This is an old blog that I started in 2006. I keep it because it has a lot of historical data and people still come here. As of September 2016, no new updates will be made here. All new blog posts and writing/publishing related news will be posted over on my new site at

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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Book Review - Before the Season Ends by Linore Rose Burkard

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

My Review
This is a delightful book that will sweep you away to Regency England until you are caught up in a sweet romance that inspires your faith. The characters are believable with a multi-dimensional depth that brings them alive to the reader. The story is compelling and keeps you reading to see how the hero and heroine will overcome their differences. Linore Burkhard has an excellent command of the Regency period and brings her readers into the time period as if they are living it.

Backcover Blurb:
Romantic woes at home send Ariana Forsyth to her wealthy Aunt Bentley's townhouse in fashionable Mayfair, London. Under her aunt's calculating eye, Ariana is thrust into high society and a worse intrigue than that which prompted her flight from home. A scandalous rumor involving her with London's current darling rogue, the taciturn, though handsome, Mr. Phillip Mornay, is launched on society in a malicious act of meanness that changes Ariana's life forever. Her faith, her future, and her heart are all at stake as she strives to clear her name and resist the man who does not share her faith.

Will Ariana's beliefs survive? And what about her heart? For it is that part of her which most threatens to betray the truths she has always believed in. When she finds herself backed against a wall, betrothed to the wrong man, how will it ever turn out right?

From the country village Chesterton to the ballroom of the Prince Regent's London palace, Before the Season Ends will take you to Regency England where you'll find a world so elegant and comfortable, you'll want to stay for a long, long time.

Visit Linore Rose Burkhard's website at:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Write the Moment

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

There are times when writers are inspired to write the moment. It’s a place, time, event or a significant moment with a loved one that can inspire the writing muse within us. But what we may be inspired to write is something other than the next scene in our current work in progress (WIP).

Why is this a problem?

Because if we do not discipline or redirect the impulsive urge to write something new, we may never finish our current project. Many talented authors, published and unpublished alike, have a number of unfinished manuscripts. You can’t sell what isn’t finished. Nor can you experience that feeling of accomplishment if you haven’t completed it. And if you’re on deadline, you MUST abide by your contract and meet your deadline on that specific book.

You might feel that you can’t write your best if you aren’t in the mood to write, or if you’re feeling inspired to write a Scottish Medieval and your current WIP is an American historical. Your best writing is when your internal muse is inspired. So how do you take advantage of writing the moment when you’re on deadline or determined to finish your current WIP?

My advice is to go ahead and write the moment so you can get it out of your system and back to your current WIP. It may be a scene, several different inspiring phrases on a particular subject such as the sea, the woods, or the snow. Keep a log of these inspirational scenes and phrases. There are days when a writer’s well is dry and you may need to draw from your over abundance of past writing muses.

The last time I was at the beach, I was in the mood to write, but my current WIP was a historical set in Hartsville, South Carolina with no nearby beach. So I sat on the balcony, overlooking the ocean and the rising sun shining across the rippling surface of the water like shards of crystals and wrote at least twenty different phrases that described the waves crashing upon the shore and the atmosphere of the sea.

I keep a log of novel phrases and these will go under the category of “Sea Descriptions” in my log. Next time I’m writing a novel with a beach scene, I’ll pull out these phrases for inspiration. I may use a few as they are or they may inspire me to write something fresh and new. The point is that I didn’t waste writing the moment. I stored it away for a time when it will be useful.

Create a Novel Scene Log and Novel Phrase Log on your computer. Set up a few basic categories and add to it as you go. I write my log like a book in Microsoft Word and I set up the categories as headings and subheadings. I then use detailed Table of Contents feature so I can easily search for the phrases and topics I might want to look up later. This log system will help you when your creative well runs dry and it will also take advantage of when you want to write the moment.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wallpaper in the Colonies

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Most people don't think of wallpaper when they think of colonial homes in America, but it did exist. Colorful wallpaper with elaborate designs were imported into the country from Europe.

Of course, it wasn't something the average farm family purchased. Mostly it was only affordable for wealthy plantation owners and merchants. The photo to the left is of the inside room of the Rosedale Plantation home in Charlotte, North Carolina, showing the original imported wallpaper from France. The photo below is a close-up of the design. The home was built in 1815.

The inventor of wallpaper is a Frenchman by the name of Jean-Michel Papillon, who began making block designs in 1675. At first, most wallpaper were expensive hand-painted designs until the use of printing it became available and economical. In America, Plunket Fleeson began printing wallpaper as early as 1739 in Philadelphia. Besides on walls, it was also used as trunk linings.

Frenchman, Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf invented the first machine for printing wallpaper in 1785. It was also a Frenchman who invented a way to make a continuous roll of wallpaper around the same time. For more information on the history of wallpaper, click here.

So if you are writing about a wealthy family in Europe or America during these time periods, feel free to describe a home with rooms decorated in wallpaper.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Writing for the Market

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

In these difficult economic times, writers are struggling with whether to write the stories on their hearts or write what the market will buy and sell. If you are depending on your writing income for a living, the pressure to write for a market may be even stronger. So what should a writer do?

I think it depends on where you are in your career and what doors are open to you. It's hard for a new, unpublished writer to break into publishing during great economic times, but even harder during a recession. But as Christians, we have to remember that God is still on the throne and He's the same God in the best of times, as well as the worst of times. Several authors and I are a testament, that new, unpublished authors can receive their first contract during a recession. In fact, it seems like more of a miracle.

Pre-published Authors
If you are still unpublished, take advantage of the fact that you can write whatever is on your heart and on a schedule that is convenient for you and your family. One positive aspect about a recession is that it's temporary. The market will change again, and if you are willing to be patient, it will swing back in favor of what you're writing. With God, everything is about timing and occurs in its proper season.

Don't try to write to a market. By the time you finish your book and begin shopping it around to editors, the market will have changed again. This is a time to sharpen your skills and have other books available. If you have plenty of finished manuscripts to sell, a publisher will be more confident in your ability to finish a novel, to write a series, and meet deadlines so you won't be a "one-book wonder". You will have more to offer readers after your first book is contracted.

New Contracted Authors
These authors have a foot in the door, but they don't have a sales history and may not be able to get anything published that would be considered "risky". Writers with new contracts are getting feedback directly from their agent and publishers. They know more about the direction of the market because of this feedback. These authors can talk to their contacts and receive professional input to which most unpublished authors don't have access.

For instance, a publisher gave me a revision letter six months ago that would require me to rewrite a significant amount of a manuscript. Since then the recession has hit hard and they have stopped buying fiction. My agent has pulled me off that story and has me lengthening another manuscript for a different editor that showed some interest. This publisher is still buying books in spite of the recession. This isn't something I would have known without my agent's guidance. 

In this case, I'm not exactly writing to a market, but I'm reworking what I've already written to make it more marketable for what is in demand now. 

Multi-Published Authors
These authors have a proven sales history, a foot in the door with several publishers, and an agent helping them to manage their career. They can sell books on proposal and may even be asked to write a book for a "risky" sub-genre that a publisher might want to test in the market. Multi-published authors are in a better position to determine if they want to write for the market, write books from their hearts, or a combination of both. 

I say this, because their manuscripts are rarely thrown in the slush pile. They are read faster than an unknown author and their stories will be contracted faster as a result. They can catch a trend much quicker than a new author. Many depend on their writing income for a living and write full-time. This means they can finish books faster than an author who is trying to write between a day job, family and church acitivities. 

I believe an author can write both to the market and the books of their heart, especially when they stay true to what God has called them to write. This doesn't mean there won't be down times, but it does mean that you might grow from one season to another. In other words, what you start out writing during the first ten years may evolve into something different through the next ten years.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Review: "The Scotch-Irish: Who Are They?" by James G. Leyburn

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Growing up in North Carolina, I always knew we had a huge group of Scotch-Irish settlers in the Piedmont of the Carolinas, but I didn't understand their ancestry. Were they from Scotland or Ireland? Many of them had been here for so many generations that they no longer knew where they came from--my family included. I was left to assume the Scotch had intermarried with the Irish and that is why they were called the Scotch-Irish. But as I've recently discovered, there is much more to the story.

This week I will finish reading The Scotch-Irish: A Social History by James G. Leyburn published by the North Carolina University Press. It begins with Scotland in the 16th century and lays out the lifestyle and condition of the Scottish families and Scotland as a country on the political front. What I have discovered is sad, but the spirit of these people was never broken. They have endured and sought new opportunities to better themselves, and many thrived when given the chance. They had strong convictions and they lived by them, even through oppression and persecution.

Most families were living in poverty and renting their farmland and homestead from an overlord, who considered it his responsibility to protect the tenants on his land. With so much lawlessness, families and neighboring villagers were dependent upon each other from other Scots raiders. Feuds often broke out among the overlords regarding land boundaries, while the number one cause was cattle stealing. It seemed that Scotland was in a constant state of undeclared civil war, while always fighting the English. These people had a hard life and to other countries seemed barbarious in the way they lived.

The borders between Scotland and England were very difficult to maintain under control, but in 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England after Queen Elizabeth's death, both countries finally had a common ruler. He enforced military retaliation against border raiding, and appointed English and Scottish commissioners to catch criminals that tried to escape passed the borders. They were sent back to their own country to be tried by the court. By 1610, the borders were under control enough for safe travel and prosperous trade between the two countries. The lowland Scots adapted to this new way of life, but the Highlanders in the up country of Scotland continued to live in their barbaric ways. The Highlander prided himself on how well he could reive a Lowlander's cattle and almost thought of it as a sport. This developed a dislike between the Highlanders and the Lowlanders.

England decided to try and subdue the Irish who they saw as wild and untamed as the Highland Scot. While the Reformation achieved its purpose in Scotland and many were converted from Paganism and Catholism to Protestant, no such reformation had occurred in Ireland. Queen Elizabeth decided to colonize Ulster of Ireland, a province of the counties of Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Derry, Fermanagh, and Tyrone in northern Ireland. Her hope was to transport English families there to bring change, but many English had no desire to be transplanted. But the Scottish families were ripe for establishing the colony. They were Protestant (Presbyterian) and they were looking for an opportunity to leave their poverty stricken homes for the hope and promise of new lands, prosperity, and a chance to do better for themselves and their families. In 1609, England opened the Ulster Colony to Scotsmen.

Over the next century the colony prospered. The Irish were not happy losing their land and being forced to give up what was theirs, but over time they began to accept the Scottish. Some Irish families intermarried with the Scottish and new generations had begun to think of themselves as Irish even though their ancestors were Scottish. These were the Scotch-Irish.

In 1717, their landlords began raising rents higher than the common people could afford. The English colonies of America were sending representatives to Ulster hoping to hire indentured servants and find Ulsterman who would work on their plantations. They promised a land of opportunity, prosperity, and a chance to save enough money to purchase their own land. Many couldn't pay for their own passage, so they sold themselves as indentured servants for four to seven years. At the end of their indenture, some would receive an agreed upon sum of money and even a tract of land, and some basic farming tools. After the first wave of Ulsterman emigrated, they wrote back to their kinsmen of their success. Things in Ulster had grown worse and between 1720 - 1750's a mass emigration of Scotch-Irish arrived to the colonies. Many of them came to the Carolinas and settled.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Upping the Word Count in Novels

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Plenty of information exists on how to tighten your sentence structure to cut out unnecessary words and trim the fat from your writing, but few resources explain how to increase the word count. And believe me, adding fluff doesn’t count. An editor will spot it right away and so will avid readers.

To prove my point, I’d like to share my experience during an interview with a well-known, respected editor at a CBA publisher. This editor seemed interested in the story but wouldn’t ask to see it since it was too short for their single-title line. My immediate response was that I could lengthen it. The editor replied that they wouldn’t want me to add “fluff”. I told her I would add a couple of plot twists. She seemed tempted to entertain the thought, but with me being an “inexperienced” and “unpublished” author, she wasn’t willing to take a chance.

So how do you add 25-30K words to a manuscript without making it seem like a bunch of fluff?

I have three methods for increasing the word count. If you only need to add a few thousand words you may only need to choose one or two of these. If you need to add 15K words or more to your manuscript, you may try layering in all three of these methods.

Add a Few Plot TwistsThrow in another obstacle or two to keep your main characters’ from achieving their goals. You may have to deepen their motivation to keep them going, but it will be worth it. Among your new scenes, be sure to show how this will affect them spiritually and emotionally. What reaction can you show that won’t take him/her out of character?

If you are satisfied with the beginning of the story, I would recommend adding a few plot twists around the middle toward the end of the book. This way you will only need to revise the beginning and rewrite from the middle to the end of the story, adding new scenes as necessary.

Add a New Sub-Character
If you choose to add a new character, make sure that character has a specific purpose and is instrumental to the story. Will this character contribute a new viewpoint? How will he/she change the story? What are the advantages and disadvantages? Will this change confuse the reader or add to the depth of the reader’s understanding?

Some characters won’t make or break a story, but they can definitely add flavor through humor and annoyances to enhance it. Examples of some of these characters are the donkey in Shrek, Smee in Hook, and Lilly in the Princess Diary.

Write in Deeper POV
Another way to significantly add to your word count is to write in a deeper point of view. This is a layering concept that connects with the reader on a deeper, emotional level and is much harder for inexperienced writers to achieve. I’ve written a couple of blogs on Digging Deep into POV that may help with understanding this concept. The second post on this topic includes a few examples.

Whenever you need to increase the word count, make sure you add something that is meaningful and not fluff.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas at Historic Biltmore Estates

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Biltmore Estates is a beautiful spot nestled in the North Carolina mountains of Asheville, North Carolina. It's the nation's largest privately owned home. It was built in 1895 on an 250,000 acre estate. With 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The mansion took six years to build and the result is a magnificent castle, here in our very own country.

In the spring it is surrounded by lush gardens you can tour and in the winter it is a beautiful site lit with Christmas lights and decorated with greenery throughout the castle. In their dining room, they decorate a 35-ft tall live Christmas tree. I wanted to take photos, but I had to settle for a postcard since photos aren't allowed inside.

The home opened on Christmas Eve 1895 to guests of the owner, George Vanderbuilt. He was born during the Civil War in 1862 and developed a love for books. At age 12 began keeping a log of all the books he had read and continued with this practice for 51 years until his death. He read an average of 81 books a year. The library at Biltmore is one of my favorite rooms. As an author you can imagine my fascination with that room.

There are over 10,000 books in the library and after talking with staff, I discovered there are a number of books in other parts of the house that total to a full collection of 25,000 volumes. Based on the spines of what I could see, most were old hardback books and I'm sure many were original editions of some of the most famous classics in the world. The library itself is filled with books from floor to ceiling with a winding black iron staircase leading to a balcony that circles the whole room. It's exactly the kind of library you read about in historical romance novels set in English history.

George married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in 1898. Edith has a story of her own having to endure being an orphan and moving to live with her grandparents and then losing them as well. She and George had one daughter, who was 13 years old when George died. Edith once again experienced more loss.

The photo above is of our family inside Biltmore and the background is the actual home. There is no backdrop as a background. The menu is delicious!

The photo to the left is us eating at their restuarant that has been created out of the beautiful Biltmore Stables. The Carriage house is now a shop.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Defining: Based on a True Story

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Can fiction be based on a true story and still be fiction?

~ My answer: Absolutely

When do you know to call it nonfiction or a novel based on a true story?

~ My answer: That depends

I’m sure there are varying degrees of answers to these questions, but I’ll attempt to give you my version.

Fiction Based on a True Story
The setting of the story may be in a real place and in a time during an actual historical event, but the characters are all fiction. While the setting and plot is true, the story is about characters that do not exist. Therefore, it is fiction. An example would be the Titantic movie. The ship truly sank in 1912. Many perished while a select few were saved on the life boats. There were lots of true historical details, but to our knowledge, Jack and Rose never existed.

If the setting, place and events are real, as well as the characters, it could still be fiction if the characters’ decisions and behaviors are not historically accurate based on what we know in actual history. An example would be the movie Braveheart. We know that William Wallace existed in the place and time depicted by the movie and that he led a rebellion against the king of Great Britain, but we have no evidence, not even any circumstantial evidence, that he had an affair with the king’s wife and produced an heir not of the king’s bloodline. This is Hollywood’s version of distorting the facts and glamorizing the plot.

However, if the setting, place, events and characters are all true, but we lack accurate historical evidence or detailed knowledge of those individuals, information must be created in order to produce the story and move it forward. The author must create dialogue, personalities of each character, paint an image of what each character looks like, as well as their decisions and behaviors as the true historical events take place. An example would be a movie of North Carolina’s Lost Colony in the 1500’s. We know the colony actually existed, who was there, when they arrived, but we don’t know what happened after Sir Walter Raleigh returned for England for supplies and assistance. The rest is based on theory and imagination.

Nonfiction: A True Story
I consider a story to be nonfiction when the setting, place, events and characters are all true and there is clear and accurate detail and evidence of what was said and took place and it is portrayed as it happened. This means we do not make up the plot twists, glamorize inaccurate details and throw creative dialogue to fill in the loop holes. When you start creating dialogue and subplots to make it flow better, you sacrifice accuracy and delve into the “based on a true story” concept.

A great example of a nonfiction story would be the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When he was on the cross, we know that he asked for water. He could have said, “I thirst” or “I’m parched” or “I’m dehydrated” or “Water, please”. All of these statements mean the same thing. How he stated it, is up to interpretation based on translation. But as long as the story shows what he stated within the context of what he meant, it is nonfiction. If the story shows him asking for a Coke, we’d know it was fiction. Coke didn’t exist in his time.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Rural Hill Farm - Scottish Heritage

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

I wanted to tell you about a delightful place that my family visited a couple of months ago. It's the Rural Hill Farm - A Scottish Heritage in Huntersville, North Carolina. Rural Hill is on a colonial plantation that was owned and farmed by the Davidson family. They emigrated from Dundee, Scotland in the 1730's and arrived to the Carolinas by way of The Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania.

The house above on the left is a reconstruction of a log cabin. The stone structures in the photo on the right are the remnants of the original Davidson Plantation Home. It was built in 1788 and was the home of John Davidson and his wife, Violet Wilson Davidson. There is a watercolor painting of it what it might have looked like before it burned. The Davidsons advocated education and had two schools on their property one for white children and another one for colored children.

Today, they have the Amazing Maize Maze you can wander through in the fall. They always do an educational theme and create a treasure hunt out of it. And don't worry, if you get too lost, they give your group a huge flag you can hold up for assistance. This was helpful as we had my father-in-law with us and he has a heart condition and couldn't finish. In the photo above, Dwayne, my husband, is holding the flag. Winston, my father-in-law is resting, Celina, my daughter, is next to him. Helen, my mother-in-law is next to her, and then me. They provide tents where they sell food, give hay rides and offer tours if you're interested in the history.

You can tour their historical buildings and their preservation/recontruction projects. In the spring they have a number of events. They host the annual Loch Norman Highland games at Rural Hill, which usually occurs in April. Check out their website for more information if you're interested in attending, Other events include Sheep Dog Trials and Kilted Clay Shoot, etc. They are also featuring a group trip to Scotland.

I would love to visit that great country, especially since I have so many ancestors from there. (Morgans, Fraizers, MacGregors, Galloways) And my husband's family has ancestors from there as well. (Campbells, Hendersons, Grants) I guess my daughter is full of Scotch-Irish blood! But I can't afford the trip just yet. But I'm praying I will--soon!

I'll be posting more Scotch-Irish/Celtic sites and historical information since Promised Blessings, my Scottish Medieval, will be out in Spring 2010! I'm also doing Scotch-Irish research on my family history and planning to write more books in this genre.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Using the Holidays to Study Characters

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

As usual the holidays have gotten me off schedule, but I have gained some wisdom and pounds from my Thanksgiving break. I’m dieting this week to shed those extra pounds. The wisdom, I’ve decided to share with you.

Most likely, you spent some time around family and friends during your Thanksgiving meal. I bet you witnessed some amazing characters, intriguing dialogue, and some idiosyncrasies that were just plain weird, and probably a few other things in the mix.

No matter how many novels you read, writing books you devour, movies you watch, writing workshops you take, or writing conferences you attend, nothing can teach you more about characterization than living life itself. Your friends and family, and especially new acquaintances, will teach you more about creating characters if you will only study them.

While your holiday experience is still fresh in your mind, I suggest you log what you remember.

Create a list of categories and subcategories. Below is an example of some of the categories you can set.

  • Dialogue
  • Behaviors
  • Scenes
  • Emotion
  • Quirks
  • Expressions & Body Movement

    You might list subcategories for one-liners, jokes, tones, hysterics, accent, etc. Among some of the people you talked to over the holidays, whose conversation sticks out in your mind the most? Why? Was it what they said? How they said it? Were they witty? Were they scholarly and intellectual? Or was it an obnoxious person who had a snide comment about everything that was said? Were his one-liners funny or uncomfortable? Was this person loud, always talking over others and cutting them off?
  • BehaviorsYou might list subcategories for friendliness, rudeness, assistance, laziness, sadness, happiness, loneliness etc. I witnessed someone making a political statement in front of someone he knew felt differently from him and then watched to see how that person would react. If I wanted to use this behavior in a book, it would be a great way to antagonize another character. Other behaviors I noticed were people getting drinks for others when they didn’t have to.

    You might list outdoor scenes under each season, or break them down by events such as skating rink, snow tubing, skiing, swimming, walking, jogging, etc. Indoor scenes could be broken down by location such as businesses, restaurants, churches, shopping malls, theaters, etc. Traveling could be broken down by planes, trains, vehicles, tourist attractions, museums, festivals, etc.

    One scene that won’t leave me would be perfect for a movie. We went snow tubing in the mountains. The first couple of times I went down, it was great. Each lane was built up with a snow wall. As the evening wore on, the temperature dropped and the snow froze, making it slick. My husband thought he’d give me a huge shove. I went flying and I tried to lean my weight to keep my tube in my lane, but I was going so fast, I lost control. My tube jumped the snow wall, went into another lane, kept going, until I hit a woman standing on the side. Her legs went right from under her. She sailed into the air and hit her hand on the hard ground. Needless, to say I felt horrible. We were all embarrassed. And my mother-in-law wouldn’t stop laughing. Now what if this was a scene where the heroine met her hero as she plunged into him? I think it would be great.

    You might list subcategories for happy, sad, angry, hurt, shock, distraught, discomfort, etc. There was a moment where my dad came in and noticed my Christmas village. I had two churches set up and he pointed to one of them and said, “Wasn’t that Grandma’s?” I nodded and he looked down as an awkward silence followed. Without another word, I knew he was thinking of her and missing her. It suddenly made me miss her as well.
    QuirksYou might list habits, traditions, superstitions, unconscious behaviors, disabilities, etc. Okay, I’m going to tell on myself. Everywhere I go, I collect postcards from where I’ve been. Even if I’ve been there before, I still buy new postcards and I put the year on them as to when I visited there. My husband has accepted my little quirk. Now when we go somewhere, if he sees the postcards before I do, he makes sure to point them out to me. I think this might be his unspoken way of getting me out of the store faster.

    We went to the Biltmore House and my father-in-law has a heart condition and is on oxygen. He’s a little stubborn and always trying to push himself to do more than he should. He left his tank and wheelchair on the second floor and decided to walk up the stairs from there. He became winded and needed to ride the original 1895 elevator back down. If I used this in a book, I could heighten the tension in the story by having the elevator stall before he reaches his oxygen, especially given the age of the elevator.

    You might not be writing a story where any of your recent holiday experiences would fit in a scene, but it may be appropriate in your next story or one you write three years from now. If you log your experiences, you’ll have them for later when you might need them. I hope I’ve given you some creative ideas.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Story Always Trumps Writing Rules

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    I’ve heard some great authors say that story always trumps the rules of writing. I’m finding this to be true. But what does this mean?

    It means that you may not have obeyed all the writing rules perfectly in every element in your manuscript, but the story itself is so great that an editor doesn’t want to put it down. And if they are having trouble putting it down, so will readers. Editors will be willing to work with you on the mechanics of writing in order to get that “great story” to the level it should be and published.

    This doesn’t mean that the manuscript can be in any condition and sloppy. All the basics of good writing will have to be present—just not perfect.

    I have seven completed manuscripts. Of those, I have a few favorites in spite of the fact that I’m the author of all of them. Something about those stories grip me, even as a reader. My writing is the same in each one. So what is it that makes those stories stand out among the others, as better than the standard of all that I’ve written? It’s the story itself, the characters and the overall plot that a reader can identify with and cheer them on. It isn’t necessarily the writing. A person could recite and tell each story, and those stories would still be more compelling to the ear.

    These are also the stories that have finaled in contests and received requests from editors to submit the complete manuscripts. When a story is getting noticed, make sure you work on the writing elements and obey as many writing rules as possible. Eventually, it will be noticed by the right person to get it published.

    If you’ve been shopping a manuscript around from place to place and no one seems to be interested, put it down and concentrate on a new, fresh story. It may not be your writing that is the problem. It may be your story. Because when you have a great story, it always trumps the writing. And people notice—especially editors.

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Bost Grist Mill - Concord, NC

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Since the Bost Grist Mill was established in 1810, I've listed it under the Regency Era, but the current building only dates back to the 1870's. These mills were very important to the establishment of the local towns and family farms in the beginning of our country. The mill grinds cornmeal and grits and in its day could grind as much as 150 bushels a day. If you would like to learn more about the history of the Bost Grist Mill, go to their website at
    This mill is still run and owned by the Bost family. They hold community events inviting local reenactors, harvest celebrations in the fall, holiday promotions and a number of other historical and family entertainment. In addition to their homemade specialties in their shop, they also have ice cream. This was a huge hit for my daughter who tolerates my fascination with history up to a certain level. According to her, she likes history, but I take it overboard.

    The photo to the left is of my daughter Celina standing in front of a covered wagon on display at the site. Can you imagine living in something like that for months at a time and sleeping in one of those without any heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer?

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    Writing When You Can't

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Ever had a day when you stare at the blank screen and nothing comes to you?

    Or you stare at what you wrote the day before and you have no idea how to continue or finish it?

    I’m having several of those days.

    It’s rare that I get writer’s block. And even my inability to write right now isn’t exactly writer’s block. I say this because I know what I need to write, where the story is going, and I even have the next scene in my head. The problem is I can’t get it written down the way I want it to go. I’ve probably started writing this scene at least ten times, but I keep rewriting the same sentences because nothing sounds right. I don’t know why, but it isn’t flowing—and I need to flow. That’s how I write.

    I’m going to try a few things that I’ve done in the past to fix this problem and I want to share a few of these ideas with you.

  • Tell the family I need to be alone to work through this scene. Often, I can write around my family talking to me and even with the TV blaring, but there are times when I need solitude. This is one of those times.
  • Get away from my computer. Right now the Internet and email is a huge distraction to me. This isn’t usually the case, but when I’m struggling with a scene it is too much of a temptation for me. I’m going to either have to write by hand on a notebook and type it in later or type in my story on my AlphaSmart.
  • Keep my sentences, even if I don’t like them and change them later. If I keep changing every sentence, I’ll never get anywhere. This is where my internal editor is kicking in and tripping up my internal muse—my flow.
  • Forget work related issues on my day job. This is harder than I’d like, but I’m trying. Work is where I spend most of my time, unfortunately, so it tends to creep up on my subconscious, even when I’m not there.
  • Forget my historical settings, descriptions and dialogue. I’m working on a contemporary now, think modern.
  • Remember that I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. Wherever my writing is weak, God will help me strengthen those weak spots. If I don’t catch it, my critique partners will. Let the pressure go and relax.
  • Pray for guidance, confidence and motivation. Allow God to be my flow. Write from the Holy Spirit.
  • Concentrate less on the mechanics and the “rules” and more on the story. What does my heroine want to accomplish in this scene? What does the reader need to know about her at the beginning? What hook do I want to end the scene on? What question do I want to leave the reader imagining? How do I want the read to feel after reading this scene?

    If you want to share some ideas, I’d love to hear them. In the meantime, I’m going to finish this scene.
  • Friday, November 14, 2008

    Superstitions in Victorian Mourning

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Before I give you a list of superstitions, I want to mention one thing that people did when they were mourning a loved one during the Victorian era. Once tiny type photos became available, they would place a black ribbon over the corner of the deceased person's photo and that is how they carried it.

    One thing I discovered that I did not know, was that if they could, they would even have a photographer take a photo of the deceased person before they buried them--especially if no photo existed of them in life. This is especially true of parents mourning their children.

    The photo above is an example of a type of photo and black ribbon that was carried by a loved one in mourning. 

    Victorian Superstitions (1825 - 1870)
    Please note: I am not superstitious and I believe God has gifted us with freedom from these type of strongholds. I know I am free in Christ and I pray that you are. I am only listing them because if we write and read about families who lived in the Victorian era, we need to understand where some of their traditions came from and the motivation behind their behavior and culture.

    ~Stop the clock in the death room or you will have bad luck.
    ~To lock the door after a funeral procession has left the house is bad luck.
    ~Cover all mirrors in the house so the spirit of the deceased will not hide in the mirror. Also, the next reflection seen in the mirror will be the next to die.
    ~If the deceased has lived a good life, flowers will bloom on his grave, if he has been evil, weeds will grow.

    ~Do not wear anything new to a funeral, especially shoes.

    ~A person who transplants a cedar tree will die when the lower limbs of the tree reach the length of his coffin.

    ~It is bad luck to meet a funeral procession head-on. If you see one approaching, turn around.

    ~The person who sees thirteen white horses at once, will soon be carried in a hearse.

    ~If a clock stopped on his own or chimed randomly between the hours of the clock, another death would soon occur.

    Please note: Clocks were stopped to determine the actual time of death. When the turmoil was over, everyone could be sure of the exact time of death.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Author Interview - Nicole Seitz

    I would like to welcome Nicole Seitz, a native of Hilton Head, South Carolina, she is not only an author, but a talented artist as well. Nicole has offered to give away one free autographed copy either Trouble the Water or The Spirit of Sweetgrass. Winner's choice! All you have to do is leave a comment at the end of this post.

    Q: Describe yourself for our visitors. (ex. hobbies, favorite music, ministries).
    I'm a happily married mother of two children, ages 3 and 5. I work from home, enjoy reading, cooking and eating ethnic foods, and I love to make time for writing and painting. I paint the covers for my novels and find inspiration all around me. I sit on the board of a wonderful non-profit called Operation Home, speak to various groups, and enjoy meeting readers, authors, and interesting people in general. My head is a playground, and I'm never bored.

    Q: How do you find time to connect with God?I talk and pray whenever I can. I don't have a set time of meeting with God (except at church), but from the moment I wake up till I lay my head down at night, I have an ongoing conversation with Him.
    Q: Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?I love The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, The Kitchen God's Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses and The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon and Keeper of the House by Rebecca T. name a few!

    Q: Tell us about your journey to publication.I was struck with the idea for my first novel when I was six-months pregnant with my second child. I had just driven by a sweetgrass basket stand in Mount Pleasant, SC and had to start writing it down on a scrap of paper while driving! After some internet research, I awoke at 4 AM the next morning with my main character, Essie Mae, telling her story. About a month later, I began having problems with the pregnancy and soon was put on bed rest. My son (now almost 4!) was born early under emergency circumstances, and when I came home with a healthy child, I felt a new purpose in life. For some reason, I would wake at all hours, writing The Spirit of Sweetgrass. I finished it in 5 months, got an agent from, and the book sold within eight months in a two-book deal to Integrity Publishers, which was bought by Thomas Nelson. I've since entered another 4-book contract with Thomas Nelson. God is good!

    Q: Tell us about your current book?Trouble the Water came out in March of this year. It's a novel about hope, healing and learning to live again even in the most dire circumstances. Set in the South Carolina Sea Islands, the book delves into the mysteries surrounding life and death, following the stories of a capricious widow and two middle-aged sisters. When their lives collide in a secluded Gullah community, each woman will discover what threatens to destroy her. One will seek healing in the face of dying, another will be forced to re-examine all that she knows to be true, and one woman will choose to keep hidden the long-buried ghosts of her past--just a little while longer. Narrated in three distinct voices, Trouble the Water is all at once heart-wrenching and humorous, giving glimpses of island life and unique Gullah/Geechee culture. The title is based on the lyrics of an African-American spiritual about healing and freedom, "Wade in the Water," and on John 5:4 (KJV): For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
    Q: How did you come up with ideas for this book?The novel was inspired by my mother's and aunt's close relationship as sisters. My aunt passed away in 1996 from breast cancer and my mother and I were with her then. She chose to keep her illness a secret from her family, and I wanted to explore the reasons why a person might keep a secret like that. The book had a healing effect in my own life--after I wrote it, there was no more anger, just peace and compassion. The book came about because I had written a letter to Pat Conroy asking for advice for a new writer when my first book was coming out. In the ensuing conversation, he told me that my aunt would make a fascinating character, and a couple weeks later, I found myself cooking up this story about a woman who has hit bottom and falls into the loving arms of a group of Gullah nannies.

    Q: List your three most recent books (if applicable).
    The Spirit of Sweetgrass
    Trouble the Water

    Q: What's next for you?My next novel, A Hundred Years of Happiness, will be released in March 2009 from Thomas Nelson. It's a story inspired by some events that happened with my stepfather last year, and it explores the lingering effects of war on families and next generations. I'm very excited about this book. It crosses genders, generations and genres, and I think it's timely and pertinent to anyone who has a war veteran in his or her life. I just turned in the manuscript for my fourth novel, and I'm under contract for two more after that, so I better get busy!

    Q: Where can visitors find you online?You can visit my website at to find my upcoming events, details about books, photos, guestbook, and even paintings for sale. I have a mailing list you can subscribe to and a blog called Occasional Murmurings at Please come by and visit!

    And thank you, Jennifer, for your questions!

    Nicole, thank you for being with us today! I enjoyed the interview.

    Friday, November 07, 2008

    Victorian Era Mourning Fashion

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    The Victorian Era stretched through the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). It was the coming of the Industrial Age, a time of great scientific breakthroughs, and an era filled with many social customs and elaborate superstitions. It was a time of mass emigration to the United States from all over the world.

    Because of the huge English population that came to America, many of the social and fashion mourning customs so popular in England under Queen Victoria's reign was carried to the U.S. The only difference, is that some of the second and third generations of Americans tended to be a little less strict with these mourning customs, especially those that lived in the wilderness and had to work hard to make ends meet and to survive.

    Unlike today, there were various stages of mourning attire for paricular loved ones, and people adhered to these strict rules, especially in England and many of the well established areas of the US. Mourning was the hardest and lasted the longest for widows.

    During the first year, widows were expected to refuse all social invitations including weddings and christenings. The only visits allowed were from close relatives and church services. A widow would wear a dress made of black crepe for the first year. Her bonnet was typically made of black crepe with a widow's cap inside and a dark veil with a deep hem. After the first year and a day, a widow could begin wearing black silk. For the next six months, it would be heavily trimmed in crepe until the eighteenth month. Prior to this no jewelry was acceptable. After two years, a widow was allowed to come out of morning and wear regular colors and jewelry again. However, some considered it more tasteful to continue wearing dark colors and grays in half-mourning for another six months.

    Deaths of Parents or Child
    People would be in full mourning for a year. The first six months they wore paramatta with crepe trim. Then they would wear three months in black and the last three months in half-mourning.

    Deaths of a Sibling
    People would be in mourning for six months. The first three months they wore crepe and the last three months they wore black attire.

    Deaths of Aunts and Uncles
    They wore black for three months.

    Deaths of First Cousins
    People spent six weeks in black.

    The photo above is of historical reenactor, Beverly Capps, an expert on Victorian Mourning. 

    Monday, November 03, 2008

    Between Minor and Major Edits

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    The first time an editor told me they thought they could acquire my manuscript after I made a few minor changes, I was thrilled! The editor sent me a brief paragraph stating that I needed to lighten the sensual detail between my hero and heroine, deepen the faith element, and lighten the Scottish brogue a bit.

    Immediately I tried to think of all the scenes that could be considered sensual. There was only one that stood out in my mind, so I edited that scene. I worked on layering a few more faith elements here and there, and took out some of the major brogue dialect throughout the manuscript.

    She rejected it.

    What? But I did what you asked of me.

    Did I? I’ll never know. What could be minor to one person may be major to another. Since then I’ve received more editor feedback and learned additional things that can be helpful to others—I hope.

    Minor Edits
    Typically, I consider minor edits basic grammar corrections here and there. It may also include rewording a few phrases every other paragraph, but not necessarily every line.

    Other minor edits could include going through your manuscript and adding simple sensory details to each scene, or altering the dialogue to make it more fresh and direct or to sound more like your character. You may need to deepen the point of view (POV) of one or two of your main characters.

    Deepening the faith element could be minor edits or major edits, depending on your plot and what the editor has in mind. Perhaps you only need to have your main character pray more often so he/she is seen relying on their faith more or attending church in one or two scenes. It could also mean having the unbelieving character in your story ask more questions about Christianity and faith before he/she gives their life to the Lord.

    If you don’t even have a church or a circle of Christian friends and characters in your current story, this could require major edits. You may have to write a few new scenes or revise existing scenes to include those elements. This will alter your subplots, but not your main plot so it will fall under major edits, but it still won’t be a complete rewrite.

    Major Edits
    When you have to make any change to a plot or a sub-plot, I consider this major edits. It will require writing a few new scenes or rewriting existing scenes. In this case, something in the book is missing and must be added.

    Examples of major edits include adding new characters, reworking a plot to include additional plot twists, adding multiple POV’s, rewriting scenes and chapters so show rather than tell.

    It could also be rewriting scenes to eliminate head-hopping, which is switching between more than one character’s POV within a scene. One scene should only show one character’s POV, and then you should switch to a new scene to another character’s POV.

    Other major edits are when you have simple grammar, dialogue, POV issues, and sensory or descriptive detail that need correction throughout the manuscript. This isn’t only on a few pages here and there throughout the manuscript, but a problem on every page or every other page throughout the complete book. Simple corrections on 300 pages can quickly become a major edit and take up a lot more time than you originally calculated.

    Monday, October 27, 2008

    Defining What You Write

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    It isn't enough to say, "I write historical fiction." 

    A statement like that immediately invokes all kinds of other questions. 

    "What time period is it set?" 

    "Do you mean historical romances?" 

    "Like westerns?" 

    Then I can clarify, "well… books are more like Christian fiction historical romances." But that still doesn't clarify a time period or a setting. So if you're a writer like me who has written an Irish historical, an English Regency, a Scottish Medieval, a South Carolina historical, a Missouri historical, and a contemporary—what's a writer to say? 

    It would be helpful to narrow it down to a sentence, or better yet, a tagline. You can work on building an author brand around your tagline. This will help with marketing by word of mouth, fitting a short description in tight spaces for postcards, bookmarks, and blog and website ads. Also, it will give you an identity as an author. People need to feel like they "know" you. 

    Obscurity does not sell. 

    Confidence sells. Boldness sells. 

    Niche sells even better. 

    But how do you do that? How do you narrow down what you write when it covers a broad time period and various places? If you're like me, you don't want to narrow yourself into a tight little box. Creativity hates to be stifled, and writers are by nature, creative individuals. Follow with me through the process of defining what I write. 

    Start with a Sub-Genre
    What do you write the most? With six historicals and one contemporary, I'd be classified as a historical writer more so than contemporary. My future plans include several more historicals, but only a few contemporaries. What we've written and what we plan to write will establish our author identity. 

    I write historical fiction. 

    Choose a Theme or Element
    All of my books include elements of faith and romance, but to me the faith is the more important element. In some of my books the romance is more than 50% of the plot and in other books the romance is less than 50% of the plot. Therefore, if I need to eliminate this word, I can.

    What about you? What are the themed elements included in all your books? 

    I write Christian fiction historical romance. 

    Establish Time Period
    My earliest book is set in Medieval times and I know I have no desire to write in an earlier time period such as in Biblical times., Here I can set a beginning boundary. My latest historical is set in Victorian times, but I have a planned novel that I know will be set during the late 1920's. Also, the time period of the 1940's and WWII appeal to me so I would be better off setting my ending time period at WWII. 

    I write Christian fiction historical romance from Medieval to WWII. 

    Establish Setting
    So far, my American books are set in Missouri and South Carolina, even my Missouri characters are from North Carolina, so both have the Carolina theme. This will narrow down my American setting from 52 states to a couple of states. It will also give my characters the ability to roam from the Carolinas to other places. At least one main character must be from a Carolina state to fit in with the Carolina theme. 

    I also have books set in Ireland, Scotland, and England. None of the characters in these books are Carolinians, but couldn't they emigrate to the Carolinas to bridge the theme? While my written stories are not immigration stories, I could tie in the Carolina theme by writing immigration stories in the future. All of these countries are based in Europe so this gives me a broad, but distinct setting.

    I write Christian fiction historical romance set in Europe and the Carolinas ranging from Medieval to WWII. 

    Now that I have it down to a sentence, I can edit the wording. The time period already indicates historical, so that word can be deleted. I want to emphasize an open door to contemporaries depending on which way the market swings and what I have on my heart to write. Therefore, I'm going to substitute WWII for contemporary. To cut the length I also delete romance.

    I write Medieval to contemporary Christian fiction set in Europe and the Carolinas. 

    And there you have it. A short, but precise description of what I write. If you are a writer, try this process out for yourelf to define what you write. What you end up with doesn't have to be your tagline, but if it's witty enough, it might serve as a tagline as well.

    Friday, October 24, 2008

    Is Christian Fiction--Truth?

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Whenever someone discovers I’m a writer, the next question that pops out is “What do you write?”

    Sometimes I give a broad term like “Christian fiction” just to see what their reaction might be. Will they be turned off by the Christian part of my answer? Will they want to know more? Usually, I can see the wheels turning in their head as if they are processing that piece of information and they are hesitant to respond.

    Believe it or not, there are still some narrow minded people who think that it isn’t possible to write Christian Fiction because the Christian faith is based upon truth and to their way of thinking—truth is the only thing Christians should write.



    In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus teaches through parables. These parables are used as scripture to teach us today. What is a parable?

    The fourth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language describes a parable as: A simple story to illustrate a moral or religious lesson.

    In the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, a parable is: A usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious attitude.

    Therefore, Christian fiction is like a parable. The difference is it isn’t short or brief. It is a long parable in the form of a novel. The reader gets to know the characters, experiences their emotion, and throughout the novel there are moral and spiritual values and lessons based on biblical teachings in Christianity.

    While the characters in my Christian fiction are not real and the plot is fictitious, the biblical and spiritual lesson is one of truth. Even if the reader doesn’t realize they are learning a biblical lesson, I have faith that God is using my work to plant a seed inside that person. And God will choose when to water and harvest that seed to bring forth fruit and life to that individual.

    “So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.”
    I Corinthians 3:7

    Monday, October 06, 2008

    Writing in the Regency Era - Online Resources

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    I confess, I’ve written a Regency historical novel. And upon my word, I am quite determined to master this era!

    What is the Regency Era?
    The specific Regency period is considered to be a short time frame between 1811 – 1820, in the United Kingdom when King George III was deemed unfit to rule and his son was instated to be his proxy as Prince Regent. However, many consider the era to be much larger between 1795 – 1837, especially if one considers the Regency Era a transitional period between the Georgian and Victorian eras.

    The Rules
    There are many strict societal rules that one’s character must know, maintain and behave accordingly. If one’s character behaves inappropriately for the era, that character must have a well-established motivation. The Regency fashion, dialogue, and customs govern the structure of a Regency novel. Therefore, much research and knowledge must go into writing one.

    Online Regency Resources
    I wanted to share a few online resources that I have found very helpful in writing my Regency. I’ve included the title of the website or webpage, the link, and a brief description.

    Please note: I cannot vouch for the accuracy of every detail on these websites. Please make sure you find at least three resources to back up a reference and use your own judgment.

    An Olde Fashioned Christmas Eve - - Christmas images that have been scanned from documents printed over beyond the copyright date. Some are Victorian and others are older close to the Regency era.

    Christian Regency - - Several links to Regency information on various topics. 

    Jane Austen Today - A blog that explores Regency period author, Jane Austen, as we see her today in movies, prints, sequels, websites and other modern media.

    Jane Austen’s World - A blog that strives to bring to life Jane Austen’s novels and the Regency Period through food, dress, social customs, and other 19th century historical details.

    The Beau Monde - A writing group for writers who write Regencies. One must be a member of Romance Writers of America, since this is an RWA chapter.

    Susanna Carlton, Regency Author - A great resource that describes what the Regency era is, the difference between Regency romances and Regency-set historical romances, and other basic info.

    Eras of Elegance - A list of movies that are available with settings in the Regency era.

    Fashions in Time - Lady’s costume fashions in the Regency era.

    Good Ton - - A resource for readers of a Regency romance novel.

    Hampshire Regency Dancers - - A group who practices Regency dancing in period costumes and provides such dances for movies and even in the home where Jane Austen's brother lived.

    Nancy Mayer, Regency Researcher - - Links and resources from a Regency author who has been researching the period for a number of years.

    Old Book Art - - Historical images that are now out of copyright and in the public domain.

    Prints Old & Rare - Fox Hunting - - Historical prints and images of fox hunting scenes.

    The Regency Collection - Links recommended books.

    Regency England (1790-1830) - Includes info on weddings, fashion, shopping, and Regency romance novels.

    The Regency Fashion Page - Includes photos and images of fashion plates.

    The Regency Page - This is an excellent resource for all things Regency.

    Regency Reader's Site Page - - Resource links.

    Regency References - More information on the English Regency and more dancing.

    Regency Reproductions - Costume reproductions for men, women and children in the extended Regency period (1795 – 1837).

    Regency Yuletide - - The Definitive Guide to Christmas in Regency England with quotes, recipes, and games to reveal what Christmas was like during the time of Jane Austen. Remember the "holy" in holiday, and let poets and songwriters from the past enliven your experience today. 

    Vanessa Riley's Christian Regency - - An online writing resource of all things Regency related. A great site you'll want to check out.