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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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.

***

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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.

***

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A Most Unusual Experience #Open Book Blog Hop

This week, I decided to participate in Stevie Turner’s Open Book Blog Hop. Her question is this. What’s the most unusual experience you’ve had, and have you incorporated that into your writing?

In 1980, when I was a senior in high school, I was the only girl in my class whose dad accompanied her to her senior prom. Did that embarrass me? Not at all, especially since no other boy in the class asked me.

At the time, I had a crush on a boy. Dad said that if I asked him, and he agreed to go with me, Dad would loan him his car. But I never worked up the courage to ask him.

So, my father, wanting his little girl to experience her senior prom, agreed to take me. It was fun for me but not for poor Dad. He was one of few adults in that gymnasium. To make matters worse, during a ceremony, all the girls had to remove the garters from their ankles and attach them to their dates’ shirt sleeves.

I didn’t exactly incorporate this experience in my writing, but Eve, the main character in my latest book, The Red Dress, had a much worse experience. In the following excerpt, she tells her story to her college roommate.

***

“Mom made that dress for my senior prom. I had a date with Trent Boyer, the cutest boy in school.  He was the captain of the football team, and I loved watching him play.”

“Wow, just like Alex.”

“Yeah. Well, at the prom, we danced to that song, and I felt like I truly loved him, and I thought  he loved me. Afterwards, he said he had to use the restroom. Other boys asked me to dance, and I  got to talking with my friends, and when I looked around the gym later, I couldn’t find him. I  asked my friends if they’d seen him, and they just shook their heads.”

“Oh, gosh.”

“Like I said, I thought he loved me. I didn’t think he’d leave me. I decided to go out to the  parking lot to see if his car was still there. He’d dropped me off at the entrance, so I didn’t  know where he’d parked. It took me a while to find his car, but I did, in a dark corner up against  the fence by the football field. I looked in the window and saw two figures in the back seat.”

“Oh, my God.”

“I thought I was imagining things. I was on the driver’s side, so I opened that door, and of course  the light came on, and there they were, Trent and my best friend, Adele Matthews. Or at least I  thought she was my best friend.”

***

What did Eve do next? Who is Alex, and what dress are they talking about? Read The Red Dress to find out. By the way, for those in the United States, the book is available for download from the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Disabled website.

 

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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The Red Dress #Book Excerpt #Tuesday Tidbit

Prologue

October 1987, Boulder, Colorado

 

“Oh, Eve, don’t tell me you’re going to work on that creative writing assignment now instead of going to the homecoming dance.”

In her dorm room at the University of Colorado, Eve Barry was staring at the blank piece of paper in her typewriter, waiting for her poised fingers to produce something. She sighed and ran her fingers through her long, black hair as she turned to her roommate, Charlene Tucker, who was fresh from the shower, clad only in a black terry-cloth robe, her dark, wet curls plastered to her head.

“I’m really not interested in going to the dance, and this assignment’s due Monday. I went to the game this afternoon.”

“Yeah, wasn’t that awesome? We creamed the Wyoming Cowboys.”

“Wait a minute! You’re from Wyoming.”

“Yeah, but I’m in Colorado, now, and we have something to celebrate. You really should come to the dance. I know you don’t have a date, but I’m sure Alex wouldn’t mind if you came with us.”

“I really should work on this tonight, so I’m not cramming to get it done tomorrow on top of my other assignments, especially since I have writer’s block. With just about everybody at the dance, I shouldn’t have any distractions, and maybe something will come to me.”

Charlene rolled her eyes and moved to her side of the room, where she switched on her bedside radio, tuned to a soft rock station.

“What was the assignment again?” she asked as she removed her bathrobe and began applying lotion.

“I’m supposed to write about a memorable piece of clothing.”

“That’s easy. Write about the dress you wore your first day of kindergarten, when you threw up all over the nun who hit you with a ruler for being late.”

Eve almost laughed. “That’s not my story. You’re the one who went to a parochial school.”

“So? It’s still a story. Your professor will never know the difference.”

Eve sighed again. She wasn’t surprised by her roommate’s attitude. Charlene didn’t understand or appreciate literature the way she did.

Eve watched Charlene finish applying lotion, dry her hair, and put on her undergarments, then rifle through her closet for something to wear. All the while, Charlene prattled on about Alex Smith, the boy who would accompany her to the dance, the captain of the football team-about how handsome he was in his uniform, how he could throw a ball and run. She realized why Charlene was suddenly loyal to the University of Colorado team and felt like throwing up.

Finally, Charlene said, “Ugh! There’s nothing good here. If you’re not gonna go to the dance, could I borrow something from your closet?”

“Sure.”

Eve was anxious for Charlene to leave. She turned back to her desk.

Hangers in her closet scraped against the metal bar as articles of clothing were shoved aside.

“Oh, look at this!” said Charlene.

Eve turned and could only stare at the bright red dress she’d almost forgotten.

Charlene held the garment at arm’s length, admiring the three-quarter-length sleeves, low neckline, and gathered waist. “Oh, my God! This is beautiful! Where did you get it, and why do you keep it way off to one side in your closet?”

Eve then heard on the radio the mellow strains of “Lady in Red,” the song she’d pushed to the back of her mind and hoped never to hear again.

Charlene laid the dress on Eve’s bed and hurried to her side. Kneeling and taking her hand, she said, “Hey, what is it?”

Eve could hold back no longer. With tears streaming down her face, she said, “I wore that dress, and we danced to that song.”

“Oh, God,” said Charlene, leaping to her feet. She hurried to her side of the room and turned off the radio, then returned.

The next thing Eve knew, she was crying on Charlene’s shoulder as her roommate knelt on the floor next to her chair and held her. The incident had occurred several months earlier, but the wound was still fresh. Finally, when no more tears would come, Eve sat up and blew her nose.

“There’s your story,” said Charlene. “But maybe you’d better tell me first.”

Eve found herself blurting it all out.

“Mom made that dress for my senior prom. I had a date with Trent Boyer, the cutest boy in school. He was the captain of the football team, and I loved watching him play.”

“Wow, just like Alex.”

“Yeah. Well, at the prom, we danced to that song, and I felt like I truly loved him, and I thought he loved me. Afterwards, he said he had to use the restroom. Other boys asked me to dance, and I got to talking with my friends, and when I looked around the gym later, I couldn’t find him. I asked my friends if they’d seen him, and they just shook their heads.”

“Oh, gosh.”

“Like I said, I thought he loved me. I didn’t think he’d leave me. I decided to go out to the parking lot to see if his car was still there. He’d dropped me off at the entrance, so I didn’t know where he’d parked. It took me a while to find his car, but I did, in a dark corner up against the fence by the football field. I looked in the window and saw two figures in the back seat.”

“Oh, my God.”

“I thought I was imagining things. I was on the driver’s side, so I opened that door, and of course the light came on, and there they were, Trent and my best friend, Adele Matthews. Or at least I thought she was my best friend.”

Eve paused to fight back more tears, and Charlene asked, “Were they actually having sex, or were they just necking?”

“They were totally naked. Of course they stopped when I opened the door, and they both looked at me like I was from another planet or something. I said a few choice words I’d learned from my dad, then slammed the door and ran back into the building.”

“Good for you.”

“I went to the restroom and cried my eyes out. Fortunately, no one was there. Then I washed my face and put on more makeup so I wouldn’t look as if I’d been crying. I went to the pay phone in the hall near the main office and called home. Mom answered, and she could tell something was wrong, so she came and picked me up.”

“I’ll bet you didn’t want to go back to school after that.”

“I didn’t, but Mom and Dad said it wouldn’t do any good to hide from my problems. I had to face them head on.”

“What did you do when you saw Trent and Adele at school?”

“I didn’t speak to them, and they never spoke to me. Other kids knew, I think, but nobody said anything to me about it. Boy, was I glad a few weeks later, when graduation came.”

“I’ll bet. Have you heard from Adele or Trent since then?”

“No. Adele was planning to come here with me and major in drama, like you, but I heard that Trent got her pregnant, and they ran off to Las Vegas to get married.”

“So why did you bring that dress with you?”

“Mom insisted I take it in case there was something formal here.”

“Like the homecoming dance.”

“I’m not going to the dance. You can borrow the dress if you want.”

“You know, I can see why you put this dress off to one side. It’s only hurting you now. Let me take it off your hands. You don’t need it anymore.”

“But my mother made it. Of course I wanted a store-bought dress, but she wanted to save money and make me one. She worked long days at her job as director of the public library. There were only two weeks left until the prom when I told her I wanted a new dress, so she stayed up nights and scrambled to get it done.”

“Oh, you poor, homesick baby. Now you miss your mommy, who made this beautiful dress for you. Are you gonna cry now? Go ahead, crybaby. Cry.”

Eve was stunned but shouldn’t have been surprised. Her roommate cared little about others’ feelings. Her sympathy and curiosity were only a ploy, and she would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.

“Fine, take the damn dress. I don’t care,” Eve said before turning away in disgust.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Charlene slip the garment over her head. She had to admit it looked good on her.

A few minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Charlene opened it, and a tall young man with dark hair and blue eyes stood on the threshold.

“Hi, Alex,” said Charlene. “I just need to grab my cigarettes, and we can go. Come in and meet my roommate.”

“You’re not coming to the dance?” Alex asked after they were introduced.

“No,” Charlene answered. “Eve’s going to stay here and write the great American novel. Or something like that.”

“Wow,” said Alex with a smirk. “Good luck. I can’t wait to read it. Let’s go, babe.”

After they left, Eve sighed, turned to her typewriter, placed her fingers on the keys, and started writing

***

The above excerpt from The Red Dress appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders, an online publication featuring work by disabled authors like me. If you like what you just read, check out more here. This excerpt can also be read on my website.

By the way, My Ideal Partner and The Red Dress are now available on Smashwords as part of its sale to support those isolated by the coronavirus. This sale will run until the end of May. Please click here to visit my Smashwords author page and download these books. 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.

***

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