I’m happy to announce that I have a new release coming up in August.
On August 18, 2017, my new contemporary YA novel, Lakeside, will be available as an ebook on all major ebook retailers for $3.99. (A paperback will be coming shortly after that.)
Lakeside is about seventeen-year-old Jemi who moves to the town of Lakeside and soon finds herself in over her head when she takes on a service project at the town lake that some superstitious locals say is run by a group of evil spirits.
Jemi must contend with local politics, eccentric townspeople, the jealous girlfriend of her new friend, Mike, and a tarantula on the loose.
Nothing’s what it seems in Lakeside…
Check out an excerpt from Lakeside below and add Lakeside to your Want To Read shelf on Goodreads.
All Jemi wanted was to find the bathroom, and instead she found the wrong door.
“Oh God! I’m sorry — really sorry. Oh, I should probably shut this… I’m just — I’m really sorry. Oh, yeah, okay. I’m going. Sorry again!” she said to the two people on the bed, who were in various stages of undress. The girl gave her the dirtiest look she could muster while the boy mostly looked at her wide-eyed and sheepishly. She hoped she hadn’t made any lasting enemies as she quickly shut the door.
It was her first week at a new school — again — and she had actually gotten invited to the first big party of the year, thanks to her newest, and only, friend so far.
She walked a little way down the upstairs hallway and checked another door. Thank God it was the bathroom.
She walked back downstairs a few minutes later and found Hayden at the bottom of the steps.
“Find the bathroom?” Hayden asked.
“Well…yes,” Jemi said, raising her eyebrows a little.
“And?” Hayden said, turning her head to give Jemi a sideways questioning look.
“And…” Jemi continued, “I kinda walked in on a couple of people and then I found the bathroom.”
Hayden broke out laughing.
“Who was it?” she asked between laughs.
“How am I supposed to know?” Jemi said, laughing as well. “You’re one of the few people I actually know here.”
“Off to a good start, I see,” Hayden said, still laughing so hard she put her hands on her knees and bent forward, hanging her head. When she was upright again she asked, “So what did they look like?”
Jemi started to describe the couple, but before she could finish, she was bumped hard from behind and felt liquid go all down her back. The force from the bump pushed her forward, and just like a multi-car accident, she bumped into Hayden’s cup and soaked herself from the front too.
As she turned around, a big guy, who must have been on the football team, apologized profusely.
Jemi waved him off, as there was nothing he could do now, and told him not to worry about it. She looked at Hayden as if to say, “What do I do now?”
“Oh…dear,” Hayden said, looking like she might laugh but wanting to be kind to her friend.
“Oh dear is right,” Jemi said, looking down at her soaked shirt.
“I think I’ve got something in my car you can put on. It should look alright,” Hayden said and they proceeded outside.
It was humid outside and still hot. It had been a sizzling September day that still felt like summer even though school had started just this week.
Jemi finished describing the couple she had walked in on upstairs.
“Was the guy’s hair really dark, kinda messy?” Hayden asked.
“Yeah, I think. It was hard to tell —”
Hayden broke out laughing once again. “That was Mike Ellis and Cali Davis.”
“Oh, thank God you’re friends with them —” Jemi started to say, feeling relieved.
“Well…I know Mike casually,” Hayden said. “But Cali not so much.”
Jemi’s face fell as she gave Hayden a look that said, “And what exactly does that mean?”
“Cali’s a little prickly,” Hayden said. “Kinda like a cactus. But hey, I’m sure they’ve already forgotten about it.”
Jemi sighed and smiled.
“Oh well,” she said. “Too late to do anything about it now.”
“Kinda like that shirt,” Hayden said as she reached into the back seat of her car and pulled out a t-shirt. She smelled it, found it acceptable and handed it over to Jemi.
“Thanks,” Jemi said and discreetly took off her wet shirt to put on the dry one.
“What are you guys doing out here?”
Jemi started and jumped, glad she had already switched shirts. Maddie Sedor was striding toward the car with two guys. Jemi had met her just once, earlier that day in fact.
“Oh, hey,” Hayden said, “Jemi had beer spilled all down her shirt. We came out here to get her a new one.”
“Well, good start to the new school year,” Maddie said and smiled.
Jemi smiled back.
“Yeah, and to think that was embarrassing act number two tonight. I’m batting a thousand right now,” Jemi said.
Jemi had never seen the two guys with Maddie before.
“So, what did you do?” the stocky guy with a full beard asked her before telling her his name was Rick.
Jemi told them the entire story of the evening beginning with barging in on Mike and Cali.
“Oh man, that is a good start,” the skinny guy with the shaggy hair said without introducing himself.
The conversation went on for a few minutes more, everyone commenting on Jemi’s mortifying night in a good-natured way.
“By the way, this is Jarod,” Maddie finally pointed out, referencing the skinny guy.
“I need no introduction,” Jarod said as he posed like a superhero, hands on hips and chest jutted out.
“Jemi might like to call you something besides ‘hey you,’ you know,” Maddie said and gave Jarod a friendly punch when he wouldn’t drop the pose. “We were going to head to the diner. You guys want to come?”
“You’re leaving?” Hayden asked with surprise.
“Yeah,” Maddie said, waving her hand dismissively, “we’re kinda done with that.” She gestured back toward the house.
“C’mon, come with us,” Rick said. “We’re much cooler than anyone in there.”
“It’s still kinda early,” Hayden said, looking at Jemi and then looking back at the house with longing. “I mean the sun is barely set.”
“Well, I’m starving,” Maddie said, putting her hand on the passenger side door handle of an old SUV a few cars down from Hayden’s. “So come along if you want to, and if not we’ll see you guys later.”
“Yeah, I’m dying for some French onion soup and pancakes,” Rick said.
Maddie scrunched up her face at this announcement and pulled the door open.
“God, that’s weird —” was all Maddie got out.
“Ohmygod I LOVE SOUP AND PANCAKES TOO!” Jemi accidentally yelled, garnering startled looks from her new friends.
Rick’s eyes got wide as if he wasn’t sure why the new girl was yelling at him, but then in the middle of his beard a smile formed.
“No, it’s awesome, isn’t it?”
Jemi’s right hand was over her mouth where it had automatically gone after she had become overly excited.
“Sorry, guys,” she said, smiling. “I’ve just never heard anyone say that before. I love soup and pancakes.”
“Well you have to come with us then because every soup the diner makes is fantastic,” Rick said, putting on an exaggerated voice.
Jemi put her hands out in front of her as if she wanted the universe to stop around her and put on her own exaggerated voice.
“Do they have chicken rice?”
Rick pretended to ponder this a moment.
“I cannot guarantee chicken rice soup tonight because they rotate them daily. But there is a possibility.”
Jemi clapped her hands together excitedly using small movements and raised her eyebrows at Rick.
“That settles it,” Maddie said. “We can’t keep the soup connoisseurs away from their chicken rice. Hayden, you and Jemi are coming to the diner with us. We can drop you back at your car when we’re done.”
Hayden made a long exaggerated sighing sound but eventually moved for the back seat of the SUV.
Jarod tried to convince Maddie out of the passenger seat with a series of weird faces, but she wouldn’t budge.
“My car, my choice of seat,” she said, buckling her seatbelt with a satisfying click and then shutting the door.
“C’mon, man, get in the back with Hayden and Jemi. You guys can make a Jarod sandwich,” Rick said.
“Can we order that at the diner?” Jarod said, and the whole group laughed.
“By the way,” Rick shook the keys in his hand as he hopped into the driver’s seat, “I haven’t had a drop to drink with the exception of some lovely seltzer waters with lime, so you are all safe in my hands.” And just for good measure, he then let out a mock evil laugh.
“Those seltzer waters will mess you up, man,” Jarod said.
Everyone inside the car laughed.
They pulled into a parking lot underneath a big neon sign that said, “Griff’s Diner.”
It was traditional in every sense. Huge dining area, extensive menu, counter seating, bright colors and a bustling wait staff.
The woman up front asked them, “How many?” in a voice that sounded like it had been carved out by many cigarettes. She picked up five menus and with a nod indicted they should follow her to a large booth in the back.
They all slid in across the vinyl seats and their hostess told them Pat would be taking care of them. They opened their menus and went quiet.
Ten minutes later they all had their sodas, teas, coffees and waters in front of them.
“So where’re you from, Jemi?” Maddie asked while squeezing a lemon wedge into her glass of water.
“Uhhh,” she started, stirring a little sugar into her tea, “a lot of different places, I guess.”
She had moved to Lakeside with her mother a couple of weeks ago from a different state. As she listed off all the different places she had lived, she watched as the eyes of her new friends got wider and wider.
“Wow, what does your mom do that you guys move so often?” Rick asked, sipping a soda.
Jemi laughed. She couldn’t help it.
“My mom does about everything under the sun. She got a job in a bank nearby, so that’s why we moved here. Well, for that and the lake.”
At her mention of the lake, Jemi could see the other four glance at each other around the table.
“What?” she asked.
“Have you seen the lake?” Maddie asked, the corners of her mouth upturned just a little.
“No, why?” Jemi asked, taking a conservative sip of her tea so as not to burn her mouth.
They hadn’t gotten the chance yet, what with moving, getting ready for school, and her mom’s new job.
“Let’s go by there after we finish eating,” Maddie said and looked around the group for their concurrence. Everyone nodded with small smiles on their faces.
“Alright, cool,” Jemi said, wondering why they all seemed to be hiding something.
Finally, Hayden broke out laughing.
“Okay, I’m sorry. I can’t hold it in,” she said, taking a sip of diet cola between giggles.
“Hayden!” Maddie said, throwing her balled up straw wrapper at her. “Now the shitty lake isn’t going to be a surprise!”
“Have you really never seen the lake?” Hayden asked Jemi, using air quotes around the word lake.
“No, we haven’t had time. Why? What does it look like?”
Rick, Maddie and Hayden all chimed in on the story behind the lake.
The town was once called “Pittstown,” and fifty years ago or so there was an effort to brighten its image and draw new people to the area. The town council decided to rename it “Lakeside” but there was only one problem.
There wasn’t a lake.
“So they constructed one,” Maddie said. “And it was a disaster.”
“Anyways,” Hayden said, “we’ll just show you what it looks like instead of telling you. You need to see it with your own eyes. It’s one of those experiences.”
“Yeah, the decay and neglect really need to be felt,” Rick said and made an exaggerated happy face.
“Well,” Jemi said, “at least me and my mom didn’t go down there expecting something great.”
“Keeping your expectations low is key,” Rick said and gave her an eyebrow raise.
Jarod sipped his ginger ale quietly, taking in the conversation.
Soon, the food was at the table.
The diner did indeed have chicken rice soup that night and with an order of chocolate chip pancakes, Jemi was in heaven.
Rick had gotten the French onion soup and an order of blueberry pancakes, and he dug in immediately upon delivery.
Jarod had a triple cheeseburger, a pile of French fries and a grilled cheese sandwich on the side.
Maddie had ordered a gyro while Hayden had ordered a salad.
“Don’t go crazy now,” Maddie said to Hayden between bites of gyro.
“I already had those beers, and I ate dinner before the party,” she said, defending herself.
“I ate dinner before the party too,” Jarod said, shoving his cheeseburger into his mouth and shoveling a few fries in for good measure.
“You know, one day your metabolism’s going to get revenge on you,” Rick said, gesturing with a fork full of blueberry pancake.
Jarod smiled through a mouthful of burger.
* * *
“So here we are. Here’s the lake,” Maddie said while standing on top of a picnic table and being careful not to step on any weak boards.
The table she stood on was littered with graffiti, much of it obscene to some degree.
“Say, that’s a really good drawing of a dick,” Jarod said, tilting his head to get a better angle. “I mean the person who did that can seriously draw.”
Rick laughed along with him in agreement.
Jemi was too perplexed to take much stock in explicit picnic table hieroglyphs, as she stood on the grass looking out at the water.
Or, rather, what water there was.
It was like the water only wanted to sit in certain areas of the lake, so that others were completely bare. When the group said earlier that the lake construction had been a disaster, she hadn’t exactly been picturing this.
Rick came up beside her.
“I want to just take it,” he held out his arms in front of him, “and tilt it,” he finished, moving his arms like he was moving an object in front of him.
“Yeah, I wonder why the water won’t fill in all the way?” Jemi asked.
“Some people say it has something to do with the soil in this region,” Hayden said, coming up on Jemi’s other side.
“And others say the people who designed and built it just didn’t have a clue what they were doing,” Rick chimed in.
“Could be both,” Jarod said.
“Hmmmm,” Jemi said, feeling neither disappointed nor critical, just confused.
“Yeah, so here’s the lake,” Rick said, echoing Maddie’s earlier sentiment.
“Hey. I found a needle,” Jarod said, poking his shoe around at the ground in front of him.
“There’s a bunch of them around,” Maddie said, hopping off the picnic table. “Be careful.”
Jemi stepped forward, toward where the water should have been, and looked around, hands on hips.
“You know,” she said, squinting her eyes in the darkness. “There aren’t any trees around. Or any landscaping, really.”
Besides a few scattered picnic tables and benches, most of which were in ill repair or graffitied, there wasn’t really anything inviting in the park. Nothing made you want to sit down and spend time here, bring your family or friends here, or read a book here. It seemed mostly like a spot for addicts.
“I think it needs a walking trail,” Jemi continued, “all the way around. And some trees. And new tables and benches. And some bushes or something. I mean, despite the water, it would be a nice place to come and hang out.”
Rick crossed his arms and considered.
“I guess you’re right. It’s just that nobody’s really come here for decades.”
“I mean, you could have some food trucks come and park on that side of the parking lot,” Jemi continued, not responding to Rick but still in her own imagination. “Wouldn’t that be nice? I could totally see myself with a banh mi, my e-reader, and a blanket. I mean, I don’t know how you get water in the lake, but otherwise, this is a pretty nice place.”
“Well, we can tell you’re an optimist, Jemi,” Maddie said.
“Honestly, I’m kinda shocked no one has done anything about this. I mean, hell, once you get the lake area cleaned up, someone could come in and put up luxury condos with a lake view. You’d think someone would want to take advantage.”
“A lot of people around here are set in their ways,” Hayden said, sounding a little sadder than she should.
“Hmmmm,” Jemi said again and then shrugged.
It was completely quiet for a moment and then Jarod said, “Welcome to Lakeside.”
Add Lakeside to your Want To Read shelf on Goodreads: Lakeside on Goodreads
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