Upcoming talks for Fall 2014

Healey waterfrontUpcoming talks

Great Storms of the Chesapeake talk, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels, Md., October 30, 2014 at 5:00 pm 

Keepers of the Light talk, Chesapeake City Branch Library, Chesapeake City, Md., November 17, 2014 at 6:30 pm

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Beach Bodies gets a headline: Making the cut for beach reading


By Ken Mammarella

The News Journal


To the list of potentially fatal risks at the beach – such as riptides, lighting and sunstroke – add being kidnapped for your kidneys.

That’s the premise of “Beach Bodies ($14.99 on Amazon), the first comic thriller and 13th book by David Healey, a college professor from Chesapeake City, Maryland.

The novel focuses on Nick Logan, a 6-foot-2, “square-shouldered” former police officer who left the crimes of Baltimore for the peace of western Maryland, and Sarah Monahan, a blond officer with “a sinewy, athletic body” who favors the music of “women who stood alone against the world.”

The mystery is not who’s stealing the kidneys: The book opens with henchman Fat Boy and the anarchist Grubb taking an accident victim to the money-mad doctor who’ll harvest them. The question is if and how they’ll be caught. And if and how Logan and Monahan will fall in love.

Healey said he first finished the novel in 1996. It was called “Chop Shop” back then and set in Wilmington. He got an agent from the manuscript, but it was deemed “too local” to be published.

With a nudge from someone at Browseabout Books noting how few mysteries occur at the beach and amid wrenching change in the publishing industry, he decided to rework it. He liked the main characters, and they’re there, but the book was “rewritten for the 21st century” and moved to Rehoboth Beach.

Key scenes are set on the Boardwalk and the Junction & Breakwater trail. The quiet of the marshes, the behavior of beach cops (“what do you do, arrest people for wearing sneakers with dress socks?”) and the delicate nesting habits of plovers also matter.

But definitely fictional are Southern Delaware General (where Dr. Karl Kreeger slices out the kidneys from a basement operating room), the Mermaid Zone (a shopping plaza where decidedly unvacationlike stuff occurs) and the goth band Dog Smell.

Healey gives himself a one-sentence cameo and draws from decades of beach visits to give it that local feel. He also uses his experience as a reporter and editor in Elkton, Maryland; Middletown; and Oxford, Pennsylvania to make fun of modern media, with sloppy attire and outlandish questions.

On http://www.davidhealey.net, fictional News Journal reporter Jorge Alvarez interviews Logan, and the smart-aleck and distinctly Delaware qualities of “Beach Bodies” comes through in his favorite beach food: “It’s hard to beat a slice of boardwalk pizza at 1 a.m. There’s just something primal about a slab of dough and cheese and sauce on a summer night.”

Despite the ick factor of so many deaths, the book is “not gory or grisly,” he said. “It’s a little bit fun.” And despite how he uses the concept in his plot, Healey wants to be an organ donor. “It’s a cool concept that your organs will have an afterlife.”

After someone at Browseabout Books remarked that few mysteries occur at the beach, David Healy reworked the original novel and self-published.

Healey said that he has four or five complete manuscripts from his early days as a novelist, but they will not follow “Beach Bodies” in being reworked. “They’re training exercises. They didn’t turn out that well, but that’s OK because I learned from them.”

He has also learned a great deal about publishing.

“For me as a writer, Amazon has been a great opportunity,” he said, noting that he self-published this novel, which he calls “my contribution to summer reading and enjoyment at the beach.”


This article was first published in the Crossroads sections of The News Journal (A Gannett Publication) on June 25, 2014. You can view the original article at the following link: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/life/2014/06/25/crossroads-making-cut-beach-reading/11378437/

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D-Day memories 70 years later

ImageBack in July 1998 I went to see the new Tom Hanks’ film “Saving Private Ryan” with a group of Cecil County (Maryland) veterans who had been at D-Day. The idea was to get a reaction to the film from guys who had been there. For me, the story became one of my most memorable newspaper assignments because it was such a moving and humbling experience.

A lot of the guys—mostly in their 70s—hadn’t been to a movie theater in years. I remember that a couple members in the group walked out and left during the opening scene, which is very graphic.

After the movie, we all went and got coffee to talk about the movie compared to their own D-Day experiences.

“It was quite a job,” said Donnie Preston of North East. “We lost a lot of men.”

According to the local WWII vets, there were 37 men from Cecil County who served at D-Day. Many were in the same unit, which is something that doesn’t happen today.

Most of Cecil County’s men who hit the beach about 7:30 a.m. June 6 were members of the 115th Regiment, which was part of the 2nd Battalion of the 29th Division. Five county men lost their lives in the next few days. Many of the others were wounded, including Preston, who spent two years in hospitals after being hit by machine gun fire.

On the beach that day along with Preston were Otis Ferguson of North East and Lawrence Whitlock of Red Point. Edgar Startt of North East and Church Wehrle of Elkton were there, too.

Those on the beaches weren’t the only area men who were part of D-Day. Some, like Joe Lofthouse of Elkton and Ralph Kelly of Aberdeen, dropped behind German lines with the 101st Airborne. Ralph McCool was an Army Air Corps navigator who helped bomb German positions. James L. Lockhart of North East hit the beach with the 115th Infantry, 1st Battalion. Jack Deibert of Colora came ashore on “D plus 10” with 50 clerks under him to oversee personnel records.

When we left the theater, we discovered that someone had left a note under the windshield wiper of a veteran’s car—the anonymous person had likely noticed the 29th Division license plate.

“I went and saw Pvt. Ryan also,” the note said. “It was a great show. In case you haven’t heard it lately I would like to tell you and your friends—Thank you.”

What I remember most from that experience was that these were great guys. Sadly, many of them have now passed away in the intervening years, but I am thinking of them today 70 years after D-Day.

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Hooking Your Readers with Some Help from Jaws

Originally posted on Kaplan University Writing Center Faculty Blog:

David Healey, Kaplan University Composition Faculty

© 2014 Clipart.com

© 2014 Clipart.com

Hooking your readers turns out to have a lot in common with pretending to be a shark. One of my favorite childhood memories is of being at the beach on Cape Cod and scaring my mom. My middle brother and I would swim underwater and grab mom’s legs, causing her to shriek and run for shore. What fun!

It was the summer that the paperback version of Jaws came out, and mom read it in her beach chair and evenings at the cottage. The result was that every ripple in the water and every kid grabbing her legs became a Great White in her imagination.

Ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum!

I was thinking about Jaws and that long-ago summer because in class we recently focused on tips for hooking readers. Peter Benchley’s bestselling novel makes a great example of how to hook…

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Behind the Badge: An interview with BEACH BODIES detective Nick Logan

Beach Bodies WEBSITE USE-1Behind the Badge

An interview with Nick Logan, one half of the detective team in Beach Bodies: A Rehoboth Beach thriller. 

By Jorge Alvarez, staff reporter

What’s your favorite beach food?

That’s a tough call. There are so many great places to eat. I know it’s weird but on a hot summer day I’ll go for fish and chips. But it’s hard to beat a slice of boardwalk pizza at one a.m. There’s just something primal about a slab of dough and cheese and sauce on a summer night.

We know you’re a mountains kind of guy, but what are some of your favorite places at the Delaware shore?

Definitely Cape Henlopen because it’s the Cape Cod of the mid-Atlantic with sand dunes, beach plums, and not a house in sight. It was a World War II base to stop German U-boats from attacking Philadelphia and someone had the good sense not to develop it. Then I like to throw on some jorts and maybe some dress socks with my sandals, and walk around Lewes or the Rehoboth boardwalk just to people watch. In one day you can get the best of both worlds, from beach to boardwalk.

Where is this thing with Sarah Monahan going?

It’s complicated. Sarah—or should I say Detective Monahan—is sweet and smart and tough all at the same time, like deep-fried salt water taffy. She likes to think she’s a better cop than I am, so that creates some tension. Like I said, it’s complicated.

Are you an organ donor?

That’s kind of a personal question and a touchy subject. Can’t you just ask that boxers or briefs question? But since you asked, it just so happens that I’m a donor. The program does a lot of good. Grubb and his gang had their own ideas about who should be donating, but Sarah and I put a stop to that.

What’s your preferred method for splitting firewood?

It’s a total body workout. Better than the gym. First I chain saw the logs up into chunks. Then I move on to a maul and wedge to bust up the chunks. Some of the oak can get really stubborn. Once it’s busted up I move on to an ax. I keep it really sharp and if you hit it just right, the wood pops apart. It’s very satisfying. You should try it sometime, my chicken-chested friend.


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Big GHOST SNIPER giveaway kicks off!

good reads GS giveawayGHOST SNIPER is set during the Normandy invasion that began on D-Day, June 6, 1944. To mark the 70th commemoration of D-Day, there is going to be a fairly big giveaway over at Goodreads. Ten copies of the book will be given away. So if you are a Goodreads member, be sure to enter to win your copy! And be sure to friend me so we can share our book updates and reviews.

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Giving in to the siren song of researching a novel

A German soldier in the Ardennes during the battle.

A German soldier in the Ardennes during the battle.

One of my favorite aspects of writing is actually reading about the time period in which a story is set. By reading I mean “research” or learning as much as I can about whatever I happen to be writing about.

Right now I’m working on a follow up to GHOST SNIPER. That’s my World War II sniper story set around the D Day invasion. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll just say that the story will continue for a final showdown at the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest.

The working title is THE WOLVES OF ARDENNES.

For the research, I’ve been reading several books on the battle, which was Hitler’s last-ditch effort to break out on the Western Front as the Allies began the final push toward Germany. His desperate plan very nearly worked. As battles go it’s interesting on many levels, and turns out to be one of the few major defensive battles that the United States military has fought.

There’s also a great deal of drama involved in the battle that goes beyond the military strategy aspect. Many civilians were caught up in the fighting. I was really saddened by an account of the 16-year-old girl who volunteered in a field hospital, helping wounding Americans and Germans. She was killed when a bomb hit the hospital. Think of the life she might have lived, and might still be living 70 years later, but it was all lost in an instant.

The battle took place during the Christmas season, which always heightens the irony of “peace on Earth, good will toward men.”

I’m learning all this from reading some excellent books, such as the Stephen Sears history of the battle. Also, FATAL CROSSROADS by Danny S. Parker about the Malmedy massacre was a sad but thorough account of how 83 American POWs were machine gunned by SS troops at the Battle of the Bulge. My stack of books about the battle continues to grow.

I’ve never met a map I didn’t like, so any WWII book with a battlefield diagram or map of the Ardennes region is great to look over. Thanks to Google Earth, I can visit the geography of the battlefield on my MacBook.

The sequel to GHOST SNIPER is still in the planning stages, but it is slowly coming together. Something on the scale of the Battle of the Bulge is so huge, but in the novel it will be a far more personal story of a handful of characters caught up in the events of December 1944.

Research has a kind of siren song that can lead a writer astray. My agent once advised me not to spend too much time on research until after the story had mostly been written. “You can always look up later what you don’t know,” he said.

That may be true, but then I’d be missing out on part of what I like so much about writing historical novels!

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Tips on hosting a Facebook chat for authors

Great Storms cover for websiteThe weather forecasts were calling for the most snow we’d had in years here in Maryland. It was just possible that the “snow band” through the I-95 corridor ranging from just west of Baltimore up toward Philadelphia could see 2 feet of the white stuff.

Supermarkets were mobbed. Kids stayed up late because there wouldn’t be school the next day. Readers everywhere were loading up their Kindles or running to the library.

All the excitement about the snow seemed like a perfect opportunity to try something new—a live chat on Facebook.

The topic? The legendary blizzards, fogs, hurricanes and freezes we’ve had around the Chesapeake Bay region. This seemed liked a perfect tie-in with my book GREAT STORMS OF THE CHESAPEAKE, which features a foreword by Bernadette Woods. It also seemed like a fun way to spend an hour on the even of the big storm to share in some of the excitement about that.The idea came from having attended a live Facebook chat with Joyce Maynard, author of LABOR DAY, the novel on which the new movie starring Josh Brolin and Kate Winslett is based. Joyce was on the faculty when I was at Stonecoast, taking a 10-day seminar on creative nonfiction. She was a great teacher and I had read a chunk of her novel, so I headed over to her Facebook chat.

Granted the chat was sponsored by Book Girl Club, one of the really big pages for readers on Facebook, so there was a good turnout. Joyce Maynard very graciously answered questions about her novel and about her writing process, not to mention her pie-baking skills. (Baking pies features prominently in the novel and movie.)

So I decided to give that a try for my own Facebook page. The community there has slowly been growing, and I really enjoy keeping in touch with the many friends and readers who have joined in.

I promoted the chat on the page and Tweeted it a couple of times. I even tried to get the folks over at the Washington Post Weather Blog to mention the live chat because I’m a fan of their weather coverage, but no luck.

At the scheduled time I logged in and … just a couple of folks showed up. That was fine, because we had a good time and I enjoyed getting to know them better. The one aspect that was a bit tough to keep up with was constantly refreshing the page to see the newest comments. So all in all, I would call the Facebook live chat a success. It’s all part of the constant reinvention process for writers.

I’m already planning another one to coincide with the 70th Anniversary of D Day on June 6, 2014. On that day we’ll be talking about GHOST SNIPER: A WORLD WAR II THRILLER because it’s set at Normandy. Also, I’d like to share some of the stories I heard over the years from World War II veterans who were there … many of these were gathered during my years as a journalist.

So did we get some snow? About 10 inches fell! So should you as an author (or entrepreneur or musician or … ) give a Facebook chat a try? Definitely! Just be sure that you invite me!

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Where do writers get their ideas?

ideasSomeone asked me the other day where writers get their ideas. That’s a popular question, and one I have the hardest time answering because ideas come from everywhere at once and nowhere in particular!

It’s kind of a lame answer to a sincere question and I usually don’t admit in public that I don’t know, or I’ll give a vague answer. Most people don’t want to hear, “I don’t know!” And most writers are in the business of making people happy, so we come up with some kind of response.

Another pat answer might be that writers don’t find ideas—they find me. I’ve heard some writers say that, but it’s not true in my case. Also, that explanation sounds supercilious.

So where do ideas come from?

It probably helps to do lots of things that don’t involve writing to come up with good ideas. Vacuum the living room. Walk the dog. Make a pot of gumbo. Zap! You’ll get an idea, and you can tell a good one because it’s like getting Creole spice in that little slice where you nicked yourself chopping onions. Not exactly painful, but insistent.

I had a really good idea recently while watching a really bad movie. I mean, it was really an awful action movie without a hint of character development or humanity (but the explosions and special effects were pretty cool). So my mind was wandering … and Zap!

Exercise is always great for ideas. Walking and bike riding are good, but it helps to do them in a way where you are pretty much alone so that your mind churns away like the gears on a bike.

Sometimes I get great ideas when I’m driving, but I really try not to do that too much because, well, I’m driving.

The trouble is that writers don’t need one good idea, or even two or three. They need twenty, thirty, two hundred or three hundred good ideas. Some fizzle pretty quickly, while others go the distance.

One of my favorite writers, William Styron, once said something along the lines of, “Any idea that survives the hangover is a good one.”

I can honestly say I’ve never had a good idea as a result of alcohol. Of course, I’m not William Styron, who wrote “Sophie’s Choice,” so it may have worked for him.

Caffeine, on the other hand, sends thoughts bouncing around like a ping pong ball.

Agatha Christie one said that she got her best ideas while doing the dishes. There’s something charming about the thought of Dame Agatha thinking up the plot for “Death on the Nile” while rinsing out the tea cups.

Sometimes I’ll just sit with a blank notebook and a pen, just to see what develops on the page. In my writing classes I often talk with students about brainstorming or pre-writing techniques such as clustering, listing and free writing. Sometimes my “brainstorming” uses all three techniques on the same page like an ultimate fighter mixing boxing and karate in the ring.

That’s OK. There is no right way or wrong way to figure out what to write.

In the end, I suppose it’s hard to explain to someone how it all works because it’s trying to explain a creative process that’s beyond explaining. You might as well ask electricity how it turns on a light bulb.

Have you ever tried to explain—really explain—to a child how electricity works? Now imagine trying to explain this concept to a time traveler from the Dark Ages. In either case, you’ll probably give up after a while and tell them it’s magic.


So where do ideas come from? Magic! That’s not exactly true, but it’s close enough.

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Ghost Sniper cover revealed for the print edition

The full print cover, front and back, for GHOST SNIPER.

The full print cover, front and back, for GHOST SNIPER.

Here it is folks, the “full” cover for the print edition of GHOST SNIPER. (Of course, the ebook edition only requires a front cover because ebooks don’t have back covers!)

What’s particularly cool about this book cover is that it has a matte finish, which is something I’ve wanted on one of my books for long time, but haven’t been able to convince anyone to do … with the exception of The History Press, which issues its nonfiction books with a matte (non-glossy) cover.

Here’s the back cover copy:

June 6, 1944. On the dawn of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, two snipers find themselves fighting a battle all their own. One is a backwoods hunter from the Appalachian Mountains in the American South, while the other is the dreaded German “Ghost Sniper” who earned his nickname on the Eastern Front. Locked in a deadly duel across the hedgerow country of France, the hunter matches wits and tactics against the marksman, both of them one bullet away from victory—or defeat—as Allied forces struggle to gain a foothold in Europe.

The cover designer also included a couple of “blurbs” for SHARPSHOOTER because it’s a related book and we didn’t have any handy for the new novel:

Praise for Sharpshooter, also by David Healey

Sharpshooter has the feel of a techno-thriller, the kind offered by Tom Clancy or Dean Koontz … Sharpshooter moves quickly and is filled with all manner of intrigue.”— The Civil War News

 “Healey’s got a gift for recreating history, complete with compelling characters and the ring of authenticity in every scene.” — C.A. Mobley, best-selling author of Rites of War and Rules of Command

The print books are now on their way, or so I’ve been told, and should be available soon. Thanks for taking a look!

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