Coming on September 16th at 6:30 PM, live at the Newnan Carnegie LIbrary’s spacious (socially responsible seating) Hometown Novel Nights presents Four Immensely talented and successful Rising Georgia-rooted Authors. Visit Hometown Novel Nights or Newnan Carnegie Library beginning right after Labor Day to register for this limited seating event. Books will be sold there so you can leave with signed copies in hand.
Register to attend in person for this outstanding lineup of Georgia-rooted authors:
September Guest Author–Kathy Nichols from Marietta, GA shared her latest novel, The Sometime Sister at Warm Springs Cellars
Labor Day Weekend Newnan Art Festival & Newnan Fall Art Walk, September 17th HNN \
Time crept. Minutes became hours. Every attempt to capture any semblance of actual sleep proved futile. Capitulation arrived shortly after four when I poured a cup of coffee and sat down in the living room.
The bulletin from last evening’s service bookmarked the passage Arnie referenced in his message, but my Bible soon rested open on my lap. I massaged my eyes and petitioned, “Okay Lord, what’re you trying to share with me?”
When I read one more time, “I have seen you in your sanctuary…” my thoughts went into overdrive. I lowered my Bible again, laid my glasses on top, and stared at the colorless shadows beyond the window.
Stumped, I placed my glasses back on my nose and shut my Bible. As the pages flopped together, the bulletin floated onto my lap. I slipped it inside the front cover just as the sound of a stifled yawn drew my attention.
Rubbing her eyes, Liddy mumbled, “How long have you been up?”
I got up from my recliner and pointed to the kitchen table. “Sit down, and I’ll pour you some coffee. Did I wake you?”
Liddy propped her chin on the palms of her hands. “Nooo… I rolled over to cuddle but found only your pillow. Anything wrong?”
I placed a cup of coffee in front of her, topped off my own and then sat across from her.
“No, nothing’s wrong. I couldn’t get rid of a dream that haunted me through the night, so I got up and read a bit. I hoped I might at least understand why I couldn’t dismiss it and fall back to sleep.”
Still groggy, she wrinkled her nose. “Hun, you’re just getting too stressed over this Jessie Masterson and John Priestly project of yours.”
“Just hold one sec. Let me show you something.” I fetched my Bible, opened it and pulled out the bulletin again to bookmark the passage, but my circled reminder, “Sanctuary,” caught my eye.
Liddy raised her head off her palm. “What’s the matter?”
“Hmm… you’re probably right. It’s just my imagination working overtime, I reckon.”
My lopsided grin lingered as I recalled why I wrote the reminder. “How would you feel ‘bout you and I looking into helping to restart Sanctuary?”
She pulled the bulletin from my grasp and carefully inspected it, and then inquired, “Do ya think Pete and the others would be interested? I mean, we literally couldn’t restart it on our own.”
“Of course not. I didn’t mean we’d lead it but offer support from behind the scenes. I bet Mary, Jeannie, and likely Phillip would be interested in the idea.”
Liddy fiddled with her cup in one hand, holding the bulletin in the other. “It actually could be a great idea. It’d serve as a remarkable legacy to Jessie. Not to mention, we could do it together.” Liddy grabbed my hands, kissed them, and looked back up with a confident smile. “Want some breakfast?”
“Yeah, but only toast for me. We’ve got Thanksgiving dinner at Harold’s to look forward to today.”
# # #
We left for Harold’s around one thirty. As we passed Adams Feed and Hardware, Liddy said, “Let’s not forget, we need to stop there. How about Saturday?”
“Absolutely. We’re going to need a bunch of new Christmas decorations this year anyway.”
Liddy craned her neck as we passed. “Hey! There’s the fresh load of Christmas trees still on the trailer too. Saturday… It’s a date.”
We followed Megan’s easy-to-read directions and turned onto River Road as we left town. A few minutes later we pulled in front of an impressive gated entrance.
“Well, I guess we’re here.”
I lowered my window and pushed the red call button on the speaker. A polite voice promptly responded, “One moment please.”
The black wrought iron gates crept open seconds later.
The oak-lined drive wound back and around to Harold’s two-story estate home complete with an oversized detached three-car garage. Harold’s secretary waited on the front steps as we exited our vehicle. She waved and greeted us with a warm smile.
Liddy and I walked hand-in-hand to the grand front entrance. “Megan… what a surprise,” I said with a slightly puzzled look.
Megan smiled and said, “Mister Phillips, good to see you again. This must be Missus Phillips.”
I glanced at Liddy’s surprised expression. “Liddy, this is Megan from Harold’s office. She’s the young lady who dropped off the directions that guided us here so precisely.”
Liddy offered her hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Megan. Your directions were most helpful. Thank you. Are you joining us today?”
Megan giggled beneath her hand, masking a coy smile. “Why yes ma’am. I live here.” She received Liddy’s hand and then declared matter-of-factly, “Harold’s my father-in-law.”
“Which Archer are you married to, if I may ask,” I said.
“Hank’s my husband. I believe you’ve met him.”
“Why yes. In fact, we’ve met all of Harold’s sons and can tell he’s quite proud of them all.”
We removed our coats in the foyer and admired the double stairwell leading upstairs from opposite sides of the expansive front entry. A wide hallway led into a massive great room with seating on each side of a floor to ceiling, stone open-hearth fireplace. Two sets of patio doors on either side provided access to the veranda. Panoramic window panes offered an unobstructed, breathtaking view of the manicured fenced yard, rolling hills, and distant meadows.
Megan broke the silence. “Beautiful, isn’t it? I just can’t get enough of it either.”
Liddy recovered from her open-mouth stare. “Is all this part of your family’s property? It’s absolutely breathtaking and beautiful, as is this house as well.”
Megan smiled with a rehearsed nod and pointed to two imposing tan suede leather sofas. “Please join me. Harold’s upstairs and will join us shortly. He asked me to keep you company.”
Liddy, a pro at small talk, put on her most polite, inquisitive smile. “Megan, excuse me, but I was just wondering if you and Hank have any children.”
Megan’s smile tensed. “No, ma’am. Not yet, but Hank and I expect to surprise Harold soon. We just celebrated our fourth anniversary, and hope to be in our own house that’ll include a nursery by the time we celebrate our next anniversary.”
I said, “I bet Harold will make a proud grandpa. There’s nothing like it.”
Megan wrung her folded hands, though her posture and tone appeared relaxed.
Liddy rescued Megan and asked about the new house.
Megan’s tentativeness eased as she spoke. “Hank and I plan to build on the property Harold set aside as our wedding gift.” She pointed out the picture window behind her. “You can’t see it well from here, but it’s just beyond those trees. It’s a beautiful piece of property with a view of Shiloh Creek, ideally suited to raise a family.”
I smiled and nodded.
“Mister Phillips, how many children do you have?”
“Please, Theo and Liddy.”
“Why thank you, Theo.” She turned to Liddy. “And, Liddy is such a pretty name. Is it short for Lydia?”
Liddy blushed as she nodded. “Yes, it is.”
Megan said, “Lydia’s one of my favorite names. In the Bible, Lydia was a strong and confident business women who helped launch a church.”
Liddy’s reddened cheeks grew as she smiled and sat an inch taller in her seat. She knew the story of Lydia from Philippi well and enjoyed the image of her namesake.
Liddy held up two fingers and said, “We have two wonderful grown sons, and they’ll be visiting Shiloh with their families for Christmas.”
“That’s wonderful. Bet you’re anxious and counting the days.” Megan sighed. “As for me, I was born and raised right here in good ol’ Shiloh. My mom and dad still live just outside of town. And since I don’t have any brothers or sisters, mom regularly harps about any news regarding the prospect of their first grandchild.”
Uncomfortable, awkward silence followed before I changed the subject. “I’m not sure if Harold said anything, but did you know I’m working on a story about Jessie Masterson? Since you were raised here, I’d love to talk about your experiences and memories related to Coach Masterson. I imagine he was at Shiloh High when you went there.”
Megan beamed with the mention of Jessie, but an exuberant laugh interrupted our conversation.
Harold looked down from the balcony rail. “Theo! Liddy! I see you’re enjoying the company of my charming and talented daughter-in-law.”
Liddy and I both rose to our feet as he approached. He shook my hand and gave Liddy a generous smile.
“Mista’ Harold, you and your guests, ‘bout ready?” said Harold’s matronly gray-haired African-American housekeeper. She stood patiently at the doorway leading onto the veranda wearing a traditional white broad collared maid’s uniform with a starched apron.
“Maddie, if you’re about ready out there, I reckon we’re ready.”
With a little huff, Maddie said, “Come on then. I’ve been waitin’ on you folks, Master Harold, and I’m sure these nice folks has been waitin’ on you.” She opened the door and pointed to a table all set for us.
Harold sat at the head of the table, and we sat across from Megan. A plump, partially-carved roasted turkey accompanied by butter beans, green beans, collards, mashed potatoes, a sweet potato casserole, dressing and both pumpkin and pecan pies covered the other end of the table.
Harold pulled a bottle of Chenin Blanc off the side cart behind him and popped the cork. He rotated the label for us to see.
I smiled. “Yes, looks like a nice wine choice, thank you, Harold,” and then he filled four crystal glasses and passed them to each of us.
I took a sip pretending to know a little about savoring wines. I offered a modest grin of approval. Liddy took a smaller sip and smiled politely towards our host before she placed the wine glass down and nonchalantly reached for her glass of tea.
“I’m glad y’all approve. Thought it’d be an appropriate complement to Maddie’s honey-basted turkey.” Harold extended his arms wide, drawing attention to Maddie as she prepared a plate for each of us.
As I waited for my plate to arrive, I said, “Harold, this is a nice treat, and the Lord certainly gave us a beautiful day to eat outside like this.” I then pointed to his immaculate lawn and gardens. “How do you find time to take care of all this? I’m jealous.”
Harold’s laughter filled the veranda. “I’m far too busy. We’ve got a regular crew that maintains the grounds around here for us. But Theo, it’s me who’s jealous. You’ve done wonders with the old Priestly home. It’s obvious, y’all don’t mind getting your hands dirty.”
Maddie laid a full plate in front of me, careful not to disturb the pan gravy that floated atop the cornbread dressing and mashed potatoes. “I hope you ladies and gentlemens are hungree.” She pointed at the far end of the table. “There’s plenty more but leave room for some pie, and I’ll be right back if ya needs me.”
Harold applauded. “Maddie, mm, mm…you’ve outdone yourself, once again. Thank you.”
Liddy said, “Yes. Thank you, Miss Maddie.” Maddie’s round cheeks blushed as she stepped away.
Throughout the meal, Harold directed the conversation and offered an endless history of the house and the property that had been passed down to him. He boasted about his family’s long history in Shiloh that began not long after the Civil War ended.
He looked at Megan with a twinkle in his eye. “And it looks like Hank and Megan will be the first of my sons to build their own home. I’ve little doubt that Megan’s ready to move into her own house after putting up with four men coming and going all the time.”
Megan‘s cheeks turned pink, but she continued to focus on the food in front of her.
After we finished eating, Maddie reappeared over each of our shoulders and set a white coffee carafe on the table. “Missus Phillips, would you like pum’kin or pee-kan or maybe a little of each with your coffee?”
Maddie served each of us with the same soft voice question. She wasted no time or motion as she efficiently tended to each of us. She then loaded each of our dirty plates along with the leftovers onto her wooden serving cart and rolled it away.
Between nibbles, Megan shared stories about serving as Harold’s administrative assistant. She left little doubt that she enjoyed the status of the position, and Harold glowed as Megan told stories about him.
At a point during the playful and respectful roasting from Megan, Harold pushed his chair out from the end of the table, grabbed his empty dessert plate in one hand and leaned toward me. “Theo, now you’ll see why I struggle with my weight.” A jolly laugh followed him to the other end of the table.
Megan’s stories continued as her eyes appeared to scold Harold.
“Ah come on Megan, it’s Thanksgiving. You know Maddie always serves me just a tiny piece anyway,” Harold said before he gobbled down a loaded forkful of pecan pie and tapped his belly. “Um, good. Don’t you agree, Theo?”
I looked at Liddy, leaned back in my chair and tapped my stomach. “As for me, if I ate another bite, I’d bust, not to mention Liddy will make me walk home.”
After our dessert plates disappeared, Harold stood. “Megan, why don’t you offer Liddy a tour of the house and the grounds while Theo and me take a drive around the property.”
Liddy smiled at Megan and nodded, then I looked at Harold and said, “Sounds great to me.”
Before Harold and I walked away, he said to Megan, “We’ll probably be a couple of hours. I’ve got my phone if you need to reach me.” Then he looked at me. “We’ll go in my truck if that’s okay with you?”
“Sure,” I said as I looked over my shoulder and saw Liddy and Megan disappear into the house. “Harold, you’ve got a great daughter-in-law.”
A slight grin appeared on Harold’s face. “If only you knew how exceptional she truly is. That boy of mine doesn’t deserve her. There’re times I wonder why she puts up with him. I hope they’ll settle down soon because I just couldn’t do what I do without her.”
Harold pushed his truck’s key fob as we approached the garage, and his black dually’s diesel engine roared to life. “Door’s unlocked. Hop in. You can just toss my satchel in the back somewhere.” Country music already filled the cab but thankfully more appealing to my ears than Hank’s taste.
I adjusted my seat and buckled up. “Harold, this is nice. I’m impressed.” I ran my hand over the personalized logo burnt into the chaparral leather that covered the center console.
“I put a lot of time in my truck. Being mayor and all the other stuff I’m involved with around town; I figured long ago that I might as well enjoy my ride, don’t you agree?” He maneuvered the huge dually onto the gravel road and drove us to what he referred to as the Pine Groves. When we arrived, we stretched our legs along the path that wound through the property.
Harold boasted about the work involved in the maintenance of a profitable harvest of timber. I admired the patience and persistence required to cultivate and harvest pine trees.
“Harold, clearly your family’s been a big part of this community, and you’ve well-established deep roots on this property and in town.”
“That’s true. The family still owns 500 acres, but going way back, we once owned two thousand of the most fertile acres that ever produced cotton and peanuts in these parts. There’s been an Archer on this land since General Sherman served as military governor of Georgia. Sadly, though, my great, great grandfather sold much of the property during some tough times that ravaged the plantation owners around here about 100 years ago. Although he did hold onto the most fertile acreage.”
“How did your family end up in Shiloh? It’s been my impression that your family’s always been here.”
Harold hesitated before continuing in a loud whisper. “Shh… we’ve Yankee roots. My family migrated from Pennsylvania. The story goes, not long after the war ended, my great, great, great grandfather heard about the abundance of fertile plantation land being auctioned off for taxes, so he sold his farm near Gettysburg, packed up and came here.”
The word “carpetbagger” crept into my mind, but I kept that thought to myself. “I imagine he bought the land for pennies on the dollar. Although much of the original land got sold off, I’m sure you’re still proud to one day pass your family’s land and heritage on to your sons.”
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.
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).
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest –the third and final book in the series is coming May 5th. Theo and Liddy meet Pepper, a young girl on a quest to find the last member of the only family she has ever known only to discover family she knew nothing about.
Stay tuned to learn more in the coming weeks leading up to the release of Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. As my publisher affirmed, this is the best of the three books. You can wait to read Purgatory, a suspense-filled mystery on its own, but you’ll only want to read the first two books after reading Purgatory… Subscribe today and be kept up to date as the launch date nears and the book tour dates are set!
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.
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?
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?
Alice Malsenior Walker was born on February 9, 1944, in Eatonton, Georgia. She was the eighth and youngest child of Minnie and Willie Lee Walker – struggling sharecroppers, but abundant in spirit and love.
Her father’s great-great-great grandmother Mary Poole was a slave forced to walk from Virginia to Georgia with a baby in each arm. Her mother’s grandmother Talluhah was mostly Cherokee Indian. Alice is deeply proud of her cultural heritage.
After graduating from high school in 1961, Alice attended Spelman College in Atlanta. Alice’s mother gave her three special gifts before she left home: a sewing machine for self-sufficiency, a suitcase for independence and a typewriter for creativity.
While at Spelman, Alice participated in civil rights demonstrations and was invited to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s home in 1962 at the end of her freshman year. She then attended the Youth World Peace Festival in Helsinki, Finland and traveled throughout Europe the following summer. This spawned her love for travel and encountering the many peoples and cultures of the world.
In August 1963 Alice traveled to Washington D.C. She couldn’t see much of the main podium but heard Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” address.
During her junior year, Alice received a scholarship to Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She became one of a handful of black Americans at the prestigious university.
While at Sarah Lawrence, her additional world traveling opportunities broadened her mind. During her senior year, Alice realized she was pregnant. Frightened and not knowing how to tell her parents, Alice considered committing suicide. She turned to poetry, trying to come to terms with her feelings and worst fears. Alice eventually chose to have an abortion.
During her recovery from the depression and anxiety she had suffered, Alice wrote a short story aptly titled “To Hell With Dying.” Her mentor Muriel Ruykeyser sent the story to publishers as well as to the poet Langston Hughes. To Alice’s delight, the story was published and she received a hand-written note of encouragement from Hughes. Alice was just 21 years old.
After graduating from Sarah Lawrence in 1965, Alice returned to Georgia and participated in the civil rights movement once again, but returned to New York City in the fall of 1965. But the struggle in the South beckoned her back, wherein during the summer of 1966 she again registered voters door-to-door in Mississippi where she fell in love with Mel Leventhal, an equally passionate Jewish law student who handled civil rights cases. She returned to New York city with him where he was attending law school.
While working on her first novel, Alice and Leventhal wed and moved back to Mississippi where he could pursue civil rights litigation. Despite threats of physical violence due to their inter-racial marriage, Alice worked as a black history teacher for the local Head Start program.
Alice continued her writing, accepted a teaching position at Jackson State University and published her first volume of poetry, “Once.” Walker became pregnant and finished her first novel “The Third Life of Grange Copeland” the same week her daughter Rebecca Grant was born.
Alice’s novel received literary praise but also criticism. The story involves the murder of a woman by her husband. Many black critics said she dealt too harshly with the black male characters in her book. Alice rebutted such claims, saying that women are all too often abused by men they love.
In 1972 she accepted a teaching position at Wellesley College where Alice began one of the first women’s studies courses in the nation, a women’s literature course. She also wanted to introduce her students to black women writers. In her search for material, she found Zora Neale Hurston, a much forgotten Harlem Renaissance writer. She would later edit an anthology of Hurston’s work and place a memorial on Zora’s unmarked grave in Florida.
Seemingly inspired by this new heroine, Alice wrote fervently. In 1973 she published her first collection of short stories, “In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women” and her second volume of poetry “Revolutionary Petunias & Other Poems.”
After numerous awards, she became an editor for “Ms. Magazine,” and by 1976 published her second novel, “Meridian.” The book chronicled a young woman’s struggle during the civil rights movement. At the same time, her marriage to Leventhal ended.
“Meridian” received much acclaim and Alice accepted a Guggeheim Fellowship to concentrate full-time on her writing. She left “Ms.” and moved to San Francisco where she still maintains a residence today. There Alice published her second book of short stories, “You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down,” and in 1982 finished “The Color Purple,” which earned her the Pulitzer Prize, American Book Award and escalated Alice to worldwide fame.
When the movie “The Color Purple” premiered in her hometown of Eatonton, Alice received a hero’s welcome and parade in her honor. Her sister Ruth began “The Color Purple Foundation” which does charitable work for education.
In 1984 Alice published her third volume of poetry, “Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful.” She followed this in 1988 with her second book of essays, “Living By the Word.” In 1989 she published her epic novel “The Temple of My Familiar.”
Alice next published another volume of poetry, “Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems.” In 1991 she published a children’s story, “Finding the Green Stone.” This was soon followed by her fifth novel “Possessing the Secret of Joy” which chronicles the psychic trauma of one woman’s life after forced genital mutilation. She also wrote a companion book “Warrior Marks” chronicling her experiences.
In 1996 Alice published “The Same River Twice: Honoring the Difficult” in which she describes through essays and journal entries the loss of her beloved mother and her own battle with Lyme disease and depression. The book also contains Alice’s own version of the screenplay to “The Color Purple” and many of her notes and remembrances from the making of her novel into a film.
The next year Alice published another non-fiction title “Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer’s Activism” with more essays inspired by her ever-expanding political activism. Alice remains an outspoken activist on issues of oppression and power and championing the victims of racism, sexism, and military-industrialism.
In September 1998, Alice published “By the Light of My Father’s Smile”. Her first novel in six years, the book examines the connections between sexuality and spirituality. The multi-narrated story of several generations explores the relationships of fathers and daughters.
Alice’s newest work is a collection of stories called “The Way Forward Is With a Broken Heart.” The stories combine autobiography and fiction as Alice examines the bindings and breakings of relationships with friends and family and lovers.
Alice Walker truly exemplifies the power of the Southern Voice in American literature.