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Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Long Road




I cannot remember which trip it was. Perhaps it was just a quick trip from our home in California to Wisconsin and back. I know it was just Kim and me before kids.


We were traveling south through Wyoming and into Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. A beautiful trip. Purposefully, we didn’t take the interstate, but rather, a state highway. We were driving a fairly new car, a station wagon.

On our way down the mountain, our brakes began to heat up. We could smell them. Fearing that we’d lose them altogether, we would pull over every now and then to rest the car and the brakes in particular. We began to doubt the wisdom of not traveling the interstate. It took us longer to reach our destination, our home.

After a long trip, don’t you just want to “get home?” It’s always nice to visit, to be around friends and family. But after a time, especially traveling by car, you just want to get home, right?

As I said, the trip took us longer than expected. We were tired and looked for a way out, a shortcut that would lead us back to the interstate. None that was easy, and none that was readily available to us. So, we continued traveling onward, and stopping every so often to give the car, the brakes, and us a rest.

The smell of brakes. The sound of metal on metal (or so it seemed). We needed to, once again, pull over and rest. And we did.

It was an overlook to a valley below. Sun-splashed. Rolling hills. The green and beige of the valley. A wheat field, I think, mixed in with the greenery of grass and trees. Breathtaking is overused, but not in this case. Kim and I stood there and took it all in. The brakes, the car, the long journey, forgotten. My words and description can’t come close to what we saw and experienced.

We relaxed. I know we smiled. I picture that scene as I write this and I find myself smiling.

The thing is, had we not taken that long way home, and had we not stopped to rest, we would have missed it. Just like it wasn’t there. The interstate was nowhere near where we were. It was happenstance that we had to rest the brakes and the car, and the fortune of stopping where and when we did.

In this world, we are encouraged to take the fast, simplest, and most direct way from point A to point B. The fast, quick way is marketed at us constantly. You have a headache? Take two of these and it’s gone.

Even the shows we watch have a resolve at the end. Kim and I watch NCIS- one of our favorite shows. In one hour, Gibbs and team catch the bad guy, and in between are four or five commercial breaks to push the good life. You want pizza? Order this and get it fast and hot. Want this car? Zero percent financing (unless your credit sucks) and you can get your car delivered to you with one phone call.

Life isn’t necessarily like an episode of NCIS where all the loose ends are gathered together and tied up or trimmed off in one hour. While we love pizza, or want a new car, or don’t want the headache to linger, sometimes it might be best to ride it out. Eat something healthy. Stick with the car you do have and not take on another payment. And, the headache will go away in time. Annoying, but with some relaxation, a bit of water, a comfy chair or couch, the headache will go away.

There is something to be said about taking a longer way to get where you want to go. Sometimes the fastest, most direct path might be expedient and necessary. But other times, to take time, to rest occasionally, to take in a view has benefits beyond the immediate is necessary and needed.

It must have been thirty years or so ago when Kim and I took that trip. I know Kim remembers that overlook and the sun-splashed valley nestled in the mountains as well as I do. How could we not? Sometimes, there are benefits that aren’t readily apparent, but come to us in time and in ways that impact us in far greater fashion after the fact then when they first appear. Sometimes, the long road is way better than the shortcut. 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. I picked up three great advance reviews from three awesome authors:

“Adopted and bonding as a family, with histories of death, destruction and for some...abuse, these boys band together—ready to lay down their life for their new family—in order to find a missing friend before dangerous gunmen find them.

A whirlwind of adventure, relationships, protecting family, hair-raising situations, and cold betrayal.”
—Tina O’Hailey author of When Darkness Begins

“A boy goes missing in Navajo Nation, a family is killed. Onto the next adventure for three brothers, including one who grew up there, to search for him. As to be expected, danger awaits, but these are not ordinary teens. They have faced harrowing situations before, and now they will rely on the skills and experience they’ve developed to get through this one.

Once again, author Joseph Lewis has written a fast-paced psychological thriller mystery that immerses readers into a dark world few encounter.”
— Joan Livingston, author of the Isabel Long Mystery Series

“Betrayed is at once an emotional chapter in author Joseph Lewis’ continuing coming-of-age story and an intriguing thriller. Following both law enforcement and a group of teens searching for a missing boy on Native American land, Lewis’ latest also provides a unique view into Navajo culture. A layered story that explodes into a bullet-riddled climax.”
— Rick Treon, award-winning author of Deep Background and Let the Guilty Pay

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 Vaun0815 and Unsplash

Friday, April 10, 2020

Hands



When Hannah was an infant, I had the night feedings. I loved it because it was she and I. After changing her diaper, I would feed her the bottle while her tiny fingers held onto my forefingers. Her eyes, almost frowning, studied my face. At times I would have to wake her up so she could finish her meal.

Emily was bigger baby and we could never feed her fast enough. Kim did most of her feedings with the bottle. I had my moments with her, though. When she could walk and when she was tired, she would wander over to me, climb onto my lap and fall asleep. I was like her teddy bear. While she slept, I would hold her tiny hand in mine.

Fingers small, hands tiny. Soft as velvet.

My mom died when she was 99. We had hoped she’d make it to 100, but she died nine months shy of her birthday. Because of arthritis, her hands and fingers were wrinkled and bent. Yet, soft to the touch, loving when she touched. My sisters and I share the arthritis and we’re pretty certain ours will become wrinkled and bent. We hope that ours will still be soft to touch, and loving when we touch.

When Wil was little, about seven or eight, we lived in California. Hannah was an infant. Shortly after we had adopted him, we traveled to Tijuana with my brother Jack who had come out to visit. Like many impoverished places, there were street sellers and some beggars. I think Wil was reminded of where he had come from and the life he had left behind.

He clung to Kim’s hand as we walked down the street. His eyes straight ahead, but we were sure he saw and took in everything. As he got older, he never spoke to us about that experience or what he felt. Kim and I and my brother were fairly certain he was frightened, maybe sad as memories flooded back to him. His life hadn’t been kind to him at all.

Touch conveys so much, doesn’t it?

I think many of us can remember a spanking or two. Maybe more. Perhaps a pointed finger when one parent or the other admonished us. When sad or hurt, arms held us, fingers pushed bangs out of our eyes or ran through our hair. I know I did that with our kids. Soft fingers wiped tears from our eyes, washed a wound, applied a bandage or two.

Hands held us, encouraged us. Moved us forward when we dawdled or were uncertain and needed someone else’s confidence in us. Hands held us back when we tried to cross the street at an ill-advised time.

Hands played catch with us. Hands taught us how to make paper airplanes. Hands helped us fish and held us as we learned to swim.

As we got older, there were other hands that shoved us, hit us, punched us, pushed us away and wouldn’t let us join. Those hands hurt us in ways beyond the physical, didn’t they? Sometimes, much more so.

Along with a smile, hands were the first form of communication we understood. Smiles, tears. The tone of voice came before the actual meaning behind the words, except for perhaps the word, “No!”

For many of us, today is a holy day. It is a day of reflection, of recognizing that our lives are owed to something and someone bigger. If you are not Christian – and I make no judgment at all - we are still part of humanity, and as a part of humanity, our lives are still owed to something and someone else.

Can each of us, this day and this weekend, consider our meaning behind how we communicate to one another, both in word and in touch? Can we decide today to be more gentle, more kind, more compassionate and considerate? Can we think of others and their needs, their concerns before our own- just for today (maybe for days to come)? I hope so. I pray so. 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. I picked up three great advance reviews from three awesome authors:

“Adopted and bonding as a family, with histories of death, destruction and for some...abuse, these boys band together—ready to lay down their life for their new family—in order to find a missing friend before dangerous gunmen find them.

A whirlwind of adventure, relationships, protecting family, hair-raising situations, and cold betrayal.”
—Tina O’Hailey author of When Darkness Begins

“A boy goes missing in Navajo Nation, a family is killed. Onto the next adventure for three brothers, including one who grew up there, to search for him. As to be expected, danger awaits, but these are not ordinary teens. They have faced harrowing situations before, and now they will rely on the skills and experience they’ve developed to get through this one.

Once again, author Joseph Lewis has written a fast-paced psychological thriller mystery that immerses readers into a dark world few encounter.”
— Joan Livingston, author of the Isabel Long Mystery Series

“Betrayed is at once an emotional chapter in author Joseph Lewis’ continuing coming-of-age story and an intriguing thriller. Following both law enforcement and a group of teens searching for a missing boy on Native American land, Lewis’ latest also provides a unique view into Navajo culture. A layered story that explodes into a bullet-riddled climax.”
— Rick Treon, award-winning author of Deep Background and Let the Guilty Pay

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 Cristian Newman and Unsplash

Friday, April 3, 2020

Handling It



When I was twenty-two, I landed my first teaching and coaching position. In Wyoming.


I had been there twice in my life previously. Once was as an eighth grader when my mom and dad took my brother Jeff and me to Yellowstone. The second time was when I interviewed for that position. That was my only experience with “the West.”

But as a social studies major, my interest was in both the West – cowboys and Indians, and the Civil War. Both paid off. I blend in Navajo lore and culture into my books. One of my main characters and a readers’ favorite, George, is a full-blooded Navajo boy. And now, I currently live in an area rich in history from the colonial period through the civil war, and to modern history with D.C. just up the road.

However, at 22 years of age, moving to Wyoming was daunting. I was on my own in a place where I knew no one and no one knew me. I was lonely. I was alone. I dealt with a great deal of stress.

Later in my career, I moved to California by myself without knowing anyone. I was older, but still. I had never been there except to interview. Again, I was lonely and I was alone. I dealt with a great deal of stress.

When I sat down to write this, I almost put the Sh in front of It. I didn’t because it would have offended some, perhaps many. But when you think of it, stress is quite a bit of –it.

And the thing is, each of us handles stress differently. Anger. Apathy. Frustration. Boredom. Loneliness. Aloneness. Sadness, if not Despair. Restlessness. With the current Covid-19 running rampant, I wonder how many of us can tick off the adjectives listed above to describe the feelings we have.

Those of you who know me, know that Kim and I lost a son, Wil, to a bullet as he walked down a street towards his apartment. One gang wanted to shoot and kill a rival. Wil was in the middle and he was the only one who was shot and the only one who died. But what I want to focus on was the stress Kim and I felt.

This afternoon, Kim was about to walk out the door to hunt for toilet paper among other things. She walked into the garage, but came back in because she forgot the keys to the car. She stopped and looked at me, shook her head and said, “I feel as scatterbrained as I did when Wil died.” Stress.

I handled the stress differently, though I, too, was just as scatterbrained back then. I bottled up everything. I think to this day, I don’t think I mourned my son’s death, and the counseling background I have knows that isn’t healthy. Still, I didn’t give myself permission to mourn because I felt I needed to remain strong for Kim, for our daughters, Hannah and Emily. I found (and find) myself crying at odd times- still do. I hide it, but the tears are there and so are the feelings.

Handling It. Or –It.

We are in unchartered waters, you and I. Hell, we’re in the middle of the ocean without a raft or boat or life preserver. We don’t know which direction the shore sits. And, there are things lurking under the surface of the water we’re paddling in.

Some of us might worry about the next meal or the next paycheck or if the next bill will push us over the edge. We worry about our loved ones, young and old. Some have pre-existing conditions. Some are in that vulnerable age group. We try to take care, but there are others who don’t.

If you are like me, in the back of your mind you wonder if you’re just dreaming, and at some point, you’ll wake up and this will be over. Quarantined? What the heck? A week or two, okay, we can do that. Three months? Seriously?

Each of us handle it differently, yet in the same way. We will run the gamut of emotions and feelings. There will be short tempers and the trying of patience. There will be words we didn’t mean. There will be actions we wish we could take back. Some of it. All of it. –It.

I think we need to remember that we are human. We will make mistakes. We’ll learn to swim in that ocean. We’ll spot the shore eventually and we’ll pull ourselves up onto the warm sand, dry off and rest. That’s what we will do.

It won’t be without some pain. It won’t be without some fear. There will be loss. But we are resilient creatures, you and I. Our world, and our psyche might change. Our personality and our relationships might change. But depending upon how we handle it, or how we handle –it, we can come out of this stronger and with a greater sense of who we are as a person and as a people. That is my wish. That is my hope. It’s all in how we handle it. 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. Here are two advance reviews from two awesome authors:

“Adopted and bonding as a family, with histories of death, destruction and for some...abuse, these boys band together—ready to lay down their life for their new family—in order to find a missing friend before dangerous gunmen find them.

A whirlwind of adventure, relationships, protecting family, hair-raising situations, and cold betrayal.”
Tina O’Hailey author of When Darkness Begins

“A boy goes missing in Navajo Nation, a family is killed. Onto the next adventure for three brothers, including one who grew up there, to search for him. As to be expected, danger awaits, but these are not ordinary teens. They have faced harrowing situations before, and now they will rely on the skills and experience they’ve developed to get through this one.

Once again, author Joseph Lewis has written a fast-paced psychological thriller mystery that immerses readers into a dark world few encounter.”
Joan Livingston, author of the Isabel Long Mystery Series

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 Christian Erfurt and Unsplash