms undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, posses a capacity to grow, responds to stimuli, reproduces, and through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations. More complex living organisms can communicate through various means.  

Biblical Definition of Life
While there is not one single definition of life in the Bible, there are enough references to give one an idea of a biblical meaning of life.

"To every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food." (Genesis 1:30) This doesn't mean that people will eat every herb, but it may be food for other animals and plants as well as humans. 

"And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7) Some living things will breathe--such as animals and human beings.

"The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (Genesis 2:8-10) This is the biblical version of the same biological reference to complex organisms that communicate, which goes a step further in recognizing the tree of life, knowledge of good and evil as having a conscience.

"But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." (Genesis 9:4) Living organisms with blood cannot live without blood, too much loss of blood leads to a physical death.

Human Life
Call a human seed a fetus, an embryo, any scientic term you'd like, but once planted, if left alone to a natural path, no science can deny the potential that it will grow into a human being. If we go by the technical biological definition of life, a human male seed planted inside a human female egg, is life. It's already growing, metabolozing, regenerating, etc. Therefore, the argument of when life is created is irrelevant. The argument of pro-life versus pro-choice is irrelevant.

It boils down to our lack of wanting to recognize our responsibility for our actions--for sustaining life. Some people would rather let a rose bloom, than a small child--a human life. 

A woman does have the right to decide what happens to her body, and she makes that decision the moment she DECIDES to have unprotected sex. Even if she uses protection and gets pregnant and doesn't want to be pregnant or feels like she can't properly take care of a child, that child's life isn't a mistake. There are other choices like adoption and people who would love to raise that child and can't have any children of their own.

Life is never a mistake, but life doesn't always turn out the way we plan. In life, things are always going to happen that are out of our control, but the way we respond IS in our control. Why can't we have as much regard to the life of a potential baby, as we do for the life of a potential rose, a tree,a dog or cat? 

Abortion is ending a potential life. In my opinion it is life. I see it as murder. You are protecting your body and your lifestyle, by taking the life of another who cannot yet speak for him or herself--or the body he or she will have. Your body has given this life a body of his or her own and it will take on many different shapes and sizes before birth and after birth.

I do not condemn people who have had abortions. You can be forgiven. All you have to do is forgive yourself and ask God to forgive you. My hope is to help others understand that abortion isn't their ONLY option if they find themselves in this difficult situation. 

My mother was a 16-year-old child when I was born. I thank God every day that she didn't choose to end my life before I was born. I love my life. I love the life I've been able to help give my daughter, and the grandchildren I hope to one day have. You could be carrying the next president of the United States, a research doctor who will find the cure for cancer, or a published author who will reach lots of people with simple words. You never know what God has planned.

Remember, no life is a mistake. There are others who have been through what you are going through. When you choose life, the possibilities are endless. I'm a walking, living example.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Valentine Gift to Heaven

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

In the fall of 2001, my 82-year-old grandmother suffered a massive heart attack. Each day, she grew weaker and weaker.Over the next four months, the doctors warned us that Grandma wouldn’t live much longer, but a piece of my heart kept willing her to live. She had been part of my childhood memories and at all the important occasions in my adult life. I couldn’t imagine a future without her, but that day came on February 14, 2002, Valentine’s Day.  

During those last months with her, I knew she believed in God, but that was all I knew. Did she believe she would go to heaven? She never went to church or read a Bible. I became so burdened I thought I would burst. Even her children, my father and aunts, were concerned about her salvation, but no one seemed willing to approach her about it. Although, she was a very dear, sweet lady, my grandmother was stubborn with a temper. I prayed that God would help me find an appropriate way to approach the subject with her.   

One afternoon it was just the two of us. She sat in her rocker beside her bed and was in a very talkative mood. It seemed like the right time.  I said, “Grandma, can I ask you a very important question?”

She looked at me with a half grin, knowing I was up to something. “Yeah,” she nodded.

“Were you ever saved?” I asked, my heart hammering with fear she might explode.

She knew exactly what I was talking about. She nodded and said, “Yeah, a long time ago when I was a little girl. I still am saved.” She went on to explain that they used to attend a little white church when she was very young. I was so grateful as that conversation stayed with me, a sweet comfort when we had to lay her to rest two weeks later.

Before she left us, she allowed me to pray for her, the family gathered and joined hands with Grandma. I held her hand as she took her last breath and released it so easily. I watched her closely, waiting for her to take another breath, but she never did. I had imagined all sorts of struggles of her gasping for air, fighting to breathe, groping for life, and there was none of that. She died more peacefully than I could have ever imagined. It was another answer to many of our prayers. Afterward, her skin instantly turned a golden glow. The wrinkles in her tired face disappeared into a lovely, peaceful expression. (Photo to right is of Grandma's 80th birthday party. It was a surprise!)

I wept with relief for her and sorrow. When my four-year-old daughter heard the news, she rushed into the room with one of the cousins following on her heels. She wanted to lay her head on Grandma's heart. We didn't know how she might react, but I was also concerned that she might need some sort of closure. I explained that Grandma’s heart had gone to Heaven and that there was no heartbeat. Still, Celina had to listen and see for herself and the simple act satisfied her.

All through the next few days Celina handled everything well. She never cried, but she asked a series of questions. We tried to answer them as best as we could. She even went home and studied a picture of her and Grandma together. 

On the day of Grandma’s funeral, Celina was okay throughout the service until they put the closed coffin into the hearse. She wanted to know where they were taking Grandma. We explained about the burial.  As I put her in her car seat, she clutched her stomach and cried, “Oh, my Grandma!  My Grandma!”  It was the first time she had cried and it seemed as if she finally understood that she wouldn’t see Grandma again. My heart broke as I tried to comfort her and contain my own grief, and then, a miracle happened.  

Suddenly, the wind whirled and something that looked like white flower petals flew around in circles and from every direction. Both of us stopped to watch it. My first thought was of dogwood petals, but I noticed that it disappeared as it hit the dark pavement, and then I realized it was snow. Grandma loved snow! It was 48° F outside, much too warm for snow, and the sun was shining in and out of the clouds floating by. The conditions weren’t right for snow, but it distracted my daughter. 

 It was another sign from Heaven above that Grandma was happy and well. My little girl stopped crying, her broken heart momentarily forgotten by a Heavenly miracle. I couldn’t help smiling. I knew Heaven was celebrating a new Valentine gift.

I've dedicated Our Watkins Family page to Grandma. Turn up your speakers!  
 

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Few Basics on Quakerism


By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Most of you know that I'm working with three other authors on a Quaker novella. I wanted to share a few basics you may not be aware of before our story is released. 

My story is set in 1808, so most of what I tell you will be in regard to that time period unless I state otherwise. The photo to the left is of my gg-grandparents, William Henry Wall and Martha Jane Zeek Wall, Quakers who attended Marlboro Friends Meeting in Sophia, NC south of Greensboro where we still have Wall family reunions. He was forced to work in a salt factory during the Civil War for the "cause" since he didn't believe in war.

Many Quakers used plain speech. They believed that all men and women were equal in the sight of God. Therefore, they didn't believe in putting emphasis on one's title regardless of who might be the king, queen, a duke, an earl, etc. You can imagine how this might have gotten them in trouble as their behavior might have looked disrespectful. 

For this reason, some of their churches, which were called "meeting houses," and may not have had a pastor to lead them since they believed that the same Holy Spirit resided in all of them and God could speak to the heart of anyone. Services were often a place where they gathered and sat in silence until someone was moved by the Holy Spirit to speak. Other meeting houses found it helpful to have a leading pastor to help maintain and keep order and rules--especially as congregations grew larger. Women were permitted to speak and teach and be pastors as well. Quakers were leaders in the Women's Rights movement, Civil Rights movement, and stauch supporters of the Abolitionist movement against slavery--long before the Civil War. Many hid slaves and were part of the Underground Railroad. 

Even among themselves they didn't distinguish each other. They would use "thee" for "you" and "thy" for "your". If they did refer to a person by name, they would state the individual's whole name. Instead, of saying Ruth, they would say Ruth Payne. Another thing they might say is, Friend Ruth. Quakers considered everyone around them as a friend. They didn't believe in having enemies--even if others considered them as an enemy. Forgiveness was the right thing to do. Therefore, they didn't believe in fighting or engaging in war. Killing was a sin. This caused them to be persecuted during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. 

They didn't use the calendar system of months such as January - December since these were established by pagans. Instead, they would refer to March as the third month. You'll see this at the beginning of my story, New Garden's Hope. 

Pride was a sin so they believed in dressing plain and wearing simple colors and avoiding material items that could make them want more of the world or take their focus off Christ. 

Quakers believe in education and often started schools, colleges and universities for African Americans and women. Even though Quakers are considered to be a passive religion, they are different from the Amish as many hold regular jobs, dress like the rest of us, have electricity, computers, and all the modern conveniences we have. A few traditional Quakers choose to dress in plain clothes today, but their decision is a personal choice. They are NOT forced to do this by the "rules" of their religion or church.

Most Quakers consider themselves to be Christians, believing that Jesus Christ came in the flesh as a man and died on the cross as the son of God as a sacrifice to atone for all mankind's sins. My mother's Quaker family believed this. There are still many Quaker churches in my hometown of Greensboro, NC, and I'm proud of my Quaker heritage.

Was any of this information surprising? Did I dispel any myths you might have had? Do you have more you'd like to add? Please share.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

New Revelation on Judgment in the House of the Lord

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The revelation I'm about to share may not be new to you. In fact, I've sort of known this all along, but recently it became more clear. It is also helping me to understand that I've been looking and waiting for some magnificent event to happen, but it's been happening all along.

The event I'm referring to is this, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (I Peter 4:17)

and 

"Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless." (II Peter 3:13-14)

Based on these two scriptures, I've heard so many sermons hint that there is a HUGE judgment coming to Christians--to get us ready for Christ's return. THE CHURCH will change, gain some great revelation, get right, and suddenly become perfect through a glorious end-time revival. Some pastors have even stood in the pulpit and said that Christ cannot return until He gets His house in order. 

I disagree with this concept or interpretation of these scriptures. 

As soon as we come to Christ, our sins are washed by His blood through faith and we become unblemished and spotless--forgiven--over and over. WE are the unblemished church! We, our bodies, are the house of God since He dwells in our hearts. We are judged continuously because, "when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world." (I Corinthians 11:32)The WORLD has a judgment day, but we have already been judged and cleansed--that is part of His promise! 

How are we chastened now on earth? By the conviction of the Holy Spirit dwelling within us--our conscience--and when we must suffer the consequences of our actions. While non-Christians also have to suffer the consequences of their bad behaviors, they must suffer then and on judgment day. They do not receive mercy from judgment, because they haven't believed and asked for it--repented for their sins.  

"My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor detest His correction; For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son in whom he delights." (Proverbs 3:11-12)

"But Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end." (Hebrews 3:6)

I'm curious. Have any of you ever been taught anything similar?