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.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Make Melody in Your Heart to the Lord

“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:19-20)

Concentrate on giving thanks for your blessings and you will begin to find a song of praise in your heart. If you concentrate on what you don't have and all the things that keep going wrong in your life, you will build worry and discontent in your heart. Melodies cannot spring forth from this kind of environment. We are commanded to speak psalms and hymns to one another in fellowship and to uplift and encourage each other. Surrounding yourself with positive people will rub that positive influence into your life. The company you keep and the environment where you plant yourself do have an impact on your joy and contentment. Therefore, make wise choices and be a positive influence on others as you concentrate on making melodies of praise in your heart to the Lord until it becomes second-nature and it no longer requires concentration. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Word of Inspiration: God Did Not Create Us to Live in Isolation

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

God didn't create one person to be alone--to be isolated from others. That is why He gave Adam his wife, Eve. As a community of people, we were meant to fellowship--to be the body of Christ--to have the Church where we can receive spiritual replenishment. Even the strongest person will have moments of weakness and that person can be uplifted by someone else who may not be as strong at other times. 

Not only will Christ carry our burdens, but we are to carry the burdens of our fellow man--and have compassion. When disaster strikes, look at how so many people reach out to victims of tsunamis, tornadoes, earthquakes, and continuous poverty and hunger. Look around you. Who can you help in their time of need today--even if it is only a kind word with a message of hope?  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Homecoming Visit Back to Elon

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I'm one of those alumni who attended Elon back when it was Elon College and not Elon University. Also, they were the Fighting Christians, not the Phoenix as they are today. Elon was established in 1889 as a private college by the United Church of Christ. This weekend is homecoming and it was the first time I've returned since graduating. Let me just say, I almost didn't recognize it until I got to the historic district of Elon, and finally, there was the Elon I recognized. My heart beat with gratitude that this part of campus was still here. 

Memories came flooding back of those days in classes when all my worries in the world consisted of learning and passing tests, and wondering what my future would hold. The days of walking around campus with my friends, lounging around the water fountain in the sun, and playing sand volleyball on the weekends are nostalgic memories for me. Even the late nights at the The Pendulum came back to mind as I raced to meet deadlines for the next edition of the college newspaper. I was happy here and I learned so much. I'm very grateful for my time and experience at Elon. 

As my friend, Linda Martindale, gave me the grand tour of all the renovations of old buildings and the new buildings, I was impressed by how the college has grown and expanded, but managed to keep the historic district intact. The old oak trees still bloom on campus and are a beautiful sight. West Hall still stands tall as the oldest building on campus from 1905 where I lived on the third floor. And no, the rumored ghosts never bothered me, but there were plenty of strange noises in the old building that could play havoc with a creative mind. 

I returned to be on a panel with other graduates from the School of Communications for their session on Life After Elon. We talked about our experiences in landing jobs and how the market has changed. We answered questions and gave advice where we could. It was so great to meet other graduates who came from all over the country, as far away as California, New York and Florida,  but we all have one thing in common, Elon. If even for one short day, it was good to be back. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

How the Public School System is Failing Our Students

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 

  I've recently learned that in North Carolina high schools, there are only two pathways of study: 1) the traditional curriculum 2) the Occupational Course of Studies (OCS).

Students must choose one of these paths in their freshman year and once they choose a path, they cannot go back and switch it. I think both of these pathways are very important and necessary, but it does have its flaws. Therefore, I believe this rigid system must be reformed and a third option available to students who truly fall between these two programs. 

We cannot claim to meet individual educational needs when we lump all students into two boxes and give them no other option. 

Such a system is rigid, unbending, and lacking. How do we expect our future leaders (those that spring from the middle class) to be prepared to compete in a global market when they are held back by "old school" concepts and thinking? Our students are capable of more if we don't fail them now. I'm speaking about the middle class because they are the ones who don't make enough to "buy" their way to wherever they want to go, but are too self-reliant to receive any government assistance, and still, most must rely on the public education system for their children and hope they've saved enough for college during the K5-12 years. 

The traditional curriculum is a curriculum requiring a certain number of classes that are designed to prepare students for university course work. These are the students who will be ready and prepared to take the SATs and other college entrance exams by the time they reach their senior year, if not before. Students on this curriculum path range from average performers to top performers and gifted performers. It's a huge range and it is the category that most people fall into. 

The Occupational Course of Studies is another great system for those who may have learning disabilities and special needs that may affect their ability to learn at the same pace as traditional students or in a limited capacity. They are required to take basic courses in the main subject areas, but then as early as their sophomore year will begin choosing occupational courses to prepare them to enter the workforce straight out of high school. The idea of this curriculum is that not everyone is meant to go to college, although some eventually attend college or at least a community college. They are required to have a number of hours where they are paid to work a job by 10th grade.

While both of these curriculum paths are good systems and necessary, I would like a third option. Too many students in the pool of the traditional curriculum are barely scraping by with low to medium performance and their grades and test scores show it. Some may excel in reading, literature, history and social studies, but struggle in math and science. Right now, the only other option is for students to be "identified" as having a learning disability, ADD, Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, delayed developments, or other health impaired. They need a "label" in order to get an IEP, an Individual Education Plan. This means they may stay on the traditional course of study, but certain things are modified so that they may take longer to complete tests, may have less homework by doing odd or even math problems, or they may have a block where they go to a special education teacher who may help them with their troublesome subjects. 

What happens to those students who are never "identified with a label" and continue to struggle with their weaknesses? Nothing. Their parents are left to either pay for private tutors or if they cannot afford it, they might be lucky enough to have a program in their school where they can receive tutoring from other gifted students, but don't be fooled into believing this is available in every school. Other students like my daughter, may have an IEP, but still require a little more one-on-one in one or two subject areas. Still, these IEPs have their faults, if the school system and/or teachers do not follow-through. 

For instance, my daughter's math teacher promised to help my daughter during her planning period, but her help consisted of parking my daughter in front of a video, and she left where my daughter had no opportunity to ask questions or discuss what she didn't understand. Geez, my husband and I could have parked her in front of a video. My tax dollars are paying that teacher to teach, even if she has to do her "planning" at home, just like I sometimes take work home. I often hear teachers complain of how many students they have and how hard their jobs are, and they do have hard jobs. I doubt few people would disagree with it, but other jobs are just as hard. Lots of people have plenty to complain about regarding their jobs, but they still don't get to use excuses if they fail to meet a deadline or their performance doesn't hit the mark. The excuses I heard for this were inexcusable when I confronted the IEP team.    

If a student continues to do poorly in one or two subjects, why should that student only have two courses of study available? It is very possible, that with a little extra assistance in 9th and 10th grades, that student will excel well on the traditional path in 11th and 12th grades. Why couldn't there be a middle path for the first two years of high school until it is certain that the student will not be able to transition into the traditional level? A lot can happen in the development of a teen between 9th and 11th grades. Why can that student not take traditional courses at a slower rate of learning or with a better student/teacher ratio for more individual assistance without being dropped to the OCS level, especially if that student still wants to go to college? 

The public system may claim they don't have the resources or funding for this, but believe me, the system will pay for it one way or the other. If students don't get the help they need now, the state will pay for it through other programs such as: 

1) Unemployment when they float from job to job because they never reach their top performance potential. 

2) Substance abuse programs because these people will become discouraged, frustrated, and lack confidence until they turn to other ways to cope. These are not good choices, but we all know it happens. 

3) Medicaid and other health programs because stress, depression, and frustration over a prolonged period of time will lead to other health and mental issues. Studies have proven it.

4) More students who have the same learning issues as their parents because their parents weren't able to help them because they were never able to help themselves will only continue the cycle through the next generation. 

5) Increased welfare and food stamp assistance because people who cannot perform at a high level paying job will eventually need help when they fall on hard times. They live in cycles from pay check to pay check and if anything goes wrong such as illness, divorce, car maintenance--all of a sudden budget and savings are depleted. They need help and always turn to the government when they hit a brick wall.

6) Child Care assistance because people will continue to have children whether or not they can afford them. They want families and they want to live the only life they have regardless of income level. 

It  is better to teach a man or woman how to fish than to keep giving them fish. We do this through education, from early education all the way to college. It begins at birth and it doesn't stop until they enter the workforce. Don't fail our students NOW before they have a chance to be who they were born to be and reach their top performance potential.  

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Should You Worry About the Unforgivable Sin?

"Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter, but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation." Mark 3:28-29

This is one verse that makes many hearts tremble in fear as we try to understand its meaning. Some excellent posts have been written on this matter, and one that I agree with, is that if you are worried you might have unintentionally committed this sin, then rest assured that you have not, because it is a deliberate and intentional sin. Here is a great post that goes into more detail on the Bible Gateway Blog

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Fearing God Means Not Disappointing Someone We Love

“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”  Deuteronomy 13:4


We struggle with obedience because we always want to do things our own way. It's easier to make decisions based on what we see--our own perspective. Yet, we are called to walk by faith, which means we will need to make decisions based on our trust in the Lord and not on what can be seen, but what is beyond our perspective. Whenever the Bible states "you shall", God is not giving you a choice. It is a commandment. The fear this verse is referring to isn't the typical fear of someone doing us harm, but fear of disappointing someone we love. 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt is On!


If you need to read the instructions for the entire Scavenger Hunt, please visit www.christianfictionscavengerhunt.com. Otherwise, please keep reading to discover your word clue!

About Me: 
I'm Jennifer Hudson Taylor, an award winning, multi-published author of historical Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas, and a speaker on faith, writing, publishing and Internet Marketing. My debut novel, Highland Blessings, won the 2011 Holt Medallion award for Best First Book. My second book is Highland Sanctuary. In celebration of this Scavenger Hunt, I will draw one winner from the collection of commenters on this post. I will announce the winner in the comment section after this Scavenger Hunt and the winner will be responsible for emailing their mailing address to me at jt4novels@yahoo.com. 

About the Book:


Caithness, Scotland, 1473

A Sanctuary of Secrets...

Gavin MacKenzie, a chieftain heir who is hired to restore the ancient Castle of Braigh, discovers a hidden village of outcasts who have created their own private sanctuary from the world. Among them is Serena Boyd, a mysterious AND
comely lass, who captures Gavin’s heart in spite of harboring a deadly past that could destroy her future.

The villagers happen to be keeping an intriguing secret as well. When a fierce enemy launches an attack against them, greed leads to bitter betrayal. As Gavin prepares a defense, the villagers unite in a bold act of faith, showing how God’s love is more powerful than any human force on earth.





Highland Sanctuary Video Book Trailer






Read the First Chapter!



Highland Sanctuary

Chapter One

Scotland, 1457
The ordeal over, fragmented tremors still quaked through Evelina Broderwick's body. She gazed down at her new daughter. Now, she'd finally have someone who would truly love her. Tiny fingers curled. Evelina marveled at the wee nails. The other hand tightened into a fist and flew into the bairn’s mouth as she sucked on her knuckles.

“She’s beautiful is she not?” Tears clouded Evelina’s vision, overwhelming her by the magnitude of God’s gift of life.

Gunna, her wet nurse, peered closer at the babe swaddled in a warm blanket. “Aye, she is at that.”

“I believe I shall call her Serena after my Spanish grandmother. The lass has an English da and a Scottish mither—a mixture of noble blood from three countries.”

“Not a verra common name here in the lowlands,” Gunna’s round cheeks swelled in a smile as she nodded in agreement, “but lovely just the same.”
The bedchamber door swung open, casting dim light from the hallway candles. The shadow of a man’s tall frame bounced on the dark pine walls. Evelina tensed as her husband, Devlin Broderwick strode in with his usual frown. A dent marred his forehead. He towered over the bedside.

The midwife followed him and stood at the foot of the bed, folding her hands in front of her. The woman appeared to be in her mid-fifties, personally chosen by Devlin and quite loyal to the Broderwick family. Her dark gaze traveled from Evelina to Gunna and down at the infant.

“I’ve heard the unfortunate news.” Devlin’s sharp tone cut through the room like a blade through a gentle lamb.

Was a lass so terrible? Evelina glanced at the only window on the far right. The shutters were closed, blocking the night sky from view. She would like naught more than to escape the confines of her marriage, even if it meant taking sanctuary behind the walls of a convent for the rest of her days.

Devlin cleared his throat. He wore a black tunic with blooming sleeves narrowing at the cuffs. Black suited his dark moods. His hair hung straight in the shape of an downward bowl. He crossed his arms, taking an authoritative stance. “Fortunately, you’re still young and healthy. You can try again when you’re well enough.”

Evelina stayed her tongue. Over the last eleven months of their marriage, she had come to despise him. She had tried to love him, tried to win his affection, but he had been most impossible to please. No wonder her kinsmen hated the English. He had wounded her feelings more times than she cared to count. She’d begun to resent her parents for arranging this union and forcing her into a lifetime of sorrow.

“I’ll love her.” Evelina held her daughter against her bosom. She stared at the wine-colored blanket covering her bed, tracing a finger along the raised flower pattern stitched into the thick fabric, a gift from Devlin’s mother.

“I’m sure you will.” He pointed at their daughter. “Now lay her down so I can see her.”

Cradling her child’s unsteady head, Evelina lowered Serena onto her back. She unwrapped the white blanket from her squirming body. Devlin leaned close.
The bairn’s rosy glow turned red then deepened to a shade of purple. Serena’s head twisted at the nape, her face almost level with the bed. The child’s eyes glazed over, twitching into the corners, only the whites visible.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Devlin jumped back in alarm.

Though Serena’s entire body had grown stiff, it quivered in spasms. The area around her lips faded to white and the rest of her skin melted from purple to an ashen gray.

“She’s not breathing!” Evelina turned to the midwife. “Do something!”

“I deliver wee bairns. I don’t cast out demons.” The midwife’s fearful eyes met hers.

Evelina gripped her husband’s arm, but he pulled away. “Devlin, please do something. She’s stopped breathing! Save her, please?”

He only stared at the helpless babe with disbelieving eyes.

Evelina reached for her daughter’s seizing body. Not knowing what else to do, Evelina turned the child over on her stomach and patted her back. She willed her babe to breathe. She blew air in Serena’s face, hoping to startle her into breathing. White foam leaked over Serena’s colorless lips. Evelina laid her down and plunged her finger into the tiny mouth, pulling with all her might against the curled tongue. Serena coughed, moaned, and screamed into a blessed cry.

“Oh, thank God!” Evelina collapsed, lowering her head next to Serena and letting silent tears fall in relief. Their wee bairn would live.

Evelina kissed Serena’s round head on a thin layer of soft black hair. Her tiny lungs panted for air as her breathing returned to normal. She touched Serena’s sweet ears, her pug nose, and cheeks now gaining a rosy glow.

“What was that?” Devlin’s voice flayed her nerves and she jumped. He stood with his hands on his hips, staring at the child in disbelief, his dark, condemning eyes narrowed.

“The babe was having some sort of fit,” the midwife said. “I’ve heard of stories like this, but never seen one myself.”

“Yes, I can see that. I want to know why!” Devlin took two menacing steps toward her.

“’Tis unexplained.” She stepped back, tilted her head upon her shoulders, and looked up at him with wide eyes. “No one really knows what it is. Some call it the falling sickness.”

Devlin paced across the chamber, rubbing the back of his head. The soles of his mid-calf leather boots clicked against the hardwood floor. “Why would a child have such a fit? How can ye stop it?”

“I don’t know.” The midwife shook her head and sank against the wall.

His gaze dropped to the bundle in Evelina’s arms. “It’s possessed.” His lips twisted in thought. He paced again. “We’ll call a priest to cast it out.” He paused and shook his head. “No, we can’t do that. How would it look if the Broderwick family produced a demon possessed child?” He shook his head. “I won’t have the family name ruined.” He turned and pointed at the midwife and Gunna. “No one had better speak a word outside this bedchamber. If you do, I’ll make you sorry.”

“I won’t say a word,” the midwife said, shaking her head.

“Yes, my lord,” Gunna said, looking down at her feet.

“She isn’t possessed,” Evelina said, her heart pounding in worry. “She stopped breathing and nearly died.”

Devlin strode toward her. He pressed his fists into the soft feather mattress and leaned foward. “There’s no other explanation.”

“Devlin, ye’re mistaken. She couldn’t catch her breath is all.”

“Then why did she turn her head as if it would disconnect from her body of its own accord? Where did her eyes go? In the back of her head? What was coming from her mouth? Do ye call it somethin’ from God?” He stepped back. “`This isn’t the work of God. I feel it in my soul. Something is wrong. As head of this household it’s my responsibility to take care of it.”

“Our child is not evil.” Evelina moved Serena over her shoulder and patted her bottom.

“I make the final decisions in this house.” Devlin’s dark eyebrows knitted together in an angry line. “She may look normal now, but her body is possessed by somethin’. I’ll not tolerate evil under my own roof. Do you hear me, woman?”

“Devlin, listen to yerself. She’s our child.” Evelina clutched the bundle in her arms, fear rooted in her heart. Was he completely mad?

“I saw the babe turn into a demon with my own eyes. I won’t claim it as mine. I’ve made up my mind. I don’t want it, and I forbid ye to keep it.”

“I won’t give her up!” Evelina moved Serena to the far side of her body away from him. “She’s my bairn, not some animal to cast away.”

“You’re my wife, and you’ll do as I tell you.” He stepped toward her, grabbing for the child.

Evelina refused to relinquish her hold. Their daughter began to cry at their tug of war. He tightened his grip on Evelina’s flesh until she could no longer feel. Fearing Serena would be hurt from their struggle, Evelina relented. He snatched Serena.

“I beg ye, don’t take her away.” Tears clogged Evelina’s voice, choking her.
He strode from the chamber with Serena. The midwife made a “hymph” sound and followed him.

Evelina tried to rise. In her weakened state, she fell to the floor.

“Oh, dearie me!” Gunna cried, hurrying around the bed to help her.

Evelina had forgotten she was still in the room. Frantic hands pulled under Evelina’s arms, trying to lift her as she struggled to her knees.
“Nay! Don’t bother with me. Find out where he’s taking her.” Evelina nudged her.

“But—''

“Please? Do this one thing for me.” Evelina sniffed back tears. “Go! Make haste before it’s too late.”

“I-I’ll do as ye ask. Don’t ye worry, lass. We’ll save yer bairn.” She fled the chamber, leaving Evelina alone in her anguish.

Evelina dropped her head upon her arms. Her eyelids fluttered shut. “Dear God,” she whispered. “I dedicate Serena to Ye. She isn’t evil. She’s just the way Ye made her. Allow me to be her mither and I’ll teach her Yer ways and raise her to be Yer child.”

The room began to spin. Evelina clutched the bed linens for support. Darkness claimed her vision as the distant sounds of her child crying in another part of the house fell silent. “Please…God,” she whispered, fading to unconsciousness.

Scotland 1477
Gavin MacKenzie and Leith, his brother, led fifty clansmen along the narrow dirt path, two men abreast, their conversation a gentle rhythm above the steady clip-clop of horses. The comfortable late-spring air made it a good day to travel.

Something moved ahead. From this distance it looked like a horse pulling a wagon. The sound of weeping reached his ears and then faded. Had he imagined it? He motioned to the men to be quiet. Their voices dropped to whispers before altogether silencing.

Sholto, his horse, grew restless and sidestepped. Gavin grabbed the reins with both hands. The animal snorted in obvious distress. To calm the beast, Gavin rubbed his mount’s neck until his breathing evened and his gait steadied. Gavin’s red and gray plaid fell over his right shoulder. Shoving it out of his way, he studied the layout of the land, looking for signs of a surprise attack.

They’d travelled for days, leaving the familiar glens and rolling moors with a sheltered forest for the flat peatland surrounding them in Scotland’s northern tip of Caithness. With no place to hide, the element of surprise was not in their favor. The light wind carried the scent of the bog myrtle across the silver lochs and purple heather dotting the land mixing with the salty sea. By this, Gavin knew they must be getting close to Braigh Castle. He was told it stood in alone on the moss-covered rocky cliffs facing the sea—like a sanctuary.

The wagon up ahead moved. Gavin gripped the reins tight and hastened his mount. As he drew closer, a skittish horse flung his tail in vexation, hitched to a heavy laden wagon. The animal neighed and pranced about as much as the load allowed.
More weeping carried from the opposite side of the wagon. Gavin motioned for his men to halt. He nodded toward Leith who dismounted and went to calm the beast. Gavin inched toward the noise.

A woman with a long braid of auburn hair streaked with gray bent over a lass lying on her back. He couldn’t see much of the one lying down, but the weeping one wore a dark blue gown. She patted her unresponsive companion, speaking in a hushed, worried tone.

He cleared his throat, reining in his horse and sliding to the ground.
She gasped and turned a frightened expression toward him.

“What happened?” He nodded toward the unconscious lady lying in a bed of thick grass.

Her moss-green eyes watched him, assessing his character. She wiped at the tears staining her cheeks. “We must have hit somethin’. The wagon nearly tipped over. She fell from her seat and hit her head.”

Gavin bent to his knees, surveying the unmoving lass and felt for a pulse in her neck. It beat steady. Her skin was warm and smooth. She was much younger than her concerned friend. “Have ye checked her head for bleeding?”

“It only happened a moment ago. I first tried to wake her.” Alarm crossed her face as her eyes widened, and she grabbed the girl’s hands between her own. “I do wish she’d wake. ‘Twould put my mind at ease. She’s my daughter…my only child.” Her chin trembled.

“May I?” Gavin gestured toward her daughter. “I’d like to check her head for bleeding or lumps”

“Aye.” She nodded. “Serena took many falls as a child. She was always so free-spirited. But I’ve never known her to be out this long.”

Serena. He liked her name. It was different. Lying here, she looked serene.

Although her skin was pale, he could tell she had spent time in the sun. Her dark lashes curled against her skin. Light freckles lay across the bridge of her nose. He took a deep breath and eased his hands in her black hair. It was thick and free of curls, reminding him of black velvet, though it felt more like smooth satin.

“It’s right here.” He found a bump forming on the right side of her head above her ear. “’Tis only a slight knot. I’m sure she’ll be fine.” Gavin glanced at the full wagon. “There’s little room in yer wagon. Would ye like me to carry her to my horse?”

She graced her knuckles over her daughter’s cheek. “I’m verra thankful for yer assistance. We live in the Village of Braigh about a mile ahead. Would ye mind carrying her there? We were just returning from the town market.”

“We’d be honored,” Gavin said. “We’re on our way to Braigh Castle. Is yer village near the castle?”

“Aye.” A smile brightened her worry-filled eyes. “Only a half a mile further beyond our village, would be my guess.”

Gavin crooked his finger toward his men, singling out Roan. As his friend dismounted, Gavin realized how much his tall frame would benefit them. His long blond hair was tied back at the nape. One thing he and his men lacked over the course of their travel was proper grooming. He hoped their ragged looks and overgrown beards wouldn’t offend or frighten the lasses.

“I’m going to mount my horse, and I need ye to lift her to me as gently as possible.”

“I got ‘er.” Roan said, bending to one knee and slipping an arm beneath her neck and behind her knees.

Once he was settled upon Sholto, Gavin secured the reins and held out his arms. Roan raised her up. Gavin settled her across his lap, hoping she would be comfortable and the ride wouldn’t jar her wounded head too much. It helped that she wore a simple brown gown.

“Careful,” her mother said, wringing her hands.

“Serena will be safe. Would ye prefer to drive the wagon or would ye like for one of my men to take over?” If she was too upset, he didn’t want another mishap to befall them.

She shook her head. Pieces of hair loosened from her braid. “Nay, it helps me to have somethin’ to do. Let me know as soon as she wakes. My name’s Evelina Boyd, and I’m verra thankful for yer help.”

Leith assisted her to better secure the horse to the wagon and checked the condition of the wheels. Once he and Roan were mounted on their horses again, they began a slow pace to match Evelina’s wagon.

The men conversed in quiet tones. A bird flapped its wings above them and sang. A gentle draft kept the air from being too warm. The sun hid behind white clouds and burst out in brightness every once in a while.

Gavin looked down at the bonny lass in his arms, breathing in the feminine scent of heather and juniper. The aroma stirred forgotten memories of another lass he’d tried his best to forget. If she had lived, he’d be a married man by now, mayhap the father of wee bairns. To his bitter disappointment, his life had taken another route, which led him and his brother all over Europe to escape his grief and guilt.

“Could that be a patch of woods down yon in the glen?” Leith rode up beside Gavin and shielded his hand over his eyes.

“Looks like it.” Relieved to be distracted from his thoughts, Gavin looked where his brother gestured. “That must be Braigh Castle.”

Situated on a long, narrow rocky cliff sat a magnificent stone fortress that looked to be king of the sea. A wide tower stood tall above wings that stretched out on each side. “From here, it doesn’t look like it needs to be restored,” Gavin said, admiring the view. “How will we ever be able to improve upon it?”

“Yer here to restore the castle, then?” Evelina rolled the wagon to a stop beside them.

“Aye.” Gavin nodded, careful not to reveal the other reason they were there—to protect the new laird, his castle, and the village. He wondered how much Evelina and Serena knew concerning the truth behind the elder laird’s death.

“The massive keep is at least two centuries auld and Vikings have attacked it on several occasions,” Evelina said.

“Were they ever successful?” Leith asked.

“I don’t think so.” Evelina shook her head. “But I don’t know the whole history.” She glanced at Serena in Gavin’s arms. “Will the restoration take long?”

Gavin shrugged. “We won’t know ‘til we see the damage.”

“Oh.” Her gaze shifted back to the castle as she pondered his words. Her expression tensing as the lines around her eyes and mouth deepened. She cleared her throat. “I suppose that means ye’ll be here for quite a while then?”

“Aye.” He nodded.

A strange silence followed. An eerie forboding crawled up his spine. He couldn’t help sensing she didn’t welcome their presence. He scratched his temple.

“Back in the town of Braighwick people called it the Village of Outcasts,” Leith said. “Why?”

“Ye’ll see soon enough.” The warmth in her eyes faded to a reserved caution as she clicked to her horse and started forward.

As they approached the only patch of woods in the area, Gavin braced himself for what could earn this place the odd name. They crossed into the shade of the birch and hazel trees dotted among the dominant forest of pine. Brown needles cushioned the ground in a blanket of comfort, much like the serenity of snow he loved in winter. The fresh scent surrounding them appealed to Gavin as he breathed in the pine scent.

Small dwellings were scattered throughout the woods, made of stone and packed with peat bothy, straw, heather and moss. The turf roofs contained a simple hole for the smoke that rose from the center where they built their fires. If the inside of these cottages were like the ones that belonged to his father’s tenants at home, most were one room dwellings with a dirt floor. The family slept on one side, while their cattle passed the night on the other. Having grown up in the luxury of his father’s castle, it was hard to imagine enduring conditions such as these as a way of life.

A few people opened their doors to watch them pass. Compassion hit Gavin with a force he had not expected. Their clothes were worn through and tattered in places. Most were barefoot. Filth and grime covered their faces. The Boyds seemed out of place here with their clean clothes and clean appearance. Yet, in spite of these people’s poverty, their eyes glowed with a passionate joy he couldn’t fathom, not the listless melancholy one would expect.

“This is ours.” Evelina stopped in front of one of the rectangle hovels. She secured the reins, set the wagon brake, and climbed down.






Continue the Scavenger Hunt!
In order to continue with the entire Scavenger Hunt, you will need to visit the next author's blog for another word clue, Sandra Bricker

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Word of Inspiration: Trust in the Lord & Fear No One

"Fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe." Proverbs 29:25

Often, we get into situations where we fear man more than God. Man's judgment and decisions seem immediate if we're being bullied by a boss, a co-worker, an abuser, or by a person who is masquerading as a friend. We think it is easier to give in to get that person off our back and to create temporary peace where division and confusion exist. Appeasing others out of fear is how they can ensnare us into traps and victimize us. Trust in the Lord to make your escape whether it is in getting a new job, leaving an abusive spouse, or standing up to a bully and risk losing friends who are followers and lies about your reputation. 

Sometimes our challenges are more subtle. Too often we put our trust in other people to give us good advice, to provide when we are are in lack, and to lend a helping hand when we are overwhelmed and feeling weak. What we should be doing is getting down on our knees to seek God and search the Bible for answers. Don't get me wrong, it's fine to ask friends for advice and seek their help, but we need to keep in mind that their help and advice is limited. They are only human and make the same mistakes as we. Trusting other people should be done as it is earned in increments. Some mean well, but their judgment is lacking. God's judgment is never wrong and He never lacks. And God will never mislead you. 

Monday, October 01, 2012

Dealing with Mean-Spirited Book Reviews

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Of the top five things I hear authors struggling with on writing loops are the dreaded REVIEWS. It isn't easy taking criticism, but let's face it, after years of being in this business most of us learn to receive genuine feedback and develop a thick skin. It's the mean-spirited reviews that most of us struggle to get past. 

These reviews can be self-defeating or inconsequential, depending on how we react. If it is a well-deserved review that teaches us a lesson, it can also be positive once we get past the sting of the pain. Chastisement never feels good, no matter how it's delivered. Still, there are well-mannered professional reviews and mean-spirited unprofessional reviews. 

Social Media and the entire Internet has opened up reviews from people all around the world. Most of these reviews are from non-professionals, but they are the buying public, so their opinion counts--A LOT. There are also the free Kindle and Nook downloaders who will read anything as long as it's free--a few select will still read books in genres they dislike and feel compelled to leave reviews. I've never understood why, but it happens. 

Others are not exactly mean-spirited, but very sarcastic and/or spiteful. Most of us in the CBA market expect this sarcasm from the ABA market, but there is a bit of extra hurt and betrayal when we see a Christian reviewer leave a sarcastic review. Can they not express their honest displeasure in a way that doesn't sound so spiteful and sarcastic? I believe they can, but perhaps they haven't learned how to be professional about it or they don't realize how bad it sounds. If you are a Christian reviewer, I implore you to read lots of reviews from others and learn how to tactfully give a criticism without being sarcastic, spiteful, rude, or attacking. 

Tips on Reacting to Bad Reviews

1) Don't read any reviews - Some authors make it a habit to never read reviews from the public. They only read reviews from endorsers or influencers. The bad reviews sting and drag down their spirits. It interrupts their writing flow and makes them second-guess themselves. They feel defeated and depressed and struggle with bouncing back. If this is you, I strongly urge you to stay away from the review boards at places like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads and Christian Books. 

2) Let the numbers speak for themselves - If you have a total of 50 reviews and 20 are 5-stars, and 15 are 4-stars, 8 are 3-stars, and only two are 1-star, it's pretty obvious that the two 1-stars are in a lonely category by themselves. Forget them. Your work can't appeal to everyone and they simply fall into that category. Concentrate on the other 48 who like your work. They are the majority and are your target audience since something in your work resonated with them. 

3) Don't respond - It may be tempting to defend yourself, but don't. Let others do it for you. Just ignore it and allow it to gain very little attention so it can fade away. Don't write a blog about it either or complain in another open forum such as Facebook or Twitter. 

4) Consider the source - If you write Christian fiction and a reviewer is harping about the Christianity or religious theme in your book, consider the source. A non-Christian must have picked up your book and is struggling with the reality that just hit them square in the face. Sin never likes the sting of truth and it makes them very uncomfortable if God is trying to reach them. The fact that they found your book and it might be rubbing them wrong, is no accident. Rejoice!

5) Overcome sarcastic reviews by other Christians - It's sad to say, but this is going to happen and they will do it in the "name of being honest" or "being true to their blog readership". I know no other way to say this, turn the other cheek. Pray for God to deal with them and teach them how to give honest criticism without being mean-spirited about it. They don't have to like everything they read, but they can learn to be professional and not tear down other individuals and still get their point across. We are not supposed to look like the rest of the world, even in reviews.  

6) Ignore the ones who didn't read the book - Some people are just negative people and it's their mission in life to spread their negativity around and try to get reactions out of people. All you have to do is read a few comments on Yahoo articles to see this in action. It's obvious when a person hasn't actually read your book, they don't have anything "specific" to say about the characters and/or plot. All their comments are too general and broad. The best thing you can do is ignore them.

7) Learn from bad reviews that mean something - On the other hand, if a person has actually read your book and they are being very specific about what they didn't like and several other reviewers are saying the same thing, take notes. Learn from this experience and try to avoid it in future books. 

8) Use reviews to find your target audience - Most authors use a list of influencers to launch their book and populate the Internet with a few decent reviews. I always tell influencers that if they cannot recommend my book to others after reading it, there will be no hard feelings. I don't want them feeling obligated. However, if I see someone who has taken it upon themselves to review my book and they liked it, I might contact them to review my next book as an influencer. They are my target audience. They like my writing style and what I write. They are the ones I want to spread the news about my books "by word of mouth". Likewise, if I have an influencer that doesn't like my work, they go off the list for the next book. They are free to review it if they want to, but I won't be asking them for future books. 

Remember, even the best-selling authors receive bad reviews. It comes with the business of writing and making it available to the public.