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.

Drowning….

When the year started I had all these grandiose plans for 2015. I was going to keep up with my blog by posting weekly. All the while keeping up with my release schedule, marketing and promotion and working on my secret project on the side. It’s three months in and I realize that I’ve already failed at all of the above. You would think I would know better than to plan for my life by now.

I’ve always been a planner. Back in Junior High I used to make lists for myself during the summer months that detailed out my entire day from eating my breakfast to showering to watching my favorite television shows. I would then check off every item as I completed it throughout the day. There has always been something so satisfying about checking things off a list, about completing tasks and reaching goals. And throughout my life, I’ve been good at these things.

But not the last few years. Sure on the surface it seems that I still am. And if you go by my release schedule and the fact that I release a book almost every other month like clock work it would certainly appear so. But inside I feel like I’m always one step behind. Like I’m clawing my way back to where I want to be. Like I’m drowning in a sea of overdue manuscripts and failed expectations.

And I know the culprit is my health.

I shared a health update a few months ago and it was all positive and cheery and hopeful. The truth about having a chronic illness is that there are days, weeks, and sometimes even months that seem hopeful. But then there are days, weeks and sometimes months where hope is hard to find. I’m in one such period right now. I had a flare up of pain and stomach issues about a month ago and this flare up doesn’t seem to want to let up. Oh sure, it’s given me the occasional day here and there. In fact, I had almost a whole week that seemed promising, but then the flare up returned with a vengeance. And I’m struggling. Struggling to keep up, struggling to manage my family, struggling to be the wife and mom I want to be, struggling to be happy, struggling to make my goals, struggling to finish my latest story. Which is beyond frustrating because I love Holden and Chloe. I love writing about them. Both of them are awesome characters and they are speaking so loudly. If I was healthy I could finish this book in a matter of days. I could sit at this computer and let the words pour out of me, flowing without any effort at all. It’s seriously that kind of story. One I adore. But sitting and typing all day is difficult for me right now. So I have to take it minute by minute. And that’s hard.

I share this because I always want to be transparent with you. But mostly because I felt like maybe some of you needed to hear this. Maybe you’re in a season that is tough. Maybe you feel like no one understands. I do. Really, I do. I know how hard it is to live with pain and uncertainty. To live with anxiety and doubt. I know what it feels like when no one can offer definitive answers or a cure.

But I also know that there is hope. There is grace. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. And that is the truth I cling to when I feel dark and sad and hopeless, like today.

There is a song I’ve been in love with lately and some of the lyrics go like this:

Comforter You are to me
Shelter from the cold
Constant how You carry me
Never letting go
You are with me

Your voice holds me together
When I feel like I’m falling apart
I place my world in Your hands
You come and steady my heart

I feel you in the stillness
I know that You are good
I feel you in the stillness
I know that You are good

(Nearness – Jenn Johnson from the We Will Not Be Shaken album by Bethel Music)

I cling to the truth in this song. And in the moments when I feel Him near, I know that He is good. I know that there is hope. I know that I will be all right.

And I know you will be too.

 

FOR THE GAME released!

Read the conclusion to London and Cooper’s story today! Also, in the back of the book is a sneak peek of the cover for FOR THE RUSH (PLAYING FOR KEEPS #3)!

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London Miller is a survivor. She’s suffered through more than her share of heartache and struggles, but with Cooper in her life, she feels strong enough to overcome anything. Even with him away at college, she knows he is in her heart – and her life – for the long haul.

Cooper Montgomery is a winner. Losing has never been an option for him. Not in baseball, not in school, not in life. He’s worked hard to gain a spot on the Fallbrook Falcon’s baseball team and it should be the best time of his life. He’s living his dream and now that he has London, his life finally feels complete.

When unexpected obstacles arise, both London and Cooper are faced with new challenges that threaten to tear them apart. They’ve fought so hard to be together. Can London survive what fate throws her way? And can Cooper win when there is more at stake than just the game?

To purchase or borrow FOR THE GAME click here!

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby…

When I was in junior high there was a band called Color Me Badd and they had a popular song called, “I Wanna Sex You Up.” I got the CD from a friend for my birthday and my parents told me I could listen to every song on the CD except that one. But that was the song I wanted to listen to. It was that song that made Color Me Badd famous. So I used to pop that CD into my discman (yes, I’m old) and listen to that song with my headphones on. When my parents would enter the room or ask what I was listening to, I would quickly switch the song. Oh, yes, I thought I was so clever. Now that I’m the mom of teenagers, I’m pretty sure they knew what was happening all along. Times may have changed, but one thing remains the same: Sex sells. It’s everywhere – in music, movies, television. We can’t get away from it. And it seems that our children are being exposed to it at younger and younger ages every year.

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Let me make one thing clear: I’m no prude. I’ve been married for sixteen years, and I have no issue with sex. In fact, sex isn’t really what this post is about. It’s more about the lines we’ve crossed, the boundaries we’ve erased, and the ways we’re hurting our society, and most of all, our children.

When I first started writing teen fiction, the genre that was big was paranormal romance. It most likely started with books like Twilight and then sort of branched out. Vampires were once big, but by the time I joined the scene it seemed like it had shifted to werewolves, fallen angels, faeries, mythical creatures. So I put out a series of christian thrillers with supernatural elements. Then I started working on a mainstream paranormal romance centering around a group of ten warriors with superpowers. By the time I released the first book, DAZZLE, I started noticing a new genre emerging. It was called New Adult. When I found out this genre was written for college-aged readers, I was ecstatic. I had been waiting for a genre like that to emerge ever since I’d written ENGRAVED.

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ENGRAVED was one of those books that never seemed to fit anywhere. When I published it I had no idea how to categorize it. The main character, Amy, was in her twenties in the book, but the novel vacillates between the past and present. And in her past chapters she’s in high school. Because of this, I contemplated selling it as a young adult novel, but in the end decided against it since the issues in the book were a little too adult for YA. Still, I felt the novel would be best suited to readers between 19-26, but had no idea how to target the college-aged audience. Now it seemed I had my answer. Excitedly, I ran out and one-clicked all over the place, filling my kindle with NA books. Then I started reading them.

And my face turned bright red, my insides churned and I felt in dire need of a shower.

Again, I’m no prude. I’ve had sex. I know how it works. Nothing in those books was new to me or shocking in any way. What was shocking was the graphic nature in which the sex scenes were depicted. And the sheer number of sex scenes. But the thing that bothered me the most was the message portrayed in these books.

The guys were egotistical, controlling, sex-crazed jerks. And they practically demanded sex from these girls. Not only that but it seemed that’s all they wanted from these girls. The relationship seemed fueled by sex, not emotion, not romance, not true love. The heroes in these books equated love to sex.

The message was clear. Sex = love.

Sex is expected.

Sex is how you get the guy.

And I took issue with that.

I will note that some of the NA books I read were tame and only had one or two scenes.If sex is a natural progression of the relationship I can understand that. If the couple is truly in love and their love is based on emotions, and sex is used as a means of communicating that love, I’m okay with that. Those aren’t the books I’m talking about here.

As I read these books all I could think about was that this was not the message I wanted my daughter getting.

We all know that men are visual, but women are emotional. We like to live in our imaginations. It’s all about the fantasy for us. That’s why the written word holds so much power. Is this really the message we want to give to our girls? Is this the fantasy we want to hand them?

Not me. I want my daughter to fantasize about a guy who knows her body is sacred and lovely and hers to give when she wants to. I want her to fantasize about a guy who falls in love with her heart and allows her to dictate when he can touch her body. And I want my daughter to fantasize about the good guy, not the bad boy. Because I know from experience that the bad boy will only break her heart.

Lately I’ve been hearing about an even more disturbing trend. The fantasy-rape books. When I first heard this I thought I must be mistaken. But no, it’s a real thing. And they sell well. Books about men kidnapping and torturing women are being sold as…get this…romances. This honestly sickens me.

Do you know how long and hard women have fought against oppression? And now we’re going to write romance books about women falling for men who oppress them?  And that’s okay?

No.

It’s not okay. It’s a crime. It’s disgusting. It’s really happening all over the world.

And it’s not romantic.

I’ve heard all the arguments about how this is all just fiction. But like I said before, words have power. Entertainment has power. For years, violent video games and violent movies have been blamed for violent crimes in real life.

Life imitates art.

Is this what we want our sons and daughters to imitate? Are we proud of what we’re creating?

I read romances because I love the rush of falling in love. I love getting swept up in the emotions and feels. I enjoy reading books about true and honest love – love that heals hearts and conquers all. That’s what romance novels should be about.

Can we get back to that?