A Thanksgiving to Remember

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.

SANCTUARY

A Legacy of Memories

By T. M. Brown

Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories = Fiction Finalist, American Book Fest “Best Book” Awards 2018

CHAPTER TWENTY

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. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

“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.”

Harold smiled and nodded. 

Visit http://tmbrownauthor.com/shop to order your copy of SANCTUARY, A Legacy of Memories, or any of the SHILOH MYSTERY stories.

Shiloh Mystery Series Overview & Purgatory Book Launch Update by T. M. Brown

Please visit my Facebook Author Page @TMBrownAuthor for the up-to-date latest about my coming book tour and many of the independent book retail locations where you can purchase any of the Shiloh Mystery Books. I will be updating my webpage with additional information that you might enjoy, i.e. character lists for each story and recent reviews. You can also contact me with questions, comments, or inquiries about visiting your local area or book club group.

Newnan, GA – The Inspiration Behind Shiloh

What inspired Shiloh the time-lost, small South Georgia town in my novel series? Meet my hometown of Newnan, GA.

Downtown historic Newnan is the inspiration behind the time-lost South Georgia town of Shiloh in my mystery series. Come see why.
http://www.gpb.org/television/shows/hometown-georgia#.XbLKZSDe7yh.link

FOLLOW THE LINK TO PBS HOMETOWN GEORGIA PROGRAM ABOUT NEWNAN, GA.

NEWNAN IS MY HOMETOWN AND I AM PROUD OF THE “SMALL-TOWN FEEL” THAT MAKES ITS ANTEBELLUM HOMES AND DOWNTOWN COURT SQUARE A MECCA FOR THE MOVIE INDUSTRY AND TOURISTS ALIKE.

PLEASE ENJOY THE PROGRAM AND I HOPE IT EXPLAINS MORE ABOUT MY LOVE FOR WRITING ABOUT LITTLE OLD SHILOH WITH ITS COLORFUL, MEMORABLE CHARACTERS.

Fictional Towns and Settings are inspired by REAL PLACES.

Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest is coming May 2020. Will you be ready for the further adventures of Theo Phillips and his wife, Liddy?

Make sure to get your copies of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and the sequel, Testament, An Unexpected Return. There’s a special Christmas 2-Book offer.

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.

Shiloh Mystery Series Audible in Production

Looking forward to what lies ahead for the Shiloh Mystery Series with Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest underway, and the audible versions of the first two novels in the series in production.

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.

https://youtu.be/zCN0Mq_FVbM?t=915

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.

Looking forward to what lies ahead for the Shiloh Mystery Series with Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest underway, and the audible versions of the first two novels in the series in production.
Anniversary Book Tour 2019 has begun. Visiting local bookstores, literary festivals, and libraries. Hope to see you soon. Head over to @TMBrownAuthor on Facebook for the latest news and updates.

Surviving the Indie Author Challenge

Are your ears attuned to those just like you who are being inspired by you and have piped in to cheer you on? Is it your tenacity and stubborn refusal to not give up …to not quit that has spurred them to your feet?

Georgia Writers Museum, Eatonton, GA

Are you ready to accept the Indie Author Challenge to never quit? Though Indie Authors must bear an enormous handicap to publish and then market in the growing sea of books on the market today, are you up to the challenge?

As an Indie-Author there are days when I feel like Brock from the movie, Facing the Giants. In this inspirational scene, Brock is challenged to bear crawl blindfolded toting a huge handicap on his back. Like Brock, I have no idea how far I must push myself to reach the goal line. I also share trying to heed the two voices screaming to determine my fate. There are the encourager’s persistent external urgings that compete to be heard above that inner voice screaming within my head, “I can’t do this! It’s too painful. It costs too much. I can’t possibly succeed.”

Then that encouraging voice pleads even louder, “Don’t quit! Don’t you quit! You can do it!”

Which voice will win the day within you? Do you believe in your heart that the goal line lies just beyond your grasp though you just can’t identify how much further it lies?

Are your ears attuned to those just like you who are being inspired by you and have piped in to cheer you on? Is it your tenacity and stubborn refusal to not give up …to not quit that has spurred them to your feet? 

It is an undeniable fact: Indie Authors must carry a handicap to compete in the publishing world, and the amount of sacrifice and effort to reach the goal line is not always visible, BUT you gotta believe there are encouragers all along the way rallying you to not quit.

So for me, I will be like Brock and keep on, keeping on until I can’t go any further. And when I finally succumb and take off the blindfold, I pray the “blood, sweat, and tears” was worth it, and the goal line rested beneath my exhausted body. Because by overcoming the enormous handicap I began the Indie Author challenge carrying, others will be emboldened to accept the same challenge.

Can I count on you to encourage me and other Indie Authors to reach the goal line?

T. M. Brown, Inspirational Southern Author

Patience, Persistence & Perseverance Pays Off!

Visit AMAZON for some crazy prices on both paperback editions! Both books are celebrating their anniversary release dates. Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories — Finalist American Book Fest “Religion Fiction” 2018! https://www.amazon.com/T-M-Brown/e/B06Y17WSJ3

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.

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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)

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The Value of Family Memories

http://www.coachbrown.org/family-inspires-shiloh-series-southern-mysteries/

 

Follow the link to learn the inspriation behind my Shiloh Mystery novels…