Friday, August 9, 2019

Behind the Book Part 2: April in the Back of Beyond

This is the second part in the true stories behind the book, April in the Back of Beyond. Part 1 can be found here:

 Watch the video below for the inside story, or skip below to read it. The video can also be viewed on YouTube at

Throughout April in the Back of Beyond is another story inspired by fact. The main character, Hayley Hunter, is a writer that is researching her family’s history, beginning with her ancestor’s migration to Ulster from Scotland who became involved in O’Doherty’s Rebellion. 

These scenes are based on my creative nonfiction book, Checkmate: Clans and Castles, which was released in 2017 by Drake Valley Press. In Checkmate, my own ancestor, William Neely, arrived in Ulster with William Stewart. Their land bordered on Cahir O’Doherty’s Inishowen Peninsula, separated only by the lough. When Cahir set fire to Derry and began O’Doherty’s Rebellion, it would require my ancestor to make a choice: whether to fight for King James against the uprising or side with the Irish that had lived and ruled that region for over a thousand years. Checkmate was the result of years of painstaking research and I attempted to remain faithful to the facts.

Though the battle of Derry depicted in Checkmate occurred in 1608, it would not be the first and far from the last. The city was rebuilt through London private donations and renamed Londonderry. Today, more than 400 years later, it continues to be a city divided between those loyal to Britain and largely Protestant (unionists or loyalists) versus those fighting for a united Ireland that are largely Catholic (republicans or nationalists). The ideological war between the two factions was originally those loyal to Britain versus those loyal to Ireland, but it became a religious war as well, fueled by zealous ministers and priests. The city is often referred to as the “slash city” Londonderry/Derry because the republican/nationalist Irish do not recognize the name “London” in their city, it having been named Derry centuries earlier, prior to England’s invasion.

During the writing of this book, tensions increased in Ulster—most notably Derry and Belfast. A journalist was killed covering a violent uprising in Derry and several Catholic churches were burned. The increase in violence was attributed to Brexit, which could possibly lead to checkpoints and guard posts between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which had unfairly targeted Catholics in decades before the Good Friday Agreement and the removal of those border walls.

Check out the book trailers below for April in the Back of Beyond and Checkmate: Clans and Castles:

Friday, August 2, 2019

Behind the Book Part 1: April in the Back of Beyond

A couple of weeks ago, I announced the release of my 23rd book, April in the Back of Beyond. In case you missed the blurb, here it is below followed by one of three true stories that inspired the book.

Writer Hayley Hunter has arrived in Ireland to complete a book on Irish history. When she discovers the old carriage house she is renting is haunted, she is determined to uncover the truth behind the burned ruins of a nearby manor house and the abandoned British barracks it overlooks. 

With the assistance of Shay Macgregor, an Irish historian, her quest will take her to 1919 and the Irish War for Independence, exposing the murders of two young men and why their mother, April Crutchley, refuses to leave the back of beyond even in death. 

With a budding romance and the opportunity to begin life anew, Hayley finds her own life is now in jeopardy as she gets closer to a truth the villagers have long sought to bury.

Watch the video below or at for the true story that inspired the book, or continue reading it below the video:

While researching Irish history for a series on my Neely ancestors, I came across the story of two teenage boys who were murdered in Ireland in 1919. Their family had been in the country for generations and by all accounts, they were admired and valued in their original home, but they relocated to a larger estate in what would turn out to be a horrifically fatal mistake.

Unlike their original home where Catholics and Protestants coexisted, their new home was in the middle of a war zone. The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and RIC Special Forces (better known as the Black and Tans for their mismatched uniforms) were fighting against those campaigning for Irish independence, such as the Fenian Brotherhood and the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), the forerunner of the IRA (Irish Republican Army). Their new home, like the one portrayed in April in the Back of Beyond, overlooked British barracks and when the two teenage boys informed their neighbors they were not allowed to trespass on their property, they were shot and killed and their home burned to the ground.

The story, however, did not end there; it was only the beginning of a nightmare that would culminate in their mother suffering from severe emotional trauma, having tried vainly to save her sons from bleeding to death while their home and all their possessions burned. The true attack was particularly vicious, the shots delivered so they would suffer at least a day before dying; it was so imprinted on my mind as I learned of it that I was unable to replicate the savagery in April in the Back of Beyond out of respect for my readers. The information regarding the sale of their home is accurate as well as their migration to Australia, where the family’s descendants continue to live today.

     I did not feel comfortable placing the home in my book in the same county as the actual events took place, so literary license was used to move the location of the house, carriage house and British barracks. Only the barracks survive today as an abandoned property, a relic of World War I. The names have also been changed for both the victims and the perpetrators as descendants of both are still alive today.

Visit for more information about this newest release, and check back for more of the true stories that inspired this book. Watch the book trailer below:

Friday, July 19, 2019

Book Review: Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe is subtitled ATrue Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland. It is very rare for me to ignore everything around me and become completely immersed in a book, no matter how great or suspenseful it is, but that is exactly what happened with this one. Watch the video below or skip down to read the full review.

Being across the ocean, I really didn’t know that much about life in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, which stretched from 1968 to 1998, at the time events were happening. I first became aware of the deep divisions only after I began researching my ancestry, which led to Ballygawley, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. During trips there, I visited Belfast and took the bus tours which included much about The Troubles and brought me past the Peace Walls and art commemorating both sides. In fact, one of the last British soldiers to be killed had the same last name as my ancestors (Neely), who was killed in an IRA bomb attack outside Ballygawley.

So when I came across the story of Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of 10 children who was abducted and murdered by the IRA, I was intrigued. Who would burst into someone’s home, knowing the father had died of cancer, and remove the mother of children as young as six years of age right in front of them, take her to a remote location and murder her? They had to have known the children would be left on their own, perhaps even to die without adult care. And why would anyone be that inhumane?

Patrick Radden Keefe’s book, Say Nothing, answers those questions in a very balanced way. Being a journalist by trade—a New Yorker Magazine award-winning journalist—I immediately knew from the level of detail that he had painstakingly researched not only Jean McConville and her family but also each of the individuals that had some level of participation in her abduction and murder. The result is an absolutely riveting story that delves deep into what causes people to become terrorists, the changes that occur in a person’s mind when they are raised among extreme levels of hatred and the extent to which they will go because they believe in a cause larger than themselves.

What was particularly striking was the revelation that many of the people involved in acts of terror—the bombing of London and Northern Ireland and the killing of innocent civilians—suffered abnormally high rates of drug dependency, alcoholism and PTSD after The Troubles had officially ended with the Good Friday Peace Agreement of 1998. The agreement caused the IRA to stand down, the British to release political prisoners held without trial or conviction, but it fell short of turning Northern Ireland over to the Irish Republicans. Because that was the goal of the IRA, members were left wondering what the killing and maiming was all about if their leaders were willing to simply give up the goal and work with the British politically through Sinn Fein.

In Jean McConville’s case—the central subject of this book—she was a Protestant that had taken work as a domestic in a Catholic household, subsequently falling in love with her boss’ Catholic son. In America, this would not have been perceived as a problem at all. In Northern Ireland, it led to the kiss of death and a generation of children traumatized by their father’s death, their mother’s murder and their subsequent separation and hellish time in abusive, Catholic-run children’s homes that seem right out of a Charles Dickens novel.

Jean McConville, three of her ten children and her husband, 
who died from cancer the year before she disappeared.

The investigations into Jean McConville’s disappearance would lead to Dolours and Marian Price—it is Dolours’ picture that appears on the front cover, her face partially hidden consistent with IRA terrorists of the time. The damning evidence was in the form of Dolours’ own voice as she participated in a Boston College project in which she admitted on audiotape that she drove McConville across the border to Dundalk in the Republic of Ireland. Later, when the men instructed to kill her did not want to do that because McConville was a widowed mother of ten, Dolours drove back to Dundalk with two others, assumed to be her sister Marian and Ivor Bell, and murdered McConville, burying her in an unmarked grave. It would take decades and particularly strong storms to erode the ground in which she’d been hastily buried, for her body to be found. By that time, her children were grown and had families of their own.

We do find out who fired the fatal shot that killed Jean McConville. But the story is far larger than that. It is the story of a country that had been invaded by foreign forces more than 700 years ago and divided in the early 20th century so that one part of the country became the free and independent Republic of Ireland while the other part remained a colony controlled by Great Britain. It is the story of those loyal to the United Kingdom as well as those carrying on a tradition of a free Ireland for which their ancestors fought for hundreds of years. It is also the story of supposed men of God—priests and ministers—who fueled the hatred within their communities, leading to spiraling violence and extremism on both sides. With Brexit, tensions have once again increased between the two factions and ultimately, it will be London who will decide its fate.

I highly recommend this book. Be prepared for a riveting tale and a book you can’t put down.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

April in the Back of Beyond

My newest book is now available and I am super excited about it.

In April in the Back of Beyond, writer Hayley Hunter has arrived in Ireland to complete a book on Irish history. When she discovers the old carriage house she is renting is haunted, she is determined to uncover the truth behind the burned ruins of a nearby manor house and the abandoned British barracks it overlooks. 

With the assistance of Shay Macgregor, an Irish historian, her quest will take her to 1919 and the Irish War for Independence, exposing the murders of two young men and why their mother, April Crutchley, refuses to leave the back of beyond even in death. 

With a budding romance and the opportunity to begin life anew, Hayley finds her own life is now in jeopardy as she gets closer to a truth the villagers have long sought to bury.

Check out the quick video below:

Available in all fine book stores, you can also purchase the paperback from amazon,  the Kindle eBook on amazon, and in all eBook formats at Smashwords.

Now is a great time to order one of my eBooks. Smashwords is conducting a 30% off sale on many of my most popular titles. Check out the sale at this link for a list of books, but hurry - they are only on sale for a short while!

I've been so excited about the reviews of my books throughout the years. Here are just a few:

“As a reader, you are swept along on a magic carpet of writing wizardry.” – Syndicated Reviewer Simon Barrett

“A truly well written story that grabs your interest from page one, teaches you a lot of fascinating history and keeps you from realizing the passage of time as you read. Totally engrossing. I highly recommend this read.” – Glenna Mageau, Founder of Women Writes Movement

“p.m.terrell is without doubt one of the best authors I have had the pleasure of reading.” – Fated Paranormals

“…powerfully written and masterfully suspenseful, you have to hang on for the ride of your life.” – Suspense Magazine

Visit my website at for more information about April in the Back of Beyond. You can even purchase an autographed copy direct from my website.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Book Review: The House by the Lake by Ella Carey

The House by the Lake by Ella Carey is historical romance, mystery and in many ways, a reminder of a past that can too easily be repeated. Watch the video below or at or skip below the video to read the full review.

Max is part of the privileged, elite German class who has fallen in love with Isabella from Paris, France. But Adolf Hitler is rising and so is his Nazi party. There are many things about the Nazis that Max does not like, such as their hatred of minorities, but he is willing to a certain extent to look away from that because Hitler appears to be the only one offering Germany a way forward from its crushing defeat of World War I. Too late, he realizes that despite all his reservations, he will be forced to join the Nazi party and the military as Germany begins to invade its neighbors. Not only does his own life hang in the balance but also every member of his family’s lives depends on his choice.

As we switch to the present day, Anna lives in San Francisco with her aging grandfather. Max is now at the end of his life, and he has one regret. He asks Anna to return to Germany to recover an item he’d hidden below the floorboard. As she journeys to Old Prussia to perform what turns out to be Max’s dying wish, she finds herself in the midst of a mystery. The village near her grandfather’s old estate is stuck in the distant past like a ghost town and when they discover her identity and her relationship to the estate, many become hostile toward her. She finds a Berlin attorney willing to help her recover the item but it places both of them on a path that will uncover secrets of the past and change their own lives in the process.

Max’s position in the 1930s and the choices he must make remind me all too much of the rise of current nationalism, along with its consequences. It is well worth reading; not only is it a war-time romance between a French woman and a German man and a personal mystery that affects generations, but also a lesson in what happens in the early stages of a party’s rise to power, the ability for people to look away from those aspects they don’t like… and what happens when their eyes are opened too late.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Book Review: The Drowned Village by Kathlen McGurl

Some books have the power to remain with the reader forever; The Drowned Village is such a book. If there is one lesson to be learned from this story, it is that none of us can expect to have complete control over our lives. There is always the possibility that we will be dealt an unexpected blow, even an undeserving one, and even the most unfortunate among us must continue to put one foot in front of the other and make the best from what we have left.

Read the full review below or watch the video here or at

Stella is ten years old in 1935 as she walks the Old Corpse Road with her father, her younger sister and a funeral procession for her mother. The family is poor, the father cobbling together the barest of income by making repairs to neighbors’ equipment, such as bicycles. With his wife gone, he must support his family while also babysitting three-year-old Jessie while Stella is at school. When his elderly father requires assistance with his most basic of needs, he must move him into his own home and care for him as well. Added to this weight is the news that Brackendale Green, the English village in which they live, will be completely demolished as a newly built dam is expected to flood the village.

Through the course of this book, we see a motherless child forced to grow up all too swiftly as catastrophic events beyond her control cause her to lose everything she’s ever known. She blames herself through the decades for being unable to stop these events, despite the fact that she was only a child when they occurred.

As we flash forward to the present day, Stella is an elderly woman urging her grown granddaughter Laura to visit the Lake District after an unusual drought has left the lakebed dry, exposing the village for the first time in decades. There are secrets hidden in the ruins, secrets that have haunted Stella for an entire lifetime and now, too frail to go herself, it is up to Laura to uncover them and set things right. Laura is rebounding from a disastrous relationship and needs a break from her job and caring for her grandmother. What she will find in the drowned village will change not only her grandmother’s life but also her own.

The Lake District with its condemned village, inspired by the real Haweswater reservoir and Mardale Valley, comes alive. I could feel the heaviness as Stella walked along the Old Corpse Road, could picture the variety of characters in the village—both friend and foe—and I felt as though I had been transported back in time. The characters are so multi-dimensional that I realized I was intentionally slowing down my reading because I did not want the book to end. And when it did, I found myself dreaming about Stella, her father and her sister. 

The Drowned Village by Kathleen McGurl is a classic. I highly recommend it.

Read more book reviews at p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 22 books in a variety of genres.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

The Forgotten Secret by Kathleen McGurl

In The Forgotten Secret by Kathleen McGurl, Clare Farrell is approaching her 50th birthday. For half of her life she has been married to a narcissistic man who has systematically cut her off from everything and everyone that did not center around him. So when Clare inherits her uncle’s home in Ireland along with a monetary inheritance, she decides to take the leap and separate from her husband and begin life anew. The house holds secrets, including a stash of guns and weapons under a floor in the barn and a birth certificate and communion medallion from two separate people tucked away in the stuffing of an old armchair.

Watch the video below or skip beneath it for the rest of the book review.

I rooted for Clare. I cheered for her, cried with her and laughed with her. Breaking away would not be easy and she encounters events such as wrecking her automobile on an Irish country road to renovating a centuries-old home that has fallen into disrepair. But she makes friends in the nearby village and she exhibits a lot of grit, determination and courage.

In between Clare’s chapters, we learn of a woman connected to the house a century earlier during the Irish War for Independence. Ellen O’Brien lives with her crotchety father in a modest home but she’s dating Jimmy Gallagher, a young man she’s known an entire lifetime. They were best friends in school and now they’ve become lovers as well as clandestine members of the Irish underground volunteers fighting for independence from Great Britain. It is Jimmy who grew up in the house that Clare inherits and it’s both Jimmy’s story and Ellen’s that rolls out through the book.

The author, Kathleen McGurl, describes the countryside so well that I could see the village in my mind’s eye, both as it was in 1920 as well as present day. I came to respect the danger that Ellen, Jimmy and others willingly undertook to fight for their cause—a cause that would cost some their lives. And when Ellen discovers she is pregnant yet she is still unmarried, I felt her anguish at being sent to one of the Magdalene Laundries, a convent for unwed mothers and their babies that turned into an unsaintly prison.

We also see the contrasts in what women could accomplish within a brief hundred years—at Ellen’s dependency on her father and the kindness of strangers to Clare’s struggle for independence.

Like all of McGurl’s books, there are multiple threads that seem unrelated but all blend together into a seamless mosaic of love and war, endings and new beginnings. I highly recommend The Forgotten Secret by Kathleen McGurl.