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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Take A Hand



I remember way back in the mid- to late-eighties, I went out to eat with my brother Jim, his wife, Laurie, and their three kids. Their youngest, Kim, was in a high chair. The meal was brought out to us and Kim wanted her dad to cool it down for her.

Jim took the plate of food, in this case, a bowl of soup, and blew on it. Jim tasted it, made sure it was cool enough for Kim, and handed it back to her. Without any hesitation, Kim took a spoon and began eating it.

Trust.

In a more recent time, my daughter, Em, went to a doctor and had a small procedure done. I didn't think it was a big deal, but to Em, it was. Em asked to hold my hand. Interesting, since she was in middle school at the time and I always thought of her as fairly tough. But, I held her hand and all went well. We never spoke of it at that time or since.

Trust and Support.

Four years ago, Kim and I had to stand in front of a window at the coroner’s office to identify my son’s body. A large sheriff deputy stood next to me, while the assistant coroner stood next to Kim. Kim and I held hands.

Support.

I think trust and support are fairly similar in nature. We rely on one another when, at times, we can’t rely on ourselves. Sometimes it’s tough to admit that we need a hand, a shoulder, an ear, a caring presence. Even the strong ones among us need support from time to time (see my post, “The Anchor Can Drown” from 1-17-14).

We never know who among us is carrying a burden. We might never know if, or when, that burden becomes too much. Because the strong among us, so it seems, shouldn’t ever ask for help, shouldn’t ever need help. Because the strong among us are self-sufficient, self-reliant and resourceful. Right?

Or, perhaps I’m wrong. Yes, I think I’m wrong.

Because even the strong among us need help from time to time. Every now and then, we might need someone to lift us, to be with us, to hear us out, or simply to be present with us. To be heard, to comfort.

Every now and then, we need someone to Take Our Hand and let us know that we aren’t alone, that someone has our back, and that someone will stand with us. Even the strong among us. Even you. Even me.

And the weak? The angry? The kid acting out, doing poorly, not paying attention, seemingly not caring, not listening, willing to lash out and argue? Yeah, them too. Fear and pain cause varied reactions. Fear and pain are never really the same from one to another. There might be similarities, but never really the same from one individual to another.

And I think, perhaps, that by Taking A Hand, not only do we help that individual, we end up helping ourselves. Kind of naturally, I think. Where there are two, there is strength. Where there are several, we are even stronger. So maybe by reaching out, either to help ourselves or to help someone else, we are, in actuality, showing strength. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor



There have been several great reviews for Spiral Into Darkness:

“If you enjoy thrillers, especially psychological ones, Spiral Into Darkness by Joseph Lewis will grab you good and proper in the opening two chapters. You will find yourself avidly turning pages as a serial killer accosts his victims, confirms their identities and blasts away their faces with a .38 pistol. If you are interested in both the good and bad sides of humanity and why we each turn out as we do, Spiral Into Darkness won’t disappoint.” Readers Favorites

“The Bottom Line: A thoroughly compulsive police procedural by one of America’s most promising new writers. Joseph Lewis, author of our Best of 2018 pick Caught in a Web, is back with another crime thriller featuring world-weary Milwaukee detective Jamie Graff . . . While Lewis savagely explores romance, drama, and sexuality with his wider cast of characters, Jamie’s interpersonal life is refreshingly free of drama for a cop, enabling him to be the determined, resourceful rock capable of cracking the case. The result is a thoroughly compulsive crime thriller.” Best Thrillers


Best Thrillers had previously reviewed my book, Caught in a Web. It was named as a PenCraft Literary Award Winner for Thriller Fiction! Best Thrillers called it “one of the best crime thriller books of the year!” I am both proud and humbled.


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

Spiral Into Darkness:
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:
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.
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


Friday, April 5, 2019

Touching Lives, Touching Hearts



Every now and then, I get an email or a Facebook message from a former student or a parent of a former student. Most of the time, I remember that kid. I can tell you the class he or she was in or which team the kid was on, and most of the time, a funny or amusing or touching anecdote about the kid. I welcome these blasts from the past. Each one brings a positive, warm memory, a feeling that perhaps I was one piece in that kid’s puzzle of the person he or she became. There are times I’m left scratching my head and wondering how was it possible I meant something to this kid or that kid when I didn’t have that much interaction.

I received a call a few minutes ago and it made me smile. Still smiling, actually.

I think as we get older, we sometimes forget about the interactions we have, both good and not so good, we’ve had over the days, the months, the years. Sometimes we forget the impact- both good and bad- we can have on those around us, and not just kids.

Obviously, there are words I’ve spoken, actions I’ve taken in the past that I would like very much to take back. The memories of them cause me to shake my head and wish for a mulligan and do over. Most of the time, these are words or actions I spoke or did in anger. Words or actions I spoke or did in haste and without thought. As I look back, I wonder how much damage I might have caused because I wasn’t only thoughtless, I was also heartless. And being heartless is something that is unconscionable.  

Other times, I would like to think most of the time- but I’d be a poor judge in considering this- I smile with pride because I might have made a difference. I would like to think that most of my interactions with others are more positive than negative. I think as I got older, the harder shell of my youth gave way to softness. Kind of like a former athlete or body builder “turning to seed” as one might say. And turning to softness isn’t such a bad thing, is it?

I’ve been in education for 42 years (and counting). Kids and teachers and staff members have come into and out of my life like busboys in a restaurant (to paraphrase one of the many great Stephen King lines I’ve read). They pass through and perhaps neither they nor I think of our interactions beyond what was asked for at the time and moment of the interaction.

Teachers, adults, parents, coaches all have power, don’t we?

We educate. We guide. We mentor. Sometimes we push and pull and prod. And when the final bell rings, we breathe a sigh of relief only to realize that the next day, the next month, the next year will bring more kids with whom we will educate and guide and push and pull and prod.

Mostly I think, we Touch Lives. For the minutes and moments these kids are in our lives, our classrooms, our hallways, our locker rooms, we Touch Lives.

But I’m hoping that as much as we Touch Lives, we also Touch Hearts. We sometimes cause a smile, a laugh. Sometimes we polish off an edge and make it softer.

Even the smallest, briefest interaction can do that. A smile. A wink. A handshake. Small words like, “Good morning!” “Good luck tonight!” “Have a good day!” Don’t seem like much, do they? But I believe that all these small and brief interactions add up.

For instance, I spent almost a week out of town at a training. When I got back, a young lady wanted to know where I was. I explained that I was at a conference. She nodded and turned away. I called her back and asked, “Do you mind if I ask you why you asked?” And her response was “Each morning you say ‘Good Morning!’ to us, and you haven’t been here.” She smiled and turned away and walked to class.

Innocuous encounters. Chance meetings. However random or small, real opportunities nonetheless. Not just Touching the Head, but Touching the Heart. Perhaps that’s our real appointment in life. Beyond whatever certification or license we earned, our real “job” is to Touch Hearts. Opportunities present themselves every day in both big and small ways. It’s up to us to recognize them when they occur. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

Connect with me on Social Media:

Twitter at @jrlewisauthor



There have been several great reviews for Spiral Into Darkness:

If you are in Stafford County, Virginia on Saturday, April 13, I will be selling and signing books at the Spring Harvest Festival from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The address is: 162 Staffordboro Blvd., Stafford, VA 22554. Hope to see you then!

“If you enjoy thrillers, especially psychological ones, Spiral Into Darkness by Joseph Lewis will grab you good and proper in the opening two chapters. You will find yourself avidly turning pages as a serial killer accosts his victims, confirms their identities and blasts away their faces with a .38 pistol. If you are interested in both the good and bad sides of humanity and why we each turn out as we do, Spiral Into Darkness won’t disappoint.” Readers Favorites

“The Bottom Line: A thoroughly compulsive police procedural by one of America’s most promising new writers. Joseph Lewis, author of our Best of 2018 pick Caught in a Web, is back with another crime thriller featuring world-weary Milwaukee detective Jamie Graff . . . While Lewis savagely explores romance, drama, and sexuality with his wider cast of characters, Jamie’s interpersonal life is refreshingly free of drama for a cop, enabling him to be the determined, resourceful rock capable of cracking the case. The result is a thoroughly compulsive crime thriller.” Best Thrillers


Best Thrillers had previously reviewed my book, Caught in a Web. It was named as a PenCraft Literary Award Winner for Thriller Fiction! Best Thrillers called it “one of the best crime thriller books of the year!” I am both proud and humbled.


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

Spiral Into Darkness:
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:
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.
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