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Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Wil-Full Act of Kindness

Those of you who read my blog know that I have a thing for people being kind to one another. I have a thing for people being considerate and compassionate and empathetic. I write regularly about these topics, whether they relate to kids or to adults.

The past two years at the commencement ceremony, I told the kids that my generation . . . our generation . . . failed. And I meant it. Still do.

Any newspaper, any newscast gives us example after example of people treating people less then. Put downs, sarcasm, disparaging remarks are part and parcel of our everyday language. Elected officials lying incessantly. Greed. Scandals. You name it.

July 12th is the remembrance of our son’s death. Four years ago, Wil was shot and killed at the hands of a kid involved in a gang. A .45 was given to this kid, then fifteen-year-old, by a thirty-one-year-old ‘adult’. One shot hit anyone and that one shot hit my son as he walked down the street on his way home from lunch and running errands. Just happened to be on the street as this fifteen-year-old tried to shoot and kill a gang rival. Our son was between them and he died on that sidewalk.

One of Wil’s friends, Sarah, messaged me on Facebook recently and suggested we call July 12th the Wil-Full Acts of Kindness day. I liked the idea. You see, at his celebration of life, my wife, Kim, and our two daughters, Hannah and Emily, witnessed firsthand the impact Wil had on others. No, Wil wasn’t perfect. He wasn’t a saint. Not saying that he was. Wil made his share of mistakes. We all do and Wil was no different.

But he was also a young man who made something out of the life he was given. Adopted from Guatemala at age seven. He struggled to learn the English language. He suffered from a learning disability, but he never let that hold him back. What I like most about Wil is that he brought a smile to others. He enjoyed laughing and causing others to laugh. Wil was a pretty sharp young man and I’m proud of who he had become. The day before he was shot and killed, Wil received a call informing him that he had received his dream job. He had been on his way.

So here is what we’d like you to do . . .

Simple really: Do something nice for someone. It can be great or small. A kind word. A kind gesture. Buy someone a cold drink if it’s a hot day where you live. Buy someone’s lunch or a cup of coffee if you have the means to do so. Hand someone a flower. Leave someone a smile. It can be anything you choose to do for someone else without any expectation of something given in return. It’s even possible you might not receive a thank you.

The only thing I ask, if at all possible and if you are comfortable in doing so, is that you explain you are choosing to do a Wil-Full Act of Kindness in honor of my son, Wil Lewis, who died four years ago. You may or may not have known him. You may or may not know me. That’s okay. But on July 12th you are trying to do something nice for someone, one small thing to lighten a load, ease a burden and lift someone’s heart.

That’s it. Pretty simple really. Simple, but I ask you to consider that if ten or more of us, a hundred or more of us do this on one day, July 12th, how much nicer that one day will be for someone.

And I’m also willing to bet that July 12th will be that much nicer for you too, for each of us. Because I believe that one can’t help but feel good and feel lighter by helping another soul, helping to make someone’s moment, someone’s day a little better.

So . . . could we try a Wil-Full Act of Kindness Day? Maybe? Perhaps? Thank you in advance for this consideration on behalf of my wife, Kim, our daughters, Hannah and Emily, and our son, Wil. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

About the photo: Wil was a fashion photographer. I don’t know who took the shot, but if I did, I’d be happy to give the person credit. This is Wil working on a photo shoot. It’s one of our favorite photos.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Where Ideas Come From

This is a departure from my normal fare, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless . . .

I have been asked over and over where my ideas come from. I only wish I had a nickel each time the question was asked. In answer, I have to say I subscribe to what Stephen King said.

He wrote: “I get my ideas from everywhere. But what all of my ideas boil down to is seeing maybe one thing, but in a lot of cases it's seeing two things and having them come together in some new and interesting way, and then adding the question 'What if?' 'What if' is always the key question.”

That pretty much sums it up for me.

Most of you reading this know I’m currently a high school principal and former counselor, teacher and coach. This fall marks my 42 year in education and I’ve never really tired of it. Each day is interesting because whatever I had planned flies out the window on most days.

But I happen to blend and somewhat blur the lines of genre in my writing because of my background with kids, especially because of my background in psychology and counseling. If I had to pick my main genre, I’d say crime thriller fiction. But because some of my favorite and more memorable characters are adolescents, I have elements of young adult in my writing.

Basically, my ideas come from kids. I listen to them in hallways, in the cafeteria, sitting in the stands at games. I observe and listen and watch constantly. Robin Williams mentioned in an interview (and I’m paraphrasing, probably badly) that his mind never turned off.

As I writer, neither does mine. Everything I see or hear is fair game!

The first books I wrote, Taking Lives, Stolen Lives, Shattered Lives, and Splintered Lives were based upon my volunteer work with the Jacob Wetterling Foundation for Stranger Abducted and Sexually Exploited Youth. In fact, prequel to the trilogy, Taking Lives, is dedicated to Jacob Wetterling who at age 11 in October of 1989 was abducted at gunpoint in front of his brother, Trevor, and a best friend, Aaron, by a man wearing a mask as they were returning from a convenience store with a rented moving and candy. Jacob’s story is and was tragic and only recently his remains were found after someone confessed to the crime.

I wrote those books because I had wanted to give back, in a way, to tell the story of missing kids. The work is dark- but then again, why wouldn’t it be? The writing deals with the human trafficking of kids, boys. It’s a story many don’t want any part of, perhaps refusing to believe it happens.

But, the writing was based upon my experience with the foundation, with kids I worked with as a counselor and the stories they told me, and of course, a ton of research into the topic of human trafficking.

My newest novel, Caught in a Web, deals with kids dying from overdosing on heroin and fentanyl and MS-13, a vicious gang present in communities across the country.

Once again, as a counselor, I worked with kids and families who had substance issues. In fact, there is one touching and tough scene where a husband and wife deal with the substance abuse of their seemingly All-American son. He had great grades. Was a successful athlete. But that scene works so well because of the conversation I had with the father of that young man.

The gang element again stems from my counseling background. I worked in a school in Southern California that had three active gangs. I was a counselor to a young man who made the decision to “get jumped out” of the gang and he almost didn’t survive.

What I did was exactly what Stephen King stated: I put two elements together, drugs and gangs, and asked the question, ‘What if?’

I think any writer worth his salt is a keen observer of life. His own life, the lives of others. The writer listens to conversations, watches the interactions of others, and reads constantly- especially in the genre in which he or she writes. As King stated, “The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one's papers and identification pretty much in order.” My belief is that if the writer doesn’t read, the writer never gains the tools needed for writing. Reading is to writing what weight-training is to the athlete. It’s that simple.

So . . . that’s where I get my ideas. Simply stated, from life around me. I take a couple of thoughts and ideas and events and conversations and ask, ‘What if?’

For My Readers:

I have some exciting news:

Black Rose Writing, the company that published Caught in a Web has accepted for publication another of my books, Spiral into Darkness and it will be out in January 2019. On my author page on Facebook, I will post passages and snippets from time to time and keep you updated on the publishing progress.

Caught in a Web, has been receiving some excellent reviews that I’m proud of, but I have to tell you the reviews are also humbling. So to those of you who have read it, thank you for passing on the positive vibes and for taking a chance on a novice writer. With five books to my name and a sixth coming out in January, yes, I still feel like a novice.

If you like Thriller/Suspense fiction and are looking for something to read over the summer and if you are interested in my earlier novels, check out:

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 Agent Kelliher and 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.                       

Stolen Lives, Book One of the Lives Trilogy:
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.                     

Shattered Lives, Book Two of the Lives Trilogy:
Six desperate and violent men escape. One of them stands in a kitchen facing a 14 year-old-boy with a gun. There are many reasons for the boy to pull the trigger. Mainly, the man had started it all.                      

Splintered Lives, Book Three of the Lives Trilogy:
A 14 year-old-boy is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. High up on an Arizona mesa, he faces three desperate and dangerous men in hopes of saving his father and his brothers.

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Amazon at: /

Friday, June 29, 2018

For The Love Of Children

Forty-two years ago this September, I began my career as a teacher and coach. That’s a long, long time for anyone to be in a job, right? But I began traveling down that road even earlier.

When I was in eighth grade, Father Jim asked me to help him coach the sixth grade boys’ basketball team. He would tell me what drills he wanted to run and I ran them. Weird, because Al and Rick, two of my classmates were way better than I was. Way better- no false modesty at all. Couldn’t tell you our record or even the names of the guys on the team. But I remember the practices and sitting next to Father Jim on the bench each game. Pretty cool when you think about that.

In high school, I worked summers for Parks and Recreation as a playground supervisor. In college, I volunteered as a coach for football, basketball and baseball at a local elementary school. Of course I held other jobs like a drug store clerk and a stock boy filling trucks at a bottling company. I also mowed lawns and baby-sat, the normal things most kids do.

But I knew way back that I would be a teacher and a coach because I wanted to work with kids. It’s not a job to me. It’s as much a passion as it is a vocation. The romantic in me would say it’s a calling, I suppose. I think it helped that my older brother, Jack, was a teacher and I think it is safe to say I followed in his footsteps.

The profession has brought joy to me. I watched kids struggle and grow. I watched the proverbial lightbulb glow when a kid “got it.” There are kids, now young men and women with kids of their own I’m still in touch with or follow on Facebook and who read my novels. It’s nice to see how they’ve grown and what has become of them.

I happen to care about kids. All kids. Not just my own. Not just the kids who walked in and out of my life like waiters in a restaurant (to paraphrase a great line by Stephen King). I happen to care about all kids. All of them.

Let me tell you a story . . .

When my son, Wil, was in college, he spent six weeks out of the country on a study abroad thing. A lot of college kids do that. What was interesting was that Wil was pulled out of the security line at the airport for a bag and body search. Not once, but at each airport he and his classmates flew out of. Wil was the only member of his class “selected” for this “random” security search. Wil had brown skin because we adopted him from Guatemala when he was seven. He had, since that adoption, spent more time as a citizen of this country than he did as a citizen of Guatemala. Yet as I stated, he was the only one “selected” for this “random” security search. Typical of Wil, it bothered him, but he laughed it off as “one of those things.” Me? I think about that and it not only angers me, it saddens me. Deeply.

So I have to tell you that it saddens me . . . deeply saddens me . . . that my country, yours and mine, decided to take children from their parents and house them in cages, sometimes miles and states away from their parents with no real plan or effort to reunite them anytime soon. Kids in cages on a mattress on a cement floor. In a cage- did I tell you that? Oh yes, a couple of times already, but in case you didn’t get it, the kids are kept in cages. In cages away from their parents.

Imagine one or more of your own children taken from you, separated from you, ripped from your arms. Imagine a commentator making fun of your own child, a Downs Syndrome child, and the fact that he was taken from his mother. Imagine another commentator justifying the taking of children from their parents because, “these aren’t our kids.”

They aren’t? Because they are brown? Because they’re not from our country?

As adults, aren’t we responsible for kids? As a world citizenry, aren’t we responsible for all kids? Shouldn’t we be?

And shouldn’t each of us be outraged and vocal about kids being separated from their parents? Used as pawns for political purposes?

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post titled Most People Are Good, but you know, that theory, though I hold it dear to my heart and believe it will every fiber of my being, has been tested these past two years. I’m sure it will be tested in the next two years, too. Tested, because those in power refuse to do anything like performing checks and balances like they have been elected to do. Refuse to do and ignore all of it as well. And it goes on and will go on unchecked because there seems to be very few of us who care. Sad really. So very sad. Something to think about . . . and care about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make a Difference!

For My Readers:

I have some exciting news:

Black Rose Writing, the company that published Caught in a Web has accepted for publication another of my books, Spiral into Darkness and it will be out in January 2019. On my author page on Facebook, I will post passages and snippets from time to time and keep you updated on the publishing progress.

Caught in a Web, has been receiving some excellent reviews that I’m proud of, but I have to tell you the reviews are also humbling. So to those of you who have read it, thank you for passing on the positive vibes and for taking a chance on a novice writer. With five books to my name and a sixth coming out in January, yes, I still feel like a novice.

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Amazon at: /