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Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Cold


I lived in several states. I grew up and lived in Wisconsin, and for my first teaching and coaching position, I moved to Wyoming where I lived for three years. There is a rugged beauty to that state. I lived in what are called the Nebraska Sand Hills on the east-central part of the state. Wind was constant and cold was numbing.

Being a rookie (or an idiot) when it comes to propane, I woke up one night seeing my breath and freezing. The propane tank was empty. Talk about bone chilling. A family who looked after me while I lived out there took me to their house, where I called the propane company, and they came out and filled my tank. Nice of the family to do that, but they did that sort of thing all the time for me. I am so thankful to them, and for them to have taken me in, so to speak. And, I learned my lesson.

After Wyoming, I lived in Omaha, Nebraska for two years, where I assisted as a coach for the university and earned my master's degree in counseling. Then back to Wisconsin for six years.

In 1987, I moved to California where even in the middle of winter, I didn’t have to wear sixteen layers of clothes to keep warm. It seldom rained (my second least favorite thing on the earth, though my wife might put bugs right up there ahead of rain), and the weather was almost always sunny, and we loved it there. That’s where I met Kim (also from Wisconsin, but we had to travel to the west coast to find each other), and where we started or family.

Then we moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to family. Ten years. And it was cold. Again.

I found that when you grow up in cold weather, you don’t think much of it. You get used to it. Throw on a sweater, a jacket, a hat, some boots and some mittens, and you’re pretty much good to go. But leave the cold climate and live in a warm climate, and then move back, it is a rude and unwelcomed awakening. So much so, in 2008, Kim and I moved to Virginia, where we still get some weather, but by and large, it’s comfortable year-round.

I thought of my experience with cold weather and warm weather, and thought of those poor folks in Texas and other southern states who aren’t used to the cold and who can’t jet away to Cancun to escape it. Folks without water, without electricity, without quite a bit that I . . . we . . . take for granted. 

Parents not having enough food or water or heat. And when it thaws, and it will thaw, whatever was frozen becomes unfrozen. Pipes burst. Walls and ceilings and floors are ruined. Houses trashed along with some lives. Some lives lost.

It makes me . . . hopefully, us . . . appreciate what we have. The little inconveniences in my life are nothing compared to what these poor folks in Texas and other southern states are going through. I’ve never had to boil water in my lifetime. I had only one experience when cold took my comfort away, and that was short-lived. My life returned to normal only after a few hours, whereas these poor folks’ lives return to normal will take days, weeks, or possibly longer.

Tragedy, and I would classify the events of this past week or so as exactly that, knows no religion. Tragedy knows no political party. Tragedy doesn’t care if you are wealthy or poor. Tragedy doesn’t respect differences in gender, in sexual preference, in age. Tragedy touches what it wants, when it wants, where it wants without concern for boundary or what side of the tracks one lives.

I write this at the kitchen table in a fairly comfortable chair, with the heat on, the TV playing in the background, and after I ate my breakfast and took a shower and cleaned myself up for the day. There are folks out there right now, living right now, who don’t have these basic necessities. Parents who are worried about their children. Kids who are worried about their parents. So much pain. So much worry. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I have a new author's website, in addition to my Facebook Author’s Page.
On it, I talk about writing. I introduce characters from my books. I release snippets from those books. I let you in on any interviews I have done. I will let you know of any events coming up for books sales and signings. Mostly, it is my way of reaching out to you so that you get to know my author side of life.

You can find it at: https://jrlewisauthor.blog/

Some recent posts include:

-      Parts of a Story – the Middle

-      Betrayed – What is it about? And What were my thoughts writing it?

-      Parts of a Story – the Beginning

-     Why I Write, and Why I Read

-     A Snippet from Spiral Into Darkness

-        The Book Description and Book Trailer for Caught in a Web

-        The Importance and Use of Setting

-        Meet Brian, One of My Characters!

-        Meet George, One of My Characters!


Other ways you can connect with me on Social Media: 
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor 
 
Another Five Star Review for my book, Betrayed:
“This 339-page psychological thriller from talented Joseph Lewis draw us into his characters’ lives and keeps us page-turning. The intricate character-driven action and adventure plot is solidly written. In this emotional and stirring tale of teenage love, adventure and murder, the story examines blended family relationships, how they relate to one another amid a mystery—with a larger mystery that swiftly turns violent—and gives unique background viewpoints into Navajo culture and beliefs. This is a multi-layered adventure story with twists and turns, exploding eventually into a hair-raising bullet-ridden finale.

Written with honesty and integrity, this able author presents us with a unique story of survival and kinship. It is educational, interesting, and entertaining. Joseph Lewis’ skill and sensitivity in handling delicate and potentially troubling subject matters, is deserving of this 5-star review. Readers can look forward to accessing more of his well-written and stirring unusual tales. Well done Mr. Lewis.”
    – Eliza Earsman, author of Days of Elijah

 

Betrayed: A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner!
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. https://amzn.to/2EKHudx

 

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! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers.com 
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  

 

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, the FBI can protect him or his family. And he cannot protect himself. 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 Robert Zunikoff and Unsplash

 

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Newness

 

I grew up in Wisconsin, so I’m used to changes of the seasons. I’m cognizant of weather changes as I can, sort of feel it in the air. On the older series, “Gilmore Girls” Lorelai could sense snow coming. It was her favorite season (though she liked them all), and she loved the first snowfall.

I remember as an elementary kid anticipating and waiting for that first snowflake to float down from the heavens. It was magical. One, then ten, then hundreds, then . . . Snow covered the ground, the bushes and the trees. It wasn’t fussy where it landed. It just came and spent its time wherever it wanted.

I remember some really great sledding hills as a kid. In West Bend, they’d block off a street and we’d rocket down that hill into the baseball diamond at Regner Park. Behind our house was a cemetery above a hill. At the bottom of the hill, my brother, Jeff, and I built a little lift so when the sled or toboggan hit it, we’d sail up in the air and land with a thud. The more air, the better the ride was. We’d use cardboard boxes in the fall when the tall grass turned brown and was particularly slippery. That same lift didn’t feel all that great without the snow to cushion the landing.

Snow also meant ice and ice skating. We’d grab our skates and head to Regner Park with friends. Play ‘crack the whip’ which was murder if you were on the end and not a great skater. Tag, Pom-Pom-Pole-Away (that’s what we called it, and I think that’s how it’s spelled) where they’d call out your name and you’d try to break through arms held together. If you did, you’d bring back someone to your side of the ice. If you didn’t, you were on the opponent’s side of the ice. Steaming cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows, hoping you wouldn’t burn three layers of skin off the roof of your mouth or tongue, and lose your sense of taste for two days.

As a kid, snow was magical. I see pictures of friends’ children playing in the snow. I remember those days with our own kids. Wil was always the daring one. Hannah’s approach was a bit more cautious. Emily thought that if Wil could do it, so could she- size and age be damned. And Kim and I would watch and laugh and hope they wouldn’t damage themselves beyond repair.

Snow.

So pretty when it falls. So pretty when it glistens in the moonlight. As teachers, we’d hope and pray for a snow day. We’d coach our students to put a spoon under their pillow at night, wear their PJs backwards and inside-out, and flush ice cubes down the toilet in hopes for a snow day.

As adults, we’d race to the store for bread, milk, eggs, and toilet paper in case we’d end up housebound. We’d worry about power going out, cars getting stuck, and of course, the sometimes back-breaking shoveling that came after a particularly heavy wet snow.

Funny how perspectives change with age.

And, after it snows, it sits on the ground and begins to melt. The white turns gray or black. Grass pokes through in spots. The yard turns muddy and sloppy. And then there is the refreeze where what was melted then turns to ice, making walking and driving hazardous.

The newness becomes old. The pretty turns dreary if not ugly. The sledding hill becomes, well, just another hill. One of dirt or asphalt.

All things change. Seasons come and go. Years pass us by. What was once new and bright and shiny, turns old and faded. It is life, after all. Minutes to hours. Hours to days. Days to weeks. Weeks to months to years. Instead of looking too far into the future, look to the present for all that life offers us. Live in it. Relish those small meaningful moments. The laughter. The rosy cheeks. The smiles. The wonder. The excitement. Newness does become old, but it does not have to change or sadden our heart, does it? Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I have a new author's website, in addition to my Facebook Author’s Page.

On it, I talk about writing. I introduce characters from my books. I release snippets from those books. I let you in on any interviews I have done. I will let you know of any events coming up for books sales and signings. Mostly, it is my way of reaching out to you so that you get to know my author side of life.

You can find it at: https://jrlewisauthor.blog/

Some recent posts include:

-     Why I Write, and Why I Read

-     A Snippet from Spiral Into Darkness

-        The Book Description and Book Trailer for Caught in a Web

-        The Importance and Use of Setting

-        Meet Brian, One of My Characters!

-        Meet George, One of My Characters!

-        A Recent Author Interview


Other ways you can connect with me on Social Media: 
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor 

Two More Five Star Reviews for my book, Betrayed:
“Another great psychological thriller from Joseph Lewis! He is able to draw you into his characters’ lives and keeps you turning pages until the end! I can’t put the book down once I start reading! Love the relationships he drafts in this blended family and the real ness he brings to his characters.” Sharon

“Lewis handles delicate and potentially troubling subject matter with skill and sensitivity. Betrayed is the best book of Lewis’ thriller series. It is extremely well-written; I wasn’t able to put the book down. It is suspenseful, exciting and has a surprising ending.” Thanh

Betrayed: A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner!
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. https://amzn.to/2EKHudx

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! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers.com 
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  
 
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, the FBI can protect him or his family. And he cannot protect himself. 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 Kim Lewis

 

 


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Corners and Lettering


 In my early adult life, I liked to watch 60 minutes. Not the newest one- nothing against it, really- but the older ones. Walter Cronkite, Charles Kuralt, Roger Mudd, Eric Sevareid, Bob Schieffer, Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Ed Bradley, Dan Rather. Some left, others retired. Sadly, some passed away. Others took their place. Eventually, they added female reporters. Diane Sawyer was the first. Lesley Stahl, and others followed. Took a while.

Charles Kuralt had a Sunday morning show that gave me peace. His slow conversational style. His easygoing laugh. The beautiful cinematography. Sometimes music was added, but more likely than not, he let nature provide the soundtrack. Loved it. Hardly missed it. Was sad when he left the show and passed it on to someone else. I don’t even remember who, but I know I stopped watching it. No one could take Kuralt’s place at the helm.

One of my favorites on 60 Minutes was Andy Rooney. Mostly, they would film him sitting behind a cluttered desk and in front of a cluttered bookcase. And he would talk in a high, nasal, whiny voice. My mom would call him cantankerous. I would call him amusing, if not downright funny.

He could turn any mundane topic into something of interest, and more times than not, there would be a point. Sometimes subtle. Other times in your face. Not sure how he got away with some of his comments. Irreverent. Like your favorite uncle with his thick, forest-like, bushy eyebrows.

There was one episode that both amused me and caused me to think. It was about soap.

Rooney talked about how he loved the newness of a bar of soap. The feel of the edges. The look and feel of the lettering on the bar. He said he felt disappointed when the name on the bar of soap would disappear, when the edges became rounded and smooth. Rooney complained that soap companies and shower companies were in cahoots because the shower head always seemed to aim at the soap notch in the shower wall and cause the soap to melt away too quickly. He said that if he were wealthy, he would throw out each bar of soap as soon as the lettering wore off.

Such a mundane topic. Inconsequential, really. Still, I remember it after all these years, and this morning, it got me thinking.

I think each of us have edges. Upon birth, there is, obviously, a newness to us. It is only through time and experience that our edges, our lettering, is worn off. Some of the experiences make us smoother. Like a used bar of soap, we become easier to handle. Friendlier to others as they come in contact with us and we with them.

However, there are other experiences that wear off the edges and our lettering. Some rather hurtful and unpleasant experiences. Perhaps people come into contact with us and work on and at us to meet their own expectations. We become “one of them” and like the bar of soap that loses its lettering, we lose who we are.

Careless words. Thoughtless actions. Being taken for granted. Being used over and over.

We lose our edges. We lose our lettering. The newness is replaced by sameness, by oldness.

Don’t let the world do this to you. Please, don’t let the world do this to those you love and care about. Don’t let the world do this to our children.

Instead, encourage those around you. Support and lift up those who are in your world, your life, those whom you love. I think if we do that, we’ll keep our corners and our lettering. We need to keep our corners and lettering. After all, it is our identity we’re talking about. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I have a new author's website, in addition to my Facebook Author’s Page.

On it, I talk about writing. I introduce characters from my books. I release snippets from those books. I let you in on any interviews I have done. I will let you know of any events coming up for books sales and signings. Mostly, it is my way of reaching out to you so that you get to know my author side of life.

You can find it at: https://jrlewisauthor.blog/

Some recent posts include:
-        The Book Description and Book Trailer for Caught in a Web
-        The Importance and Use of Setting
-        Meet Brian, One of My Characters!
-        Meet George, One of My Characters!
-        A Recent Author Interview

Other ways you can connect with me on Social Media: 
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor 

Photo courtesy of Micheile Henderson and Unsplash