He grew up in the foster care system, moving from house to house while his sister came to my wife and I at five weeks of age. M was the oldest of five or more children and was born into a violent family. We didn’t meet him until he was 11 years old and living at a group home facility between Pasadena and Los Angeles. It took a couple of years to gain his trust and see him open up when he came to our house for a visit.
When I first started writing what became Book 1 Tom Stone: A Nitty Gritty Christmas, I thought of him. M helped shape the character of Andrew in my mind and I appreciate my co-author Lon letting the boy in the story flourish.
He’s now 30 years old and is in a county jail–again, for a parole violation–and voluntarily extended his sentence so he could get some help and have housing available for when he’s released again.
He had been asking for a copy of our Tom Stone stories and I finally remembered to send one. He called me today and had read the first chapter and was telling other guys in his block about the story–with the opening around Christmas time and Detective Tom Stone meeting Andrew, noticing the frenetic way the boy handled himself.
As we talk about social justice and racism in this country, one of the elements that frequently gets left out of the discussion is the importance of family in a child’s life. Sadly, foster care is a path to prison unless dedicated families step in. Det. Tom Stone does that and continues the relationship with Andrew in Book 2 Sweltering Summer Nights and Book 3 Day of the Dead.
We’re writing a short story and will release it soon where Stone also goes hiking into a canyon with Andrew, his detective partner Jake and Jake’s son.
M is excited about finishing the book and it helps pass his time. It also gives him a window on life choices and can alleviate the loneliness and boredom that can be tough.
Perhaps the Tom Stone stories can inspire him to write since he does have a creative talent that I’ve seen expressed. I’ll be interested to know what he thinks of the story.
Here’s an excerpt where Stone is visiting Andrew and his counselor Luke at the group after the Christmas party.
Stone felt too self-conscious to play like Luke but he moved the dog around on the floor near Andrew. “Do you like dogs, Andrew?”
The boy waited and looked from Stone to Luke and then nodded. “They can be nice.” His face changed and he spoke in an ominous tone. “And they can snarl and bite.” Andrew grabbed the dog and growled in a low voice.
“Do they growl when they’re scared or angry, Andrew?” asked Luke.
Andrew let go of the dog, didn’t say anything for a few moments, and then spoke up. “Dogs run away from home.” Life seemed to vanish from his eyes after he spoke.