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The Eastern Shore is a unique place, so it’s fitting that this new anthology features writers and writing from our Chesapeake Bay region. Bay to Ocean: The Year’s Best Writing from the Eastern Shore offers fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that capture some of the spirit of the region.
For this anthology, I wrote a short story called “Last Stand at Turkey Point Light” that imagines an attack by a German U-boat on Turkey Point Lighthouse. This may seem farfetched, but some of the historical facts back up the fact that there were concerns about security at what was then an important aid to navigation for wartime shipping. U-boats prowled the Atlantic coast, so the Intracoastal waterway provided a safer alternative route for everything from supplies to troops. Could one of those U-boats slipped into the upper Chesapeake Bay intent on wreaking havoc? All that stands between these German saboteurs and Turkey Point is a character who closely resembles Fannie May Salter, the brave light keeper personally appointed by President Calvin Coolidge.
Read the story and you may find yourself wondering if the attack really could have happened and was simply kept out of the news.
It was a pleasure to have this story selected for Bay to Ocean, and the story is in good company. Some of the offerings are fun and some are serious. In particular, I really enjoyed the poetry by Tara A. Elliott, Pat Valdata, and Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll, among others. The thing about poetry is that a poem may take just a few minutes to read, but it echoes for a long time so that you will find yourself savoring the thoughts and images that these words bring to mind.
This book is a must-have for those interested in the culture and history of the region. Of course, sales help to support the Eastern Shore Writers Association and its activities, including the Canal Town Writers Conference. Copies are available at amazon.com and also at small shops throughout the region.
By David Healey
“I’m a working-class kid from a generation that speaks in emojis,” says Ian Truman, a Montreal writer with a French accent who has been known to lapse from time to time into Franglais, a patois of English and French spoken by the young and hip in one of North America’s most European cities.
At 35, he is also an up-and-coming writer who is becoming known to audiences well beyond Montreal with the release of his second novel, DOWN WITH THE UNDERDOGS. Told in first person, the novel unwinds the story of D’Arcy Kennedy, a working-class tough guy drawn into employment with the Irish mob during a get-rich-quick gentrification boom that is seeing the old neighborhoods and criminal order of the city upended.
As a writer and Montreal native, Truman knows the subject well. He has watched the rising popularity of this city of 4 million with interest. He said that the city itself it a fascinating mix of languages and accents, with French-Canadians rubbing elbows with newcomers from places like Algiers, and even waves of transplants from France drawn by a lower cost of living and the comfort of French culture.
“You can walk down the street and hear all sorts of different accents,” he says.
While Montreal is a vibrant place to be based, he says that being a Canadian writer has its challenges: “It’s a different market. It’s smaller.” Also, given the travel involved, he says that it’s difficult to tour. “It’s harder to get your name out there.”
And did we mention the long, cold winters?
But that’s okay. He says that Canadians have a strong work ethic to overcome all that. “We’re kind of used to it,” he says. “It makes us work harder for things.”
For the full article in the September issue of The Big Thrill, please click here.
Maryland Public Television recently gave me a chance to talk about my favorite book from the Great American read list.
By David Healey
Set in 1933, THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT by Terrence McCauley seems at first to be a traditional noir detective story with a Raymond Chandler-like vibe. However, it soon becomes apparent that Charlie Doherty is an evolved and nuanced private eye. Imbued with a sense of history and complex characters, there’s more than meets the eye at first glance in this novel—much like the case that Doherty takes on.
The novel begins with Doherty interviewing the widow of a wealthy New Yorker who appears to have committed suicide. However, the widow insists that her husband did not shoot himself. Thus begins a case that leads Doherty through a twisty plot filled with politics and intrigue.
The author’s earlier trio of thrillers was actually set in the near future, with some futuristic predictions that have already come to pass. In Sympathy for the Devil, for example, he incorporated the kind of fingerprint recognition technology that exists today but that was more predictive of the future when the book came out.
Now, he’s delving into the past with a series of novels set in the 1930s.
Several real-life events are woven into the story for historical context. In fact, it might be challenging to find a historical setting more interesting than 1930s New York City, rife with Depression-era events and politics. FDR had just taken office to begin what would become a 16-year term in the White House. Mobsters still called the shots in much of the city. There was still great wealth among those who weathered the economic crash. However, there was also terrible poverty described in the Hooverville camps (named for President Herbert Hoover) made up of penniless homeless men.
“There were several Hoovervilles all over New York, with the biggest in Central Park,” McCauley says. “New York was a really different and dangerous place.”
The threatening political dynamic leading up to WWII plays a role in the story. The economic conditions have sparked an American brand of Nazism that is all the more chilling for its historical accuracy.
The beautiful and historic town of Ellicott City was devastated again by a flood on May 26, 2018. The Washington Post did an interesting historical piece to give the recent disaster some perspective. Above, a Harper’s Weekly illustration of the 1868 flood.
‘Beyond rescue’: Ellicott City’s bizarre, rainless flood and its deadly 20-foot wall of water
By Kevin Ambrose
It did not rain, at least not in Ellicott City. That’s what made the 1868 flood so bizarre and unexpected for the residents of Ellicott City, Md., who were reeling again this week after being devastated by their second 1,000-year flood in two years.
A 39-year-old National Guard sergeant was swept away Sunday as he tried to rescue a woman trapped by the raging waters on Main Street.
But the flood on July 24, 1868, was far deadlier, claiming the lives of dozens of people. According to David Healey, author of “Great Storms of the Chesapeake,” the tremendous thunderstorm that caused the flood 150 years ago stayed west of town.
On that fateful day in July, light from the setting sun was completely blacked out by tall thunderstorm clouds to the west of Ellicott City, which was founded in 1772 at the site of a grist mill along the banks of the Patapsco River.
Birds stopped singing, mill workers were forced to quit early, and flashes of lightning filled the western sky. Residents of the thriving town, which served as the terminus of the first section of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, braced for a storm, but it never arrived. The storm, probably stationary, didn’t move east, but its runoff certainly did.
For the full article, please click the link below:
The Canal Town Writers Conference sponsored by the Eastern Shore Writers Association will offer an opportunity for engaging with fellow writers and energizing your own writing in the beautiful setting of historic Chesapeake City, MD.
Set for Saturday, September 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the conference will offer three sessions in the meeting room at the Chesapeake City branch library: “First Lines: Getting Started with Your Creative Project,” a panel discussion called “Finding Time to Write,” and “Writing 5/7/5.” The sessions are intended to be of interest to writers in all genres and experience levels. There will be an opportunity to enjoy lunchtime fellowship and networking, followed by a cruise on the C&D Canal with a brief overview of Canal Town history.
The conference itself is free. Attendees will be paying for their own lunch in a group setting. Cost for the canal cruise with Chesapeake City Water Tours and Captain DJ is $15 at the dock.
“Chesapeake City has a rich literary heritage with ties to Jack D. Hunter, Edna Ferber, and George Alfred Townsend,” said David Healey, a local author and Eastern Shore Writers Association board member who is helping to organize the event. “The Canal Town Writers Conference builds on this heritage by gathering writers from across the region to improve their craft, enjoy fellowship with other writers, and to explore historic Chesapeake City.”
Space is limited. Please email email@example.com to reserve your spot.
CANAL TOWN WRITERS CONFERENCE
Sponsored by the Eastern Shore Writers Association
Saturday, September 22, 2018
Chesapeake City Branch Library community room
2527 Augustine Herman Highway
Note library doors open at 10 am
10-10:15 am Arrival and fellowship
10:15-11:15 am First session (First Lines/Getting Started with Your Creative Project)
11:15-11:30 am Break
11:30 am-12:30 pm Second session-Panel (Finding Time to Write)
12:30 pm-1:45 pm Networking lunch (Maria’s and JoJo’s diner within walking distance)
1:45 pm-2:30 pm Third session (Writing 5/7/5)
3 pm Boat tour with Captain DJ on C&D Canal
Chesapeake City offers several places to dine or enjoy more fellowship afterwards.
By David Healey
Florida and crime fiction go together like windshields and bugs on a summer night while speeding down Alligator Alley. A good plot is like that oddly satisfying smack against the glass, leaving an imprint on the mind.
One such book that hits with a satisfying smack is TUSHHOG by Florida native Jeffery Hess, who continues the adventures of his protagonist, Scotland Ross. Ross is a veteran who finds himself caught up in the underbelly of the Fort Myers area, and tries to do the right thing, even if there are a few bodies along the way.
So what exactly is a Tushhog? To set the record straight, the term is defined in a note at the start of the novel. Rather than give that away here, the definition is best left up to Hess.
Recently, Hess took some time out from his favorite writing spot on the screen porch of his Tampa home to talk about his own brand of Sunshine State noir.
Hess is a Florida native and has set his novels in the early 1980s, a period that was just starting to see meteoric development. At that time, Hess was a teenager.
“Back in the ’80s it was kind of the Wild West,” he says. “Florida was half the size in terms of population. The growth has been nonstop.”
Back then, the popular TV show Miami Vice glamorized the East Coast lifestyle of fast cars, Ray Bans, and pastel-colored clothing—often paid for with drug money. Hess recalls that the West Coast—of Florida—wasn’t like that, but had its own vibe, which is why he chose to set his novels in that time and place.
The novels are set about 37 years ago. But is it historical fiction? Hess isn’t sure.
“Technically, it might be too soon to call it that,” he says. “There’s near history and there’s far history.”
His fiction falls into the former category.
Whether or not this is historical fiction, what we do know is that these are stories without computers, smartphones, or the internet. It was a time of fewer distractions.
“It facilitated more mystery,” Hess says. “Everything is less immediate.”
Surprisingly, there is an element of historical research in that the landscape has changed so much in more than three decades. Roads have been built, developments have sprung up, and landmark businesses have come and gone since the 1980s.
Back then, Hess was interested in getting out of Florida and seeing something of the world. He did that by joining the navy out of high school, and serving for six years. Of course, when he mentioned to navy buddies that he was from Florida, they pictured Miami Vice.
His navy days over, Hess went on to college and eventually earned an MFA in Creative Writing. Eleven years ago, he began a writers’ workshop for military veterans dubbed DD214 (after the form for an honorable discharge).
“I kind of took the opportunity to give back,” he says. The group is limited to six participants, and has resulted in some great writing and connections between veterans.
Previously, Hess edited an anthology of military fiction from well-known authors called Home of the Brave: Stories in Uniform.
“It was an opportunity to select stories that I always liked,” he says.
He then edited an anthology called Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand that focused on writing by more recent veterans.
Hess is currently at work on the third book in this trilogy that focuses on the growth of his main character.
“It’s not only what Scotland Ross does, but what he doesn’t do,” he says.
In terms of how he approaches story development, Hess does a little of both in terms of outlining and organic writing.
“I just start to collect notes,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll have hundreds of pages. I try to make some sense out of that. It works for me. I’m sure it’s not terribly efficient.”
He also tends to work backwards in a story and likes to make discoveries about his characters and the plot along the way.
“I live for the surprises,” he says, adding that one of the main reasons why any writer writes is to entertain himself.
Mostly, he writes on his laptop, but sometimes composes with pen and paper. “I like that tactile experience. It makes me slow down,” he says. In a sense, pen and paper is also the ultimate technology: “It’s much more portable that way.”
Year-round, his preferred writing spot is the spacious screened porch on the back of his house. He says that because of the settings of his stories, he likes to have that connection with the flora and fauna just beyond.
After all, what better place to write about Florida than in a Florida room?
Hess tends to write for a couple of hours in the morning, and then a couple more hours in the evening as the day fades. He has a long view over some natural areas to enjoy—Florida the way it used to be.
The sun goes down, insects buzz, and the night sounds begin, mixed with the tapping of keys on his laptop…
Jeffery Hess is the author of the novel Beachhead and the short-story collection Cold War Canoe Club as well as the editor of the award-winning Home of the Brave anthologies. He lives in Florida, where he leads the DD-214 Writers’ Workshop for military veterans.
To learn more about Jeffery, please visit his website.
By Kris Kielich
Though we look to fantasy to provide us with enthralling tales of heroism, most times, history provides us all the stories of action and heroes that we need. Such is the case with Chesapeake City author David Healey and his “Sniper” series, and his newest book, “Iron Sniper.”
The books tell the tale of Caje Cole, a U.S. Army sniper who finds himself in battles across the European Theatre of World War II. In “Iron Sniper,” Cole finds himself head to head with a German Army sniper seeking honor for his dead brother.
“The book has Cole in it, but it also focuses on Dieter Rohde, whose brother is killed by the SS for desertion,” Healey said. “So he want’s to earn the Iron Cross to redeem his brother, and along the way he loses sight of his humanity.”
Healey explained how his inspiration for writing the book series came from his time with Cecil County’s own WWII history, as well as his own family’s history.
“Cecil County has a strong tradition with WWII veterans, and we had a lot of veterans at D-Day,” Healey explained. “Back in the ’90s I was able to interview a lot of these guys right around the time when ‘Saving Private Ryan’ came out, and I got to see it with them. These guys went ashore. They lived what’s depicted in that film.”
For the complete story, please visit Cecildaily.com