Savannah’s Song: Chapter 1

“Arms up,” Savannah said, tickling Chloe’s belly. The four-year-old giggled as her arms shot into the air, begging for Savannah to tickle her armpits. Grinning, Savannah wriggled her fingers into Chloe’s skin. The toddler shrieked with laughter, nearly falling to the floor. Savannah caught her and, in one swift motion, peeled off her pajamas. This had been their ritual for the last two years—for almost as long as she’d known Chloe. She sighed. Chloe wouldn’t want to wear footed jammies much longer.

A door squeaked open on the other side of the apartment. “Daddy’s home,” she told Chloe. “Hurry!” She tugged an undershirt over Chloe’s head, then helped her into a romper and sweater. The floor groaned under Max’s feet as he crossed the apartment while Savannah maneuvered Chloe’s feet into socks and sneakers. The grocery store would be cold inside, their only access to air conditioning all summer.

Max entered Chloe’s bedroom, his delivery bag still slung over his shoulder. He brushed hair out of eyes punctuated by dark circles and gave Savannah a nod. “Gonna take a shower.”

“Wait.” She stood, brushing dried soap from her bare legs. She had shaved for the first time in days, specifically so she could wear shorts. Spring in Boston had seesawed between cool rain and warm rain. She was ready for summer. Crossing the room, she stood on tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his lips. “I figured I would drop you off at the studio, and we’d take the car to go get some groceries.” She struggled to remember the last time she had left the house that week.

Even though it would be nice to drive for a change, the Taurus wasn’t the same as her BMW. Selling it had been the only way they could afford the move from Connecticut to Boston.

Max ran a hand through his hair. “This early?” He nodded toward the yellow clock on Chloe’s wall. In complete contrast to her pink and purple bedroom in Connecticut, Chloe had asked for yellow when they moved in. “Don’t you think it’s a little early to be dragging Chloe out?” His voice was rough. He stepped away from Savannah.

Frowning, she closed the distance between them. “It’s not that early.” She lifted a hand toward the clock. It was a little after seven.

“If you need the car for later, I can just take the Red Line.” He spun away from her and into the bathroom. The door slammed shut.

Biting her lip, Savannah turned back to Chloe. The little girl watched Savannah, blue eyes wide. “Daddy’s cranky when he’s tired, huh?” Savannah scooped Chloe from the floor and carried her through the apartment. She hesitated in the living room, eyeing the fabric fraying from their couch. Shoulders slumping, she made her way to the kitchen.

“I want waffles,” Chloe told her.

Savannah put her in her booster seat. “No kidding.” She opened the freezer and withdrew the box of store-brand waffles. Pausing, she tapped her finger against her chin, staring at the bread on top of the refrigerator. She could surprise Max with something to eat at the studio. He certainly seemed like he could use it—along with a good night’s sleep.

As Chloe’s waffles popped out of the toaster, Max jogged through the hall. “See you later.” He stopped only long enough to kiss his daughter on the forehead, then swung the front door open and disappeared from view.

“Thanks for the kiss.” Savannah kept her voice low. Max needed more than some rest. Maybe, her mind whispered, he was so tired because he was spending all his free time with another girl. She shoved the thought away and grabbed sandwich meat, mayonnaise, and maple syrup from the refrigerator. She plopped a plate of waffles and the syrup in front of Chloe.

The little girl grabbed the bottle with two hands and squeezed.

“Okay, that’s enough.” Savannah plucked it from her grasp. “Good job.” She kissed Chloe’s cheek and returned to making Max’s sandwich. If she surprised him with some lunch and his daughter, he might be in a better mood later when he got home. As long as it had been since she last shaved, it had been even longer since they had sex.

Boston had been her idea. It was supposed to be an adventure, an opportunity for Max to pursue a career in music. Instead, he came home late from band practice every night and grabbed maybe two hours of sleep before he got up to deliver newspapers. Perhaps they got too hot and heavy too fast, Savannah thought. Her slim, brown fingers flew as she packed the sandwich into a small cooler. Dancing two steps from the counter, she returned to the refrigerator and pressed the button for ice. Even though their Dorchester apartment was one of the cheapest in Boston, it was still expensive. At least they had ice on demand, she mused.

When she turned around, her eyes met Chloe’s. The little girl held out her empty plate. “I want more waffles.”

Savannah snorted. “And I want my BMW back.” She kept her voice light and playful. It wasn’t as if Chloe knew what a BMW was, or why they sold the luxury car Savannah’s parents had given her and kept Max’s beater. She slid another waffle into the toaster and leaned against the counter. Things wouldn’t be so bad if Max wasn’t snapping at her all the time. She was starting to feel like a nanny rather than his girlfriend. A bitter laugh escaped her lips. Even when she had been Chloe’s nanny, Max had never treated her so badly. She was starting to worry that she had made a huge mistake.

* * *

Goosebumps rose on Savannah’s skin. Air conditioning swirled about her bare arms and legs. She clenched the handle of the shopping cart and quickened her pace through the freezer aisle.

Holding a box of cereal, Chloe seemed not to notice the subzero temperature of the grocery store. She traced the character’s face with a small finger. Savannah grinned, stepping away long enough to grab a package of mini waffles from one of the freezers.

“I swear, they make you go through the freezer section last just to torture you.” Savannah glanced down at her list. She almost had everything they needed. She was getting to be a champion at grocery shopping. She pushed Chloe out of the frozen foods section, hurrying toward the warmer bakery.

Chloe stretched her arm out, fingers smudging the glass of a freezer door as they passed. Letting out a squawk, she turned and pointed, her eyes locked.

Savannah followed her gaze to the ice cream and popsicles in the case. Her lips formed an O. She laughed. Before she could stop herself, she found herself saying the same thing her mother used to say to her in Spanish. “Ay, dios mio.” Chloe watched her, an eyebrow raised. “Lo siento, nena. Food stamps don’t cover extras.”

“What does ‘lo siento’ mean?” Chloe’s feet kicked against the cart.

Savannah pushed the cart into the bakery, practically running past the cupcakes. Her lips twisted into a frown. For all of Savannah’s efforts, Chloe wasn’t picking up much Spanish. “It means sorry.” She supposed she only had Max to blame. If he tried to learn Spanish and spoke it in front of Chloe, too, his daughter would pick it up much faster. She glanced down at Chloe. “You might as well be my daughter,” she mumbled in Spanish.

Chloe pressed her lips against the bar of the cart.

“Chin up.” Savannah turned away to examine the reduced loaves of bread.

“I’m bored.” Chloe resumed kicking her heels against the metal.

Savannah withheld a snort. Her back still to Chloe, she squeezed a loaf and turned it upside down. Squinting at it for mold, she righted it again.

“Your daughter is beautiful,” a deep voice murmured in Spanish.

Turning, Savannah nearly dropped the bread. The guy beside her stood at least a foot taller than her. Muscles bulged in his arms. A light beard covered his face. He was handsome in a rugged way, with a slightly crooked hairline. She pegged him in his thirties, judging by the occasional gray hair that she picked out in the florescent lighting. Despite the grays, he was a young thirty, she decided.

He held out a hand. “Zachary Acevedo.” Warm brown eyes met hers.

Swallowing hard, she shook his hand. “Savannah Santos.” She gestured to Chloe. “She’s beautiful, but she’s not mine.” The Spanish rolled off her tongue easily, wrapping around her heart like a long lost lover. It felt good to converse with someone in her mother tongue.

Zachary stooped until he was at Chloe’s eye level. “Hi, there.” He wiggled his fingers.

Chloe watched him with dubious eyes.

“She’s shy.” Savannah switched to English as smoothly as he had. Nodding to the basket he carried, she said, “I’m guessing you don’t have any kids.” Only a bachelor would shop at a grocery store for body wash and protein powder.

He shook his head. “Not yet.” His eyes roved over her body, and she didn’t miss them stopping at her sleeve of tattoos. Though somewhat covered by her chambray shirt, the bright dots and filigrees of her Día de los Muertos sugar skulls screamed to be noticed. Though they were benign in nature, most people mistook them for something sinister. Zachary only nodded at them. “Nice ink.”

Licking her lips, she blinked. “Thanks.” She gave his tattooed arms a quick once over, wondering what lay beneath his T-shirt and shorts. A squid’s tentacles wrapped his forearm and stretched up, coiling around his bicep.

“If you ever want more work done, I’ve got a shop not far from here.” Digging into his back pocket, he plucked out a wallet and handed her a business card. When his skin touched hers, she drew back as if she had been shocked. He seemed not to notice.

“Thanks.” She tucked the card into her own back pocket. Heart pounding, she gave Chloe a nod. “Well, I’ve got to get going. This one won’t sit still for much longer.” Nodding toward Chloe, she threw him a wink and turned away. As she hurried toward the checkout, she wondered if winking could be considering flirting. She grimaced, then shook her head. Even if she was flirting, there was no harm in it.

Urging the cart into a line, she felt the card as if it were burning a hole in her shorts. It would be amazing to get another tattoo. Chloe’s arm stretched toward the candy in the checkout line. Automatically, Savannah guided her hand away. She missed being around artists and, she thought with a pang, she missed painting. She couldn’t remember the last time she had picked up a brush.

She glanced down at Chloe and pressed a kiss to the little girl’s head. She wouldn’t trade her sort-of-daughter for anything in the world, though. Even if art was no longer her life, she served a larger purpose. Her mother once said that raising children was the best gift one could receive.

The last person she should be thinking about was her mother, she chastised herself. Her parents didn’t appreciate art or tattoos. Though they spoke Spanish, they didn’t appreciate her mother’s Mexican heritage or her father’s Puerto Rican lineage—not the way she did.

Remembering her mission to bring Max lunch, Savannah paid for her groceries and rushed Chloe out to the Taurus. She tossed the non-perishable food into the trunk and put the milk and eggs on the backseat next to Chloe’s booster. Strapping the toddler in, she wiggled her fingers into Chloe’s ribs. The little girl giggled, gazing adoringly at Savannah.

Those moments, Savannah mused as she got behind the wheel, made everything she had given up worth it. She sped away from the grocery store and headed toward the apartment. She was still learning her way around Boston and rarely left the Dorchester area. Between her and Max, they had one cell phone, and it wasn’t sophisticated enough for GPS. It didn’t even take decent pictures. Slowing, she pressed her lips together, trying to remember the way. If she felt like risking her life, she could jump onto I-93. Snorting, she glanced at Chloe in the rearview mirror. The little girl played with a stuffed animal she had left in the car—her current favorite. Aside from when she and Max first moved to Boston, she had avoided the highway completely.

But Boston was perpetually in rush hour, its streets clogged with pedestrians. Taking the highway would shave precious minutes off her commute. “Now or never, girl,” she told herself. Then, she swung the car onto the on ramp.

Traffic flowed, and she let out a sigh of relief. She made it to the apartment in record time, zipping upstairs with Chloe on one hip and the milk and eggs in her other hand. As soon as the perishable food was in the refrigerator, she tugged Chloe toward the stairs. The little girl’s shorter legs slowed her down, though. Feeling a bit guilty, Savannah scooped her up and raced toward the bottom.

“Why are we going so fast?” Chloe glanced down with wide eyes.

“Do you want to surprise Daddy?” Rounding the corner, Savannah burst out into the parking lot and sunshine.

Chloe pressed her lips together, considering.

“Seriously?” Savannah asked as she tucked her back into her booster seat. “We’re gonna bring Daddy some lunch.” She realized that she could have saved herself from packing the cooler if she had just left the sandwich in the refrigerator and grabbed it on her way back out. Sighing, she moved the cooler from the trunk to the passenger seat and jumped back into the car.

Her heart pounded as she sped toward the studio. She had been there so many times since South of Forever had moved their headquarters from Malden Street a few weeks ago that she didn’t need to think about it. Plus, most of the locals knew where to find The Den Stage & Studio. Once upon a time, it had been a premier recording facility for big-time artists. Lucky for South of Forever, the studio was struggling and had offered them a cheap rate.

Savannah pulled into a parallel spot in front of the studio, its large sign declaring the upcoming weekend’s events. It may not be a popular recording studio anymore, she mused as she lifted Chloe from her booster seat, but it was still a great place to catch a concert. Someday, when she and Max could afford a babysitter, she would have to take him to a show there.

“Can I walk now?” Chloe rolled her eyes.

“Totally.” Though Savannah was in a hurry, Chloe was four—much too heavy for hauling around long distances.

Pushing through the double doors, Savannah turned right and climbed the staircase that led to the studios. Air conditioning whispered across her skin, and she shivered.

Looping the strap of the cooler around her arm, she slowed as she reached the top of the stairs, waiting for Chloe to catch up. Savannah led Chloe to the left of the staircase. She crossed the hall to the door with South of Forever’s name on it.

Knocking on the door in case someone stood just inside, she eased it open.

No one occupied the recording booth. Instead, the guys clustered in a tight knot. The lead singer of South of Forever, Jett Costa, stood at the other side of the small room, an amused expression on her face. Dark hair tumbled over her shoulders. Despite the heat outside, she wore leggings and knee-high boots that Savannah was positive were real leather.

Following her gaze, Savannah’s eyes shot to the cluster of men. She recognized Perry instantly because of the dreads swinging from his head as he flung them over a shoulder. He laughed at something, his guffaw as deep as his skin tone. With his goatee and full lips, he was someone she would have been attracted to, had she not already been with Max.

She picked out Max just as easily. He and Perry were the only band members with dark skin, though her boyfriend was pale in comparison to his bandmate. Max nudged Perry and said something only the other man could hear.

Savannah’s eyes traveled to Jett’s boyfriend. Koty’s blue eyes sparkled, his black hair looking almost red under the studio lights. Secretly, she wondered if anyone else found it weird that the Koty Jackson of ESX was in South of Forever. Though Savannah had never gone through a boy band phase, her older sister Gabriela had been hooked on ESX.

Griff, the band’s drummer and Jett’s right-hand man, cleared his throat. He ran his fingers through sandy hair, then put his hand on the shoulder of the woman standing in the midst of the tangle of men. His eyes crinkled as she said something. All three men leaned in closer to hear her better.

Savannah’s cheeks blazed. The woman looked younger than her, by at least a couple of years. She was probably still in college, Savannah guessed, if even a day past seventeen. As the men fawned over her, she tossed curly hair over her shoulder. Ebony skin shone under the light, supple and velvety. Bright eyes sparkled as Griff touched her shoulder, and she glanced at Max.

Standing in the doorway, Savannah watched as her boyfriend winked at the other woman.

Savannah’s forever has a secret that could destroy them—and the band.

Chapter 1 · Chapter 2 · Chapter 3 · Chapter 4

Savannah’s Song, Book 2 in the South of Forever series, is now available.

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#TeaserTuesday: Rejected


She had no business submitting her work to any gallery. Nowhere near professional level, she would only be disappointed when she was rejected—or when she didn’t hear back from the gallery at all.

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Update, June 3rd: The South of Forever series is back! Shop all retailers here, or use the sexy widgets below to one-click your way to steamy musical heaven.

#TeaserTuesday: Mess Things Up


It was nice that Jett believed in her, but if she couldn’t deliver, she might really mess things up for Max. The last thing she wanted to do was lose his respect.

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Update, June 3rd: The South of Forever series is back! Shop all retailers here, or use the sexy widgets below to one-click your way to steamy musical heaven.

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

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Buy Savannah’s Song

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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.

Teaser Tuesday: Standing in the Doorway

Teaser #3: Savannah's Song (South of Forever, Book 2), by Elizabeth Barone

Standing in the doorway, Savannah watched as her boyfriend winked at the other woman.

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Update, June 3rd: The South of Forever series is back! Shop all retailers here, or use the sexy widgets below to one-click your way to steamy musical heaven.

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!


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!