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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It’s time to say goodbye

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Saying goodbye is never easy. This month I had to say goodbye to Prairie Creek, and it was hard. I’ve enjoyed my time with the characters in the Make the Play series. Emmy, Chris, Cal, Taylor, Ashley, Hayes,  Josh and Talia have all woven their way deep into my heart. Now that the series is over it’s been difficult to move on. But it’s time. It’s time to meet new characters in a new place.

That being said, I do plan to return to Prairie Creek sometime in the future to write a second chance romance about Cal and Taylor, so be on the lookout for that. In the meantime I hope you enjoy PLAY DIRTY, the final book in the Make the Play series. It was so fun to write the softer side of Josh, and I hope you have fun reading it!

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***NOW AVAILABLE*****

I’m used to getting what I want.

And what I want is Ashley. The girl I drove right into Hayes’ arms. The girl who is no longer interested in me at all.

But I have a secret weapon. Talia Smith, Hayes’ ex-girlfriend, who wants him back as much as I want Ashley.

It doesn’t matter that our kiss is what broke up Talia and Hayes in the first place. The same kiss that ruined my relationship with Ashley. Because even though we screwed up, we’re going to work as a team to get what we want. By pretending to be together, we’ll make Hayes and Ashley realize what they’re missing.

But things don’t go the way I plan. Pretty soon, the only thing I’m pretending is that I’m not falling for Talia.

Because I am.

Suddenly, what I care about most is proving to Talia that my feelings for her are genuine. But I know that will be difficult, since I’m the guy who always plays dirty.

 

Words hold weight. Let’s be wise in how we use them.

I was born a people-pleaser. When I was a little girl I wanted everyone to think I was the smartest, the sweetest, the cutest, the most talented. It’s the reason my poor brother endured endless amounts of torture at my hands when he was an infant and toddler. Jealousy. Pure and simple. He was stealing my spotlight, and I didn’t like it.

As I got older my need to be liked got me in a lot of trouble. It drove me into the arms of a boy who seemed to love me but ended up hurting me. It took me down the road of drug abuse and co-dependency.

I had no idea who I was, what I thought, what I valued. I was a chameleon. I liked what those around me liked. My opinions matched theirs. I couldn’t stand the thought of thinking differently. Of having people displeased with me for even one moment.

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Luckily, God redeemed me of all that. He healed me, and then took me on a gentle, grace-filled journey. One where I learned who I was, and what I valued. As I grew and matured, I cared less and less about other people thought of me, and more and more about what God thought of me. Now my opinions match his, and I’m not afraid to speak my mind. It’s okay if people are displeased with me.

Everyone won’t like me or agree with me, and that’s okay.

But there is one area in my life where I still struggle with this need to please – my writing. Clearly when I release a book I want people to like it. Honestly, it wouldn’t make sense to write and publish a book if I didn’t. However, I also know there will be people who won’t like it, and sometimes that’s hard to swallow.

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When I finish writing a book I go through many emotions. First, I feel relief. Second, I get excited. Third, the doubts start to set in. My mind whirs through all of the possible things readers will hate about the book. I panic and desperately wrestle with myself, wondering if I should take things out, tweak the plot, etc. In the end, I almost always keep everything the same. I surmise that no matter what I change, someone will be unhappy.

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So I release the book as is, and inevitably there are readers that love it, and readers that hate it.

I write romances and typically they have an HEA. I can’t tell you how many reviews I’ve gotten over the years, saying how predictable my books are. How they are unrealistic. And since I usually write in the young adult genre, I always get the reviews by the readers who are irritated at how “high school” or “juvenile” the book seems. As if it’s somehow my fault they bought a book without paying attention to the genre it was in.

In For the Win, there were those who were upset with my happy ending and how I made everything tie up neatly for London.But then Until the Sun Burns Out releases and there are those that are angry about the sad ending. Angry that things didn’t tie up neatly. Angry that the ending isn’t predictable.

It reminds me that I can’t win. I can’t please everyone.

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I don’t know why the bad reviews are the ones I remember over the good ones. But I suspect it’s because the little girl inside of me; that one that aims to please, is rising up and waving her fist.

But I also think it’s because I’ve never been that kind of reviewer. I’ve been an avid reader all my life. I used to have a blog where I reviewed the books I read. And I used it as a way to spread the word about books I loved. I never once wrote a scathing review of a book I hated.

The books I didn’t like, I simply didn’t share about.

And when I became an author I sort of thought every reader was like me. Boy was I surprised the first time I got a mean review. And, let me tell you, my first bad review was a mean one. The reviewer not only tore apart my book but she tore apart me as an author. Literally. Like she said mean things about me. I was floored. I didn’t know people did that, and I didn’t understand why someone would do that. If you love to read, don’t you love authors? Don’t you get that writing is subjective? That what you hate someone else might love?

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But I had to move past it. To get thick skin. To realize that readers are entitled to their opinions, even if they’re mean. Now when I see a mean review, I turn the other way and remember that I can’t please everyone. That one bad review doesn’t make me a bad author. That for every bad review there are dozens of good ones. 

This takes practice.

And I still will never understand someone’s need to tear down my books or me as an author. But it’s part of the deal, and I get that now. So I’m working on this. In truth, I mostly just don’t read my reviews much anymore. If I do, I try to stick to the five-star ones.

Years ago, I did the love languages study. I did it once with my husband and once with my kids. In it, I learned that my love language is “words of affirmation,” so it makes sense that reviews hold weight with me.

Words matter.

If you take anything from this post, it’s this: Don’t only share about the things you don’t like. Share about the things you love. Don’t only tell people when  you’re upset. Tell people when you’re happy. I feel like there is so much negativity in our world. Let’s spread joy.

And when it comes to the books you read, review the ones you like. Share with others when you read a book you love. Let the author know what it meant to you, and leave an awesome, glowing review. We need them. We cherish them. We hold them close.

I’m not saying you can’t review the ones you don’t like, but I would challenge you to think of the author as a real person when you do write the review. I’ve had negative reviews that were well-thought out and helpful, and I’ve actually made some changes in my writing because of them. So you don’t have to be mean. You can give constructive criticism. Don’t be a reviewer that tears a book or author down. Be a helpful, kind reviewer.

Words hold weight. They have power.

Let’s be wise in how we use them.

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He called me his summer girl

Usually the book idea comes first and then the cover is birthed out of that idea. But not with UNTIL THE SUN BURNS OUT. The idea for this story came to me after seeing a premade cover designed by the incredibly talented Alivia Anders. I loved this cover so much I paused, staring at it and wishing I had a book for it. As I looked at the four photographs, three of the couple and one of a drawing in the sand, it hit me. I was flooded with the story of Mina and Austin. Also, fun fact: You might have noticed that the couple on this cover is the same one I have on THE SUMMER WE FELL.

I’m so excited about this release. I’ve been dying to share this story with you for months! Pick up your copy today. Exclusive at Amazon currently. The paperback should release in a couple of weeks. Kinde copy is only $2.99 or FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

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We spent three perfect summers together.
He called me his summer girl, and said that was all I could ever be.
But that didn’t stop me from wanting so much more.

Click HERE to purchase from Amazon!

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