Lake George

Launch Day!

The highly anticipated follow up to award-winning Boy on Hold, BOY RELEASED, is finally available for purchase at your favorite online bookstore!

Already, it’s getting rave reviews. 9 out of 10 ARC reviewers have given FIVE STAR reviews on Goodreads. The best part? It can absolutely be enjoyed as a standalone if you haven’t gotten to Boy on Hold yet!

Some Q&A about launch day

What happens on launch day?

Basically, on launch day, the book is available for purchase on Amazon or wherever you buy your books. The date is set by my awesome publisher, Immortal Works. And although the book has been ready for a few months now, gearing up for launch day includes plans for marketing and publicity to help make a splash at launch.

There may also be live launch events where you can meet the author and get your book signed. This is usually a separate date from the official launch day.

Are there any launch events planned for BOY RELEASED?

Yes! Mark your calendars:

August 12 8pm virtual launch party – sign up via FB

August 14 3pm – launch party at The Book Cabin in Lake George on the Bolton Road

August 26 5pm – book reading and signing at Mountain Gallery in downtown Glens Falls

How to best buy your book?

The other day, my friend asked me, “Where should I buy your book so that it benefits you MOST?”

This is such a good question! The answer? Buy the book TODAY on release day. Ideally, the Kindle version from Amazon. If the book takes off with a good sales rank on the first day, Amazon will continue to push the product.

Is there anything else we readers could do to help?

Why, yes! Posting a review helps an author more than you could ever know. Reviews are GOLD. And it doesn’t have to be a five-star. It’s the amount of reviews that matter. For instance, a book with 30+ reviews within a month or so of launch will continue to be pushed by Amazon.

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I’m so excited to continue the Trout family saga with you — ten years after tragedy uprooted their lives. And the setting? Right smack in the village of Lake George, where I went to school and worked my first job and spent every weekend of my teenage life.

I promise it will not disappoint. Here’s a bit about the story:

Official blurb

In a popular resort town in the Adirondacks, the busy summer season has just begun when an unwelcome visitor arrives at Marcella Trout’s new venture—Blue Palms Motel.

Tyler alone witnesses her brutal attack. Soon, he becomes the only suspect. As the investigation tries to unlock the secrets tangled in Tyler’s troubled mind, the Trouts must confront the disturbing reality of his mental illness. Is Tyler once again a criminal, or will he become a hero?

In this thrilling follow up to award-winning Boy on Hold, ten years have passed since the horrific murder of Sally Hubbard. Tyler is released from psychiatric rehab and Hen, now seventeen, will soon inherit the wealthy Hubbard estate. But just as the Trouts look toward a brighter future, tragedy knocks on their door…

Cover Reveal–Boy Released

The long-awaited sequel to BOY ON HOLD drops August 3, 2021. BOY RELEASED follows the story of the Trout family, ten years after tragedy changed their lives forever–when Tyler is released from rehab and Hen is about to inherit millions from Miss Sally’s estate.

A thrilling mystery that definitely can be enjoyed on its own, I started writing the sequel six months after Boy on Hold launched. I can’t wait to share this story with you!

I tell students when I visit schools that before books become books, they’re just really long documents. Like, a big stack of paper. Seeing cover art for the first time always makes it feel real. And closer to that gratifying feeling of holding that book in my hands.

For this book, I tried something different for its cover reveal. In hopes to generate excitement, I phased out posts to engage my readers in a fun way.

First, people guessed what color the cover would be.

BLACK got the most votes by far, with BLUE a close second.

But the winning color is RED.
Hmmmm. That made me wonder.
Do readers hope it’s black?
Is red too aggressive?

Next, I posted various “puzzle pieces” of the cover, giving a teaser sneak peek. Did it work or just annoy people, who knows?

Okay, okay. Enough nonsense. It’s only fun until it’s not anymore. Here’s the whole shebang, folks. Hope it was worth the wait. (I, for one, am psyched about the design!)

BOY RELEASED by JD Spero launches August 3!

OFFICIAL BLURB

In a popular resort town in the Adirondacks, the busy summer season has just begun when an unwelcome visitor arrives at Marcella Trout’s new venture—Blue Palms Motel.

Tyler alone witnesses her brutal attack. Soon, he becomes the only suspect. As the investigation tries to unlock the secrets tangled in Tyler’s troubled mind, the Trouts must confront the disturbing reality of his mental illness. Is Tyler once again a criminal, or will he become a hero?

In this thrilling follow up to award-winning Boy on Hold, ten years have passed since the horrific murder of Sally Hubbard. Tyler is released from psychiatric rehab and Hen, now seventeen, will soon inherit the wealthy Hubbard estate. But just as the Trouts look toward a brighter future, tragedy knocks on their door…

Recently pressed…local ink!

Two new books of note by local grads

Johannah Davies Spero of LG & Marika McCoola of GF

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Two native writers — Johannah Davies Spero, Lake George Class of 1991, and Marika McCoola, Glens Falls Class of 2005, have new books targeted at Young Adult readers and presented by professional publishers coming out, this week and next. Here’s a look at what’s to come.

Johannah Spero: ‘Forte’

Johannah Davies Spero, the Lake George grad, writer and teacher, moved back to this area with her family last year.

Her new book Forte launches with a party at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga on Tuesday, July 28, at 6 p.m.

It is a Young Adult tale with elements of magic and fantasy that is set in Whitehall — here, back to its original name of Skenesborough.

Johanna Davies Spero and her book Forte.

“Sami is a 15-year-old musician who moves from New York City to a small upstate town,” Ms. Spero told The Chronicle.

“She’s the new kid, and the last thing she wants is to hide behind the piano. She’s tall and athletic, and the coach really wants her to join the Volleyball team. Coach takes her by the shoulders and she gets this jolt of magic, and she’s suddenly able to play really well.

“They’re all drinking this potion on the team. It looks like blue Gatorade, and it makes them play better. But it turns out, the next time she goes to the piano, she cannot play. It’s really drawing on an ancient legend, about who she really is, the DNA and the values, what does she believe is important, the piano or her newfound success and popularity in school? At the same time, there is the ancient rivalry, the artistic versus athletic, that is heightened by the magic.

She’s the one who has to make it better for herself, and the town.”

Forte_Bookcover_front-2

The story was inspired by Lake George volleyball coach Cathy “Panic” Stanilka.

“Everyone would say, ‘Play for Panic,’ Ms. Spero says. “My entire story was inspired by this play on words. But I was not going to make a villain out of such a beloved coach from my high school. So I changed her name, and then I had to come up with a new name for the book. Forte, has the double meaning of something you’re good at, your strength, and a musical term for playing with power.

Why Whitehall? “My husband and I used to live on the North Shore of Boston, so we’d come up this way to visit my parents (Jim and Janet Davies). I always thought it was a good town for a story, with Skene Manor on the hill, and the canal. It’s this ordinary town with a splatter of grandness.”

And then, there’s this: “We were both working full time and going to school for our Master’s degrees, and we were planning to get married but didn’t have the time to get a marriage license in New York. I called the town clerk in Whitehall and asked if we could get it after hours and she did. She met us as we were coming through town at 8 o’clock one night.”

The book is available to order on amazon.com. The official launch is Saturday, July 25. Find other events — including the Chronicle Book Fair on Sunday, Nov. 8 — online at jdspero.com.

Ms. Spero self-published her first book, Catcher’s Keeper last year, using professional designers and editors she paid herself, she noted at the time.

Catcher’s Keeper imagines what would happen if Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye were a real person who learned ahead of time that Mark David Chapman planned to assassinate John Lennon, somehow spurred by his book.

“I had planned on self-publishing again, using everything I learned the hard way on Catcher’s Keeper,” she says. “Then a friend who was doing publicity for this publisher Xchyler (‘schuyler’), said I should try it with them. Even if they said yes I could always decline.”

They offered to take the book, she says, and with a royalty percentage that she found especially fair.

Working with a publisher this time, Ms. Spero says, “I realized quickly, maybe I really have more to learn. I’d done a few drafts and already worked with some editors, but they tore it down — and built a mansion.”

Right away, she says, the editor identified a problem character — Sami’s mother — and helped “make the character real,” she says. “They asked really tough questions. It’s mine to create, but it has to make sense. In Young Adult books, a lot of time, the mother is just absent. But here, the mother is there enough it filters into the main character’s experience.”

Ms. Spero says, “It was really interesting. They do everything online, through Google Chat, emails, Facebook messages. I never had a conversation on the phone with them. Everything is documented, in writing, online. It’s been a real learning experience for me.”

More help came from her brother, Jim (also an author).

“I was never really into fantasy or magic books,” Ms. Spero says, “but I grew up right next to this person who was a huge Dungeons and Dragons aficionado. I give him huge kudos. When I had problems I had to get over, like how to do the magic, how can it make sense, what are the rules of my world? He would just tell me, It’s your world. You make the rules.”

Ms. Spero is already on her third book — in a different genre, but with again a teenaged character at the center. Now a full time writer and stay-at-home mother to three young boys, she was formerly a middle school English teacher.

“This new one is about a good boy who makes some really awful mistakes, and the only one who knows is his little brother.”

She laughs, “It looks like I’m so prolific, but all these books were in process for a really long time. This one (Forte), I started almost four years ago. I can’t even describe the feeling of waiting for it to come out, now.”

Marika McCoola: ‘Baba Yaga…’

Meanwhile, twentysomething Glens Falls grad Marika McCoola scored a major book deal with the major publisher Candlewick Press for her debut title, Baba Yaga’s Assistant. The book comes out on August 4. Events are planned around Boston beginning this month. Northshire Books in Saratoga hosts an event on October 2.

Marika McCoola

(Disclosure: Marika is a close friend of this writer, who knew her since she was 4.)

Ms. McCoola went to Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore for illustration — and got her MFA in writing for children from Simmons College in Amherst, Mass. — but this first book is illustrated by another artist, Emily Carroll.

Baba Yaga’s Assistant grew out of an MFA project — and, in fact, Jen Linnan, the outside mentor assigned to Ms. McCoola for the project, offered to become her literary agent two weeks after graduation.

Ms. McCoola says, “My style of illustration didn’t fit with this story. I do three-dimensional mixed media which is quirky and sometimes a little dark. So much in this book depends on the facial expressions. She added, “I was blown away by Emily’s illustrations, especially how she used the color palette as the story progressed.”

“The book came to me as an image of the first spread you’ll see in the book, people telling stories of Baba Yaga and what she does. It had to be a graphic novel because of the iron teeth she has, and her house that stands on chicken legs.”

Baba Yaga is a popular Russian folk character, known for eating bad little children but who also appreciates anyone who can outsmart her, Ms. McCoola explained.

Her own story is about a young teenaged girl who was raised by her grandmother after her mother died young; her father has been mostly absent and is about to remarry to a woman with a young, troublesome daughter. The young protagonist, Masha, runs away and apprentices with the old witch.

It’s a pretty dark tale, Ms. McCoola says. The take-away? “We are all trying to search for a family in which we belong, and it’s not necessarily our biological family.”

Her target audience is kids ages 9 to 14 “who like mythology,” she said. “I also love the idea of a character who rewards those who trick her, being smart and using what you have to the best of your ability.”

She said, “Writing a graphic novel is like writing a movie script, only more.” Besides the words, she plans out all of the drawings — even as another artist will do the illustrations. “You have to describe everything that is going to be on the page. You determine how many panels are n a page, where the page turn will be, you describe what the character looks like and track the props.” Even as a new author, she had veto rights on the choice of illustrator and the drawings themselves.

Ms. McCoola lives in Boston, and is currently working on several more book projects, and circulating two more picture books with publishers. She also teaches online through Empire State College, and works in a bookstore. Find info on her book tour online at marikamccoola.com.

Find Baba Yaga’s Assistant at regional bookstores and online at amazon.com.

Copyright © 2015 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Wake-up Call

My son knows how to swim.

Three weeks after moving to Texas, where we had a pool in our backyard, my son Adam — then 4 — learned to swim. That was three years ago. Throughout that first summer, my husband and I would often remark about how well Adam could swim. He seemed to be a “natural.” We even entertained the idea of signing him up for a swim team so he could develop competitive skills. Our family waterbug, he was always in the water.

We now live in my hometown of Lake George, New York. Having grown up on this lake, I feel it’s a part of me. Not only have I been swimming in this lake since birth, but I’ve boated, sailed, jet-skied, water-skied, canoed, kayaked, paddle-boarded…you name it. This lake is so important to me that my husband and I joke that if he (having grown up by the ocean) didn’t like Lake George, it would’ve been a deal-breaker. Yes, the word “comfortable” doesn’t quite cut it when describing Lake George. “Home” comes closer.

But here I sit at 3am, unable to sleep for what happened ten hours ago in that lake. Out the window, I can see its movement as the moonlight washes over it, ticking its way to the mountains. This lake has always brought me peace.

We are having a busy, fun-filled summer. One that brings me back to my childhood. Last week, we had the privilege of a beach vacation. My boys did wonderfully. My oldest thrived on his boogie board while my youngest understood his limits near the surf. Adam discovered his love for bobbing in the ocean waves. The bigger the wave, the bigger his smile. This week, we’ve been to 2 pool parties. Adam discovered his love for cannon-balling off the diving board. Watching him play in the water has brought me as much joy as he’s been having, I’m sure of it.

Yesterday, we arrived at Elizabeth Island on Lake George, where my parents have a cabin. Almost immediately, the boys wanted to swim. On with our suits and out to the dock. My youngest does not yet swim, so I made sure he wore his puddle-jumper and safely set him in the shallow part. My oldest wasted no time in swimming to the infamous rock — a generous platform about fifty yards from the dock. Adam went in too. I stood by watching, waiting to feel hot enough to take the plunge.

“Come on, Adam, let’s swim to the rock!” my oldest called.

Adam hesitated.

Here’s where my teacher instinct kicked in. “You can do it, Adam!” I cheered. And I know he could. He can. He had done it last year (maybe with a little help?). He’s been in the water almost every day this summer. He can do it. He just needed a little encouragement.

My husband and I have always been sensitive to our middle child, making sure he doesn’t feel overshadowed by his ambitious big brother. We always try to give him the encouragement he needs. In this case, as in many others over the years, I assumed this was what he needed.

But he still hesitated.

“I’ll go with you.” Was my solution.

Adam came onto the dock with me. We would jump in together (his favorite part) and swim *together* out to the rock. I felt confident in our plan.

My youngest began crying as soon as I began to swim. (He didn’t want me to swim away from him.) In typical 3 y/o-fashion, he wailed loud and long, taking up valuable space in my eardrums. Ashamed to admit, I ignored his crying, knowing he was safe. And we had a plan — Adam and me — and by golly, I was determined to finish it.

I could just picture us on standing on the rock together, fists to the sky, cheering for ourselves. This would be good for him. I was sure of it.

But then, halfway to the rock, I looked behind me. Adam had turned back.

No.

No, don’t do that.

I hadn’t found the rock yet, but that’s not what made my heart pound.

Adam had gotten nervous and turned around.

No, don’t do that. The trip is that much longer when you turn around like that. Could he handle it? Is it now too far for him?

My youngest continued to cry, so loudly I could not hear Adam whimpering. I could not hear Adam calling me for help. (Was he calling me for help? I can only imagine he was.)

My feet still had not found that sturdy platform — the rock — from which I imagined launching to save my child. But any rock would do. I dove back toward the dock, kicking my way as fast as my legs would take me.

I told myself it was my youngest I was going back to help. He was the one crying. In retrospect, I think I didn’t want to admit Adam was in need of help. He could swim! He’s an excellent swimmer!

But my chest was tight with panic. Something was not right.

In no time at all, I could see that Adam had safely made it to the dock. In less than five seconds, I was holding my youngest, comforting him, stopping his tears. But my eyes were on Adam.

“You okay?” I said to him.

“Yeah,” he said. “I don’t want to swim to the rock.”

“Okay. You don’t have to.”

That was it. It was over. Everyone was safe. Everyone went back to laughing and cannon-balling and smacking each other with noodles. (Why didn’t we have those earlier?)

But I remained shaken. Even after my brother and his wife arrived from Canada. Even after a cold Sam Adams by the firepit. Even after a comfort-food dinner of chicken and dumplings. Even after snuggling with my boys watching The Lorax in lieu of the fireworks. Even now, at three in the morning.

It’s a mother’s plight, I suppose. Imagining the what-ifs. Playing out different scenarios in your mind. Kicking yourself for those close calls that should’ve been avoided. Crafting emergency plans just in case. Worrying. Worrying. Worrying.

Had he been in trouble? Honestly, I don’t know.

But, as his mother, it’s my job to know.

This lake will always be part of our lives. We will continue to swim and fish and boat and cannon-ball. But I will never let my guard down, ever, when it comes to my kids and water. As much as it’s a source of comfort, I cannot forget it can be dangerous. My beloved lake. My comfort. My peace.

That’s nothing.

If we talk about “home”?

My kids.

My kids.