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.

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!

Favorite Things of 2014

Usually this post is limited to my favorite books, but I decided to do it differently this year for a variety of reasons. Long before I was a writer, I was an avid reader and I still am. Reading is truly my favorite pastime. I read voraciously, and because of this it’s hard for me to narrow down the hundreds of books I read each year into a tidy little list of ten or twenty. Also, when I started listing my favorite books they weren’t attached to names and faces, lovely people I call friends. But now many of them are, and for this reason it’s hard for me to remain objective. So I figure this year I will share my very favorites in many different categories.

So here it is. My favorite things of 2014

Favorite Book:

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Alice Hoffman is my very favorite author in the world, so it’s no surprise that this is my favorite read of 2014. Her prose is beautiful, her descriptions lyrical and her tone haunting. Her books always leave an impression on me, and I enjoy every moment of them. This book was gorgeous from start to finish. I highly recommend it.

Runner up:

Okay, so in this category I felt that my second pick needed to be mentioned as well. Here is my second favorite book of 2014 –

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I’m not a huge historic fiction reader. And if I do read a historic novel it’s usually royal fiction by Philippa Gregory. But I read this book because a friend of mine urged me to. And I am so glad I did. This book seriously surprised me. The writing was fantastic, the plot interesting and suspenseful, and the characters engaging. I loved everything about this book!

Favorite song:

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Music is my second love and I listen to music constantly while I write. Therefore it was difficult to pick a favorite song. But when I sat down and really thought about it, I knew I had to pick SWEATER WEATHER by The Neighbourhood. I think I actually fell in love with it in 2013, but I’ve listened to it almost nonstop this year. It’s one of those songs that just never gets old to me.

Favorite Band:

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I couldn’t choose so this one is a tie. The Civil Wars have been my favorite for awhile. I love their sound, their uniqueness and their voices. They are perfection in my opinion. But The Neighbourhood swiftly stole my heart this year. Their sound is so different from anything out there, Jesse’s voice is amazing, and the dark quality of their music is so easy to write to.

Favorite Movie:

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This is an easy one for me. I’m not a huge movie-goer but this year I did watch more movies than normal. I think because there were so many books made into movies. But the best movie by far was Gone Girl. I read the book in 2013 and it was one of my favorite reads of the year. It was chilling and dark, and had a plot twist that blew my mind. I had worried that the movie wouldn’t live up to the book, but I felt like it did. The actors portrayed the characters with just the right amount of creepiness. They were perfect. And the plot twist was just as delicious on screen. This movie has haunted me ever since I stepped out of that theater.

Favorite TV Show:

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I don’t watch much TV. In my downtime I would always rather crack open a book then turn on the television. Therefore I usually only have one or two shows I watch religiously. Nashville has been that one show for me for the past couple of years. I love the music, the plot, and the romance of course.

Favorite Wine:

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I love wine. Red wine mostly. Lodi and Paso Robles have been my favorite wine regions for awhile, but Lodi has surpassed Paso for me in the last year or so. And this year my favorite wine is the 2012 Wegat from M2 Winery in Lodi.

Favorite new activity:

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Even though we live in a town that is very bicycle friendly with trails everywhere, I’ve never really gotten into biking. However, this year my family all got bikes and we started riding quite a bit. Now I’m kind of addicted.

Favorite writing moment:

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FOR THE WIN was my bestselling release this year. And I was beyond honored when it hit #1 in numerous categories. Thank you to all the readers who picked up and read this book!

Thanks for indulging me. What were some of your favorites of 2014? Share them in the comments below!

 

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.