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Friday, November 16, 2018

Choices and Consequences


Each day and sometimes in each moment, we make Choices. Some are easy and require little, if any, thought. The alarm rings and we either hit the snooze or pop up out of bed to begin the day. When the appropriate time arrives, we jump in the car and head off to work, mostly using the same trusty route we’ve always taken. Pretty easy, really.

I marvel at the quarterback in football. In split seconds while defense breathes down his neck, the quarterback has to survey the field, see where the coverage is, who is open, weighs the percentage, and lets a pass fly. As an Ohio State football coach used to say, three things can happen on a pass play and two of them are bad: a drop or incompletion; an interception; a completion.

Like in football, those decisions affect not only the person who makes the decision, but also has an effect on those around that person: teammates, coaches, fans- all are impacted to a greater or lesser extent.

In support of the Empathy Project, I spoke to all English classes, teachers and various staff members about Choices and Consequences each block over two days. The first day for the presentations was my first day back from the trial for the driver who was part of a group of five responsible for my son’s death four and a half years ago. The trial took place in Chicago, Cook County specifically, and was spread over the better part of two weeks. It was exhausting, emotionally and physically, both the trial and my presentation to the kids.

You see, each of those five individuals in that black Toyota made decisions- all poor with little, if any, thought. If I were to boil it down, it would come to this: the driver who was thirty-one at the time handed a .40 caliber handgun with an extended magazine to a fifteen-year-old with the order to “Go wet his shirt! X him out!” That was the second decision the driver had made. The first was to listen to the fifteen-year-old who wanted to kill a gang rival, who he had described as a “valued target.” He not only listened to the fifteen-year-old, but stopped the car- decision number one, and then handed the boy in the backseat the handgun- decision number two, and then gave him an order- decision number three.

The fifteen-year-old made the suggestion, his decision number one, accepted the gun, his decision number two, and then got out of the car, his decision number three. A seventeen-year-old was ordered by the driver to go with the fifteen-year-old, and the seventeen-year-old did, his first decision, and after the shots were fired and one innocent victim shot, he continued to follow the fifteen-year-old, his decision number two.

In all, nine shots were fired at a rival gang member. None struck him. But . . .

On that warm and beautiful Saturday afternoon in July of 2014, my son, Wil, took a break from working on a photo shoot and left his apartment to get some lunch and pick up a few items for his and his wife’s apartment. He was walking home and happened to be between the shooter, his partner, and the intended victim. It was surmised that Wil was hit with either the first or second bullet meant for the gang rival, and collapsed on the sidewalk. He later died at the hospital despite the best efforts of passers-by, EMTs and hospital staff. The damage to Wil was too great.

But as I explained to the kids in audience over those two days, the decisions, the Choices that were made had Consequences. No thought was given to the latter, only the former. And sometimes because no thought is given to the Consequences of one’s Choice, the result can cause lasting damage- not only to the person making the Choice, but sometimes there is lasting damage to those who are caught up in that Choice. These bystanders become the collateral damage of the Choices someone else makes. Not necessarily fair, but very real.

I think it is important to not only consider the Choices we make, but also consider carefully the possible Consequences of those Choices. Instead of acting off the cuff, instead of acting- or reacting- we need look closely at the Choices we make, the words we use, the indifference we show. And the sad fact is that no matter Choice we make- even for the right reasons- it can still cause hurt and damage to ourselves and to others. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I am happy to announce that the final edits to my new novel, Spiral Into Darkness, have been submitted to the publisher and the book was given the launch date of January 17, 2019. Of course there will be opportunities for preorder and as soon as I am given that information, I will publish them on this blog and on my author page on Facebook.

My book, Caught in a Web was named as a PenCraft Literary Award Winner for Thriller Fiction! I was nominated by a reviewer and received notification in the last week or so. It is also on the list for “one of the best crime thriller books of the year!” by Best Thrillers. I am both proud and humbled.

Thanks to all who have read Caught in a Web. If you are interested in a copy on either Kindle or in Paperback, you can find it on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696 or on Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/caught-in-a-web-joseph-lewis/1128250923?ean=9781684330249

If you do read Caught in a Web or any of my other books, please leave a rating and a review. I would appreciate it. Thanks for this consideration!

Caught in a Web:
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.

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

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /

Photo courtesy of Vladislav Babienko, Unsplash 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

That One Kid








My daughter, Hannah, is in her first year teaching. Obviously excited, she comes home with lots of stories about this kiddo or that kiddo, almost always successes or funny anecdotes. It’s fun listening to her and it is something I look forward to each evening.

She told us a story of one of her fourth graders who didn’t like to read. Not one book. Nothing. Hannah got out of him that he liked “aminals.” His word, not a typo, and I loved it. So, Hannah dug around in her book bin and found a book about a dog. Warily, if not somewhat reluctantly, the boy began to read. And read. And read some more. In just a short time, this boy read his first book EVER! And not only that, he asked for another one like it, showing Hannah the other books in the series. All “aminal” books. He has been asking her ever since if she was able to get this one or that one. A success for her, but more importantly, for him!

When Emily was in kindergarten, her teacher thought Em had a reading problem. Huh. Never thought that, since at home, Emily liked it when we read to her and would discuss the stories and the characters. Whatever her teacher thought Em had, didn’t seem to exist when she hit first and second grade, and was later placed into the gifted and talented program. In college, she is in the honors college with a major and three separate minors. Thanks to Mr. E in first grade, we think.

When I was in grade school, especially in first through third, I was in the Blackbird reading group. That was the lowest group. I wasn’t with my friends who were in the Bluebird or Cardinal groups. Nope, I wasn’t “good enough” or “smart enough” and certainly couldn’t “read well enough.” I hit fourth grade and life as I knew it to be changed. Whatever teachers thought of who or what I was in the early years, disappeared. I was a different kid, a new kid.

Thanks to a teacher!

We label kids and group kids and separate kids. It used to be that “those kids” wouldn’t be taught with “these kids.” Homogeneous groupings, we called it back then. Heck, can’t have a kid with an IEP taking an Honors or AP level class, can we? Not appropriate. They can’t do it. Same with PSAT and ACT and SAT tests. Can’t have them taking it.

Oh, we justify it by saying they can’t handle it, or we might be damaging their self-esteem. Perhaps it’s more of the fact that we might not want to deal with them, work with them, or teach them.

But . . .

All it takes is one teacher to believe in them, one teacher to encourage them, one teacher to care.

A teacher (thank you, Sarah) tagged me on a Facebook post about Jonathan Mooney, who was always the slow kid in class. He was called “stupid” and “lazy” most of his life. He believed that because he was ‘different’ he was ‘deficient.’ His story can be found at: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2178525462361315&id=100006116466677 and it is truly worth the three or so minutes to watch. Please take the time. It is powerful and moving and it might bring you to tears. It will certainly raise the hair on the back of your head. I guarantee it!

Teachers, administrators, counselors . . . any adult who has or works with kids . . . has the power to mold and shape a child’s life. We can do it with sarcasm. With an eye roll. With a sharp word. By ignoring the need. Certainly by placing this child or that child into a group and forcing him or her to wear a label.

That’s one choice. It’s probably the easiest of choices, because it doesn’t take any work, any time whatsoever.

Perhaps the better choice is to encourage. To build up. To care about and to work to understand. To find that “one thing” that might turn a life around.

No perhaps about it. Yes, it does take time. Yes, there is effort involved. But if it changes a life, even just one life . . . Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I am proud, and humbled, to announce that Caught in a Web was named as a PenCraft Literary Award Winner for Thriller Fiction! I was nominated by a reviewer and received notification in the last week or so. It is also on the list for “one of the best crime thriller books of the year!” by Best Thrillers. As I said, I am both proud and humbled.

Thanks to all who have taken a chance on reading Caught in a Web. If you are interested in a copy on either Kindle or in Paperback, you can find it on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696  or on Barnes and Noble at https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/caught-in-a-web-joseph-lewis/1128250923?ean=9781684330249

And if you do give Caught in a Web a shot, please leave a rating and a review. I would appreciate it. Thanks for this consideration!

Caught in a Web:
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.

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

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor


Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /

Photo by Hari Nandakumar from Unsplash.