urban legends sneak peek!

Below is the first scene from my new book, Urban Legends, the first in the Not Like Paradise trilogy! Urban Legends will be available on Amazon and other online booksellers early next week (July 10), and I will have copies to sell by July 17! I will post links to online buying options when they are live. This is my first mystery (but of course still contains the usual relationship drama too)! I’m so excited! See below for the sneak peek! 😀

urban legends front cover

Urban Legends front cover

First scene from Urban Legends:

Jansen Montgomery first got into a bar on her fourteenth birthday.

It was a dive bar in the East Village called Red Sulfur. She and her friends hadn’t planned on going to a bar. They had been wandering aimlessly away from the West Village, looking for anything to do that sparked their interest in the moment. The East Village appealed to them because it lacked glamour and had a reputation as a more dangerous area.

It was almost completely dark when Jansen, Hersh, Jason, and Clint looked across the street and saw the black awning with the words RED SULFUR shining through in an orangish-red print similar to the color of blood. It reminded Jansen of someplace out of a low-budget horror movie.

“Hey, I bet we can get in that place,” Clint said. The four of them exchanged excited, mischievous grins and knew they had to try.

The doorman, an old, friendly man whose work shirt bore a cursive inscription reading Claudio, gave them only a brief look-over before letting them in.

Jansen held hands with Hersh, whose real name was Corbin Hershey but whom all his friends had called Hersh since they could talk, flashed a flirtatious smile at Claudio, and walked down eight steps into the smoke-filled room. She briefly raised her right hand, the one not in Hersh’s, and grinned at the huge sapphire-look-alike ring on her middle finger.

A forty-something female bartender with short red and purple hair came to their table as soon as they sat down. “Whadda y’all want?” she asked with a bright smile.

Jansen liked her immediately. She embodied everything Jansen loved about the East Village. She seemed rebellious, and she was a far cry from anybody Jansen’s parents would hang out with, even though she was probably about their age.

“It’s her birthday,” Hersh said, locking his arm around Jansen.

“I won’t ask how old you are,” the bartender said. “So whaddaya want?”

Jansen, Jason, and Clint darted looks at each other, but Hersh totally kept his cool.

“We’ll have shots of Patrón,” he said. “And then Jack to wash it down.”

“Coming up,” the bartender said and spun away.

Jansen looked around. Even though the air was potent with smoke, there weren’t really that many people. Only four other booths were occupied. The room was long and narrow. The booths lined the wall opposite the bar, and there were a few tables in back. The floor was a dark shade of wood and uneven in places. The walls were also a dark wood, and the whole room was lit only by two dim bulbs hanging from the ceiling at either end of the bar. Jansen somehow felt protected and safe here, even though it was so grungy. She wasn’t sure why, but she thought it had something to do with how they’d come down steps right inside the door, and now they were underground.

“Happy birthday, honey,” the bartender said when she brought their drinks. She plunked the round tray in the middle of the table. There were limes to go with the tequila. “What’s your name?”

“Jansen.”

“I’m Hersh,” Hersh added, reaching out his hand to shake the bartender’s.

She shook his hand and looked to Jason and Clint.

“Oh, I’m Jason.”

“Clint.”

“I’m Lydia,” the bartender said as she turned to go. “Let me know if y’all need anything else.”

“Sure thing,” Hersh said as he lifted his shot of Patrón from the tray.

They hit their shot glasses together and tipped their heads back. Jansen made a slight face as hers went down. She grabbed her lime to suck on. “This isn’t what we had at your birthday party,” she said to Jason. That had been in his parents’ Park Avenue penthouse last fall, the first time she’d tried tequila.

“No,” Jason said, shaking his head and making a face too.

They smoked and drank their whiskeys and ordered more. When they were on their third, Hersh said to Jason and Clint, “So I have coke.”

“No fuckin’ way!” Clint cried. “I’ve been wanting to try that for so long!”

Jansen laughed a little. She thought Clint tried too hard to act like Hersh sometimes. She figured it would suck to have your best friend mature physically and athletically a lot sooner than you though. And Clint hadn’t had a girlfriend yet either.

“Dude, cool,” Jason said.

Jansen smiled again, studying Jason while he waited for Hersh to get out the coke. Jason had medium brown hair, which he wore kind of long, almost to his eyes, and tousled. Her favorite part about him was his eyes. They were really dark blue-green and really unique. He was the only person she’d ever seen with that eye color. Her favorite non-physical thing about him was how he never tried to be anything or anyone but himself. He didn’t feel a need to please other people or try to impress them. He was the most real person she knew. Hersh was real too, but sometimes Jansen thought he tried pretty hard to look cool to the older guys at his school. He cared more about his reputation than Jason did.

Hersh looked around to see if any workers were close, then pulled the bag out of his pocket. Lydia had left the drink tray on the table, and he emptied a little onto it, dividing it into four lines with a broken, hollowed-out piece of a pen. Then he put the bag away, looked around again, and offered the pen in the direction of Jason and Clint.

Jason took it. He leaned forward with total confidence, put his head down, balanced the pen between the tray and his nose, and snorted one of the lines. He sniffed as he raised his head, then grinned at them. “That was badass.” He held the pen out to Jansen questioningly.

“I just did some. In the park. I can still feel it. I did some at Hersh’s after school too.” Jansen smiled to herself, thinking back to Hersh’s bedroom in his West Village townhouse a few hours ago. He had done a line first, demonstrating for Jansen, and then she had done one. She’d liked the way her nose felt afterward, and she’d liked the immediate rush. The aftertaste in the back of her throat had been unpleasant but overlookable.

“Oh,” Jason said, raising his eyebrows, excited for her. He handed Clint the pen.

Jansen thought Clint looked nervous, but he did it without hesitation.

“Yeah, that was awesome,” he agreed, nodding.

“I can feel it already,” Jason said.

Hersh grinned at both of them, then leaned down to do a line himself. After he did, he looked up at Jansen. “You sure?” he asked, motioning to the one he’d prepared for her.

“I’m sure,” Jansen said. She felt wide awake and excited, like she had since her first line at Hersh’s.

“Have you done it before tonight?” Jason asked her.

“No. Hersh surprised me for my birthday.”

“So you like your present?” Hersh asked her now.

“Oh yeah.” Jansen felt the ring between her fingers. “I like it a lot. Hey, will you put some more in my ring?” She held out her hand.

“Why, you gonna do some later by yourself?” Hersh asked.

“It goes in your ring?” Jason asked, leaning forward curiously.

“Yeah, look, the top twists off!” Jansen spun the dark blue stone off and held out her hand to Jason to show him. “See? Hersh got me this too.”

“Sweet ass,” Jason said.

“Jewelry?” Clint asked sarcastically. “What are you guys, like engaged?”

“I saw it in a shop on Broadway like a month ago and said I liked it,” Jansen snapped defensively. “He remembered and went back and got it for me.”

Hersh took her hand and funneled some more coke from the bag into the ring. “There you go, baby.”

“Thanks.” Jansen spun the blue stone back on, then squeezed her fingers around the band again as she put her hand under the table. She didn’t even know if she would use the coke in the ring, but she liked having it there. It made her feel daring and reckless.

“Are you guys bored?” Hersh asked.

Jansen looked at him in surprise.

“No, I’m having fun,” Jason said.

“No,” Hersh said. “I mean like, in life. I feel like we need to shake things up. We just do the same stuff all the time.”

Jansen frowned. They were doing something new right now. A couple new things, actually. This night was huge for her, in a really good way. Hersh’s comment made her uneasy. What else could he possibly want?

“Shake things up how?” Jason asked.

“I don’t know. Like something to fuck with our school friends. A practical joke or something.”

Now Jansen smiled as relief washed over her. “Oooohh, I like that.”

“What kind of joke?” Clint asked.

“Something they’d never see coming.”

“You could pretend you and Jansen broke up and she was back with Jason,” Clint said.

Jansen glared at him. He was so annoying sometimes.

Hersh quickly shook his head, blowing off the idea. “No. Something better than that. Not just like, a joke that’ll blow over in a day. Like, a project.”

“I love it,” Jansen said, picturing the four of them spending hours here at Red Sulfur, leaning together across the table, laughing hysterically as they schemed up something genius to blow the minds of all their school friends. It was her idea of heaven.

“I have an idea,” Jason said, and all eyes turned to him.

“What?” Hersh asked after a moment of dead silence.

“A secret society.”

 

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new book – urban legends!

My next book, Urban Legends, will be out in July! It’s the first in the Not Like Paradise trilogy and also my first mystery. This is probably the book I am most excited to publish so far, because the story is so different from my others and it was a new adventure to write! If you’ve read any of my previous books, this trilogy will be a prequel – it is about Jansen growing up in New York City. If you haven’t read any of my others, it is definitely not necessary; this one stands alone (and comes chronologically before the others anyway)! But if you’d like to check out my other books, there are a couple links below. 🙂

urban legends front cover

Urban Legends front cover

Here’s what this one is all about:

One night at a dive bar in the East Village, best friends Jansen, Jason, Hersh, and Clint create a secret society. One with a fake past full of murders, ghosts, and family secrets. A joke, meant to freak out their school friends, who will no doubt fall for it.

Because in the single-sex private schools of Manhattan’s über-wealthy Upper East Side, where GPAs and coke highs are through the roof, last night’s mind-numbing party is this morning’s eyeroll-inducingly exaggerated story, and relationships burn out faster than the cigarette between your fingers, induction to a secret society feels like a natural rite of passage.

The eerie notes left in Jansen’s, Jason’s, Hersh’s, and Clint’s bedrooms are the first clue their joke has hit too close to a very real, and very hidden, history of Manhattan. In a secret room only blocks from their penthouses, the mystery, one that began with long-dead twins named Anabelle and Jonathan, starts to unravel.

And after a cab chase, fruitless attempts at an impossible-to-crack code, and the offhand discovery of a book stacked on a desk in a backwater South Carolina bedroom comes the chilling realization their “joke” has also hit too close to home. Because as it turns out, murders, ghosts, and family secrets are the hidden history of their own parents.

 

Look for more updates and info coming soon! 😀 And in the meantime, check out my other books at either of the following links (all my paperbacks are also ebooks)! Happy reading!

My Website

My Ebooks

 

 

real pictures and places from a stranger thing…chicago!

In my last couple posts, I’ve shared some pictures from Brussels and Denver, 2 of the major locations in A Stranger Thing. The final major location I’ll be posting some of my own photos from is Chicago, where Kylar, Jansen, Thaler, Xavier, Drew, and Brooke live! I grew up about 3 hours from Chicago, and one of my best friends lives there now, so I visit pretty often. It is a beautiful city and LOTS of fun!! 🙂

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along the Chicago Riverwalk

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Michigan Avenue skyline as viewed from Millennium Park. these buildings are like the one where I imagine Brady getting a place later in the book (don’t worry, that’s not much of a spoiler)

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Mich Ave skyline at dusk from Lake Michigan

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view from floor 103 of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). the tall black building near the lake is the John Hancock Building, where Kylar goes w/ Steven on Valentine’s Day

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looking south and east along Lake Michigan, toward Indiana

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looking north along Lake Michigan, toward Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, Lakeview, Uptown, and eventually Wisconsin

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another view from the Willis Tower

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view of the Chicago River from above

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the river dyed green for St Patty’s Day 🙂

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a summer day at the beach along Lake Michigan!

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Montrose Harbor, at a beach in Uptown

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Lincoln Park in winter. Kylar, Jansen, Xav, and Thaler live in this neighborhood, a little north of downtown and the Loop

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in the heart of Wrigleyville! Drew lives just a few blocks from Wrigley Field

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view from floor 12 of the Westin on Michigan Avenue, where Jansen stays when she shows up early in Chicago and surprises Thaler

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same view in daylight

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me w/ my Chicago bestie Chris 🙂

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another of Chris and me, hanging at a bar in Wrigleyville

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We ❤ Chi-town! 🙂

For more about the adventures of Kylar, Jansen, Xav, Thaler, Drew, and Brooke, make sure to check out A Stranger Thing on my blog or website! 🙂 Until next time, and thanks for reading… 🙂

real pictures and places from a stranger thing…denver!

Ok guys, I really am going to start updating my blog WAY more often. 🙂 Last time, I featured some pictures I took in Brussels, where my character Kella lives and where a few pretty important scenes in A Stranger Thing take place, including the awesome cliffhanger! 😉 Today, I am showcasing Denver, where Lorylyn, Zibby, Taylor, Crissy, Winthrop, and Brady live, and where I used to live as well! I love this city so much. 🙂

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downtown Denver

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16th Street Mall, where Lorylyn, Taylor, and Zibby’s apartment building is 🙂

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clock tower on 16th Street Mall, one of Denver’s iconic landmarks…the tallest building west of the Mississippi until 1957! I lived 2 blocks from here!

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my favorite sculpture in Writer’s Square on the 16th Street Mall

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my apartment building in Denver! I lived on the 27th floor here for 3 years =D

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view from my bedroom window 🙂

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view of Uptown from my living room…this is one of the places Zibby and DJ look at houses

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another fabulous view from my living room 🙂

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Red Rocks Amphitheater, one of the places Lorylyn takes Jansen, Kylar, and Cade to visit when they come for Thanksgiving

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Casa Bonita, the best restaurant in the WORLD!!! =D Another of the places Lorylyn takes Jansen, Kylar, and Cade

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view of Denver from Buffalo Bill’s grave on Lookout Mountain, where Lorylyn and Cade talk about her relationship w/ Brady and whether to move to New York

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looking the other direction from Buffalo Bill’s grave at the top of Lookout Mountain

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the creepy bronco statue at DIA…just google “Denver airport conspiracy theories” 🙂 love this thing!

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My brother Josh and me at the summit of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park…it tops out at just over 12,000 feet and is the highest stretch of paved highway in the country! This is where Zibby and DJ go for a weekend shortly after moving to Denver, while Lorylyn is in Florida for Jill’s wedding. Another fun fact…for every 1000 feet of altitude gained, the temperature drops as much as every 600 miles driven north…so going up this road from where it starts at 7500 feet to here, just over 12,000, is like driving to the arctic circle in an hour 🙂

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Josh and me in Vail. The house in the background is like I imagine the one to be where Lorylyn and her friends stay in Breck

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Colorado ski slope

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my 2nd time skiing…me and my friend Derick

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me and my Denver besties at the Coral Room, our favorite spot for Sunday Funday 🙂

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another fabulous Sunday Funday at the Coral Room…read the dedication page in the book 🙂

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Katy, Holly, and me…I had most of my craziest Denver adventures w/ these lovely ladies. They are the real-life Crissy and Taylor…fictionalized of course 😉

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meet the real-life Winthrop Gilligan (but also fictionalized, of course) ;)…my other Denver bestie Speedy!!

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Katy, Holly, and me at a Rockies game at Coors Field 🙂

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pretzel necklaces for the Great American Beer Fest

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at one of our favorite rooftop bars, which consisted of LoDo’s and the Tavern Downtown…this was LoDo’s

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author pic for the book, taken about a block away from my apartment at an outdoor fountain downtown

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another view of downtown

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16th Street Mall at sunset 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photo tour of my Denver world and gained some insight into Lorylyn, Taylor, Zibby, Crissy, Winthrop, and Brady’s Denver world too! 🙂 Make sure to check out A Stranger Thing, if you haven’t already, to read much more about it! 🙂

real pictures and places from a stranger thing…brussels!

A Stranger Thing has 4 major locations – Denver, Chicago, New York City, and Brussels. I thought it would be fun to share photos I took of places that inspired my writing in some of those cities! Today I am starting with Brussels, where my character Kella lives. Enjoy! 🙂 And click on Kella‘s name to read an interview with her!

The Manneken Pis, first site of Jansen and Jason's statue-dressing charade :)

The Manneken Pis, first site of Jansen and Jason’s statue-dressing charade 🙂

Notice the "camera security" sign on the right. ;)

Notice the white “CAMERA SECURITY” sign on the right that you can barely see in this pic…enlarged view below 😉

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Slightly weird? Sure. One of Brussels' major attractions? Obviously.

Slightly weird? Sure. One of Brussels’ major attractions? Obviously.

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The Jeanneke Pis, second site of the statue-dressing charade. Much more difficult to access than its counterpart :)

The Jeanneke Pis, second site of the statue-dressing charade. Much more difficult to access than its counterpart 🙂

Jansen had to climb onto the base, then up the gate, then squeeze herself behind it. Easy. Good thing it was the middle of the night and snowy though, as everything you see around here is a bar

Jansen had to climb onto the base, then up the gate, then squeeze herself behind it. Easy. Good thing it was the middle of the night and snowy though, as everything you see around here is a bar

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Oh, and she also had to avoid the spikes at the top 🙂

Classy :) Love it

In case you can’t tell, she is peeing too 🙂

Sign next to the Jeanneke Pis in Delirium Village. All bars open till 6!

Sign next to the Jeanneke Pis in Delirium Village. All bars open till 6!

Best Beer in the World at the World Beer Fest in Chicago in 2008. Google it...or read what I wrote about it in the book. ;)

Best Beer in the World at the World Beer Fest in Chicago in 2008. Google it…or read what I wrote about it in the book. 😉

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The Grand-Place, where Lorylyn and the rest of the wedding guests go as part of their tour and later return for dinner, also considered as a wedding site for the book's royal wedding

The Grand-Place, where Lorylyn and the rest of the wedding guests go as part of their tour and later return for dinner, also considered as a wedding site for the book’s royal wedding

Grand-Place

Grand-Place

Grand-Place

Grand-Place

Grand-Place

Grand-Place

Kella's street, rue de la Perche, in Brussels' Saint-Gilles neighborhood. Her building is the white one straight ahead on the left as the street starts to curve

Kella’s street, rue de la Perche, in Brussels’ Saint-Gilles neighborhood. Her building is the white one straight ahead on the left as the street starts to curve

Close-up of Kella's building. The best part was while writing the first draft, I looked at a map, picked a random street in Saint-Gilles, and described her building as being white and on a corner of a street that curved uphill for 2 blocks and disappeared. When I went to Brussels 2 years later, this is what I found =D

Close-up of Kella’s building. The best part was while writing the first draft, I looked at a map, picked a random street in Saint-Gilles, and described her building as being white and on a corner of a street that curved uphill for 2 blocks and disappeared. When I went to Brussels 2 years later, this is what I found =D

street in Saint-Gilles, Kella's neighborhood

Another street in Saint-Gilles, Kella’s neighborhood

Actual site chosen for the book's wedding...and location of the last scene. Get ready...it's a cliffhanger, of course ;)

Brussels’ Royal Palace, the actual site chosen for the book’s wedding…and the location of the last scene. Get ready…it’s a cliffhanger, of course 😉

Hope you’ve enjoyed the photo tour of Kella and the other characters’ Brussels world! Coming soon…highlights of Denver, where Lorylyn, Zibby, Taylor, and Brady live, and my former city as well! 🙂

taylor cren: character interview

In today’s A Stranger Thing character interview, you’ll be meeting Taylor! Taylor and Lorylyn first meet shortly after Lorylyn arrives in Denver and is searching for roommates on Craigslist. Taylor has lived in Denver ever since college, but her current roommate and best friend Crissy is about to move in with a guy, so Taylor is on her own. Lorylyn’s roommate criteria include someone who’s either new to Denver like her or someone with an established life and fun friends, and Taylor seems like the latter. The two of them, as well as Crissy and Zibby, hit it off immediately, but even as she gets to know Taylor better, Lorylyn continues to be caught off guard by Taylor’s love life.

Taylor, one of the main characters in A Stranger Thing (doll created at dollzmania.net)

Taylor, one of the main characters in A Stranger Thing (doll created at dollzmania.net)

-What’s your name?

~Taylor Cren

-How old are you?

~26

-Where do you live?

~Denver

-If you were an alcoholic beverage, which one would you be and why?

~I’d be a vodka soda because it’s fun and classic and gets you going, just like I do. 😉

-What’s your biggest secret?

~Before the start of the book I don’t really have any secrets. Shortly after I meet Lorylyn and we become roomies, this guy hurts me pretty badly but I don’t tell anyone because no one even knows we were involved (except Crissy). I also do tend to date multiple guys at once and don’t tell any of the guys there are others. 🙂 It’s not like I give them any indication it’s exclusive though, so there’s nothing wrong with that, right?! 🙂

-What’s the biggest surprise we’ll see from you in A Stranger Thing (without giving too much away, of course)?

~Probably just things with guys that you don’t necessarily see coming, because while I date a lot of guys, I don’t always give the details, because sometimes they just don’t matter. Or sometimes, they matter too much. But then other times, I give all the details. So I think that’s why people are surprised when they find out there was something they missed, or something I didn’t tell, because they think they’ve heard the whole story.

-What’s one thing that happens in A Stranger Thing that you would change, if you could (again, without giving too much away)?

~I wouldn’t want to be separated from some of my friends at the end of the book!!! 😦 And…I’d probably avoid dating all those guys by being with the one I really like the most, if it was in my power to change that. Who knows…maybe I can. We’ll see… 😉

-Thanks, Taylor! Taylor is a new character in A Stranger Thing, but if you’d like to find out about some of the other characters prior to this book, check out All That Sparkles Isn’t Real Sapphire and I Don’t Want the Rest of Your Life. And make sure to read the other character interviews for A Stranger Thing: Lorylyn, Kylar, Zibby, Brady, and Xavier. Up tomorrow…Cade, Lorylyn’s ex-husband!