It’s all perspective, folks! Life as an expat #Expatliving #Travel

I’m feeling preachy today. You have been warned.

expat 1I’m often told – to my great surprise – that “In America, it works like this …” as if I don’t know what it’s like to live in the U.S. Hmmmm… pretty sure I grew up there, went to college and post-grad school there, and served in the U.S. Army. The thing is – the “American” making that statement often doesn’t know what it’s like to live in America either. Hold up! Before you get super angry with me and send me hate mail, let me explain.


The United States of America is not a federation in name only. Nope. It is a true federation where states have rights. Everything from your right to vote to your right to drive to gun carry laws are decided on a state and not federal basis. What I’m trying to say here in a bit of a legal nerdy way (sorry, recovering lawyer here) is that what it is like to live in America depends entirely on WHERE in America you are. If you’ve only lived in big cities, your perspective will be completely different than someone coming from a small town in the Midwest.


expat 4

Not the actual airfield in Ohio, but it’s pretty. 

My husband LOVES to tell the story of meeting some old guy at an airfield in Ohio. Once this man heard my hubby is Dutch, he had to comment on how dirty European cities are compared to the U.S. My husband, being the natural smart-ass that he is, asked him if he’d been in any U.S. cities. He hadn’t.



So, when you move to a foreign country and start comparing it to your own country remember to use some perspective. Are you now living in a small town but lived in a big city in the US? Or is it the other way around? You’ve always lived in New York City but now find yourself in a small town in the province of Limburg in the Netherlands. If so, aren’t you comparing apples to oranges?

expat 3

And don’t forget language barriers. Foreigners often complain about Dutch rudeness, and even I can’t deny they are very, very direct. They also often have a smart-ass type of humor, which can be subtle. When friends relay stories of Dutch rudeness to me, I often have to hide my chuckle. They only understand (some of) the words and not the nuances behind them – which is where the humor is. What they find rude is someone trying to make a joke!

So, before you start complaining about how things in your home country are way better than your adopted one, take a deep breathe and remember to use some perspective.





How to get a #bookblogger to review your novel #WriterWednesday #WritingTips

I am now in the purgatory that exists between finishing your novel and the actual publication date. During this time (which is usually a month but can stretch to nearly two months), I don’t like to start on a new novel project. Instead, I spend the time working on the marketing for the book launch. This includes my favorite thing in the world (NOT!) ~ review requests.

As I’m also a book blogger over on my Readsalot blog, I have a decent idea what makes a book blogger agree to review a novel and what makes a book blogger just delete your request without responding. I’ve tried to encompass my experiences as a book blogger into how I write review requests. Here are some of the highlights:

review requests 2Don’t be boring. If your email is boring, I’m going to assume your novel is as well. Look at my website, my blog, my social media feeds, I’m not a very serious person. Don’t write me a serious email – especially not about a supposedly humorous novel. I am not “Dear Ms. Haggerty”. I’m just plain Dena. I don’t respond well to formal language. Been there, done that.

review requests 1Be personal. You should ALWAYS address a review request to a person. Yes, this takes time. No, you can’t skip it and just say ‘hi!’. I can spend up to fifteen minutes searching a blog and social media to ensure I have the blogger’s first name correct. If I receive a request that is addressed to “D.E.” instead of Dena, I immediately hit delete. If you can’t take a few minutes to figure out my first name (it’s actually in my email address!), I’m not taking a few hours of my time to read your book. End of discussion.

Don’t use a form request. One of the reasons review requests take me so bloody long is that I tailor each request to the reviewer. Sure, I have the blurb and purchase links ready to go and these don’t change per request. But I change my intro paragraph for each review. Everyone likes to feel they are special – this includes book bloggers.

Find a commonality. One of the best ways to make a review request interesting and personal is to find a commonality with the blogger. Read the about page of the blog, study the reviews she’s written. You are bound to find something you have in common. Use that commonality to appeal to the blogger. Does she also hate step-brother romances? Use that!

Don’t send requests via social media. This is the fastest way to ensure you get blocked from an account. Goodreads discourages this practice to the extent that they will temporarily block your account if you send review requests via private message.

review requests 3

I know what you’re thinking. This approach takes WAY TOO MUCH TIME. Yep, it totally does. I spend an average of thirty minutes per review request. Unfortunately, I can’t say I have a ton of reviews for all my novels. I get lazy after spending a few weeks doing twenty or thirty review requests. It’s not the most exciting part of being an indie author, that’s for sure. With each novel, I promise myself I’ll do my review requests. With each novel, I fail. Which means there’s room for improvement.

How about you? What approach do you find works best to convince book bloggers to review your novel?



Memories evoked by All The Light We Cannot See (Or how I embarrass myself yet again) #MondayBlogs #AmReading #History

all the light we canot seeAs predicted, I didn’t manage to finish All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doeer yet. I’ve got a good excuse, though. It was my birthday weekend. Yes, weekend. Because when you reach a certain age, then you get to celebrate all weekend (or not at all, whatever you prefer). I did spend a few hours reading on Friday evening, and I’m absolutely loving this novel. The setting of the Second World War is immensely appealing as I’m a total history nut. In fact, I often make the hubby take me on weekends away to battlefields and museums rather than some romantic destination. (If you look up history geek in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of me smiling and waving.)

Cannot See_1The first chapter of All The Light We Cannot See, in which the allied troops bomb Saint-Malo, reminded me of one such weekend away with the hubby. For my fortieth (yikes!) birthday, we spent a weekend traipsing all over the Somme battlefield. We ended up at the Somme 1916 Museum in Albert. The museum is located in a tunnel dating from the 13th Century.

The tunnel now houses a museum of the Somme battle of 1916. When we visited, we had our dog with us, which meant we ended up taking turns visiting the museum. I would not recommend this. Let me explain. First, you descend 63 steps into the tunnel to start your visit at the museum. So far, so good. Then, you visit 12 different scenes depicting life in the trenches. Totally interesting. So interesting in fact that you start to feel as if you are actually a soldier in the trenches. This is where the problem begins, because the visit ends in a corridor with a light and sound show recreating the atmosphere of a night of bombing.


During the entire visit, you can hear the sound of ‘bombing’ emanating from the final corridor. Whenever the door opens for a visitor to enter the final corridor, lights are flashing. Before I even opened that door, my imagination had transported me back to 1916. And suddenly, there I was, completely alone in a trench with the sound of bombing all around me and lights flashing. I tried to walk through the trench. Really, I did. About half way through, I gave up and just ran to the end. There was no one to see my humiliation. Or at least that’s what I thought. When I ascended to the gift shop I noticed a wall of screens for the workers to monitor the visitors in the museum below. With my face burning, I rushed out of the door and went to find the hubby. And no, I didn’t tell him what was awaiting him at the bottom of the steps.


Next week, I’ll be reviewing All The Light We Cannot See. Really, I promise. I can’t wait to finish! I may have pushed the hubby out of the door this morning as he left for a business trip to Australia.

How writers can engage on Twitter aka the Best memes for writers #authortoolboxhop #writerwednesday #writertips #writerslife

If you spend any amount of time researching how to market your writing or yourself as an author, you’ve undoubtedly read that you should not only BE on social media, but you must ENGAGE on social media. I don’t know about other writers, but I struggle with this. Big. Time. My twitter feed is full of tweets of people shouting, ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ How in the heck am I supposed to engage with that? And then there’s the sheer speed with which the feed refreshes. My eyes glaze over, and that’s it. I’m done.

hashtag-1084519_1920One way I counteract these problems is with hashtags. A few times a day, I’ll go on twitter and search #amwriting, #amreading, #writerslife or some other hashtag related to being a writer or reader. To be honest, though, these hashtags are often abused by writers pushing their novels. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with pushing your novel once in a while, but writers should really adhere to the 80/20 rule in which only 20% of your social media postings are pushing your own work.

Thankfully, I’ve now found a way to interact on twitter, which is fun and seems to work. Yeah! What am I talking about? Memes ~ weekly hashtags or blog share days. These memes are hashtags, which are only used one day of the week and are often trending. If used correctly, the tweets related to these hashtags are interesting and shareable – a great way to connect!

Here is a list of those I’ve found most useful:


#MondayBlogs was started by author Rachel Thomspon as a way for bloggers to share posts and connect with other bloggers. Blogs do not have to be about writing or books – they can be about anything. I often find fun articles to read. For more information and the rules, read this.



#TuesdayBookBlog was started by Rosie Amber. Rosie Amber runs an awesome book review team. They created a hashtag for book posts only. This is a great way to share anything book related, but please do follow the rules.


Learn more here.


#1linewed is the meme which got me started. This meme was started by @RWAKissofDeath and has a HUGE following. It’s also tons of fun. Each week a new theme is presented. Here’s today’s theme:


I also participate in #WFWed and #WriterWednesday. Wednesday a busy writing day!


I just discovered and fell in love with #ThursdayAesthetic. As the name makes clear, this meme is all about aesthetics. Even if you don’t fancy making an aesthetic, you should follow just to see the beautiful graphics writers create about their work. For more information about #ThursdayAesthetic, check out this blog post from creator Jessica James. Your work doesn’t have to be awesome, just look at my first attempt:

Yellow Summer Feel Photo Collage

I’m sure I’ll get better!


I don’t have a Friday meme in which I participate, but for the purpose of this blog, I went on the search and discovered #WFfriday. @LibbyFeltis provides a weekly theme. Here’s last week’s theme:


I’ll definitely be trying this on Friday!

There are tons more memes than those I mentioned above. Check out the @writevent for more ideas. Before deciding to join in a meme, you may want to check that it’s still popular and not being abused.  Also remember – no matter what meme you decide to join, follow the rules. Now, go forth and ENGAGE. You got this!


This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox!

  authortoolbox 5




My review of The Road, the 2007 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction #MondayBlogs #PulitzerPrize #PulitzerPrizeChallenge #AmReading #BookReview

the road 3

I forgot to take a picture of the bookstore, so here’s the bookmark. 

I’m skipping to 2007 today with my Pulitzer Prize Challenge. I have a good excuse for skipping around – really, I do! I totally screwed up when I chose books to take on vacation. I only took one novel from my pile of Pulitzer Prize winners as I assumed I’d only get one read. WRONG! I read Less during one flight and still had two weeks of vacation to go! While exploring an independent bookstore in Franklin, Tennessee, I picked up The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I just had to buy a book to support the bookstore, and this was the only Pulitzer Prize winner I could find that I didn’t own. (The store was not specialized in fiction. I only managed to find The Road as McCarthy is considered a local boy in Tennessee.)




the road 1The Road is another novel I would never have purchased on my own. I don’t enjoy postapocalyptic novels (and not just because I can’t spell or pronounce a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-t-i-c.) But once I got into the story, I couldn’t put the book down. I was filled with questions: What happened to the world? Who are those roving gangs? Is the boy really his son? What happened to his wife? I kept flipping through pages faster and faster, hoping to find the answers.

If you’re looking for a book that wraps everything up in a neat little bow at the end, this is not the book for you. This is a book, which forces you to think. I finished this book on a flight from Dallas to New York two weeks ago, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Unfortunately, these are not happy thoughts – not surprising considering the novel is postapocalyptic.

McCarthy’s style of writing takes some time to get used to. His lack of punctuation – according to McCarthy, semicolons and quotation marks are mere little marks that blot the page – was confusing as all get out. The internal editor in me was going out of her mind while I read this novel. Luckily, at some point she had a complete hissy fight and shut up.

In addition to learning that award-winning authors can write their own grammar rules, I discovered – to my utter surprise – that I would not survive a postapocalyptic world. McCarthy describes in detail how the protagonist finds and prepares ‘food’. Food is in question marks as I’m not sure I could stomach – literally – the things the protagonist ate. If the food choice didn’t do me in, the work involved in finding food, using makeshift tools, and finding fuel would have finished me off. That’s before taking the weather, roving gangs, and all that walking into consideration.

I would have never thought a novel singularly focused on a man and his son walking a road would pull me in. (I assumed I was going to have to force myself to read this novel.) It’s a testament to the talent of McCarthy that I was utterly and completely captivated by The Road. This is a must read and in the running for best novels I’ve read in 2018.

the road 2

I’m now reading All The Light We Cannot See from Anthony Doeer. I promise I will NOT be finished with the novel by next week (It’s my birthday this weekend!), but I do have an adventure related to the novel I will share with you next week.



I learned more about the 80 Years’ War in an art lecture than in history class #History #ExpatLife #ThisIsHolland #DutchGoldenAge #80yearswar

Here’s a secret: Just because someone studied history at university doesn’t mean they know everything about everywhere during every time period. In fact, most of us have specialized in a specific time period or region. For example, I concentrated on Modern History. Specifically, I was obsessed with social history with regard to the rise of the Nazi party and the fall of the Russian Empire. Dutch history, however, was mostly unknown to me when I arrived in the Netherlands.

80 years war 1

Huis Doorn where Kaiser Wilhelm II spent his years in exile.

The only historical information I knew about the Netherlands was that the country: (1) was neutral during the First World War, (2) was the place to which Kaiser Wilhelm II was exiled after the war, and (3) was occupied during the Second World War. (Did you notice the emphasis on Modern History there?)



80 years 4

Vermeer’s most famous painting

Although I was somewhat familiar with Dutch artists (a name like Van Gogh can only be Dutch and who doesn’t know Vermeer?), I wasn’t aware of the depth and influence of Dutch artists on the art world. To be honest, the Dutch Golden Age when Dutch art flourished isn’t my cup of tea. Give me a Van Gogh or Monet any day! Yet somehow, I found myself attending a series of classes on the Dutch Masters.



80 years 2

Philip II of Spain berating Willem the Silent

In a history class a long time ago in another country, I basically learned the Eighty Years’ War happened sometime in the 16th Century when the Dutch were occupied by the Spanish. At least, that’s all I remember. *hides face in shame* Living in the Netherlands, I gathered tidbits of information about the war itself. Such as the independence of the Northern Provinces long before the Southern Provinces.

During my classes on the Dutch Masters, however, I gained more information about the war than I had in any previous history class. For example, Antwerp was devastated during the war, and artists fled to Haarlem, which led to a blossoming of art in Haarlem. (If you ever get a chance, the Frans Hals museum in Haarlem is definitely worth a visit.) Also, fighting was not continuous and mostly only occurred in the summer months.

80 years war 6

Admittedly, some Dutch Masters are impressive.

By far the most interesting historical tidbit I learned was that the Eighty Years’ War and the Dutch Golden Age overlap. What??? How can the golden age – when the Netherlands dominated the seas and the art scene – overlap with a war? My surprise and disbelief were colored by my view of modern warfare – which is utterly devastating and is definitely not limited to a battlefield. The Eighty Years’ War was not a continuous period of eighty years in which war prevailed over the Netherlands. The Northern Provinces were liberated fairly early and could carry out daily life without the threat of invasion or bombs. Also, the fighting in the south was not continuous but seasonal in nature. There was also a 12-year true in which the Dutch Republic achieved de facto recognition. So, yeah, it was possible for a war and the Golden Age to overlap. Now, I know.




How the wrong genre listing can kill your book #WriterWednesday #WritingTips #AmWriting

Most experts will advise you to list your novel under as many genres as possible to ensure your novel is discoverable for as many potential readers as possible. That’s not always the best idea, however, because using the wrong genre listing can seriously hurt your book. A genre listing is not only a method for categorizing books. A genre brings with it certain expectations for its readers. For example, in a sweet romance, the reader will expect there is no swearing and no sex. Sometimes references to sex are considered too shocking for the sweet romance genre. It’s not an exact science, however, which can make choosing a genre for your novel a headache.

wrong genre 2

I recently experienced more than a headache when I put my series, The Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives, on sale and marketed it on FreeBooksy as a cozy mystery. On the upside, the bundle reached #15 overall in free books and #1 in two categories. This caused a celebration from which I took two days to recover.


On the other hand, I received a bunch of very nasty reviews. EEK! Not because the book was poorly written or poorly edited. Nope! Because readers didn’t agree with me that these novels are ‘cozy mysteries’. Readers were, therefore, very upset to read references to sex and slightly naughty jokes. (On a side note: These novels don’t contain explicit sex scenes, but there is some fumbling around and there are definitely jokes of a sexual nature.)

wrong genre 1

I’m not going to write a treatise about what is a clean read or how cozy mystery is defined. I simply couldn’t as I’m still trying to figure it out. I walk a tightrope when writing these mysteries. Do I include swear words? Is ass a swear word when used as a term of anatomy? Etc. Etc. What I am trying to do here is caution you to think long and hard about choosing a genre because choosing the wrong genre can have serious implications for the life of your book. In my case, I received 4 one-star reviews and 2 two-star reviews based almost exclusively on readers finding the novels not cozy mysteries for whatever reason.

Before you run off and change all your genres, please note I also received 8 five-star reviews and 3 four-star reviews. As the pages read continue to climb, I hope (fingers and toes crossed!) to receive more genuine reviews. The entire experience did cause me to take a long, hard look at my current novel (Finders, Not Keepers is out August 20th). I had a few scenes in which the male love interest used naughty language. I also used the word ‘shit’ more than once or twice. In the end, I decided to take out the swear words as I could find good substitutes, which sometimes actually added to the humor of the novel. I’ll continue to chose cozy mystery as a genre on Amazon, but I won’t necessarily market the novel using that category. As always, I’ll let you know how I get on.

How about you? Anyone else have a horror story with regard to genre listings? Let’s discuss.