Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I try to learn something from everyone I meet—and every book I read. I’m apt to read a novel by a bestselling author followed by a self-published author and then one in between. In doing so, the elements that the best books contain jump out at me and those lacking in lesser works are glaring. Below is a list of some of the ingredients every story should have:

1. When the main characters are introduced, I need to be able to visualize them.

I recently read a six hundred page book in which I learned that the main character was 19 years old on Page 321. I knew he had blue eyes but beyond that I couldn’t visualize him. If I can’t see him in my mind, I can’t connect with your book.

2. Dialogue must be realistic.

If the dialogue is stilted or overly formal, it has the effect of keeping the reader at arm’s length. If you want the reader to identify with the characters and the plot, the dialogue must make them feel like the characters are old friends.

3. Every scene must propel the plot forward.

In certain genres, the main characters’ pasts help to complete who they are. But every time you mention something in the past, it must connect with something in their present or future.

4. If you’re going to use a weapon, I need to know it’s there before it’s used.

I read a book in which a woman was attacked while asleep in bed. Midway through the scene, she reaches under her pillow and pulls out a knife. The disappointment was acute because she’d been in that bed countless times throughout the book and the knife was never mentioned. If you’re halfway through writing the book and decide to use a knife, go back to an appropriate scene and mention that it’s there—and possibly why.

5. I need tension.

A book without tension is boring and bland. It’s the conflict that propels the plot forward.

6. Leave me hanging.

This goes hand-in-hand with tension. At the end of each scene, I need a reason to keep reading. I need to feel something big is in the works, something is building; something that will rock my world. After a few chapters if I don’t feel that drive to keep reading so I put down your book, I may not pick it up again.

7. Give me a love interest.

There’s a reason most blockbusters have both a male and a female lead. It’s another layer to the story; men and women respond differently to similar situations. Give me a story that is all men or all women and I lose that richness.

8. Make me believe it.

It can be science fiction or fantasy but it must be told in a way that is totally believable. Lay the groundwork, reel me in, and make me feel as though I have entered your world.

9. Give me props.

Watch any television show or any movie and you’ll very rarely see two people sitting in one place talking. In writing, there must also be movement; props such as pouring coffee, walking a busy street, petting a dog, sounds of neighborhood children, the aroma of restaurants… Give me something to hear, visualize, smell, touch and taste—and I will sense that I am there.

10. Show me your book has been professionallyedited.

I don’t need the lack of proper punctuation, the use of an incorrect word, inconsistencies with characters and glaring mistakes to take me out of your story. Get it professionally edited so it flows the way it should and it doesn’t shout at me that it was published on the cheap.

What makes or breaks a story for you?

p.m. will be awarding a Celtic Knot Necklace to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.


Dylan Maguire returns to his native Ireland with psychic spy Vicki Boyd. Their mission: to locate and extract a CIA Agent who disappeared in Dublin while on the trail of a known terrorist. But when Dylan receives word that his grandmother is dying, he is plunged into a past he thought he’d left behind forever. His mission and the dark secrets he’d sought to keep hidden begin to merge into an underworld that could cost him his life. He must now confront his past demons and the real reason he left Ireland—while Vicki harbors a secret of her own.

Suspense Magazine says, “p.m.terrell’s writing is powerfully written and masterfully suspenseful; you have to hang on for the ride of your life.” Midwest Book Review says the Black Swamp Mysteries series is “page-turning action, unforgettable characters, breathtaking descriptions and unexpected plot twists.” And syndicated reviewer Marcia Freespirit says the series is “riveting, spell-binding, sexy and intense!”


Brenda motioned for her to stand to the side. Then she parted the curtains.

Dylan had come around the back of the house while three men tumbled out of the pickup. They immediately converged at the truck bed, where they picked up pipes and headed toward the front door.

“So, Eoghan,” Dylan called. His voice was loud and heavy as he moved further from the house, drawing the largest man’s attention to him. “What’re wantin’ with me now?”

“What have they got in their hands?” Vicki whispered hoarsely.

“Lead pipes.” Brenda’s voice was husky and strong.

“You know what we be wantin’,” the largest one shouted. “We’re here to finish your sorry arse off; what we should’a done a long time ago.”

The men began to separate. They looked like a pack of wolves, Vicki thought, as one moved to Dylan’s left while the other moved to his right. The ringleader, Eoghan, stood his ground directly in front of him.

“He doesn’t stand a chance with the three of them,” Vicki gasped. “Not spread out like they are, not even with the gun.”

“Killin’ me won’t bring ‘er back,” Dylan called. He continued backing away from the house.

“No, but it’ll put you in ’ail that much sooner,” one of the others shouted.

“Kill me and you’ll spend your life in a prison cell, Aidan,” Dylan said to him. “I’m not worth your freedom.”

“Why should we spend our lives in prison for killin’ a man?” the third shouted. “You didn’t spend a day in the clink for killin’ our sister!”

Vicki gasped. “My God!”

Brenda grabbed her shoulder, forcing her to look her in the face. She hadn’t realized that her sister had disappeared from the window. But now as she stared at her amber eyes burning hot, she began to take in the pistols in each hand. “Slip on a coat and your shoes,” she hissed. “Fast.”


p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 16 books. Vicki's Key, one of the first books in the Black Swamp Mysteries series, was one of five finalists in the 2012 International Book Awards (Mystery/Suspense) and 2012 USA Best Book Awards (Mystery/Suspense.) River Passage, an historical work based on her ancestor's migration to Fort Nashborough in 1779-1780, won the 2010 Best Fiction & Drama Award. The Nashville (TN) Metropolitan Government Archives determined it to be so historically accurate that they entered the original manuscript into their Archives for future researchers and historians.

Prior to becoming a full-time author in 2002, terrell founded and operated two computer companies in the Washington, DC area. Her clients included the United States Secret Service, CIA, Department of Defense and federal and local law enforcement. Her specialty is in the areas of computer crime and computer intelligence. Her experience in these areas have greatly influenced her books' plots.

She is the co-founder of The Book 'Em Foundation, whose slogan is "Buy a Book and Stop a Crook" and whose mission is to raise awareness of the link between high crime rates and high illiteracy rates. She founded Book 'Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair, an annual event to raise money to increase literacy and reduce crime.

For more information on Book 'Em North Carolina, visit www.bookemnc.org and www.bookemnc.blogspot.com.

p.m.terrell's website is www.pmterrell.com and her blog is www.pmterrell.blogspot.com.

She can be found on Twitter @pmterrell

On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/author.p.m.terrell and https://www.facebook.com/pages/pmterrell/129318810431554.

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