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.

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.

 

 

 

A Letter of Apology

The words “I’m sorry” have never been easy for me. According to my parents, it was like pulling teeth to get me to say it as a child. As an adult, it took years before I could easily say it to my husband or children. And I sometimes still struggle with it when it comes to friendships. I’ve never been entirely sure why it’s hard. The only reason I can think is that it’s like admitting defeat, or admitting I’m wrong.  Neither of those things appeal to me.

But it’s important to be able to apologize. I’m very fortunate to have a loving husband who has taught me the blessing in saying I’m sorry. And I feel that I’ve grown considerably in this area.

And on that note, I feel I owe you an apology. My husband reminded me last night that it’s been over a month since I last blogged. So for that I’m sorry. I haven’t meant to ignore you. I’ve just been busy.

The main reason I’ve been busy is because I was furiously writing PLAY HARD. I finally finished it last week, after several weeks of practically tearing my hair out. That book was definitely a labor of love. Most books flow easily for me. The characters usually drag me along at a steady pace. But with PLAY HARD there were many days when I struggled. Many days I pounded each word out at a painstakingly slow pace. And it’s not because I didn’t love the characters, or because I didn’t connect with them. I think it’s because the plot was a little controversial and I spent a lot of time worried that readers wouldn’t like it. Or worse, wouldn’t get it. But in the end,  I believe in the story line. It felt authentic and real to me. And more importantly, I know it was what God wanted me to write. Therefore, I kept it, and I hope you like it.

The other reason I was busy is because I’ve had a ton of personal stuff going on. My son had his wisdom teeth out a couple of weeks ago, my daughter has had some health stuff (nothing serious), and I did something bad to my ankle that slowed me down a little. I’m telling ya, getting old is not the best.

I anticipate the remainder of December to be busy since we have Christmas and then my birthday. But hopefully I’ll be able to dive into PLAY NICE. Also, I have a secret project I’d like to start work on.

And I promise to be more active on here. I’ll check in sometime later in December.

Until then, happy reading!

Amber