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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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Do something that scares you

9780778317869_TS_prd_revI’ll admit, when I came up with the idea for The Ones We Trust—a story with a military bent—I was more than a little nervous about writing it. I didn’t grow up in a military family. I’ve never lived in a military town. The number of soldiers I have as friends can be counted on one hand. What did I know about war stories? And more importantly, could I do one any justice?

A military angle is one I knew would hit home with a lot of readers. Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, cousins, friends or neighbors… pretty much every American family has been touched in some way by war. What if I got it wrong, and offended people along the way?

Because war doesn’t just take place on a battlefield, and our soldiers aren’t the only heroes. What about the parents who send off their sons and daughters, the spouses and siblings and children left waiting at home? They are just as heroic and courageous, their sacrifices different, maybe, but just as great as the men and women fighting on the front lines. Above all, I wanted to be respectful to everyone, not just the soldiers but also the people who love them.

But I wrote the story anyway, and it was scary as hell, but The Ones We Trust is about more than just war. Yes, the story hinges around what, exactly, happened to the soldier on the battlefield, but the real story is about the people left behind. About how they cope and carry on. About how they find hope for the future. That’s what I hope sticks with readers the most–that even after great tragedy, there can be a better tomorrow.

A lesson in perseverance

My second novel, The Ones We Trust, comes out in less than three weeks. Three weeks! I have a million things to do before the launch, and less than three weeks to do them in. You’d think I’d be better prepared, seeing as I wrote the first draft of this book all the way back in 2009.9780778317869_TS_prd_rev

Yes, you read that right. This little baby hasn’t officially been born yet, and already she’s six years old. If she were human, she’d be walking, going to school, and reading at a third-grade level already. She’d have adult teeth! She was also the first novel I ever actually completed.

Here’s a harsh truth about getting published: hardly any writer ever sells their first book. The first one is generally considered a practice novel, the one where you learn as you go and make lots of mistakes along the way, the biggest thinking anyone would ever want to read it besides your mother. You’re supposed to write it, shove it in a box under your bed, and move on to the next one, one where you actually (kinda sorta) know what you’re doing. I was fully prepared to do that, too, except this story wouldn’t leave me alone. It kept whispering to me from under the bed. Fix me, it said. I have a story to tell.

So I rewrote it, and then I rewrote it again and again (and again). I fixed the tone and the voice, matured my main character, Abigail, deepened her backstory to intensify the conflict. I added a subplot and a whole slew of new characters. I killed my darlings and switched genres, multiple times. I lost a lot of sleep and I shed a lot of tears.

In the end, one plotline never changed—the slain soldier’s story. Though we never actually meet him on the page, The Ones We Trust is built around what, exactly, happened to him on the battlefield. His family needs to know in order to move on, and Abigail is determined to help them by uncovering the truth. This plotline was the crux of every single rewrite, a red thread leading the way.

We writers talk a lot about how some stories need to be told. This was one of them. The little story that could. It took me six years and a million wasted words, but when it hits the shelves in three short weeks, all the work will be worth it.

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.

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