How time flies when you are having so much fun creating and sharing memories with family! A year ago my family gathered together and visited Rock Ranch in The Rock, GA — Truett Cathy’s family resort which transforms into a winter wonderland for Christmas. (My oldest son is taking the photo)
I have so many memories and thankful moments over the past year to look back upon. hat about you? What are you thankful for?
With all the societal distractions invading our country lately, it may be more challenging than ever to look back on the memories we should focus upon this holiday season. Yet, that is my heartfelt wish for all of my friends and fans of my Shiloh Mystery Series. May we all find “Sanctuary” in the memories which bring us together with our families and friends this holiday season. We cannot choose how others react and behave, but we can choose how we may behave with others. May we leave a lasting “Testament” to a better way of treating others.
Finally, I look forward to 2020 with a cheerful heart full of optimism. I pray outside of a football outcome that may not have been to your liking, may the contagious gift of a genuine smile be the shared with all you greet and meet this holiday season. And, never forget to tell your family and dearest friends how important they are to you.
Flashback memories from a family-filled year of adventure and travel. For the smile they give Connie and me, I am most thankful.
To the everyday reader, they may mean little, if anything, but to the discerning bookseller, it may determine the extent of your relationship with them. There’s a growing swell of pushback with book retailers against Amazon/KDP. That attractive royalty rate from Amazon/KDP may, in fact, cost you lots of potential sales. Choose wisely, whether self-publishing or through a small press that takes advantage of POD production. There are two prevalent POS print options, Amazon/KDP or Ingram SPark/LSI.
Working with Ingram is necessary for selling through bookstores, which, more often than not, will not order books from Amazon/KDP. Amazon/KDP will not allow bookstores to return unsold books, something the trade has accepted for a long time and is a crucial option to independent bookstore owners. Without going too deep into the micro-economic considerations of a book retail business, floating the enormous expense of a book inventory forces book retailers to be acutely attuned to Amazon’s less than favorable retailer program. Under the best circumstances, it is not easy to make a profit in the retail bookstore marketplace. Authors should not promote their books with a blind eye to the plight of the book retailers today, thanks to Amazon.
“Learn the printing codes on the inside final page of your books for Kindle and Ingram. They are usually there, but they can be blank, making the printing source agnostic. Don’t accidentally walk into a bookstore with consignment books that show some Kindle-manufactured volumes, as marked on the final page. We wouldn’t want a homicide to occur.” (An excerpt from The Book Designer)
Your author-income depends upon not just the royalty rate but also the sales reach (volume of books sold). After you have decided upon where to publish your book, knowing how your printed book arrives on the market is now even more imperative. POD book production had gotten to be a most welcome, cost-effective means to get books printed. Quality has vastly improved and certainly reduces your upfront costs and associated risks of investing in and maintaining a book inventory. Know your publisher’s and/or your marketing strategy for getting books to readers. Convenience can cost you far more than you are led to believe.
My two-cents on the subject of POD sources
Consider Amazon as a necessary book retailer, but a retailer none-the-less. If you desire to engage the retail reach of brick-and-mortar bookstores, then understanding their profitability is paramount to building a win-win relationship. Would you walk into two competing book retailers in the same town and expect a warm reception from both store owners? Probably not. Well, Amazon is every book retailer’s primary competitor. And, Amazon/KDP printed books offer less profit for the book retailer and do not allow the retailer a book return option. Thus, if you, as the author, agree to a consignment arrangement on the backside of an author event at the store, your book will not find prime shelf space after you are long gone.
“Penny-wise, dollar foolish.”
You may have written a well-written, compelling story, and even have an eye-catching, well-conceived book cover, but no book sells itself. How you plan to promote and bring your book to market is paramount to your book’s ultimate success. What may appear upfront as profitable may more than likely prove very costly? Treat Amazon as the retailer you cannot ignore, but don’t ignore your other retail outlets and consider them as less important. Unless you have built up a huge name as an author with an enormous audience panting for your next book, your books will not sell themselves while you are glued to the world-wide-web and stuck in your comfortable chair at home.
News flash: Authors must invest in and actively engage in the marketing of their books to be successful.
POD book production is a gamechanger
I repeat–POD book production is a gamechanger and is here to stay, but do not overlook which POD printer you choose to use for your books. Amazon is a profit eating leviathan and plays both book printer/publisher and retailer, which for some may be convenient, and that is fine if that meets your book’s expectation. But, they have stirred up a lot of animosity by their voracious greed. Do not expect their retail competitors to provide you with a warm welcome if you carry into their store books printed by their most lethal competitor.
What about the reading audience? Should the reading audience care?
To all those you avid book-lovers whose money is spent in exchange for all the books that are behind this discussion: Please realize your pivotal role in this mortal competition. I hope you’ll patronize your locally owned bookstore and use online retailers only when necessary. Convenience costs more than you might think. Internet convenience influence affects so many others in your own community. Besides, your local bookstore should offer you an irreplaceable experience that engages all your senses whenever you walk into their brick-and-mortar confines. They should also help you discover new bestsellers in the making for your reading enjoyment.
How is it Margaret Mitchell, Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Erskine Caldwell, James Dickey, Pat Conroy and the legacy of so many other great Southern authors have endured long after they left us? And, today Southern authors like Fannie Flagg, Alice Walker, Kathryn Stockett, Jeswyn Ward, Charles Frazier, Greg Iles, Charles Martin, Rick Bragg, and even John Grisham are still securing their legacy for future generations.
Let’s not forget the endless stream of fresh literary voices beckoning us with new Southern-laced literary works that supply the timeless and borderless demand for memorable flawed heroes, victims, and villains depicted in colorful Southern settings dealing with 21st-Century challenges and changes.
What constitutes a great Southern story?
First of all, truth be told, I don’t know how to write the next best-selling Southern Novel. Of course, if I did happen to know how, I’d be too busy writing it and more than likely have my eyes cast on writing at least three. Three best-selling Southern novels would leave the kind of legacy that any writer would only dream about. But at least I know one when I see one. That’s because really great best-selling Southern novels are discovered, not written. In fact, none of the aforementioned authors began writing the next great Southern novel. They merely wrote what resided within them to write.
The indelible mark of Southern Author
Being reared in the South leaves an indelible mark on one’s soul where inspiration and motivation sprouts from fertile memories, the good and the bad, to write compelling stories. Aspiring writers with souls stained and strained growing up in the South cannot write anything else worthwhile. Southern stories are written experientially. An author might learn the mechanics of creative writing, but no classroom can replicate growing up and experiencing life in the South. There’s no better fodder for storytelling than lending an ear to the tall-tales of folks spinning yarns in the South. Such tales may be heard eating dinner, attending church, getting a haircut at a local barbershop, or at a beauty parlor for the women-folk, but let’s not neglect sitting on a neighbor’s porch.
The Southern Author Is Too Polite to Name Names
I have learned one thing in my sixty-eight years, fiction is just the truth and reality wearing a mask and being stretched a might to be more palatable, and often more plausible. You see, more than not, the truth just ain’t as believable as the tall-tales that follow.
Now there are certain trademarks of any Southern story, they revolve around food, family, friendships, faith, and football. Right off, if any story fails to mention the sipping, swallowing, or gulping of sweet tea, consider it suspect right away. Also, in the South, a coke may not mean a Coca-Cola, and whiskey didn’t originate here, but it was perfected here. In fact, the tales of Cooter Brown’s perpetual drunkenness is a Southern-rooted legend.
Grits, gravy, and greens are menu staples, morning, noon and night. Anything else worth eating is also usually fried. Peaches, pecans, and peanuts are the foundation of many epic desserts too.
In the South, Change Arrives Reluctantly
It may be the 21st-Century, however, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” are not derisive retorts but words of respect to our elders. Boys and grown men instinctively grab the door for a woman or young lady. Now, that’s not saying Southern gals don’t have spunk. Lord, just rile a Southern girl and you’ll learn right quick they invented sass. They also know, you know, you likely deserved it.
The 21st-Century Southern woman exited the confines of the kitchen and no longer remains in the shadows cast by men. She forges her own identity in society and dares men to catch up to her.
Some Traditions Linger
Of course, when someone approaches on a backroad, there will be a casual exchange of raised fingers atop their respective steering wheels. It’s an evolution of the tradition that declares in the South no one stays a stranger for long. Handshakes and howdies transform strangers into friends whether visiting or just passing through. What has changed is the inclusion of women in those customary exchanges.
But Some Traditions Remain Steadfast in the South
Last but not least, it’s downright hard to distinguish faith from football conversations. They both can offer the same fervor. In the South, the Lord’s Day is Sunday and everyone agrees that God graces every church, small or large, but Saturday, God sports our team colors, sits on our side of the field and favors our victories.
Now there’s a heap more we could wrangle back and forth about on this subject, but I reckon you’ve got the gist. We may not always be able to plainly define it, but we sure know when we have read a great Southern novel. When we come to the last page and close the book we feel sad because it ended.
T. M. Brown
Coming May 5, 2020, Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest, book three in the Shiloh Mystery Series. Watch for more news about book three in the coming weeks. But I can tell you, Theo just can’t seem to avoid being in the middle of the threats to the peace and tranquility of lil’ ol’ Shiloh. Some family trees get shaken and familiar characters face life and death decisions in the next story.
Which sways your book purchasing? Your sense of community or does the convenience of online ordering and delivery to your door carry that much weight that you only visit the local bookstore when you happen to be in the vicinity and want to kill a little time snooping?
In today’s tsunami of newly published books, for better or worse, how do you determine what is really worth investing your money and time? The incalculable number of titles on Amazon is beyond comprehension. Are you ever swayed by their promotional blurbs about “books you might like” or “these titles are the latest and best”?
Or, are you the discriminating reader who enjoys wandering into the local bookstore in search of the next best books to add to your stack of “to-be-read” titles? Do you enjoy spotting the highlighted books on the tables as you walk into the store or the end of rack displays? Do you enjoy touching and then scanning the publisher’s well-chosen words about what’s between the front and back covers? Are you a fan of book clubs and author discussions at the bookstore? Do you enjoy looking for that next new book and nascent voice that will attract you long before either makes some best-seller list?
What is the name of your go-to bookstore?
What makes your local bookstore so special?
What kind of author engagement do you enjoy the most? An author book-signing, a book reading, a book discussion, or a panel discussion? None of the above?
Do you have a favorite author that you enjoy reading and purchase his or her books on a regular basis?
What are your thoughts on audio books? Do you like a single narrator or multiple character voices?
Thank you for sharing this survey. And one final question: Do you value community or convenience more? Why?
Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
A prayer for all of us who struggle coping with this world: Lord, give me the wisdom to discern the things I can change in myself and others, and the things which I cannot, and thus need to patiently endure until your will be done. Without understanding this as the better way to walk through life our good deeds will not be enough.
Strive daily to be patient with what you deem as failures and weaknesses in others because we ourselves have our own share of shortcomings that must be endured by others. If we cannot be the kind of person we should be before others, how can we expect to be an influence to others?
Why should we expect perfection in others when we do not recognize and correct our own faults? We desire others be severely corrected when they stumble, yet we do not desire to be corrected for our faults.
Great freedom others seem to embrace and display displeases us, yet we will not have our own desires hampered. We support restraining the freedom of others, but we resist restraint of our freedom.
Who among us can claim perfection? Perfection may demand we endure suffering for the good of others. God decrees we should bear one another’s burdens, because none of us are without fault. None of us are free of burdens. None of us are sufficient to walk through life alone. None of us are wise enough to overcome on our own. We are created as social creatures. Thus, we should care for one another, comfort one another, help, instruct, and admonish one another.
When adversity comes, we should not retreat from it, rather reveal how strong we are when we help one another overcome. This world is full of faults. Some faults we carry within us, and some come our way as other people reveal their faults daily to us. However, God works even the faults in this world for the good of all in this world, no matter the source. Our responsibility before God and others is to endure the challenges that come before us and grow closer to God through those times in our life.
My daily prayer: Lord God, you alone know everything. Nothing catches you by surprise, especially our shortcomings. I open my heart, soul, mind, and spirit to you. Search me and reveal the faults that I must not only endure but be open to change within me. Help me to trust your handling of faults in others, and for me to face those faults. Father God, create a clean heart in me and use me for your kingdom purposes. Guard me against stumbling by judging others who stumble and fall. Help me to be more understanding and available to exalt them. Likewise, help me to share my burdens and help others bear theirs as well. May I learn to accept and endure the shortcomings in this world. Amen
Note: Shiloh Reflections are some of the devotional messages that aided Theo Phillips in the Shiloh Mystery Novels to face the challenges and conflicts he discovered in little old Shiloh.
Maintain [your] competence and discretion. My son, don’t lose sight of them. They will be life for you and adornment for your neck. Then you will go safely on your way; your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant. Don’t fear sudden danger or the ruin of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare.
Prov 3:21-26 (HCSB)
Those who are truly wise share common traits: Competence, Discretion, and Confidence.
The Importance of Competence
Being competent comes from not only knowing what one should know about any particular discipline, but as a key trait of a wise person, being competent means you know how to properly and rightly utilize the knowledge you have acquired. You want more than just knowledge but also the proper understanding to apply that knowledge in practical, everyday relationships and situations in life for the benefit of everyone, not just yourself.
The Importance of Discretion
A wise person understands the importance of Discretion which understands wisdom is more than just knowing how to do something right. A wise person also understands there is a right manner, right time, and right purpose to demonstrate Competence. Discretion prevents a wise person from taking advantage of others or doing something just because you know how to do something well. A discrete person considers the implications of their competence as it may affect others.
A Godly wise person considers relationships as more important than revelations of knowledge.
The Importance of Confidence
Beyond competence and discretion, one who has sought the wisdom that comes from God has an unshakable confidence about his or her life. Not only does a wise person know how (competence) and when to use (discretion) they also display the confidence to act in the right ways at the right time for the right purpose, even when their actions may prove dangerous to others. A wise person knows God is the source of his or hers confidence. A wise person acts without fear or reservation when they know they are using their godly wisdom for the right purposes, in the right manner, at the proper time, according to God’s wisdom, will and ways.
Competence + Discretion + Confidence = Godly Wise Person
A godly wise person knows there will be times when God uses them to confront and challenge the wrongs in this world for the good of others though that can come with a price. When a person has competence, discretion, and confidence, that person is a formidable force because, they know wisdom comes from God. They know there is nothing that a wise person cannot handle because God guides and directs all that a wise person does; the former fears and anxieties that held them back are gone. A godly wise person lives life with no reserve, no retreat, and no regret.
Is becoming a godly wise person what you desire? Seek after God’s will, way, and wisdom and you’ll discover the inseparable importance of competence, discretion, and confidence as God shapes you as a godly wise person.
Our Circle of Friends Should Spur Not Spurn Others
And let us…spur one another on to love and good deeds, and let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another… Hebrew 10:24-25
In the hustle and bustle of life, we may discover, if we take the time, there is at least one person that is hanging around our circle of friends who is looking to be asked to join you and your friends.
Why? Maybe, they feel left out or are merely curious, or even a bit jealous. Either way, they do not know what they must do to join you and your circle of friends.
Could it be you never took notice and extended an invitation?
Shiloh Reflections will be a regular in my Southern Ponderings as I identify the collection of key devotional messages found in the Shiloh stories that is the legacy beyond the mystery and intrigue.
What motivates people to want to join your circle of friends?
It could be pride: They desire to have what you and your circle of friends possess because they do not have it.
It could be fear: They are afraid they could be wrong about you and your circle of friends.
It could be ignorance: They simply do not know why they want to join but feel drawn to know more about you and your circle of friends.
Whatever their motivation, should it matter?
The fact is they have a need ripe to be spurred on and encouraged. Inviting them regardless of their motivation provides the opportunity for them to discover that your relationship with God makes your circle of friends so inviting. They will realize sooner or later that it has nothing to do with anything you and your friends have but what you share. In the end, it should never be because of who we think we are but who we represent.
Therefore our motivation for offering the hand of friendship should never be based upon what will be in our best interest, but for the one seeking our friendship. God providentially grows our circle of friends as we unselfishly connect with others and then spur and encourage one another. Fellowship and friendship are gifts we receive from others, and are necessities to our social well-being in this life.
Remember what Jesus is quoted as saying on the matter.
“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give [mercy and forgiveness], and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:27-38
How inclusive is your circle of friends? Have you offered genuine invitations to others? Do you extend the hand of friendship with sincerity? Does your attitude toward other reflect the same mercy and forgiveness that others have extended to you?
Our daily walk was never intended to be a lonely, lifelong sojourn. Fellowship and friendship offer an eternal connection found in the many “one another” encounters we experience each day.
Remember this final point, we are not responsible for the actions and attitudes of others unless we are the cause. How would you define your circle of friends?
September kicks off a busy Fall season of author events. My wife and I will be touring not only various venues in the Greater Atlanta area but also returning for a two-day author event with The Book Loft in Fernandina Beach and then back to my friends at The Bookshelf in Thomasville in the coming weeks. In the midst of it all, Hometown Novel Nights allows me to enjoy introducing and talking with new local authors before a growing curious audience in Hogansville and Newnan, Georgia. I also will be teaming up with my author-friend, Roger Johns in November for a discussion about “Our Enduring Fascination with Mystery & Suspense” at the new Story on the Square Bookstore in McDonough, Georgia.
My newest bookstore addition is right in my hometown of Newnan, Georgia with Southern Fried Books. and I’ll be signing books there September 20th during the Newnan Fall Art Walk. They have the largest inventory of my books too… Well, they are my exclusive hometown bookstore too. You can order signed copies from them to mailed to you as well.
Here’s my updated and latest schedule of Fall Author Events which gets fast and furious from here until Christmas.