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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.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

What Are You Looking For?

What are you looking for when you visit an author's website? Do you even remember the last time you visited an author's website, versus looking up their book on amazon or in a store?

This past year, I returned to college. Being a Type-A personality, I have a double major: Cyber Security (IT) and eCommerce (Marketing). Turns out, they go hand-in-hand. And during my last course, the focus was on the changing face of websites.

Amazon really defined how websites interact with their customers. By recording every keystroke you make, their software records which items you look for, how long you remained on each page, and whether you purchased. When you logon to amazon later, you'll see recommendations of other products based on those you've already looked at. Or you might receive emails with recommendations in all the various categories. I, for example, love amazon. I buy books, cosmetics, clothing, household items, vitamins, and even food from them. And I love the way their software customizes my experience so I see screens that are unique to me.

But some people find this intrusive - or even creepy. Do you?

Do you want an author's website to respond uniquely to your visit with the ability to logon for recommendations, or would you prefer to flip through the web pages in stealth mode?

Are you looking for videos, book excerpts, the author's blog, ways to connect with the author through social media, ways or places to purchase the books, or are you interested in the author personally - where they're from, how they got into writing, how their personal lives impact their themes (if at all)? Are you interested in behind-the-scenes information?

As a result of my college courses, I redesigned my author website. To be honest, it had been needing a redesign for quite some time - it was first designed in 2000 and was patterned after some of the biggest suspense authors at the time, with a black background and white letters. But times have changed, and my new website reflects more of who I am as an individual, with shades of blue (my favorite color because I love skies and water).

There are more videos on the home page, links to books depending on your interests, integrated blogs, and a new menu with subsets to social media and special links. If you haven't seen it in awhile, check it out ( and let me know what you think.

If you're an author, please leave a comment below with your website and why you designed it the way it is.

If you're a reader but you like a particular author's website, please leave the link below with why you like it. Or if you want to see something specific about your favorite authors, tell me what you'd like to see and what would make the experience more enjoyable for you.

p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 20 books in several genres. Visit for more information.