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Friday, September 30, 2016

A Clash of Civilizations

This fall marks the 237th anniversary of the Donelson journey, a river journey of 300 settlers moving west to Fort Nashborough from Virginia and North Carolina. My ancestors, children and grandchildren of Ulster Irish immigrants, were among the group.

They were actually violating the Royal Proclamation of 1763 signed by Britain's King George III. This Proclamation used the Appalachian Mountains as a dividing line between the settlers to the east of the mountains and the Indian tribes to the west of it. It agreed that the settlers would remain out of the Indian-held territories in return for the Indians giving up their claim to lands between the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.

Before Europeans claimed the "New World" for their respective countries, this country was as old as any other and was home to more than 500 Indian nations.

As part of the research I performed in writing River Passage, I watched 500 Nations, narrated by Kevin Costner. It was eye-opening in the complexity and sophistication of many of the tribes, some that even thought the Europeans were primitive in their habitats, culture and skills.

So when I began writing my book, I decided to write it from two perspectives: my ancestors who violated the Royal Proclamation and moved west beyond the mountains, as well as Dragging Canoe and his followers who were determined to stop their progress.

Dragging Canoe, Nipissing and Natchez by birth and Cherokee by abduction and adoption, rose to become the leader of the Chickamauga nation. It originally consisted of Cherokee but others soon joined from the Shawnee, Chickasaw and Upper Muskogee tribes. They established sites along the Tennessee River near present-day Chattanooga where they could mount attacks against the settlers moving westward by boat. Their plan was to drive the settlers back to the east of the negotiated land divide.

Many of these tribes had been in the region since the late prehistoric times. I think of this in the context of my own history: the Neely family has been in America for 296 years. How would I react if someone from another country landed on our shores and began claiming U.S. soil as their own? Yet that is precisely what Europeans did; they considered the "red man" inferior because they were different and systematically began driving them out of lands they had occupied since ancient times.

Mary Neely was 19 years old during this river journey. Her father William had moved to Fort Nashborough (now Nashville, Tennessee) after Henderson's Purchase, an agreement between several Indian tribes (predominantly the Cherokee) and a group of white settlers in which the Indian elders sold land in present-day Middle Tennessee and parts of Kentucky. The purchase was never legitimate, as Richard Henderson was violating the Royal Proclamation and the tribal elders didn't actually own the land they sold. (Owning land was not part of Indian culture.) It was during this land sale that Dragging Canoe left the mainstream tribe and formed the Chickamauga.

In the autumn of 1779, Mary Neely began preparing with nine brothers and sisters and her mother Margaret to join William Neely. They joined John Donelson's party that would travel west by river. The journey was expected to take about four weeks. Instead, more than four months later, survivors of the party reached the fort with a harrowing tale of repeated Indian attacks that lasted from present-day Chattanooga past Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They also faced starvation, frostbite, white water rapids their boats were not prepared to navigate, and even small pox.

It was Mary's friend Hannah Stuart and Hannah's younger sister who first contracted small pox. As a result, their boat was sent to the rear to keep them from infecting the others. During one of Dragging Canoe's attacks, the two sisters were captured and brought back to one of their villages. They infected others in the village and because the inhabitants regularly traveled between other villages, it resulted in a small pox epidemic. The two Stuart sisters died in captivity and because the tribes had no natural resistance to the disease (which had been brought to the Americas by the Europeans) they died in large numbers. This is one of the stories told in my book.

River Passage has been determined to be so historically accurate that the original manuscript is held at the Nashville Metropolitan Government Archives for future researchers and historians. It is a tale not only of my ancestors' journey westward but also of the clash of two civilizations, told through the eyes of each side. It was also the winner of the 2010 Best Drama Award.

If you enjoyed The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper, you would enjoy River Passage and its companion book, Songbirds are Free.

p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 20 books in several genres. Read an excerpt from River Passage, watch the book trailer, and view pictures from her months of following in her ancestors' footsteps at her website,

Sunday, September 25, 2016

You're Never Too Old

You're never too old to follow your dreams.

Take Anna Sewell, for example. Anna was the author of Black Beauty, one of the best-selling books of all time. Did you know that she was 57 years old and in declining health when her first and only book was published?

Anna was born in 1820 in England. When she was only twelve years old, she slipped and injured both ankles. In a time before x-rays and advanced medical treatments, her injury never quite healed and she spent the rest of her life unable to stand or walk without a crutch. In her later years, she was often confined to her bed.

She had a great love of horses and was often surrounded with them. Because of her injury and being unable to walk for any distance, she depended on her horse-drawn carriage. She had a great deal of empathy for the horses, which no doubt contributed to the theme in Black Beauty.

Anna wrote Black Beauty from 1871 to 1877, sometimes writing bits and pieces on paper while she was bed-ridden and at other times, dictating to her mother. Her mother combined all the information from various scraps of paper into a manuscript. The publisher Jarrolds purchased the rights to the book when Anna was 57 years old.

Anna unfortunately died just five months after the book was published. However, she did live long enough to see her book become a huge success. Ironically, she did not write it as a children's book. She wrote it to raise awareness of a horse's plight and how they should be treated more humanely.

I suppose you could say that Anna has lived on in the pages of her book, now considered a classic.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Five Things Authors Do Wrong on Social Media

Here are five things that authors do wrong on social media:


  1. You Don’t Have a Plan

    I know how difficult it is to go from a chosen profession as an author to a forced profession as a marketer, but only the most successful self-promoters will sell enough copies of their books to earn a decent living. Most authors hop on social media haphazardly, sometimes flooding their feeds and alternately ignoring them. You should always start with a plan or campaign: When will it start? When will it end? What is your message? What will you post to capture your readers’ interest? Even if you’re posting continuously, break it down into monthly campaigns. It will help you focus.

  2. You Confuse Number of Followers/Friends with Success

    It isn’t the quantity that matters. It’s the quality. If you have a million followers but only 10 buy your book, that won’t convert to success as an author.

  3. You’re Not Connecting with Your Ideal Audience

    This ties into Number 2 above. Take some time to look at your followers’ and friends’ feeds. Who are they? Where do they work? What are their hobbies? Are they buying your book? Tap into your ideal audience by finding out where they hang out and join them. Interact without the hard sell.

  4. You’re Not Listening

    Successful marketers engage in Social Listening. A lot of authors flood their social media with advertisements for their books without reading others’ posts or establishing relationships. And today, it’s all about relationships.

  5. You Give up Too Soon

    I’ve seen a lot of authors engage in a month-long campaign and then declare it a failure when book sales were not immediate. Consider your own buying habits. When was the last time you heard or read about a book that would interest you? Did you rush right out or click right through to buy the book immediately? Or did you make a note of it, planning to buy it sometime in the near future? Especially if books are sold through retailers such as independent book stores or brick-and-mortar chains, the sales might not be reflected in your royalties for another 3-6 months.

    Selling books is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. You can’t promote it for a month or six months or a year and then think it will grow legs and take off. Sure, some do. But we hear about those because they are not ordinary. The average author, whether traditional or self-published, must continue to market throughout their career.


Are you a successful author who has used social media to your advantage? What are your tips?

p.m.terrell is the critically acclaimed, multi-award-winning author of more than 20 books in several genres. She has been a full-time author since 2002, the founder of the Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair, and will soon be launching her advice column for authors of fiction, called The Novel Business. Learn more about her, read free excerpts from her books, and watch the book trailers at

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Changing Face of the Publishing Industry

Bowker released its annual Self-Publishing in the United States Report, and it’s worth noting even for traditionally published authors because it underscores the changes that are taking effect in the publishing industry.

Bowker is the official ISBN Agency for the United States, US territories and Australia, which means that all ISBN’s are issued through Bowker for these jurisdictions. Bowker was once known as R. R. Bowker and got its start way back in 1872 when they founded Publishers Weekly. It first published Bowker’s Books in Print in 1948, and in 1968 they became the official ISBN Agency for the United States.

When my first book was published in the mid 1980’s, around 75,000 titles were published that year. Compare that to 2015 in which 727,125 ISBN’s were issued to self-publishers according to Bowker’s Self-Publishing in the United States Report. This does not account for titles published by traditional publishers such as Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins and Hachette.

Of those 727,125 ISBN’s (which represent a 375% increase over books published in 2010), 573,965 were printed books. To give you an idea of the increase in printed books as a result of changing technology, in 2010 only 114,215 titles were printed. By far, the biggest increase has been due to the rise and popularity of CreateSpace, who is owned by amazon and who printed 423,718 titles in 2015. Their nearest competitor—Lulu—printed 46,972 in that same period.

When we add ebooks into the mix, the field becomes even more cluttered. In 2010, only 38,763 ebook titles were generated. In 2015, there were 153,160—which actually showed a decrease from the year before, in which there were 172,511.

Self-publishers and small publishers (printing less than 100 books per year) are changing the face of the publishing industry. They are driving the growth and in an age in which almost anything can be sold on the Internet, they are changing the way in which books move from the author to the reader. 

Some years ago, there was a record store in every shopping mall. Today, they are increasingly harder to find. Some experts predict that books will go the same way: readers will browse and purchase online. 

As a reader, where do you buy your books? Do you still browse the shelves of a brick-and-mortar store? Or do you turn to an online source?

How do you find a new author? Is it through the recommendation of a librarian or physical bookseller, or is it online in social media? Or is it through advertising or other means?

p.m.terrell is the author of more than 20 books in several genres. A full-time writer since 2002, her first book was published in 1984, launching her computer business. It would take nearly 20 years for her to circle back around to her true love: writing. Take a look at her books, view the book trailers and read free excerpts at 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Are You Highly Sensitive?

Have you ever been told that you're too sensitive? Perhaps as a child, you were told you cried too much or overreacted to situations? Or as an adult, you realized that others did not react as strongly as you in some situations?

Then you might just be a highly sensitive person.

The highly sensitive person doesn't just hear words; they feel them. They don't just listen to someone speaking; they feel their expressions and the deeper meaning behind what they're saying. The key word here is feel - and they feel it very deeply, very strongly, very acutely.

In today's societies, highly sensitive people have often been taught that their reactions or responses are not acceptable. Boys, in particular, are taught that they need to be tougher; men are told to "man up". Girls or women are often written off as hysterical or overreacting.

In an attempt to funnel what they are feeling into something accepted by society, they will often turn to the arts. These are the people who can make you feel the emotions behind their guitar playing; the people who can bring tears to your eyes by their heartfelt lyrics; the singer who can pull at your heartstrings when they sing.

These are the painters who paint portraits with eyes that are haunting in their depth; photographers who see the sunsets or beaches or mountain peaks as living, breathing waves of color and energy; artists who bring objects to vibrant life.

These are the sculptures, the inventors, the creators of things that change our life or our perception of life.

These are the novelists who funnel their pain, their ecstasy, their agony, their triumphs and their defeats into the characters they create, who cause those characters to jump off the pages at us and who remain with us long after we've finished the book.

These are actors who can get inside another person's skin and portray them as multi-dimensional human beings with positive and negative attributes. They are those actors who can convey a feeling to us simply through their eyes or their expressions.

Without a place to funnel this sensitivity, HSP's may turn to alcohol, drugs, food, shopping, gambling or sex in an attempt to stifle their emotions or dull their senses.

They often end up with self-centered people or narcissists. The narcissist needs others to recognize them and the highly sensitive person easily picks up on their emotions and needs. They are often the spouse who tolerates emotional or physical abuse and when they object, they are told they are "too sensitive".

They might retreat from the world for various reasons: they might gravitate toward jobs that require them to be alone for much of the time, or they might shrink from society as a way to protect themselves.

Often they are right under our noses and they have become so adept at hiding their sensitivity that others don't realize how deeply they feel. They may be in all walks of life, though they are less likely to be extroverts or in positions surrounded by people. When they are in positions in which they are surrounded by others, it might be in the form of a priest, clergy, rabbi or in a position in which they are called to help others.

Vicki Boyd, the character I introduced in Vicki's Key, is one such person. As a child, she was told that she was too sensitive, her feelings often overlooked or downplayed by parents, teachers and other adults. But as an adult, she was trained to use those sensitivities.

When highly sensitive people are taught how to use their skills instead of seeking to destroy their feelings, they often become clairvoyant (one who sees something happening beyond their physical presence), clairaudient (one who hears sounds or words beyond that which is within hearing range), clairsentient (one who feels something happening), clairscent (one who smells something not in their physical range), clairtangency (one who perceives history by touching objects), clairgustant (one who tastes without the food or object being in their mouth), or clairempathic (those who can feel the emotions of another).

All of us have these capabilities at one time or another. We might watch a movie in which someone is hurt and for that instant, feel their pain. A mother might be so tuned into her children that she senses when something is not right with them. A widow might smell her dead husband's cologne in an area he had never been in.

In Vicki's Key, Vicki is trained as a remote viewer, or psychic spy. She is clairvoyant, clairaudient and clairscent, which means she can see things happening in her mind's eye, she can hear what is happening, and she can often smell something associated with that scene in her mind.

How does she know - and how does the CIA know - that she is not off her rocker? Why would they employ such a person?

In the real psychic spy programs - operated now in several dozen countries, including the United States, Russia, China and India - individuals are tested. Those with psychic tendencies - any of the "clairs" mentioned above - go on to more stringent testing and training. They advance over a period of years.

In an age in which superpowers can easily program satellites to hone in on a specific GPS so Intelligence and military can see what is happening anywhere in the world, there are still blind spots: inside buildings or structures. If terrorists planned their attacks outside, satellites could view them - but not yet hear them. If terrorists are planning their attacks inside an apartment building, a cave, a house, an office, they are often in a blind spot. It is then that psychic spies - or remote viewers, as the government prefers to call them - are instrumental in Intelligence gathering. What they see, hear and experience is then provided to analysts who use their data as a piece of the puzzle. Their information is verified on the ground whenever possible.

So how do you know if you are a highly sensitive person?

You can take this test: Are You Highly Sensitive?

You can read this article on 20 Signs You're a Highly Sensitive Person.

Read this article on 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People.

Read this article on 15 Signs You are a Highly Sensitive Person.

Or simply search "highly sensitive person" to come up with a long list of articles and quizzes.

p.m.terrell is the author of more than 20 books including the award-winning Black Swamp Mysteries series featuring remote viewer/ psychic spy Vicki Boyd. For more information on her books and to purchase them through amazon, visit

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Dream that Changed a Life

What if a dream had the power to change the course of your life? It seems incredible but that’s what happened to me when I was twelve years old.


Before the age of twelve, I remember hurting every time I ate. It became a running joke in the family; every time I got up from the table, I complained that I had a stomachache. It became so commonplace that Pepto-Bismol was kept in the house so I could take a spoonful after every meal. I was often doubled over in pain, and at the age of eleven, my father took me to a doctor for a medical exam.


I'm the blond standing in front of Dad

The doctor asked me a lot of questions about my mother and why she wasn’t there with me; I explained—as best I could at the age of eleven—that she was at home taking care of my two brothers and two sisters. Then the doctor ordered an x-ray of my heart and told my father that there was nothing wrong with me, and I was complaining because I wanted attention.


So after that, everyone was told to ignore me when I complained.


Fast forward to my Aunt Louise’s visit. She was my mother’s twin sister and she refused to ignore me. She gathered me up and took me to the local clinic, where I waited for hours to be seen. I remember the look on the doctor’s face as he prodded my stomach. I was ordered to the hospital immediately. I remember the nurse wheeling me across the street to the hospital, and I remember vaguely going through painful tests before being wheeled into surgery a short time later.


I had Meckel’s Diverticulum and the intestines were blocked, a condition known as Intussusception. The part of my intestines that were blocked was removed.


What happened next changed my life.


As the anesthesiologist placed the mask over my face and directed me to count, I remember looking at the bright light above the operating table and counting backwards… And then I dreamed that I was above the table, looking down. I saw the doctor looking over instruments as the nurse arranged them, his gloved hands in the air. I saw the anesthesiologist sitting at the head of the table, monitoring a machine. I saw nurses gathering around me and the doctor bending over to slice open my abdomen.


Then I dreamed I was turning away from the operating table. I could suddenly see the hospital as though I was floating somewhere above it. I could see the parking lot of the clinic where I had been hours earlier; I watched as the nurse who wheeled me across the street left the clinic and walked to her car. I could see the streets laid out with a bit of traffic here and there.


And then I turned around.


Everything that I had seen was gone in a flash. I was staring instead at the most beautiful white city I had ever seen. To say it was white is an understatement; there is no white on earth that equaled its brilliance, its purity, its feeling. It literally vibrated.


I found myself inside the tallest building, whose spires were high above the city. Although there were no other humans, I sensed the presence of a number of beings who faded in and out. I knew instinctively that the room I was in was a library, and I was there for research and for study. At times I found myself in a classroom with other souls that pulsed with white energy; at other times, I sat at a table in the library with two souls that were obvious teachers.


By the end of my dream, I did not want to return to earth. It felt dirty to me after being in such a pristine place. But I was told in my dream that I had to go back; it was a terribly imperfect place but I was needed there. I was told that I would be a teacher; for years, I thought that meant a schoolteacher, as that was the only profession I could relate to at that age.


But as time passed, I found myself opening a computer company in Washington, DC. I started by teaching others how to use computers; in the early 1980’s, there were few personal computers in the workplace. Eventually, I would hire a number of others that I would personally train so they could teach simultaneous classes. And when I turned to computer programming and applications development, I taught others how to do what I did. For a time, I collaborated with Microsoft engineers in India on figuring out ways to make things happen in HTML that no one thought possible—and which today seems primitive by comparison.


When I retired from the computer industry, I turned to a different type of teaching: teaching through fiction. Each of my books teaches something in its plot, from how an election could be rigged through electronic voting… to how terrorists could walk into America through our porous borders… to the history of our country and the founding of Fort Nashborough (now Nashville, Tennessee) … to psychic spies and astral travel.


It was while writing Vicki’s Key, which is based on the true psychic spy program used by our government and others that I discovered that many others had experienced the same dream as I had, usually on an operating table, in an accident or a sudden trauma. I wrote the scenes in minute detail, depicting what psychic spies (often referred to as remote viewers) experienced when they left their bodies and traveled to specific points. Vicki Boyd, the psychic spy, has been a recurring character and her missions recurring themes in my Black Swamp Mysteries series. (Vicki's Key was a Finalist in both the 2012 International Book Awards and the 2012 USA Best Book Awards.)


I have taught others how to write; I have taught others how to get things accomplished in volunteer activities, ranging from book events and writers’ conferences to teaching inmates how to train dogs without punishment, to automating Crime Solvers and Crime Stoppers. And much more.


And I am not finished teaching yet. Until my last breath, I am certain I will be teaching someone, somewhere, something.


After all, it was in my dream.


The Black Swamp Mysteries series is available at all fine book stores and online. Visit to view book trailers, read excerpts and click through to order the books on amazon in paperback and Kindle. The books are also available through the iBooks store, Nook, and all other eBook formats.


If you find any of my books available online for free, please be aware that they are counterfeit, usually come from Eastern Europe (Ukraine) or China, and contain malicious software.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Authors Who Frighten: Bram Stoker


Bram Stoker: enigmatic, mysterious, dark, the creator of Count Dracula, a character who will forever change our perception of vampires… But who was he, really?


Bram Stoker was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1847. It was a time in which fairies and goblins, thin veils between the living and the dead, and supernatural creatures that stalked the island were frequent themes in tales handed down through the generations. During the winter months it was often dark by 4:00 in the afternoon and the sun might not rise until mid-morning. As the darkness crept around the inhabitants with only candles to light their way, it was the perfect environment for a young, sickly child to absorb the tales his mother spun.


Stoker met Ármin Vámbéry, a noted traveler who also served as a double agent, in London. Vámbéry shared stories of his childhood and travels with Stoker, regaling him with scenes from his native Austrian Empire (now Slovakia), which led to Stoker’s own travels to the Carpathian Mountains, Slovakia and Hungary. Stoker was inspired to write about the supernatural from the haunting tales of Eastern Europe coupled with the stories his mother spun of Olde Ireland.


But it wouldn’t be until Stoker was 50 years old that his book, Dracula, was published. Until that time he was better known as the assistant to a famous actor, Henry Irving. When Stoker asked Irving for his opinion of his manuscript, the actor told him it was “dreadful”. Irving was rumored to be the inspiration behind the mannerisms of Count Dracula. The name “Dracula” reportedly came from Vlad II of Wallachia, also known as Vlad the Impaler for impaling his enemies on stakes throughout Romania. He was known as Dracul, a Romanian term for “the devil” or “the dragon”. (In Romanian, drac means devil or dragon, and ul means the.)


The original manuscript was titled “The Un-dead” but was changed before publication. Upon its release in 1897, the book garnered critical praise but was not a bestseller.


Stoker died at the age of 62. During the last 12 years of his life, he wrote prolifically. The first movie based on his book Dracula was not developed until 1922, 10 years after his death. It launched a lawsuit by Stoker’s widow, Florence Balcombe, who had not been compensated for the movie rights, and was settled in 1925 in Florence’s favor. However, it was discovered a few years later that Stoker had not complied with United States copyright law in registering his work, and Dracula became public domain in the USA. Outside of the USA, the book remained copyrighted until 1962, fifty years after Stoker died.


Perhaps the most famous movie based on Stoker’s book starred Bela Lugosi and was not released until 1931. It was only then that the tale of Dracula became immortalized. Since then, more than a thousand movies, television shows, plays and books have been written about Count Dracula, and countless more have been inspired by Stoker’s most famous villain.


When Dracula was published in 1897, a genre known as “invasion literature” was very popular throughout the British Empire. Authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson also wrote of supernatural or imaginary creatures who sought to infiltrate England. In 1871, the book Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, told of a lesbian vampire who preyed on a lonely woman, and in 1885, Emily Gerard published a series of short stories entitled Transylvania Superstitions.

Stoker did not earn a great deal of money from his writings, and shortly before his death, he petitioned a grant from the Royal Literary Fund because he could not pay his bills. In 1913, his widow auctioned an outline of Dracula through Sotheby’s of London. The outline sold for two pounds. The original manuscript was found in Pennsylvania in the 1980’s and was sold to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for an undisclosed amount.


Sometimes an author’s legacy lies in what he or she leaves behind. In Stoker’s case, Dracula has perhaps forever changed the way in which vampires and bats are depicted.

The haunting feel of Dracula inspired many of my own books, including the ghostly scenes in Vicki's Key. It had a particular affect on Dylan's Song, which takes place in the haunting Irish bogs not far from many of the places that inspired Bram Stoker's own writing. If you're traveling to Dublin, be sure and tour the Dublin Writers Museum, featuring many of Ireland's most famous authors.