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.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dialogue & Action Tags Checklist for Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

When writing dialogue you must include dialogue tags and action tags. Dialogue tags (descriptive tags) tells the reader who is talking. Action tags (beats) tells the reader what a character is doing while talking. Without these necessary tags, dialogue will be stilted, unnatural and boring. But as with any good thing, you can over do it and there are guidelines that should be followed.

  • Limit your use of he/she said. Instead, focus more on what the character is doing while talking and add action tags.

  • Example:
    "I bought a ticket to Reno. I leave in three hours." Jamie dumped a pile of clothes in her suitcase.

  • Use said more often when there are more than two people in a conversation in order to identify who is talking, but be sure to include action tags as well. An action tag can give a hint as to who is talking just as easily as using said.

  • Limit use of other substitutes for said, such as he/she whispered, yelled, cried, asked, whined, growled, etc. The word said is so unobtrusive that it hardly gets noticed, but too many of these substitute words can jar the reader from the story.

  • When you do use said, add an action tag with it to make the reading flow better.

  • Example:
    "I bought a ticket to Reno. I leave in three hours," Jamie said, dumping a pile of clothes in her suitcase.

  • Read your story aloud and listen to how it sounds. Is is confusing? Can you identify who is talking? Can you see what each character is doing and their facial expressions? Using dialogue and action tags can bring a scene to life.

  • Friday, February 20, 2009

    The Carolina Tartan

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Even though I was born and bred in the Carolinas, it was only recently that I discovered that the Carolinas had their very own tartan. No other two American states share the same tartan except North and South Carolina.

    Peter MacDonald designed the Carolina Tartan in 1981, but it was his father, Micheil MacDonald who came up with the idea. The design was taken from a pre-1800 sample from the Prince Edward Charles Stuart tartan. Since King Charles II of England was the last king of Scotland to be crowned at Scone, January 1, 1651, and it was said that he wore a jacket of ribbons suspected to have been the Royal Stewart Tartan. King Charles II opened the Carolinas through a land grant in 1663.

    For further reading, visit:

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Currituck Lighthouse - NC

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Currituck Lighthouse was the last brick lighthouse built on the North Carolina Outerbanks in 1875. It costed $178,000 and stands 162 feet tall. It's one of two open lighthouses in the state that allows public visitors to climb 214 steel steps up to the top. Having been up there a few times, one can see a beautiful sight from the top.

    Even though it wasn't built until 1875, Congress approved the funds for the lighthouse in the 1860's, but the Civil War delayed its construction. Since the surrounding area is too shallow for large ships, the vessels carrying the one million bricks and other materials had to anchor as far out as eight miles and were carried to shore in smaller vessels that could maneuver through shallow water. North Carolina required all their brick lighthouses to be painted in different designs so they would not be so easily confused. The Currituck Lighthouse was the only brick lighthouse that was ordered to remain in its original state as it is today.

    The light was white with a red flash that occurred every 90 seconds. The keeper was responsible for hand-cranking the weights beneath the lantern every 2 1/2 hours. In 1939, the light was switched to an electric automated system that can be seen as far as 19 miles out do sea.

    There were three houses for the lighthouse keepers. The smaller house is now a museum and shop that sells lighthouse related items and gifts. The larger keeper house was a white victorial style home built in 1876. It fell into disrepair where vines had grown along the outside and inside of the house. It was restored in the 1980's and the roof was restored in 1996. The house is listed on the list of National Register of Historic Places and is only open on certain occasions due to ongoing renovations. It was not open when I was there.

    For further reading:

  • Lighthouses of the Carolinas: A Short History and Guide by Terrance Zepke

  • Images of America North Carolina Lighthouses and Lifesaving Stations by John Hairr
  • Monday, February 09, 2009

    Dialogue Checklist for Fiction

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Editing dialogue could garner enough information by itself to warrant a whole book on the subject, but since most people only want a quick checklist, I'll try and stick to one blog post.

  • Is this section of dialogue essential to the story? If so, it should do one of the following: Advance the Plot, Reveal Character, or Reflect a Theme.

  • Does your dialogue sound like real life speech or spoken narrative? When people talk, they speak in phrases and their sentences do not always include proper verbs, sentence structure and grammar.

  • Does your character's voice match his/her gender, age, time period, culture, and occupation? A race car driver isn't likely to discuss sonnets by Shakespeare or mathematical equations. A teenager in 1810 won't be saying things like "cool" and "geez". A Scottish or Irish man will probably refer to his daughter as "lass" not "girl". These are just a few examples of what you might consider when editing dialogue.

  • What kind of words should your character use that would show his/her personality? For example, in Back to the Future, the professor would always say, "Great Scots!" when he was excited, surprised or upset. In Gone with the Wind, when Scarlett O'Hara wanted to dismiss someone's warning, she would say, "Oh, fiddle dee dee!"

  • Have you used appropriate action tags between dialogue? It should show your characters doing something while they talk, not just state that they've said something. Example: "My drawings have always given me inspiration." Betty picked up her cup and sipped her tea.

  • Did you limit the number of creative tags that tell the reader how to interpret the dialogue that is said rather than showing it? Example: He replied, She cried, He pouted, She groaned, etc.

  • Friday, February 06, 2009

    Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    Almost a year before the Continental Congress declared independence from the King of England, leaders from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina wrote the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775. The Declaration was an immediate response to the Battle of Lexington-Concord fought in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775. 

    The 27 signers were leading citizens of Mecklenburg, Rowan and Cabarrus Counties and it was read before the people in front of the courthouse. Captain James Jack carried a report of the Declaration to the Second Continential Congress where it had assembled in Philadephia. 

    Apparently, Mecklenburg's courier stopped in Wachovia (Salem), which is now Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on his way home from Philadelphia. A transcript is recorded in the Records of the Moravians of North Carolina, stating that Congress thought the Mecklenburg Declaration premature. Almost a year later, the Continental Congress wrote the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776. 

    Since many local records were destroyed when Mecklenburg Secretary, John McKnitt. Alexander's home was burned in 1800, the events were recorded from witnesses who were still living from the Revolutionary War. However, the Moravian records in Old Salem to give credit to the claims. Charlotte began celebrating the Mecklenburg Declaration with 60 Revolutionary Veterans participating in the 1825 celebration. 

    For further reading, visit the following links:

    Monday, February 02, 2009

    Point of View Checklist for Fiction

    By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

    When establishing point of view (POV), the viewpoint from which the story is told, the author must determine if the story will be told through first person, third person or omniscient POV.

    Omniscient POV is less intimate to the reader. It is basically from the author's POV and can give an overall viewpoint of the story for all the characters without a personal narrative of a particular character's POV or intimate thoughts. Example: Lori drove home from work too late for dinner with the family.

    First Person POV is the character telling what has or is happening. Example: I drove home from work, worried that I would be late for dinner.

    Third Person POV is through a chosen character's POV. Example. Lori drove home from work, worried that she would be late for dinner.

  • Do you have any scenes that alternate between omniscient, first person or third person POV? Make sure you consistently use the same type of POV throughout your novel. Some authors have started out a story in the omniscient POV to set the scene and then dropped into first person or third person. This is possible when experienced and established, but if you are just starting out, I wouldn’t recommend it.
  • Make sure you don’t have any head-hopping or POV slips where you switch from one character’s POV to a different character’s POV within the same scene. Do you have appropriate scene breaks between different character’s POV?
  • Scene breaks should not be every other paragraph just to insert each character’s POV. A good scene length should be at least two to three pages and no longer than eight to ten pages unless you write a scene per chapter. Most novels have two to three scenes per chapter. Do your scenes and chapters fall in this range?
  • Does a character see something he/she can’t technically see in his/her POV? For example, if you are in the heroine’s POV, and it says, she blushed crimson. She can’t see the color of her face unless she’s looking in a mirror. She can feel it or know it, such as, she felt heat climb to her face.
  • Does a character see or know something in his/her thoughts that he/she couldn’t have possibly heard or witnessed without being present in another scene or without it being communicated to them in some way?
  • Does your POV character know another character’s thoughts? Your POV character can speculate and form an opinion of what another character is thinking or feeling based on his/her perception of the other person’s behavior and dialogue, but they aren’t going to know that character’s thoughts.
  • Does each scene and chapter immediately identify whose POV that section is written in? Don’t wait several paragraphs to make this distinction. You want to keep your readers enthralled, not confuse them and make them wonder about whose thoughts they’re reading.
  • Do you establish POV in each paragraph by first using the antecedent noun and then substituting with the pronoun? Always go from specific to general.
      Incorrect example: His words stung and she gripped the door handle. Lori clenched her jaw to stifle the sob in her throat as she turned and walked through the threshold.

      Correct example: His words stung and Lori gripped the door handle. She clenched her jaw to stifle the sob in her throat as she turned and walked through the threshold.
  • Does the first scene of the book begin in the main character’s POV? Readers often identify with the first POV character as the main character. This is not an absolute, but something to consider as a standard.

  • Do you begin each scene or chapter in the POV of the character that has the most at stake or who needs to find out something or achieve a goal?

  • Do you end each scene or chapter in the POV of the character with the biggest problem, anticipated reaction, or who will be affected the most by what has just happened or what was just said?
  • Does your POV character think of a description of a room, scene, clothing or person in specific details that he/she wouldn’t know due to lack of education, gender, or station? For example, if you’re writing in the hero’s POV, he isn’t likely to know the heroine’s fashion designer or the type of stitches in how it’s sewn. A man will simply notice the color, basic material, whether it’s conservative, low-cut, and how it hangs on a woman’s figure. Be specific where it’s appropriate.

    This POV Checklist is a guideline not a list of absolute rules. If you decided to deviate from this list, make sure you have an appropriate reason, that it won’t confuse the reader, and that you don’t do it often.