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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Choice of Words


When I write, whether it is for my blog or one of my books, I choose my words carefully. I have to believe all writers do. We care because we are putting our sweat, our feelings including laughter or tears onto each page. It can flow with ease or sometimes ride bumpy as we hit pothole after pothole.

For example, in Betrayed which comes out in November (I do wish it was sooner), there were several passages that I rewrote and rewrote. I slaved over them because I know I have one shot at hitting the sweet spot with the reader. I have to feel it. And I did. I can tell you that I wept at three spots in the book. I believe the reader will too. There were times when I felt my muscles clench because of several intense spots in the book. As the author, I felt tense, anxious each time I read and edited the book, and I became tense and anxious even though I knew what was going to happen.

There is an axiom among writers I fully believe in: No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. Meaning that we put our heart and soul onto each page, choosing the words specifically to elicit a specific response in the reader.

The magical part of any book is that no one book will read the same for each reader. How can it? Each reader brings his or her own feelings, experiences, past, present and future to the book when he or she sits down to read it. As the author, I cannot possibly guess how my books or this blog will “hit” you, because in so many cases, I don’t know you.

As any parent would, I suppose you will feel anxious and upset when my adolescent characters face danger. You might be angry towards those who would place them in danger. Normal reactions, I would think. Unless, of course, I failed to choose my words carefully that might elicit those feelings.

Which makes me consider . . .

As a person, be it in my profession or as a dad or husband, as a mentor or role model, do I take the same care with the words I choose to speak? Sadly, sometimes I think not. At times, I speak without thinking. At times, I speak without “feeling.” Sad, really. I slave over my writing, picking and choosing my words so carefully, when I sometimes don’t when speaking.

At times, I’ve been sarcastic and thoughtless. My words sting. I do myself an injustice because I truly, deeply care. I believe that in so many cases, words have an impact that sticks and stones do not.

In Betrayed, one of my adult characters tells one of the boys, “Sometimes it’s the hurt you don’t see that you feel the most.” The boy knew just what the adult was saying. The boy’s heart and soul had been ‘betrayed’ time and again. He was bruised in places you cannot see with the eye, only with the heart.

As we face a new week, I wonder if I . . . we . . . can choose our words a bit more carefully. I wonder if our words might bring peace and love, joy and a sense of caring to those with whom we speak to. We owe that to those we speak to, to those who we interact with. Mostly, I think, we owe it to ourselves, don’t we? Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
My new book, Betrayed, will debut Nov. 12, 2020! It is a contemporary psychological thriller using some of the same characters from my previous work. It takes place on the Navajo Nation Reservation in northeast Arizona. I will post parts and passages on my author page on Facebook.

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696

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 Kyle Glenn and Unsplash 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Winners and Losers


This past Friday, I had to supervise a basketball game. It was the fourth time this season the two teams played against each other. One team had a solid upper-classman roster, while the other had a nice mix of young and veteran players. Two of the previous three contests were within two or three points at the final buzzer.

This fourth game could have gone either way. The first two quarters were dominated by one team, but the other hung in there. The final two quarters were nip and tuck and I recall telling a colleague that whoever has the ball at the end of the game would win. I pretty much called it, because that’s how it ended.

The two teams shook hands at the end of the game. The kids had played against each other for several years and knew one another. One team experienced joy and elation. The other tears and sadness. For the seniors who lost the game, it would possibly mark the final time they might wear a basketball jersey. For the seniors who won the game, they march on to the next game knowing that it only gets tougher as they go.

Winners and Losers

The way the kids handled themselves, and the way the coaches handled the teams, it’s difficult to determine who the winners or losers were, even though the final score on the board indicated such. There was dignity. There was respect. There was a marked determination. Some players, not the “stars” stood out and up to the challenge. Each gave everything they had and then some.

Such is the game. Such is life, I suppose.

There will always be a better team, a newer car, a better show to watch or a book to read. There will always be someone smarter, prettier, wealthier. That is the way of it. That is life.

It isn’t that life is fair or unfair. Life just . . . is. We do our best. Each day. Each minute and hour of the day. That’s all we can do. That’s all we should do.

All of us, each of us, will be winners one time, maybe more. And all of us, each of us, will lose one time, maybe more.

Henry Ford is known to have said something like, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Yet, I don’t believe the team that lost failed. They just happened to be bettered this time around. After all, how can one fail if one gives everything he or she had, worked as hard as possible, and utilized every available opportunity afforded to them? That isn’t failure.

Losses and failures end up being lessons if you look at them through the correct lens. Anything in life poses a question, a lesson to be learned. Sometimes the work of the lesson is painful. Sometimes the work of the lesson is a joy because passion is involved.

I wrote a post on Rejection (11-15-19) and I mentioned how many times Stephen King “failed” before his first book ‘Carrie’ became a huge success. I wrote that I had been rejected so many times the notices could wallpaper a room in my house.

You see, if the team that lost just quits, they hadn’t learned their lesson. If Stephen King quit writing after his rejections, we would never have experienced ‘The Stand’. If I had quit after my many rejections, my seventh book, ‘Betrayed’ wouldn’t be published this coming November.

In life, there are no real losers, just as there aren’t any real winners. Or . . .

Perhaps the winner is the one who keeps moving forward despite the critics, despite the odds. Perhaps the winner is the one who learns from the missteps of others as well as one’s own. Perhaps the winner is the one who picks himself up, dusts him or her self off and says, “Okay, one more time.” To me, that is who the real winner is. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
My new book, Betrayed, will debut Nov. 12, 2020! It is a contemporary psychological thriller using some of the same characters from my previous work. It takes place on the Navajo Nation Reservation in northeast Arizona.

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696

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 Marcus Spiske and Unsplash

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Stars



My first teaching and coaching stint occurred in Wyoming. Goshen Hole High School, at that time, was the second smallest school in the state. 72 kids in the high school, 110 kids in grades seven through twelve. I taught social studies and was the head coach of the boys’ basketball team. Great kids, great experience. Happy I did it. Wondering sometimes how I did it.

The town I lived in was Yoder, population 101. Yes, seriously. A gas station, a post office, and a water tower. A party line I shared with three other homes. Miles and miles of, well, nothing. There was an old song by the Who, the lyrics were, “I can see for miles and miles . . .” They didn’t lie.

Growing up in the city for most of my life, I hadn’t noticed how bright stars were until I moved to Wyoming. City lights dimmed them. They weren’t as bright. In Wyoming, especially where I lived, there wasn’t a “city” and there certainly were no lights to compete with the utter blackness of the night sky.

Stars, like a sprinkling of diamonds on a black velvet drape, shown bright and clear. The sheer expanse was breathtaking. Like in a child’s fairy tale, they twinkled, sparkled, and honestly, even now twenty-four years after calling Wyoming home for three years, I can still picture it.

Darkness. Blackness. Stars.

Another thought . . .

We just had three or four days of rain. Gray. Clouds. Dark. Dreary. Think of your own synonym, your own picture. I, probably like most everyone else, felt the weight of it. Tired. Rather depressing.

This morning, nothing but bright blue sky. The sun seemed to be brighter than normal.

Happens all the time, doesn’t it?

First of all, stars against the expanse of darkness. The sun after the grayness, the darkness of rain.

Each of us experience the dark times of life. We travel through periods where darkness seems overwhelming. We feel the weight of it. Tiredness, sometimes depression sets in. We feel lonely, if not alone.

Yet, even in darkness, stars shine brightly. They seem cleaner, and somehow, clearer. Even after the darkness of a cloudy day, the sun comes out brighter than ever. Clearer than ever.

And the thing about the sun and stars . . . they are always present. They are always there. They never go away. And, they aren’t going anywhere. There are times we can’t see them clearly, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

At times, even in our darkest, bleakest days or nights, there are those we can lean on, those we can depend on, those we can count on. We might not see them readily. We might not feel their presence. Yet, like the sun and stars, they are there. They can be our own stars, our own sun.

I’m wondering . . . actually hoping and praying . . . that there can be more of us willing to be the star or sun in someone’s life. I’m wondering if, when noticing someone traveling through a dark night, a rainy day of life or of soul, someone . . . you or me, perhaps . . . can be that someone, that sun, that star. Willing to give it a try? I hope so. I pray so. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Live, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
My new book, Betrayed, will debut Nov. 12, 2020! It is a contemporary psychological thriller using some of the same characters from my previous work. It takes place on the Navajo Nation Reservation in northeast Arizona.

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


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. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696

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 Sam Goodgame and Unsplash

Friday, February 7, 2020

Strength of Fear



Many of you know I write and that I have six books published. Last night I completed the edits on my seventh and shipped it off to the publisher. For any of us who write, or for that matter, for any of us who do anything in “public” there are several stages we go through.

The first is a feeling of pride. I accomplished something that many have not done. I feel good about the project. It’s interesting, entertaining, and this one will surely tug at heartstrings. There will be a lack of comfort- both while reading and most certainly at the end.

The second stage is tiredness. While I think I’ve edited it completely and thoroughly, my publisher will send it to me with editorial suggestions. Some of them are no brainers that I am embarrassed at not noticing or finding on my own. I often mutter to myself, “How stupid! How did I miss that?” But most are suggestions and I am able to pick and choose which ones to follow. The tiredness comes in the fact that I’ve already begun my next and I’d rather keep working on something new rather than something that is “done.”

The third stage is right before release. Excitement. Anticipation. All of that. There is the promotional aspect that, while I am not expert by any means, I’m getting better at. It is time consuming and again, it takes me away from my new project. So, while I feel excited, I’m also a bit annoyed.

The last stage for me is fear. What I write is not necessarily an easy read. It has controversy in it. Bad things happen to good people. There are personal decisions and dilemmas that my characters are faced with- some of them being tough to deal with. As I mentioned, this book will tug at heartstrings and might cause a tear or two. The ending is not neat and tidy. Sort of like life, I guess.

But the fear for me is what are people going to think of it? Are people going to like it? Will the reviews rip me to shreds that might cause readers to shy away from reading my book or will there be positive ones that move the reader to do so? What will my family think? What will my friends think?

I’ve lost sleep pre-launch. I’m a wreck as I watch the book rating on Amazon. Fear is, well, somewhat debilitating.

What’s that old adage about fear and anxiety? What does a rocking chair and worry have in common? Something to do but you don’t go anywhere. Something like that.

I think we’ve all been faced with fear from time to time. Will our kids make the right decision? When they drive at night- especially a long distance, will they arrive without incident? Some of us, probably most of us, are evaluated at some level or another. How will that turn out? Bills to pay and not enough money. Illness and injury to a loved one, to yourself.

Fear hurts the mind and it hurts the body. If you think it doesn’t, Google effects of fear on the body and see the results. And some of us, me included, have lived with fear for days, weeks, months. The unknown is scary, especially for those of us who like a modicum of control.

I know that many of you reading this live daily, minute by minute, hour by hour with some anxiety, if not fear. Many of you do it bravely by plastering on a smile. You live this each day trying to not let anyone know. Sometimes it causes a tear. Sometimes a harsh word to someone undeserving. Fear, after all, cannot be hidden too long. It seeps and oozes out at uncomfortable and unplanned moments. It catches us off guard- others, too.

Just remember the rocking chair adage. It’s something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere. Neither does fear and neither does anxiety. Using my new book as an example, people will read it or they won’t. People will buy it or they won’t. People will like it or they won’t. I have to take solace in the fact that I did the very best I could from the heart. I put myself out there and we will see what happens. I can only control what I can control. Mostly, I can’t control what I can’t control. Kind of like you. Kind of like a lot of us. Fear wastes us away and takes away the joy we can experience in the moment. We need the joy. We don’t need the fear. I think that is true for all of us. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Photo Courtesy of Tom Pumford and Unsplash