Fan Mail – An Award, A Snippet, and An Interview!

Fan Mail – An Award, A Snippet, and An Interview!

I am pleased to announce that my newest book, Fan Mail, won a Maxy Award Finalist distinction, and was nominated for an Eric Hoffer Award. These go along with the Literary Titan Silver Book Award it had won previously. I am thrilled with the reception and recognition it is receiving, and pleased that so many readers found it to be satisfying.

When I wrote Fan Mail, like any author, I had a story idea and I wrote it. It wasn’t until after it was completed, with all the edits finished, did I realize just how much each chapter or paragraph or sentence impacted the whole and led to the climax.

Having been in education for 47 years and counting as a teacher, coach, counselor, and administrator, I’ve come to understand the importance of making connections, of mentoring the kids in your charge. I certainly tried to do that, especially as a coach and teacher. The stories that had been shared with me as a counselor ran the gamut of joyful, to sad, to tragic. Sometimes, even incredible.

In Fan Mail, five of the seven brothers play on the school basketball team coached by Tommy Harrison. His players, especially the five Evans boys, like him and not only see him as a coach, but as a friend and mentor. Harrison often pulls his players aside and talks to them, not only about basketball and school, but about life. In the passage below, he and Brian have a conversation that ends up playing a huge part in the book.

            “You’ve had quite a couple of months,” Harrison said as he nodded at Brian.

            Brian knew Harrison meant the scar around his right eye.

            “Then your dad with his heart thingy,” using the term the boys used. “How are you doing, Brian? Really doing?”

            He didn’t want to go into the shitty week he had, which was topped off by last night, which was shittier than the week. He didn’t want to go into the scar around his eye or the other scars. Brian didn’t know how much Harrison knew, but he suspected Brian or Billy or even his dad had filled him in on some of it.

            Brian said, “I’m okay. Not great, but okay.”

            Harrison marveled at Brian’s honesty, and his ability to compartmentalize his life. There was Brian’s school life, separate from sports, and each sport separate from each other. There was life at home, and there was his social life. Tony seemed to be a part of Brian’s life now.

            “Anything I can do?”

            Brian smiled and said, “No, I’m okay.”

            Harrison nodded and said, “Yes, that’s what you said. If you ever need anything, I’m here.”

            “Thanks, Coach.”

            Changed subjects, Harrison asked, “Is your dad going to be at the game tonight?”

            Brian shrugged and said, “We don’t know yet. I think we’ll find out at game time.”

            “Your dad has a pregame ritual with you guys.”

            Brian nodded and said, “I’ve got it covered. I’ll talk to each of my brothers, along with Mikey and Gavin.”

            Harrison smiled and said, “I figured as much.”

            Brian smiled and felt himself blushing.

            “You would have made a helluva captain. Last year, you and Brett were Co-Conference Players of the Year. You earned the respect, not only of your teammates but also the coaches in the conference.”

            Brian shifted uncomfortably in his seat and said, “Thank you, but honestly, being a captain means more to Brett and Billy. Brett, because he is the point guard and the coach on the floor. He’s our leader in a lot of ways, besides basketball. Billy, because he’s a leader and he works so hard. The guys see it.”

            “Just so long as you don’t shrink from leadership if it comes to you.”

            “I’d never do that.”

            Harrison nodded, thought for a minute and said, “Seems like you and Tony have hit it off.”

            Brian blushed and said, “He’s a good guy. All the guys like him.”

            “I think he’s as good for you as you are for him.”

            “Meaning?” Brian asked.

            “This is philosophical, but I believe people come into other’s lives for a reason, just like people leave other’s lives for a reason. I know you, and I know your heart, and I know you’ve struggled in …” he wagged his head and said, “relationships. I think Tony is good for you.”

            “I’m not sure,” Brian said, but stopped.

            “I believe everyone needs to live their own life. Unless we’re talking about an axe murderer or some psycho. But when it comes to living your own life, there is no wrong or right. We are given a life. We are given moments. We have to make the most of those moments in our lives.” He paused, smiled, and said, “That’s all I’m saying.” He leaned forward and said, “I want you to make the most of your moments. In whatever you do, and with whoever is in your life. After all, it’s your life.”

            Brian tilted his head, and he was pretty sure Harrison was tip-toeing around the issue. Brian’s issue. He didn’t know how he should respond or even if he should respond.

            “Kids follow you. They look up to you. That’s an enormous responsibility. What you do and what you say can have a great impact on others.”

            Puzzled, Brian shook his head.

            He leaned forward and said, “I watch kids in the hallways, or in the cafeteria or in my class. Some are shy. I get it. Some are struggling with who they are. I feel sorry for them. They are wasting their lives and their moments. Hiding who they are. I know our society and maybe our school isn’t ready for them, and it makes me sad.”

            Brian shook his head, unable, and perhaps unwilling, to say anything.

            “I want you happy. I want you to live your life and live your moments. If along the way you can help others do the same,” he smiled, letting the statement hang there.

Here is an interview I did with Read and Tell Reviews. You might find it interesting because of the unique questions I was asked.

What is the first book that made you cry?

The Body by Stephen King. It is one of four novellas in his book, Different Seasons, and the movie Stand By Me was made from it. It was the interplay of the characters, the setting and circumstances of the four boys and their families, and the city in which they lived that left its mark on me. In my writing, I use that story as my benchmark, my model when I craft characters and how they interact with others. From what my readers share with me, I think I’ve done that.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

A writer has to be original and write from one’s heart and soul. If the writer doesn’t do that, it is nothing but garbage. My readers expect two things from me: 1. A good story that is in the thriller-crime-mystery genre; and 2. A second or twin storyline that is a coming-of-age story that brings the seven adopted brothers who make up the Evans family to life. I am not formulaic, but original, and I think I am the only writer, or at least one of very few, in the thriller genre that has that niche.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Absolutely not! If the writer has no heart in his or her work, the reader will not finish the book and will never reach for another from that author. I can honestly say that at various times in my work, I’ve wept and laughed and felt angry along with my characters. Readers pick up on it. They feel what the writer feels, and if there isn’t any feeling, the reader won’t feel it either. The writer has to “bleed” on the page and leave his or her heart on the page. If not, the writing becomes cold and sterile.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

Like Patterson, Baldacci, and Sandford, I use the same characters in each of my books. My readers like to know “what is going on in their lives” and I think this breeds a familiarity for the reader. With the same characters, the reader is familiar with them, how they might react, who are their friends, their loves, their enemies and all of that brings a richness to the new adventure. I might highlight different characters among the group, but the readers still know them. The first four books I wrote were all in a series- The Lives Trilogy and Prequel, based upon my work with missing and exploited children and their families. The subsequent books use those characters, but are more or less a standalone.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

My first book was published at age 60 in 2014. Since then, my books are published about every nine months to a year. If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to begin sooner! I waited too long to get my book published. By beginning sooner, I would have more time to write more books. Still, nine books in nine years is pretty solid writing.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

A nice laptop and a software program, ProWritingAid. It is a powerful editing tool and my writing, and editing, has become so much better because of it. I urge any writer to check it out, or at least, something similar to it.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

In an interview a while back, Keith Urban described each of his songs as his babies, his children. He doesn’t love one more than the other. I felt the same way about mine, but if I had a gun to my head, I would say the third book of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives, is under-appreciated. It ties the trilogy up neatly and gives the reader a sigh of relief. But each of my books are special to me. My reviews and ratings have been solid, but more importantly, the feeling I get when I go back and read what I wrote is one of satisfaction and each is heartwarming to me.

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

A debt of gratitude that I will never be able to fully repay. As a teacher, coach, counselor and administrator for over 47 years (and counting), the stories kids and their parents shared with me are in and amongst my pages. The tips and techniques taught to me by law enforcement, by medical personnel, and all the others I seek advice from have been invaluable. Some of them, at least their names, have appeared in my books and in the author’s notes in each book. I give them a shout out. It seems barely enough for what they’ve given to me.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I read the reviews, and it is human nature to dwell on the negative ones. Even with all the positives, the one or two negative reviews sadden me. I realize that as I write, the book is mine. Once it is published, the book becomes the reader’s book. It is their heart, their head, their soul and all the experiences they’ve had that gives them their “eyes” when they read any work. I have to keep telling me it is only their perception- as accurate or as inaccurate as it might be- that is revealed in their review.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Each title of my book has more than one meaning. It is up to the reader to find them all, and they can be found. My newest, Fan Mail, has a simple title. It is what it is. But … there is more to that title than just the initial reaction or meaning in it.

For your convenience, I’ve given you the link to Fan Mail in case you might be interested. I am hoping you are. As always, thank you for following along on my journey as a writer. I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts, so please use the area below this to post them. Until next time …

A car bomb, letters that become more menacing as they are ignored, and a father’s heart attack. What else could possibly go wrong?

“Very powerful. Tough. Gritty. Character development is remarkable. Lewis cuts deep as he tackles teen sexuality questions as well as dangerous stalkers. The story explodes with tension and strength, reflective of the personalities involved. Highly recommend it!”

Sharon K. Middleton, author of The McCarron Mysteries

“An emotionally explosive and life-affirming coming of age story wrapped within a simmering crime thriller.”

Bella Wright,


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