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ISSUE 36 | JULY 2019


note from the editor

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elcome to summer! It’s been monsoon season here in Wisconsin, so wet it feels like the rain forest. Hopefully we be seeing true summer weather here soon. The pictures I post on this page will be from around the farm and some of the things that go on around here. Horses are a huge part of my life, so this month, it’s all about them. The Raven Awards will be starting full swing in July. All the semi-finals will conclude for all categories and we will finish it off with the finals in August. I’ll also be revealing the all new badge. More information will be coming soon for the Facebook LIVE event that will announce the winners. This year, winners and runner-ups will receive space in the magazine as part of their prizes besides the web badge. Some more features and opportunities will be coming online. Starting in August, if you purchase advertising in the magazine, the website will support that book with a Book Promotions page. For the full month, that book will have a spotlight on the page. Feature authors are full through November 2019 and I am accepting feature author submissions for December, and the criteria is that it’s a Seasonal

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I n J u ly , t h is w il l b E m a il me to e a new ad s reserv e your pace. s lo t .

month, meaning the book should be holiday or winter themed. The magazine is still undergoing a makeover, so enjoy the all-new design for Feature Authors. Other areas will get a revamp in the coming months. There are two Facebook groups to join now. One is the Uncaged Book Club Reviews. In this group, I’ll list books available to review. Readers can claim 2 books at a time, and once they link their review - they can claim more. This is separate from the magazine. Join HERE if you’d like to get some free reads! More on the 2nd group next month. Have a great summer and enjoy the July issue of Uncaged Book Reviews!

X cyrene


contents 12 26 36 46 52

Laura Simmons paranormal

Tamara Hughes

paranormal romance

Issue 36 | July 2019

FangFreakinTastic

90

22

horror

mafia romance

N. Lombardi Jr. legal thriller

58

Sally Brandle

72

Jeanine Englert

76

Jennifer Wilck

82

Caleb Smith

romantic suspense

historical suspense

contemporary romance

young adult/fantasy

humor/horror

catchup

Tamara Thorne

Rumer Raines

Rhys A. Wilcox

Ginger Ring Catch Up wth Ginger Ring and her new installment in the Genoa Mafia Series, Playing Jasper.

shortstories

39

by Cindy Tomamichel

65

by Karen Janowsky

A New Beginning

The High Dive

upcomingconventions

a convention near you and meet 6 Find your favorite authors.

promospecials 88 2019 Promotion Special 2 5 96 102 106 110

Note from the Editor Contributors|Swaps Uncaged Reviews Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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Contributors | Advertising Swaps

Follow Uncaged on Facebook

Paranormal lover’s rejoice. Uncaged review contributors.

A blog for horror fans. Uncaged review contributors.

A little bit of everything. Uncaged review contributors.

Help for authors and businesses.

If you’d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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upcomingconventions

Romance Writers of America July 24-27, 2019, New York, NY https://www.rwa.org/ The Atlanta Kick Back July 20, 2019 , Duluth, Georgia http://atlantakickback.com/

Indie Bookfest August 1-4, Orlando, Florida https://indiebookconvention.com/ Sexy and Sassy Signing July 11-14, 2019, Charlotte, NC https://sassigning.wordpress.com/

Book Bonanza August 9 & 10 Grapevine, TX https://bookbonanza19.com/ Writers on the River July 20, 2019, Peoria, IL https://writersontheriver.weebly.com/

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feature authors

paranormal | horror

Laura Simmons

Ta m a r a Hughes

Ta m a r a Thorne


L

L A U R A S IMMON S

aura Simmons grew up in northern Virginia and spent most of her career working for various Department of Defense contractors in the Washington, DC area. She has a fascination with all things metaphysical. She enjoys adult coloring books, writing, jigsaw puzzles, vacationing at the beach with her husband, and studying tarot cards and other types of divination systems.

Stay Connected

littlebitsofkarma.com 12 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged welcomes Laura Simmons Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your “Karma� series? My first novel was called Little Bits of Karma, and I never thought about making it into a series until I was close to finishing it. As I was making edits to the final manuscript, two of the minor characters were bugging me to write their story. My second novel, Tough Karma: A Race Against Time, is dark and suspenseful, and I wrote it to read as a standalone. I have since relabeled Little Bits as a prequel. Both stories contain the element of reincarnation with


Little Bits having a strongly spiritual, new age bent. Tough Karma is a story of characters who are growing into their psychic abilities of astral travel, telepathy, channeling, and moving objects with their minds. They must use their combined talents to find and save an abducted loved one. I have recently published a third book, Dark Karma: Sword of Vengeance. This book was conceived in the same way as Tough Karma, with the secondary characters wanting me to tell their story. Dark Karma should be read after Tough Karma because there is quite a bit of crossover between the two stories. Dark Karma lives up to its name, and in this story the characters are forced to fight for their lives due to a cursed sword which sends them to a hellish alternate dimension. This book contains astral travel, demons, torture, and time travel. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I’m working on my fourth book which is tentatively titled, Darkest Karma. I believe this will be the last book in the Karma series. The story is still evolving, but it picks up immediately after Dark Karma and should be read last. There are two storylines in this fourth installment and I’m doing my best to tie them together in an exciting way. My current pitch for this story is: A cursed sword in the wrong hands once again, a jealous immortal out for revenge, unseen forces in a battle for a woman’s life, a love which transcends space and time. Can the darkest karma be undone? If so, at what cost? I hope to have it published in late 2020.

challenge because I want them to be manly and not act like women. I strive to create strong male heroes who know how to treat a woman right. Uncaged: How do you research the magic that you use and describe in your books? The magic in my books is more about the amazing way the characters use their minds to make things happen. I’ve read a lot about witchcraft, both dark and white, sigil magic, and how to create servitors. I rely on the Internet for most of my research, unless I need to go in-depth about a particular subject and then I buy a book. I also make it up as I go along. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?

Uncaged: Who are some of your easiest characters to write? Who are the hardest?

Suzan Tisdale. I love her Scottish historical romances. She writes with depth and humor and her stories flow so well.

Female characters are the easiest for me to write since I’m female and have more insight into what makes us tick. I find villains easy to write as well. Male characters are more of a

Barbara Devlin. She writes wonderful historical romances with exciting plots and interesting characters. Her book covers are incredibly beautiful. Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | It would be fun to have lunch with both of them and find out where they get their inspiration. Even though I write paranormal romance, I’m a huge fan of historical romance. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? The marketing which sold the most copies at one time for Tough Karma was with a company called eBook Discovery. They have affordable marketing packages and a good subscriber base. I’ve had a few blog tours that were successful with getting Goodreads and Twitter followers and overall awareness of my books. My least successful marketing effort was when I ran an ad on Facebook which resulted in zero sales. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books?

I had an editorial reviewer who started out her review by writing, “Tough Karma - A Race Against Time took my preconceived idea and previous experience of Paranormal Romance, rolled it into a tight little ball and slam dunked it in the bin of ‘old experiences’. There was no sign of the usual werewolves or vampires, nor was there cuteness of fairies or the fire breath and scale hides of dragons. Instead, upon turning each page, I was opened to a whole new world of paranormal romance story concept and telling.” 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 like to read, exercise, and lose myself in an adult coloring book. My favorite places on Earth are the beach and the mountains. We take a six-day beach vacation every September and I look forward to it all year long. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I’m open-minded and fascinated by all things metaphysical. I have an avid interest in psychic phenomena and time travel. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read one of my books, even if they don’t like it. At least they took a chance on an unknown author.

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Enjoy an excerpt from To u g h K a r m a Tough Karma Laura Simmons Paranormal Romance/ Time Travel A chilling tale of loss, tragedy, psychic warfare, and eternal love. Amber Macklin’s world is cruelly shattered when she loses her baby girl three months after her husband’s sudden death. Her cousin, Bryce, comes to her rescue, moving her into his home for fear she will kill herself from the grief. He provides solace and a shoulder to cry on, and he has loved her as more than a cousin for a long time. Amber and Bryce soon discover they are not blood relatives, which opens the door for romance as he pulls her through her darkest hours. When Mike, a college friend of Bryce’s, stops by to visit, Amber senses a deadly secret behind his nice guy persona. She has a frightening dream that Mike is trying to kill her and recurring sleepwalking episodes where she draws detailed pictures of him torturing her. Deeply troubled, Bryce uses his ability to astral travel to investigate Mike and uncover his terrifying past. Mike has had his eye on Amber for some time, and when he learns that Bryce and Amber have become lovers, he is furious. Mike abducts Amber and takes her to his rural Georgia hideaway, and Bryce must rely on his astral abilities to track her down. But will he be too late? Excerpt Chapter 6 Darkness Falls Amber walked toward the jewelry store noticing that there were more people around now that it was lunchtime. She walked past a store selling beautiful, formal

| LAURA SIMMONS | gowns and cocktail dresses and paused to look at a little black dress in the window, imagining how it might look on her and thinking about trying it on. She didn’t linger long and made haste to the restrooms which were between the dress shop and the jewelry store. She didn’t like the long, vacant corridor she had to walk through to reach them and quickened her pace . . . Bryce would have a fit if he knew I was walking alone down a deserted hallway. There were no entry doors for the men’s or women’s restrooms, just large signs indicating such and she walked into the appropriate one . . . I don’t like this. What if some strange man wanders in here? I guess it could happen even with regular doors. After she finished and washed her hands, she turned and walked around the corner to exit and ran directly into Mike. He looked menacing in a black leather jacket; his eyes and expression were stone cold. She gasped in surprise and terror, knowing this wasn’t going to end well. He quickly drew his handgun, shoved it into her stomach and said, “If you scream, or try to run, I’ll kill you and anyone else who happens to enter. This gun has a silencer.” Amber was speechless and horrified because a woman was entering the ladies room absentmindedly talking on her phone, and Mike turned around and shot her in the forehead. The woman fell backward, landing with a thud on the tile floor. A voice on the cell phone kept repeating her name, “Dory, are you still there? Hello, Dory? Dory, can you hear me?” Mike stomped his foot down hard on the cell phone, ending the call, “Do you want to be next?” he said hatefully to Amber and she shook her head no. “Come with me, then,” he stated and motioned for her to walk in front of him. She did as instructed, although her heart was beating wildly and it was hard to breathe. She was in shock from seeing the woman get shot and die. “Take a left; there are doors to the outside,” he said. Amber glanced the opposite way down the corridor, and there was no one else in sight . . . I hope Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | the security cameras catch this . . . she thought while trying to remain calm. They went out the exit doors to a parking lot, and Mike placed his arm tightly around her shoulders to make it look like they were a loving couple. I have to find a way to get free. I know he’s going to do awful things to me. They walked a short distance to a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and he used his remote to unlock the doors. “Get in!” he demanded. She opened the door and slid into the passenger seat thinking she would make a run for it when he walked around to the driver’s side and hide behind the vehicles in the parking lot while he went crazy shooting his gun. She didn’t get the chance to do that because as soon as she sat down, he zapped her with a stun gun and she was temporarily paralyzed. He got in and handcuffed her, started his car and sped through the parking lot in a hurry to get on the road with his coveted prize. Before exiting onto the highway, he took her purse and threw it out the window. It landed in a gulley. ****** Jenny enjoyed running into Theresa but her stomach was growling, and she needed an excuse to end the lengthy conversation and fetch Amber. Thankfully, Theresa received a phone call she had to take, and they parted promising to get together soon. Jenny walked to the jewelry store, and Amber was nowhere to be found. She asked the sales staff if they had seen a woman who looked like her, only shorter, and they said they hadn’t. She walked out of the jewelry store and thought she’d check the restroom next . . . Maybe she didn’t go inside the jewelry store, or the salespeople weren’t paying attention when she was looking at rings. I better check the restroom . . . she thought. As she walked the long corridor to the restrooms, she saw police officers and mall security at the restroom entrance. The area was cordoned off with yellow tape. She felt a sudden wave of panic and knew that something bad had happened to her sister. “What happened here?” she asked one of the mall security officers. 16 | UncagedBooks.com

“A woman was killed in the ladies room. She was shot in the head,” he replied. “Was she a petite blond with long hair?” Jenny asked wide-eyed with horror, thinking it might be Amber. “No. The woman was older with short, gray hair,” he replied. “That’s terrible,” she remarked fighting back tears. “I’m looking for my sister and thought she might be in the ladies room.” “No Ma’am. The woman over there in the green jacket, talking to the police, discovered her lying dead on the ladies room floor with a smashed cell phone. There was no one else in the restroom when she found the body. Unfortunately, we didn’t get anything on video because the camera in this section began malfunctioning last night. The repairer will be here within the hour,” he lamented. Jenny felt like she was going to be sick and quickly turned and walked away while dialing Amber’s phone number . . . Please pick up! She left a message on Amber’s voice mail and then sent her a text, “WHERE ARE YOU? TELL ME NOW!” She looked in all the stores close to the jewelry store, asking clerks and people shopping if they had seen her sister . . . I know that dead woman and Amber’s disappearance are related. But who would take her and why?!! She was panicked and dialed Amber’s number again, only to be greeted by her friendly voice mail. Her heart dropped down into her stomach; she had to call Bryce. ****** Bryce finished his morning meetings and thought he’d walk down the street and grab some lunch. His phone rang, and he saw it was Jenny. “Hey, Jen, what’s happening?” he asked wondering why she called instead of Amber. “Have you heard from Amber in the last twenty or thirty minutes?” she asked in a breathy voice. “No. She texted me when you arrived at the mall, and that’s it. Is something wrong?” he asked alarmed at her tone of voice. “She disappeared!!” Jenny shrieked and continued with a great deal of angst, “I ran into an old friend, and we got to talking, and Amber said she was going to the ladies room and then to the jewelry store and for


me to come and get her when we were done catching up. I went to the jewelry store, and she wasn’t there, the clerks said they hadn’t seen anyone who fit her description. When I went to check the restroom, the cops had it roped off and said a woman was shot and killed in there! I was terrified it was Amber, but the mall guard said it was an older woman with gray hair. And to make things worse, the security camera in that section of the mall isn’t working. She’s not answering my calls or texts, and I can’t find her. I don’t know what to do!” “He’s coming to get me; we won’t be able to stop him.” Amber’s words ran through his head, and he knew exactly what had happened. “He’s taken her,” Bryce stated immediately thinking of how he was going to find and rescue her. “Who is he?” Jenny asked. “Mike Collins, he’s been stalking her,” he replied with disgust. “WHAT? Why didn’t you tell me?! How do you know that?” Jenny exclaimed angrily. “It’s a long story and stranger than fiction, but I know for a fact he’s been stalking her for a long time,” he replied. “He’s got pictures of her plastered on a large corkboard in his basement and a secret home down in Georgia.” “How do you know this?” “I saw it during an out of body experience. I can astral travel and started investigating him because Amber was drawing pictures of him torturing her whenever she sleepwalked,” he said taking a deep breath, trying to keep it together. “If I had known that, I would never let her out of my sight! Someone should have told me!” Jenny was crying, and Bryce wanted to punch a hole in the wall. It never occurred to him or Amber to tell her, and now he wished they had. “I’m so sorry, Jenny, but I’m going to get her. I know where he’s taking her. I’m leaving right now to head home and pack my bags and get my gun,” he said while leaving his office. “I think you should keep searching the mall, and we both should keep calling her. If you don’t find her within an hour, stop by the nearest police station and file a missing person’s report. Let’s call each other if we make contact with her.”

| LAURA SIMMONS | “Okay, bye,” she said feeling helpless, angry, and scared. She continued her frantic search through the mall, never finding her sister. Bryce decided to call American Steak and find out if Mike was there. He had a sinking feeling he wasn’t. “Good afternoon, American Steak,” a friendly female voice answered. “Hi, is Mike Collins working today?” Bryce asked. “No. He quit last week,” she replied. “Okay, thank you,” he said . . . I better call Luke and tell him what’s going on. ****** The stun gun’s effect on her lasted longer than Mike expected. An hour and a half later she was starting to make groaning noises and moving her legs even though it hurt like hell to do so. Her entire body ached; it even hurt to cry as tears rolled down her face. They were out of the northern Virginia area and heading south. He pulled off the interstate into a large shopping complex and parked in a vacant area. He calmly prepared the shot of lorazepam which he liked to call ‘benzo’ since it was from the class of medicines known as benzodiazepines. He leaned across the seat and pushed up her sleeve, happy she was wearing a thin hoodie and a short-sleeved shirt. “Why are you doing this to me?” she said weakly. “If you’re trying to win my affection this isn’t the way to do it,” . . . Geez, it hurts to talk. “This will relax you and help dull the pain,” he stated coolly, sticking the needle in her arm. “We have a long drive ahead of us.” “I have to pee,” she said . . . His eyes look so cold. “There’s a Burger Hut across the street. We’ll drive over there, and I’ll wait for you outside the restroom door,” he said with annoyance. I hate you . . . she thought . . . If I get the chance to run, and I’m not too drugged, I’m going to go for it. He’s not going to kill me right away; he’ll want to rape me first. I’m going to look for ways to escape before that happens. He got back into the driver’s seat and headed to the restaurant. It was a typical fast food joint with Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | single, one-person restrooms for men and women. He knew he would have to unlock her handcuffs, yet he wasn’t worried. In her weakened physical state and the shot of benzo, she would most likely fall if she tried to run. He helped her out of the Jeep and put his arm around her to help her walk, hoping they looked like a couple to strangers in the restaurant. She was already getting drowsy. He waited outside the ladies room while she took care of business. She was fighting to stay upright and knew she would collapse if she tried to run. When she was finished, she opened the door and fell to the floor. “Honey, I told you not to drink so much. Come on, let’s get you home,” he said hoping to deter suspicion from onlookers as he helped her up. They walked out to his Jeep, and he put her in the passenger seat. When he got into the driver’s side, she was unconscious . . . I’ll keep her drugged, that way she won’t fight me. She’ll get used to it and after a short period of time, she’ll fall in love with me. This one will be a piece of cake. Things work out when you find the right person. ****** Bryce arrived home and started packing his suitcase and one for Amber too. He was going to leave as soon he got everything together. He made arrangements for his assistant director, Ricky Wong, to take charge until he returned. He kept checking his phone, hoping in vain that she would contact him and hadn’t been abducted. He heard the doorbell ring and saw it was Luke. He ran down the stairs and opened the door for him. “Do you want to take my shotgun?” Luke asked stepping inside and handing him the weapon. “You should take an ax too.” “Thanks, but I’ll pass on the shotgun. I’m taking my handgun. It’s more compact. Although, my preferred method is breaking his neck,” he replied. “Are you absolutely positive he’s abducted her?” he asked wanting to make sure Bryce wasn’t acting too hastily and running down to Georgia for nothing. “Yes. I haven’t heard from her since 9:30 this 18 | UncagedBooks.com

morning. Jenny’s searched the mall and can’t find her, and Amber hasn’t called either of us back. Mike saw a chance and took her,” he responded with contempt. “What if some other nut took her?” he asked. “What if you go racing down to Georgia, and Mike turns up here?” “That’s a possibility, but I seriously doubt it. If he turns up here, let me know, and I’ll turn around. I’ve been calling him, and he doesn’t answer. I called the restaurant, and they said he quit last week. I stopped at his house, and his convertible is parked in the garage, and no one answered when I rang the doorbell. I wouldn’t put it past him to use a different vehicle. He’d be a fool to use his convertible. He’s bound to know that I’ve notified the police, he’s going to use every trick in the book to vanish undetected,” he stated. Their conversation was interrupted when the doorbell rang. “It’s Jenny,” Luke said and opened the door. “I wanted to stop by before you left. I still haven’t heard from her, and I searched the entire mall. From the look of things, I see you haven’t heard from her either,” Jenny said and walked inside. “These are the things she bought this morning,” she said setting the shopping bags down on the floor. Bryce opened the suitcase he packed for Amber and placed the new clothes inside saying, “I know she’ll be happy to wear these on the trip home.” “Be careful. I’m just a phone call away if you need anything. Give me the address and I’ll see what I can do,” Luke offered as Bryce forwarded Mike’s address to his phone. “You need to stop and rest at points along the way. Use your astral ability to locate her and make sure you’re going in the right direction. He might have another safe house somewhere else,” Luke cautioned. “If he does, send me that address.” “Good idea. I’ll do that. I think I’m ready to go,” he said. Jenny hugged him tight and said, “I can’t bear to lose both of you. You two MUST come back in one piece!” Her eyes were red from crying, and the tears started falling again. “That’s the plan,” he said gently releasing her and kissing her cheek.


| LAURA SIMMONS | “Stay safe, bro,” Luke said, and the brothers hugged. “I will, and I’ll be in touch,” he replied as the three of them walked out of the house, and Bryce got into his H3 and backed out of the driveway. He waved as he drove away. Luke put his arm around Jenny’s shoulders and said, “Hang in there. If anyone can track down Mike and rescue Amber, it’s Bryce.” “I sure hope so,” she replied softly. “I better get home and tell my family the bad news. I feel like this is my fault. If I hadn’t gotten into a long conversation with Theresa Jones, Amber wouldn’t have wandered off and been kidnapped!” “Jenny . . . you didn’t know Mike was stalking her, and we should have told you. You are NOT at fault here,” he stated. “I hope and pray they come back,” she said with a sigh. “I’m heading home. Please call and keep me updated on his progress.” “Definitely. I’ll talk to you soon,” he said and hugged her. When Luke got into his car to drive home, he still had doubts as to whether Mike had really abducted her. He was concerned that someone else might have taken her and Bryce was going in the wrong direction. He tried thinking of ways he could help and thought of a special friend he hadn’t seen in almost a year . . . Nina. ****** Seven hours had passed since Mike shot her up with benzo, and they were a little over half-way to his hideout. As the effects started wearing off, she had a vivid dream . . . . . . She is running through the woods, terrified because Mike is chasing her. She calls out frantically for Bryce over and over, trying to outrun her pursuer, “BRYCE, WHERE ARE YOU? HELP ME! HE’S GOT ME. PLEASE HELP ME!” She hears his voice echoing through the woods, “Amber, baby, I’m on my way to get you. Hang in there; I WILL find you”. . . A sudden back-handed smack in the face jolted her awake. “SHUT UP!” Mike yelled. “Do you know that you talk in your sleep? Bryce isn’t coming to rescue

you. He will never find you. Get that through your head right now.” He’s surrounded by black, is that his aura?! That’s why I felt a dark heaviness around him and from the pictures I drew . . . the drugs are making me see things. Don’t backtalk, don’t let him know that Bryce knows where to find me . . . I have to survive this; I don’t want him to kill me . . . she thought and looked down at her hands. He had put the handcuffs back on . . . If I weren’t afraid of dying in a car crash or worse, I would attempt to hit him right now. I can do more with my arms and hands in front of me . . . “I have to pee again,” she stated choking back the tears and still feeling the sting from his slap. “There’s a rest stop ten miles ahead. We’ll stop there. It’s time for another shot of benzo. If you try to put up a fight, I’ll make sure you hurt the rest of the way, badly,” he said coldly. “Why are you doing this? Why me? Do you really think that you can abduct a woman and make her fall in love with you?” she asked trying to stay calm and thinking of Bryce’s voice from her dream . . . I wonder if that was really him communicating with me. I want to believe it was. Mike didn’t respond to her question and kept his eyes on the road. He wasn’t used to women behaving so calmly. Then again, he was handling her differently than the others and hoping for better results. Ten miles seemed like forever to her, and they finally arrived at the rest area. She debated different scenarios of getting away from him and screaming for help. Her legs weren’t shackled, and her mouth wasn’t duct taped, yet. He seemed to read her mind and threatened her as he pulled into a parking space close to the restrooms. He drew a handgun from a side compartment in the door, shoving it into her stomach and said, “If you try ANYTHING, including screaming for help, I will gun down everyone I see, and innocent people will pay for your selfish behavior. I’ll make sure you’re killed along with the rest of them,” he threatened with the coldest look in his eyes she had ever seen. She was getting angry and even though he had a gun shoved into her stomach she responded with Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | disdain, “I don’t want anyone killed because of me, except for you!” He just laughed and pushed the gun deeper into her stomach, making her wince in pain. “Keep talking like that and I’ll kill you before we get there,” he said. She decided to cooperate and try to escape at a later time. She didn’t think he would kill her this soon, but she was going to play it safe. He shot her up with more benzo and helped her walk to the restroom while he stood outside and waited. In her drugged state she looked longingly at the small windows in the restroom and briefly contemplated how she might escape through them, knowing that she would never make it. When she was finished, she stumbled out the door and he caught her before she hit the ground. “Come on, honey, let’s get you home,” he said kindly putting his arms around her to help her stay upright. I hate you and your ugly aura . . . she thought and passed out a few seconds after getting into the Jeep. ****** Bryce was driving down the highway when he heard her panicked voice, “BRYCE, WHERE ARE YOU? HELP ME! HE’s GOT ME. PLEASE HELP ME!” He was shocked and heard it again two more times before it stopped. The tiny flicker of doubt he had about whether or not he was doing the right thing was gone. He replied, hoping she could hear him, “Amber baby, I’m on my way to get you. Hang in there; I WILL find you.” The desperation in her voice was heart wrenching, and tears ran down his face while he flew down the highway, not caring if he got pulled over for a speeding ticket. He no longer wanted Mike to end up in jail. He wanted to be the one to put him in the ground and wished he had taken out a hit on him. He blamed himself for not doing that, knowing she would be home safe and happy with him instead of being at the mercy of a madman who would probably beat, rape, and kill her. He 20 | UncagedBooks.com

continued down the road, fantasizing about the many different ways he would like to torture and kill Mike. He vowed to make him pay.


CATC H UP

c AT C H U P W I T H GINGER RING AS SHE RELEASES HER NEW BOOK IN THE GENOA MAFIA SERIES


Ginger Ring stops by Uncaged with her new release, Playing Jasper - the fifth book in her Genoa Mafia series. Uncaged: Your newest book, Playing Jasper releases on June 25th. This is the 4th full length book in the Genoa Mafia Series. Can you tell readers more about this series and the latest book? This series takes place in my home state of Wisconsin and I based the town of Lake Genoa on one of my favorite towns there, Lake Geneva. In the first book, Crossing Roman, a mafia man, Roman Caponelli, moves to Genoa with his sister to get away from the big city drama of Chicago. His father runs the business in the Windy City while Roman tries to run things in Genoa, both legal and illegal. In the first book he falls for a small-town girl despite being pressured to marry within the mob. The second book, Escaping Ryan, is about his sister, Valentina, who falls for a local cop while a serial killer terrorizes the town. The third book, Destroying Dominic, is about a cleaner for the mob who falls for a girl whose past is just as twisted and dangerous as his. The latest book, Playing Jasper, is about an up and coming member of the Caponelli family who falls for a woman that might just expose the family for who they really are. So, even though all books are mafia related, I really try to make them very different from others in this genre and toss in a bit of Wisconsin as well. Uncaged: How many books are you planning for this series? I’m planning to do just one more but you never know. It is often the secondary characters that end up giving me ideas for future books. The next book will be called Chasing Arlo. Uncaged: You just attended Wild Deadwood Reads in South Dakota. Can you give us a few highlights? Yes, I love attending book events in great locations and the Black Hill is one of my favorite places. I am one of the organizers and we try to not do just a book signing but a destination event. We want to inspire people

| GINGER RING | both authors and readers by doing things they don’t usually do at other events. We had a tea and tour at a local historical home that was featured on Ghost Adventures, we did a bus tour to the film site of Dances with Wolves, visited bear country, took a ride on an 1880 train, and got to go behind the chutes with the PRB rodeo. Each year is different and we are hard at work planning for 2020. Uncaged: What is coming up next that you can tell us about? I recently got the rights back to the first book I ever wrote called Getting Down to Business. It was an erotic cougar romance which is so different from what I write now. It was a novella so I am expanding it to full length. I’m still not sure if I want to keep it erotic or just change it to what I am more into writing now. After that will be Arlo’s story.

Enjoy an excerpt from Playing Jasper Playing Jasper Ginger Ring Mafia Romance I love to play the game. Love them and leave them. Then I met my match, Jackie Smith, and everything changed. She’s a reporter, and I’m a made man. It’s a disaster waiting to happen. It doesn’t matter that she could shatter my life and all I’ve worked for...I want her. Underneath her sweet, caring exterior, she’s hiding pain from her past, and yearning for revenge. I can leverage this to my advantage. I can demand her loyalty, her unconditional love. Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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It’s the same game, with a bit of a twist.

I’m looking forward to our date.

The only problem is…she might be playing me. Excerpt

Her heartrate kicked up a notch. It was signed “Jasper.” A girl could get used to this, but what did it mean? Was it all just a ploy to get her into bed and on to the next conquest?

“I, ah, I’m not dating anyone, so I’m not sure who would be sending me flowers.” Jackie wrung her hands.

“Well, are you going to tell me? I’m dying over here,” her boss teased. “Unless you don’t want to share.”

“What’s inside?” Madison sat on one of the chairs. “I’m guessing something sweet.”

Jackie handed her the card, and Madison’s eyes widened. “Are you two going out?”

Jackie removed the cover and was greeted with the delicious scent of dark chocolate. “You were right.” She showed her the goodies.

“He asked me, but I said no. Jasper bet me that I couldn’t resist going on a date with him. Looks like he’s going all out.” She was briefly overcome with the romance of it all, but now it seemed like he was just playing to win the game.

“Oh, my. Gunther’s Chocolates. Those are my favorite.” “Want one?” Jackie held them across the desk. Madison leaned closer but shook her head. “I’d love to, but I’d better not. Those are for you, not me.” “But who would send this? I still think it’s a mistake.” Jackie put the box down, took a seat, and crossed her arms in front of her chest. “Did they send a card?” Madison stood and studied the roses. “Ha! Never thought of that. You can tell I’m not used to getting gifts.” “Ah ha! Here it is.” She handed the small card to Jackie. “I’m afraid to look. Maybe I have a stalker.” Stranger things had happened. She heard about that stuff all the time. “Only one way to find out.” Madison leaned against the doorway. “Do you want to open it in private? I can leave, if you want.” “No, that’s okay.” She finally opened the card. “I just nervous with all the attention.” And dreaming that it was from someone that really cared about her. The note read: Angel, 24 | UncagedBooks.com

“Well, I’ve always liked Jasper. I haven’t known him long, but he’s a good man. I think you should go.” Madison placed the card back on the table before inhaling the fragrance again. “As they say, we don’t regret the things we do; we regret the things we didn’t do. Take my advice, and go out with him.” With that, she left, and Jackie studied the card again. Was she attracted to him? Yes. Did she want to get involved with someone with criminal ties? Absolutely not. Jasper’s voice could be heard in the distance. She took one more whiff of the lovely blossoms and headed down the hall. The smell of hamburgers and fries increased with every step. Arlo and Jasper were chowing down on some fast food in the office the guys shared. They both looked up when she entered. Arlo glanced her way, nodded, and returned to eating. She didn’t know him well, but he seemed to be a sour puss. Jasper winked and popped a fry into his mouth. Her eyes lingered on his mouth before she dragged them away. His jaw was lightly covered with sexy stubble and her knees felt weak. Arlo gathered his food wrappers and stood up. “I’m losing my appetite. See you later.” “Yeah, sure.” Jasper frowned at the man who left, but when he looked her way, his mouth turned into a


| GINGER RING | smile. “I must say, I prefer your company to his any day. Have a seat.” He pulled a chair out for her. “I can’t stay.” But she sat down anyway. “Is he all right? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in a good mood.” Jasper shrugged. “He’s interested in a woman he can’t have. Good thing I don’t have that problem.” He winked, and it warmed her from inside out, even though it shouldn’t.

Jackie stood up. “You’re right. I don’t know you, but you can’t have that kind of relationship with me.” Pain crossed his face as if he’d been stuck. As much as it hurt to say it, it had to be said. There was no future for them. He was charming, drop dead gorgeous, and would probably give her the best sex of her life, but she was just a simple girl. One that didn’t want her heart broken by a handsome gangster.

“About that…” she started. “Do you like the flowers?” He seemed so eager to please her. “Who wouldn’t? They’re the most beautiful ones I’ve ever seen.” “Just like the person I gave them to.” He brushed her fingers with hers. They were slippery from the fries, but she didn’t mind. “And the candy,” Jackie added. “Sweets for the sweet.” The guy didn’t give up, and it was going to get harder and harder to say no. “Jasper. I really appreciate them, but I’m still not going to go out with you.” “And why not?” He tilted his head. “I don’t know how to put this, but it needs to be said.” Although she really didn’t want to. The cocky expression on his face softened, making him even more attractive. “Go on.” “I know I shouldn’t be working here feeling this way, but I did some searching online. Madison’s husband is the son of a Chicago Mafia boss. He’s involved in crime. If you work for him, that means you are also. I don’t want any trouble.” There, she said it. It wasn’t that she didn’t find him attractive, Lord knew she did, but getting involved was crossing into dangerous territory. “You aren’t in any danger. From what I heard, Maddy wanted nothing to do with Roman when they met, but he won her over anyway. They love each other, and from what I’ve seen, they are very happy. Despite what you think you know about me, I want that kind of a relationship also.”

Ginger Ring is an award winning author with a weakness for cheese, dark chocolate, and the Green Bay Packers. She loves reading, watching great movies, and has a quirky sense of humor. Publishing a book has been a lifelong dream of hers and she is excited to share her romantic stories with you. Her heroines are classy, sassy and in search of love and adventure. When Ginger isn’t tracking down old gangster haunts or stopping at historical landmarks, you can find her on the backwaters of the Mississippi River fishing with her husband.

gingerring.com Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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TA M A R A H U G HE S

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amara Hughes began reading romance novels her senior year of high school. A Rose In Winter by Kathleen Woodiwiss was the first, and it swept her away. She read mostly historical romances for many years. Her book Once Upon a Masquerade is a tribute to that genre she loves so much. She’s always envied those who knew their path in life. To have that kind of conviction, that certainty, would have been a relief. She grew up in an extremely small town in Wisconsin – very rural, lots of dairy cows and corn fields. And she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life.

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Uncaged welcomes Tamara Hughes Uncaged: Your second book in the Beasts and Witches series will release on June 26th. Can you tell readers more about this series and the newest book, Spellbound Captive? The concept for this series is that there are people out there who are possessed by dragon spirits. These spirits slowly take over their host’s body until the person that used to exist inside disappears. This second book in the series is about a woman who ran away from home at fifteen with her boyfriend, only to find he’s possessed. She comes from a family of witches, and she’s led to believe her mother was responsible for her boyfriend’s fate. Years pass, and Faith has tried everything to save her friend. They’re no longer in a romantic relationship, but she refuses to give up on him. Then along comes Kade, a man who used to be possessed. He’s now a dragon hunter even though his worst fear is to become possessed again. He’s convinced Faith’s friend can’t be saved and that she’s being used by the beast. The dragon spirit has convinced her that the only way to free her friend is to open a portal to the dragon spirit realm, but Kade must stop her before all hell breaks loose. Uncaged: You write in a few genres, do you have a preference to which genre you prefer to write in? Lately, I’ve really enjoyed writing paranormal romance. It’s very freeing to be able to come up with the rules of the world. I like to write paranormal situations I’ve never read about before. It’s so much fun to brainstorm something new, then plop in my characters and see what happens. That said, I still plan to write more historical romances as well. I like the fact that in historical times societal rules were so different from today. It’s interesting to write a character that has to either follow those rules or bend them to get what they want. Just like for my paranormals, the world building is fascinating. Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What inspires your stories? I never know where I’ll get my inspiration from. Sometimes I get ideas from sitting at my computer and thinking through what topic might interest me, and sometimes research inspires ideas. For the initial book in the Witches and Beasts series, I was inspired by music. Specifically, the song “Better Than Me” by Hinder sparked the initial thought of Bewitching The Beast – that there could be a man who preys on people but regrets that he hurt a certain woman. From there, the Fallen album by Evanescence really got me thinking about how the story would unfold. Uncaged: Who was the hardest character to write about? Who was the easiest? Initially, Faith, the heroine in this book, was the hardest to write. In the first book of the series, Faith’s sister, Tess, had a fun, wry sense of humor that just flowed out of me. Because of this, I had it in my head that Faith should be similar. However, when this book starts, Faith is in a really awful situation. She’s working herself to the bone to support herself and her friend. The beast inside her friend is also feeding off her energy, which weakens her and makes her prone to injury. And she’s trying to come up with magical ways to get rid of the beast. In other words, she’s not in the mood to joke. As she spends more time with Kade, she does loosen up and have fun, but she definitely wasn’t who I first thought she’d be. As for the easiest character, I would have to say Dorothy. Dorothy is a witch and the owner of an occult shop where Faith goes looking for advice. She’s an eccentric, older lady, and I love her. 28 | UncagedBooks.com

Several of my books have what you might call a comicrelief character, and Dorothy plays one in Spellbound Captive. While she does provide help to Faith and her family, she lightens things up and makes me laugh. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I guess I’d have to say Jane Austen. I love her stories. They’ve definitely withstood the test of time. Uncaged: Do you prefer an e-reader or a physical book? I like the convenience of ebooks as far as how quickly I can get the next book in a series, but nothing compares


| TAMARA HUGHES | Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I admit I am a Netflix junkie. I love romantic stories. Lately, I’ve been diving into Chinese dramas. So good! As for my favorite place on Earth, I guess it’s anywhere my family is. They make anywhere I am so much fun. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? Apparently, my hippocampus is destined to shrivel and die. My husband read an article recently that said people who use GPS regularly aren’t using their hippocampus enough, and eventually it will shrink. Judging by the fact that I’ve been directionally challenged my whole life, I have to wonder if I had a hippocampus to begin with. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

to holding a paperback in my hands as I read. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I had a reader once leave a review for my historical romance Once Upon a Masquerade that marveled at all the ways the book resembled the Cinderella fairytale. She pointed out the fairy godmother, the sisters, the stepmother, etc. While this story was a Cinderella murder mystery type book (a maid who masquerades as an heiress only to become a suspect in a murder case), I hadn’t planned various characters to take on the original story roles. I found it really cool that she made these connections where I hadn’t.

To those who have read my books, thank you, thank you, thank you! You make me so happy! For those readers who haven’t and like fast-paced, actionpacked romances with lots of humor and love, give my books a try! I’m primarily on Facebook and Instagram, and I send out a monthly newsletter. Just go to my website at www.tamarahughes.com to see all the links to my social media profiles!

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

Enjoy an excerpt from Spellbound Captive Spellbound Captive Tamara Hughes Paranormal Romance She’s enchanted by a beast. He’s enchanted by her. Freed from possession, Kade Rennick is obsessed with ridding the world of dragon spirits—especially the one that infected him with its spawn. But first he must get past the beautiful yet confused witch who is protecting the beast. Enthralled by the monster that has control of her childhood friend, Faith Edwards doesn’t always understand why she makes the choices she does, but one thing is for certain. She will stop at nothing to save her friend and free herself from the nightmare she’s been living in for the last twelve years. Despite Kade’s insistence that her mission is a lost cause, their attraction for each other intensifies. When Faith crafts a powerful spell that will open a portal to the dragon spirit realm, Kade must stop her, no matter what it takes. Humanity hangs in the balance. Excerpt A mixture of hell yeah and oh shit streaked through Kade as he approached the dilapidated two-story house in the Bronx. He’d finally tracked down Hamadi, the dragon spirit bastard who had changed him into a monster, turning his life into a hellish existence for three long years. The closer Kade got to the house, the more he could sense 30 | UncagedBooks.com

the evil inside, its essence like a red flame licking dry timber, heat radiating in every direction. The afternoon was relatively cool for late August. Still, Kade’s skin prickled, and he broke out into a sweat as the fear he’d lived with since he’d been freed from possession tore through any satisfaction of finding his nemesis at last. The monster inside that house had the ability to implant its spawn inside him again with a mere touch of its branded palm on Kade’s forehead. The thought had his legs shaking. He’d almost completely lost his humanity the last time a dragon spirit had tried to take over his mind, body, and soul. Kade slipped his hand into the pocket of his jeans and clenched the magical amulet in his hand. Now that evil bastard was going to pay. It was never going to hurt anyone ever again. Kade leaned toward a side window and peered through the smudged glass. He froze, and his heart beat double-time. The creature was crouched in the middle of a small living room, its hand clamped onto the back of a woman’s neck. Tears streamed from her eyes, and her mouth gaped in a silent scream. Kade’s gaze snagged on the ring the beast wore, a magical ring that made the creature appear like a normal man. Appearances didn’t matter, not when Kade could sense the woman’s psychic energy depleting, being absorbed by the monster that held her. He had to stop this. Kade raced to the back door and grabbed for the knob, fully expecting the need to break in. It turned freely. He dug in his pocket for the enchanted amulet and rushed inside. He needed to save the woman the beast was draining. He passed through a dining area and straight to the living room. A mere fifteen feet away, Hamadi’s back was turned to him. Kade’s chest tightened, and his throat dried out. He hesitated. God, he shouldn’t have come here alone. The woman’s shuddering breaths spurred him forward. Don’t give yourself away. Not a sound. The beast could sense Kade’s energy, but with any luck, it was too distracted to notice. Kade lifted the amulet, and the woman looked over. Chocolate-brown eyes squinted through long strands of wavy, dark hair. Those eyes widened. Before she could inadvertently give him away, he


| TAMARA HUGHES | looped the amulet over Hamadi’s neck. The creature swung around, releasing the woman. Kade jumped out of the monster’s reach, not that distance would save him if it chose to attack. Magic prevented Hamadi from removing the pendant, but until his energy was fully drained, he could still lash out. Recognition flared in Hamadi’s eyes, and the blood drained from Kade’s head, making him dizzy for a second. Hamadi stared down at the amulet in confusion. Time to run. Kade grabbed the woman by the arm and half dragged her across the room, almost tripping over his own boots. “We need to go.” He’d return for the amulet once the creature was gone from its host’s body. She groaned, her hand to her forehead. “What?” “Can you walk? We need to get out of here.” Kade glanced at the beast as it tried to pry the amulet from its chest, its expression changing from curious to annoyed as the pendant drew the life-sustaining energy from its body. They needed to leave. Now. Wrapping an arm around the woman’s waist, Kade hauled her up and lifted her arm over his shoulder, then headed for the front door. “Faith, help me,” Hamadi called out, clawing at the pendant. “I’m coming,” Faith rasped. She was going to help the monster who had just stolen her energy? What was up with that? Was she crazy? Or maybe enthralled. That was it. The beast must be controlling her mind. “Let me go. I’m okay,” she told Kade, her body trembling. “Not a chance.” She was wrong. Her aura had been almost completely drained. It wouldn’t be long before the shit would hit the fan. Without her psychic energy to protect her, an illness or an accident . . . something would take her down. She’d probably be dead within hours. He couldn’t let that happen. The power of the beast’s mind pressed against Kade’s skull as it tried to force its suggestion into his head. At least he’d taken precautions against mind control. Almost to the door, the woman dug in her heels and jerked away. Kade wouldn’t let her go, and she pushed hard against his chest. He lost his grip, and she stumbled back, falling to the brown shag carpet. “You.” Hamadi pointed to Kade. “Remove this from

me and leave, alone.” Like that was going to happen. Kade took a step toward Faith. “Vance, no,” she shouted. Pure energy erupted from Hamadi’s palm as the woman launched herself between them. The invisible force glanced off her, sending her spinning to the side. She slammed into the stairs. Shit. Kade ran to her. “Faith!” Hamadi headed her way but stumbled, his attention drawn back to the amulet that was sapping his strength. Faith’s eyes were closed, and a trickle of blood trailed down her forehead. Out cold. Damn it. Kade picked her up, hoisting her over his shoulder, and raced for the door. “Stop!” Hamadi snarled. He grasped the amulet and squeezed. The veins in his arm bulged as his muscles strained, and the light-green stone crumbled beneath the pressure, the shattered pieces dropping to the floor. A bolt of panic tore through Kade’s body, singeing everything in its path. What just happened? Not possible. The amulet rendered harmless, Hamadi moved toward Kade but faltered, falling to his knees. His pulse off the charts, Kade slipped out the door and down the front steps, then hightailed it to Stella, his blue Camaro. An eye on the house, he unlocked the car door with an unsteady hand and set Faith in the passenger seat, quickly securing the seatbelt. He wasted no time rounding the Camaro and jumping into the driver’s side. He started up Stella and hit the gas. They sped off just as Faith moaned. She blinked her eyes before jerking upright in her seat. Crying out, she cradled her left arm to her chest. “Where are you taking me?” He hadn’t thought that far. His gaze touched on the rivulet of blood on her forehead. “To the hospital. You’re hurt.” He glanced at the rearview mirror, half expecting to see Hamadi hard on their trail, and he gave Stella a little more gas. A white Honda Accord turned out in front of them, and Kade slammed on the brakes. He honked the horn. “Asswipe.” Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Faith reached to unhook her seatbelt. “Stop the car.” “Are you kidding? Keep your seatbelt on.” He steered around the Honda. That almost accident had more to do with Faith’s missing energy than an idiot driver. Calling the driver an asswipe had simply been force of habit. The void inside of Faith was drawing in energy, both positive and negative, with the bad stuff always accumulating faster. “I mean it. Pull over. I can get to the hospital on my own.” Her breath caught. “Oh no, Vance.” “He’s fine.” And as for him taking her to the hospital, he’d saved her from a monster. Didn’t that warrant a little trust? “I’m already on my way there. Why not let me drive you?” “Because I don’t know you.” Faith glared a hole through him. “Other than you broke into my house.” “To save you!” He took a moment to calm down, to take the edge off his frustration. “My name is Kade. Kade Rennick.” “What exactly were you saving me from?” she demanded, a stubborn set to her jaw. Didn’t she know what Hamadi had done to her? She had to have felt the pain the draw of energy caused. Kade surveyed Faith from her beat-up black Converse sneakers and denim shorts, past a childlike butterfly pendant on a cord around her neck, to her jeweled nose piercing and the faint scar along her hairline. That scar matched another above her eyebrow, not to mention others on her arms and legs. All the injuries . . . either she was clumsy as hell or she’d been through this before and had suffered the consequences. How had she survived? Wait. Magic. With his focus so fixed on Hamadi, he hadn’t noticed before now the power radiating from her. A pickup truck passed them, kicking up a stone. The rock smacked the windshield directly in front of Faith, creating a star in the glass. Faith flinched and slid farther down in the seat, wincing and adjusting her arm. “At least it didn’t chip the paint job,” he murmured. 32 | UncagedBooks.com

“It’s just a car.” Just a car? “This is a ’69 Camaro Z28. No one in their right mind would call Stella just a car.” “Stella?” “Yup.” Restoring Stella to her former glory over the last months had been the only thing that had kept him sane after he’d been freed from possession. Initially, he’d thought he would sell her when all was said and done, but he’d never let her go. He owed her too much. Freakin’ dragon spirits. “How much do you know about Vance and what he just did to you?” She turned a wary look his way. “The question is, how much do you know?” Guess you had to give a little to get a little back. “He’s possessed by a dragon spirit named Hamadi, and he drained your psychic energy.” “It has a name?” Her eyes narrowed. “How do you know its name?” He scowled and stared out the windshield. Even though he was no longer possessed, the piece of shit who had nearly taken over his life had left a present behind—the ability to sense other dragons and psychic energy, with a few of the beast’s memories thrown in for good measure. What he wouldn’t give to return the hellish gift, a constant reminder of what he’d almost become, of what he’d done. “I was possessed by a dragon spirit named Akil. His sire was Hamadi.” She stiffened. “His sire? How?” Kade’s grip on the steering wheel tightened. “Vance. He attacked me and used his power to leave a parasite behind.” “No,” she muttered. “He wouldn’t.” “But he did.” “When?” “Almost four years ago.” He still had nightmares about that day. Like a light switch had been flipped, her expression brightened. “You’re not possessed anymore?” “No.” At least he could ease her mind there. “How did you get free?” “The amulet I put around Vance’s neck is the same one that released the energy Akil needed to survive, forcing him from my body.” She sucked in a huge gasp. “So Vance—”


| TAMARA HUGHES | “Vance destroyed the amulet right before we escaped your house.” All the hope and excitement faded away. Something flapped and flew off an old clunker a hundred feet ahead of them. Something big, flying through the air and coming this way. A car hood! Kade veered to the next lane as it landed on the road where they’d just been, or rather where Faith had just been, and skidded past them. “Holy crap!” She clutched the door. “No more talk. I’ve got to get this done.” She closed her eyes. “Slide closer to me.” She frowned. “What?” He flipped up the center armrest on the front bench seat and waved his hand over the seatbelt he’d installed into the vintage car as an added selling point. “This may sound crazy, but these near miss accidents aren’t coincidences. With your energy drained, danger is going to swarm around you until you build it back up.” “What does that have to do with moving closer to you?” No questions or strange looks. She knew full well what Vance had done to her and its effects. “My energy levels are higher than most people’s.” One more gift from the dragon spirit that had possessed him. “My energy can protect you. The closer you are to me . . .” “The more protected I am.” “Right.” She slid a wary glance his way and shut her eyes again. “That’s okay. All I need is some time to myself, and I’ll be back to normal levels.” Another rock hit the windshield, this one bigger than the last, kicked up by an SUV. A resounding boom filled the car and a large spiderweb of broken glass appeared on Faith’s side of the window. Her eyes sprang open, and she unbuckled her seatbelt. She slid toward him on the seat, grunting with pain as she moved. Her warm, lithe body pressed against him as she settled in place. She smelled like flowers. Damn. His stomach muscles tightened. It had been a long time since he’d been this close to a woman. Kade peered out the window and did his best to ignore her. He

didn’t date for a reason. Faith removed her shoes and socks, then closed her eyes and took a deep breath, relaxing her shoulders. “What’s with the bare feet?” “It helps me become more grounded,” she muttered. “Now, if you can give me some silence, I’ll get started renewing my energy.” “How? A little quiet and poof?” “Meditation to balance and strengthen my chakras,” she replied, not bothering to look at him. “Chakras?” Never heard of them. “Shh. They’re energy points in the body. Now quiet.” She was shushing him? Like he was some noisy kid in a library? “I’ve never heard of anyone being able to restore their energy like that,” he grumbled. “If you must know, I’m a witch, and this is something I’ve taught myself how to do,” she said, then sighed. “Now, if you don’t mind . . .” “Yeah. You do what you have to do.”

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ta m a r a t h o r n e

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amara Thorne’s first novel was published in 1991, and since then she has written many more, including international bestsellers Haunted, Bad Things, Moonfall, Eternity and The Sorority. A lifelong lover of ghost stories, she is currently working on several collaborations with Alistair Cross as well as a new solo novel. Learn more about her at: http://tamarathorne.com In collaboration, Thorne and Cross are writing several novels, including the next volume of their popular gothic series, The Ravencrest Saga. Their first novel, The Cliffhouse Haunting, was an immediate bestseller. Their thriller, Mother, has been optioned for film. Together, they also host the horror-themed radio show Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! which has featured such guests as Anne Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, and John Saul.

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Uncaged welcomes Tamara Thorne Uncaged: Your latest book is Brimstone, can you tell readers more about the book? It’s is a coming-of-age story set in 1968. The town of Brimstone is based loosely on a real town in Arizona that is crowned by a haunted hotel that began life as a mining hospital. In Brimstone, The Brimstone Grand Hotel is owned by a reclusive former movie star named Delilah Devine. It was passed down to her through her family and is full of long-buried family secrets … and ghosts. When Delilah’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Holly Tremayne, first comes to live in the Grand in the summer of 1968, she’s delighted by the ghost stories; Holly’s not afraid because she has seen ghosts her entire life. She wants to see them. But as she settles in, getting to know her grandmother and making new friends as well as an enemy or two, the nightmares and horrors begin. Holly encounters the ghost of her great-great-grandfather and within the walls of the old hotel, the past comes back to life. With people dying around them, Holly and Delilah are faced with a familial evil that won’t rest until it working on something together. possesses Holly - body, mind, and soul. Uncaged: You also collaborate with Alistair Cross. How did that collaboration come about?

Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about?

Alistair discovered my books in the 90s and became a fan. Years later, he found me on Facebook and sent me a friend request. By then, he’d been published himself and had begun interviewing other authors on his blog. He asked me for an interview, I said yes, and we formed an instant friendship. I read his book, liked it, and found myself asking him to collaborate on a short story. He agreed and we began. The trouble, however, was that the short story we were writing became a novel. And then another after that, and so on. Writing with him is the most natural thing I’ve ever done and I don’t foresee a time when we’re not

I’ve begun work on a new series, known for now as The Fort Charles Mysteries. The books feature Sheriff Zach Tully, who starred in my supernatural Jack the Ripper novel, Eternity. He has now moved to a strange little coastal town (turn the town’s name around and you’ll understand the type of strange I’m talking about) and sheriffs there. The first book involves colorful townsfolk, a serial killer, and according to the League of Old Salts, mermaids. We’ll see what Tully says. Together, Alistair and I are completing the third book in The Ravencrest Saga, Exorcism. We release it reguIssue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | day: I stood my ground and swore like a sailor. I was proud. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? My best marketing strategy turned out to be hiring a publicist. My least successful strategy is trying to sell myself - it makes me supremely uncomfortable. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? One woman, after reading Thunder Road, insisted I had to have been abducted by aliens. I just smiled. Whenever a reader reads things into my books, that’s what I do. Smile. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? Other than reading or watching movies at home - that would be my favorite place - I love spending time wandering the beach or mountain trails. Sometimes I even find dead bodies. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? That I am as unique as everyone else? Probably my most unusual quality is the ability to stay sane when Alistair pulls faces on the Skype camera while we’re at work. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they 38 | UncagedBooks.com

follow you? Thank you for reading! You can find out everything you need to know about me and my work at my website, tamarathorne.com. You can also find me on Twitter @TamaraThorne and on Facebook.


Enjoy an excerpt from Brimstone Brimstone Tamara Thorne Horror

generations.

The Brimstone Grand Hotel, owned by reclusive former movie star, Delilah Devine, looms high on Hospital Hill, harboring long-buried family secrets that whisper of unimaginable horrors. Horrors that will echo down through

When Delilah’s granddaughter, Holly Tremayne, who has seen ghosts for most of her eleven years, first comes to live in the Brimstone Grand in the summer of 1968, she’s delighted by its majestic western beauty - and its chilling history. But as she settles in, making friends and enemies alike, the nightmares begin. Within the walls of the Brimstone Grand, the past has come back to life, and Holly and Delilah are faced with an ancient familial evil that rages just below the old hotel’s serene facade. An evil that won’t rest until it possesses Holly - body, mind, and soul.

| TAMARA THORNE |

shows were her favorites - the girl had rolled her eyes and called her a tomboy when Holly named Dark Shadows, The Wild Wild West, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and Star Trek. When Holly grinned and said thank you, Becky had rolled her eyes again. Holly liked it really dark at night, but Becky couldn’t sleep in the dark so there were two nightlights - one a dolphin, the other a unicorn - that made the room so bright that Holly could make out the pink paint on the walls. She wished she were in her own room at the hotel, or in the lobby talking to Steve, or maybe on a campout with Keith Hala. They’d roast marshmallows and tell ghost stories and look for arrowheads. Finally, she began to drift, lulled by the scent of rain on the breeze that slipped through the open window beside her. Half-awake, half-asleep, she wandered through dreamscapes of leering faces and absurd creatures unafraid - she’d seen them all on a million other nights as she’d tiptoed into slumber. Something tickled in her brain and then she heard wings, great wings beating the air, then one glowing red eye peered at her and the Beast’s deep voice called her name. Go away! She thought the command so hard, she wondered if her eyes turned a little gold. Whether they had or not, the Beast retreated from her dreams.

Excerpt Holly lay staring at the ceiling, not a bit sleepy, even though she was exhausted. There was something about Becky Granger that sucked the life out of her. Probably all those Barbie Dolls! After they returned from the hotel, Becky had insisted on showing her the doll collection - again - and telling her stories about where Barbie and Ken liked to go on dates. Holly had glazed over more than once, and when Becky tired of Barbies and finally asked Holly a question - what TV Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

D on’ t m i s s t hes e t i t l es

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S

hort tory

A New Beginning

by Cindy Tomamichel


| SHORT STORY |

A New Beginning By Cindy Tomamichel

The sun beat down over the endless blue ocean and a slight breeze fanned her face. It was yet another perfect day, Elinor thought, briefly longing for rain. She had risen early to see the sunrise. There had been few other walkers on the Astroturf track that ran around deck 14 of the cruise liner Pacific Star. She paused to allow a puffing group of grim faced joggers past and looked over the railing to the sea. It was deep blue to the horizon, the waves breaking white nearest the ship. In the glow of sunrise, brilliant yellow and orange clouds painted the sky. In the middle distance dolphins broke cover, their silver blue backs splashing and playing in perfect parabolas as they dived and leapt, seemingly at one with the new dawn. “One year today,” she said to herself, leaning on the railing. One year since Charles had died at his desk. A heart attack from overwork, the doctors had told her. She thought of the long hours he had worked building up his business empire, and wondered briefly if it had been worth the cost. She had never been able to give him the children they had both wanted. He had never said anything after the last doctor’s appointment, but he had spent longer hours at work. She had felt compelled to make it up to him by living the kind of life that Charles thought made her happy. A life of the leisured wife. 40 | UncagedBooks.com

“All this is for you, honey,” he often said. “I do it all for you, to make you happy. I don’t want you to lift a finger. Just enjoy yourself, you deserve it.” He would beam his chubby grin at her, and immediately turn back to his computer or scan his phone for messages. “I did try, Charles,” she muttered, remembering how she had thrown herself into tennis clubs, worthy works of charity and having lunches with other women married to successful husbands. The big heritage listed house he bought her had been redecorated to within an inch of its life. Charles was always boasting about the big dinner parties that she planned to the smallest detail, the guest list full of important business contacts and clients. A long time ago it seemed now, she had loved him. But the efforts to have children had destroyed something for her, something she knew would never heal. But he had always loved her, she knew herself to be the wellspring of his existence. Without her he would fail, and for that reason she had stayed. But work had won in the end. Charles had been very successful, perhaps too successful. His used car business had flourished, and the only breaks he allowed himself were the twice yearly cruises. Twice a year, for three weeks, Elinor had gritted her teeth over the ritual. Charles thought she enjoyed it, and because she had wanted him to be happy she had thrown herself into deck quoits and games, bingo and trivia, the casino and yoga classes and earring making until the sheer banality of it all made her want to scream. Charles had stayed up, conga lining and line dancing until dawn.


| CINDY TOMAMICHEL |

With his death Elinor had thought all that would be over, until the reading of the will. “...and to my devoted wife I leave all my worldly goods, and as a final present I leave her this...” here the lawyer had paused, and looking over his trendy black rimmed glasses, had given her a cruise ticket. … “ knowing that she will remember the good times we had on board. Elinor had smiled a sickly grin. “I’m only sorry Charles isn’t here to come with me.” After the shock at the lawyer’s office, Elinor had fled to the little café opposite her favourite second hand bookshop. Her secret consolation had been books, and in the times between lunches and good works she has spent stolen hours cruising the shelves of Henry’s bookstore. Here she could be herself and the quiet undemanding friendship that Henry offered was a balm after the hectic life with Charles. “Another one?” Henry asked, seeing her eyeing the tour brochure. Outside, the rain drizzled down, dimming even the bright pictures in the cruise brochure. She smiled. “He would have wanted it. He thought it could make me happy.” “I could make you happy,” Henry gently put his hand over hers. “You do Henry,” she smiled. “I’m just not sure of anything at the moment. Perhaps this cruise will clear my head, or give me an idea of what I would like to do with my life. I’ve never had to make those sorts of decisions before, Charles did it all.”

Henry smiled and patted her hand. He waved to the waiter for some more tea, and picked up his jacket. “I’ll be here when you get back,” he said. Elinor watched his tall lean figure cross the road to his bookshop where he flipped the sign to “open”. Her phone rang, and Elinor answered the call from the travel agent. There, decision made, she thought, and dropped her phone back into her handbag. She would pack tonight and go tomorrow. “At least I know what to pack,” she muttered to herself. ### A child’s scream rent the air, shattering the morning quiet of the cruise ship, and Elinor was dragged back to the present. “My brother, he fell in,” screamed the girl. Her pretty tanned face was distraught. “He ran off from Dad…” Elinor glanced around, it seemed for once the busy entertainment deck was deserted. Most people had gone into breakfast, or were turning over for another sleep after a long night at the casino. The pool water was choppy with the ships motion. The pool had been closed, and the child was tangled in the safety webbing and sinking rapidly. Elinor called and waved at the cruise service people in the distance, and kicked off her shoes. She ran down the stairs to the pool and jumped straight in. Scanning the pool, she oriented herself, and ducked down, reaching for the child’s outstretched hand. It was out of reach. Surfacing, she took another deep breath and dived under the net trying to unIssue 36 | July 2019 |

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| SHORT STORY |

tangle the child. Water slopped up and down with the ships motion. Like I’m in a washing machine, she thought frantically surfacing for one more breath. Finally the child was untangled, and Elinor pushed the heavy safety webbing away, and tucked the child under one arm. Blessing her own diligence at aqua aerobics classes, she dragged the child through the water to the ladder. Her teeth were chattering, and she was at the limit of her strength, hanging onto the pool ladder with fingers that had turned blue with cold. “Here, pass him to me,” said a loud voice. Above her, a crew member hung off the ladder, water slopping over his white shoes and trousers, arms outstretched. She handed the child over, and gratefully accepted help out of the pool. Together they sat the boy up, who promptly vomited pool water all over himself and started wailing loudly. “Alvin, you’re ok,” yelped a man, charging over, his croc sandals flapping. He grabbed Alvin up who buried his face in the man’s long brown beard, and hiccupped more vomit down his father’s black singlet. “Thank you so much, he just moved so fast,” the man stammered. “You had better take him down to the medical centre,” said the ships officer, standing up. He clicked open his pager and pressed a button. Several staff came running up, wrapping fresh white towels around them and leading them away. “You need a hot shower madam,” he said, turning to Elinor. He grabbed another towel 42 | UncagedBooks.com

from an attendant and gently placed it around her shoulders. It was still warm from the dryer, and Elinor snuggled into its heavenly warmth. Elinor found she was shivering violently, as much from reaction as the cold. The long walk back to her cabin had never seemed so distant, and by the time she got there he was supporting her, his warm arm around her trembling shoulders. She noticed he issued orders to other staff as they passed, and by the time they got to her cabin a tray with a bottle of cognac stood on her table. “I am Armand,” he said helping her to a seat. He was tall, tanned and very fit looking. Elinor focused on him properly, seeing the soft brown eyes and thick black hair with silver streaks. He smiled, showing white teeth against his tan. “Here, drink this,” as he passed her a small glass of cognac. “Have a hot shower and rest. Juanita here will help you with your clothes.” A demure maid smiled at her from the doorway. “If you wish for anything else, call this number.” He left a card on her table and smiled again, and Elinor felt something stir within her as the door clicked shut. Juanita helped her with her clothes, and she stood for a long time under the blissful heat of the hot shower. Eventually she turned off the water and dried herself, her short curly grey hair fluffing up around her face. She sat down in her dressing gown and knocked back another brandy with a gasp. Someone had placed a tray of pastries and a steaming hot chocolate beside her chair, and she leaned back, looking out the porthole at the blue sky, sipping the chocolate and nibbled on a pastry. Sometime later she woke, somewhat sur-


| CINDY TOMAMICHEL |

prised to find she had slept much of the day away. Tonight was cocktail night she noticed on the ships newsletter. She had so far resisted all pressures to join in activities, reading book after book from the library. “A night out would be a nice change. This one’s for you Charles,” smiling to herself as she brushed crumbs off, donned an evening frock and made up her face. She had dreaded these nights with Charles, second only to the dress up nights. Charles had loved them, laughing uproariously at his own costumes, and dancing and eating enough for ten men. But a year could heal many things, and Elinor found she had enjoyed the cruise, which would have made Charles happy, she thought. Armand had been very kind. For a week he had shown her the best of his ship, of which he was very proud. When he was busy with ship duties, Elinor had spent time walking endlessly around the deck, or leaning over the rail watching the changing ocean. Time to get over a life of being married to a man who had never really known who you were or what you liked. Time to make yourself over as well, to find out what she really wanted from her life. Time to meet someone else. And now here she was. Armand had pulled some strings for the heroine of the ship, as he called her. He had met her every night with a gift, a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates as she entered the lobby. They had a table out on the balcony, and overhead the stars glittered brightly and soft music played in the background. It had been a whirlwind week, full of the best food and wine, and private dancing under the stars.

It was the last night of the cruise. The full moon hung over the deck, and Armand’s strong arm was around her waist. “Stay here with me,” he whispered. His French accented hot chocolate voice purred in her ear, and Elinor quivered. “You seem to be so at home on a ship, and you do love to cruise...” his soft brown eyes looked deep into hers. Elinor took a deep breath, full of salt tang and the warm cinnamon scent of his aftershave. “You could organise some activities for our older passengers, we could sail the oceans all year round...” his brown fingers tightened over hers. “A life on the sea together ...” His soft lips pressed against her cheek. ### She smiled, touching her cheek in memory. The grey morning drizzle had never felt so welcome, and the concrete pavement was oh so solid underneath her feet. Behind her the doorbell tinkled. Henry looked up from a pile of books, and his face lit up. THE END A New Beginning ©Cindy Tomamichel All Rights Reserved. Published with permission. Email: cindy@cindytomamichel.com http://cindytomamichel.com/

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feature authors

mafia romance | legal thriller | suspense

Rumer Raines

N. Lomardi Jr.

Sally Bramble


R

R U MER R A INE S

umer Raines is a Midwestern girl with Big city goals. She loves to write action packed stories with foul mouthed Alpha men who protect their women...at ALL cost. Embrace yourself for an adventure with characters that are clever, fearless and not afraid to break the rules (or law) to get exactly what they want. Who would know better about breaking the rules than a girl who works in Corporate America, swears, goes to church every Sunday and writes Sexy Mafia Romance?

S t ay C onnec t e d

rumerraines.com


Please welcome Rumer Raines Uncaged: You write sexy mafia romance. Can you tell us more about your books? Your series, “Soul of the Sinner” – can those books be read as standalones? My books are about family. The series is about a family that will do anything for each other, whether it fits within the law or outside of it. The family with unconditional love, despite their differences. What would you do to protect your family? The series can be read as standalones, but the characters for each book will pop into each story. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? My next book will be out in this Summer. It’s called Unholy Union and It will involve a marriage of convenience, forbidden love and there just might be an accidental pregnancy. Uncaged: Who of your characters has been the easiest to write about? Who has been the hardest?

work in a corporate position, do your co-workers know about your writing and books at all?

The easiest character was definitely Frank Deluca (Mafia by Blood). This was my first book and I wrote it after my father died. I watched him die from cancer and before he died, he had “the talk” with me. He asked me to live my life a certain way. Frank Deluca also watched his father die and his father made certain wishes known to him too. Of course, my father didn’t ask me to commit to a life of crime. Frank Deluca’s father obviously does. I basically wrote about the pain and decisions that I had to make. You can either keep the pain or move on and do what you need to do.

I am very selective with the co-workers I share my outside activities with. I have a very good friend who I did share my writings with. She looked at me like I grew a second head when she found out what I was writing Mafia Romance.

The hardest was Alexis Deluca (Image of Deceit). I am a pretty good judge of character and I had to make Alexis a little clueless as to what was going on in her own family. She had to be naïve and I am definitely not. Uncaged: On your website, you mention that you

Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I would love to have lunch with Meghan March. I love her books! I have a feeling we could get into a lot of trouble of we got together. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I struggle so much with Marketing. It is my least favorite part of the Author world. I think the best Marketing that I have done is hiring Aurora PubIssue 36 | July 2019 | 47


| FEATURE AUTHOR | licity to help me with Marketing. My least markets and museums. successful is everything I have done on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong I love Facebook, I am a city girl. I actually have two favorite places which are but I don’t like Marketing on the platform. Chicago and NYC. I don’t think I have ever purchased a handbag Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? because I saw a facebook ad? I took a pistol shooting training and learned I can only hit the Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual head. The instructor advised I was born to be a sharp shooter. things that a reader has said to you about your books? Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? One reader advised that my books are dark and twisted. I didn’t know if I should thank The first thing I would say is Thank you! It is so hard to go after her since this is what I was going for or seek your dreams and it’s even harder to get people to support you. counseling. Every time you read an indie author’s book; you are encouraging them to keep going even when they want to quit. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your faMy books may not be movie material today… but one day…. vorite places on Earth? I love Ethical companies. I love shopping fair trade and small businesses. I also love taking the train to the city and checking out farmer


| RUMER RAINES |

Enjoy an excerpt from Mafia by Blood Mafia by Blood Rumer Raines Mafia Romance I’LL DO ANYTHING TO PROTECT MY FAMILY... WELL ALMOST ANYTHING. It was a dying wish. “Take over the family business.” Any son would be thrilled that his father thought so highly of him. As the Don of the Deluca family, it’s not only a honor, but the highest compliment. But for me, not so much. As a cop, I’m torn between my family and my career. Deciding which side of the law I live on should be easy. And it would have been. Until she showed up. Lola Covelli, my new partner, has one mission: Take down the mafia. My family. And she’s getting close. Too close. To the truth. And my heart. Excerpt Frank Deluca I make sure no one is around as I walk back to my car and lift the key fob. I hear the car explode behind me. I don’t turn back to look at what I just did. I don’t want to see it because that would mean I have to acknowledge what I’ve done. I love being a Chicago detective. I have over ten years on the force and the respect of everyone I worked with. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fellow officer or someone I am interrogating; they all respect Detective Frank Deluca. They know I

am a man of integrity and I won’t shit them around. I used to respect myself as well, until today. I never thought I would cross that line. The imaginary line between good and evil. Sometimes family can fuck you up. You are on one path and they can easily direct you to another. My father paved the way for this new path. My father had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Despite the best treatment that money can buy, his health failed quickly. We all hated watching the disease take him away. We are a close family; there are five of us and we cherished the hell out of him. I am the oldest and then my brother, Alex and our baby sister, Alexis. Alex is four years younger than me and he is a hothead. Alex is the trouble maker in the family. I often think I went into law enforcement because of Alex. I always wanted to be able to get to him first. Alex has mellowed a little since turning thirty, but not much. He owns a club in downtown Chicago, which has been a huge success. He made Pop proud when he bought the club and named it Deluca’s. Alexis is the family princess. She works at a cosmetic counter at the Water Tower. I often wonder if selling handmade soaps is a job, but Alexis is happy so the family is happy. Alexis is twenty-five and she is beautiful. Pop, Alex, and I have always taken great pleasure in torturing any guy that even has taken a second look at her when we’re around. Of course, being a proud Italian family, we always request that she brings the next victim over to family dinner. The only protection that Alexis and the next victim can seem to gather up is Ma. My mother is a saint. She is beautiful and you wouldn’t believe that she is a day over forty, and if you ask her, forty will always be her age. Before Pop got sick, I considered my family to be the perfect little Italian family that still had dinners on Sunday, but I suppose all families have something buried in the backyard. Unfortunately, with my family, it’s probably a body. Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | When Pop realized that he couldn’t defeat his cancer, he had a talk with each one of us. We all spoke to him privately and he told us his wishes. We never confided to the others what was said, but Ma, Alex, and Alexis seemed to have peace with what was said. I was the last one to enter the hospital room to hear his wishes and have the dreaded talk. I hated entering the room. It is so heartbreaking to see the man you looked at like he was Superman, find his kryptonite. Pop had lost so much weight; he looked like photos I had seen of his pop, which was at least fifty pounds lighter than my pop. His face was sunken in and he was so weak. I hated seeing what cancer had done to him. He was a fighter and he fought to the very end. As I walked closer to the hospital bed, I could feel myself getting weaker and weaker. I knew in my gut that this would be one of the last times I would talk to my father, my hero. He turned his head slightly to look at me and his weak voice said he had something important to ask me. “I am dying Frank. I can no longer fight it, it’s too painful.” It hurt so much to hear my father admit to his pain. My father spent the next twenty minutes making his final request and I was shocked by what I was hearing. My father was a criminal. My entire family is criminals. Hell, I may be a criminal by blood. My father is the fucking don. He runs the fucking Chicago mafia and he is asking me to take charge. He could bypass me and ask Alex since I am in law enforcement, but Alex is a wild card. He doesn’t trust Alex with lives. I, on the other hand, will make level-headed decisions. I can’t believe what I am hearing. My fucking family is the mob? He wants me to run the mob. I am a fucking detective with the Chicago Police Department. How could I have missed that my family is made up of criminals? My father also advises that everything is already in place and when he dies, I am in charge. I will be approached and asked how I would like to proceed. If I decide that I will not run the business, it will have to go to Alex. 50 | UncagedBooks.com

I love my brother, but to be honest I wouldn’t trust his judgment to oversee a pet fish. Alex is loose cannon. He doesn’t think anything through. He acts first and then thinks about the consequences. If I don’t take over, it will become his responsibility. Can I really let him take charge when this will directly affect Ma and Alexis? Granted, I don’t want this either and I don’t know how my family has kept this hidden from me. According to Pop, the family has always been in the business. His father was the don and it was passed down to him. He had great pride in the family. The only ones that were clueless were me and Alexis. Ma knows about the family business, but according to Pop, she knows nothing about the dealings of the business. Women are never involved, which is also why Alexis was never informed. Pop said that I was never advised because of the obvious, I am on the wrong side of the law. I knew my family wasn’t happy with my decision when I announced I was interested in law enforcement. They all claimed that it was too dangerous. How much safer could I be, than in the family business? Shortly after walking out of Pop’s hospital room, we were all called back. We watched him take his last breath and it felt like I was taking mine.


N

N . L OM B A RDI J R .

. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian). In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years. Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http:// plainofjars.net His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya. His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police. Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

S t ay C onnec t ed

author-n-lombardi-jr.com


Welcome N. Lombardi Jr. Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your latest novel, Justice Gone? The idea for Justice Gone came from a true incident - the fatal beating of a homeless man in California. This was such an extreme case, that it exposed the utter abuse of authority in which an outraged public reaction was inevitable. I saw a YouTube video of this incident and I asked myself a question: if someone who saw that video felt that justice was denied the deceased by not punishing the police officers involved, would they take it in their own hands? This became the seed for the story. I felt I had to make some comment on the relationship between the police and the public, as well as the polarization of sentiments regarding many social issues taking place in the US and in the Western world in general. My research concerning the mechanics of the legal system in the US also opened up my eyes. God help anyone caught in that bureaucratic machine. The novel then, is a tale of what happens in a small town following the fatal beating of a homeless Iraqi war vet at the hands of police. A cascading series of events, from street protests to a vigilante shooting of three police officers leads to a multi-state manhunt for the vet’s war time buddy. A controversial trial attracting nationwide attention dominates the second half of the novel. The story ends with a twist revealing the identity of the cop-killer The most vulnerable to excessive force on the part of police are the poor and disenfranchised, so there is much in the story that deals with the homeless and with troubled veterans returning from war. The chasm between people who label themselves liberals and conservatives is also explored. Yet despite the gravity of these issues, they are contained in an entertaining legal thriller and whodunit, a combination inspired by the many works of John Grisham.

The novel has already won the 13th Annual National Indie Excellency Award, and is currently being considered for two other literary awards. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I’m in the process of fine-tuning another Tessa Thorpe novel, Woman in the Shadow. It takes place several years prior to the setting of Justice Gone, and is considerably darker and a bit scarier, more of a psychological/suspense thriller, and there is also quite a bit more of criminal psychiatry in the story. This novel is written in the first person from Tessa’s point of view. I actually wrote this before Justice Gone, but I was disappointed with the publisher’s reaction to it so I shelved it. Hopefully it should come out in the middle of 2020. Uncaged: Although your books are fiction, they are inspired from real life events. How do you research? How long does it take you to write a full book? For the first book I ever wrote, Journey Towards a Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Falling Sun (but the second novel published) almost all of the material was based on seven years of living in Kenya, which included living among the ‘wild’ frontier tribes in the north of the country. In my first published novel, The Plain of Jars, living experience combined with hundreds of books on the history, politics, and culture of Laos, including the history of the war in Southeast Asia, formed the foundation for the story. Both of these books took three and five years to write. For Justice Gone, I followed current news stories and did a lot of research on the U.S. legal system to produce a realistic portrayal of events, and this story was written in under a year. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? There are two I can think of offhand. One is John Le Carré, because of his pragmatism resulting from his career as a government bureaucrat involved in the spy business, and his keen and poetic sense of observation, particularly of people and their personalities. The other is John Grisham, because I admire his infusion of social issues into his novels, and his experience as a liberal who has spent much of his life in the relatively conservative deep south of the US. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? This is a very important question, but one I’m not in a position to answer specifically, as I am still a novice in this endeavor. Generally speaking, it is obvious that the main goal of marketing is exposure, which gives readers the opportunity to decide whether they want to read your book, i.e. they have to know about it first. While this may seem obvious, it should be kept in mind that thousands of new titles every month are competing for attention. Au54 | UncagedBooks.com

thors and publishers need to do anything that increases exposure. Because promotional activities and publicity can be considered as a whole whose sum is greater than its parts, it is difficult, if not impossible, to analyze each activity individually to judge how much it contributed to sales. In short, my answer is, I haven’t a clue about what has been most or least successful. However, I can say for sure that my giveaway on Goodreads was a disaster, so if you are an author, it would be best to avoid them. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I don’t know about unusual, but many readers have commented that my books have made them react emotionally, and in some cases causing them to laugh and cry. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? Nothing exciting, actually - swimming (I have my own pool), watching films, and of course, reading. My favorite place on earth at this point in my life is my home, in the countryside of Cambodia. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? For one, my life path, from a lower class existence in NYC to a career as a groundwater geologist that has taken me to numerous countries across three


| N. LOMBARDI JR. | continents. As a consequence, I have been fluent in five languages during periods of my life: Swahili, Thai, Lao (an East African language), Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian)

Enjoy an excerpt from Justice Gone Justice Gone N. Lombardi Jr. Legal Thriller

Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? At this point, I don’t have many fans, so I’ll just say keep reading and check out my books. I’m not much of a social media guy, but you can message me on Goodreads or Facebook. I also have an interesting website, http://plainofjars.net with a lot of info and wonderful photos of Laos, and an author website which is still in development, http://author-n-lombardi-jr.com.

When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down. A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran’s counselor, is caught up in the chase. Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa’s patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers get there first, leading to Darfield’s dramatic capture. Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge? Justice Gone is the first in a series of psychological thrillers involving Dr Tessa Thorpe, wrapped in the divisive issues of modern American society including police brutality and disenfranchised returning war veterans. Excerpt Chapter 7 The funeral services, particularly the burial, had been announced as private and that sympathizers should remain at a discreet distance; and in a demonstration of exemplary respect, the hundreds of supporters complied with the request. Family and comrades, especially those from the Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | New Hope Clinic, were designated to be at the gravesite. An uninvited guest, surprisingly, was also among them: John Garson, Police Chief of Bruntfield Township. After the lowering of the coffin, and the slow deliberate departure of the mourners, Garson slipped away, in the opposite direction that everyone else would follow toward their cars and hired limos: crossing fields of gravestones until he reached the coppices of oak trees, in order to escape the press. Everyone else present merged into the group of activists who assembled at the gate of the plot, all intent upon making known the measure of their sorrow to the public. The crowd that participated was moderate in numbers, but in no way insignificant—about seven hundred were reported to have shown up. They marched, waving their signs and chanting slogans, from the central commercial district to the Bruntfield Veterans Memorial Park, where a makeshift stage had been set up for the guest speakers. The local TV stations from Newark and Trenton, including the network affiliates, were present covering the march. The whole thing was fairly orderly, despite the loud chants of “Justice for Jay” and the cardboard signs that said: WE DON’T WANT KILLER COPS, SHAME ON YOU, PROTECT NOT KILL, PUT THE ANIMALS BEHIND BARS. Police presence was minimal and subdued. Once they arrived at the previously setup podium in the park, representatives of the various groups got their chance to express their views with the condition of keeping it short, and as per Marshal Felson’s request, focused on the incident. The fact that Jay Felson was approached by police when he was not in the act of committing any crime was stressed on more than one occasion. The TV crews covered the speeches with utmost diligence, as this was one of the highlights to be expected. Finally, for the emotional touch, the organizers called on the young man’s father. “We are here today to let the city authorities know that we will be following very closely the grand jury proceedings!” Marshal Felson shouted. “That 56 | UncagedBooks.com

we, as a community, will not just brush this aside. I am grateful to all of you who have shown concern and have voiced their support for my son.” He gave up the mike and walked off the stage amid cheers and applause. A rather frail-looking young man with glasses took control of the audience to announce that Dr. Tessa Thorpe from the New Hope Trauma Recovery Clinic was to be the next speaker. Tessa had given much thought as to how she should dress for the occasion. Her first instinct was her Karen Kane pants suit, but dismissed that idea to wear her copper-brown print kaftan in its stead. Now, with its folds caught in the vigorous September breeze, giving the illusion of a multitude of miniature flags fluttering around her, her thick locks of hair dancing around her head, she spoke to the crowd, slowly, deliberately taking her time. “Hello, my fellow citizens.” She stopped to survey the mass of people standing in front of her. Dramatic pauses replete with eye contact, if not overdone, were quite effective in getting one’s message across. Not surprisingly, Tessa knew how to get her message across, a special art in the realm of behavioral scientists. Public relations firms, advertising companies, political campaigns, all hired an army of psychologists to sell a product. And Tessa Thorpe, as someone who had thirty years’ experience as a criminal psychiatrist, could sell as well as any of them. “We are here today for two reasons, two very important reasons that are essential to our well-being in a modern society. Freedom is one, and justice is the other.” Enthusiastic cheers. “When the call for war came, we were told that our enemies hated our freedoms. We were told that the citizens of Iraq had been held hostage by a ruthless dictator who denied his own people these freedoms. Our invasion of that country was sold to us as Operation Iraqi Freedom. And so we sent our young men and women off to war, the most traumatic experience a human being could ever go through, with the belief that they were fighting for liberty and freedom. And yet, one of those whom we had sent…had come back to us only to have his own freedom denied. His single offence at the time he was approached by law


| N. LOMBARDI JR. | enforcement officers was that he was exercising his freedom to stand on a street corner.” This elicited a roar from the crowd. “This is not merely tragic, it is an act of deplorable fraud, being denied the very thing he fought for!” More heartfelt cheering. “When I was young, we were made to pledge allegiance, an oath that ended with the phrase, ‘with liberty and justice for all.’ Well, Jay Felson was denied liberty…let us make sure he is NOT DENIED JUSTICE!” An ear-shattering reverberation of concurrence. Having descended from the little platform with the crowd still shouting in endorsement, Tessa was serially embraced by her coworkers: Casey, Ed, Penny…all with praise about her wonderful speech, culminating in Marshal Felson’s hug, whispering into her ear, “Amazing.” The next event on the program was to go together to the site where Jay was killed at the bus depot in order to lay memorial flowers and gifts. The TV teams followed, instinctively knowing that this was indeed another newsworthy item. In fact, as a human interest story, it tugged at the heart to see the gift bearers laying their offers down. And what made it even more poignant was the huge bloodstain that had yet to be cleaned off the pavement, a crimson smear that drew numerous zoomed-in shots by the camera crews.

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ulti-award winning author Sally Brandle weaves slowburning romance into edgy suspense stories. Sally left a career as an industrial baking instructor to bring to life stories motivating readers to trust their instincts. Her rescue Aussie is her companion during long spells of writing or afternoons spent riding on the wind with her twenty-nine year old Quarter Horse. Sign up for her newsletter at www.sallybrandle.com for freebies. The Hitman’s Mistake opens her Love Thrives in Emma Springs series of stories (sensual without intimate scenes). Torn by Vengeance, Book 2, continues showcasing friendship, courageous women, and the men who deserve their love. The Targeted Pawn, Book 3, releases 3/2020.

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s a l l yb r a n d l e .c o m


Uncaged welcomes Sally Brandle Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your “Love Thrives in Emma Springs” series? “Look over your shoulder. He’s watching,” is the tagline for Book 2, Torn by Vengeance. Suspense is the tone of all six books in the clean (sensual without intimate scenes), edgy stories. Fortunately, my heroines learn to trust their instincts and partner with worthy heroes to fight devious villains and find their happy ever after in Emma Springs, Montana. During my work career, teaching adults throughout Big Sky Country brought an awareness that old-fashioned values and a sense of community mirrored how I felt growing up. Bustling Seattle’s my home turf now, but I cherish fond memories of real-life characters from childhood in rural Michigan. Most of the images are positive—not the one I experienced with my teen BFF on a hot summer day. I wrote a similar version into Torn by Vengeance. In real life and the book, naïve girls took a chance with unfamiliar older guys who had more than a breezy cruise in a jet boat in mind. In both instances the worst outcome didn’t happen. I continue to thrive on strong female friendships and interweave those in my stories. Same with older mentors as secondary characters. I adored my grandma, Em, and named my picturesque lakeside town at the base of a mountain after her. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I’m editing The Targeted Pawn, Book 3, which tells the story of Elon and Rane, both nearing forty and discovering love finds you at the most inconvenient time. Rane’s ranch and machine shop are located on the outskirts of Emma Springs and he needs a welder. Elon has put twenty years in a loveless marriage behind her, but after meeting hunky rancher, Rane Calderon, unwanted sparks blaze hotter than her welding torch. To support her collegiate sons, she’s determined to kowtow to her new female-phobic boss until her divorce finalizes from her mercenary ex. Rane’s got his own set of issues besides his Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | unwanted attraction to Elon. His Native American grandmother entrusted sacred burial grounds to his keeping, and land speculators want the property for building a prison. Uncaged: You are also a horse lover and owner, and you’ve incorporated that love into your books. I find true peace of mind when I’m around my own horses, does it help to clear your mind and refresh you when you hit a road block in writing? Riding Lance takes me back to being the kid who never got over horse worshiping at its finest. Grazing him on a quiet stretch beside our riding trail provides me with time to recharge and work out plot challenges. The big chestnut adds so much more to my already blessed life. Six years ago, I’d recently adopted the quiet gelding. Even so, Lance sensed my emotional pain of losing my 91-yearold, cheerleading mom. I held her hand in her final moments and then drove directly to the barn and called out to him. Lance raised his head and for the first time trotted over from the herd to meet me. He stood and absorbed my sorrow as the sun rose on a different chapter in my personal life. I wish more of us realized how rescued animals can resuscitate willing humans. The featured equine in The Targeted Pawn will strongly resemble Lance. Red, the mule, and Whinny, the miniature horse from previous books make appearances. Oh, and so do their human buddies. :) Uncaged: What inspired you to become a writer? Are you a fulltime or part-time writer? A dare from my husband instigated the writing bug. Visiting 60 | UncagedBooks.com

my brother in balmy (my code for excessive heat for weather wimps) Costa Rica, provided extended sessions reading in the hammock. After plowing through about six romance novels borrowed from the local bar—aka library, I announced that I could write better than that. I returned home and plotted out the first book in my head during a spat of sleepless nights. A 55K rough draft appeared in less than a week. My shoulders will never be the same. Untold revisions later, it became The Hitman’s Mistake. I eased out of full-time work and am one of the fortunate ones to write/market full-time and live comfortably with my husband on retirement funds. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I probably wouldn’t feel like eating, but I’d choose


Gavin de Becker, who wrote The Gift of Fear. The words, “True fear is a gift. Unwarranted fear is a curse. Learn how to tell the difference,” is on the cover. We live in a crazy world and in my books, I hope to convey that we all should trust our instincts. I’d thank Mr. de Becker for scaring the bejeezus out of me with his factual stories. My instincts are acted upon now and I’ve used his insight to create menacing, realistic culprits. I’ve purchased his book for single women friends. It inspired one of them to take self-defense classes. I truly hope she never needs them, but she’s equipped with an edge. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? At my request, Soul Mate Publishing ran The Hitman’s Mistake as a free download for several days prior to Torn by Vengeance’s release. I began guest blogging when Hitman launched a year ago and approached those sites to spread the word. I can’t thank them enough for their continued support. In Canada Hitman hit #1 in Suspense and Romantic Suspense and it landed the #2 and #3 rank in the U.S. and Australia. Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon doubled. The Uncaged ads are eye-catching and budget friendly. I didn’t advertise anywhere else in June, and my ratings moved up the ladder. Thank you, Cyrene! Least successful marketing would be purchasing ads the last days Hitman was free. Come out of the gate at a gallop and don’t look back. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? One reader I’d met caught me off guard. She’d read The Hitman’s Mistake and asked if I’d lived in Montana, as my descriptions put her back into her childhood near Bozeman. Emma Springs is a compilation of beautiful scenery I viewed on brief business trips. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I’ve traveled the globe, but there’s no scenery that com-

petes with the faces of your loved ones. My two adult sons currently live with us. We like and respect each other. I know sharing living quarters with them has an expiration date, as they’re saving for their own homes. Tonight, I’ll fix waffles and bacon for dinner-one of my mom’s favorite meals. We’ll trade happenings of the day from their jobs. They have snarky, fun personalities. There’s nothing better than family or treasured friends. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I can name the bunnies and goats whose wool I collected to create a mohair/angora sweater I wear in chilly weather. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for spending your precious time to read my books! I hope they entertained you for a few hours. If you’ve taken a moment to write a rating or review, I truly appreciate it. And share your stories. Write them down or speak them into your phone. The world needs to hear everyone’s story to impact our understanding of one another. ~Happy trails, Sally Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

Enjoy an excerpt from Torn by Vengeance Torn by Vengeance Sally Brandle Romantic Suspense Look over your shoulder, he’s watching. Corrin Patten is solidly on a path to make partner in a prestigious Seattle law firm when an ominous threat from her past turns deadly. She can handle circumstances necessitating a temporary move to the backwater town of Emma Springs, but its charming physician is another matter, as she’s issued a permanent moratorium on men. Dr. Kyle Werner revels in trust from patients he regularly treats in a community he’s never wished to leave. Yet, Emma Springs lacks one thing, a woman to share his perfectly bucolic life. He’s read about pheromone attraction, but never experienced desire until meeting Corrin. They make an unbeatable team, but convincing her that his interest is sincere while they dissect layers of deceit requires the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Can they defeat the wealthy stalker bent on mistaken revenge against Corrin and destruction of the peaceful Montana setting? If you thrive on tenacious heroines, sizzling attraction, and a shadowy villain with a grudge, you’ll love this prescription for thrills. Watch for The Targeted Pawn, Rane and Elon’s story of smoldering romance, calculating villains, and rescued animals featured in another escape to Emma Springs. A Seattle lawyer must trust a hunky Montana doctor for help when a secret from her past threatens her career and his town. 62 | UncagedBooks.com

Excerpt A smile rose to H.P.’s lips as he pictured her shock when he took her down just before she hit her goal, precisely what she’d done to him after the boat ride. He dropped Meyer’s pen onto the desk. He’d waited in the shadows for the right moment to sign Corrin Patten’s death warrant. Next, he’d watch her walk to the gallows. *** Turbulence dropped the airplane, digging Corrin’s seatbelt deeper into her roiling stomach on the Thursday morning flight. The tray table above her knees rattled. She scrunched her eyes shut to block out the memory of being trapped in another rocking, bobbing seat, and dug her fingernails into the armrests. The plane lurched—pitching and thrusting her like the speedboat ride ten years ago when it jetted through white caps. The horrible trauma surfaced, and with it, an image of the pervert who’d destroyed her innocence. The shuddering stopped. A hand touched her arm. She raised her fist, ready to break free and fight again. But the stranger’s fingers on her forearm didn’t boast a dagger-shaped ruby ring. No vice-grip pinned her in a boat’s bucket seat. She gasped for air. “Hey, are you okay?” her seatmate questioned. “Yes, thank you,” she said. “Nervous flier.” He nodded and returned to his magazine. The airplane swooped down from the angry sky, bounced twice on the runway, and taxied to the terminal. A wave of jitters hit. Miranda would be shocked to see her in Montana. The last time they’d talked, they’d planned to meet in Seattle, prior to her testimony.


“Spontaneous and Corrin Patten never grace the same sentence,” her BFF frequently joked. Well, today she’d refute Miranda’s statement. She shoved legal files into her bag on the floor and checked outside. Beyond the tarmac-and-boondocks version of an airport, Montana stretched in a wide expanse of snow-dusted, midday tranquility. Cows stood in a field off to one side, ignoring the buzz of the planes.

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All those years ago, buzzing, waspish tongues in Ebony Cove hadn’t affected her either, until she’d lost her childlike naiveté on that horrible afternoon. Suppressed images of those falsely smiling lips whispering insults dotted her memory again like the cow pies dotting the nearby pasture. Queasiness rolled through her stomach. She wasn’t the ragtag kid anymore, wondering if she’d scrape together dinner for her siblings—wondering if the neighbor’s steers would trample her as she collected fallen, unwanted apples from the orchard where they grazed. If her sister-of-the-soul, Miranda, hadn’t frantically called, she’d never have flown here to offer moral support and informal legal coaching. The clatter of luggage and bodies charging the aisle announced the airplane cabin exodus. She frowned and rose from her seat. Twenty rows up, the paunchy guy in First Class who’d bolted late onto the Seattle to Three Falls flight turned and eyeballed her again. He caught her looking and headed out the forward exit. Bristling alarm sent cold chills down her spine. Colder than jumping into Puget Sound to escape the boat attack. She’d blocked the blasted memory for years, but today it flooded her brain.

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The High Dive

Karen Janowsky


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The High Dive by Karen Janowsky “The thing to do when you’re impatient is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you… -Carlos Casteneda Once, when Iris was eight, she was fearless. Emboldened by her Dorothy Hamill haircut and her Wonder Woman swimsuit, she stalked across the high dive and then bounced up and down so that the whole board wobbled. Holding herself long and stiff as a new pencil, she held her breath and jumped in feet-first. Her stomach pitched into her heart; her heart recoiled into her throat. She doesn’t remember hitting water. She recalls the thrilling anticipation, the brief moment of being airborne when she jumped up, and the sound of air whooshing across her ears in freefall. Obviously, she did hit water; she probably touched the bottom of the pool with her toes and sprang up again. Iris knows that this is a revised memory. She had been afraid before she jumped. Nevertheless, she learned that if you jump, it’s best that you try to enjoy the ride down. Something will catch you eventually. Now more is at stake if she takes the proverbial leap. Her invisible companion looks at her impassively and says nothing. She never does. Iris could try to run from her. Her companion wouldn’t pursue; she wouldn’t have to. Instead, she stays right outside Iris’s periphery. She waits in the very last place where Iris will try to take cover. She couldn’t outrun her if she tried. “So, now what?” she asks, turning to her left. Her companion is always irritatingly exacting in her silence. Iris knows what she’s thinking anyway: 66 | UncagedBooks.com

“You already know what you want. Figure the rest out on your own. I’ll wait.” In the bathtub, Iris pulls her knees to her chest and buries her head in them. Bubbles pop in her hair and around her ears. They explode into cool, fragrant tributaries that stream along her face. Some of the water lines are hot and salty. Iris has been so numb for so long that she doesn’t always realize when she has begun to cry. Jasmine oil beads on her legs, reflecting tiny prisms. Iris senses that her invisible associate is baring sharp little teeth. Is it an encouraging smile or is she about to bite down? She wishes the quiet hag would reach a bony hand up from the pipes, dig her claws into her ankles and pull down hard. She could slip out past the sewers and waste and wash back out to the ocean to arise refreshed, naked, and stripped clean of guilt and doubt. She doesn’t want to make the decision without guidance. She knows the right words to pose to him. She has already answered her own questions. Now it’s a matter of when and how to say the words. She practices them aloud, hoping that her companion will role play with her. “I think this is the end,” Iris says, lifting her head. The statement sounds like a question. She stares at the green tiles around the bath spigot. Silence. She takes a deep inhalation and blows it out slowly through her lips. A small pile of suds flies away from her knee. “I am not happy and I don’t want to fix this. I don’t know what I want, but it isn’t this anymore. I want to be free.” She waits for…what? For an answer? Applause? Validation would be nice. She groans and stomps her foot, causing water to slosh over the side of the tub. She’s been here for too long and the bathwater has shifted from hot, to tepid, to numbingly cold. Iris wants her companion’s assurances. She pulls the plug on the drain and watches as a tiny vortex of dullcolored water and flowery oil forms and disappears.


| KAREN JANOWSKY | Nothing has made her change her mind about her life’s tentative new trajectory. Nothing has happened: no abuse, no cruelty of any sort. She thinks it would be so much easier if some event occurred, or if there was a specific turning point that caused her change of heart. Unattended over the decades, the marriage evaporated. Her feelings washed away. She and her husband have been clinging to something that no longer exists. “All that remains is fear,” she thinks. On her left again, her companion stares through slick, hollow sockets. They reflect purple and silver light, like the wet insides of hollowed-out mussels. Iris is at once drawn in and repelled. “He’ll be blindsided by this. How do I hurt him like this?” she whispers. She visualizes the sharp, white teeth that grimace back at her. He told her he was fine when she’d asked. She said, “I’m not happy. I can’t imagine that you are either. We should work on this.” He argued that he was perfectly happy and walked away. “If you’re unhappy, get therapy,” he told her. It is the fact of his happiness that makes things so difficult for Iris. Neither of them expected this slow erosion of their twenty-year marriage. She can’t bear the thought of hurting him. She is almost willing to endure the rest of her life unhappily for the sake of his equanimity. She can remain comfortable and skate over the surface of the rest of her life. It would be easy. She is almost willing to do this and only hurt herself. She is almost willing, but not entirely so. She wants so much more. Thin, hot tributaries travel over her cool cheekbones and skim the corners of her mouth. “I’m a fool,” Iris murmurs, sitting naked in an empty tub. Her quiet companion doesn’t disagree. Iris is sure she’s smirking at her. She knows something that Iris won’t admit. When she begins to shiver, Iris stands and wraps a towel around herself. The shock of cold, light air

from neutral, heavy water startles her. She feels weighed down, as if gravity has somehow launched an assault. It’s an effort to stand. She fights back by standing anyway. She does remember how to fight. She’s backed down from so many fights over the past few years. She has sacrificed harmony in the name of keeping the peace. They both have. Acquiescence is their mode of communication. Downstairs, she knows that her husband is playing “Words with Friends” on his phone. Iris cannot remember the last time she had a serious, deep discussion with him. They get on companionably but have so little to say to each other anymore, more like acquaintances than life partners. He must know something is wrong, but he doesn’t ask questions. Conversations with her husband are awkward and mildly irritating to her now. She has stopped trying. She is tired of the effort of connection with him. Now everything just hurts. Yet, she doesn’t have the courage to make the huge, painful leap and allow the healing to finally begin. Part of her still cares; still loves him. She is not in love with him, but she still cares. She drops the towel to the floor and moves her hand to the top of her head, then undoes the clip that has been holding her hair in place. It falls past her shoulders in heavy, dark ringlets. Her companion still looks on, unmoved. She closes her eyes. “Rightly so. Just stand there and watch. Don’t respond at all. You never do. Don’t even bother asking questions. Leer, turn away, it makes no difference to me,” her mind growls. Her displaced anger toward her invisible friend surprises her. Nevertheless, she finds the hollow space behind her neck, and then moves her thumbs and middle fingers to the spaces between her ears and her jaw. Her collar bones expand sideways when she brings her fingers to the muscles between her ribs and along her abdomen, then up further. At forty-four, she’s still attractive, still in good shape, so friends have told her. She misses being adored. She misses passion. She sways slightly. She doesn’t like it when her husband touches her—she feels nothing, except maybe slight Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| SHORT STORY | revulsion. She has already asked that they shut down that part of their marriage. So he gave her space. She hates herself for all of this. She wishes she didn’t feel this way. In his way, he loves her. She understands this but has not actually felt loved for years. She hasn’t felt love, not really, for a long time. This is what is true. She wonders if it’s enough to be loved without loving back entirely. “We both deserve to be so much happier,” she’d said to him. “Let’s get help.” “We’re fine. We’re not that bad yet,” he replied, and switched the subject to what was for lunch. That night, Iris leaves home again. Her husband looked at her, shrugged, and told her to have fun, enjoy her personal time. He never asks why she needs so much space. How can he not know that everything is wrong? She and her companion drive in the dark, past the communities full of lit-up houses. As she passes the neat subdivisions, she wonders about the lives within each home. She wonders if the families there are happy. She thinks the answer is no, at least not always. She knows her guess is filtered by her mood. She doesn’t trust her own judgment. “At what point is it better to walk away? When do you know if it’s really time? What if this is all there is, and I’m asking too much out of life?” she wonders aloud. Her voice trembles. She does not expect an answer. On the beach, she ambles along the water’s edge, pushing wet sand and shiny, smooth stones ahead with her toes. Her feet are freezing. She keeps walking, even though she knows she will eventually turn around, get back into the car, and drive home. She imagines walking forever. In reality, she has nowhere to go: no job, no extended family nearby. The magnitude of her vulnerability and dependence terrifies her. There is no safety net. She is trapped. She would be alone if she left for good. She is alone now. The specter keeps pace with her. She has already seen the place where Iris will end up. Her comrade has nothing but time and already knows how this is going to play out, even if Iris does not. 68 | UncagedBooks.com

“Why?” she asks aloud again. “Why won’t you help me? I want assurances. Put an arm around me or something. Tell me I’ll be okay.” Her voice is pleading. It bothers her. She should feel stronger, having come this close to a decision. As always, her partner is infuriatingly mute and still. She never anticipated any of this. Family members had known for years, apparently, before she realized the depths of her unhappiness. “She’s going to hit her mid-forties, grow up, and leave him,” her eightyyear-old grandmother had said to her aunt. That was ten years ago. Everyone saw this coming except for the two of them. He still doesn’t see it coming. Iris doesn’t feel much like an indestructible superhero or confident Olympian athlete tonight. That brave little girl is a lifetime away. She remembers the long line up the ladder that led to the high dive. The board itself was slippery and it shook with each controlled, cautious step she took towards the end. By the time she got to there, she changed her mind. She stared at the space between her feet and the cold, deep pool. The board was too slick and unstable for her to back up, squeeze her way back through the crowd and onto solid ground. Her choices were to take one more graceless step and thrash wildly, flail and fall, or to gather up some dignity and deliberately jump. This memory is somewhat more accurate. Now if she jumps, she will not be the only one in freefall. Iris hasn’t even decided to plunge in yet, but all she can think about is resuscitation: hands and mouths. She wants to feel alive again. She wants to find her own bliss, and then perhaps find someone whose voice and touch ignite her again. Her companion stands just out of view, expressing neither compassion nor reproach. “Don’t try to look at her; don’t turn around,” Iris thinks. She knows her well enough to understand the unhelpful silences. The answer to the all of Iris’s questions is that the questions are irrelevant. Reason and yearning are rarely civil companions in her life lately. If she jumps, she will have to resuscitate herself. There’s no shallow end here; no inconspicuous way to test the waters. In her mental and emotional world,


| KAREN JANOWSKY | she perches at a high edge that’s much more precarious than the one from memory. The water below is deep, but it isn’t likely to cushion the descent. She will have to twist around the rocks that jut from the angry waves like fangs. The leap’s payoff will be far more exhilarating and riskier than just the thrill of freefall and submersion. She could be swallowed up whole. She could crash to the bottom with bonesmashing force, taking with her all of whom are dear. She could lose so many people and things and routines that have been meaningful to her. She certainly will lose the boundaries that demarcate her life. “What is important to you? What can you truly live without? How lightly can you travel on your journey?” Her companion finally speaks directly into her brain. The questions vibrate under her skin and give her goosebumps. She shudders. She cannot answer yet—not fully. She stops walking and picks up a piece of driftwood. It fits perfectly in her hand. It is warm and smooth. She wonders what and whom she can let go easily, and what would require the forcible prying-open of her fingers as they clench fists over the things she thinks she needs. Indecision is cowardly. It is perfectly human, but undignified. And this aching want won’t quit. She throws the driftwood as hard as she can into the oncoming waves and continues her stroll. She stops again and gazes down the endless, slippery boundary where ocean and land connect. She turns around and heads toward the parking lot. The atmosphere is somehow thicker and more oppressive in this direction. It is as if she is walking underwater. Her companion has gone up ahead somewhere to wait, having asked her questions. Death, the True Self, the Witness, whatever the specter calls herself, is always there, asking what really matters. She smiles as Iris struggles in response. Anyway, if Iris does it…if she finds the right phrasing, the right tone; if she comes out with it and says what needs to be said, she’d be deliberate, compassionate and mindful. She is not careless with people, generally speaking. She is afraid of hurting him. She is afraid to reshape her life. She is afraid of making this final break. She is afraid of everything. Otherwise this would be easy. Iris’s eyes are open. Even broken and bleeding, she will find a way to breathe again. Ultimately, she

knows who waits for her at the bottom of the pool or the ocean, way under the water. When Iris was eight, she was terrified in spite of her outer trappings. She had waited in line for what felt like eternity, but by the time she made it to the diving platform she’d begun to change her mind. The platform was packed and there was no way back down, so when it was her turn, she put a tentative toe onto the base of the highest diving board at the YMCA’s indoor pool. She extended her arms out to the sides, as if she were on a balance beam. The closer she got to the edge, the slicker and more unbalanced the board became. She was afraid she’d fall over a side edge before she made it all the way there. She felt like crying by the time she got to the end. Other, braver kids became agitated and yelled at her while she stalled. She wrapped her toes over the edge of the board and hugged her shoulders. Chlorine stung her nostrils. She didn’t dare cry because even the shuddery waves of her breath made the board wobble. An impatient girl whose turn was next stomped hard, making her flimsy support quake. She froze with panic for a moment and then looked over her shoulder, wishing there was a way back. Tears burned at the edges of her eyes. There was no way back. So, Iris held herself long and stiff, sucked in her breath, and jumped, carrying the weight of all that regret and fear along with her to the very bottom, until her feet touched concrete. Then she let go and found her way back to the surface.

The End © Copyright Karen Janowsky Published with permission. Karen@bluelotusyogafordepression.com

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feature authors

historical | contemporary | young adult

Jeanine Englert

Jennifer Wilck

Caleb Smith


jE A NINE EN G L ERT

J

eanine Englert is a Golden Heart ® Finalist and Daphne du Maurier Award winner in historical romantic suspense. After years of writing in secret, she joined Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers in 2013 and has been an active member ever since. She writes Scottish Highland historicals and historical romantic suspense novels.

S t ay C onnec t ed

When she isn’t wrangling with her characters on the page, she can be found trying to convince her husband to watch her latest Masterpiece or BBC show obsession. She loves to talk about books, writing, her beloved pups, and of course mysteries with other readers on Twitter @JeanineWrites, Facebook, or at her website www.jeaninewrites.com. Her debut novel, Lovely Digits, released in June of 2019 by Soul Mate Publishing, is a Victorian romantic suspense that won the 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award and was named a 2018 Golden Heart ® Finalist for best unpublished romantic suspense.

jeaninewrites.com


Please welcome Jeanine Englert

inspires them and their writing process.

Uncaged: Your debut novel, Lovely Digits, released in June 2019. Can you tell readers more about the book?

Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful?

Lovely Digits is a Victorian-era romantic suspense set in the town of Clun, England. It follows the story of layer-out of the dead, Lucy Wycliffe, and the new Constable, John Brodie, as they work together to solve two murders in their small town. Little does Lucy know that John is not really new to Clun and that he has an unusual and mysterious tie to her past. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I’m working on a new historical romantic suspense set in London in 1910 about a detective who falls for a thief, a thief he’s actually been looking for to fulfill a deathbed promise to his deceased father. Uncaged: What inspired you to write in the historical genre? Do you have to do a lot of research for your books? I have loved historical romances for as long as I can remember thanks to my grandmother. She used to sneak me romance novels whenever she would come to visit, such as Rebecca, and we’d watch old movies together like Wuthering Heights. And, yes, I do research for my books. My information comes from a variety of books, blogs, online resources, and even YouTube for live videos of my settings.

Since I am just now releasing my first book, I don’t know if I’d consider anything unsuccessful marketing. I do a variety of marketing including writer/ reader conferences, social media, and of course advertising to introduce myself to new readers. My favorite marketing tool is meeting readers and writers in person through my writing workshops. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? “I love the toe!” has been my favorite and most unusual comment. Once you read the excerpt of my book, this will make much more sense to you. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I love spending time with my husband and our two rescue pups. Being with them, anywhere, is my

Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Oh, so many! Jane Austen, Daphne Du Maurier, Julie Garwood, Anna Lee Huber, and Jude Deveraux to name a few. All of their books have fascinated me, drawn me in, and I’d love to know what Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | favorite place to be. My favorite places on Earth are Beech Mountain, NC, the Highlands of Scotland, anywhere in England, and I also love Ireland, especially Wicklow and the Aran Islands. I also love to read, watch BBC or Masterpiece shows, reruns of Murder, She Wrote and Perry Mason, . . . and some reality television, and to not have a schedule. As a serious introvert, I thrive when I don’t have plans. A weekend without plans equals heaven to me. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? Like anyone else, I have quirks. I don’t eat cereal with milk, but with yogurt. I could eat boxes of

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Swedish fish if you let me, and I am not the greatest cook. I think of myself as an artist that sees beauty in the most unsuspecting of places and music absolutely fuels my soul. I think I may also be the only person on the planet that has never watched a Game of Thrones episode. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? A big thank you for all of your love, support, and encouragement of me and my work. My greatest hope is that I write more books that become a reader’s “soft place to fall” when they need it, which is always what books have been to me. I can be found at my website, twitter, or my Facebook Author Page


Enjoy an excerpt from Lovely Digits Lovely Digits Jeanine Englert Historical Suspense When two murders strike the sleepy Victorian town of Clun, England, an unlikely partnership forms. But can the killer be found before there is a third? Lovely Digits is the town oddity… But quirky spinster Lucy Wycliffe prefers to ignore gossip and embrace her position as the town’s layer out of the dead, despite how her parents’ deaths thrust her into such unlikely work. Lovely Digits, as she’s known to the local townspeople, no longer dreams of marriage, but takes pride in providing dignity to the dead. Desperate to hold on to her family’s cottage and support her widowed sister and young niece, an unexpected offer of employment as assistant to the constable arrives at the perfect time. Former sailor John Brodie is the mysterious new constable… But John Brodie is far from a stranger to Clun or the events of its past. Accepting the position as constable in the small town is a double edged sword meant to heal his past and redeem his future, but falling for the beautiful and intelligent Lucy Wycliffe was never part of his plan. As the killer closes in, will John reveal his secret and risk losing everything to save Lucy’s life? Excerpt Clun, England February, 1839 Old Man Codger’s frozen toe rolled across the floor toward the door.

| JEANINE ENGLERT | tered. She blew an errant curl from her cheek as they swung the man’s stiff body onto the scarred wooden table in front of the hearth. The body landed with a thud. Blast. Lucy scanned the floor. Nothing. Where had it gone? She lifted her skirts. “There you are,” she grumbled. The rogue digit rested between the scuffed heels of her old brown boots. Using the edge of one of the sleeves of her faded blue blouse, she leaned down and clutched the rather putrid, large hairy toe and placed it on the man’s chest. Now she’d have to sew on a toe, too. A frozen toe. Perfect. Priscilla covered her mouth with the back of her hand and yielded a dry retch. Plugging her nose, she rolled her eyes. “There has to be another way.” Lucy eyed her pert younger sister and sighed. At thirteen, Cil was on the cusp of womanhood. There were so many things she would miss from their parents not being there to guide her. The guilt over the death of Mother and Father a month past stung like a barb under Lucy’s skin. If only she’d arrived home at the cottage sooner instead of lingering about the forest to find her pet starling. She banished the thought away. After tying back her hair, Lucy pushed up her sleeves to the elbow. “If there had been any other option, we’d have done it. It’s either prep him for burial or starve. It’s just us now, Cil.” The old man’s time in the woods had not been kind to him, but at least the extreme cold had kept the insects at bay. A white milky maggot dropped from his nose to the table. Lucy shuddered. Most of them. She loathed insects, especially worms. Things that could move without legs weren’t natural. “Hand me the needle and thread.” Lucy rested her hands on her hips. “I need to get this toe sewn back on when he thaws. I’ll not be docked pay for him missing parts.”

“Lord above. Mind the corner, sister,” Lucy mutIssue 36 | July 2019 |

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jennifer w i lck Uncaged welcomes Jennifer Wilck Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about yourself and your books?

J

ennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after. In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. When she’s not writing, she loves to laugh with her family and friends, is a pro at finding whatever her kids lost in plain sight, and spends way too much time closing doors that should never have been left open in the first place. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate. She writes contemporary romance, some of which are mainstream and some of which involve Jewish characters. She’s published with The Wild Rose Press and all her books are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and The Wild Rose Press.

Stay Connected

jenn ife r wilc k .c o m

I’m a contemporary romance writer and I write both mainstream romance and romance featuring Jewish characters—some are standalone books and some are part of a series. I’m a hybrid author, published with The Wild Rose Press, and self-published as well. In the real world, I’m the mom of two college-aged daughters and a rescue pup who rules the house. I’m a Jersey girl, so snark and sass are part of my character. I always plan dessert first, and my super-power is the ability to melt teapots, even the stainless steel variety. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I always have a few worksin-progress. My critique partners are helping me get a four-book series (mainstream romance) into shape for submission somewhere. The series follows four wealthy men who use their money to help others, and the women who challenge their ideas of love. If you like tortured heroes, this is for you. I’m also writing another Jewish romance about two people who dated in high school, separated when they got older and rediscovered each other when she returns to her hometown for the holidays. Uncaged: Why romance? What was the draw to writing in the romance genre?


work again and what doesn’t work one time might work next time. I do a lot of online marketing, and there are a number of e-newsletters that I’ve found success with, as well as BookBub ads. There’s also a great book festival in Doylestown, PA that attracts a lot of readers and resulted in a lot of sales for me. And I loved getting the chance to meet readers in person.

I love happily ever after. Writing characters who can beat the odds, fall in love and find happiness makes me happy. And in this world, when things are so crazy in real life, there’s nothing better than to escape into a book. Uncaged: Do you prefer an e-reader or the physical book? Honestly, I don’t have a preference. E-readers make it simple to have a huge TBR list (which I do), but physical books are lovely to hold and smell and read. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I’d love to sit with any of the authors at the Algonquin Hotel, especially Dorothy L. Sayers. I think it would be fascinating to listen to them talk about literary criticism. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? Marketing is so difficult. What works one time won’t

Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? Readers often comment on the amount of food I mention in my books—sometimes they like that and other times they don’t. Even characters have to eat. :) Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I love taking photos of nature, as well as planting flowers and bulbs. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling with my husband, whether it’s a vacation or a day trip. My favorite place on Earth? That’s tough because there are so many places I still want to visit—Europe, Africa, Israel, and parts of the US. But I love anything old with history that I can immerse myself in. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | about you? I don’t know how unique I am, but I’m an only child, I hear my characters talk in my head (sometimes with accents) before I fall asleep and although I’m a huge planner in real life, I don’t plot my books beforehand. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love talking to readers—in person or online—and I appreciate any and all reviews

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Enjoy an excerpt from Learning to Love Learning to Love Jennifer Wilck Contemporary Romance Dina Jacobs is a single librarian who has never fit in due to her off-the-charts intelligence, frizzy hair and rounder-than-sociallyacceptable figure. She left her past behind until she receives an invitation to her ten-year high school reunion, and all her insecurities return. Adam Mandel is a single corporate attorney who just missed his third deadline at his father’s law firm, the law firm where he is up for junior partner. With his reputation on the line, Adam needs all the help he can get to convince his father that he deserves the promotion. When Dina and Adam run into each other on a deserted road, Dina thinks Mr. Flashypants can’t possibly be interested in someone like her. Adam thinks Dina is just the person to help him improve his reputation. Lies and insecurities force them to take a look at themselves. Can they trust each other to look beyond the surface? Excerpt Adam called her every day over the next two weeks. They went out on dates during the week and spent at least one day a weekend together. And they didn’t have sex. Prior to Adam, Dina would never have characterized herself as sex-starved. She never would have characterized herself as “sex” anything if she were completely honest. She’d had boyfriends—mostly several years older, since she used to relate better to older men who appreciated a woman with a brain. She kept a box of

| JENNIFER WILCK | condoms under her bed. The box was open, and several condoms were missing. But sex was never something she thought about very often. After Adam?
She thought about sex constantly.
His desire to take things slow, to woo her, or whatever crackpot idea in his mind, while lovely, drove her mad. The rom-com movie they’d gone to? She barely focused. The scent of his aftershave, mingled with the buttery popcorn smell, almost made her hyperventilate. The night they’d gone to a karaoke bar? It was a damn good thing the words of the songs played in front of her, because his arm wrapped around her sent tingles up and down her spine and if not for the teleprompter, she wouldn’t remember a single word.
She couldn’t recollect the taste of any of the food they’d eaten, since the only taste she could recall was his mouth and his skin. And today they were going ice-skating. She’d be lucky if the heat of her desire for him didn’t melt the ice beneath her feet and send her plunging into the frigid waters. At least she’d finally be able to cool off. Her apartment buzzer sounded, and she grabbed her skates and skipped down the stairs to meet Adam. She would jump him after skating and convince him they needed to have sex. Today. Still thinking about all the ways she would convince Adam to have sex with her, she didn’t see him on her wide front porch until she was on top of him. He grabbed her by the elbows, ostensibly to keep them both from toppling. It was the perfect opportunity to press herself against him and kiss his lips. “Whoa, there,” he said against her mouth. “In a hurry?” To have sex with you. “I didn’t want to keep you waiting.” I wonder what sex on the porch would be like? He nipped her lower lip, and she melted against him, dropping her skates and wrapping her arms around his neck. He groaned and pulled away. “Come on, the ice awaits.” Definitely going to melt through it. Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | With a sigh, she picked up her skates and followed him into the car. “I thought Mennen Arena would be a better option,” he said as he pulled out into traffic. “I never fully trust the lake is frozen, no matter how many people skate on it.” Well, at least she wouldn’t drown when she melted the ice. Once they parked and paid for ice time, they sat on the bench and laced their skates. Adam took her hand in his and they both stepped onto the ice. Pushing off with her left foot, she dropped his hand as she adjusted to the ice. Adam was a strong skater, and graceful, too. Dina hadn’t skated since she was a teenager and was invited to some little cousin’s birthday party. She’d spent most of the time supporting the younger kids so they wouldn’t fall down, and her current skills were rusty. But with Adam’s help, after a couple of laps, she perfected the rhythm and balance. This time, she seized his hand and squeezed. His mouth broadened in a grin. She tripped, and he grabbed her waist. “You okay?” They still moved, and Adam pressed her against his side, seeming reluctant to let her go though she’d regained her balance after a stroke or two. “I’m fine.” This time, she didn’t look at his face. It was hard enough to concentrate pressed against him, feeling his muscles move, his warm breath tickling her neck. He glided with ease, his strokes sure. They skated around the rink in silence, until he spun them around. She caught her breath and gasped as the lights in the rink twinkled and his warm body enveloped her. Closing her eyes at the dizzying sensation, she let him spin them across the ice, until finally he stopped in the center. She opened her eyes to see him staring. “Like it?” he asked. She nodded and took his hand as he moved. “Where’d you learn to skate?” His stride faltered, but he righted himself. If she wasn’t close to him, she probably wouldn’t have noticed his misstep. He stared across the rink. “My mother taught me.” 80 | UncagedBooks.com

“It must have been nice.”
He shrugged.
“Did you two skate together often?”
He waited so long to answer, she thought he would remain silent. But he finally answered.
“She took me skating every Saturday. Afterward, we’d go out for fresh donuts at this local bakery. It’s no longer there.” The “neither is she” remained unspoken, but Dina heard it loud and clear. “How old were you when she left?” He glided with her and from the corner of her eye, she could see him swallow. “Seven.” She squeezed his hand, wanting to say something comforting. But what did you say to someone whose mother left him? “For a long time, I blamed myself,” he said. “Now I mostly blame my father.” His “mostly” comment told her more than anything else he’d said, because no matter how much blame he’d shifted to his father, Dina would bet a part of him blamed himself. Especially when the father he blamed was distant as well. Suddenly, his questions about why Dina stayed with him made sense. Everyone who was supposed to love him had left, either physically or emotionally. Her throat hurt from the urge to cry. Instead, she squeezed his hand again and rested her cheek on his shoulder for a brief moment before concentrating on remaining upright. “My dad used to take me to the library every Friday afternoon,” she said. “He’d come home early for Shabbat, and we’d go borrow enough books to last me through the weekend.” “So that’s where you get your love of reading.” She nodded. “To this day, my arms ache from carrying too many books every time I go into the children’s section.” “Do your parents still live around here?” She shook her head. “No, they moved to St. Louis when I was in college. My dad’s a professor at a university there.” “And are they all as smart as you?” She glanced sideways at him, but he didn’t tease her. “My dad is a physics professor, my mom is a linguist, and my two brothers are doctors.” He turned so he skated backward, facing her. “Yeah,


| JENNIFER WILCK | but are they as smart as you?” It was the first time someone heard her family’s professions and didn’t make some comment about her only being a librarian. It was also the first time a man her own age valued her intelligence. She swallowed. Her heart rate sped up and the tears she’d swallowed before prickled behind her eyelids. She blinked quickly before she answered. “We’re all pretty smart.” With a nod, he resumed skating. “It’s hard living up to family expectations, real or imaginary,” he said. She never thought anyone would understand what it was like to live in the shadow of her brilliant family, but Adam understood immediately. A knot somewhere inside, one she’d always picked at, loosened. This man, this amazing, complicated man— “I’m thirsty,” Adam said. “Want to stop for a drink?” It took her a few seconds to process what he said and by the time she did, they reached the exit. They hobbled over to the refreshment stand, where Adam ordered two hot chocolates and two bottled waters. Finding an empty table in the back, they sat and people-watched. Or rather, Adam people-watched.
Dina Adamwatched.
His innate understanding of her, and his demonstration of vulnerability made him more attractive. He gulped most of the water in the water bottle. His throat worked, and the light shone on his skin. His hand wrapped around the bottle, the same hand that cupped her jaw when he kissed her, or her neck when he drew her close. His lips pursed around the mouth of the bottle, water moistening them, and she licked her own lips with desire. He returned the bottle to the table and the clap of it against the Formica made her jump. She drank her own water, slaking her physical thirst, but leaving her sexual desire unfulfilled. Steam rose from her hot chocolate in wisps. She didn’t need anything to make her hotter. “Not a fan?” Adam asked. He nodded toward her cup. “Oh, it’s hot. I’m letting it cool a little.” And me. “What do you think their story is?” He indicated a couple two tables over. They both focused on their phones, looking to everyone else as if they paid no attention to each other. “Brother and sister,” Dina said.

Adam stared at them a moment longer. “I think they’re sending each other dirty texts.” Dina choked on the hot chocolate she’d sipped and her eyes watered. Adam leaned over to help her and she waved him away. Her throat stung from the heat of the liquid, but she got herself under control and wiped her mouth with a napkin before she spoke. “You’re unfair.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Because you can’t tell a person something like that while they’re drinking.”
 “Should I have texted it instead,” he asked with a wink.
 She rolled her eyes. “You’re impossible.” But her neck heated at the thought of the content of those texts and she tried to distract herself. “Do you have any?” “Dirty texts?” He pulled out his phone and Dina squeaked. “No!” People around them turned and she ducked, hearing Adam chuckle softly. “Siblings. Brothers or sisters.” His relaxed exterior changed once again, tightening, and growing wary. His jaw vibrated, as if he clenched and unclenched his teeth. “No, just me.” “I’ll bet it has its advantages.” He stared into his hot chocolate. “I never thought about it really. What’s it like having siblings?” “Complicated. It’s like being in an unending competition, where the stakes are constantly raised.” “At least they provide a distraction.” She waited for him to explain further, but he remained silent, and she could almost see him erect his walls. Only this time, they weren’t quite as high. She’d knocked a few bricks down, and she was determined to tackle the rest. If he’d let her.

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C A L E B S MITH Stay Connected

C

aleb Smith is an author from Bangor Maine. He studied Business Administration at the University of Maine and is a member of Phi Eta Kappa fraternity. He is a life student to Christianity, Gnostic Anthropology and the greater mysteries of life. Caleb works for a large transportation company in freight management. He starting writing 13 years ago as a hobby which has now turned into a second full time job.

Uncaged welcomes Caleb Smith Uncaged: You released your debut novel, Longevity – can you tell readers more about the book? It’s about a boy named Noah Thomas, a shy loaner struggling to adapt to his middle school surroundings. He faces many conflicts and challenges because he is different and due to his size, an easy target to bully. He befriends an unlikely Wendy Sherman, strong and sassy, a no-nonsense girl who is raised by her father and brother and new to town. Wendy helps Noah find the confidence he lacks which is the start of a new path for Noah. He finds an unordinary bookshop one day on the run from the punks that terrorize him at school. The shop turns to be his saving grace or so he thinks. It is there that Noah finds a path to the Akashic Records and a greater 4th dimension. He befriends two twin angels that help him along the way in discovering his capabilities. In his fantastical quest he 82 | UncagedBooks.com


finds a stray book one day on the roof of a library. The book turns out to be a lost akashic tablet locked tight by key. Against his inner wisdom, Noah precedes to break into the book but when he does all hell tears loose. The story turns to horror as dark energies are released and take the bodies of nearby creatures. The town erupts in murder and chaos as the creatures wreak havoc. It is now up to Noah to use everything he has learned to fight back and help stop what he started. Along the way Noah acquires a mysterious cat he calls Keeper who turns out to be a true guardian. Noah is pushed beyond measure in his trials to battle blood thirsty demons and hells

creatures that want him dead. Uncaged: Are you planning on writing more in this world? Yes indeed, much more to come! This will be a series of books that explores different geographical places throughout. While some towns are fictional, I like to blend in actual facts and locations to better help build the fantasy elements. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I am currently working on the next book in the Longevity

series. I am really excited about this one! It will be a completely different kind of story taking place in medievil Scotland. I am shaping a historical time line that will encompass the English Scottish conflict that started to heat up with the strong thumb of King Edward I of England and the southern clans of Scotland. I will introduce a new series of characters and a protagonist that is connected to Noah’s blood line. It is my goal to bring fantasy back to its roots in this novel. It will be rich with elemental life and hidden worlds of magic and mystery. There will be some graphic art in this book to better embellish its magical elements. It will be a classical style fantasy tale and I hope to have the first draft completed by September. Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What is your inspiration to write in the fantasy genre? Do you have plans to write in other genres as well? I love Fantasy and the magic it is. I love the greater mysteries. I love thinking outside of the box and being a positive person. I hope the messages from my stories spread hope and inspiration to help others discover who they truly are and their greatest potentials. I have found that our minds work greater than we think. These stories are about believing in yourself against all odds to achieve one’s highest potential in the physical world and beyond. I also enjoy history and plan to release a few historical titles down the road as project outlines are already in place. When taking a break from long hand writing, I move to poetry. Poetry has helped me to discover my voice and style. It has been my best tool to improvement as a growing writer. I have multiple poetry collections that I would one day like to publish. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? To sit and have lunch with George MacDonald, C.S Lewis and J.R.R Toiken at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford England would be ahhhhh, beyond amazing. I would want to discuss philosophy, and how they incorporate their life experience within their writings. I would also love to discuss what fantasy writing means to them and their overall experience in the genre. Since this is a loaded question, I would also love to sit down for lunch with Stephen King. We could go to Nicky’s Cruisin’ Diner right in Bangor and talk about the Red Sox, Rock & Roll bands and writing. Id have many questions for him in reference to growing up in Maine and how it helped to shape his stories. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? 84 | UncagedBooks.com

What was the least successful? I have found most success in getting out there and meeting people face to face. I recently set up a table at my local comic-con and was very happy that I did! I sold a bunch of books, met a lot of really nice writers and artists alike! And got my name and story out into my local market! It was great! I plan to do more conventions later this fall and through next winter. Least success so far was an amazon promotion I paid for to get more beta readers to read my book, rate and post reviews. The promotion promised up to a minimum of 10 readers to review and post on Amazon. I understand that this takes some time, But I have yet to receive what I paid for in regards to that. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I had someone ask me if I could name a character after them in my next book. I wasn’t ready for that one and said, “Ahhh, Sure?” lol Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I like coffee or tea with my latest read in the morning. I like to lift weights. I like to meditate and study different spiritual and philosophical texts and findings. I like nature walks and hikes. I love to be on the water and I adore golf. I play at least 18 holes a week in the summer months. One of my favorite places is Seal Cove, a little fishing village off the coast of Maine. It’s located on Mount Desert Island in a small town called Treemont. I’ve been going there since I was a kid so a lot of good memories fishing, picnicking and eating lobster on the rocks of the beach. We have a family plot there and would one day love to put up a cabin.


| HANNAH R. GOODMAN |

I have found most success in getting out there and meeting people face to face.

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I’m a lefty by nature but golf right handed. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I would first like to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart for giving me a shot. I really appreciate all the good feed back I have received from the Wardens of Time. There is much more to come in the Longevity series with the next book being written with inspiration from the pioneers of the fantasy genre. I will be putting up a website in the near future, I’ll keep everyone posted. You can all follow me on my Facebook page, Twitter, Goodreads and Amazon Author Central.

Enjoy an excerpt from Longevity: The Wardens of Time Longevity Caleb Smith Young Adult Fantasy Noah Thomas is a scrawny seventh grader who is bullied to the brink in his new town. Friendless, except for sassy tomboy Wendy Sherman, who seems to lend him the confidence he needs to stand up to his oppressors. Upon stumbling into a bookshop one afternoon while on the run from some teenaged tyrants, Noah is hurled into an unexplainable adventure. Noah learns that the bookshop does, in fact, lead to 86 | UncagedBooks.com

the Akashic Records – a place that holds all spirit lives recorded in tablets of light. With this new found knowledge, Noah begins to grow in wisdom and confidence to face his fears. His biggest challenge comes in the form of five demonic spirits that he accidentally lets loose from a lost tablet. Will Noah succeed with the help of his guardian angel cat he calls Keeper, or will all Hell’s henchman prevail? Excerpt He flung his backpack on the bed and slowly retrieved the treasure, pulling the book out and setting it on his lap, his heart thumping audibly. Then, reaching into his pocket, he grasped the key in his small, soft palm. With his opposite hand, he traced the outline of the lock with his fingers, praying for a match. “Please,” he whispered. Noah studied the key willing it to fit, and closed his eyes. Please let this work! He gently placed it in the lock and twisted right, and the releasing lock sounded like a giant volt latch. It clicked open with authority and echo. The book cover shook and convulsed, though it was still contained in the snug, metal framing. Noah slid the book free. There was no turning back now. Several miles away, the twins recoiled in horror from an awful stench. As soon as the scent lifted into the air, they had known: an olfactory desperation had escaped into the atmosphere and covered its bile over all of humanity. They stopped mid-step and locked eyes. The worst had come true: they had been unable to recover, in time, what they had been looking for. Spurred into action now, they sprang forth, running down a path they hoped would bring them to the source of horror. They ran through houses, buildings and cars – mastering all three-dimensional structures, while still invisible to the human eye. They could do anything on the physical plane; they were, after all, “supermen.” A lightening-speed stride brought them to the epicenter of this demonic saturation, the home of Noah Thomas. The twins looked at each other; they should have known better! They reached the side of the building from which No-


| CALEB SMITH | ah’s room could easily be seen, and the twins walked through the exterior wall, making themselves visible. Noah was knocked unconscious and appeared lying on the floor, wedged against debris and a corner wall space. The book was on the floor, alive and open, shaking wildly, while the magic of dark energies poured from its depths. There was a flow of freed evil creatures clawing out through the window and into the night air. Enoch scooped the book up and slammed it shut like great, heavy iron doors locking into place. Elijah was busy containing all the damned energies he could catch, holding them tightly until their essence spontaneously combusted into cosmic dust and the window shattered. The night wind howled angrily. With the wave of his land, Elijah repaired the window to its normal state, and Enoch found the metal sleeve to lock this lost Akashic tablet, sliding both book and key into his deep pocket. Elijah then moved to Noah’s aid, ignoring the result of the mayhem that had occurred in this room. He cradled Noah’s head and lifted his torso. Noah awakened to the sight of the two pillars of heaven towering over him and shining light into his eyes. He was not as shocked as he should have been. He quickly remembered what he had done, and then Elijah set him on his feet to stand. He wished he was more surprised to see them, but he knew full well the reason for their visit. “Do you know what you have done, Noah?” Enoch gently asked. The weary boy hung his head and replied, “Yes, Sir. I’m very sorry, I let my selfish desires get the best of me.” “Why did you not come to us with the book. You must have known it was something meant to be in our possession.” “My instinct was overruled by curiosity.” “You understand we now have a giant mess to clean up. There are dark creatures that have escaped the walls of security. They will negatively impact the people of this community, slowly turning it against itself. You do understand this?” “I do now.” Noah replied as if a cowering dog. “Stand up straight, boy. You may have done wrong, but you will have a chance to redeem yourself now that my brother and I will be keeping a closer eye

on you,” Enoch scolded. “What is most important is that we are now in possession of the book. The bad news is we have to track and capture the monsters that poured out,” Elijah added. “Or, we could just crush them,” Enoch retorted in a hulk-like voice, clenching his fist. “Yes, we could do that, too, brother,” Elijah said, shooting his twin a concerned look. Most of Noah’s life had been spent trying to stay clear of trouble and not contributing to anything that would cause distress to others. So, arriving at his current situation brought him a great deal of stress. He felt duly chagrined. “I’m really sorry. You both have introduced me to so much, and now I am causing you nothing but grief.” “There is no time to be sorry,” Elijah said. “You must now take everything we have shown you and put it to use. There is still a lot of training you need, but this will be your greatest introduction.” Noah thought the instructional books had been the introduction. Enoch had read Noah’s thoughts and answered the question before asked. “The introduction books were nothing more than a tool to test your innate abilities. You showed us what we were looking for. The real work has only just begun. We will teach you how to hunt and trap. It will be a vital tool in your defensive arsenal.” Noah quickly crawled out of his stupor. “When do we start?” “We started when you opened that book.” Elijah answered.

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fang-FREAKIN-tastic reviews

feature author

welcomes

Rhys A. Wilcox


| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR |

rhys a wilcox Rhys A Wilcox has been writing in various forms and shades of comedy for many years: a regular presence on Portsmouth stage during the 90s with songs, poetry and sketches for revue shows; three years of successful, original pantomimes for a mature audience; and a stint of stand-up comedy. He found that it was the writing rather than performing that satisfied his artistic muse and his first novel, the comedy-horror Blood Lust, was published in 2002. Since then there has been a new revision, four more titles in the series and a stand-alone science fiction novel.

Q: How would you describe your Blood Lust series to new readers? A: I would say they are a novelisation of 80s comedy series The Young Ones if it had been written by Quentin Tarantino. I have blended comedy and horror by mixing explicit language, sex and violence with fast paced action, witty dialogue and pop-culture references. Q: Where did the inspiration for that come from? A: I’d started a few narratives experimenting with fantasy elements encroaching on the real world but none could sustain my attention for a whole novel. Then 1992 managed to spark something: Innocent Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Reservoir Dogs amazed me. I loved the idea of a ‘good’ vampire protagonist, the juxtaposition of generic tropes in a world that knows they’re generic and the rich tapestry of brutal effing and 90 | UncagedBooks.com

jeffing. Q: Are there any authors who encouraged you? A: I was an active reader at school and would plough through a number of hard-core, pulp action novels but also loved the wit and word play of authors like Douglas Adams and Tom Sharpe, and the world building of Harry Harrison (specifically his Stainless Steel Rat series). I wouldn’t dare suggest that my work was a reflection of theirs; just that my love of reading them sparked a love of writing, genre subversion and language. Q: What can you tell us about your characters and narrative? A: The stories are relatively simple: ‘stop the evil; save the world; don’t die in the process’ (or two out of three) with Cameron as my focal protagonist becoming a vampire but not really being a completely endearing character (alive or dead). He has many flaws which is why people enjoy the cartoonish violence I punish him with. He’s on a journey of self-discovery and redemption blah, blah, blah but he feels like he’s being coerced into it and isn’t even sure he wants to find out who is or be a better person. I think he’s got a pretty solid crew of supporting characters who are far more appealing and all bring personalised sass to the table. As I progress in the series, I focus on a slightly different narrative genre for each title: Blood Lust is vampires, The Carrion is zombies, Revelations is Hell and so on. Q: How many of the series have you published and how much further do you plan to go?


| RHYS A. WILCOX |

A: I’m currently writing book six (which is actually titled part 5) but have thirteen concepts in total already mapped out. A couple of them are spin offs but still integral to the complete story. Q: Is that all you do? A: I have also published Aftermath, which is a sci-fi, set in a courtroom watching a special hearing for a man who just saved the world from being culled by alien forces. The events of the invasion are revealed from multiple perspectives as the case unfolds to decide whether the man who saved every life on the planet could / should be tried for the possible murder of one person. It’s fun. I’ve also finished a younger reader’s title about a self-empowering fairy. I wanted to see if I could write something ‘safer’ that I wouldn’t mind the mother-in-law reading. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from it and am currently working with an illustrator to get that published before the end of the year. Q: What can you tell us about the current novel you are working on? A: Many life changing events have happened to Cameron since becoming a vampire and he’s now had enough of the supernatural. In an attempt to achieve some sense of normalcy, he gets a job in London cold-selling investment packages. Oh, and Arthur Pendragon wakes up suggesting Britain is facing its most desperate plight or something. It might have something to do with all the bombs going off in London. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RhysAWilcox/ Twitter: @rhysawilcox Good Reads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/ show/726438.Rhys_A_Wilcox

Enjoy an excerpt from Blood Lust Blood Lust Rhys A. Wilcox Humorous/Horror

Cameron Mortice has always taken the path of least resistance, which usually means he does nothing. Predictably, when he, his girlfriend and her friends get dragged into a full-scale vampire invasion he just goes with the flow and gets killed too. Then things go from bad to worse for him. With an age-old vampire hunter, supposedly, helping them through it all, the youths set their priorities to destroy the vampire menace and survive to see another day. Q: How can you fight against an army of superstrength, immortal beings with no morals and no compunction about ripping your head off and sucking on the open wound? A: High calibre, automatic weapons. Well, if you think about it, a bullet is just a very small metal stake. Blood Lust is a high energy, situation-comedy that takes every cliché in the vampire chronicles and gives it new life to produce a tongue-in-cheek, schlock horror, action adventure that just doesn’t know when to stop. Until it does. Excerpt Zorga and Junior were waiting in front of the huge freezer. They were watching the double doors that led back to the dining area which, suddenly, flew off their hinges and clattered to the floor. Cameron stood in the entrance with a menacing expression on his face and behind him were his four compatriots of various shades of mortality. “This ends now,” Cameron said. Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | Junior sniggered and bit his lips together to hold back his mirth. Cameron was thrown slightly by this reaction and contemplated that it could be some kind of trap. So he reached out with his mind in an attempt to identify any other vampires in the vicinity but there were none close enough to prove any great threat at this present moment. “Indeed it does end now,” Zorga said, “but I believe it will be our story that features in the epilogue of this little adventure.” Junior lifted the lever to the door of the freezer and as the door swung open the frozen air poured over the floor and swirled around the feet of everyone. “I have a very bad feeling about this,” Danny said as the five heroes peered into the gloom in front of them. “It’s too dark in there.” “Oh there you go again, Danny,” Cassandra chided. “If there were any vampires in there then Cameron would have...” she thought she saw movement from within. There was a slight shuffling followed by a hellish scream and a silvery, glistening body hurled itself from the freezer at the group of enemies of evil. It struck Cameron with the force of a speeding Volvo and he was knocked backward into his allies which sent them all flying to the floor of the dining room. “I believe that is what you would call a strike,” Zorga said. “Quite so, Lord,” Junior agreed. “Ten points.” Cameron looked up at the face of his attacker; the ice-covered vampire had an expression of extreme concern across its face. He was just about to hit back when one of the demon’s arms fell off its body. It looked somewhat distressed about this and became even more upset when it tumbled to the ground as one of its legs sheared off at the knee. Upon hitting the floor, its head snapped off and its torso split in two across its chest. It howled pathetically and its jaw dropped off. It seemed to emit a fizzing noise and then a 92 | UncagedBooks.com

light burst from it and poured into Junior causing him to reel for a second. “What happened?” Zorga demanded. “I don’t understand,” Junior replied with absolute honesty. From the vision of a Hell frozen over, more shambling vampire ice pops emerged. One attempted to raise its arms to reach out for the fallen freedom fighters but both limbs fell off at the shoulders. “You have got to be joking,” Cameron said to the confused demons of darkness. He stood and punched the harmless, armless aggressor in the chest; it shattered into a thousand fragments and a burst of light. Two more vampires that came from the freezer rubbed shoulders during their struggle to be the first to enter the fray and stuck to one another. As they tried to pull themselves free of each other, one split in half from its shoulder down to its navel and the other stumbled sideways, lost a leg to the corner of a work surface and its head to a saucepan that hung from a rack from the ceiling. “I don’t think we gave them enough time to defrost,” Junior told his master as another soldier of his arctic army came out, slipped on its frozen feet and shattered on the floor. The five disorientated defenders of decency watched with amazement and slight disappointment as, one after another, Captain Birdseye’s sub-zero sanguinarians emerged, made a menacing motion, then toppled to the ground in a tangle of frigid limbs. They shook their head and grimaced in embarrassment. They had not noticed that Zorga had legged it again.


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Uncaged Reviews Pirate Bound Carysa Locke SciFi

A desperate gamble… Sanah would do anything to protect her little sister, even if it means taking refuge with ruthless pirates. But the psychically Talented pirates terrorizing Commonwealth space are not quite the monsters she has been led to believe. When Sanah’s empathic gift shows her the truth behind the stories, she is no longer certain who the villains are in her world.

Uncaged Review: SciFi is a genre that is really hit or miss for me. I either really like it, or I’m really bored with it. This one falls directly into the former. Some books can get over technical and the gadgets and scifi wording gets to the point where you feel you need a degree in science to figure it all out, but this book keeps the language smart, the technology is superior as it should be in this genre, but it’s also easy to understand to us less-than-a-technological-wizard readers. Even though this is touted as a novella, it’s really a complete story – and this one revolves around Sanah and Dem. It also gives you a good start to this series, and a good background. One of the cons for this, is you have to pay attention to the beginning of each chapter, as this book does flip point of views on each chapter, and although it can be confusing at times, it gives the reader the advantage of seeing more of the entire picture. Great book for debut, and looking forward to this series. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Prairie Heat Tessa Layne Contemporary Western Romance He Shouldn’t Want Her... Blake Sinclaire knows he shouldn’t want Maddie Hansen - she’s the daughter of his family’s enemy, and not to be trusted. It doesn’t matter she’s got a mind that won’t quit, curves for days, and a sassy sweet mouth that drives Blake to distraction. Her father stole his family’s land, and Blake will do anything - anything to get it back.

Uncaged Review: The Sinclaire’s and the Hansen’s. Two families that have been at odds with each other for so many years, that you instantly think of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. I went into this book, thinking about all the other western romances I’ve read, but this book really surprised me. The twists and turns this book takes is riveting, and the author doesn’t leave you hanging in the end, it’s wrapped up nicely in an epilogue. The secondary characters are as interesting as the main in this book, and it will be great to see them get their own space in more of this series. Well worth picking up. Just be warned, there is some heat to the book and some language. It didn’t bother me personally and it didn’t affect my rating or pull me out of the story at all, but others may not be OK with it. Reviewed by Cyrene


Dragons & Demigods Orlando A. Sanchez Urban Fantasy Revenge is a dish best served cold…unless dragons are involved. Then make it hot, flaming hot. George Rott wants revenge. After the death of his daughter, Cassandra, he vowed to find and destroy all the dragons. When he locates one of their hidden enclaves within the city, he enlists the help of an angry and unstable demigod to make them all pay.

Uncaged Review: I’m still not convinced that Mr. Sanchez isn’t a genius that has snuck out of Hogwarts. The author’s imagination for the different magic that is used in these books, and the detail that is explained, is off the charts. Now he’s pulling off terrifying dragons and demigods. Seriously, I’m running out of good things to say about this series. I get so lost in the book, that it takes me a bit to unwind my brain for normal life. This is an action packed series and this book even deals with how someone deals with the death of a loved one, but still doesn’t go into that dark place – does it with realistic emotions and you feel the pain. I wasn’t sure how Monty, Simon and Peaches were going to get out of this one, and I’m not giving anything away. But it’s a great ride, and this series deserves more than 5 stars. Reviewed by Cyrene

Windy City Dragon Genevieve Jack Paranormal Romance Can love remind him of who he truly is? One kiss thrusts Tobias into the dark underground world of Chicago’s vampires where his dragon nature is his only hope of protecting Sabrina. But Sabrina knows the only way to keep him safe is to push him away.

Uncaged Review: The second book in this series, and I have to say, I think I like this one even better than the first one. Could it be because it’s set in Chicago – and the aptly subscribed frigid winter? Probably not, but it didn’t hurt that it’s set in a city I love and go to whenever I get a chance. In book one, The Dragon of New Orleans, we met Gabriel and Raven. This outing, we are getting to know Gabriel’s brother Tobias, whom we did meet in book one. This dragon world that the author has created, has grown in leaps and bounds in this installment. Tobias has lived his life as a human doctor for centuries, denying his dragon, keeping it under tight control. Until a nurse - the human-vampire hybrid Sabrina - is put in danger and his dragon demands release to protect his “mate.” Gabriel and Raven are back to help Tobias, and there is so much emotional growth from Tobias – that the reader is glued to the pages as they all become a family and fight for each other. The danger, suspense and romance kept me up late into the night, and makes me wish for a dragon of my own. Can’t wait for the next installment. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews Claimed Evangeline Anderson SciFi Romance

Never Let Me Fall Abbie Roads Psychic Romance/Thriller

Olivia Waterhouse has just graduated from nursing school and has her whole life ahead of her—until she gets drafted. Problem is, she isn’t being forced into the Army, she’s been chosen as a Kindred bride.

Thomas Brown can’t see color, but he can see people’s true souls. His abilities allow him to work with criminal investigators and deliver justice to families of the wronged. And he’s starting to accept that his life will forever be in black and white...

Uncaged Review: The Kindred is an alien race that is mostly male, and have protected the planet from the Scourge – and in return there is a lottery where women are drafted to become brides for the Kindred, and the chances of being chosen is just as slim as winning the lottery – but Liv – gets the call. Liv is resistant and if she can resist the one that will take her as his mate for one month, she will be able to return to Earth.

Uncaged Review: This is an intense dark romance – with a smidgen of pararnormal. This is a good Psychological Thriller surrounded by this romance, and the twist and turns the book takes may leave you shaking your head and asking “what the hell just happened?” It took a bit longer for me to grow an attachment to the characters, and I did not read the first two books in the series. I think this held up well as a standalone, and the first time reading this author, so that may have played a part. This book will stay with you long after your done reading, and it’s hard to put down once you are reading. When I hit the 50% mark, the storyline went to a new level. A good romance if you’re looking for something with a little more bite. Reviewed by Cyrene

I liked the originality, some of the SciFi parts weren’t really up to par with others I’ve read, but the story was entertaining and held my interest. Although this is marketed as a SciFi Erotic, it really isn’t that hardcore, at least until the end of the book and even then, it’s no more than any other romance, so if you like SciFi romance, you will probably like this one. I saw a few inconsistencies, the biggest one is that women are supposed to be cherished by the Kindred, and when Liv walks into an area of all unattached Kindred on the ship, she’s in danger of being raped and claimed – seems like the opposite of cherish. Danger, action and romance fits this bill with an engaging supporting cast. Reviewed by Cyrene

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The Shadow Prince Stacey O’Neale Young Adult Fantasy

Sixteen-year-old Rowan is an elemental prince. Banished to the mortal world, he doubts he will ever return to Avalon and claim the fire court throne. Until he receives a challenge from his estranged mother. If he slays Kalin, the half-human, half-elemental princess and heir to the court of air, she will abdicate her throne. Is he capable of completing such a heinous task? And what price he will pay if he refuses?

Uncaged Review: This is a really good prequel for this series, although it does have some parts that are not fully explained, it’s a good start. Rowan has been living in the mortal world among humans since his monstrous mother, Queen Prisma banished him. But now, he receives word that she is ready to abdicate her thrown to him and it’s time to return to Avalon. But the price that Rowan will have to pay may be too great.. I like the premise of the series, and this is a well written beginning – and the reader will get a good feel for the characters. There are still a lot of questions, but I’m sure they will become clear as the series progresses. Reviewed by Cyrene

Angel’s Flight Ella Summers Urban Fantasy

The old saying is true. Knowledge really is power, especially when angels and gods play the game. The original Immortals, masters of magic, once reigned over every world in the known universe— until they suddenly vanished. The gods and demons have been fighting over the remains of their fractured empire ever since.

Uncaged Review: This is a series that I jump on as soon as the latest book is out. It’s also a series that I wish I had the time to go back to the beginning and re-read. This book starts out right after the previous one, and Leda is a new angel, getting used to her new powers and wings. But she doesn’t get much downtime before the action starts. This book is non-stop, with a nice dash of romance and Nero and Leda’s relationship continues to build and strengthen. On top of everything else going on, controlled monsters are getting into Purgatory, and whomever is controlling them needs to be stopped before the monsters take over. The action, humor and romance are all present, and this is a series that just keeps getting better and better. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews The Bride and the Brute Laurel O’Donnell Medieval Historical

Jayce Cullen has been fighting her fear of thunder and lightning ever since she was a child, but nothing could have prepared her for the fury of her new husband. Feeling deceived and betrayed into a loveless marriage, Lord Reese Harrington wants nothing to do with his new wife. Trapped in a marriage with no escape, the beautiful young bride must battle the demons of her husband’s past and hope that she can weather the storm his brutish behavior unleashes. Uncaged Review: Don’t be fooled by this book when it tells you it’s 222 pages. It’s not, it’s less than half that, after you get close to 40% - the book is done and the rest is excerpts from other books. Yeah, about 100 pages of excerpts. As of this review, it is a free read. On to the book itself – I liked the characters and the plot and it kept a pretty good pace. Lord Reese is tricked into a marriage and wants nothing to do with Jayce as all he wanted was to get his sister free from her kidnappers, and the marriage to Jayce, arranged by her father, was the ransom price. Once they are married, Lord Reese is a bully and not very likable. But the plot does move predictably toward the happy ending, there weren’t too many surprises here, but it was an entertaining read and eventually Lord Reese redeems himself. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Sweet Solace

Alexa Padgett Contemporary Romance

Betrayal Broke Them Once... We can’t afford to indulge in this attraction, but our connection burns too brightly to ignore.

Uncaged Review: This was a very addicting read. A second-chance romance that brews very slowly and works its way through the book. A couple twists toward the end surprised me, but there is a part toward the end that is not very believable as someone doesn’t get what they deserve, and I’m not sure why that was skipped around. Asher and Dahlia are both flawed characters and have been burned in the past by relationships, but have been attracted to each other since they were teenagers. Now in their 30’s, they have a second chance. I do like how the author keeps the romance slower to build and doesn’t rush the plot. There are some secondary characters that I really enjoyed, but since this review, the books have been pulled out of KindleUnlimited, and I probably won’t read the rest of the series. Reviewed by Cyrene


The Friend Zone

Sariah Wilson Contemporary Romance/Sports

Disgraced college quarterback Logan Hunt was on his way to NFL stardom when he messed up bigtime. Now the Texas star player with a bad temper has a new option: Seattle’s EOL College—as in End of the Line, to his fellow misfit recruits. It’s Logan’s last chance. If he can follow the rules. No parties, no fighting, no swearing, and oh, no dating the coach’s daughter, Jess. Simple. Yeah, right. For Logan, there has never been a rule he’s more tempted to break. Uncaged Review: Logan Hunt messed up his chance to the NFL with his temper and fights. He’s shipped off to his last chance in Seattle. The rules from the coach are strict, but Logan is vowing to graduate and to change the course of his life. He gets help in the form of Jess, the coach’s daughter who will tutor him in math. But Logan wants to pay Jess back for her help, so they devise a plan together to get the guy that Jess has been crushing on. As they become fast friends, they grow to realize their feelings are for each other, but it’s against all the rules. This was a clean entertaining romance and I laughed at times at some of the bantering. The downside, is I felt like I was watching some high school antics instead of college. Both lead characters are likable and it was easy to root for them. There was nothing that was overly surprising here, but it was a fun book. Reviewed by Cyrene

The Smuggler’s Escape Barbara Monajem Historical Regency Releases July 24

After escaping the guillotine in her native France, aristocrat Noelle de Vallon takes refuge with her aunt in Sussex. Feisty, resourceful, and determined to make her own way, she takes over the local smuggling operations, doubling their profits. But when their plans are betrayed, a man from her past steps out of the shadows to save her. Too bad he’s the last man on earth she ever wanted to see again.

Uncaged Review: Smugglers, spies, action, humor, love…what else do you need in a book? I liked this story, it hooked me in pretty quickly – Noelle is a stubborn, passionate, feisty heroine that grew on me, although there are a few moments in the book I wanted to shake some sense into her. As for Richard, I liked him immediately. This book has plenty of action and danger that will keep a reader turning the pages. My biggest gripe if I really have one, is the book is a bit longer and it drags out a bit in spots, but it does recover from those slow spots fast enough and go where it needs to go. Readers will fall in love with Richard’s snark and Noelle’s enterprising independence. This author has a great way of spinning a very original tale. Recommended Reviewed by Cyrene

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Brimstone Tamara Thorne Horror Family Secrets The Brimstone Grand Hotel, owned by reclusive former movie star, Delilah Devine, looms high on Hospital Hill, harboring longburied family secrets that whisper of unimaginable horrors. Horrors that will echo down through generations.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Tamara Thorne has yet to disappoint me. Brimstone, like every other book of hers, has left me in awe of her ability to develop a story that is so unlike anything else I’ve read. At the end of her books, while I’m never really ready to stop reading, I still feel as though the story is complete and I’m satisfied that everything I wanted to know has been revealed. I love that her books are a bit longer than many I come across lately. Thorne has this ability to write the worst possible characters imaginable. Meeks is a vile, disgusting excuse for a human being. The villains in her books have no redeeming qualities, and Meeks fits that description perfectly. I also can’t stand Holly’s mother, Cherry. She’s just a horrible person. Holly’s interactions with both the living and the dead are enjoyable or terrifying depending on the situation. I can understand her Grandmother’s apprehension when it comes to Holly as the girl is easy to like, but with Delilah’s history with her own daughter, I can imagine being afraid of becoming close to her. Each book of Thorne’s reads like a movie in my

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head. I can hear the thunder as I’m reading, I can almost smell the rain as she describes it. The basement of the hospital appears terrifying in my head as it would to Holly. I’m not sure how she does it, but she’s amazing at it. This is a great book. It truly is. The mystery and suspense, all tied up with a girl who can see ghosts, a ghost cat, and a whole cast of characters you either love or hate are all worth the time it takes to read it.

Crank Claire C. Riley Romantic Suspense The Nomads are alpha males that will take you on the ride of your life. I found my deliverance in the form of a bottle of whiskey and a woman named Hope. Hope was the opposite of everything I stood for and believed in; she was innocent and pure and beautiful in a way that was soul deep, yet I couldn’t help falling for her. We only had one night—just mere moments in a lifetime really, but it was enough to change me forever. Maria tasted like venom and looked like sin. She was beautiful and poisonous. She was dangerous—way more than I knew at the time, and she never pretended to be anything but my worst nightmare. I never stood a chance.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Crank isn’t a book I would have normally picked up to read just because. I’m not a fan of romance or lovey dovey stuff in general. I chose to read it because the characters in the


series have made appearances in another series I’ve read and I wanted to know more of their backstories. I’m glad I took a chance with this book.

Day by Day Armagedon J.L. Bourne Horror

I’ve read all 3 books in the series at this point in time and of the 3, I think this one has the least amount of sex. Which is probably why it’s my favorite.

START INTERCEPT

The main character, Dillon, has had a tough time in life. Mom was an addict, stepdad was a piece of crap, and he’s headed down a dark path. When he comes across the Devil’s Highwaymen he may be getting a new chance at life. This book was both exciting and heartbreaking. Dillon is such a tortured soul and has never had the chance to learn what family is truly about. You can tell he has a good heart but has been hurt by everyone he’s cared about. I loved seeing Dillon grow as a person and learn what the club has to offer him. He needs stability in his life. Riley has a way of making you fall in love with her characters and you want things to go well for them. But when things don’t go as well as you would like, it’s like learning something bad happened to an old friend. You feel for them and want to fix things for them, even though you know they aren’t real. This is really a good series if you like the motorcycle club style books. The later books have A LOT more sex and romance in them. So if you’re into sexy time in your books, this may be a series for you.

SPORADIC NEW REPORTS INDICATE CHAOS AND VIOLENCE SPREADING THROUGH U.S. CITIES. AN UNKNOWN EVIL IS SWEEPING THE PLANET. THE DEAD ARE RISING TO CLAIM THE EARTH AS THE NEW DOMINANT SPECIES IN THE FOOD CHAIN. INTERCEPT COMPLETE

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Day By Day Armageddon is a crazy book. It’s basically the journal of a guy as he struggles to navigate the apocalypse. I enjoyed the fact he had military experience, which made some of his situations easier to believe as far as his responses to things. I think some people may have issues with the way the zombies are written in this book, but the reality is, there is no right way to write zombies. Since they don’t exist, every author can write their zombies how they want them. The zombies can have whatever abilities the author chooses for them to have. In some books, zombies are slow and shambling; in others, the zombies are as fast as Usain Bolt! Personally, I like reading zombie books where the monsters can do things they couldn’t in other books I’ve read, so I’m all for the variety. I don’t normally read books written in journal form because its been very hit or miss for me, but I took a chance on this one and I’m glad I did. The narrator isn’t a wordsmith. He’s an average

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews guy stuck in a shitty situation and doing his best to survive, despite his spelling mistakes. I feel it gives a level of authenticity to the story that coincides with its format. I’m not saying there are tons of spelling errors in the story, but an average amount for an average person. There’s plenty of action in Day by Day Armageddon. Which should be expected with a title and subject matter such as this. I enjoyed it. I liked where they decided to hole up and thought many of the ideas were good. I would recommend Day by Day Armageddon to anyone who likes zombie books, doesn’t mind journal format, and is ok with zombies that don’t follow popular characteristics.

Reapercussions Boone Brux Horror/Ghosts Growing up in Assjacket, WV hasn’t been easy, especially when everybody—except me—are Shifters. Even coming from a Shifter family hasn’t made me any more popular. But I’m not totally void of amazingness. As the regional grim reaper, I help the souls of dead paranormal beings cross over. One perk of being a reaper is that I learn a lot of secrets from the dearly departed, things the living don’t want leaked to their peers. All of this reaperness comes with a price, mainly boredom with a snipple of loneliness sprinkled on top.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: This book is definitely different. In a good way. I’ve, happily, been able to say that about pretty much every story I’ve read by this author. Her personality and sense of humor shine through her words and her characters. My only complaint is I wish it had been longer. Poppy comes from a family of armadillo shifters who have a long-standing family feud with a neighboring family of mountain lion shifters. She’s also the local reaper, who is assigned to reaping all manner of paranormal creatures. Reapercussions is a super short read. I think I read it in about an hour or two. This means if you don’t have a lot of time to read but would love a good laugh with a little smidgen of paranormal romance, this book may be for you. It has plenty of funny or awkward moments for Poppy to keep you entertained. From honey badger poltergeists who are trying to light dynamite to dealing with her family,

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I had a smile on my face for most of the time I was reading.

thor didn’t explain it. I think it’s because I just like more details and more…I don’t know… stuff lol. Human Flesh is a very short read. I think I finished it in just a couple hours. If you are looking for something unusual and mysterious, this may a good fit for you.

Human Flesh Nick Clausen Horror They never caught it During the winter of 2017, a series of strange occurrences took place in a small town of northern Maine. A rational explanation for what happened has still not been presented. Now, for the first time, all the available written evidence is being released to the public from what is commonly known as the Freyston case.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Ok, so this story is pretty creepy. Human Flesh is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s kind of sad but not how you would think. I can definitely see a resemblance to some of the earlier Stephen King works in the progression of the story. It’s told via a series of blog posts, emails, police interviews, and text messages, giving it an unusual method of storytelling to begin with. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the way it was done, but I have to say it gave the story an extra level of eeriness. I would like to have seen more explanations on some of what was going on, but it wasn’t because the au-

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews

Deadly Bargain Various Horror Anthology Wish Upon a Music Box is one of the 13 stories in this anthology. Some deals should never be struck and some dealers should never be trusted. When faced with your heart’s desire, will you ignore that tingle in your spine or the hair rising on the backs of your arms? The offer- It’s too good to be true and you can feel it. The dealer smiles with a devilish gleam in his eyes. Myra’s Review: Wish Upon a Music Box by Kerry Alan Denney Damon is deeply depressed. His beloved wife, CeCe, is paralyzed from the waist down, and it’s his fault. Celebrating her great success premiering as a ballerina, he wasn’t paying close enough attention driving home, getting into an accident that caused his wife’s debilitating injuries. Wandering the streets this particular day, he spots an antique store and feels drawn in for some unexplainable reason. Damon sees a music box and is enchanted when he opens it. A tiny ballerina dances inside and Damon knows his wife will love it. But when the bedraggled shop owner appears 106 | UncagedBooks.com

suddenly and tells him it is $1,300, he knows there is no way he can afford it. They are barely making ends meet and he just lost his job. The shop owner convinces Damon to take the box, assuring him they’ll work something out. When CeCe opens the box, she is enthralled and happy for the first time since the accident. Clearly, it is more than a music box; it is magical. Since this is a short story, I don’t want to give too much away. The gift has an amazing effect on CeCe, but after several days under its influence, Damon can see it will end up killing his wife. The distraught husband cannot get the shop keepers words out of his mind, “Play it as often as you wish, but at twilight of the next full moon, wind it up with your own hands three times. On that evening’s third playing, make your wish.” For some reason Damon believes in those fatal words and makes his wish. I had guessed Damon’s wish, but it still made a nice ending for this reader. While Damon makes a deal with the devil, at the core this is a haunting love story; a tale of guilt, desire for redemption, and loving sacrifice.


The Remaining Aftermath D.J. Molles Dystopian/Military To Captain Lee Harden, the mission to rescue his countrymen and rebuild the nation seems like a distant memory. Wounded and weaponless, he has stumbled upon a group of survivors who may be his last hope. But a tragedy in the group causes a deep rift and forces him into action. And in the chaos of a world overrun by infected, Lee is pursued by a new threat: someone who will stop at nothing to keep him from his sworn duty. Myra’s Review: Captain Harden wakes up in Camp Ryder, and though he is injured, he immediately jumps into action when they are attacked by the infected. Soon after, he leaves to gather supplies from his bunker. Lee is surprised when Doc volunteers to go with them, since he is clearly afraid. Later, with the truck loaded to the brim, Lee decides to check out the nearby town of Smithfield. Perhaps it can be used as base in the future for more survivors. They run across a lone man, LaRouche, who says he is with a group of people in the hospital. Of course the captain wants to extend his offer of help to the new group.

back and help the Captain. LaRouche, ashamed of selling out a fellow vet, joins them. Concurrently, Lee gets Doc to chew through the duct tape binding his wrists. When his friends explode vehicles outside the hospital, he fights Milo’s men and then gathers the survivor’s for an escape. The hospital is a war zone, with Milo’s men and the invasion of zombies who were drawn in by the noise. By the time Lee fights his way outside, he suffered multiple injuries, such as broken ribs, a sprained ankle and more. But he would not stop. Captain Harden is more frustrated and discouraged in this book. It seems for every step forward, he gets shoved back two steps. Between the human scum who prey on others and doubting survivors, his job is much tougher than he anticipated. The Captain is an honorable man and I hope he continues his mission to rebuild society. At the end, the readers are introduced to a Captain Mitchell, who is dying. He is trying to convince the young man with him, Jacob, to look for Lee; with very important information about Virginia. It seems Mitchell was another operative like Captain Harden. I can see that things are about to get worse for Lee and his fellow survivors. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. Highly recommended for those following The Remaining series and zombie fans.

After the Captain speaks with the people in the hospital, they take him, Miller and Harper prisoners. The three did not know the survivors were under Milo’s thumb (the thug who had burned his home bunker in Book 1). Milo wanted Harden and his GPS device. Lee convinces the people to release Harper and Miller; after all, Milo only wants him. LaRouche escorts the two men outside town. Soon after, Doc is thrown into the room with him. Lee questions Doc, discovering he betrayed them to Milo in exchange for the release of his girlfriend. But then Milo admits that Nicole had died previously due to the rough treatment from his raiders. Doc’s treachery was for nothing. I found the young doctor’s cowardly behavior as disgusting as Lee did. In the meantime, Harper and Miller decided to go Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews The Feral Children Simpson & Norris Young Adult Horror The bears were hungry and the panther was pacing her cage. It was supposed to be a fun field trip to the wild animal safari. It became a nightmare of blood. The zombie virus spread like wildfire and by noon, they were alone. Safe inside the fences, a group of school kids are the only survivors. Like the animals, they’ve lived their whole lives being cared for and fed, pampered and loved. Now they have to learn from each other how to survive, how to hunt and how to kill. Myra’s Review: We were introduced to the children in Zombie Road Book V. I was fascinated with their characters and looked forward to reviewing their story. When zombies wipe out most humans, a small group of children manage to survive. How? The children became a tribe, with each individual excelling in different abilities. Add in the location and the animals; it was a win-win situation. Luckily, the kids were visiting the Piedmont Animal Sanctuary when the outbreak happened. The park is isolated and surrounded by fencing. When the undead began attacking those around them, the zombies ran after escaping victims, which drew them outside the fencing. The park has animals which helped survival; chickens for eggs and a cow for milk. But the main focus on animals in the story is the pairing of children with various beasts. A few were – Chris, the leader, who renamed himself Kodiak because he rides atop a huge Kodiak bear; Swan and her wolf pack; and Donny with his black panther. Wishing to leave some surprises, 108 | UncagedBooks.com

the reader can enjoy discovering the unique pairing of the other children and animals. Slowly, the kids learned the tools needed for their survival and how to handle their animals. Most importantly, they learned how to fight. They had setbacks and failures, but pushed on, becoming fearsome warriors. The villain in this story is a teen, Gordon; a rich, spoiled bully who the tribe rescued from zombies in town. He never fit in and didn’t want to, wishing to return to his exclusive home community. Gordon started out as a thorn in their side and ended up being a threat to their existence. When I reviewed Zombie Road V, I noted that the children’s story was in the realm of fantasy. I still think it is fantastical, but the authors went into much detail as to how this could come to be, making it slide more toward reality than fantasy. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a children’s book - it is not a soft tale. Swap the kids out with adults and you’d still have an amazing survival story. Highly recommended for zombie fans, plus David A. Simpson and Wesley R. Norris fans.


Last Man Standing Keith Taylor Horror BANGKOK, MARCH 2018. The world looked on in horror as millions of innocent lives were snuffed out in a matter of hours. Countless men, women and children slaughtered without mercy, torn apart by a violent mob that attacked without reason, motive or warning.

Myra’s Review: In the opening scene, Tom is interviewing his friend, Paul, who is the only known survivor of the zombie outbreak in Bangkok. Therefore, Tom knows how the infected act; how fast they were and how swiftly they change. This is information that he will find handy later. After he gets back to the states, Tom tries warning Americans that an outbreak could happen here. But once he met Kate, with her charming smile and cute dimples, he forgot about his mission. His plans to start prepping, learn how to shot and basically survive, went out the window. After all, perhaps he was being too paranoid. But then he awakens after a night of drinking to multiple desperate texts from Kate. Tom is a regular guy and doesn’t even own a gun (clearly he doesn’t live in the South LOL). Grabbing an aluminum bat, the only weapon in his apartment, he sets off to rescue Kate. He doesn’t even love her, but feels it is the right thing to do. Since Tom knows how the infected act, he manages to make it to where his girlfriend works and they leave. Barely escaping being torn to bits several times, they stumble across a blockade, being guarded by only one JROTC member - with no bullets, just blanks (see my note at bottom). Past the barricade, Tom is shocked to see thousands of civilians in the park, being guarded by only a few soldiers. Things go bad as expected; he and Kate run as they hear screams erupt.

partner at the end of the world. They escape the city, going through a harrowing, intense scene as a bridge collapses beneath their feet. Later, they are picked up by soldiers, who take them to a camp which is largely empty of survivors. There were two sections that bothered me. One was when the President came on the scene. Clearly, the described female POTUS is Hilary, even though her name is not mentioned. I’m assuming the author wrote the book before November 2016, but the date given for the story setting is 2019. This error should be corrected. I bought the trilogy; thus setting the record straight is important because this book is supposedly set in this world at this time. I’m an author and Indie books are not hard to go back and correct mistakes. Secondly, the scene with the JROTC young man had me shaking my head. The military drew away the infected from the city to empty it out, and then blew the bridges, but had no contingency for helping the people left behind?? I come from a military family and this is not the military I know. The military practices different types of disasters on a regular basis, and probably have contingencies for contingencies. While this was a good read and the author writes well, I rated it a half star lower due to the military information which I personally found very misinformed. I hope the next book improves in this area.

After Kate dies at the hands of a brutal soldier, Jim tries to find safety from a horde of zombies. A large man in painter coveralls waves him into a house. Bishop turns out to be quite a character and a good Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews When Nothing Matters Valeria Lopes Paranormal Romance Throughout this drama of hate and love, arrogance and humility, insanity and wisdom, revenge and forgiveness, revolt and resignation, fear and faith, disillusion and hope, the hand of fate, reaches the characters involved in this story, bringing opportunities for learning and redemption, making them comprehend that, after all, nothing really matters, only love.

Amy’s Review: Wonderfully powerful Story Lopes pens a magnificent story in When Nothing Matters. I was captivated from the beginning, and became very invested in each word written. The era that this story takes place reminds this reader of just how far we’ve come in humanity, and how far we still need to go. The characters, each have their own depth and personality, and I really liked Lucya’s courage especially in a time of turmoil and inhumanity. The line that really resonated with me, and pretty much foreshadowed the story was “”From this moment on, nothing more matters,” she said. “I am no longer a person, just a simple object. Yes! I am just a commodity, traded at the cards table, by my own father.”” This is the second story of Lopes’s that I’ve read and I’m a fan of the writing style and stories of this author. I look forward to reading more by this author.

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The Repenting Serpent Wes Markin Suspense/Crime A vicious serial killer slithers from the darkness, determined to resurrect the ways of a long-dead civilisation. When the ex-wife of one of DCI Michael Yorke’s closest allies is left mutilated and murdered, Yorke and his team embark on their greatest test yet. A deeply personal case that will push them to their very limits. And as Yorke’s team are pulled further into the dark, the killer circles, preparing to strike again. Amy’s Review: Intense and raw Markin has done it again, giving the readers more of detective Michael Yorke, and now he’s on a new case. I love stories about serial killers and they just draw me in. I really enjoyed this story, and found it very intense and chilling. It’s remarkable what Markin can do with words and how to create a magnificent pageturner. I’ve read the book prior to this, which is not necessary to get into this story, but it’s just as enjoyable and intense as this one. I will definitely read more of Markin’s work, especially if he brings more Yorke to the pages.


The Adventures of the Bang-Bang Man Philip Nork Sports Fiction The journey of life. We all go through it. Matthew Davis went down a different one than most of us. Horse racing, computers, divorce, and food. Food especially, led him down a path of self destruction. What happens when a thirty-something man who is addicted to betting on the horses gets divorced? Will he have the self-discipline to move on? Amy’s Review: A long awaited story from Nork I’ve read Nork’s work in the past, and it’s been a while, so I was anxious and honored to be asked to read his work again. I must say that Nork has not lost his touch with the pen or how to tell a magnificent story, and this is definitely that. The Adventures of Bang-Bang Man is a remarkable eye-opening story about a man named Matthew Davis, and how he became the man (very big man) that he is. Matthew writes in the beginning, “Where once I was presentable to humanity, I am now a mess. I have gained over two hundred pounds since Heather left me. I weigh at least four hundred pounds but I do have the fivefoot-eleven inches of my height going for me so I still look good, at least in my eyes. I don’t exercise at all, unless you count punching the keys of my computer, circa 2001, exercise. At least my fingers are in great shape,” and his life journey begins. He tells his story and brings the readers right in. Yes, it’s Matthew’s story, raw, blunt and in a strange way, it’s a powerful story. I read this book from cover to cover, and was surprised and yet, satisfied with the way it ended.

Loblolly, Loblolly You’re So Tall Mommy Moo Moo Children’s Nature Loblolly pine trees fill Mommy Moo Moo’s magical backyard. “Loblolly, Loblolly, you’re so tall. You reach to the sky, up so high.” These giant pines native to the American Southeast have never been so celebrated for their grace, their strength, and their beauty as in this enchanting picture book. Written in a lyrical style perfect for bedtime, “Loblolly, Loblolly, You’re So Tall” captures the whimsy of a child’s imagination and the majesty of the outdoors. Amy’s Review: Stunning Children’s book Mommy Moo Moo pens a stunning children’s story in Loblolly, Loblolly, You’re So Tall. The story tells a story about the Loblolly pine trees. The story shares the beauty and majesty of these great pine trees, and is perfectly written in a prose that children, and adults alike will enjoy. “You live with lots of other loblollies, the more the merrier.” I found the story and the trees themselves very enchanting. I look forward to reading more by this author.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Dreams of Mongolia Will Mayo Poetry

The Jracon’s Burden Tom Simmons Young Adult Fantasy

There are journeys within and without, down the highway, in solitude, and in one man’s mind. The author hopes that you like it. He, for his part, had fun writing it.

Great heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

Amy’s Review: Thoughts that only an imagination can create! I can just imagine what its like to be an idea in the mind of Mayo. His thoughts, or collection of thoughts are unique, interesting, something to be treasured. I enjoyed reading his work, and this one was no different. One man’s mind is quite enjoyable. I enjoyed reading each one, most of them more than once, but the two that stood out were “50 cents” and the one that followed, “Dicken’s Ghosts”. A magnificent mind thought of these stories and poems, and just thoughts, wondrous thoughts that speak the truth, from the heart, and from his mind. Indeed, bravo!

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Dax is a young dragonfly who craves adventure away from his mundane life as a scribe in the Citadel Academy. When the tyrannical Hawker Clan, intent on bringing about the end of the Citadel and the Odonata who live within, come close to discovering the whereabouts of a powerful book of fire magic stolen from them long ago, Dax is flung into a desperate mission to find the book before they do. Amy’s Review: Very imaginative Simmons pens a fantasical story in The Jracon’s Burden. I really enjoyed reading this story, and I found the author’s imagination very vivid. Simmons can tell a story and bring the reader into a fantasy and magical world. Dax is a very interesting character and he is on a very taxing and desperate journey to save his world. The world was vibrant and the author is able to show the land and journey, filled with twists and actions. It may be slated for the young adults, but anyone who enjoys a good fantasy book, can and should read this. I look forward to reading more by this author.


The Haunting of Room 909 Michael James Children’s Scary Stories Summer is usually a time of fun and games for most children, but Hanna and Ben Littleton are not your average eleven and twelveyear-old. Their father is Percy Littleton, a famous paranormal investigator, and this summer they are traveling to different locations to investigate unexplained phenomena. Things are rather boring until they stop at Castleridge Hotel. Amy’s Review: Spooky and imaginative! James pens a grand story in The Haunting of Room 909. First, I like the writing style of this author and the showing of this spooky and imaginative young adult story. I enjoyed reading this fast-pace, easy read. I’d say it fits cleanly and wonderfully with the target age group, and is well written. Siblings, Hanna and Ben, 11 and 12 respectively, are on a paranormal investigation, and it leads them to something scary and exciting. A wonderfully fun and enjoyable story. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Ascension Arshad Ahsanuddin SciFi History is a Lie. One final battle will decide whether Humanity will survive to tell the tale. Welcome, to the End of Days. Jacob Atkins was eighteen years old when he lost his best friend, Mark. Since then, he’s tried to move on with his life, building a career in the Hourglass Corps. Then an unexpected convergence of events threatens to expose the Hourglass, and destroy everything they have tried to accomplish. Amy’s Review: Another great story Ahsanuddin writes another grand story within The Interscission Project series. Ascension is the fifth book in the series, and I’m very glad to have had the honor of reading each one. It’s hard to pick a favorite, as each one was different yet very similar in storytelling. I enjoyed this one, with several characters in the focus of the story. It’s an interesting tale of secret, threats, and survival. One thing I do like about this book is that there is a cast of characters, and each one, gives a little information. A wonderful futuristic tale.

Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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Uncaged Book Reviews  

Issue 36, July 2019 Feature authors: Sally Bramble, Laura Simmons, N. Lombardi Jr., Rumer Raines, Caleb Smith, Jeanine Englert, Jennifer Wi...

Uncaged Book Reviews  

Issue 36, July 2019 Feature authors: Sally Bramble, Laura Simmons, N. Lombardi Jr., Rumer Raines, Caleb Smith, Jeanine Englert, Jennifer Wi...