When I began researching my fictional South Georgia town, aptly named Shiloh, I wanted to understand how a county seat with a beautiful antebellum courthouse could lose its status. How could a revered courthouse become merely a symbol of the town’s past but become only a city hall as the power in the county shifted eastward to a more thriving and successful town full of tourists, shopping malls, and sprawling neighborhoods?
History revealed the political wrangling during the routing and building of the highways in Georgia decided the fate of many Georgia small cities and towns. The demographic of counties shifted within a decade or two after the highways snaked their way South a century ago. And, later again when in the 50s-70s, the Interstate Highway System sped tourists down its concrete corridors. Progress is most often welcomed without considering its long-term impact on the greater population left behind. Shiloh reflects such a left-behind community–scarred by the changes of its past–yet comfortable remaining a step or two behind all the changes of the 21st-Century. Understandably, the residents of Shiloh embrace time-lost traditions while creeping forward in time.
Might I suggest a little history lesson that might appeal to most folks about the changes brought on 100 years ago as highways and automotive travel reshaped Georgia and the Old South? http://georgiahistory.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/dixie_hwy.pdf
I invite you to fall in love with little old Shiloh. Though the stories are set in contemporary times, there’s a time-lost feel throughout that will assuredly draw your curiosity as to where Shiloh would exist if it were real today. Visit the bookstore for quick links to all three of the Shiloh stories. Fall in love with not only the colorful and memorable characters wrestling with deep secrets, conflict, threats, and of course modern changes creeping into their sleepy rural community but also discover how Shiloh also becomes a key character in each story.
Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (2017) – April 2020, Hearthstone Press release
Testament, An Unexpected Return (2018) – April 2020 Heartstone Press release
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (revised release, May 26, 2020) – Hearthstone Press
Purgatory Kindle & Paperback editions coming soon… In the meantime, check out a couple of advance blurbs regarding the best and final book in the Shiloh series. Subscribe for advance purchase information and links.
If you’ve never treated yourself to a novel by T.M. Brown, I recommend you start turning the pages of Purgatory, which in my estimation is pure literature. This story unfolds once again amid the patchwork of furrowed cotton and peanut fields of the South Georgia Christian community of Shiloh, where the townsfolk are getting ready to celebrate the annual Lightning Bug Festival — ol’ downhome country fun at its finest. But a storm is about to erupt. While folks fret they might lose their mayor to the Congressional swamp-water intrigue of Washington, an orphaned teenage girl appears on the scene in search of a mother who is long dead. But when one of Shiloh’s citizens purchases an armored limo with a checkered history at a Sheriff’s used-car auction, the town’s tranquility is shattered by the accumulation of dead bodies and broken hearts. Here’s a story that will keep you reading throughout the wee hours.
- Jedwin Smith, author of I AM ISRAEL, Our Brother’s Keeper, and Fatal Treasure
Mysteries beset the citizenry of a small southern town that exudes “contagious, country-fried wholeness.” T. M. Brown peels back the layers of those mysteries like one peels an onion. As you approach the finale, better hold on to your hat!
Jameson Gregg, Georgia Author of the Year, author of Luck Be A Chicken, a comic novel
The first two books are now available wherever books are sold, and advance orders for Purgatory will be soon available. Subscribe to my newsletter and then watch your email for exclusive offers or go on my Facebook or Instagram accounts for the latest news.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed Shiloh’s relevant history lesson and trust this current health crisis will end soon and business will gradually return to normal. I am presently praying for every small business and especially the bookstores struggling through this nightmarish calamity. I look forward to my upcoming book tour with optimism that will begin in early May (hopefully).
Mike, aka T. M. Brown
An excerpt from Testament, An Unexpected Return – written in 2016 but the message in the preacher’s homily to the folks in Shiloh is so relevant today…
Chapter Three -“Tug-of-War Sermon” (Testament, An Unexpected Return)
Arnie draped his navy blazer across the chair behind the pulpit, rolled-up his sleeves and loosened his red, white and blue tie. Undaunted by the church’s aging air conditioner, he plunged into the sermon. Twenty minutes in, Arnie paused and took stock of the sanctuary aflutter with bulletins flapping. He motioned for Mary to ready herself at the piano.
Arnie sipped from his water bottle, yanked a monogrammed handkerchief from his hip pocket and dabbed the nape of his neck and forehead. He closed his black leather Bible and stepped to the edge of the platform.
“As much as I’d like to complete my holiday homily, I’ll conclude early today.” He slid his finger from holding his place in the Bible as he gazed upon our relieved faces.
Arnie took another long swig of water and cleared his throat. “My dear friends and church family, we have enjoyed a wonderful Independence Day weekend. But lest we forget, even in our beloved Shiloh we cannot escape the mounting crisis America faces. Our country and community are being yanked and pulled in a tug-of-war not much different from what we witnessed at the Jubilee, except on a grander scale with far-reaching significance. On one end, staunch traditionalists clinging to the past stubbornly hunker down straining against the opposing end of the rope gripped by determined progressive visionaries pursuing changes for a brighter future. How can such a struggle be good for all of our people? Without God’s indubitable blessing, the America we know and love, and the Shiloh we likewise know and love, will surely stumble and succumb to the infighting.”
Arnie lifted his Bible over his head. “Our future rests in God’s hands alone. Each day, God proves that we can hold fast to our past while envisioning a better tomorrow. God uses our tug-of-war battles to safeguard the quantity and velocity of the inevitable changes. Thankfully, God has twisted the strands of the tug-of-war rope to withstand the back and forth strain of our fickleness.”
Arnie waved his Bible from side to side. “Regardless of which side you choose to stand on, rest assured our struggles are for the good of all who love and trust God. May all of us embrace the struggles caused by our differences as God’s way of making us stronger for the challenges that lie ahead for our country and community.”
Modest relief arrived as we entered the main foyer. The wide-open doors at each end provided a slight breeze as we mingled among the few people not ready to venture into the sunshine.
Stationed at the main entrance, Arnie clutched his handkerchief in one hand and greeted members as they filed past with the other. Judy stood beside him in a blue and yellow, sleeveless summer dress and showed little ill effects from the uncomfortable, humid conditions. She kept the line moving, smiling and whispering to each person as they exited and sometimes used a slight, gentle nudge to prevent anyone from lingering too long.
As I appreciated the teamwork of my pastor and his wife, Martha grabbed my elbow and looked at Liddy. “How about y’all meet us at Bubba’s? Sam and Susanna are going. We’re about to invite Arnie and Judy as well.” Martha then eyed me. “I know you’re game. What do you say?”
This is not a blue or red, progressive or conservative, issue — it’s an issue with the nature of all folks. We innately argue over whether our glass is half-full or half-empty, although the same amount of water resides in the glass. Maybe little old Shiloh can teach us all a lesson on how to move on from wanting to be right to do what is right for the good of everyone. T. M. “Mike” Brown
I welcome your feedback. Thank you, and I pray our country will recover long after we move on from the current health crisis we face.
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.
POD codes on the final page of your book matter.
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.
T. M. Brown, Southern Author
On Facebook visit TMBrownAuthor
Why Are Southern Novels Borderless and Timeless?
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.
Community versus Convenience
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?
Enduring Faults in this World
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.
Competence, Discretion & Confidence
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.
Inside the Shiloh Mystery Stories, which character(s) demonstrate what it means to be a godly wise person?