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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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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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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To those who think I’m a potty mouth….

Sometimes it’s hard to be a Christian, and the author of secular romances. It can be a challenge to hold true to my values, but also write authentic books for a mainstream audience. I never want my books to be “cheesy” or unrealistic. That’s the reason I address sex in my books. It’s the reason my books have some colorful language. Because a teenage boy isn’t going to say “Darn it” when he screws up a play on the baseball field. And, whether we want to face it or not, teenagers think about sex. If they don’t, it’s not realistic. If they don’t, they’re not relatable, and no one wants to read their story.

I’ve written over twenty young adult romances, and I’m proud of every one of my books. I know some people don’t get how writing romances can be my calling in life,  but it is. I’ve been specifically designed for this job and I love it.

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But, as with anything in life, there is a margin for error. We all make mistakes. And I’m here to confess to a mistake I’ve made and apologize.

If you read my books you enjoy “clean romances.” You’re looking for a good story with a lot of passion, maybe some heat, but not anything more than that. And I’ve held true to that mandate.

However, there is one area that I’ve allowed to slip a bit, and recently I’ve been called on it. That’s the area of bad language. As I’ve said before, I want my books to be authentic, and some of my characters cuss. I’ve written jerks. I’ve written good guys. I’ve written competitive guys. I’ve written bookworms. I’ve written rockstars. The point is that all of my characters are different and they all have their own language. If a bad word is called for, I use it. No excuses.

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For instance, if there is a heated exchange between two ball players, and the guy says, “I’m gonna kick your ass” I’m not going to change that to “I’m gonna kick your butt.” No one would say that in the heat of the moment. Unless, of course, I’ve already written that character to be someone who never cusses. That being said a guy who threatens to beat someone up probably isn’t going to be my goody two-shoes character.

Anyway, my point is that as clean as  my books are there will be some foul language. That won’t ever change. However, it was brought to my attention by several readers that my language has escalated in the last year and a half. I still have never used the F-word, but the amount of other cuss words has multiplied to a level that makes some of my readers uncomfortable.

This bothered me because my books should never make anyone uncomfortable. Not in that way, anyway. Sometimes my subject matter is sensitive, but even so I always promise a “clean” reading experience. And if some of my readers aren’t feeling like my books are “clean” anymore that’s something I have to take seriously.

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So, first off, I’d like to apologize.  I’ve gone through my books with a fine toothed comb and I’ve identified the books in question. What’s weird is that I hadn’t even noticed this shift until it was pointed out. But now that I have noticed it is very obvious. My books went from a handful of bad words per book to a handful every page. I’m not sure how this happened. My only defense is that my characters feel like real people to me, so perhaps the shift happened with a potty-mouthed character and escalated from there. I know that the baseball books have a lot of scenes on the baseball field where guys are razzing each other, so the language became more colorful in those scenes.

Whatever the reason, I am fixing it. So far I’ve gone through and changed FOR THE WIN and FOR THE GAME. I am working my way through the remainder of the books. I am only taking out the unnecessary bad language. There will still be some, just not as much. It will take awhile to get through all the books since I also have to stick to my current release schedule. So I appreciate your patience in this.

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To those that have been offended  by the language in my books, please accept my heartfelt apology. Those who don’t care about the bad words, carry on.

To all of you, happy reading!!

 

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.

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.