Monday, March 20, 2017

Authors To Watch: Steve Reilly, author of The Lord of the Infield Flies

Since 1976, Steve Reilly, a practicing attorney, has coached high school baseball in Connecticut’s Lower Naugatuck Valley. He has spent the last thirty years assisting other high school coaches and is currently in his seventeenth season at Seymour High. Reilly and his wife, Suzanne, live in Seymour, Connecticut.

His latest book is the sports memoir, The Lord of the Infield Flies.     

Website & Social Links:

Author: Steve Reilly
Publisher: Strong Books
Pages: 126
Genre: Sports Memoir

The Lord of the Infield Flies will thrill readers with Coach Steve Reilly’s harrowing, challenging, and adventuresome baseball team’s trek from Connecticut to play in Maine. As a prequel to his award winning memoir, The Fat Lady Never Sings, Reilly, a high school baseball coach, narrates the true story from the beginning of his coaching career at the age of 20. In summer 1977, Reilly plans to take his high-school-age team on a weekend trip to the baseball mecca on Cape Cod to play a Massachusetts all-star team. When plans go awry, he jumps at an offer to take the players instead to the serene surroundings of southern Maine to play that state’s all-star team. Most of the team’s starters decline; their hearts had been set on “The Cape.” Determined to go through with his commitment, Reilly gathers ten players to make the four-hour trip in a cabin truck and his car on a Friday night. Will the team arrive in time to battle Maine’s best the following morning?

After his legal alcohol-age players convince him to stop at a package store on the way to buy just a “few beers” for the idyllic cabin they will be staying at in the resort area of Old Orchard Beach, they exit the package store with hand trucks filled with cases of beer. Chaos reigns. The cabin truck with its inebriated players gets separated from Reilly’s vehicle, losing half the team traveling in the opposite direction in Massachusetts! Will the team ever get to Maine? Will the team play Maine’s all-stars? And, will the players make it back to Connecticut?  



Book Excerpt:

March 25, 2005

HE PEARL WHITE DOOR opened before me. A gaunt man wearing a gray pin-striped suit and goatee held the door open with his left hand and gestured with his right hand for me to enter. As I passed through the door, nervousness came over me. The strong scent of roses reminded me where I was. A pedestal sign directed me to go left. After an elderly couple crossed my path with their heads down, another pedestal sign directed me to the right down a narrow hallway. To my surprise, the hallway was empty. At the end of the hallway stood a wooden pedestal with a gold banker’s lamp lit above an open book. I grasped the pen from the slot carved in the pedestal and signed the book like a schoolboy as I made sure my penmanship was within the lines. I picked up a small card from a slot in back of the pedestal and put it in the pocket of my dress shirt; there would be plenty of time to read the poem later. With no one in front of me, I stood alongside the doorway as if waiting for permission to enter, but none was needed. As I stood in the doorway about to enter the quiet room, I thought about the summer of 1977 and my Senior Babe Ruth baseball team’s trip to Maine the last weekend of July.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am an attorney, an assistant high school baseball coach and a writer. I have been a practicing attorney for nearly 37 years, and have coached baseball at one level or another for about 40 years with most of those volunteering as a high school assistant at two small towns in Connecticut, Derby and Seymour.  

When did you begin writing? 

Other than in some English courses in college and writing legal briefs and memoranda as a lawyer, my first attempt at writing something more substantial was in 2005. I wanted to write a book before I turned fifty years old and decided to write a memoir about a high school baseball team in Derby I was involved with in 1992 that won a state championship. It was a story of redemption for some football players who allowed a long streak of successful football seasons to end. Most of the players on the baseball team also played on the same football team. Despite being much maligned in football, the same players won a state baseball championship in extra innings after erasing a two-run deficit with two outs in the final inning of regulation play. I found it hard to believe no one ever wrote about before the book, The Fat Lady Never Sings, was published in 2006.

Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants. When and where do you write?

Most of my writing is done at my office during mostly non-business hours, otherwise it’s at home. When I am at home, I use an IPAD mini and an attachable keyboard.  I’m one of those guys who likes white noise when I write. At home, it would be the bathroom fan. 

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

The book is about a young coach, that’s me, who decides to take his high school age team for a weekend trip to the State of Maine to play a Maine State Championship team while staying at a cottage on a lake. It is a sort of prequel to The Fat Lady Never Sings as it is also the story of the beginning of my coaching career. I wouldn’t call it a coming of age story as it can better be described as a coming of my old age story as I try to control 18 year olds in an era where the legal age to drink alcohol was lowered from 21 to 18.  In the book, I describe how I learned to coach the old fashioned way, by making mistakes. It began when I allowed the 18 year olds on the team to buy just a “few beers for the trip.” When they exit a package store with hand trucks filled with cases of beer, the chaos begins. The story, however, is not just about getting lost hundreds of miles from home, or the sight of urine shooting out a truck’s window on a state highway or the sense of urgency a coach feels to get a player to return a stop-sign he yanked from the ground in the middle of the night, but also about a group of very competitive players who loved the game of baseball. The book is also about the affinity a coach can get about his teenage players, even, and perhaps especially, with the most difficult of those players.  
How did you get the idea for the book?

The first team I coached was a high school age Summer baseball team in Derby when I was twenty years old.  In my second year of coaching the team, most of my players had played in the Spring on Derby High’s 1977 state championship baseball team. After The Fat Lady Never Sings was published, some of the players on my summer of 1977 team wondered why I had not written about them. Last year, one of my players on the 1977 summer team met with an untimely death. He was the second of my players on that 1977 team to pass away at a relatively young age. I wrote The Lord of the Infield Flies in large part to keep the memory of those unique players alive as well as to assist a scholarship fund created in memory of one of the deceased players with a local community foundation called the Valley Community Foundation. All sales proceeds, not just profits, received from sales of the book are going to the fund.

Of all your characters which one is your favorite? Why?

It’s hard to choose any character in the book because all of them were my players and I had an affinity for all of them.  If I had to choose one, however, I would say Pat “Chuck” McCormack because even though he was the most difficult of the players to try and guide, I could never get mad at him for more than a minute as he could always make forget why I got mad at him in the first place. He was also very competitive player and although he passed on about 15 years ago, I still miss him.  
What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

Crafting the dialogue for events that happened forty years ago.  It may have been easier under hypnosis. (Just kidding).

Which authors have inspired your writing?

No one author, really. Strange, I liked to read legal mysteries such as those by John Grisham, Steve Martini, Richard North Patterson, and naturally Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Erle Stanley Gardner. But once I started writing and got involved with the Connecticut Authors and Publisher’s Association(CAPA)  I had less time to read.   

What projects are you currently working on?

I am mulling over now whether or not to write about another of the teams that I have been privileged to be an assistant coach with or to write a memoir of events in my law career which is now in its 37th year. I am also thinking about writing legal fiction but I think that will be a much more daunting task than another memoir.    

 What advice would you give to new or aspiring authors? 

Firstly, read everything you can about the publishing process including mainstream publishing, what is sometimes called assisted self publishing or vanity publishing, and self publishing. The internet is filled with articles and videos of what it’s all about. But, before engaging anyone to assist you with any of this, check out websites such as “Writers Beware” and “Preditors and Editors” to find out who isn’t reputable. Read current and back issues of magazines such as “The Writer” and “Writers Digest” for all kinds of hints and advice. Your local public library usually carries one or the other. 

Secondly, the best advice I think I got from an editor of my first book was to keep in mind when you are writing the first line of any paragraph or page, “Why should anybody care?” That mindset keeps your focus on the reader and your story and not on yourself. With that mindset you will be thinking about whether or not there is any tension created by your writing or your story or your descriptions of your characters.

Third, get an editor. If you desire to make your writing of publishable quality, there is no substitute. Get one you can work with and make contact with. Assisted self-publishing companies can provide you with editing services for a charge, but they will likely not let you make direct contact with who they choose to hire. Many editors will provide you with an edit of your first chapter or a few pages. Once you see what they do, you will agree you need one.
Fourth. Work at the craft of creating interesting dialogue and lots of it. Readers like dialogue. My first editor hounded me to add more dialogue after reading each of my drafts. It reminded me of Christopher Walken’s “more cowbell” skit on Saturday Night Live! However, if you are writing a memoir be careful of what you are writing. Don’t just make things up that never happened or you could run into trouble as James Fray did. 

Fifth, if you are self-publishing, engage the assistance of a professional cover designer. One that will make your cover stand out. I recommend as they do excellent work and are very responsive to your needs and desires.  

Lastly, whether you are self publishing or not, unless you are a celebrity you will be doing the marketing yourself. No matter how good you think your book is, it won’t sell itself. Get your hands on the book “1001 Ways to Market Your Books” by John Kremer or Brian Jud’s book “How to Get Real Money Selling Books.” It will open your eyes up as to what others are doing to sell books.        

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