Until Dawn: My ill-fated venture into video gaming

Until Dawn - PlayStation 4
Sony Computer Entertainment

 I am not a gamer...at all. 

My husband always has been. When we were dating and first married, I thought he was the most considerate man in the world because on lazy weekends he'd look at me and with a gentle smile and say my favorite words, "Baby, do you want go to the bookstore?"

And, I LOVE going to the bookstore. Off we'd go, he'd patiently check out the magazines while I wandered through the aisles then he'd encourage me to buy a few and I'd skip out of the store like a happy kid with a new toy. That's when he'd casually add, "Hey, while we're already out, do you mind if we pop in this game store real quick? I just want to see something." 

In my new-book-induced bliss, I nod like a bobble-head doll. Inevitably, he'd "happen" to find a game he'd been thinking about it and purchase it. Then, I'd spend the afternoon (okay, sometimes, the afternoon, evening, night and early morning, ) reading while he played his game. 

Took me YEARS to figure out I was being had. 

Sneaky, but cute. :) 

Sneaky, but cute. :) 

He did attempt to involve me in the gaming. Once, he set me up on this game where I was a diver on an underwater jet-ski and I was supposed to be hunting fish or taking pictures of fish or finding fish, I don't remember. Something with fish. 

I was all proud of myself, checking out the underwater scenery, looking for the fish. After a good while of that he said, "Do you know you haven't moved? You're just turning in a circle." 

And, I went back to my books. 

But, he passed on this love of video games to our youngest daughter, who had a birthday this week and used her birthday money to purchase a new gaming system and some games. 

That's where the creepy picture at the top of the post comes in. 

Another important point to this adventure is I am proudly a BIG FAT CHICKEN. I don't do horror. I don't read it. I don't watch it. I don't want to hear the campfire stories. Absolutely NOT MY THING. 

My girls BEGGED for this game. I knew it was rated Mature. Both my girls are teenagers. They've both watched "play-throughs" of this game on YouTube and both repeatedly assured me that the M rating was about the language and some violence but it wasn't worse than an action movie. 

So, I caved (which is something I rarely do.) 

The rule in our house is that computers and gaming systems stay in public areas so I knew I would still have veto power if the game got too inappropriate. 

We all settled in the living room with all the lights ON and the afternoon sun shining through every window. This game is more like a every bad teenage horror movie than a video game. The animation is startlingly realistic and it's the basic: cabin-in-the-woods-no-help-coming-ever-who-will-survive-the-night? storyline. 

I can tell you, the answer to that is never: Dawn! 

At some point, for some reason, a boy in the game is looking for a can of deodorant to use in conjunction with a cigarette lighter to melt the ice from a lock because how else would you do that? 

He wanders around this empty house, finally locates a bathroom and reaches for the cabinet. 

This is when my oldest, who was playing at the time paused the game and said, "Mom, there's going to be a jump-scare here. Be ready." 

Jump-scare. Got it. I am an adult. It's bright enough to land an airplane in here. I'm safe in my living room. Not in a cabin on a snow-covered mountain with a possible maniac chasing me (we can put that on the list of place I NEVER intend to be). 

Bring it on! 

She resumed play. The character reaches for the cabinet. I brace myself. The cabinet opens slowly, revealing the can of spray deodorant. Nothing happens. 

Whew. I was worried for nothing. 

"Wait for it, " My youngest says. 

Oh, not over yet? Okay. I'm ready. I've got this. Nerves of steel, baby. 

The character grasps the can of deodorant, removes it from the cabinet. Nothing happens. 

*sigh of relief*  

The girls must have this wrong. They must be thinking of a different cabinet. Everything is-

 A FREAKING WOLVERVINE SPRINGS OUT OF THE CABINET DIRECTLY AT THE SCREEN.

Cue me shrieking like a B-movie actress.

This created a domino-effect.

My fearless, four-legged protectors both jerked from a sound sleep, barking as if the world was ending and my daughters had to stop playing the game. 

Not because it was too inappropriate. 

Because they were both laughing like drunk hyenas and couldn't mange the controller. 

Below is a picture of me taken moments after the incident:

Picture credit: Eric Gorski- flickr creative commons 

Picture credit: Eric Gorski- flickr creative commons 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Dressing Myself

It's the time of year when I go on a hunt for the perfect dress to wear to the Romance Writers of America RITA awards ceremony (kind of like the Oscars for romance writers).

So far, I've stuck to solid colors, kind of a plain-but-dressed-up-with-jewelry style. 

Here are pictures from the three years I've gone with my fabulous writing tribe:  Roni Loren, Jamie Wesley,  and Genevieve Lynne

2012

2012

2014

2014

2016*

2016*

*You see that thing in Roni's hand? That's a RITA! Because she's awesome. 

**We all have weird smiles in this one because the hotel dude didn't seem to be able to work a phone camera. 

This year I wanted something a little flashier. Maybe a little more daring (at least for me.) So, I ordered this dress. 

This is not me. This is some awesome model. 

It came in yesterday. It has more gold on the roses than I’d like and I was worried it might be a size too small. But, it fit well, hid my tummy, showed off my legs. Everything I was looking for in a dress except when I pulled it down over my chest, I noticed that it “accentuated my assets" a little better than I'm normally comfortable with. It accomplished this with a thin band that should have been at my waist but was across my rib cage, making each breath an adventure. 

 I modeled it for my older teen first (who is the resident fashion guru). She gushed about how cute it was and how flattering. She liked it so much, I was debating how much I enjoy breathing and if I could make it through a few hours without doing that. I mean, when a fifteen year-old compliments your style, you got to consider your options. 

I had her unzip the back (ahhh, oxygen!) and made my way back to my room. 

At this point, I discovered a universal truth about tight dresses and large chests. Pulling something down is much easier than pulling it back up. 

I couldn't push the whole dress down because it's fitted and wouldn't stretch over my hips. I couldn't pull it over my head because, well, there were obstacles. 

Basically I ended up with the dress half over my head, trying to squish and pull at the same time. All while having panicked thoughts of being trapped in the dress forever or, at least until I lost consciousness from lack of oxygen to my brain, which might have been slightly irrational. 

It probably looked very much like this, just without the frogs. 

It probably looked very much like this, just without the frogs. 

 I  was already picturing being cut out of my fashion choice by paramedics when  I heard my youngest daughter's voice.

"Mom, are you okay? Do you need some help?" 

Bless you, child. Bless you

I held things in place while she pulled it over my head as if I were a two year-old. 

So, if you see me at RWA this year, please, please say hi! I love making new friends, will probably talk way longer than I should and will be happy to pose for a picture in my nice, safe, plain dress that won't attack me after the RITA ceremony. 

How he won my heart with a hammer...

My Prince Charming

What makes a moment romantic?

                 If you've been reading my blog for a while, you probably already heard this story. I like to telling it again around Valentine's Day to remind everyone that romance isn't all chocolate, lingerie and semi-precious stones. It's about listening and showing your love, even if it involves household tools.

                  Despite appearances, the picture above is FAR from one of our most romantic moments. Some day, if you have a few hours and enough money for margaritas, I will tell you about that day and the unromanticness (Yes, it is a word. I don't care if the rest of the world doesn't acknowledge it). No, our most romantic moment involves a hardware tool and my soon-to-be husband was nowhere in sight.

                 I met my husband two weeks after I moved to Texas. We met at a church we were both visiting for the first time. He asked me to lunch after the morning service ( an interesting story in itself, but I'll save it for another time). After the evening service, we ate ice cream at a park. I will add here that one of the top ten most romantic moments was when he turned to me and said, "Do you like to read? Because I just finished this great book. It's called the Notebook. I think the author is Nicholas somebody." (Insertme swooning here).

                 After our official first date the next Sunday, he made a comment about the bareness of my apartment walls. I responded that I had never noticed I didn't own a hammer and nails until I moved into the apartment alone. We went on to talk about other things and I didn't even think about it again.

                The next day was a Monday in every sense of the word. I taught middle school at the time and let's just say all of my students were very much seventh graders that day. I remember wanting to cry when I pulled up to my apartment because my head was throbbing, as were my feet, and I lived on the second floor. When I finally dragged myself up the stairs, something was leaning against my door.

 A silver hammer with a shiny red bow. 

And that, my friends, is all it took.

So Tell Me Your Story. 

What is your most unconventionally romantic moment? Got big plans for Valentine's day? Ever swoon over a tool (no innuendo intended!)? 

Cookie Monster, Marvin the Martian and Why I Will Never Do Drugs.

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

My Bad Trip

Innocent Dawn~ Age 6

I want to start off today's post by saying, I have never tried drugs of any kind. There's no "wink, wink" after that or even an "I didn't inhale."

I just never tried them. I was terrified of needles so, you know, that's out. I also had terrible allergies which meant I certainly wasn't smoking, sniffing or snorting. I've actually never even tried cigarettes.

Yeah, I know. I'm boring. Anyway...

I think part of the reason I avoided them so staunchly was because of one bad trip.

It all started with the bunnies. As I said, I was pretty much allergic to everything. So, when I came home with a rash after playing with a friend's bunnies all afternoon, my mom really didn't have any reason to be alarmed.

My Dad was out of town so Mom tucked me in her bed and we drifted peacefully into dreamland.

At some point in the middle of the night, I opened my eyes and this was staring back at me.

*Cartoon version of BIG, SCARY, SPIDER used here so I don't have flashbacks!*

In my 5 year-old mind, I convinced myself that it was impossible a spider THAT big was sitting on my chest,

looking at me.

The blankets must have become twisted to look like a spider. Yes, that was it. All I had to do was smooth out the blankets and it would be gone. 

I held my breath, counted to three (twice, because I chickened out the first time) then WHACKED the blanket spider...which didn't move.

Terrified, I turned to my sleeping mother and saw hundreds of these:

scurrying around her, no doubt preparing to cart her off into space.

And that would be when I started screaming.

Now, I should interrupt here and explain I had night terrors as a child. The problem with having night terrors is that when you are fully awake, hysterically babbling about giant spiders and little green men, your mom tends to not take you as seriously as you would like.

Mom thought I was asleep.

She wrapped her arms around me to keep me from physically fleeing the bed, which I had every intention of doing.

At some point during my incoherent battle to escape, movement in my mother's dresser mirror caught my attention.

This guy was waving at me.

I instantaneously went from terror-filled to laughing.

"Look, mommy! Cookie Monster is in your mirror! He thinks I am going to give him my cookie, but I'm not going to."

Then... I passed out.

First thing in the morning, we were sitting in a doctor's office. He declared the rash was not an allergic reaction, but the chicken pox.

The experience the night before had not been a night terror, but hallucinations brought on by the fever.

I will admit for years afterward, I would sneak a peak into my parents' room and check the mirror.

Just in case Cookie Monster ever decided to come back.

Ghosts of Halloween Past

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

I distinctly remember the blow-up head. I have NO IDEA what this costume is, though. The 80s were a confusing time to be young.   

I distinctly remember the blow-up head. I have NO IDEA what this costume is, though. The 80s were a confusing time to be young. 

 

Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. I'm a big 'fraidy cat. I've been to one haunted house in my entire life, an experience that ended with a bleeding hand and my date rubbing my back as I sat with my head between my knees, gasping my way through a full-blown anxiety attack. 

So, Halloween is not really my thing. But I do have one good memory of Halloween. 

When I was thirteen, my friends and I had a Halloween sleepover at my house. Instead of trick or treating, we stuffed ourselves with chocolate and pizza while watching really bad 80s horror movies. Probably something along the lines of Sleepaway Camp 12. 

At some point, my dad came downstairs to the kitchen. 

He paused at the threshold to the living room where we were all piled together like puppies in a mass of blankets and pillows and motioned to the wild turkey, mounted in mid-flight over the fireplace. 

"Y'all know that turkey's going to take flight at midnight." 

I rolled my eyes. But, Dad kept going. 

"He does it every Halloween at midnight. He'll come off his perch, make one trip around the room then go right back on there like nothing happened. Y'all just got to sit real still and not get in his way." 

Yeah, right. We were in Middle School. We weren't falling for some silly story about a zombie turkey flying around the room. 

I responded with a typical, annoyed-teenage-girl voice. "Goodnight, Dad." 

He just chuckled and headed back upstairs. 

Now, we KNEW. Knew that turkey wasn't going to fly at midnight. We were all smart kids. I'd lived with this turkey for most of my life. I hadn't seen it flap its way around a room on any of the many Halloweens we'd spent together. 

But, still as my mom's cuckoo clock ticked closer to midnight, we all found ourself eyeing that turkey. The closer it got to twelve o'clock, the more openly we stopped and watched. Just in case something magical was about to happen.

At midnight, all of us were intently focused on that turkey.

The cuckoo came out. 

Then, Dad barreled into the room, wailing like a demon, in a horrifying mask with the head of a DEAD FISH hanging around his neck. 

You have never seen thirteen-year-old girls move so fast. We scattered like crazed squirrels, squealing loud enough to shatter glass. 

I can still hear Dad laugh. 

No idea where he got the dead fish! 

No idea where he got the dead fish! 

At least he didn't come out like this. We'd probably all be dead now. I'm the one on the right, by the way. Who looked at that costume and thought, "My four-year-old daughter will LOVE this!" 

At least he didn't come out like this. We'd probably all be dead now. I'm the one on the right, by the way. Who looked at that costume and thought, "My four-year-old daughter will LOVE this!" 

My Last First Friday

Today is the first Friday of this school year. It's the day teachers release a collective sigh and head home in a near delirium state of exhaustion. We've made it through the first week. The routines will settle in on Monday and we've only got 35 more weeks to go.  

For me, the first Friday of last year was my last day of "normal". 

I remember the sound of the dismal bell for last period and calling to my students to, "have a great weekend!"

I remember leaving piles of paper on my desk but still shoving some in my bag to take home.

I remember still feeling slightly sticky from the weak AC in my room and the first pep rally of football season as I locked the classroom door behind me and exited the building. 

Having no idea I'd never walk back in that room as a teacher again. 

I don't remember if I cooked dinner that night or if my husband and I left the kids with my mom and ate out.

I can barely remember driving to Oklahoma the next day for a birthday party and driving home Sunday afternoon. 

What I do remember about Sunday is before I sat down to go through those papers or gather my lesson plans for the week, before I cooked dinner for my kids or really even had a conversation with my husband, I went into my mom's room. 

I guess not everyone can pinpoint the minute their life changed. For most people, it's probably a gradual shift that sneaks up on you like those extra pounds on your hips or needing reading glasses after 40. I know the exact moment my life changed. 

August 30, 2015 4:30pm. 

Mom and I were sitting on her bed, talking about the birthday party. That's when her head dropped to her chest as if she'd fallen asleep. That's the moment that triggered 36 hours of her being incoherent, a 13 day hospital stay, a devastating diagnosis delivered by a teary-eyed surgeon, folding his mask over and over in his hand and a decision.

I would leave teaching for 12 weeks. 

But 12 weeks wasn't enough. So, I resigned. I packed up the personal things from my classroom, leaving any materials I thought my replacement could use until I could collect them at the end of the year. 

I became a full-time caregiver until March 10th when I became Executrix of the estate. 

I didn't return to teaching this year. I wasn't ready. I have too much reassembling of my life that needs to happen first. 

I thought it would hit me on the first day when my daughters headed out to their new classes and my husband left for work. I thought that's when I'd miss it. I didn't. 

Not until today. 

I don't miss teaching, yet. I've missed my students and my co-workers but not teaching itself. I'm sure that will come.

What I miss today is the me who walked out of those high school doors on the first Friday last year. 

The one who didn't know what was coming. Didn't know to be worried and didn't know everything in her world was about to change. 

 

Jumping

Five years ago, I posted

this

about jumping into the world of querying and pitching. 

FIVE.YEARS.AGO. 

The daughter I mentioned is now a teenager. The teenager I mention is probably married and raising her own kids. Well, maybe not, but it's possible.

And, me?

Until a few months ago, I was still standing on the end of that diving board.

I didn't jump.

I was pushed.

Now, all I have to do is make sure I cannon ball and not belly flop!

And this one time at band camp...

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Like I said yesterday, I'm at ASL Teacher Camp this week. Okay, that's not what it's really called. But, that's pretty much what it is.

So, tell me your best camp story. Pranks, homesickness, sneaking out of the cabin and meeting that special someone (not that I ever did that!)

You know, this one time at band camp....


Why We Are Moving Out Today!

*I had a completely different blog post for today. But, after a harrowing experience yesterday, I decided to share this instead. Below is an email I sent to my friend to try to work through the trauma*

The story of why we are moving out today.
By  Dawn Alexander

The puppy is the tan one.
She's 5 months old. 
The puppy is getting better on house training, but still has accidents. Friday, I was playing with her on my bed and she got excited and dribbled..alot. So, had to wash the bedspread. Huge-heavy-denim-takes-FOREVER-to-dry bedspread. Usually, I wash it, put it in the dryer for a cycle, take it out and turn it over, put it in the dryer for another cycle, then spread it out on the spare couch for a day before putting it back on our bed.
Well,  around 7pm on Friday night, I basically fell into a coma and slept until Saturday morning, then spent the day running errands all day on Saturday, so when I remembered to take it out Saturday evening, it smelled kind of mildewy. I spread it out in the laundry room and left it all day yesterday. Still slightly smelled this morning, so I put it back in the washer. Immediately took it out, cycle in the dryer, flipped it, cycle in the dryer. 
Decided to spread it out on our bed instead of the spare couch because I've got boxes of pictures all over the couch right now (whole other story)
Took it to our room, started spreading it out and FREAKING COCKROACH FROM HELLLLLLLL came crawling out of one of the folds! 

It looked JUST LIKE THIS! Only bigger with more teeth!

Let's just say, I might have screamed like a little girl and did the heebie-jeebie sprint into the living room 
Scott, being the hero he is, drowned it in bug spray and flushed it. 
So, new to-do list for today:
BURN BEDSPREAD
MOVE
I'll send you our new address. 

For my non-Texas readers, there is something very important you must understand. We do not have little  scurry-when-the-lights-come-on cockroaches here. We have I'm-looking-for-water-and-will-kill-your-whole-effing-family-to-get-it Palmetto bugs.
I was going to add more pictures, but just looking at them was freaking me out!

So, tell me your story. 
Any fascinating encounters with our insect friends you'd like to share? 

You can read about me other creature encounter here. 




Spoiler Alert

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

My oldest daughter, who is much older now than in the picture above, made a confession last week that forced me to reevaluate everything I thought I knew about this sweet child.

SHE READS THE END OF A BOOK FIRST.

I fear I have failed as a parent.

I blogged before about her reading obsession. She is almost never without a book. Takes two or three with her for any kind of overnight stay and, when we recently changed the sheets on her bed, I found she was sleeping with FOURTEEN (!) books every night. 

The child is by all definitions a reader.

But, she reads the end first! 

Shocked and confused by this admission, I took my argument to the best place for public opinion.
Facebook.

Me: Michelle just confessed that she reads the end of books first...I don't even know her anymore...

Male Childhood Friend #1: I do too! If I don't like the ending, why invest my life in the story? For me, reading fiction is an escape from reality. If I don't like the destination, I'd rather not buy the ticket!

         (WWHHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTT?? Not by the ticket?

Isn't that what the whole reading experience is about?)

Fellow Mommy Friend: Funny! [Her daughter~same age as mine] reads the last book in a series...what's wrong with their generation?!?!? 

Male Childhood Friend #2: I've always read the end of books first... Agree with [MCF #1] on this one.

Me:  [MFC #1]while I have to admit on the surface your argument has substance...It's just wrong. wrong. Wrong. WRONG! 
 You, too,[MFC #2]. (I say this with love, of course!).



Is this some kind of widespread epidemic of which I have lived blissfully unaware? Do YOU read the end of a book first? Is there some kind of 12 step group I can get my daughter in before this gets out of hand?








Why Do You Remember?

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday


There either is or is not, that's the way things are.
 The colour of the day. The way it felt to be a child. The saltwater on your sunburnt legs. 
Sometimes the water is yellow, sometimes it's red.
 But what colour it may be in memory, depends on the day.
 I'm not going to tell you the story the way it happened.

 I'm going to tell it the way I remember it.
Charles Dickens ~ Great Expectations

My husband and I had a conversation recently about first kisses. He doesn't remember his. 
I'll pause for a moment and let that sink in. 

HE DOESN'T REMEMBER HIS FIRST KISS!

How does that happen? He couldn't even with confidence remember the first time he kissed ME!*

*Disclaimer: I am married to an amazing man who supports me fully in everything I do. I can forgive the fact that he has let a moment on Sept. 21, 1997 at approximately 10:14 pm while slow dancing in my apartment to a local country station playing from my mini-stereo slip his mind.*

His explanation was that he "didn't catalog the information for future reference."
Then, he mumbled something about women never forgetting anything

But, my mind was already working. Why do I remember so well? 
I'm sure part of it is about being a girl and living for those kinds of moments, but I believe there is much, much more. 

I don't just remember my first kiss. I remember everything about it. Where I was standing, the butterfly army in my stomach, praying my mom did not choose that moment to walk into the kitchen. Everything. Just like I do so many other tiny but huge moments in my life.

But, I wonder how much of it is because I'm a writer. I love the story of each moment. I love hearing how other people met and fell in love. I love passing those emotions on to my readers and sharing the experience of moving through it together all over again. 

So, tell me your story. 
Do you remember the tiny but huge moments of your life with vivid detail? Were you cataloging it all for future reference? 

If you're in the mood for some nostalgia, you can check out this post about Remembering the Good Old Days (It's worth the click just to see my 1989 hairstyle!)






HAPPY RELEASE DAY TO RONI LOREN!

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday

Today, I am breaking out the virtual champagne and throwing imaginary confetti for my friend, the FABULOUS RONI LOREN!

Roni is awesome. I'm a total fan of her Loving on the Edge series, especially Melt into You (Hmm, Jace and Andre....*insert dreamy stare here* Oh, sorry. Were we talking about something? Oh, right, the blog post.)

Um, as I was saying, her new release
is the first title in Roni's new eserial.
  A new installment will be released every week over the next eight weeks. 

I have been totally looking forward to this because 1. It is about Andre's sister. He is in the very first scene ( *insert fangirl squee) and 2. It will be longer than her regular novels, which I love, but always want to read more!


So, CONGRATULATIONS RONI!!!
Here's to a terrific release day. 

From the author of the Loving on the Edge novels comes a story of a good girl who discovers that once you dare to cross some lines, it’s hard to turn back…
On the night of her graduation, innocent veterinary student Cela decides to play a game of Never Have I Ever with the two hot neighbors she’s been quietly crushing on for the last year. Always the prim and proper student, Cela thinks she’s earned a wild night before she has to move back home under the watchful gaze of her family. But what starts out as a simple game is about to take a very sensual turn...
Ian Foster is tired of playing games. With his membership to The Ranch, an exclusive BDSM resort, and a musician roommate who brings home groupies with a taste for ménage, Foster has a life most guys would kill for. But lately, his need for dominance is no longer satisfied via one-night stands. He craves the full surrender a woman—a submissive of his own. 
But when his quiet, sweet-as-sugar neighbor shows up at their door with a bottle of tequila and an invitation, Foster decides he and Pike may have time for one more fling… 

And a few questions for the Roni fans out there.
What book is your favorite? 
What character would you love to spend an evening with? 
What character would you be terrified of spending the evening with?





Welcome Taylor Lunsford

Tell Me Your Story Tuesday
Welcome

I met Taylor through twitter. I am very excited to have her with us today to discuss her novel 

Welcome, Taylor. Tell us a little about  Need You Now.
Need You Now is the story of Melody Carr and Caine Maddox, two childhood friends who had a fling in college that went south. Mel’s finally moved back to their hometown of Unknown to start her medical practice. Lucky for her (or unlucky, depending on your perspective), Caine’s now the mayor and he still carries a torch for her.

Caine’s got his work cut out for him trying to win Mel’s trust back. The town doesn’t want her there and the local gossip blog can’t stay the hell out of his personal life for even a day. When the animosity brewing in town turns to vandalism, Caine makes sure Mel knows he’s not going anywhere. Keeping Mel’s stubborn-as-hell self safe from whoever’s targeting her may be the only way to convince Mel he’s playing for keeps. Getting Mel to trust him again is going to be the hardest fight of Caine’s life, but he’s determined to prove the to her that she needs him by her side.

And, it's the first in your series. Love in Unknown. I love that it is set in Unknown, Texas. How did you come up with that setting? Is it a real place? 
Haha, so Unknown actually started out as just a placeholder for the town name because I kept drawing a blank when I tried to name the town. At one point, it was going to be called Fortune Lake, but then my critique partner and I voted that Unknown had a quirky charm to it that stuck. I even managed to come up with a romantic origin for the name that’s revealed in the books.

Unknown is not a real place. It’s based off of bits and pieces of small towns in Texas I’ve visited during road trips with my family over the years. Most of it is based off of Georgetown, TX where I went to college, especially the square. McBride’s Books, which plays a big part in the second book (Ready to Love Again) is based off of the bookstore I worked at during my junior year.

So, tell us more about you. What's your favorite thing to do when you aren't writing? 
There’s a time when I’m not writing? Oh. Yeah. Maybe a little bit. LOL. Between my day job and writing, I don’t have a lot of free time, but when I do I like to hang out and watch movies with my friends. If I’m really procrastinating writing, I’ll knit or get some harebrained idea of how to redecorate my apartment.

What's craziest thing you've ever done for love? 
You know, that’s a tough one. I’ve never actually been in love. I got a tiny bit singed by romance in high school, so I’ve spent the last few years focused on school and work (I’m only 24). Rather than becoming jaded with romance, I focused in on my writing and sharing my hopes for romance with other people.

The town gossip causes issues for your hero. If you could have an outrageous rumor spread about you to the world, what would it be? 
Hmmm….I think it would be that I work as a covert Interpol operative who is dating someone I can’t name, but who may or may not be third in line for certain throne (for the time being. He’ll moved to fourth in July).

What's next for you? 
What’s next? Whew, it’s going to be a busy year. Up next is a short story in the Love in Unknown series called We Own The Night, which should be out in June. Book 2 looks like it’ll come out sometime in July and Book 3 will be in October if all goes as planned. In between, I’ll also have a series of short stories coming out that center around the siblings of Jane Austen characters and their roads to love.

How can we get to know you better? 
If you visit my website, you can find a great page that tells you anything you could possibly want to know about my Love in Unknown series, including links to the people I’ve cast as all my characters and a playlist for NYN (http://taylormlunsford.com/love-in-unknown )
You can find me on twitter as @writertay. 

I also have a great Pinterest board set up for the Love in Unknown series (http://pinterest.com/writertay/unknown-tx/ )



Welcome Back, C.A. Szarek


Welcome Back!
C.A. Szarek





I'm so excited to have my friend and NTRWA chaptermate, C.A. Szarek with us again today! We're going to talk about her latest release and she has a swag to share! Be sure to scroll to the bottom for an excerpt of Sword's Call.


Welcome back, when we last hung out (almost exactly a year ago!) your debut Sword’s Call had just been picked up by Gypsy Shadow Publishing. It’s out now. Tell us about your journey from then to now. What’s been the best part? What’s been the most surprising? 

Well, wow. The whole thing has been a plesant surprise. I was really nervous about edits, being since I had never been through a professional editing process, but my editor, Denise (who is AWESOME) really put me at ease, and the process was good. I dreaded for nothing. The journey is a learning process. You sign your contract, do your edits and then it's "Hurry up and wait" for your book to come out. The fun part is the cover, of course!


 
And, you’ve got another series coming out with Total E-Bound Publishing, how did that come about?

Collision Force is the first book of my romantic suspense series called Crossing Forces. Wow, the story, the book and even how it came to be at TEB is an adventure in and of itself. I had actually written the book for another publisher after a positive critique at a conference with one of their editors only to have it ultimately rejected by them. Then I was working with another publisher who asked me to restructure/rewrite the whole second half of the book...which I did. Only to have them ultimately reject it as well. I took it really hard. But after I picked myself up off the ground and told myself it was an even stronger story that before, even if they didn't want it, I re-shopped it. I ended up with THREE contract offers on it. So, I guess it really was stronger! I picked Total-E-Bound and so far my experience with them has been steller. I am so glad Collision Force and the Crossing Forces series has a home there. It will be available for pre-order May 20, will pre-release on June 3 and be general released on July 1. I am very excited.

Collision Force:
Badboy, married to his job FBI agent Cole Lucas always gets his man. So when the unthinkable happens and one gets away, Cole grits his teeth and hunts human trafficker Carlo Maldonado all the way to Antioch, Texas, where he collides with Detective Andi MacLaren.
Cole doesn’t do small towns and he doesn’t get involved with women he works with, but Andi tempts him in ways he doesn’t want to acknowledge.

Two murders, her partner shot and leading the investigation on her own, the last thing Andi needs is a cocky FBI agent that sees her as no more than a tagalong.
Widow and single mother Andi is used to being on her own. When Cole gets stuck without a place to stay, crashing on her couch puts them in dangerous territory.

Attraction and passion bring Andi to a place she left behind when her husband died.
Her three-year-old son quickly wiggles his way into Cole’s heart, and he starts contemplating things—family, love—that he’d never planned for himself.

Can being forced to work together make them stronger or will their differences jeopardize their case and their hearts?

 
Unlike Sword’s Call, this series is romantic suspense.  What was it like switching genres? Did you struggle with it at all? 
Switching genres isn't a big deal for me. I write what occurs to me in a way. But I am more comfortable in the fantasy world I created than having to write in the real world...rules! I have to follow rules that I wasn't the maker of.

 
So, what’s next for you? 
I just finished Love's Call, which is the 2nd book in the King's Rider Series, and I am working on Crossing Forces book two, Chance Collision. I have a few other stories swirling around in my head, too. So we'll see!

 
I understand you have a treat for our readers! Tell us about the giveaway! 
I do! I will giveaway an ecopy of Sword's Call or a Swag pack (containing a T-shirt or tote bag...US ONLY) Winner's  Choice! Just comment and tell me what you like to read! Make sure to leave your email so I can contact you! I will pick a winner from one of the comments!

Thanx for having me, Dawn! It was fun!

Want to know more? Connect with C.A. 


And here's where you can find her books!


SWORD'S CALL
For generations, the Ryhans, ruling family of the Province of Greenwald have been keepers of a sword rumored to possess enough magic to defeat kings. Lord Varthan, a former archduke and betrayer of the king, covets the sword and invades Greenwald.

Lady Ceralda Ryhan, daughter of the murdered duke, gains the sword and flees, trusting only her white wolf, Trikser—magically bonded to her. Cera needs nothing more to aid in her fight. 

Jorrin Aldern, half elfin and half human, left his home in the mountains of Aramour to find his human father who disappeared twenty turns before, but finds Cera with Varthan and his shades on her tail instead. His dual heritage and empathic magic will tempt Cera in ways she never thought she’d desire. But can he convince her trust and love can pave the path to redemption or will the epic battle end in tragedy and evil conquer them all?


Heart pounding and fists clenched, Cera sat in the Dragon’s Lair’s darkest corner. By choice, the candle on the table was unlit. The bowl of stew half eaten, food the last thing on her mind.
The door to the tavern swung open. Her white wolf growled low and deep beside her. Cera glanced up, squinting in the sudden flood of sunlight. As the door slammed shut and her eyes adjusted to the renewed murkiness, she took in the newest arrival.
Then she focused on Trikser. She couldn’t have him going for anyone’s throat.
“Shhh, Trik, it’s okay.” She ran a hand through his fur, smoothing his hackles along the length of his spine. The big wolf looked up at her and licked her hand. One corner of her mouth lifted and she bit back a sigh.
The only reason the owner of the tavern, Marshek even let him in was because no one else was allowed to enter the Dragon’s Lair if she was inside without him. No one according to Trikser, that is. He’d almost taken the hand off the last guy who’d tried.
“What’ll ya have?” Marshek barked, revealing his instant dislike of the newcomer.
She fixed her eyes on the bartender. Then she took a closer look at the man sitting in front of him. His pointed ears betrayed his heritage, but his height suggested he was not of pure blood.
Marshek was known to be tolerant of elves but he hated what he called half-breeds. Cera could imagine what the grumpy, middle-aged tavern owner was thinking, and it wasn’t friendly.
She rose, Trikser also immediately rising, awaiting her move. The white wolf was her bondmate and had been since he was young.
Relax, she thought-sent.
Trik sat, but his body was tight, tense. He didn’t respond to her mental order.
Moving to the bar, her wolf followed, slinking close to the floor, moving in a slight crawl. His belly probably touched the filthy planked flooring of the tavern.
Cera made a face but forced a breath. Detached control. Sliding onto the stool next to the half-elfin man, she was just in time to hear his order. His voice was clear and deep.
Marshek filled a mug with ale and started to put the jug in its place on the shelf.
“Wait, Mar,” she said with a wave of her hand, “I’ll have some of that, too.”
With a curt nod, the older man poured her a mug. She brought it to her lips, glancing nonchalantly at the stranger. His coal black hair brushed the collar of his hooded gray cape, giving him a rather unkempt look, but rugged rather than messy.
Cera couldn’t see the hue of his eyes from her seat but his high cheekbones made his profile appealing, his sleek tapered ears adding to the attraction. His powerful jaw line was clean shaven, an oddity in these parts. She could tell he was aware of her perusal. He was young, not much older than her, and had the stunning beauty of the elves.
His chest heaved as if he’d taken a breath, and he finally glanced at her. Blue. His eyes were a deep, sapphire blue. Her heart skipped a beat but she ignored it. The man said nothing, not that she’d expected him to.


The Worst Prank Ever

No Makeover Monday today. The Easter Bunny brought me a horrendous sinus infection. Hard to organize with a 50 lb weight on each cheek. Instead, I decided to rerun the post below. We buried my Dad on April Fool's Day nine years ago. This just seems to fit. 

The Worst Prank Ever

or 

How to make your daughter cry in 30 seconds or less

Dad sometime in the 80's

When my boyfriend and I abruptly dropped our plans for the Fourth of July and made the three hour trip to my parents' house. I'm pretty sure my Dad already knew what was coming. Especially when mom and I announced we were going shopping and leaving the two of them alone.

First, Dad tried to encourage Scott go shopping with us. When Scott insisted he would rather stay and hang out with him. Dad decided there were a few "chores" that needed immediate attention around the house.

Like cutting down a tree in the back pasture.

So, as I drove away with my mother, knowing full well Scott was going to ask my dad to marry me.

My Dad was smiling, waving and revving a chainsaw!

My mother promised me that Dad would not kill Scott and hide is body in the back pasture. I wasn't so sure.

Dawn and Scott 1997

 A little less than an hour later, my Mom and I were strolling through the mall, heading for the wedding dress store when her cell phone rang.

Checking the display she said, "It's your Dad."

I was all smiles when I answered. "Hi, Daddy!"

Dad was loud, but he rarely yelled and usually did not cuss when talking to me. 

"What do you mean this S.O.B wants to marry you?" He was yelling.

I laughed at first. "Well, you know. He kind of likes me."

Dad got louder. "Well, I told him no. I told him he was not welcome in this family. He told  me to go F*&# myself and took off. He's walking to town right now!"

At that moment, I burst into tears in the middle of Dillards.

My mother took the phone while a very sweet cosmetic counter lady comforted me with a box of tissues. Through the my sobs, I heard my mother saying things like "Well, what did you say?" Pause "What did he say?" Pause. "Why is he walking? Why didn't he take his truck?" Pause. Longer Pause. Longer Pause.

Mom and Dad early 80's

Then, my mother's face changed. She stepped behind a makeover screen, which offered no real sound protection and let loose with a string of insults, ending with "This is your idea of a joke? Your daughter is crying. Crying. Right now in the middle of the store." Then she turned to me, "It's a joke, Dawn. It's a joke. Everything's fine."

I took the phone, through the tears and uncontrollable shaking, I was able to hear my Dad's booming laugh and the words, "I'm sorry, baby. I thought it was April Fool's Day!"

I could barely speak to him or my future husband for the rest of the weekend. Although, my husband disavowed any knowledge of a plot to tease me. He swears he was in the bathroom the whole time. Yeah, right.

So, how did the conversation really go?

Scott: I'm  sure you know why we're here... I want to marry your daughter.

Dad (putting down chainsaw) : Well, if you know her well enough to want to marry her, you know if that's what she wants, there's nothing I can do to stop her. So, welcome to the family. Want some ice tea?

Scott: Thank you. Tea sounds good.

Dad (Patting Scott on the back): Let's call Dawn.

 Miss you, Dad.