Do you like to choose your own ending?

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Remember those choose-your-own-adventure books?

I used to read those all the time in elementary school, and into junior high. In MARK MY WORDS, Lennie talks about how much she loved those books as a child too. In order to make her happy, Colin searches through his boxes of old books and finds his choose-your-own-ending books. Then he brings them to her. After that, these books become a huge part of the theme in MARK MY WORDS. When I originally released the book, it was a straight thriller, complete with one ending. But after releasing it, I wished I’d done something different, something that I’d toyed with but ultimately didn’t do. So when I unpublished the book, I decided to pull the trigger on that idea.

That’s why when MARK MY WORDS re-released this week, it included an alternate ending. You can choose to read it or not. That’s your call. And if you do read it, you can decided which one of the endings is the truth.

Good luck!

Amber

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Re-release sale! Only $0.99 for a limited time on kindle!

There are two sides to every story.
And not every narrator is reliable.
Sometimes things aren’t as they seem.
Even in a novel.
Lennie (Lennox) and Colin have two very different versions of their story.
I could’ve only shared one.
But where is the fun in that?
In this twisty thriller, two endings are presented. It’s up to you, the reader, to decide which one them you believe.

PLAY NICE (Make the Play #3) is live!!

Hayes’ and Ashley’s story is now live!! Snag your copy today!

 

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I’m the funny guy. The nice guy. The friend, not the heartthrob. And definitely not the one who gets the girl.

So when I snag one of the most popular girls at school, my friends on the baseball team are shocked. Talia Smith is beautiful, and dating her is the highlight of my high school experience — until she cheats on me and dumps me. As much as I try to play it off, to be the funny guy everyone expects me to be, I’m heartbroken.

One person understands my pain: Ashley McIntosh, the girl whose boyfriend hooked up with Talia. But as bad as I feel for Ashley, I know better than to get involved with her. She’ll chew me up and spit me out. It’s what she’s done with almost every guy on the baseball team.

But the more I get to know her, the more I think I’ve misjudged her. The more I see a side of her I never knew existed. A softer side. A side I’m drawn to, against my better judgment.

I’m the nice guy, and I’m falling for the mean girl. I only hope I don’t get burned in the process.

To purchase PLAY NICE click here.

If you haven’t read the first two books in the series, they can be found here and here.

 

 

What I wish you’d understand…a letter from someone with anxiety

 

I spend a considerable amount of my day online – posting on my Facebook author page, uploading pictures on my author Instagram or scheduling tweets on my author twitter account. You get the idea. Social media is where I market. It’s also where I chat with friends, and get the bulk of my information. Sounds lame, huh? Well, it probably is. But I work from home and spend the majority of my time with fictional characters, so what did you expect?

In some ways, social media is a godsend for me. I can reach out to my readers, I can tell the world about my books, I can keep up with friends who live far away, and even those that are near but I rarely see.

But as a person who struggles with anxiety, social media can be poison. It can distract and terrify me.

You see, many people use social media as their platform to inform others about issues that they are passionate about. Sounds benign enough. Noble, even. But there’s a fine line between informing people and scaring them unnecessarily. The truth is that life is scary. Anything can kill us. A simple ride in the car can be the end. A tiny cut can turn into a deadly infection. A fall can have catastrophic consequences. And if you believe everything you read online, pretty much anything you ingest has the potential to cause cancer.

I’ve always been a worrier. But, as many of you know, my anxiety took on a life of its own about four years ago when I started having health problems. I won’t bore you with all of the details again since I have posted plenty of times about this. If you have missed those posts you can scroll through my blog to find them.

One of the things I’ve shared with you before is my addiction to googling medical conditions and questions. Recently I’ve stopped doing this and found a lot of freedom and peace from that.

However, I’m still bombarded on social media. Every time I log on with the intention of engaging with fans, a post will undoubtedly come through my feed that sparks fear and anxiety. It’s always well-intentioned. A friend who has something they want to inform others about. Knowledge is power, right?

But did you ever think that knowing too much can actually make you powerless? If we live in a constant state of fear, how is that powerful?

Let me give you a hypothetical example. I’m taking fictional liberties here, but these are some of my actual fears. However, this scenario didn’t actually happen.

I think I have an infection, but I log onto Facebook and a friend posts an article all about the dangers of antibiotics. So now I’m scared to go to the doctor. But that same day another friend posts an article about someone dying from an untreated infection.  In the end I know I’ll go to the doctor, but now every time I pop an antibiotic, I will be paralyzed with fear from the first article that was posted.

Honestly, I’m not feeling very powerful at that moment. My fear is owning me, so now I’m powerless to it.

The conflicting articles caused confusion. They caused hesitation and worry. And it was a situation that should’ve been straight-forward. On a side note, comments can do this also. I’ve seen friends post about being sick and oftentimes the comments are all conflicting, some laced with fear, some full of misinformation. And all of that can cause undue stress and confusion for the original poster.

If I take to heart every post I read on social media, I would be scared of meat, scared of vegetables, scared of restaurants, scared of medicine, scared of vitamins, scared of tap water, scared of large bodies of water, scared of doctors, scared of the sun, scared of chemicals in the air, even scared of the damn light bulbs we use.

That’s not power. That’s insanity.

I’m definitely not saying that we shouldn’t be aware of things. Today we have more knowledge, more understanding, more medical advancements than ever before. Therefore, I get people’s need to educate.

But hear me out, if I live my life in fear of every single thing, how is that helpful? Even if my fear keeps me from getting skin cancer, or brain eating bacteria, what kind of life do I have if I spend it scared?

I think it’s important to be educated. My kids wear sunblock, and I didn’t. I know the dangers of smoking cigarettes, and my grandparents didn’t. I know more about nutrition now than I did growing up, therefore my kids eat healthier than I used to.

Knowledge can be helpful.

But when I’m bombarded with all of this information every single day, I don’t know what to do with it. A simple log on to Facebook to post something can turn into hours of me spinning about dying of one thing or another. A potentially productive day can end that quickly for me.

We live in an age where anyone can post anything online. I’m doing it right now. And someone can read this and believe that this is 100% fact. That somehow I’m an expert on this subject just because I’m choosing to write about it.

The truth is, I’m not an expert on anxiety. I haven’t researched it. I haven’t gotten a degree in psychology. I’m not a doctor. But I’ve struggled with it my entire life. Therefore, I do know a thing or two about it. At least I know how it has affected me. If you’re reading this as a person who also struggles with anxiety, you may or may not agree. Your experience might be totally different.

My point is that this is an opinion piece. Take it or leave it.

All I want is for you to think before posting. Make sure that what you’re posting is from a reputable source. If it’s a medical piece, make sure it’s written by an actual doctor. Preferably, one you trust. And then decide if it’s necessary. Is the post going to help or possibly hurt those reading it?

One thing I love about where we live is the freedom to speak our minds and be ourselves. I wouldn’t be able to write this if that weren’t the case. I wouldn’t be able to share my faith, and be myself if it weren’t for freedom of speech. And I don’t take it for granted. If what you share online is something you feel passionately about, then keep doing it. My anxiety is not your issue.  It’s something God is working on in me, and I hope to one day be entirely free of it.

But until then I felt like I needed to have my say. If for no other reason, then understanding. Sometimes I don’t scroll my Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. I simply post and log off. And I know some of you think it’s rude that I don’t see your posts or like them. That I’m selfish, because you see me posting, but not engaging. So now you know why.

I love all my friends on social media dearly. I just love my sanity more.

If you struggle from anxiety, I’d love to hear your opinions below.

Saying Goodbye To My Kids

When I first started writing young adult fiction I was the mom of two young children. My understanding of teens came from my memories of being a teenager. It was easy to write about the sullen teenager talking back to her mom when I had 2 sweet little kids at home who still thought I hung the moon.

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But now I have 2 teenagers. My daughter is 13 and my son is 16. And oftentimes they are those sullen teenagers talking back to their mom. 

Back when they were small it was easy to write intimate kissing scenes and swoon-worthy dialogue between my 16 year old characters. But now that I have a 16 year old son there is a part of me that pictures him in that scene and it makes my skin crawl. Or I picture some guy trying to make out with my daughter and I want to punch my computer screen. 

To put it mildly it makes things a little more challenging for me in my job.

However, it’s not just challenging for me in my writing life. The truth is I’m struggling with my kids getting older. 

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When my kids were little all I wanted was some alone time. It was what I longed for more than anything else in the universe. I mean, let’s be real, as a mom of young children you can’t even use the bathroom without a kid following you in there. At that point in my life I would’ve given my right arm for an hour by myself. And hearing the word “mom” made me want to gauge my eye out with a dull spoon. Because I heard it a million freaking times a day. My kids followed me around, they crawled on me, they hung on me, and played with my face like it was play-doh. It was the worst.

And it was the best.

Only I don’t think I fully understood that it was the best until now.

They say you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and in this instance I can vouch for that. I still remember the first time my son didn’t give me a kiss when I dropped him off for school. Eli was always my affectionate one. When I would drop him off at kindergarten he’d prep me in the car.

“Mom,” he’d say, “Today I want 10 kisses. Hear that? 10 kisses. I have to have 10 kisses before you can leave me.” Then he’d count each kiss as we stood in the doorway of his classroom. And he wasn’t kidding. I really wasn’t allowed to leave until he got all 10. One day a group of kids were snickering and pointing at him while he was giving me my 10 kisses. So he marched right up to them, puffed out his chest and said, “Hey, I love my mom and I love to give her kisses.” That was my Eli. He loved his mom and he loved to give her kisses, not just in kindergarten but for years afterward.

But one morning in fourth grade, he hopped out of the car and raced down the walkway without giving me a kiss. I sat there perplexed, sure that he had simply forgotten. In fact, I sat there for several minutes, worried that once he realized his mistake, he’d come running back to the car. It was him who needed the kisses, after all. But the minutes passed, and pretty soon the bell rang. That’s when I realized it wasn’t a mistake and he wasn’t coming back.

Kayleen was the one who loved to hold my hand when we were in public. She’s always been a little shy and nervous in new surroundings, and I was her safe place. But when she was in fifth grade we were out and I reached for her hand. She immediately yanked her hand out of my grip and hissed at me to not ever do that again. It should’ve been easier since I’d been through all the rejection with Eli, but it wasn’t.

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Now I’m the one who begs for time with my kids. And they’re the ones who ask to be left alone. The tables have turned and the truth is I don’t like it. I wish I had cherished those moments more. The moments when they crawled all over me. When they wanted endless hugs and kisses. At the time it felt that it would never end. That it would go on forever. But it didn’t. Time passed quickly.

And it’s weird because in my mind they’re still my babies. My son is still that little redhead boy with the lisp who held my face with both hands so he could kiss me. The one who crawled into the kitchen while I was cooking, wrapped his arms around my calf and said his first word, “Mama.”

Kayleen is still the blond haired little girl with her hand tucked in mine. The one who used to jump between her dad and my faces when we tried to kiss because she didn’t want to be left out.

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But those kids are gone, and they’re not coming back. It’s something I’ve had to come to grips with lately. The fact that I’ll never have those moments again. I’ll never see those children again. Eli will never demand 10 kisses again, and Kayleen will never use my body as a jungle gym again. And they shouldn’t. It would be weird…and a little inappropriate.

And I guess that’s my point.

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Life has moved on. My kids have grown up. It’s the way it’s supposed to be.

But lately it makes me sad. It makes me sentimental and a little emotional. And it causes me to take a few too many trips down memory lane.

Mostly, though, it makes me determined to savor my time with them the way I wish I had done when they were younger. Back when I was a frazzled mom who wanted nothing more than to be left alone. So I’ll snatch every moment I can. I’ll savor every stolen hug. I’ll draw out every conversation. I’ll save every text. I’ll sit through any stupid teen show and listen to way too many Justin Bieber songs. Anything to be close to them.

But I’ll also enjoy my alone time in the bathroom, because having older children does have its perks.😉

Guide to Self-Publishing

I receive countless emails and messages from aspiring authors who want to know how to go about publishing their work. I do my best to respond to those messages, but many fall through the cracks because I’m simply too busy to keep up. Since I am an indie author, I do it all – from writing to marketing and everything in between. My job is full-time and then some. Therefore, my time is precious. So if you are one of the people who have contacted me and haven’t received a response, I’m so sorry. It’s not personal, I can assure you.

However, I do carry a soft spot for aspiring authors. The help I received when I was starting out was invaluable to me. I still remember all the writers who assisted me, and without them I’m certain I wouldn’t be where I am today. So that’s why I’m writing this post. This will give me a place to send the writers who contact me in the future.

If you are reading this post I am assuming you have a polished manuscript you are hoping to publish. And by polished, I mean, that you’ve had it read by multiple people other than yourself (or your family members) and that you’ve had it edited by a professional. If not, I would strongly urge you to do that.

At the bottom of this post, I have a list of editors that you can hire. I also use beta readers and they are free. They read through my early drafts and look for plot holes, inconsistencies, and content issues. My advice is to find avid readers who will be honest with you. You’re not looking for nice. You’re looking for someone who will be brutally honest about your story and what it needs.

All right, now that you have your polished manuscript, you are ready to read on.

I think the main thing to decide at this point is what you’re hoping to accomplish with your book. This will vary based on what you write – fiction, non-fiction, memoirs. For instance, I wrote my grandpa’s story a few years back. I didn’t do this to make money. I did it so my family would have all of my grandpa’s stories down on paper to pass down through future generations. Therefore, I strictly published this in paperback and I do no marketing for it. I really only published it for my family. However, with my fiction works, my goal is always to sell my work and make a living. It’s my livelihood. Therefore, all of my other books are available in both paperback and ebook.

To publish my books in paperback I use Createspace, which is a part of Amazon. I find that Createspace is user-friendly and responsive. There are other places you can use like Lightening Source, but I don’t know much about them.

Here is Createspace’s link: https://www.createspace.com/

If you are interested in getting your book in print, I suggest hopping on this link and starting an account. They can walk you through the publishing process. Createspace offers an array of services if you need formatting, covers, etc. I personally format myself and I hire my own cover artists. I do have a list of formatters and graphic artists at the bottom of this post to assist you in deciding what to do.

When you are finished publishing your print book, Createspace does have an option to publish your kindle book right there on your dashboard. However, I prefer uploading my kindle copy through my KDP dashboard. Mostly because I don’t like the way the book converts from paperback to ebook from Createspace. I like to make separate files. You will need to have a Table of Contents in your kindle book, so if you don’t know how to create one, I suggest hiring a formatter to help you with this.

Here is KDP’s link: https://kdp.amazon.com/

And here is where another decision comes in for you. Amazon has a program called Kindle Unlimted. In this program readers can pay a monthly fee and borrow as many books as they’d like (10 at a time). Authors who participate in this program get paid per page for the books that are borrowed. However, in order to be in this program your ebooks will have to be exclusively sold through Amazon. You can read more on the program at the KDP site. I’m giving you a tiny overview just to let you know that is an option. Personally, I am in this program and have found it to be a lucrative choice for me. But I know many other authors who successfully sell on other platforms and don’t want to be tied down to one. So that is up to you.

If you decide to publish on other platforms, the links are below:

http://www.smashwords.com/

https://www.nookpress.com/

http://www.apple.com/ibooks/

There are more, but when I published on all platforms I used smashwords as my distributor so I didn’t go to each individual site. I’ll let you figure that out. I can’t spell everything out for you, after all.😉

Now that your book has a beautiful cover, is fully formatted, edited, and you’ve set up accounts at all these sites, you are ready to press publish…but wait!! Have you thought about marketing, branding, promotion?

I waited until I had many books under my belt before branding and, honestly, I think that was a mistake. I also waited until my first book came out before starting to build a social media platform. Second mistake. I suggest getting these together before publishing.

Join all social media sites and get fan pages going:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

And set up a website, like the wonderful one you are on right now. Make sure to post relevant, fun stuff on all of these platforms. Not just posts pushing your work, but personal stuff, quizzes, pictures, teasers, information, etc.

You can check out my pages here:

My facebook

My IG

My Twitter

Also, think of what kind of author you want to be known as. You are not only selling a product. You are selling yourself. You are a brand now, and you need to be consistent with that brand. Once you come up with the answer to that question, I suggest hiring a graphic artist to put together a branding package for you.

For me, it was important for readers to know that my books are sweet, clean romances. Therefore, my branding looks like this:

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Gah, this was a lot of information. Now it’s time to stop and take a deep breath. Let it all out. There you go! You can do this. It sounds more complicated when it’s laid out like this. But you’ll get the hang of it.

Now you’re ready to publish your book. Good luck!!

Below are lists of people in the business who will be more than happy to work with you!

 

Graphic Artists:

White Rabbit Designs

Mae I Design

The Cover Lure

Stephanie’s Cover Design

Melancholy Muse

Desiree DeOrto

Okay Creations

C & K Creations

ZH Designs

Emily Witting

There are many more, but these are the ones I’ve either personally worked with or think highly of.

Editors:

www.editsbyv.com

www.beyonddeflit.com

Editing for Indies

Crimson Editorial

Formatting:

Nadege Richards

Formatting by Leigh

Champagne Formats

Shanoff Formats

I hope this information was helpful. I wish you all the best in your endeavors.

 

 

 

Important Announcement!

Due to exciting opportunities in the works, I will be pulling MARK MY WORDS from all sales channels this week. The book will be removed by March 22, 2016. So if you were hoping to read it, pick it up before then. However, if everything goes as planned it will return to sale in the future.

I’m so sorry I can’t share more right now, but I will as soon as I’m able.

If you’d like to purchase MARK MY WORDS while it’s still available click HERE!

Thank you!

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Confessions of a Hypochondriac

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It was a little over three years ago on a Tuesday morning. I took the kids to school, ran a few errands, and then went home to write. One of my errands was to Trader Joe’s where I picked up my favorite salad for lunch. I remember being in good spirits. I ran into a friend and we chatted for a bit.

When I returned home, I ate my salad slowly while writing on my laptop. I recall that the words were flowing that day. The characters were talking, the plot was moving forward. I was so immersed in work, I didn’t realize how quickly time had passed. At one point, I glanced up at the clock and was shocked to see that it was almost time to pick up the kids. After saving the document, I closed out of it and prepared to stand up. I had no idea that once I did, my life would be irrevocably changed.

Looking back, I realize that moment was the last truly carefree moment of my life. Weird, huh? If I had known that, I would have savored it more. In fact, I would’ve savored all the moments. But we don’t really do that. Our good moments. Our healthy moments. Our happy moments. These are things we usually take for granted.

Until we lose them, that is.

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When I stood up the world tilted around me. I know I’ve used this figuratively in many books of mine, but I mean this literally. The room literally spun around me. And there was nothing I could do to make it stop spinning.

I spun like this for days. By the first evening, I got a slight fever. Oddly enough, this gave me some peace of mind. I assumed I had some type of virus. Some type of spinning, fever inducing virus. But after a few days, I worried it might be an infection so I made a doctor’s appointment.

Unfortunately, this began my year-long journey of multiple doctor’s appointments, and countless medical tests. Words were thrown around like “brain tumor”, “MS”, “cancer”, and things less dire like “inner ear infection”, or “vertigo”. But it turned out to be none of these things, and my final diagnosis was “I’m sorry. You have us baffled.”

Prior to this, all of my encounters with doctors had been positive. I got a virus or infection, so I went to the doctor. They told me what it was and how to get rid of it. End of story.

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In my mind, this is how it goes. Being told you have a condition, but no one can tell you what it is, is very frightening. Especially to someone like me who lives ninety percent of her time in her imagination. When the doctors didn’t have answers, I made them up. I conjured up all sorts of reasons why I was dizzy for nine months without relief. And, let me tell you, they were all dire and all very scary.

A friend of mine once told me that a hypochondriac isn’t a person who makes up symptoms. It’s a person who has symptoms that can’t be explained; can’t be diagnosed.

I can vouch for this.

When I finally stopped being dizzy I had hoped my health crisis was over, but I was wrong. Within weeks of the resolution of my spinning, another unrelated symptom occured. At first this was also misdiagnosed. To the point where by the time it was diagnosed, I had to have emergency surgery. As grateful as I am that my life was spared, this did not help me to become less of a hypochondriac. If anything it made me more skeptical of medical professionals.

On the heels of my surgery, I contracted a serious infection. However, when I finally beat that I continued to feel ill. Fast forward several months and I was diagnosed with a chronic stomach condition. That was two years ago, and I still have that condition. There are days, sometimes months, where I feel well (with the aid of my medication). And then there are days, sometimes months where I feel terrible. But this isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to me. No, the worst thing that has happened has been my anxiety, my worry, my fear.

Quite frankly, it sucks to be a hypochondriac.

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I’ve turned into a person who googles every symptom, who continues to think something is terribly wrong even when doctors tell me I’m fine. A person who calls the pharmacist on almost a daily basis because I’m afraid of mixing up the wrong medications. I’m someone who is afraid of germs. Simply touching a raw chicken breast and accidentally wiping my hands on my pants can send me into a panic of exponential proportions. While I don’t go so far as to burn my clothes afterward, I certainly want to. I walk around the house clutching Lysol spray. I wash my hands so much they are raw and red most of the time. I never open public doors with my hands, only my elbows and even then I worry. To me, using a public restroom is the equivalent of being a participant on FEAR FACTOR. Every time I run across an article on the internet about a disease I’m sure I have it. I inspect every new dot and freckle on my body religiously to the point where sometimes I panic over an indentation or scab, thinking it’s a new mole. Every time I eat something, I pray it’s not going to give me ecoli or salmonella.

About two years ago I saw a therapist for awhile. In one of the sessions he asked me what I get out of this. He said that I wouldn’t worry about my health so much if it wasn’t doing something for me. I vehemently told him it’s doing nothing for me. In fact, I want it gone. I don’t want to be like this. I hate it. And that’s true.

But now two years later, I know what he meant. By obsessing about my health, I feel that I’m controlling it. There was a time when I figured my doctors had it covered. That if I got sick, I’d go to the doctor and be good to go. Now I don’t believe that. So in my mind, I have to be my advocate. I have to essentially be my own doctor. Even more so than that, I also have this belief now that I can’t overlook anything. So every ache and pain causes me to run to google, to call the doctor, to obsess, to panic.

In my last post I declared 2016 to be my year of peace. After that little declaration, I have had health problem after health problem. I’ve been to the doctor 3 times already this year. I’m currently on multiple medications and am not feeling great. But you know what? It hasn’t thrown me as much as it has in prior years. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I’ve been at peace. But I haven’t had a panic attack.

Progress is progress, right?

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If you can relate to this post, I wish I could give you some magic formula to beat this crazy, psychological problem. But I don’t have that. However, I do have compassion for you. I can sympathize with you. I understand you. And I don’t judge you.

Neither does God.

So even though I don’t have a magic formula, I do have a God who sees. A God who knows. A God who is merciful and loving. So that’s who I’ve been running to this week. I know I’m not strong in this area. So I’m leaning on Him. I’m worshiping, I’m declaring truth, I’m thanking Him for the healing that I know is coming.

And I don’t just mean physical.

Let’s throw hypochondria to the curb this year. What do you say? Are you with me?