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
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.
Time crept. Minutes became hours. Every attempt to capture any semblance of actual sleep proved futile. Capitulation arrived shortly after four when I poured a cup of coffee and sat down in the living room.
The bulletin from last evening’s service bookmarked the passage Arnie referenced in his message, but my Bible soon rested open on my lap. I massaged my eyes and petitioned, “Okay Lord, what’re you trying to share with me?”
When I read one more time, “I have seen you in your sanctuary…” my thoughts went into overdrive. I lowered my Bible again, laid my glasses on top, and stared at the colorless shadows beyond the window.
Stumped, I placed my glasses back on my nose and shut my Bible. As the pages flopped together, the bulletin floated onto my lap. I slipped it inside the front cover just as the sound of a stifled yawn drew my attention.
Rubbing her eyes, Liddy mumbled, “How long have you been up?”
I got up from my recliner and pointed to the kitchen table. “Sit down, and I’ll pour you some coffee. Did I wake you?”
Liddy propped her chin on the palms of her hands. “Nooo… I rolled over to cuddle but found only your pillow. Anything wrong?”
I placed a cup of coffee in front of her, topped off my own and then sat across from her.
“No, nothing’s wrong. I couldn’t get rid of a dream that haunted me through the night, so I got up and read a bit. I hoped I might at least understand why I couldn’t dismiss it and fall back to sleep.”
Still groggy, she wrinkled her nose. “Hun, you’re just getting too stressed over this Jessie Masterson and John Priestly project of yours.”
“Just hold one sec. Let me show you something.” I fetched my Bible, opened it and pulled out the bulletin again to bookmark the passage, but my circled reminder, “Sanctuary,” caught my eye.
Liddy raised her head off her palm. “What’s the matter?”
“Hmm… you’re probably right. It’s just my imagination working overtime, I reckon.”
My lopsided grin lingered as I recalled why I wrote the reminder. “How would you feel ‘bout you and I looking into helping to restart Sanctuary?”
She pulled the bulletin from my grasp and carefully inspected it, and then inquired, “Do ya think Pete and the others would be interested? I mean, we literally couldn’t restart it on our own.”
“Of course not. I didn’t mean we’d lead it but offer support from behind the scenes. I bet Mary, Jeannie, and likely Phillip would be interested in the idea.”
Liddy fiddled with her cup in one hand, holding the bulletin in the other. “It actually could be a great idea. It’d serve as a remarkable legacy to Jessie. Not to mention, we could do it together.” Liddy grabbed my hands, kissed them, and looked back up with a confident smile. “Want some breakfast?”
“Yeah, but only toast for me. We’ve got Thanksgiving dinner at Harold’s to look forward to today.”
# # #
We left for Harold’s around one thirty. As we passed Adams Feed and Hardware, Liddy said, “Let’s not forget, we need to stop there. How about Saturday?”
“Absolutely. We’re going to need a bunch of new Christmas decorations this year anyway.”
Liddy craned her neck as we passed. “Hey! There’s the fresh load of Christmas trees still on the trailer too. Saturday… It’s a date.”
We followed Megan’s easy-to-read directions and turned onto River Road as we left town. A few minutes later we pulled in front of an impressive gated entrance.
“Well, I guess we’re here.”
I lowered my window and pushed the red call button on the speaker. A polite voice promptly responded, “One moment please.”
The black wrought iron gates crept open seconds later.
The oak-lined drive wound back and around to Harold’s two-story estate home complete with an oversized detached three-car garage. Harold’s secretary waited on the front steps as we exited our vehicle. She waved and greeted us with a warm smile.
Liddy and I walked hand-in-hand to the grand front entrance. “Megan… what a surprise,” I said with a slightly puzzled look.
Megan smiled and said, “Mister Phillips, good to see you again. This must be Missus Phillips.”
I glanced at Liddy’s surprised expression. “Liddy, this is Megan from Harold’s office. She’s the young lady who dropped off the directions that guided us here so precisely.”
Liddy offered her hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Megan. Your directions were most helpful. Thank you. Are you joining us today?”
Megan giggled beneath her hand, masking a coy smile. “Why yes ma’am. I live here.” She received Liddy’s hand and then declared matter-of-factly, “Harold’s my father-in-law.”
“Which Archer are you married to, if I may ask,” I said.
“Hank’s my husband. I believe you’ve met him.”
“Why yes. In fact, we’ve met all of Harold’s sons and can tell he’s quite proud of them all.”
We removed our coats in the foyer and admired the double stairwell leading upstairs from opposite sides of the expansive front entry. A wide hallway led into a massive great room with seating on each side of a floor to ceiling, stone open-hearth fireplace. Two sets of patio doors on either side provided access to the veranda. Panoramic window panes offered an unobstructed, breathtaking view of the manicured fenced yard, rolling hills, and distant meadows.
Megan broke the silence. “Beautiful, isn’t it? I just can’t get enough of it either.”
Liddy recovered from her open-mouth stare. “Is all this part of your family’s property? It’s absolutely breathtaking and beautiful, as is this house as well.”
Megan smiled with a rehearsed nod and pointed to two imposing tan suede leather sofas. “Please join me. Harold’s upstairs and will join us shortly. He asked me to keep you company.”
Liddy, a pro at small talk, put on her most polite, inquisitive smile. “Megan, excuse me, but I was just wondering if you and Hank have any children.”
Megan’s smile tensed. “No, ma’am. Not yet, but Hank and I expect to surprise Harold soon. We just celebrated our fourth anniversary, and hope to be in our own house that’ll include a nursery by the time we celebrate our next anniversary.”
I said, “I bet Harold will make a proud grandpa. There’s nothing like it.”
Megan wrung her folded hands, though her posture and tone appeared relaxed.
Liddy rescued Megan and asked about the new house.
Megan’s tentativeness eased as she spoke. “Hank and I plan to build on the property Harold set aside as our wedding gift.” She pointed out the picture window behind her. “You can’t see it well from here, but it’s just beyond those trees. It’s a beautiful piece of property with a view of Shiloh Creek, ideally suited to raise a family.”
I smiled and nodded.
“Mister Phillips, how many children do you have?”
“Please, Theo and Liddy.”
“Why thank you, Theo.” She turned to Liddy. “And, Liddy is such a pretty name. Is it short for Lydia?”
Liddy blushed as she nodded. “Yes, it is.”
Megan said, “Lydia’s one of my favorite names. In the Bible, Lydia was a strong and confident business women who helped launch a church.”
Liddy’s reddened cheeks grew as she smiled and sat an inch taller in her seat. She knew the story of Lydia from Philippi well and enjoyed the image of her namesake.
Liddy held up two fingers and said, “We have two wonderful grown sons, and they’ll be visiting Shiloh with their families for Christmas.”
“That’s wonderful. Bet you’re anxious and counting the days.” Megan sighed. “As for me, I was born and raised right here in good ol’ Shiloh. My mom and dad still live just outside of town. And since I don’t have any brothers or sisters, mom regularly harps about any news regarding the prospect of their first grandchild.”
Uncomfortable, awkward silence followed before I changed the subject. “I’m not sure if Harold said anything, but did you know I’m working on a story about Jessie Masterson? Since you were raised here, I’d love to talk about your experiences and memories related to Coach Masterson. I imagine he was at Shiloh High when you went there.”
Megan beamed with the mention of Jessie, but an exuberant laugh interrupted our conversation.
Harold looked down from the balcony rail. “Theo! Liddy! I see you’re enjoying the company of my charming and talented daughter-in-law.”
Liddy and I both rose to our feet as he approached. He shook my hand and gave Liddy a generous smile.
“Mista’ Harold, you and your guests, ‘bout ready?” said Harold’s matronly gray-haired African-American housekeeper. She stood patiently at the doorway leading onto the veranda wearing a traditional white broad collared maid’s uniform with a starched apron.
“Maddie, if you’re about ready out there, I reckon we’re ready.”
With a little huff, Maddie said, “Come on then. I’ve been waitin’ on you folks, Master Harold, and I’m sure these nice folks has been waitin’ on you.” She opened the door and pointed to a table all set for us.
Harold sat at the head of the table, and we sat across from Megan. A plump, partially-carved roasted turkey accompanied by butter beans, green beans, collards, mashed potatoes, a sweet potato casserole, dressing and both pumpkin and pecan pies covered the other end of the table.
Harold pulled a bottle of Chenin Blanc off the side cart behind him and popped the cork. He rotated the label for us to see.
I smiled. “Yes, looks like a nice wine choice, thank you, Harold,” and then he filled four crystal glasses and passed them to each of us.
I took a sip pretending to know a little about savoring wines. I offered a modest grin of approval. Liddy took a smaller sip and smiled politely towards our host before she placed the wine glass down and nonchalantly reached for her glass of tea.
“I’m glad y’all approve. Thought it’d be an appropriate complement to Maddie’s honey-basted turkey.” Harold extended his arms wide, drawing attention to Maddie as she prepared a plate for each of us.
As I waited for my plate to arrive, I said, “Harold, this is a nice treat, and the Lord certainly gave us a beautiful day to eat outside like this.” I then pointed to his immaculate lawn and gardens. “How do you find time to take care of all this? I’m jealous.”
Harold’s laughter filled the veranda. “I’m far too busy. We’ve got a regular crew that maintains the grounds around here for us. But Theo, it’s me who’s jealous. You’ve done wonders with the old Priestly home. It’s obvious, y’all don’t mind getting your hands dirty.”
Maddie laid a full plate in front of me, careful not to disturb the pan gravy that floated atop the cornbread dressing and mashed potatoes. “I hope you ladies and gentlemens are hungree.” She pointed at the far end of the table. “There’s plenty more but leave room for some pie, and I’ll be right back if ya needs me.”
Harold applauded. “Maddie, mm, mm…you’ve outdone yourself, once again. Thank you.”
Liddy said, “Yes. Thank you, Miss Maddie.” Maddie’s round cheeks blushed as she stepped away.
Throughout the meal, Harold directed the conversation and offered an endless history of the house and the property that had been passed down to him. He boasted about his family’s long history in Shiloh that began not long after the Civil War ended.
He looked at Megan with a twinkle in his eye. “And it looks like Hank and Megan will be the first of my sons to build their own home. I’ve little doubt that Megan’s ready to move into her own house after putting up with four men coming and going all the time.”
Megan‘s cheeks turned pink, but she continued to focus on the food in front of her.
After we finished eating, Maddie reappeared over each of our shoulders and set a white coffee carafe on the table. “Missus Phillips, would you like pum’kin or pee-kan or maybe a little of each with your coffee?”
Maddie served each of us with the same soft voice question. She wasted no time or motion as she efficiently tended to each of us. She then loaded each of our dirty plates along with the leftovers onto her wooden serving cart and rolled it away.
Between nibbles, Megan shared stories about serving as Harold’s administrative assistant. She left little doubt that she enjoyed the status of the position, and Harold glowed as Megan told stories about him.
At a point during the playful and respectful roasting from Megan, Harold pushed his chair out from the end of the table, grabbed his empty dessert plate in one hand and leaned toward me. “Theo, now you’ll see why I struggle with my weight.” A jolly laugh followed him to the other end of the table.
Megan’s stories continued as her eyes appeared to scold Harold.
“Ah come on Megan, it’s Thanksgiving. You know Maddie always serves me just a tiny piece anyway,” Harold said before he gobbled down a loaded forkful of pecan pie and tapped his belly. “Um, good. Don’t you agree, Theo?”
I looked at Liddy, leaned back in my chair and tapped my stomach. “As for me, if I ate another bite, I’d bust, not to mention Liddy will make me walk home.”
After our dessert plates disappeared, Harold stood. “Megan, why don’t you offer Liddy a tour of the house and the grounds while Theo and me take a drive around the property.”
Liddy smiled at Megan and nodded, then I looked at Harold and said, “Sounds great to me.”
Before Harold and I walked away, he said to Megan, “We’ll probably be a couple of hours. I’ve got my phone if you need to reach me.” Then he looked at me. “We’ll go in my truck if that’s okay with you?”
“Sure,” I said as I looked over my shoulder and saw Liddy and Megan disappear into the house. “Harold, you’ve got a great daughter-in-law.”
A slight grin appeared on Harold’s face. “If only you knew how exceptional she truly is. That boy of mine doesn’t deserve her. There’re times I wonder why she puts up with him. I hope they’ll settle down soon because I just couldn’t do what I do without her.”
Harold pushed his truck’s key fob as we approached the garage, and his black dually’s diesel engine roared to life. “Door’s unlocked. Hop in. You can just toss my satchel in the back somewhere.” Country music already filled the cab but thankfully more appealing to my ears than Hank’s taste.
I adjusted my seat and buckled up. “Harold, this is nice. I’m impressed.” I ran my hand over the personalized logo burnt into the chaparral leather that covered the center console.
“I put a lot of time in my truck. Being mayor and all the other stuff I’m involved with around town; I figured long ago that I might as well enjoy my ride, don’t you agree?” He maneuvered the huge dually onto the gravel road and drove us to what he referred to as the Pine Groves. When we arrived, we stretched our legs along the path that wound through the property.
Harold boasted about the work involved in the maintenance of a profitable harvest of timber. I admired the patience and persistence required to cultivate and harvest pine trees.
“Harold, clearly your family’s been a big part of this community, and you’ve well-established deep roots on this property and in town.”
“That’s true. The family still owns 500 acres, but going way back, we once owned two thousand of the most fertile acres that ever produced cotton and peanuts in these parts. There’s been an Archer on this land since General Sherman served as military governor of Georgia. Sadly, though, my great, great grandfather sold much of the property during some tough times that ravaged the plantation owners around here about 100 years ago. Although he did hold onto the most fertile acreage.”
“How did your family end up in Shiloh? It’s been my impression that your family’s always been here.”
Harold hesitated before continuing in a loud whisper. “Shh… we’ve Yankee roots. My family migrated from Pennsylvania. The story goes, not long after the war ended, my great, great, great grandfather heard about the abundance of fertile plantation land being auctioned off for taxes, so he sold his farm near Gettysburg, packed up and came here.”
The word “carpetbagger” crept into my mind, but I kept that thought to myself. “I imagine he bought the land for pennies on the dollar. Although much of the original land got sold off, I’m sure you’re still proud to one day pass your family’s land and heritage on to your sons.”
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).
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!
Hometown Novel Nights is expanding in 2020 to Senoia, GA and making its program available to bookstores throughout the Greater Atlanta area. Our goal is to connect local authors with local audiences in an engaging, interactive, and informative format to introduce homegrown talent. Who knows which of the authors at Hometown Novel Nights will become the next National Bestselling Author from Georgia?