A Thanksgiving to Remember

SANCTUARY

A Legacy of Memories

By T. M. Brown

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

CHAPTER TWENTY

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. 

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

“Mista’ Harold, you and your guests, ‘bout ready?” said Harold’s matronly gray-haired African-American housekeeper. She stood patiently at the doorway leading onto the veranda wearing a traditional white broad collared maid’s uniform with a starched apron.

“Maddie, if you’re about ready out there, I reckon we’re ready.”

With a little huff, Maddie said, “Come on, then. I’ve been waitin’ on you folks, Master Harold, and I’m sure these nice folks has been waitin’ on you.” She opened the door and pointed to a table all set for us.

Harold sat at the head of the table, and we sat across from Megan. A plump, partially-carved roasted turkey accompanied by butter beans, green beans, collards, mashed potatoes, a sweet potato casserole, dressing and both pumpkin and pecan pies covered the other end of the table. 

Harold pulled a bottle of Chenin Blanc off the side cart behind him and popped the cork. He rotated the label for us to see. 

I smiled. “Yes, looks like a nice wine choice, thank you, Harold,” and then he filled four crystal glasses and passed them to each of us. 

I took a sip pretending to know a little about savoring wines. I offered a modest grin of approval. Liddy took a smaller sip and smiled politely towards our host before she placed the 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.”

Harold smiled and nodded. 

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

A W.O.W. Interview

Podcast aired August 16, 2022–Click the image for the podcast link.

An interview that pulled a lot of background information about my journey to become the Southern inspirational author working on publishing my fourth novel.

Head over to the bookshop tab and order your copy of any three Shiloh novels. After listening to this podcast, you’ll appreciate where the muse for the stories came from.

‘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. 

Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest News!

Amazon exclusive hardcover edition front and back cover. Click either to order direct from Amazon.

Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest, Book 3 in the Shiloh Mystery Series is now available in an Amazon exclusive “hardcover” edition.

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.

FREE TO THE PUBLIC! COME JOIN US AND SUPPORT MAKING READING AND WRITING FUN IN OUR AREA.

Summer Kindle Deal-Begins June 21st!

Shiloh Mystery Series – Special Kindle Offer https://tmbrownauthor.com/shop

Summer Kickoff $.99 Kindle Sale

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. Browns 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

The Appeal of Southern Novels, Past and Present

Why Are Southern Novels Borderless and Timeless?

How is it Margaret Mitchell, Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Erskine Caldwell, James Dickey, Pat Conroy and the legacy of so many other great Southern authors have endured long after they left us? And, today Southern authors like Fannie Flagg, Alice Walker, Kathryn Stockett, Jeswyn Ward, Charles Frazier, Greg Iles, Charles Martin, Rick Bragg, and even John Grisham are still securing their legacy for future generations.

Let’s not forget the endless stream of fresh literary voices beckoning us with new Southern-laced literary works that supply the timeless and borderless demand for memorable flawed heroes, victims, and villains depicted in colorful Southern settings dealing with 21st-Century challenges and changes.

The South offers fuller moons and windier back roads for a reason.

What constitutes a great Southern story?

First of all, truth be told, I don’t know how to write the next best-selling Southern Novel. Of course, if I did happen to know how, I’d be too busy writing it and more than likely have my eyes cast on writing at least three. Three best-selling Southern novels would leave the kind of legacy that any writer would only dream about. But at least I know one when I see one. That’s because really great best-selling Southern novels are discovered, not written. In fact, none of the aforementioned authors began writing the next great Southern novel. They merely wrote what resided within them to write. 

The indelible mark of 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.

So much of the South is found any evening on the front porch.

The Southern Author Is Too Polite to Name Names

I have learned one thing in my sixty-eight years, fiction is just the truth and reality wearing a mask and being stretched a might to be more palatable, and often more plausible. You see, more than not, the truth just ain’t as believable as the tall-tales that follow.

Now there are certain trademarks of any Southern story, they revolve around food, family, friendships, faith, and football. Right off, if any story fails to mention the sipping, swallowing, or gulping of sweet tea, consider it suspect right away. Also, in the South, a coke may not mean a Coca-Cola, and whiskey didn’t originate here, but it was perfected here. In fact, the tales of Cooter Brown’s perpetual drunkenness is a Southern-rooted legend.

Grits, gravy, and greens are menu staples, morning, noon and night. Anything else worth eating is also usually fried. Peaches, pecans, and peanuts are the foundation of many epic desserts too.

In the South, Change Arrives Reluctantly

It may be the 21st-Century, however, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir” are not derisive retorts but words of respect to our elders. Boys and grown men instinctively grab the door for a woman or young lady. Now, that’s not saying Southern gals don’t have spunk. Lord, just rile a Southern girl and you’ll learn right quick they invented sass. They also know, you know, you likely deserved it.

The 21st-Century Southern woman exited the confines of the kitchen and no longer remains in the shadows cast by men. She forges her own identity in society and dares men to catch up to her. 

Some Traditions Linger

Of course, when someone approaches on a 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  

 

One earns the other on your shelf
Two books linked with their unforgettable setting and colorful characters

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!

Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest KINDLE PROMOTION

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