How I kicked fear to the curb

I’ve been well acquainted with fear all my life. Since childhood, it’s been whispering in my ear, telling lies and stories. It’s caused worry to enter my mind, and anxiety to rise up within me like a tornado.

I can’t remember the first time I felt fear, but I do know that it intensified after my grandma’s death and after my parents’ divorce. It would always rise up when something happened to me that was out of my control. Once fear took root, it would turn to worry, which could lead to ongoing anxiety.

For most of my life I accepted this as part of me.

I’m a worrier. That’s who I am. I’ve always been like this.
I’d brush it off like it was no big thing. Like it was a personality trait, same as having a sense of humor or great people skills. I acted as if it was something I couldn’t get rid of even if I wanted to.

For the most part, I dealt with it in silence. I’ve been a Jesus follower most of my life. I have faith. I believe. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve experienced miracles. I’m a mom. Wife. Author. Leader.

There was no way I was going to admit to everyone around me that my mind was a hot mess.

In 2013, I got sick. This began a season filled with medical appointments, tests, surgeries, infections, misdiagnoses. And in that time, the fear that I’d kept hidden for my entire life rose up and consumed me.

It took over.

It owned me.

And hiding it was no longer an option.

The next few years I was enslaved to it. But I also learned a lot. About God and myself. And in the end, I found freedom.
I’m a romance author. A storyteller. I’ve never wanted to write nonfiction. I’m not a pastor or teacher. I’ve never felt like an authority or expert on anything. But lately I’ve felt a stirring in my heart to share my story, and not in fictionalized form as I’ve done with other things I’ve gone through.

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ve been with me in this fear journey, and I thank you for sticking with me. Now you can read the entire story…

AVAILABLE NOW!!

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Beaten down, but still in love…

My daughter called me a workaholic.

Not in a mean way.  A statement of fact. Not accusatory.

The other night I popped on the computer for a “few minutes,” which of course turned into way longer.  I apologized, telling Kayleen I just needed to finish up some “work” things.

She laughed and said, “Yep. I figured. You’re always working.”

 “I’m not always working,” I countered.

“Mom, you’re a workaholic,” she said.

“You think I’m a workaholic?” I asked her.

Her eyes bugged out. “Seriously? Yes! You’re always working.”

I apologized. She waved off the apology, saying it didn’t bother her. That from me she’s learned to work hard for what she wants.

But I wondered: At what cost?

When I was a little kid I wanted to be two things when I grew up: An author and a professional singer.

You know what people did when I told them my dreams? Laughed. Told me to get more realistic goals.

I’m competitive. Rebellious.

Their response only made me work harder. Want it more.

And I had it. The writing part at, least. I’d caught it.

My dream.

And then I’d lost it.

Kind of.

The last couple of years its felt out of reach. Like water slipping through my fingers, sliding across my flesh, slippery, and impossible to grip.

There are days when I think about it. Fantasize about it.

Quitting.

Letting go.

Resting.

But then I feel sick.

Sad.

Restless.

I can’t stop.

Writing is in my blood.

It pumps through my veins.

Its tangled around my heart.

And it makes me work hard. Too hard.

All day.

Late into the night.

Early mornings.

Stolen moments.

When I’m watching TV with my daughter, sitting outside with my husband, having a glass of wine with friends, I feel it’s pull. The writing/marketing/rat race drawing me back.

I’m struck with guilt for taking a break.

I should be working.

I need to keep going….

Going….

Going…

I’ve come too far to stop now.

But have I?

I don’t know.

I’m tired.

Like a battered wife. Beaten down, but still in love.

My heart beats for the written word.

Prose sing over me, lyrical and haunting, a siren song.

Characters speak, their voices loud and insistent.

Stories reside in my heart, causing my pulse to race and my head to spin.

I’ll continue letting them capture my mind, bleed from my fingertips. Keep releasing them into the hands of my readers.

And pray one day it will all be worth it….

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PEACE OUT

For years, I woke up every morning prepared to fight. My opponent was fear. And, sadly, most days fear won.

But about a year ago I had huge breakthrough in this area. I don’t want to say that I beat fear for good. I do have the occasional “off day.” But I did take him down. He definitely doesn’t have the same hold on me that he once had.

A few months ago, I was here on my website going through my old blog posts. As I read all the posts starting with my first one on fear all the way to my last, I was astounded at how far God has brought me in this area. It wasn’t something that happened over night. It took time. God was gracious in this journey, piecing out truth after truth until I could see the big picture.

I wanted to write my story down. At first it was just for me to see it all on paper. To understand all that God had taught me at a deeper level. But now I want to share it with you. Many of my readers have shared that they also deal with fear and anxiety. My prayer is that in reading my story, you will find hope and healing.

At the very least, you’ll know you’re not alone.

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PEACE OUT: How I kicked fear to the curb

Release date: September 19

Cover: Emily Wittig of Wittig Designs and Photography

In 2013, Amber Garza was living her dream as a full-time romance author. She was happy, healthy and hopeful about her future. Until an unexplained illness caused her to spiral into years of fear, depression, anxiety and worry.

Fear and worry were not strangers to her. She’d wrestled with them her entire life, but never to this extent. It caused her to doubt God. Her faith. Her beliefs.

But eventually, she gained a peace she’d never experienced before. She’d been searching for assurance that God would heal her physically, but God wanted to give her a deeper assurance.

Told in stories, reflections and blog posts, PEACE OUT is a story of redemption, unfailing love and breakthrough.

You might hate me after reading this

When I was a kid I used to love going to the library to check out books. I went at least twice a month, leaving with an armful of books to read until I came back to return them and get more. There was something magical about being surrounded by books, knowing that any one of them could be mine with a simple swipe of my library card. With the amount of books I read, there was no way my parents could afford to buy me all of them, so it was the perfect solution.

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I don’t go to the library as often now, but I do have Windell (my kindle) and I have a Kindle Unlimited Membership. Don’t start throwing stones yet. Hear me out. I pay $10/month for unlimited borrows (up to 10 at a time). And I discover a ton of great authors this way. I still read as much as I did when I was a kid – several books (or more) a week, and the KU membership allows me to do that.

But here’s the thing: As awesome as this is for me as a consumer, I sometimes feel guilty about it as an author.

Before KU rolled out, I was selling tens of thousands of ebooks upon release. Now I sell hundreds, if I’m lucky. Sure, I get borrows, and some of the time those make up for my lost sales, but sometimes they don’t. The truth is that, while subscriptions services do help authors/artists in some ways with exposure and stuff, they also hurt us.

I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a little girl roaming her local library every weekend. Words are my first love. Descriptions flow through my veins. Dialogue makes me giddy. Characters talk in my head. Plot holes keep me up at night. New plot ideas wake me each morning.

There’s nothing else I want to do with my life.

I get that computers and smart phones have taken over. I’ve spent so much time trying to fight against the current. To turn back to how things used to be, but I’m exhausted. I need to stop. Stop swimming. Stop struggling. It’s time to climb out of the water, dry off, lie on the beach and take a few deep breaths. Maybe borrow a book, or listen to some soothing songs on my Itunes account.

I’m a hypocrite if I support all of these things as a consumer, but not as an artist.

It’s the way of the world.

So, I’m embracing it.

Recently, I’ve even started writing for an app called RADISH. I love the team there. They’re helpful and encouraging, and I think it’s an exciting way to share my work. It’s a free app you can download on any device from your app store. I have a free story  and a premium story. Premium stories costs coins you can purchase or earn on the site (first 3 chapters are free though). The stories are uploaded as episodes, just like your favorite TV shows. Each episode ends with a writer’s note. Readers also have the option to engage by liking the episodes.

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Sometimes I hear people say that no one reads anymore. That books are a thing of the past, but I honestly don’t think they will ever be obsolete. There will always be people who read. I can’t imagine continuing to live in a world where people don’t. How sad would that be? But I also understand that it may sometimes look a little differently, especially for the newer generation.

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And I’m alright with that.

So, go ahead. Join that subscription service. Download that app.

Just don’t stop reading.

Okay?

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ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS

I went into high school in 1992. My teen years were filled with note passing, talking on my phone in my room, and listening to CDs on my discman. But now I’m the mom of two teenagers. They listen to itunes on their phones and Bluetooth speakers, they’re constantly on their cell phones, and they’ve never passed a note in their life. I find myself saying to them often, “You have no idea how different my high school experience was.”

One day I was thinking about how weird it would be for a teenager alive now to suddenly wake up in the nineties. How would they survive without their phones and internet? Would things be better for them or worse?

I honestly didn’t love high school. Sometimes I think about how grateful I am that we didn’t have phones and social media. It might have made things worse for me. But other times I think it might have made it better for someone like me. I sing, I play music, I write, I believe in myself, and I’m not afraid to put myself out there. For someone like me, maybe having outlets online for all of those things would’ve helped make my teen years better. Who knows?

And that’s how ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS came about. I wanted to explore this thought. To see how it would play out.

ALL THAT AND A BAG OF CHIPS

I loved writing this story in two parts. I actually thought the nineties portion would be easier for me, but it wasn’t. When Remy was in 1993, I kept writing dialogue that was heavy in today’s teen slang. So I had to pull up a tab of nineties slang and keep it open on my computer while writing. I guess I’m more relevant than I thought! Haha

But Remy came easily. Her voice. Her thoughts. Her wants. Her desires. And I liked her right off the bat.

Nick was also so fun to write. I felt him distinctly from the beginning. He was a great guy, but also multi-faceted. There were a lot of layers to him, and a definite struggle to find himself. I appreciated the realness of him.

My daughter helped me with some of the plot points, so if you liked the ending you can thank her.

I hope you enjoyed this story. And I hope you fell in love with Nick right along with Remy.

 

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When Remy fell asleep last night, it was 2018. This morning she woke up in 1993.
She knows it’s her fault. Over the weekend, a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl was splashed all over social media. Talk about epic humiliation. It made her wish she could go back to a time when there were no smartphones.
But she never imagined it would come true.
Now everything is different, including her friendship with her neighbor Nick. He’d never noticed her before. But now he’s looking at her in a new way. Almost like he thinks she’s all that and a bag of chips.
But will he feel that way when they return to 2018?

To snag your copy, click here.

When you’re stuck in the waiting room…

There’s a line in the movie ELF where Buddy says, “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.” Not only do I find the line hilarious, but I totally relate. Smiling’s my favorite too. I believe in the power of a smile. In general, I’m a super positive person. It takes a lot to get me down. I’m pretty scrappy. I’ll pull myself out of any bad situation and search for that sliver of hope, no matter how tiny.

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But sometimes life is hard. Like legit hard. And that sliver of hope becomes almost impossible to see. That’s the season I’m in. And I’ve been in it for around 2 years. Most days, I hold tightly to whatever scrap of hope I can wrap my fingers around, and I cling to it like a lifeline. But days like today, I feel only air. Weightless. Empty. Nothing to grasp onto.

My family is in a season of waiting. A weird in-between place. A  place not unlike the waiting room at a hospital. We’re confused at what’s taking so long, and we’re frustrated that the nurse won’t call us back. Doesn’t she see us suffering? Doesn’t she think we’re an important case? Doesn’t she sense our desperation? 

If this was the first time my family had experienced this awful waiting period, that would be one thing. But for us this has been some bizarre cycle. We have a few bad years, a couple good years, and then we’re back here again. Often, I wonder what I’m missing. What lesson I’m not learning that I need to.  

 I trust God. I believe in his promises. I know the things he’s spoken over my family. I know the dreams he’s planted in our hearts. But I have no idea when I’ll see them. And the waiting period sucks. This in- between period of praying and seeking and crying out is exhausting.

I’m tired.

Spent.

Over it.

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And I’m not saying any of this for pity. If you know me at all, you know this is how I process. Getting this on paper gets it out of my head. It helps me move forward. Same way I quiet my characters when they won’t shut up.

Also, I’m betting some of you are in this season. Waiting on something that isn’t happening.

Truth is, I don’t know what to say to help you. I want to have some super insightful, profound nugget of wisdom to hand you. But my palms are empty. My mind is a swirling mess of tangles and knots. I got nothin’.

Except this….You’re not alone. I’m in this waiting period with you. And I’ll do my best to make the waiting bearable. We can read magazines and tell stories to distract one another.  Even when I’m sad, I’ll tell you jokes and I promise you that you’ll laugh, if only because I will and my laugh is contagious. Also, it’s loud. Maybe too loud. Ha! But who likes a quiet waiting room, right?

There’s a song called TRAINWRECK by James Arthur, and it speaks to my soul.

In the chorus he says,

Unbreak the broken

Unsay these spoken words

Find hope in the hopeless

Pull me out of the trainwreck

Unburn the ashes

Unchain the reactions

I’m not ready to die, not yet

Pull me out of the trainwreck

Pull me out, pull me out, pull me out

 This is the cry of my heart. That God will pull me out. That he’ll pull you out.

In this waiting room, I’ll stare at that door with you, anxious and hopeful that it will open. And it will. It has to.

When it does, I’ll hold your hand. And we’ll walk through together. We’ll be braver. Stronger. Prepared. Ready.

 

The stranger I know

BREAK FREE is the most personal story I’ve ever written. Most people think ENGRAVED is and that’s partly true. ENGRAVED had actual stories from my own life. But BREAK FREE was something so much deeper. It was my love song to God who pursued me even when I felt like I was too ugly; too damaged to chase. He had grace for me when I was certain I was unworthy of it. When Kyler found Jade in his barn and looked at her face full-on, not even acknowledging that half her face was burned and mangled, he stole my heart. Their story was achingly beautiful to write. I bawled through the scene that has been quoted by every reviewer of the book to date – when he scolds her for talking bad about her own appearance. Jade is certain in that moment that he’s just like all the others. She thinks, “I’m steel. I’m brick. I’m iron. I’m metal.” She’s putting back up her walls. But when she asks him what he’ll do if she says it again, he says, “I’ll tell you you’re beautiful again and again.” And that’s when she says the most famous lines in the book -“I was ice. I was glass. I was fragile. I was breaking. I was his.” Even typing this now I tear up. I can still remember the day I let down my walls with God, and with my own husband. The day when I finally believed I wasn’t ugly to them. That I wasn’t unworthy of them. I loved walking this journey with Jade. She’s a part of me. Kyler’s a part of me. I carry them in my heart always. There’s also a sweet scene where Kyler says a line that I actually took straight from my husband’s mouth. It was what he said to me the day he stole my heart for good.

I always have a hard time articulating how much this book means to me. And I’ll probably never be able to adequately explain it. But I’ve heard from many of my readers, and I know how much it means to them too. I love that this book resonates with so many. I also love that almost no one has guessed the plot twist. Ha!

I recently decided to change the title and cover for BREAK FREE. I’ve never thought the title did the story justice or that the cover really fit. So, while I was at it, I changed the cover and title for BREAK THROUGH as well.

These were designed by my beautiful and talented friend Megan O’Connell Squires!

THE STRANGER I KNOW (formerly BREAK FREE) –>http://amzn.to/2DNypd6

Two strangers meet in an abandoned barn – Kyler, a reclusive writer, and Jade, a woman on the run.

Both are alone and in need, and they decide to help one another. But when Jade stumbles upon Kyler’s latest manuscript, she is shocked to find that it is her story. One she never told him. One he couldn’t know.

Not if he truly was a stranger.

THE GIRL FROZEN IN TIME (formerly BREAK THROUGH) ->http://amzn.to/2IIaC1Y

At the age of eight, Aspen is kidnapped. Five years later she escapes, vowing never to trust another man. Now she’s an adult and she’s kept the promise she made to herself as a child, keeping men at a distance.

Carter Johnston is a well-known photographer. When he’s assigned to photograph Aspen for an article in a prominent magazine, the connection between them is undeniable.
As they grow closer, the walls Aspen has built around her heart for years begin to crumble. Until she finds a photograph in Carter’s house which links him to her abduction.