A Modern Little House on the Prairie #Thursday Book Feature

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home By Now: Why We Traded the Commuting Life for a Little House on the Prairie

by Christopher Ingraham

Copyright 2020

 

What Amazon Says

 

The hilarious, charming, and candid story of writer Christopher Ingraham’s decision to uproot his life and move his family to Red Lake Falls, Minnesota, population 1,400—the community he made famous as “the worst place to live in America” in a story he wrote for the Washington Post.

Like so many young American couples, Chris Ingraham and his wife Briana were having a difficult time making ends meet as they tried to raise their twin boys in the East Coast suburbs.  One day, Chris – in his role as a “data guy” reporter at the Washington Post – stumbled on a study that would change his life. It was a ranking of America’s 3,000+ counties from ugliest to most scenic. He quickly scrolled to the bottom of the list and gleefully wrote the words “The absolute worst place to live in America is (drumroll please) … Red Lake County, Minn.” The story went viral, to put it mildly.

Among the reactions were many from residents of Red Lake County. While they were unflappably polite – it’s not called “Minnesota Nice” for nothing – they challenged him to look beyond the spreadsheet and actually visit their community. Ingraham, with slight trepidation, accepted. Impressed by the locals’ warmth, humor and hospitality – and ever more aware of his financial situation and torturous commute – Chris and Briana eventually decided to relocate to the town he’d just dragged through the dirt on the Internet.

If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now is the story of making a decision that turns all your preconceptions – good and bad — on their heads. In Red Lake County, Ingraham experiences the intensity and power of small-town gossip, struggles to find a decent cup of coffee, suffers through winters with temperatures dropping to forty below zero, and unearths some truths about small-town life that the coastal media usually miss. It’s a wry and charming tale – with data! –of what happened to one family brave enough to move waaaay beyond its comfort zone.

 

My Thoughts

 

When I read an excerpt from this book in the June issue of Reader’s Digest, I was intrigued. It’s one example of what can happen when a reporter doesn’t check things out thoroughly. Luckily for Christopher Ingraham, this turned out better than anyone could have expected.

I’ve always enjoyed stories that take place in Minnesota, including the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon vignettes. This book didn’t disappoint me. The author’s accounts of deer hunting and ice fishing fascinated me, although I doubt I’ll ever engage in such activities. Having once spent six months in Fargo, North Dakota, located on the border with Minnesota, I could empathize with the family’s struggles during the winter. This is a great book to read on a hot summer day.

***

By the way, from now through July 31st, you can download My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress absolutely free from Smashwords as part of its annual summer/winter sale. Click here to visit my Smashwords author page.

Also, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. Thank you for reading.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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What’s Cooking? #Tuesday Tidbit

I was never much of a cook. But after I married Bill, I had to learn. Originally, we agreed he would do the coking, and I would help with clean-up. But three months after we were married, he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side, and he was never able to cook again. The following excerpt from My Ideal Partner details my ill-fated attempt at preparing oatmeal under Bill’s guidance.

***

Following his instructions, I poured a generous amount of oatmeal into a saucepan and added enough milk to cover it. “How long do I cook it?” I asked after I placed the pan on the stove and turned the heat to medium.

“I don’t know. Till it’s done.”

When Bill did the cooking, he had a sixth sense that told him when food was cooked, I thought as I stirred the pan’s contents. A few minutes later, when it seemed to be done, he said, “Ooh, I gotta pee. Oh, it’s too late. I wet my pants.”

With a sigh of resignation, I turned off the stove and took Bill into the bathroom. It took another fifteen minutes to remove his soiled jeans and underwear and replace them with clean ones. After I settled him back at the kitchen table and returned to the stove, I discovered that the oatmeal had congealed to the consistency of cement.

I added more milk, turned on the heat, stirred vigorously, and served it up a few minutes later. It didn’t taste very good, even with added sugar, but we were too hungry to care. We ate in silence. Finally, I said, “Honey, maybe you should have married a woman who can cook.”

“Come here, woman.” This was what he said when he wanted to hold me, and I wasn’t within reach. I got up and walked around to his right side, and after we embraced, he said, “You’ll learn, sweetie. I love you.”

***

This inspired a scene from The Red Dress in which my main character Eve’s attempt at making oatmeal has similar results.

***

She poured two and a half cups of oatmeal into a saucepan, covered it with four and a half cups of  milk, and turned on the stove burner to medium heat. As she was stirring the mixture, her cell rang.

The caller was Charlene. Oh, great, Eve thought, but she couldn’t send her to voicemail. Charlene  didn’t always have the strength to talk. Thinking she could let the mixture simmer for a few  minutes without stirring it while they chatted, she answered the call.

“Hi, did I get you at a bad time?” asked Charlene in her usual raspy voice.

“Not really. I’m making oatmeal.”

“Oh, God, remember the stuff they served at CU that passed for oatmeal?”

Eve laughed. “The problem there was that they made it with water. I make it with milk, the way my  mother did.”

“Oh, yeah. My mom did it that way, too. You have to keep stirring it, though. Otherwise, it’ll turn  into cement.”

“I know, but I wasn’t sure when you’d be strong enough to talk again.”

“I hear you. It seems that lately, the times when I’m strong are getting few and far between. By  the way, Brenda and I are getting excited about seeing you and Ashley. My husband, Jon, is also  anxious to meet you. There’s plenty of room, so if you all wanted to stay here, you could. And we  have a swimming pool.”

Eve chuckled. “Greg and the kids just might take you up on that. Of course, Greg will want to see  his family. They’re in Pasadena.”

“Oh, yeah. That’s not far from Valley Village, where we live.”

They chatted a while longer. As Eve was putting her phone away, the kids trooped into the kitchen.

“Ugh! What’s that you’re making?” Julie said, pointing to the congealed mixture on the stove.

Eve sighed. “It’s oatmeal. I’m sorry. I got tied up on the phone.”

“With Charlene?” asked Ashley as Eve poured more milk into the saucepan and stirred.

“Yes, Charlene. They want all of us to stay with them when we go there next week. They have a  swimming pool.”

“Cool!” said Thomas.

“Maybe we should have leftover meatloaf for breakfast,” said Julie. “Dad says it’s pretty good.”

“It is good,” said Ashley, “but not for breakfast. Yuck!”

“Ashley’s right,” said Eve, continuing to stir the mixture. “It’s getting better, now, so all is  not lost. Ashley, get me the cinnamon out of the cupboard above the microwave, will you?”

***

Who is Charlene? Why is she not always strong enough to talk on the phone, and why is she inviting Eve’s family to California? Read The Red Dress and find out.

By the way, from July 1st through 31st, you can download My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress absolutely free from Smashwords as part of its annual summer/winter sale. Click here to visit my Smashwords author page.

Also, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, The Red Dress is available for download from their site here. Thank you for reading.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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A Conversation with Yours Truly

Today, instead of a book review, I’m pleased to bring you my interview with Patty Fletcher, owner and operator of TELL-IT-TO-THE-WORLD Marketing. She has recently started a podcast where she interviews her clients about their work. Last week, I sat down with her and told her all about my books and other aspects of my life. Enjoy!

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, my latest book, The Red Dress, is available for download from their site here. Thank you for reading.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

 

My Kind of Character #Open Book Blog Hop

This week, blogger Stevie Turner asks us writers what types of characters we like to read and create. I prefer characters who are down to earth and easy to understand. I also try to develop my characters as the book progresses.

Take, for example, Eve, the main character in my latest, The Red Dress. She’s a best-selling author with a husband and three kids. As the book opens, she’s spending more time with her writing and not always paying attention to her family. Laundry often falls by the wayside, and most of the meals she prepares are ready-made.

As the book progresses, Eve is forced to face her past after receiving a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and meeting her former best friend from high school by chance. She then realizes that her family is just as important as her work and that she needs to create more of a balance. In the following excerpt, she explains to her old friend how she is evolving.

***

“What’s this? Miss Independence let you make her lunch!” said Adele with a smirk after the teens  had departed.

Eve laughed. “I beat her to it. Greg and I got up and went for a run together, something we hadn’t  done in what seems like a long time. When we got back, while Greg was frying eggs, I made the  sandwiches and put them in the fridge so they’d be all ready to go. I half expected Julie to be  mad, but she surprised me by giving me a hug and thanking me.”

“That’s great.”

“I’m planning to make Jan’s meatloaf recipe tonight. Everyone loved it when I made it before. Jan  gave me a couple of other recipes I’m going to try.”

“You’re becoming quite the chef, aren’t you?”

Eve sighed. “Lately, I’ve been too busy writing and marketing my books, and I haven’t been paying a  lot of attention to my family. That’s about to change.”

“You just finished a book. Won’t that be a problem when you start your next one?”

“Not if I don’t make it one,” said Eve. “I just need to establish some priorities. My agent and  publisher aren’t too demanding. As long as I can produce a book a year, they’re happy.”

***

So, where does this conversation take place? Who are the departing teens, and where are they going? Is Adelle the former best friend from high school, and what ruined their friendship? Why would Julie be mad at her mother for making her a peanut butter sandwich? Who’s Jan? Read The Red Dress and find out.

By the way, for those of you who use the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled, my latest book, The Red Dress, is available for download from their site here. Thank you for reading.

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

My Books

My Amazon Author Page

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

 

A Heartfelt Review #Thursday Book Feature

Today, instead of reviewing someone else’s book, I’m presenting a review of my latest, The Red Dress, by someone else. My friend Ann Parsons is the author of The Demmies, a book I reviewed here when it came out a few years ago. Now, here’s Ann’s review of The Red Dress.

***

It is with extreme pleasure that I am reviewing The Red Dress by Abbie Johnson Taylor! This book is classified as  “Human Relations” by NLS. (National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled) It is the story of a woman, her family and a red dress. The character development is stellar! The plot is intriguing, and the writing is Abbie’s usual simple and straight forward story telling.

I am truly delighted to report that this book is now available through NLS on BARD. (Braille and Audio Reading Download) As you might have guessed, this book is one that is close to my heart because I know Abbie. She belongs to my writing group. I watched this book come into being, and it was a wonderful process! I, and my fellow group members, were able to see writing as it is made, from inspiration through perspiration to the final product. It is my joy to recommend this book to you all, not only because it is an excellent read, but because it is the brain child of a good friend of mine. I hope you will all enjoy reading this book.

It is thought provoking because it explores the human character. How and why do we react in the ways that we do to events in our lives? What motivates us toward forgiveness and redemption? And finally, what makes a darned good read?

Now, if I were a sighted reviewer, I would probably go on for paragraphs about how marvelous it is that Abbie has written a book since she “had to overcome blindness”, blah, blah, blah. I’m not going to be so ignorant and disrespectful! I am merely going to say that Abbie is following in the footsteps of a million bards who are and were blind. She can write and write well, not in spite of her disability, but because she’s a good writer! I only mention this because if you find reviews of her previous work, you may find some who miss the whole point, concentrating on the author’s physical characteristics rather than on the writing itself. Don’t do that! Read this book because it is well written, not because the author has a visual impairment.

Congratulations to Abbie Johnson Taylor for getting her book onto BARD! Just in case anyone wants to read this in Braille, it is available from Bookshare as well.  If you should decide you actually want to buy the thing, go to: https://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com/ Isn’t it great to be able to support one of our own?

Ann P.

***

Thanks to Ann for  such a glowing review. As always, thank you for reading.

 

New! The Red Dress

Copyright July 2019 by DLD Books

Front cover contains: young, dark-haired woman in red dress holding flowers

When Eve went to her high school senior prom, she wore a red dress that her mother had made for her. That night, after dancing with the boy of her dreams, she caught him in the act with her best friend. Months later, Eve, a freshman in college, is bullied into giving the dress to her roommate. After her mother finds out, their relationship is never the same again.

Twenty-five years later, Eve, a bestselling author, is happily married with three children. Although her mother suffers from dementia, she still remembers, and Eve still harbors the guilt for giving the dress away. When she receives a Facebook friend request from her old college roommate and an invitation to her twenty-five-year high school class reunion, then meets her former best friend by chance, she must confront the past in order to face the future.

***

My Books

My Amazon Author Page

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.