Exciting News!

On January 5th, just a few short months ago, I wrote a blog post with my one-word theme for this year. The word was fulfillment. If you read that post, forgive me for the overview. But in a nutshell, I’d shared about the struggles I’d experienced in my writing career over the past two years. I turned 41 in December and I was disappointed in where I was in my career. My book sales had taken a nose dive a couple of years ago and they weren’t showing any signs of shooting back up. I shared in that blog post how I truly believed things would get better on 2019 for my career. I had no idea back then how true those words were and how quickly it would happen.

In 2018, I wrote a psychological thriller. One that had been rattling around inside of my head for a long time. It was dark and creepy in the best way and I was so proud of it. I decided that with this book I wouldn’t self-publish, but instead try to land a Big 5 publisher.

So on January 22, 2019, I started querying agents with the project. In my fifteen years of writing, I’ve queried agents and publishers so many times I honestly didn’t have high expectations. I had a list of 100 of the top agents/agencies in NY and I planned to work my way down the list and then start a new one if need be. I told myself I was in it for the long haul, even if it took years. That’s how much I believed in this book.

By mid- February, I had an agent (What?!!) And not just any agent – an incredible agent at my dream agency. I queried 49 agents, and ended up with 5 offers of representation. It was all very surreal. Almost too good to be true. I pinched myself a lot.

My agent began pitching publishers toward the end of March after we edited the manuscript and got it in tip-top shape.

On April 4th the book went to auction in the US. That night I chose my amazing editor, who I get to work with at least 2 books on! (Again, what??!!) One to release Spring 2020, the next one Spring 2021. I’m over the moon excited!

Here is the announcement from Publisher’s Marketplace!

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If you had told me back in January that in just 3 short months I’d be here, I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s all been a whirlwind. But even though it’s moved so fast – querying in January to signing with an agent in February to taking a deal in April – my career actually had a very slow start.

I wrote my first book fifteen years ago. Back then the chick lit genre was huge. Women’s fiction sections of bookstores were filled with pastel colored books, humorous stories about quirky women. My first three books were chick lit. The first one garnered a lot of attention from editors and agents, but in the end chick lit tanked and so did my dreams of publishing one of those books.

So I shelved them and spent the next few years trying to figure out my niche. I took writing classes and workshops, got involved in online writer’s forums, went to critique groups, entered contests, read books on the craft of writing, read A LOT.

Then in 2011, I wrote my first young adult series. At that point lots of my friends were self publishing and doing well with it. So in 2012, I followed suit. Within a year, I’d made enough to quit my job and write full time. I did very well with my YA romances for the next few years. But then the market shifted and my income started to go up and down in a way that I could no longer count on. So in 2017, I went back to work. I kept trying to make my writing happen, though, but felt increasingly disheartened.

Until now!

So, while this has all moved fast, it’s actually been fifteen years in the making. Richard Bach said, “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”

I went back and forth on whether to even blog about this, but in the end I decided everyone likes a motivational story, right? I know that over the past 15 years I’ve devoured every blog post and article I could read about somebody making it. Sometimes when we are in the thick of it with rejection, it’s the inspirational stories that keep us going. If that’s you, I pray my story keeps you going!

Pursue your dreams. Whatever they are. It won’t come easy. In fact, it will probably be really hard most of the time. But in the end, I promise it will be worth it.

I’ll end with the lyrics to a song by one of my favorite bands.

Joseph – Blood and Tears

We’ll say it wasn’t easy
No, it was never easy
And when we look back
They’ll wonder how we got here
Tell them how we got here
It was blood and tears
Blood and tears
Blood and tears
It’s how we got here

 

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My one-word theme for 2019

My new year’s blog posts have varied over the years. Sometimes I’ve listed out my goals or my writing plan. Sometimes I’ve told you an area I need breakthrough. This year I decided to choose a one-word theme for my year.

And that one-word theme is:

fulfillment

 

Last year in my new year’s post, I said that I was hoping for breakthrough in the area of identity. I thought I knew how that would look. I assumed by the end of the year, I’d be all zen, content and self-assured.

But that’s not what happened. In 2018, old passions and dreams resurfaced. I was given opportunities I hadn’t had in years. It should have made me feel renewed. Revived.

It didn’t.

It left me restless. Desperate. Discontent.

I ended 2018 more frustrated than I’ve been in years. Last week, I turned 41. I honestly don’t know how that happened. Yesterday I was 21, dreaming of one day being on Broadway and then when I aged out of that, I’d spend the rest of my life writing bestselling novels. And today I’m 41, wondering what I’ve done with my last twenty years.

It’s not like I’ve been sitting on my ass. I raised two children. I’ve written around 40 novels. I’ve sang professionally. I’ve spoken at schools and churches and women’s groups.  I’ve impacted people’s lives both online, in reader’s groups, at signings and one-on-one. I’ve done a lot locally. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.

But it’s not what I thought I’d do.  It’s not what I’m capable of.

If you’ve followed me a long time, you might think this is all about the downfall of the writing market and how drastically that affected my life. And I do think it contributes to this feeling. The financial hit my family has taken, is rough. Trust me. But honestly, this goes deeper than that.

I sacrificed a lot to raise my children. I put my life on hold. And I don’t regret it. My kids are my hearts. My loves. I’m so proud of them.

But somewhere along the line, I lost me.

I lost years when I could have been pursuing the things I wanted out of life. Now the world is open to me once again. My kids are grown. Living their own lives. And my fear is that it’s too late for me. That I’ll never be all the things I wanted to be. That I’ll never accomplish my lifelong dreams and goals.

The definition of fulfillment is:

  1. the achievement of something desired, promised, or predicted.
    or:
    2. satisfaction or happiness as a result of fully developing one’s abilities or character.

Truth is, I don’t believe my dreams are dead.

It wasn’t a coincidence that the year I ask for breakthrough in the area of identity is the year God reminded me of what I’m good at. I’ve had more opportunities to lead this year. More opportunities to sing. To act. I think these opportunities were reminders.

I’m creative. A leader. Smart. Musical. Artistic. A writer. A lover of people. Compassionate. Kind.

This is who I am. It’s who I was created to be.

I’m also flighty. Unorganized. At times incredibly selfish and self-involved. Overly talkative. A little ditzy. Klutzy. Can’t do math to save my life.

I’m very aware of how not perfect I am. I know what I’m not good at.

But this year, I’m focusing on what I am good at. I’m focusing on fulfillment.

So, here I come 2019. Watch out.

I’m done sitting on the sidelines. Time is moving fast and I’m making up for lost time. This year, I will write more, push myself more, put myself out there. I’ll sing more, lead more, advocate for myself more, prove myself more. I’ll act more, I’ll study more, I’ll  hone my craft.

So…I may not sleep. ha ha!

But I can guarantee next year’s post will sound a whole lot different than this one.

What are you hoping for in the new year? Comment below.

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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.

peaceoutkindlefinal

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.

stack-of-books-vintage-books-book-books

 

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.

 

allthatteaser5

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.