ISSUE 34 | MAY 2019
Welcome to Issue 34, May 2019 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews.
and Rae Louise.
Check out the features for Tricia L. Sanders, Amelia Foster, Kenneth Womack, Jean Grant, Jennifer Siddoway, Joe Hickey, Sian B. Claven, Meg Benjamin
FangFreakinTastic is also bringing us a feature with author Charity Marie. Only one more month of reviews for books to be eligible for the 2019 Raven Awards. After June, all books that will be eligible will move to 2020. At this time, Uncaged has closed Tier 2 review submissions until our lists are cleared. I can’t give a date on when they will reopen, but I would guesstimate that it will be at least 4 months, probably longer. This does effect the Raven Awards, if the book is not reviewed by Uncaged, then it’s not eligible, but until Uncaged has a larger pool of steady reviewers, then it cannot be helped.
being that Uncaged has read at least one of the author’s books, (can be read right before the feature) and that I ask that the authors share the magazine with their networks. Read about that HERE. Uncaged is supported through advertising, both in the magazine, and on the site. Please see the Advertising tab on the site for more information on how you can advertise in the magazine and support the Uncaged mission to promote authors. Tier 2 review submissions in Uncaged are now open to new submissions. Because of an ongoing backlog, books that are reviewed for feature authors will be placed in the Uncaged review section of the magazine, and although the author needs to be willing to allow Uncaged to review a book to become featured, the review is not a requirement within the feature itself. This is to attempt to clear up the long review submission lists.
All inquiries: UncagedBooks@gmail.com or Cyrene@UncagedBooks.com Some changes to Uncaged for 2019 are already in effect, so stay tuned as improvements are made all year long. Until next month - keep reading!
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Tricia L. Sanders
FangFreakinTastic Charity Marie 71 non-fiction/mental illness
Kenneth Womack Amelia Foster
Jean M. Grant
Issue 34 | May 2019
catchup 18 R. Weir
Catch Up wth R. Weir as he releases the latest in the Jarvis Mann series with Mann in the Crossfire
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Issue 34 | May 2019 |
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mystery | young adult | contemporary
Tricia L. Sanders
feature author Tricia L. Sanders writes cozy mysteries and women’s fiction. She adds a dash of romance and a sprinkling of snark to raise the stakes. Her heroines are humorous women embarking on journeys of selfdiscovery all the while doing so with class, sass, and a touch of kickass. Tricia is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, so don’t get between her and the television when a game is on. Currently she is working on a mystery series set in the fictional town of Wickford, Missouri. Another project in the works is a women’s fiction road trip adventure. A former instructional designer and corporate trainer, she traded in curriculum writing for novel writing, because she hates bullet points and loves to make stuff up. And fiction is more fun than training guides and lesson plans. To keep up-to-date on her current books, new releases, exclusive giveaways, and other news and events, sign up for her newsletter, Sleuth Scoop https://mailchi.mp/23a87d715dc3/tricia-l-sanderssleuthscoop
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Please welcome Tricia L. Sanders Uncaged: Your books are an addicting combination of kick-ass women, mystery and humor. Can you tell readers more about your books? What are you working on next? My books usually always feature older characters or at least have older characters. I focus on friendships along with a good mystery. I like to add a dash of romance, and I love to create snarky, sassy women who do not take no for an answer. I’m currently working on book 3 and 4 in my Grime Pays series. I also have prequels for two new series. One features a husband and wife duo. He’s a retired police chief, and she’s a bit too nosy for her own good. They take to the road in their newly acquired RV with their rescue dog Max, and trouble just seems to find them. The other series is a mother/daughter team who move to an island off the coast of Florida when the mother inherits an inn and café from a deceased relative. When they arrive at the island, the grand places she remembers from her childhood visits don’t exactly exist, and they have to deal with a bevy of islanders (and dead bodies) who thwart their every move.
Uncaged: Are there any events that you will be attending in 2019? In March I attended the first Sleuthing Women Meet and Greet in Westfield, Indiana. I’ll also be at MurderCon Aug 1 – 4 in Raleigh, NC. And also 20 Books to 50K in Las Vegas, Nov 12 - 14. I’m planning an out-ofstate move, so my calendar is a bit empty due to that. Once I’m settled, check my website for current events. Uncage: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Alfred Hitchcock – I love the way his mind worked. Harlan Coben – he is the master of suspense. I’d love to pick his brain on how he creates the twists in his novels. Also, I love that he sometimes writes from two viewpoints so effortlessly. Agatha Christie – I mean, why not? Her characterization is flawless. Who has not heard of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot? And Shel Silverstein – I have always loved the way his words flow. Talk about beautiful prose. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? For me joining a collective of mystery writers on Facebook called Sleuthing Women has been the abso-
lute best. We each bring a fan base to the group and use our collective knowledge to help one another. The least successful, using a paid newsletter builder to gain newsletter subscribers. It was a total bust and a waste of dollars. The few subscribers I gained quickly unsubscribed. Since then I have worked tirelessly to grow my newsletter organically to reach out to fans who really are interested in my novels and want to learn more about them. Uncaged:What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? Aww, one really great lady said she would love to have my character Cece as her best friend. That made me tear up. Since then when I write I always keep her comment in mind. That’s the whole point of reading a book—to find a new friend. So, I want my readers to be friends with my characters. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I love to travel and take photographs, preferably at the same time. My favorite place on earth is always home, but my favorite travel destinations by far have been Tanzania and Kenya. I flew in a Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | hot air balloon over the Maasai Mara. Met amazing school children in a Maasai village, watched wildebeest make their annual migration across the Mara River, and came face-to-face with a cape buffalo—SCARY!!! Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? EEK! I don’t know. I guess the fact that my first story was published when I was 9 years old and my second when I was in my fifties, and I wrote every opportunity in between. I just never had the courage or encouragement to submit anything. At fifty, I figured I wasn’t getting any younger and if I didn’t start submitting, I’d never have anything else published. In all those years, no one knocked on my door and asked to publish a story. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for being readers. Read to your children and teach them to read. And if you want to be a writer, don’t wait. If your child wants to write, encourage him or her. With a book, you can be or do anything.
Enjoy an excerpt from Murder is a Dirty Business Murder is a Dirty Business Tricia L. Sanders Mystery/Suspense When Cece Cavanaugh’s husband empties their joint bank account, steals her designer luggage, and runs off with a younger woman, Cece must decide whether to ask her manipulative mother-in-law for a handout or get a job. Choosing the easier path, Cece lands a job cleaning a crime scene where a high school coach was murdered. When his wife is implicated—a young woman Cece practically raised—Cece finds herself mopping floors, balancing an empty checkbook, and ferreting out a killer. Amid all this messy business, Cece bumps heads with a handsome detective. She tries to ignore her growing attraction to the detective, but he gives new meaning to the term “hot flash.” After she stumbles onto a clue that could vindicate her friend, her elation turns to panic when she haphazardly confronts the killer. Through the danger and romance, Cece discovers self-reliance and inner strength. And that crime – at least, someone else’s – does pay the bills. Excerpt Chapter 1 “My mother prides herself on her ability to marry well. All five times.” Cece Cavanaugh My day started the way it had all week, cutting fresh lilacs from the bushes surrounding our patio. Dark clouds in the distance rumbled a spring warning. “Cece.” My husband, Phillip, stepped out onto the textured pavement, wearing khakis and a white linen shirt, not his usual workday attire.
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I dropped two fragrant sprigs into the vase I held in the crook of my arm. “You’re late for breakfast.” “Don’t start,” he said. “I’m not in the mood.” “Why aren’t you dressed for work?” I reached for another cluster of lilacs and stopped. He never took a day off unless it involved a tee time, and he wasn’t dressed for golf. “You’re not ill, are you?” That was the last thing I needed. I had a hair appointment with my daughter’s best friend Sarah, a library committee meeting, and a tennis lesson. My daily planner did not include nursing a sick, grumpy husband. “I’m fine,” he said, running a hand through his sandy, silver-at-the-temples hair. “We need to talk.” He crossed the patio in five strides, carrying his morning coffee and an attitude. When he began toying with the change in his pocket, a niggling thought crossed my mind. He had something on his mind, something that could spoil my day, and I aimed to cut him off. “The travel agent from Kingman’s delivered our tickets yesterday,” I said. “She suggested a bike tour in Chianti.” Phillip set his cup on the table and pulled out a chair, motioning for me to sit. “Cece, I have something I need to tell you.” I stopped clipping and glared at him. “Don’t you dare,” I said, ignoring the chair. “We’ve been planning this for a year. We’re going hiking, taking a cooking class, and don’t forget the winery tours. You’ll enjoy this trip.” “About the trip.” The look on his face mimicked constipation. “No excuses. We’re going.” I pointed the shears at him. “And when you finish breakfast, bring the luggage up from the basement.” A muscle in Phillip’s jaw jumped. “My bags are packed,” he said, the words coming out in a rush. I stepped back, fear inching its way through my veins, carrying a burden straight to my heart. “You-You never pack yourself.” I stumbled over my words. “E-Esther always packs you.” As if on cue, our housekeeper stepped through the door, carrying a breakfast tray. Phillip waved her off. “Not now, Esther.” She mumbled under her breath and walked back into
| TRICIA L. SANDERS | the house leaving the door open a crack, her typical response when something went awry in the Cavanaugh household. Listen now, blab later. Phillip pulled a letter from his pocket and dropped it on the table. “I’m leaving.” “What? Why? Our flight isn’t until Sunday.” My stomach started cartwheeling, end over end, over end. The bagel I’d eaten earlier joined the battle, threatening to make an appearance. Phillip’s gaze traveled to the table and then back to me. I shifted the vase in my arm and smoothed open the letter. “It’s an itinerary? That’s not Kingman Travel’s logo.” “I’m not going to Tuscany. I’m going to Rio.” “Rio today? Then Tuscany on Sunday?” I asked. Sadness clouded Phillip’s face, followed by the clench of his jaw. I’d witnessed his guarded look before. “No,” he said in a voice so quiet I strained to hear. An impossible thought materialized in my brain. I dropped the vase. I dropped the shears. I dropped my dignity. The clatter crowded my ears. “If you’re set against going, I’ll cancel the trip.” I felt myself struggling for traction on an icy slope. “Next year. The year after. We’ll figure it out.” “I’m going to Rio with someone else.” “What the hell? You’re joking?” Questions rushed from my mouth, and scenes of sultry women, husband-stealing women, dressed in sexy-near-nothingness clouded my vision. “Who?” “Willow.” Phillip glanced at his watch and headed for the door. “My flight leaves in four hours.” I choked off a laugh. The seriousness of his demeanor held me back. “Willow? ThatThat-That ‘I stick my finger down my throat to stay so skinny’ girl from your office? She’s what? Twenty? We have a daughter older than her.” “Willow’s none of your business.” “If you’re leaving with her, then she is my business.” I followed and grabbed him around the waist, resting my head against his back. “Why are you doing this to me? To us? To our family?” Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | “Don’t make this harder.” Unwrapping my arms from his mid-section, Phillip shrugged out of my embrace and went inside. I kicked off my rubber gardening clogs and trailed him, step-for-step, across the kitchen, past a slackjawed Esther, up the stairs to our bedroom. “What about the girls? Michelle will be devastated. Jessie will never forgive you.” He pulled a suitcase and an overnight bag from his closet, dropped them on our bed, and disappeared into the bathroom. “Don’t be dramatic. Jessie’s grown, and Michelle will understand. Eventually.” The sadness in his voice betrayed the bravado of his words. Hoping to find he’d packed for me, I opened the overnight bag, the Louis Vuitton he’d given me last year for my forty-seventh birthday. Instead, it contained chargers for his cell and tablet, a belt, and his golf shoes. Ha! He can’t even take his mistress out of town without thinking about golf. I jerked out the shoes and shoved them under my pillow. He returned, dropped his toiletries in my bag, and zipped it shut. “We’ll talk when I get back.” “Don’t do this.” I reached for the bag, but he scooped it and the suitcase up and left me standing at the foot of our bed. I plucked the shoes from under my pillow and charged after him. “That’s my luggage. Come back here with my Louis Vuitton, you bastard.” I stood on the top step of our winding staircase, clutching the golf shoes. My husband hiked the strap of my overnight bag higher on his shoulder. “I’ll pick up the rest of my belongings when I return.” “Like hell you will.” I launched a shoe, and it ricocheted off his shoulder. Midway down the stairs, he spun around. “Are you crazy?” His words snapped the synapses of my brain, sending a bolt of white-hot anger straight to my heart. “Me? Am I crazy?” This time I aimed and sent the other shoe flying. It clipped his sturdy Cavanaugh chin and blood spurted onto his shirt. “What do you think?” 14 | UncagedBooks.com
“Shit.” Phillip grabbed his chin and dashed to the door. “I’d have you arrested for assault if I didn’t think I’d miss my flight.” “Go ahead. I’ve got time.” I ran down the stairs in my socked feet. When I hit the marble floor, my feet slid in opposite directions, and I crashlanded. “You need to get a grip on yourself.” He shook his head and hurried out the front door, dragging my luggage behind him. I picked myself up and followed, stopping on the porch when I saw his new golf clubs leaning against the wall. The custom-made set his mother bought for his birthday. Phillip dabbed at his chin with a golf towel and scurried down the sidewalk toward his Porsche. “Hey, jackass, don’t forget your clubs.” I pulled the driver out and slung it at his car, followed by the pitching wedge. “You crazy bitch, those clubs cost thirty grand. Stop it.” Phillip scrambled after his precious clubs, a perfect imitation of a crab crossing scorching sand. I continued flinging. I scored a direct hit on his ass with the nine iron. The sand wedge struck him on the ankle. I had let loose with the five iron when Angie Valenti, our neighbor who also happened to be a cop, rounded the side of the house. The club missed the side of her head and bounced off the garage door. “Jeez.” Angie jumped back. “You’re supposed to use those to hit a ball, not your best friend.” “Phillip!” I screamed. “The cops are here. You wanna have Angie arrest me?” By now, Phillip had gathered all the clubs, including the one I’d almost beaned Angie with, and shoved them into the car. He stopped at the driver’s door. His cheeks were flushed, and sweat gathered at his hairline. Rage contorted his face. “You’re just like your”—he paused—“mother.” He spat the word off his tongue like he’d taken a mouthful of spoiled milk. It was damn lucky for him I’d dropped the gardening shears on the patio. I darted after him, intent on bashing him in the mouth and making him sorry he’d
uttered those horrifying words. Angie must have read my mind. Before I could reach him, she tackled me, pinning me to the ground. Phillip ducked into his car, gunned the engine, and sped off down the street, tires squealing. “Get off me,” I yelled, my face planted in my bluegrass lawn. Just because she was a cop didn’t mean she had to act like one. I arched my back and tried to buck her off, but she held steady. All those years of cop-training paying off. “I’ll let you up when you calm down.” She didn’t budge. I unearthed my face. “He said I was like my mother.” “Better yours than that witch he calls Mother,” Angie said, loosening her grip. “Hazel Cavanaugh makes your mom look like a saint.” “Ha!” I said. “That’ll be the day.” Hazel might have a high opinion of herself, but my mother held no opinion of herself. No self-worth at all. She had five husbands under her belt to prove it, not including the guy she was shacking with now. Angie relaxed, and I used the opportunity to squirm out from underneath her and scramble to my feet. She stood and smoothed a strand of burgundy hair that had escaped the bun knotted at the nape of her neck. “What the hell happened?” I struggled to draw a breath. “I-I-I can’t do this. Not now.” Angie grabbed my arm, ushered me across the porch, past the empty golf bag, and into my living room. After she pushed me down on my sofa, she said, “Spill it, girlfriend.” I shut my eyes, wondering how my life had taken such a horrendous turn. They say as you grow older, you become more like your mother. I had already begun to see her crow’s feet clawing at the corners of my eyes. Her voice often screeched out of my mouth when my youngest daughter, Michelle, stretched my nerves beyond their boundaries. Now, for the first time in my life, I had begged a man not to leave. Something I’d watched my mother do all too often. I felt a flush creep up my neck and bloom across my face. Phillip was right. The cushion next to me gave, and Angie’s arm slipped
| TRICIA L. SANDERS | around my shoulders. That was all it took for the dam to break. Tears rushed down my face. I lifted one shoulder, then the other. “Rio de Janeiro.” My voice sounded far away. But not as far away as Phillip. “With Willow.” “The giant beanpole from his office? Why?” I pulled away and frowned. “Do I have to draw a picture? He left me. For her. She’s young and pretty and doesn’t have hair sprouting from her chin.” Angie leaned back into the sofa. She was a striking woman, especially in her police uniform. No one would ever call her beautiful. Her nose was a tad too long and her eyes wide set, but she had dewypink skin, smooth and clear with a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Most women our age—me, for instance—envied her complexion. Particularly considering my face was blotchy and swollen from crying. I pulled up the hem of my shirt and wiped my face. “How tall is she, anyway?” Angie asked. “I don’t know. Tall. Stupid tall,” I said. “She’s like a freaking Amazon.” Angie disappeared into the bathroom and returned with a wad of tissue. “Bet she has feet the size of a barge.” “A cargo ship,” I said, taking the tissue. “An oceangoing cargo ship.” “She’s gotta be what, a foot taller than Phillip and at least twenty-five years younger?” Angie never missed an opportunity to get in a good insult. She only tolerated Phillip because of our friendship. Bolstered by an idea, I drew myself up and wiped my face. “He’ll be back. This is a midlife crisis. Men have them all the time. Don’t they?” Even to myself I sounded pathetic. “Gah! Don’t do that.” “I thought we had a good marriage. What did I do wrong?” Other than a cheating husband, I had a good life. Emphasis on had. We owned a beautiful home in Harris Arbor, the classy side of our small community of Wickford, Missouri. Sixteen years ago, when my younger daughter, Michelle, was born, I’d given up my nursing career and turned my attention to community proIssue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | jects, charitable organizations, and taking care of my family. As wife of the CEO of Cavanaugh Structure and Design, it was my job to make sure my husband had a home fit for entertaining. Angie ran her hands around the back of her head and tugged her bun. “Listen to yourself. He’s cheating on you. You didn’t do anything to deserve this. Find yourself a damn good divorce lawyer and sue Phillip’s ass.” She thought my husband was selfish and domineering, and she constantly urged me to stand up for myself. Angie was like tree bark, rough. I didn’t know if it was because she dealt with criminals or because she hung out with cops, but she always said what she thought, straight to the heart of the issue with no possibility of misinterpretation. Dave, Angie’s husband, said her straightforwardness was what he loved most about her. He said he always knew where he stood, no questions. Dave, a plastic surgeon, had seen more boobs than Playtex and Maidenform combined. Half the women at our country club were his patients, and the other half would be, as soon as they spotted the first wrinkle or sag. I sniffed and rubbed my eyes with the tail of my shirt again. “Gross, use the tissue,” Angie said. “Girl, you need to grow a set of balls. It’s time Cece Cavanaugh stood up for herself.” She clamped her lips together to emphasize her point. I twisted a tissue in my hand and contemplated what she’d said. The more Angie talked, the more depressed I became. “You’ve got two legs. Use them. He’s controlled you long enough.” “What are you talking about?” I sniffled and blew my nose. “When’s the last time you made a decision?” Angie crossed her legs and began to swing a brogancovered foot. “I planned the trip to Tuscany.” Angie wagged her pointer finger. “You might have planned it, but who suggested it?” “Hazel,” I said, hanging my head. Damn my 16 | UncagedBooks.com
mother-in-law. Always sticking her nose where I didn’t want it. “So, about your last decision?” When I didn’t answer, Angie plowed ahead. “You can’t remember because you don’t make them, he does. He decides where Michelle goes to school, and who vetoed the sensible car and gave her a Mustang? He even chose the color of your Lexus. And the club? You wouldn’t be hanging out with those vultures if it weren’t for him.” Angie was right about the country club. I hated the fakey nice-nice. But it was the norm. Phillip expected it and so did Hazel. Lord knew we couldn’t go against Hazel. “I do make decisions,” I said. “Name one.” “Don’t be condescending. You make it sound like I’m a twit.” “I see it all the time in the battered women I deal with.” I pushed off the sofa and swung around to face her. “You’re comparing me with women who get beat up by their husbands? Phillip’s never laid a hand on me.” Angie pulled me back to the sofa. “Calm down. I know he doesn’t do you physical harm. But he’s abusive all the same. It’s called mental abuse. When you do make a decision, he overrules it. For God’s sake, he even tells you what perfume to wear and how to dress. I’ve kept my mouth shut all these years to keep peace, but now you have the opportunity. Take it. If Willow wants him, let her pick up his wet towels and dirty socks.” I interrupted her rant. “I don’t clean up after him.” “Huh?” “I have a housekeeper.” “Oh, yeah. Whatever. He litters your brain with his mental refuse, and you let him. Tell the creep you’re through.” “It’s not that easy,” I said. “He waited until Michelle left for school. I have to tell her and Jessie he’s gone.” “What’d you expect?” The phone interrupted my reply. “Now what?” “Let it go to voicemail.” “I can’t. It might be one of the girls. Or Phillip. May-
| TRICIA L. SANDERS | be he realizes he made a colossal mistake.” At the thought, I tore through the house and snatched the handset off his desk. Please let it be him. Please let it be him. Please let it be him. “Is Phillip there?” a male voice asked. “No. This is his . . .” The word caught on my tongue. “Wife. I’m his wife.” The man cleared his throat. “Cece, this is Keith Jenkins.” My pulse tapped a staccato beat against my temples. Phillip’s attorney. “He’s . . . He’s . . . He’s already filing for divorce?” “Divorce?” His voice hiked an octave. “Good grief, no.” “Oh.” Keith sighed. “Phillip’s avoided my calls all week. I need his approval on a payment plan for the mortgage company.” “Payment plan?” The grandmother of all hot flashes crept up my back, breathed fire on my neck, and roared full force up and over my scalp. Beads of perspiration sprouted across my forehead. Papers rustled on Keith’s end. “Your mortgage is in default.” “There must be a mistake,” I said, but after this morning, who knew what was going on? I leaned against the desk to brace myself. “Cece, there hasn’t been a payment in six months. You’ve got ninety days to get the mortgage current or your house goes to foreclosure.”
Issue 34 | May 2019 |
R. Weir is back this month with his new Jarvis Mann novel, Mann in the Crossfire. Uncaged: You were a Featured Author in the May 2018 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews. How was your experience being in the magazine? It was wonderful. I enjoyed doing the interview and the review of my book The Front Range Butcher was fabulous to read in digital print. Then there was the added thrill of winning the Raven Award, Runner-Up for best Mystery/Suspense book of 2018. Any publicity an indie author can get is a bonus and much appreciated. Uncaged: You have a new release in the Jarvis Mann series, Man in the Crossfire. Can you tell us more about the series and the new book? Private Eye Jarvis Mann is your classic hardboiled PI. Tough, snarky and not always the best boyfriend. I’ve enjoyed writing this 8-book series and bringing to the pages the evolution of my main character. In Mann in the Crossfire he faces new challenges and questions the life he is leading, wondering if he has what it takes to continue doing the dangerous work he does. It’s an intriguing plot where he investigates who murdered a long-time associate of his, leading him to a powerful organization. Many characters from past books return and several story-lines, including a major one from The Front Range Butcher are resolved. I do feel Crossfire, along with Butcher read together is my best work to date in the series. Uncaged: Can readers pick up this series without starting from book one and read them as standalones? They certainly can, as I write the books so they can 18 | UncagedBooks.com
be read as standalones. But it does help to read from the beginning, to not only learn in more detail about many of the characters but see the evolution of Jarvis as a private eye and a person, both good and bad. He has come a long way over the course of the series. Uncaged: You are attending Wild Deadwood Reads again this year. What part(s) of this convention do you look forward to the most? The Saturday Book Fair event is a lot of fun, getting to talk to fans of Jarvis and new potential readers who have an interest in my series. Those one on one conversations make all the endless days and nights creating a book worth it. And I enjoy the Thursday Meet and Greet, getting to speak with those authors I’ve talked with at past events and to meet new authors who are in Deadwood for the first time.
Enjoy an excerpt from Mann in the Crossfire Mann in the Crossfire R. Weir Suspense/Crime Is this the end for PI Jarvis Mann? A surprising murder of an associate Sends Jarvis on a trip to San Diego to investigate A trail of clues direct him to a gang member who wants him
eliminated While a local detective agency is hot on his tail with nefarious plans of their own Battered and beaten, Jarvis battles to forge on, tracking the evidence Directing him to a dangerous discovery that he may not be able to fight his way out of Desperate for backup, with nowhere else to turn
| R. WEIR | He enlists lethal foes to render essential aid Will these illicit associations spell the end of his career and possibly his life… For Jarvis is truly a Mann in the Crossfire. Excerpt It was after nine when Eugene finally came out. His girlfriend wasn’t with him, likely sleeping off the night of booze and debauchery. He lumbered to his car with his noticeable limp, carefully climbing in before the engine roared to life and headed down the road. Manny kept a good distance keeping him in sight. I had my Rockies ball cap and sunglasses on in case he could see me in his rearview mirror. We headed south on I-5 for about forty-five minutes before he veered off onto state highway 52, heading west. Exiting on Regent Road, into the community of North Clairemont, which was part of San Diego. From there we made several turns until we came to a neighborhood that looked a little rough. Most of the homes were modular type, single story and of basic rectangular or square box design. Many looked in disrepair, with peeling siding and paint. Yards were full of weeds, with an occasional dead tree here and there. The streets were lined with a few older cars and trucks, many in bad shape. This was a poor neighborhood it would seem, an area where crime might be an issue. Eugene’s Camaro pulled to the curb in front of one of the houses, one of the better kept homes on the block. We drove on past about a block, before doing a U-turn and pulling up to the curb about three houses down. Eugene sat in his car waiting, before two men came outside, both dressed in torn jeans and muscle shirts, with multi-colored do-rags on their heads. Sunglasses covered their faces, their skin dark and littered with tattoos. Each was armed, a large handgun in a shoulder holster under their armpit. Eugene climbed out, greeting them both with firm handshake and quick embrace. “Are you carrying?” asked Manny. I had put on a light jacket, to cover my holster, my Berretta concealed. “Yes.”
“Good. I hope we don’t need it. But it appears we’re in someone’s gang territory. Otherwise they wouldn’t be walking freely with their guns showing.” “My experience is we will be challenged for being here, eventually.” “Yes, we will.” Manny got on his radio and called in to let the San Diego North Division know he was in their territory, with the wheres and the whys. After he was done, he gave them the address of the house and one of the cars’ license plate numbers. Impressive he’d remembered them, for neither was written down. It didn’t take long for them to relay the information which was sent to his phone. “Look at the name registered to the car out front,” stated Manny, handing me his phone. There were two names listed, one the owner of the home, the other from the registration on the car. The home owner was Miguel Prisco, leader of the gang in the area. The car owner was Luciano Duarte. Either it was a coincidence he had the same last name as Vicente, or he was related. I was willing to bet on the latter. My instinct had been spot-on to follow Washburn. Now to see where this information led me. “Vicente said his men took care of the hit and he supervised,” I acknowledged. “Luciano could be one of his men, being they likely are family.” Manny nodded. “I doubt we can walk up there and get him to admit to it. He might be a perturbed about Vicente getting killed.” “I agree. And the odds aren’t with us right now. Though we may not have a choice, it looks like they’re walking our way.” Miguel and Luciano walked briskly towards us, muscles swelling, their stride with a confident sway to it, faces clenched in full-on menacing mode for us to see. Eugene trailed behind them, appearing less ominous, but I suspected wouldn’t cower to prove himself, though he didn’t appear to be armed. I pulled out my gun and held it low, between my legs. Manny had his out as well, holding it next to his leg with his right hand, his badge in his left, Issue 34 | May 2019 |
prepared to firmly face them. “You don’t belong here,” stated Miguel, as he stopped several feet short of the Silverado, his hand near his gun. “I know everyone on this block and those that don’t belong better leave or they will leave in pieces.” Manny’s window was down. He held out his left hand, displaying his badge. “You’re a cop,” observed Miguel. “Why are you on my turf?” Manny seemed calm, as if he’d dealt face-to-face with other gang members in the past. Which was a good thing; I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. “We’re working,” replied Manny. “Running down several leads which brought us here.” “You aren’t one of our friendly neighborhood cops, I know them all,” proclaimed Miguel. “We’re from Oceanside. Crime was committed there.” “Then you need to go back there. You aren’t wanted here and could get yourself killed.” “Sounds like a threat,” said Manny with a calm you wouldn’t expect. “More of a warning,” answered Miguel. “People who don’t belong around here often don’t live long. Cops have an even shorter life span, if they aren’t on the list of those we allow in.” Eugene walked up to Luciano and whispered in his ear, his expression changing when he heard the words. Luciano did not share what he learned with Miguel. Maybe Miguel wasn’t involved with the car bombing. If this was the case it might be something I could use as leverage. “We will drive on,” voiced Manny. “We got what we wanted. You gentlemen have a great day.” He sat the gun on the seat and put the truck in gear, and slowly drove away. I made eye contact with Luciano, who stood staring at us with a look of vile anger on his face, his hand on the butt of his gun ready to act on his violent urges. My heart rate was through the roof, the tension building as I watched through the back window, until we were clear and safe. It took a few minutes for me to calm down, thankful we’d left without a violent confrontation. Once I felt safe, I put my gun 20 | UncagedBooks.com
back in the holster. “Did we learn anything?” wondered Manny as I wiped my brow. I smiled grimly. “Yeah we did. And it’s not to drive into that neighborhood without heavy backup!” We headed back to Oceanside, as I contemplated what to do next, though a stiff drink was first on the list.
I live in the Mile-High city with my wife, daughter and dog, where the Rocky Mountain High isn’t always achieved with an herbal substance. When not glued to the computer for work and writing, I relax by enjoying the outdoors; working in my yard, travelling in our motorhome and riding a motorcycle wherever the wind takes me. My writing beckons back to the days of detectives and dames, but with modern plots and twists. PI Jarvis Mann is tough, resourceful and a man with as many faults as virtues. His oddball sense of humor is much like mine, though I’m not nearly as tough and fearless as he is. Though no evil stands a chance against my written word!
feature author Dr. Kenneth Womack is the author of three previous novels, John Doe No. 2 and the Dreamland Motel, The Restaurant at the End of the World, and Playing the Angel. He is also a worldrenowned authority on the Beatles and their enduring cultural influence, and has written several books about the band including Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of the Beatles, The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four, as well as an acclaimed two-volume biography about the life of Beatles producer George Martin and the forthcoming Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles (October 2019). Womack is Dean of the Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University, where he also serves as Professor of English.
Uncaged welcomes Kenneth Womack Uncaged: Your newest book, I Am Lemonade Lucy will release on May 9th. Can you tell readers more about the book? You bet! I Am Lemonade Lucy traces the story a Muslim student who immigrates to small-town Ohio. It’s a fish-out-of-water story to say the least. The main character Azza Amari is desperate to find her fair share of the American Dream, but as you can imagine, there are plenty of obstacles in her way in the present-dayUSA. Uncaged: You are also a Dean and a Professor, where do you find the time to write? Part of working in a professorial role involves pursuing your scholarship, so I do everything I can to stay current in the profession. With the duties associated with being Dean,that can be difficult at times. My approach is to make time every night for writing—even if it is just as little as a few hundred words. That way, no matter how tough the weeks get, I am always in writerly shape! Uncaged: You have also written some books about The Beatles and their cultural influence that is still felt today. Can you tell us more about what influenced this research and writings? To my mind, the Beatles’ cultural achievements are second-to-none. They went from their crude early
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work to the more sophisticated efforts of their final years. It’s an incredible creative trajectory that I find endlessly fascinating. Looking out at the vast world of art—whether it be literary, musical, or otherwise—it’s difficult to find another creative fusion that comes close to matching their evolution. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I would love to spend quality time with Vladimir Nabokov. Just think of it: a Russian native who masters the English language and learns how to rend and flex it in amazing and unexpected ways. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? Definitely working with my publicist Nicole Michael on the first volume in my George Martin biography. We really hit our stride with that book—Maximum Volume—and we learned a lot about how to nurture anticipation and interest among a large readership. As far as least successful marketing events go, I’ve certainly had my share, like most writers out there. But even in those moments, I look for a takeaway—something positive to draw from the event. Usually, this comes in the form of an individual connection with a reader. On one memorable occasion, that individual came in the form of a nine-year-old kid named Lennon, of all things. Visiting my book table with his parents, Lennon challenged me to a game of Beatles trivia, and it took everything I had
to keep up with the young phenom! Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I’m not sure if it was unusual, but it certainly meant a lot: several months ago, I was at a book-signing in a theatre and towards the end of the evening, when everyone had left, I saw a van pull up and a person jump out. He was carrying a copy of Long and Winding Roads, a Beatles book that came out more than a decade ago. He rushed in to get his well-worn copy signed, breathlessly telling me that he’d just heard I was in town. Then he went on to say that he reads the book once or twice a year to relive the Beatles’ amazing story. I was absolutely blown away! Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? When I’m not writing, I love to travel and see new places, meet new people. At this point, I’ve been to England nearly 40 times. But I still only feel as though I am only just beginning to scratch the surface. I’ve carried out so many research trips and publicity visits that I have developed favorite haunts over the years, cherished places to relax, that I still look forward to visiting whenever I am out that way. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | about you? I am unusual in the sense that I work from both scholarly and creative perspectives. I feel at home both as a writer of music history and fiction. The only thing left to do is merge the two. Perhaps for my next novel, I will spin a yarn about a fictive rock ‘n’ roll fusion? Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
kinship. All the while, the conservative hamlet—and especially Birdie—struggles to come to grips with what seems like the whole of the Islamic world has intruded into their workaday lives. Things come to a head when Kip and Azza find themselves on an unusual treasure hunt. Their whimsical search takes on deadly serious overtones as the strange duo inadvertently finds themselves peeling back the corrosive layers of cowardice and hate that linger just below the surface of their society in the Heartland. Excerpt
If we didn’t have our readership, writing would be an empty exercise indeed. I am grateful for the folks who have joined me on my writerly journey—and who have, in turn, allowed me to join their own journeys as readers. Folks can learn more about my work at kennethwomack.com. I love getting emails from readers, which I answer eagerly and with great interest!
Azza Amari scarcely noticed when the rusted-out, powder-blue hatchback made its circuit through the roundabout in front of the hotel and pulled up to the curb. But then the driver opened up his car door with a noisy clunk and leaned over the battered roof in her direction.
Enjoy an excerpt from I Am Lemonade Lucy
“You must be the international student,” he said, flashing a faint smile of recognition as he tried to place where he had seen her before. And then, quite suddenly, he got it: she was the girl he had seen in the Registrar’s office.
I Am Lemonade Lucy Kenneth Womack Coming of Age/Mystery Releases May 15 Azza Amari, a headstrong, hijabwearing international student flees her dangerous life in the Paris ghetto to enroll at staid Northwestern Ohio State College. As the twentysomething refugee navigates her way among the commuter school’s working-class environs in tiny Fremont, Ohio, Azza comes into the orbit of 17-year-old Kip Beckelhymer, a precocious, history-obsessed senior trying to win back the love of Birdie Hudgins, his mercurial highschool sweetheart. Together, Kip and Azza discover an extraordinary 24 | UncagedBooks.com
Azza stared at the young man for a moment in a kind of disbelief. Blond and thin, with an unruly lock of hair resting on his unblemished white forehead, he looked, for all the world, what she imagined Middle America to be like. “I am she, sir,” said Azza. “But where is Mr. Skakel?” “He’s out sick.” “May Allah bless Mr. Skakel and his family with renewed health and happiness,” she replied, bowing slightly. “I guess so,” he said sheepishly. “My name’s Kip. I’m your driver now.” “Very well,” she said, reaching out to open the rear door.
| KENNETH WOMACK | “Feel free to ride up front with me,” said Kip. “I do not wish to be in the suicide seat, sir,” said Azza, as she settled into the back seat of the Powder Puff. “The what?” said Kip, taking his place behind the wheel. “The suicide seat. It is the most dangerous place in the automobile, correct?”
“Suit yourself,” said Kip, turning his eyes back to the road. “What’s your name?” “Azza Amari, sir.” “Is that right?” said Kip. “What else would it be?” she replied, quizzically. “Of course, it is right.” “What does Amari mean?” Kip asked.
“I have heard that sitting in the passenger’s seat is also known as riding shotgun,” said Azza, interrupting him.
“It means ‘moon’ in Arabic,” she replied, briefly glancing out of her car window, where she saw a turban-clad Sikh riding a metallic blue motorbike. Head down, eyes glued to the road, he made for a strange sight, by any measure, in rural Fremont.
“That’s right!” said Kip.
“Moon. I like that,” said Kip.
“Yes, sir. I do not wish to do that either. To ride shotgun. No, thank you.”
“I have read that it also means ‘I am pregnant,’” said Azza.
“Do you know why they call it riding shotgun?” said Kip, as he turned over the ignition and the Powder Puff sputtered back to life.
“That’s kinda weird,” said Kip.
“No, sir, I do not.”
“So what is your major over at the college?” Kip asked, glancing up at the rearview mirror.
“Well, I don’t know about that. I mean, I just got my license, but I’m a really safe driver—”
“See, back in the Old West,” said Kip, pulling the Subaru away from the curb, “the passenger’s seat in a stagecoach was called the groom’s seat. And the person in that seat would be looking out for bandits or Indians or whatnot. And they’d be armed with a shotgun to ward off enemies. So they’d be riding shotgun. Get it?” “You seem to know a lot about history,” said Azza. “And firearms.” “I guess,” Kip replied, glancing awkwardly into the rearview mirror. “But I still do not wish to ride in the suicide seat.”
“It would be very weird, indeed, sir.”
“Chemical engineering. I am freshwoman, sir. What do you study?” “Oh, I’m not at Northwestern Ohio State. I’m a senior—” “But you seem so young, sir.” “Sorry. I meant that I’m in twelfth grade. In high school.” “I see,” Azza replied. “Where are you from?” Kip asked, as he turned onto stately, tree-lined College Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Avenue. “Paris, sir.” “French, huh?” said Kip. “Tunisian, actually,” she replied. “My family left Tunis when I was five-years-old. Our life in Bobigny is all I have ever known.” “Until now,” said Kip, smiling as he glanced at her reflection in the rearview mirror. “That is correct, sir,” Azza replied. “Now I am international student at Northwestern Ohio State College. I am living my new life in Fremont.” As Azza spoke, Kip stared into the rearview mirror, where he saw a police cruiser make a U-turn. As the squad car fell into line behind the Powder Puff, he could feel his body growing cold with fear. Was he about to be pulled over? And on his very first day as a driver-for-hire? Staring into the mirror, his brow creased with anxiety, Kip watched as the black-and-white followed him along College Avenue. As Kip pulled the Powder Puff up in front of Faraday Hall, the police cruiser slowed to a crawl as it continued its way along College Avenue. For the briefest of moments, the officer turned his head in the direction of the Subaru, his eyes emotionless as he peered into the vehicle as it idled on the edge of the campus. “Thank you, sir,” said Azza, her voice breaking the spell as she began to fumble with the door handle. “Should I pick you up here around five, I guess?” Kip asked, having regained his composure. “Very well,” she replied, before hastily exiting the Powder Puff. Kip’s eyes followed after Azza, her brightly 26 | UncagedBooks.com
colored hijab awash in the morning sunlight, as she walked swiftly towards the entrance to Faraday Hall. It was as if she were driven by an energy of her own making. And as Kip observed his passenger from another land making her way through the morning throng, he couldn’t help notice the other students, who paused from the doldrums of their morning routine to stare at her in a kind of stunned disbelief.
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feature author Science tells us humans are made of 60% water. For me, that would be more like 60% coffee, 10% chocolate, mixed with equal parts sarcasm and dirty jokes. Forever in love with the written word – whether reading or writing – I have a special affinity for romances with saccharine sweet HEAs. Bonus points if there is a puppy. From sweet & adorable to smutty & salacious I will greedily devour them all.
Uncaged welcomes Amelia Foster Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your books? What do you have coming up next that you can share with us? My debut, Meant to be Kept, is truly special to me for so many reasons. One big one is that I fully meant it to be a standalone, but as I was writing it I fell madly in love with the entire Carlisle clan especially Tanner’s three brothers and really wanted to see each of them get their HEA. Next up will be Wyatt’s story, Meant to be Different, releasing July 9, 2019. Love Done Write is an erotic romance novella I wrote when my writerly friend Meka James was also writing a short story, Being Neighborly, and challenged me to join her. It’s a May/December romance set in a place I adore, New Orleans.
In addition I have a coauthored (with Deana Birch) erotic BDSM romance Luca’s Lessons releasing June 4, 2019 that was basically magic to write. It fell together so seamlessly. Uncaged: On your blog, you read and review all genres. What is your favorite genre to read?
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Romance has my heart and soul for both reading and writing. And I have an extra special soft spot for NA romance… no one will ever convince me New Adult is a dead genre. Uncaged: What was the defining moment in your life that inspired you to write? When I was little my mom taught me to read at 3 and whenever I had trouble going to sleep she would tell me to make up whatever I wanted to dream about and I feel like that is where both my love of reading and writing originated. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I’m pretty darn fortunate that two of my current favorite authors Evie Drae (who just so happens to be my real life bestie and writing bestie and essentially the best human ever) and Felicia Grossman are not only friends, but live within a couple of hours of me which completely allows for hang out sessions. Past might be a bit trite, but I am an Austen girl all the way. I’d love to spend time with Jane and show her what a wonderful job Colin Firth did as Mr. Darcy.
that you did for your book? What was the least successful? Oh gosh, I am not the best at marketing, but as a book blogger myself I know that I really love connecting directly with authors rather than PR firms so I employed that tactic and approached many blogs personally. I am so fortunate that so many were receptive and kind enough to read, review, and promote to their readers. Least successful honestly was this huge gift basket that I put together with another author who released the same day as I released my debut. We had very few entrants and we put a LOT into that basket. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? What I found most interesting was in my story Love Done Write (a personal favorite of mine because… sexy silver fox!) was when someone mentioned they hate books where a character is a writer (both the male and female lead here are writers).
Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
Enjoy an excerpt from Meant to be Kept
When I’m not reading or writing I love to create other things. I am super crafty (not artistic at all, but crafty) and love crocheting, knitting, wreath making, and floral arrangements as well as some paper crafting. I have a not so secret life goal of living on an island in the Puget Sound. Major heart eyes for the PNW.
Meant to be Kept Amelia Foster Contemporary Romance
Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you?
Now, all I can do is beg for a second chance. To try and redeem myself in a bid not to lose the love
I am unique in nearly every way, but I think one of my most interesting traits is that I am quite an introvert and love being secluded in person with only minimal actual interaction outside of my nearest and dearest, but on social media I am super talkative! And I adore connecting and interacting with writers and readers. Also, I am kind of like Tigger on crack when I get excited about something which nearly completely contradicts all my introverted seclusion. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? To any fans I may have, I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say I love and adore each and every one of you. Knowing people care about my characters enough to spend their time and money on reading about them means more than words can express. And I LOVE talking to people who enjoy my work. So never, ever feel weird reaching out. I’m most active on Twitter, but secondarily on Facebook/Instagram.
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One night. One too many drinks. One mistake. That’s all it took to derail my marriage.
of my life.
I’m determined to use every second, every moment I have to show my wife how much she means to me—to rebuild the trust I shattered. But the harder I try, the more I start to realize our marriage had fallen into a routine of complacency and misplaced priorities long before my indiscretion. Isabelle is a strong, passionate, beautiful woman—a wife who has sacrificed so much for me. I just hope it’s not too late for us, and that I’ll be able to convince her that our love is meant to be kept. Excerpt All the air left her body in a woosh and Izzy blinked a few times, certain she was seeing things. When the telescope and the mountain of blankets and pillows filling the bed of Tanner’s obnoxious yellow truck didn’t disappear, she spun around to face him. “Tanner.” She breathed his name and lifted her hand to his cheek. So many thoughts ran through her mind, but none forming into coherent words. Instead she wrapped her arms around his neck, feeling closer to him than she had all week. Closer than she had in years.
| AMELIA FOSTER | His deep chuckled vibrated against her and she closed her eyes, reveling in the sensation. “I’m glad you like it, but we haven’t even gotten to the surprise yet, sweetheart.”
enough to look in his face, tears streaking down her cheeks. “You bought me a star.” A bubble of laughter escaped past the happy tears. “First you bring the sky inside and now you buy me a star.”
She pulled back, but held on to his shoulders. “What do you mean? We’re going to lie under the stars together on a huge pile of pillows and you even got a telescope which is something we never had before. . . Tanner what more could there possibly be?”
He grinned and carried her around the bed of the truck, setting her down on the tailgate before climbing up beside her. “Come on sweetheart, let’s lay down for a bit. Unless you want to look for your star. I got the telescope to see if we could find it. Or we could look for what-”
“Well, I’m glad you asked, sweetheart.” He stepped away from her with a grin and pulled something off the driver’s seat of his truck. When he turned back around her eyes widened at the present wrapped in dark blue paper. “A little something for you.” Izzy shook her head, not accepting the proffered gift. “It’s not my birthday.” Her brow furrowed. “And it is still, what thirty-six days until our anniversary? So why am I getting a present?” A brief flash of disappointment flitted across his face and served to only deepen Izzy’s confusion. But just as quickly as it had come, it disappeared. “No, it’s not your birthday or our anniversary or Christmas, even. You’re getting this because you deserve to get something you love simply because you love it, not just because I’m sorry for what I did. Which I am. Extremely.” She couldn’t help the small smile that tugged at her lips when she finally took the nearly flat rectangle from his grasp. She took a few steps closer to the truck, needing the help of the interior light. Izzy’s breath caught when she pulled the paper away. She looked from the gift she held in her hands to Tanner’s expectant face and back several times before jumping in his arms, still clinging to the picture frame. “Tanner.” She choked his name past the tears clogging her throat. His grip on her tightened under her thighs, holding her close. Izzy put her hands on his shoulders and pushed back
She put a finger against his lips silencing the stream of words. A tiny part of her enjoyed seeing always confident and capable Tanner just a little nervous. She slid back on the inflatable mattress and laid down on the pile of pillows. “Being right here sounds perfect.” Izzy had to bite her lip to stop herself from laughing at how quickly he scrambled up beside her. He stretched out next to her, sliding his hand in hers and intertwining their fingers. “Belle, being anywhere with you is perfect.” He whispered the words, but they had the effect of a powerful windstorm. “It’s been way too long since we’ve done this.” Tanner stayed silent for a long time after her comment and part of her wondered if she shouldn’t have said anything. She chewed on her bottom lip and tried to think of anything she could say to ease the sting. Finally he propped himself up on an elbow. “How long, Belle?” She turned her head slightly and the earnest look on his face made her scoot closer to his side. “At least three years,” she said softly. “With the kids and work. . . we were just too busy.” Tanner leaned down and brushed his lips across hers. “Not we. Me. Dammit Belle, I’m sorry.” Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | She reached up to bury her fingers in his hair and pull his mouth more firmly against hers. The taste of him drove her to wiggle her body beneath his. His scent wafted over her and she barely contained a groan. She was finally surrounded by Tanner in every way and she never wanted it to end. “Belle.” He murmured her name against her lips and began to kiss down her jaw, planting moist kisses along the column of her neck. Izzy pulled Tanner until he was fully on top of her and her thighs were locked around his waist. When she lifted her hips and pressed against the evidence of his need she felt a gasp against her neck where Tanner had been licking and biting softly. His hands slid under her shirt, caressing her back and drawing her closer to him. Tanner lifted the shirt over her head and began making a path of hot kisses across her bare chest. She arched into him again, her fingers tugging on his hair to bring his mouth back up to hers. “Tanner.” She whimpered his name in between kisses, the soft cotton of his shirt rubbing against her skin, teasing every overly sensitized inch. She’d always loved playing with Tanner’s hair and gave her fingers free reign to get reacquainted with each strand. When his hands skimmed down her sides and flicked the button open on her waistband she couldn’t help but shiver against him. His mouth curved against hers. “You like that, sweetheart?” She hadn’t realized until this moment just how much she missed his hands touching her and his lips leaving a scorching trail along her body. His hands. 32 | UncagedBooks.com
His mouth. And one week ago they had been kissing someone else. Holding someone else. Touching someone else. Izzy felt like a bucket of ice water had been dumped on her, freezing her movement. She pushed Tanner away and scooted to the far corner of the mattress. She grabbed her shirt and held it against her chest. Why didn’t I put on a bra, she chastised herself. Even in the darkness she could see his face fall. “Belle, what’s wrong?” “I can’t.” She sobbed and gripped the shirt tighter against herself. She waved her free hand in a sweeping gesture. “Tanner, this is beautiful and perfect and you gave me the most amazing gift. . . but I can’t stop thinking about her. And you.” Her heart splintered. “And you don’t feel like mine anymore.” She tugged her shirt on over her head, jumped out of the truck, and ran towards the dimly lit house in the distance as fast as she could.
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historical | young adult fantasy
Jean M. Grant
feature author Jennifer is an author from Tallahassee, Florida with Duncurra LLC. After receiving a degree in theatre from BYU and working as a scenic artist for twelve years, she changed careers to do what she really loves— writing. Jennifer believes that part of her job as an artist and story teller is to create a narrative that explores a fresh perspective and leaves the audience thinking. When she’s not busy writing or burying her nose in a book, Jennifer enjoys doing medieval reenactment with her husband and two children.
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Please welcome Jennifer Siddoway Uncaged: You began your writing career in the paranormal/thriller genre, and now you’ve made the jump to Historical. Can you tell us what prompted the change? Are you going to continue writing in both genres, or are you concentrating on one at this time? I made the change to Historical Romance because its always been a passion of mine. I love history and have been actively involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) for over fourteen years. There are different things between the genres to be sure, but they also have things I love about them. My publisher has been very supportive with whatever I choose to write, and I love her for that. When I had an idea for a historical book, she encouraged me to go for it! One thing I will say is that I tend to write in complete worlds. So, when I come up with a concept for a story, it’s never just going to be one book—all of them are interconnected. My readers who follow the Pirates of Barra series will see recurring characters and locations. I feel like having established a community like theirs makes the story more rich and easy to connect with for the reader.
I will continue to write in both genres, but plan one completing a full series before moving onto the next. For the next little bit I will be focusing exclusively on my pirates and getting them out into the world. Uncaged: I read and loved Taken by Graeme. What are you working on next that you can share with us? Thank you so much! I loved writing about Graeme and his scrappy group of sailors. My next book will be Rescued by Valan, which focuses on Graeme’s protégé after he is elevated to the rank of Captain. While Graeme was more of a dark, brooding sort of fellow, Valan is young, impulsive, and a bit of a ladies man. He brings a completely different feel to the pirate love story and I think the woman he falls in love with is a perfect match for him. :) I hope to release Valan’s story later this fall. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? So many choices! How can I choose just one? Lol. I would love to meet Anne Rice and attend one of her Vampire balls in her New Orleans mansion. She throws one every year, and every year I regret not going. One
of these days! Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I honestly think the best marketing I’ve ever done for my career is collaborating with other authors. By rubbing shoulders with other authors and supporting one another it benefits anyone. I believe that by helping them succeed it not only makes the indie author community a kinder and more friendly group to be a part of, it is also a wise professional decision. I’ve gotten more attention by being friendly and promoting other authors than by anything else. There have been lots of unhelpful marketing attempts I’ve made. Far too many to list here. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? That depends, to my face, or in a review? I’ve never had anyone say anything cruel to my face at a signing table, but reviews can be brutal. The most Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | obscure one was telling me that the word “options” didn’t exist in the historical period I was writing and so they didn’t complete the book. Just because I used the word “option”. At the time, I just laughed it off because they would have actually been speaking Gaelic and my book is in English. Those kind of things are just splitting hairs, but it’s funny because some people get really upset about them. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? When I am not writing I’m being a mom to two amazing kids. We like to play outdoors and do medieval reenactment on the weekends. That takes up a lot of my time honestly, but it’s a beautiful way to send my life. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I originally got my degree in theatre from Brigham Young University and worked as a scenic artist for 12 years before switching over to writing. I love to paint, and creating murals for my friends. Theatre was a huge part of my life for a very long time so I miss it every now and then, but it just paved the way to where I am now and gave me the skills I needed to create other worlds. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I am extremely active on Facebook and Instagram! Please feel free to follow me, I love meeting new people. I also run the Historical Romance Lovers Group on Facebook.
Enjoy an excerpt from Taken by Graeme Taken by Graeme Jennifer Siddoway Historical Romance Love is the last thing Elspeth MacDougall expects to find when a fierce pirate captain sweeps her from her home straight to the high seas, demanding she ply her skills as ship surgeon to work off her father’s gambling debt. She’s determined to survive the three month arrangement, but dangers abound and there’s more to this vagabond group of raiders than it seems. As sea battles and intrigues mount, she finds a place among the crew. But can her healing skills save her own heart when her bond with the captain intensifies and passion flares, harder to fight than the crashing waves. Captain Graeme MacNeil never intended to bring a woman on board his ship--they always cause trouble. Yet Elspeth serves a need he can’t deny. If only she didn’t possess an inner blaze that sparks a fire in him as well. His attraction to the bonnie surgeon only grows stronger when they return to his homeland in the Barra, but lurking in the shadows is an old rival, waiting for the chance to strike. As they learn to trust each other, hearts are won, but one question still remains: what will happen once her father’s debt is paid? Will Elspeth return to her family, or choose a life with Graeme on the open sea? Excerpt “What exactly are ye running away from? There is a fine line between love and hate. If I were a betting man, which I am, all the anger ye feel toward me is just to mask the fact that ye’re a heartbeat away from kissing me.” Elspeth’s cheeks felt hot. She balked at his suggestion.
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| JENNIFER SIDDOWAY | “What? Why would I ever want to kiss ye?” “Because ye’re dying to ken what it feels like,” he responded with a grin. “I would put good money on it.”
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She frowned, saying, “I’m sorry, Captain, but ye cannae be further from the truth.” Graeme’s smile widened with amusement. “Is that so?” “Aye.” He leaned into her seductively. “Mayhap ye’re right, I’ve been wrong before. However, in this particular instance, I dinnae think I am. One day soon, ye’ll be asking me to kiss ye. And I promise ye this, Elspeth— I will nae disappoint.” Elspeth swallowed the lump rising in her throat and glanced up at his perfect lips. All this talk of kissing made more blood rush to her face. She didn’t want to think of it, but it was hard not to when he looked at her like that. Graeme set his jaw stiffly as they gazed at one another, waiting for the moment to pass. Eventually, the captain sighed. “If ye’re finished eating then I suggest ye go to bed. I dinnae have time to fend off all yer feminine advances upon my character, and I’ve got work to finish before the night is done with me.” With that boast of a dismissal, Elspeth rolled her eyes and stomped off as lady-like as she could muster, though not before putting her dishes in the kitchen. She stormed up the stairs with her cheeks aflame and her heart pounding. Ye’re wrong, Graeme MacNeil. I would never ever kiss ye.
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feature author Jean’s background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors.
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Welcome Jean M. Grant Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your books? What do you have coming up next that you are working on? Up next: some time off! Kidding aside, well, I’m only half-kidding, I’m working on the third book in my historical romance “hundred” trilogy. I just had 3 books come out back-to-back (February, March, April 2019), so I need a little breather! After that historical romance is finished, I’ll jump into a another contemporary, either a romance or women’s fiction. My February release was A Hundred Breaths, the prequel (and second published) in an historical romance trilogy, with a paranormal twist. In March, my contemporary romance novella (Soul of the Storm), part of an e-book series that takes place in a rustic town in Vermont, was released. And in April, I published my first contemporary women’s fiction novel (Will Rise from Ashes). I like to write across the genres of romance and women’s fiction as one can see! It’s been a fun ride so far. Uncaged: Your books seem to be inspired by the time you’ve spent in the Scotland and New Zealand. Were your books also based on some personal experiences?
Yes, some. Authors tend to take snippets of inspiration from real life and weave them into their stories, myself included. They do say that life is stranger/more interesting than fiction. I began my writing journey in medieval Scotland. I love everything Scottish. Kilts (though not in the middle ages), crags, castles, moors, chivalry. I also tossed in a mystical element to these stories as the Scottish culture is steeped in rich lore and superstition. My love of New Zealand and some personal experiences inspired another book (Soul of the Storm). And lastly, my life was a well of inspiration for my women’s fiction, Will Rise from Ashes, a story about a mother’s journey of healing while on an adventure with her autistic son. Uncaged: What was the defining moment in your life that inspired you to write? No specific defining moment. I loved art and poetry as a girl. Then I dabbled into short stories. I fell in love with a few famous medieval romance authors in my college years…and that got me rolling on this lifelong endeavor, and now career. Their world-building and memorable characters swept me away. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?
Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, Diana Gabaldon, JK Rowling, Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Tolkien. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I’m still figuring this all out, as I didn’t do much marketing for my first book that released in 2017 (A Hundred Kisses, the middle book of my trilogy—p.s. each book can be read out of order or alone). This spring, I’ve jumped into the deep end of promotion. ARC readers, my street team, postcards and mailings, blog tours, blog highlights by fellow authors, Facebook Ads, social media posts, bookstore/coffee shop/library local signings, newspaper interviews and announcements, review sites, newsletter generation, Netgalley…I could go on and on. I created a master spreadsheet (or two) with my checklists. We’ll see in the long run what helps me the most. I think it’s a balance, and not every author has the same success, nor do they always have the same results from a certain avenue. It’s a lot of trial and error, timing, and mystery. Spreading ourselves around and see what method works. That method may not work as well on the next book. It’s like throwing darts. Even with practice and experience, you still may miss Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | the mark, but you keep on throwing. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I’m still newer (a few years out, and four books in) to publication. Nothing unusual to report yet. My protagonist is a widow in my women’s fiction book and somebody teased me that I killed off MY husband. I said, no, this book is fiction (but inspired a bit my life). My husband is live and breathing. One reviewer compared A Hundred Breaths to Game of Thrones and The Vikings (no, neither inspired this book). That was a nice compliment though! Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I like to garden (flower gardens); I’m a bit obsessed with my flowers. But they’re good for the earth and bees, so I keep at it. They are my happy place. I also love exploring nature, hiking, and traveling. I do all three as much as I can, even if it’s just a local walk up a nearby hill/mountain/forest path. My favorite places on earth: New Zealand, Scotland, Utah (all the national parks), New England (my stomping ground). I’ve also traveled to Guatemala, an amazing place filled with kindhearted people and deep culture. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? 40 | UncagedBooks.com
That’s a tough one…I have birthmarks on my cheek in the shape of the Big Dipper. I made actual oat milk for some homemade Atholl Brose for my first book’s release party. I talk to my flowers. I have a degree in Marine Science and love sharks. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thanks for taking the time to learn more about me and my books! Aside from coffee shops and libraries, I can be found at jeanmgrant.com.
Enjoy an excerpt from A Hundred Breaths A Hundred Breaths Jean M. Grant Medieval Romance Healing his heart...with her last breath. 1263,Scotland Simon MacCoinneach’s vengeance runs deep. The blade is the only way to end the blood-thirsty Nordmen’s reign upon Scottish soil. His soul might be lost, but the mystical Healer he kidnaps from the isles could be the answer for his ailing mother...and his heart. Isles-born Gwyn reluctantly agrees to a marriage alliance with this heathen Scot in return for the sanctuary of her younger brother from her abusive Norse father. Her brother’s condition is beyond the scope of her Ancient power, for larger healings steal breaths of life from her own body. As Simon and Gwyn fight to outwit her madman father and a resentful Norse betrothed, Gwyn softens Simon’s heart with each merciful touch. Gwyn’s Seer sister foresees a bloody battle--and an end to the Nordmen--but Simon will also die. Will Gwyn save Simon on
| JEAN M. GRANT | the battlefield even if it means losing her last breath? Excerpt Labored steps brought Simon to her room after his morning meal. She’d not come down to eat. He carried another tray of food for her. Henry stood at his post in front of her door. He nodded and straightened at Simon’s approach. His father’s orders resonated inside his skull like one of the minstrel’s off-tune songs. “G’morn, Henry. You may take your leave. Send Errol in an hour, aye?” “Aye.” The strapping man nodded and departed. Henry was one of the best. Quick with the sword, but even quicker with the brain. He waited for Henry to descend the stairs before opening the door to her chamber. He steadied his gait and breathing, forcing valor to replace unease. He expected a tossed chamber pot or cider jug. Instead, she was sitting at the window on a stool, her gaze lost on the distance across the loch. Not turning, she said, “I’m your wife, and still I am guarded?” Simon shrugged though she couldn’t see. He’d given up on excuses. “What must I do to prove I won’t flee? I signed your marriage contract. I said my vows.” Her voice broke on those words. Was she crying? He laid the tray of food on her table and approached. He didn’t touch her, as much as he wanted to link his arm within hers as they’d done during their walks. He reached inside his ganache and withdrew her small, simple dagger. Unadorned with jewels or carvings, it possessed a bone hilt and a blade worn from use. Likely from tree limbs, flowers, and household use. His smith had sharpened it and cleaned the hilt. “Here,” he said, placing it in her lap. Gildy had retrieved the sheath from Gwyn’s laundered gown. Gwyn stared at it, her fingertips dancing butterfly wings hovering over the hilt. After a moment, she drew her hand around it and pulled it from its leather sheath. She rose and whirled on him, the dagger pointed out before her, barely pressing into his chest.
He didn’t retreat as he met her fiery, misty gaze. She made no move to remove the dagger’s tip. “A smidge to the center, Gwyn, and you’ll be square over my blackened heart.” He held her glower. The heat blazed in her entrancing blue eyes like the devil. He fought a smile. The door opened, and Gildy popped in with a basin of water. “Mistress, I’ve got yer—” She froze, nearly spilling the basin. “Och! Master Simon, I—” “ ’Tis fine, Gildy. Please leave the basin and go.” “Och, but sir—” Gildy’s tremulous voice wavered. “We’re fine, Gildy,” he said again, not moving. A small step closer and the pointy tip would puncture through his overlayer and into skin. The door thudded shut. “Do you wish to be a widow so soon?” he asked Gwyn. She pressed harder, but hesitation flickered over her face. “I wish to no longer be a prisoner.” “You’ve always been free. I’ve not shackled you to your bed.” She gritted her teeth. “I’m always to be chaperoned and watched?” He lifted his shoulders, drawing his chest out. The dagger pricked, its new sharp tip penetrating the thick overlayer but not breaking skin. He placed his hand over hers on the hilt, tightly wrapping his fingers around hers. “Do it.” She shifted on her feet. “You wish for death?” He didn’t respond. She heaved a sigh, and her hand loosened beneath his. He released it and both of their hands fell to their sides. She slid the dagger into its leather sheath and dropped it into her pocket. “Something pains you more than your knee.” He grunted and sat upon the bed, allowing his heart rate to slow. In. Out. In. Out. She sat beside him, the mattress creaking slightly beneath their combined weight. “What now, Simon?” Heaven, she said his name again in that way…no challenge, no hate. Sweet and silvery. He wiped a damp palm on his thigh and faced her. Her lips were rosy and alluring, shaped like a Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | heart, and even if it’d been a stiff, required matrimonial kiss last night, he’d felt her lips melt when he’d pressed his against them. He wanted more of them despite everything he told himself. He locked eyes with her. “Oh,” she said, her cheeks blossoming with pink. He couldn’t—he wouldn’t—force her. He’d never lain with a woman before. He’d seen no need to. “The law requires it,” he said, meekly. God, he was a coward. Her eyebrows lifted, but she didn’t retreat. “The law is not in our bedchamber,” he added. She laid a hand upon his and squeezed. Neither made a move. He wanted to taste her again. She blinked dark eyelashes over bejeweled eyes. Well, he’d never consummate the marriage if he didn’t make a move. He placed a hand behind her slender neck and drew her closer. Her body stiffened against him, and he stopped, his lips a breath from hers. He lowered his eyes and pulled away. “Not like this. No. I’m sorry.” He rose. He swallowed and couldn’t look at her. “I brought you breakfast. I-I’ll be downstairs.” Shouts echoed through the window from the inner bailey. He regained his wits and rushed to the window. A dozen men on horseback rode through the village and toward the bridge. The Donalds and MacCoinneachs stirred within the bailey. Men emerged from the hall and made their way to their waiting spots along the battlement and archer’s holes. He squinted to see men materialize from within the lists in the village, where the majority of the Donalds had been sleeping. They assumed their posts, swarming around the enemy’s small traveling party in a matter of seconds. This was all the men Blasius would send? Gwyn was quick to his side. “What is it?” she asked, pressing near him so she could look outside. 42 | UncagedBooks.com
“They’re here for you.” He spun to face her and wrapped an arm around her waist. He drew her close. She inhaled sharply, nearly squeaking. The thought of losing her to these Lochlanoch spurred a new purpose within him, taking him to uncharted places. “Hold fast to that dagger. I’ll send for Henry to guard you. He’s one of our best men.” “Shouldn’t I go, too?” She searched over her shoulder into the gray morning’s mist. “What if my brother isn’t with them? Oh, heavens, what if he is? We’ve not sent my letter!” He drew his hand halfway up her back, fingers running along her spine. “Gwyn, this is my doing. You’ve done your part. Now let me do mine. I promise. I need you to stay here no matter what happens. Can you do that for me?” Her breathing was erratic and riled, but she nodded. “Aye. Simon…” “Yes?” “Don’t kill him.” Christ, woman. I’ll try. Instead of responding, he threaded his hand through the length of her unkempt hair and found her neck again. Agilely, passionately, he drew her to him and kissed her, for it might be his last. He made it count. A muffled gasp escaped her lips, but she indeed kissed him, too. She was the sun to his moon, the light to his darkness. After a moment, his eyes still closed, he held her close. He rested his forehead upon hers. Her ragged breathing matched his own. Then, reluctantly, he let her go and tramped to the door. “I will return.” If things went awry, Henry knew exactly what to do to protect her. He licked his lips, wanting to remember the kiss.
feature author J.L. was born in Saginaw, Michigan where he has a Bachelorâ€™s Degree in Creative Writing through Saginaw Valley State University. He loves writing, more importantly, he loves people who loves his writing. His popular Secret Seekers Series is currently in the works for its fourth title slated for a late 2020 release. Outside of writing, Mr. Hickey runs a local paranormal group in his hometown (often where he pulls research from to write his Seekers Series) hunting spirits and ghosts for fun. He is also active in the video game community and is a content creator for mixer.
Uncaged welcomes J.L. Hickey Uncaged: The 3rd book in your Secret Seekers Society series, Wrath of the Wendigo just released in April. Can you tell readers more about the series? How many books are you planning for the series? The series follows Hunter and Elly, two troubled teens who are dealing with the mysterious disappearance of their parents. They are set off to live with their eccentric Godfather in a creepy macabre looking mansion where they soon find out their parents were apart of a secret society of monster hunters and ancient relic keepers. They are the next in line for future members of the elite society and begin training to become Seekers. I am planning roughly six books in the franchise, and toying with a second run of a series based on Hunter and Elly when they are older in their twenties dealing with the fallout of the planned ending of the series. The books cover a wide range of topics, not limited to cryptozoological creatures, as we see an interesting concept emerge in book three with the Yggdrasil tree playing a prominent role in the different realms that coincide with our reality. Uncaged: What/who was your biggest inspiration to being an author and writing?
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When I was very young, I loved Judy Blume and the Super Fudge series. I have always been a story teller, not a writer per-say, that came later in my college career as I learned I had a knack for creativity and a decent way with words. I fell in love (as did most people) with JK Rowling and Harry Potter. For
me, it wasn’t the story or the characters, as I enjoyed the series as a fan well enough. It was more of the power and influence JK Rowling had with so many young children who she had fall in love with reading because of her superb story telling. I didn’t have a series or an author as a child that really took my imagination away, and I wish I had, because I missed many years of reading. Now, as an adult writing/reading are my main passions. JK is so inspirational. I would love to usher in a new wave of children falling in love with readings because of my own creations. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Honestly, I don’t know anyone that would be more exciting to talk with than JK Rowling. I would love to pick her brain. Just listen to her story. There are only a handful of authors who transcend writing and are what I would label a “Brand” and JK Rowling is a perfect example of that. I have read about her many rejections for her series at first, and I remind myself of that with every literary agent denial letter I received over the past five years. I think she is inspirational and sustains a certain level of integrity that I love. No one has had more influence on my career as a writer than her. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? Marketing is a tricky little subject. I have had major success back when the Amazon free week promotion first came around, about three or four years ago. My book was the number one free downloaded book for
three days, having been downloaded over 20,000 times in that five day period. My second book was just released a month before that, and I had sales in the 200 range for the digital book that people bought after downloading the first. Great sales week. Problem is, that I was never able to recreate that amazing result. Algorithms change constantly in the world of Amazon and social media. Recent promotions get nowhere near that growth. I have tried just about everything. Online ads, Book Giveaways, Blog Tours, Book Blogger reviews, I have spent hundreds of dollars on different packages, and I have never gotten any major return on investment. My very best marketing has always been grassroot. I have made huge sales with Book Signings, school visits, conferences, and local new channels. Those always seem the best way to promote and generate sales and interest. People love local success stories. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I got an email from a fan a while back that commented about how she was researching the Beast of Bladenboro because her great-great-great gandpa was “supposedly” the man who tracked down the beast and killed it. You see, all my creatures and magical items I talk about in the book are pulled from real research in the cryptozoological lore. I take some liberties and fictionalize parts of Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | their stories for added dramatic elements. So, here I studied this feline cryptid and had it star as a main antagonist in my first book as a supposed relative to the man who Hunter the beast down reached out to me. That was pretty cool, to be honest. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I am a passion junkie. I believe firmly that everyone should be living their passions, and If you aren’t, you’re going to have regrets down the line. I have a handful of passions that I do when I am not writing. I am a paranormal investigator (although we have slowed down since the birth of my three children) and for many years we helped out local families and businesses with their paranormal issues. I am a huge video game enthusiast, and I run a content creater show on mixer where I entertain my community playing video games and talking about my writing career. As for my favorite place on earth? I have a small family cottage where us Michiganders call “Up North”. It’s a cabin by a small lake, its peaceful, its quiet. It’s a perfect place to retire to once I can live off my novels (we can dream right?) Sit by the lake and write. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I am a former Pro Wrestler, Paranormal Researchers, current author, current content creator. I live out my passions, and I urge others to do the same. People think its quite quirky/weird when I explain to them all these “hobbies” I have. I don’t believe anyone can be completely happy just working their 9-5 everyday without feeding their inspirations/passions. I will do everything in my power to achieve my goals and dreams. 46 | UncagedBooks.com
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Authors like me need your support. Not just when it comes to buying our work. But, if you really like what you have read, leave reviews, post online, tell your friends. Word of mouth is the very best form of marketing for us, because for on its genuine. Its coming from actual fans, and that leaves a mark for other potential buyers. We need our fans to be vocal, to start a bunch of small social media fires about how much they enjoy the work. Make enough buzz and attention can hopefully be drawn.
Enjoy an excerpt from The Beast of Bladenboro The Beast of Bladenboro J.L. Hickey Young Adult/Fantasy Secret Seekers Society and the Beast of Bladenboro follows the young protagonists Hunter Glenn and Elly Ann through an adventure ripe with adversity, paranormal monsters, secret societies, and most haunting of all, a life without their parents. Both siblings suffer emotional struggle from the sudden loss of their parents, as well as their physical journey into a new and strange “home”; an ancient and creepy mansion known only as the Belmonte Estate. The children slowly unravel the secrets of their parents’ true identities, the origin of the strange mansion and their inheritance into an ancient secret society of monster hunters. Excerpt Chapter 1 A Mansion Full of Secrets Hunter pushed his glasses tightly against his nose, a nervous habit he had picked up from his mother. He
| J.L. HICKEY | had sat in the back of the old musty taxicab for nearly three hours not muttering a single word to the wrinkle faced cabdriver who smelled of burnt cigarettes and coffee. Alongside him sat his younger sister, Elly Anne, who was equally as quiet, which in her case was a rare oddity. Elly had a fascination with attention, especially when she was at the center of it. Any normal day would see the two siblings arguing over who deserved more of the back seat, or who got to choose what radio station to listen to. It was very unfortunate for the children that from that moment on; there would not be any more “normal days.” The children were two years apart, Hunter the eldest of the two at thirteen years old. He was small for his age with a slender frame. He had messy dark brown hair with eyes a shade darker, a spitting image of his father. Elly was the polar opposite of her brother when it came to looks. She took after her mother with fair skin and auburn red hair, with a few sparse freckles spread across her face. The taxicab wound its way through a nasty storm down a muddy country road. Hunter peered out the passenger side lost in a daze of melancholy, as raindrops the size of quarters fell onto the windows. Lightning streaked through the dark sky, briefly illuminating the overcast roadway, the thunder making Elly jump in her seat. She never was one to like storms. The ominous weather was fitting for the siblings’ current mood. Hunter and Elly welcomed the raging storm; if anything, it was a small distraction from the current dark reality that summed up their lives. “Well,” the cab driver tried to break the awkward silence, “…not sure where it is you two are going. The directions they gave me sure aren’t taking us down the beaten path. I don’t think there’s a paved road for miles ’round these parts.” Hunter didn’t reply, he preferred the silence. Elly also ignored him, quietly humming an old tune her mother used to sing her to sleep, making it apparent she wasn’t interested in any type of conversation with the strange man. It had been a long drive already, the only thing keeping the cabdriver awake was his trusty mug filled to the brim with coffee. “Most kids I know never want to shut up.” The man chuckled to himself, taking a cautious sip. “I have
two kids of my own about your ages. They go on about everything. You kids haven’t said squat in over three hours.” “Our parents are dead.” Elly explained, doing her best to void herself of all emotion. “Er… oh…” The driver stammered, slightly choking on his coffee. “I’m sorry… I didn’t know.” “So, now we’re being sent off to some stranger we’ve never met, to our new family,” Elly rolled her eyes. “Well…” The driver mumbled. A sudden flash of lightning illuminated the dreary sky once again, a thunderous boom sent vibrations through the dusty old cab. The driver jumped in his seat, spilling his coffee all over his lap. “Damn it!” the steaming hot coffee soaked into his jeans. “Great…” “Shut up, Elly,” Hunter shifted his body away from hers towards the window. His eyes swelled up with tears as he stared blankly at the passing forest. “It’s the truth,” she shot back. “They’re dead! Deal with it.” “Well, how about some music, aye?” the driver tried to calm the mood. His chubby fingers quickly turned the radio knob. He fiddled with the buttons until some old-fashioned music chimed in. The children went quiet, not muttering a word. It was another hour down the muddy road when the taxicab crept up a rather steep hill. When they reached the top a large eerie-looking building came into view. Hunter’s eyes widened at its immense size. “Elly, what is that?” Hunter’s mouth fell open. “It looks like a creepy castle,” she replied. “That, children,” the driver answered, also a bit taken aback by the building, “I’d wager is our destination.” The structure sat in the midst of the dark forest, alone with no signs of civilization around for miles. It appeared that the muddy road leading off the main interstate, hours back, was its only entrance. The rest of the building’s grounds were covered in thick, impenetrable foliage. The main complex stood seven stories high with elegant Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | stained-glass designs windows on every level of the building. It was definitely old, from their vantage point, the Exterior of the building look decrepit, worn down. It was bigger than any building the children had ever seen, even larger than the local hospital where Hunter had stayed two summers ago when he broke his arm playing street ball. The estate didn’t house only the mansion. There was an entire estate with numerous sub-buildings placed throughout the grounds. There was a vibrant greenhouse that looked abandoned from the outside, but peering through its glass structure would show it was beaming full of flora inside. From the outside looking in the entire estate looked abandoned, overrun with weeds and vegetation. Even the main building had let Mother Nature run its course; long vines twisted, curling all the way up to the seventh-story windows. Large patches of vegetation had overgrown the mansion’s approach; the naked autumn trees decorated the massive lawn with their fallen autumn leaves. “We’re living in an abandoned castle?” Hunter asked. “Who’s going to take care of us?” “Well, I don’t know about it being abandoned,” said the driver. “But I assure you whatever that building is, it aint a castle. I bet you, it’s some old rundown mental institution. Ya know, back in the late sixties, they’d send crazy old coots and serial killers to these types of out-in-the-middleof-nowhere places,” he went on with excitement. “About three hours’ drive south of the interstate, there’s that famous penitentiary that’s haunted. Yep…” the driver went on despite the fear in the children’s eyes, “…bunch of crazy stuff happened in those old buildings back then. I’d put my life savings on it, this building has some dark history. Electric therapy, lobotomy, they did crazy things to those people. I guarantee it!” The taxi finally came to a slow stop at the end of the winding path. A large stone fence surrounded the estate’s land, blocking them from driving any closer to the mansion. It wasn’t much of a fence in the traditional sense; it was more of a huge, thick stone wall that stood fifteen feet high with razor 48 | UncagedBooks.com
wire running along the top of it. This was the only entrance into the estate’s grounds. A large iron cast gate blocked off the group’s entry into the compound. Alongside the entrance sat two giant gargoyles perched atop ten-foot-tall monoliths. Etched from granite, the winged creatures looked like they came from the gates of hell, with sparkling bright ruby-red eyes that shot a sense of fear into the children’s hearts. They looked all too real, as if during the moonlit nights they magically turned to real, living, breathing gargoyles. “Yep,” the driver shifted his taxi into park, “this here’s the place.” He looked back over the driver’s seat with a smile. “Seriously?” Elly responded in disbelief, her lip curled in anger. “A mental hospital?” Hunter questioned. The wrinkle faced driver stepped out of the taxicab directly into a large mud puddle. He groaned, cursing under his breath, the cold water soaking through his shoes. He slammed his door shut with a deafening thud that rattled the entire cab, and walked around to the rear of the vehicle and popped the trunk open. He then gathered the children’s things together and tossed them onto the roadside. “There is no way he’s serious,” Elly shot a frightened look at Hunter. “I don’t think anyone even lives here. He must be pulling a prank on us,” he replied. “Well, it’s not funny,” she added. “I’m not getting out of this car.” The driver opened the back door, letting the cold damp air hit the kids’ faces; it stung their cheeks for a split second. Their bags sat out in the rainy driveway awaiting them. The driver smiled, holding out his hands to help the kids out. Hunter brushed the man’s friendly gesture aside and stepped out, tightening his long scarf around his neck. Elly frowned at the man, crossed her arms defiantly looking the other way. “Come on now, you can’t stay in my cab.” He had a stern look on his face that didn’t sit well with Elly. She let out an annoyed sigh as the man helped her out of the back of the musty cab. “It’s gettin’ close to winter, at least the snow held off. I’d hate to make that drive back on this dirt road in the middle of a blizzard.” The man slammed the car door.
| J.L. HICKEY | “What do we do now? There’s no one here.” Hunter picked up his two large suitcases, not knowing what to do next. He didn’t feel comfortable waiting in the freezing rain outside of a scary looking castle. “I miss Mom and Dad.” Elly’s eyes watered. “I want to go home…” “I don’t need this,” the driver moaned, feeling inherently bad that he was angry at having to take care of the two lonely children. “I don’t get paid enough as it is; I don’t want to sit around and babysit you two,” he murmured under his breath, knowing he didn’t have the heart to actually leave the children out in the rain alone in the midst of a forest. “Hello? Anyone around?” the cabdriver yelled. “Hey! Anybody?’ Turning to the kids he shook his head. “You can’t leave us out here… right?” Elly protested. “I’m not that cold hearted, kid,” he shot back. “I’ll stick it out for a little while, but if no one comes soon, I’ll have to drive you back and charge you double.” Hunter groaned, dropping his luggage onto the muddy earth. He took a seat on a large stone in front of one of the gargoyle monoliths. At least the rain had subsided to a slight drizzle he thought to himself. “Did they tell you kids who you were meeting up here?” “Our godparent,” Hunter replied, tossing a stone into a nearby puddle. “Professor Calenstine,” Elly added. “We’ve never met him.” The three of them waited silently for some sort of sign, anything at all, that told them the creepy mansion was inhabited by someone… anyone. They spoke no words, emitting random sighs of annoyance. A halfhour passed before the wrinkle faced cabdriver was about to give up and drive the children back. The loud thundering noise of a helicopter broke the silence of the forest. The kids stood up from their stony seats to see a jet-black helicopter hovering over them. It was quite low to the ground; so low that all the wet leaves littering the ground around their feet blew forcefully from beneath them. The cabdriver held onto his musty old hat as the helicopter made its way over the large stone fence, landing near the large mansion. “Well, it’s about time,” the driver yelled over the loudness of the rotor blades. Even being a little way off,
the noise of the helicopter was still quite deafening. “I have never seen one up close before,” Hunter said. “Cool!” “Who’s getting out of it?” Elly and Hunter both pressed their faces in between the iron bars of the gate with excitement. Three well-dressed men in black suits came out of the helicopter first, distinguishing between the three was impossible for the children at that distance, they seemed to be faceless suits. The three men didn’t rush off; instead, they waited as a fourth elderly man was lowered from the aircraft’s side door in a wheelchair. The elderly man had a small dog resting on his lap, covered by a blanket to protect it from the fierce cold. One of the men pushed the wheelchair away from the landing pad towards the house. The other two men helped a woman down from the helicopter before rejoining the pilot, swiftly lifting off once again. The helicopter flew off into the distance, its loud rotor blades slowly fading off into the horizon. By this time, the suited men had maneuvered the old man, and his dog, into the comfort of the giant mansion. The woman hurried her way towards the children. “I wonder if that’s the professor,” Elly said. “Maybe,” Hunter replied, but it wasn’t who he had pictured as his godparent. He thought of a man his father’s age, strong with big shoulders, not some woman. “She has red hair like me!” Elly smiled brightly as the woman drew nearer, allowing the children to make out her appearance. She was in her midfifties with a round friendly face that beamed a friendly smile towards them. She was still a few yards away from the iron gate, but the children could already tell that she seemed quite happy to see them. She had a full figure but walked with prominence in every step. She wore a bright green overcoat and a pointy hat with a wide circular brim. Hunter thought she looked like a colorful witch, albeit a friendly one. “Children!” she yelled now only a yard away from the gate. “I am so very sorry for the wait! Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | I do hope it wasn’t too long?” She smiled as she pulled a large rusty key from the bulky turquoise purse dangling at her side. The children had never seen such a key, a solid foot in length, when she inserted it the iron gate made a loud mechanical churning noise. “You can never be too safe, am I right?” She grunted softly for a brief moment as she put her weight into swinging the gate open. “Oh heavens,” she panted. “I forget how heavy this blasted thing is; we don’t use it much you see.” “Well it’s about time, lady,” the driver said, tipping his hat to her. “I was about to drive off with them; we’ve been out here in this murky weather for a long time.” “Well, thank you, kind sir.” She handed the man a few folded up bills, waving him off, barely paying attention to him. “That will be all.” “Nice to meet you too,” he grumbled, pocketing the cash. He cursed under his breath once again, making his way back to the cab. His tires kicked out some rocks as he sped off down the road. “You must be Elly?” The lady gave an elaborate bow. Elly smiled at the gesture. “This is my brother, Hunter,” Elly replied. “I have heard much about you both. I’m very pleased to meet you.” She waved her hand towards the mansion. “Oh, where are my manners? My name is Patricia Ellingbee.” “You’re not Professor Calenstine?” Hunter asked. “Oh, heavens no, I am merely the caretaker of our lovely mansion.” She stopped for a second during their long walk towards the entrance. “Welcome to the Belmonte Estate!” “It’s kind of scary,” Hunter frowned as they passed by a large eerie oak tree that seemed to be alive. “Yes, we get that a lot,” Ms. Ellingbee chuckled. “Our estate is not without its wonderment, for those who know we exist that is, and I assure you, that’s not many.” She winked at the children. “This is really weird,” Hunter whispered to Elly, making sure he spoke low enough that the friendly Ms. Ellingbee couldn’t hear. “At least she’s nice,” Elly whispered back. 50 | UncagedBooks.com
“It’s a bit of a walk from the entranceway, I know. The estate is rather large.” “Is the giant castle where we’ll be staying?” Elly asked. “Oh yes, Belmonte Manor: constructed in 1886 with renovations ongoing for the last century. We’re constantly upgrading; a lovely and warm place it is. I think you will like it.” “Does Professor Calenstine live here?” Hunter added. “You could say that,” she replied. They finally made their way up to the large stone steps that led to the giant main doors of the mansion. “You will meet your godfather soon enough, but until then, I have been given the honor of getting both of you set up and comfortable with your new living quarters. The room we have saved for you is quite spacious, and I am sure you will find it very accommodating.” Elly stood before the giant doors in bewilderment; she felt like an ant peering up at the towering threshold. The large oak doors were over twenty feet tall, made of thick wood and dense iron. Hunter joined her in the amazement, his mouth fell open, staring at the peculiar sight. They were no average doors, beautifully decorated with elaborate designs etched meticulously into the oak. There were pictures of wild animals, some Hunter could recognize, wolves, gorillas, although both animals were strangely standing upright, bipedally. There were other animals that were a bit more mysterious to him, like the half-man half-horse figure guarding a chest, or the large animal with the body of a bat and the head of goat wielding a trident. Both doors were covered in these mysterious designs, every single inch of them. “We don’t use the front door often, a bit tricky these buggers are; they feel like they weigh a ton too.” She felt around the left-hand door until her hand covered up one of the many designs; this particular one was of a five-pointed star that stood about waist high from the ground. “You’ll come to learn all sorts of secrets here,” said Ms. Ellingbee. Each of her fingers now covered one of the points of the star. She pressed it with the palm of her hand, the star sunk deep into the door. Hunter thought it was like some sort of secret switch. She turned the sunken star design to the left. Hunter was
| J.L. HICKEY | amazed, a smaller door hidden inside of a giant door. “Here we go, a bit easier to open and close when the door doesn’t weigh a couple of hundred tons.” Ms. Ellingbee held the door open for the two siblings. They entered a large room completely void of any light with the exception of a small amount of sun creeping in from the entrance. That little speckle of light quickly vanished as Ms. Ellingbee closed the smaller door tightly behind her. The children now stood surrounded in darkness, their hearts racing a mile a minute. “Sorry, madam!” a friendly woman’s voice echoed from deep inside the room. “We went lights out. I need to flip the master switch still.” There was a loud click, followed by a strong electrical buzzing. The main corridor of the mansion’s first floor flickered briefly, allowing the children short glimpse of its mysterious decor. “Needs to warm up a bit, stay put,” said the cheerful voice. A few seconds later the bright lights all came buzzing to life, burning Hunter’s eyes temporarily. “There we go, children. Is that better?” Ms. Ellingbee asked. Hunter didn’t answer, he found himself at a loss for words. The room was magnificent, like nothing he’d ever seen in his life, fully decorated with strange, bizarre things. Immediately he was drawn to the northern wall, where a collection of mounted animal heads were displayed brightly upon their crests. Hunter expected to see regular game on display, like an elk, or the snarling head of a grizzly bear, maybe something more exotic like a lion. These had to be fake, some sort of faux decorative animal heads for show, far too strange to be anything else. There were a dozen or mysterious heads, the first one Hunter noticed was a reptile head with thick dark skin, it’s mouth filled with sharp teeth, which wouldn’t be any cause for concern, except for the fact that it was the same size as the saber-tooth tiger’s head that sat next to it. There was also what appeared to be the head of a Big Foot sitting in the center of them all. The head was enormous, larger than any of the other strange creatures alongside it. The face was snarling, its mouth wide open, it’s lips pulled back, showcasing its teeth, its brown beady eyes staring at Hunter like it was ready to rip his head off with one bite. Hunter didn’t feel comfortable look-
ing at the display. In fact, it frightened him. Even if they were decorations, they were extremely realistic. The monstrous heads shouldn’t have surprised Hunter, nothing the children had seen outside or inside the mansion was anywhere near ordinary. Hunter and Elly didn’t move from the mighty entrance, still too taken aback at the overpowering sight of the inner castle. To the left and right of the children were two staircases, both winding upwards, connecting to create a fancy balcony that housed a few elegant couches, tables, and the doors to a large elevator. In front of the children, a few dozen feet into the mansion was a very large desk where a woman sat, presumably the woman who had powered on the lights. The desk itself was enormous; fitting for the simple fact that everything the children had seen thus far on the estate was massive in stature. Hunter poked Elly with his elbow, motioning towards the mysterious mounted heads, but she had already been caught up in her own amazement, next to the dual staircases stood two lifesized unicorns. Much like Hunter and the weird mounted heads, she knew they couldn’t be real unicorns; she assumed someone had created them from stuffed horses, expressing some sort of artistic creation. Everyone knew unicorns didn’t exist. Despite that fact, their beauty was still unmatched by any living animal she had ever seen. She felt a momentary sense of happiness looking at them, for a brief moment she forgot about the troubles that plagued their young lives. Elly could only guess that whoever had spent the time changing the horse’s bodies into the unicorns must have spent years perfecting the craft. Even though they were surely the results of a clever taxidermist, Elly felt she could see the unicorns prancing about the woods outside the estate’s protective gates, their coats shining brightly against the setting sun. The unicorn on the left was much like the traditional unicorns she had read about in many fairy tales as a child. It had a beautiful solid-white coat with a long thick golden-white horn resting midway on its forehead. The opposing uniIssue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | corn was much different though, with a lighter shade of yellow for its coat, and a smaller, pure white horn. This was Elly’s favorite of the two. “Children, meet Margot Merrymen,” Ms. Ellingbee led the way towards the desk. “Hi, kids,” Margot said, smiling. “I’m so excited to finally meet you both!” “Hello,” They replied in unison, paying half of their attention to Margot. Instead, their attention was still drawn to the mansion’s weird decor. Margot was a younger woman in her early twenties. Youthful in mind and spirit, she was always full of energy. She had shoulder length black hair, fair skin, and capturing her youthfulness was a piercing on her lower lip. Margot was also quite keen on fashion, wearing a dark bohemian sweater, black leggings with tall black boots. Elly loved her outfit, especially the black boots, which were decorated with a big bow. Even though Elly was only eleven, she too had a love for fashion. Her mother had sat in bed and read fashion magazines with her until she fell asleep. She dreamed of one day becoming a designer for a European clothing line. “I see you’re quite interested in our décor,” Margot walked out from behind the desk meeting the children with energetic hugs. “You have your mother’s red hair,” she said to Elly. “And you, Hunter, you have those dark brown eyes like your dad!” “You knew our parents?” Elly asked. “I sure did.” Her bright smile faded a little. “We knew them well, and miss them dearly.” “Ms. Margot, we will discuss that later,” Ms. Ellingbee interjected in hopes of not dwelling on the sad subject. “Yes, sorry, kids. I apologize.” She pointed towards the mounted animal heads that Hunter had been eyeing. “My favorite one is the lycanthrope.” “The what?” Hunter replied. “The lycanthrope, you probably know it as a werewolf.” She walked over to the werewolf’s mounted head. It sat on the bottom row below the Big Foot. Margot ran her fingers across the crea52 | UncagedBooks.com
ture’s grizzly teeth, “I know it’s sort of cliché with the current popularity of werewolves and vampires running rampant here in the states, but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for them. They make for great love stories,” she said with a laugh. “Those aren’t real, right?” Hunter added, a bit baffled by the conversation. “I don’t know, you tell me,” Margot added slyly. “Are you a believer?” she asked. “In what?” Hunter replied. “Of the unknown, of course,” Ms. Ellingbee joined in. “Of fairy tales, legendary creatures, magical items, and of course all those wondrous little things in between.” She smiled. “Oh…” Hunter paused for a moment, thinking of the question. “I do!” Elly jumped in, her eyes wide with excitement. “Those unicorns are real, right? They’re so pretty; I want to ride one someday.” “They’re not real, stupid. They’re fakes, just like the mounted heads,” Hunter shot back at Elly. “Remember, Dad had that stuffed thunderbird with the creepy eyes. That thing was bigger than us both!” “Yeah, I remember!” she shot back angrily. “—And I’m not stupid! I get better grades than you.” “Well, Dad said he bought it when he went on one of his trips overseas; he said there are a lot of people who make these things and sell them, they’re fakes, all fakes.” “Well now, kids, no need to argue,” Margot interrupted. “Elly, its okay to believe in extraordinary things. I do.” “As did your parents,” Ms. Ellingbee added. “See, Hunter?” Elly looked at her older brother with disdain. “I can believe if I want. Mom and Dad did.” “Whatever.” Hunter crossed his arms in annoyance. “What do you do here, Margot?” Elly asked. “Margot is one of our caretakers here at the Belmonte Estate,” Ms. Ellingbee answered. “She has a very important job because our humble little abode is much more than a place where we live.” “You both live here?” Hunter asked. “Yes, we do. It’s quite a large place. There are many of us who call this place home. You’ll meet everyone soon enough,” Margot replied. “We also get a lot of
| J.L. HICKEY | visitors who come and go for different reasons too, so I’m the one who keeps everything running smoothly, managing the books, answering the phones, keeping an eye out for intruders. It’s fair to say I love my job!” “Are their rooms ready?” Ms. Ellingbee asked. “It’s been a long day for the kids, they need some rest.” “Of course,” Margot answered. “Would you like me to show them now?” “Please,” Ms. Ellingbee answered. “I’ve arrived myself, and there’s still quite a bit to put into order before our other guests arrive. The big day is coming soon; you know how excited I get.” “Other guests?” Hunter asked, not really directing the comment at anyone. He was more quizzical than anything. “Yes, Professor Claudio Calenstine is expecting quite a few people to be coming through this next week; it’s exciting times here at the Belmonte Estate. But, please, don’t worry yourselves over the other guests. In a few days, after things quiet down, we’ll see about introducing you two to the professor. Until then, Margot and I will be taking care of you both.” “Okay,” Elly replied. “Then it’s settled. Margot,” Ms. Ellingbee smiled as she looked over to her, “please escort our new family members to their room.” “My pleasure,” said Margot. “Follow me please, children.” The children followed Margot up the eastern staircase towards the balcony sitting above the mansion’s entranceway. The terrace wasn’t all that large. It did provide a small resting area with a couple of dark leather armchairs that sat next to the balcony ledge, overlooking the main entranceway. Behind the resting area sat the main elevator for the mansion, which Margot had already called for. If one didn’t care for elevators, both the eastern and western staircases continued upwards all the way to the seventh floor. “How big is this place anyway?” Elly asked. “Well, we have seven floors here in the main building, not including the numerous sublevels of the mansion. Each level reserved for something, infirmary, library, and the likes. The second floor has our guestrooms, that’s where you’ll be staying.” “It’s still creepy. I don’t like it here,” Hunter said un-
easily. “Well, it isn’t the most traditional place for children, I know. Some of the stuffed animal mounts can be a bit scary. I know I was scared at first. But you get used to all the weirdness, I promise,” Margot added. “I’m not scared,” Elly added. “I think they’re cool.” “Now, remember, children, room 206 is yours, you only get the one key, so make sure you don’t lose it, okay?” “Okay!” Elly answered. Margot took the key off her large key ring, which rattled with every step she took. There must have been over two hundred different keys attached to it, but it took her no time to find the correct one unlocking their room. “Well, we hope you like it,” said Margot. “To the left over there past the bed, you’ll see the bathroom door. You get your own shower and washroom, so you don’t have to worry about running around at night and getting lost.” The room was fairly large for the children’s needs. They felt a bit anxious standing in the well-furnished quarters. Hunter guessed it was the size of their old family room, which was exciting because it was the biggest room in their house. There were two beds on separate sides of the room. There was nothing fancy about them at all, but they looked cozy enough. The kids stood on a colorful floor rug, decorated with an army of medieval knights storming a large castle that covered the majority of the hardwood floor. It would be perfect for keeping the children’s feet warm at night when the flooring got cold. A big bay window overlooked the front courtyard of the grounds, although Hunter found it eerie that the window was barred from the outside. Across from the window was a wall filled with a library of fine leather-bound books. Elly immediately ran over to them filled with anticipation. “Look at all these books,” Elly smiled. “Oh yes, Ms. Ellingbee remembered your mother said you loved reading, so we had that built into the room last week when we found out you would both be coming here to stay with us. We hoped it Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | might make the transition a little easier on you.” “There’s no television?” Hunter fell onto his bed with a frown. “Well, no,” Margot answered. “We don’t get much reception out here. We’re kind of far from any cities so not too much makes its way out here. I feel your pain; my cell phone hardly ever gets service.” “What do we do for fun then?” Hunter asked. “Read, write, do what you would normally do.” She could tell Hunter wasn’t amused. “We have to ask that for this first week, you stay in your room unless we come get you.” “What? You’re locking us in here? What did we do?” Hunter asked, visibly upset. “I’m sorry. I promise it’s no type of punishment.” Margot sat down next to Hunter to put her arm around him, but he shrugged it off moving away from her embrace. “Look,” she added with a bit of sternness, “not everywhere on the estate is safe for children, or even for adults, for that matter. We need to keep you safe. The professor promised your parents if anything ever happened, he would take care of you both. It’s temporary until we can sort some things out.” “What about our school? Do we get to go back? All of our friends are there,” Elly asked. “I’m afraid not,” Margot answered, struggling to be the bearer of bad news. “You’ll be home schooled here, though.” “What?” Hunter’s face grew red. “That’s not fair! How am I going to see my friends?” “Look… I know this will be a tough transition.” Margot stood up with an evident frown across her face. “Our heart goes out to you both, but it’s up to us now to fulfill your parents’ wishes. I’d better hold on to this key until you settle in a bit. Please, make yourselves at home,” Margot took the key back from Elly, sliding it back onto her large key ring. Margot walked over to the bedroom door stopping towards to offer the children one last gentle smile. Elly sat on her bed with a book open, giving Margot a disheartened look. Hunter stood with his back turned, peering out the bay window with his arms defiantly folded across his chest, hiding 54 | UncagedBooks.com
his angry tears from both the girls. Margot solemnly closed the door, locking it firmly behind her. “Hunter?” Elly spoke up. “What?” he murmured back. “There’s a bunch of cool books about monsters. That’s cool, right?” she asked. “We’re trapped in this room, Elly,” Hunter shot back. “It’s like we’re prisoners or something. They can’t do that to us, they can’t lock kids up in a room. It’s not right.” “Maybe they’re protecting us from something. They seemed really nice. They know Mom and Dad too.” “They ‘knew’ Mom and Dad,” Hunter corrected. “And we don’t even get to go back to school, or say goodbye to all our friends. We’re stuck in this creepy old place forever.” The thought of never seeing her friends again made Elly angry as well. These new living arrangements were proving to be more hurtful and confusing for the children than they could have ever anticipated. Elly had already lost her parents, now the thought of losing all her friends frightened her even more. “What are we going to do?” she asked Hunter. “Nothing, we have to wait,” he added. “For what?” “For the right time, then we break out of here. I don’t care if they seem nice, something isn’t right about this place, I want to know what it is.”
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| J.L. HICKEY |
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Sian B. Claven
feature author Meg Benjamin is an award-winning author of romance. Her newest series, the Folk, is a paranormal series from Soul Mate Publishing set in Colorado. Meg’s Konigsburg series is set in the Texas Hill Country and her Salt Box and Brewing Love trilogies are set in the Colorado Rockies (all are available from Entangled Publishing). Along with contemporary romance, Meg is also the author of the paranormal Ramos Family trilogy from Berkley InterMix. Meg’s books have won numerous awards, including an EPIC Award, a Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, the Holt Medallion from Virginia Romance Writers, the Beanpot Award from the New England Romance Writers, and the Award of Excellence from Colorado Romance Writers.
Please welcome Meg Benjamin Uncaged: You write in both contemporary and in paranormal. Can you tell readers more about your books and different series? What do you have coming up next that you can share? I’ve got two different series that are in play right now. My Folk series for Soul Mate is paranormal. My characters (some of them) are members of the Folk, modern-day fairies who live in and around the Rockies. They’re not the traditional version of fairies: they look like everyone else and try to keep their magical powers under wraps. But that’s not always easy to do, particularly when they have to defend themselves against the bad guys. I also have a contemporary series about craft brewing, Brewing Love, with Entangled. It follows the complicated relationships among the people who own and work at a craft brewery in a Colorado mountain town. Book 3 in the Brewing Love series will be out around the end of the year, but we’re still trying to figure out the title! Uncaged: For your first jump into the paranormal
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genre, you wrote about a world with the different fairies. How much fun was it to build this new world? Will you continue to write in this genre? Actually, my first paranormal was the Ramos Family Trilogy for Berkley InterMix that featured a family of mediums in San Antonio. But yeah, the Folk world was a lot of fun to work with. I was able to fit in some of my favorite places in Colorado and add a pinch of supernatural spice. For example, I love Crested Butte and their amazing Vinotok Festival. I was able to work the festival into book 2 of the Folk, Unseen, by thinly disguising Crested Butte as Animas. Then I got to describe a lot of the fun things that go on at the real thing (although I added some more sinister touches on my own, what Vinotok might be if two warring factions of supernaturals were working behind the scenes). I hope I can go on working with the Folk. It’s a fun world to play around with. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I absolutely love Nora Ephron, who wrote When Harry
Met Sally among other movies, and directed Sleepless In Seattle and Julie and Julia, too. She did several collections of essays and a novel, Heartburn, that was based on her marriage to Carl Bernstein. Ephron was always one of my writing heroes. She was so funny and so insightful, and she left us far too soon. I’d love to be able to sit down with her and just dish about writing and life. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I enjoyed being part of the Shameless Con in Orlando (I’m doing it again this year). It’s always fun to meet people, both readers and other authors. And I absolutely love creating videos for my books. You can check them out on my YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/ UCE_u3UDwGvUt3DdWvZ34G8A) On the less successful end, as an introvert I don’t do well with Facebook parties. They make me break out in a cold sweat! Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I have an eight-book series set in a town called Konigsburg, Texas (it’s with Entangled). I once had someone tell me they knew exactly which citizens of Fredericksburg, Texas, all my characters were based upon—it was obvious to anyone who lived there. The thing is, I’ve visited Fredericksburg a lot, but I don’t know anyone who lives there. All my characters are made up! Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? My favorite place on Earth is Colorado, where I live. So it figures that when I’m not writing, I’m traveling around the state. In the winter the hubs and I like to go snowshoeing. In the summer it’s hiking. And we visit wineries and breweries year round. There’s nothing like sitting on a sunny patio with a craft brew after a long day on the trail and watching the sun set over the mountains. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I collect silver bracelets from Pueblo artisans in New Mexico. I’ve gotten to the point where I can recognize the designs on the bracelets so when I see one in an antique store, I can usually tell if it’s the real thing. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I always appreciate hearing from readers. If you’d like to know more about any of my books, just drop me a line at email@example.com. My web site is http://www.MegBenjamin.com where you can sign up for my newsletter.
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Enjoy an excerpt from Away Away Meg Benjamin Paranormal Grim Morrigan, Guardian of the Ward and parttime private detective, polices the Folk, the clans of fairies who live in the foothills outside Denver. But his main job is concealing their true nature from the mortals around them. Enter mortal Annie Duran, who hires him to look for her brother Richard, missing and presumed dead for ten years. Annie has seen Richard in the parking lot of the nightclub where she works. Now she wants answers, and Grim’s supposed to find them. The quest for Richard ensnares both Grim and Annie in a sinister conspiracy involving kidnapped women and outlaw magic. But they also discover their own overwhelming attraction to each other. When Annie herself disappears, Grim’s need for answers becomes even more urgent. With the help of a dissolute prince and a motley crew of unlikely fairies, Grim confronts a rebellion among the Folk. And it may take more than just magic and luck to save both Annie and Grim this time. Excerpt He leaned toward her, slowly, slowly, and she moved to meet him. His lips were softer than she remembered, gentle, brushing against the side of her throat. She took hold of his sleeve, her hand closing on the cool smoothness of the leather. He pulled away, stripping off his coat, then edged in closer, catching her chin between his fingers. Not a gentle kiss this time, but a claiming that burned her
| MEG BENJAMIN | skin, set her pulse racing. His hand cupped the back of her skull, holding her tight so his tongue could plunge deep into her mouth. She moaned, fumbling with the buttons on his shirt, feeling the coarse crinkle of hair and the heat of his skin. Her own desire built like a drumbeat.
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And then he was lifting away, resting his forehead against hers, panting. “Wait.” **** Wait? With every cell in his body screaming for her, he’d suddenly grown a conscience? Why the hell had his long-lost ethical sense decided to reappear now? Wretched timing, Grim. Just your style. He closed his eyes, catching his breath while he worked out what to say to Annie Duran that wouldn’t sound either insulting or insane. “Wait?” She was staring at him, eyes shining with desire—and confusion. He was such an idiot he felt like moaning.
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feature author Hailing from Johannesburg South Africa, Sian B. Claven has enjoyed stories for all her life, whether she was reading them or making them. She has written for as long as she can remember, but Ensnared is the first book she decided to publish. Moving towards writing more for the horror / paranormal thriller genre, Sian has subsequently published the first two books in The Butcher Books series, Tatum and Kallista. When Sian isn’t thinking of ways to terrify people, she enjoys writing science fiction stories, poetry and rather long and gushy birthday wishes. When she isn’t working on her writing you can find her knitting, scrapbooking, reading, or playing Xbox. Sian previously reviewed for The Blithering Bibliomaniacs and still reviews in her private capacity. She clearly doesn’t know what the words rest and relaxation mean, at least not in the traditional sense.
Uncaged welcomes Sian B. Claven Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your books? What do you have coming up next that you are working on? My books are mostly horrific stories that I come up with in the dead of the night when all good little boys and girls should be sleeping. I aspire to write tales so grisly, so spooky, that the world will be unable to sleep, much like me. Mostly I do it because I seem to be good at it! As my fans like to say, I have a penchant for the dark and mysterious. As for what’s coming up, I’m releasing a new book every month for the rest of the year! Something dark, something scary every month for the rest of 2019. Uncaged: You write mainly in the horror/thriller genres. What is the inspiration for your books?
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I get this question often and I’m never sure how to answer it. Sometimes I get it from seeing a cover and sometimes I get it from a conversation with a friend. It just depends on what is happening around me and what I see happening around me.
One of my Beta Readers got turned on by a really twisted scene that I wrote in a book. It was a bit weird because I was aiming for dark and evil and instead got hey, this is hot. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? When I’m not writing I love to read. I used to review for a website and am thinking of reviewing for a new one soon. I also like to play Xbox games and binge watch TV. One of my favourite places on Earth is the wild Bush of South Africa. My mom lives in a place called Marloth Park, and there are wild animals everywhere. It’s beautiful to visit and peaceful, and a wonderful place to sit and write.
Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Definitely JK Rowling, hands down. Her books saved me from a dark time in my life and I would just like to sit with her and thank her for that. Also JRR Tolkien, just so I can pick his brain about how he developed Middle Earth so well. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? The best marketing, I have done for my book is giveaways of my books. If people just give my book a try, especially people who love horror, they will find they like it and if they do, they will buy the rest. The least successful way of marketing, to me at least, is to boast about yourself all over social media. Advertise – sure, but don’t drone on and on about how amazing you are as a writer. People tire of it fast.
Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? What is unique about me? Oh dear, I’ve never been asked that question before. I’m not entirely sure what to say. I guess what I would say to this is, and I’m quoting my friend Darren here, what makes me unique is different depending on how different people see me. No one could explain why I’m unique to them, because their perception of me is different. So I guess to answer this you would have to get to know me better. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I would just like to thank all my fans! Your support is immeasurable and it’s because of you that I continue to write and strive to be a better author. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Bookbub and Booksprout as well as checking out my website.
Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Enjoy an excerpt from Sylvana Sylvana Sian Claven Horror Releases May 15
Diana and Robbie are tired of moving their family of five around. When Robbie is offered a great job, and permanent position, they must find somewhere to stay temporarily while they house hunt. Aware of the gruesome murders that happened in the Metz family house, they move in regardless and instantly regret it. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, Diana and Robbie must face their greatest horror. A copy cat killer starts to strike around their neighbourhood, just like the Butcher once did, and Diana’s family seems to be right in the centre of it. Where is Sylvana when her tenants need answers? The Butcher might just strike them where it hurts most before they get the answers they seek. Excerpt Diana When Diana saw the flashing blue lights outside her house, she panicked. James was home and Robbie wouldn’t be back until later, so as a mother she assumed the worse. She sped up and held her breath until she realised the cars were parked outside her neighbours’ house and not her own. The police had marked off the area around their neighbours’ and, as they climbed out, Clinton asked, “What do you think happened? Do you think Lincoln is okay?” Diana shook her head. “I’m sure he’s fine, baby. 64 | UncagedBooks.com
Why don’t you take Charlie and go check on your brother while I see what’s going on.” She walked the short distance between the two houses and saw a nurse standing there, a cardigan wrapped around her shoulders. She had tears streaming down her face, crumpled tissue in her hand, dabbing at her wet nose, and her breaths were coming out short. Diana recognized her as her next door neighbour; she had seen her whenever they took the garbage out. Diana felt quite bad now, not knowing what her name was. Quickly she made her way towards the woman. She was briefly stopped by a policeman before the nurse waved him away and said it was fine. “Are you okay, sweetie?” Diana asked, putting an arm around her shoulders. “Oh … oh … it’s Lincoln,” she sobbed. “He’s dead,” she managed to get out. “What?” Diana gasped. “How? What happened?” she asked without thinking. “Never mind. I am so sorry …” “Megan,” she said, hugging Diana and sobbing into her shoulder. “He was murdered in his bed,” she revealed between gasps for air. “I found him … someone cut off his head and cut out his tongue and … oh, my poor baby …” She burst into renewed sobs and Diana couldn’t make out another word after that. She stayed with Megan until a family member arrived and took over. Diana quietly excused herself and went home to check on her children. She felt nervous; the murder was seriously familiar to those she had heard about when she rented the house. Once home, however, she found her three children setting the table for dinner. James had a big smile on his face and was telling Clinton stupid jokes. Clinton was half listening, smiling as well, but his mind seemed far away. “Clinton, honey, we need to talk …” Diana said, taking her son by the hand and leading him to the living room.
feature author Rae Louise is a horror author based in Staffordshire, UK. Her debut novel, The Fear, was published in 2017 and came highly recommended by Readers’ Favorite and Ginger Nuts of Horror. Since then, she co-wrote and edited Diary of a Gonzo Ghost Hunter by C. Derick Miller and recently released her second novel, Metas. Rae brings contemporary twists to classic horror by exploring the human psyche, crafting novels with her British roots and compelling female leads. In her spare time she enjoys movies, painting and creating custom gothic décor.
Uncaged welcomes Rae Louise Uncaged: Your latest book, Metas, was released in April. Can you tell readers more about your books? I write within the horror genre and have been doing so as a hobby since I was a child. It’s something that I knew I had to pursue, and to be here promoting my second book makes all of those long, lonely years worth it. So, thanks for having me! My debut novel, The Fear, is a paranormal horror depicting the tale of an extreme haunting. Following this, I had the opportunity to work as co-author/editor on C. Derick Miller’s non-fiction novel, Diary of a Gonzo Ghost Hunter. My most recent release, Metas, is more of a creature feature and delves into some light sci-fi. I’m all about strong female leads, and two of my favourite films for that are The Descent and Ginger Snaps. They put modern spins on old classics and I use that as inspiration for all of my writing. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can share with us? A story that I originally wrote in my teens and have been adapting for the adult market. It’s one of several that I aim to work on over the coming years and has many psychological elements to it, which is a sub-genre of horror that I have yet to explore. Sammy returns to her hometown after suffering from a mental breakdown, which revealed a harrowing secret from her past; but her mind isn’t the only thing playing games with her. The mysterious lodger in her parents’
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barn has a fixation with Sammy that soon becomes fatal. Uncaged: In your spare time, you like to work with disabled animals, a cause that is near and dear to me also. Can you tell us about any of that? Oh, that’s a book in itself! I’ve always found animals very healing to be around, and they really are a joy to care for. It began when my first rabbit developed neurological problems and gradually lost the use of his hind legs. Shortly after that, my degu had multiple strokes that left him with a head tilt and he spent most of his time running around in circles. My second rabbit had a dodgy bladder with recurring infections that became life threatening. It cost a small fortune in homemade vegetable smoothies to keep him hydrated and healthy! I only have one fur baby left, who conveniently has thin bones and is prone to losing teeth. Somehow, I always end up with these animals and it’s a miracle how long they all lived with their various ailments. It’s kind of inspiring, how strong they are. I take a lot from that, and all I can say is what a rewarding process it is to see the little things thrive. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? James Herbert… because he’s James Herbert! I’d have to get my Ouija board out, but I’m certain he wouldn’t mind. Together with Godfather of Gore, Shaun Hutson, who has the sickest sense of humour. These British classics started me off reading horror and have become very inspirational to me and many others over the
years. Respect and gratitude to both. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? Free/discounted KU promos have always generated a buzz for me, but they’re most effective when used in combination with promo sites such as Reading Deals, Books Butterfly, ENT, etc. Some of the higher end ones incur a fee, but there are masses of others for authors on a budget. It takes some planning but the more sites that plug your book, the better! Downloads also increase author rank on Amazon, so getting into the top 100 on Kindle lends even more exposure. I’ve never had much luck with ads (Amazon, Facebook, etc) but that’s probably because I have no idea what I’m doing. I think you really have to do your research and understand the mechanisms of advertising on the different platforms. The best impact they’ve had for me is an explosive headache, unfortunately – social media isn’t my strongest point! Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? One particular reader was so terrified of the cover for Metas that she stuck a piece of paper over it with pegs! I’m still laughing at the photo, but kudos for making it to the end of the book. As a horror author, it’s always nice to hear that I’ve Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | managed to drag someone over to the dark side. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? Naturally, I love creepy woods; the mysteries of the ocean and the thrill of theme parks. I’m not very well travelled and still have a lot to see, so my favourite place on Earth is probably yet to be discovered. Occasionally, I can be found jostling my way through swarms of kids at petting zoos. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? If I answer that then you’d probably end up with white hair and in need of a defibrillator… Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? There aren’t enough words to express my thanks. They make the writing process a little less lonely and far more worthwhile. As introverted as I am, I think the best way I can give back is by continuing to do what I do, continue to evolve and push myself to improve. There’s always room for growth, and every single reader is a source of motivation that enables me to plough through this challenging industry. I can be found lurking on Facebook and pinning weird stuff on Pinterest.
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Enjoy an excerpt from Metas Metas Rae Louise Horror When justice becomes revenge, a monster is born... After the unsolved murder of her teenage sister, Violet Kendal spirals down a path of violence and self-destruction. A group of mysterious individuals lead her into a nightmare world, where she encounters a force more primal than man itself. As past secrets unfold, they bring her closer to the truth of how her life is connected to Isabelle’s death. Will Violet bury the monster inside her or use it to exact bloody revenge? Excerpt It loomed before them like a relic from World War II: a shell of beaten bricks with grim and charmless bowels. Two storeys were distinguishable by the wooden boards nailed into rectangular slots. The only window that remained had a bullet-shaped hole in one of the gridded panels, although Violet suspected that it was more likely caused by a stone having been pitched at the time-weakened glass. “Two bus rides and a twenty-minute hike down a woodland trail in these shoes, and this is what you have to show me?” Violet raised an unimpressed brow at her guide. “You wanted the truth, didn’t you?” Gypsy’s response offered no more solace than the journey itself. She’d spent the whole time prattling on about the various towns that she’d hitchhiked through; the shelters she’d stayed in and all of the interesting people that she’d met. She seemed quite content with how her life had turned out and even referred to herself as a traveller rather than homeless. Violet had been ex-
| RAE LOUISE | pecting to hear some tragic back story, perhaps in relation to the so-called hardships that she’d faced, but Gypsy hadn’t given so much as a whisper about life before the streets. “What’s so special about a rundown old mill?” Violet regarded the building again. It was about the width of two or three terraced houses, obscured from the road by a barricade of trees. She and Gypsy had taken a shortcut through a trail of undergrowth and brambles to the back of the mill. Violet had seen part of the River Derwent after stepping off the bus, which gave her some comfort in the knowledge that, if necessary, she’d be able to find her way back into town. Gypsy proceeded to the building’s entrance in spite of Violet’s hesitancy. “Wait, you don’t expect me to go in there?” she said. Gypsy answered, “It’s not what’s inside that you should be afraid of. It’s everything out here.” She pulled open the double doors simultaneously, the scraping of their ancient hinges amplified in the hollow structure so it sounded like a beast roaring in pain. The gloom appeared to devour her as she slipped inside and, left alone, Violet became aware of the eerie silence of nature. Not a single bird or cricket chirped, making her wonder if they were in hiding or had left completely. With that in mind, she hurried after Gypsy. The cracks of light that filtered through the many crevices in the building looked smoky from the dirt that hung in the air. Violet felt the molecules scratching her throat with every breath, causing her eyes to water. Gypsy seemed immune to it as she trampled across the littered ground: debris of cans, food wrappers and split planks of wood, presumably those that had been prised from one or more of the windows in order to gain access. There was a staircase leading up to the first floor, but the tenebrous space looked neither welcoming nor safe. When she glanced ahead, she could no longer see Gypsy in front of her. “Hey, where did you go?” Violet called, coughing at the dryness of her throat. She fanned a hand through the air in front of her as if to clear it. “You’d better not be screwing around with me!” she warned. “Over here.” Violet traced the voice to the left and
saw Gypsy poking her head out from behind another wall. She hadn’t noticed the opening before, but as she plodded forth, she discovered that it led into a separate chamber towards the rear of the mill. It was much smaller than the main area, and with a single boarded-up window, the dank blackness prevented her from entering as though it was another brick wall. “Gypsy?” Violet’s voice echoed in the void. It was as though her companion – ‘friend’ seemed like too strong a word – had dissolved into the shadows. She suddenly felt very alone and very vulnerable, and she was a second away from retreating when a shock of light flooded the room. Violet closed her eyes in a reflex, the luminosity still visible on her inner eyelids. She forced them open to find a figure slouched on the ground in the far corner, an LED lantern planted between his legs. Most of his face was curtained by the long, oily mane that ended just below his chest. She wasn’t acquainted with this man, but clothed in oversized jeans and a skull shirt, he reminded her of a member of a death metal band. The focus of Violet’s scrutiny soon landed upon the three figures standing in front of her. In the middle, and by far the tallest, was Joe. Camilla, always his right-hand woman, was wearing a tank top and combats; her broad shoulders lending weight to those toned arms. Gypsy stood to his left, staring sheepishly back at Violet. “Welcome to our lair,” said Joe, phlegmatic as ever. “Told you I could persuade her.” Gypsy looked up at him, her enlarged eyes taking on the appearance of a child seeking a prize. “W-what the hell is this? Who’s he?” Violet glanced back to the silent stranger in the corner. “We know him only as The Kid,” Joe answered. “He doesn’t say much, but his reputation as a backstreet dealer precedes him. Not a good reputation I might add, but you have nothing to fear. He won’t bite unless commanded.” Violet disregarded the jest. “I thought I said no more surprises?” “As I’m sure you’re aware by now, some things Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | must be seen to be believed. Whatever you feel in the next few moments – whatever you think – do not run.” That last sentence alone was enough to raise the breaks and hurtle out of there. She perhaps would have done if it wasn’t for a shuffling noise from behind the three strangers, movement alerting her to what could have been mistaken for a shadow in the surrounding penumbra. Suddenly aware of a sixth entity in the room, Violet barged a gap through the bodies. A metal ring was bolted to the brickwork on the back wall. Dangling from it was a bulky chain, on which the other end was shackled around a man’s neck. Slumped on his knees, only his battered trousers cushioned him from the concrete floor. His head drooped forwards; short, scraggly waves clinging to his face, but it wasn’t enough to disguise the fact that he was no ordinary human being. His ribcage looked like a xylophone, high and prominent, although there was no emaciation to speak of. His torso and limbs had a sinewy appearance with minimal fat to conceal the muscle definition. “What... is...” He? It? Neither seemed fitting. As if recognising Violet’s voice, the man tilted his head up towards her. Through black, sweatdrenched tendrils, his raspy breaths grew louder as she approached. She felt Joe’s gentle pull on her arm as he spoke in forewarning, “Don’t be fooled by his apparent frailty. That chain has already been replaced several times.” Violet swatted him away as though she might do a fly, her unease of the prisoner now a tiny seed in the back of her mind. There was a familiarity between them that went beyond the physical, irrespective of his structure having mutated beyond recognition. Similar to when she’d first laid eyes on Gypsy, it was something very akin to a bond. “Oh my God...” Violet whispered.
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| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR |
Award-winning author Charity Marie loves dragons, wizards, and swords. She also love writing and reading stories. When she’s not writing she’s also a certified Paralegal and a licensed Realtor. Her writing has been featured in a variety of publications around the world, but most notably Coldwell Banker, Duck Soup Magazine, The American Genius, Strategy Magazine, iPhone Life, and much more. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter above to learn all about her and her upcoming releases. She lives in Texas with her dogs, two children, and one incredibly patient husband.
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Enjoy an excerpt from Understanding Libby Understanding Libby Charity Marie Non-fiction, Mental Illness Pre-order Available What lengths will a mother go to fight for her child’s sanity?” Charity Marie was a successful children’s author, personal injury paralegal, Realtor, and mother of two special-needs children. All of that unraveled in December 2017 after rushing her eleven-year-old daughter, Liberty, to a local ER due to visual hallucinations. After more than a decade of bizarre behavior, this one event began an ongoing battle for a diagnosis and effective treatment of Liberty’s early onset paranoid schizophrenia. Understanding Libby is an in-depth, unflinching, and raw look at the effects of schizophrenia on a victim and her family. This first book in the four-book series is meant to be a from-the-trenches example for parents, families, caregivers, and mental health providers of children suffering from mental illness. Never before has such an ambitious attempt been made to shine a light into the dark world of schizophrenia and mental illness. Book 1 is a series of blog posts written over a year as Charity’s first-person account of her and her daugh-
| CHARITY MARIE | ter’s experiences seeking treatment for a series of baffling and complex mental health symptoms as Liberty spends more than 120 days inpatient for residential treatment. It also includes an intimate interview with Liberty, conducted by her mother. Join Charity as she maneuvers through an increasingly challenging world of medical treatment, mental health facilities, insurance denials, disability, special education, and governmental bureaucracy at every turn, while fighting to stay positive and have hope, find answers, and keep her daughter from killing herself or losing her mind. Excerpt Part I: Entering the Maze December 19, 2018 Looking Back What you focus on grows, What you think about expands, And what you dwell upon becomes Your destiny ~ Robin Sharma Looking back at the last eleven years, I see so many things. Clues. Signs. Missed opportunities. Uninformed choices. It started so slow, I just couldn’t put it together. At 18 months we started potty training and Libby mastered it within about six months. Then one day, she didn’t like the toilet anymore. I didn’t think much of it, I just figured she wasn’t ready. All the parenting books I’d read warned me it could happen. It wasn’t until she was three Libby finally decided to wear underwear and use the toilet, but she never liked to flush it. Seven years later, after being put on anti-psychotic medication, she described to me the evil spirits whom she believed lived in the toilet and would drown her and our whole family if she flushed it. From ages two until six, Libby was certain the characters on the television were real and lived in the TV. The only way she could play with them was by turn-
ing it on. She would talk to the characters and thought Dora the Explorer and the Wonder Pets were her best friends. At four, Libby believed the grass would eat her and wouldn’t step foot on it. Age five is the first time she had a full-blown hallucination, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Libby came running out of the bedroom screaming, “It’s going to kill me!” She ran into the bathroom closet and I found her tucked into a corner with a bunch of clothes around her, crying and whimpering. When she saw me, she cried, “It’s right there, do you see it?” When I shook my head no and told her nothing was there, Libby screamed “Why can’t you see it? It’s going to kill me. Help me Mommy, help me!” I did my best to comfort Libby, at a loss for what to do or what it all meant. I thought it was night terrors and let her sleep with me. Around that time, she tried to run away for the first time. We let her, and my husband, Robert, then my boyfriend, followed her for half a block until she stopped, sat down on the ground, and began to cry. Robert asked her if she wanted to go home and when she said yes, that was the end of that. Until Christmas Day, when Libby ran away again. This time, she took all her clothes and stuffed animals, piled them on the front porch, and told us she was leaving and never coming back. Very concerned at this behavior, we called the police station and asked if they would send an officer to talk to Libby, hoping it would scare her straight. After talking to Libby, the officer spoke with us saying, “She’s acting like a teenager. You should spank her more.” I’m ashamed to say this now, but for a while we took that advice. We were always careful to explain why first, and limit both the number (1 spank) and frequency (no more than 3 in a day). We continued to use timeouts, natural consequences, lost privileges, extra chores, and redirections as well. One night not long after, I came home late. Everyone else had already eaten, but Robert had kept leftover chili warm for me. I sat down and took the first bite, which tasted awful. It was the worst Issue 34 | May 2019 |
| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | thing I’d ever eaten. I tried again. And again. On the fourth bite, I pulled something out of my mouth I couldn’t chew. I discovered the object was a piece of shredded up cardboard. Robert tasted the chili and gagged. We found more shredded cardboard in the pot and an empty bottle of cinnamon on the counter. Upon questioning, Libby admitted she tried to help cook while Daddy was in the bathroom. Later my husband and I both thanked our lucky stars it wasn’t something from under the sink. We realized then Libby’s behavior was potentially dangerous. One day, for no apparent reason we could understand at the time, Libby tried to stab Phoenix with a pencil. Another time she threw a book at him. Almost every night, Libby’s night terrors would resume. She would randomly throw things at the walls and scream. She would hit the walls or bang her head on them. Out of the blue, Libby began refusing to take a bath or shower. Around that time, we put a lock on our bedroom door to use at night and when we weren’t there. We hid our gun and bought a small safe as soon as we could. We all were terrified of a six-year-old child but couldn’t figure out why. There were so many strange conversations with Libby, where she would say things that made no sense to those speaking with her, and she was as confused as we were. We chalked it up to her just being a little odd. My husband and I even had a code phrase, “Twilight Zone,” because she would say things that made absolutely no sense to us. It would sound like a jumble of nonsense. To Libby, she was truly and desperately trying to communicate and would get very frustrated and upset if we didn’t understand her. As we attempted to normalize our interactions we would smile, nod, and move on. There were times where Libby would present intelligently, and others where it seemed she would be completely blank. Schoolwork and homework were near impossible, but we left mitigation of that up to the school. With Libby’s dyslexia, there was no way we could effectively help her, nor were we willing 74 | UncagedBooks.com
to face a two-hour meltdown over her assignments. We’d already been doing that for two years and had decided we would have to pick our battles. Libby came home from school in the spring of 2014 (3rd grade). She told me, without any emotion whatsoever. “I want to die. Another girl at school said it would be better for everyone if I killed myself.” It was the last straw. We took her immediately to the pediatrician to have her evaluated. After a full evaluation, they told us to take her to the Emergency Room. While in the ER, Libby described a horrible apparition, with a knife dripping blood, ready to stab the doctor. In that moment, my world as a parent shattered. Every hope I had for her vanished. The little voice in the back of my mind that had been keeping up a constant litany of “something’s wrong” for five years now said, “I told you so.” I followed up with the school, who claimed there was no child who fit the description Libby gave. Libby couldn’t tell us the child’s name. We still did not understand. Looking back years later, I realized this child Libby described was a hallucination. We had Libby admitted, the medical team prescribed her some antidepressants, and she seemed to improve. Finally, Libby came home, but in no time, it seemed, she got worse. One day I decided to look up Libby’s diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder. I had received discharge paperwork with that on it, but no one explained to me what it meant or what was wrong with my child. I just figured it meant she was really depressed. Then I realized there was another word I’d never heard nor seen before: psychosis. Looking up that one word changed our lives forever. It became the key to understanding a complex, confusing puzzle of symptoms. It would take me six months of obsessive research to fully understand, and a year to find some sort of acceptance. The day I learned about psychosis became the day we started making progress and Libby improved. We were done making excuses and pushing aside the obvious. Our child had some serious mental issues, and we weren’t going to stop until we found solutions and answers.
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Uncaged Reviews A Rose for a Rogue Collette Cameron Historical Regency
What’s a future duke to do when the most unsuitable woman possible captures his heart? Eden had tried to avoid even a hint of scandal her whole life. Plowing headlong into the Marquis of Sterling and dropping eggs on his boots wasn’t the most foolish thing Eden Haverden had ever done. Imprudently agreeing to take the charming rogue home when his horse went lame wasn’t either. But reluctantly accepting Chester’s invitation to stay the night at his familial estate after she nearly drowned? Yes, that assuredly was a rash decision and invited utter ruin. So why doesn’t she listen to her common sense?
Uncaged Review: Eden is such a refreshing character, from her first meeting with the Marquis, to her assortment of pets – including a horse that wears a straw hat and a pet squirrel named Acorn, the reader can’t help being charmed by her and it’s no wonder Chester can’t keep his mind off of her. Ms. Cameron does a wonderful job with this story and sets a good pace, keeping it fresh and interesting with characters that are well thought out and likeable, and the epilogue was a delight. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Taken by Graeme Jennifer Siddoway Historical Medieval Romance Love is the last thing Elspeth MacDougall expects to find when a fierce pirate captain sweeps her from her home straight to the high seas, demanding she ply her skills as ship surgeon to work off her father’s gambling debt. She’s determined to survive the three month arrangement, but dangers abound and there’s more to this vagabond group of raiders than it seems. As sea battles and intrigues mount, she finds a place among the crew. Until now. Uncaged Review: The last book I read from this author was her Earthwalker’s Trilogy, a dark fantasy – paranormal series, so I already knew the author’s writing style, or I thought I did. This is a complete departure from that genre, a medieval historical romance with pirates. And the author does not disappoint in this genre, and I almost like it better than the dark fantasy series. When Elspeth’s father gambles away money he doesn’t have, and the pirates come to collect, Elspeth offers herself as a substitute, to go with the pirates and work as a surgeon to pay off her father’s debts, so her younger brothers will be safe. Taking care of her father for the years after her mother has died, has given Elspeth a skill of healing, and the pirate captain, Graeme, takes her up on the offer. As Elspeth truly works her magic and becomes a part of the crew, she knows she has found her calling. But falling for the captain was not in her plans… A good story, with danger, suspense and enough high seas action to satisfy my pirate loving heart, this is a romance that proves to me that this author has truly found her lane. I look forward to reading more of this series and more. Reviewed by Cyrene
Love, Music, Madness Tabitha Rhys Contemporary Romance Songwriting partners Lawson Harper and Jessa Warlow’s musical ambitions are derailed when their so-called relationship ends disastrously. However, neither Lawson nor Jessa are willing to give up on the album’s worth of soul-searing songs they wrote together—songs they’re sure are good enough to change both their lives.
Uncaged Review: I am having a difficult time with this book, and categorizing it, as it’s marketed as a contemporary romance. Contemporary – yes, romance – no. It’s not a rock star book either. I’ve also struggled with the rating, the pros: the descriptions of everything is almost poetry. The author truly has an artistic talent in descriptions and some passages could be applied to poetry without too many adjustments and some of the passages truly linger. The cons: the characters. I never felt connected to any of them. The romances? I have no idea how they even happened. One minute they are friends, and the next paragraph they are lovers, and that’s not an exaggeration. This story also just ended in a strange place and didn’t give satisfying closure, like the author didn’t have a clear vision on how she wanted to end the story.
Joshua’s Wish R.S. Chapman Contemporary Romance The town of Falls River is all Speech Pathologist Jenn Reston has ever wanted, and is where she and her nine-year-old son, Joshua, finally put down roots. She falls for the town’s most eligible bachelor whose memories of a previous marriage block any chance of commitment. Uncaged Review: This is a pleasant romance that follows the tried and true formula of romances with HEA’s, and the characters are likeable, although they don’t have much real personality. It was hard to get a good handle on each of them individually. The kids in the story were probably even more fun than the grown-ups. This is a not a long read, and it’s a nice story to read as long as you don’t mind a predictable storyline. The downside, is the thoughts going from one character to another in the space of a paragraph. It was a bit confusing to me why it was done this way. I think I just wanted more than the catching fish and the age-old “man afraid of commitment because of his past” story arc. Reviewed by Cyrene
When I read a romance, I want a connection and in this book I didn’t have it. Between the two different women that Lawson was with in this story, I never felt he should be with one or the other. From Teresa’s angst and over the top jealousy, and Jessa not being able to make up her own mind, and to Lawson, who I just didn’t think was a strong enough lead. I think this author is very talented in her writing and I would actually look forward to something new from her. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Uncaged Reviews Dark Stranger I.T. Lucas Paranormal Romance When Syssi’s paranormal foresight lands her a job at Dr. Amanda Dokani’s neuroscience lab, it fails to predict the thrilling yet terrifying turn her life will take. Syssi has no clue that her boss is an immortal who’ll drag her into a secret, millennia-old battle over humanity’s future. Nor does she realize that the professor’s imposing brother is the mysterious stranger who’s been starring in her dreams Uncaged Review: What a great beginning to this series. At already 26 books strong, and 27 already on pre-order, this is a series that a reader could easily lose themselves in. The world building and back story are quite amazing – and the originality is refreshing and this is not a story arc that has been written over and over in this genre. Although Syssi and Kian’s story continues into the next book, this is a true page-turner of a book. You won’t want to put it down long and getting to the next book will be a priority for many. Reviewed by Cyrene
Fool’s Gold Cari Davis Historical Western Romance Penniless and estranged from her wealthy family in New Orleans, Widow Doña Melissa Bertrand de Cabrillo must barter her way from California to Louisiana in order to save her niece, even if it means posing as the wife of a perfect stranger. Uncaged Review: Doña Melissa Bertrand de Cabrillo must leave the safety of California and return to her family home in New Orleans, Louisiana to check on the welfare of her beloved niece. Except now she is a widow, and penniless, and with no way to secure passage. Enter Sebastian…whom she thinks is the perfect answer to her problem, even if she doesn’t particularly like gold miners. Sebastian Henderson has money, digs for gold for fun and owns a bank with his brother. Right now, he needs to escort a young lady in his care from California to Boston. Per social custom, she needs a female chaperone, so he needs a wife, or someone willing to act as on while on the voyage. Enter Melissa…whom he thinks is the perfect Southern Belle solution to his need. This is a unique and action-packed story with a growing cast of characters that add to the excitement. Passengers are murdered on the steamship, and Melissa is convinced it’s somehow related to the poisonings that killed members of her family. Her estranged Bertrand family owns those steamships and Melissa is also concerned she is leading Sebastian right into the heart of the danger awaiting them in New Orleans. As the tensions and number of victims grow, so does the mutual attraction between Melissa and Sebastian and their “pretend” marriage. This story could have been deepened if the author had included more details about steamship travel dur-
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ing this era, since so much of the book took place aboard the steamship. Melissa’s internal and external conflicts were clear, and sometimes painfully so, as she worked her way through them. Sebastian’s internal conflicts were a bit murkier, though he is the quintessential hero and the type of man every woman dreams of sailing with. Reviewed by Ryan Jo
Mann in the Crossfire R. Weir Suspense/Crime
Is this the end for PI Jarvis Mann? A surprising murder of an associate Sends Jarvis on a trip to San Diego to investigate A trail of clues direct him to a gang member who wants him eliminated While a local detective agency is hot on his tail with nefarious plans of their own Battered and beaten, Jarvis battles to forge on, tracking the evidence Directing him to a dangerous discovery that he may not be able to fight his way out of Desperate for backup, with nowhere else to turn He enlists lethal foes to render essential aid Will these illicit associations spell the end of his career and possibly his life… For Jarvis is truly a Mann in the Crossfire.
Uncaged Review: This book can be read as standalone book or as part of the series. It does mention some characters from the previous books. But you should still be able to follow the story and enjoy it without reading the others as I did. Jarvis is back on a case again when he unexpectedly meets up with some old friends. Some of them not so pleasant. I enjoyed reading this. It’s very action packed with a lot of twists and turns. Some I didn’t see coming. Reviewed by Jennifer
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Uncaged Reviews When the Vow Breaks
suspense, it was a fun read and worth the time if you are wanting to be entertained without a lot of thinking involved.
Good cop or bad cop? Colin Rourke takes protecting and serving seriously. When he is notified that he’s being sued for millions in the death of a known drug dealer, he is confident he
I would give it four stars. The story was well written, predictable but fun. Reviewed by Barbara
Michelle Libby Romantic Suspense
will be cleared.
Forced to Love
Uncaged Review: Regan and Colin are engaging characters. It opens with Colin, a police officer, being accused of murdering a petty criminal, Rodrigo Ramirez, by throwing him off a bridge with a video as the evidence. There wasn’t enough to charge him for murder, so the family brought a civil suit against him for their beloved’s death. Ragan, who is married to Colin and is madly in love with him, grew up in foster homes with nothing to her name. She doesn’t want to lose everything they worked for if the lawsuit goes against them. Her solution is for them to get a divorce prior to the trial so she can hold all their assets in safety until Colin is cleared. What happens is that everything falls apart. They are jealous of the people they go out with to make the divorce look real which creates problems between them and Colin’s best friend, Jack. Even though they have difficulty staying away from each other, they manage to keep their attraction and love hidden until the party where Regan shows up with Jack and Colin with a new blond bimbo recruit. Colin decks Jack and they all leave in disgrace. There is a person who is following Regan and he is scaring her. This is after a note was slid under the door to her house. She lets Colin know about the stalker and the note after her adopted brother Brian hires a private security man named Dirk to watch over her. Things become more of a muddle when Regan discovers Brian is the attorney for the Ramirez family who is suing Colin. She makes the mistake of telling Brian about Colin’s use of excessive force over the six years while an officer. He uses that against Colin in the trial which angers Regan. Things get more complicated, but I’ll let you read the book to the reasonably predicable ending. It was a good read with interesting characters. For a romantic
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A.M. Costello Fantasy Romance
Destined to reign since infancy, the revelation of an ancient law forces Princess Quigalla to make a choice: marry before coronation or hand over her title to a neighboring king-
Faced with the prospect of a war with her uncle, who wants the crown for his son, she plans a secret mission. Uncaged Review: Princess Quigalla, the daughter of Queen Quenessa, is the heir to the throne of Qualla. In the first chapter, King Ronan, Quigalla’s father is ruling the country. The princess is out practicing her archery when a badger threatens Pauline, one of the young servants of the castle. To save Pauline, Quigalla ends up getting bit on her leg, necessitating a trip to the healer, delaying the start of the council meeting she was to attend. The country of Vulster is ruled by her mother’s brother, Venus. His son Vaylor is the heir apparent. The backstory is that Venus wanted to rule Quigalla but the rules said the female was to rule the country. He moves away and makes his own kingdom which he rules with fear and terror. He is planning on invading Qualla, still wanting the throne there. Once everyone but Quigalla agree to discover it the Lord of Vulster is planning to attack before doing something about the, King Ronan brings up what he
calls a delicate subject. Quigalla must marry before her coronation or a distant male relation will be chosen for the throne. Her coronation is in two months on her eighteenth birthday. Of course, Quigalla, who doesn’t believe she needs anyone to help her, denies she is going to marry until Breasal, a counsil member says it’s the law and she must marry. She appeals to her father who says he isn’t going to change the law. As she listens to them saying she needs to marry in two months, Quigalla becomes angry and tunes them out while thinking nasty thoughts of all the council members. Because her father is set on her marrying, Quigalla decides to defeat the kingdom’s enemy, Vulster and Lord Venus. She would go to Queen Andrea, her grandmother, and enter Vulster from there. The next morning, her hall if filled with those wanting to marry her. She escapes by the window of her room. She falls when her injured right leg spasms, falling into the arms of a man who is concerned but yet amused at catching her. Enter Sir Felix Quon who is there to help her find a bow suited to her. This sets the stage for the rest of the book. Felix is assigned as her guard as she goes to her grandmother’s castle and then into Vulster. As one disaster after another happens, she discovers her cousin, Vaylor, is on her side and willing to help her. I’ll not give away any more of the story, but the story is how Quigalla learns that no person is an island and everyone needs help. It was a fun tale to read and one I recommend as long as you can keep all the Qu’s and V’s separate. I give it 4 stars. Reviewed by Barbara
Samanthya Wyatt Contemporary Romance A naked woman in his shower . . . Craig can’t believe his eyes. A practical joke on his friend turns out to be a naked beauty standing before him in all her fine glory. He is too shocked for words. A man who has had his share of women suddenly finds himself speechless before this exotic creature. She is an aching temptation. Surrendering to his passion could cost him his best friend. Yet, he yearns to taste, to touch . . . but she is hands off.
Uncaged Review: This is a Contemporary Romance book filled with emotion and lots of passion. Kelly runs to her best friend after she finds out the shocking truth about the man she has been seeing. This was a enjoyable read with lots of twists and turns. Reviewed by Jennifer
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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Blame the Goth Girl, Vol 1 Bettina Busiello Urban Fantasy Onyx can smell evil. No one; not even werewolves, wendigos, or vampires, can hide from her once they’ve committed a crime. When Onyx’s paranormal investigation of a local haunting triggers the death of a divorced mother, she is cut short by the provocative Detective Elliot Stevens. Now she must either tempt Elliot astray from his clean-cut, straight-edged path or change her apathetic ways and learn the truth about who and what she is — before what she doesn’t know can kill her.
of the other characters in this book were also pretty funny in their own ways. Except for Nicki. She was a twat. I enjoyed the mystery behind the story and how the characters had to come together to achieve what they were trying to accomplish. The story was interesting and easy to follow. I enjoyed this authors writing style and the sarcasm she puts into her characters is something I connect with. Overall this was a great read for me. I recommend it to anyone looking for a fun read full of supernatural stuff and characters with an actual sense of humor.
The group joins Doctor Frederick Peters, an experimental psychologist looking to prove his exposure theory hypothesis, and his two assistants, Tiffany Burgess and Dexter Reid. At first, their stay seems to conjure nothing more than spooky encounters with inexplicable phenomena. But Amon Palace is gathering its powers—and soon it will reveal that these veterans are not who they seem.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Blame the Goth Girl by Bettina Busiello was a really cool book. From the pacing to the character development to the overall story itself, it was put together in a way that was very enjoyable. I loved the sexual tension between Onyx and Elliot. I thought the female main character, Onyx was fun and quirky, but not annoying. I loved her sense of humor and she was easy to relate to. Her ability to sniff out other supernaturals was entertaining at times. That ability by itself isn’t one I’ve read about many times before so it was nice to have something different to read about. Most
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Bender M. Stratton Romantic Suspense Since high school everyone thought Jake Bender would end up behind bars; after all, he comes from a long line of bad boys. He spent years away from the place he called home. When he finally comes back, everyone thinks he’s just a punk kid all grown up who’s now running a dive bar called The Night Club. What they don’t know is he heads up a special task force, which cleans up neighborhoods and makes them safe again.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Holy shit. This book will make you throw up in your mouth. Like seriously. I think my brain has left the building. Its soooo good. And sooooo bad at the same time! There are things I will never be able to look at the same way again. But please, don’t take any of this as a negative. It’s kind of the best reasons TO read this book. At least it is if you are as mental as I am! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, no one, and I mean NO ONE does crazy like M. Stratton does crazy. Bender is a book that will make you doublecheck those shadows and definitely pay attention to your surroundings when you are walking alone. M. Stratton’s monsters are usually the ones that you never suspect. The guy next door. The random dude in the grocery store. Everyman. In Bender, it’s a much more in your face obvious monster. The crazy bastard Nutter, lives up to his name. He is a serious nut job. But I do have to give him some credit, he is a creative nut job.
I like the small tie in with Stratton’s Storm Series and the protectiveness of the characters from that book towards Stormy. There are little bits throughout the book that, if you are a fan of Stratton’s, you will pick up on. One of the things I love about Stratton’s books is how her sense of humor shines through her stories. She’s quite entertaining in that sense. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good thrilling book with some crazy ass characters. Please note that there is some extreme violence, so if you are not into that kind of thing, you might want to skip this one.
Bender is a super hot guy that grew up in the neighborhood. He was always knows as a bad boy around town. He has come back to do one last job of cleaning up his hometown and getting rid of the jerks that have over taken it. In the meantime, he meets Stormy and things progress from there. Bender is essentially a thriller, with mild romance. It tells the story of a guy who really just wants to clean up his neighborhood, but is going to have a hell of a time doing it. The female lead, Stormy, made me a little crazy at times. It’s like she just wouldn’t listen. She wasn’t grasping the concept that her life was in danger. When she’s not wrapped up in a book, she is pretty cool, but unfortunately she spends too much time in her books to be safe.
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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Fireweed and Brimstone Boone Brux Horror/Occult It seems rather fitting that I’m a grim reaper who happens to be a widow. In fact, my husband’s death ignited a chain of events that shook my life and landed me as GRS’s newest grim reaper. He’s been dead for over a year, but I can’t shake the feeling that the circumstances surrounding his car accident aren’t what they appear.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Fireweed and Brimstone is the 3rd book in Boone Brux’s Grim Reality series. Just as all the others, it’s filled with both action, humor, and fun little twists on life and death. I love the way this series has come together. Lisa’s character is relatable even though she’s a reaper. Trying to juggle her family and job isn’t an easy task, especially as a widowed mom, but she finds a way to do it without losing her sense of humor. I do wish her relationship with Nate were a little more stable or clear. This book is fairly short, which was disappointing, but what can you do? There was quite a bit of info to unpack in this installment, but I like the direction the author is taking things and I’m interested to see where it goes next.
Blood and Bullets James R. Tuck Horror He lives to kill monsters. He keeps his city safe. And his silver hollow-points and back-from-the-dead abilities help him take out any kind of supernatural threat. But now an immortal evil has this bad-ass bounty hunter dead in its sights. . . Ever since a monster murdered his family, Deacon Chalk hunts any creature that preys on the innocent. So when a pretty vampire girl “hires” him to eliminate a fellow slayer, Deacon goes to warn him--and barely escapes a vampire ambush. Now he’s got a way-inexperienced newbie hunter to protect and everything from bloodsuckers to cursed immortals on his trail. There’s also a malevolent force controlling the living and the undead, hellbent on turning Deacon’s greatest loss into the one weapon that could destroy him. . .
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Hi, my name is Melanie, and I’m in love with a fictional character. Deacon Chalke is a man set on avenging the deaths of his wife and kids. By avenging, I mean killing every vampire he can. This book is so full of action, that I honestly hope it is someday turned into a movie so that even people who don’t read can experience the awesomeness that is Deacon. He’s big, he’s bad ass, and he has no mercy for the race of vampires that is responsible for the death of his family. There is absolutely nothing romantic about these vampires, so if you are looking for the type of vampires that have redeeming qualities, and are just misunderstood, keep looking, because this book is not for you. The vampires in this story are bloodthirsty monsters who will think nothing of eating your family in front of you, then saving you for dessert for
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later, after you have been traumatized in every way possible.
vaguely seems interested in even a purely sexually relationship with someone.
This book is filled with guns, holy relics used as weapons and just general bad assness. Deacon owns a strip club called Polecats that he also uses as a base of operations. Most of Deacon’s “associates” are people that he has helped in some way after encountering the vampires, so they are all very loyal to him. He even has a priest that helps him out. Tuck takes the vampire myth back to the crucifixion in a way I have never heard done before. Personally, I think his version is a very good one that really gives you a different perspective on the origins of these monsters. I can’t tell you what it is though, because it would ruin the surprise! My only “complaint” about this is that after Deacon learns the story of the original vampire, he ends up fighting beside him. Overlooking the fact that he hates all vampires. I suppose it is because the original vampire is trying to right his wrong in creating more vampires by killing them whenever he can. There are several were-creatures in this book, but is not a main theme. I enjoy the many one liners Tuck uses and did find myself laughing despite their sometimes being quite corny. There is a few “you had to be there” kind of moments that I really wish I had been there for. I am hoping he tells about them later in the series because I really do want to know how he used a toothpick as a stake. My new favorite quote of all time, “And vampire never sparkle unless they just ate a stripper”
I totally 100% recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action and a good story. If you need a break from the typical vampire story or paranormal romance, please check this out. You won’t regret it. Well, I didn’t regret it anyway, and now I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!
I must say that Deacon Chalke is who I would want my husband to turn into if my kids and I were ever killed. His mission is to kill any vampire, and try to “save” any human that has been affected by them. He doesn’t seem to have much interest in any sort of relationship with a woman. He can appreciate a woman’s beauty, but does not fall prey to it, and really only
Issue 34 | May 2019 |
Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews
Brine & Blood C.R. Langille Thriller/Suspense In a storm-ravaged Salt Lake City, private detective Bartholomew Morgan is on the case to find a missing person. During his investigation, he begins to uncover strange things, and the deeper he digs, the darker it gets. Follow Morgan through the twists and turns of this occult tale and see if he can save the world from drowning in darkness, brine, and blood. Myra’s Review: Although a short story, it pulled me in right away. The main character, Morgan, is a private eye. The description of his office made me think of detectives from the old movies; with an office that is shabby and an upbeat secretary keeping things together. Morgan’s client for the opening sequence is Ms. Whatley, a beautiful, sexy woman looking her son, who has disappeared. The detective is surprised by her home when he goes to investigate her son’s room. The house is big, old and sparsely furnished, not fitting the sophisticated, alluring woman who hired him. His hackles are raised and he doesn’t trust her.
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What Morgan discovers when he finds Ms. Whatley’s son is shocking, and I don’t want to give away the story. But definitely shades of Lovecraft, with the feeling of monsters lurking beneath murky waters and human sacrifice. Additionally the hero is drawn to a woman who reeks of danger and hidden secrets. Morgan may have been pulled into the supernatural world with no escape. Well written. Recommended for horror lovers looking for a quick, enjoyable read.
Broken Shells Michael Patrick Hicks Horror Antoine DeWitt is a man down on his luck. Broke and recently fired, he knows the winning Money Carlo ticket that has landed in his mailbox from a car dealership is nothing more than a scam. The promise of five thousand dollars, though, is too tantalizing to ignore.
Myra’s Review: Antoine is a man down on his luck. He just lost his job, his wife nags him constantly, and his baby cries a lot. When he receives a scratch off ticket in the mail, and it shows he won $5,000, he is sure it’s a scam. Regardless, Antoine’s wife demands he check it out. It’s from a car dealership and he knows they will try and talk him into buying a car. When he reluctantly shows the manager, Dangle, his ticket, Antoine is shocked to discover he’d won the money. But after being taken to the manager’s office, he is shown a set of stairs leading down to a basement. Before he could question why, he felt the prick of a needle in his neck.
stumbles upon the stairs he was pushed down. The bugs who were attacking Antoine relentlessly, realized there was something more interesting nearby – a door offering escape to the upper world. Without giving away the ending, the insect horde race through the dealership and chaos ensues of course. I was glad Antoine found Dangle and killed him, but I was hoping the story ended differently. The police decided Antoine perpetrated the manslaughter; he seemed an easy villain/ scapegoat. After all, how could they report giant bugs as the criminals? There is an ironic twist in the last scene, as if Antoine left a message, “I told you so”. The story reveals background on the bugs and why Dangle was their keeper. Recommended for those who love a really terrifying story with giant bugs and a hero you root for. Note: I love B bug movies. But many scenes in this story were gross and horrific, so you may need a strong stomach to read.
After he awakens, Antoine can’t comprehend his surroundings. He can’t move and seems to be bound. It takes a long time to retrieve the knife in his pocket, since he can barely wiggle his hand. He cuts his way out of the hard substance around him that he thinks is a type of huge cocoon. While it’s dark and he can’t see far, Antoine can make out other cocoons; they are all located in a large cave. In shock, he watches as a huge bug, about half the length of a man, starts eating a hapless woman in a nearby cocoon. The other cocoons contain decimated corpses or barely alive people. The hero realizes he loves his son and wife, in spite of problems in the family, and is determined to get back to them. His fight through the bug infested hive was monumental and Antoine suffered grave injuries. Once he makes it through the cave system, he finally
Issue 34 | May 2019 |
Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Frankenstein - Lost Souls Dean Koontz Horror The war against humanity has begun. In the dead hours of the night, a stranger enters the home of the mayor of Rainbow Falls, Montana. The stranger is in the vanguard of a wave of intruders who will invade other homes . . . offices . . . every local institution, assuming the identities and the lives of those they have been engineered to replace. Before the sun rises, the town will be under full assault, the opening objective in the new Victor Frankenstein’s trajectory of ultimate destruction Myra’s Review: Deucalion is at an Abbey when he starts receiving a feeling – that Victor is not dead, even though he’d been present when his maker was killed 2 years prior. Next, we are introduced to members of the Community in Rainbow Falls, Montana; new members reimagined by Victor’s clone. They are already immersed in their mission, replacing key people in town with replicants. The unfortunate town people are shot in the head with an object that looks like a silver bead that makes them compliant to commands from the New Race. The new Victor thought it was inefficient to take murdered humans and dispose of them in dumps, so he created “builders”. These creations appear like beautiful humans at first, enthralling their victims, but then change into horrific monsters, which absorb their victims. Meanwhile, Carson and Michael work as detectives and have a baby girl they adore. In Montana, Ericka 5 and Jouko live a solitary but happy life. We are introduced to Nummy, a slow- witted young man and Mr. Lyss, a mean-spirited old man. They are in jail together and watch in horror as people in nearby cells are absorbed by a build90 | UncagedBooks.com
er, but they manage to escape before they are next. When they enter an empty house looking for new clothes to replace their jail orange ones, they discover 3 huge cocoons and do not know they are builders about to hatch. Mr. Lyss, always living on the outskirts of society, senses they are bad and burns them by setting a house fire. Also, in the hospital, old man Bryce and 9 year old Travis know something weird is up with the staff. They slip out of the building and hide out. Deucalion drops in on the detectives, informing them Victor is alive and that Ericka 5 spotted him in Rainbow Falls. Once all together again, the friends think it is more than strange that Ericka ended up settling in a town where Victor plans his first takeover of humanity. Ericka thinks there is a higher power guiding them. Looking for Victor, Deucalion tracks replicants in a truck, thinking their activities are suspect. He finds people inside the vehicle, with the silver beads in their foreheads. The truck goes into a warehouse, where Deucalion discovers humans are being stashed for disposal. One of my favorite scenes was when Victor’s New Race planned on slaughtering a large group of people, who are motorcycle enthusiasts, who gather regularly at a local bar for a social. Some of the people were prior military, many packed guns, and the attacking replicants were killed with only a few of motorcycle members murdered. Victor and his replicants expected docile humans like the other town folk; it was fun to see them taken out. By the end, you can see all the different characters will be coming together to fight Victor and his New Race. I am excited to read the next book in the series. Although each book is very interesting, there were some pure joyous moments in this one when the humans defeat or slip the clutches of the monsters. Highly recommended for those following this series and Koontz fans.
Slow Burn - Grind Bobby Adair Horror Time for Revenge It’s time for revenge. Zed’s animosity toward Mark has been simmering through the deaths of too many of his friends. Zed realizes he can no longer pretend he’s able to take the high road and rise above his hate. He sets out to track the horde of naked Whites in order to find Mark and kill him.
the Survivors are wiped out. He also manages to find Mark and kill him. Zed is harboring a lot of anger in this book. He feels Amber, Steph and his soul will not rest until Mark is taken out of this world. I love Zed’s character, even though he goes off on seat-ofthe-pants missions that are insane. But he does anything to keep his friends safe, often totally reckless. It’s adrenaline pumping action in this book. A highly recommended zombie series.
Of course, none of Zed’s schemes work out as planned. See what kind of trouble he and Murphy get into in Slow Burn: Grind.
Myra’s Review: Zed and Murphy are driving out of Austin when Zed makes a monumental decision – he has to find Mark and kill him. Shaving his head and stripping down to just his boots, he’s ready to slip in among the Whites. He tracks the huge group that he is sure Mark is a part of; one of the Smart leaders. Once he locates the horde, Zed spots a giant harvesting machine and decides mowing down many zombies is a great idea. He needs a lot of fuel for the machine and comes up with a strategy. Making himself an Alpha over a small group of Whites, he utilizes them to haul the diesel. It was an amazing scene after Zed gets the harvester running, mowing down hundreds, perhaps thousands of Whites. He didn’t count on the huge machine stalling, but it was meant to cut down corn not human bodies. Stuck on top of the harvester, Zed didn’t know if he’d escape the horde surrounding him. When a sniper shoots the Whites near him, he uses the chaos to run away. It was none other than Murphy who saved him, having followed his intrepid friend. The two are chased by zombies relentlessly and are almost caught several times. When the horde moves closer to Ft. Hood, Zed decides to use them to take out the Survivors camped there. Setting fires in houses along the route, they draw the horde toward the base. Zed’s plan works and Issue 34 | May 2019 |
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Caledonia Sherry V. Ostroff Historical Suspense Anna Issac’s choices are bleak. Suicide is more appealing than marrying the revolting Frenchman her spiteful brother has chosen for her. The only other option is to beg a man she barely knows, a Highlander, to help her run away. Amy’s Review: Magnificent read Ostroff pens a magnificent story in Caledonia. The story intrigued me when I was asked to read it, but I really enjoyed it. I anxiously awaited the paperback to arrive at my door, and then I stopped and read it. Almost cover to cover. The lives of Hanna and Anna, so similar and related, though they are about 300 hundred years apart. The author tells both women’s stories, and each one is easy to follow and to understand, whose story is whose. I’ve read Ostroff’s work before, and found this to be one of my favorites. I like Ostroff’s storytelling abilities, as she’s telling more than one, cuddled up in one grand read. Every word kept this reader glued to the story. “Colonists ran in and out of their huts clutching their dearest possessions. Some fought over a ragged shirt, shredding it until it was useless. Another held a knife to a friend’s throat to steal his books. The outstretched arms of the sick were ignored. Like frightened animals, we hurried to the beach. Escape was everything.” As I said, a magnificent read covered in powerful words. I look forward to reading more by this author.
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For the Blood is the Life Joe Albanese Mystery Evan Summers is a detective with a shameful past, a muddled present, and an uncertain future. While investigating a series of gruesome murders and trying to battle his alcoholism, Summers will try to reconnect with his young son. But when a break in the case puts his family at risk, it will be up to Summers alone to capture the mysterious killer. It will test the limits of his addiction, and make Summers decide how just far he will go to protect the person he loves. Amy’s Review: My kind of detective story! Albanese pens a unique and interesting story in For the Blood is the Life. What I like the most about this story is that the detective isn’t polished and perfect. Summers is a mess, dealing with personal life and professional life, while trying to stay away from the spirits of the bottle. The investigation, itself, is intriguing and interesting. Albanese writes well, very well, giving the readers human characters, flaws and all. I have read Albanese’s work in the past, and I think this is one of my favorites. Albanese writes with variety and flair, and definitely knows how to keep a reader hooked. I look forward to reading more by this author.
Himdag Steven Hobson SciFi Harvey was a musician that left his life of chaos and confusion for the simple ways of a wanderer. On the road he searched for signs that would point him to lost directions but instead he falls in love with a stranger from a stranger world, finds an ancient being that shows him paths to power, stumbles into a war between gods and goddesses, becomes a pawn in the struggles between secret societies, and perhaps most surprisingly finds his direction and then, well then, nothing was simple anymore. Amy’s Review: Well-written Hobson pens a remarkable story in Himdag. The story flows so well, it’s almost lyrical, which works for this story. I like Harvey, the main character, and the paths and journey he takes. There are obstacles he finds, as he’s looking for that simple life, finding that life is never simple. He’s looking to find himself, as well as create a new life, but the journey becomes more powerful. This is the first book of Hobson’s that I’ve read, and it is definitely a real page-turner. Hobson has a great writing style that brings the reader right into the story, the adventurous journey of his characters. I look forward to reading more by this author.
Legend of Song de Light Kaitlynzq Audiobook The stories within Legend of
Song de Light connect, unfold, interweave many character’s stories needs, feelings, desires, dreams
Amy’s Review: Wonderful narrative Kaitlynzq puts together a magnificent “song” with her words of Legend of Song de Light. The audiobook gives the listener a treat to hear it told in the author’s words. Filled with emotions, wishes and dreams, the imagination of her world opens up to its audience. The music in the background was chosen perfectly as it almost danced around her words. A wonderful way to share heartfelt thoughts and imagination. The narrative was soft and inviting. A wonderful story, indeed, something so simple as a lighthouse, bringing light to its island, can turn into something wonderful. I look forward to reading or listening to more by this author.
Issue 34 | May 2019 |
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Occupied Kurt Blorstad Historical Fiction As WW II breaks out, a father finds himself in the U.S. while his wife and sons are home in occupied Norway. Based on the son’s true-life journals from 1935-1945, this is the story of a family separated by war and uncertainty.. Amy’s Review: Magnificently shared experiences Blorstad pens a magnificent story in Occupied. The story is based on true journals, taking place within the WWII era. The words are heartbreaking, and heartfelt, and seen through the eyes of a father’s son. I couldn’t put this down, reading every word, taking a deep breath at the loss, and grandness of the story. It’s an amazing account of experiences with a very unique perspective. He writes, “The prisoners’ clothing was starting to look a little worn and, although they looked healthy, they were not as stout as they were when they first arrived. I did not speak or say anything to them and gave them a wide berth as we passed each other, even walking off the road to stand and let them go by.” Very powerful read.
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Portent of Eternity T.K. Ware Christian SciFi I saw my friends die yesterday. I beheld the events that led to their death and eternal suffering in Hell. I must admit, I don’t read the Bible nor do I attend church regularly. So, my next few sentences shouldn’t be surprise. I didn’t believe in Hell or monsters till yesterday. The sounds in that place have me speechless. I never heard a man yell in that type of pain before. No movie or book can help make sense of what I witnessed. Now, I gaze at those same friends sitting on the pews ALIVE! Amy’s Review: A magnificent Story Ware’s Portent of Eternity certainly grabs the reader’s attention from the very first line. I am already a fan of Ware’s work, and this definitely did not disappoint. Ware pens a grand story that makes the reader wonder, and think out loud. It’s a remarkable story that keeps the reader’s attention. I always enjoy a story written by Ware, and I think this may be one of my favorites by this author. I truly savored every word, reading it slowly, and turning the page with anticipation. I look forward to reading more by this wonderful author.
The Boy with the Thorn in his Side - Part Three Chantelle Atkins Psychological Thriller Howard has pushed Danny to the brink, and now he has only murder on his mind. Anthony, however, disrupts his plans and offers an alternative. If Danny accepts Howard’s job offer, he can work undercover, and finally get Howard convicted and out of their lives. Desperate to please Anthony, Danny agrees to become what Howard wants. His employee, his son and his protégé. But his new life as a drug dealer is fraught with danger and the temptation of narcotics is too hard to resist. To play his part, Danny must distance himself from his friends, and as his drug use escalates, his grip on reality begins to slip. Amy’s Review: Magnificent part III Story. Atkins continues here story of The Boy with a Thorn in his side in part III. As the story continues, the reader gets more engrossed and involved in the story. Danny is more and more broken, his family dynamic is causing him to falter, and again, this story starts with the knife, more than one, and it’s an emotional journey for both the reader and Danny. I am loving this story, more and more, and look forward to when the author releases the next parts of the story. This story is well-told and magnificently written, very detailed and intense. “Four knives. Laid out across the kitchen counter. I closed the kitchen drawer and spread the knives apart, my eyes resting on each one in turn.” And the story continues.
Verses Versus Empire: The Trump Era Abdiel Le Roy Poetry Abdiel LeRoy sets out, as no other poet ever has, humanity’s journey to infernal depths through a series of imperial presidencies, and in doing so has won acclaim from critics and commentators alike. Among them is the San Francisco Review of Books, which marvels at his “fine poetry” and at the “giant tasks” this poet takes on. Amy’s Review: Refreshing and magnetic Leroy is a prolific poet that pens words poetically and melodically, and I love reading his work. His Verses Versus Empire shares his unique perspective on politics, and in this volume, his focus in on Trump. Politics is an especially controversial topic, especially these days, when words can be the friend or enemy of the politician. I enjoyed reading this book, and it gives a genius view and perspective of this “era.” It doesn’t matter what a reader’s view on politics are, who side (if any) one is on when reading this. This is a whole new insight into the effects and effect of 45. The sonnets are magnificently put together, and tell a story of its own. One of my favorites was entitled “Clumped.” “Betwixt Hard Place and Little Rock, Devil and the deep blue sea. The American People are called to vote ...” Deeply, thought-provoking, with that touch of humor and humanity.
Issue 34 | May 2019 |
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Issue 34, May 2019 Feature authors: Tricia L. Sanders, Kenneth Womack, Amelia Foster, Jennifer Siddoway, J.L. Hickey, Jean Grant, Meg Benja...
Published on May 5, 2019
Issue 34, May 2019 Feature authors: Tricia L. Sanders, Kenneth Womack, Amelia Foster, Jennifer Siddoway, J.L. Hickey, Jean Grant, Meg Benja...