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.

I Quit: Giving up on the Self-Publishing Dream

When I wrote my first book in 2007, I had no idea what I would do with it. Mostly I just wanted to see if I could complete a novel. Once it was finished I allowed friends and family to read it and the consensus was the same – I should get it published. So I picked up a copy of the latest Writer’s Market book and started the arduous task of querying agents and publishers. I foolishly believed that they would love my manuscript as much as my friends and family did. I thought it was only a matter of time before my book was published. But after getting the first dozen or so rejection letters, my dream began to dwindle.

Fast forward 5 years and numerous manuscripts later and I had abandoned my dream of being traditionally published. I couldn’t handle the rejections anymore. Also, I had started to hear of authors like Amanda Hocking who had self-published and done well with it.  So I started to research self-publishing. And the more I learned, the more I started to see this as a viable option. I was ready to start my career, and I didn’t want to keep waiting around for publishers and agents to finally tell me I was good enough. I believed I was good enough. I believed that if readers could get a hold of my books that they would do well.

So on January 20, 2012, I published my first book PROWL (PROWL TRILOGY #1).

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The book didn’t make any lists and it didn’t make me a millionaire, but it sold. People were reading it and reviewing it, and it felt amazing. So I published the next two books in the series in quick succession.

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ProwlfAnd sales started to gradually pick up. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to keep me going. So I continued writing. I released an adult suspense novel and then published a young adult paranormal series. At that point I was making enough money that I was able to quit my day job to write full-time. Around that time, the NA genre was picking up so I decided to try my hand at a contemporary romance. Once I started writing contemporary romance I felt that I had found my niche. Not only did my sales sky rocket to places I had only dreamed of, but I enjoyed writing them. My sales continued to grow steadily and honestly it surprised the hell out of me. I was making more money than I ever had before.

But then about a year ago something odd happened. Sales just sort of stagnated. Then they started declining. And the decline wasn’t gradual. It was instant and it was significant.

It seemed weird that my sales would tank since I had more books out, and my fan base had grown. And I couldn’t find an obvious reason. I was still receiving great reviews, so I didn’t think it was a reflection of my work. It was baffling, and frankly kind of scary. Then I started hearing from other indies and they were in the same boat as me. It seemed we were all suffering.

Lately I’ve been hearing about indies who are suffering to the point where they have to go back to work and some are even considering quitting. And it makes me sad. I’ve read a lot of articles where experts in the business predict why this is happening, and some of them make sense. I do think that with all the indie books priced at $0.99, readers are starting to expect that. And so when I release my book at $3.99, most readers don’t want to pay that. The problem is that I can’t afford to pay my bills if my books are all priced at $0.99. And honestly, I don’t feel like $3.99 is very much for a book that I spend months creating, writing and editing. I pay that much for a peppermint mocha that takes 2 minutes to make, and less than an hour to drink. And I don’t feel like it’s a waste of money. I thoroughly enjoy every minute of my mocha.

The point is that there are a lot of reasons why this is happening, and I could sit around and think about all these reasons and let it get me down. Sometimes I do. But the truth is that writing is in my blood. I can’t stop even if I wanted to. The millions of rejection letters didn’t stop me, and declining sales won’t stop me either. Actually, these things tend to spark my competitive side and make me work that much harder.

I wanted to write this blog in honor of all the fabulous indie authors I’ve met in this crazy business. I want you to know that I love you, that I respect you, that I know how hard you work and how difficult this business can be. And I want you to know that I am here to support you. One of my favorite things about this business is you – my fellow indies. It’s such an amazing, supportive, encouraging community.

And I want to thank my die-hard readers. Even in the darkest times you’ve kept me going, and I can’t thank you enough. I know things will pick up, and they may even decline again. But know this – I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here on my computer plugging along. I’ll write as long as the voices in my head keep talking and as long as the readers keep reading.

How I’ve Failed at my Job

The truth is that I’m not very good at my job.

When I decided to publish my first book I had this grandiose idea that I would throw it out into the world and it would miraculously sell while I started work on the next one. You see, what I want to do is play in fictional worlds all day long. I want to crawl inside the pages of my latest manuscript and hide out there. But being an author is so much more than just writing. There are other aspects I hadn’t considered when I first took the plunge into this crazy business.

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I’m a one-man show. Since I don’t have a publisher, I am in charge of every aspect of the writing and publishing process, which includes editing, revising, formatting, cover design, uploading and marketing. Lucky for me, I have a team of people who help me and they are truly invaluable – my PA, my editor, my cover designers, my beta readers – and up until a book is released things go pretty smoothly. It really is the release and beyond that I suck at. I mean, truly suck at. Can I be real with you? I’m horrible at marketing. My creativity seems to be limited to my characters and plot lines. I have absolutely no creativity when it comes to how to market and promote my work. Plus, I’m tired. As an author, I rarely sleep because my characters keep me up all night talking nonstop in my head. (Okay, I’ll move on so you don’t have me admitted to an insane asylum). And I work pretty much round the clock during the day. So by the time I sit down to brainstorm marketing ideas, my mind is blank.

Earlier this year, I discovered a band I love. They’re called The Neighbourhood, and you may have heard their song Sweater Weather before. What I found interesting about them was their unique branding. All of their videos and images are in black and white and have a very distinct feel. Their music all has a certain distinct mood and feel to it as well. Honestly I was impressed with this group of young men and how well they had branded and marketed themselves. It’s clear from listening to their music that they are creative like me, but unlike me they had come up with a game plan long before releasing their first album.

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It sort of made me want to turn back the clock and start over. Before I released my first book I hadn’t thought about who I wanted to be as a writer or what my vision was. In all honesty, I’m not sure I knew at that time. But I do now. I have spent time thinking about who I am, what makes my books unique, and what my vision for the future is. About six months ago I came up with a branding campaign and my tagline was Addicted to Love. I thought it was cute and fun. Problem is that I don’t think it really describes what I’m about. See what I mean about sucking at this part? I can’t even figure out a tagline that works for me. 🙂

Knowing that this isn’t my strong suit, I turned to my fans and asked them what made me different as an author. I got responses like:

In your books I’ve learned to expect the unexpected

Unexplained love

True love

Love that heals

Suspense

Twists I never saw coming

Clean reading experience

You always write good guys. Guys I want my daughter to date

And then I knew it was time to re-brand myself. All of these answers are true. My books are always clean, and the guys are always good, upstanding guys. I actually explained why this is in an earlier blog post called Bike Ride Musings. And I do always have unexpected plot twists in all of my books.

Even though I’d love to hide out with my characters and never have to deal with the business aspect of this job, I know that isn’t possible. It’s also not possible for me to turn back time and start over. So I have to change things up starting today. And today I’m launching a branding campaign. It kicks off with this blog post where I’m revealing my new logo and tagline.  In the near future I will be revealing a series of videos for you to get to know me better and hear from my heart. I’ve already posted the first couple earlier this week to get the ball rolling, but check back in for the rest!

Without further ado, here is my new logo:

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Thanks for indulging me. Now I’m off to my writer’s cave. My characters are calling!

CUTS RUN DEEP released!!!

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CUTS RUN DEEP is live in kindle! If you are interested in the paperback that will be available early next week!

Blurb:

Piper wakes up in the hospital with no recollection of how she got there. Only fragmented memories surface – her boyfriend Jackson on the ground covered in blood, Piper standing over him, her hands slick and red.  Then she is told the awful truth: Jackson was killed the night she was injured, and she is the only witness.

If only she could remember what happened.

Piper searches through her memories, recalling her entire relationship with Jackson in order to piece together what happened. Meanwhile, as Jackson’s family is trying to make sense of the tragedy, they find his journal and begin reading through it to find answers.

As the chilling truth begins to unfold, Piper has to face the darkest secrets of her relationship with Jackson and the part she played in his murder.

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Grab your copy for only $3.99 or FREE with kindle unlimited by clicking this link.

Feed your addiction for less!!

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BREAK FREE is on sale today only (May 15) for $0.99. Tomorrow it will go up to $1.99 and the following day it will be back at $2.99! I don’t anticipate putting it on sale again anytime soon, so don’t miss out on getting your dose of romance for mere pennies.

What people are saying about BREAK FREE:

If you like real stories, if you like romance and if you like it when people rise above life’s challenges I highly recommend this book. Amber Garza has found her niche with Break Free, this is a must read! — Bestselling author Cambria Hebert

A captivating and intense novel, Break Free had me glued to the pages from start to finish. Kyler is unlike any other male lead out there–he’s set apart in all the best ways possible. You won’t be able to get the plot, nor the characters out of your head, even after that final sentence. This book has become one of my top favorites and I look forward to reading it again and again . – Author Megan Squires


Amber Garza breaks out with “Break Free,” an unexpected dark and edgy tale.  Jade and Kyler are so easy to love. The plot is intense with a surprising twist. Truly masterful.- Author Susan Griscom

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Blurb:

Jade Mathews is on the run. Running from an addiction that almost destroyed her, and a man who wants her dead.

Kyler James is a writer, a recluse locked in a prison of his own making.

When Jade and Kyler meet they find solace in one another and start to heal. Until Jade stumbles upon Kyler’s latest manuscript and is shocked to find that it is her story. One he couldn’t know. Jade fears she’s trusted the wrong person once again, and this time it may be her undoing.

Is the past destined to destroy them, or will they finally break free?

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Click here to purchase!!