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.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Secrets of Beautiful Shirley Plantation

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

This past month we visited Shirley Plantation on the James River in Virginia. It dates back to 1613, but the current structure was built in 1723. This is Virginia's oldest plantation, and the wonder of it, is the place survived the Revolutionary War, nearby skirmishes and wars with Indians, the Civil War even though the Union Army used the house for a couple of days, and the depression in the 1930's.

The 12th generation heir still owns it, lives in it, and operates the running of the plantation. Shirley began as one of the first a tobacco plantation and is the place where Robert E. Lee's mother was born and raised. She married Robert E. Lee's father in front of the fireplace where I stood with my family. The ladies in this family started a tradition when they married. They would carve their initials in the glass windows in the dining room as a way to test the diamond of their wedding rings, Robert E. Lee's mother included. The last initials carved in the glass are dated in the year 1995.

We couldn't take photos of the inside of the house, but I assure you it it is beautiful. One of the most rewarding things about it, is the original furniture and paintings in the rooms, since it has always been in the same family. Many plantation homes I've visited had "period pieces" that were actually collected from auction sites and other antique dealers. Shirley Plantation is original in every since of the word.

As I browsed through the house marveling in its wonderful history that God has preserved for this family, I felt a since of loss, like a slight grieving for all my family lost during the Civil War. Based on our family records, we had a nice size plantation in Hartsville, SC that we weren't able to hold onto after the war. While it grieves me that my own historical family home wasn't preserved, I'm thrilled to know that this one has not only survived, but has flourished in its preservation.

Here is the backyard view of the James River. The house was particularly vulnerable to Yankee invasion during the Civil War. The Union Army sailed up the James river to go after Richmond, the capital of the South. What saved this home was the family's compassion for humans regardless what side of the war they were on. Even though members were serving in the Confederate Army, when the Union soldiers embarked on the property, the family tended to the wounded by ripping up bed sheets, petticoats, and binding up the soldiers' wounds and tending to them. When the soldiers left for Berkley Plantation up the river, the owner at that time begged them to leave two cows. His daughter was in the family way. General McClellan not only left the two cows, but he granted a Federal Order of Safeguard protecting Shirley for their care.

This is an old carriage that is stored in the stables. The photo below it is of my daughter walking away from the stables. If you appreciate history and enjoy seeing beautiful plantations I would recommend a trip to Shirley Plantation. Keep in mind that tours are only given of the first floor since the family still lives there and occupies the second and third floors.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

19th Century Baths

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Bathing in the 19th century was very different from today. For one thing, people didn't have running water in their homes. Water was cold unless you had the time and ability to heat it beforehand. They didn't take baths as often as we do today. Bathing was a luxury. The poor and middle class would go at least a week, maybe longer. The wealthy would bathe more often, as they had the ability.

If they lived in rural communities, commoners would bathe in natural water, especially in the summer when it was hot. They would find a secluded spot in a river or lake and bathe, especially if they were traveling across country out west. It's all they had and they were grateful for the opportunity.

In the more populated villages and towns, and during colder seasons, water was boiled in pots over the fire and poured into a bathtub for those that could afford a bathtub. Bath water was shared. The head of household would be first and he would get the fresh warm water, and then the next person according to station. The bathtub on the left is from the Jacob Kelley house in Hartsville, SC. The photo below it is of the drainage hole at the foot of the tub. They would take the tub outside and pull the plug to drain it. This allowed them to take a bath in the comfort of their home, maybe by the fireplace where they would be warmer.

Wealthy families that could afford more than one bathtub, would have servants or slaves prepare a bath for individuals more often, and they didn't share bath water as often as the commoners. While some things change a great deal, other things never change. Even today, the wealthy can afford great luxurys that the rest of us cannot.

One thing that is still the same is infants and small children were given baths separately from adults. Like today, children were messy eaters and probably got into a lot of dirt and filth playing outside around the house, with farm animals and in the barns. Since it wasn't unusual for a family to have as many as 7-13 children, it would have been harder to keep up with the small ones. Everyone would have been responsible for looking out for the little ones. Below is a photo of a child's bathtub, also from the Jacob Kelley house. Notice how this tub is round and much smaller with a white round base that was probably meant to catch the splashing water from playful children.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Budget Conference (Part II)

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 

This is the second part of how to budget for a writing conference. The first post concentrated on how to choose which conferences will give you the most for your investment based on your individual writing needs. This post will concentrate on how to save money on logistics after you've determined your writing conferences.

With the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference coming in September, many people are trying to figure out a way to fit it into their budget without making their families sacrifice too much. Some are trying to determine if they can afford the ACFW Conference as well as other writing conferences.


  • Drive if possible. Even with the high costs of gas, it's still cheaper to drive than fly if a writing conference is within driving distance. I'd be willing to drive as far as 5-7 hours. Anything longer than that is a little too far.

  • Flying Options. Lots of cheap tips people give include flying to places during their nonseasons. But that option only applies to vacationers, not conference attenders who have no control over where the conference is set or when. So ignore that tip, it won't help you.

  • Flexible schedules. Other cheap tips will tell you to be flexible within in a few days of your departure and arrival date when you're booking a flight. However, unless you can stay somewhere for free, the $30-$50 you might save isn't cheaper than an extra night at a hotel. Ignore this temptation.

  • Compare PricesMake sure you compare prices from one airline to another. I've purchased flight tickets straight from the airline and I've also purchased them from online services such as and I've never had a problem going through either route.

  • Nearby Airports. Sometimes it's worth driving an hour or so to a larger airport to get a better rate. To avoid paying for parking while you're gone, ask someone to drop you off and pick you up at the airport.

  • Fly Standby. Unless you need to be at the conference by a certain, be willing to fly standby to pick up some extra flying mileages. I was returning from a writing conference one time and because we were willing to fly standby on a later flight, we were given $900 worth of vouchers I could use for another writing conference to anywhere in the U.S.
  • Be watchful of fluctuating rates. Flight rates can fluctuate as often as three times in a given day. Watch the rates and monitor them before booking.

    From Airport to Hotel
  • If you know anyone that lives in the city, have them pick you up. You can offer them a reasonable fee that would still be cheaper than a taxi or a shuttle.
  • If you must hire transportation from the airport to the hotel, wait around until a few other writers show up, or ask around to see if anyone is going to the same hotel. You can probably share the expenses of the shuttle.
  • Don't rent a vehicle unless you really need one. Otherwise, you'll be paying extra charges for parking and valet parking. Most hotels where conferences are held won't give you the option to park your own car. You have to give your vehicle over to a valet and then you are expected to tip them.
  • If you are capable, pack light so you can carry your own luggage without having to hire or tip someone to cart your stuff for you. These small tips add up if you are on a tight budget.

  • Some conferences offer various workshop sessions that are separate from meals, award banquets, editor and agent appointments, manuscript critiques, and other options. If you don't need the additional service then don't pay for it.
  • Share a hotel room with other people. A few sacrifices will bring you some lifelong friends and save you money in the long run.

    Other Saving Tips
  • Don't go out and spend huge amounts on meals that aren't covered by the conference. Find some friends that are mindful of their budgets and eat at simple places.
  • Don't order room service for anything! Use your cell phone to make a phone call. If you don't have your own Internet service do without for a few days unless the hotel provides for free service. Make sure you understand the terms of service. Will you be charged after a certain amount of time on their Internet?
  • Find a nearby Wal-mart or Target, or even a drug store and buy snacks and beverages. A short walk will be worth it. Most of us are so spoiled we won't even walk a few blocks. If you physically can't, that is one thing, but if you simply won't do it, that's another. These items anywhere else in the hotel or airport will be double the price.

    The money you choose to save is more money you will have to sow into God's kingdom or will be able to save for your family for those unexpected financial crises that arrive in everyone's lives sooner or later.

    Have a great writing conference and may God bless your faith in going and your courage.

  • Monday, June 02, 2008

    Budget Conference (Part I)

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor 

    New WritersIf you are a new author with no complete manuscripts or only one or two completed manuscripts, most likely you need workshop classes on the craft of writing and revising. Look for conferences that focus on:

  • Providing one-on-one critiques,
  • Contests with feedback
  • Workshops geared toward point-of-view, editing and revising, show vs. telling, characterization, plot building, dialogue, etc.

    Intermediate WritersIf you've been seriously pursuing publication for a few years and have completed more than two manuscripts, but have no agent, and no editor requests, you will want to concentrate on conferences that focus on the process of publication. Look for conferences that focus on:
  • Teaching how to write query letters, synopses and proposals.
  • Pitching interviews, creating sell sheets, blurbs, websites and blogs, online promotion.
  • Finding an agent, what to expect from publishing contracts, etc.

    You will want to enter a few writing contests at these conferences (even if you can't attend) for more than just the feedback, but to start building writing credentials and agent and editor feedback. The kind of feedback you receive from inexperienced judges, or from intermediate writers and pre-published authors, even some published authors will vary a great deal from the feedback you will receive from editors and agents. This is because many of the judges are on the same level as you. Also, published authors may have only written for one or two publishers and they are unfamiliar with the preferences and practices of other editors at various publishing houses.

    Pre-Published Authors
    If you've been writing for several years and have four or more completed manuscripts, have finaled in a few writing contests, and may have or are seeking a literary agent, you will want to concentrate on conferences that can help link you to editors and agents. Look for conferences that focus on:
  • Providing editor and agent appointments. At this level, you can't afford to waste time or money on a conference that doesn't provide access to the gatekeepers of publication.
  • Do your homework on all the editors and agents who will attend the various conferences you're considering. Narrow them down to what they like and are acquiring that best match what you are writing, then narrow the list down to what conferences they are attending.
  • Sign up for paid critiques with established authors that will give you a one-on-one personal critique. You will not only learn a lot, but you might make a connection with another author who could eventually provide a quote for your book if it is published.
  • If you already have an agent, sign up for as many editor appointments as possible. You could make a connection with an editor or obtain a request that your agent will be able to follow-up on for you. Any leads you provide, can only help your agent sell your work.
  • At this level, you've established writing friends, don't sign up for a conference just because some of your writing friends will be there. Go where you will get the most for your money. God has a different path planned for everyone, let Him guide you on yours.