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#amwriting but wish #amreading

I’m currently deep in the middle of writing my third book. Like, thirty thousand(ish) words to go and a looming deadline deep. Yoga pants and messy hair and not enough showers deep. Deeeeeep.

All that goes to say, when I sat down to write today’s blog post, I couldn’t even contemplate coming up with another 500 words. Sorry, y’all, but I got nuthin’.

But Women Unplugged is a blog about books, and raving about other people’s books is so much easier than talking about mine, so here are a few I love from brilliant fellow authors.

81L-XdfdbgLJonathan Tropper is an automatic buy for me. I don’t even bother reading the back cover, just point my mouse at the one-click shopping button. He makes me laugh, he makes me cry, he makes me wish he would write faster. I love all his books, but How to Talk to a Widower is my absolute favorite.

51CXyA2LniL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Allison Winn Scotch has such a great voice, and she writes characters I want to be BFFs with. Time of My Life is not her latest, but she smashed it out of the park — and onto the NYT list — with this one.

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A hunky chef, a snarky writer, and a story that sticks with you long after you turn the last page. The First Husband is a charming tale about finding your soul mate, and my favorite of all of Laura Dave’s novels.

51dx30Ray5LBridget Asher has a new one coming out this fall and I can hardly wait. Her last one, Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, is heartbreaking and hilarious, a love story within a love story, and bonus! It’s set in beautiful France.

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I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read this one. Julie Buxbaum writes so beautifully about love and loss and the secrets we hide from our families and ourselves. After You will haunt you long after The End.

If you read any of these, I hope you’ll let me know what you think!

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The honeymoon is over

Okay, so it’s not over, exactly. We still love it here in Amsterdam, are still enjoying every minute. But now that the newness has settled, I find myself thinking more and more often of things about America that I miss. Here are my top five:

5. Garbage disposals. Remember back in the day, when all the food and gunk in the sink would turn to chunky sludge in the drain, and you’d have to actually reach in there and pull everything out with your fingers? Yeah. That’s what I’m dealing with. There are no garbage disposals in the Netherlands; apparently, they jack up the sewage system.

4. Whole Foods. I miss everything about that place. The sushi bar. The salad bar. The burrito and soup and prepared foods bar. Of course I can find the ingredients for all those things here, and there are more restaurants in Amsterdam than there are people, but nothing beats one-stop shopping that’s a) delicious, b) good for you, and c) keeps me out of the kitchen. And before you start wondering, I can actually cook. I just really don’t like to.

3. Grocery baggers. It seems a given, that somebody is actually waiting at the end of that belt, their sole purpose to pack up your groceries for you, but not so here. Here, your groceries fly across the scanner and down the belt to the end, where your bags of gourmet lettuces get squished by milk cartons, your fluffy breads get steamrolled by water bottles, your fresh berries jammed into the wall by cereal boxes. And then, once everything is one giant mess at the end of the belt, you get to pack it all up and lug it home.

2. Walk-in mani and pedi salons. There are a few, but they’re expensive, and they do a crappy job. And by now, I’m Dutch (thus frugal) enough to turn my nose up at their prices. Why pay, when I can do the crappy job myself?

1. The people. My son, all the way over in Denver. My parents and friends. My BFFs and girlfriends and yoga sisters. I miss all of them, most of all.

Going Dutch

IMG_5175How long does it take to feel Dutch? Six weeks, apparently. Because that’s how long we’ve been in Amsterdam, and it feels like we’ve never lived anywhere else.

We fill our house with flowers (oh, the tulips!). We ride bikes everywhere, and I mean everywhere. To school, to the grocery store, to the gym, to the store around the corner. We eat french fries dipped in mayonnaise and sprinkle chocolate on our bread. Calories, who cares? We work them off on the bike or by foot, because believe me, you do not want a car in Amsterdam. Where the heck would you park it?

None of this really came as a surprise. The husband’s Dutch, the kids are Dutch, we did all those things when we lived here before.

But I honestly don’t remember loving it this much. Mostly what I remember is not loving it. Holland is crowded and the weather’s the pits, and like I said, there’s nowhere to park your car. I know, I know, those are silly, frivolous reasons to not love a place, but when you live here, really live here, when this place is your forever-home, those things start to wear on you. And it’s not just the weather, it’s the weather combined with the overcrowding combined with the fact that though this place may be your home, it’s not your home country. After a while, even Amsterdam gets old.

But this time? Not so much. Maybe it’s because it’s temporary, or maybe I’m just older and wiser and not so concerned with the silly, frivolous things I used to be, but this time around, I’m loving every second.

Not in Kansas anymore

So. We’ve been living in Amsterdam for almost three weeks now, and (dare I say it out loud?) the transition has been pretty seamless. My daughter has a new school, new friends, a completely new life. I keep waiting for the dip to hit, for the bottom to fall out and the homesickness to begin, but so far… Nothing.

IMG_5156Part of what helps is that Holland doesn’t feel foreign to any of us. My husband is Dutch, I lived here for twelve years, both kids were born here. We speak the language and know the culture. We have friends and family down the street, around the corner, and a short bike or train ride away. We feel as at home here as we do in the States.

Yet my daughter has always been more American than Dutch. She prefers English. She watches American shows. The American culture fits her to a T. There are other American students at her new school—an international one boasting fifty-four nationalities and dozens of languages—but in an ironic twist, she’s proud to be considered one of the Dutch kids. She goes to school smiling, and she comes home smiling. It’s been a nice…well, not a surprise, exactly, but I never expected it to be this easy.

Is there pixie dust in the water? Is it the calm before the storm? I don’t know. Maybe things will be different by my next post, we’ll see.

But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the peace.

New year, new book

We writers talk a lot about process. Do we plot every scene beforehand, or do we think up our stories on the fly? Do we write for hours or for word count? Do we edit as we go or power through to a first, and often messy, draft? It seems every writer has a different way to get those words onto the page. But the one thing we almost always agree on, is the importance of maintaining a forward momentum.

Well, I say screw forward momentum. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your story is take a break from it.

For all sorts of reasons, I put down the book I’d been working on, book #3, in September. I’d been working on it for most of 2014, and honestly, the story was going nowhere. My conflict was shaky at best, my main character was getting on my nerves, and I couldn’t see the forest through all the words. Too many words. Enough words to fill two books, and I hated most of them. I was ready to toss my story off the cliff and start again with a clean, blank slate.

And then I stepped away from the story, and guess what. When I picked it back up again, I found all those words weren’t half bad, they’re just in the wrong spots. One little twist to my plot and voila! Conflict. And my annoying main character? Inject her with a little humor and she’s not so whiney after all.

Every story is different. I don’t know why I keep expecting the process for writing it to be the same.

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