A person who reads a work of fiction before it is published in order to mark errors and suggest improvements, typically without receiving payment (But, can earn a complimentary advance copy of the published book.)
Do you enjoy historical novels?
Historical fiction is set in the past and pays attention to the manners, social conditions and other details of the depicted period. Authors also explore notable historical figures in these settings, allowing readers to better understand how these individuals might have responded to their environments.
” …the author is writing from research rather than personal experience.”
My Invitation to BETA Readers…
While visiting Darien, Georgia, two years ago, seeking a unique setting for my fourth Shiloh series novel, a day-long trip to nearby Sapelo Island altered the direction of my next novel. My tour guide, a descendant of Geechee slaves, piqued my historical curiosity with his tales of the island’s storied past.
I pondered why after the Civil War ended, Sapelo’s freed slaves traveled over two-hundred miles to return to the island? The answer required hours upon hours of in-depth research, as well as revisiting Darien, Brunswick, Savannah, and Beaufort, as my first historical novel evolved.
The Last Laird of Sapelo: The Randolph Spalding Story is a fact-based novel about the enigmatic, youngest and most successful son of the famous Thomas Spalding. By 1861, family and friends knew Randolph as an ambitious planter who parlayed his father’s fame and generosity; a popular socialite, hobnobbing from Charleston to Savannah to Milledgeville; a high-stakes gambler and sportsman; and popular politician. But when the Civil War threatens the Georgia coast, he is called upon to face a storm of life-changing events threatening his family’s legacy, livelihood, and lands. Following his untimely tragic death in March 1862, newspapers honored him as “a pure patriot and high-toned chivalrous gentlemen, doing good service in the army of the Confederate States… His funeral procession included a large military escort and a long procession of citizens.”
History records that Randolph Spalding’s freed slaves returned to Sapelo Island in the months following the Civil War and lived and worked alongside Randolph’s family, who moved back in 1868. For the remaining decades of the Nineteenth Century, the Spalding family coexisted on Sapelo Island with their former slaves.
Writing this story made it became abundantly clear to me history requires the seeking of obverse facts and truths from our past to best comprehend the diverse issues we face today. A host of folks I have talked with about this story agree, and I hope you do as well.
The completed novel is 86,200 words and is ready to be sent at your request.
Thank you for taking the time to consider my work. I look forward to hearing from you. Please email me of your interest in receiving either a printed 320 page copy or a digital PDF copy downloadable on your device at home.
AUTHORPRENEURSHIP: WHAT IS IT? You’ve invested hours writing and editing that story. Now what? In the highly competitive realm of books, all Authors, including well-known bestsellers, face the daunting task of getting their story in front of an interested audience. Authors cannot afford to just rush off and write another story, leaving the fate of their book(s) to chance.
This is a program we’re all interested in: Learn how to become an Authorpreneur. Finding the right road to publishing your book is the beginning of a long road… Don’t be like Don Quixote and battle windmills. Learn about Authorpreneurship and become the bandleader for your book. Success for an author begins in writing a great story, but you do not achieve it by sending your work out into the universe and waiting for fame and book sales to materialize magically. In 90 minutes, this workshop will only be able to introduce morsels about marketing and promoting your book as an author, but you will have begun the journey to becoming an Authorpreneur.
February 12, 10:00 Am until 11:30 AM, Virtual Writers Workshop: AUTHORPRENEURSHIP—Marketing and Promoting Your Books Register today for this FREE workshop co-hosted by the Newnan Carnegie Library.
The Speakers will be our own Mike Brown, the papa of Hometown Novels, the “Inspirational Southern Author,” and author of the Shiloh Series novels; and Angela Durden, Publisher and Author of dozens of books across several genres.
ANGELA K. DURDEN has been managing the life cycle of the word since 1992, authoring more than a dozen books across various genres as well as articles in trade publications, internal and external communications for corporations, and newspaper columns.
Angela gained national attention in 2000 for her first book, Nine Stupid Things People Do To Mess Up Their Resumes. On her first in-studio radio interview, she advised syndicated host G. Gordon Liddy about how to best deal with a certain lengthy gap in his resume.
In 2006, she launched the Mike and His Grandpa series of children’s books with Heroes Need Practice, Too! and The Balloon That Would Not Pop! All her titles, including the fictional thriller Whitfield, Nebraska and her own coming-of-age story Twinkle: a memoir, are available on Amazon.com.
Angela expanded her publishing scope in 2010 when she was the co-author, coordinator, and graphic designer for Opportunity Meets Motivation, in which four women from different walks of life explain how they went into business for themselves. Other projects involving coaching writers, cover and interior book design, and editing led her to launch the Blue Room Books imprint in 2018.
My latest novel, a historical tale about Randolph Spalding, the youngest son of Thomas Spalding, the original Laird of Sapelo, is finally nearing completion. His story has consumed my attention and focus ever since Purgatory’s launch on May 26, 2020. I did not think I could take my focus off my Shiloh fictional characters, but since before last summer began, my attention has been on writing while researching Randolph Spalding and his family. My wife and I have made two trips to the Georgia coast and sailed to Sapelo Island, listened to stories, sat with and read books by renowned historians, scoured the internet, and cluttered my computer with images and documents to validate the story I have written. Though it is a novel, I based it upon his history, cut short by his untimely death in March 1862. More will come in the weeks and months ahead as I seek to find the right publisher for this gripping story.
Shiloh Mystery Series approaching its Fifth Anniversary of Sanctuary, the story began the series.
Watch for exciting news of new editions to this award-winning series.
A brand new Hometown Novel Nights and HNN Writers Group website coming soon… HometownNovel.com
Visit the Event page for all my upcoming holiday events and appearances.
Holiday gift lists should include author signed books for all your book-loving friends and family. Visit the EVENT page to see where I and many of my author-friends will be in the coming weeks before Christmas.
Please also follow me on Facebook and Instagram for up-to-date photos and event information.
Without a doubt, my interview with Susan Crutchfield was the most memorable over the past year or so. Like most authors with new books released in 2020-2021, adaptability to virtual promotions became a necessity. I managed to be blessed with several opportunities to spread the word about the release of Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest, my third Southern story, through remote interviews like this. However, none created the buzz like this one. Thank you, Susan Crutchfield and Newnan Carnegie Library.
Click the image above to order any one of the three award-winning Shiloh Mystery Novels, or inquire at any book retail location. They all make ideal Christmas gifts… For your nearest book retailer visit: Bookshop to order all your holiday books through your local book retailer.
A busy October begins on October 1st with Octoberfest in historic downtown Newnan, Georgia–my hometown- and ends October 30th in Warm Springs narrating famous tales about graveyards, ghosts, and goblins while enjoying a Spooktacular evening among ghoulish dressed in black patrons.
Visit T. M. Brown’s Event Page for all the dates, times. and locations for events, programs, and appearances on tap in October. In the midst of the month he and his wife are racing north to visit grandkids too.
Although Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest launched May 26, 2020, we can all agree COVID stole the past year for all of us, including the huge book launch that had been scheduled with book festival and bookstore signings on the calendar that went up in flames last summer. This Summer book festivals, writer’s conferences, and bookstore signings have returned to my calendar, continuing to add appearances over the upcoming months. And, 2022 promises an even more active travel schedule of events, all the while my newest historical novel continues to take shape after months of research and onsite interviews with historians.
First of all, thanks to Purgatory, in addition to placing as runner-up to the 2019 Southeastern Writers Association Hal Barnard Memorial Award for the best-unpublished novel, Theo & Liddy, aided by all the colorful characters from Shiloh, earned the honor of becoming a Top-Ten Finalist for Best Suspense Novel in Killer Nashville’s 2021 Silver Falchion Book Awards.
So what’s all the big fuss about Killer Nashville and its Silver Falchion and Readers’ Choice Awards?
Voted as “One of the Best Writing Conferences in the USA” — Killer Nashville isnowthe premier forum for all genres incorporating mystery, thriller, or suspense elements.
Want to know more, follow me on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or subscribe for future postings emailed directly to you. In the meantime, enjoy this video interview about Purgatory with a reading of the opening pages…
What story is next up for T. M. Brown–How about a historical fiction story based in 1861-1862 McIntosh County, Georgia?
Subscribe here for future blurbs, ponderings, and other postings about my upcoming historical novel, as war breaks out in 1861-1862, impacting McIntosh County, Darien, Sapelo Island, Savannah, and Port Royal, altering the lives of the Spalding Family and those who worked their plantations.
Visit the EVENT PAGE for the latest updates on author and book events.
Summer Schedule of Author Events
Between July 31 through Labor Day September 6th, T. M. Brown will be racing between appearances and events featuring Hometown Novel Nights Authors as well as his own book signings. Visit the Event Page for regular updates and a complete schedule of his appearances and events beyond Labor Day in the days and weeks ahead. Hometown Novel Nights program schedules will be included, as well.
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest, is a finalist for the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for Best Suspense Novel. The winner will be announced at the Killer Nashville Conference Awards Dinner, August 21st.
Happy Fourth of July! Here’s an excerpt from Testament, An Unexpected Return as little Shiloh celebrates its 115th Independence Day Jubilee in new Priestly Park…
The Fourth of July in Shiloh!
The storm front blew over as predicted, allowing the sunshine to break through partly cloudy skies by the time we arrived at Priestly Park. “God Bless the USA” blared over the park’s public address system as we snaked through the growing crowd in search of our friends.
Bob “Bubba” Patterson and Cecil Chambers, owners of Bubba’s BBQ, along with Silas Thrope from the Butcher Shoppe, tended twin smokers that filled the air with the mouthwatering aroma of roasted pork. Beneath a red, white and blue canopy, Barbara Patterson, Cora Chambers, and Bernie Thrope readied themselves to sell their husbands’ highly anticipated, finger-licking fare.
I surveyed the sea of people until I locked onto Larry Scribner waving his arms. A minute later we set up our chairs between Larry, his wife, Martha and Sam and Susanna Simmons.
Martha snickered. “Would have thought Mary warned you to get here early. The whole town has been abuzz for weeks since the city formally announced the Jubilee’s new venue, especially after news got out about the park’s dedication ceremony.”
Liddy peered at me with a told-you-so sneer followed by a playful punch to my arm when I said to Martha, “Don’t blame her. I just didn’t expect this kind of turnout, but I’m glad to see it for Harold’s sake.”
Sam added, “Give poor Theo a break. This crowd is the biggest I recall ever attending a Jubilee. No doubt Harold’s vision for Priestly Park intended to give Shiloh’s annual Jubilee a shot in the arm.” He pointed at the building under construction with its steel skeleton cordoned off by yellow caution tape and bright orange plastic barrels. “Can’t wait to see the new community center when it finally opens.”
Liddy asked, “Has anyone seen Arnie and Judy? What about Zeb, Marie, and John?”
“Preacher’s over behind the grandstand with Judy, waiting for the ceremony to get underway,” Martha groaned, craning her neck, half-raised from her chair. “And there’s Zeb behind the pavilion leaning against his truck shooting the breeze with John and Marie.”
“Susanna, where’s Andy and Megan?” Liddy asked, eyeballing the crowd.
Susanna shrugged her shoulders. “Not sure, but they promised they’d be here.”
Liddy nudged closer to me and whispered, “Hal just pulled behind the grandstand driving Harold’s dually with Harold in the passenger seat, and parked beside Phillip’s red Wrangler.”
Sam jumped from his chair and whistled above the clamor of the crowd. Susanna stood as Andy and Megan appeared making their way around the throng of blankets and chairs.
Megan’s relaxed smile, ponytail, and makeup-free, suntanned cheeks presented a welcome contrast to the pretentious, prim and proper young woman we encountered only a few months ago. In place of high heels and glamor, she clung to Andy’s elbow wearing green and gold GCU warm-ups and a white cotton tank top. After we all exchanged hugs, Andy and Megan sat down beside Susanna and Sam.
Moments later, the shrill of a fife and a rhythmic drum cadence quieted the crowd before a voice barked, “For-ard harch!” Pete, Jay, and Jim marched abreast in step to the lead of the teenage fifer and drummer, all wearing Minutemen costumes. Jay and Jim held shouldered muskets on either side of Pete, who carried the American flag with both hands. The crowd came to its feet as the color guard approached the makeshift stage until Jay shouted, “Color guard, halt!”
Hal Archer stepped to the podium and invited Miss Phoebe Thatcher, the high school’s music director, onto the stage to sing the Star Spangled Banner. Arnie Wright followed with a prayer of thanks for our nation, community, and today’s Jubilee. Hal then welcomed everyone to Shiloh’s one-hundred-and-fifteenth Independence Day Jubilee and added, “Before we enjoy all this scrumptious food and the activities planned this afternoon, I’d like to introduce my father, our Mayor Emeritus, the Honorable Harold Archer.”
Harold rose from his seat and gripped the podium to steady himself. His baggy shirt and slacks affirmed rumors of his declining health. His voice cracked as he spoke. “Friends, fellow citizens of Shiloh, first of all, I want to thank you for allowing me the joy of witnessing my son serving as your new mayor. He represents the third generation of Archers to be so honored. But, that’ll be enough of that. There’s a far better reason I am here today. Would John Priestly and Marie Masterson join me?”
John escorted his cousin Marie onto the stage before Harold continued.
“Last December, I promised the citizens of Shiloh that I would build this park for our city right here on this picturesque site next to Shiloh Creek. I humbly stand before you, proud we’re celebrating this year’s Independence Day Jubilee on this property my family deeded to the city.”
Harold looked back toward the unfinished steel framework and pointed. “And, my son Phillip assured me that the new community center will be open before summer ends.” Harold smiled at Phillip who stood beside Jeannie Simmons in front of the stage. “With that assurance,” Harold eyed John and Marie by his side. “I now and forever more declare that Priestly Park shall henceforth commemorate the Priestly family’s contribution in making Shiloh a better place for our families to prosper.”
Harold picked up a plaque off the podium and paused as he cleared his throat. John stepped closer and patted Harold on his back. Harold took a deep breath and slowly exhaled before he continued. “I asked Missus Masterson and Coach Priestly as members of the Priestly family to accept our city’s small token of appreciation for all that their family has meant to our community throughout the years.” He handed the framed pewter plaque to John. “A larger duplicate of this plaque will be mounted beside the entrance to the Betty Priestly Community Center when it opens in the coming weeks.”
Hal returned to the microphone as Harold escorted John and Marie off the stage. He raised his arms to quiet the crowd’s applause. “I’ve been advised that the roasted pigs are about to be carved. Don’t forget to check the pavilion bulletin board for times and locations of this afternoon’s activities. Otherwise, please enjoy the day at Priestly Park and remember the fireworks will begin right after sunset.” Patriotic music returned across the public address speakers as Hal exited the stage.
Pete, still wearing his 1776 Minuteman outfit, appeared moments later with Mary and invited all of us to an area they staked off near Zeb’s truck behind the pavilion. We gathered our chairs and found John and Marie already chatting with Zeb’s sons, Jim and Jay. Zeb sat on his tailgate and offered everyone a cold drink from the ice chest in the bed of his truck.
# # #
Long after I confessed to eating way too much, I found myself surrounded by empty chairs. The grunts and moans of the more athletic, younger members of our group drew my attention to their heated volleyball game. Zeb and Sam refereed the match, standing on opposite ends of the net. Liddy and Marie had disappeared earlier to sign up for the annual egg toss, thanks in large part to the persistent goading of Megan and Jeannie. Although Judy, Martha, and Susanna urged me to watch, I opted to catch up with Arnie meandering toward the creek.
“You know we’re both missing out on the celebrated egg toss.” I leaned down and flung a couple of pebbles into Shiloh Creek. Arnie chuckled and skipped a stone across the surface.
“Hey Arnie, you’re closer to Harold. You’ve known him as his pastor for a long time. Is he going to be okay?”
Arnie reached for another stone and juggled the smooth tawny pebble between his fingers. “Not sure Theo. Just because I’m his pastor doesn’t mean I’m privy to know everything. I know, like you, that second trip to the hospital in January sucked the wind right out of his sails.”
“But is it just physical? I’ve hardly seen him around town since.”
“I’m not a doctor, but I believe a broken spirit can be as lethal as any heart attack. And, in Harold’s case, he’s experienced both. Since his release from the hospital, he’s spent every day cooped up in his study. He hardly drives anywhere anymore. In fact, last month when I visited Hank at the county jail I learned Harold hadn’t visited him since Hank and Megan’s divorce finalized in May.” With an extended sigh, Arnie chucked the stone skyward and watched it disturb the water’s calm surface.
“He sure looked washed out as he shuffled on and off the stage. I know he’s holed himself up in recent months, but I hoped he’d get better, not worse. I’ve not reached out to him as I probably should’ve, but I’m glad you’ve talked with him.”
Arnie gazed at the expanding ripples on the glistening creek’s surface. “Theo, I fear Harold’s never gonna get better. Even the doctors warned him that his tired ticker needs lots of rest and less stress. But what I am afraid of the most is that he’s convinced he failed Hank when he needed him most.”
The stone I fumbled with slid through my fingers and fell into the wet sand at my feet. “What can we do to help? He’s not been to church since he got out of the hospital either. Maybe Liddy and I should’ve made a better effort to visit him.”
“I’m not sure you and Liddy can do anything more except keep him in your prayers right now. Hal and Phillip keep a close eye on him and…” Arnie looked up with a partial smile. “You and I also know Maddie’s using her, well, her mother hen instincts to indulge Harold’s needs.”
I chuckled as I pictured the look on Maddie’s face sharing her hard-love quips meant to snap Harold out of his woebegone moods. “If Maddie’s struggling to nurse Harold back to health, how much good can we offer?”
“Of course, Harold did agree to take part today. Maybe getting around the town’s people and laughing again will help. I also think him seeing how Priestly Park turned out has helped too. Perhaps this Jubilee outing will galvanize his mental and physical recovery. If not…” Arnie went silent as he squatted at the water’s edge and stared at the far side of the sun-drenched creek. I squatted alongside and tossed another pebble to break his locked gaze.
Arnie flinched and looked at me. “I was thinking back on what you said about Harold’s sluggish appearance today. It made me wonder about his state of mind. When Hal and I first persuaded him to come, he seemed chipper enough and much more upbeat than he appeared today.”
“Do you think something happened in the last couple of days?”
“I don’t know Theo, but it wouldn’t hurt checking up on Harold before Hal or Phillip takes him home.”
“Before who’s going home?” A familiar deep voice reverberated behind us.
Arnie and I stood and stared at Harold’s weak smile directed at us.
Arnie stammered, “Didn’t hear you walk up, but we’re sure glad you decided to join us.” Arnie picked up a stone and flipped it toward Harold who instinctively snatched it out of the air.
I said as Harold matter-of-factly let the stone fall and brushed his hands off, “You sure must be proud of how the park turned out.”
Harold offered a tired grin. “Hal and Phillip made me feel very proud today. I just wish the community center could’ve been ready.” Harold paused. “So tell me, how have you been Theo? Haven’t seen hide nor hair of you lately.”
“Guess that’s my fault.” I concentrated on his face though his eyes focused on the ground. “I’ve not seen you around town either, but I should’ve visited you long ago.”
Harold mustered a forced grin, but his hesitant look revealed the truth. “Not a problem Theo. I haven’t felt too sociable lately either. How’s that book working out?”
“Mary’s delivering the manuscript to Cornerstone Monday. Barring any unforeseen issues, books should be off the presses and arrive well in advance of Larry’s advertised book launch shindig before Thanksgiving. I reckon you’d like to know how it turned out?”
Harold nodded with a curious shrug.
“I chose not to dodge the truth about Hank’s mistakes, but in the epilog, I added how our country has failed to adequately care for our veterans, especially those coping with underlying mental health symptoms of PTSD.”
Arnie added. “Theo’s done a masterful job based upon what little he’s allowed me to read. He treated all the victims in Jessie’s Story with the greatest respect.”
Harold’s dark eyes looked up. “I’ve got no doubt, Arnie.” He rested his right hand on my shoulder but turned toward Arnie. “Preacher, do you know what a banshee is?”
Arnie stared back, speechless.
Harold squeezed my shoulder as he asked me, “Do you?”
“Some kinda witch, I think, or something ominous like that,” I replied with one brow arched.
“I dreamt, or at least believe I dreamt, that a banshee visited me last night. She wore a dark, hooded cloak that covered her face and wailed three times from the foot of my bed, ‘Death awaits. Get ready.’” Harold looked right through me as he spoke. “It brought back memories of my grandpa’s tales about a banshee’s visit days before his father passed. Though my father dispelled my grandpa’s tale as hogwash, I can assure you that I awoke in a cold sweat this morning.”
Arnie asked, “Couldn’t you make out the face beneath the hood of the cape?”
“Not really, but she, and it was a woman, seemed familiar, but she never answered when I asked.”
“Did she say or do anything more in your dream?” I asked.
“No, but she pointed directly at me before she spoke her final warning and disappeared.”
“Harold, this sounds like nothing more than a nightmare,” I said as I patted his hand still clenching my shoulder moments before I sensed a slight wobble in his stance.
Harold wrinkled his face. “I just can’t shake the chill it gave me.”
“Let’s head back up before someone wonders what happened to us,” Arnie suggested as he took a position on the other side of Harold. We walked together back to the pavilion ready to steady Harold if needed.
Hal met us near the pavilion. “Dad, you feeling okay?”
Arnie laughed. “Hal, I think your dad’s just a bit tuckered out. You might want to run him home.”
Phillip ran up as Hal drove off with Harold in the passenger’s seat. “What’s up? Is dad okay?”
“He’s just tired,” I answered. “By the way, did he share with you anything about a dream he had last night?”
Phillip’s head swayed with a puzzled look. “No, but he seemed lost in deep thought during breakfast. What dream?”
“Just a dumb dream that caused him to lose some sleep. He’ll be fine after he gets some rest. I think today took a lot out of him.”
“You’re right, I’m sure.” Phillip laughed. “You missed the tug-of-war and egg toss. Zeb, Bubba, and Silas got Mister Simmons and Mister Scribner to join Hal’s team to take on my team with Pete, Jay, Jim, and Coach Priestly. I couldn’t believe it. Those old men whooped us! More importantly, you better find Miss Liddy and Miss Marie. They won the egg toss.”
Click the link to continue reading more of Testament, An Unexpected Return or the other two Shiloh Mystery Novels. Please take a moment to leave a review and share the story with your friends and family.
God bless, America! And, God bless, our love of small town traditions and heritage. T. M. Brown