Sussex County author to present his works at Black Dog Books Saturday

Successful fantasy author grew up in Vernon

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  • Fantasy author Michael Dellert will be at Black Dog Books this Saturday evening.

By Laurie Gordon

NEWTON --Sussex County, New Jersey resident and fantasy author Michael E. Dellert is coming to Black Dog Books in Newton this Saturday, July 15, for a book signing, reading, and discussion of his heroic Medieval Celtic fantasy books, "The Matter of Manred Saga."

Dellert grew up in Vernon and of his formative writing material influences, Dellert said “Like a lot of kids in my generation, I watched too much TV when I was young. But of course, our options then were much more limited. I think we had six channels, seven if you tweaked the aluminum foil rabbit-ears the right way. My father and I used to watch the old matinee movies that ran on WPIX-11 on Sundays. He’s a swimming coach, so his favorites were the old Tarzan movies with Johnny Weismuller, who’d been an Olympic swimmer before becoming a movie-star.” He added, “There were also Buster Crabbe 'Flash Gordon' serials, classic wolf-man and vampire flicks, the original Day the Earth Stood Still, and many others that made a deep impression on me.”

Dellert said, “My mother was more of an intellectual. She’d take me and my sister to the local Dorothy E. Henry branch of the Sussex County Library every week. When I found books that resembled the kinds of movies that I watched, like the Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan stories, or the Witch World novels of Andre Norton, I started gobbling them up. He added, “My parents were also fond of telling me, 'Get out of the house, and don’t come back until dinner!' So I had a lot of time to explore the woods and wilds of Vernon. In the winter time, the winds howled over the lake and moaned through the bare trees like the banshees of old Irish legends. In the summer, the sky was the most brilliant shade of blue, the leaves green, the wild flowers orange and purple, and the whole palette was reflected in the waters of the lakes and streams. The hiking trails and deer paths never seemed quite the same twice in a row, there were rocks to climb, and if you just sat very still and quiet, the wildlife crept out of the woodwork and went about its daily business.”

Ultimately, it was Donna Spector and William Donald, teachers at Vernon Township High School, who really had the most influence on him and nudged him toward becoming a writer. “Ms. Spector taught a creative writing enrichment course one summer, and then adopted me into her Advanced Placement English Lit class the following year, exposing me to a much higher level of discourse about writing and writers than I’d had before,” Dellert said. “She also encouraged me to join her Literary Journal Production class, where we learned about the publishing process from manuscript submission to editorial selection to page layout and production. Thirty years later, I can honestly appreciate just how “professional” that program was. The lessons I learned at VTHS were a perfect foundation for my later work-a-day publishing career.”

He added, “Meanwhile, the lately lamented Mr. Donald had joined the VTHS staff as the theater director. Theater had been another interest of mine, and Mr. Donald introduced an entire dedicated theater arts curriculum that we hadn’t had at VTHS before. This was when I learned about Stanislawski’s 'method acting,' which became one of my best character development tools as a writer. Though my acting days are long behind me, I’m still proud to say that I’m a lifetime member of Vernon's Thespian Troupe #3981. I was deeply saddened to learn that Mr. Donald had passed away this past spring. It was like losing a favorite uncle from my own family.”

“I’ve been writing the stories and building the fictional world that have become my Matter of Manred Saga since the mid-1990s,” Dellert said. “By 2011, I was considering starting up a publishing imprint of my own. When the opportunity arose in 2013 for me to take a few years’ sabbatical, I made writing my focus and started putting the pieces in place. My first book, Hedge King in Winter published in January 2016, and I went on to publish A Merchant’s Tale in April and The Romance of Eowain in July of that same year. My latest book, The Wedding of Eithne, published in April of 2017. My fifth book is already drafted and I’m hard at work on the rewrites. Meanwhile, I’m working with a co-author on a middle-grade novel set in this same fantasy world, I’m publishing an online novel-writing course later this fall, and I’m exploring the idea of accepting submissions for my own online journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy.”

Of Saturday's event at Black Dog Books, Dellert said, “I’m proud to return to Sussex County to do this event. Independent bookstores are a vital part of the literary ecosystem and the communities they serve. We’ve never had enough of them in Sussex County, and I nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw the teal sign with the black dog logo, advertising Black Dog Books, while I was passing through Newton this past April. I immediately parked the car and went in to meet Black Dog’s owner, Catherine Cassidy. She was amazingly gracious and generous, and immediately agreed to host a reading. And the more I learned about her and the work she’s been doing at Black Dog Books to encourage children’s literacy, the more I felt it was a good fit. Literacy is a cause about which I feel strongly.”

Dellert said that Sussex County has greatly affected his career. “I studied English Literature at Sussex County Community College (SCCC) for a time, under local poet Bernie Bomba,” he said. “I enjoyed working with him on the Idiom literary magazine produced by SCCC during my time there, and he really improved my writing craft by introducing me to the Modernist poetry of the Imagist school. Imagism has been an important part of my development as a writer, because of its focus on 'the image, and nothing but the image.' This artistic philosophy encourages a very lean and pointed writing style that enlists the reader into determining the meaning of the literary text.”

Dellert added, “Another influence on my writing is also now a professor at SCCC, Professor George Lightcap. I had the privilege of working with him on the VTHS stage in a production of “You Can’t Take It with You,” and I remember his wry witticisms to this very day. He’s one of the models for a major character in my books.” He said, “I’m also deeply indebted to the bi-annual Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival held at Waterloo Village, where poets and poetry-lovers come together from all over the state and the country to celebrate the mystery and magic of language. I was first introduced to the festival as a high school student, and I make a pilgrimage to the event as often as I can.”

Dellert said that he's proud to announce that his younger daughter will be joining him on Saturday at Black Dog Books. “She’s an aspiring actress herself, and at just thirteen years old, she already has more stage credits under her belt than I ever will. I’m honored that she’ll be joining me in a dramatic reading from my second book, A Merchant’s Tale, and I hope her example will be an inspiration to all the young people we expect to come out for this event.”

Dellert said he offers his deepest thanks to Catherine Cassidy, both for hosting this event and for bringing a resource like Black Dog Books to Newton. “Catherine is a life-long lover of books, and has innovative ideas to encourage literacy among young people. Starting on Wednesday July 12th, she’ll be hosting a weekly 'Reading with Kiki' event, where kids of all ages can share the joy of reading aloud with 'Kiki,' a sweet 10 month old Labrador puppy training to become a service dog. I’m looking forward to meeting Kiki myself.” Dellert added, “I’d also like to say a special word of thanks to all the businesses along Spring Street in Newton. The recent redevelopment and investment efforts in the area have brought together a wonderful selection of shops, restaurants, and entertainments, all of whom have been gracious enough to help promote the reading at Black Dog and provide coupons, gift certificates, and other promotional items for the 'swag bag' that my guests at Black Dog will receive. I really hope my appearance encourages people to come early and stay late to see everything downtown Newton has to offer.”

Dillart added, “I’m particularly thankful to Lazar Gonzalez of Mi Rancho Mexican Grill, and to Rebecca Burkhardt of The Barrel House. Mi Rancho has graciously volunteered to serve appetizers during my reading at Black Dog, and the Barrel House is kindly offering a barrel-aged whiskey Manhattan drink special to my guests who stop by before, during, and after the reading. The Barrel House has even offered us the use of their private back room for an adults-only after-party following the reading. Such encouragement and support is deeply appreciated.”

Want to get your hands on Dellert's books? Come by Black Dog Books this Saturday from 6:30-9:00 pm. He'll have an inventory of signed copies available.

Black Dog Books is located at 188 Spring Street in Newton. For further information about Dellert's appearance or the store in general, call 201-230-3900. You can also find Dellerts reads at His blog can be found at MDellert-Dot-Com: Adventures in Indie Publishing. You can follow Dellert on Twitter at @MdellertDotCom and he's on Facebook at Michael Dellert, Writer, Editor, Publishing Consultant.

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