September/October Update

In August I was flown by my publisher, Thomas & Mercer, for filming in LA. The Kindle Most Wanted team shot two videos with me. “My Book In 15 Seconds” had me doing an elevator pitch for Hope’s Peak, against the clock. The second video, “If You Like . . .” had me citing comparable works to Hope’s Peak. I feel the filming went very well, and actually ended up enjoying it. I got time either side of that to explore LA, and meet some great T&M authors. Blake Crouch, Kirk Russell, Mathew Iden, Harry Hunsicker, and the lovely Diane Capri. I also got to meet a few more members of the T&M team, and finally got to meet my kickass editor at T&M, Jacque Ben-Zekry.

I have finished Harper & Lane Book 2, the sequel to Hope’s Peak. It’s being read by my trusted beta’s at the moment, and I’ll make changes to the manuscript based on their feedback. Then it will go to my agent Sharon to read before getting sent to Thomas & Mercer.

I’m currently hard at work at something new. A stand-alone thriller that explores a subject I’m interested in (a concept, really). I plan on having a second draft of that completed by November. Apart from any other changes made to H&L, Book2, this new project will be my last of 2016. Throughout December I will be plotting what I’m going to write next. Whether that’s finishing something I’ve abandoned for one reason or another, or a completely new project. I’ve got time to decide. But December off sounds good to me.

While we’re on the subject of Hope’s Peak, I have written a short story that serves as a prequel, and put it up for pre-order. It will come out December 15th.

PRE-ORDER ‘THE CALL (A HARPER & LANE SHORT STORY)’

I’ve also packaged several mystery/thriller titles in one collection, as my backlist was starting to look a bit scruffy. Night Walks is a collection of earlier works, including my crime novella Dead Pretty. That, too, will be out December 15th.

PRE-ORDER ‘NIGHT WALKS (COLLECTED EARLY WORKS)’

My good friend Bernard sent me a manuscript of his to read several months ago. I did an editorial pass, and helped where I could. I hope I made a positive contribution. Well, it went to our agent Sharon and she is sending it out in the next couple of days. It’s called The Thief Of All Light and is going to be a major hit. Remember I said that.

Things have been a bit nuts here, but I’ve found time to watch the excellent Crimson Peak; the gripping and impressive 10 Cloverfield Lane; not forgetting a pulpy treat, The Perfect Guy. My wife and I watched the last season of Rizzoli and Isles, which was nicely done. The finale was a low-key affair that honored the characters without feeling the need for set-pieces or over the top dramatics. I think they could easily make a Rizzoli and Isles movie now, as the door has certainly been left open for everyone to return.

I’ve been reading A God In Ruins, the companion novel to Life After Life; Blake Crouch’s mind-blowingly awesome Dark Matter; and as of this writing I am reading The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards. I’m looking forward to reading Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, his autobiography. I might save that one for the Christmas list.

Well, folks. That’s it for now. I should get paperbacks of Hope’s Peak soon. And a copy of the audiobook. Now it’s the wait for the release day. Until next time!

July/August Writing Update

Two updates in one this time.

I began writing the sequel to Hope’s Peak on the 31st of May. I finished the first draft on the 15th of July.

I am heading out to Los Angeles the middle of August for [CLASSIFIED] Thomas & Mercer business, and am hoping to complete the second draft of the sequel by then so that it can be sent to a few trusted readers for their feedback while I’m away.

It’s taking time to rewrite/revise, as I want to have the sequel be the very best it can be. At most I would say that I am managing to rework around 10 pages a day. Sometimes less. When you write a first draft, you’re really laying out the groundwork for what you will build in the second draft. So if, in this case, the foundations are there, I’m now laying the bricks.

Speaking for myself, I find the first draft the most difficult. The rest is a joy, to be honest. Every stage of a novel – hard copy edit, reader feedback, each and every edit copy-edit – is all in service of making it as good as it can possibly be. It can only get better with each pass, and I thoroughly enjoy the process. My favourite part is the hard copy edit. Printing the novel and going through it the old-fashioned way, with a red pen, is just something you can’t replace as a part of the process. You always catch something you wouldn’t have on a computer screen.

Hope’s Peak is now up for pre-order, and I’ve seen an early version of the paperback cover (which is amazing!). There should be word on ARC’s and the rest soon. And hopefully I’ll be able to tell you what all this [CLASSIFIED] Thomas & Mercer stuff is about…….

 

Hope’s Peak is now available to Pr-eorder!

We have a cover! We have a pre-order link!

Here it is!

Hope's Peak by [Healey, Tony]

CLICK HERE TO PRE-ORDER

“Beyond the shores of Hope’s Peak, North Carolina, evil waits as his next victim approaches. He’ll make her a princess like the others…

Detective Jane Harper can’t shake the image of the young woman discovered in a field—eyes closed, a crown of woven vines on her head. She expects macabre murders like this in her native San Francisco, not here. Jane and her partner, Stu, vow to catch the killer, but in this town, that’s easier said than done. The police department is in the grips of a wide-reaching scandal that could topple the entire force, and Jane and Stu face a series of dead ends. Until they meet Ida Lane.

Ida knows too well the evil that lurks in the cornfields. Tortured by her mother’s murder years before, Ida is paralyzed by the fear that she could be next. As the killer grows bolder, Jane must persuade Ida to use her remarkable gifts to help in the investigation. It’s a decision that brings them closer to the killer…maybe too close.”

How cool does that sound?

And here’s a little sample of what’s in store. I promise you, this novel is worth the wait. It’s my best work, and I’m very proud of it.

***

A living being has warmth, the reassuring rhythm of its heart, the flow of hot blood through miles of veins. It has the marriage of mind and spirit, united in forming a whole.

Ida relishes such connections. They bring insight, allow her to experience the bond of humanity she has missed out on. Tapping into memory, into feelings. Touching a pregnant woman’s stomach, hearing the hum of the tiny life within . . . all of it a wonder.

With the dead, it’s different.

It is not a merging of psyches, but an electric shock, a charge of energy fusing her to the spirit locked within the lifeless body. The voice howls like the wind: unbalanced, completely open. Pulling her in, forcing her to see, to hear, to feel . . .

Pre-order your copy of Hope’s Peak, and let me know in the comments below!

May / June Writing Recap

A little late – or early, depending on how you look at it, since I’ve merged two months of updates into one.

AUDIO BOOK

I was contacted by Brilliance Audio, in regards to doing an audio book of Hope’s Peak. This is through my publisher, Thomas & Mercer. I gave them my notes and recommendations for the recording; now it’s a case of sitting back and waiting to see what they come up with. I can’t deny I’m excited to hear my work read aloud, as a full drama presentation. More details on that when I have it.

HOPE’S PEAK

We now have a pre-order page (Click Here for the US link – Click Here for the UK link), with a product description:

***

Beyond the shores of Hope’s Peak, North Carolina, evil waits as his next victim approaches. He’ll make her a princess like the others…

Detective Jane Harper can’t shake the image of the young woman discovered in a field—eyes closed, a crown of woven vines on her head. She expects macabre murders like this in her native San Francisco, not here. Jane and her partner, Stu, vow to catch the killer, but in this town, that’s easier said than done. The police department is in the grips of a wide-reaching scandal that could topple the entire force, and Jane and Stu face a series of dead ends. Until they meet Ida Lane.

Ida knows too well the evil that lurks in the cornfields. Tortured by her mother’s murder years before, Ida is paralyzed by the fear that she could be next. As the killer grows bolder, Jane must persuade Ida to use her remarkable gifts to help in the investigation. It’s a decision that brings them closer to the killer…maybe too close.

***

I was sent several pages of cover copy a few weeks back, and was mightily impressed by it. More importantly, I was impressed by the team at Thomas & Mercer. That has continued with their cover concepts. I was sent four possibles, and sent my editor Jacque my notes for those. They were extremely good, and did a great job of capturing the essence of the book, the feel of it, and the setting. Mine and Jacque’s notes have now gone back to the design team, who will continue their work on the covers. Eventually the covers will be whittled down until we have our final one. Again, I can’t praise the T&M team enough. I knew they’d get the book, and what I was aiming for, and they’ve not let me down once.

WRITING

I’m now 25,000 words into writing the sequel to Hope’s Peak. It’s coming along really nicely. I’m writing on my Chromebook, using an app I purchased called CalmlyWriter. It allows me to write in a big, open, clean environment, free of distractions. It saves to Google Drive, in .doc and other formats, and it’s just been brilliant. What I wanted was the experience you get from writing on a typewriter. I had an electric typewriter as a kid (taught myself to type on it), and I was getting a bit fed up with all the different functions of Word and Google Docs. I decided I just wanted basic text on a white background, no formatting, no options. But I wanted it to be reliable. CalmlyWriter, so far, has been fantastic. When I’m done, I can port that first rough draft over to Word, and go to town on it.

But for now, I’m really enjoying the simplicity of writing this way. If you use a Chromebook, I recommend giving CalmlyWriter a look. It’s very inexpensive.

READING

I have been regularly updating my Goodreads page lately (trying to get myself in the habit), so you can keep up with my reading activity there. The address is: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4858311.Tony_Healey

I’m currently reading The Fireman by Joe Hill. It’s really fantastic. He’s not writing in his father’s shadow. I think King is writing in his.

WATCHING

We recently finished up The Blacklist Season 3. Excellent. This week we get Orange Is The New Black Season 4. We can’t wait for this. I’m also looking forward to diving in on Bloodline Season 2, True Detective Season 2, and Better Call Saul Season 2.

That’s it! Back to the grindstone for me!😉

April Writing Recap

As I type this, I’m off work (the day job) due to a pulled back. As the Dr puts it, “acute back pain and sciatica”. So there’s not been a lot of writing from me – there’s not been a lot of much, to be honest. However there have been several things going on this month.

I finished up a 7,000 word short story set in the Harper & Lane series. I really don’t know what will happen to it, but it’s being filed away for now.

We’ve finished the very final edits for Hope’s Peak, and I’ve been working with my publisher on the outline for Book 2. The plan is to get the novel as fully realized as possible before I begin writing, so that it’s an efficient process bringing the story to life. I write pretty tight, so the thought of having to cut tens of thousands of words from a draft makes me sick. I’d prefer to proceed with a solid foundation in place. There’ll be no pulling of bricks on this end.

Meanwhile, Hope’s Peak heads into “Production” at Thomas & Mercer, with copy edits, galleys, covers, etc etc all to follow. Very exciting.

With regards to Far From Home Chronicles, which I have promised since the beginning of the year, I’ve figured out a way of writing/releasing it in between my bigger projects. Chronicles will be released as novella-length episodes, and I’ve made Episode 1: The Cold Light Of Stars available already. Episode 2 will follow in July, and Episode 3 a month or so after that.

How long are they?

30,000 words each, about 150 pages.

How much will they cost?

$2.99 each.

What are they about?

For the past 27 years the Terran Union has been at war with the Sjan Empire.

Many star systems along the Union/Sjan border are in dispute. There are losses and gains on both sides. Union forces oppose the Sjan at every turn, but the cost of conflict is pushing every available resource to breaking point.

The Sjan war machine is relentless.

As Admiral Jessica King coordinates her forces to fight the Sjan Empire, new Intel indicates a prototype Sjan super weapon has been constructed and is at the testing stage. With her fleet stationed elsewhere, the task of investigating this new threat falls to the only ship she has at her disposal . . .

Why are you releasing them as episodes?

In case you didn’t know, I’m contracted with Thomas and Mercer, my publisher, for two books. The first of those is already done, and in the last stages of editing and line editing. The second I’m about to begin work on. This is going to take me a few months, and I have another novel (that I’ve never discussed before) I want to write afterward. Along with the co-written thriller I’m working on with Bernard Schaffer, and another possible Broken Stars sequel with David K. Hulegaard, so there’s a lot going on. But I still want to make time for these episodes, as I think fans of the original Far From Home will really enjoy it. More importantly, I enjoy writing them. If getting to work on them means I have to write them as 30k episodes, so be it.

You can purchase The Cold Light Of Stars by clicking HERE.

That’s it for April. Stay tuned for May’s update where, hopefully, I’ll have some news to share

March Writing Recap

A lot going on this end. In case you missed it, my brilliant agent Sharon Pelletier just landed me a 2-book deal with Thomas & Mercer.

That deal is for the Harper & Lane series. Book 1 is completed. I have Book 2 to write, so I’ve been busy plotting Books 2, 3 and 4 so that I have a rough road map of where it’s all headed.

I’ve also been working on half of a rough draft for a thriller I’m co-writing with my good friend Bernard Schaffer.

Book 1 of Far From Home Chronicles remains partially completed. I’d hoped to have that released by now, but I think that readers will appreciate what with what’s going on right now, I’m pretty pressed for time. Hopefully soon I’ll have news on when ‘The Cold Light of Stars’ will be finished and released.

‘Planet of Ice’, co-written with David K. Hulegaard is doing really well both in terms of sales and reviews. I’ve had several messages from readers asking for the next one. Don’t worry, everyone, I’m on the case. I’m already hounding Dave to clear his schedule and get to work on it! You can help me do that by visiting his site and telling him directly.

 

That’s all I’ve got for this month. Any questions, don’t hesitate to comment below!

My Two-Book Deal With Thomas & Mercer

First let’s begin with this official announcement in Publishers Marketplace regarding my two-book deal with Thomas & Mercer:

announcement In case you can’t read that, it says:

Tony Healey’s HOPE’S PEAK, first in the Harper & Ida series, featuring a gutsy female detective who only trusts the facts and a survivor who gets psychic visions when she is near a serial killer’s victims, to Jacque Ben-Zekry at Thomas & Mercer, in a two-book deal, by Sharon Pelletier at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (World).

I am so excited to have Hope’s Peak picked up by Thomas & Mercer. Of all the publishers who could’ve took the book on, none of them are better placed to get it in front of customers. Self-publishing for years, as I have done, I’ve seen my fair share of projects that haven’t found readers. I know that with Thomas & Mercer – with the power of Amazon behind them – that won’t be a problem. Readers will find Hope’s Peak and Hope’s Peak with find readers.

But it’s not only their ability to sell a product. Amazon understands the new age of publishing in ways that the traditional publishers don’t. They know that readers want to read page-turners that are properly edited and formatted. They know that readers don’t want to pay over the hilt for them either – though, that being said, they also understand that readers of a series will happily pay $4/5 for the next book. They understand value for money and customer retention.

More importantly, Amazon know that digital publishing is something to be embraced, not feared, and that’s most important of all.

For writers out there who might be reading this, wondering how I got such a deal, let me lay it all out for you. Hopefully my transparency about the process will give you some insight – and a taste of what to expect should you attempt the same thing.

A few years ago I had an idea for a story about a woman whose psychic abilities manifest themselves upon contact. For one reason or another, I couldn’t quite get the story to work so I abandoned it.

I tend to write my ideas in a notebook and I’ll go through several a year – filling them up, regurgitating some of the same ideas over and over until they start to gel. One of those ideas was a female cop chasing a serial killer. I’ve long been a fan of Thomas Harris and his complex villain, Hannibal Lecter. But what sticks in my mind the most from “The Silence Of The Lambs” and “Hannibal”, is Clarice. She’s the wholesome hero. I’ve got nothing against multi-faceted heroes who are borderline anti-hero’s. But there’s something to be said about a character like Clarice – who is good all the way through. Incorruptible and pure. I knew that if I wrote a novel featuring a tough female cop, she’d have to have those same qualities. Sure, she might have a few skeletons in the closet, but “Bad Lieutenant” she ain’t.

I also knew that the villain would have to standout, too. Writing Hope’s Peak, I left all of the serial killer’s scenes until the end. Meaning I finished the book before bringing him to life. I did this because I really wanted him to have his own arc, his own plot, running concurrently to the novel itself. In that way, he wouldn’t feel shoehorned in, but just another character. The bogey man thing has been done to death. Serial killers are characters in their own right, and as a writer you have to treat them with the same respect that you would your heroes.

If you don’t, the whole thing falls apart.

So I had my cop, I had my villain, I had the setting of Hope’s Peak. There was a third element missing and that’s when I remembered the story I’d tried to write all that time before. A psychic who could tell a lot about people just by touching them. What if she could touch the victims of the serial killer and, in doing so, give the cop new insight into her case? As I began to explore that idea, jotting down different versions, I realised that the psychic character should be personally connected to the killer himself. Once that notion occured to me, all the pieces started to fall into place.

Director Nicholas Meyer says, “Art doesn’t just happen by accident. It is about pulling out new tricks and trying new things”. It took me a while to figure out how Hope’s Peak was going to work, but with some perseverence, work it did. I had it all outlined. And it was at that stage, looking at my outline of what would happen chapter by chapter, that I knew I should write the killer’s scenes last.

There are writers out there who don’t plot. Everyone has their own process of doing these things, and there’s no wrong or right answer. Personally I find plotting essential. You can’t put together a flatpack wardrobe without instructions. You can’t make a complicated cake without a recipe.

I begin with a spine. That spine has the acts of the story, the rise and fall of action, the turning points and reversals. It allows me to pace the story correctly. Where will that scene take place? How long after that will everything take a turn for the worst? How will I build tension in this scene, so that it pays off in the next? I look at how I can apply the timeless lessons of the Hero’s Journey. I incorporate the genius advice of McKeen. If you write books and you don’t own a copy of “STORY” I just don’t know what’s wrong with you.

I iron all of these pacing issues out before I work out how the chapters will play out. All of that comes next. So if the mechanics of the plot form the spine, then the chapters and story details are the ribs. The plot is made to conform to that initial spine, and while some may argue that is limiting for a writer, I say it is the opposite. Too much freedom and you end up with a Stephen King epic that could do with losing a few pounds. By having to hit the key points on that basic framework, you’re working on a budget. It makes you more creative, it makes you work harder to get everything to work. No writer should be given free licence to do as they please. The best art – the art that everyone remembers – was created with limitations. The Wrath of Khan wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as it is if they hadn’t been working with a limited budget.

It took me about two months to write the first draft of Hope’s Peak. I then spent a few weeks doing a rewrite, and a hard copy edit. Then I gave it to two friends to read – David K. Hulegaard and Sandie Slavin. Interestingly, they both came back with different issues with the plot. They were easy to address. Once I’d done that, I handed the book over to Bernard Schaffer, my mentor, for him to have a read and give me his thoughts. Bernard did more than that – he did a full edit of the entire manuscript, and helped iron out a lot of the wrinkles in both the plot and the characters personalities. Following that I had the novel proofread, and then it was ready to send to Sharon, my agent.

“Hold it!” I hear you saying. “How did you get an agent?”

Well let me rewind a little. Many months before, Bernard and I co-wrote a few things together (Confederation Reborn), and that we self-published with the assistance of Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. Bernard went through Sharon, one of the agents there, and made the introduction between us. A while later, I asked Sharon if she might be interested in what I was working on. I described it, and she seemed excited to read it. Now fast forward a couple of months, and I have the book ready to read.

Our fourth daughter, Lola, was about to be born so I sent the manuscript off to Sharon and hoped for the best. I’m pretty pessimistic about everything.

I thought, “She won’t like it.”

She liked it.

I thought, “She won’t be able to find a home for it. No-one will want it.”

Well, you know the answer to that one.

Once she’d read Hope’s Peak, Sharon told me she’d like to take me on as her client and try to put the novel with a publisher. I said “Great!” and signed on the dotted line. Sharon did her own edits, little things here and there she’d noticed as she read the book through for the second time. Then she sent it out to a small group of publishers to gauge their reaction.

A few months went by, then word came back that they’d passed. A lot of them had positive things to say about the novel, and about my writing, but they weren’t taken by the story.

It’s natural to feel disappointed when this happens, but to be honest I wasn’t bothered. If there’s one thing that self-publishing does, it’s give you a thick skin. I didn’t take their reaction to the novel as a knock. Instead I looked at what they liked about it. Here’s some examples of the feedback we recieved:

“. . . let me say I liked the writing and I also enjoyed the small town setting.”

“The writing is nicely done and the plot is intriguing.”

“Clearly there is significant talent here. Healey is able to capture the Southern setting quite well.”

Sharon sent the book out again, this time to a second larger group of publishers. I knew that it would only take one publisher to take a liking to the book. Thomas & Mercer were the first to get back. I won’t divulge what the book deal means for me in terms of monetary value, but suffice to say that Sharon got me a very good advance for both Hope’s Peak and its sequel. It was only a matter of a few months waiting, from sending the novel to Sharon, to getting a book deal. But no matter how short the wait, it is agonising. You can’t help but email every now and then.

“Have we heard anything about the book?”

To Sharon’s credit, she’s very patient. She’s knows how to handle writers who are in limbo, and that’s part of what makes her a good agent, in my opinion. It doesn’t matter what question I fire her way, she’s always there with a response. That’s what you need when you’re biting your fingernails, waiting for something to happen – someone who will be honest with you, but understanding.

I’ve been very lucky. This is my first submission to an agent, and my first book on submission to publishers. I hit it on the first try, which is pretty good. But how many great novels bounce from one publisher to another, never finding any joy? How many J.K. Rowling’s are out there?

At the time of this writing, I have whatever edits are required on Hope’s Peak, and I have to write the sequel. I’ve got that plotted out already, and some of it written in bits and pieces. I have to deliver Book 2 by October, which is totally doable. To say I’m excited is an understatement. I can’t wait to get rolling with this series and just run with it. There are a lot of stories I want to tell with these two characters.

So, how can I help you get a book deal? Well, here are my tips. You can take them or leave them. They’re just what worked for me. As I think I’ve made pretty clear, there was a degree of luck in all of this. I think that’s true of anything in life. Without knowing Bernard, I wouldn’t have been introduced to Sharon. Without Sharon liking what I told her about the novel-in-progress, I wouldn’t be a client of Dystel & Goderich.

And remember, not all editors loved it. Jacque Ben-Zekry at Thomas & Mercer took a shine to the book and wanted to take it on – that’s one publisher out of many. There were many months of waiting, and asking, and wondering, before there was any kind of news.

I joined D&G as Sharon’s client in August 2015. I got my book deal in February 2016. So my first tip is:

 

  1. Be patient. That book deal isn’t going to happen over night. The best thing you can do, is leave your agent to work his or her magic, and keep on writing. It’s hard to put the fact you have a book out on submission to the back of your mind, but please try. In my case, I didn’t get a lot of writing done the latter half of last year, as we had our fourth child and my routine was thrown out of whack. That’s back to normal now, but I was thrown for a bit there leading up to Christmas. But my advice stands – sign that contract between yourself and your agent, and let them do their thing. Just check in every now and then to see how things are going.

 

  1. Let’s circle back. Before even sending your manuscript out, you need to ensure it’s been edited by another living being. Preferably proofed, too. That means another human being has read the book and picked up on any embarrassing errors. This book needs to be your best fucking work. I’m deadly serious. The best thing you’ve ever written. EVER. Pour your heart and soul into it. The prose needs to be tight, and flow, and above all it needs to be active. I can guarantee you that your passive-voiced, purple-prosed think piece is gonna get rejected straight away. Think of it like this – you’re selling your book to your agent, so that they can sell your book to a publisher, so that they can sell your book to a customer. If you don’t get that first sale, the game’s over. So you need to bring your A game. Eliminate weak words or turns of phrase. Cut back on the filtering. Get to the point and present the STORY, not your writing ability. That’s the key here. You’re selling your book, not YOU.

 

  1. Get into a solid routine with your writing. This means writing X amount of words a day, preferably 2,000. I do this five days a week, giving myself the weekends off. Do this for six weeks, you’ve got a 60,000 word novel. You need to be able to say to your agent, or a publisher, that you can get a project completed within a certain amount of time. The only way to do that is give yourself enough time to write each day. This is harder than it sounds – believe me, as the father of four little girls, I know this all too well – but you must do it anyway. And don’t be afraid to give yourself a break. Daydream. Lay in the bath and mull over the details of the plot. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been soaking in the tub and had that “Eureka!” moment. If you’re approaching an agent with your work, or thinking about it, then you’d better start treating your writing as a second job.

 

In short, GET SERIOUS about writing. PRESENT YOUR BEST WORK. Make that prose as solid as you can. Nobody is perfect, but there’s a lot you can do to make a good book even better, purely by tightening the prose. And BE PATIENT. This all takes time. Trust your agent to do what they do best, while you do what you do best – write.