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Friday, September 30, 2016

A Clash of Civilizations

This year marks the 238th 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