Follow by Email

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Marble and a Blank Page


When I begin writing, the page is blank. Nothing on it except a blinking cursor. Yet, I have this idea, sometimes a question, that pops into my mind. More than likely, the idea or question has been percolating for a while before I pull out my trusty laptop and begin pecking at the keyboard.

I call it, “Pre-writing in my head.” Sometimes, I don’t hear what Kim or the girls are saying to me because I’m wrestling with the idea and perspective. I can tune them and the world out as I work it out, and when I write.

I think the idea or question through. I look at various scenarios. I come at it from different perspectives. Finally, when I begin writing, I’ve settled on one perspective, though that might change as I write. I think that happens to many writers.

There seems to be an argument or debate among writers whether it is best to write with the end in mind. Some, including me, don’t know the final scene until it is written. In fact, for me at least, the end is nowhere in sight when I begin my next story. It is only about the half-way point that I catch a glimpse of it, but it is only a glimpse. And it is distant, and its shape is not recognizable.

The end of any of my stories depend upon the characters. Now I realize that the characters come from me and my imagination, but still, when I’m constructing dialogue and action, characters come to life and they develop a mind of their own. Much of what they do and the interplay between them moves the story forward, and the reader (and the writer) arrives at an ending.

In my latest novel, Betrayed, I didn’t know what the end would be until I wrote it. Seriously. I began writing the ending scene (in the Epilogue). The characters had their say, or not, and “it happened.” There was a scene towards the end of the book when Brian sat in the dark of a bar/diner writing two letters, that pointed towards the ending, but even then, at that point, I didn’t know what the ending would be. Brian knew what he faced. He knew what was ahead of him and his brothers.

That scene with Brian was emotional for me. I wept. I struggled to get Brian’s feelings and what he had to say right. I believe I did, at least for him. It isn’t perfect in the sense that he’s a sixteen-year-old boy, and after working with kids for forty-four years, sixteen-year-olds don’t necessarily get it right. Close, but usually not on the money.

I have to say that the ending in Betrayed is one of my favorite endings of anything I’ve written. It’s human. It’s raw, and it has a heart. It is satisfying, even in a somewhat unfinished and questioning way. Like life, I guess.

Back sometime ago, I heard a story about Michelangelo. He is quoted as saying, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” He also said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

Now, I am no Michelangelo. I am not James Patterson or John Sandford or Stephen King, who are three of my heroes in writing. I also don’t pretend to be. I make no pretenses for who I am or what I write.

There is a point to this, however.

In life, we are faced with a blank page or a block of granite. Each minute of each day, we make choices and make decisions. We can choose to begin pecking away at the keyboard until we see the possibility of an ending, or like Michelangelo, we can look at a block of granite and see the angel. We might see an ending or we might not. What we decide to do or say, how we act or react in the minute or day we have in front of us is up to use. We can write our own endings. We can carve our own block of granite. Make it satisfying – for us and for those around us. The choice it up to us. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make a Difference!

For My Readers:

Betrayed is now available for Kindle preorder to KDP Select at Amazon at:

A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, and no one is talking.

“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.

“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 Kelly Sikkema and Unsplash  


Saturday, August 15, 2020

Titles and Identity



There are some jobs that cause one to not only have a title, but also form an identity. I had one for the past twenty-three years- principal, though quite honestly, I thought of myself as more of an educator than a principal. Throughout those twenty-three years, those I worked with called me Principal Lewis, or Boss, or Boss Man, while others called me Joe or Mister Lewis. I actually liked Boss and Boss Man, because there was a playfulness in them. Principal Lewis seemed too formal and I didn’t think I wore that title well. I’ve always been Joe, and it wasn’t until I started teaching when I received the Mister Lewis, though most of the kids called me Coach. I liked those days. I miss them.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been, well, nothing. Joe, I guess. Mister Lewis, I suppose. But honestly, not much of anything.

My interactions with adults are minimal. The grocery store clerk, who might ask, “Did you find everything okay?” or “Do you have your ‘fill in the blank’ card?” I might spot someone I know for a quick hello or small chit chat, but other than that, I talk only to my wife and my kids.

As for students, well, hardly any. There are two that text back and forth with me. They seem to see me as “Friend” and I’m okay with that. When I was a counselor, while I was professional, most kids, I think, saw me as a friend. At least, I think they did. It’s nice that at least these two students feel comfortable enough with me to let me know how they are doing.

And I’m still in touch with many former students. Facebook has been a great help with that. It’s fun to watch their own families grow, and I enjoy them sharing this and that with me beyond their posts on social media.

The hardest part of retirement for me is the lack of identity. While I still see myself as an educator, I am not educating directly anymore, unless you consider my weekly posts educating. I’m certainly no longer Principal or Boss or Boss Man. Right now, I’m just, well, Joe.

I think I’m okay with that. However, I think my worth as a person has taken a hit.

I remember when my father got ill, only to get more ill. He lost the ability to communicate. While I was in college, he would try to write a letter to me and the first words were legible, while the rest resembled a scribbled waterfall. Best way I can describe it. Eventually, he lost the ability to talk. You could still see him struggling with trying to get words out, but they were stuck. They took some sort of detour and ended up lost.

Eventually, he was placed in a nursing home. Probably the best place for him. My brother Jack and his wife, and my sister Betty and her husband, tried to care for him. Other brothers and sisters did too. It became too much. I don’t begrudge them at all. Honestly, not at all. They tried. So probably, a nursing home was the best place for him. A painful decision by the family.

But I think more so for my dad. He was alone. Yes, he received visitors. But daily, minute by minute, hour by hour, he was alone.

My mom ended up in a nursing home, too. She couldn’t get around like she once could. One day as I recall, Meals On Wheels found her in the hallway on the floor. She had been there for at least twenty-four hours. There was speculation that the time was longer. You see, she had fallen and broke her hip. The speculation was that she dragged herself to try to get to a phone.

The day we brought her home from the hospital, my brother Jack and I were sitting at the kitchen table with her. Jack was going through bills to pay and I was going through mail. Mom burst into tears and told us that she didn’t want to be alone anymore, that she was frightened. That was tough to hear. My mom was so vulnerable. Jack and my sister Judy made plans and found a nice nursing home where Judy used to work. They took care of her and mom loved it, her new home.

I guess it is all in perspective.

Some folks embrace retirement, while others resist it. Kind of like a nursing home experience.

For me, I’m not used to sitting around. I walk most every day just to keep in shape. I read and I write, two of my favorite things to do. Throw in a movie or two, and I’m pretty much good to go. However, there is only so much walking, reading, writing and movie watching one can do.

So, I’m looking for part-time work. I’m choosy, picky. I like working with kids and families, and I will in some capacity. When I find the right one, I’ll know it. It will be nice to bring in some extra income.

Titles and Identity.

I think the trick is that one’s identity isn’t, or perhaps, shouldn’t be tied to one’s title. I suppose it can be, but is it fulfilling? Meaningful? I prefer being “Dad” and “Husband” and “Friend.” I like being the playful “Boss Man” or as one of my former students calls me, “Slimeball” because I refer to her (and to her brother) as “Weirdo.” Nice they can do that with me. It makes me smile. All in fun.

But a Title is just that, a Title. I think Identity is what you, yourself, make it, and not what others lay on you. You, and I, need to be comfortable with whom we are, not so much what we are, though that is important too. Because what we are changes. Who we are might change, but it is more solid- as it should be. So, I’m wrestling a bit right now and eventually, I’ll figure it out. I usually do. It’s just taking some time to do so. But I’ll get there. We all do. My turn now. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I received a brand new 5 Star Review from Diane Donovan of Donovan’s Literary Services, who is also a Senior Reviewer for The Midwest Book Review and Editor of the California Bookwatch. She wrote:

“Joseph Lewis does an excellent job of crafting and entwining the politics and process of confronting reservation violence and the efforts of a group of boys to find answers about their conflicted lives and disparate backgrounds. He paints a realistic, involving portrait of reservation life and the FBI's involvement in shootouts and confrontations that threaten to take not only lives, but ways of life . . . 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.”

I am both pleased and humbled by that. Betrayed is available for preorder at https://www.blackrosewriting.com/thrillers/betrayed  Use promo code: PREORDER2020 to receive a 15% discount. Betrayed is a contemporary psychological thriller and an exploration of the heart and of a blended family of adopted kids, their relationships to each other and their parents woven into a tight thriller/mystery.

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   


Picture of my father, John Raymond Lewis, Sr. courtesy of Unknown.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Perseverance


I’ve been in and around athletics for most of my life. I’ve either played it, coached it, or watched it. Kim and I began watching soccer when Wil was seven, and now that Emily played her last season and game last year, we have no clue what to do with our fall weekends. We think we might have to adopt a kid to go watch him or her play.

I’ve been fortunate to coach basketball at the middle school, high school and collegiate levels. Pretty remarkable, since I was only a marginal player myself, and ended up getting cut as a junior. The coach told me that there weren’t two seasons of football – one with pads and one without. I don’t think that was a compliment to my athleticism.

The thing is, I could see the game. I could spot an athlete, and more importantly, a basketball player.

I had the good fortune to have excellent players that made me look great. Rob, Gene, Mike (I coached three or so in high school), Steve, Tony, Al, Dave, Kurt, and so many others. Two ended up being “Mr. Basketball” for the state of Wyoming when they were seniors. Several went on to play at the collegiate level.

After winning a state championship in Wyoming, I was recruited to coach guards at the collegiate level. That changed when the head coach walked into the office, threw a credit card and a map of Chicago on my desk and said, “I need you to find me some players.”

I looked for more than a kid who could shoot. I like quickness, vision, “basketball smarts” as they say. But I also used to sit in the student section and would ask the kids around me about this player or that player. The kids were brutally honest and more than once did I turn away from a kid.

There are probably other qualities coaches and prognosticators can point to, but in my mind, one thing that sets one athlete apart from another is perseverance. The willingness to fall, pick yourself up, and risk falling again. To me, it’s this quality that sets one athlete apart from the others.

To reach the “star” high school level and most assuredly to reach the collegiate level, the athlete needs more than athleticism. There are quite a few gifted and talented athletes I passed on, both at the high school level and at the collegiate level. They might not have been “good people” or they sometimes took plays off during a game. They didn’t care enough about themselves at night or the weekend to remove themselves from alcohol or other substances.

But mostly, it was a lack of perseverance. They gave up too often and too early, particularly when it got tough.

My wife and I got back from a vacation we took with our daughter, their boyfriends, and dear family friends we haven’t had the opportunity to spend much time with. One of their boys, Jimmy, is getting ready to head to Temple on an academic scholarship. But he also runs cross country and track. Now, it was a vacation. One week at the beach. Great weather, although beastly hot. Who wouldn’t take a bit of time off from working out?

Not Jimmy.

Fourteen miles one day. Eleven another. A forty-five-minute workout after running a short six miles. Worked on his craft everyday during that vacation. Probably not the fastest runner in the world, though he is pretty darn fast. Might not make the Olympics. Will have to work at Temple. But he did work and he will work.

When I mentioned to his father that I was impressed and proud of Jimmy for how he worked each day, his father simply said, “It’s been that way for four years. Longer than four years.”

And, Jimmy is a nice young man. Bright. Quiet. Will talk if you speak to him, but is content to listen rather than not.

Athleticism goes a long way. So does character. Often, character will tip the scales in favor of this athlete or another. But as important as athleticism and character are- and in my mind, they are important, I will look at perseverance. In athletics. In school. In a marriage. In life. Perseverance sets one apart from all the others. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family. No one willing to talk, and three brothers are in danger.
My new book, Betrayed, is available for preorder at https://www.blackrosewriting.com/thrillers/betrayed Use promo code: PREORDER2020 for a 15% discount.

Betrayed will debut Nov. 12, 2020! It is a contemporary psychological thriller using characters from my previous work. It takes place on the Navajo Nation Reservation in northeast Arizona.


Below is the book blurb. Pretty excited about it.
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, and no one is talking.

Integrity is protecting someone who betrayed you. Courage is keeping a promise, even though it might mean death.

A late-night phone call turns what was to be a fun hunting trip into a deadly showdown. Fifteen-year-old brothers George Tokay, Brian Evans, and Brett McGovern face death on top of a mesa on the Navajo Nation Reservation in Arizona. They have no idea why men are intent on killing them.

Betrayed is a contemporary psychological thriller and an exploration of the heart and of a blended family of adopted kids, their relationships to each other and their parents woven into a tight thriller/mystery.

Here are some early reviews from other 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—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

“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  

Picture Courtesy of asoggetti and Unsplash
Betrayed Cover Designed by David King of Black Rose Writing