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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.



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Authors Who Inspire: Daphne du Maurier

One of my favorite authors has always been Daphne du Maurier, the author of The Birds (made into the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie), Rebecca, Jamaica Inn and many others. But though her books are considered classics today, she was overlooked by critics during much of her lifetime.

In an industry and country largely monopolized by men, she was dismissed as a “romance novelist” which at the time meant her writing did not consist of serious works of art. Today she is known as a mistress of suspense and a master storyteller. She was born in London in 1907. Her grandfather was George du Maurier, the author of Trilby which introduced the character Svengali, a character soon to become a word in the English language that means someone who controls, manipulates or excessively influences another person. Her cousins were the Llewelyn Davies boys, who influenced J. M. Barrie’s imagination so much that he patterned the boys in Peter Pan after them.

Despite the critics’ disdain for her, when Rebecca was originally published in 1938, it became an instant hit, leading to the movie starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine and directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Du Maurier enjoyed gothic tales, the sinister and the paranormal. A more recently discovered short story written when she was around 21 years old is entitled The Doll and was about a woman’s infatuation with a male sex doll; in 1928, I can only imagine what a scandal that might have caused had she tried to publish it!

She married Frederick Browning in 1932, who later became known as the “father of the British Airborne”. He was portrayed by actor Dirk Bogarde in the award-winning movie A Bridge Too Far, in which he led Airborne troops during Operation Market Garden. He later became treasurer in the Office of the Duke of Edinburgh under Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

Daphne and Frederick lived in a mansion (now an historic estate) called Menabilly, which inspired Manderley, the home in Rebecca. The home is hidden behind acres of woods and cannot even be seen from the shoreline. The home also inspired Du Maurier’s novel The King’s General, in which a skeleton is found in the cellar.

Though her books were dismissed as romance, they are not typical romantic fare, as they tend toward the dark, the mysterious, and to psychological suspense. Her books have influenced my own writing; when I awakened one night in a cold sweat after reading a chapter of Jamaica Inn, I had to sit up in the middle of the night and read it again in an attempt to discover how she caused me to be so terrified. Her heroines almost always caused me to shout out loud, “Go back!” even when I knew they would not; they would venture into places that would put them in peril, causing me to read wide-eyed until the last page.

Daphne du Maurier died in 1989 at the age of 82, having lived 24 years after her husband died in 1965. They had two daughters, Flavia and Tessa, and a son, Christian.

Have you ever read a Daphne du Maurier novel? Which is your favorite?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Books and Loss Leaders

In the world of marketing, there's a concept known as a Loss Leader. It's an item that is discounted so deeply that the vendor isn't earning much - if anything - on the sale and could, in fact, be losing money on it. The reason that vendors do this is to entice people into the store and once they're there, they will perhaps purchase additional items that will more than make up for the income lost on the sale item - hence the term "loss leader".

My book, Ricochet, never quite took off though it received glowing reviews. I believe (through pure speculation) that it was due to two books being released about the same time with the same or similar titles: Sandra Brown's Ricochet, which rose quickly to the New York Times bestseller list, and Sue Grafton's R is for Ricochet. This occurred despite the fact that the title was registered with Bowker a full year in advance. And if you search for Ricochet on amazon without the author name, five pages of results are displayed.

So the publisher decided to turn the Kindle edition into a Loss Leader by offering it exclusively on amazon and enrolling it in amazon's Kindle Select program, in which readers enrolled in the Select program can read it for free and presumably the author and publisher still earn income from the experience.

The theory is by offering this one book at a deeply discounted rate (free for readers enrolled) readers will like what they read and return for more of my books which were not deeply discounted.

The gamble has been paying off. Usually around 800 copies of Ricochet are downloaded each month and sales of my other books have increased. Though it's difficult to tell how much the loss leader has to do with it, as advertising, marketing and promotional efforts are also underway, it was deemed a success.

However, last month the book was removed from the Select program. The reason: authors began reporting that once the book was downloaded for free, hackers could easily replicate it and offer it for sale on other sites. And one stipulation for being in the Select program is to agree not to sell the book anywhere except amazon. Once amazon saw the book on other sites (presumably because someone reported it) they were not only removing that book from their website but every book the author or publisher had listed.

So before this happened to me, the book was pulled from the Select program.

I have noticed for years that my books are offered on unscrupulous websites where the books were copied without the permission of the publisher or myself. Each time, the publisher has notified ICANN, who investigates. In every case that was researched, the file also contained malicious software that could infiltrate the reader's computer and retrieve their passwords and sensitive information.

Loss Leaders can be done without being enrolled in the Select program, however, simply by discounting it below the other books. Ricochet continues to remain in the Loss Leader category because while the rest of my Kindle or eBooks are priced at $6.99, Ricochet is priced at only $2.99.

How much does price impact whether you purchase a book?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Irish Woman Seeking American Dream

Mary Neely's grandfather came to America from County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Considered Scot-Irish or Ulster Irish, they had moved back and forth between Ireland and Scotland for generations as Irish land was given to them by the British monarchy, only to be taken away by subsequent monarchs and given again. Finally, around 1720 three brothers from Ballygawley decided to move to America in search of a better future for themselves and their families.

In 1779, William Neely, Mary's father, decided to move the family westward to Fort Nashborough, now Nashville, Tennessee on a river journey. What should have been a journey of three weeks turned into more than three months as 300 settlers faced constant attacks from the Chickamauga Indians beginning around present-day Chattanooga and continuing all the way to Florence, Alabama. Small pox broke out on one ship and when two sisters were captured by Indians, they nearly wiped out whole segments of the tribe through the small pox epidemic of 1779-1780. Even the river itself was cruel, as Johnny Cash described it in this song (starting at 2:06):

Moving to America and then continuing westward didn't work out as well as William Neely had hoped. He was killed by Shawnee warriors just outside of Fort Nashborough in August 1780, and Mary was captured and held as a slave for three years. She was brought through Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and into Michigan before she successfully managed to escape - but her problems weren't yet over. It was the height of the Revolutionary War, and she was captured by the British and held as a prisoner of war. While being transported to British-controlled Fort Niagara, the ship ran aground and Mary escaped again. She journeyed on foot across Canada into New York and all the way to Fort Pitt, where she was rescued by an American soldier, who transported her to Virginia, where she was reunited with her family.

The story of the Neely family's river journey is told through River Passage, which won the 2010 Best Drama Award:

And the story of Mary's capture, captivity, escape and journey home is told in my bestselling book, Songbirds are Free:

During Mary's captivity, her mother and one brother were killed in a separate Indian attack. Most of the remaining family died before the age of 30; only Mary and her brother Sam lived into their 90's.

Find out more by visiting this special section of my website, complete with photographs and videos taken as I followed the Neely's families journeys:

Sunday, July 17, 2016

When History Inspires

A television series has inspired me to write another book based on my ancestors. I've become addicted to AMC's series TURN, based on the book Washington's Spies by Alexander Rose. When I fall in love with a book, a movie, a play or a television series, I always analyze it to discover what drew me in and kept me captivated. As I analyzed this show with its true story of America's first spy ring, the Culper Ring, Benedict Arnold's betrayal and all the characters that fought on both sides of the Revolutionary War, I began to consider writing another book about my own ancestors and their roles in the founding of America.

My most popular book continues to be Songbirds are Free, based on the true story of Mary Neely, who was captured by Shawnee warriors in 1780 near Fort Nashborough, now Nashville, Tennessee. And River Passage, based on the true story of the Neely family's journey westward with Donelson in 1779-1780, is an award-winning book.

Neely Family Cemetery in Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
I have been interested for a long time about writing another book based on the Neely family, and when I journeyed to Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, I began research on three brothers who left their home to make their fortunes in America. The year was 1720, and I found it fascinating that these brothers would leave everything they had ever known, travel for two months across the Atlantic Ocean, to a country they knew little about. Language, culture, and unrest under England's heavy colonial hand would be only a few of the obstacles they would need to overcome.

The Neely brothers were Ulster Irish, or Scot-Irish, their grandfather having come to Ballygawley from Scotland when he was granted lands in County Tyrone as reward for fighting on behalf of the King of England at Londonderry. Though technically, they were originally from Ireland, as they had lived in County Tyrone in the 16th century but lost their lands there when they fell out of favor with another monarchy.

Taken from the Bridge into Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
In 1720, the brothers could have remained in a large home with servants and land holdings, but they gave it all up to travel to America.

I learned that one brother became a very successful owner of a fleet of ships that carried goods back and forth from Londonderry to York City (now New York). He also carried native Irish who were fleeing the poverty of their homeland. Though my ancestors were Protestant, they were known for their empathy toward the native Catholic population, and they had even donated land for the Catholic Church and Catholic School, so it seemed completely in character that he would take them to a new land where they could escape the restrictions imposed upon them in Ireland.

Another brother became a merchant and pub owner in York City, but he doesn't seem to have been cut from the same cloth. Racist and cruel, he drank himself to death at the age of 35.

The third brother was my great-grandfather several generations back; he would become a successful merchant and gentleman farmer, living first in Philadelphia and later in Virginia. It would be his granddaughter Mary who traveled to Fort Nashborough at the height of the Chickamauga Indian Wars, only to be captured and kept as a slave for three years by the Shawnee.

My goal is to complete this book by the end of the year. It will be considered creative nonfiction, because it is inspired by the three brothers but to make it interesting and vibrant, there are liberties taken regarding romance, suspense, intrigue - and the quest for the American Dream. Stay tuned - I'll be announcing it here when the book is scheduled for publication! [At right: Songbirds are Free, my most popular book, about Mary Neely's capture, captivity, escape and journey home in a war-torn country.]

p.m.terrell is the internationally critically acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 20 books in several genres. Visit her website at to download free chapters of each of her books, watch the book trailers, and find out more about her writing.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

An Exciting Week!

This has been an exciting week for me because for the first time in two years, I have a breeding pair of angelfish.

If you've been following my posts for awhile, you may remember that Lindsay Buckingfish and Stevie Fishnick had so many successful clutches that I lost count. But after Stevie passed away, Lindsay was uninterested in anyone else. Angelfish usually mate for life.

I have a black angel and a silver angel in a community tank that includes a marble angel, a pleco, about two dozen tetras and about a dozen corydoras. When they decided to lay eggs on an intake, I didn't give it much thought because with so many others in the tank, there would be little chance that they would survive.

However, John and Christie McFish (of Fleetfish Mac fame) have surprised me. Their eggs hatched within a few days and I now have several dozen babies ready to swim.

Once the eggs hatch, the mother or father catch the babies in their mouths and spit them out someplace where they can get plenty of food. In this case, it's on the intake itself where algae has formed. The angelfish stay glued to this by their little heads. In this stage, they are called wigglers.

As they grow, they become strong enough to eventually pop off and swim on their own. This is a dangerous time because they could get sucked into the intake itself, or they could be eaten by another fish. They are barely the size of a hat pin, and they are translucent. They are also shaped like bullets and not the shape we identify with angelfish.

During this phase, the parents will need to keep them corralled. Normally, I would have had them in a tank by themselves with a piece of foam over the intake to prevent anyone from being sucked into it, and there would be no predators in the tank. However, because they are in a community tank, I inserted a small screen between them and the others; it only reaches partway but it prevents a direct line-of-sight. I also removed the third angelfish to another community tank. The pleco was found dead the morning after they laid their eggs; I suspect during the night, the pleco attempted to eat the eggs and the parents viciously defended them.

The tetras and corys are remaining at the far end of the tank and both angelfish check frequently to make sure they stay on their side!

The next phase is called the Invisible Phase. Many of the babies will seem to disappear; they are actually living on the bottom of the tank, in the gravel, where predators are less likely to discover them. I do have an infant tank at the ready, filled with water from the original tank, and I will attempt to capture at least a few. Then I'll see what the survival rate is between those that are in the dedicated infant tank versus those that are kept with the parents.

And what do babies eat when they are barely the size of a hatpin? I will feed them First Bites, which is manufactured specifically for baby fish, and finely crumbled brine shrimp. As they grow over the course of the next eight weeks, they will eventually be weaned onto finely crumbled fish flakes, and then onto regular fish flakes.

Between the age of eight and twelve weeks (depending on their size) they will go to the local pet shop for sale. Although some breeders will sell the babies when they are the size of a dime, I wait until mine are the size of a quarter. By then, their coloring has taken effect and they have the beautiful lines of the angelfish.

To read more about my angelfish breeding, check out other blog posts at

p.m.terrell is the author of more than 18 books in several genres. Her award-winning Black Swamp Mysteries features CIA operatives who use fronts as angelfish breeders to conceal their real identities. Visit for more information and to read sample chapters.