Bruce Lewis graduated from California State University at Long Beach with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After completing the 36-week Copley Newspaper Training Program, working as a reporter for six California daily and weekly newspapers, he began a seven-year career as a general assignment reporter. During that period, he wrote over 5,000 stories and won six awards for best news and feature writing. He specialized in crime news, going undercover with cops and covering the courts, sheriffs, California Highway Patrol, and fire districts.

His post-retirement bucket list included writing one novel. That novel, Human Strays (published originally in November of 2021 under a different name and title), was intended to be his one and only. Like most writers, he got the fiction-writing bug. He wrote and published four novels in three years: 1-Angel of Mercy, 2-Human Strays, 3-Family Curse, 4-The Red Flock, and the novelette Love Storm. He is working on his fifth novel in the series, Bless Me, Father—For You Have Sinned.

After retiring and settling in Portland, Oregon, Bruce created a bucket list:

  • Create a family genealogy (completed in 2020)
  • Write a novel (completed in 2020)
  • Kick the bucket (just joking)

“The idea for my first thriller, Human Strays, baked for a decade before I wrote it. The idea came from a pro bono project I took on to benefit the Mendocino Coast Humane Society (MCHS),” said Lewis. “One of my fellow Mendocino Rotarians, the chair of the Human Society Board of Directors, asked me to help promote The Ark, the Society’s thrift store, a major source of funds to support its mission. As president and co-founder of Lewis & Summers Public Relations (based in Lafayette, California), it was a natural extension of work I was already doing for a half dozen clients on the coast.”

Bruce toured the Humane Society to help plan his fundraising strategy to save and house stray cats and dogs. An hour later, Lewis was coming out of a supermarket in Fort Bragg, where a homeless man dug food scraps out of a trash can.

“Buy a sandwich,” I said, handing him five dollars. He looked at it, stuck it in his pocket, and continued his treasure hunt, swallowing a few ounces of leftover soda from someone’s fast-food lunch.

“That evening, it hit me: homeless humans are strays like the dogs and cats temporarily housed at the shelter. They sleep outdoors and scrounge for food to survive.”

The First Novel –  Fast forward ten years to 2015, when Lewis retired: “My wife and I had moved to Portland, Oregon, where I began drafting Human Strays. The book’s theme is about veterinarian Jim Briggs’s effort to save a drug-addicted homeless woman by finding her a permanent home. If he could save one, Briggs figured he could save others.

Lewis said he wrote the book over two years, working primarily at Ovation, a busy coffee shop on the edge of Portland’s Field Park, under the Fremont Bridge.

“I’d walk a mile to the coffee shop with my laptop, write for an hour or two, then walk home. During these strolls, I thought of new characters, how to write scenes, and how to fix the organizational mess I created by using nifty author software to move chapters freely from one location to another. A steady diet of Moroccan Lattes and right-out-of-the-oven toasted coconut scones fueled my writing. The exercise walks didn’t hurt.”

“On any day at the coffee shop, I could be surrounded by a hubbub of cyclists getting their caffeine fix, women from a nearby yoga class gossiping about their lives, or a group of young mothers in hijabs giggling, and I could tune it out. That’s the beauty of being a newspaper crime reporter for seven years, turning out copy every day on deadline in a chaotic newsroom.”

Because of that experience, he says he can write for an hour, wash a load of clothes, eat lunch, read a book, and then come back and write more with no problem getting back into the story.

Writing What You Know – Human Strays is filled with unsheltered characters, primarily based on homeless people Lewis had observed on his daily walks, looking for ideas and photos for his blog, WalkingPDX. He often combined several homeless people he observed into a single character, careful not to make a person identifiable.

When he finished Human Strays, he pitched it to numerous agents and publishers before he found an independent publisher with more than 500 authors under contract.

Despite having written some 8,000 stories during his newspaper and public relations careers, he discovered he had much to learn about writing fiction when he turned in his manuscript. Six weeks later, the rejection letter said, ‘I’m sorry, we won’t be representing you. Our reviewer said the writing was good, but there was too much tell and too little show. It might be too much to fix. But good luck.’

“I laugh about it now,” said Lewis. “I had to Google show versus tell. I looked at some examples and rewrote the book in six weeks, adding about 20,000 words of show. The updated version of the manuscript was accepted two weeks after he re-submitted it.

The Writing Bug – Like most writers who publish a novel, Lewis got the fiction-writing bug. He wrote and published four novels in three years: 1-Angel of Mercy, 2-Human Strays, 3-Family Curse, 4-The Red Flock, and the romantic mystery Love Storm. He is currently working on his fifth novel in the series, Bless Me, Father—For You Have Sinned (Summer 2024).

Asked if he is a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of his pants) or a plotter (plots every chapter before starting), Lewis smiled and said, “I’m a plotting pantser.” I create a one-page outline—one chapter per line—and then write by the seat of my pants. I can visualize scenes and write them as if I were there. I believe that’s the result of covering hundreds of news events as a reporter.”

Asked how he could have a veterinarian as a protagonist in his books without having been one. “Easy,” he said. “I had dogs for 25 years, met many vets, and learned about dog care first-hand, including putting down our Beagle, Mac.” When in doubt, he visited the website of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Writing What You Know – “Of course, I make up stuff, but a good amount of my novels are sprinkled with lived experiences, like Veterinarian Jim Briggs saying goodbye to his dying mother in Human Strays:

Briggs leaned over and whispered to Susie, “I love you, Mom. I’ll miss you.” An instant later, her head flew off the pillow, her eyes bulging with terror, inches from Brigg’s face. He jumped back. Just as quickly, she lay back down, as inert as before.

Lewis confided, “This is just how it happened when I removed my Mom from life support on Mother’s Day 2004.

Bruce Lewis – Author

Website: http://www.TheAngelOfMercy.com
Email:  blewis16@icloud.com
Instagram: PDXWalker