Cover reveal for ARDENNES SNIPER!

Ardennes-Sniper-800 Cover reveal and PromotionalIt’s very exciting to share the cover for the new book! Set at the battle of the Bulge, Ardennes Sniper features a rematch between American sniper Caje Cole and the dreaded German Ghost Sniper, Kurt Von Stenger.

If you’ve read Ghost Sniper, you know that they have some unfinished business.

I think that the cover does a good job of capturing the frigid weather during the Ardennes Forest campaign in which Germany launched a surprise attack to push back Allied forces. It was not much of a Christmas present for the American soldiers.

The final edits are being made to Ardennes Sniper, and the book should be available soon in both print and ebook!

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Update on progress of the next book

Ghost Sniper was where Caje Cole and Kurt Von Stenger first matched wits. They have some unfinished business to settle in the follow up.

Ghost Sniper was where Caje Cole and Kurt Von Stenger first matched wits. They have some unfinished business to settle in the follow up.

I’ve had a few emails asking how the next book is coming along … so here is an update. First of all, this book is a follow up to Ghost Sniper. That’s the World War II story where an American sniper named Caje Cole faces off against the legendary German ghost sniper Kurt Von Stenger, also known as Das Gespenst.

Cole is a sort of modern day mountain man (actually, his friends call him a hillbilly) who uses his trapping and hunting skills from growing up in the southern Appalachians to match wits with Von Stenger, who is an amazing marksman and strategist.

Short of a spoiler, let’s just say that that Cole and Von Stenger have some unfinished business. This next book is where that business is concluded (in rather spectacular fashion, I might add).

Most of the other characters also return, such as the wisecracking Vaccaro and the intriguing French Resistance fighter Jolie Molyneaux. There are also a few new characters to make this a fresh story.

It was tough picking a title for this novel. I loved the title Wolves of Ardennes, but wiser minds have suggested using Ardennes Sniper to make a better connection to the previous book. When writing, I always seem to need the title first, and then everything else just falls into place. So, changing titles is rather monumental for me and I hope that the wiser minds were correct and that Ardennes Sniper (that’s pronounced Ar-Den) was a good choice.

While the draft of the novel is finished, there is some revision to do, some answering of questions about things like 88 mm guns and Springfield 1903A rifles, then the whole editing process, cover design, etc., etc. … let’s just say it’s quite a bit of work involving several people to get a book into print.

But Ardennes Sniper is well on its way. You’ll see the snipers in action soon … in December 1944 at the Battle of the Bulge!

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Front porch book signing set

Meet author poster image

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Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Levin J. Marvel

Levin MarvelNext month I will be taking part in the commemoration of a terribly tragic event on Chesapeake Bay. Even if you can’t join us, you might like to read it a bit about the sinking of the Levin J. Marvel, which is featured in a chapter from GREAT STORMS OF THE CHESAPEAKE.


On August 12, 1955, as gale force winds from Hurricane Connie raged up the Chesapeake Bay, a three-masted schooner by the name of the Levin J. Marvel sank off of Holland Point in the bay near North Beach, MD. Fourteen of the 27 passengers on board died in this tragedy. Thirteen passengers survived due to the heroic efforts of many local residents.

This tragic and significant Chesapeake Bay maritime event changed Coast Guard safety regulations applying to small passenger vessels.

The Bayside History Museum will present a program with displays and exhibits commemorating “The 60th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Marvel” on August 12, 2015, 7:00pm-9:00pm at the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department Bay View Hall located at 8536 Bayside Road, Chesapeake Beach, MD. 20732. The event is free and open to the public.

Featured speakers are John Ward of the Deale Area Historical Society ; Dr. Susan Langley, Maryland State Underwater Archaeologist; Bill Verge, Executive Director, USCGC INGHAM Memorial Museum, who served as mate on the Marvel that summer; Diane Harrison of Bayside History Museum, and Johnson Fortenbaugh, Jr. who will perform his song, “The Levin J. Marvel”.

David Healey , author, will have a book signing and sale for his book Great Storms of the Chesapeake (which features a chapter about the Levin J. Marvel).

Grace Mary Brady, President of the Bayside History Museum, will be available from 5:30pm to 7:00pm to video record oral histories with people who have personal recollections of the Marvel.

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On Summer Nights and Skirmishes During the War of 1812

On Summer Nights and Skirmishes During the War of 1812.

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Storm of 1821 struck fishing village of Chincoteague

An old woodcut that depicts the storm of 1821 that struck the Delmarva coast.

An old woodcut that depicts the storm of 1821 that struck the Delmarva coast.

In writing GREAT STORMS OF THE CHESAPEAKE I came across many accounts of old storms that have mostly been forgotten over time, but which were devastating to the people who lived through them.

One such storm struck the Atlantic coast of the Delmarva Peninsula in 1821, when the region was only sparsely populated. From descriptions of the time, the storm was almost certainly a hurricane. The storm devastated both Assateague and Chincoteague. Here is one contemporary account:

“In the early morning the terrified inhabitants, looking from their windows facing the ocean, saw an awful sight: the waters had receded toward the southward, and where the Atlantic had rolled the night before, miles of sandbars lay bare to the gloomy light, as the bottom of the Red Sea to the Israelites; then how a dull roar came near and nearer, and suddenly a solid mass of wind and rain and salt spray leaped upon the devoted island with a scream. Great pines bent for a moment, and then, groaning and shrieking, were torn from their centuried growth like wisps of straw and hurled one against another; houses were cut from their foundations and thrown headlong …”

The account goes on to note how one man and his grandson were swept six miles inland by the storm surge, but somehow managed to survive.

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Summertime book events and signings

I have a few more events coming up and I’m excited about them because it gets me out from behind the keyboard. I read recently about how a writer is a recluse addicted to hot drinks … that sounds like me to a tea … I mean T. Anyhow, maybe I will see you at one of these events in the weeks and months ahead. I certainly hope so!

July 9-12 ThrillerFest in NYC. I’m on the Friday morning historical fiction roundtable with some pretty amazing thriller writers, including Steve Berry, David Morrell, Anne Perry, Kay Kendall, Jerry Americ, Ann Parker, Anne Cleeland, and Francine Mathews. I am busy reading all of their newest books and I am in awe!

July 21 6:30 pm “Heroes and Villains of 1812” talk at the North East Library, North East, MD. Surprisingly, not all the villains were Redcoats. I’ll be sharing stories from this “Forgotten War” on Chesapeake Bay.

Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach.

Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach.

July 25 4 pm Book signing at Browseabout Books, Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach. Thank you to Browseabout for featuring “Beach Bodies.” If you are at the beach this summer, a visit to Browseabout and a slice of Grotto’s pizza are mandatory.

Commemoration of the sinking of the Levin J. Marvel. I will be talking about Great Storms of the Chesapeake when the Bayside History Museum  presents a program with displays and exhibits commemorating “The 60th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Marvel” on August 12, 2015, 7:00 pm-9:00 pm at the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department Bay View Hall located at 8536 Bayside Road, Chesapeake Beach, MD. 20732. The event is free and open to the public.

Levin Marvel

August 22 10 am Front Porch Book Signing at the Old Gray Mare, Bohemia Avenue, in historic Chesapeake City. This is a big day in town because the annual car show will fill the streets. I’ll be on the front porch that day for as long as they let me hang around!

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On eve of hurricane season, recalling George Washington’s Storm

clipper ship in hurricane for blog

Library of Congress image

Hurricane season officially begins June 1. While in some ways this is an arbitrary date because nature sets its own rules and does not follow a man-made calendar, let’s just say it’s time to keep a weather eye out!

In the last 400 years there have been some tremendous storms on the Chesapeake Bay, including this one from the 1700s that became known as “George Washington’s Storm.” Although Washington could not have known the science behind hurricanes, he certainly understood that this storm was something out of the ordinary, and he chronicled the storm in detail.

And so, as we gear up for another Chesapeake Bay hurricane season, here’s looking back at “George Washington’s Storm.”

Excerpted from Great Storms of the Chesapeake:

He may have led the Continental Army through the Revolutionary War, but before George Washington became a Founding Father, he was first and foremost a farmer. And like any good farmer, he kept an eye on the weather that affected his vast estate at Mount Vernon, Virginia. The mansion overlooks the Potomac River, not far from Chesapeake Bay. While majestic, the view also left Washington’s home vulnerable to the Chesapeake’s fiercest storm—the hurricane.

On July 19, 1788, a storm began forming near Bermuda that would become known as “George Washington’s Hurricane.” The storm that struck the lower Chesapeake full-on would be detailed in Washington’s journal when the eye passed directly over Mount Vernon.

At a little after midnight on July 23, the storm pounced upon the Chesapeake region and “blew a perfect hurricane, tearing down chimneys, fences, etc.” Accounts say the winds felled large trees, leveled crops and even shifted houses off their foundations.

A storm like that coming at harvest time was particularly devastating to the farms and orchards of the region. Trees heavy with fruit were blown down or their weighted limbs snapped. Corn was flattened and the last of kitchen gardens shredded.

The storm was just as bad on the water. Ships of all sizes that attempted to ride out the storm sank or were pounded to splinters at their moorings. In Portsmouth, Va., accounts say a large ship was floated by the storm surge into the center of town.

It came to be known as “George Washington’s Storm” because of his detailed journal descriptions of the storm and its aftermath. As always, Washington was focused not only on observation, but on the impact the storm would have on the roughly 8,000 acres he owned surrounding his home.

On July 24, Washington wrote: “Thermometer at 70 in the morning, 71 at noon and 74 at night. A very high N.E. wind all night which this morning being accompanied with rain became a hurricane driving the miniature ship Federalist from her moorings and sinking her; blowing down some trees in the groves and about the houses, loosning the roots & forcing many others to yield and dismantling most in a greater or lesser degree of their Bows, and doing other and great mischief to the grain, grass &c. and not a little to my mill race; in a word it was violent and severe more so titan has happened for many years. About noon the wind suddenly shifted from N.E. to S.W. and blew the remaining part of the day as violently from that quarter. The tide about this time rose near or quite 4 feet higher than it was ever known to do driving Boats &c. into fields where no tide had ever been heard of before, and must it is apprehended have done infinite damage on their Wharves at Alexandria, Norfolk, Baltimore &c.”

According to weather records, the 1788 hurricane followed a path—and shared an intensity—very similar to the 1933 storm that would carve Ocean City’s inlet. Consequently, this makes “George Washington’s Hurricane” one of the more intense storm on Chesapeake Bay—and we have the Founding Father himself to thank in part of keeping good records of the storm.



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Takeaways from the Bay to Ocean Writers’ Conference

Bay to Ocean imageOn a crisp winter’s day, writers from across the region gathered at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills for the 18th annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference, organized by the Eastern Shore Writers Associaton. Days and weeks after the end of the conference, I am still looking back at my notes and processing what I learned and what thoughts came to mind. This is an attempt to sum up some of the key takeaways from the conference, based on the sessions I attended with notebook in hand.

• The conference was a great way to connect with other writers. Some might call this networking, but I would call it reassuring. Isn’t it nice to know that there are so many others who wrestle with words and stories? It helps to have affirmation that you are not the only crazy one! Connecting with other writers on social media is a good start, but you can’t split a giant chocolate chip cookie with someone on Facebook.

• Laura Oliver is a teacher of writers at St. Johns College in Annapolis, and she conducted a wonderful workshop based around her craft book, “The Story Within.” One of the fascinating points she made was that as human beings we are “wired for story” in that we crave stories not only for entertainment, but as a way to learn. It is also a way to experience and learn vicariously, or even to experience the intimacy we crave as humans. She quoted Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” Of course, I picked up a copy of her book, which is now being read and marked up with notes in the margins.

• Author Kathryn Johnson is known for her historical novels and thrillers, some of which are set on the Delmarva Peninsula. Although she is a veteran author whose books have been in print for many years, it is clear she still has a sense of wonder about writing. Not that she is a soft touch. “Write down everything that will make your characters miserable,” she advised with a glint in her eye that made you feel concerned for her main characters.

For her, plot comes down to what happens next. “Make up something that’s really important to the character that can carry the story.”

These approaches helped her write one of her more recent novels, “The Gentleman Poet,” a story centered around the real-life shipwreck that inspired Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.” There is now a copy on my trusty Kindle, waiting for some time to be read.

As a writer of historical novels, she said that good ideas are sometimes a tough sell to younger editors who don’t know their history. It was an observation about the realities of publishing rather than a complaint. Maybe this is why we need historical novels, to bring to life the people and events that have shaped our own times?

• Robert Bidinotto is an accomplished thriller writer, but it’s his own story of success with independent publishing that many writers find thrilling. Having lost his job as a magazine editor, and entering his sixties, things were looking bleak financially. That’s when, with the encouragement of his wife, he finally wrote a novel. The result was “Hunter,” a self-published Amazon bestseller. The author has been a tireless supporter of other writers with his “how to” advice on his popular website

For self-published writers, Bidinotto stressed the importance of writing the best books possible by using advance readers, volunteer editors to stop every typo in its tracks, and great cover design.

At the conference, Bidinotto focused on tips for thriller writers, starting with classic examples of great thrillers, including Peter Benchley’s “Jaws” and “Where Eagles Dare” by Alistair MacLean and Wilbur Smith’s “Hungry as the Sea.”  He also noted the thriller elements of classic films like “High Noon.”

Thrillers come in all shapes and settings, but they have a common thread of often larger-than-life characters who overcome impossible odds, whether it is stopping a killer shark or the gang of killers due to arrive in town on the 12 o’clock train.

“Your job is to keep the reader riveted in that world,” Bidinotto said. He quoted Lee Child: “Write the slow stuff fast and the fast stuff slow.”

• What’s a conference without the swag? At BTO the literal takeaways included a green tote bag that my wife called “kind of girlie” (which meant she had her eye on it), copies of Writers Digest, Poets & Writers, and the Eastern Shore Writers Association’s own anthology, “The Delmarva Review.” Plus, there was a blank membership form to the ESWA.

And did I mention the extra chocolate chip cookie I smuggled home? It was just the right accompaniment to a mug of tea and my trusty Mac laptop as I got reinspired with my own writing.

See you next year at the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference!

The above post first appeared over at the Words Between Bays blog, published by the Eastern Shore Writers’ Association.

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Celebrate St. Patrick’s day with history

Glendalough in County Wicklough. Courtesy U.S. Library of Congress.

Glendalough in County Wicklough. Courtesy U.S. Library of Congress.

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday known for green beer and corned beef, “Kiss me I’m Irish” buttons and ties with shamrocks. In bars the patrons will toast all things Irish and you won’t have to go far on the radio dial to hear “Danny Boy” or maybe something by The Chieftains.

What, then, is the best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?   The answer to that question lies with another, harder one: what does it mean to be Irish-American?

Let’s face it, the Irish have a tough time with their identity, considering their most famous characteristic as an ethnic group is a fondness for drink and a gift for blarney.   That said, St. Patrick’s Day shouldn’t be all about drinking, although the beer merchants and bars might have us believe otherwise.   It should be a celebration of Irish heritage and of a triumph over terrible adversity.

The Irish never have had it easy. Invaded first by Vikings and then conquered by the English hundreds of years ago, the Irish always have been underdogs.

Being Irish-American in the 1800s and early 1900s often meant being poor and living on the margins of society. It meant suffering the small indignities of poverty, such as walking to save the bus fare or a family living on top of one another in a cramped tenement or never having quite enough to eat. That hard life has fallen to a new wave of immigrants.

Even so, the Irish and Irish-Americans are only now getting over their impoverished past.   As best-selling Irish novelist Maeve Binchy put it, “We don’t have to write about deprivation and loss anymore.   Ireland is a country that has come out into the sunshine.”

The past wasn’t always so sunny.   The bleakest chapter in Irish history may have been The Great Hunger, or An Gorta Mor, as it’s called in Gaelic. It was also The Great Hunger that launched the huge wave of Irish emigration to America.

In 1845, an event of cataclysmic magnitude struck Ireland, and that was the failure of the potato crop.   At that time, rural Irish families subsisted almost entirely on potatoes grown in tiny plots. When a disease called blight rotted the potatoes in the ground and in storage, entire villages literally starved to death. Ironically, there was plenty of food to go around in the form of grain, but English landlords chose to export those crops instead of feeding the peasants. Through what some historians now claim was a conscious act of genocide on the part of the English, one million Irish died of starvation and disease and another million were forced to emigrate between 1845 and 1852.   My own great-great-grandfather, Matthew Healey, was among those who crowded aboard the “coffin ships” to survive the cruel voyage as best they could.

The emigration didn’t stop with the famine.   People became Ireland’s leading export.   (How times have changed: Ireland is now a world leader in the export of computer software, second only to the United States.)   By 1900, Ireland’s population had dropped from 8 million before the famine to 4.5 million.

Millions of those Irish came to America.   In fact, roughly one-fifth of today’s United States population can claim Irish descent.   That percentage soars in areas like Boston, of course.

Recently, a memorial to The Great Hunger was unveiled in Boston. Another memorial to Irish immigration and the “potato famine” should be completed at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia this spring.

St. Patrick’s Day is an appropriate time for those of Irish heritage to remember the suffering their ancestors endured.   However, what we should celebrate isn’t tragedy but triumph. Millions of Irish came to America with nothing and made a name — and a holiday — for themselves.

In our family, for just this reason, we want St. Patrick’s Day to have special meaning, to be a reminder of where we come from.   We are creating traditions of our own that have nothing to do with a bar stool.

Growing up, St. Patrick’s Day was always a major event.   There was green beer in quantity, of course, for the grownups and green ginger ale for the kids.   Irish music spun on the record player all day.   Everyone had to wear something green or risk being pinched.   Dinner was corned beef and cabbage with plenty of potatoes on the side.

We’re changing the rules a bit in our own house.   Maybe we’ll read aloud a poem by William Butler Yeats or Seamus Heaney, the Irish Nobel Prize winner. There will be time, too, for family stories — some funny, some sad.

Then bring on some music and Guinness stout and corned beef with colcannon on the side. A meal is always a fine tradition and what better way to celebrate than to transform St. Patrick’s Day into an Irish-American Thanksgiving? We all have many things to be thankful for, thanks to the hardiness of our immigrant ancestors.

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