Throughout this fall of 2022, I’ll be focusing on former Southern voices that forged the way for all Southern authors…
Caroline’s inaugural novel, Lamb in his Bosom (1934), won the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Caroline was the first Georgian to earn this esteemed award, which changed Caroline’s life forever, and the floodgates opened for future Southern female voices.
The pioneer women in her family and hometown stories passed down as she grew up became the inspiration for Caroline’s writings. As an adult, she visited older folks throughout her community, pen in hand, to capture more stories from the past. Their tales of the past, replete with colorful backcountry sayings and distinctive dialects, made it into her book Lamb in His Bosom.
“Don’t let people tell you there is no drama in your life, or that your surroundings are too colorless for novel material. If you can’t find the novel in someone else’s life, look into your own. Perhaps you don’t have any Georgia pines to write about, but there is something else quite as lovely in your life. I am certain of that. There never was another you. Write the way you feel it.” Caroline Miller.
Excerpts from Biography of Caroline Miller.
Watch for more Southern Voices from our past that have established what it means to be a Southern Voice today.
After a broken ankle immobilized her in 1926, Margaret Mitchell began developing a manuscript that would become Gone With the Wind, ultimately published in 1936. The success of Gone With the Wind made her an instant celebrity and earned a Pulitzer Prize for Margaret Mitchell, and the famed film adaptation released three years afterward. Over 30 million copies of Mitchell’s Civil War masterpiece have been sold and translated into 27 languages. Tragedy struck in 1949 when Mitchell was struck by a car, leaving Gone With the Wind as her only novel.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Mitchell experienced tragic twists and turns; with the loss of her mother in 1918 and then four years later and four months after her wedding, her first husband abandoned the marriage. She wrote nearly 130 articles for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine during that troubled time. By 1925 with her first marriage officially annulled, Mitchell married John Robert Marsh who encouraged her writing during her recovery from a broken ankle in 1926. By 1929, she nearly finished her thousand page Civil War and Reconstruction era story – A romantic novel, written from a Southern woman’s point of view, steeped in the history of the South and the tragic outcome of war.
Rest of the story lies in what happened next…
However, the grand manuscript remained tucked away until 1935 until she reluctantly out of fear showed it to a traveling book editor, who visited Atlanta in search of new material, and the rest is history.
What motivated the book editor to leave his ivory-tower office in New York City?
Southern authors during the decades since earned a warmer reception from the dominant publishing houses as the appeal for Southern stories grew.
What Southern stories rest on your bookshelves at home as a testimony to their lasting imprint on our lives?
Novelist Corra Harris forged the way for Southern women writers in the early decades of the 20th-Century. Her notoriety as a humorist, southern apologist, and torchbearer of the premodern agrarian life developed through countless published short stories and essays in the likes of Saturday Evening Post, Harper’s, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, and other notable periodicals. Mostly self-taught during her formative years raised in North Georgia, Corra married a Methodist minister, but she became a life-long widow by 1910. Faced with financial responsibilities, she focused on her writing out of necessity.
Corra’s most notable works were A Circuit Rider’s Wife (1910), A Circuit Rider’s Widow (1916), and My Son (1921). The trilogy focused upon the story of itinerant Methodist preacher William Thompson and his wife, and their life together traveling his church circuit in North Georgia. Her stories portrayed rural mountain folklife, and the hardships circuit ministers during that time in an earthy simplicity that readers have enjoyed over the years. In 1998 her Circuit Rider’s Wife was republished by University of Georgia Press.
Source: New Georgia Encyclopedia
Why Southern Literature Resonates
Why does Southern literature appeal to audiences decades after their authors have left us? Why do their books line our bookshelves as timeless classics? Would you consider reading more about Corra Harris?
What other Southern classics would you include on our list of timeless and borderless must-reads? I welcome reading what you would add to the list of past Southern Voices and Classics.
Visit my webpage for a list of my scheduled appearances at various indie bookstores and workshop venues throughout the South in the coming weeks and months. Learn how past Southern Voices have influenced me to write my stories – Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return, and recently Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. And now I am seeking to publish my first historical novel, The Last Laird of Sapelo–a story based on the real life of Randolph Spalding and his family’s legacy on Sapelo Island, Georgia. A story that attempts to offer discussion about history not being portrayed as either black nor white, but full of grayness (literally and figuratively).
An interview that pulled a lot of background information about my journey to become the Southern inspirational author working on publishing my fourth novel.
‘Time crept while I stirred and tossed in futile attempts to capture any semblance of actual sleep. Capitulation arrived shortly after four when I poured a cup of coffee and sat down in the living room…Okay Lord what are you trying to share with me?’ Theo Phillips, Main character Ch 20, pg. 169
When the author used the descriptor, ‘a couple of southern minutes’, I knew I was in for a treat as main characters Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy started retirement in their new hometown of Shiloh, Georgia.
The town residents began introducing themselves as soon as the Phillips arrived, inherently southern by nature, Christian in their beliefs and warm with human spirit. At first I thought there were too many people appearing one after the other and lost track of who they all were. But as they became familiar, I realized there would be no point in delaying introductions as they were all part of the Phillips’ daily life in a small town. Only a writer with personal experience in a small town could define so many characters so intricately, and so Mike Brown has.
The tale gathers momentum as more citizens come forward with their secret truths, the weight of which has prevented them from moving ahead in life. Theo and Liddy realize they’ve been sent on a divine mission and with God’s guidance, they make themselves available where needed.
Thank-you for this inspiring, funny and heart-warming journey with Theo and Liddy as they accept the challenge presented them and become part of the town of Shiloh.
Out of utter humility and embarrassment, I want to share with you a story of how hilariously hazardous writing can become. I pray for your mercy and understanding as you read this story.
REAL-LIFE STORIES ADD LIFE TO OUR FICTIONAL STORIES
I learned I should never dump swept up fireplace ash into a cardboard box.
On a cold wintry afternoon a couple years ago, Connie scooted out on some errands to give me an undisturbed afternoon to work on my latest story. I got tunnel-visioned as I often do but I managed a quick break when I got up to refill my coffee mug to remove the ash from the fireplace, as my wife had requested before she left. I shoveled the dusty, dark gray remains of the split oak logs that I had burned to cut the chill from the front of the house that morning. I placed the new ash atop the damp old ash from the previous day occupying the bottom half of a frozen cardboard box I kept on the back porch. When I reopened the door to complete my chore, the blast of bitter chill air caused me to tuck the box posthaste beneath the nearest metal chair on the porch. I ignored the fact a couple days earlier I had draped a neatly folded old grill cover over the top of the chair–a new grill cover now protected our grill from the weather.
I scooted back to my writing desk situated just across the den from the back door. Minutes later, I’m banging away on my keyboard once again with my back to the door entranced by the creative flow of words racing across the screen until a whiff of unfamiliar smoke catches my attention—I wondered who would burn anything on such a cold winter’s day, especially emitting a burning plastic smell. I turned my head to look out the windows beside my desk towards the woods out back but noticed nothing. I attempted to refocus on my writing frenzy but my eyes noticed flickering on the computer screen. I spun around to discover flames rising from the metal chair on the porch. Flames and black smoke from the burning plastic grill cover ignited by the cardboard box now on fire beneath the chair thanks to the resurrected-from-the-dead embers I obviously swept up amongst the ashes.
Move to the scene of me racing from my chair, yanking the door open, and racing onto the porch in my flip-flops and shorts. I flung the flaming grill cover into the grass and then kicked the smoldering cardboard box into the nearby winter-barren garden. Suddenly I realized the smoldering grill cover lit the dead grass in my backyard. The flames spread like a prairie fire (slight exaggeration). Wearing only cheap flip-flops, I frantically stomped at the growing flames to no avail. I hurried to the side yard and reattached the garden hose—removed for the winter from the covered spigot. A long minute later, I doused the sprawling flames that scorched a sizeable chunk of my dormant rear lawn, and then for good measure, I soaked the charred remains of the cardboard box in the garden. At this point several things became profoundly clear to me: I fought these oh-my-god flames in shorts, t-shirt, and my cheap flip-flops in bone-chilling, damp cold air; thankfully, none of my neighbors appeared to be home to witness my comical calamity; the black metal chair on the porch would require a good wire brushing followed by some Krylon spray paint; and, some of the moss green vinyl siding on the porch wall had buckled from the heat and would need replacing. While I mumbled and grumbled and shivered assessing my utter stupidity, the sound of the garage door opening announced Connie’s return. That’s when the real horror swept over me!
The initial shock on Connie’s face turned to belly-laughs as I recanted the story of how I rescued the house from my carelessness. A week later, I replaced the vinyl siding (thankfully I had extra stored in the garage) and added some nice new cedar window trim for good measure, winning a cynical smile from my wife. This story finds new life, every so often, whenever Connie finds the urge to expound stories about her ding-dong husband. I gleefully point to the red metal ash bucket beside the fireplace as my trophy for my heroic rescue that day.
T. M. Brown invites you to share the news and links with friends and family. Whether they enjoy the Kindle, paperback, or new hardcover editions. He also invites you to leave a rating and a review for any of the three books you have read.
Watch for a special Fifth Anniversary Updated Edition in paperback & hardcover of Sanctuary & Testament coming for 2023!
As a writer, we learn our trade with the writing and publishing of each new story. I am thankful and most grateful to all those who have invested their time to read any of the three Shiloh Mystery novels. I never dreamt the stories would continue selling as they are five years afterward. Thank you for spreading the word and recommending the books to your friends and family members. Theo and Liddy’s exploits and hair-raising adventures involving their colorful, and often quirky, Shiloh friends have been truly a joy writing—I am pleased to discover how many readers like you enjoy the stories as well. Stay tuned. More plans are in store for Theo and Liddy in the days to come.
Days of Cotton and Cannons (The Last Laird of Sapelo: The Randolph Spalding Story)
UPDATE: The newly suggested title of Days of Cotton and Cannons seems to catch the attention of prospective agents and publishers. I hope to share the projected plans for the book’s release in the coming weeks. I am crossing my fingers that 2023 will unfold as a very special and busy year with my books, and just so happens marks my wife’s and mine 50th-Anniversary. That’s a lot to celebrate, so expect to hear about this time next year that we disappeared for an extended getaway vacation.
In the meantime, I am busy growing Hometown Novel Writers Association, Inc. What began five years ago as well was the notion there were enough aspiring and published authors south of Atlanta to form our own writers’ organization to promote local authors to the local audiences in our neck of the woods. This past month our fledgling troup of writers got word the State of Georgia accepted our application to become a new non-profit corporation. You might say, like Theo Phillips, I too am pretty busy in my peaceful, not-so-laid-back-retirement. But I love what is unfolding and keeping my life interesting. Every new dawn invites another adventure and opportunity that keeps me young at heart.
For my local friends and readers. Come, take part in the Sharpsburg Book Fair, August 27th in historic Sharpsburg, Georgia. Over 30 authors already have signed up to take part in this all-day event co-hosted by the Hometown Novel Writers Association and the Town of Sharpsburg. Proceeds benefit the promotion of literacy in Coweta County and surrounding counties.
A historical novel is a story with a particular period of history as its setting which strives to convey the spirit, manners, and social conditions of that past age with realistic detail and fidelity (though sometimes only provides apparent fidelity) to historical fact.
Historical novels capture the details of the time period depicted as accurately as possible for authenticity, including social norms, manners, customs, and traditions. In my estimation, a historical novel should offer a plausible, credible, and believable narrative, though created by the author, befitting the historical characters, settings, and events portrayed in the story. Through intensive, diligent research, the author’s interwoven narrative should not only engage but also edify and expound the historical past reflected in the story.
Why Write a HISTORICAL NOVEL?
Well-researched and written historical novels offer an “awareness that the events of our past impact contemporary events.” Historical narratives invite insight into the mind of a member of a past society and induce empathy through a written portal linking them and the reading audience; bringing an understanding of the past into the mind of the present reader.
Dividing Historical Fiction and Historical Novels
Of course novels are works of fiction—they certainly are not non-fiction—but two aspects are really important:
Creating an authentic picture of the period, based on intensive research and present as close a reflection of the real persons, places, and events, as is possible, given the historical evidence available.
I propose to include this Author’s Note in my historical novel: This book is a work of fiction, and although based on extensive research, the historical characters, places, and events depicted in this narrative are based upon my interpretation. I pray I have done justice in portraying past people, places, and events in writing this historical novel.
It is that final sentence where one discovers my moral obligation to historical characters, places, and events, however long ago, where any division of opinion may emerge. The essential nature of good research underpins all my writing, whether true fiction or intertwined in history, and I do so because the needs of crafting a worthwhile story are paramount and trump the evidence.
I have no problem tweaking minor points of history if the story demands it; but I attempt to never disparage a historical character without proper evidence. And this was the crux of the debate between Historical Fiction and Historical Novels. One author mayo make their main (historical) character have an affair because they felt it added to the impact of the story, despite the lack of any evidence. Thus, this is historical fiction, i.e. historical fantasy or historical romance or alternative historical fiction.
Writing historical novels comes with a responsibility to living descendants of the characters in the historical narrative, whether realistic or otherwise depicted. Likewise, like it or not, many people learn their history from fiction. Therefore, as well as a moral responsibility to the characters in our stories, authors are obliged not to mislead their readers. Of course, authors of other forms of historical fiction feel misinterpretation of history remains the reader’s personal responsibility.
The distinction between an ‘historical novel’, in which the author seeks to remain true to the history that underpins it, and ‘historical fiction’ in which, while the background is of importance, the story is king, may not always be distinctly black and white. But I, for one, will always attempt to write stories anchored in history, reflecting as near as possible the true nature and accuracy of our past.
My working title for the historical novel about Randolph Spalding is “The Last Laird of Sapelo” but someone proposed “The Days of Cotton and Cannons” to reflect the story’s timeline and the conflict Randolph Spalding faces in the story.
When will it be published? Stay tuned, subscribe to receive my newsletters. I am praying for a 2023 book launch, but this story will make its debut at the right time, and not before. Thanks for connecting. T. M. Brown
Spring of 2018 introduced the Shiloh Mystery Series
Following the original release of Sanctuary in March 2017, the Shiloh Mystery Series began with Sanctuary’s new edition gaining the subtitle of A Legacy of Memories, and designated as book one of the Shiloh Mystery Series.
Right behind the new Sanctuary edition, Testament, An Unexpected Return became available as book two in the new Shiloh Mystery Series, March 2018.
Then Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest first launched in May 2020 by SFK/Hearthstone Press just in time for our nation’s shutdown. Within months not only did my book tour get canceled, COVID shut down SFK as my publisher too. But, Blue Room Books of Decatur arrived on the scene and republished book three in the Shiloh Mystery Series. With the pandemic hopefully in our rearview mirror, I am looking forward to 2023 when the Shiloh Mystery Series celebrates its Fifth Anniversary.
What’s Next for the Shiloh Mystery Series?
While I am busy identifying the right publisher for my latest novel, an historical novel, The Last Laird of Sapelo, The Randolph Spalding Story, I do not want to lose sight of Shiloh’s Fifth Anniversary coming next up next Spring (2023).
If you like what Blue Room Books did with Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest, as much as I do, how about allowing Blue Room Books to tweak Sanctuary’s cover, and provide a completely new book cover for Testament to reflect the look of Purgatory? Likewise, just as they provided their skillful editing overview of Purgatory’s story and addition of the character list to help readers, I am game for the team at Blue Room Books to do likewise with Sanctuary and Testament. Sanctuary was my first ever novel, and though I have one of the awesomest editors and writing coaches, both Sanctuary and Testament can likewise warrant an editor’s revisit with fresh eyes.
How Can You Help
You can help me by answering a few questions.
Would you like to see a freshened up Sanctuary and totally new Testament book cover look more like Purgatory’s new cover? Do you believe it would help get attention for the three books with their Fifth Anniversary release?
For those who know Testament’s story, what suggestions might you offer as far the cover’s image? The scary, mysterious red-cloaked banshee admittedly is misleading to the content and tone of the story. It’s one of those oops I would like to correct.
Would adding character lists to Sanctuary and Testament help future readers?
Any additional comments or suggestions to help the three book series continue to reach new readers for another five or more years?
For those wondering about the new historical novel’s release, I promise to give a shout out as soon as I secure the right publisher and we settle on the targeted launch date, likely a year or so away. Hang in there!
Over the past month, my wife and I traveled to five states, attended our two oldest grandsons’ high school graduations, shared a vacation house with family, took part in a writers’ conference on St. Simon’s Island, co-hosted the long-anticipated Southern LitFest in Newnan, and along the way sold a few of my current Southern novels. You might say, my wife and I enjoyed traveling until the gas prices caught up with us. We intend to stay close to home for the rest of the summer while I decide who will publish my new historical novel. Be sure to visit my Facebook page.
Author events thrown into the mix on the calendar…
Hometown Novel Writers News!
Over the past month, local authors have gathered and joined to form the new “non-profit organization” to expand the reach and impact of future Hometown Novel author and writer programs, events, and workshops, aimed at expanding literary awareness of a growing number of local authors south of Atlanta. Visit HometownNovel.com to learn more about joining us, attending upcoming events, or workshops aimed at helping local authors and aspiring writers.
For the rest of the summer, I am mulling over my publishing options for my historical novel, working title: The Last Laird of Sapelo, The Randolph Spalding Story. God willing, I hope to announce the book launch for next Spring, summer at the latest. Visit my Facebook page for updates and more insight into the story and my intention to publish a sequel to the story.
I also recommend you visit SICARS—Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society—to understand more about the plight of the Gullah/Geechee community on Sapelo Island. I contend the racism since the 20th-Century has done more harm to the ancestors of the former slaves than what happened during the 19th-Century. My article link above shares what Randolph Spalding says in my story to his Geechee workers: “Freedom does not guarantee independence. Know what you seek.”
Is the American dream, as envisioned by our founding fathers tainted, an impossible, unreachable, unachievable dream?
I rarely voice a particular opinion about the state of our country, but I have been following the posts of Sean Dietrich, aka “Sean of the South,” lately and his most recent struck a nerve considering recent events in our country. No matter your personal beliefs, this diatribe from Sean and my reply are worth pondering.
Do you believe the American dream cast by our founding fathers still is achievable?
Are we too divided, too diverse, too distracted to chase the American dream any longer?
Is another War Between the States inevitable? Some of what is happening today divided our Nation 182 years ago. We may not fight it on a blood-stained battlefield, but there will be nasty, costly battles if we cannot find a solution.
I have a dream. I have a dream that one day people won’t hate each other.
I have a dream that, someday, upon the West Texan soil, the Lakes of Minnesota, the hillsides of the Carolinas, the peaks of Colorado, the foothills of Alabama and the shores of Sandy Hook, Connecticut, that we will all share the blessed bread of friendship.
I have a dream that someday we Americans will actually grow to like each other again.
I have a dream that one day the tenderness of humankind will not only be demonstrated in the public forum, but within the walls of the home, within our schools, and on our phosphorus blue-lit phone screens.
I have a dream that people will someday listen to one another, no matter how uncomfortable it might be. I have a dream that all who oppose one another will—and I know this is possible—find a common ground.
I have a dream that our children will forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who root for the wrong football team.
I have a dream that someday all gasoline-pump card readers will accept my debit card without computer error.
I have a dream that my internet service provider will stop experiencing mass outages approximately every six minutes, especially during extra innings. Spectrum Internet, I’m looking at you.
And I have a dream that someday you will only need one password for all your internet accounts, instead of 2,731 passwords, each of which must contain at least 14 characters, one uppercase letter, six numerals, a special character, and the blood of a nanny goat sacrifice.
I have a dream that, one day, less American children will want iPhone 13s and more kids will want Crayola 64s. I have a dream that video games will be less important than building forts.
I have a dream that kids will once again embrace their heaven-sent right to attach baseball cards to their bicycle spokes.
I have a dream that someday God’s name will not be used as a weapon.
I have a dream that the 17 million children who face daily hunger in America—6 million more than before the pandemic—will eat supper tonight.
I have a dream that someday the 450,000 foster kids in the U.S. will know, without a doubt, that someone wants them.
I have a dream that one day, in the near future, the 1,752,735 people in America who are diagnosed with cancer each year will be cured by science.
I have a dream that the 800,000 who die from suicide each year will choose to live, and choose a life of meaning. I have a dream that each one out of five Americans who suffers from mental illness might find relief for their troubled minds, and rest for their browbeaten souls.
I have a dream that someday the 630,505 people who get divorced annually will learn to love without condition, listen more than they talk, and above all, put the toilet seat down.
I have a dream that one day art will be the means by which a person intelligently expresses oneself instead of The Comment Section.
I have a dream that someday men and women will not be judged by the color of their skin, or by their level of education, or by their bank account balance, or by the God they worship, or by the spouse they choose, or by their culture of origin, or by the party with which they are affiliated, or by the ideas they hold dear, but by the content of their character and the quality of their heart.
I have a dream that someday the 57 nations in this world who are not free; who are riddled with violence, totalitarian governments, poverty, murder and crime, will find their freedom. And, Lord, may they find it soon.
I have a dream that freedom from hatred and sorrow and ignorance and apathy will ring from all global villages and hamlets, from every state, every county and every city, to speed that day when all God’s children, Black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, addicts and angels, preachers and prostitutes, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual: “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last.”
Sean, we share the same dream. However, the nature of humankind makes that dream far beyond the reach of this world. I would hope tolerance, patience and perseverance reigned over intolerance and sanctimonious thoughts and deeds. The preservation of self–our innate primal nature—has served humans since the beginning of time. Since Adam and Eve and their sons, Cain and Abel. America has become so large and diverse, our shared dream of Paradise shall remain a dream. Right and wrong no longer exist as absolutes. Those in power assert their will on others to redefine and reshape what society calls right and wrong. In that constant struggle, even in our churches, battles rage to control our notions of right and wrong, bad and evil—all in the name of God. If our church cannot practice the dream, what chance does society? Our country began pursuing that dream 400 years ago, but what success marked the beginning of the original 13 colonies turned into a struggle. Today, 320,000,000, growing daily, span our continent and beyond, yet we cling to the notion one central government will unite us into agreement of what is right and wrong. Our diversity of persons and places strains our ability to share the same dream. I fear for my grandchildren and wonder what their future will be like? I wonder about America’s fate. I wonder if politicians will accept the true wisdom of our Constitution where authority rests in our local communities, counties and states where there is a likelihood of homogenized agreement on right and wrong. The Constitution intended the federal government to arbitrate and protect the rights of the states, not dictate. Sadly, for every winner in the political process, there is also a loser, and losers seek to win. So Sean, in far too many words, we share a dream that shall remain a dream, but we can hope against hope for a better future where tolerance, patience, and perseverance reign, and exercise our hope among others each new day.
Are you a Dreamer too? What will America look like in the coming decades? Will America become but a distant unfulfilled dream? Will our dystopian popular novels foretell our future? Will humans be their own worse enemy, or…?