Why Even Bother?

When I wrote my first book I had one goal in mind: finishing. The story was fun and engaging for me. I enjoyed every minute I spent scrawling out sentences in my notebook or typing furiously on the computer.

But something changed after penning that first novel. I entered the world of submissions. Of agents and publishers and synopses and query letters. And, of course, the dreaded rejection letters.

Once I started submitting, I found it difficult to write a new book. I longed for the rush I had while writing my first one, and that wasn’t happening. Instead, it felt like a chore, a task; it felt like work.

I was no longer writing for the pure enjoyment. I was writing with a different goal in mind: to secure a publishing deal. I was desperately trying to come up with a unique, marketable plot. I would hurriedly write three chapters and a blurb and send it off, then start brainstorming a new idea. It became less about writing and more about getting published.

Needless to say, years went by without a publishing deal. And I never found my niche; my genre. I just kept trying to play to the fads and trends.

Then Twilight came out, and I began devouring YA fiction. That’s when I wrote PROWL, and I knew I had found my niche. I loved writing that book. It felt a lot like that first novel. But once again, it didn’t sell.

ProwldSo, I self-published it.

And it did okay. Not great. Nothing earth shattering. Just okay. But the amazing part is that it opened up a new world to me. A world with readers. A world with other indie authors. A world with the freedom to write what I wanted.

This began a five-year journey of writing full time. In that timeframe I rarely, if ever, suffered from writer’s block. I always wrote what I wanted and I loved every second of it.

Then something happened.

I stopped making the money I had gotten used to making.

So I had to reassess; make some new and different choices. One of those choices was submitting and ultimately signing with a publisher. It was a dream come true, and I know it’s what’s necessary right now. The indie market isn’t what it was. It’s not sustainable anymore.

But I’ve found that I’m losing my enjoyment. I’m losing my attention span. I AM actually suffering from writer’s block. I’m back to where I was six years ago. And I don’t like it. I miss the rush of writing what I want. I miss falling in love with my characters. I miss writing for the pure fun of it.  But I also want to stay in this business. I don’t want to give up as so many in the indie community have done lately.

I recognize that this is a business. And in business you have to do what you have to do. I’m not complaining. I’m so blessed to have my dream job. I’m blessed by my readers and by the writing community.

I’ve just been thinking a lot lately about the difference between writing for love and writing for money. And I’ve come to the conclusion that you always have to do both. Unless you are only writing for yourself, you DO have to write something marketable. There are certain “formulas” that work better than others. I’m not saying that you can’t be unique or creative in your style or execution. But I’m learning in my own writing that there are some tried and true tropes and formulas that work, and there’s no shame in using them. However, you do need to like what you’re writing.

The truth is that deep down I’m a thriller writer. I love writing dark thrillers. I would write them exclusively if I could. But they don’t sell as well as my sweet romances do. Even so, I will periodically write one. They’re more for me than anything, but some ideas I can’t walk away from.

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However, since this is my business I can’t do that too often. Most of the time I have to stick with what sells. But I do always add some aspect of mystery in all of my romances.

As an artist, we are creative. We like to think outside of the box. And there is something so magical about the thought of doing our own thing. About writing what makes us happy. About writing something unique and different and entirely our own. But the reality is that everything has been done before.

Starving artists are a real thing, and I don’t want to be one.

So I’ll write to the market. I’ll write to the trend. I’ll write for my editor. I’ll write for my readers.

And I’ll find a way to love what I write.

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My first traditionally published book released today!!

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I like Kassidy Milton. There, I said it. She’s funny, beautiful—even though she doesn’t know it—and my favorite kind of weird. But I can’t tell if she’s into me or just trying to get close to me for a chance with my famous twin brother instead. I mean, it has to be me. I am the better-looking one.

 

But Kassidy has some demons, and she’s not good at letting people in. That happens when you’ve been hurt by someone close to you. I can relate. Trust is a funny thing; it’s hard to gain but easy to lose. I might just learn that the hard way.

 

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book includes a snarky heroine, a swoon-worthy hero, crazy best friends, your favorite music, and lots of feels.

 

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Im-Not-Band-Amber-Garza-ebook/dp/B071SD9D79

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/im-not-in-the-band-amber-garza/1126437542?ean=9781640631137

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/nz/book/im-not-in-the-band/id1239512538

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/i-m-not-in-the-band

Entangled: https://entangledpublishing.com/i-m-not-in-the-band.html

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35157301-i-m-not-in-the-band

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Why I gave up on a lifelong dream

My dream of becoming an author started as far back as when I was a little girl. I never gave up on my dream, even when I pursued “more realistic” career goals. I wrote all through my teen and young adult years. But it wasn’t until my daughter was around two that I finished my first full-length novel. At the time I was running a daycare in my home, and I would fantasize about one day writing full time. I would picture myself lying on the couch in my jammies writing furiously on my laptop. Or sitting in a coffee shop, sipping a beverage while hunched over my computer.  It seemed like the most amazing life ever, and I was desperate to make it mine.

And I did.

A year after publishing my first book I quit my job to write full time. In a lot of ways my life was like my daydreams. I did lie on the couch in my jammies writing. And I did go to coffee shops and write while sipping coffee. In some ways it was so much better than what I imagined. But in other ways it was so much worse.

I love writing, so that part has always been fulfilling to me. There is nothing better than hitting that sweet spot in a novel where you write without even thinking. Where you lose yourself in your story and reality ceases to exist. That has only happened to me while writing full time. I think because it happens after several hours of writing when I really hit my stride. At least that’s how it is for me.

But if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’ve struggled a lot with anxiety and depression over the past five years. Most of that stemmed from some weird health stuff I’ve experienced.  However, I can’t help but think that being alone with my own thoughts has exacerbated these issues.

I’m a social person. I love being around other people. If you’re close to me, you know I love to talk. Probably too much. I feed off of the energy of other people.  Being alone all day long isn’t ideal for me. Not just because I get lonely, but also because it’s dangerous for someone like me. Someone who lives in their imagination. When my imagination runs with a story and my characters take over an amazing story is the result. But when my imagination runs wild with ideas about my health the result is a full-blown panic attack. I’m embarrassed to admit, that panic attacks have become a way of life for me in the past five years. Rarely a day goes by without one and sometimes I have multiple.

At the end of last year,  I made some healthy changes. I joined a crossfit class, and I started to leave the house more often to work. And for awhile this was enough. Crossfit was a game changer for me. Not only was the social aspect amazing for me, but the exercise and change in my body was incredible. But it was only a bandaid. I still had panic attacks, just not as often. And I still felt lonely.

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On top of this, my income has been really all over the place. I’ve blogged about this before and many other indie authors have weighed in on the changing market, so I won’t go into it. But my husband and I have had some hard talks about my career and what I need to do. I signed with an agent and publisher last year, so exciting things are in the works. But that didn’t fix everything immediately, and I’ve known for awhile that I need to get another job.

To be honest, the idea of going back to work felt a little like admitting defeat. Five years ago when I quit my job I never planned to go back to work outside of the home. I had finally realized my dream, and I assumed it was what I would do for the rest of my life. My pride made it difficult to apply for another job.

I thought it would make me look like a failure.

Like I couldn’t hack it as an author.

But then I started to imagine leaving the house everyday and going to a job. And some of that panic that always sits in my chest loosened. The idea of getting out, of meeting people, of making friends – it excited me. And I realized that it wasn’t admitting defeat. In fact, my dream of securing a traditionally published book deal was just realized.

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I certainly haven’t been defeated. I’m not throwing in the towel. I’m in a great place in my writing career.

I’m just not in a great place mentally.

But I know I can be.

When I found out that my old job was hiring, I knew it was an answer to prayer. I loved my previous place of employment. And many of my friends still work there.

Two weeks ago I went back there. It’s been great! Mentally I’m in a much better place. Not one panic attack. 🙂 I’m struggling a bit with adjusting to my new work schedule. The hardest part is wearing real pants. lol! But I’ll get used to it.

And I’ll still be here slaving away over my computer. I’ll still be creating worlds and characters. I’ll just be a little healthier, happier, and not so lonely.

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UNSIGHTLY: A Modern-Day Retelling of Beauty and the Beast is available now!

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Today is the day! Release day for UNSIGHTLY! Only $2.99 or Free with Kindle Unlimited. Snag your copy today by clicking this LINK.

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Layla has grown up hearing the rumors of the beastly boy who lives in the forest on the edge of town, but she knows there is no such person. It’s nothing more than an urban legend.

On the night of her high school graduation she drives through the forest to get home from a party when her tire hits water on the road, sending her car spinning into the trees. She slams her head and is out cold.

Fortunately, a mysterious stranger shows up to help her.

Hours later she wakes up in an old abandoned house, her savior shrouded in darkness. Over the next couple of days, he nurses her back to health, but she never sees his face. He wears a mask and refuses to take if off. In the final minutes before her departure, curiosity gets the better of her and she yanks his mask off. Immediately, she is horrified. His face is deformed and unsightly.

Angry, he tells her that she’s made a terrible mistake, and now she can’t leave.

While held prisoner, her captor waffles between cold and kind. It’s in those kind moments that Layla feels drawn to him in a way she’s never been to anyone before. As days morph into weeks, the coldness melts away and the two grow closer. She realizes that the stories the town has heard about the beastly boy are false. He’s not the monster they’ve made him out to be.

But Layla knows better than anyone that their love will never survive in the outside world. Therefore, she has a choice to make. One that she fears will end badly either way.

This modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast reminds us that love is powerful, and it truly can conquer all.

Why I chose to write a retelling of Beauty and the Beast

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Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite fairytale. Partly because I’m such a romantic, and this story has all the feels. But mostly because I love the heart of the story. It’s one I can relate to. I know what it’s like to be the beast. To be someone who is uncomfortable in her own skin. Someone who feels like her outside doesn’t match her inside. Someone who is shunned, teased or misunderstood. Someone who is judged unfairly by how she looks.

In elementary school, boys would sometimes refer to me as a dog. In high school, I liked a boy who told me he would like me back if I didn’t have such a big nose and if I wasn’t so overweight. It was weird because when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see what others saw. I saw someone I was proud to be. I liked my nose, my body, my face. But the more people laughed, whispered and teased the more I didn’t. The more I despised it.

As an adult, I’ve learned to embrace who I am and how I look. But it took a long time. It wasn’t an easy road. As a society, we put a great emphasis on outward appearance. We judge and tease when someone looks a way that we don’t like or don’t understand. We’re also a culture that judges and teases things we’re fearful of. I think these two things go hand-in-hand, primarily with teenagers. It’s not that the child is fearful of someone who is deemed ugly or unpopular. It’s that they’re afraid if they don’t go along with the teasing they’ll be deemed ugly or unpopular.

Even adults are guilty of this – putting their need to be accepted and liked above the need to simply love one another. Our desire for comfort and acceptance often trumps our need to reach out to someone else. But Beauty and the Beast is a story of hope. It shows us that by simply loving someone they can be transformed. Love is a powerful thing. So is kindness.

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I’ve always wanted to write a retelling of this story, but it’s been done so many times I wasn’t sure I could add anything to it. Then one day I dreamt up Layla and Jasper, and I knew I had to write their story. At times it was reminiscent of Kyler and Jade in Break Free, and if you’re an avid reader of mine you know they’re my favorite characters ever. I had a blast writing this story. I felt everything the characters did and at times found myself crying or laughing along with them.

It’s a story of hope, of healing and of unconditional love. And I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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An Open Letter of Explanation to my Readers

My husband doesn’t read my books. I guess romance novels aren’t his thing. But he does read my blogs, and he recently pointed out that I haven’t blogged in 3 months. I knew it had been awhile, but didn’t realize it had been that long. However, I’m not surprised. There are many reasons why I haven’t been blogging, and I feel like maybe it’s time to explain.

If you’re a reader of mine, you probably feel like I’ve taken a step back from publishing, and in some ways you’d be right. I’ve kept up with my facebook and IG page, so at least I’m still active on social media. But I haven’t blogged or released a book in over 3 months. That may not seem long to some people, but to me it is. In the 5 years that I’ve been published, I’ve released a book on average every other month.

I learned several years ago that in order to maintain a certain level of income as an indie author it was imperative to have a steady stream of new releases. And for the most part, that hasn’t been too much of a challenge for me. I love to write. Plus, it’s my full time job. When you write for 8 + hours a day putting out a book every couple of months isn’t inconceivable. And for a long time it was worth it to me to crank out the books.

But things changed in the publishing industry in the last year. Many authors have weighed in on this recently, so I won’t go into all the details. Mostly, I’ll just say that in the last year my income has drastically declined. As a self-employed author, I know that I’m in a sales position. Therefore, I know that there will be some uncertainty with my income. But the truth is that prior to this year my income had been much more steady than it is now, and I had some sense of what was to come. Not the case anymore.

I’m not saying this to sound whiny or so that you’ll feel sorry for me. I still make adequate money, and I still feel incredibly lucky to have my dream job. I’m merely stating fact. And in order to explain the decisions I’ve made at the end of this year, this part needs to be shared.

Through all of this uncertainty, one thing is certain. My faith in God’s plan for my life. God gave me this gift. He planted it, he nurtured it and he set it on the right path. So, I’ve always known that good things are coming. I believe it with all my heart. Not only do I love writing, but I know it’s what I was made to do.

Knowing this, it became clear to me this year that I could no longer keep doing things the way I always had before. That’s why I signed with my wonderful agent, Stephanie. She’s been a godsend. A serious answer to prayer in so many ways. First, she’s an incredible agent. Second, she’s an amazing support to me. Third, she’s become a really good friend.

When my last couple of releases didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, I re-evaluated. At that time I had a book that was nearly finished that I had planned for a November release. But instead of releasing it, I had Stephanie pitch it to publishers. To my delight (and shock) it sold within the first couple of days of her pitching it. It sold to Entangled publishing and is set to release this summer.

After that, I took the next manuscript I was working on and gave it to Stephanie who is currently in the process of pitching that one.

There are so many reasons I’ve decided to go with publishers on these two books, but the main reason is that I need some help. I don’t want to keep doing it all on my own. I want a marketing team behind me. I want the prospect of seeing my books on store shelves. And I want the potential to have some sort of security when it comes to my income. That may or may not happen with a publisher, but I feel like I need to give this a valiant effort. I took a risk when I self-published and it paid off. I’m praying this will too.

Don’t worry, though. I’m not giving up on self-publishing entirely. I’m too much of a control freak for that. I do enjoy many aspects of publishing on my own, so my ideal situation is to be a hybrid author.

I do have a book I’ve been burning the midnight oil to finish that I plan to self-publish. It is set to release in the next month.

And that is why I haven’t blogged. I’ve written 3 manuscripts in the last couple of months. I know you haven’t seen them, but you will definitely see one soon, and one in the summer. Hopefully, the other will follow as well.

So, rest assured I’m writing. And I haven’t forgotten you. I’ve just been making some changes, and praying it will all work out.

Until next time, happy reading!

Amber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I was told my books weren’t good

It all started when my 14 year old daughter was invited to a friend’s birthday party. We had an extremely busy week leading up the party and we were running out of time to pick up a gift.

“Why don’t you give her one of my books?” I asked, thinking I had come up with the perfect solution. I write teen fiction, after all. My son has given my books as gifts to numerous girlfriends over the years.

“Never mind. I just won’t get her a gift,” My daughter answered.

“What?” I asked, certain I had heard her wrong. How was not getting her friend a gift better than giving her one of my books?

“If I can’t get her something good then I don’t want to get her anything,” she clarified.

“Are you saying my  books aren’t a good gift?” I responded.

“Yikes,” my son said, a cringe on his face. At least one of my children understood how hurtful this conversation was. Then again, he’s a reader, so I know he gets it.

“Not just your books. Any books. Books are not a good gift, Mom,” my daughter said.

Huh. Books are not a good gift. Interesting. 

The truth is that this conversation wasn’t surprising. Mainly because my daughter isn’t a reader. It’s something that makes me incredibly sad. I have boxes of my old books – Nancy Drew, Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins, Wizard of Oz series, Narnia series, and many more. I had saved them all in hopes that one day my daughter would read them. However, I ended up with a daughter who thinks reading is akin to getting a cavity filled.

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But the main reason I wasn’t surprised is because I don’t think books are as revered as they used to be. When I was a kid I didn’t leave the house without a book in my backpack, purse, etc. I read constantly. Reading was (and is) my favorite thing to do. But I didn’t have the internet, a smart phone, a smart watch, or an Ipad. When I was in high school pagers were the big thing. Someone paged you and you found the nearest payphone to call them back. Not exactly a rip-roaring good time.

Now kids have a form of entertainment in the palm of their hand. My teenagers spend hours staring down at those little devices. As much as it bothers me, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I also spend hours on my phone. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s addicting.

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Reading requires patience, an imagination, quiet. All things a phone doesn’t require.

It’s a different world. That’s becoming more apparent to  me each year in this business. I’ve been a published author for four years now. It’s my dream job. It’s what I’ve wanted to be since I was a small child. And I love it. But it’s also a lot harder than I thought it would be. Not the writing. That’s easy. Ideas, plot lines and characters pour out of me fluidly. In fact, it’s keeping the voices quiet that’s difficult.

The business side is the tough part. When I first published I was just happy to have one person read my  book. But when thousands were reading them, that suddenly wasn’t okay anymore. And when I was making more money than I ever dreamed  I mistakenly thought that would go on forever. But the weird part about this business is that you can’t count on anything. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve read several blog posts written by authors and agents about how challenging the market is right now. And they’re right.

When you start a business you expect to continually move forward. It’s odd to me that this year I’ve seemed to go backwards. However, I recognize that this business isn’t like others. The market shifts and changes, and there are many reasons for this. The blog posts I mentioned above delve into these issues, including the saturation of the market, and the rolling out of Kindle Unlimited, as well as many other reasons. And all of those are true.

But I’m only writing this post on the one that touches close to home, and that’s the fact that books don’t seem to hold the same value that they used to.

That’s what I finally told my daughter. A couple of days after the birthday party I sat her down and had a heart-to-heart. I told her that I understood what she was saying, but she needed to understand that her words hurt my feelings. I explained that this is my job, my career, my dream, and she essentially said it wasn’t of value.

It makes me sad to think that books are losing value, but it also lights a fire in my belly. It makes me want to come up with fresh ideas to get people reading. I don’t just write because it’s my job. I write because I love it. I write because I have stories that need to be told, and characters who want to be known. I write because I believe in the power of words. I believe the imagination is a powerful thing. Stories make us stronger, braver, wiser, more knowledgeable, more empathetic, more understanding. They teach us things our phones never will.

They teach us what’s in someone’s heart. They tell us what someone’s going through. They give us alternate perspectives, and they take us on adventures we might never experience in real life.

As George RR Martin says, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to live a thousand lives. I want to let my imagination take me to places that would otherwise be impossible. What about you….are you with me?

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