The Appeal of Southern Novels, Past and Present

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.

The South offers fuller moons and windier back roads for a reason.

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.

So much of the South is found any evening on the front 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  

 

One earns the other on your shelf
Two books linked with their unforgettable setting and colorful characters

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.

What is Hometown Novel Nights?

Event Venues in Hogansville and Newnan, GA
Three Author Panel each month talks about themselves, their writing journey, and their books.
Follow the link to a brief video introduction to Hometown Novel Nights

Authors looking to participate should follow the link above to Hometown Novel Nights Facebook page and message us or email TM Brown directly.

Hometown Novel Nights is expanding in 2020 to Senoia, GA and making its program available to bookstores throughout the Greater Atlanta area. Our goal is to connect local authors with local audiences in an engaging, interactive, and informative format to introduce homegrown talent. Who knows which of the authors at Hometown Novel Nights will become the next National Bestselling Author from Georgia?

The First Page Matters

The First Page Matters in the Sensory Appeal Test

Right after a potential reader sets their eyes on your book cover, the next critical test to pique the interest of the reader is page one of the story. Does it beg the reader to read more?

For this reason, I begin and end writing and editing with the first page. Like in real life, “first impressions matter” in establishing relationships. We don’t often get many second chances. Neither do our books should the first impression fail to pique a curious reader’s interest.

As an independent author, my books do not have the advertising and promotional blitz advantage afforded by the top publishers hawking their stable of best-selling authors. T. M. Brown does not have the name recognition of best-selling authors, such as Grisham, Patterson, Baldacci, Karon, Blackstock, etc. Like the myriad of other new books published this year, the majority lacking the deep pockets and name recognition, success boils down to passing the sensory appeal test.

What is the sensory appeal test? Does the book cover stand out when on display amongst the notable NYC published best sellers, or does it shrink almost unnoticed, overshadowed by more noticeable book covers?

Maybe its the competitive nature within me, but I desire my books to compete among the notables, the best-sellers. I prefer my books to be on the eye level front shelves in the bookstore; not relegated to shelves set aside in the back of the store. Why is that important? Okay, T. M. Brown is not a household name in the literary world, but when my book covers are displayed beside notable names that readers seek, Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return are exposed to more potential readers. BUT, now the sensory appeal test begins.

When either of my book covers catches the eye of a perusing reader and they pause to slide the book off the shelf for a closer look, the reader’s keen senses in the next few seconds decide the fate of my book. Without the notoriety of the more familiar author Dan Brown, it is the front cover which then earns an extended feel of the book.

My publisher utilizes heavier stock paper to print its books, and it is noticeable to the feel. The reader then flips to the back cover and peruses the carefully edited snippets about the book. If the book cover has passed the initial sensory appeal test the reader invests another critical moment and thumbs through the pages before eyeing the first page. Those first 200 or so words reign supreme over the next few seconds as the reader weighs the quality of the content of this interesting new author’s novel. Should by chance the reader flip the page or closes the book but runs their hand over the cover once again, chances are a decision is underway. In that brief moment, the weight of the first page matters.

Now It’s Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. What do you think? How much time do you give to selecting out a good novel to read? Are you narrowly focused on tried and tested bestsellers? Are you a reader who more often than not feels dissatisfied by the novels being hyped and peddled by the big New York City publishing houses.  Sadly, there is more and more pressure for the assembly production of novels by notable authors. They are easy to recognize because the author name takes up the top half of the front cover. They are promoting the author’s reputation, not the story inside.

So how do my books stack up? Do the first pages cause you to consider reading more?

Roebling Point Books & Coffee, Covington, KY

Sanctuary, page 1

Testament, page 1

To order either of these, if you are not able to find a copy at your local, go to TMBrownAuthor.com’s Bookstore Page

or follow the links below:

Find your next book or local bookstore

SIBA Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance – Authors ‘Round the South Supporter

For Kindle editions, go to:

Lightning Bugs v Fire Flies?

Fireflies or Lightning bugs?

Lightning bugs or fireflies, which is correct?

In the third upcoming installment of my inspirational Southern mystery series, little ol’ Shiloh will be hosting their annual Spring festival, but I have struggled in providing the right name for the festival.

I decided to put aside naming it the Shiloh Cotton or Peanut Festival – they usually are Fall events anyway after the harvest. Camilla, GA hosts their Gnat Days Festival; Thomasville, GA has their Rose Festival; Azaleas are celebrated in Valdosta, GA; Fire Ants are welcomed in Ashburn, Ga. So after researching all the Spring festivals in South Georgia, it’s come down to naming Shiloh’s annual Spring festival either the Lightning Bug or Firefly Festival. However, even Theo and Liddy are in disagreement about what to call them luminous nighttime critters…

According to a linguistic study conducted at NC State (see the map below), most of Georgia as well as throughout the peanut & cotton Deep South, its a coin flip which term is most prevalent, but, as Theo argues, most of the South refer to them critters as lightning bugs.

Help me to name Shiloh’s Spring Festival.

Are you a lightning bug lover or a firefly person?

 Green areas – predominantly firefly; Blue areas – predominantly lightning bug; Pink areas – interchangeable with names.

Your feedback will help Shiloh name its Spring Festival!

If you haven’t read either Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories or Testament, An Unexpected Return, head over to the bookstore page and take advantage of the free shipping offer on the paperback editions.

Don’t forget to support the Georgia Writer’s Museum in Eatonton, GA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Novel Idea Author Event

Here are some photos and a video from a recent participation as a part of a troupe of authors participating in Alpharetta, GA for “A Novel Idea – Author Evening.”

Here’s Chapter Two from Testament, An Unexpected Return that I used in the reading to the audience Sunday night.

Testament Chapter Two Reading

One earns the other on your shelf
Two books linked with their unforgettable setting and colorful characters

ACFW Author Interview, July 2, 2018

 

Interview with T. M. Brown

(Click the hot link above to see the full interview at the ACFW webpage)

T. M. “Mike” Brown has recently released his second novel, Testament, the sequel to the award-winning, Sanctuary.

Welcome, Mike. What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
Life offers unexpected twists and turns, but God designed this roller coaster ride we refer to as life. At every twist and turn lies a choice to be made – some clear-cut and others not so much, but each decision usually rests between what is right and what may seem best. Whether what is right and what appears as best are compatible or in conflict, we should always trust what is right and allow God to use our circumstances for His glory, even if the choice embarks us onto an uncharted and uncertain path. It’s amazing how our faith strengthens when our future appears bleak, and shadows lurk at every turn we can see.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Never allow your judgment to be clouded by fancy promises and lots of smiles and friendly handshakes. Do your due diligence. The publishing journey entails what appears to be unwelcome pitstops and painful advice. There are no shortcuts to success. Embrace the pitstops and opinions provided, and invest in and trust your editor. Proofread before you submit to your publisher and again after they hand you the advance reader copy of your book. Take the extra time to proof carefully. It’s kinda like inspecting your child before his or her first prom dance.

How do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
As a former preacher and teacher, my faith and spiritual walk played a sizable part in deciding my stories. I decided to write to the broad audience and use Southern small-town life as my setting so it would naturally interject some of my faith values and spiritual dilemma decision-making without preaching a good story. Those who have a firm church foundation will get a slightly different take on my stories than a non-churched reader. I have found this to be very accurate in book club discussions by the nature of the questions and responses shared. I am a firm believer that we should eagerly cross the bridge to meet people where they are at in life without casting judgment, and hopefully bonding on familiar ground. In the end, I pray those seeking God no matter their background will hear a message that helps them in their search.

On a quick note: The most memorable portions of the biblical narrative are not verbatim verses we struggle to memorize but the stories and parables we learn early in life that speak about God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
That is a tough one. Seems something new is around every corner. The celebrity aspect makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable. However, a better answer would be the cumulative moments that have created memories of how my wife and family have been with me throughout the journey. Connie, my wife of the past 45 years, travels to every event and invests her talents to help make each event special for everyone we meet. For this reason, I believe the most significant moment of my writing/publishing lies yet around the next corner.

What have you learned from writing a sequel?
The sequel is always more comfortable to write than the first! There was so much I learned writing Sanctuary. First of all, I did not have a sequel in view when writing it. It wasn’t until some of my Beta readers urged me to write a sequel and my publisher then asked if I would consider it too. Thankfully, my editor and writing coach smiled and remained on board for the year it took to complete the sequel. A far cry from the nearly 2-1/2 years for the first.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I write what I know best. I love Southern time-lost towns. They offer the most intriguing settings and indeed the most entertaining character opportunities. Besides my father and his parents had country roots in Georgia, and through the writing of my stories I reconnected and recognized why my father raised us as he did through my siblings and me were raised in suburban settings and far from the countryside he used to talk about. I miss my father and grandfather but found in writing my stories many long-forgotten memories, and tall-tales about our family surfaced and became a part of my stories.

You have a significant amount of Biblical, theological, and literary history featured in the background story for Sanctuary. How did this passion for history come about?
One cannot look to the future without knowing where you have traveled from. I learned at the U. S. Coast Guard Academy, you plot your ship’s course beginning from where you’ve traveled to where you want to go. My love for history is quite the same. If you neglect the past, you’ll most likely make the same mistakes and continue to wander off course. In seminary, I majored in Church History which has helped me to teach biblical studies from the position of knowing the context of the biblical passages to understand and apply the content to life today. In Testament, I added more history to my little town of Shiloh because I believe, what has played out in the past ultimately shapes what and why the future reveals. It is writing the context to explain the content of the present story…

What led you to choose the genre in which you write?
My grandkids will read my stories more readily than my biblical writing and sermons, or any of my expository papers about my beliefs. So, as I said above, my wife reminded me the value of stories and parables which planted the seed for what turned out to become the Shiloh mystery stories.

Of course, someday I may sit down and rewrite to publish some of my biblical studies as I had planned, but for now, I’m enjoying entering lil’ ol’ Shiloh with all its colorful and quirky characters whispering in my head nearly every day. Besides, I can work through Dr. Arnie Wright, Shiloh’s Baptist preacher boy, to communicate valuable messages I’d like to share.

How do you feel the setting a small town differs from a more suburban or urban setting? What do small towns offer that the suburbs might not?
That’s easy. Faith, family, food, and yes, even football have a life of its own in a small southern town. Church-life is more social and connected by bonds of multi-generational families. Country cooking is the grease that spins tall-tales faster and spreads gossip further. Maybe it’s the sweet tea, peach cobbler, fried chicken, smoked ribs, grits, and handmade biscuits. Of course, cooking in the kitchen is an art, a way of life in the country that suburbanites or citified folks just don’t rightly understand. In the small-towns, life just moves at its own pace, and it’s the seasons, the sun rising and setting, and the weather that dictates what any particular day holds. In small-towns, knowing other people’s business ain’t being nosey, it’s just neighborly. As a result, there are less locked doors and more handshakes shared in small towns.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?
Sharing time with my family, mainly my five grandkids. They’re growing up faster with each new day. When not with the grandchildren, Connie and I enjoy our expanding author network and find opportunities to help other aspiring writers when we can.

What books are on your nightstand right now?
Baldacci’s, The Fix right now, but Terry Kay’s, The Kidnapping of Aaron Greene is next up. Of course, my reading takes second place to my writing so I don’t read as much as I would like.

Finish this statement: In the future, I will…
Hopefully look down from heaven and smile as my granddaughter shares the book her “Poppy” wrote with her granddaughter. She’ll laugh as she points to where she makes her cameo appearances in my stories along with her brothers and cousins, and of course, “Grammy” too.

Any parting words?
Enjoy the journey on which you are engaged. Laugh at yourself and with others. Success is a journey, not a destination, and comes sans any shortcuts. Allow God the final word on all decisions you get to make in life.

___________________________

Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having an active imagination and a flair for the dramatic. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who works in the health & wellness and personal development industries, helping others become their best from the inside out. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Colorado. They have a daughter and son, and a Shiba Inu-mix named Nova. She has sold over 20 books so far, three of which have won annual reader’s choice awards. She is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. www.amberstockton.com.

Testament, An Unexpected Return (ISBN 9781641110846)
Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (ISBN 9781641110730)

Go to the bookstore tab to order your copy of either or both novels. Available in Kindle or Paperback. You can also email me to discover the nearest indie bookstore to you to get your copies as well.

 

  Local Indie Bookstore Finder

 Order directly from Mike’s Publisher

Summer Reading Limited Offer!

Before I reveal a very special limited time offer:

NOTE: There’s something special brewing regarding my Shiloh series stories. Stay tuned for more announcements about the expanding distribution news in the month of June! Palmetto Publishing Group is growing in its reach to connect readers, booksellers, and authors.

In the meantime, please visit your local bookstore; if they do not have either of my books on their shelves yet, they can easily order a copy. More and more independent bookstores are being added weekly to the list who have or will be hosting one of my author events and will stock my books.

One earns the other on your shelf
Two books linked with their unforgettable setting and colorful characters.

In the meantime, FOR A LIMITED TIME, get your copy of SANCTUARY, A LEGACY OF MEMORIES for only $2.99 (KINDLE on Amazon) or through my webpage’s bookstore for the Book Club Price of only $15.25, a savings of $1.70 from even its new $16.95 retail price. And, this limited-time, exclusive offer includes free postage! Save time and money… All orders placed on my bookstore webpage are handled via safe and secure PayPal services.

HURRY! This offer expires as of FATHER’S DAY, June 17th!

For the retail price of $15.95, you can order a signed copy of TESTAMENT, An Unexpected Return and it will arrive signed, postage prepaid.

BEST DEAL! Order both Sanctuary & Testament for only $32.00, includes postage under this limited-time, exclusive offer for orders placed through my bookstore page. 

What do you plan to read this Summer?

Go to my bookstore page and order today! Or go to the Amazon link for your Kindle options…

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: I hope you will also sign up to receive future updates and Southern Ponderings from yours truly. To comply with the changing privacy concerns, I would like to confirm that at no time will I ever misuse or abuse your personal information. Your email subscription is strictly for receiving periodic updates from this website or my coachbrown.org  webpage. If at any time you wish to unsubscribe, I will not be offended. I am like you and only wish to receive in my email materials that interest, entertain, or inform me. Email me at mike@tmbrownauthor.com with any questions or concerns.

Have a fun and safe summer! I also hope to meet and greet you personally at one of my upcoming author events in the coming weeks and months! In the meantime, I hope you’ll take advantage of this limited offer to get Sanctuary. I am wagering like other before you, once you read Sanctuary, you’ll be hooked and will want to continue reading about Theo and Liddy’s adventures in lil’ ol’ Shiloh.

If you are on Facebook, please visit my author page there as well. Like and follow my page to receive daily updates and more information about my author related activities.  I am also on Instagram too. Stay up to date and connected to the latest news about T. M. Brown and his books.

Don’t forget to support the Georgia Writer’s Museum in Eatonton, GA.

 

Want to know my “Secret Sauce”?

Click the link below to uncover the “Secret Sauce” that motivated me and brought my wife Connie alongside to bring the Shiloh stories to life.

What I began as a fun project with a small targeted audience of family and close friends blossomed into a far-broader audience than either my wife or I imagined. My publisher, Palmetto Publishing Group has been fantastic, providing the resources and quality books that rival any in a bookstore. They are expanding the reach of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return thanks to their parent company’s resources with added distribution and marketing – Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC.

One earns the other on your shelf
Two books linked with their unforgettable setting and colorful characters

However, in the end, I need your assistance and support. Here’s what you can do to help stir the “Secret Sauce.”

  1. Purchase your copy of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return – either Kindle or Paperback, individually or together.
  2. Let others know about the books and what you thought about them. Of course, writing a review on places like Amazon or Goodreads or even on my website’s Review Page is most welcomed, BUT remember, word-of-mouth amongst friends and family always works the best.
  3. Order one or both books for a friend or family member who you believe would enjoy them as a gift.
  4. When you walk into your locally-owned bookstore, ask for the books by title. If they don’t have either on the shelf, tell them a little about the books. Suggest they contact me about arranging an author event.
  5. Simply forward this email to others you know who might enjoy reading new, “all-audience” Southern mystery/suspense stories. Suggest they subscribe for future posts and updates about my third and final book in the Shiloh series, Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (Fall 2019).
  6. Explore my Event page and bring friends to one of my upcoming events near you.
  7. Direct your friends to follow me on my Facebook Page (@TMBrownAuthor) and of course, do likewise if you have not done so as well.

T. M. “Mike” Brown

Now, please enjoy the link below found also under my About the Author Page of my webpage… My Secret Sauce resides in A Legacy of Love.

Shiloh Mystery Stories, A Legacy of Love

Testament’s Book Launch Whirlwind First Week

Testament’s Book Launch in Review

From Dahlonega to Newnan to Sale City to Thomasville, we traveled Georgia from one end to the other greeting old friends and making loads of new ones at each stop of our busy first week of the book launch. Enjoy a taste of the sights and sounds of our first FANtastic week introducing Testament, An Unexpected Return (2018), the sequel to Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (2017).

Shiloh Art Contest Winner, P. Giles, Newnan

Bridging the storylines
Enjoyed sharing the ongoing story of my Shiloh characters.

Quintessential Shiloh Image brought interest during the launch
“Small Town” painting by P. Giles became the hands-down winner of our Shiloh Art Contest.

Gotta have the sequel!
Some folks traveled over an hour to get their copy of Testament. Thanks, Tara of Carrollton.

Shiloh's Four-legged Hero
Unsung hero of testament, Ringo

Birthdays are always fun during the launch events
Sanctuary celebrated one year, while Testament just got started

Visited old friends for dinner at Lost Creek Steak & Seafood in Sale City, GA. This mural speaks volumes about rural South Georgia life changes. During the evening we met several more new Book-lovers who became new friends too.

Posted by T. M. Brown on Saturday, March 31, 2018

Who says a painting doesn’t speak? This mural is in Sale City at our favorite restaurant owned by dear friends. Why did I choose the setting for Shiloh?

One earns the other on your shelf during the launch
Two books linked with their unforgettable setting and colorful characters

Shiloh enjoys its vittles
Basket of Shiloh Goodies went to Rena in Newnan

Images sell the stories during the launch
Our well-traveled display

Shadows of the Past can never be ignored
The Shiloh Mystery series takes its cast of colorful characters into the suspense-filled story of Testament in the second installment.

http:/https://www.facebook.com/TMBrownauthor/videos/1764399896916082/

Sanctuary got me invited, Testament became the hit!
Dahlonega Regional Writers provided the first venue to share Testament.

Book launch began in Dahlonega
Regional Writer at Dahlonega

Book launch required teamwork!

Book launch teamwork
Connie’s smile is my secret sauce…

The summer season is right around the corner. Have you thought about what you’ll read on the beach, poolside, or rocking on that cabin porch? Why not join the bandwagon that’s discovering the delightful mystery and the “wrinkle-filled suspenseful” sequel that will keep you longing for time-lost small-town life again.

T. M. Brown

Save buying both books!
Buy both together. You’ll thank me later. Checkout the Special price deal on my link.