Friday, November 15, 2019


Most of you know by now that I write. The beginning came in sixth grade when my teacher, Sr. Josephe’ Marie, would give us ‘story starters’. These consisted of three or four paragraphs on a notecard. After our work was completed or a test was finished, we could walk up to her desk and take one.

The idea was to read the three or four paragraphs and then complete the story anyway you wanted to. I don’t remember whether or not we received extra credit, but every chance I got, I’d grab one and write.

In 1987 or so, I had a short story, “Dusty and Me” published in St. Anthony Messenger. I was ecstatic. I mean, I received money for a story I wrote and it was actually published. I even received fan mail (okay, it was one letter from some guy in the Midwest, but hey . . .) But it wasn’t until 2014 when my first book was published. It was exciting and overwhelming at the same time.

I think about my short story and the six books I’ve written, and I remember the rejection I received from agents and publishers. Honestly, I think I could take all the rejections and cover a room in my house. Seriously. Stephen King in his book, “On Writing” described how he used a nail to hang his rejections on the wall over the desk where he did his writing. There were so many rejections, he ended up using a railroad spike to hold them all. J.K. Rowling describes herself prior to Harry Potter as being ‘the biggest failure I knew’.

But . . .

King’s manuscript, “Carrie” was rescued from the kitchen garbage can by his wife, who told him to finish it and send it in. The manuscript was rejected 30 times before being picked up by Doubleday. It went on to sell over a million copies and become a successful film. J.K. Rowling sent her finished manuscript to 12 different publishers and was rejected by them all. A Bloomsbury editor finally picked up the book for an advance of just £1,500. Her editor suggested she get a teaching job. The “Harry Potter” franchise became one of the best-selling series in history with over 450 million copies purchased world-wide. Dr. Seuss was rejected by 27 publishers. John Le CarrĂ©’s first novel “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” was rejected by a publisher with a remark to his agent, “You’re welcome to le CarrĂ© – he hasn’t got any future.” Isaac Asimov said, “Rejections slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.”

For me, I keep focusing on that one agent who will say ‘yes’. I keep focusing on that one publishing house hoping for the same response. Fortunately for me, I have a very good publisher so I feel a step or two ahead of some other writers. But I am quick to recognize where I once was and to some degree still am.

The thing is, our lives are full of rejection. The job you wanted but didn’t get. The love you thought you needed and wanted but ended before you were ready for the ending. The A grade you thought you earned but instead found a big red C on the top. The concert ticket you wanted but found they had all been sold out.

It doesn’t matter if you are young or an old fart like me. It doesn’t matter if you are a kid struggling to find a way in this world or an experienced vet. Rejection stings. It hurts. No matter the age, no matter the experience, no matter how many times you or I have succeeded, rejection hurts.

I think of the kids walking our hallways. I think of some of the adults manning our offices, our classrooms, driving our buses, preparing the food- all of them, all of us, have and will experience rejection. All of us, no matter who we are.

Some are better able to pick ourselves up, dust off our britches and keep moving forward undeterred. Others, not so much. Kids in particular. They don’t have the resilience some adults have. They, and some of us, still need to learn that life continues. That there will be days of rejection and failure, but there will also be days of acceptance and success. The ebb and flow, the valley and trough. Such is life, I think. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

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Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Good News!
Spiral Into Darkness made the finals for Author Shout Reader Awards! I will know in January if it won an award. It has also been nominated for Top Shelf Book Awards! That is quite an honor! I’ll find out more yet this month or early December.

Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Review had some wonderful things to say about Spiral Into Darkness:
“Joseph Lewis excels in building more than just a 'whodunnit' mystery. His is a novel of psychological suspense that weaves a 'cat-and-mouse' game into the equation of dealing with a killer who is much cleverer than anyone he's run up against in his career as a detective. Tension builds in an excellent, methodical manner as Lewis creates a scenario that rests firmly on not just the actions of all involved, but their psychological foundations. The result is a powerfully written work of psychological fiction that is highly recommended not just for mystery and police procedural readers, but for those who appreciate literary works well grounded in strong characters, plot development, and emotional tension. Great buildup, great insights, great reading!”

Readers Favorites wrote:
“If you enjoy thrillers, especially psychological ones, Spiral Into Darkness by Joseph Lewis will grab you good and proper in the opening two chapters. You will find yourself avidly turning pages as a serial killer accosts his victims, confirms their identities and blasts away their faces with a .38 pistol. If you are interested in both the good and bad sides of humanity and why we each turn out as we do, Spiral Into Darkness won’t disappoint.”

Best Thrillers wrote:
“The Bottom Line: A thoroughly compulsive police procedural by one of America’s most promising new writers. Joseph Lewis, author of our Best of 2018 pick Caught in a Web, is back with another crime thriller featuring world-weary Milwaukee detective Jamie Graff . . . While Lewis savagely explores romance, drama, and sexuality with his wider cast of characters, Jamie’s interpersonal life is refreshingly free of drama for a cop, enabling him to be the determined, resourceful rock capable of cracking the case. The result is a thoroughly compulsive crime thriller.”

And, Spiral Into Darkness has made it into the Top 50 Indie Books by Reader’s Choice!

Best Thrillers had previously reviewed my book, Caught in a Web. It was named as a PenCraft Literary Award Winner for Thriller Fiction! Best Thrillers called it “one of the best crime thriller books of the year!” I am both proud and humbled.

If you do read Caught in a Web, Spiral Into Darkness, or any of my other books, please leave a rating and a review. I would appreciate it. Thanks for this consideration!

Spiral Into Darkness:
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement.

Caught in a Web:
The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.

Book One of the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen year old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved.                               

Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them.                               

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
A 14 year old boy knows the end is coming. What he doesn’t know is when, where or by whom. Without that knowledge, neither he nor the FBI can protect him or his family.                              

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11 year old Brett McGovern, and 11 year old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out.

Photo Courtesy of Steve Johnson and Unsplash