Sunday, September 26, 2021

Behind the Eyes

I saw an advertisement recently about getting your eyes checked regularly. The ad said that many physical ailments, such as diabetes and glaucoma, can be detected. I knew about glaucoma, because that’s how the doc discovered it with me. We’ve held it steady so far with drops, so I’m not worried. Didn’t know about diabetes, though. Didn’t know that was possible.

As a coach, I learned to look into the eyes. Towards the end of my career, I could tell who was ready and who wasn’t. There was a certain look a player had. I know other coaches reading this will know what I mean. I was able to confirm it in pregame warmups. Again, there was “something” about the player that told me how the game might be played by that player. The game bore it out most of the time. Rarely was I surprised.

As a counselor, it was even more crucial to determine a student’s feeling and what that response might be. Disappointment. Fear. Giving up. Happiness. Determination. I could see all of that behind the eyes.

There was this young man, Gabino, a senior at one school where I was a counselor in California. I sent for him with a call slip. 99% of the time, the kids showed up. Gabino didn’t. You see, I had to have a conference with this senior to talk about graduation, or not, and what the next steps might be. Frustrated, I tried again, and once again, he failed to show.

Okay, we were going to play that game. 

I had Gabino escorted to my office by security. He sat down, legs stretched out in front of him, arms folded on his wife-beater t-shirt, and no eye contact with me. I did my normal counselor spiel. The importance of graduation. What the diploma will do for him. It wasn’t working. Nothing was getting through to him. I reminded him he was severely lacking credits towards graduation. Thankfully, they were elective credits, but still!

Angry, I pulled up my chair and thought I gave him no room to maneuver. I leaned forward, purposely crowding his personal space. My voice was raised, intent on getting through to him.

Twice, Gabino stood up, did a 360, and sat back down in virtually the same position, minus his legs being outstretched in front of him. When I finished, I asked him if he had questions. He shook his head. I said, “The next time I send for you with a call slip, I expect you to show up.”

He left my office without acknowledging what I had said. Throughout my session with him, he never uttered a word.

I was not about to give up on Gabino. No way!

I did some research and found a program where not only he could earn enough credits to graduate, he could get paid at the same time. So, I sent for Gabino the very next day. And he showed up.

I changed my approach. I was excited. I asked him to step over and look over my shoulder at my computer screen as I explained the program I had in mind. Gabino’s demeanor changed. There was a flicker of hope, for lack of a better word, in his eyes. He agreed to the program, and he even shook my hand. He smiled.

Throughout that year, I had many meetings with Gabino. Some meetings I sent for him just to talk. Others, he came on his own to talk to me. I learned about Gabino. He became the only male in his family to graduate from high school. He got himself jumped out of the gang he was in, and I saw him in that hospital banged up and beaten. Towards the end of his senior year, he introduced me to his girlfriend.

When he received his diploma that May, he stepped off the stage, walked up to me as I stood in line with the other counselors and embraced me, reluctant to let go. I have to admit, I wasn’t in much of a hurry, either. He wept as he thanked me. I have to say, I wept, too.

More importantly, Gabino taught me some lessons.  

All kids want to succeed, no matter how “hardened” they might appear. All kids want to connect with someone, no matter how independent they might appear. All kids are looking for a way to succeed because they want to succeed. That first meeting with Gabino way back when, I failed to read what was in his eyes. I was filled with frustration- my frustration, that a kid didn’t want to sit and listen to my words of enlightenment and wisdom. I was full of crap that day. Probably many other days, too. Just ask my wife. 

Gabino reminded me I needed to look behind the eyes. Gabino reminded me I needed to look behind the wife-beater t-shirt, the folded arms, and the outstretched legs. Gabino reminded me that all kids deserve an opportunity, a chance, a future. Thanks, Gabino, for making me a better counselor and person. I owe you. Something to think about . . . 

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

Connect with me on Social Media: 
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I received several 5 Star Reviews for a couple of my books. Diane Donovan, a Senior Reviewer for the Midwest Book Review, and Editor of California Bookwatch, wrote one for Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy, and one for my newest book, Blaze In, Blaze OutStolen Lives also won a Literary Titan Gold Book Award, and was an Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers.

Stolen Lives represents an exciting probe of abduction and unusual connections between fourteen-year-old victims, and is recommended reading for thriller and intrigue fans who enjoy stories that focus as much on rescuers and victims as it does on the perps. Joseph Lewis builds a compelling tale filled with satisfying twists and turns.

As the boys struggle to survive and the police attempt to find answers and hope in a seemingly impossible situation, readers are treated to a scenario firmly rooted in the author's research into child abduction and real-world events that translate well to thought-provoking fictional milieus.

Human trafficking and murder are difficult issues to tackle, yet Lewis does so with astute social, psychological, and investigative insights that keep his story realistic, involving, and unpredictable.

Even though Stolen Lives is part of a trilogy, it ends on a satisfyingly complete note, which makes it highly recommended as a stand-alone story for readers who typically eschew series titles.

Collections strong in social issues, mystery and intrigue, and novels of survival tactics will find Stolen Lives a fine addition.

For Blaze In, Blaze Out, Donovan wrote:

Blaze In, Blaze Out is a detective story that takes place in the aftermath of the conviction of a Ukrainian crime ring, where Detectives Pat O'Connor and Paul Eiselmann have finally brought the perps to court and justice has been served.

Neither detective expected head honcho Dmitry Andruko to organize a vendetta against them from jail—but this is what takes place, and the quiet repose each officer seeks after their challenging case takes an ominous turn as elusive contract killers enter their lives to threaten everything they love.

Joseph Lewis specializes in a fast-paced action story that takes the time to build compelling atmosphere around its events. He also presents the point of view of the contract killer challenged to do his job. This nicely rounds out the dilemma and viewpoint of the detectives as they face their pursuers and struggle to survive long enough to capture them.

There are also many surprises, as when the killer proves to have a heart, saving a potential victim even as he plots to complete his assignment.

It only goes to show that proving guilt is sometimes the beginning of the journey—not the end.

Blaze In, Blaze Out is highly recommended for detective story readers and libraries catering to them. Mystery readers seeking a compelling saga will find this story of detectives and four teen adopted brothers who face a clever killer to be fast-paced, involving, and filled with satisfyingly unpredictable moments, tempered by fine tension that builds up to a thought-provoking conclusion leaving the door ajar for more.

BestThrillers wrote:

The Bottom Line: A superb crime drama simmering with suspense and deep character studies en route to an explosive finale. Lewis employs chapters told from the killers’ points of view to great effect, building suspense as both groups stalk their prey. Featuring a taut, deliberate plot that builds to a crescendo, Blaze In, Blaze Out is a welcome break from end-to-end breathless action thrillers. Rather than relying on gimmicks, Lewis has created a village of sturdy characters that he moves in and out of his novels, and he centers their development around engrossing police procedurals. Since much of the boys’ individual coming-of-age stories begins in Betrayed, readers are strongly encouraged to read both books in tandem.” 

Betrayed won Honorable Mention for Fiction-Crime-Mystery in the Reader’s Favorite Book Award contest. That marks the fourth award Betrayed has won.

My new book, Blaze In, Blaze Out, is now available for preorder. Use the promo code: PREORDER2021 and order it at the publisher’s website at:

Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko meant the end. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. A target is a target, and in the end, the target will die.

Betrayed: A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Honorable Mention Award Winner for Fiction-Crime-Mystery!

Betrayed is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback!
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is talking. 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.
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, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement.
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by 

Caught in a Web is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback!

They found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador, controls the drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors. They send Ricardo Fuentes 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 Lives Trilogy and Prequel are now available in both paperback, kindle and nook through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble! The links are below! I appreciate all the texts, requests, and messages I have been receiving. Thanks for your support and interest. I edited and revised each book. I am pleased with the results. I am thankful to BRW for their continued belief in me and in my writing. I hope you will rediscover or perhaps discover the Lives Trilogy and Prequel.  
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 live in separate parts of the country, the lives of 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 Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out.
Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner!
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 will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved.  
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. 
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and possible death?  

Photo courtesy of Tim Marshall and Unsplash






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