Several unfamiliar faces filled the sanctuary pews Wednesday evening. Only the Arians were absent among our circle of friends. They left town earlier that day headed to their family’s home on Saint Simons Island. Nick and Joe said they wanted their family to enjoy the house for a few days before deciding whether or not to sell Momma Arians beloved vacation home. Fortunately, Megan and Andy’s arrival overshadowed the absence of the Arians family.
Before the service began, Andy, Pete, Jay and Jim cracked jokes with one another just like when we first moved to Shiloh a year earlier. Hal helped Hillary and Judy tend to the young children filling the front two rows. Phillip settled in between Megan and Jeannie.
Silence filled the sanctuary when Arnie rose from his chair, gripped the edges of the podium and smiled. “I look out at all the familiar and new faces and stand before you humbled. This service marks the twenty-sixth Thanksgiving Eve service I’ve shared with you or at least those old enough to remember back that far.” He stared at Judy and Hillary. “In another three weeks, Judy, Hillary and I will also witness our twenty-sixth Christmas in Shiloh pageant as well. Sadly, this will be the first one without the Honorable Harold Archer presiding. This year, our new mayor, the Honorable Henry ‘Hal’ Archer, will preside in his place.” Arnie motioned to Hal to join him on the platform.
“Thank you, Doctor Wright. I’m quite nervous about filling my father’s large shoes this year and will certainly miss his supportive smile the few times I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of the city. This edition of Christmas in Shiloh will kickoff the seventeenth, the Wednesday preceding Christmas Eve. All the decorations on Main Street and Town Square are ready to welcome the arrival of another magnificent Christmas tree to be lit that first night. We have a special night of music planned, and I received confirmation from the North Pole this morning that Santa will once again be with us.” Hal focused on the young faces smiling up at him. “I hope to see all of you and lots of your friends there.”
Arnie’s message spoke about how thankful we should feel this year because of God’s greatness. He stood over his open Bible, read the 145th Psalm and then shared, “This timeless passage speaks of God’s goodness, greatness and graciousness. Over this past year, God manifested himself right here in our community, changing many lives forever. Maybe we got a bit sidetracked in recent years by tragic events, but that didn’t mean God stopped working in our hearts.” Arnie panned the room as he stepped away from the pulpit.
“There are two related questions I’d like to offer this Thanksgiving Eve. How have you over the course of this past year testified to the Lord’s goodness, greatness and graciousness in your daily life and the lives of your family members? How have you offered him the praise of thanks he deserves? Please bow your heads and allow your hearts to speak privately with God as you feel led.”
A minute later, Arnie’s pastoral voice broke the silence. “The apostle Paul wrote: ‘Is there injustice with God? Of course not! He shows mercy to those whom he wants to show mercy and offers compassion to whomever he chooses to show compassion. God’s mercy and compassion do not depend upon our will or effort, but on God alone.’ May we all find a reason to give thanks to God this Thanksgiving. Amen.”
I raised my head as Liddy squeezed my hand and smiled. Beside Liddy, John and Marie shared tears. In front of us, Sam, Susanna, Megan and Andy hugged one another as smiles erupted. Jeannie leaned close to her mother to exchange whispers. Jeannie beamed and immediately turned and embraced Megan.
Liddy nudged me and asked, “What’s going on with them?”
“Beats me. I haven’t seen Sam smile like that before.”
Liddy scooted from our pew first and pulled Susanna aside. They whispered back and forth. Liddy walked back with a smug grin and whispered, “It’s a secret until tomorrow at their house, but—-.”
You’ll have to grab your own copy of TESTAMENT, An Unexpected Return to learn about the Thanksgiving secret in the story.
To order your copy of TESTAMENT, An Unexpected Return
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 at the mention of Jessie, but an exuberant laugh interrupted our conversation.
Harold looked down from the balcony rail. “Theo! Liddy! I see you’re enjoying the company of my charming and talented daughter-in-law.”
Liddy and I both rose to our feet as he approached. He shook my hand and gave Liddy a generous smile.
“Mista’ Harold, you and your guests, ‘bout ready?” said Harold’s matronly gray-haired African-American housekeeper. She stood patiently at the doorway leading onto the veranda wearing a traditional white broad collared maid’s uniform with a starched apron.
“Maddie, if you’re about ready out there, I reckon we’re ready.”
With a little huff, Maddie said, “Come on, then. I’ve been waitin’ on you folks, Master Harold, and I’m sure these nice folks has been waitin’ on you.” She opened the door and pointed to a table all set for us.
Harold sat at the head of the table, and we sat across from Megan. A plump, partially-carved roasted turkey accompanied by butter beans, green beans, collards, mashed potatoes, a sweet potato casserole, dressing and both pumpkin and pecan pies covered the other end of the table.
Harold pulled a bottle of Chenin Blanc off the side cart behind him and popped the cork. He rotated the label for us to see.
I smiled. “Yes, looks like a nice wine choice, thank you, Harold,” and then he filled four crystal glasses and passed them to each of us.
I took a sip pretending to know a little about savoring wines. I offered a modest grin of approval. Liddy took a smaller sip and smiled politely towards our host before she placed the wineglass 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.”
Nelle Harper Lee (1926 – 2016), simply Harper Lee to millions across America, a Southern voice for decades based on her first book, To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960. Her other book though written in the 1950s, Go Set a Watchman, did not see the light of day until 2015 and was published as a sequel to her Pulitzer Prize classic.
Harper Lee wrote what she knew best, the Deep South of the 1930s from a child’s point of view. Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama provided her with ample opportunities to portray the irrationality of adult attitudes in the racist culture that permeated the South.
A footnote worth mentioning: the character in her novel named Dill was based upon her real childhood friend, Truman Capote. What were the odds that little old Monroeville, Alabama would rear up both Truman Capote and Harper Lee? Today, Monroeville, Alabama entertains thousands of visitors who flock into town to get a glimpse at the old courthouse and homes that Harper Lee wrote about in To Kill a Mockingbird. Might I suggest you might want to visit the link below to learn more-http://www.southernliterarytrail.org/monroeville.html
What’s Coming in 2023…
Shiloh Mystery Series, Fifth Anniversary of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories & Testament, An Unexpected Return. Watch for updated new book covers in 2023 and a flurry of personal appearances to promote the anniversary of all three Shiloh novels, including Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. Expanded distribution and availability of the printed and e-book editions coming.
July 2023, The Last Laird of Sapelo (Koehler Books) is coming. A historical novel that explains why at the end of the Civil War virtually all the freed Geechee slaves risked their lives and found their way back to the only homes and land they ever knew. And, why for the rest of the tumultuous Nineteenth Century the Spalding family became the only permanent white residents on Sapelo Island. A unique and near-forgotten legacy linked the post-war Geechee community and the Spaldings until the last Spalding passed away and the Geechee descendants fell victim the wishes and whims of the rich and famous in the first half of the 20th Century.
Watch for more about The Last Laird of Sapelo in the coming months…
The Black Cat was first published in the August 19, 1843, issue of The Saturday Evening Post.
FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not and very surely do I not dream. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified—have tortured—have destroyed me.
From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere Man .
I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.
This latter (pet) was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point—and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.
Pluto — this was the cat’s name — was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.
Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character—through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance—had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my wife. At length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them.
For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me—for what disease is like Alcohol!—And, at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish—even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.
One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.
When reason returned with the morning – when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch—I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.
In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful appearance, but he no longer appeared to suffer any pain. He went about the house as usual, but, as might be expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I had so much of my old heart left, as to be at first grieved by this evident dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved me. But this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart—one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself—to offer violence to its own nature—to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only—that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute.
One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offense; hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin—a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it—if such a thing were possible—even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.
On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration. The destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair.
I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts—and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This exception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the fire—a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion of it with very minute and eager attention. The words “strange!” “singular!” and other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven in bas-relief upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvelous. There was a rope about the animal’s neck.
When I first beheld this apparition—for I could scarcely regard it as less—my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd—by someone of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window, into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly spread plaster; the lime of which, with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, had then accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.
Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not altogether to my conscience, for the startling fact just detailed, it did not the less fail to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For months I could not rid myself of the phantasm of the cat; and, during this period, there came back into my spirit a half-sentiment that seemed, but was not, remorse. I went so far as to regret the loss of the animal, and to look about me, among the vile haunts which I now habitually frequented, for another pet of the same species, and of somewhat similar appearance, with which to supply its place.
One night as I sat, half stupefied, in a den of more than infamy, my attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, reposing upon the head of one of the immense hogsheads of Gin, or of Rum, which constituted the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the object thereupon.
I approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat—a very large one—fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of his body; but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of white, covering nearly the whole region of the breast. Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I at once offered to purchase it of the landlord; but this person made no claim to it—knew nothing of it—had never seen it before.
I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home, the animal evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted it to do so; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately a great favorite with my wife.
For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me. This was just the reverse of what I had anticipated; but—I know not how or why it was—its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted and annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some weeks, strike, or otherwise violently ill use it; but gradually—very gradually—I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from its odious presence, as from the breath of a pestilence.
What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, was the discovery, on the morning after I brought it home, that, like Pluto, it also had been deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only endeared it to my wife, who, as I have already said, possessed, in a high degree, that humanity of feeling which had once been my distinguishing trait, and the source of many of my simplest and purest pleasures.
With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself seemed to increase. It followed my footsteps with a pertinacity which it would be difficult to make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat, it would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses. If I arose to walk it would get between my feet and thus nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long and sharp claws in my dress, clamber, in this manner, to my breast. At such times, although I longed to destroy it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so doing, partly by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly — let me confess it at once — by absolute dread of the beast.
This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil—and yet I should be at a loss how otherwise to define it. I am almost ashamed to own—yes, even in this felon’s cell, I am almost ashamed to own—that the terror and horror with which the animal inspired me, had been heightened by one of the merest chimaeras it would be possible to conceive. My wife had called my attention, more than once, to the character of the mark of white hair, of which I have spoken, and which constituted the sole visible difference between the strange beast and the one I had destroyed. The reader will remember that this mark, although large, had been originally very indefinite; but, by slow degrees—degrees nearly imperceptible, and which for a long time my Reason struggled to reject as fanciful—it had, at length, assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It was now the representation of an object that I shudder to name – and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had I dared—it was now, I say, the image of a hideous—of a ghastly thing—of the GALLOWS ! Oh, mournful and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime—of Agony and of Death!
And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of mere Humanity. And a brute beast—whose fellow I had contemptuously destroyed—a brute beast to work out for me—for me a man, fashioned in the image of the High God—so much of insufferable woe! Alas! Neither by day nor by night knew I the blessing of Rest any more! During the former the creature left me no moment alone; and, in the latter, I started, hourly, from dreams of unutterable fear, to find the hot breath of the thing upon my face, and its vast weight—an incarnate Night-Mare that I had no power to shake off—incumbent eternally upon my heart!
Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates — the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of my usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind; while, from the sudden, frequent, and ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly abandoned myself, my uncomplaining wife, alas! was the most usual and the most patient of sufferers.
One day she accompanied me, upon some household errand, into the cellar of the old building which our poverty compelled us to inhabit. The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me headlong, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal which, of course, would have proved instantly fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded, by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan.
This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body. I knew that I could not remove it from the house, either by day or by night, without the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects entered my mind. At one period I thought of cutting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved to dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated about casting it in the well in the yard—about packing it in a box, as if merchandize, with the usual arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it from the house. Finally I hit upon what I considered a far better expedient than either of these. I determined to wall it up in the cellar—as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled up their victims.
For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls were loosely constructed, and had lately been plastered throughout with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a projection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace, that had been filled up, and made to resemble the red of the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace the bricks at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as before, so that no eye could detect any thing suspicious. And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and, having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little trouble, I re-laid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster which could not be distinguished from the old, and with this I very carefully went over the new brickwork. When I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was right. The wall did not present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around triumphantly, and said to myself—”Here at least, then, my labor has not been in vain.”
My next step was to look for the beast which had been the cause of so much wretchedness; for I had, at length, firmly resolved to put it to death. Had I been able to meet with it, at the moment, there could have been no doubt of its fate; but it appeared that the crafty animal had been alarmed at the violence of my previous anger, and fore-bore to present itself in my present mood. It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my bosom. It did not make its appearance during the night—and thus for one night at least, since its introduction into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul!
The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor came not. Once again I breathed as a freeman. The monster, in terror, had fled the premises forever! I should behold it no more! My happiness was supreme! The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little. Some few inquiries had been made, but these had been readily answered. Even a search had been instituted – but of course nothing was to be discovered. I looked upon my future felicity as secured.
Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police came, very unexpectedly, into the house, and proceeded again to make rigorous investigation of the premises. Secure, however, in the inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever. The officers bade me accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth time, they descended into the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom, and roamed easily to and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to depart. The glee at my heart was too strong to be restrained. I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and to render doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness.
“Gentlemen,” I said at last, as the party ascended the steps, “I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health, and a little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this is a very well constructed house.” [In the rabid desire to say something easily, I scarcely knew what I uttered at all.] “I may say an excellently well constructed house. These walls are solidly put together;” and here, through the mere frenzy of bravado, I rapped heavily, with a cane which I held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom.
But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend ! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence, than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb!—by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman—a howl—a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the damned in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.
Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, – staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a dozen stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb!
The following is an adaptation of Washington Irving’s tale of the Headless Horseman, originally written and published in 1820.
Read along with my narration of this American classic, a Halloween tradition suitable for all ages.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
by Washington Irving
(Adapted from the original story published in 1820)
In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.
I recollect that, when a stripling, my first exploit in squirrel-shooting was in a grove of tall walnut-trees that shades one side of the valley. I had wandered into it at noontime, when all nature is peculiarly quiet, and was startled by the roar of my own gun, as it broke the Sabbath stillness around and was prolonged and reverberated by the angry echoes. If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley.
From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson.
Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvelous beliefs; are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.
The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind. His haunts are not confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance. Indeed, certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this specter, allege that the body of the trooper having been buried in the churchyard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head, and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated, and in a hurry to get back to the churchyard before daybreak.
Such is the general purport of this legendary superstition, which has furnished materials for many a wild story in that region of shadows; and the specter is known at all the country firesides, by the name of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.
It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by every one who resides there for a time. However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions.
I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud for it is in such little retired Dutch valleys, found here and there embosomed in the great State of New York, that population, manners, and customs remain fixed, while the great torrent of migration and improvement, which is making such incessant changes in other parts of this restless country, sweeps by them unobserved. They are like those little nooks of still water, which border a rapid stream, where we may see the straw and bubble riding quietly at anchor, or slowly revolving in their mimic harbor, undisturbed by the rush of the passing current. Though many years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I should not still find the same trees and the same families vegetating in its sheltered bosom.
In this by-place of nature there abode, in a remote period of American history, that is to say, some thirty years since, a worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned, or, as he expressed it, “tarried,” in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing the children of the vicinity. He was a native of Connecticut, a State which supplies the Union with pioneers for the mind as well as for the forest, and sends forth yearly its legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters. The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.
His schoolhouse was a low building of one large room, rudely constructed of logs; the windows partly glazed, and partly patched with leaves of old copybooks. It was most ingeniously secured at vacant hours, by a *withe twisted in the handle of the door, and stakes set against the window shutters; so that though a thief might get in with perfect ease, he would find some embarrassment in getting out, — an idea most probably borrowed by the architect, Yost Van Houten, from the mystery of an eelpot. The schoolhouse stood in a rather lonely but pleasant situation, just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook running close by, and a formidable birch-tree growing at one end of it. From hence the low murmur of his pupils’ voices, conning over their lessons, might be heard in a drowsy summer’s day, like the hum of a beehive; interrupted now and then by the authoritative voice of the master, in the tone of menace or command, or, peradventure, by the appalling sound of the birch, as he urged some tardy loiterer along the flowery path of knowledge. Truth to say, he was a conscientious man, and ever bore in mind the golden maxim, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Ichabod Crane’s scholars certainly were not spoiled.
I would not have it imagined, however, that he was one of those cruel potentates of the school who joy in the smart of their subjects; on the contrary, he administered justice with discrimination rather than severity; taking the burden off the backs of the weak, and laying it on those of the strong. Your mere puny stripling, that winced at the least flourish of the rod, was passed by with indulgence; but the claims of justice were satisfied by inflicting a double portion on some little tough wrong headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin, who sulked and swelled and grew dogged and sullen beneath the birch. All this he called “doing his duty by their parents;” and he never inflicted a chastisement without following it by the assurance, so consolatory to the smarting urchin, that “he would remember it and thank him for it the longest day he had to live.”
When school hours were over, he was even the companion and playmate of the larger boys; and on holiday afternoons would convoy some of the smaller ones home, who happened to have pretty sisters, or good housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts of the cupboard. Indeed, it behooved him to keep on good terms with his pupils. The revenue arising from his school was small, and would have been scarcely sufficient to furnish him with daily bread, for he was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda; but to help out his maintenance, he was, according to country custom in those parts, boarded and lodged at the houses of the farmers whose children he instructed. With these he lived successively a week at a time, thus going the rounds of the neighborhood, with all his worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief.
That all this might not be too onerous on the purses of his rustic patrons, who are apt to considered the costs of schooling a grievous burden, and schoolmasters as mere drones he had various ways of rendering himself both useful and agreeable. He assisted the farmers occasionally in the lighter labors of their farms, helped to make hay, mended the fences, took the horses to water, drove the cows from pasture, and cut wood for the winter fire.
He laid aside, too, all the dominant dignity and absolute sway with which he lorded it in his little empire, the school, and became wonderfully gentle and ingratiating. He found favor in the eyes of the mothers by petting the children, particularly the youngest; and like the lion bold, which whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold, he would sit with a child on one knee, and rock a cradle with his foot for whole hours together.
In addition to his other vocations, he was the singing- master of the neighborhood, and picked up many bright shillings by instructing the young folks in psalmody. It was a matter of no little vanity to him on Sundays, to take his station in front of the church gallery, with a band of chosen singers; where, in his own mind, he completely carried away the palm from the parson. Certain it is, his voice resounded far above all the rest of the congregation; and there are peculiar quavers still to be heard in that church, and which may even be heard half a mile off, quite to the opposite side of the mill-pond, on a still Sunday morning, which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod Crane. Thus, by divers little makeshifts, in that ingenious way which is commonly denominated “by hook and by crook,” the worthy pedagogue got on tolerably enough, and was thought, by all who understood nothing of the labor of headwork, to have a wonderfully easy life of it.
The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in the female circle of a rural neighborhood; being considered a kind of idle, gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior taste and accomplishments to the rough country swains, and, indeed, inferior in learning only to the parson. His appearance, therefore, is apt to occasion some little stir at the tea-table of a farmhouse, and the addition of a supernumerary dish of cakes or sweetmeats, or, peradventure, the parade of a silver teapot. Our man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly happy in the smiles of all the country damsels. How he would figure among them in the churchyard, between services on Sundays; gathering grapes for them from the wild vines that overran the surrounding trees; reciting for their amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones; or sauntering, with a whole bevy of them, along the banks of the adjacent mill-pond; while the more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly back, envying his superior elegance and address.
From his half-itinerant life, also, he was a kind of traveling gazette, carrying the whole budget of local gossip from house to house, so that his appearance was always greeted with satisfaction. He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read several books quite through, and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft,” in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently believed.
He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple credulity. His appetite for the marvelous, and his powers of digesting such were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spellbound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow. It was often his delight, after his school was dismissed in the afternoon, to stretch himself on the rich bed of clover bordering the little brook that whimpered by his school-house, and there con over old Mather’s direful tales, until the gathering dusk of evening made the printed page a mere mist before his eyes. Then, as he wended his way by swamp and stream and awful woodland, to the farmhouse where he happened to be quartered, every sound of nature, at that witching hour, fluttered his excited imagination, –the moan of the whip-poor-will from the hillside, the boding cry of the tree toad, that harbinger of storm, the dreary hooting of the screech owl, to the sudden rustling in the thicket of birds frightened from their roost. The fireflies, too, which sparkled most vividly in the darkest places, now and then startled him, as one of uncommon brightness would stream across his path; and if, by chance, a huge blockhead of a beetle came winging his blundering flight against him, the poor varlet was ready to give up the ghost, with the idea that he was struck with a witch’s token. His only resource on such occasions, either to drown thought or drive away evil spirits, was to sing psalm tunes and the good people of Sleepy Hollow, as they sat by their doors of an evening, were often filled with awe at hearing his nasal melody, “in linked sweetness long drawn out,” floating from the distant hill, or along the dusky road.
Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvelous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or Galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would delight them equally by his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed in the earlier times of Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully with speculations upon comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming fact that the world did absolutely turn round, and that they were half the time topsy-turvy!
But if there was a pleasure in all this, while snugly cuddling in the chimney corner of a chamber that was all of a ruddy glow from the crackling wood fire, and where, of course, no specter dared to show its face, it was dearly purchased by the terrors of his subsequent walk homewards. What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path, amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy night! With what wistful look did he eye every trembling ray of light streaming across the waste fields from some distant window! How often was he appalled by some shrub covered with snow, which, like a sheeted specter, beset his very path! How often did he shrink with curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him! and how often was he thrown into complete dismay by some rushing blast, howling among the trees, in the idea that it was the Galloping Hessian on one of his nightly scourings!
All these, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many specters in his time, and been more than once beset by Satan in divers shapes, in his lonely perambulations, yet daylight put an end to all these evils; and he would have passed a pleasant life of it, in despite of the Devil and all his works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that causes more perplexity to mortal man than ghosts, goblins, and the whole race of witches put together, and that was–a woman.
Among the musical disciples who assembled, one evening in each week, to receive his instructions in psalmody, was Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch farmer. She was a booming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as a partridge; ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her father’s peaches, and universally famed, not merely for her beauty, but her vast expectations. She was withal a little of a coquette, as might be perceived even in her dress, which was a mixture of ancient and modern fashions, as most suited to set of her charms. She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saar dam; the tempting stomacher of the olden time, and withal a provokingly short petticoat, to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round.
Ichabod Crane had a soft and foolish heart towards the sex; and it is not to be wondered at, that so tempting a morsel soon found favor in his eyes, more especially after he had visited her in her paternal mansion. Old Baltus Van Tassel was a perfect picture of a thriving, contented, liberal-hearted farmer. He seldom, it is true, sent either his eyes or his thoughts beyond the boundaries of his own farm; but within those everything was snug, happy and well-conditioned. He was satisfied with his wealth, but not proud of it; and piqued himself upon the hearty abundance, rather than the style in which he lived. His stronghold was situated on the banks of the Hudson, in one of those green, sheltered, fertile nooks in which the Dutch farmers are so fond of nestling. A great elm tree spread its broad branches over it, at the foot of which bubbled up a spring of the softest and sweetest water, in a little well formed of a barrel; and then stole sparkling away through the grass, to a neighboring brook, that babbled along among alders and dwarf willows. Hard by the farmhouse was a vast barn, that might have served for a church; every window and crevice of which seemed bursting forth with the treasures of the farm; the flail was busily resounding within it from morning to night; swallows and martins skimmed twittering about the eaves; an rows of pigeons, some with one eye turned up, as if watching the weather, some with their heads under their wings or buried in their bosoms, and others swelling, and cooing, and bowing about their dames, were enjoying the sunshine on the roof. Sleek unwieldy porkers were grunting in the repose and abundance of their pens, from whence sallied forth, now and then, troops of sucking pigs, as if to snuff the air. A stately squadron of snowy geese were riding in an adjoining pond, convoying whole fleets of ducks; regiments of turkeys were gobbling through the farmyard, and Guinea fowls fretting about it, like ill-tempered housewives, with their peevish, discontented cry. Before the barn door strutted the gallant cock, that pattern of a husband, a warrior and a fine gentleman, clapping his burnished wings and crowing in the pride and gladness of his heart, — sometimes tearing up the earth with his feet, and then generously calling his ever-hungry family of wives and children to enjoy the rich morsel which he had discovered.
The pedagogue’s mouth watered as he looked upon this sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare. In his devouring mind’s eye, he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cosily in dishes, like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. In the porkers he saw carved out the future sleek side of bacon, and juicy relishing ham; not a turkey but he beheld daintily trussed up, with its gizzard under its wing, and, peradventure, a necklace of savory sausages; and even bright chanticleer himself lay sprawling on his back, in a side dish, with uplifted claws, as if craving that quarter which his chivalrous spirit disdained to ask while living.
As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled his great green eyes over the fat meadow lands, the rich fields of wheat, of rye, of buckwheat, and Indian corn, and the orchards burdened with ruddy fruit, which surrounded the warm tenement of Van Tassel, his heart yearned after the damsel who was to inherit these domains, and his imagination expanded with the idea, how they might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land, and shingle palaces in the wilderness. Nay, his busy fancy already realized his hopes, and presented to him the blooming Katrina, with a whole family of children, mounted on the top of a wagon loaded with household trumpery, with pots and kettles dangling beneath; and he beheld himself bestriding a pacing mare, with a colt at her heels, setting out for Kentucky, Tennessee, — or the Lord knows where!
When he entered the house, the conquest of his heart was complete. It was one of those spacious farmhouses, with high- ridged but lowly sloping roofs, built in the style handed down from the first Dutch settlers; the low projecting eaves forming a piazza along the front, capable of being closed up in bad weather. Under this were hung flails, harness, various utensils of husbandry, and nets for fishing in the neighboring river. Benches were built along the sides for summer use; and a great spinning-wheel at one end, and a churn at the other, showed the various uses to which this important porch might be devoted. From this piazza the wondering Ichabod entered the hall, which formed the centre of the mansion, and the place of usual residence. Here rows of resplendent pewter, ranged on a long dresser, dazzled his eyes. In one corner stood a huge bag of wool, ready to be spun; in another, a quantity of linsey-woolsey just from the loom; ears of Indian corn, and strings of dried apples and peaches, hung in gay festoons along the walls, mingled with the gaud of red peppers; and a door left ajar gave him a peep into the best parlor, where the claw-footed chairs and dark mahogany tables shone like mirrors; andirons, with their accompanying shovel and tongs, glistened from their covert of asparagus tops; mock oranges and conch shells decorated the mantelpiece; strings of various-colored birds eggs were suspended above it; a great ostrich egg was hung from the centre of the room, and a corner cupboard, knowingly left open, displayed immense treasures of old silver and well-mended china.
From the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of delight, the peace of his mind was at an end, and his only study was how to gain the affections of the peerless daughter of Van Tassel. In this enterprise, however, he had more real difficulties than generally fell to the lot of a knight-errant of yore, who seldom had anything but giants, enchanters, fiery dragons, and such like easily conquered adversaries, to contend with and had to make his way merely through gates of iron and brass, and walls of adamant to the castle keep, where the lady of his heart was confined; all which he achieved as easily as a man would carve his way to the centre of a Christmas pie; and then the lady gave him her hand as a matter of course. Ichabod, on the contrary, had to win his way to the heart of a country coquette, beset with a labyrinth of whims and caprices, which were forever presenting new difficulties and impediments; and he had to encounter a host of fearful adversaries of real flesh and blood, the numerous rustic admirers, who beset every portal to her heart, keeping a watchful and angry eye upon each other, but ready to fly out in the common cause against any new competitor.
Among these, the most formidable was a burly, roaring, roystering blade, of the name of Abraham, or, according to the Dutch abbreviation, Brom Van Brunt, the hero of the country round which rang with his feats of strength and hardihood. He was broad-shouldered and double-jointed, with short curly black hair, and a bluff but not unpleasant countenance, having a mingled air of fun and arrogance From his Herculean frame and great powers of limb he had received the nickname of BROM BONES, by which he was universally known. He was famed for great knowledge and skill in horsemanship, being as dexterous on horseback as a Tartar. He was foremost at all races and cock fights; and, with the ascendancy which bodily strength always acquires in rustic life, was the umpire in all disputes, setting his hat on one side, and giving his decisions with an air and tone that admitted of no gainsay or appeal. He was always ready for either a fight or a frolic; but had more mischief than ill-will in his composition; and with all his overbearing roughness, there was a strong dash of waggish good humor at bottom.
He had three or four boon companions, who regarded him as their model, and at the head of whom he scoured the country, attending every scene of feud or merriment for miles round. In cold weather he was distinguished by a fur cap, surmounted with a flaunting fox’s tail; and when the folks at a country gathering descried this well-known crest at a distance, whisking about among a squad of hard riders, they always stood by for a squall.
Sometimes his crew would be heard dashing along past the farmhouses at midnight, with whoop and halloo, like a troop of Don Cossacks; and the old dames, startled out of their sleep, would listen for a moment till the hurry-scurry had clattered by, and then exclaim, “Ay, there goes Brom Bones and his gang!” The neighbors looked upon him with a mixture of awe, admiration, and good-will; and, when any madcap prank or rustic brawl occurred in the vicinity, always shook their heads, and warranted Brom Bones was at the bottom of it.
This rantipole hero had for some time singled out the blooming Katrina for the object of his uncouth gallantries, and though his amorous toyings were something like the gentle caresses and endearments of a bear, yet it was whispered that she did not altogether discourage his hopes. Certain it is, his advances were signals for rival candidates to retire, who felt no inclination to cross a lion in his amours; insomuch, that when his horse was seen tied to Van Tassel’s paling, on a Sunday night, a sure sign that his master was courting, or, as it is termed, “sparking,” within, all other suitors passed by in despair, and carried the war into other quarters.
Such was the formidable rival with whom Ichabod Crane had to contend, and, considering, all things, a stouter man than he would have shrunk from the competition, and a wiser man would have despaired. He had, however, a happy mixture of pliability and perseverance in his nature; he was in form and spirit like a supple-jack-yielding, but tough; though he bent, he never broke; and though he bowed beneath the slightest pressure, yet, the moment it was away–jerk!–he was as erect, and carried his head as high as ever.
To have taken the field openly against his rival would have been madness; for he was not a man to be thwarted in his amours, any more than that stormy lover, Achilles. Ichabod, therefore, made his advances in a quiet and gently insinuating manner. Under the cover of his character of singing-master, he made frequent visits at the farmhouse; not that he had anything to apprehend from the meddlesome interference of parents, which is so often a stumbling-block in the path of lovers. Balt Van Tassel was an easy indulgent soul; he loved his daughter better even than his pipe, and, like a reasonable man and an excellent father, let her have her way in everything.
His notable little wife, too, had enough to do to attend to her housekeeping and manage her poultry; for, as she sagely observed, ducks and geese are foolish things, and must be looked after, but girls can take care of themselves. Thus, while the busy dame bustled about the house, or plied her spinning-wheel at one end of the piazza, honest Balt would sit smoking his evening pipe at the other, watching the achievements of a little wooden warrior, who, armed with a sword in each hand, was most valiantly fighting the wind on the pinnacle of the barn. In the mean time, Ichabod would carry on his suit with the daughter by the side of the spring under the great elm, or sauntering along in the twilight, that hour so favorable to the lover’s eloquence. I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration. Some seem to have but one vulnerable point, or door of access; while others have a thousand avenues, and may be captured in a thousand different ways. It is a great triumph of skill to gain the former, but a still greater proof of generalship to maintain possession of the latter, for man must battle for his fortress at every door and window. He who wins a thousand common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette is indeed a hero. Certain it is, this was not the case with the redoubtable Brom Bones; and from the moment Ichabod Crane made his advances, the interests of the former evidently declined: his horse was no longer seen tied to the palings on Sunday nights, and a deadly feud gradually arose between him and the preceptor of Sleepy Hollow.
Brom, who had a degree of rough chivalry in his nature, would fain have carried matters to open warfare and have settled their pretensions to the lady, according to the mode of those most concise and simple reasoners, the knights-errant of yore, by single combat; but lchabod was too conscious of the superior might of his adversary to enter the lists against him; he had overheard a boast of Bones, that he would “double the schoolmaster up, and lay him on a shelf of his own schoolhouse;” and he was too wary to give him an opportunity. There was something extremely provoking, in this obstinately pacific system; it left Brom no alternative but to draw upon the funds of rustic waggery in his disposition, and to play off boorish practical jokes upon his rival. Ichabod became the object of whimsical persecution to Bones and his gang of rough riders. They harried his hitherto peaceful domains, smoked out his singing-school by stopping up the chimney, broke into the schoolhouse at night, in spite of its formidable fastenings of withe and window stakes, and turned everything topsy-turvy, so that the poor schoolmaster began to think all the witches in the country held their meetings there.
But what was still more annoying, Brom took all Opportunities of turning him into ridicule in presence of his mistress, and had a scoundrel dog whom he taught to whine in the most ludicrous manner, and introduced as a rival of Ichabod’s, to instruct her in psalmody.
In this way matters went on for some time, without producing any material effect on the relative situations of the contending powers. On a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive mood, sat enthroned on the lofty stool from whence he usually watched all the concerns of his little literary realm. In his hand he swayed a ferule, that scepter of despotic power; the birch of justice reposed on three nails behind the throne, a constant terror to evil doers, while on the desk before him might be seen sundry contraband articles and prohibited weapons, detected upon the persons of idle urchins, such as half-munched apples, popguns, whirligigs, fly-cages, and whole legions of rampant little paper game-cocks. Apparently there had been some appalling act of justice recently inflicted, for his scholars were all busily intent upon their books, or slyly whispering behind them with one eye kept upon the master; and a kind of buzzing stillness reigned throughout the schoolroom. It wassuddenly interrupted by the appearance of a negro in tow-cloth jacket and trousers. a round-crowned fragment of a hat, like the cap of Mercury, and mounted on the back of a ragged, wild, half-broken colt, which he managed with a rope by way of halter. He came clattering up to the school-door with an invitation to Ichabod to attend a merrymaking or “quilting-frolic,” to be held that evening at Mynheer Van Tassel’s; and having, delivered his message with that air of importance and effort at fine language which a negro is apt to display on petty embassies of the kind, he dashed over the brook, and was seen scampering, away up the Hollow, full of the importance and hurry of his mission.
All was now bustle and hubbub in the late quiet schoolroom. The scholars were hurried through their lessons without stopping at trifles; those who were nimble skipped over half with impunity, and those who were tardy had a smart application now and then in the rear, to quicken their speed or help them over a tall word. Books were flung aside without being put away on the shelves, inkstands were overturned, benches thrown down, and the whole school was turned loose an hour before the usual time, bursting forth like a legion of young imps, yelping and racketing about the green in joy at their early emancipation.
The gallant Ichabod now spent at least an extra half hour at his toilet, brushing and furbishing up his best, and indeed only suit of rusty black, and arranging his locks by a bit of broken looking-glass that hung up in the schoolhouse. That he might make his appearance before his mistress in the true style of a cavalier, he borroweda horse from the farmer with whom he was domiciliated, a choleric old Dutchman of the name of Hans Van Ripper, and, thus gallantly mounted, issued forth like a knight-errant in quest of adventures. But it is meet I should, in the true spirit of romantic story, give some account of the looks and equipments of my hero and his steed. The animal he bestrode was a broken-down plow-horse, that had outlived almost everything but its viciousness. He was gaunt and shagged, with a ewe neck, and a head like a hammer; his rusty mane and tail were tangled and knotted with burs; one eye had lost its pupil, and was glaring and spectral, but the other had the gleam of a genuine devil in it. Still he must have had fire and mettle in his day, if we may judge from the name he bore of Gunpowder. He had, in fact, been a favorite steed of his master’s, the choleric Van Ripper, who was a furious rider, and had infused, very probably, some of his own spirit into the animal; for, old and broken-down as he looked, there was more of the lurking devil in him than in any young filly in the country.
Ichabod was a suitable figure for such a steed . He rode with short stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the pommel of the saddle; his sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers’; he carried his whip perpendicularly in his hand, like a scepter, and as his horse jogged on, the motion of his arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings. A small wool hat rested on the top of his nose, for so his scanty strip of forehead might be called, and the skirts of his black coat fluttered out almost to the horses tail. Such was the appearance of Ichabod and his steed as they shambled out of the gate of Hans Van Ripper, and it was altogether such an apparition as is seldom to be met with in broad daylight.
It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory-nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the neighboring stubble field. The small birds were taking their farewell banquets. In the fullness of their revelry, they fluttered, chirping and frolicking from bush to bush, and tree to tree, capricious from the very profusion and variety around them. There was the honest cock robin, the favorite game of stripling sportsmen, with its loud querulous note; and the twittering blackbirds flying in sable clouds, and the golden-winged woodpecker with his crimson crest, his broad black gorget, and splendid plumage; and the cedar-bird, with its red tipped wings and yellow-tipped tail and its little monteiro cap of feathers; and the blue jay, that noisy coxcomb, in his gay light blue coat and white underclothes, screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending to be on good terms with every songster of the grove.
As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store of apples: some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some gathered into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their leafy coverts, and holding out the promise of cakes and hasty-pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant buckwheat fields breathing the odor of the beehive, and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty slap-jacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel.
Thus feeding his mind with many sweet thoughts and “sugared suppositions,” he journeyed along the sides of a range of hills which look out upon some of the goodliest scenes of the mighty Hudson. The sun gradually wheeled his broad disk down in the West. The wide bosom of the Tappan Zee lay motionless and glassy, excepting that here and there a gentle undulation waved and prolonged the blue shallow of the distant mountain.
A few amber clouds floated in the sky, without a breath of air to move them. The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually into a pure apple green, and from that into the deep blue of the mid-heaven. A slanting ray lingered on the woody crests of the precipices that overhung some parts of the river, giving greater depth to the dark gray and purple of their rocky sides. A sloop was loitering in the distance, dropping slowly down with the tide, her sail hanging uselessly against the mast; and as the reflection of the sky gleamed along the still water, it seemed as if the vessel was suspended in the air.
It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived at the castle of the Heer Van Tassel, which he found thronged with the pride and flower of the adjacent country of Old farmers, a sparse leather-faced race, in homespun coats and breeches, blue stockings, huge shoes, and magnificent pewter buckles. Their brisk, withered little dames, in close crimped caps, long waisted short-gowns, homespun petticoats, with scissors and pin-cushions, and gay calico pockets hanging on the outside. Buxom lasses, almost as antiquated as their mothers, excepting where a straw hat, a fine ribbon, or perhaps a white frock, gave symptoms of city innovation. The sons, in short square-skirted coats, with rows of stupendous brass buttons, and their hair generally queued in the fashion of the times, especially if they could procure an eel-skin for the purpose, it being esteemed throughout the country as a potent nourisher and strengthener of the hair.
Brom Bones, however, was the hero of the scene, having come to the gathering on his favorite steed Daredevil, a creature, like himself, full of mettle and mischief, and which no one but himself could manage. He was, in fact, noted for preferring vicious animals, given to all kinds of tricks which kept the rider in constant risk of his neck, for he held a tractable, well-broken horse as unworthy of a lad of spirit.
Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered the state parlor of Van Tassel’s mansion. Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses, with their luxurious display of red and white; but the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table, in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tender olykoek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And then there were apple pies, and peach pies, and pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy–pigglely, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst–Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story. Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his historian, but did ample justice to every dainty.
He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion as his skin was filled with good cheer, and whose spirits rose with eating, as some men’s do with drink. He could not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling with the possibility that he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury and splendor. Then, he thought, how soon he ‘d turn his back upon the old schoolhouse; snap his fingers in the face of Hans Van Ripper, and every other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant pedagogue out of doors that should dare to call him comrade!
Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a face dilated with content and good humor, round and jolly as the harvest moon. His hospitable attentions were brief, but expressive, being confined to a shake of the hand, a slap on the shoulder, a loud laugh, and a pressing invitation to “fall to, and help themselves.”
And now the sound of the music from the common room, or hall, summoned to the dance. The musician was an old gray-headed negro, who had been the itinerant orchestra of the neighborhood for more than half a century. His instrument was as old and battered as himself. The greater part of the time he scraped on two or three strings, accompanying every movement of the bow with a motion of the head; bowing almost to the ground, and stamping with his foot whenever a fresh couple were to start.
Ichabod prided himself upon his dancing as much as upon his vocal powers. Not a limb, not a fibre about him was idle; and to have seen his loosely hung frame in full motion, and clattering about the room, you would have thought St. Vitus himself, that blessed patron of the dance, was figuring before you in person. He was the admiration of all the negroes; who, having gathered, of all ages and sizes, from the farm and the neighborhood, stood forming a pyramid of shining black faces at every door and window; gazing with delight at the scene; rolling their white eye-balls, and showing grinning rows of ivory from ear to ear. How could the flogger of urchins be otherwise than animated and joyous? the lady of his heart was his partner in the dance, and smiling graciously in reply to all his amorous oglings; while Brom Bones, sorely smitten with love and jealousy, sat brooding by himself in one corner.
When the dance was at an end, Ichabod was attracted to a knot of the sager folks, who, with Old Van Tassel, sat smoking at one end of the piazza, gossiping over former times, and drawing out long stories about the war.
This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run near it during the war; it had therefore, been the scene of marauding and infested with refugees, cow-boys, and all kinds of border chivalry. Just sufficient time had elapsed to enable each story-teller to dress up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and, in the indistinctness of his recollection, to make himself the hero of every exploit.
There was the story of Doffue Martling, a large blue-bearded Dutchman, who had nearly taken a British frigate with an old iron nine-pounder from a mud breastwork, only that his gun burst at the sixth discharge. And there was an old gentleman who shall be nameless, being too rich a mynheer to be lightly mentioned, who, in the battle of White Plains, being an excellent master of defense, parried a musket-ball with a small-sword, insomuch that he absolutely felt it whiz round the blade, and glance off at the hilt; in proof of which he was ready at anytime to show the sword, with the hilt a little bent. There were several more that had been equally great in the field, not one of whom but was persuaded that he had a considerable hand in bringing the war to a happy termination.
But all these were nothing to the tales of ghosts and apparitions that succeeded. The neighborhood is rich in legendary treasures of the kind. Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long settled retreats; but are trampled under foot by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country places.
Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap and turn themselves in their graves, before their surviving friends have travelled away from the neighborhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our long-established Dutch communities.
The immediate cause, however, of the prevalence of supernatural stories in these parts, was doubtless owing to the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land. Several of the Sleepy Hollow people
were present at Van Tassel’s, and, as usual, were doling out their wild and wonderful legends. Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate Major Andre was taken, and which stood in the neighborhood. Some mention was made also of the woman in white, that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the snow. The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite specter of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard.
The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll, surrounded by locust, trees and lofty elms, from among which descend, whitewashed walls that shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water, bordered by high trees, between which, peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along which raves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime; but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. Such was one of the favorite haunts of the Headless Horseman, and the place where he was most frequently encountered. The tale was told of old Brouwer, a most heretical disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the Horseman returning from his foray into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached the bridge; when the Horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap of thunder.
This story was immediately matched by a thrice marvelous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash of fire.
All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of Ichabod. He repaid them in kind with large extracts from his invaluable author, Cotton Mather, and added many marvelous events that had taken place in his native State of Connecticut, and fearful sights which he had seen in his nightly walks about Sleepy Hollow.
The revel now gradually broke up. The old farmers gathered together their families in their wagons, and were heard for some time rattling along the hollow roads, and over the distant hills. Some of the damsels mounted on pillions behind their favorite swains, and their light-hearted laughter, mingling with the clatter of hoofs, echoed along the silent woodlands, sounding fainter and fainter, until they gradually died away, and the late scene of noise and frolic was all silent and deserted. Ichabod only lingered behind, according to the custom of country lovers, to have a tete-a-tete with the heiress; fully convinced that he was now on the high road to success. What passed at this interview I will not pretend to say, for in fact I do not know. Something, however, I fear me, must have gone wrong, for he certainly sallied forth, after no very great interval, with an air quite desolate and chapfallen. Oh, these women! these women! Could that girl have been playing off any of her coquettish tricks?
Was her encouragement of the poor pedagogue all a mere sham to secure her conquest of his rival? Heaven only knows, not I! Let it suffice to say, Ichabod stole forth with the air of one who had been sacking a hen-roost, rather than a fair lady’s heart. Without looking to the right or left to notice the scene of rural wealth, on which he had so often gloated, he went straight to the stable, and with several hearty cuffs and kicks roused his steed most uncourteously from the comfortable quarters in which he was soundly sleeping, dreaming of mountains of corn and oats, and whole valleys of timothy and clover.
It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy hearted and crest-fallen, pursued his travels homewards, along the sides of the lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was as dismal as himself. Far below him the Tappan Zee spread its dusky and indistinct waste of waters, with here and there the tall mast of a sloop, riding quietly at anchor under the land. In the dead hush of midnight, he could even hear the barking of the watchdog from the opposite shore of the Hudson; but it was so vague and faint as only to give an idea of his distance from this faithful companion of man. Now and then, too, the long-drawn crowing of a cock, accidentally awakened, would sound far, far off, from some farmhouse away among the hills–but it was like a dreaming sound in his ear. No signs of life occurred near him, but occasionally the melancholy chirp of a cricket, or perhaps the guttural twang of a bullfrog from a neighboring marsh, as if sleeping uncomfortably and turning suddenly in his bed.
All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been laid. In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth, and rising again into the air. It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate Andre, who had been taken prisoner hard by; and was universally known by the name of Major Andre’s tree. The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill- starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights, and doleful lamentations, told concerning it.
As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he began to whistle; he thought his whistle was answered; it was but a blast sweeping sharply through the dry branches. As he approached a little nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the midst of the tree: he paused, and ceased whistling but, on looking more narrowly, perceived that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning, and the white wood laid bare.
Suddenly he heard a groan–his teeth chattered, and his knees smote against the saddle: it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon another, as they were swayed about by the breeze. He passed the tree in safety, but new perils lay before him. About two hundred yards from the tree, a small brook crossed the road, and ran into a marshy and thickly wooded glen, known by the name of Wiley’s Swamp.
A few rough logs, laid side by side, served for a bridge over this stream. On that side of the road where the brook entered the wood, a group of oaks and chestnuts, matted thick with wild grape-vines, threw a cavernous gloom over it. To pass this bridge was the severest trial. It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate Andre was captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy yeomen concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been considered a haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the school-boy who has to pass it alone after dark.
As he approached the stream, his heart began to thump he summoned up, however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old animal made a lateral movement, and ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod, whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the reins on the other side, and kicked lustily with the contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder-bushes. The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder, who dashed forward, snuffling and snorting, but came to a stand just by the bridge, with a suddenness that had nearly sent his rider sprawling over his head. Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.
The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, “ Who are you?” He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.
Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion, and bethought himself of the adventure of Brom Bones with the Galloping Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes of leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag behind, — the other did the same. His heart began to sink within him; he endeavored to resume his psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and he could not utter a stave. There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless! but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle! His terror rose to desperation; he rained a shower of kicks and blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement to give his companion the slip; but the specter started full jump with him. Away, then, they dashed through thick and thin; stones flying and sparks flashing at every bound. Ichabod’s flimsy garments fluttered in the air, as he stretched his long lank body away over his horse’s head, in the eagerness of his flight.
They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy Hollow; but Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead of keeping up it, made an opposite turn, and plunged headlong down the hill to the left. This road leads through a sandy hollow shaded by trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses the bridge famous in goblin story; and just beyond swells the green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.
As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskilful rider an apparent advantage in the chase, but just as he had got half way through the hollow, the girths of the saddle gave way, and he felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel, and endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain; and had just time to save himself by clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van Ripper’s wrath passed across his mind, — for it was his Sunday saddle; but this was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches; and (unskilful rider that he was!) he had much ado to maintain his seat; sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another, and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his horse’s backbone, with a violence that he verily feared would cleave him asunder.
An opening, in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’ ghostly competitor had disappeared. “If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, ” I am safe.”
Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him.
Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash, — he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.
The next morning the old horse was found without his saddle, and with the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping the grass at his master’s gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance at breakfast; dinner-hour came, but no Ichabod. The boys assembled at the schoolhouse, and strolled idly about the banks of the brook; but no schoolmaster. Hans Van Ripper now began to feel some uneasiness about the fate of poor Ichabod, and his saddle. An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent investigation they came upon his traces. In one part of the road leading to the church was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of horses’ hoofs deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the head of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin.
The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was not to be discovered. Hans Van Ripper as executor of his estate, examined the bundle which contained all his worldly effects. They consisted of two shirts and a half; two stocks for the neck; a pair or two of worsted stockings; an old pair of corduroy small-clothes; a rusty razor; a book of psalm tunes full of dog’s-ears; and a broken pitch-pipe. As to the books and furniture of the schoolhouse, they belonged to the community, excepting Cotton Mather’s History of Witchcraft, a New England Almanac, and book of dreams and fortune-telling; in which last was a sheet of foolscap much scribbled and blotted in several fruitless attempts to make a copy of verses in honor of the heiress of Van Tassel. These magic books and the poetic scrawl were forthwith consigned to the flames by Hans Van Ripper; who, from that time forward, determined to send his children no more to school; observing that he never knew any good come of this same reading and writing. Whatever money the schoolmaster possessed, and he had received his quarter’s pay but a day or two before, he must have had about his person at the time of his disappearance.
The mysterious event caused much speculation at the church on the following Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips were collected in the churchyard, at the bridge, and at the spot where the hat and pumpkin had been found. The stories of Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of others were called to mind; and when they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with the symptoms of the present case, they shook their heads, and came to the conclusion chat Ichabod had been carried off by the Galloping Hessian. As he was a bachelor, and in nobody’s debt, nobody troubled his head any more about him; the school was removed to a different quarter of the Hollow, and another pedagogue reigned in his stead.
It is true, an old farmer, who had been down to New York on a visit several years after, and from whom this account of the ghostly adventure was received, brought home the intelligence that Ichabod Crane was still alive; that he had left the neighborhood partly through fear of the goblin and Hans Van Ripper, and partly in mortification at having been suddenly dismissed by the heiress; that he had changed his quarters to a distant part of the country; had kept school and studied law at the same time; had been admitted to the bar; turned politician; electioneered; written for the newspapers; and finally had been made a justice of the ten pound court.
Brom Bones, too, who, shortly after his rival’s disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell.
The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge became more than ever an object of superstitious awe; and that may be the reason why the road has been altered of late years, so as to approach the church by the border of the mill-pond.
The schoolhouse being deserted soon fell to decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue and the plough-boy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.
THE LAST LAIRD OF SAPELO, a historical novel about the Spalding family’s legacy on Sapelo Island, Darien, and McIntosh County on Georgia’s storied coast will come out next August 2023 by Koehler Books.
I hope all of you will want to catch all my upcoming newsletters, if you are not already currently reading them.
In the coming months, I will ask many of you to help with the book launch plans for my new historical novel.
WHO WANTS A FREE ADVANCE COPY OF THE BOOK? If you love historical stories, this will be an excellent opportunity for you. And, all launch team members will receive a free signed advance copy of The Last Laird of Sapelo. If you are one of my author-friends, you understand the significance and importance of a book’s advance launch team. I look forward to many of you coming on board by next summer 2023.
Please be sure to follow me onFacebookfor regular updates as well.
A discussion about the value of locally owned book retailers today with a focus on what’s happening in downtown Newnan and Coweta County. Be sure to subscribe to learn more about this and future Hometown Novel News podcasts.
(Read all the way down and catch a recent interview of T. M. Brown by Canvas Rebel Magazine.)
Zora Neale Hurston, an Undeniable Southern Voice
Zora Neale Hurston, a Notable Southern Voice from the Past
Zora Neale Hurston became an influential African-American voice for Southern literature in the 1930s. She portrayed racial struggles in the early 20th Century South. Of her four novels and numerous published short stories, plays, and essays, her 1937 book Their Eyes Were Watching God brought her the most notoriety.
Born in Alabama, her family relocated to Eatonville, Florida in 1894. While attending Barnard College in New York, Zora became a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance and befriended Langston Hughes. She returned to North Florida and wrote her novels about the African-American experience, folklore, and her personal struggles as an African-American woman. She would be instrumental as an instructor at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida and later at North Carolina College for Negroes, now North Carolina Central University, Durham, North Carolina.
Posthumous Notoriety, Continued Recognition
Zora Neale Hurston’s works continued mostly unrecognized until Alice Walker in 1975 published “In Search of Zora Neale Thurston” in Ms. Magazine. Two of her works published posthumously were Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001) and Barracoon (2018).
Below is the recent interview by Canvas Reel Magazine. It provides a broad picture of Mike as an published author and founder of Hometown Novel Writers Association in Newnan, GA. There’s much to look forward to in 2023.
Upcoming appearances, Saturday, October 15th, Arts on the Creek Book Festival, Johns Creek, Georgia, 10 AM.
After a stellar, extended career as an author of twenty-five novels, countless short stories, and twelve non-fiction books, Erskine Caldwell became a charter member of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, 2000.
Born in 1903 to a Presbyterian minister and a schoolteacher mother in Moreland, GA, he lived an itinerant life in his early years living in Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee before his family returned and settled back in Georgia near to Augusta. His father’s compassion for the desperately poor folks impacted Erskine. His first notable writing came while he studied at the University of Virginia. “The Georgia Cracker” (1926) established the themes that infused his future writing: political demagoguery, racial injustice, depraved religion, cultural sterility, and social irresponsibility. He continued to develop as a writer through several groundbreaking magazine articles before F. Scott Fitzgerald recommended him to Maxwell Perkins, the senior editor at Charles Scribner’s Sons. Besides many short stories and articles, Caldwell wrote three highly successive novels by 1940, Tobacco Road, God’s Little Acre, and Trouble in July. Through these novels, Caldwell brought attention to the Depression’s dire effects upon Georgia’s tenant farmers, abuse of southern industrial workers, the disintegration of family values, and punctuated the brutal, racist attitudes aroused by white southern fears of interracial relationships.
Though interest in his novels waned by the early 1940s, they received a resurgence in the paperback revolution in American publishing following WWII.
In Caldwell’s later years, he turned to non-fiction to focus on social injustices earned him some harsh criticism of his views during the McCarthyism of the 1950s. Though he lived and traveled extensively away from his beloved Southern roots and family home in Wren, GA, he wrote to then GA Governor Lester Maddox in 1967, “I think that I am as much a Georgian as Brer Rabbitt.” Peachtree Publishers published fittingly his final book in Georgia a month before his death, April 11, 1987, an autobiography, With All My Might.
During a conference on Lost Southern Voices two years ago, I listened and learned how Erskine Caldwell influenced and interacted with the likes of Pat Conroy and Terry Kay. I live not ten minutes from Moreland, GA’s tribute to Erskine Caldwell. One cannot survey his humble beginnings and the collection of memorabilia on display without a sense of awe. How many more Southern novelists did he inspire?
Thanks to my extended conversation with folks behind Moreland’s exhibits on Erskine Caldwell, it is worthwhile to note that his novel successes and notoriety in the early 1930s stirred Madison Avenue publishers in New York to leave their sanctimonious ivory towers and scour the South to discover more nascent Southern voices.
Mixon, Wayne. “Erskine Caldwell (1903-1987).” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 16 May 2016. Web. 11 July 2018.
Watch for great news regarding my latest historical novel, The Last Laird of Sapelo”!
Subscribe to my newsletters and future mailings. You may get chosen to become a member of the launch team and get a free copy of my next novel. Be sure to visit @TMBrownAuthor on Facebook to catch my latest appearances and book signings.
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…?
Summer begins June 21st and so does the $.99 Kindle offer for each of the Shiloh Mystery novels… Offer runs through June 28th! So don’t miss out! Purchase one or all three to fill your summer reading time…
“T. M. Brown’s characters are rich, the story is compelling . . . the language is clever and poetic. . . It is an extraordinary tale written by an exceptional author. I will read this book again.” —RAYMOND L. ATKINS author of Set List, Sweetwater Blues, and Camp Redemption
What do you think? The Last Laird of Sapelo: The Randolph Spalding Story has served as my working title for my new historical novel, but it also sounds far too academic. After spending a weekend with author-peers at a writing conference on St. Simon’s Island and taking a three-hour boat tour of the tidewater around Darien/Sapelo Island, a new more meaningful title struck me — “Days of Cotton and Cannons”
For those who followed my journey in writing this story, now smack in the middle of the submission/query stage seeking the right publisher/agent, what do you think?
Why is Sapelo Island the setting for my historical novel, “The Last Laird of Sapelo: The Randolph Spalding Story”?
This 16,000 acre feral, time-lost barrier island remains pretty much cut off from the mad-rush of progress. It remains as it was for centuries long ago except for a few relics of man’s cultural attempts to tame the island.
By 1861, the Spalding family owned most all of Sapelo. Though Randolph and his famous father before him argued against Secession during the decade before the South voted to leave the Union, by spring of 1861, the Spaldings found themselves in the crosshairs of Federal warships sailing south to throttle the South’s merchant ships. Savannah, less than 50 miles up the coast, became a prime target of the blockade while gunships threatened all of Georgia’s barrier islands. Facing the final cotton harvest in the fall of 1861, Colonel Randolph Spalding answered the call to defend Georgia. Robert E. Lee ordered militia to man the barrier islands and built earthen fortifications (redoubts) with gunnery crews ready to discourage federal ships from reaching the mainland. Colonel Spalding became the regimental commander of the militia sent to Sapelo and found himself caught between protecting his plantation interests, his family, and nearly 400 slaves, along with commanding four companies of raw militia troops bivouacking around his family’s famous South End mansion. Sapelo’s miasma and untamed environs took far more lives than enemy fire.
Spalding moved his family to Baldwin County, along with nearly all his slaves and their families, by January 1862. In the meantime, Robert E. Lee ordered the withdrawal of all militia from the barrier islands after the fall of Port Royal in late 1861. Randolph left Sapelo Island and served as an aide-de-camp staff officer in Savannah by early 1862 and never saw Sapelo again. March 1862, he received a hero’s funeral and his body placed beside Colonel Francis Barlow, the first celebrated Georgia casualty of the war, killed at Manassas, July 1861.
What makes this a story of significance?
What makes this a story of significance? It neither condones nor justifies the institution of slavery. History records virtually all the Spalding family’s freed slaves found their way back to deserted Sapelo by the end of the war. The Spalding family had promised them the right to live on the land, so they returned and settled the only land and homes they knew. By 1868, Randolph’s widow and family returned to Sapelo—not as masters but co-inhabitants alongside the Geechee descendants. Randolph’s daughter and her husband were the last of the Spalding family on the island when a wealthy automobile magnate purchased Sapelo in the early 1900s when the census recorded 450 Geechee ancestors lived on Sapelo.
Sadly, 100 years later, less than fifty Geechee ancestors remain on Sapelo, and the State of Georgia has owned and managed most of the island for the last fifty years. Access remains by boat.
Historical records reveal enough to show that although the Spaldings brought the original slaves to Sapelo between 1800 to 1865, Sapelo’s Geechee community suffered far greater harm over the course of the last century. Yes, the institution of slavery left an indelible dark stain on America’s legacy, but racism continues to stain Sapelo’s legacy. Though we all regret the institution of slavery ever existed, history reveals not all plantation owners treated their slaves cruelly and inhumanely. The Spalding story is one that has been worth over two years of research and writing. Watch for news when the book comes out.
In the meantime, this video offers a timeless taste of Sapelo Island and its story.
Enjoy and please subscribe to get the latest news about when The Last Laird of Sapelo will be launched in 2023.
I am headed to St Simon Island to attend the Southeastern Writers Conference this weekend, and to enjoy some well-deserved, overdue family time, before we cruise Sapelo Island once again. I want to give my grandkids a firsthand telling of the history that surrounds Sapelo Island before we soak up the sun on the beaches during our weeklong vacation.
Thank you for joining me on this journey through history… For you Shiloh Mystery lovers: Who knows what new escapades Theo, Liddy and their Shiloh friends may find themselves enthralled? News coming for book four in the coming months.
In the meantime, please visit the bookstore page to order, read and review any of the three current Shiloh novels still outstanding on your to-be-read list. Thank you.
Not familiar with Newnan, Georgia–take a brief video tour. Click the image below to learn more about historic Newnan, the City of Homes.
Southern Lit Fest, June 3-5 features local published authors and a host of celebrities, including Karen White, Sean Dietrich, and Bill Oberst, Jr. as Lewis Grizzard.
Kickoff the weekend at Newnan’s Historic Train Depot where Michael Scott, Newnan Carnegie Library Foundation and T. M. Brown, Hometown Novel Writers Association and local Southern author, host the Hometown Author Celebration with several featured hometown authors roasting and toasting the literary legacy of Coweta County. It is free to the public. Please register for the free tickets.
Fictional Towns and Settings are inspired by REAL PLACES.
Saturday, June 4th, 10-2 PM local authors will be on hand at Corner Arts Gallery to sign and talk about their books during Market Day activities on Court Square!
Downtown Newnan also welcomes Candle Wick Books at the corner of Washington and Brown Street, directly across the street from First Baptist Church. This new cozy bookstore provides access to new releases and select titles to suit all tastes. Follow the link to learn more.
After two past postponements, the highly anticipated Southern LitFest 2022 kicks off, Friday evening June 3rd at Newnan, GA’s historic train depot with its Hometown Author program, and then Saturday begins an all-day schedule of events in and around downtown Newnan, and ends with the celebrated Bourbon On the Porch entertaining schedule of stops at historic locales in Newnan, Saturday evening.
I will serve as a judge for the Friday evening Hometown Author program. At least eight best-selling, award-winning local authors will each present a toast and roast of the Newnan’s famous literary heritage. Come and enjoy a weekend of top-notch programs with national celebrity authors and programs.
Visit Southern Lit Fest website for more information, schedule of programs and events, and details on the celebrity authors participating.
How is it Margaret Mitchell, Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Erskine Caldwell, James Dickey, Pat Conroy and the legacy of so many other great Southern authors have endured long after they left us? And, today Southern authors like Fannie Flagg, Alice Walker, Kathryn Stockett, Jeswyn Ward, Charles Frazier, Greg Iles, Charles Martin, Rick Bragg, and even John Grisham are still securing their legacy for future generations.
Let’s not forget the endless stream of fresh literary voices beckoning us with new Southern-laced literary works that supply the timeless and borderless demand for memorable flawed heroes, victims, and villains depicted in colorful Southern settings dealing with 21st-Century challenges and changes.
What constitutes a great Southern story?
First of all, truth be told, I don’t know how to write the next best-selling Southern Novel. Of course, if I did happen to know how, I’d be too busy writing it and more than likely have my eyes cast on writing at least three. Three best-selling Southern novels would leave the kind of legacy that any writer would only dream about. But at least I know one when I see one. That’s because really great best-selling Southern novels are discovered, not written. In fact, none of the aforementioned authors began writing the next great Southern novel. They merely wrote what resided within them to write.
The indelible mark of a 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 come to life 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. We may hear such tales while eating dinner, attending church, getting a haircut at a local barbershop, or at a beauty parlor for the women-folk, and let’s not neglect sitting on a neighbor’s porch.
The Southern Author Is Too Polite to Name Names
I have learned one thing in my sixty-eight years, fiction is just the truth and reality wearing a mask and being stretched a might to be more palatable, and often more plausible. You see, more than not, the truth just ain’t as believable as the tall-tales that follow.
Now there are certain trademarks of any Southern story, they revolve around food, family, friendships, faith, and football. Right off, if any story fails to mention the sipping, swallowing, or gulping of sweet tea, consider it suspect right away. Also, in the South, a coke may not mean a Coca-Cola, and whiskey didn’t originate here, but it was perfected here. In fact, the tales of Cooter Brown’s perpetual drunkenness is a Southern-rooted legend.
Grits, gravy, and greens are menu staples, morning, noon and night. Anything else worth eating is also usually fried. Peaches, pecans, and peanuts are the foundation of many epic desserts too.
In the South, Change Arrives Reluctantly
It may be the 21st-Century, however, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” are not derisive retorts but words of respect to our elders. Boys and grown men instinctively grab the door for a woman or young lady. Now, that’s not saying Southern gals don’t have spunk. Lord, just rile a Southern girl and you’ll learn right quick they invented sass. They also know, you know, you likely deserved it.
The 21st-Century Southern woman exited the confines of the kitchen and no longer remains in the shadows cast by men. She forges her own identity in society and dares men to catch up to her.
Some Traditions Linger
Of course, when someone approaches on a back road, 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 friendly 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 plainly define it, but we sure know when we have read a great Southern novel. When we come to the last page and close a good southern novel, we feel sad because it ended.
T. M. Brown
First published May 2020, Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest, is the third book in the Shiloh Mystery Series. Re-released March 2022. Theo just can’t seem to avoid landing smack dab in the middle of life-altering threats and conflicts that shatter the peace and tranquility of lil’ ol’ Shiloh. Some family trees get shaken and familiar characters face life and death decisions to protect others in the next story.
Watch for Fifth Anniversary Editions coming soon of Sanctuary & Testament!
What began as an experiment, over four years ago, has grown in the number of local Georgia authors impacted and introduced, as well as in the number of programs and places growing our fledgling organization. Hometown Novel Writers also has added regular meetings and workshops for aspiring writers of all levels.
Way back in the Summer of 2016 I attended my first SWA Writers Conference at St. Simon Island’s Epworth Retreat Center. There I discovered author-friends who have continued to this day as mentors, encouragers, and close friends.
Here is the link to the Southeastern Writers webpage where you sign up to attend this summer’s conference. You’ll automatically have the opportunity to join the association and receive future newsletters as well. In the meantime, enjoy the April issue of the SWA Newsletter… It refers to the new edition of Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest.
In my upcoming historical novel, Sapelo Island is the home of South End, Chocolate, Bourbon, Kenan Fields, High Point, Marsh Landing, and Blackbeard’s Island–all names associated with the fifteen by three-mile barrier island off the Georgia coast as the War Between the States breaks out. The Spalding family’s legacy now rests in what was called the Spalding City of the Dead, a family burial plot near that family’s mainland home, Ashantilly, a short drive above the once thriving port of Darien, Georgia.
Today, much has changed. Darien is no longer the bustling seaport rivaling even Savannah at one time, and Sapelo Island no longer produces cotton, sugarcane, indigo, and rice as it once did. In fact, none of the coastal plantations exist any longer except for historical markers and community namesakes. Yet, Sapelo Island’s and Darien’s history goes back hundreds of long forgotten years.
My wife and I stopped in Darien in the summer of 2019 after a writers’ conference on Saint Simon Island for a bite of lunch. Immediately, I pondered using the quaint time-lost feel of this shrimp boat hub on the Georgia coast as the setting for one of my southern fiction stories. We returned for a week-long stay the following summer to research the town with the notion I could bring my Shiloh Mystery characters to town, but soon found myself entranced by the history of Sapelo Island after we spent a long day traipsing the island from one end to the other (at least as far as we could safely go without getting stuck in the soft sand and mud that made up most of the roads or should I say trails on the island).
I then stumbled upon Buddy Sullivan’s Early Days of the Georgia Tidewater, The Story of McIntosh County& Sapelo. I discovered the rich history of Sapelo and Darien, dating back to Oglethorpe’s founding of New Inverness, later known as Darien–the second oldest town in Georgia. Then I read about the McIntosh clan who settled in the area.
And yes, for my Coweta County friends, the same family whence William McIntosh haled and married Senoia, altering the fate and future generations of Creek Nation lands in Georgia. But that’s another story to be told.
From the McIntosh clan, the Leake clan and Spalding clans emerged up and down the coast in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
By 1800, Thomas Spalding arrived on Sapelo Island with his wife, Sarah Leake Spalding and South End came into being. Of their fifteen children born between 1800 and 1822, only five outlived Thomas (1851) and Sarah (1843). Three daughters married and bore children with the names of Brailsford, Wylly, and Kenan. Of the two sons, Charles, the eldest surviving son, had two wives but no children; only the youngest, Randolph bore three Spalding children. His family’s story is the basis behind my upcoming story…
Why this story? As my editor shared after reading my manuscript: History is not as black and white as we might believe, much grayness exists that we should learn about. The Randolph Spalding Story offers shades of gray that will enhance our understanding of history. His is a tragic story, as is his family’s story, and important to retell.
In the meantime, follow the below link to read another modern account about Sapelo Island today. I will provide periodic insights into Sapelo Island, Darien, and other parts of the Georgia coast, including Savannah, in the coming weeks and months as we all wait for the release of my latest historical novel.
Beginning Saturday, April 2nd until April 9th, the KINDLE edition of Purgatory will be available at $.99 each and slowly rise to $1.99 and then $2.99 over the course of the promo period. So, don’t hesitate! Read and the leave a review of this award-winning thriller… recognized as a finalist in the 2021 Silver Falchion Award for Best Suspense Novel at the Killer Nashville Annual Conference last summer. It placed third for the Southeastern Writers Annual Conference’ s Hal Barnard Fiction Award in 2019. Go to AMAZON and order today..
KINDLE UNLIMTED members. Order your copy today and please leave a review as well. Every click helps, as does every review. Thanks, Mike
In Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest: Theo is knee deep in mystery—again. And it all began with a trip to an auction to help Zeb purchase a classic limo to use in the Miss Shiloh parade. Faster than you can say “come and get it”, an orphaned teenager is dropped at his door, a mobster hits town intent on making that limo his own, and a dead body is found floating in Shiloh Creek. But when Pepper and Woogie are kidnapped, Theo, Mitch, John, Hank, Camille, and more show the bad guy a thing or two about messing with folks in a small town.
“T. M. Brown’s characters are rich, the story is compelling . . . the language is clever and poetic. . . It is an extraordinary tale written by an exceptional author. I will read this book again.” —RAYMOND L. ATKINS author of Set List, Sweetwater Blues, and Camp Redemption
This 10-year-old video by Mattie Gladstone spurred my interests in learning more about Randolph Spalding, which led to my current story, The Last Laird of Sapelo.
My wife and I toured the property with permission from Mattie Gladstone’s surviving son and daughter who still live there. With a little imagination, one can visualize the original grand farmstead house and outbuildings built by Randolph Spalding when he moved his family off Sapelo Island in 1857. This video is amazing and has over 58,000 views with nearly 900 likes.
We have loads of pictures allowing me to write details of this antebellum home north of Darien, located in the area called The Ridge. Enjoy… History is not all black and white, they are many shades of gray we should all take time to understand.
Follow the link (it could not be embedded) for this heart-warming description of Randolph Spalding’s circa 1857 farmstead home along the tidal marshes above Darien, GA. Why did he give up living in the grand tabby constructed South End Mansion, aptly named “Big House” by his famous father, Thomas Spalding. Both historic homes play integral parts in The Last Laird of Sapelo: The Randolph Spalding Story.
Watch for more historical tidbits that make up my new novel currently being submitted to agents and publishers.
CLICK THE IMAGE TO READ AN OUTSTANDING ARTICLE ABOUT DISCOVERING OUR FAMILY’S HISTORY, WHETHER FOR GOD OR BAD. THE PAST LIES IN THE TRUNK AND ROOTS OF OUR FAMIYL TREE.
WHO IS THE KEEPER OF YOUR FAMILY TREE?
Who is the Keeper of the Family Story in your family? This post reminded me of how I accepted little knowledge of my family’s long history until recently and in digging into my ancestry did I discover facts about my family tree I never knew, but explained my love of the South.
I suggest reading the poem by Abram Ryan, “A Land Without Ruins” at the end of the article. “A land without ruins is a land without memories—a land without memories is a land without history.”
We all have a family history, a family tree that has shaped us and gives us our identity. We had no say, nor any opinion of its creation, but we are a branch sprouted from our family tree. The branch with our name on it could not exist apart from our family roots. The good, the bad, and the ugly, the right and wrong, the just and unjust of our family’s past shape, but not define who we are. We can only make a difference for future generations.
What will your legacy add to your family tree?
A LESSON LEARNED FROM MY NEW HISTORICAL NOVEL
My longtime editor summed up The Last Laird of Sapelo this way: “Set at the beginning of the Civil War, this historical fiction novel stands out because it tells a perspective most people likely have not heard. It helped me see the Civil War more in shades of gray rather than in black and white (I mean this metaphorically as well as literally).” Interesting enough, Kari Scare is from Michigan. With all the diverse, divisive issues today, we need to address more of the grayness in history to learn from it.
Save money and receive convenient no risk 90 days terms on orders for all three Shiloh Mystery novels. Contact Angela Durden at Blue Room Books to place your order. They can take orders on all three books and arrange shipment directly to you at below standard industry trade discount. Ask Angela Durden for the details.
Want to order a copy of Sanctuary or Testament?
Signed copies are available at the above booksellers, Amazon, and many book retailers, i.e. The Book Loft, Fernandina Beach; The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA; Horton’s Books & Gifts, Carrollton, GA; Pretty Good Books, LaGrange, GA; Story on the Square, McDonough, GA; Posman Books, Atlanta, GA, to name a few. Again, order through Blue Room Books or on the above BOOKSTORE ORDER PAGE. Never any shipping costs.
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
I imagine many of you are already headed outdoors again and many enjoying or looking forward to an upcoming summer vacation like me and my wife. We’ve been fully vaccinated since the first week in March, but have remained close to home for the most part. But, that’s changing quickly this summer. Here’s is my author schedule of events and appearances for July, and August and beyond is booking up fast for the rest of 2021…
HNN Writers Group will have three gatherings in July. A virtual Writers Workshop on July 10; A Writers Virtual WIP Critique Group, July 12th at 6:30-8:00 PM hosted by Angie Gallion Lovell (if you want a sneak preview of my new historical novel, join us. I am offering portions of my latest WIP for critique and receiving wonderful, helpful feedback. Other WIP monthly submissions testify to the talent among our HNN Writers Group. July 17th at 11 AM at Corner Arts Gallery & Studios, downtown Newnan, GA will be our next in-person HNN Writer’s Gathering where we share conversations and tackle writing challenges designed to promote “Writers Helping Writers.” VisitHometown Novel Nightsand HNN Writers Group for more inof.
More Lines Between the Wines Author Book Talk at Warm Springs Cellars, July 17th, 2-5 PM!
I will be joining Mike Nemeth as he shares his latest mystery/suspense novel, Parker’s Choice. Join us for a craft beer or bottle of Georgia’s finest wines as we engage in book talk!
July 24th, Freedom Gospel Festival! All-day fundraising with live music and great food to boot!
July 31st, Saturday afternoon 1-3 PM in Lagrange, GA
T.M. Brown will be speaking at Pretty Good Bookson Saturday, July 31st about the latest book in his Shiloh Mystery Series. T. M. Brown is an award-winning Southern author from Newnan, GA. In the first two books of his Shiloh Mystery Series, he has introduced Theo & Liddy Phillips as they settle into their new hometown of Shiloh, Georgia amidst shadows of the town’s past. In Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest the final book in the series, Theo faces a life-threatening decision to save his friends. In telling of all three stories, T. M. Brown has interwoven thought-provoking messages about making decisions in times of crisis and change.
Come see Pretty Good Books’ new downtown Lagrange location! It’ll be the envy of booksellers throughout the South.
Phew! And August and beyond stacking up to being just as busy!
Hint: Connie and I will be touring Fernandina Beach with a weekend of book signing at The Book Loft, August 13-15, and then we will be spending a week touring and talking with folks about my new novel up the Georgia coast with a few days in Darien, GA to celebrate our 48th Anniversary too!
VISIT @TMBROWNAUTHOR on FACEBOOK or this webpage for more updates on events and appearances in your local area. Who knows when and where we will find ourselves as life in America enjoys Independence again.
If you’ve read any of the three Shiloh Mystery Novels, you can lend a hand by telling others about them and posting a review. Thank you, and I would love to hear from everyone who read all three Shiloh novels… Do you think a fourth is in the cards? Email or Messenger me.
Authors and social media–an arranged marriage benefiting one and sucking the life out of the other. One garnishes all the attention, the other screams to be heard. One, an unsated polygamist, the other, another trophy in the crowded harem. I often wonder, how might the notable, best-selling authors whose careers began long before the internet age would have faired if they launched their first novel today.
I imagine the gatekeepers prefer such thoughts go unnoticed, but I sense such thoughts exist all the same. More and more readers invest their precious time and money to be entertained but end up scratching their heads at the so-called best-sellers. When they dive deeper to discover a good read, they struggle all the more.
Vanity publishing has transformed itself into being called “independently published” thanks to KDP and Ingram who tantalize the egos of authors into believing they too can become the next bestseller. Mercenary book contests, awards, promotions are sucking even more from the lifeblood of naive, eager authors. Independent publishing likewise has morphed into hybrid publishing while disguised small publishers, often begun by frustrated authors, reap royalties earned by other unsuspecting authors. Then when the individual author figures out they cannot get a real publishing contract they create their own quirky-named publishing entity to self-publish.
In the meantime, mainstream publishers devour one another attempting to hoard what meager profit they can squeeze from each contracted author. They end up churning out cookie-cutter novels faster than Henry Ford ever imagined possible on his assembly lines. The pressure of the most popular authors must be intense. Some now turn out a new title every 3-6 months. Of course, it’s their name that sells not the story he or she hardly writes in solitude anymore.
So, what can be done? The best gatekeepers in the publishing world exist in independently-owned bookstores. They survive because of their reputation to recognize truly worthwhile books for you, their valued customers. Unlike the big internet booksellers, they cannot clutter their shelves with drivel, whether big-name published or self-published. They build trust by listening to what you find to be good books.
In the end, readers should determine by word of mouth what are the current best books to read. Mercenary marketing to bolster sales seldom works if readers feel betrayed after buying a certain new novel promoted in a glitzy ad campaign.
Therefore, I believe, a groundswell of reviews and personal referrals among friends and family urging them to get a copy of an author’s latest book offers the purest form of promotion any author should hope to receive.
I suspect a few will read this entire diatribe. If you have and have an opinion or comment, please feel free to offer it. You are encouraged to share it as well.
“Every author should remember the reason, the motivation, the muse, that stirred him or her to pen their story in the first place.”
Here’s a story of a Trojan horse that turns a small South Georgia town into a panic as reluctant heroes face desperate choices. Little old Shiloh will never be the same in Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest.
If you’ve never treated yourself to a novel by T.M. Brown, I recommend you start turning the pages of Purgatory, which in my estimation is pure literature. This story unfolds once again amid the patchwork of furrowed cotton and peanut fields of the South Georgia Christian community of Shiloh, where the townsfolk are getting ready to celebrate the annual Lightning Bug Festival — ol’ downhome country fun at its finest. But a storm is about to erupt. While folks fret they might lose their mayor to the Congressional swamp-water intrigue of Washington, an orphaned teenage girl appears on the scene in search of a mother who is long dead. But when one of Shiloh’s citizens purchases an armored limo with a checkered history at a Sheriff’s used-car auction, the town’s tranquility is shattered by the accumulation of dead bodies and broken hearts. Here’s a story that will keep you reading throughout the wee hours.
Jedwin Smith, author of I AM ISRAEL, Our Brother’s Keeper, and Fatal Treasure
Mysteries beset the citizenry of a small southern town that exudes “contagious, country-fried wholeness.” T. M. Brown peels back the layers of those mysteries like one peels an onion. As you approach the finale, better hold on to your hat!
Jameson Gregg, Georgia Author of the Year, author of Luck Be A Chicken, a comic novel
Regarding, Dana’s compelling Lexie Montgomery thrillers, her firsthand knowledge and past personal engagement as an undercover FBI agent stirs the reader’s imagination unlike other crime novels you may have read. I personally have read all three of her novels and know why they have all won multiple literary awards. I dare you to begin reading the first, Behind the Mask–it won’t be the last! T. M. Brown
Don’t forget: April 12th is the 6:30 PM Virtual HNN Writers Meeting with Angie Gallion. April 24th is the 11:00 AM In-Person HNN Writers Newnan Meeting with Mike Brown at Corner Arts Gallery & Studios.
“My fourth novel, Lost Legacy, is a historical fiction story revealing how our past legacy inescapably shapes who we are today. The characters in the story, both fictional and actual, play out their drama in this story about McIntosh County’s storied Georgia coastal region which to this day remains cursed by its past, according to many of their residents.” T.M. Brown
Are you a writer who aspires to collaborate with other writers to improve your writing? Writers write in isolation but writers need not be isolated from opinions and advice along the arduous task of writing your story to reach your desired audience.
Locally, author collaborative/critique groups will be available to meet on a monthly basis beginning in February. Share your latest scene or article with other writers for feedback and advice. Talk about editing, story elements, queries, publishing, event planning, etc. Share ideas and links to helpful websites to help one another become better writers.
There is no cost other than your investment in becoming the best writer you can be.
2021 Programming Being Scheduled Now–Do You Want to Be a Part of Hometown Novel Nights?
We returned August 20 with our first virtual live author panel event thanks to the Newnan Carnegie Library. More will be added to the calendar in the coming weeks bringing more Georgia authors to our local audience that continues to grow daily.
Here is the August 20 video–learn more about the HNN program. Sign up to learn more about future author events — in-person and virtual in the coming months.
December 17 Carnegie Newnan Library-Bren McClain, Chellie Woodham Phillips, and Kathy Manos Penn
Hometown Novel Nights team is preparing for more programs in concert with the Newnan Carnegie Library, Newnan, GA, as well as more special events at Warm Springs, GA and other great venues. As 2021 allows us to provide more program options, we will provide a mix of virtual and live audience events in the coming months. Visit Hometown Novel Nights Facebook or Instagram for up-to-date event information.
Warm Springs Cellars – Lines Between the Wines with added possibility of adding author at the Goose and Hog location (bikers outdoor burgers & beer)
Pretty Good Books, Lagrange – good bookstore venue for limited book talk and then take advantage of a 2-3 hour time slot to meet and greet patrons at the store.
AUTHORS & BOOKSTORES: Contact us about scheduling an event with us. Virtual programs allow us to bring together broader audiences with more talented authors. Or contact Mike through the TMBrownAuthor.com contact page. NOTE: We are actively scheduling programming for 2021, until sometime this spring, events will remain virtual and eventually convert to a hybrid live audience/virtual briadcast format, thanks to the Newnan Carnegie Library as our co-host for all our events.
Now available – the narration of Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol…
What Does 2021 Hold as 2020 Ends?
2020 deserves an extra-special Merry Christmas to wrap up a wild, crazy, and certainly unexpected year. My two off-the-cuff wishes this Christmas are COVID’s departure and no more political commercials and mailings.
My two sons are ending 2020 with unexpected promotions. I enjoy knowing they enjoy their careers and are being rewarded for it. Also, my five grandkids have remained healthy and happy through the past few months, whether stuck at home virtual learning or in the classroom they have adapted well and are thriving better than us adults. 2021 will see our two oldest grandsons become seniors. By next fall, I pray COVID has fizzled as they begin their final year in high school.
As for me, I look forward to rebooting in 2021 the launch of Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest, the finale to the Shiloh Mystery Series, published by Southern Fried Karma LLC, Atlanta. Originally launched on May 26th, the three Shiloh novels helped each other forge forward in spite of the shutdowns and limited engagements.
This past August, my wife and I spent a week in Darien, Georgia–a truly enchanted, history-filled seaport town–for our 47th Anniversary. But, beyond the great seafood we enjoyed, I left with a compelling story for my next novel, a historical entrenched multi-generational tale, covering 150 years. As a history major, I am anxious to make another trip there this spring. Watch for more news about “Sapelo’s Lost Legacy.”
First of all, thank you to all who have already grabbed your copy of Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest.
However, the best-laid plans to launch the third and final story in the Shiloh Mystery Series has been turned upside down thanks to our unwelcomed COVID Bugaboo. BUT like the characters in my Shiloh stories, the word has gotten out about Purgatory’s availability. I hope you’ll also share the GOOD NEWS with your friends and family members on how to get their copies. Visit HERE for a personal video from T. M. Brown
In Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest, a teenage girl ventures into Shiloh during the Lightning Bug Festival and winds up on Theo and Liddy’s doorstep. Life will never be the same for some in Shiloh after her arrival.
You also might enjoy listening to my radio interview with C. Stene Duckworth of Living Vertikal. Learn more about my writing and the inspiration behind the creation of the Shiloh Mystery Series.
Upcoming Holiday Book Events
Friday, December 4, 5:00 – 9:00 PM, enjoy holiday shopping on Court Square in Newnan, Georgia–my hometown. Stop in at Corner Arts Galleries & Studio and discover the Local Author Book Nook inside. I’ll be on hand, answering questions and signing books.
Saturday, December 5 at Noon – 4:00 PM EST, if you’re in the neighborhood, come by Horton’s Books & Gifts on historic Adamson Square, Carrollton, GA for a casual, laid-back book talk and book signing. Downtown Carrollton businesses will be decorated for the holidays for Santa’s arrival that afternoon.
Friday, December 18 at 5:30 PM, enjoy holiday entertainment on Newnan’s historic Court Square. I’ll be signing books at Corner Arts Gallery & Studios on South Court Square. They have all three Shiloh novels and sell the complete set for only $49.95. Merry Christmas!
NOTE: I am available to respond to your questions and comments. Please contact me on the above social media links or email firstname.lastname@example.org
More reasons to grab a copy of Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest
The long-awaited finale of the Shiloh Series doesn’t disappoint. With barbecue, lightning bugs, and delightful dialogue. T.M. Brown delivers a gem of a southern novel to his faithful followers.— Renea Winchester, Outbound Train
Small-town shenanigans, Southern style. Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy live in Shiloh, Georgia, a town graced with a mess of colorful characters and a passel of predicaments. Whether he is writing an article about the Miss Shiloh contest, advising a friend on fatherhood, pondering the political future of the town’s mayor, or struggling with how to best help an orphaned teenager, Theo faces all life throws at him with his wife Liddy by his side and his faith to guide him. — Christopher Swann, NeverTurn Back and Shadow of Lions
If you cannot get to your local bookstore, here’s where you can help them and order from the convenience of your home…every book you order through BookShop benefits your local bookstore. Click the BookShop link above to learn more.
Otherwise, all three of the Shiloh Mystery Novels are available wherever books are sold, in paperback and eBook.
Small Southern towns go all out for Christmas, and little old Shiloh exemplifies that kind of Christmas Spirit tradition. Here are two video readings inspired by fun scenes in Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and the conclusion of Testament, An Unexpected Return.
Please enjoy and consider ordering any or all three of the Shiloh Mystery Novels as a holiday gift to a friend, family member, or yourself. These “all-audience” stories offer hours of memorable moments that will keep you wishing you could visit Shiloh for yourself.
2020 has proven to be a challenging year for all of us between the pandemic and politics. We all deserve an escape! So, order your copies today, in Kindle or paperback, and allow your imagination to travel to South Georgia along the Flint River and a short drive below Albany to little old Shiloh. Theo & Liddy will introduce you to some special friends of theirs eager to greet you and share gossip about their time-lost community.
To order your copies of the Shiloh Mystery novels visit the bookstore tab.
Catch the upcoming October 15th Hometown Novel Night Mystery Author Virtual Program beginning at 6:30 PM. It will be broadcast live on Zoom, hosted by the Newnan Carnegie Library. Here’s the link to register.
Hometown Novel Nights has three more outstanding author programs scheduled to finish 2020. Each is sponsored by the Newnan Carnegie Library.
November 19th, Ane Mulligan, Martha Boone, and Holly Moulder will join us for our regular Author Program.
On Saturday morning, November 21st, we will feature Rosalind and Maggie Bunn, Menlia Trammell, and Jacqueline Leigh on our Children’s Author Special Program, just in time for the holidays.
To finish 2020 Hometown Novel Nights has a very special holiday program of authors lined up as well… Our guest author is a nationally award-winning and best-selling Southern author. Two other special Georgia authors will join us for an entertaining program. Watch for more details and all the authors on the panel. Visit Hometown Novel Nights on Facebook and follow updates on all the upcoming HNN events.
In the meantime, here is September’s Hometown Novel Nights Author Program broadcast to get a foretaste of what you can look forward to at a future event.
Enjoy a good book to take your mind off all the election folderol we are being forced to endure. Please vote but there are better ways to engage our minds.
More about “Who is T. M. Brown” comes out in this extensive interview? Susan Crutchfield, Director of the Newnan Carnegie Library, hosted T. M. Brown on August 22nd for an up-close and personal look into his writing and background. Here is the broadcast to learn more about Mike, as his friends and family know him.
All three of T. M. Brown’s Souther fiction novels are available at the library as a set for only $49.95 with 25% of the proceeds benefiting the library. Visit https://www.newnancarnegie.com for more information.
Do You Have Other Questions About Who is T. M. Brown?
What else would you be interested in learning about T. M. Brown? What questions might you like to ask? Email Mike directly and he’ll be glad to answer them and add your inquiries to a future post, and may also use them in a future online live video.
Thank you for taking the time to visit my webpage and I hope you’ll subscribe to future newsletters and email updates. During these unprecedented and uncomfortable times, we all need a reprieve from the daily news and uncertainty in our lives. Whether you venture into Shiloh for some welcome respite, please know there are a host of great novels out there to escape the daily chaos and confusion we all face.
Trust God and know better days are ahead. Stay safe.
Mike… a.k.a. T. M. Brown, Southern Inspirational Author
P. S. Watch for news of what’s next now that the Shiloh Mystery Series is completed. Hint: I am not sure Theo and Liddy Phillips are through finding their way into another mystery or two.
Visit TMBrownAuthor on Facebook. They began on August 1st and each Saturday in August at 11 AM. Five consecutive Facebook Live broadcasts provided weekly chances to win a book. Each broadcast started at 11 AM from venues throughout Georgia, but you got to enjoy them from the comfort of your home.
CAN’T WAIT AND YOU WANT TO PURCHASE ONE OR ALL THREE BOOKS – VISIT THE BOOKSTORE PAGE TO ORDER TODAY! AND SUPPORT YOUR LOCALLY-OWNED INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE.
Five Chances to Win a Free Book: A Signed Copy of the Shiloh Mystery Story of Your Choice
August has been a month of virtual appearances with FIVE chances for viewers to win a free book each Saturday throughout the month. Each fo the 11 AM Saturday broadcasted events will be on Facebook Live, except for a special Zoom interview at the Newnan Carnegie Library of August 22.
Information about the three Shiloh Mystery Novels will be the topic of each broadcast. Or what’s in the works next!
August 29th, 11 AM – Horton’s Books and Gifts, Carrollton, GA is the oldest bookstore in Georgia, celebrating over 125 years in business. The owner, Dorothy Pittman, has been a fantastic godsend for book lovers in West Central Georgia. Her store stocks all my books along with many other notable Georgia authors, and national bestsellers.
Here are the three links to take a sneak preview at each of the Shiloh Mystery novels. Each holds its own unique mystery/suspense story while allowing you to experience the development of the main characters throughout the series. Theo and Liddy invite you to join them as they enter and engage the folks in time-lost Shiloh…
Here’s a bonus link to an engaging and mind-probing interview hosted by Linda Shenton Matchett, a fellow ACFW and Sisters-in-Crime author. This is the second she has done with me over the past two years. Enjoy and feel free to share it with your friends.
Thursday, August 6, 2020
Talkshow Thursday: Welcome Back Mike Brown
Linda: Welcome back! Thanks for joining me today. Congratulations on your latest release Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (Shiloh Mystery Series, Book 3). What was your inspiration for the plot of this book? Did you already have it in mind at the beginning of the series?
TM: Each of the three stories blossomed independently, although I capitalized on “bread crumbs” within Sanctuary to feed Testament’s story premise, and similarly, Testament to Purgatory. Otherwise, my characters progressed and developed throughout the series as would be expected over a course of three years. Still, I only knew how they would change as I began to write each story. In fact, I enjoyed looking back at each character from being introduced to the end of Purgatory—many experienced intriguing transformations.
LM: Are any of your characters based on you or people you know? How do you come up with ideas for your characters?
TM: Yes, in some ways, Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy are much like my wife and I, according to many readers who know us. And yes, we have two sons who have given us five beautiful grandchildren who happen to coincide in age and personalities with their counterparts in the stories. Otherwise, my characters were birthed from my fertile imagination. I went through great pains to give them their initial personalities with their flaws and strengths. However, they all went through some methodical changes as the stories came together—some more noticeable than others. All my characters were works in progress, just like we all are in real life.
LM: What is your writing routine? (E.g., do you listen to music, set up in a certain place, etc.)?
TM: My writing is usually accomplished in isolation with barely audible mood music breaking home’s silence. My wife generally fills her day with work or social activities to allow me to work uninterrupted when working on my manuscript. When she is at home, she usually stays busy in her craft room at the other end of the house. After dinner, she lends an ear to listen to me read whatever I wrote during the day—an excellent exercise for writers. However, what I described only occurs when I am actively writing a manuscript. Otherwise, outside of working on a story, my writing routine is rather willy-nilly and catch-as-catch-can.
LM: What is one thing you wish you knew how to do?
TM: Keep up with some of the ever-changing writing and grammar rules. The rules have changed quite a bit since I paid attention in high school six decades ago. Thus, I have relied on a talented and patient writing coach/editor over the past six or so years. Otherwise, Oxford and Chicago are just great places to visit in my mind.
LM: What was your favorite book when you were growing up?
TM: This covers many years and a host of books I have consumed throughout my life. Since this is about my novel writing, I venture to say, Nordhoff and Hall’s “The Bounty Trilogy” (Mutiny on the Bounty-1933, Men Against the Sea-1933, and Pitcairn’s Island-1934) stands out; a gift from my mother. Though I read it in high school, it remains my number one response whenever anyone asks this question. I have to thank my mother for providing me with the thirst for reading I have enjoyed over my lifetime.
LM: Here are some quickies:
TM: Coffee or Tea? Coffee is the fuel of my inspiration each day. Walking, biking, or driving: I prefer driving in the country, but engage in walking once I arrive at my destination. Ocean or mountains? Oceanside vacations edge out mountain cabin retreats.
LM: Can you tell us about Hometown Novel Nights and how that came about?
TM: When I first began creative writing from my home in Georgia, I found all the networking with other authors required trips into Greater Atlanta and beyond. Even ACFW’s closest chapter is two hours north of my home. I still find myself venturing up I-85 for many conferences and book events to this day for the lion’s share of my author activities. Then I walked into the Lewis Grizzard and Erskine Caldwell Museum in Moreland, Georgia—a short five miles from my home. There I began to learn of so many other talented authors who suffered the journey into Atlanta for attention and activities. A few of us decided to see if we could get a local audience interested in meeting and listening to some local authors I had met. Our first program proved promising for all concerned. A handful of us got together and discovered plenty of nascent and experienced authors of various genres who were interested in signing up for a monthly series of events that featured three-author panels. Two years later, sans the recent disruption of public events, The Hometown Novel Nights program has introduced over forty authors to monthly audiences in now four venues covering west-central Georgia below Atlanta. Our most significant and prestigious host site has been the historic Carnegie Library in downtown Newnan, GA. As soon as this COVID crisis subsides again, we are eager to gear right back up.
LM: What’s your next project?
TM: I want to stretch myself with a story I have envisioned writing since studying Church History in seminary years ago. An enigmatic New Testament character is Joseph of Arimathea. He is mentioned in each Gospel but only briefly as he plays a significant role in the burial of Jesus before he suddenly disappears in history, except for legends and lore. He even acquired sainthood in the Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican churches, yet the Bible nor history more about him. My story will be a speculative fiction account covering shortly after Calvary until the Siege of Jerusalem—forty-years. It will be a mind-provoking, what-if tale of a man who finds himself sought after by the Jews, Christians, and Romans. He has been linked to the legendary Holy Grail. Yet, was it the chalice Jesus used at the Last Supper, rumored to have held the blood of Christ? I guess you’ll have to wait to find out what my research has stirred up.
After Theo and Liddy retired to the small Georgia town of Shiloh, they expected a quieter life, but when Theo becomes the investigative reporter for the local Sentinel, he discovers that small towns can be just as dangerous as big cities for people devoted to seeking the truth. Having narrowly escaped a brush with death in Purgatory, Theo tackles what he hopes will be an easier investigation: helping the orphaned Pepper come to grips with her scandalous mother’s past. But when an armored limousine purchased by Theo’s friend and neighbor Zeb brings another spate of shady characters to Shiloh, Theo finds himself in the middle of unexpected danger, building to an explosive conclusion days before the town’s Independence Day celebrations.
With Fathers Day right around the corner, I thought it apropos to share an excerpt from my latest and the final story in the Shiloh Mystery series — Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. Although “fatherhood” is important throughout all three Shiloh novels, in Purgatory it is a central theme. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 25 as Shiloh celebrates Father’s Day from Chapter 25:…
After the choir marched down the center aisle and took their places behind Arnie on the platform, Hillary, Judy, Megan, and Pepper escorted the children into the sanctuary. Arnie stepped from his pulpit chair and sat among the youngsters on the platform steps. Jessie wriggled in Megan’s arms and cried out with his arms extended toward Andy sitting beside Pete on the front row. Pete smiled while Andy appeared caught between his urge to respond and Megan’s effort to distract Jessie.
Lizzie and Lucy Arians sat on either side of Arnie as he addressed the congregation. “The Bible declares that children are to obey and honor both their parents. Only last month we honored the mothers in our midst. So today it’s the fathers who are being so honored.” Arnie glanced at one-year-old Jessie and smiled at Andy. “Some fathers are just beginning to understand the daunting challenge ahead of them. For others here today, your children are now honoring you because they now have developed a growing appreciation of the love you have invested in them over their lifetime.”
Arnie winked at Hillary. “On this Father’s Day, I’d like to express as best as I can, as a father myself, why living up to the expectations our Heavenly Father has placed upon us isn’t always easy. To begin with, I believe it’s safe to say, there’s not a father in this room today who can declare they raised their children without any regrets along the journey. However, the love that grows between a caring father and his children serves as the salve that heals all wounds inflicted along the way. It’s also true, fathering a child does not make you a father. Becoming a father is one of choice, not a consequence.”
Liddy nudged me with her elbow and whispered, “Is Pepper crying?”
Arnie then said, “I’d like to take this time to suggest, if it’s possible, talk to your father today. Thank him for loving you. For those who are unable to talk to their father, remember that God’s your Heavenly Father. He promised to stand in the gap for those who lack a father’s love in their life. During our fellowship time, parents, please make room for your children to sit with you this morning. This is not a day to be separated.”
Marie Masterson stepped to the pulpit microphone. While she sang How Deep the Father’s Love for Us as Mary accompanied her, the children followed the choir members as they stepped off the platform and found seats with their families. When Marie finished, Arnie shared an embrace with her before she sat beside Pete at the end of our pew.
While Arnie reminded the church about the Cooperative Fellowship Music Jamboree next Saturday evening, I looked at Pepper who had squeezed in between Hank and Phillip. She hung onto every word Arnie said, holding Hank’s and Phillip’s hands.
When Arnie said, “Amen” to close the service, Pepper left her seat and gave Liddy and me hugs. During our embrace, I said, “Thank you for your special gift and card.”
Pepper’s eyes watered. “I may never know who my real father was, but I hope you don’t mind me saying that you’ve been an excellent father for me since I arrived.”
Hank offered his arm to Pepper and said, “We need to catch up to Hal across the street in City Hall. He’s waiting for us to go to dinner.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR FATHER’S DAY THIS YEAR? HOW WILL YOU REMIND YOUR FATHER OR FATHER OF YOUR CHILDREN HOW VALUED AND IMPORTANT HE IS TO YOU?
Thanks for investing in the Shiloh Mystery novels.
With my book launch tour to begin officially Saturday, June 6th at 1 PM on historic Court Square in downtown Newnan, GA, I figured y’all might like a peak into the quintessential downtown of a county-seat town in Georgia. Newnan also was the inspiration and model for Shiloh in my three-book series. Please enjoy.
Want to know more about Purgatory, the capstone novel of the Shiloh Mystery Series? Effective May 26th all three will be available for your reading pleasure this summer. Visit my Amazon Author Page or if possible, visit your local book retailer and request your copy of any of the three Shiloh Mystery novels.
Or, email me directly at email@example.com and I can arrange for you to order a signed copy of any of my books.
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.
“If you’ve never treated yourself to a novel by T.M. Brown, I recommend you start turning the pages of Purgatory, which in my estimation is pure literature. This story unfolds once again amid the patchwork of furrowed cotton and peanut fields of the South Georgia Christian community of Shiloh, where the townsfolk are getting ready to celebrate the annual Lightning Bug Festival — ol’ downhome country fun at its finest. But a storm is about to erupt. While folks fret they might lose their mayor to the Congressional swamp-water intrigue of Washington, an orphaned teenage girl appears on the scene in search of a mother who is long dead. But when one of Shiloh’s citizens purchases an armored limo with a checkered history at a Sheriff’s used-car auction, the town’s tranquility is shattered by the accumulation of dead bodies and broken hearts. Here’s a story that will keep you reading throughout the wee hours.” Jedwin Smith, author of I AM ISRAEL, Our Brother’s Keeper, and Fatal Treasure
“Purgatory, a Progeny’s Quest is the third novel in the excellent Shiloh Mystery Series and I think it is the best one yet. I’ve enjoyed reading all of T.M. Brown’s books, but I think he really knocks it out of the park with Purgatory. It’s a stunning blend of mystery, inspiration, and authentic characters and settings. The setting is a southern town named Shiloh (this fictional town is based on Newnan, Georgia) and I thought the author captures a very realistic feel of time and place. I also liked the way the author weaved Christian religious inspiration into the mystery plot of the book. I highly recommend this novel.” Lee Gimenez, Award-winning author of 15 books and Finalist for Author Academy Award
“The passage atop the day’s journal page came from Proverbs... ‘good people detest the darkness of evil; the wicked abhor the light of goodness’.” Theo’s morning devotions, Pg. 90 – Purgatory- A Progeny’s Quest
“Having read the first two books, this last in the Series exceeds all expectations; and as expected, many of the delightful characters so carefully described before have returned. Theo and Liddy have become trusted residents of Shiloh, frequently called upon for advice and guidance. Barbequed brisket, coffee from grounds carefully measured into a pot, and celebrations such as the Lightning Bug Festival, brighten their days. Just when you think it all a little too perfect, a founding family’s bloodlines are redefined and a new resident arrives. Your heart begins to race when two mysterious strangers intrude and skulk around town. When their plan escalates and lives are threatened, the town joins local deputies to discover their identities and motives. Of course, Theo is smack dab in the middle; where else would he be? There’s more than sweet tea and moss-covered oaks to this tale and Mike Brown has done Shiloh proud.” Linda J Pifer, author of Ohio Girl
“Mysteries beset the citizenry of a small southern town that exudes ‘contagious, country-fried wholeness.’ T. M. Brown peels back the layers of those mysteries like one peels an onion. As you approach the finale, better hold on to your hat!” Jameson Gregg, Georgia Author of the Year, author of Luck Be A Chicken, a comic novel
“T.M. Brown writes with subtlety, compassion, and understanding. His characters are rich, the story is compelling, and the denouement is more than satisfying. The story is funny and sad, the language is clever and poetic, and the book is nothing less than a gem. With skill and finesse, Brown moves the story forward at a measured pace as he introduces believable and sympathetic characters, and each of these brings depth and sometimes gentle humor to this finely crafted story. Purgatory—A Progeny’s Quest is a story of growth, and change, and hope, and renewal. It is a story of forgiveness. It is an extraordinary tale written by an exceptional author. I will read this book again.” Raymond L. Atkins, author of Set List, Sweetwater Blues, Camp Redemption Georgia Author of the Year
“In Purgatory – A Progeny’s Quest, book three of the Shiloh Mystery Series, T. M. Brown delivers another satisfying read of Southern Fiction with a strong sense of place and memorable characters. Theo and Liddy Phillips right the wrongs of broken lives and hearts with Christian hope.” – Johnnie Bernhard, author of Sisters of the Undertow and How We Came to Be
“The long-awaited finale of the Shiloh Series doesn’t disappoint. With barbecue, lightning bugs, and delightful dialogue. T.M. Brown delivers a gem of a southern novel to his faithful followers.” Renea Winchester, Outbound Train and Farming Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches
“TM Brown explores the intricate web of deception and family bonds in his new novel, Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. Purgatory is the third book in Brown’s Shiloh Mystery Series.
“Like his previous novels, Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return, his newest novel Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest is set in the small town of Shiloh, Georgia. Since moving to Shiloh, Theo and Liddy Phillips have learned this small town has its share of buried secrets and mysteries. When an unexpected visitor with a dark secret shows up on their doorstep asking for help, the two are catapulted into another Shiloh mystery. As Theo begins to unravel the first mystery, a strange turn of events brings danger to their town putting lives in peril.
“Purgatoryexplores forgiveness and the true meaning of family. The heart of this novel is the character development. The author has the ability to make you fall in love with his colorful characters. I found Purgatory both entertaining and refreshing. It is a page-turner suitable for all audiences.” – Dana Ridenour, award-winning author of Behind The Mask, Beyond The Cabin, and Below The Radar.
“Small-town shenanigans, Southern style. Theo Phillips and his wife Libby live in Shiloh, Georgia, a town graced with a mess of colorful characters and a passel of predicaments. Whether he is writing an article about the Miss Shiloh contest, advising a friend on fatherhood, pondering the political future of the town’s mayor, or struggling with how to best help an orphaned teenager, Theo faces all life throws at him with his wife Libby by his side and his faith to guide him. Thanks for the opportunity to read Purgatory.” Christopher Swann, author of Shadows of the Lions and Never Turn Back
“As always, author T.M. Brown does not fail in making his reader feel right at home in his novels. Opening up this book, I was transported right back to where I was last time I visited Shiloh in Testament. Those of you who have not yet stopped into Shiloh for a visit may want to retrace your steps and begin with Sanctuary, the first novel. Make sure that you have Testament on order, and prepare for a long, comfortable visit with Theo and Liddy, the Archers, and the rest of the locals in Shiloh.“
Believe with all your heart that God alone is the master of your life and then reflect that belief each day through every word spoken and deed performed even when it means unconditionally caring for the needs of others above your own. -Theo Phillips, TM Brown
“In Purgatory, familiar characters fill the pages, coming together to support and assist the young and orphaned Pepper. Knowing only who her mother was, and reeling from the loss of her beloved grandmother, this stoic and lovable freckle-faced teen will slide right into your heart. Throughout the novel, various characters we have heard of or met briefly in the past, show up to worry the townsfolk after Zeb, one of Theo’s good friends, purchases an armored limo at auction. Shady people start hanging around town amidst the summer celebrations, and we once again find retired, mild-mannered Theo at the center of a high-energy plot. The story unfolds as smooth as silk, words turn to images as you flip page after page, lost within the grip of a master storyteller’s tale. Theo’s devotional journal will bring clarity to your own life, as well his, as you ponder the daily events afoot in this small town. The plot twist comes when you least expect it, adding a mix of suspense and real worry for the characters you have come to adore. I’d say more, but then you’d get the whole story – this is a MUST READ for the summer!
“You will not be disappointed in this heroic tale set in the fictitious, rural town of Shiloh, Ga. Heroic actions and steadfast devotion keep the plot moving and you on the edge of your seat. I honestly could not put this book down. Five stars!
“Thank you Mike for the note that Theo and Liddy will return once more, although outside their hometown of Shiloh. I’ll be patiently waiting!“🥰
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest NEW official launch date is May 26th, and stay tuned as the book tour is adjusting thanks to the COVID calendar detours. Book launch events will begin Memorial Day Week. We are waiting on the “green-light” from Gov Kemp in Georgia to firm up and adjust the book tour schedule. WATCH FOR THE ADVANCE REVIEWS THAT WILL ADD TO THE EXCITEMENT OF PURGATORY’S BOOK LAUNCH.
When I began researching my fictional South Georgia town, aptly named Shiloh, I wanted to understand how a county seat with a beautiful antebellum courthouse could lose its status. How could a revered courthouse become merely a symbol of the town’s past but become only a city hall as the power in the county shifted eastward to a more thriving and successful town full of tourists, shopping malls, and sprawling neighborhoods?
History revealed the political wrangling during the routing and building of the highways in Georgia decided the fate of many Georgia small cities and towns. The demographic of counties shifted within a decade or two after the highways snaked their way South a century ago. And, later again when in the 50s-70s, the Interstate Highway System sped tourists down its concrete corridors. Progress is most often welcomed without considering its long-term impact on the greater population left behind. Shiloh reflects such a left-behind community–scarred by the changes of its past–yet comfortable remaining a step or two behind all the changes of the 21st-Century. Understandably, the residents of Shiloh embrace time-lost traditions while creeping forward in time.
I invite you to fall in love with little old Shiloh. Though the stories are set in contemporary times, there’s a time-lost feel throughout that will assuredly draw your curiosity as to where Shiloh would exist if it were real today. Visit the bookstore for quick links to all three of the Shiloh stories. Fall in love with not only the colorful and memorable characters wrestling with deep secrets, conflict, threats, and of course modern changes creeping into their sleepy rural community but also discover how Shiloh also becomes a key character in each story.
Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (2017) – April 2020, Hearthstone Press release
Testament, An Unexpected Return (2018) – April 2020 Heartstone Press release
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (revised release, May 26, 2020) – Hearthstone Press
Purgatory Kindle & Paperback editions coming soon… In the meantime, check out a couple of advance blurbs regarding the best and final book in the Shiloh series. Subscribe for advance purchase information and links.
If you’ve never treated yourself to a novel by T.M. Brown, I recommend you start turning the pages of Purgatory, which in my estimation is pure literature. This story unfolds once again amid the patchwork of furrowed cotton and peanut fields of the South Georgia Christian community of Shiloh, where the townsfolk are getting ready to celebrate the annual Lightning Bug Festival — ol’ downhome country fun at its finest. But a storm is about to erupt. While folks fret they might lose their mayor to the Congressional swamp-water intrigue of Washington, an orphaned teenage girl appears on the scene in search of a mother who is long dead. But when one of Shiloh’s citizens purchases an armored limo with a checkered history at a Sheriff’s used-car auction, the town’s tranquility is shattered by the accumulation of dead bodies and broken hearts. Here’s a story that will keep you reading throughout the wee hours.
Jedwin Smith, author of I AM ISRAEL, Our Brother’s Keeper, and Fatal Treasure
Mysteries beset the citizenry of a small southern town that exudes “contagious, country-fried wholeness.” T. M. Brown peels back the layers of those mysteries like one peels an onion. As you approach the finale, better hold on to your hat!
Jameson Gregg, Georgia Author of the Year, author of Luck Be A Chicken, a comic novel
The first two books are now available wherever books are sold, and advance orders for Purgatory will be soon available. Subscribe to my newsletter and then watch your email for exclusive offers or go on my Facebook or Instagram accounts for the latest news.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed Shiloh’s relevant history lesson and trust this current health crisis will end soon and business will gradually return to normal. I am presently praying for every small business and especially the bookstores struggling through this nightmarish calamity. I look forward to my upcoming book tour with optimism that will begin in early May (hopefully).
An excerpt from Testament, An Unexpected Return – written in 2016 but the message in the preacher’s homily to the folks in Shiloh is so relevant today…
Chapter Three -“Tug-of-War Sermon” (Testament, An Unexpected Return)
Arnie draped his navy blazer across the chair behind the pulpit, rolled-up his sleeves and loosened his red, white and blue tie. Undaunted by the church’s aging air conditioner, he plunged into the sermon. Twenty minutes in, Arnie paused and took stock of the sanctuary aflutter with bulletins flapping. He motioned for Mary to ready herself at the piano.
Arnie sipped from his water bottle, yanked a monogrammed handkerchief from his hip pocket and dabbed the nape of his neck and forehead. He closed his black leather Bible and stepped to the edge of the platform.
“As much as I’d like to complete my holiday homily, I’ll conclude early today.” He slid his finger from holding his place in the Bible as he gazed upon our relieved faces.
Arnie took another long swig of water and cleared his throat. “My dear friends and church family, we have enjoyed a wonderful Independence Day weekend. But lest we forget, even in our beloved Shiloh we cannot escape the mounting crisis America faces. Our country and community are being yanked and pulled in a tug-of-war not much different from what we witnessed at the Jubilee, except on a grander scale with far-reaching significance. On one end, staunch traditionalists clinging to the past stubbornly hunker down straining against the opposing end of the rope gripped by determined progressive visionaries pursuing changes for a brighter future. How can such a struggle be good for all of our people? Without God’s indubitable blessing, the America we know and love, and the Shiloh we likewise know and love, will surely stumble and succumb to the infighting.”
Arnie lifted his Bible over his head. “Our future rests in God’s hands alone. Each day, God proves that we can hold fast to our past while envisioning a better tomorrow. God uses our tug-of-war battles to safeguard the quantity and velocity of the inevitable changes. Thankfully, God has twisted the strands of the tug-of-war rope to withstand the back and forth strain of our fickleness.”
Arnie waved his Bible from side to side. “Regardless of which side you choose to stand on, rest assured our struggles are for the good of all who love and trust God. May all of us embrace the struggles caused by our differences as God’s way of making us stronger for the challenges that lie ahead for our country and community.”
Modest relief arrived as we entered the main foyer. The wide-open doors at each end provided a slight breeze as we mingled among the few people not ready to venture into the sunshine.
Stationed at the main entrance, Arnie clutched his handkerchief in one hand and greeted members as they filed past with the other. Judy stood beside him in a blue and yellow, sleeveless summer dress and showed little ill effects from the uncomfortable, humid conditions. She kept the line moving, smiling and whispering to each person as they exited and sometimes used a slight, gentle nudge to prevent anyone from lingering too long.
As I appreciated the teamwork of my pastor and his wife, Martha grabbed my elbow and looked at Liddy. “How about y’all meet us at Bubba’s? Sam and Susanna are going. We’re about to invite Arnie and Judy as well.” Martha then eyed me. “I know you’re game. What do you say?”
This is not a blue or red, progressive or conservative, issue — it’s an issue with the nature of all folks. We innately argue over whether our glass is half-full or half-empty, although the same amount of water resides in the glass. Maybe little old Shiloh can teach us all a lesson on how to move on from wanting to be right to do what is right for the good of everyone. T. M. “Mike” Brown
I welcome your feedback. Thank you, and I pray our country will recover long after we move on from the current health crisis we face.
Click the book image below to gain access to the reader pdf docs of your choice for Testament, An Unexpected Return.
Please take a few minutes to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or email me directly. Go to the bookstore tab to find out how to get your copy of Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest and if you have not yet read Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories.
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest –the third and final book in the series is coming May 5th. Theo and Liddy meet Pepper, a young girl on a quest to find the last member of the only family she has ever known only to discover family she knew nothing about.
Stay tuned to learn more in the coming weeks leading up to the release of Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. As my publisher affirmed, this is the best of the three books. You can wait to read Purgatory, a suspense-filled mystery on its own, but you’ll only want to read the first two books after reading Purgatory… Subscribe today and be kept up to date as the launch date nears and the book tour dates are set!
With one more visit to the Monarch House, December 22nd, Sunday, 2:00 PM, Hometown Novel Nights is blessed to present Mike Nemeth and Holly Moulder to put the final close to our 2019 Calendar of events. Residents, family, and friends at the Monarch House, as well as, guests are welcome to join the audience as Mike and Holly talk about their writing stories and present their books.
To kick-off 2020, January 16th, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM, come out to Southern Fried Books, 29 Jackson Street, Newnan, GA for an informative introduction to what 2020 will bring to authors and book-lovers alike. Steve McCondichie will talk about publishing trends and book events in the coming months, George Weinstein will be talking about networking as an author and upcoming writer conferences, and Angie Gallion, Scott Ludwig, and Mike Brown will talk about what Hometown Novel Nights has on tap with new venues and workshops.
Hometown Novel Nights will host a holiday-themed event Dec. 12at the Newnan Carnegie Library
A special holiday-themed Hometown Novel Nights will take place at the Carnegie Library on Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m.
Scott Ludwig will moderate the panel of authors, which include T.M. “Mike” Brown, Jedwin Smith and Larissa Reinhart, according to Brown, founder and coordinator of Hometown Novel Nights…
Brown will be speaking on his first two books, “Sanctuary: A Legacy of Mysteries” and “Testament: An Unexpected Return” on the panel… For the rest of the article click image above or here (Laurel Huster, Newnan Times-Herald)
2020 Hometown Novel Nights Preview hosted by Southern Fried Books, 29 Jackson Street, Newnan, GA, January 16th beginning at 6:30 PM.
Guest speakers will be Steve McCondichie, owner of Southern Fried Books and SFK Multimedia LLC; George Weinstein, President of Atlanta Writers Club, Founder of the Atlanta Writers Conference, and author of five novels, including the latest release by SFK Press, “Watch What You Say.” Mike Brown, Angie Gallion, and Scott Ludwig will share the HNN monthly panel lineups already committed for 2020. All authors, writers, and book enthusiasts are invited to attend this informative and interactive program night. Learn what is the latest in the publishing world, author networking, and options to connect with agents and publishers, as well as, Hometown Novel Night vision going forward in 2020. A special event update will be provided at the January program that will impact everyone in attendance… you will want to be on hand to hear the news!
Remember to catch the HNN Radio Program on WQEE Rock the Key 99.1 FM in Newnan, broadcast live the second Tuesday at 9:30 AM and rebroadcast throughout the month. YouTube podcast link of the radio show will be posted on the Hometown Novel Nights Facebook page.
How time flies when you are having so much fun creating and sharing memories with family! A year ago my family gathered together and visited Rock Ranch in The Rock, GA — Truett Cathy’s family resort which transforms into a winter wonderland for Christmas. (My oldest son is taking the photo)
I have so many memories and thankful moments over the past year to look back upon. hat about you? What are you thankful for?
With all the societal distractions invading our country lately, it may be more challenging than ever to look back on the memories we should focus upon this holiday season. Yet, that is my heartfelt wish for all of my friends and fans of my Shiloh Mystery Series. May we all find “Sanctuary” in the memories which bring us together with our families and friends this holiday season. We cannot choose how others react and behave, but we can choose how we may behave with others. May we leave a lasting “Testament” to a better way of treating others.
Finally, I look forward to 2020 with a cheerful heart full of optimism. I pray outside of a football outcome that may not have been to your liking, may the contagious gift of a genuine smile be the shared with all you greet and meet this holiday season. And, never forget to tell your family and dearest friends how important they are to you.
Flashback memories from a family-filled year of adventure and travel. For the smile they give Connie and me, I am most thankful.
Whenever and wherever I travel outside the local area to attend book events, folks inevitably ask where I’m from. I quickly respond, “Newnan, Georgia is my hometown.” Then I explain, Newnan’s small enough and rich enough in history to remind us of time-lost days, yet big enough to attract visitors from all over. We love it also because Newnan thrives just beyond the shadows of Atlanta where country living is cherished, appreciated, and preserved, yet close enough one can scoot up the interstate to enjoy all Atlanta offers.
Thank you, Newnan.
For those not familiar with historic Newnan, GA, enjoy the recent promotional video about my hometown. For those who have read my Shiloh stories, watch it carefully and you might recognize a few images that you find in my novels…
Just a reminder: Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest is in production and is coming May 5, 2020!
In the meantime, have you read Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (9781641110730) and Testament, An Unexpected Return (9781641110846)? Stop in at your local independent bookstore or anywhere books are sold otherwise for your copies. Get them in time for Christmas and enjoy the “Christmas in Shiloh” settings the books provide at the conclusion of each novel.
Otherwise, stop in at my hometown bookstore: Southern Fried Books in downtown Newnan, GA and they will gladly provide you signed copies of my Shiloh Mystery Novels. They also will ship my books or any of the other myriad of current bestsellers directly to you as well.
Also, subscribe to my newsletters to receive updates and insights into Purgatory’s story as it prepares to come out. “A teenager arrives in Shiloh and discovers she has lost all the family she ever knew only to find her real family.”
Aug 8, 2019 6:30 PM Newnan, GA Newnan Carnegie Library Hometown Novel Night – Newnan Carnegie Library with Paul Sinor, Angie Gallion, and Toby Nix, TM Brown, Moderator Aug 31 – Sep 1, 2019 Noon – 2 PM, Decatur, GA – Decatur Book Festival, Atlanta Writers Club Tent Book SIgning; Sep 1 Labor Day Weekend. Moderator of Non-Fiction Author Panel (T.B… Sep 7, 2019 12:00 PM, Atlanta, GA Ponce City Market – Posman Books – Author Book Signing Sep 14, 2019 1:00 PM, Woodstock, GA Book Warehouse – Author book signing Sep 15, 2019 3:00 PM, Canton, GA R. T. Jones Memorial Library – Inklings, Creative Expressions – Greet and Eat Fall Event Author Book Discussion and Signings Sep 19, 2019 7:00 PM Hogansville, GA, Rogers Barbeque Banquet Room – Hometown Novel Night – Hogansville. Melba Moon/MJ Flournoy, Chellie Woodham Phillips, Ann Rhodes, Mary Marvella, T. M. Brown, Moderator Sep 20, 2019 5:00 PM Newnan, GA, Southern Fried Books – Author Book Signing – Newnan Fall Art Walk Sep 21-22, 2019 12:00 PM ATLANTA, GA, Cobb Galleria Center – Broadleaf Writers Conference Sep 28, 2019 10:00 AM – Harrison (OH) Craft Show Oct 4, 2019 5:00 PM Newnan, GA, Southern Fried Books – Octoberfest Oct 5, 2019 9:30 AM Canton, GA, Canton Farmers Market – Inkling Creative Expressions Oct 10, 2019 6:30 PM Newnan, GA, Newnan Carnegie Library Auditorium – Hometown Novel Nights – Newnan, Roger Johns, Kim Sullivan, D. K. Marley, T. M. Brown, Moderator Oct 12, 2019 12:00 PM McDonough, GA, Story on the Square Bookstore – Author Book Discussion & Signing Oct 19, 2019 (Rained Out- See November 16th) 12:00 PM Carrollton, GA, Horton’s Books & Gifts – Book signing at Georgia’s oldest bookstore. My favorite local bookstore venue. Oct 26, 2019 4:00 PM Newnan, Ga, Artisans Heritage Guild Fall Bazaar & Pumpkin Toss, 1st Ave Park Nov 2, 2019 Noon Sale City GA Fall Festival, Book Signing at Lost Creek Resturant Nov 8, 2019 2:00 PM Fernandina Beach, FL, The Book Loft – Christmas in Shiloh Book signing Nov 9, 2019 12:00 PM Fernandina Beach, FL, The Book Loft – Christmas in Shiloh Book Signing Nov 14, 2019 6:00 PM McDonough, GA, Story on the Square Bookstore – An Evening with Two Georgia Mystery Authors: Our Enduring Fascination with Mystery & Suspense, Roger Johns & T. M. Brown Nov 15, 2019 6:00 PM Newnan, GA Santa at Southern Fried Books – Enjoy mulled wine and hot cocoa for the kids while Santa (or one of his elves) reads from T’was the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore! Shop for the bibliophile on your holiday shopping list! Nov 16, 2019 11:00 AM Carrollton, GA Holiday Book Signing at Horton’s Books and Gifts on Adamson Square. Until 4 PM. Nov 21, 2019 7:00 PM Hogansville, GA, Rogers Barbeque Banquet Room – Hometown Novel Night – Hogansville Holidays Book Panel with Mark Wallace Maguire, Tim Miller, Laurs Johnson, T. M. Brown, Moderator Nov 23, 2019 2:00 PM Thomasville, GA, The Bookshelf – Christmas in Shiloh Holiday book signing Nov 30, 2019 Noon Newnan, GA, Southern Fried Books – Bookstore Anniversary Celebration Dec 7, 2019 12:00 PM Atlanta, GA, Ponce City Market – Posman Books – Author Book Signing – Christmas in Shiloh Dec 12, 2019 6:30 PM Newnan, GA, Newnan Carnegie Library – Hometown Novel Nights Christmas Celebration – Larissa Reinhart, Jedwin Smith, and T. M. Brown. Sponsored by Southern Fried Books
Booking 2020 events with book clubs and organizations in preparation for the upcoming book launch of Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (May 2020). Email or message.
Schedule updated regularly, stop back for updates or email T. M. Brown for information.
To the everyday reader, they may mean little, if anything, but to the discerning bookseller, it may determine the extent of your relationship with them. There’s a growing swell of pushback with book retailers against Amazon/KDP. That attractive royalty rate from Amazon/KDP may, in fact, cost you lots of potential sales. Choose wisely, whether self-publishing or through a small press that takes advantage of POD production. There are two prevalent POS print options, Amazon/KDP or Ingram SPark/LSI.
Working with Ingram is necessary for selling through bookstores, which, more often than not, will not order books from Amazon/KDP. Amazon/KDP will not allow bookstores to return unsold books, something the trade has accepted for a long time and is a crucial option to independent bookstore owners. Without going too deep into the micro-economic considerations of a book retail business, floating the enormous expense of a book inventory forces book retailers to be acutely attuned to Amazon’s less than favorable retailer program. Under the best circumstances, it is not easy to make a profit in the retail bookstore marketplace. Authors should not promote their books with a blind eye to the plight of the book retailers today, thanks to Amazon.
“Learn the printing codes on the inside final page of your books for Kindle and Ingram. They are usually there, but they can be blank, making the printing source agnostic. Don’t accidentally walk into a bookstore with consignment books that show some Kindle-manufactured volumes, as marked on the final page. We wouldn’t want a homicide to occur.” (An excerpt from The Book Designer)
Your author-income depends upon not just the royalty rate but also the sales reach (volume of books sold). After you have decided upon where to publish your book, knowing how your printed book arrives on the market is now even more imperative. POD book production had gotten to be a most welcome, cost-effective means to get books printed. Quality has vastly improved and certainly reduces your upfront costs and associated risks of investing in and maintaining a book inventory. Know your publisher’s and/or your marketing strategy for getting books to readers. Convenience can cost you far more than you are led to believe.
My two-cents on the subject of POD sources
Consider Amazon as a necessary book retailer, but a retailer none-the-less. If you desire to engage the retail reach of brick-and-mortar bookstores, then understanding their profitability is paramount to building a win-win relationship. Would you walk into two competing book retailers in the same town and expect a warm reception from both store owners? Probably not. Well, Amazon is every book retailer’s primary competitor. And, Amazon/KDP printed books offer less profit for the book retailer and do not allow the retailer a book return option. Thus, if you, as the author, agree to a consignment arrangement on the backside of an author event at the store, your book will not find prime shelf space after you are long gone.
“Penny-wise, dollar foolish.”
You may have written a well-written, compelling story, and even have an eye-catching, well-conceived book cover, but no book sells itself. How you plan to promote and bring your book to market is paramount to your book’s ultimate success. What may appear upfront as profitable may more than likely prove very costly? Treat Amazon as the retailer you cannot ignore, but don’t ignore your other retail outlets and consider them as less important. Unless you have built up a huge name as an author with an enormous audience panting for your next book, your books will not sell themselves while you are glued to the world-wide-web and stuck in your comfortable chair at home.
News flash: Authors must invest in and actively engage in the marketing of their books to be successful.
POD book production is a gamechanger
I repeat–POD book production is a gamechanger and is here to stay, but do not overlook which POD printer you choose to use for your books. Amazon is a profit eating leviathan and plays both book printer/publisher and retailer, which for some may be convenient, and that is fine if that meets your book’s expectation. But, they have stirred up a lot of animosity by their voracious greed. Do not expect their retail competitors to provide you with a warm welcome if you carry into their store books printed by their most lethal competitor.
What about the reading audience? Should the reading audience care?
To all those you avid book-lovers whose money is spent in exchange for all the books that are behind this discussion: Please realize your pivotal role in this mortal competition. I hope you’ll patronize your locally owned bookstore and use online retailers only when necessary. Convenience costs more than you might think. Internet convenience influence affects so many others in your own community. Besides, your local bookstore should offer you an irreplaceable experience that engages all your senses whenever you walk into their brick-and-mortar confines. They should also help you discover new bestsellers in the making for your reading enjoyment.
September kicks off a busy Fall season of author events. My wife and I will be touring not only various venues in the Greater Atlanta area but also returning for a two-day author event with The Book Loft in Fernandina Beach and then back to my friends at The Bookshelf in Thomasville in the coming weeks. In the midst of it all, Hometown Novel Nights allows me to enjoy introducing and talking with new local authors before a growing curious audience in Hogansville and Newnan, Georgia. I also will be teaming up with my author-friend, Roger Johns in November for a discussion about “Our Enduring Fascination with Mystery & Suspense” at the new Story on the Square Bookstore in McDonough, Georgia.
My newest bookstore addition is right in my hometown of Newnan, Georgia with Southern Fried Books. and I’ll be signing books there September 20th during the Newnan Fall Art Walk. They have the largest inventory of my books too… Well, they are my exclusive hometown bookstore too. You can order signed copies from them to mailed to you as well.
Here’s my updated and latest schedule of Fall Author Events which gets fast and furious from here until Christmas.
According to recent statistics, novels replete with explicit sex, violence, and vulgarity continue to thrive as the flavor of the month in book sales. However, should authors kowtow to gratuitous content just to increase book numbers?
Good writers engage their audience so well, scenes calling for sex, violence, or vulgarity communicate through the actions and attitudes of the characters. This is the real show-don’t-tell opportunity for authors. Otherwise, allow the story to unfold without all the possible explicit sordid details.
I believe an author’s responsibility is not only to entertain but also engage readers, so they sense they are witnessing the story as it unfolds. Share enough details to activate and invigorate the reader’s imagination as they engage the story.
What images race through your mind that depicts anger and rage? Do you picture contorted faces and threatening gestures, or do you need to be explicitly told?
Excerpt from Sanctuary
Consider this scene from my book Sanctuary: Hank gritted his teeth as the veins on his neck swelled, and his eyes glared through me. “Well, I think you’re putting your nose into places you’ve no business being.” He uncrossed his arms and pointed at my chest. “I’m warning you. Stay away from me and my wife!”
“Hank, I’m sorry if I’ve said or done anything to upset you. Have you spoken to your father?”
“This is between you and me. Stay out of our lives.” Hank’s effort to be more composed fell apart.
… Hank pressed his finger into my sternum. “This is all I’m going to say to you about Jessie or John…” He thumped his finger against my chest adding emphasis to each word. “I’m truly sorry about what happened to Jessie, but John got what he deserved. And you can quote me on that. Now back off! I’m warning you.”
Pete stepped out from the shadows, unceremoniously interrupting Hank’s exchange with me.
“Mister P, is everything okay?” Pete asked as he glared at Hank. “Hank, who’re you warning about what?”
Hank surveyed Pete and the four remaining shadows just out of the light. His finger fell to his side, but his distended veins on his neck swelled even more. “Pete, this has nothing to do with you or any of you guys!”
…Pete extended his finger just shy of Hank’s chest. “How in the blue blazes do you know it don’t involve us? If you think you can flex your muscles and intimidate one of my friends, you just made it my business.” His stern warning and unflinching stare froze Hank.
Granted a few expletives could’ve been heard, but did the scene work anyway?
Don’t Take My Word on This…
John Grisham achieved his decades-long success capitalizing on his uncanny knack of drawing his audience’s attention upon his colorful characters and settings. Doing so, he exited scenes involving sex, violence or vulgarity using innuendo. In fact, Grisham’s Theodore Boone YA mysteries found a broad new audience without much of an adjustment in his storytelling to do so. Neither should we to reach a wider audience to sell more books.
What is your opinion on the matter?
I would love hearing back from you. What is your opinion regarding the portraying of sex, violence, and vulgarity in novels? When is enough, enough and it becomes gratuitous? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Right after a potential reader sets their eyes on your book cover, the next critical test to pique the interest of the reader is page one of the story. Does it beg the reader to read more?
For this reason, I begin and end writing and editing with the first page. Like in real life, “first impressions matter” in establishing relationships. We don’t often get many second chances. Neither do our books should the first impression fail to pique a curious reader’s interest.
As an independent author, my books do not have the advertising and promotional blitz advantage afforded by the top publishers hawking their stable of best-selling authors. T. M. Brown does not have the name recognition of best-selling authors, such as Grisham, Patterson, Baldacci, Karon, Blackstock, etc. Like the myriad of other new books published this year, the majority lacking the deep pockets and name recognition, success boils down to passing the sensory appeal test.
What is the sensory appeal test? Does the book cover stand out when on display amongst the notable NYC published best sellers, or does it shrink almost unnoticed, overshadowed by more noticeable book covers?
Maybe its the competitive nature within me, but I desire my books to compete among the notables, the best-sellers. I prefer my books to be on the eye level front shelves in the bookstore; not relegated to shelves set aside in the back of the store. Why is that important? Okay, T. M. Brown is not a household name in the literary world, but when my book covers are displayed beside notable names that readers seek, Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return are exposed to more potential readers. BUT, now the sensory appeal test begins.
When either of my book covers catches the eye of a perusing reader and they pause to slide the book off the shelf for a closer look, the reader’s keen senses in the next few seconds decide the fate of my book. Without the notoriety of the more familiar author Dan Brown, it is the front cover which then earns an extended feel of the book.
My publisher utilizes heavier stock paper to print its books, and it is noticeable to the feel. The reader then flips to the back cover and peruses the carefully edited snippets about the book. If the book cover has passed the initial sensory appeal test the reader invests another critical moment and thumbs through the pages before eyeing the first page. Those first 200 or so words reign supreme over the next few seconds as the reader weighs the quality of the content of this interesting new author’s novel. Should by chance the reader flip the page or closes the book but runs their hand over the cover once again, chances are a decision is underway. In that brief moment, the weight of the first page matters.
Now It’s Your Turn
Now it’s your turn. What do you think? How much time do you give to selecting out a good novel to read? Are you narrowly focused on tried and tested bestsellers? Are you a reader who more often than not feels dissatisfied by the novels being hyped and peddled by the big New York City publishing houses. Sadly, there is more and more pressure for the assembly production of novels by notable authors. They are easy to recognize because the author name takes up the top half of the front cover. They are promoting the author’s reputation, not the story inside.
So how do my books stack up? Do the first pages cause you to consider reading more?
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.
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?
Five years ago, my wife urged me to retire from the nine-to-five daily grind to write a novel that our grandchildren would enjoy reading. The first weeks entailed countless hours of investigating the basics — the what and how — of creative writing. Eventually, my inquiries led me to a God-sent relationship with a writing coach and editor, Kari Scare from Three Rivers, Michigan.
Thankfully, technology bridged the 900 miles that separated us. With Kari’s guidance and ample supply of red ink, I nurtured the original premise of a story. Word after word, page after page, revision after revision, Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories emerged thirty months later. Though a few painful bumps and bruises left their mark along the way, I now proudly enjoy sharing about my legacy of love to my grandchildren.
Of course, one book is never enough. Thanks to the insistence of my earliest readers and my new author-friends, a year after my first novel launched, Testament, An Unexpected Return, the sequel, continued the saga begun in Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories, and the third and presumably final installment is being written. Each features Theo Phillips, a recently retired publishing executive, and his wife, Liddy. Their journey began after they vacated their suburban home near Atlanta seeking to return to South Georgia, near their small-town roots. However, Theo and Liddy discovered their inquisitiveness, as they seek to settle into their Shiloh home, thrusts them into the midst of scandal and dark secrets surrounding a tragic death. In the sequel, Theo and Liddy become unlikely victims of a former resident’s mysterious return and reckless scheming.
Now what? Over the holidays as I began writing the third installment, I pursued a vital third question about crafting novels – why. An author must come to grips with the motivation and internal message that each story tells. After some soul-searching, I realized the events surrounding one of my characters had played out a true-to-life, relevant role within the main story.
Without revealing too much of the story, Megan succumbed to being coerced into making a choice only a woman can make, but she learns in the story choices have consequences, and most often unintended and far-reaching too. No matter how hard anyone buries such a dark secret, eventually it surfaces to the light. I tried throughout the story to reveal a truth we should all realize, God knows all our secrets. He knew we would make the decisions we did long before we created them. Megan comes to realize that one can compound a lousy choice with more poor decisions that hurt others, but more often than not, God exposes our secrets to begin the healing process of a broken and contrite heart.
So why did I write the stories I have written and likely will continue to write? To inspire my grandchildren and readers alike to examine their choices in life and how those choices have impacted their relationships with family, friends, and most importantly with God.
To emphasize this message, throughout February, all my royalties for books sold in Coweta County, GA — where the inspiration for Shiloh began — and on Amazon so others can participate, will benefit Coweta Pregnancy Services, Newnan, GA. The campaign is duly entitled, “Megan’s Pledge.” Below is a link to find out more should you wish to take part.
So, why do you write your stories?
I pray you may agree — “The testament of a man lies not in the magnitude of possessions and property left to his heirs, but the reach of his legacy long after his death.” Theo Phillips
T. M. Brown is a Southern boy at heart, although he’s lived and traveled in many states far removed from his beloved boyhood roots in Georgia and Florida. He returned to North Florida several years ago while his two sons were still in school and enjoyed traveling throughout the South for business. After his youngest son went off to college, he ventured to New Orleans to complete post-graduate studies. The last fifteen years, he has preached, taught and coached in Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida until his wife and he relocated outside of Atlanta where they have since retired to write, travel, and spoil grandchildren.
Presenting author at 2017 & 2018 Decatur Book Festival, 2017 Milton Literary Festival, 2018 Dahlonega Literary Festival. Suspense Book 2017 finalist, Reviews & Interviews. Member of the Atlanta Writers Club, Georgia Writers Association, Chattahoochee Valley Writers Club, Georgia Writers Museum. and Broadleaf Writers Association (ATL). 2018 Best Book Award Finalist from AmericanBookFest.com for Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories. Shiloh Mystery Series: Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (Jan 2018); Testament, An Unexpected Return (March 2018); Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest
362 pages, paperback
Publication Date: January 19, 2018
Sanctuary: A Legacy of Memories introduces newly retired publishing executive Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy to the time- lost South Georgia town of Shiloh. They leave the shadows of Atlanta and move into a quaint home of notoriety. While making new friends, they discover twenty-first-century challenges threaten the town’s laid-back lifestyle. Theo’s interest in a memorial launches him into investigating tragic events that have left Shiloh unsettled. Retirement dreams face twists and turns that could unravel both them and the idyllic life they and many others look for in little old Shiloh.
This first novel in the series with the sequel, Testament: An Unexpected Return (ISBN 978-1-64111-084-6) published March 21, 2018, portrays God’s providential nudging of Theo into facing the reality that he and Liddy did not choose Shiloh, but Shiloh beckoned them to reveal the scandals and dark secrets haunting their community. And, “as those good ol’ boys like to say, things get curiouser and curiouser . . . ”
Sanctuary: A Legacy of Memories is available for purchase through local book retailers and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and TMBrownAuthor.com.
About the Author
T. M. Brown embraces his Georgia heritage thanks to the paternal branches of his family tree. Retired since 2014 from the nine-to-five life, Brown and his wife, Connie, reside near Newnan, Georgia. When not writing or traveling, the couple enjoy sharing time with their two grown sons and their families.