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Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Gift

 

As a kid, Christmas was one holiday I looked forward to every year. As an adult, I still look forward to it, but with a completely different perspective.

As a kid, and even now as an adult, I wrote up a list of things family could choose from. I don’t expect that every item from the list will be under the tree Christmas morning. Not even as a kid. I think that’s where some of the fun came from. We never knew what “Santa” might bring. There would always be some surprise that was not on the list, but somehow, some way, a wish and a hope would appear wrapped in pretty paper with a bright bow on top.

Like most of us, I’m sure, kids choose 'things'. A toy or a game or two. A shirt or sweater. A book. A CD. As I got older, my list grew differently, and somehow, grew less.

I look at my daughters and want them to be happy. I want Hannah and Emily to be healthy. I want them to be successful at whatever they set out to do and to be. I wish the same for Alex, Hannah’s fiancĂ©, and Q, Emily’s boyfriend. They are family, too.

I want to race ahead of them and remove the roadblocks and hurdles that would otherwise cause them to trip and stumble. I want to see them smile and hear them laugh. I want to hear their stories, their struggles, their successes.

I want to be with them. I want to see them.

I want them to know the door is always open to them. I want them to know my cell is always turned on “just in case.” I want them to know there will always be a place at the table for them, a light turned on for them.

I hope to never be a burden to them. I hope never to be the unwanted baggage that needs to be dealt with, pushed aside, stored in some dark, dingy closet. I hope to never embarrass them, harm them, hurt them.

The gift I want is for them to know that no matter what, I will be there. I want them to know that I’m always willing to listen to them, to hear them, to try to understand them, and to help them any way I can.

I realize that this gift is not easily wrapped. I realize that it can’t fit under a brightly lit tree. I realize that there might never be a bow on it. Mostly, I understand that at times, it might not be appreciated and that it sometimes might be forgotten. I hope not, but I understand that time and distance and the minutia of life might cause this gift to go unnoticed.

But my gift is there. My gift will always be there. Always. Something to think about . . .

From my family: Kim, Hannah and Alex, Emily and Q, and me, I hope you have a wonderful, merry Christmas! May your dreams be larger than life itself. May you never, ever lose hope. May you never lose faith. And, may you always love and be loved! God Bless!

Picture courtesy of Emily Underwood and Unsplash

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Happiness is . . .


Back when I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to get the Christmas edition of the Sears catalog. My brothers and I would hunt through it to find the best toys for Santa to put under our tree. I remember wanting a football helmet, shoulder pads, and a football. Those were my big three items. As I grew older, a BB gun. We lived out in the country next to what was then the Milwaukee River. We had a huge yard where we would choose up sides for football or softball. The yard next to the river would be great for shooting my BB gun.

There were two things I didn’t know at the time I paged through the Sears catalog. The first was that Santa didn’t exist. I believed Santa to be real. I swallowed that fairy tale hook, line and sinker. Most kids did, or do, I guess. My own certainly did until they got older. The second thing I didn’t realize was that my family was poor. Whatever it was, we wanted out of that catalog, it was up to my mom and dad and their meager finances to secure. Even as I think back on it now these many, many years since, I feel guilty. 

Yes, I did get my helmet, shoulder pads and football. And yes, I eventually got a BB gun when I was older.

The thing is, I ended up outgrowing my helmet and shoulder pads. Yes, I wore them in and out of football season, but I grew. Eventually, they ended up in the toy box. After that, who knows where they ended up. The dump or Goodwill, I suppose. The football and BB gun lasted the longest, but eventually, the football ended up as a toy for the dog, who punctured it as she played fetch with us. I don’t know what happened to the BB gun. Gone, but I still remember it fondly.

Those things I wanted, well, I grew up and they grew old and became unwanted. Sadly. A memory.

I came across an article on LinkedIn. I forgot who had posted it and I’m sorry for that, because I want to name the author. But the article, like others, hit me. It goes like this . . .

A professor gave a balloon to every student, who had to inflate it, write their name on it and throw it in the hallway. The professors then mixed all the balloons. The students were given 5 minutes to find their own balloon. Despite a hectic search, no one found their balloon. At that point the professors told the students to take the first balloon that they found and hand it to the person whose name was written on it. Within 5 minutes everyone had their own balloon.

The professors said to the students: “These balloons are like happiness. We will never find it if everyone is looking for their own. But if we care about other people's happiness, we'll find ours too.

I thought the helmet, shoulder pads, and football, and eventually the BB gun, would make me happy. And they did, for a short or long time. But eventually, like most things, the happiness ended and I was off to seeking other things. That’s the way of it, isn’t it? Like the balloon, I searched and couldn’t find it.

What I do know now was that the helmet, shoulder pads, football, and BB gun made my parents happy because they knew and saw how much I enjoyed them. Even in their, our, poverty, they found joy in making me and the rest of us happy. As parents with our own kids, or as friends to other friends, it is that joy of giving to someone that makes us truly happy. Not so much the gift, but in the giving.

The joy, the happiness is in giving. The joy, the happiness is in helping someone else, recognizing someone else, and valuing someone else. When we receive something from someone, it isn’t so much what we receive, but that we were remembered by someone. That is what makes us happy. Not the gift so much as in being remembered by someone. And what makes us truly happy is in giving to someone else.  

If we don’t learn anything else in this crazy year, I hope we can learn and remember to give in order to receive, to help others, to lift up others, to comfort others, because if we do that, we will be helped, and lifted, and comforted. Yes, we will end up happy. Because, in my very humble opinion, that’s what happiness is. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! 

To My Readers:

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Betrayed is Discounted for Kindle on Amazon for only .99 for Today and Tomorrow Only. The sale ends on Monday, 12-14 at Midnight. Don’t wait! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GCTV2XH 

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is willing to talk. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted.

“The Bottom Line: A stirring and unusual tale of teenage love, adventure and murder. While author Joseph Lewis has filled Betrayed with a large and compelling cast, the story belongs to Brian, one of several characters from Lewis’ excellent crime thriller, Spiral Into Darkness. The relationship between Brian and his family is incredibly well-drawn and often touching. Readers will be rewarded with an explosive adventure.”

-        Best Thrillers

This novel is an action-packed thriller that will keep the reader turning the pages. The descriptions of settings and characters are extremely well done, and the pacing is perfect. The ending ties up all the loose ends, yet you feel (and hope) there will be more from these characters in the future. Action and adventure are the words of the day in this thrilling, well-written, page-turner from Joseph Lewis.”

-        Sublime Review

“To call Betrayed a thriller alone would be to do it a disservice. It’s a social inspection of Navajo reservation culture and life, and its probe of the roots of love and connection are wonderfully woven into a story of adversity and the struggle to survive on many levels. These elements make Betrayed particularly recommended for readers who look for psychological depth and complexity from a story of violence and evolution.”

-    Diane Donovan, Editor; Donovan's Literary Services; Midwest Book          Review/Bookwatch; Author of San Francisco Relocated.

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
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. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm

Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696 

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis

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. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis                                   

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. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis                                      

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. http://tinyurl.com/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis                                                      

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. http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis    

Photo Courtesy of Stan B and Unsplash  

 

 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Control Over Our Buttons

Yesterday, our daughter, Hannah, visited us with her dog, Teddy. He’s a Golden Retriever. We have a puppy, just over a year old, who is also a golden. Daisy, our dog, is stubborn and get jealous rather easily.

Last night, Hannah sat on the couch with Teddy sprawled out on her lap. Comical, in that Teddy is super large for that breed, and Hannah is on the short side. Daisy wanted to join in and attempted to launch herself onto both Teddy and Hannah.

Hannah pointed at Daisy and said, “No, don’t even think about it!”

Teddy, put his paw on Hannah’s arm pushing it down.

Daisy attempted another launch, and Hannah repeated, “No, Daisy, don’t!”

Again, Teddy placed his paw on Hannah’s arm pushing it down.

In the end, Daisy lay down on the hassock and stared at the two of them longingly.

Hannah explained that Teddy doesn’t like the word, ‘No’ and doesn’t like anyone raising his or her voice around him.

Interesting that Teddy is quick to pick up on tone of voice, gestures, feelings. He became protective of his buddy, Daisy. They had played long and hard all day. Each dog mopes and sulks when one or the other leaves for home. Daisy is in equal parts tired out from rough-housing, and sad that Teddy has left.

One of my contacts on LinkedIn, Linda Breedlove, posted this the other day. The story is of unknown origin.

            This is a story of two dogs.

Both, at separate times, walk into a room.

One comes out wagging his tail, while the other comes out growling.

A woman watching this goes into the room to see what could make one dog come out so happy and the other so mad.

To her surprise, she found a room with many mirrors.

The happy dog found a thousand happy dogs looking back at him while the angry dog found only angry dogs growling back at him.

The moral of the story is this: what you see in the world is a reflection of who you are.

Unknown 

The writer didn’t explain why one dog was happy and one dog was angry. The writer stated that one dog was happy coming out, while the other dog was angry coming out. Two dogs. Same room. Different reactions.

I think each of us are faced with rooms with many mirrors. And if not rooms, many situations, many circumstances, and a whole lot of people. For us, those rooms, situations and circumstances, and the different people we encounter elicit within us different perceptions, different reactions.

When I taught psychology many moons ago, I told my students that no one can make you feel one way or the other. The way we feel is a choice. We choose the way we feel: happy, sad, angry, indifferent. We choose our reaction to any given individual and situation. We are in control . . . or not, as the case may be. I reminded them that it sometimes isn’t easy to remember that especially when someone or something pushes one of our buttons. The trick is to take back control of the button, our buttons. Don’t allow anyone else to assume control.

Lastly, like the two dogs entering and leaving the room of many mirrors, we choose from moment to moment how we feel. Much of that feeling stems from our attitude going into and coming out of any given situation and circumstance. We can allow that control to be given to others, but why would we? Why would we allow someone else to control our thoughts and feelings as if we were a marionette?

I leave you with this thought from Greek philosopher Heraclitus:

“The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts.

Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day.

The content of your character is your choice.

Day by day, what you do is who you become.

Your integrity is your destiny — it is the light that guides your way.”

Definitely something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

This week, I received word that my newest book, Betrayed, won the Literary Titan Silver Book Award. Happy about that. You can find Betrayed on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You will find the link for Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2EKHudx

The book blurb is as follows:

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, and no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but could result in the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy.

Some recent reviews for Betrayed:

"Excellent pacing, intriguing characters, and an action-packed plot line. Don't miss this one!" @jessicaxbelmont

"Well written and with real heart and honesty this is a beautiful and moving story about survival and kinship." @ramblingmads

"An action-packed thriller that grabbed my attention from the start. ... I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of this book and getting to know all the characters." @ShazzieRimmel

"I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath as I waited for these characters to get through the latest scrape." @MyBookishBliss

"The story whilst it’s a hunt for a missing friend also shines a light on teens who are struggling to find their place in the world." @MachinSharronm1

"Joseph Lewis has tactfully dealt with some difficult themes, and still managed to squeeze a nice amount of action and mystery into this novel." @caathycastling

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
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. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm 
     
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. 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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696         

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis

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. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis  
  
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men, each more dangerous than the next, 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. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis  
        
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 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. http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis              

Photos Courtesy of Hannah Joshua and Unsplash.

 

 

 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Preparation

 


This is the season of preparation, isn’t it? For us, it began with a Thanksgiving dinner at Hannah’s and Alex’s house. It was their first time hosting it in their new home. The four of us made the turkey, the mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole, sausage stuffing, and rolls. The kitchen was rather small, but that made it all the more fun.

Emily and Q surprised us by coming up for a quick visit yesterday. Alex and Hannah joined us. Kim made white chicken chili, and we had a game night. Lots of laughter, and that’s always good. Laughter is always good.

Then the Christmas decorations appeared. Em and Q disappeared downstairs and up came the plastic bins containing most everything we need to decorate the house. We’re not quite done, but we had a great start.

Alex and Hannah headed back home last evening. Em and Q will leave sometime this afternoon. It will be Kim and me holding down the fort until we all gather together to celebrate Christmas.

Today marks the first Sunday in Advent. This season is celebrated by most Christian churches. Advent marks the preparation for the birth of our Lord. As Christians, we prepare.

There are many things we prepare for, aren’t there? A date. A marriage. The birth of a child. First day of school. First day on a new job. Retirement. We sit down and plan to make everything just right so that in the end, the outcome is what we would hope for.

2020 threw us a curveball, didn’t it? Maybe not even a curveball. Maybe a high and tight fastball pushing us back off the plate or out of the batter’s box. Maybe 2020 is more like the 250-pound linebacker speeding through a hole in the line on a blindside blitz. Like the unsuspecting quarterback, we never saw 2020, that menacing linebacker coming. Yet, it’s here and we’re in the middle of it and for some of us, probably in a heap in the grass a little more bruised than normal.

Things are different.

Hannah and Emily loved to go Black Friday shopping at the mall. I never knew if a “deal” was really a “deal” but the girls enjoyed going out and doing their thing. The crowds. The rush.

This year? I think it’s mostly Cyber-Friday, Cyber-Saturday, Cyber-Every day.

Theaters? Concerts? Hopefully, not things of the past, but instead, things to look forward to. Family get-togethers? Maybe the immediate family- if we’re lucky. Extended family, perhaps not yet. Hopefully soon. There are multiple vaccines and only the distribution needs to be figured out.

Advent. The preparation. For what?

I am an optimist. I am not an alarmist. I am not a defeatist. I don’t believe in rigged elections or in faulty ballots. I don’t believe that evil will overtake good. I’m an optimist.

I believe things will change. I believe things will work out. I believe things will get better. I believe good overcomes evil. These aren’t platitudes or simple hollow meaningless mantras for me. These are deeply held beliefs based upon time and the experiences I’ve been through. 

It takes more than belief, however. It takes preparation. It takes an Advent of the heart, of the soul, and of the mind.

This is the perfect time to examine our beliefs. This is a perfect time to prepare for the commemoration of the birth of a child in four or so short weeks. More so than purchasing gifts, wrapping them up with pretty bows. More so than decorating a tree with twinkling lights and family ornaments. More so than decorating a house to make it festive.

We need to look deep within our heart and soul to determine who we are and what we’ve become. As a person. As a family. As a nation. If 2020 showed us anything, this is the time to examine the fruits of our words and actions. It’s never too late to step off of a path we’ve taken in order to backtrack to find the right path. It’s never too late to begin again. It’s never too late to prepare to be different, to prepare to change. Never. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor
Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author  
Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /

My newest book, Betrayed, is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You will find the link for Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2EKHudx

The book blurb is as follows:
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, and no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but could result in the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy.

Betrayed was featured in a Blog Tour. The idea is each day, a writer/blogger/reviewer would post a review. I was so pleased with the response. Some of the reviews from that tour are:

"Excellent pacing, intriguing characters, and an action-packed plot line. Don't miss this one!" @jessicaxbelmont

"Well written and with real heart and honesty this is a beautiful and moving story about survival and kinship." @ramblingmads

"An action-packed thriller that grabbed my attention from the start. ... I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of this book and getting to know all the characters." @ShazzieRimmel

"I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath as I waited for these characters to get through the latest scrape." @MyBookishBliss

"The story whilst it’s a hunt for a missing friend also shines a light on teens who are struggling to find their place in the world." @MachinSharronm1

"Joseph Lewis has tactfully dealt with some difficult themes, and still managed to squeeze a nice amount of action and mystery into this novel." @caathycastling

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
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. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm  
    
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. 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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696        

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis

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. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis   
 
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men, each more dangerous than the next, 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. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis 
          
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 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. http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis             

Photos Courtesy of Max Beck and Unsplash.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

A Thankful Heart


The Christmas carol, Little Drummer Boy (yes, I know we are a month away, but the story fits) tells a story about a boy, his drum, a baby, and his mother. I’m sure you know the story, but I want to share it with you to refresh your memory (and perhaps get you excited about the upcoming season).

A baby is born in a manger. An unlikely baby in an unlikely place. The baby will grow up to be the Messiah, according to prophecy. The first to hear about the news were shepherds. Generally, an uneducated and rather poor lot. They came to see the baby and mother.

With them was a little boy. He wanted to give a gift, and without any money, the only thing the boy had to give was his time and talent. He played his drum for the baby and the mother. The story states that the mother smiled and nodded her approval.

The boy gave the only thing he could. But beyond that, the boy gave!

I read a devotional each morning along with Bible verses. Kind of my morning ‘pick me up’ and something I look forward to. Yes, seriously. It gets me in the mood, the right frame of mind for the rest of the day.

One morning, I read a story about a minister and his parishioners, who were out delivering groceries to the elderly and needy. They came upon a house of a poor, little old lady. The delivery was a surprise. The minister rang the doorbell, the little lady opened the door, saw that it was the minister with bags and boxes of food.

The little lady said, “Oh, I’m so happy you came by. I meant to bring something last Sunday, but I forgot. Let me go get it for you!”

The minister, shocked, surprised and probably dumbfounded, waved the workers back to their vehicles. The lady brought a can or two of food and handed it to the minister, who thanked her for her generosity. She smiled, thanked him for stopping by, and she shut the door. The minister took the food and added it to the collection.

She had no idea she was the intended beneficiary. Her heart only told her to contribute, to give. Like the little shepherd boy, she gave what she had in the best way she could.

Thursday is one of my favorite holidays. In many ways, I enjoy it more than Christmas. You see, the whole point of Thanksgiving is to do just that: Give Thanks. And one cannot do that without a Thankful Heart.

What we give in the way of words or actions, and that which we withhold by way of words or actions, comes from one’s heart. A thankful heart gives more. We feel it. There is joy in the giving, and we feel joy in receiving.

I contend that one’s actions and one’s words come directly from one’s heart. In fact, words and actions are an indication of the character and the being of that person. Think about that for a minute: how can someone with an evil heart give a meaningful good gift? How can someone with an evil heart say a truly kind and loving word? I don’t think it is possible. Yes, they will try, but I believe (and I hope and pray) we are savvy enough to pick up on the insincerity of the gift or word.

So, I’m asking that this season, this holiday of Thanksgiving, we look at not only what we have, the gifts and all the good things that have been dealt to us, but we look at our words and our actions. Are what we say and do reflective of the heart that resides within us? Can we do more? Can we do better? In addition to being grateful for what we have, can we share that gratefulness to others in a kind, compassionate, and meaningful way? Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! 

To My Readers: 
Connect with me on Social Media: 
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor 

My newest book, Betrayed, is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You will find the link for Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2EKHudx

The book blurb is as follows: 
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, and no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but could result in the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy.

Betrayed was featured in a Blog Tour. The idea is each day, a writer/blogger/reviewer would post a review. I was so pleased with the response. Some of the reviews from that tour are:

"Excellent pacing, intriguing characters, and an action-packed plot line. Don't miss this one!" @jessicaxbelmont

"Well written and with real heart and honesty this is a beautiful and moving story about survival and kinship." @ramblingmads

"An action-packed thriller that grabbed my attention from the start. ... I thoroughly enjoyed the pace of this book and getting to know all the characters." @ShazzieRimmel

"I was on the edge of my seat and holding my breath as I waited for these characters to get through the latest scrape." @MyBookishBliss

"The story whilst it’s a hunt for a missing friend also shines a light on teens who are struggling to find their place in the world." @MachinSharronm1

"Joseph Lewis has tactfully dealt with some difficult themes, and still managed to squeeze a nice amount of action and mystery into this novel." @caathycastling

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards! 
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. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm 
      
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. 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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696       

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis

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. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis   
  
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives: 
Six men, each more dangerous than the next, 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. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis  
         
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 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. http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis            

Photos Courtesy of Priscilla du Preez and Unsplash.

 

 

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Start to Finish

 

My wife, Kim, runs almost every morning at Zero-Dark-Thirty. Much of the time, I’m not even aware she is gone. She runs in most all kinds of weather including snow, cold and rain, though she won’t run if it is already raining when she gets up. If it begins to rain during her run, she’s okay with that.

One day, I asked her which part of the run is the hardest: the beginning, middle or end? Her answer was the beginning because her heart rate isn’t up yet.

Jimmy is a freshman at Temple University and runs for their cross country team. I asked him the same question and he said the middle is the hardest for him. I asked him why and he said at the beginning he always feels pretty good and then at the end, he’s almost done. For him, the middle is the hardest because that’s when you have to focus the most, which is the most difficult.

Two different runners. Two different answers.

I am not a runner. No way, no how. Used to be, but those days passed me by and I happily waved at them as they went by. I may have even smiled. Heck, I’m smiling now.

As a writer, I face a beginning, a middle and an end.

For me, the beginning is the easiest. When I sit down to write, I already have the idea or question I want to write about. It’s fresh and it’s exciting to string words together on a blank page. The end is exciting because it is just that- the end. Of course, I have to shape it and make it appealing. I only used a cliffhanger ending twice. Most of the time, I tie up loose ends and might use the ending to imply or tease the beginning of a new book.

The hardest for me is the middle. Everything I write I try to make it relevant towards the final scene, the ending. Each word, each scene, each chapter needs to propel the reader forward. There is nothing I hate worse than when reading a book, I come across a chapter or chapters that don’t add to the story. 

Those of you who have read my work know I use short chapters that don’t have tidy endings. I call them Patterson Chapters, named after James Patterson who does the same thing. Chapters are short and propel the reader to the next chapter and on and on until the end. That’s my goal, because that’s the kind of book I like to read.

From Start to Finish. Like life.

At the start, we are totally dependent upon the adults in our lives. They feed us, bathe us, clothe us, and comfort us. Pretty much the same thing happens at the finish, doesn’t it? If we are unable to do so for ourselves, we become dependent upon those who will take care of us just like someone did at the start of our lives.

So, what of the middle?

I think like Jimmy and his running, and like me in my writing, the middle of our lives can be the hardest. Sometimes we lose our way and we lose sight of the finish. Or at least, we lose sight of how we intend or would like to finish. Sometimes the start and the middle seem so hopelessly damaged that we think there is no way we can find the finish. Sadly, sometimes the finish comes way too soon when we thought the finish was a distant goal at some unknown point in the future.

I think of two examples of how I would like to finish.

The first is an Olympic runner some years ago. A marathoner. At some point during the race he fell. All the runners passed him by. Yet, he finished hours later. When asked why he kept running, he said, “My country didn’t send me thousands of miles to start a race, they sent me to finish.” I find inspiration in that.

The other example is religious, and I make no apologies for this. I think of the moment on that dark Friday when up on a hill for all to see, three men were hanging on crosses. Two were thieves. One was a just and good man. One of the thieves called on the good man to save himself and them. The other thief rebuked him saying, and I’m paraphrasing, “Don’t you know who this man is? We deserve to be here. He doesn’t.” Then he turned to the good man and said, “Please remember me when you enter paradise.” The good man turned to that thief and said, “Yet this day you will be with me in paradise.” 

Now, I don’t know what that thief did in his life to end up on that cross. Had to be pretty bad, right? At some point along the way, he lost his way. It wasn’t until the very end that he seemed to find it. No one begins life as a thief. At least I don’t think so. At some point, one loses his way. Like the Olympic runner who fell. Like the thief on the cross.

But in one case, the Olympic runner made a decision to keep running so he could finish. In the other case, the thief came to the realization that he had screwed up. He was sorry, and he seemed to ask for forgiveness. In both cases, they finished. Battered. A tad broken. But they finished. We can too. We might stumble and fall. We might lose our way and do much wrong- to ourselves and to others. But, we can and we must finish. As cleanly and as strongly as we began at the start. We can. We must. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor
Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author
Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /

My newest book, Betrayed, came out this past week and is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You will find the link for Amazon at: https://amzn.to/2EKHudx

The book blurb is as follows:

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, and no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but could result in the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy.

Betrayed received three more outstanding reviews:

“The Bottom Line: A stirring and unusual tale of teenage love, adventure and murder. While author Joseph Lewis has filled Betrayed with a large and compelling cast, the story belongs to Brian, one of several characters from Lewis’ excellent crime thriller, Spiral Into Darkness. The relationship between Brian and his family is incredibly well-drawn and often touching. Readers will be rewarded with an explosive adventure.”
-        BestThrillers.com 

"This novel is an action-packed thriller that will keep the reader turning the pages. The descriptions of settings and characters are extremely well done, and the pacing is perfect. The ending ties up all the loose ends, yet you feel (and hope) there will be more from these characters in the future. Action and adventure are the words of the day in this thrilling, well-written page-turner from Joseph Lewis.”
-        Sublime Review

“To call Betrayed a thriller alone would be to do it a disservice. It’s a social inspection of Navajo reservation culture and life, and its probe of the roots of love and connection are wonderfully woven into a story of adversity and the struggle to survive on many levels. These elements make Betrayed particularly recommended for readers who look for psychological depth and complexity from a story of violence and evolution.”
-        Diane Donovan, Editor; Donovan's Literary Services; Midwest Book Review/Bookwatch; Author of San Francisco Relocated.

Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
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. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm     
 
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
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. 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. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696      

Caught in a Web is now available in Audio format. You can find it at: https://www.beaconaudiobooks.com/audiobookreleases/high-school-drug-rings-gangs-and-revenge-are-all-encompassing-in-caught-in-a-web-by-joseph-lewis

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. http://tinyurl.com/Stolen-Lives-J-Lewis  
    
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men, each more dangerous than the next, 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. http://tinyurl.com/Shattered-Lives-J-Lewis   
   
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
The final chapter, the close of the Lives Trilogy. 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. http://tinyurl.com/Splintered-Lives-J-Lewis  
       
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 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. http://tinyurl.com/Taking-Lives-J-Lewis           

Photos Courtesy of Adam Winger and Unsplash.