Liz’s Ultimate Post-Booktrope Self-Publishing Guide

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With Booktrope closing its doors and so many authors scrambling to figure out what to do now, I thought I’d share some resources for those interested in self-publishing. Before I signed with Booktrope, I was a self-published author. I published a previously published award-winning short story on the Kindle in 2011. When I first started out, I had no idea what I was doing. Since then, I’ve learned a few things that I hope my fellow orphaned authors will find useful.

I’ll be updating this post as I think of more resources. If I’ve missed anything, feel free to post a comment and ask a question or suggest something!

To self-publish your book, all you really need is a properly formatted .doc or ePub file and a high quality book cover image. There are many guides online for ebook formatting (Amazon, Smashwords, and Lulu all have them available on their websites), so I’m not going to get into the technical details here. But if you can write a novel in a Word document, you’re definitely capable of formatting your ebook.

You can upload your ebook directly to Kindle (via Kindle Direct Publishing, also known as KDP), iBooks (via the iTunes Producer app, available only for Mac users), Nook (via NookPress), and Kobo (via Kobo Writing Life). All you need is to sign up for a free account and you’re on your way.

There are also several ebook distributors: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Lulu, to name a few. These allow you to publish to all of the major ebook retailers I mentioned above, plus a few more, all with one push of a button. If you’re new to self-publishing and feeling completely overwhelmed, using a distributor may be a good option for you. More experienced self-published authors may prefer to go direct when possible.

Each of the distributors has their own advantages and disadvantages. Lulu, for example, allows you to split royalties with others, so may be an option for authors and creative team members who want to continue sharing royalties. Personally, my favorite is Draft2Digital (D2D). Their user interface is gorgeous, and it’s really easy to upload an ebook with them. They also allow you to create a beautiful table of contents. Smashwords, on the other hand, can be kind of a pain when you’re trying to upload files—although they do offer some perks when it comes to the iBooks store.

Speaking of ebook files, there are a few ways you can create your own.

Like I mentioned above, you can format an ebook in a Word doc using a guide from one of the retailers or distributors. (You can also do a Google search for ebook formatting guides.) You can use a tool such as Instascribe (online tool) or Vellum (Mac app) to make gorgeous ebooks without much technical knowledge. Or you can hire someone to do the formatting for you.

If possible, I recommend learning how to format, because it’s a very handy skill to have.

Once you have a formatted .doc or ePub file, you’re ready to roll. Each retailer has its own wizard for setting up your book, so I won’t get too into detail here. But to sell at any retailer, you will need to submit:

  • ebook file (.doc or ePub)
  • ebook cover (.jpg or .jpeg)
  • book blurb
  • keywords
  • category
  • pricing

Some retailers also require you to submit your author bio, while others allow you to set up a dedicated author profile.

Book blurb writing is an art, but you’ve probably already got one from your publishing process with Booktrope. Your book manager may have included you in the keyword and category brainstorming process when she put together your PFS, but if not, no worries. This KDP help topic on categories and keywords should get you going. I find it’s helpful to keep all of my books’ categories and keywords in a spreadsheet so that I’m submitting the same ones across the board. If you find that the ones you’re using aren’t successful, you can always tweak them later.

Finally, you’ll need to set the pricing. This is another one of those things that will be an ongoing experiment. You may want to go with the same price that Booktrope put on your book, or you may want to try another price. Personally, I use a formula to help me decide each book’s price point.

  • Short story: $0.00 or $0.99
  • Novelette: $0.99
  • Novella: $2.99
  • Novel: $3.99, $4.99, $5.99
  • Series box set: $7.99, $8.99, $9.99

Many indies find that pricing a single book over $5.99 actually hurts their sales. Depending on the genre, though, you can price higher or lower than the industry average. For example, erotica short stories often sell best at $2.99. For best results, take some time searching Amazon for other books in your genre and noting the most common price point. Chances are, that’s your book’s sweet spot.

A note on sales and promotions: If you think you might run sales in the future, it’s best to price your book accordingly. For example, if you want to run a $0.99 promo, it wouldn’t make sense to make your book’s regular price $1.99. That’s not much of a deal for your readers.

Speaking of $1.99, research conducted by self-published authors tends to show that $1.99 is a dead zone for most books. Books just don’t seem to sell at $1.99. Also, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in sales between books priced at $3.99 or $4.99. Your mileage may vary, though. You’ll have to run your own experiments to see what works best for your books, genre, and readers.

Here are a few resources that are invaluable for indie authors:

  • Kboards Writers’ Cafe: This is a little forum where self-published, trad-published, and hybrid authors come to talk shop, share tips, and cheer each other on. Chances are, if you have a question about something, someone here will know the answer.
  • Lindsay Buroker’s blog: Indie author Lindsay has been immensely successful with her books and frequently shares marketing tips.
  • Self-Publishing Podcast: Johnny, Sean, and Dave are three more veterans in the indie author community. In their podcast, they talk shop, writing, and marketing, as well as interview other successful indie authors.
  • Rocking Self-Publishing: Simon interviews indie authors every week and they share their successes, failures, and strategies.
  • The Creative Penn: Superstar indie author Joanna shares self-publishing resources and also has a podcast where she shares her latest projects and interviews other indie authors.
  • Wayne Stinnett: Wayne shares a wealth of knowledge on his blog from his own experiments.

A note on marketing: Once your books are live, your work is far from done. You’re going to have to put constant effort into marketing in order to gain visibility in ebook stores. Booktrope was heavy on social media, but that’s far from the beginning. Personally I found that investing most of my time into writing my next book was much more productive than spending hours on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I strongly recommend setting up an email list. You can start one for free using MailChimp, and both AWeber and Constant Contact offer 30-day trials. I don’t suggest using any other email list service, as these three are CAN-SPAM friendly and won’t get you blacklisted.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to work closely with another author or group of authors in your genre. You can cross-promote each other, cheer each other on, and lean on each other when you need a shoulder to cry on. Shout out to my work wife J.C. Hannigan, critique partner Molli Moran, and the lovely Rebecca Paula. These three ladies are my home team, not to mention the countless other authors I keep in touch with. Even if you “only” have one writer friend, that relationship is invaluable as you both navigate the ever changing waters of the publishing industry. Stick together, bounce book and marketing ideas off each other, and you’ve got a fighting chance.

A note on print books: You may notice that I didn’t cover self-publishing your book as a paperback in this post. This is because it’s not really something I like doing myself. I have a lot of trouble with formatting, so usually hire this service out. There are many guides and templates for self-publishing a paperback, though. Just give it a whirl on Google and see what you can come up with.

Finally, don’t give up. Stubbornness is the main quality of every successful author. Remember that you’re in this for the long haul. There’s no such thing as an overnight success. Keep at it and you’ll already be more successful than most. I see a lot of Booktrope orphans throwing in the towel and that makes me really sad. You can do this!

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to get back to you. Keep in mind that I’m working around the clock to get my own books squared away, so I might not be able to answer very quickly.

Thanks for reading! Please share this with a friend if you found it helpful.

If you’d like to tip me for this article, please buy me a coffee or buy one of my books!


Update, May 30th, 2016: Thank you all so much for the lovely feedback! For more tutorials and help, please visit my story studio at MaiettaInk.com.

A Bit of Bad News

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Last night I found out that my publisher Booktrope will be closing its doors on May 31st, 2016. This is incredibly heartbreaking news, as I’d found a home with them and my creative team. So many talented people are being displaced as of May 31st, and it’s a very scary situation to be in for everyone. On May 31st, all of my books that have been published with Booktrope will be out of print; on June 1st, I will get all of the rights back, but that in and of itself presents a bit of a challenge.

As some of you may know, I’d made the decision to submit most of my work to Booktrope in 2015. I have autoimmune arthritis and at this time can’t work outside of the home, so writing became my full-time job. Previously, I was self-published, and though I’m planning to self-publish Sade on the WallThe Nanny with the Skull Tattoos, and the first two books in the South of Forever series (Diving Into Him and Savannah’s Song) again, I’m not sure how quickly I’ll be able to or when the South of Forever series will continue.

Please bear with me while I figure all of this out. In the coming weeks, I may be quiet in this space and on social media.

In no way am I throwing in the towel, though! I will continue to write and release my books. It just may be at a slower pace than planned.

 

In the meantime, both Diving Into Him and Savannah’s Song are now available! My team had already started the publication process, and they were actually released a couple days ago. Both are on sale for $0.99. The ebook and paperback editions will only be available until May 31st, so if you’d like to purchase them, I’d do so right away.

At this time, I am unable to offer signed copies for purchase. I apologize for the inconvenience!

Buy Diving Into Him

Paperback · Kindle · iBooks · Nook

Buy Savannah’s Song

Paperback · Kindle · iBooks · Nook

Thank you so much to my readers, family, and friends for your support and understanding during this difficult time.

Thank you, also, to my incredible creative team at Booktrope for all of your hard work and extraordinary talent over the last year. This particular chapter may be coming to a close, but I hope that this is not goodbye.

Cover Reveal: Diving Into Him / Savannah’s Song

I’m so excited to be able to share these covers with you! Along with its re-release, Diving Into Him got a little makeover. While I will always love the kick-ass cover of the self-published edition, I really adore how simple and clean this incarnation is.

Diving Into Him (South of Forever, Book 1), by Elizabeth Barone

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I’m not sure if I ever shared the cover for the never released self-published edition of Savannah’s Song, but it was equally kick-ass. I was so nervous when these babies were undergoing their makeovers, but again, Michelle Fairbanks of Fresh Design struck all the right chords.

Savannah's Song (South of Forever, Book 2), by Elizabeth Barone

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These covers are just beautiful, and I can’t wait ’til these books are out in the world! Only one month to go. 😉

Get exclusive series extras when you sign up for my newsletter. CLICK HERE.

Unboxing The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos Paperbacks

I’m terrible at making videos, but really wanted to share these gorgeous paperbacks with you. You’ve been warned.

Just FYI, The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is on sale for your Kindle for only $0.99 through February 10th. One-click here to get your copy now!

Odds and Ends

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It’s been a while! I so didn’t mean to slack off on this blog. I’ve been editing Diving Into Him and writing Just One More Minute, and everything else kind of took a back seat. Even my house. In the process, I learned once again why I absolutely can’t edit one book and write another at the same time. I’ve tried so many times, but I guess my brain just doesn’t function that way. You’d think it would be easy peasy, but apparently editing and writing use opposite sides of the brain. I was able to keep it up for a few days, but going back and forth was mentally exhausting. Plus, to be totally honest, I was having a hard time focusing on each book.

So I (begrudgingly) pushed Just One More Minute aside and put all of my effort into Diving Into Him. Because it’s a re-release, there weren’t too many major changes. It was mostly tidying up and nabbing any lingering continuity issues. For example, Jett spends a night in the studio on an air mattress, but later on when she needs to sleep there again, there’s not even a blanket. I made sure to mention that she’d brought it all back to the condo. These are seemingly small things but it does jar the reader. Shout out to my editor Christina Lepre, whose attention to detail is impeccable! She also happens to live in Boston, where the South of Forever series is set. While writing Diving Into Him, I really struggled with Boston’s super complex T system. Christina was able to clarify some things for me. I feel like the book is so much more realistic now. Any remaining errors are completely my own. (Note to self: mention that in the acknowledgements.)

Speaking of Diving Into Him and the South of Forever series, I spilled the beans to my reader group the other day, and now I’m going to tell you! I know a lot of you have been patiently waiting for the South of Forever series to continue. I self-published Diving Into Him last summer and had plans to release the second book, Savannah’s Song, in the fall. But between some health issues and time conflicts, I had to push the release back. And then back again.

In the meantime, I’d also signed with Booktrope. Through them, I’d re-released my debut novel Sade on the Wall (a YA suspense) as a sort of test balloon. I honestly wasn’t sure whether I would like working with a publisher, compared to self-publishing. The two paths are very different, and which is best for you completely depends on you the author, and your goals. It turned out that, even though there was a major learning curve for me, I actually really liked the process. Booktrope is different from other publishers in that they have a very team oriented approach. You handpick your production team, consisting of a project and book manager, editor, cover designer, and proofreader. I got very attached to these humans, you guys. As an indie author, I’d worked with different freelancers, but never so closely. It feels like being part of a family.

There are, of course, some cons. But what sealed the deal for me was being able to focus more on writing, while trusting my team to take care of the other details. I used to work almost around the clock while wearing all the different hats. With Booktrope, I could let go and put the majority of my time into writing new books.

So I decided that I wanted to submit new work to Booktrope, as well as some other previously published work.

At the time when Savannah’s Song was scheduled for release, I didn’t go into major details about the delay because I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. And on top of that I was dealing with a lot of health issues. I lost a lot of September and October to side effects from medication, then spent November and December recovering. In the process, I learned that I’ve been dealing with PTSD for the last fifteen years, and so began an intensive therapy program to overcome it. And, as if all of this wasn’t enough, the medication I was taking for my arthritis stopped working so well. I started experiencing breakthrough pain. Then my health insurance lapsed, I ran out of medication, and my joint pain flared up to the point where I almost couldn’t get out of bed.

Thankfully, I was able to get back on track in January. Last month was all about a fresh start. I’m doing really well, both physically and emotionally, and because of that felt ready to get back into a production schedule.

I truly hated that Savannah’s Song was delayed so much. In the past, I’ve had to push back release dates maybe a week or two, but never months and months. I hate when series are delayed. It’s torture, waiting to find out what happens next—even if there isn’t a cliffhanger. So I had a conference call with my project/book manager at Booktrope, and South of Forever is officially in our production schedule for 2016.

We will be releasing the first two books in the series, Diving Into Him and Savannah’s Song, on the same day this spring. My goal is to release all four books in the series this year. (The third book is already written, and I’ve started the final book.)

My cover designer has created the covers of the first two books, and they are gorgeous. I can’t wait to share them with you!

However, I can share with you some other exciting news. My standalone contemporary New Adult romance, The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos, was scheduled for a February 19th re-release. Because my production team was so ahead of schedule, though, we were able to secretly release it early!

The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos, by Elizabeth BaroneBLURB

Single dad Max isn’t looking for love—he only needs someone to help take care of his two-year-old daughter, Chloe. Or so he thinks. After being kicked out of his parents’ house, he’s determined to make it on his own. But juggling a full-time job, an undergrad program, and childcare is pretty much impossible. When his best friend jokingly suggests he post an ad for a live-in nanny on Craigslist, he goes for it. After all, he has nothing to lose… right?

When artist Savannah quickly responds to his ad, Max is thrilled. Her resume is perfect and Chloe seems to like her, despite the slightly menacing tattoos decorating her arm. Savannah brings a light and warmth into his life that he never thought possible. Max hasn’t so much as dated since Chloe was born, but he’s willing to give it a shot with Savannah. There’s just one problem.

Everything is perfect just the way it is. Even his daughter is happy. If he messed up things up with Savannah, how could he ever forgive himself?

Buy Now: Kindle · iBooks · Nook

Read a Sample on Wattpad

If you’d prefer a signed paperback, I’ll be taking orders for those soon.

So that’s all for now. I have some other potential news, but won’t announce anything until things are concrete.

Have a great weekend!

XOXO

Cover Reveal: The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos

Today’s the day! I’ve been dying to share this cover. It so perfectly captures the essence of Max and Savannah’s story. Yosbe nailed it! Without further ado, here it is.

The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos, by Elizabeth Barone

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So what do you think? Are you excited for The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos? Do you like this cover? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Get Ready for a New “Nanny”

The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos (Teaser)I had no idea I’d end up here when I self-published my first short story back in October 2011. My “plan” was to give this thing a shot and see what happened. I had no idea what I wanted to write. Some of my stories were more literary, and others were straight up horror. Then I fell in love with contemporary New Adult romance, and I haven’t looked back.

Almost four years later, I’m signed with publisher Booktrope and I have a whole team helping me bring my stories to life. It’s kind of crazy, when I think about it. My career as an author has followed quite the meandering path. Much of it has been a complete surprise to me. Along the way, I’ve learned quite a bit.

Last February, I released The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. This year, I’ll be celebrating its first birthday by re-publishing though Booktrope. When I initially self-published the book, I made some mistakes. For one, I honestly didn’t think I needed to explain Savannah’s tattoos. After all, not everyone knows the stories behind my tattoos. But I’ve since learned that, in the literary world, there needs to be a reason for everything. In the new version, Max finally learns why Savannah got her tattoos.

I’ve also added an epilogue. It creates a bridge to the South of Forever series, but The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is still very much a standalone.

These are small changes but they make a big difference. I know a lot of readers wanted to know about her tattoos and felt that the ending was abrupt. Thanks to the guidance of my editor at Booktrope, the story is now even better.

Finally, we’ve made one big change. The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos now has a cover worthy of the story inside!

When I self-published, I tried designing the cover on my own. While I look back on it fondly, I won’t miss it. Man, did I grapple with that thing! I just couldn’t capture the essence of the story. My designer at Booktrope nailed it.

That’s what I love about working with Booktrope. Though I handpicked my team when I was an indie author, it was nothing like this. My team at Booktrope works closely together. It’s an intimate arrangement that allows us to really engage.

Tomorrow we’ll be unveiling the new cover, and a month from now we’ll be releasing the new book. Make sure you like my author page on Facebook and sign up for my newsletter so you don’t miss the new cover!

Sade on the Wall: Chapter 3

11793179_10153076754279072_98385358_nJackie didn’t come to school the next day. We had first period art together—we had made sure of that when we picked our classes during the summer—and she wasn’t there. Art is probably the easiest elective, other than study hall. Neither of us wanted to take anything too challenging first thing in the morning. I couldn’t imagine running around the gym that early in the day.

I told our friend Lauren about the party the night before, and she said Jackie probably just had a hangover. I felt lucky. Other than my head throbbing every so often and my parched throat, I felt okay.

“You said she was throwing up last night, right?” Lauren asked, laying out the paper mache supplies on our table.

“She definitely smelled like it,” I said, cutting a square off a white sheet of paper. “She didn’t look good at all.” I added the paper to my mold, then brushed some paste onto it. We were making masks, like those pretty porcelain ones you see hanging up on people’s walls.

“So she’s probably sleeping it off. No big deal. My sister comes home like that all the time,” Lauren said. She liked to tell us about how her older sister was a bartender and got to drink for free all night.

I shrugged. “I know. She just didn’t look too good. Plus I’m grounded and I can’t even tell her we have to cancel girls’ night because my moms took away my phone.”

Lauren flipped her long, brown hair over her shoulder, and turned her dark eyes to her own mask. I always got the feeling she wanted to be invited, but girls’ night was Jackie’s and my thing since forever. Inviting someone new would be weird.

Art went by pretty quickly, and then I had biology. I didn’t really mind bio. We got to do a lot of labs and things, rather than just read out of the book. When I got to bio, there was someone else sitting in Jackie’s seat—someone wearing a green football jersey and blue jeans. A hat that matched the jersey sat on the table in front of him. Mrs. M probably told him to take it off. He kept pushing his hair out of his coffee colored eyes, and I knew right away why he wore the hat, even though they’re against the rules.

I put my books on the table and slid onto the stool next to him. I smiled—just a little one because I didn’t want him to think I was some slutty flirt—and opened my biology notebook.

“I’m not in your seat, am I?” he asked.

I finished writing the date and looked up at him. “Huh? Oh. No.” When our eyes met, I could feel heat spread across my cheeks.

“Okay, good. I just can’t see the board from the back, and didn’t want to sit too far up front.” His warm eyes stared into mine, and my heart beat a little faster in my chest. I suddenly wished I’d bothered to do my hair that morning.

I nodded. “Yeah, I don’t blame you. Which class did you drop?” I didn’t think I’d ever seen him before. Even though Clarington is a small town, the school is huge. It’d be impossible to remember every single person.

“I’m new,” he said. “This was the only sophomore science class open.”

“Oh!” I glanced at his hat. “Where did you transfer from?”

“Okay, everyone,” Mrs. M said. “I’m passing out a list of the supplies you’ll need for the dissection tomorrow, and a handout of the frog’s anatomy. Today I’m going to demonstrate the dissection. It’s probably a good idea for you to take notes on the handout, because tomorrow’s dissections will be graded.”

“Shit,” the boy next to me whispered. “I was taking physics at my old school.”

“Now,” Mrs. M said, “as soon as you get your goggles and gloves, come on up.”

I dug into my bag and pulled out my goggles: black with hot pink glitter and feathers glued onto them. Jackie and I had jazzed up our goggles in middle school with Mama’s box of stuff she uses to mockup stage designs, and they became an inside joke. I put them on and the boy raised an eyebrow at me.

“There are extras in the back of the room,” I said.

He nodded and smirked. “Any extra glitter?” Before I could reply, he got up and went to the back shelf.

I went to the head table, where Mrs. M had a frog laid out, its little green hands and feet pinned to the piece of cardboard. It kind of reminded me of Jesus on the cross. I wrinkled my nose and placed my papers and notebook on a clean area of the table. I felt the boy standing next to me, but stared hard at the frog in front of us.

“First, you’re going to make a butterfly cut,” Mrs. M said. She cut across the chest, just under the frog’s neck, then down from that cut, making a T. I didn’t get why she’d called it a butterfly cut until she pulled back the skin and pinned it to the frog’s sides.

“Ew,” I said, and leaned forward to see the guts.

“Your frog’s organs will not be dyed like these are. This,” she pointed with the tip of a pen, “is the heart.” Some sicko had dyed it bright pink before sending it to the school. The rest of the organs were dyed a barf green and yellow—bright and yet somehow pale colors that made me feel bad for the poor frog. I hoped he’d lived a happy life.

“This is the stomach,” she continued. “You get five bonus points if there’s anything inside of your frog’s stomach.” Everyone started chatting, betting each other they would get the extra points. “This,” Mrs. M rose her voice above the chatter, “is the egg sack.”

“Little bitty babies!” a big kid named Ron said. “Can I touch one?” He made a pinching motion with his fingers. His eyes gleamed.

“Civilized,” the new boy next to me muttered. I smirked, glad that I wasn’t the only one who thought Ron needed some help.

“If your frog is carrying eggs, you will receive ten extra points,” Mrs. M said, ignoring Ron.

“Sweet!” Ron yelled.

The boy next to me snorted.

Mrs. M showed us the rest of the frog’s parts, then glanced at her watch. “You have a few minutes to pack up and ask questions.” She smiled and stripped off her gloves with a snap.

I went back to my table, stripped off my own gloves with the same snap, and took the goggles off.

“So,” the boy said, putting his hat back on. The logo on the hat said Jets. I suddenly wished I’d paid attention to everything Corey and Jackie had told me about football.

“So,” I said.

“If you’re not doing anything after school, I work at Jay’s Comics in the mall.” He pointed to my open backpack. “I saw the Batman comics in your bag.” He blushed. “I get a twenty percent discount,” he said quickly.

“Oh,” I said. “I’d love to, but I’m kind of grounded right now.” I made a mental note to ask Corey for more of his Batman comics.

“Oh,” the boy said.

I scrambled to save the opportunity, but no words came to mind. I swallowed hard, frantically glancing at the clock. If nothing else, I needed to know his name. “So what’s your name?” I asked, keeping my face casual. Inside, though, my heart did flips, fluttering in my chest.

The bell rang, drowning out his answer. Afraid to ask again, I picked up my backpack and slung one strap over my shoulder.

“What do you have next?” he asked, following me into the hall.

“English, with Mr. T,” I replied automatically. My heart slammed against my chest. There had to be another way I could get his name.

He pulled out a creased sheet of paper from his back pocket. “I have French. There weren’t too many classes still open when I transferred,” he said, as if French was the lamest class ever.

I leaned over, scanning his schedule. Before I could find his name in the tiny print, he folded it up and pocketed it. ”French is cool,” I said. “I took it last year, but this year I wanted to take a break and take art instead.”

“Well, I guess I’ll see you later or something, then,” the boy said. “I’m down this way.” He waved and then walked in the other direction toward the foreign languages wing. I sighed and went to English, wishing I’d taken French again instead of letting Jackie talk me into art. I was rapidly running out of things to talk to him about. Oh well, I decided with a little flutter in my chest. At least bio will be even more interesting now.

To Be Continued…

Thank you for reading the first three chapters of Sade on the Wall! If you’d like a five-chapter sampler, sign up for my YA email list. To purchase a copy, use the links below.

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Sade on the Wall: Chapter 2

11793179_10153076754279072_98385358_n

Mommy just stood there glaring at us, her smooth brown skin flushed kind of red. Mama’s big, dark eyes were all kinds of disappointed.

“Let’s go. Right now,” Mommy said through gritted teeth. She pushed two kids aside and grabbed my arm.

Mama took Corey by the arm, and they both pulled us through the open front door as everyone stared at us. I felt my cheeks burn as though we spent the past few hours at the beach and not at a party.

“Wait,” I said, and turned back toward the house.

“Let’s go,” my mothers said.

“Jackie’s still inside!” I pointed to the house with my free hand. The sleeve of Jackie’s fairy costume slipped down a little, and I jerked it back up. It was bad enough the people on the porch saw me get in trouble with my moms. They didn’t need to see me hanging out of my costume.

Mommy let go of me and looked right into my eyes, her long hair hanging in her face a little. Her eyes blazed like a bonfire on the beach. They scared me. I’d never seen her so mad, not even when Corey and I were little and he’d tried some wrestling moves on me and accidentally broken one of my ribs.

“Stay right here,” she said, each word punctuated with anger. She marched back into the house before I could say anything else.

“Mama,” Corey said.

“No,” she said. The breeze drafted right up my costume. I shivered. Someone made a huh sound. I turned and Mama smirked at me. “A little cold there, baby doll?”

I looked down at my heels.

“Mama,” Corey whined again.

Mama didn’t say anything at all.

The wind blew harder, and I felt a cold drop of water hit my forehead. “Oh great,” I said. “Did you guys walk over here?”

Mama glanced up at the sky. “Maybe.”

Leaves crunched and cracked angrily. I looked up. Mommy marched Jackie toward us, one of Jackie’s arms slung over her shoulders. Both sleeves of her sailor costume hung down, and I could see the top of her bra. I wondered what she had been doing when Mommy found her.

“Tamara, I’m so sorry!” Jackie said, her words tumbling into one another.

“I don’t want to hear another damn word from any of you,” Mommy said. “Let’s go. Now.” She continued to support Jackie, though, and the rest of us followed.

No one said anything during the car ride to Jackie’s aunt’s house. Corey and I glanced at each other now and then, but mostly I watched Jackie. She sat next to me, leaning on the window. She smelled like she had puked after drinking an entire gallon of orange juice. Once in a while she moaned, but she kept her eyes closed the whole time. When we got to her house, Mommy helped her out of the car and walked her to the front door. She said nothing as Jackie pushed open the door. Mommy walked back to the car, and Jackie disappeared inside.

“Was her aunt home?” Mama asked.

“Don’t know,” Mommy said. “Don’t care.” She buckled her seatbelt and then turned to Corey and me in the back seat. “Listen to me, both of you. You’re grounded. You know the drill. Straight to your rooms unless you’re in school. No TV, no phones.” She held her hand out.

“Mommy!” Corey shook his head. “Come on, I didn’t do anything!”

Now!” she roared, and suddenly I realized what it would be like to have a stern father.

We both handed her our phones. Without it, my bag felt much, much lighter.

“No computer, either, unless it’s for homework. And Corey?” she said.

“Yes, Mommy,” he pouted, and tensed, like he already knew what was coming.

“No video games.” She turned back around.

A few seconds later, I heard sniffling from beside me. I wanted to cry, too. Such a fun night had gone wrong so quickly. It seemed surreal to me.

“Mommy,” I said, afraid to speak in a normal tone, like she might turn into a snake and bite me.

“What?” She whipped around in her seat.

“I was just wondering …how long?”

She snorted. “How long do you think?”

I looked down at my hands. “A week?”

“Ha! The girl’s got a sense of humor,” she said to Mama. “Try three. Two for Corey.”

“Mommy! That’s not—”

“I don’t care,” she said, interrupting me. She turned back around, and I knew the discussion—if you could call a one-sided trial a discussion—was over.

“She doesn’t even care that I just played video games all night,” Corey sniffled.

The ride ended too quickly. We went straight to our rooms. I heard Corey’s door slam as I slowly and carefully closed mine. The fact that my mom was so angry that she couldn’t even speak in complete sentences was enough for me. Corey apparently still had a lot to learn. A few minutes later, I heard Mommy’s feet pounding up the stairs, Corey’s door being yanked open, and her asking Corey if he wanted three weeks, too. I couldn’t hear anything else, but whatever he said seemed to be good enough for her because in another moment I heard his door close softly and Mommy padding back down the stairs.

I pulled off Jackie’s costume and tossed it into my laundry bin. I also put the Disney princess costume that Mama made for me in the bin. Looking at it, barely worn and crumpled on top of all my dirty clothes, I felt tears sliding down my cheeks. I hadn’t once thought that by not wearing it, I might hurt Mama’s feelings. It wasn’t an ugly costume. She had even sewn a matching mesh cape onto it. I probably could have won a costume contest.

I pulled on a T-shirt and pajama pants, and crawled underneath the covers, hoping that when I saw her in the morning, Mama wouldn’t still have that look of disappointment on her face.

* * *

Sometime later, I woke up. The room tilted and reeled. Moaning, I rolled onto my side. I had left my bedroom light on to read some of Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, but one of my moms must have turned it off. They had even saved my place among the well-worn pages. Though it was a kid’s book, I read it whenever I needed some extra comfort. Staring at my nightstand through bleary eyes, though, the last thing I wanted to do was read. I couldn’t remember falling asleep, but I could remember the dozens of red cups of beer that I’d knocked back.

I wondered, suddenly, if Jackie was okay. Maybe I watched too much TV, but she hadn’t looked too good when we dropped her off. She could have alcohol poisoning or, even worse, someone could have slipped her something dangerous. I reached for my cell phone on my nightstand to text her, then remembered. Right, I thought. I’m grounded.

I hated the idea of waiting until the morning to find out what happened to her and, if she was okay, what she had been doing when Mommy found her.

To Be Continued…

Come back next Thursday for Chapter 3! You can also sign up for my YA email list and I’ll send you the first 5 chapters. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.

Savannah’s Song: Delayed

Savannah's Song (South of Forever, Book 2), by Elizabeth BaroneSome of you may have just received an email from Amazon, Kobo, or Apple letting you know that Savannah’s Song is no longer available for pre-order. I promise, the book is still being released. I had to cancel the pre-order because I am no longer self-publishing it; Savannah’s Song will be released by Booktrope sometime next year.

This is huge for me, but it also means a bit of a delay in the South of Forever series. For the next few months, my publishing house will be re-releasing all of my work.

This was not an easy decision. It’s a huge opportunity for me. It means I can focus more on writing. But it also means that it will be a little while before my next new release.

Bear with me. I’m in a bit of a transitional period. 😘