Fictional Towns and Settings are inspired by REAL PLACES.
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?
Our Circle of Friends Should Spur Not Spurn Others
And let us…spur one another on to love and good deeds, and let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another… Hebrew 10:24-25
In the hustle and bustle of life, we may discover, if we take the time, there is at least one person that is hanging around our circle of friends who is looking to be asked to join you and your friends.
Why? Maybe, they feel left out or are merely curious, or even a bit jealous. Either way, they do not know what they must do to join you and your circle of friends.
Could it be you never took notice and extended an invitation?
Shiloh Reflections will be a regular in my Southern Ponderings as I identify the collection of key devotional messages found in the Shiloh stories that
What motivates people to want to join your circle of friends?
It could be pride: They desire to have what you and your circle of friends possess because they do not have it.
It could be fear: They are afraid they could be wrong about you and your circle of friends.
It could be ignorance: They simply do not know why they want to join but feel drawn to know more about you and your circle of friends.
Whatever their motivation, should it matter?
The fact is they have a need ripe to be spurred on and encouraged. Inviting them regardless of their motivation provides the opportunity for them to discover that your relationship with God makes your circle of friends so inviting. They will realize sooner or later that it has nothing to do with anything you and your friends have but what you share. In the end, it should never be because of who we think we are but who we represent.
Therefore our motivation for offering the hand of friendship should never be based upon what will be in our best interest, but for the one seeking our friendship. God providentially grows our circle of friends as we unselfishly connect with others and then spur and encourage one another. Fellowship and friendship are gifts we receive from others, and are necessities to our social well-being in this life.
Remember what Jesus is quoted as saying on the matter.
“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give [mercy and forgiveness], and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:27-38
How inclusive is your circle of friends? Have you offered genuine invitations to others? Do you extend the hand of friendship with sincerity? Does your attitude toward other reflect the same mercy and forgiveness that others have extended to you?
Our daily walk was never intended to be a lonely, lifelong sojourn. Fellowship and friendship offer an eternal connection found in the many “one another” encounters we experience each day.
Remember this final point, we are not responsible for the actions and attitudes of others unless we are the cause. How would you define your circle of friends?
Decatur Book Festival – Labor Day Weekend
Visit @TMBrownAuthor on Facebook to learn the latest news and schedule of upcoming book events as well. https://www.facebook.com/TMBrownauthor/
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?
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:
For Kindle editions, go to:
The following link is to an interview I enjoyed providing on WUTC with Dante’s Old South program last Fall. It includes a brief six-minute reading of the opening chapter of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories.
The audible versions of both Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return are in production for release this Summer for those who prefer to listen to their novels.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
Follow the link to learn the inspriation behind my Shiloh Mystery novels…