A Compelling Look at Firefighting and Inner-City Culture #Thursday Book Feature

Beneath the Flames

by Gregory Lee Renz

Copyright 2019

 

Mitch is a farmer and a volunteer firefighter in a rural Wisconsin town. After a devastating fire, he falls into a deep depression, harboring guilt that he didn’t do more to save a child who died in the flames. Then 9/11 happens. After seeing news reports about heroics of firefighters at Ground Zero in New York City, he decides to leave his family’s farm and become a firefighter in Milwaukee.

After a grueling training process and being assigned to an inner-city district, he becomes embroiled in the culture of poverty, drugs, and gang violence. When he’s not fighting fires and socializing with new friends, he tutors inner-city children who come to the fire station every day and helps out at a nearby school. After his father suffers a debilitating stroke, Mitch must decide between continuing to work in Milwaukee or returning to the farm.

As a retired fire captain, Gregory Lee Renz uses his experiences to craft a compelling, yet satisfying story of loss and renewal that shuttles readers from a rural farm to an inner-city firehouse and places in between. From the first page, I was riveted. I usually don’t like violence in books, but throughout this story, I had a feeling things would work out. I like the way the author starts and ends with a fire. Reading this book not only gave me more of a perspective on firefighting, but it also made me grateful that the problems I face on a day-to-day basis are nothing compared to living in an inner-city or on a farm that’s about to be foreclosed.

 

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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Novel Delivers Powerful Messages about Domestic Violence #Thursday Book Feature

The Oysterville Sewing Circle

by Susan Wiggs

Copyright 2019.

 

Caroline is a successful fashion designer living in New York. She discovers that her boss stole one of her designs. Then, a close friend, a model with two children and victim of domestic violence, dies of a drug overdose. With the children, Caroline retreats to her hometown of Oysterville, Washington, where her family runs a restaurant.

There, she forms a support group for victims of domestic violence and starts her own clothing design and manufacturing business. She also becomes re-acquainted with her best friend and re-kindles a relationship with a boy she loved in high school.

This book is a romance, in a way, but its main theme is domestic violence. Its messages are clear and powerful. If you’re a victim, you should never be afraid to speak out. If you’re an abuser, you should get what you deserve. On this, the last day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I can recommend no better work of fiction on the subject than The Oysterville Sewing Circle.

 

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.

An Interview with My Writing Group #The Red Dress Promotion

Explorations in Creative Writing is a group with whom I meet at least once a bweek, mostly for critique purposes. While I was writing The Red Dress, they were supportive and helpful by providing feedback and suggestions, for which I’m eternally grateful. Soon after the book was released, others in the group asked me questions about it and other topics during one of our meetings. Thanks to Jackie McBride at Brighter Vision Technologies, facilitator of this group, for recording the interview and making it available for me to post here and on my website. You can hear it by clicking this link.

 

 

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 Amazon Author Page

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WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

Novel Weaves Compelling Family Drama #Thursday Book Feature

Summer of 69

by Elin Hilderbrand

Copyright 2019

 

This is the story of one family during the summer of 1969. Jesse, thirteen, dreads spending a long, lonely summer on Nantucket with just her mother and grandmother. Her brother Richard is fighting in Vietnam. Her sister Curby, a college student, has a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard, and her other sister Blaire is married and pregnant in Boston.

This story is told from alternating third person points of view of most of the characters and is set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the moon landing. In the author’s note at the end, she explains how this story relates to her own life and events in the news during that time.

Despite this author’s nasty habit of inserting too much narrative in scenes containing dialog between two or more characters, I was drawn into the story right away. I was right there with the characters, walking on a beach or eating in a fancy restaurant. Jesse’s grandmother reminded me of my own grandmother’s eccentricities. I was also reminded of when my younger brother first learned to play tennis.

The narrator in the Audible version is excellent. I like how the last part of the book, which is set at Thanksgiving in 1969, ties up most loose ends. Being a musician, I can appreciate how each section is titled after a song popular during that time. With summer drawing to a close, this is one more book you should read this season, especially since this year is the 50th anniversary of the moon landing.

 

 

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

Facebook

WebsiteImage contains: Abbie, smiling.

I’m in the Paper #The Red Dress Publicity

hImage contains: Abbie, smiling.I was recently interviewed by Allyana Darrow, a reporter for my local newspaper, The Sheridan Press, about my new book, The Red Dress. She’s one of the most awesome journalists with whom I’ve worked. After the initial phone interview, she emailed me the introduction to her article, admitting she hadn’t yet read the book and asking me to check for accuracy. A couple of days later, she called with more questions. She was polite, and I really appreciate her attention to detail and in-depth questioning. Now, here’s a link to her article.

The Sheridan Press August 21st 2019

Don’t forget. I’ll be signing copies of The Red Dress tomorrow from 1-3 p.m. at Sheridan Stationery Books and Gallery, located at 206 North Main Street, Sheridan, Wyoming. If you live here or plan to be in the area, please stop by. I’d love to meet you.

 

New! The Red Dress: A Novel

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 Other Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to purchase My Ideal Partner from Smashwords absolutely free!

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.

 

The Red Dress #Thursday Book Feature

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.Today, instead of a review of another book, I’d like to share a review of my own new book, The Red Dress, written by someone else. Former radio host Bonnie Blose interviewed me this past Sunday night about my writing and the book at a meeting of Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities, of which I’m president. Since Bonnie write such wonderful reviews for a book discussion email list to which I subscribe, I asked her to write a review that I could post here, and she did. Please note this contains spoilers. Enjoy!

Bonnie’s Review

Is there a piece of clothing which brings painful experience flooding back? Does it symbolize the power of love and heartbreak for you?

In her new novel, The Red Dress, Abbie Johnson Taylor creates this moving scenario through just such a dress created for her main character, Eve Barry, for her high school prom.

Who hasn’t dreamed of all the senior prom will be? While it may not turn out as the beginning of a romance that will last for life, it is filled with romantic dreams and expectations long cherished and planned.

For Eve Barry, the prom ends in tears and heartbreak. She discovers her date and best friend in each other’s arms, acquainting her with hurt and heartbreak she will never forget.

Twenty-five years later, Eve has moved on. A successful writer of young adult fiction, she has a happy marriage and is the mother of three. As we all do, Eve receives a notice of the upcoming class reunion, but she has no wish to attend. Her daughters have heard about that red dress. Daughter Julie is looking forward to her own prom and wants to wear it.

In a moment of hurt and anger during her first semester of college, Eve’s roommate borrows it  to attend the homecoming dance Eve has no desire to attend. With one word, the dress is gone.

Life is filled with regrets over things we have done and choices we have made. Objects of significance play an important part in our memories as this red dress certainly does for Eve. Is it possible Charlene still has the dress? Should she try to get it back for her daughter? Will seeing it again bring painful memories  back?
One day, while going through email, Eve receives a friend request on Facebook from Charlene she accepts. Soon, she  discovers Charlene has a daughter  Brenda the same age as her younger daughter Ashley. Brenda and Ashley begin exchanging messages and become fast friends.

Ashley tells her mother something is not right with her new friend Brenda. She never leaves the house, preferring to stay with her mother. When they learn Charlene has a short time to live, Ashley wants desperately to go to California to meet and support her friend.

Eve wants to go but knows she has trouble at home. Her older daughter Julie has just begun a new  relationship with the son of her former best friend Adele who betrayed her on that long ago prom night. Now seventeen, Julie is going through the rebellion and angst so often a part of adolescence. Eager to make her own decisions, she clashes with her mother over everything. Maybe it would be best if they had a little time apart!

Eve is experiencing doubts about her marriage, too. Why is Greg so distant? Will he grow close to Chad’s mother as Julie is doing with Adele’s son Chad? Will she have a similar experience with pain and heartbreak her mother had at the same age? Is it possible some trips should not be taken, or must faith be found in the opportunity to mend fences.

Eve and Ashley go to California to spend time with Charlene and her family.

In the end, we learn  Charlene’s husband and children understand the place they have in her life. It is true. Some people love themselves first and foremost and only. Can you ever be complete or happy if dreams remain  unrealize?  Most of all, is it possible for those dreams to have more importance than love? It is a question many of us might ask ourselves late at night when time for deep and reflective thinking is with us as our only  companion.

Taylor’s novel is emblematic of life. Through growth, we may know ourselves better but learn hard truths and the importance of forgiveness. Wisdom and knowledge of ourselves or others does not guarantee happiness any more than forgiveness will, but it is the first step in living which comes with  nothing promised except the opportunity to do and be our best.

 

Bonnie’s Biography

I grew up in Slatedale, Pennsylvania with two fabulous storytellers. For 15 years, I cohosted Jordan Rich’s book show nights on WBZ. From 2006 to 2013, I was the host of the show Books and Beyond on Acbradio.org.
My memoir, “The Art of Dying,” was a winner in the nonfiction category of the NFB Writers’ Division competition, eventually appearing in Magnets and Ladders. In 2019, I received first place for my story “A Heartfelt Revenge” in the NFB’s Writers Division competition fiction category.
I enjoy reading, listening to music, podcasts, and have lived in Ohio since 1982. I am proud of being owned by my cat almost. My son Kevin lives in a nearby town.

New! The Red Dress: A Novel

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 Other Books

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver
We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.
Like me on Facebook.

Character Interview #The Red Dress

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

My protagonist, Eve Barry Sawyer, is a best-selling author, married with three children, living in Colorado Springs. During one fateful summer, she must come to terms with her past in order to face the future. I sat down with her recently, and we had an interesting chat.

***

Me: Eve, I’m so glad you could take time away from your busy schedule to talk to me. Let’s start at the beginning. Where were you born and raised?

Eve: Well, I grew up in Fowler, but since the little town had no hospital, Dad had to drive Mother twenty-five miles to Pueblo. I was slow in coming, but Dad didn’t realize this. He told me later that he was afraid I’d be born in the car. Mother said that he drove so fast that she thought they would be killed before I could be born.

Me: You have no siblings, right?

Eve: No, Mother and Dad tried a few years after I was born. But she miscarried, and the doctor advised them not to try again.

Me: Your father ran a bookstore, and your mother was a librarian. So, did you develop an interest in books at an early age?

Eve: Oh, yes. Even before I learned to read, my parents took turns reading to me. My earliest memory is of Dad reading from A. A. Milne’s collections of Winnie-the-Pooh stories. Mother read me books like The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I didn’t find that type of book nearly as exciting as animal stories. Later, much to Mother’s consternation, I read The Wizard of Oz and loved it! And of course, I was a Nancy Drew fan, and Mother didn’t like that, either. In my teen years, I read a lot of books by Judy Blume, and that’s how I became interested in writing young adult novels.

Me: It sounds like you were a regular customer at the bookstore and library.

Eve” Yes I was, especially when I was younger and couldn’t be left at home alone after school and on Saturdays. My parents took turns bringing me to work with them. Dad filled an old bathtub with pillows and put it in one corner of the store for children to lie in and read. That was my favorite spot. Of course, homework was a priority. But when that was done, I could lie in the tub and read all I wanted. The children’s section at the library, where Mother worked, wasn’t nearly as appealing. Finally, Mother let me go to the bookstore all the time when I wasn’t in school or with friends.

Me: Were you still a bookworm when you went to your high-school senior prom?

Eve: Yes. In fact, Trent and I were taking a science fiction class that year.

Me: Trent, the boy with whom you went to the prom, right?

Eve: Yes.

Me: Trent was into music, but he must have also liked science fiction.

Eve: He liked Star Wars and Star Trek, but when it came to reading books like Brave New World and 1984, the symbolism and other concepts our teacher wanted us to understand were over his head. Since the class met right before lunch, we usually walked to the cafeteria and ate together afterward, and I explained those things to him. Adelle often met us there, and we formed a threesome.

Me: So, was Adelle there when Trent asked you to go with him to the prom?

Eve: No. She was home with a bad cold that day. In the cafeteria, Trent and I found an empty table in the corner, and he asked me.

Me: Did you know right away you wanted to go with him, or did you have to think about it?

Eve: I liked Trent, despite his lack of understanding or appreciation of literature, and he was great on the football field and played the guitar and sang pretty well. I didn’t think anyone else would ask me, so I said yes right away. Then a few days later, Kent asked me. I felt sorry for him. He was shy back then. I suggested he ask Adelle, but I don’t think he did.

Me: Apparently not, since Adelle didn’t seem to have a date for the prom.

Eve: No. She came by herself. She said she was fine with it and that she loved watching Trent and me dance to “Lady in Red.” Maybe I should have seen it coming, but Adelle and I had been best friends since first grade. I never dreamed she would do what she did later. That’s why it was such a shock when I found them together in the back seat of Trent’s car.

Me: And you didn’t speak to Adelle again until twenty-five years later after you received that invitation to your high-school class reunion?

Eve: No. She got pregnant that night, and she and Trent eloped to Los Vegas.

Me: What about Charlene, the roommate who bullied you into giving her the dress your mother made for your senior prom. Did you know her before you two were in college together?

Eve: No, she came from Sheridan, Wyoming. She was only there one semester. She got pregnant the night she wore my dress to the homecoming dance.

Me: That’s too bad. So, how did you meet your husband Greg?

Eve: I was teaching a creative writing class at the college in Colorado Springs. He was teaching English at the Colorado State School for the Blind and needed ideas for a similar class.

Me: Was it love at first sight?

Eve: I wouldn’t say that, but when he walked into the classroom, I was so distracted by his tall figure that the only thing I could think to say was, “Are you descended from Tom Sawyer in Mark Twain’s book?” It’s been a joke between us ever since.

Me: So, naturally, you named your only son Tom.

Eve: Well, we called him Thomas at first, but after Greg read him and his sisters the book, he decided he liked the name Tom better.

Me: Tom was really into baseball. Did he or his sisters, like you, ever take an interest in reading?

Eve: Ashely, my middle child did, but for Julie, the oldest, it was about having fun and being with friends until, of course, the summer I went to my twenty-fifth high-school class reunion.

Me: Well, this is quite a story. Thank you again for taking time to share it with me.

Eve: Oh, don’t thank me. Thank the woman in the memoir writing workshop you attended, who had a similar story about a red blouse.

Me: Unfortunately, I can’t. Like your mother, she’s in a nursing home with dementia. She probably doesn’t remember participating in the workshop.

***

Do you have a question for Eve. If so, please leave it in the comment field, and she’ll answer it as soon as she can. We both look forward to hearing from you.

 

New! The Red Dress: A Novel

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 Other Books

 

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to purchase My Ideal Partner from Smashwords absolutely free!

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

How to Build a better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

We Shall Overcome

My Other Links

Visit my website.

Like me on Facebook.