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.

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.

 

 

 

Picking myself up, dusting off and gearing up for 2015

2014 was productive. I released 7 books and 1 novella under my name:

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And 1 chick lit book under my pen name:

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I have been a published author for 3 years this month. My first book PROWL released January 20, 2012.

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As I assess my successes, challenges, disappointments, and highs and lows of the last few years I’m left with these impressions:

1. There is nothing sweeter than hearing from a reader who really “gets it.”

2. There is nothing more disheartening than releasing a book that you love beyond reason, a book that you pour your heart and soul into, and watch it tank.

3. By the same token, it’s amazing when you release a book you’re unsure about and it climbs the charts.

4. Being an author is the best job in the world.

The past three years have been a huge learning experience for me. I went into this business pretty blind. The only thing I knew for sure was that I had to write. Stories were pumping through my veins, characters were filling my mind, plot lines were taking over my thoughts. I had no choice but to listen to the voices in my head, and share their stories with the world. For the most part, I write what I hear, I write what I love and then I publish it.

But 2014 made one thing painfully clear to me. That writing in lots of different genres, while fun, may not be the best decision for me financially. As much as writing is a labor of love, it’s also my job. Therefore, I’ve realized that I need to focus in on one genre this year. Last year I tried my hand at a few different genres. I took some risks artistically, hoping they would pay off. To be honest, I wrote what I think is my best work yet. I wrote books that were difficult, and took a lot out of me. I wrote books with crazy plot twists, books that were darker than my usual sweet romances, books that stretched me as an author and a person. And I don’t regret it. I think it made me better. But it didn’t pay off for me financially. In 2014, I realized that my readers like my sweet romances. It’s what sells. It’s what my readers want. And believe me, I’m not complaining. I’m just stating fact.

Taking this into account, I’ve put together my 2015 business/writing plan. My bestselling book of 2014 was FOR THE WIN. It’s become very clear that sports romance fans are awesome. Therefore, I’m dubbing 2015, the year of sports romances. I plan to release at least 5 more books in the PLAYING FOR KEEPS series. The first one, FOR THE GAME, will be the conclusion of London and Cooper’s story. After that I will begin FOR THE RUSH, a football romance.

I also have a secret project in the works. It’s a story my son and I have been brainstorming for the past 6 months. I’m keeping it to myself for right now, but I’m sure you’ll hear more about it in the future.

Thank you for supporting me. You allow me to keep living this crazy dream and I can’t tell you how grateful I am. Praying that this year is filled with possibilities, crazy characters, fun plot twists and happy endings!

Words can Kill

I should be working on my newest WIP (work in progress) right now, but my mind is struggling to focus. And I know why. It’s because when I dropped my daughter off at school this morning there were cops roaming the campus and a woman holding an anti- bullying poster standing at the entrance of the parking lot.

And these things broke me.

I had a major meltdown as I drove away from my daughter’s school. Not that I didn’t know the meltdown was coming. You see, last week a twelve year old boy who was a friend of my daughter’s committed suicide after enduring years of bullying. My daughter has been devastated. She can’t sleep and she can’t stop thinking about her friend. So I’ve been strong for her. I’ve done my best to answer her questions. Questions no twelve year old should ever have to ask. And my heart has hurt for her.

But this morning my heart began to hurt for him. And now I don’t know how to make it stop. Now I know how my daughter feels. She’s talked a lot about her friend, and she’s described him as happy, fun to be around and kind to everyone. She told me a story about how last year they were in a group together and some boys were teasing another boy in the group. And this friend of my daughter’s stuck up for the boy, telling the bullies to leave him alone. My daughter said he was always like that – sticking up for others, friendly to everyone. I wonder who was sticking up for him.

Bullying is a topic I’m all too familiar with. My decision to write for teens wasn’t one I just stumbled upon. It was a calculated move. One made because my teen years were tough. It was in my teen years that I took a dangerous path, a path that would have ultimately destroyed me if not for God’s unending grace. If not for the fact that he pursued me, loved me unconditionally and saved me time and again. It’s not anyone else’s fault that I made the choices I did. In fact, the only person I can blame for my choices is myself. However, my self-esteem had taken a nose dive in high school. I wasn’t bullied exactly. Not the way I’m sure this boy was bullied. But I was teased starting as young as elementary school. And in high school I had girlfriends whom I trusted and cared for who dumped me with no explanation. They just stopped calling, stopped returning my calls, started ignoring me. It happened multiple times with multiple groups of people. And I was called ugly by a lot of people, sometimes behind my back but often times straight to my face. There was even a boy who told me he’d like me if I wasn’t so fat and if my nose wasn’t so big. From that day forward I hated my body and my nose. I never felt good enough or pretty enough or popular enough.

Fast forward to when my son was in fourth grade and he started being bullied. He would come home from school most days in tears. Kids were bullying him both verbally and physically and it ripped my heart out. I never wanted my child to go through what I had and yet what he was going through seemed worse.

My son has always been the most adorable boy in the world. I know I’m biased, but seriously, when he was little I couldn’t go to the grocery store without someone stopping me to tell me how cute my kid was. And they were right. He has the most amazing coloring with his brown eyes and red hair.

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But the thing that really drew people to my son was the fact that he was an old soul. I have often called him my eighty year old son. He has always spoken like someone much older. Even as a two year old he’d have full-blown conversations with people in the grocery store as if he was an adult. He’s witty and quirky and intellectual. It’s what makes him special. But it’s also what makes him different. And different is what kids pick on. Different is what kids don’t understand. And it’s why he was being bullied so bad. Luckily we were able to fight back and the bullying stopped eventually.

But then my daughter hit third/fourth grade and she started being bullied. People who were supposed to be her friends were calling her ugly and making fun of her clothes and hair. Her bullying I could relate to since it was more close to what I’d gone through. Still it was awful. And it didn’t make sense. My daughter is so beautiful it’s ridiculous that anyone would call her otherwise. e & k

 

But that’s the point, isn’t it? My daughter isn’t ugly – the other child’s behavior is. Just like I wasn’t ugly – my body was and is beautiful and so is my nose. There’s nothing wrong with how I look. There was something wrong with the boy who called me ugly. He was the one with the problem, not me.

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And the kids who teased my son were wrong about him too. They just couldn’t understand his uniqueness. But it’s that uniqueness that will serve him well in life. It will be the reason he soars, the reason he reaches amazing potential.

I write for teens because I want to remind them of how precious they are. I want to give them hope. I want to give them a voice.

CUTS RUN DEEP deals with suicide and the message of acceptance and kindness is very clear. Words can hurt. Words can kill. And for what? At what cost? What is the reason for it? Age can no longer be an excuse for hurting others. Kids are killing themselves. We need to teach our children the importance of words. And it starts with how we talk to one another. As adults we need to show our children how to behave. There is no reason to talk ill of anyone or put anyone else down. We are all different. It’s what makes the world go round. Not everyone is like you, and it’s okay. Let’s learn to embrace each other’s differences, to love ALL others. Wouldn’t it be a beautiful world if we could all do this?

I certainly don’t want the alternative. It pains me to live in a world where sweet little kids are killing themselves. Where people use their words like swords to slice open another person. What is wrong with us? It’s sickening.

I’ll close with the words of a character in CUTS RUN DEEP because it is said better than I could say it:

Do you ever think about where you go when you die? I never used to. I figured that was something I could ponder when I was an eighty year old man pushing around his walker. However, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately.

It’s weird to know you are responsible for someone’s death. I mean, I know I didn’t shove the pills down the guy’s throat, but I might as well have. My words started the chain of events that led to his suicide.

If only I could go back in time and take it back, but life doesn’t work like that. We don’t always get second chances.

It’s true. We don’t always get second chances. So think about that before you speak. Think about that when you talk to your kids. Be kind. Be loving. Be the person you want your kids to be.

Be the change we so desperately need.