book club

Spirit Animal GIVEAWAY!

What’s your spirit animal?

Do you feel a strong connection to a certain animal? Do you feel that a type of animal represents your unique essence?

I’m not sure I have a spirit animal, although hedgehogs will always have a soft spot in my heart.

This little prickly critter helped inspire BOY ON HOLD, after all. Did you know, I’m also an illustrator? Here’s my super-realistic hedgehog drawing that appears on the back cover of BOH and also at every chapter heading.

In honor of my birthday this year, I’m hosting a HEDGEHOG GIVEAWAY!

No, not an actual, live hedgehog, silly. I’m talking SOCKS! Adorable, hedgehog socks!

Here’s how to play:

  • Post a selfie with BOY ON HOLD on any social media platform (kindle or phone image ok!)
  • Tag me and one other hedgehog-loving friend who’d want a chance to win.
  • On May 16–my bday—my kids will randomly pick 4 lucky winners!

Post as many times as you’d like to increase your chances! (Now thru 5/16!.US & Canada only…)

So many books, so little time

Book club ended in the inevitable fashion — everyone chiming in on what to read next. I’ve been part of many book clubs over the years where the policy had been: the host of the next club chooses the next book. I’ve recently joined a club that chooses from a big glass jar containing book titles on slips of paper. Random selection at its best.

But this time the title on the paper triggered a fiery discussion on what they’ve read, what they loved, what they’d recommend. Soon, slips of paper were added to the jar. Some of us (me included) got a personalized list of must-reads.

This is my favorite way to get a book recommendation. From friends. Especially from friends who share my interests and have similar tastes in books. (My mom also happens to be an extremely reliable recommender.)

We all have seen the occasional Facebook post “I need a good book. Any suggestions?” This is the same thing. Lots of bookstores will have “Staff favorite” shelves. People not only rely on but seek out other’s opinions about books.

If you think about it, online book reviews accomplish a similar thing. Apart from word-of-mouth, friend-to-friend recommendations, people rely on reviews, specifically — reviews posted on Amazon or Goodreads. They offer a personal endorsement that readers trust. I have heard that people make decisions on what to read based on ratings and reviews. More than the book’s concept, the back-of-book blurb, awards, discounts, or advertising…

How about you? How do you choose what to read next?

Answer in the comments section for a chance to win a free ebook!


Countdown to LAUNCH!

A month from today, on July 25, 2015, my second novel — FORTE — will make its way into the world, officially.

JD Spero's FORTE cover


It will be my first novel launched by a legit publisher, Xchyler Publishing. After starting the book nearly 4 years ago, I’m ridiculously eager to see it in print. In November of 2014 I signed with Xchyler after a friend who did publicity for them urged me to submit. As I mentioned in my blog post — It Takes a Village — I was hesitant, sure I would once again self-publish. I had gone through multiple revisions and alternate titles, hired 2 content editors on my own, and enlisted my trusty line editor to start the final touches when Xchyler’s offer came through.

Many have asked specifics about what it’s like to work with a team of editors in a publishing house. Let me give some examples.

Before we actually started work on the story, the team filled out a manuscript assessment, answering questions like: What is the major dramatic question and how is it answered? What are the strengths of the author’s voice? Weakness? What is the major conflict? How is it resolved? Strength/weaknesses of protagonist/antagonist… The list goes on.

I filled out a detailed character timeline to show how events overlap, even before the time in which the book is set. I wrote a detailed backstory about the Mom character — details that never made it into the book but indirectly helped make Mom’s character more realistic. My editors came at me with dozens of smart questions about how the story worked, revealing gaps or inconsistencies. After explaining how the magic and prophecy works, my editor had me back up and spell it out more clearly for the reader. That called for a new chapter.

Then I got to work revising.

After content revision, I uploaded each chapter individually to our shared Google drive.  For each chapter, my content editor and I had a back and forth dialogue in track changes. She pushed me. Hard.

When my content editor felt it was ready, she’d hand off the chapter to our line editor. Then, my line editor and I had the same back and forth track changes dialogue to polish each line.

At some point during the process, our editor-in-chief advised me to consider changing the title. Once we decided on FORTE — the title came to me in the shower! — our designer created my gorgeous cover. And my editor-in-chief perfected the ever-important blurb.

JD Spero_Bookmark_front-2

New bookmarks!

JD Spero_Bookmark_back-2

Author deets on other side!

When my line editor felt it was ready, it went on to the editor-in-chief for final approval. From there, it went to our proofer. Occasionally, I would be asked to change a line or something small, but mostly, my work was done. And I kind of missed it. Actually, I missed it a lot. From there, it went to our formatter, etc. I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

Meanwhile, I got to work on the marketing plan. I worked on my press kit, contacted local papers and magazines, and reached out to some industry contacts to find ARC reviewers. I ordered new bookmarks and business cards, working with our awesome designer (same who did the cover).

JD Spero card front

My new business card – front!

books on back of business cards

My books featured on back of my new cards

Thus, July 25 will be a day to celebrate — FORTE’s book birthday — for years to come. And will add to the endless celebration already in my life in late July. This year, my youngest turns 5 July 23, my book launches July 25, our 12 year anniversary is July 26, and my oldest turns 10 July 27, and my official launch party is July 28. Bring on the champagne!


Stay tuned for details about the online blog tour. Also we have some cool launch events that should be super fun.

July 28, 2015 — Official launch party at Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga, NY

August 28, 2015 — Reading and signing at Jabberwocky Bookshop, Newburyport, MA

September 17, 2015 — Book club, Glens Falls, NY

November 19, 2015 — Authors & Artists at Samantha’s Cafe in Glens Falls, NY

See you there!

Post-Partum Book-Blues?

Growing up, I was a theater kid. All of us theater people understand the post-production blues that come after the final curtain call, after striking the set, after the running-on-fumes-but-cannot-miss cast party. The next morning, I’d awaken—as all my fellow thespians would—to an empty canvas of time. Our jam-packed schedules that had deprived us of sleep and nutritious meals and QT with loved ones for months were now suddenly…wide open. Texas countryside open. No more excuses for that putting off that dental cleaning. There would be no reason not to vacuum our cars’ crumb-laden interiors. All the reasons that made Cheetos a viable pairing with pizza lost their validity. So, after a good cry and a look at some photos or a glowing review, we’d all pull up our big-girl socks and get on with regular life. Ho hum.

No one told me this is how I’d feel after launching a book.

By now, you’ve read my previous blog, A Year in the Life of a Book-to-Be, which gave you a snapshot of the chaos of my life as I prepared to publish CATCHER’S KEEPER…and that was after writing the thing. It’s a strange life cycle: a book lives inside your head for years, you get it down and toil over every word, and then you have to push and insist and fight to get it out there. And then…

I wrote the first draft of CATCHER’S KEEPER in only three months. It sounds cliché, but the story had to get out. I drafted scenes in my mind at the playground only to run home and pound it out onto the computer during episodes of Phineas and Ferb. Many nights, I would go to bed, wait for everyone to fall asleep, and then sneak down to my computer and write until 2 or 3 a.m. Sometimes my husband would return from putting the boys to bed only to find me frantically typing a scene, having left dirty dinner dishes scattered about the kitchen. The story could not wait.

During my twenties when I flailed about trying to find myself (as many twenty-somethings do—ever see Girls on HBO?), my brother gave me a book about Graduate School entitled “Getting What You Came For,” which discusses how much commitment is required in obtaining a PhD. And by commitment, I don’t mean time, but passion. A thing that cannot be measured.

As my brother went through his doctorate program, I learned of a phenomenon more common than you’d expect summed up in a single foreboding acronym: ABD “All But Dissertation.” It takes years to earn a PhD—sometimes over a decade—but if you fail to complete the dissertation, the culmination of your research and expertise on your very specific field of study, you fail to get your PhD. If doctorate candidates aren’t borderline obsessed with the topic of their dissertations, their chances of finishing and therefore obtaining their PhDs are seriously compromised. You have to not only want it, but put almost everything else aside in order to obtain it.

If I may digress for one gloating moment: I’m happy to report that my brother, Jim Davies, has long finished his dissertation and obtained his PhD. (He’s now a cognitive scientist and award-winning associate professor at Carleton University in Ottawa—as well as an accomplished author. You can pre-order his book RIVETED now!)

I’m not comparing my commitment to my novel to the dedication required to earn a PhD. But it’s true that if I weren’t borderline obsessed with my book, I may not have finished it. This book harnessed an immense amount of energy; just thinking about it gave me a rush of adrenaline. Had I not been borderline obsessed, I probably would’ve allowed those early rejections—and there were lots of them—to convince me it was worthless. I may not have bothered with the Amazon contest. I may not have self-published. And there would be one less book in the world.

But it is out in the world. (Hooray!) And, for a few days, I was relieved and thrilled about its release.

And then the blues kicked in. Which was so strange.

The thing is: It’s not over. It’s creating a whole new energy. People are reading it! Reviewing it! I’m working Twitter and Facebook like no tomorrow. Blog tours! Interviews with local newspapers! Online interview with NY Times bestselling author! Book signing and presentation at a local café! I already have five legit bookclub gigs in four different states (only one of which is a relative’s—ha!). There’s amazing stuff happening.

So why am I blue?

Recalling the life-cycles of my five babies (my five completed manuscripts), I realize I have a mini-blues episode each time I finish a first draft. I’m happiest when I’m actively writing—creating a story out of nothing. I look forward to the next scene with as much fervor as I used to anticipate 24 episodes. I play it out in my head, write it quickly, and read it the next day, reveling in its purity. Building from the scene before, laying a foundation for the next chapter, feeling a build lift me like a giant wave. This is the best way I can describe it. Although it may not sound familiar to other authors, this is my reality of writing.

Dorothy Parker once said, “I hate writing. I love having written.” Respectfully, Ms. Parker, I would have to disagree.

Revising is a chore. Launching is a roller-coaster. Promotion is stressful. Writing a story organically is the sweet spot, and I’ve realized that’s what’s been missing. Even when there’s so much left to do, I realized I needed to start a new project.
So I have.

What’s it about, you ask?

Oh, no. I’m way too superstitious to tell you that. You’ll just have to wait to read it.