Cloud Cover follows a gay man struggling with grief, romance, and mental health issues. What was your inspiration for this thought-provoking novel?
The book is based on my own experiences. Tony and I have a lot in common. The death of my parents when I was young, being bullied in school, and being in the closet really affected on me. I had been dealing with mental health issues – specifically depression and anxiety since my late teens, and an eating disorder since my late 20s. I underwent psychiatric therapy and was in and out of recovery programs. I couldn’t make sense of all the events that happened to me, of this “cloud” I felt was following me. During that time I journaled a lot. The only reason I could come up with as to why these things occurred was so I could have a story, and maybe share it with others who are experiencing the same. Maybe it would help them. Maybe it would help me. I so wanted to make my pain and grief mean something. So I started piecing together my journals and continued writing what eventually became the book.
Tony is an an intriguing and well developed character. What were some themes you wanted to capture with his character?
To me, Tony represents the pervasive mental state that that plagues many people today: disenchantment and contradictions; the disappointment of promise; the loss of hope. The disenchantment causes his disorders, and as a result, he is full of contradictions: he no longer sees the bright future he once saw for himself, yet he still tries to improve his life in what little capacity he has. He is suffering emotionally with depression and anxiety and he is suffering physically with eating disorders, but he still drags himself to doctors and the recovery facilities. He is devasted by the death of someone he loves, yet reluctantly, he tries to find love again. He feels he is being judged by the gay community, but really, he is just as, if not more, judgmental about his overweight boss and his millennial coworkers and boyfriend.
This novel does a great job of capturing the reality of mental health issues and eating disorders. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Thank you. For those suffering from any kind of disorder, talk to someone. There are people around you that care so much about you, but the mental illness makes you blind to that. That was probably the worst thing it did to me. Reach out, ask for help – that is how the stigma is broken. The world is good and full of people who love you and want to help you.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Although I’ve generally received positive feedback about Cloud Cover, I’ve been told that perhaps my next book could be “a bit more cheerful.” Lol. So I’m going with that. My first love has always been tennis. My parents taught me how to play when I was 8 years old. I have been part of a gay tennis league for almost 20 years … and oh the drama you get when you put a bunch of gay athletes together! There are just too many good stories for me not to share! I’m going to try to write an absurd comedy/satire about a gay tennis league, and the chaos that ensues when straight people start joining.
Tony, a gay man struggling with grief and mental health issues centered around his body image, is about to turn 35. As this “cubicle daydreamer” takes steps to improve his situation, his life is turned upside down when he is drawn to a younger, flamboyant and free-spirited artist named Antonio.
Will Tony successfully make a meaningful connection with Antonio despite their many differences? And how long can he hide the secret devastating to himself and to their relationship? Part romance, part drama, part comedy and a raw portrait of disorder, Cloud Cover captures the experience of love and loss—of others and of oneself—amidst past trauma, modern expectations and resulting inner turmoil.
Grass Miracle from the Earth is a well informed and interesting book about grass. What intrigued you about this project?
Well I was just so astounded that something so humble and unnoticede had all these qualities! I kept finding more and more and more (the ‘miracle’ in the title cropped up pretty soon) – and then just couldn’t stop!
Actually having finished it I see it’s pretty typical of my work as an anthropologist: to look deep into the ordinary – whatever, wherever – and find the extraordinary and the magical. So mine, I feel, is really a pretty good calling and one that suits me ( and my family inheritance) exactly.
You are the editor along with Maria Teresa Agozzino and author David Campbell Callender. What was the collaboration like on this book?
I have, er, to confess that I wrote the book myself, well almost all of it – Maria, the meticulous and inspired Welsh Mabli, whom I found by enormous good luck, corrected my mistakes and omissions and added some super fokloric and other bits as well as some great pictures of her gorgeous cats making the most of her grass. It’s been a wonderfully happy collaboration with multiple emails flying back and forward each day at crucial points. No, we have never actually met (except in mind) but will CERTAINLY continue to collaborate – soon it’ll be on the history of horses (an amazing adventure that ) then, we hope, on birds, magic of the sky and trees.
But otherwise, yes , I have to confess I basically thought of, and wrote it, a miraculous ( yes) journey of discovery. ‘Ruth Finnegan’ is known for rather different kinds of publications, so that was one reason I used a penname. But chiefly it was to remember and honour my inspired and gentle and modest maternal grandfather from Derry, my native city, himself a naturalist.
Starting this book I certainly didn’t think grass could so fascinating. Was there anything new you learned about grass when working on this book?
YES, EVERYTHING! I had no idea. Basically that, mostly forgotten, it’s just – THERE! And there all the time almost whatever you do to it. But honest, there’s just far far too much to even begin on, you’ll just have to read the book!
What is the next project you plan to work on and when will it be available?
I have two nearly finished academic books (one on ‘The shared mind’ – ESP and all that, a highly p topical subject – one on taxidruvers’ lives, again the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary and though, like grass, near ubiquitous so often unnoticed and unesteemed. Also a couple of ( dream-inspired) novels and experimenting with a few filmscriots (hopefully some at least will appear this year, not certain: why aren’t there more hours in the day …). Chiefly I am working as general commissioning editor on what I think an exceedingly important and innovative series of books for young adults (‘Grass … ‘ is one example, my recent ‘Time for the world to learn from Africa’ another), you can see more on this at https://www.balestier.com/category/hearing-others-voices/ with LOTS more super titles to come during 2020.
We see grass everyday, tread on it, maybe handle, smell, or plant it.But how many of us noticed it – let alone appreciated its amazing presence and resilience and the way it someway holds our planet together? It’s everywhere.
This beautifully illustrated book, engaging and readable, gives us the full,picture. It tells of the marvellously complex evolution of grass, the incredible number of species (did you know that bamboo and sugar-cane are forms of grass, and that three kinds of grass make up the major food of humans and the grazing (‘grass’-eating) of innumerable animals?), leading us on into some appreciation of the abiding necessity of grass for humanity, for nature and for the arts. It has a place in folklore too, and in poetry
A book to give and to treasure.
David Campbell Callender, a name taken (adapted) from, and in memory of, her gifted Irish grandfather, is the penname of the British anthropologist Ruth Finnegan.
The Warramunga’s War follows two friends conducting counterespionage operations during WWII. What was your inspiration for the setup to this riveting story?
My initial inspiration was based on my father’s war diaries. He was involved in the Second World War initially fighting in the Syrian campaign and later in the desert war. After I retired from a 55-year career in the resources industry, working in all parts of the world, for the first time in my life I had time on my hands. I had met and worked with many unique characters in different countries throughout the years and thought it would be fun to write a series of novels starting with the desert war, where most of the characters would be based on those weird and wonderful people I had worked with over the years.
All the different localities in which the action takes place are known to me intimately. I was familiar with the Warramunga aborigines from the early part of my career when I worked in the Tennant Creek area in the central Northern Territory.
Jamie and Jacko are intriguing and well-developed characters. What were some ideas that guided their development throughout the book?
One of the most enduring lessons I learnt, when working in remote or foreign regions, was the value of friendship and teamwork. As they are involved in many different situations, I have attempted to develop the principal characters along these lines. Friendship, teamwork, loyalty and trust are always important. Each of them are based on multiple characters I have worked with around the world.
The historical figures and scenes in the novel were well executed. What kind of research did you undertake to ensure things were accurate?
Apart from my personal knowledge of the localities where the action takes place, my research has included diaries, well-known history, reference books in libraries, and references online. I spent more time on research than I did in writing the novel as I wanted to be sure the historical events were accurate.
What can readers expect in book two, The Warramunga’s Aftermath of War?
I worked for a major resources company in the Philippines during the 1970’s and became aware of some of the tragedies which occurred in the aftermath of war. There were several groups (who I would describe as cockroaches) who were taking advantage of the general chaos created by the war. Fighting had been extremely intense in the Philippines and many people were orphaned, displaced or homeless. There were instances of trafficking of children in the aftermath of war, and my second novel deals with this aspect.
The Warramunga’s War is a sweeping narrative of the friendship that forms between a young Australian army officer, Jamie Munro, and an educated half-caste Warramunga aboriginal NCO, Jack ‘Jacko’ O’Brien, during the Syrian campaign against the Vichy French in World War II. Jacko rescues a wounded Jamie after which they are conscripted in Cairo by MI6. Here, Jamie and Jacko learn about the seamy side of war in counterespionage as they track down German spies. The principal fictional characters interact with actual historical figures and events throughout the story.
As the desert war escalates to the west of Cairo, the MI6 team confuses the enemy with misleading radio messages using German codes and using local entertainers as undercover agents. On one of his day leaves, Jacko meets a beautiful young Syrian-French girl and a strong romantic bond forms between the two during his time in Cairo.
Following the end of the desert war, Jamie and Jacko are assigned to wartime intelligence work in Southeast Asia. After the end of the Pacific war, they initiate the Darwin operations of the CIS, the Commonwealth Investigation Service. On the trail of two suspected wartime German agents, they discover the agents have formed a dangerous criminal gang with an individual they had known during their time in Cairo. The tracking skills of the Warramunga are needed to finally catch up with the murderous gang in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.
Cecilia House follows Patricia after a series of events destroys the life she knew. What served as your inspiration as you wrote this provocative story?
I spoke to a survivor firsthand from such abuse that occurred in the 1960s. One thing she said really got to me. “We never had a voice while those terrible things were happening.” I wanted to be their voice and bring to light one story that I know does just that. I based it during the 1930’s because even fewer people cared about what was happening. The survivors and their families are my inspiration because they never gave up in the pursuit of justice. When they read my book they told me I inspired them in so many ways. There is not greater joy for a writer to hear that.
I enjoyed the themes of family and friends running through the novel. What were some ideas that were important for you to explore in this book?
Those children went through so much hell and I wanted to explore in depth how they came to be there. I was able to do that with the main character Patricia. She had such a happy family life prior to the orphanage but others there did not. Patricia gives the reader first-hand knowledge of her own life whilst creating relationships with the girls to discover that their lives were nothing like hers.
I appreciated how realistic and emotional this book is. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
Never give up in the pursuit of what is right despite how many years may have passed. Countless people have gone to their graves suffering so much. If my book encourages many who are reluctant to take action for those harmed then I will have achieved one of many goals I set for myself.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on a book loosely based on a true story set during the Holocaust. At this stage I am aiming for a May or June release date.
Life is a precious gift and it can change within the blink of an eye, something Patricia discovered at a young age. After an extremely tragic event her loving family, good friends and many dreams and aspirations were all gone. An unwanted child sent to what was supposed to be a place of lovingness and warmth. Instead she soon discovered that those responsible for her care added so much more pain and sadness to many lives. What occurred within the walls of Cecilia House was one of the most despicable and unimaginable acts to ever happen within an organization whose duty it was to protect innocent children.
The Henna Witch is the enthralling account of Ashia’s mission to defeat a SORCERER who is invading dreams. How did this fascinating idea start and change as you wrote?
Dreams have long been a fascination for me, lucid dreams and nightmares in particular, as they exhibit such profound power and imagination. I wrote the book while I was in the recovery stages of my last cancer surgery, in which a 2×2” piece of skull was replaced with a 3D printed part. I was having a lot of lucid dreams, even extracting myself from certain death in one of them, so much so that when I woke I wasn’t sure if I’d actually been close to dying.
Two ideas were at play when I started the book and I made an attempt to merge them. The First is that we can live and even die in dreamlands when we sleep, an intriguing concept that I expanded to collective worlds where the creatures of our dreaming imagination are the souls of others. Surely animals dream as well. How many times have I watched my dog ‘run’, even ‘bark’ in his sleep?
Secondly, on a metaphorical level, bad leadership and greed steal the dreams of the populace. The greed of a few supplanting the dreams of many became the subtext.
Because of the multi-dimensional nature of dreams, it was hard to not take advantage of it and there are quite a few larger than life moments because of it. I’m pretty sure many people have done astonishing and magical things in their dreams, where anything is possible. Ashia and O’la also bring an equally dimensional approach to living in the day to day.
I am entirely indebted to my editor in keeping the transitions between dreams and characters comprehensible and helping me arrange the book. It would be far less of a story without her guidance.
Ashia is an intriguing and well-developed character. What was the inspiration for her character and the obstacles she faces?
I wanted to write a story centered around a black shamaness of the jungles facing the power of civilization. She was meant to be a simpler character in the beginning, but the scope of the challenge changed her as well. I initially made my ‘evil sorcerer’ a little too arcane and masterful to justify his powers and her backstory had to match in some way. The dreamscapes demanded attention as well, so she became much older, one of the fabled Muses that live in both worlds. This story grew with the telling, though her motivation from the beginning was always the protection of the animals, her sacred trust. The ability to communicate with animals was also meant to be a central part of the story from the beginning. I think there is a universal wish to be able to understand animals if we but knew their language.
The young girl, O’la, was only to be an introductory foil in an early chapter, but she ended up staying with the story, often stealing the scene. I even had to add my own dog in, a scruffy mutt with Buddha’s soul. He proves to be as powerful and brave in his own way as the panther that guides Ashia, whose journey was far more interesting with them in tow. She could talk to the animals and exhibit great power, but could she manage a twelve-year-old with a stray dog?
I felt the relationship between Ashia and O’la to be one of the most important parts of the book, especially in those moments when the girl’s capacity seemed to outshine Ashia’s own.
I thought that the novel captures the dark feel of age-old fairy tales. What were some themes you wanted to explore with this book?
I’m glad that association to old fairy tales exists. I was totally captivated by Grimm’s Bros., et. al. as a young reader and I know it influenced my later choices in reading material and favored authors. Fairy tales by their nature are very metaphorical. I mentioned a few of the themes above, though at the root of it is Man in conflict with Nature. There is life in every corner and under every rock and perfectly adapted for whatever niche it is in, often astounding creatures that exceed our imaginations. Ashia and O’la became their voices as much as the wizard Kapornic and his Trader enablers were the embodiment of civilization.
Are you still working on ‘Deck of the Numinon’ or do you have other projects in the works?
I’m on the third draft of ‘Deck of the Numinon’, which should be the final one, with subsequent editing. I expect to publish it in early summer of ’20. Like my other books, it has evolved far beyond my original concept. I have truly enjoyed resurrecting the characters of Cerra and the Demon from ‘Demon of the Black Gate’. It wasn’t really planned in the original outline, but it became apparent that I needed a dynamic and equal counter to the magical strength I had given the Deck, a powerful fortune-telling tool. Cerra and the Demon were perfect for the challenge and the story took off from there. I am particularly thrilled with the original artwork by Bluebird Design that will be incorporated into the story and cover. As far as future projects, I don’t have anything solid, just notes building a new tale. I enjoy mysteries and spy novels and want to incorporate some of those elements into the next book. By this time next year, I should be done with a tolerable draft. Working title: ‘The Transparent Mask’.
When an enchanter begins stealing the souls of animals to haunt the dreams of men, Ashia Verena, one of the ageless Guardians, is drawn into a confrontation that resurrects a dangerous secret of her past. A native girl stows away on Ashia’s journey and becomes irrevocably entangled within the nebulous realms of magic and dreams. As the circle tightens, experience and innocence must join in hopes of overcoming the sorcerer’s lust for power and revenge.
Every character in Endless Incarnation Sorrows was distinct and well drawn. Were these based on flashbacks as well or were these creatively developed?
In a way, they were flashbacks to another time and place experienced during deep sleep. They were too descriptively vivid to simply ignore upon awakening. Which left me pondering: Do your past lives influence your present? I didn’t write this book to “convert” folk, but to leave a question Can past lives resurface in the present day and influence our daily propensities and practices because my vivid flashbacks took on a life of their own, arriving and departing on an otherworldly schedule.
What do you hope readers take away from your novel?
I would like readers to have open minds to the probability of: “Have we lived before?”
Are you working on any future books based on your experiences?
Yes, I have just finished my 7th book: “The Little Breadwinner” based the the “dirty” El Salvadoran civil war that was aided by the USA, and the CIA’s involvement … accused of “stealing” thousands of human rights statements after the war.
I was there in El Salvador as a journalist during the war and interviewed several people, but a leftist rebel, a feisty little dwarf who had the courage of a lion grabbed my attention. This is her story and others who were assassinated by the National Guard’s death squads.
A saga chronicling insights from past lives that resurfacein the present day and impact prevailing patterns.
Based on true events: After the hospital staff resuscitated author Lucia Mann forthe third time following a third surgery, she began to perceive and recognizea string of intimate memories of people and places from long ago. Although shewas unable to control the arrival of these vivid flashbacks, she recognized theirconnection to her current life. Often paralyzed with fear from echoes and visionsof the past, Lucia eventually took pen to paper to make her peace with yesteryear.
As Lucia Mann constructs spellbinding memorials to past times, she threadscertain themes throughout, such as the imprinted physical marks that symbolizedunsanctioned deeds dating back to the author’s first imprint on Earth, and a loveso deep and full that it survived captivity, depravity, and more until it eventuallyachieved perfect purity.
Mann’s tale is told through a panoply of fascinating characters:
- LALA, who suffers enslavement in a hostile desert because of her mother’soriginal sin.
- LYVEVA, who braves abduction by Danish Vikings and ultimately emergesas a respected healer.
- LUCJA, who tells her tale of barbarity and degeneracy within the electrifiedperimeter fences of Auschwitz.
This multigenerational tale will trigger you to ponder the elements of your lifethat you are puzzled by or take for granted. Is there an ancient explanation to acertain act, or characteristic, or mark? Mann invites you to contemplate the conceptof reincarnation and to consider how it may be affecting your own epic journey.
Dark Times follows Natascha as she’s caught up in a deadly plot orchestrated by dangerous mastermind criminals. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling story?
I wanted to create a plot that has its roots in many corners of the world. A plot created by mastermind criminals, who all have their own different agendas work together towards their greater common goal. I also wanted to show that normal people like you and I can stand up against injustice, even on a global scale, and that anything is possible as long as you believe in yourself.
Natascha is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some ideas that you wanted to explore with her character?
Natascha is just an “average” person. It is easy to identify with her character: a loving wife, mother of a child, working two jobs to make enough money, for example, at one point she is even worrying about the cost for new tires for her car. She is not a trained killing machine without feelings and unlimited access to weapons and money. She is very emotional and draws her strength from the love for her family, but she also knows that she has to rely on herself in order to survive. She is struggling emotionally from all the horrible things she had experienced before and is not immune to PTSD. All those attributes make her a more “likeable” character, and people find it easy to identify with her.
What draws you to the action adventure genre and makes it easy for you to write in this space?
I am a fan of the action adventure genre, but I find many stories belong more in the world of Fiction. I can not identify with a “one man army” with unlimited access to different resources, such as weapons, intelligence and money who does not suffer emotionally after a mission. My personal background and experience allows me to create realistic characters.
Dark Times is a novel in your EuroSec Corporation series. What can readers expect in the other book in your series, Thin Ice?
THIN ICE was actually the first book in the series, published in 2012. In THIN ICE, we meet Natascha for the first time and learn how she and Nick came together on board a research vessel in the North West Passage, where they are being framed as terrorists in a plot orchestrated by greedy politicians and mercenaries.
Relieved for no longer being framed as one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, Natascha has only one wish – to live a normal life with her former bodyguard Nick and their daughter, but her daily routine as part time Marine Biologist for the London aquarium and secretary for an elite security company takes a lethal turn when she takes part in another scientific expedition.
This time, her discoveries do not only lead her into a flooded mine underneath a century old abbey, but also to a decades old secret the clerics don’t want unravelled.
Just when Natascha thinks she is a step ahead of her enemies, she realises that the abbey’s secret is only a small piece in a puzzle orchestrated by criminal masterminds – and that her past has caught up with her.
Determined, Nick and his friends from EuroSec follow her trail from London to the Aegean Sea back to Monaco and the Mediterranean Sea. To rescue Natascha, they have to solve the puzzle fast, or dark times will be ahead of them.
Madness is based on the real life of Hank Luisetti, a man that changed basketball forever. What was the inspiration that made you want to write this book?
When I was a teen, my life’s goal was to become a film actor, but getting married young and starting a business put that on hold in my early twenties, so I decided to “Stallone” it and write a movie and only sell it if I was to play the lead. That sounds pretty funny now but to a 22 year old, it was a solid plan. I told my father about it and he said he knew the perfect guy to write about. He told me about Luisetti and what he did. I went to the library in Manhattan, these were the days before the Net was born, and researched him for two weeks. When I finished the research, I was hooked. Luisetti has been one of my idols ever since. I have a load of memorabilia.
This book is a balance between Hank’s real life achievements and some fictional elements. How did you find balance between these and what was important for you to get right?
It just happened over years of cultivating it. It began as a screenplay and went through several versions before I wrote the historical fiction novel. I went back to college when I was forty and got my BA in English, so I read all the classics and love storytelling. Some of the Odyssey rubbed off in Madness; Hank is like a modern age Odysseus. I also based a lot on my childhood, friends, and Italian roots. I am a second generation Italian American and Hank’s a first—our upbringings had definite similarities.
The one thing I enjoyed was how palpable the determination and passion was in Hank’s life and in this book. What were some themes that were important for you to capture in this story?
All the classic themes are embedded in there: Coming of Age, Overcoming Obstacles, Family Values, Life’s Journey, Man VS Himself and Society, The Power of Love; I can go on. I really don’t know how to answer it—I wrote from my heart. I became Hank Luisetti as I wrote and weaved in my knowledge of books. As an actor I was acting out scenes as I wrote. I put myself in there and the themes grew. If I didn’t feel the emotion, it didn’t get written. I really enjoyed writing it.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have no idea when that will be because I’m still promoting Madness, which takes all of my spare time. I do have six outlines though. One is potentially a trilogy about a baseball player. I’ve had this story in my head for thirty years. After that, I leave the sports genre for good. All my others are very different; a few have female protagonists, which should be interesting. When Madness slows down, I’ll begin again. If people like my style, I have a really nice story which is a free eBook on Amazon called Settling A Score. Like Madness, it’s not really about baseball as it is about Coming of Age, Family, and Overcoming Obstacles. It’s fiction but based on my childhood in the Bronx during the 1960s.
Who’s the greatest basketball player ever? Madness is the intriguing story of Hank Luisetti, the predawn of March Madness, and how modern basketball was born.FINALIST, 2019 TopShelf Book AwardsSOLO MEDALIST WINNER: Autobiography / Biography / Memoir – 2019 New Apple Summer eBook AwardsBRONZE MEDAL: Young Adult Category – 2019 Readers’ Favorite Book AwardsFINALIST, Sports – 2019 International Book AwardsFINALIST – 2019 Topshelf Book Awards”I would say author Mike DeLucia is to the sports novel, what Sylvester Stallone is to the sports film. Mr. DeLucia’s characters are rich and relatable, in a story where sports is an analogy for life.”Mike DeLucia keeps the characters engaging, and the action moving. He manages to capture the energy and excitement of a championship face-off, and put it on the page. This is a well-done “sports” novel.”The majority of searches say Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time, but many others oppose this. While Jordan’s rank is debatable, a respectable dream team would include Kevin Durant, Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dr. J, Tim Duncan, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Stephen Curry, Michael Jordan, and Hank Luisetti.Chances are, you’ve never heard of Hank Luisetti. But this wouldn’t be a legitimate discussion without the Hall of Fame legend whose celebrity caused a basketball revolution.James Naismith invented basketball in 1891; Hank Luisetti reinvented it in 1936. Hank changed basketball’s genetic footprint when he popularized the one-handed shot. He could jump so high and stay up so long he seemed to defy gravity.Was Luisetti better than Jordan? That’s impossible to say because they played in different eras. But Hank Luisetti was basketball’s first superstar and what he did for the game is unprecedented.This historical fiction novel is based on the basketball achievements of Hank Luisetti. Some actual events, aspects, and characters have been fictionalized.