Sunday, April 7, 2024

All About Perspective


Any of you who have read my posts know I, like many of you, am a creature of habit. I have a morning routine I follow nearly every day. 

Upon rising, I stand at the window and look out across the backyard. Specifically, the early predawn sky and the lake. I try to spot what birds might be visiting our trees or fence, maybe a squirrel or rabbit. Sometimes deer in the very back outside of our property. 

Then I go about my business and get ready for the day. Once done, I again stand at the window. This time, the sun is up and it’s splashing the waves caused by a breeze. Trees wave at me. Birds bounce from limb to limb. 

I do my morning meditations and then stand at the window for one last look. The sun is higher in the sky, maybe towards the tops of the trees, but not over them. Not yet. Too early. 

When I stand at the window, I seldom look left. 

Trees have been cut down. The ground is cleared because someone felt the need to add more houses to our subdivision. Mounds of red clay. A mountain of boulders that had been blasted to make way for the “development.” A large green mountain created when they cleared the land and with planted grass on it rises above the area like a gangrenous boil. No telling when it will be lanced and removed along with the mountain of boulders. Not soon enough, as far as I am concerned. Both, like the clear-cut earth and the chopped down trees, unwelcome and ugly. 

I am content to look to my right and not to my left. 

On my right, it is peaceful and serene. On my left, it is ugly and unsettling. 

Interestingly, both stand about twenty or thirty yards from each other. Untouched woods separating the two scenes. The woods, a home to wildlife. The birds perch in the trees above while fox, rabbit, squirrels and deer run below. Their home encroached upon by “development.”

I look at the woods, averting my eyes from the left, content to watch the middle and the right.

Interesting how my perspective, and along with it, my feelings, change in a mere twenty or thirty yards. A slight shift of my eyes. A matter of perspective. A conscious choice I make each morning to bring peace and serenity to my morning.

And I thought, how many of us make the choice to look right rather than left? How many of us choose peace and serenity over chaos? All in twenty or thirty yards. A choice to make. A choice of perspective. Something to think about …

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

If you like what you’re reading and find a benefit from it, you can check out my other posts on my Website at https://www.jrlewisauthor.com under the Inspirational Blog tab. You can find all nine books, their descriptions, and links for purchase at the same site. I can also be found on TikTok by searching for @josephlewis5566 and on Tribal by searching for @jrauthor85 and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61557592103627

Tomorrow evening, Monday April 8th at 7:30 pm Eastern Standard Time, I will be on a live podcast on Horizons Author Lounge with Rhonda M. Lawson. It will air live on the Meet the World Image Solutions Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MTWImageSolutions and YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/@meettheworldimagesolutions I hope you can join me as I discuss my writing, my book Fan Mail, and answer questions. 

Last, my book, Blaze In, Blaze Out, is FREE for a limited time on BookFunnel. Yes, FREE!

Action Thriller of the Year (BestThrillers Book Awards)

Readers’ Favorite Honorable Mention – Fiction – Crime

Author Shout Recommended Read

Literary Titan – Gold Book Award Winner

https://books.bookfunnel.com/aprilthrillerreads/vlr454vqtl

“Blaze In, Blaze Out is an over-the-top thriller. Lewis jumps you seamlessly between timelines of one exhilarating roller-coaster ride to the next.” -Authors Reading

“Blaze in, Blaze out with its engaging plot and deep themes is a riveting novel and fast read that will keep readers in suspense and hooked till the last page.” -Literary Titan

Photo Courtesy of Joseph Lewis

 

 

 

Monday, April 1, 2024

"Define Success," she said.


A week ago, I sat at breakfast with my youngest, Emily. I pumped her with questions about her work with those experiencing homelessness. As a social worker, she doesn’t work with that population any longer, but she did for almost two years. And she loved it … most of the time. Homelessness is a backdrop for a new book I’m writing in the thriller-crime-mystery genre, and I wanted to pick her brain. 

I asked her, did you have success working with the homeless population? She thought for a minute and said, “Define success.” Without waiting for my response, she said, “You have to picture homelessness as rolling a boulder uphill. Sometimes, it’s easy, but most of the time, it’s hard and you never make it, and the boulder can roll back on you.” 

She talked about a series of struggles. Finding a place to sleep for someone. It can take up to six months or longer because of waiting lists. And once in a shelter, the individual has about three weeks or fewer to get themselves on their feet. That means a social security card, a cellphone, a resume, and an interview with the result being a job. There are several problems with all of that. 

If an individual lives on the street, they are looking for their next meal. In Greensboro where my daughter worked, lunches can be found most every day. Dinners? Once a week. So the individual has to decide whether to skip a meal and go to the social security office or to skip the card and eat. A job? The individual has to have help to create an email address, and have help to create a resume and a cover letter, along with the grooming and clothing needed for the interview. All of that takes time, so again, does the individual pass up a meal to attend to all of that or eat and pass up the opportunity for a job interview that might come their way with no guarantees? 

If you are a woman with a child, the chances of securing a room at a shelter are better, but again, there is no guarantee, and she and the child will find themselves on a waiting list and that can last for six months or more. If the individual is a single woman, there is still a chance, but not nearly as good if she had a child or children with her. For a single man, housing is a struggle. And while the individual(s) wait for housing, they are living on the street. Again, for up to six months or more. 

Street life is dangerous. Laws against loitering are increasing- aimed at those experiencing homelessness. If an individual finds a spot to sleep for the night, belongings might be stolen. The newly gotten phone? Gone. The blanket to sleep on? Gone. Any food that was stored up? Gone. It is safer for those living out of a car because doors can be locked. But even then, there is no guarantee. 

And social worker burn out? It is real and a problem, even for the most dedicated, the most passionate, the most caring. Yet, for a year and a half as part of her internship, Emily said the work was hard, but she liked it. Now, she works with adults who are experiencing or who have experienced trauma. Because of privacy, she couldn’t and didn’t share details, but being a counselor for eleven years, I get what she means. I saw it in kids. Those kids grow up to be adults, and if the trauma was never worked on, they become the adults Emily sees.

All of this ran through my mind yesterday as I sat down with my family to eat a delicious dinner. I thought about this as we talked and laughed about this or that. Even the joy of being with my wife, my two daughters, their husbands- one about to be my daughter’s husband in a few months, my grandson, and my son-in-law’s mother, there was the question of what are those experiencing homelessness, foodlessness, and even lovelessness, doing? Where were they eating? Where were they sleeping? Who did they spend their Easter with? 

Life is not for the faint of heart. There are choices and decisions made every minute of every day. Some can lead to a better life. Others? Not so much. Even the lack of making a decision can lead to one end or the other. Something to think about …

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

If you like what you’re reading and find a benefit from it, you can check out my other posts at https://www.jrlewisauthor.com under the Inspirational Blog tab. You can find all nine books, their descriptions, and links for purchase at the same site. I can also be found on TikTok by searching for @josephlewis5566 and on Tribal by searching for @jrauthor85 and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61557592103627

One of my books, Blaze In, Blaze Out, will be on sale for $.99 on Tuesday, April 2nd and Wednesday, April 3rd on Amazon for the Kindle version. For your convenience, here is the description and purchase link for my book, Blaze In, Blaze Out:

2022 Crime Fiction Book of the Year – Best Thrillers

2022 Readers’ Favorite Honorable Mention - Fiction - Crime

2022 Author Shout Recommended Read

2022 Literary Titan - Gold Book Award Winner

Blaze In, Blaze Out is an over-the-top thriller. Lewis jumps you seamlessly between timelines of one exhilarating roller-coaster ride to the next.” -Authors Reading

Blaze in, Blaze out with its engaging plot and deep themes is a riveting novel and fast read that will keep readers in suspense and hooked till the last page.” -Literary Titan

“A story that is so much more than you expect with well-drawn characters that keep you turning the pages.” -Beyond the Books

“This book was not what I expected. I thought it would be about mobster and hired assassins. It was, but it was also about so much more.” -Charlie Bees Books

“Blaze In, Blaze Out is a crime thriller that captures a reader’s attention right from the start. Author Joseph Lewis is a strong storyteller, using characters from his previous novels and once again putting them in danger.” -Joan Livingston, author of the Isabel Long Mystery Series

“Joseph Lewis uses carefully constructed settings and intriguing characters to create this unique and captivating action-packed thriller.” -Sublime Book Review

“A superb crime drama simmering with suspense and deep character studies en route to an explosive finale.” -BestThrillers.com

“Well paced and exciting.” -Publishers Weekly

Working with a joint multi-law enforcement task force, Detective Pat O’Connor infiltrated a Ukrainian crime family headed by Dmitry Andruko. O’Connor and his control, Detective Paul Eiselmann, were the linchpins in the guilty verdict.

The two detectives thought it was over.

Eiselmann planned for a quiet weekend with his family at home. O’Connor planned on attending a high school soccer game and then head to Northern Wisconsin for a fishing trip with another cop, Detective Jamie Graff and four teenage, adopted brothers: George Tokay, Brian Evans, Brett McGovern, and Michael Two Feathers.

But Andruko is ruthless and vindictive. From his prison cell, he hires two contract killers to kill both O’Connor and Eiselmann and anyone else in the way. The killers can be anyone. The killers could be anywhere, and the killers could strike at any time.

The quiet weekend and the short vacation turn into a deadly nightmare as O’Connor’s and Eiselmann’s lives and the lives of the four boys are in peril.

https://amzn.to/34lNllP

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Caring - it isn't just a job!


I’m sure you heard the term, ‘labor of love.’ For 48 years, that phrase described what I’ve done, and still do part time. I work with kids. I don’t necessarily say ‘teach’ because honestly, I’ve learned more from kids than they learned from me. No matter if I was teaching, coaching, counseling, or as an administrator. The kids taught me. I didn’t teach them much.

Another thing about teaching being a labor of love is that we do it not for the money, but for the joy and love of it. Yes, there are hard and troubled days. I’ve had them. All teachers have them. But they are few compared to the many good days we have. 

I’ve watched colleagues give much more than they received. One assistant principal I’ve worked with bought clothes for a young man who had lost his father. She made sure he had enough to eat. Another teacher opened her home to a young man who couldn’t get along with his mom. She gave him a bed, meals to eat, and a place to study. The deal was that the young man continue working his part-time job and earn good grades in school.

My daughter, who teaches third grade, had a brother and sister who entered the foster care system just before the holidays. She made sure they had presents and clothes to wear. Her heart ached, and she wept when she told me their story.

We had a young man and his brother in school when their house burned to the ground. They lost nearly everything. Our school community joined with many others to help them out. The oldest, a boy, even had his graduation party in a fire department’s garage, because he no longer had a house to host it. The fire department stepped forward and offered them a place for it. 

When Kim and I and my daughters lost our son, it was our school communities besides our neighborhood who stepped forward and helped hold us together. If it weren’t for a couple of my assistant principals, some principal colleagues, and some of my teachers, I can honestly say I don’t know how I would have made it that year. Some of them still prop me up when they notice I’m faltering.

I saw on TikTok a story of a teacher who stepped forward in a big way to help one of his students. This teacher noticed that this kiddo, a fifth grader (I believe) would hang out after and before school in this teacher’s classroom. They became friendly. One day, this young man announced to the teacher that it would be his last day. This kiddo was in foster care, and because he had a degenerative kidney and needed dialysis, he would have to live in a hospital. 

Instead, this teacher opened up his home to the boy and became a foster parent. He helped the boy all the way through his dialysis, transplant, and eventually, he adopted this boy. The teacher had described himself as happily single. But the teacher became a happy father and together, they had a family.

I hope that no matter what you do in life, you do it with love and compassion, with an open mind to learn from those you work with. I hope you not only enjoy what you do, but that you enjoy those you work with. A job, after all, is not really a job if we love it, if we seek to give back, and mostly, to learn from those with whom we work. It isn’t only the aged we can learn from, but from those with whom we work with- the kids in our life. They can teach us as much or more- if only we are open to it. Something to think about …

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! 

To My Readers:

If you like what you’re reading and find a benefit from it, you can check out my other posts at https://www.jrlewisauthor.com under the Inspirational Blog tab. You can find all nine books, their descriptions, and links for purchase at the same site. I can also be found on TikTok by searching for @josephlewis5566 and on Tribal by searching for @jrauthor85 and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=61557592103627

My most recent book, Fan Mail, will be on sale for $.99 on Tuesday, March 19th on Amazon for the Kindle version. For your convenience, here is the description and purchase link for my book, Fan Mailhttps://amzn.to/3eNgSdS and you can check out the book trailer video at https://youtu.be/MS5VjTzCvM4 

2023 Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner

2023 Reader’s Favorite Runner-Up

“At once a coming-of-age story that will appeal to mature teens, a thriller that can reach into adult audiences, and a psychological suspense novel that holds elements of deeper life inspections about sacrifice, redemption, and discovery, its gripping saga will reach a wide audience of readers and age groups.” - Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review, Editor of California Bookwatch

“Starts with a bang and does not stop its relentless shrapnel barrage until you are crying with the characters. Fabulous job by the author. You want to read this one.” - Tina O’Hailey, author of Dark Drink.

Very powerful. Tough. Gritty. Character development is remarkable. Lewis cuts deep as he tackles teen sexuality questions as well as dangerous stalkers. The story explodes with tension and strength, reflective of the personalities involved. Highly recommend it!” - Sharon K. Middleton, author of The McCarron Mysteries.

“Lewis takes after authors such as C.J. Box, James Patterson, and David Baldacci, as he immerses readers in his characters by having them in reoccurring roles and appearing throughout each of his books.”  The Author Spot (.com)

A barrage of threatening letters, a car bomb, and a heart attack rip apart what was once a close-knit family of adopted brothers.

Randy and Bobby, along with fellow band member and best friend, Danny, receive fan mail that turns menacing. They ignore it, but to their detriment. The sender turns up the heat. Violence upends their world. It rocks the relationship between the boys and ripples through their family, nearly killing their dad.

As these boys turn on each other, adopted brother Brian flashes back to that event in Arizona where he nearly lost his life saving his brothers. The scars on his face and arms healed, but not his heart. Would he once again have to put himself in harm’s way to save them? And, if faced with that choice, will he?

Photo by Hannah Busing and Unsplash

 

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Die Twice


I have been absent lately because of my hip replacement and the rehab that has and is taking place. Sorry about that. But I can tell you all is well, and the doc cleared me to go back to working with kids in a middle school, which I absolutely love.

During rehab, I got caught up on shows I recorded but didn’t watch, as well as movies I’ve always wanted to see but never did so. I also did a great deal of reading and especially writing, which is my passion, second only to my wife and family.

One show I watch regularly, even binge watch, is NCIS. Kim and I watch reruns on weekends, but we are behind in the new season. But I caught the “Tribute to Ducky” episode. Ducky was played by David McCallum, who died in real life recently. The episode covered his death well. It was both poignant and touching, and brought back many cast members who had left the show, either by in person cameos or by video clip as Ducky was remembered.

One of the opening scenes was Leon telling the members of the team what Ducky told him when his wife died (on the show). Ducky told him, “We all die twice. Once when our bodies wear out. The second, when our stories stop being told.” 

We Die Twice … 

I honestly never thought about that. I never heard that before. But it makes sense, doesn’t it? 

At the age of 70, I’ve lost family members and friends along the way. Some, I remember dearly, as well as clearly. I remember when and how it happened, and where I was when I found out. My nephew Jared and other nieces and nephews. My friend, Tom. My dad and mom and my sisters, Donna, Betty, Mary, and Joanne. Our son and my daughter's brother, Wil. 

Something I watch or read or see might remind me of someone I lost, and it brings to mind an event and, with it, a story about that person. When I get together with my remaining family, we retell stories, many of which have been told over and over, and the stories always bring a smile or a laugh. Sometimes, a tear.

I know I might sometimes bore my girls by retelling the same stories over and over, but the stories mean so much to me, because the person I’m talking about means so much to me. Both Hannah and Emily, even Kim, indulge me by listening again … and again … and …

In that same NCIS episode, someone mentions (I forget who), “It’s (the stories) all we have left, really. The stories we leave behind.” But one person responded, “Not really. It’s the people we’ve touched along the way.”

That comment touched my soul, as much and even more, as the Die Twice quote. “It’s the people we’ve touched along the way.” 

Again, at 70, people have come into and have left my life like waiters in a restaurant (a Stephen King line). With 48 years of being in education, can you even guess at the number of kids (and teachers, and fellow counselors, coaches and administrators) I’ve worked with? I can’t. It boggles my mind. Some I remember, while some, sadly, I don’t. Former students, now adults, greet me and tell me I was their teacher, their counselor, their coach, or their principal, and sometimes, I’m caught in embarrassment because I don’t recall them. Yet, I must have meant enough for them to come forward. 

And when they do, they might share a story, an event, a time. I love it and only hope that those I might never see again feel the same way about me and feel comforted because I might have touched their life positively.

My hope, though, is for each of us to allow the memories of our dear losses to remain fresh by the retelling of their stories. And my hope is for each of us to remember whether or not we realize it, we’re touching lives. We’re affecting- either positively or negatively- those who come into contact with us. My prayer is that somehow, someway, my memory causes a smile, a warm feeling, and that my impact was a blessing. Something to think about … 

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference! 

To My Readers:

If you like what you’re reading and find a benefit from it, you can check out my other posts at https://www.jrlewisauthor.com under the Inspirational Blog tab. You can find all nine books, their descriptions, and links for purchase at the same site. I can also be found on TikTok by searching for @josephlewis5566 and on Tribal by searching for @jrauthor85

For your convenience, here is the description and purchase link for my book, Fan Mail, https://amzn.to/3eNgSdS and you can check out the book trailer video at https://youtu.be/MS5VjTzCvM4 

2023 Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner

2023 Reader’s Favorite Runner-Up

“At once a coming-of-age story that will appeal to mature teens, a thriller that can reach into adult audiences, and a psychological suspense novel that holds elements of deeper life inspections about sacrifice, redemption, and discovery, its gripping saga will reach a wide audience of readers and age groups.” - Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review, Editor of California Bookwatch

“Starts with a bang and does not stop its relentless shrapnel barrage until you are crying with the characters. Fabulous job by the author. You want to read this one.” - Tina O’Hailey, author of Dark Drink.

Very powerful. Tough. Gritty. Character development is remarkable. Lewis cuts deep as he tackles teen sexuality questions as well as dangerous stalkers. The story explodes with tension and strength, reflective of the personalities involved. Highly recommend it!” - Sharon K. Middleton, author of The McCarron Mysteries.

 

“Lewis takes after authors such as C.J. Box, James Patterson, and David Baldacci, as he immerses readers in his characters by having them in reoccurring roles and appearing throughout each of his books.”  The Author Spot (.com)

A barrage of threatening letters, a car bomb, and a heart attack rip apart what was once a close-knit family of adopted brothers.

Randy and Bobby, along with fellow band member and best friend, Danny, receive fan mail that turns menacing. They ignore it, but to their detriment. The sender turns up the heat. Violence upends their world. It rocks the relationship between the boys and ripples through their family, nearly killing their dad.

As these boys turn on each other, adopted brother Brian flashes back to that event in Arizona where he nearly lost his life saving his brothers. The scars on his face and arms healed, but not his heart. Would he once again have to put himself in harm’s way to save them? And, if faced with that choice, will he?

 

 

 

   

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Celebrity



 

Back when I first began writing, I wanted to be a part of Hollywood. I dreamed of writing the screenplay for a movie, or perhaps having one of my books adapted for the screen. I even took screenwriting courses and workshops at UCLA and Southern Cal, and a creative writing and an extra English course at a community college. Ahhhh, to dream, right? It hasn’t happened yet, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Okay, probably won’t, but I still get to dream, right?

I get a kick out of some who self-proclaim their celebrity status, and the public who buy into it. Whatever! Obviously, there are some who deserve the spotlight, while others try to grab the spotlight and miss. And there are many, many more who get into the spotlight for a short time, only to have that spotlight grow dark. What is that famous quote about five minutes of fame?

Among the many who, at least in my mind, deserve their celebrity status, and I know I’m missing many, are Keanu Reeves and Taylor Swift.


Keanu Reeves is a Canadian-born actor who appeared in films small and large. Some might be considered duds to be sure, but there were also many blockbusters. But it isn’t the acting or the movies I want to accentuate, nor the money and fame. It’s the stuff the cameras don’t record.
 

Reeves was abandoned by his father at age three. He wanted to play professional hockey, but couldn’t because of a serious accident. And he had his share of tragedy. His daughter died at birth and he lost his wife because of an auto accident. His sister has leukemia. There are reports he has donated massive amounts of money to cancer research and hospitals. 

Filming one movie, he overheard two costume assistants talking. One cried because she owed $20,000 to a lender and could not pay it. She was worried about losing her house. That day, $20,000 was deposited into her account. Guess who it came from? For some of his more famous films, he took massive pay cuts so the company and production team could hire other notable actors, and he has given motorcycles and other gifts to crew members. 

There is a cute story in 2010 took place on his birthday that makes me smile. He walked into a bakery, bought something, stuck a candle on it, and sat on the steps eating it. When passersby or bakery customers stopped to talk to him, he offered to purchase coffee for them. In 1997, he was spotted walking with a homeless man listening to the guy’s story. He rides public transportation- the bus- to get around. It seems he hasn’t lost his roots or his humanity.

The thing I like most about Reeves is that he doesn’t spout off or brag about what he does. He simply gets up each morning and goes about life, giving back more than he takes. He chooses to live life being a good person.


Dress me in pink, let me wear ribbons, and cover my butt with sparkles, because I am a Swiftie! Besides enjoying her music, especially her lyrics, I like what she stands for. Yes, she, like Reeves, has earned tons of money. She has earned just about every award the music industry has to offer, and like Reeves, she gives back.

Almost every city where she performs a concert (if not every city where she performs), she donates huge amounts of money to food banks and various charities. She gave her crew massive amounts of money in bonuses totaling millions during her Eras Tour. She uses her celebrity to get people, especially the younger generation, out to vote. 

As I said, there are many, many others I could have written about today. Pink. Shaquille O’Neal. So many others. And perhaps at some point, I might write about them. But for today, I wanted to write about two of my favorites- Keanu Reeves and Taylor Swift. They are more than their industry, their fame and fortune. They care and seem to be genuine. I like that about them.  

I’m not saying these two are saints, because I know, like all of us, they’ve probably made mistakes along the way. I will not judge them or look for fault- there’s too much of that in the world today. Instead, I want to honor their humanity, their kindness, their charity. I want to honor their giving- not only money, but their time, and I want to honor their using their celebrity to benefit others and not take from others. God Bless and carry on! Something to think about … 

To My Readers:  

If you like what you’re reading and find a benefit from it, you can check out my other posts at https://www.jrlewisauthor.com under the Inspirational Blog tab. You can find all nine books, their descriptions, and links for purchase at the same site. I can also be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/storiesbyjrlewis

For your convenience, here is the description and purchase link for Blaze In, Blaze Out, named Best Action Thriller of 2022 by BestThrillers; 2022 Readers’ Favorite Honorable Mention - Fiction – Crime; 2022 Author Shout Recommended Read; 2022 Literary Titan - Gold Book Award Winner

A book Big Thrill Magazine wrote: “At its core, BLAZE IN, BLAZE OUT is about unbounded revenge, unrestrained vindictiveness, and callous ruthlessness.” and Sublime Book Review wrote, “Joseph Lewis uses carefully constructed settings and intriguing characters to create this unique and captivating action-packed thriller.”


Working with a joint multi-law enforcement task force, Detective Pat O’Connor infiltrated a Ukrainian crime family headed by Dmitry Andruko. O’Connor and his control, Detective Paul Eiselmann, were the linchpins in the guilty verdict.

The two detectives thought it was over, but it wasn’t.

Eiselmann planned for a quiet weekend with his family at home. O’Connor planned on attending a high school soccer game and then head to Northern Wisconsin for a fishing trip with another cop, Detective Jamie Graff and four teenage, adopted brothers: George Tokay, Brian Evans, Brett McGovern, and Michael Two Feathers.

But Andruko is ruthless and vindictive. From his prison cell, he hires two contract killers to kill both O’Connor and Eiselmann and anyone else in the way. The killers can be anyone and could be anywhere and strike at any time.

The quiet weekend and the short vacation turn into a deadly nightmare as O’Connor’s and Eiselmann’s lives and the lives of the four boys are in peril.

 

https://t.co/NHEUozqP6h

Photographs courtesy of Eric Smart and Unsplash, and the Internet.

 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Inches


I am a diehard Green Bay Packer fan and Wisconsin Badgers fan, but I admit I love sports. While I don’t particularly care for baseball, I follow the Milwaukee Brewers because it is our home team. Same can be said about the Milwaukee Bucks. Not a real fan of pro basketball, but the Bucks are from Milwaukee. What can I say? 

Those of you who read and followed my previous posts know I was a basketball coach, both high school and two years at the collegiate level as a graduate assistant. I honestly and sincerely can’t play the game. I have no left hand, and I cannot jump or shoot. Being seventy-years-old and getting a hip replacement in February, I am not fast or quick. I never was. 

My players used to laugh at me. One summer running a basketball camp, I caught some of the players laughing. I asked what they were laughing at, and one brave senior, Mike, explained they were taking bets if I could jump and hit the net.  

Hmmm … 

I should have just laughed along with them, but to prove them wrong, I said not only could I jump and touch the net, but I could hit the fat part of the strings. That caused them to laugh even more. So, like a fool, I ran and jumped, but came more than a few inches away from hitting the net- completely, and not just the fat part of the net. Can you say, “Humble pie?” 

But I could coach the game. Two-time coach of the year. One state championship, one state runner-up, and one state consolation championship. Not bad for eight years of high school coaching. However, I wasn’t a great coach, per se, but I think I was a pretty good motivator. I had terrific athletes, players who could shoot and jump and who were tenacious on defense. Sincerely, I give all the credit to my players and my coaches. They made me look good, and I think we all had fun on that ride. 

Last night, Kim and I watched the Packers play the 49ers in the playoffs. 49ers were the number one seed, while the Packers, the youngest team in the league, were the seventh seed. We weren’t supposed to win, and we didn’t.

Yet … 

If the field goal was about six or seven inches to the right, the score might have been different. When the Packers went for it on 4th and inches and failed to get a first down, the game might have had a different outcome. If two passes would have been a couple of inches more on target, a drive would have stayed alive and again, the ending of the game might have been different from what it was. 

In the end, the field goal was missed, the 4th and inches wasn’t met, and the two passes weren’t completed- except to the other team. All three outcomes led to the score being what it was. The team that should have won, did. The team that shouldn’t have won, didn’t. 

If and inches …

Did the Packers fail? Perhaps on the scoreboard, if that’s the only thing you take into consideration. But did our first- and second-year receivers make a difference this year? A resounding yes. How about our first- and second-year defenders? How about the quarterback, whose first year as a starter set records? How about the team who wasn’t supposed to be in the playoffs in the first place- did they fail? Again, only if you look at the scoreboard, and in this day and age- for some- only the scoreboard matters.

But there is much the Packers can build on, and a message was sent to the rest of the league last night. A message of hope and optimism for Packer fans, and a not-so-subtle message to “just wait until next year …!” for the rest of the league. 

In our lives, how often do we just miss out on something we go after? If we would have tried a little harder, went after it a little sooner, been a little faster? If and inches … 

It takes 212 degrees Fahrenheit for water to boil. Not 211 degrees, but 212 degrees. One degree makes a difference, just like a couple of inches either way makes a difference. Often, our minds, not our bodies, let us down. We tell ourselves we can’t, instead of telling ourselves, yes, we can. One degree. One or two inches. Effort and belief. Not just in sports, but in life. All the difference in the world. Something to think about …

To My Readers:  

If you like what you’re reading and find a benefit from it, you can check out my other posts at https://www.jrlewisauthor.com under the Inspirational Blog tab. You can find all nine books, their descriptions, and links for purchase at the same site. I can also be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/storiesbyjrlewis

For your convenience, here is the description and purchase link for Caught in a Web, a PenCraft Literary Award Winner, and a book BestThrillers named, “One of the best conspiracy thrillers of 2018!” and Midwest Review wrote, “…the right blend of tension and intrigue …”

“This important, nail-biting crime thriller about MS-13 sets the bar very high. One of the year’s best thrillers.” –Best Thrillers

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.

What’s worse than revenge and death? Not knowing you are the target. PenCraft Literary Award Winner!

https://amzn.to/2GrU51T

Photograph courtesy of Bozhin Karaivanov and Unsplash

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

More Than Disturbing


 I had every intention of publishing this over the weekend, but I needed a little more time to process it and make sure I used proper words to convey what I wanted to say. It’s too important of a topic.

This past weekend, I watched a movie, Sound of Freedom, that is based on the true story of Tim Ballard, an agent for Homeland Security, played in the movie believably, if not expertly, by Jim Caviezel. The story dealt with human trafficking, and in this case, with children. Again, I want to say it is based on a true story. 

In 2013, Roberto Aguilar, a poor father of two from TegucigalpaHonduras, is approached by a former beauty queen, Giselle. She offers to sign his young children, RocĂ­o and Miguel Aguilar, to child modeling contracts. The father accepts and takes them to the photoshoot. When he returns to pick his children up, they are gone. It is revealed that the children have been abducted and sold to be used as sex slaves. (Wikipedia)

When I was a counselor in California, I had volunteered to work as an adjunct educator for the Wetterling Foundation for Stranger Abducted and Sexually Exploited Children. The organization still exists, but I believe the name has changed. My job was to educate parents and caring adults on how to protect children and to spot signs of possible exploitation, and I taught kids how to protect themselves. 

Jerry and Patty Wetterling’s son, Jacob, was abducted one night in October 1989, in front of his younger brother and his best friend on the way back from a convenience store after they rented a movie and purchased candy. The abductor wore a mask and had a gun, and in the early to middle nineties when I worked for the foundation, this accounted for about 1% of all abductions (FBI statistics). Jacob was never found until 2016 when a suspect confessed to the crime and led authorities to Jacob’s remains. Jacob had died from a gunshot the same evening he was abducted.

When Kim and I had our children, Wil, age seven adopted from Guatemala, and Hannah, born to us naturally, I had to take a step back from my speaking because instead of picturing Jacob Wetterling, Elizabeth Smart, Johnny Gosch, and others, I pictured Wil and Hannah. But I always wanted to tell the story of missing kids, of kids who had been abused sexually, emotionally.   

As a counselor, I had thought I had heard it all from kids and parents, but each next story shared with me was a horror unto itself. One story doesn’t compare with another, even though the circumstances are mostly the same. In most instances, the abuse takes place by someone known to the child and the family, and is often a family member, immediate or extended. It is both tragic and horrific.

What many don’t know is that human trafficking is a $140 million dollar industry, and the underbelly of the United States is and has been involved. I applaud the men and women who work to put an end to all of it. They work tirelessly, and in most cases, in the shadows outside of the spotlight. They deserve much more credit than they receive. God Bless! 

As I said, I had always wanted to share the stories of the kids and parents who, behind closed doors, shared their stories with me. So in 2014, my first book Taking Lives, Prequel to the Lives Trilogy, and my second book, Stolen Lives, First Book of the Lives Trilogy, were published. I’ve won an award or two for Stolen, and both books rose as high as #3 and #4 on Amazon, which is pretty remarkable for a first-time author. While they are stories of abduction and sexual exploitation, the series is a story of hope and survival, of strength. And the awards, while nice, meant, and mean, nothing to me, because human trafficking still exists. 

Recently, a fellow author, Cam Torrens, wrote an award-winning book, Stable, which takes a different point of view on the subject. Torrens uses his expertise in Search and Rescue to tell his tale. A brilliant book and terrific writing.

For your convenience, I listed the links for purchase below in case you are interested. They are dark reads, but worth it. As I said, they are stories of hope and survival. 

But the main point I want to make is that we, as citizens of a great country, need to protect our most vulnerable from predators. We need to protect our children- and the children of other countries- from being exploited and preyed upon. It will take more than those in law enforcement entrusted to rooting out this evil. There aren’t enough agents and officers, so it will take all of us. All of us. Please help. Please. Something to think about …

To My Readers:  

If you like what you’re reading and find a benefit from it, you can check out my other posts at https://www.jrlewisauthor.com under the Inspirational Blog tab. I can also be found on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/storiesbyjrlewis   

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. https://amzn.to/34nXBH5  

Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!

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. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ   

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. https://amzn.to/2RAYIk2 
 
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 death? http://bit.ly/SplinteredLives   

Stable, by Cam Torrens

From debut author Cam Torrens comes a gut-wrenching suspense novel based on an actual missing person case.

A 911 call sends Search & Rescue on a search for a missing girl in the Collegiate Peaks. They find a child…but not the one they seek.

Air Force pilot Tyler Zahn's life disintegrated when he lost his son. He discarded his family, his career, and his dignity, finding solace in apathy and beer. Eight years later, armed with new confidence, he invites his estranged daughter, Daria, to visit his Rocky Mountain home. Zahn tries too hard to mend their relationship, and as the tension between father and daughter increases, forgiveness seems out of reach. Especially when his Search & Rescue work pulls him away from Daria and she finds romance at the church camp next door.

But Zahn can't get the missing girl he found—and the one he can't find—out of his mind. Someone in this mountain valley is collecting children, and Zahn is gradually drawn into the case while still trying to break through to his daughter.

Then she disappears too. http://tinyurl.com/568t38tv


Photo Courtesy of Loren Joseph and Unsplash