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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Historic Ballroom Room or Drawing Room

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

This is the Drawing Room of the Joseph Manigault House in Charleston, SC, built during the Regency era in 1803. In Charleston most of the drawing rooms were designed on the second level to avoid dust and dirt from the street, with window doors that lead to a balcony and lots of windows on each side to cool the room.

The photo to the left is of a Grecian couch of solid red from England between 1810-1815. It is Japanned in black and gold. Notice the wheels on the bottom to allow easy movement.

Above the room is an elegant chandelier. In front of the couch is the fireplace and a table and chairs with a silver tea set and covered sugar bowl. The Drum table is a circular top with walnut veneer with a painted and gilt tripod base, and a sandbox tree fruit foot. It is an 1810 piece from Italy.

Above the fireplace is a portrait, but on the opposite ends of the fireplace mantle is a pair of 1810 urns from France. Agate ware with dipped jasper ware medallions.

On the far side of the room are the window doors on each side of an elegant mirror and the piano, which is made of mahogany wood around 1790 from Philadelphia.

You can almost imagine someone sitting there playing music during an entertaining evening filled with guests and dancing. For you historical writers out there, I hope this room and furniture description will give you some ideas in how to layout a ballroom or a drawing room for your characters to entertain their guests.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rewriting Scenes in Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Each writer is different when it comes to rewriting scenes, but I want to share with you what works for me. I print out the whole scene or chapter. I'm the type that can read or edit online and in print, but something about rewrites makes me want to print it out and make notes all over it.

First, I read it through to determine if I have anything that can be of use. Then I think about what is missing and what would make this scene better. If there is hardly anything I can use, I mark through it all and begin working on a new scene on my AlphaSmart or on my laptop. If a few paragraphs will work as written, I start marking on the printed pages themselves. At this point I begin dissecting individual sentences. Does this sentence make sense? Could I use a stronger action verb? Is the dialogue appropriate? Is there enough action to get my characters to where I want them to go?

While I'm working, I'm thinking on an ending for that scene that will somehow leave a hook. I may not know what this hook will be when I first start the scene, but I will get around to it, and if not, I work as far as I can. Then I set it aside and let my mind brainstorm on a few scenarios and come back to it when I'm ready. This may be a few hours or a few days, once in a while it might take a few weeks, but that is rare.

I have a little numbering system. If I need to reorganize sentences, I number them and draw arrows. I draw the arrows because sometimes I have a number system going on for more than one paragraph on a page. When I used the backside of the page to write, I write a number for the next sentence and write -OVER- as a signal to myself where the rest of that sentence is written.

If someone were to look at my rewrites they would think it is a disorganized mess, but I promise, it's a good organized mess. Like a room, I know where each word belongs, where each sentence goes, and how each paragraph should look. When I type it out, it will be much cleaner than what it was to begin with.

How do you manage your rewrites and edits?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Regency Era Card Room

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

The furniture examples in this post are from the Joseph Manigualt House built in 1803 in Charleston, SC. I didn't have the best camera with me so I suggest you visit this house for yourself if you get the chance. My hope is that these photos and descriptions will help you imagine the details of a Regency setting as it was back then.

The Card Room
Here family members gathered to read, do needlework, take tea, or play cards. The first photo is of a Regency Couch (c. 1800). The fabric is a rosewood solid with graining over beech, and oak crossbars.

The image above is of the card table (c. 1780-1800). This is a late Georgian piece made of mahogany and satinwood, inlaid with three oval medallions.

When writing a Regency, remember that they had antiques back then as well. You don't have to include furniture all made between 1800-1815. Most people in the Regency time period had furniture that was made in mid-to-late 1700's. Only new pieces would have been made during the Regency period, and then it probably would have been mixed with older furniture unless they could afford all new furniture for a particular room or the whole house.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Common POV Errors in Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

A character experiences POV in a story through the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and introspection of emotion. As the author, you have to imagine the scene happening as if you are that character. If your character is in a room, he/she cannot see what someone else is doing in a different room. Instead, you will have to show the scene through the noises that character hears. He/she may have to guess at what they think they might be hearing.

Example: Footsteps crossed the ceiling above toward the bathroom. Jared must be up. She poured him a cup of steaming coffee and prepared it just the way he liked it.

Unless a character is looking in the mirror, he/she isn't going to see his own expression, eye color, and hair. But that character will feel a smile tug at his lips, a heated blush, or force a smile if he doesn't feel like smiling. That character can also refer to how he/she looks based on what they think they might look like, especially if they've spilt something on them or the wind has blown their hair.

One way of checking your work is to take a passage and replace the names with pronouns to see if you still know who is thinking and/or speaking. If it doesn't make sense, you might want to reword some of your sentences and rephrase things.

Avoid head-hopping, which is changing character POV within the same scene. A new paragraph doesn't give an author the license to change character POV. Some well-known authors have earned the right to do this in their work, but new authors or mid-list authors will not be able to get away with it quite as easy. It's one of those unspoken rules a writer learns once they've hung around the publishing world a little while.

Always start a new scene or chapter identifying whose POV the story is being told. Do this by identifying whose thoughts are being read or who is speaking in the dialogue.

Example: Kate linked her fingers in her lap, wishing the moonlight would cast more insight upon Gregory's expression than the mere outline of shadows.
Even though two characters are named in the sentence above, it is clear that the piece is in Kate's POV since it is her thoughts we are reading. There is no doubt as to whose POV this scene begins in. Don't ever leave the reader in doubt.

Friday, July 10, 2009

History of Human Incubators

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

While at Myrtle Beach this summer we visited the Ripley's Believe it or Not Aquarium. Of all things, they had a display of various incubators, including the history of human incubators.

These infants were put on display in a store-front-like setting (as shown in the photo) and people were charged admission to see them. Having had my own daughter in a neonatal intensive care unit after her birth, I was torn between being disturbed by this and the fascinating story ideas that kept popping into my head. I did a little research to satisfy my curiosity and
realized the good intentions behind the financing and awareness these early inventors were trying to bring to light. Their early inventions could be contributed to the many preemies' lives that are saved today. It's been a long process to get our technology where we are, and I am very grateful.

As early as the 1860's - 1880's, European scientists were trying hard to come up with a human incubator that would decrease the mortality rate of preemie babies. In 1860 Tanier of France, constructed the first enclosed incubator similar to what was used for chickens, and is most similar to modern incubators of today. It was installed in the Maternity Hospital of Paris in 1881. Warning: These first incubators resemble what looks like an old-fashioned stove. (See photos in the links below.)

Berthod was Tanier's intern, who continued to study how to improve the incubators being used. He wrote and published an important thesis in 1887. His work proved the importance of preventing hypothermia of newborn infants.

French physician and the son of an inventor, Alexandre Lion, patented his incubator in 1889. It provided a see-through glass cabinet for the baby, as well as an automatic regulating heating system that didn't require constant personnel for maintenance. All staff needed to do was feed, wash and change the infants. It also contained a ventilation system that was better for the infants' respiratory system. A study was conducted and his invention received an endorsement of a 72% survival rate.

Lion's incubator was very expensive and few could afford it. Therefore, he developed a revenue building idea of hosting charity incubator events. These infants were actually put on display like in a store-front setting on busy boulevards throughout France. People were charged an admission fee. As early as 1896 and throughout the early 1900's, his exhibits were on display in various places and used as sideshows. It was advertised as "The Amazing Mechanized Mom".

While his methods may seem a little drastic compared to today's standards, it was a turning point for how preemies were treated. In the early 1800's it was thought that newborns needed to be "hardened" into life and given ice-cold baths. It was no wonder the mortality rate was so high. Doctors were reluctant to waste resources on preemies who had an even slimmer chance of surviving. As a result, desperate parents offered their babies to be in Lion's displays in exchange for free medical care in the hope of saving their child's life. These scientist showmen managed to indeed bring awareness to saving preemies lives and in the process were successful in advancing this part of the medical profession. The downside of their success encouraged money-hungry imitators that produced higher death rates until the sideshows began receiving wide criticism.

Other Sources:
Premature and Cogenitally Diseased Infants

The Lion Incubator

Monday, July 06, 2009

Using Prayer in Christian Fiction

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

When showing a character's faith, you will need to show his/her relationship with God. This includes how that person talks to God. Some of us think of prayer as long petitions of things we want and need, while others think of traditional prayers that sound really important with special words. Unless your character is a priest, these kind of prayers won't be necessary. Keep your characters' prayers brief and to the point, a sentence or two, but no more than a short paragraph.

Prayers don't always have to be inside a church, by one's bed side, or before a meal. Make it natural like real life. What situations have brought you to question God? Circumstances in life prompt us to seek Him. It could be the death of a loved one, a serious accident, healing for a loved one, help to pay a mountain of bills, guidance in making a huge decision. At those moments, did you stop and worry about what kind of words you needed to speak, or did you just let it out? Did you cry to Him? Shout at Him? Talk to Him as you would a friend? This is what your characters need to do.

Perhaps a character is relieved and joyful at how something turned out. Then show them speaking a sentence or two in a prayer of thankfulness or praising God. Using prayer for a Christian character is a great way to provide introspection and character growth.

There are times you might want to simply reference a prayer rather than showing the actual prayer. For instance, if a character is about to go to bed for the night, you might want to just mention that he said a prayer before he slipped into bed and then move on. You would especially want to do this if you'd already shown him praying before bed time in a previous chapter. Even though prayer is part of his nightly routine, you don't want to bore the reader by showing the same thing over and over. The reader will get the picture.
In everything that you write, be brief, but natural. Sometimes less, is more.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sullivan's Island Lighthouse

By Jennifer Hudson Taylor

My husband had to drive me down a dead end street to get this shot of Sullivan's Lighthouse. As he circled around, I hung out the window to capture it. The second photo below was taken from the air when we took a plane ride over Charleston. Click on it for a closer view and see if you can find Sullivan's Lighthouse.

This was the last lighthouse built in South Carolina in 1962. It was meant to replace Morris Island Lighthouse, which they are in the process of trying to save. Instead of black and white, it was originally painted orange and white.

Sullivan's Lighthouse is anchored by steel girders and a concrete foundation. It stands 163 feet tall and built to weather hurricanes. It is the only lighthouse in America that contains an elevator. It contains offices and is air conditioned. A back-up generator is located at the base.

To my disappointment, the lighthouse isn't open to the public. Coast Guard personnel use the former keeper's house as office space. This house itself has been restored. Three low-intensity lamps are used in the lighthouse, which have a range of 26 miles and are on an automatic rotation system. On bulb blinks every 5 seconds, a second bulb every 20 seconds, and the last one every 30 seconds.

Before Sullivan's Lighthouse, the office records of the US Coast Guard Historian show that a small red square structure was built in 1848. It stood on four brick piers 300 yards southwest of Fort Moultrie. It was rebuilt in 1872. Another beacon was added in 1888 and served as a red reflector rear light. On May 20, 1899 the lights were renamed as the South Channel Range Lights. If you're interested in what these earlier structures looked like, there are some black and white photos in the resource I used to obtain this information from the book, Lighthouses of the Carolinas: A Short History and Guide by Terrance Zepke.