ISSUE 49 | AUGUST 2020
n o te fr o m t h e edit o r S
ummer is flying by and it’s already August, and no sign of the pandemic letting up. I’m keeping at home the best I can and only going out when I have to. Luckily, we have plenty to do on a small farm, and the horses are always an easy way to keep social distance and still enjoy the outdoors. The dog days of summer hit hard with high temps and humidity for a couple weeks, but we are now in a nice streak of weather. We have seven great authors here this month and also one from FangFreakinTastic so be sure to check out their features and their books. As the pandemic continues in the world, writers are finding it a bit challenging like the rest of us. You would think they would have more time to write, but that’s not always true! Be sure to check out the advertisement on page 6, and learn how author Beth Carter is helping during these unprecedented and challenging times. Voting is almost over for the 2020 Raven Awards! There will be a LIVE Facebook Event to announce the winners and have prize drawings for both authors AND readers! Check out the content page for details and join us for a couple hours of fun! Uncaged Book Reviews readership is up dramatically. New readers are finding the magazine and discovering new authors. Uncaged will continue to bring the best possible content as usual.
supported through advertisements, but the prices will not increase in 2020. You may now fill out a form on the Requested Reviews Page on the website for your book to be on list for a review. I cannot guarantee a review date for the book, but it will remain on the lists. The tables on the Review page will be revamped in the coming weeks. The rest of 2020 is full for Feature Authors but you can also fill out a form on the Reviews/Feature Info Page to request a Feature in 2021. Put in your top 3 choices and this is normally first come/first serve, but I do move around months to keep a good selection of genres in each issue. Soon I will also put up forms for Catch Up Features - these are for past feature authors that have a new book releasing, and we can do a shorter feature, and also a Short Story Submission form. Any author submitting an approved short story receives a full page ad in the same issue. Enjoy the August 2020 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews and stay safe and healthy!
We will be continuing with the “Buy 2, Get 1” promotion we’ve been running. It really does help from a marketing standpoint, to have an advertisment run three months in a row - to repeat in the readers mind. You don’t just see a commercial on TV one time and remember it, right? So we will continue to try and provide the best bang for your buck and get the most eyes we can on your work. Uncaged is
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Issue 49 | August 2020
FangFreakinTastic Cassandra Lawson 68 contemporary romance
featureauthors Deanna King 12 historical time travel 18
medieval historical romance
Patricia C. Lee
young adult fantasy
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upcomingconventions Most upcoming conventions through June 2020 have been cancelled because of the pandemic. Uncaged will monitor the scheduled conventions and remove/add as the information becomes available. At the time of this publication, the conventions listed are still scheduled or marked cancelled, but be sure to check their websites as the time gets closer to the event.
Romance GenreCon - NOW VIRTUAL August 6–8, 2020 Kansas City, MO https://www.mymcpl.org/events/romance
Indie Bookfest Orlando August 27–30, 2020 Orlando, FL https://booksigningevent.com/event/orlando-readsbooks-2020-meet-greet-authors-book-signing/
Romancing Williamsburg September 1–3, 2020 Colonial Williamsburg, VA https://romancingwilliamsburg.com/ (Rescheduled from March)
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Penned Con - NOW VIRTUAL September 17–19, 2020 St. Louis, MO https://pennedcon.com/
Indie Romance Convention October 7–11, 2020; Lebanon, TN http://www.indieromanceconvention.com/
time travel | romantic suspense
deanna k ing
was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, however, did not grow up in the corn husker state. My father, a Texan in the Air Force, met my mom while stationed in Nebraska. Military families move around as most of you know, so I have lived in many places. The most exciting place was Japan; unfortunately, I was too young to enjoy or remember the experience. Living in Texas for most of life means I consider myself a good ole Texas gal. Moving from place to place, I was always the new kid so I couldn’t be shy, and people who know me will tell you that being shy is not a problem for me in the slightest. I love meeting people and making new friends wherever I go. Before the Internet and personal computers, I either typed or wrote longhand. However, my handwriting stinks (perhaps I should have been a physician) and I had problems reading it myself. I know you are laughing and so am I. So, yes; I used an old fashion typewriter. My Life impeded my life, and I never had the time to type, ‘The End’ on anything I started. Years later a chain of events happened giving me ample time to write so began I pounding the keyboard, publishing my first children’s book. Afterward, the opportunity to have my first crime novel published came about and I have not looked back in regret one time for how my life has played out. My life over the years has brought me full circle, back to a dream that began years ago. I am now a published author and excited that I get that chance to entertain readers!
Uncaged welcomes Deanna King Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! You just released a book Twist of Fate, a Jack West novel. Is this the start of a new series for you? Can you tell readers more about your vision for this series? Yes, it is and I am very excited about this series. You know how you are usually looking for the ‘one’ person who ‘did it’? Well, in this novel there are so many guilty parties it will keep you on your toes. When other detectives catch a new murder case that connects with Jack and his partner’s 25 year-old cold case, things get “twisted” in ways they would never have foreseen. Crime is not new, so what I hope is to take the ageold ‘whodunit’ and keep the reader engaged and on the edge of their seats. Since the backdrop is Houston, Texas, my detective will more often than not, have more than one case to work in each book. The second and third Jack West Novels are slated for release February 2021 and October 2021. Uncaged: You’ve also written one children’s book, Gracie’s Stories and are you planning on writing more children’s books?
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Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about?
Absolutely, I have several story ideas but have yet to dive into this particular project. Gracie’s Stories is about adapting to changes, and I loved being a sixyear-old girl again. My plans are to touch on things that are important for parents to talk to their kids about, but from a kid’s point of view. Scary secrets, Bullying, Peer Pressure (even at a young age), Pet Responsibilities – and a new reader suggested I add in a story about Home-Schooling during a Pandemic. I might have to do some interviewing since my kids are grown. When the home-schooling began, some of the hilarious face book remarks and cartoons made me laugh a lot. Putting some of this type of humor into what otherwise is a serious issue, I feel is important. I feel for all parents who have had to deal with trying to teach their own children and the struggles they have surely faced. The other issue that was mentioned is the fact that sheltering in had several other family issues come into the light. It will be a difficult issue to write in a children’s book, but being locked inside with a mental or physical abuser is another very sensitive yet serious subject matter I have contemplated.
One thing I want to mention is that my first Fantasy/Time-Travel Novel with will be released August 13, 2020. ‘Saving A Sioux Legacy-The Story of Blaze’. The back drop for this novel involves the American Sioux Indian and magic. A woman who is half white /half Sioux will travel back to the early 1800’s to learn to embrace who she is, as well as save the Sioux Legacy from disappearing from history. There was a lot of research put into this novel about the Sioux Indians. I came across by pure accident, a scanned photo of an actual Government Indian Agent’s hand-written copy of a list of translated words from English to Lakota, the Sioux language. I was fascinated and as I kept digging I found a scanned copy of the census of the Trail of Tears. This was amazing, and loving this kind of history I was enthralled. The second fantasy is also in the works about my protagonist’s daughter, which encompasses several tribes of the Native-American Indians. The fourth Jack West Novel is in the works as well. In the recesses of my brain I have an idea for the fifth Jack West installment. I’ve been toying around with the idea of taking one of my characters from my Jack West Series and having a break out character come to life with him, or her, being the new protagonist, with a possible new series. There is also a new one-off book idea, but, I am keeping that to myself right now. Don’t want to give anything away! So without understatement, you can see that I keep very busy! Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? Oh gosh, I miss people! They say most authors are introverts, and I can understand that fact and why. However, that does not describe me, as I am an extrovert to the max! Meeting new readers, telling them about my books and projects — I love book events and I had a full calendar for 2020. When this pandemic put the brakes on, I felt as if I got whiplash! I also love to smile and see smiles, but that has changed, at least for now. Being at home all week, Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | writing and living, I used to look forward to the weekends because I had book events every Saturday and Sunday. When I went out of town, I would have three or four signings scheduled each weekend. The person to person interaction is what I miss the most and look forward to experiencing again as the world heals. Uncaged: Do you write full-time or part-time? Does your family/colleagues read your books? I write fulltime and have a supportive husband, who believes in my work, and he also brings home a paycheck. (Lol) I’ve been writing, or better to say writing but not finishing, manuscripts for many years. In 2017 fate had a hand in getting me to the point of being able to say, ‘I am a published author.’
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It is a convoluted story, and if I ever write my memoirs, I will be more detailed. Prior colleagues have read the crime novel and have been supportive, as well as my friends. I do not come from a family of ‘readers’—a few family members have read my work and thankfully enjoyed the read. You know, family critiques are scary! Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Mickey Spillane. He never considered himself a novelist, he wrote for money when he needed money. His first Mike Hammer novel, I, The Jury was written in 19 days! Hardboiled detectives have always been full of grit, actions and drama, with the protagonist at times a vigilante, who seeks justice and Spillane was one of the masters of the hardboiled detectives, in the 1940’s. So
many authors for that era such as Dashiell Hammett, and Raymond Chandler created such colorful characters. Today there are so many to choose from such as, Michael Connelly. I’d like an inside look in to his thought processes when he writes about Harry Bosch and how he creates the ‘dark side’ of his character. Since I love several genre’s I’d love to sit and chat with both J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer, getting the double whammy of fantasy romance from two masters. E.B. White would also be included. ‘Charlottes’ Webb’ was an all-time favorite as a kid. I’d love to pick his brain about how he comes up with his stories and learn about his make believe world, as well as the creator of ‘Alice in Wonder Land’, Lewis Carroll. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? I am laughing right now because I really never know what my characters are going to do. Words appear from my brain to my fingertips as I type, I do not outline, I write. I keep notes on a whiteboard for the story I am working. They (my characters) surprise me at every turn. It takes me a day or so when I add a new character, getting the name just right, and how he or she looks in my head, what ethnicity and race they are and the part they play in the story line. Once that happens and as they grow they become unpredictable, taking on a voice of their own. My Beta readers read the rough drafts of a finished manuscript to let me know a multitude of things. They make comments such as, “I can’t wait to find out why Jack’s new captain hates him.” When I reply back, I say, “Yeah, me too!” Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I really did like yard work until I found out I am allergic to ‘outside’. My husband and I will pick a TV series and begin with the pilot and watch it thru to the end, sometimes bingeing on the weekends. I love family gathers as long as the drama does not unfold, and when that happens, lol, I take notes. When time permits, I like to travel. I love the movies (especially the popcorn!) and reading.
| DEANNA KING | Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? Success is measured in so many ways, not just by the dollar, fame or prestige. Some may say that success is having your name and title on the New York Times Best Selling Author’s list. Of course that would be awesome. If I have written a piece that has entertained you, made you think, cry or laugh, leaving you wanting more, then I have succeeded. When I read, I feel as if the author has been successful if I’ve been kept entertained, and he or she has given me an escape to an alternate world for a half hour. The idea is to give your reader the chance to escape reality for a short time. For me, to be ‘that author’ for others would be a success. My first achieved success was when I typed ‘The End’, because I accomplished what I set out to do- ‘write a book.’ After this, everything else, if meant to be, will fall into place. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? A physical book, always! The feel of the paper, the turning of the page- it’s how I love to read! I’ve been reading (off and on) “Book of The Dead” by Patricia Cornwell. I am always looking for that new book that I was iffy about reading, and then couldn’t put it down. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for believing in me enough to purchase my novel and giving me the chance to entertain you. If you have enjoyed the first read, then I hope to keep entertaining you for as long as I can write. Secondly, please give the book a review. In this day and time, word of mouth is terrific, but as we are a world that is internet based, authors depend highly on what others say- especially on Amazon. My new website is DeannaKingWriting.com- Facebook- Deanna King Writing- if you message me I will answer you! Issue 49 | August 2020 | 15
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Enjoy an excerpt from Saving a Sioux Legacy Saving a Sioux Legacy Deanna King Historical Time Travel Releases Aug. 13
Blaze never cared about her culture. Not the people. Not the land. And certainly not the past. When life brings her one heartache after another, Blaze nearly gives up until a magic journal—written by Chief Black Raven hundreds of years ago—is un-buried. A magic ritual performed on a full-moon night sends Blaze spiraling into the past. On her own in a time she knows nothing about, Blaze must face her fears, embrace her Sioux heritage, fall in love, and become She Cougar—the Sioux maiden destined to save her people’s legacy. Excerpt Blaze’s Journey in the Past Begins Blaze felt groggy as she slowly came back to life. Her eyes still closed, she pushed her legs against the mill-shed trying to use it as a brace for support. Nothing. There was nothing. She stretched her legs out again and brought them back further trying to place them next to the building. Again, she felt nothing. Still, she did not open her eyes. She had been so very cold. She could not feel her hands or her feet. She was dead, she just knew it and she didn’t want to open her eyes. Her body felt lighter, as if all her winter clothing had disappeared. She must be a spirit, just a figure of a woman, light, airy, and not weighted by clothing. Perhaps she was a wisp of ghostly air. Should she open her eyes and if she did, what would she see? 16 | UncagedBooks.com
Would she be with other spirits? Would she see her parents who had gone before her? If this was her fate then she could not change it. Her brain felt fuzzy as if cobwebs filled her head. She rubbed her head against the hard ground but did not feel the cold snow. She knew she was no longer wearing the toboggan, the scarf or her warm fleece-lined coat or her Ugg boots. Was she naked? Was she just so dead that she could no longer feel her clothes or the cold? Blaze opened her eyes just enough to let a bit of light in. It was hazy at most and her eyes would not focus even for that tiny fraction of time they were open. She opened them just a bit wider trying to peek at her new future. It was smoky looking. Gosh, was she such a bad person that she had gone there? It did not feel hot, nor did she hear any moaning and suffering so maybe she was not in Hell. Okay, be brave and open your eyes, she thought to herself. She knew that whatever had happened had happened and there was no changing the situation. She closed her eyes tightly extending her arms and legs to stretch her body, readying herself for what was to come. She flexed her fingers and toes, arched her neck, and inhaled deeply then slowly exhaled. Can spirits do this and feel every muscle, feel their lungs expand, and feel their heart begin to beat rapidly? All of these thoughts raced through her mind. She was just glad she could now feel her hands and feet. She was lying on her left side against nothing. Had she not just been huddling against a mill-shed just a moment or so ago? She rolled off her side, keeping her eyes closed, and fell onto her stomach again extending her arms and legs out. Eyes now again completely closed, she dug her fingers into the surface. She could feel the ground; it was hard and gritty. Dirt, plain old dirt was all she thought she felt. She stretched her right hand out to the side feeling the same, and did a short sweep of the area. Yes, it felt like dirt and dried grass. It was warm, and there was definitely no snow. What if she just stayed there like that, eyes closed, not moving… would another spirit come to her? Do they do that for one another? She wished she knew but then how
| DEANNA KING | could one explain death and the afterlife? After all, they were dead. She desperately hoped she was not dead, because the unknown terrified her. . . . He watched from a small brushy area as she moved. Her hair was dark—muddy- brown, not the coal-black he recalled—and she seemed smaller and shorter than he remembered. It could not be Kanda, he was sure of that. He had thought if they were going to send someone (and in his heart, he knew they would), it would be Wakanda, possessor of magical powers. Who was this woman alone in this desolated area of the prairie? Just what had he stumbled upon now? He looked up toward the skies. “What now?” he whispered. He knew that at this point they did not need a new complication. For the past year he had flitted from one thing to another and had finally found what he thought was his purpose. The one reason he had come back to this very spot on this very day was to see if what Soft Dove had foretold had happened. “If in one years’ time you have not vanished from the past to the present, come back to where you began in the past and there shall be another sent for you from your own time.”
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Issue 49 | August 2020 |
aggie Clare is the pen name of awardwinning speculative fiction author Tabitha Lord.
When channeling Maggie, she writes all the naughty things! Her Tactical Solutions International romantic suspense series features hot hunky heroes, smart sexy gals, and nail-biting narratives. Count on Maggie to pair great story-telling with an erotic edge.
Uncaged welcomes Maggie Clare Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Your newest book in the Tactical Solutions International series, Lost and Found will release on August 11. Can you tell readers more about this book and the series? Thank you so much for featuring me! Lost and Found is the third book in the series, but it’s the one I actually started writing first. Don’t worry, they are all stand alone, and you can absolutely jump in with this one and not feel as though you’ve missed out. Tactical Solutions International is a private military contractor and security firm co-founded by the main 18 | UncagedBooks.com
character of Lost and Found, Cam Taylor. The series focuses on the founders, the operatives they’ve hired, and the folks they fall in love with. All have a healthy dose of suspense - from serial killers, to human trafficking rings, to the creepy stalker in Lost and Found. All have a happily-ever-after, though, I promise! Uncaged: Can these books be read as standalones? How many books do you have planned for the series? Yes, all the books in the series can be read as standalones. But, you’ll hear a little about how your favorite characters from the previous books are doing! I intend seven in this series, with an idea for a spin-off ready to go. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? You may know that Maggie Clare is my pen-name, and I also publish speculative fiction under my given name, Tabitha Lord. Maggie is taking a short break from the romantic suspense series so Tabitha can finish writing an urban fantasy! It’s a rather dark story about a lady assassin who kills people in their dreams. She’s a Jessica Jones meets Dexter vigilante type character, and she only goes after men who’ve gotten away with terrible crimes. In the opening scene, she’s on a job but realizes the person she’s been hired to kill is actually an undercover FBI agent. His criminal history is a cover. She finds him in the waking world, and they attempt to discover who wants him dead. A little different from the romantic suspense, but with a similar action-adventure pace! Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? It hasn’t changed my lifestyle all that much. Both my husband and I work from home, so having to quarantine for a while didn’t feel very different day-to-day. Of course, I missed the usual activities that got me out of the house and helped with good Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | mental hygiene, like hikes and yoga classes, but we managed pretty well. My two younger kids are teens, and they were mostly self-sufficient when school went to a remote learning model. What’s been hard is not seeing my older two boys. One is active duty Navy based in San Diego, and the other just graduated from film school and lives in LA. We haven’t been able to be with them in person since
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Christmas, and the oldest will likely be deployed before we’re able to get together again. But, I am grateful that most everyone in my immediate circle is healthy. Uncaged: Do you write full-time or part-time? Do your family and friends read your books? I have been writing full-time for a couple of years now.
| MAGGIE CLARE | My writing career is a mix of things. In addition to novel and short fiction writing, with two platforms to support since Maggie was born, I’m also the managing editor for a writer’s blog, and a partner for an online author review/interview site. I will occasionally take on editorial projects that really interest me as well. Most of my family and many of my friends have read my science fiction series. When I wrote the first romantic suspense novel, I told the kids to keep away, and I gave my parents a redacted version! My husband loves them all. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I’d love to chat it up with Stephen King. I don’t read all his horror anymore, but I am simply amazed at his capacity for producing content. The man is an amazing storyteller, and he is so prolific. I’d just like a peek inside his head! Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? Sure! When the story begins, we meet a character at a certain point in their biography. I make sure I, the author, know that biography well so the character feels real, consistent, and authentic to readers. But I also challenge my characters, often putting them through the ringer, so to speak, and force them to evolve. Because they evolve, they may behave differently than they would have in the beginning of the book. Sometimes their action or behavior isn’t what I had imagined, but it’s absolutely the right choice for them to make when we get to that scene. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax
when you aren’t writing or working? Although we have exercise equipment in our home, I much prefer yoga and Barre classes, and I generally try to get to a few per week. I love the beach, although that’s been more difficult this Covid summer. My hiking group took a small hiatus as well, but I’ve still managed to get out safely a few times. I’m an avid reader, and my book club is something I look forward to every month. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? As writer’s, we’re entering a space where art and industry intersect. With the release of every one of my novels comes much rejoicing and much against. When I consider the source of my angst, I recognize it centers around things over which I have no Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | control. Will my book get good reviews? Will my readers feel satisfied with it? Will it sell? The answer to these questions is a solid, “I have no idea.” Hence, the angst. So, although those things are typical markers of success, I focus instead on things I can control like my work ethic and professionalism, and my commitment to the craft of writing. This is my mindset. It’s what enables me to keep writing, because this is a tough industry and not for the faint of heart. However, I admit I love it when readers tell me they’ve enjoyed my books, and it feels pretty great to win awards! Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I prefer physical books, but I have a ton of content loaded onto my Kindle as well. I read many genres so my reading list is long and diverse. Currently, I’m reading the third book in Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love hearing from fans and I try to interact as much as possible. I don’t have a Maggie Clare newsletter yet, but they can sign up for my Monday Musings via my Tabitha Lord website: www. tabithalordauthor.com.
Enjoy an excerpt from Lost and Found Lost and Found Maggie Clare Romantic Suspense Releases August 11 Dr. Lissa Morgan has had a crush on her best friend’s older brother since they were kids, but handsome, brooding Cam Taylor has never given her a second glance. When Cam unexpectedly shows up on Lissa’s doorstep bleeding and bruised, his personal life in shambles, things between them take a steamy turn. After an incredible weekend with the sweet, sexy doctor, Cam realizes what he’s been missing. But he’s run from intimacy his whole life, sure he doesn’t deserve a woman like Lissa. He’s doing her a favor by walking away – or so he tells himself. Frustrated and hurt by Cam’s distance, Lissa must nonetheless rely on his private security firm when an annoying admirer becomes a threat. The more time Cam spends with Lissa, the faster his defenses crumble. When the disturbed stalker finally makes his move, Cam will do whatever it takes to save the woman who’s slowly healing his wounded soul. Excerpt As Cam stared blankly out the window, his whole body ached with exhaustion. A light knock on his office door snapped him back to attention. He’d been sure they were going to find Liss at the house in Brookline, and now, the frustration and let-down from that failure had thrown him. He would never give up, but with every passing hour, his hope that he’d find Liss whole and healthy diminished.
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| MAGGIE CLARE | “Boss?” Jake cracked the door, not waiting for Cam to answer. “What’s up?” “If I were a sicko stalker and wanted to kidnap a girl, I’d take her to my family’s cabin on the lake.” “They have a cabin on a lake?” Cam growled. When he stood, his chair nearly tipped over behind him. “Listed in the mother’s maiden name. That’s why we didn’t find it at first. Right on Winnipesauke. Couple of miles from town, but the property is on several acres and is pretty secluded.” Cam blinked at Jake. Godfrey could have rented an apartment. He could be holed up in an abandoned building. He could be using an oversized storage unit. But he was a rich kid with access to mommy’s lake house.
light and mobile,” Marco said. “We’ll get there before sunrise, so we can take up positions and see if anything stirs,” Jake added. “Sounds good,” Cam said. He looked around the room at these men who were ready to drop everything and follow him. His throat closed. When he tried to thank them, he couldn’t seem to make his voice work. A.J. held his gaze. “Anything and everything for family,” he said.
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“I need to get there now.” “Thought you’d say that. Marco and A.J. are waiting. Tank’s team is clear, so I’m all yours too. We’ve got your back, brother.” Cam followed Jake into the op room. Marco and A.J. stood studying the satellite map of the lake property. When Cam walked in, A.J. gave him a once-over. “You holding up okay?” Cam cleared his throat. “Better now that there’s something to do.” “We need surveillance first, to see if anyone’s home. We can drop the truck here, and access the property on foot from here and here,” A.J. said, pointing at the map. “From what we know, this is one guy, dangerous and psycho, but working alone. As far as gear, I’m thinking side arms, coms, NVGs, and Kevlar. We go in Issue 49 | August 2020 |
medieval historical | cozy mystery
Patricia C. Lee
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m ia pride Mia is the mother of two human boys, three dogs, a cat, a rabbit, and a guinea pig, residing in the SF Bay Area. How she manages to get anything done is a wonder to all, including herself. As a child, she often wrote stories about fantastic places or magical things, always preferring to live in a world where the line between reality and fantasy didn’t exist. In High school she entered writing contests and had some stories published in small newspapers or school magazines. As life continued, so did her love for writing, along with her passion for history and genealogy, which fuels her creative mind. When Mia isn’t writing books or hanging with her family, she also subs at the local schools, drinks coffee by the gallon, gets lost in a good book, hikes with her family, collects all things pug, and drinks really big margaritas with her friends! Her happy place is any theme party or festival. If costumes are involved, Mia will be there.
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Welcome to Mia Pride Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! You just released your new book, Maid for the Knight, the third book in the Irvines of Drum series. Can you tell readers more about this book and series? Can they be read as standalones? I have been dying to write this book for so long! If you have read any of the other books in the series, “For Love of a Laird” or “Like a Laird to a Flame”, you are familiar with the main characters in this book, Reginald and Matilda. Partners in mischief, they have been the force behind several shenanigans that brought the other couples together in the past. Now, things get a bit more serious when Matilda finds herself in danger. Adopted by the Keith Clan as a wee bairn, Matilda always wondered who her true kin was, but once she discovers the truth, she wishes she never knew. Reginald, the generally funloving knight and youngest brother of the Irvines of Drum, hides his battle traumas behind a mask of indifference and pleasures, but when it comes to Matilda, he is anything but indifferent. Their dynamic was a fun one to create, a friends to lovers trope with both of them pushing away from the inevitable until it explodes like a volcano of emotion. With a bit of humor mixed with danger and a steamy romance, “Maid for the Knight” was a blast to write! The series was created during my research into my clan history. I am a proud member of Clan Irvine (My maiden name is Irvin) and I was intrigued by the stories of my ancestors. Our clan has been involved in almost every major medieval battle in Scotland, and the first Laird of Drum Castle was originally the armor-bearer and “right-hand man” of Robert the Bruce. His name was William Irvine, the grandfather of the brothers in this series, yet you do not hear his name very often in the history books. He was gifted Drum Castle by The Bruce for his loyalty, and it’s a wonderful history I wanted— needed—to share. Interestingly, when I first read the history of The Battle of Harlaw and the story of Robert and Elizabeth from “For Love of a Laird”, Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | I had no idea when I mapped out his series and began writing that I was a direct descendent of theirs! They are my 19x grandparents! It was truly awe-inspiring when I discovered, in the middle of that book, that I would not be here today to write it if not for their love. Years of research went into making this series as historically accurate as possible, including a conversation with the fine people at Drum Castle, who were very excited to have this series created. I researched excavation notes of the castle to learn how they lived, what they ate, and the layout of the castle and land. I did my very best to give the readers a true love story with as much historical accuracy as possible. As a lover of historical romance, I understand how important that is to a reader! As you can see, this series means so much to me, and I am eternally grateful to my publisher, Dragonblade Publishing, for signing on the series and allowing me the opportunity to share these stories! Though it is a trilogy, these books can be read as standalones, but I always believe a series is best read in order for the full impact. Uncaged: How many books are you planning with the series? There are only three books in this series. To keep it
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historically accurate, I did not wish to push more stories into it, as this would require deviating from the Irvine brothers and the purpose of this series. However, I have considered creating a spinoff series for the side characters we grow to love, especially Miss Marjorie Douglas, who you will see truly blossom into a beloved character as the series progresses. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? At the moment, I am working on my second contemporary novel titled “Definitely Maybe”, the follow-up story to “Raising Grace”, my first contemporary novel. I have been waiting to write the next story, but I also have a list of historicals that I cannot wait to write. During my research for the Irvines of Drum Series, I became interested in the story of the Earl of Mar, and I plan to write a novel about him, as well as one about Marjorie Douglas from the Irvine Series, daughter to the very powerful Archibald Douglas of the Black Douglases. She deserves a happily ever after and I cannot wait to give her one. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? Wow, I could write a novel about this question. But, I shall summarize. It has been complicated, to say the
least. I have two sons aged 10 and 12 who not only had to learn from home, but both have disabilities or disorders and required a lot of help. My oldest son has autism, so it has been very trying to keep him on task and juggle his therapies, but we are making it work. Writing with both kids at home has not been easy, but I will not complain, as I feel blessed to still have a job and be able to do it at home and keep my family safe and fed. We try to find creative ways to learn and stay busy, and I admit I have enjoyed the family time. I also decided to go back to school, something I had been wanting to do for years. It was a “now or never” situation. I am enrolled in Berkeley Extensions copyediting and grammar courses to not only improve my writing skills but to eventually earn my certificate in editing as an additional skill and service. So, I do believe we are making lemonade with the lemons served to us, though it gets bitter from time to time. Oh, and we adopted a sweet little puppy as well. She is now 5 months old and still working on the potty situation, but she is our adorable Pomchi and we are very excited to have her in our family! Uncaged: Do you write full-time or part-time? Does your family/colleagues read your books? Before quarantine, it was full-time. Now, it’s hit or miss depending on the day and the obstacles! However, I spend time every day writing, as well as interacting online with my readers or updating my sites. Thankfully, my wonderful PA helps keep me on track and picks up some of my slack. Yes, my family does read my books, much to my chagrin. My mom and aunts read every book, as does my boyfriend’s mom. I remember the first time he said she read my book, I thought, “Well… there goes her ever looking me in the eyes again…” But, she enjoyed it and has continued to read every book, asking when more are coming, so I naturally try to keep her happy! My mom bought copies of my books for my Granny and I begged her not to read the love scenes! My Granny responded with, “I had six children! I know how babies are made!” I miss my Granny every day.
| MIA PRIDE | Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? There are so many authors I find inspiring for different reasons. It’s hard to pick a few, but if I must, I will say Anya Seton, Diana Gabaldon, and William Shakespeare. Anya is the author of my favorite book of all time “Katherine” which is about Katherine Swynford, the mistress of John of Gaunt. This book is a wonderful romance that I have read so many times and own several editions of, and always recommend to lovers of historical romance. Their love story affected the entire history and future generations of English royalty. I would love to pick her brain and see what inspired her to write the novel. Diana Gabaldon is about as successful as an author can be, with her world-famous Outlander series that has become a beloved television series, but what I love about her stories is the detail. It’s like she time traveled into 18th century Scotland and came back to tell the tale. The accuracy is astounding. She writes books that have romance in them for sure, yet so much more. True history, drama, intrigue, passion. I love her stories and would absolutely love to dine with her. As for Shakespeare, the man is a legend who wrote tales that will last centuries. He created words simply because he wanted to, and people still use them to this day. His use of insults is prolific and creative. “The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril!” Any man who can write such an insult will surely be a fun luncheon companion! Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? All the time! I can plot out a book and think I know exactly how it will go, exactly what every character will be, think, feel, do, or say… but in the end, they often develop themselves and decide to go their own way. I love it when that happens. Characters need to vary, to be unique, have faults, be stubborn, have fears, or else they are all the same. When they become so real that they make their own demands, that’s when I know they have truly come to life on Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | and watch some TV. Lately, I finished Poldark and started Victoria. I love period programs! We also watch a lot of RiffTrax, bad movies, and true crime shows. My pug is kind of my obsession. I collect anything pug related and watch pug videos quite often. It’s maybe, slightly a problem, depending on who you ask. My pug has no complaints! Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? That’s a very good question and the answer is that I still do not know. I started on this journey for the love of the written word and to tell all the stories floating around in my head. I love history and writing, so I decided to just go for it. In 2016, I published my first book, never expecting to have 18 books by 2020. Some have received awards, and some made it to the top of their genre ranks for maybe a day, but I haven’t made it anywhere near the big lists, nor have I really tried. Every day I work on improving my craft and keep my focus on the love of writing. I simply feel blessed to have my wonderful readers, colleagues to share ideas and collaborate with, and that people take an interest in my work. Signing with my publisher absolutely felt like a success to me, and I am very proud and thankful for that. Success, to me, is simply getting up every day to do what I love, improving my craft, and striving to do better daily. I am not certain if or when I will ever look back at my career and decide I was a success. All I know is that I get to do what I love and share it with those who love to read, and for now, that is success enough for me. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? the pages. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? It’s not often that I have a lot of downtime, but when I do, I love to read historical romance books, play board games with my family, listen to 80s rock music, hang with my kids and dogs, go on hikes, 30 | UncagedBooks.com
I have a kindle full of books, but physical books are always the best! I have a huge library of books, filled with all the classics, many first editions or autographed. Currently, I am reading “Falling for the Highlander” by Emma Prince, one of my favorite authors. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I can write a thousand books, but if nobody cares to
pick one up, I have no career. I can continue to write for the sake of writing and always shall, but the hope is to write stories that resonate with people, to give them an escape from the stresses of the real world. My readers keep me motivated. When I receive emails from readers saying that they enjoyed my stories, that they connected with characters, or that a book helped them get through a tough time in life, that’s when I feel the most blessed. I realize how many authors and books there are to read. So, when someone picks up one of my books, I simply feel honored. I want to thank anyone who has read my work or taken the time to message me or leave reviews. I see them all and appreciate them all. I appreciate all of you for sharing your passion for historical romance with me, and allowing me to be a part of the experience!
Enjoy an excerpt from Maid for the Knight Maid for the Knight Mia Pride Medieval Historical Abandoned as a wee bairn and lovingly raised by the Keiths, Matilda has spent her entire life pondering her identity. When the truth proves more sinister than expected, she is desperate to hide her shameful secret despite the missives that continue to arrive, threatening both Matilda and her kin. Even death is preferable to losing the trust of those she loves, for surely, the Keiths and Irvines will disown her if they discover their enemy’s blood runs through her veins. Preferring the life of a traveling knight, Reginald Irvine lives for the moment, never focusing on tomorrow. When ordered to discover the contents of Matilda’s mysterious missives, Reginald relishes the task. He will charm the truth out of the lovely lass, then be
| MIA PRIDE | off on his next journey. But when Matilda pushes him away and finds herself in danger, Reginald determines to protect her at all costs, even if the cost is losing his life… or his heart. Tired of the threats, Matilda takes matters into her own hands, and Reginald gladly follows. If their plan succeeds, they will save hundreds of lives. If they fail, they have more to lose than just their heads.But, when tempers flare, desires are spoken, and attraction turns to passion, the enemy on their heels is no longer the only threat to life as they know it. Excerpt “What sort of life will ye live if ye never take a chance, Reginald? So, ye would rather choose to be alone forever, than spend what time ye have in this world with someone who loves ye just as ye are?” “I dinnae wish to wed with ye, put a bairn in ye, then be gone all the cursed time!” He knew his argument was weak, he had known it all along. The fear he had of marriage was a deep-rooted one he had felt since he was a lad on the cusp of manhood. As the eldest of the three brothers, Alexander had always known he must wed, but Reginald was the youngest son and nobody paid any mind to whether he came or went. Robert had pressure on him as well, being the spare, but never was there a title or a grant of land awaiting Reginald, nothing to offer a woman aside from his protection and love. What woman would prefer love over land, or protection over titles? Matilda would. Matilda did. She wanted him, knew him for who he was, understood the life he led, and what was most important to him. And, she accepted that. Matilda was willing to take a chance on him, and he had pushed her away. His desire to make all the decisions in his life had prevented her from making her own decisions. That reality slammed into him with the weight of a thousand boulders falling on his head. Still, a lifelong determination to avoid taking a wife was not one Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | that simply disappeared in a moment. Mayhap he could consider such an option, but the look in her eyes told him it was now or never… and he could not simply change who he was, simply because she wished it of him. “Then, ye have made yer choice, Reginald. I willnae ask it of ye again. I willnae fash over what could have been. When this is over, I will return to Drum, and ye can keep the land or burn the deed for all it matters to me, but I shall never step foot on that land. And I would have been better off believing ye never loved me than kenning ye did, but just not enough to choose a life with me.” “That isnae the truth at all!” Standing from the bed, Reginald kicked his satchel and watched it fly across the room, landing beside a table in the corner. His bannock was now likely nothing but crumbs, but so be it. “Why cannae ye see that I hadnae planned to love ye or find myself faced with two terrifying realities? Whether I live without ye forever, or marry ye and ride off to every battle I am called to fight, we both lose in the end! Death is inevitable for me. I am trying to spare ye! Ye shouldnae marry a warrior or a knight, curse it all! Ye deserve a man who will have a longer life, who will be around to bring ye joy, to raise yer bairns, to hold ye at night! Choose a tanner, or a blacksmith, or a farmer!” Slowly rising, Matilda’s lip trembled, a single tear running down her cheek as she walked toward him. “I would rather be yer widow than any other man’s wife. I would rather say that I once had a true love and allow that love to feed my soul for a lifetime than spend a lifetime with a man I dinnae love simply because he may outlive ye. We dinnae ken the future. Yer father lived a long life. He outlived yer mother, despite being a laird and fighting many battles. William and Elizabeth’s father outlived his wife, as well. He loved her dearly. His wails of agony after Matilda died still haunt my dreams. Do ye think he would have given up on those years with her, simply to avoid the pain of loss? Do ye think yer father regretted his marriage or the children they created simply because he lost his wife? Reginald, life isnae as 32 | UncagedBooks.com
predictable as ye make it out to be! I may be dead by the end of this night for all we ken if Archibald discovers I plan to deceive him!” “Dinnae ye speak like that!” Grabbing Matilda by the shoulders, he gave her a quick shake, then pulled her to him, needing to feel her, to hold her. “Ye willnae die. I willnae allow anything to happen to ye. I cannae stand to live without ye!” Burying his face into her neck, he inhaled deeply of her soft floral scent, her red curls grazing his cheek. What a mess he was in with this woman. He would give up all he ever wanted, everything, if he could call her his and rightfully hold her in his arms. But his duty was to others, to his kin, king, and country. The decision to give up his duties was not his to make, though he would if it meant he kept Matilda forever by his side. “And yet, ye are prepared to do just that,” she reminded him, pushing him away and leaving him feeling empty and lost inside. “Ye cannae have it both ways, Reginald. I understand that what I asked of ye isnae in yer nature. Ye prefer yer freedom. If ye dinnae wish to be beholden to one woman when ye can continue sleeping with anyone in a skirt, then I thank ye for sparing me the misery of a life with an unfaithful man.” Walking away, she faced the hearth and wrapped her arms around herself, her lovely features lit up by its glow. Her words struck him in the heart like an arrow. Did she truly believe he simply wished to be with other women? “Have ye any idea what it is like to go to battle, Woman?” Reginald stepped up behind her and she turned with a gasp, hands on her hips with a look that could freeze the devil. “Dinnae talk to me that way!” “Dinnae make light of my concerns about taking a wife! I have fought in France! I have fought battles just miles from here! I have watched men die! I watched my own brother die, his life spilling out onto the grass at my feet! I had to transport his body to the kirk for burial! I stood beside Robert when he had to tell Elizabeth that her husband was dead and she was a widow! Do ye ken what burning bodies smell like, lass? What do ye think we do with those bodies when hundreds of them litter a field? Have ye ever had to
| MIA PRIDE | sit with a man before battle and vow to make certain his wife and children will be cared for in case he is slaughtered on the morrow?” “Of course, I dinnae ken how any of that feels, ye arse! I ken battle is the plight of a man, especially one like ye! Do ye think I am daft and dinnae ken the realities of this world? I am here right now doing all I can, risking myself to prevent another battle that would slaughter my kin! And mayhap yers! I maynae be a man. I dinnae fight battles or burn their bodies, and I am sorry ye had to witness Alex’s death, Reginald! I cannae even imagine such a horror… but do ye ken what I have done? I have sewn those wounds closed for the injured men and wiped the blood from their faces. I have bandaged limbs and watched men die after they made it home, too injured to survive. I have held their widows in my arms and allowed their tears to soak through my tunic! I have birthed bairns whose fathers would never hold them in their arms! I ken the realities of war, Reg! Dinnae speak to me as if I am some sheltered woman who has no understanding of the world we live in! Does that mean I cannae seek any happiness in this world, simply because sorrow is inevitable?” Pushing him in the chest, more tears ran down her cheeks. He cursed himself for the fool he was while the woman he loved railed against him in a fit of deserved fury. “Am I allowed no happiness of my own? Arenae ye? We should just wallow in the sadness and destruction of this world and never find any peace of our own, no happy memories to speak of when our moment comes, whether tomorrow or forty years from now? If ye wish to be lonely and miserable the rest of yer days, wearing yer false smile to hide the pain of yer scars, then I cannae stop ye and I willnae try. But dinnae treat me as if I ken not the horrors of this world, simply because I am a woman who wishes to find a spark of light in an otherwise dark world! I’m not the fool, Reginald Irvine. Ye are. And if ye call me ‘woman’ one more time, as if it is an insult to be one, I shall show ye time and again the strength women possess when men are too busy boasting about their own to notice!” Pushing past him, Matilda let out a growl that even made him flinch back, wondering if she would strike
him. Instead, he watched as she stormed toward the door, slamming it behind her, leaving a pleasant trail of floral fragrance in her wake that mocked the somber cloud hanging over their chamber.
DON’T MISS THESE TITLES:
Issue 49 | August 2020 |
DEANNA KING & Sugar Baby
MIA PRIDE & lUCY
Forever my daily sidekick- my 12 year-oldYorkie- Sugar Baby. She listens, she understands and she even ‘talks’ to me while I write- always tossing in her 2 cents. The best collaborator of all time!
MAGGIE CLARE & Friends
I have two cats – one Munchkin and one Ragdoll. They are just the sweetest! We also have a Black Lab mix who is a rescue. She was my hiking buddy for years, but alas, old age keeps her from taking the longer treks now.
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In my interview, I mentioned my pug, Lucy, who I happen to love and adore with my entire heart. She is my shadow, following me everywhere I go. I do not leave the house without her. We adopted her when she was nine weeks old as a gift for my son’s birthday, but she bonded very closely with me and will only sleep with me. I tell him that she is still his dog, but he isn’t allowed to take her with him when he moves out someday. She is now one year, seven months, and five days old… but who’s counting? Here is a picture of Lucy and me! In total, I have three dogs, one cat, one rabbit, and one guinea pig! And they are all so loved!
A U T H O RS A N D T H E I R P E TS Pets and companions come in many shapes and sizes. From furry to feathered to hairy and scaley - there is a place for all of them. Authors have a special relationship with their pets - whether they remind them to get up and take a break or they inspire their writing. Meet the critters that share their love and devotion to Uncaged Feature Authors.
PATRICIA C. LEE & Pachee
I currently have three cats and have had nine over the course of my adult life. They are all very dear to me but my heart will always belong to my boy Pachee.
ERIN SCHULZ & Raven
My seven-year-old Pom, Raven, is my constant companion. The last few years have been tumultuous for me on a personal level and she has been by my side as I moved from NYC to California. Now we are on our way to start over in Florida. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only five pounds but she is a little monster. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know what I would do without her. Issue 49 | August 2020 |
BRITTANY ELISE & Bonnie & Cairo
Animals are truly one of life’s greatest blessings. These are my two German shepherds, Bonnie and Cairo. (I know, I know, how could I not name him Clyde, right?) I guess I felt it was too cliché. Bonnie (7) and Cairo (6) are siblings; they share the same mother and have different fathers. Bonnie started out as a ‘homework assignment’ when I was learning how to become an obedience instructor. At the end of my project, I just couldn’t give her up, so I worked out a deal with the head trainer and brought her home to live with me forever. We received her brother a year later. They are both wonderful with people and so unique. They’ve taught me so much and have brought so much love and joy into my life.
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V.S. HOLMES & Rory
This is Rory--Rory Borealis. He’s a four year old lab-rotti mutt who’s incredibly sweet and sensitive with a monstrous hell-hound growl when he sees Evil Invaders in the yard like fox, deer, or leaves. He makes a great field-dog when we’re able to bring him on surveys and is the #1 Barchaeologist. Swimming is his favorite activity and he’s been known to body surf with the seals on Cape Cod. While I love fanart of my books, fan art of Rory is just as welcome!
pat R I C I A c . lee S t ay C onnec t ed
at is a playwright and award winning author who has had a love affair with the written word since childhood, many times immersing herself in the stories of Enid Blyton and Carolyn Keene. An active imagination gave inspiration to short stories and her first play as a teen.
Uncaged welcomes Patricia C. Lee
Her full-length play, The Truth About Lies, was staged at a regional theatrical competition in 2006. She was selected as “One of 50 Authors You Should be Reading” in 2012. One of her novels achieved a finalist slot in the 2013 International Book Award Contest - fantasy category. And her Daughters of the Crescent Moon Trilogy garnered second place in the 2016 Paranormal Romance Guild Reviewers Choice for Best Series. She is also the winner of the 15th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Story contest for A Holy Night. Although still in pursuit of a place truly called home, Pat shares her life with her husband and three cats, all of which claim rule over the house at one point or another. Besides dreaming up the next novel, she enjoys traveling, baking, camping, wine, and of course reading – not necessarily in that order.
Thank you so much for having me at Uncaged! First Gear is a cozy mystery with grit. It features Sadie Hawkins, an independent, divorced woman living in Houston, Texas, who is trying to keep her newly opened moving business operational. One of her hauls gets stolen and a body shows up but that’s just the beginning of her adventure as she tries to prove her innocence – with a little help of some rehabilitated young adult offenders. It’s filled with wit and some unique characters, and yes, this is the first of the series.
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Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Your newest book, First Gear is a Sadie Hawkins Mystery. Can you tell readers more about the book, and is this the first book in a series?
Uncaged: You also have a time travel series, Daughters of the Crescent Moon. Can you tell us more about that series? The Daughters of the Crescent Moon series (Destiny’s Past, Destiny’s Present and Destiny’s Future) is about three women, united by blood, duty and loyalty to ultimately protect every living thing on the planet. It has romance, mystery and magic all rolled into one.
Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I’m currently writing the next Sadie Hawkins book (yet untitled). Of course Sadie’s life is never boring and she ends up getting pulled into another mystery while things are happening in her business. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? I am lucky to say that it hasn’t impacted me as much as others. I was already temporarily laid off two months prior to the pandemic so was becoming accustomed to staying at home. Does give me more time to write, though ☺ Uncaged: Do you write full-time or part-time? Does your family/colleagues read your books? I write part-time when I can. A few colleagues and
members of my family have read my previous novels but First Gear is so vastly different than those I hope they will be as interested in them as well. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? The author that set me on my path of serious writing was Sidney Sheldon. Master of the Game is still one of my favorite books and a wonderful story of revenge (hmmm, says something about my character, doesn’t it lol!) If I had the chance to meet J.R. Ward, I’d take her to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, ply her with good wine and great food and pick her brain! She is the Queen, the ultimate master of writing a series that is constantly changing yet never loses sight of its initial intent. Absolutely LOVE her stuff! Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began?
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| FEATURE AUTHOR | At times, but then they always smack me in the head and say “are you crazy?” when I try to make them do something that isn’t right for them. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love cooking and baking. Watching Netflix. Reading is a given. I read a multitude of genres except horror (because my imagination doesn’t need any more stimulation thank you very much!) and also some non-fiction. I’ve been able to indulge my love of jigsaw puzzles in the past year. I also walk as much as I can and sometimes just sit outside and “be.” Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? I’d be lying if I didn’t say good sales but what to me means the ultimate success…when I can transport a reader away to another world and hold them there for a while. That means I’ve done my job and it gives me immense pleasure. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I used to be strictly physical books but now do a majority of my reading in ebook format only because I can read faster that way. And since the onset of COVID I’ve become addicted to listening to audiobooks - especially while doing jigsaw puzzles. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? The gratitude of having fans read my work, enjoy it and want to continue to read what I write means more to me than I can express (I know, really? Considering I’m a writer) but it’s not something I can put into words without sounding all mushy. Just think about Sally Field’s Oscar speech “You like me, you really, really like me!”) and how humbling it makes me feel. 42 | UncagedBooks.com
Enjoy an excerpt from First Gear First Gear Patricia C. Lee Cozy Mystery Releases August 4 Recently divorced, petite and feisty Texan, Sadie Hawkins, struggles to get her newly established logistics business off the ground and when the opportunity to haul antiquities, including a mummy, drops into her lap, she jumps at the chance. But when her cargo gets stolen and a fresh corpse mysteriously replaces the mummy, Sadie is arrested for theft and suspicion of murder.Out on recognizance thanks to her lawyer ex-husband and not willing to watch her business sink farther in debt while the police search for clues, Sadie yanks up her cowboy boots and does some investigative work on her own. Stymied by her lack of success, she reluctantly enlists a few members with specific skills from Streetsmart, an organization made up of rehabilitated young adult offenders. While taking whatever moving job she can to keep her business from going under, Sadie endeavors to uncover the truth, the whole time wondering if this crime is some form of retribution for an incident in her past. But when things spiral out of control and Sadie is caught in the killer’s crosshairs, it appears not even her accomplices in Streetsmart will be able to save her now. Excerpt It took me a while before I finally connected with the owner of my uncle’s former moving company. I didn’t have enough money to buy the business and the proprietor wouldn’t take installments to pay for the purchase. He did, however, love to gamble and agreed to a poker game. It was poetic justice that Stan’s passion
| PATRICIA C. LEE | for playing cards, which he taught me, was the catalyst that gave me back the family business the same way in which he had lost it. I’d had to wait to reopen the business though, because at the time I was married to Clayton and again didn’t have the money to keep it operational. A tiny voice whispered to me that I could win at poker to get the cash I needed but seeing what it had done to Uncle Stan, what he had become, scared me into not crossing that line – that lure of possibly winning a bigger pot. Some of the funds from my divorce had gone into getting the business open again. Hawkins Freight was the only connection I had left of my dad’s family. Jackson’s voice brought me back to the present. “So, what now darlin’? You going to stay up for the next few hours with me?” I literally bit my tongue so as not to blurt out what I’d love to do for a few hours with this man. Instead I tempered my answer with a hint of flirtatiousness. “As appealing as that sounds, I should hang up and try and get some sleep.” “Well, I’m sure my listeners won’t mind if I play something different, especially if it’s for a good cause.” I could hear his smile across the line. “Maybe something soft and low.” Don’t tempt me. “That would be mighty nice of you.” “If I’m going to send it out, I need your name.” His voice level deepened. This guy took flirting to a whole new level. For a second, I could have sworn I caught movement in my side mirror. I strained, peering into the darkness by the bushes but saw nothing. My tired eyes were playing tricks on me. “Hello? You still there?” “Oh, sorry. Thought I saw something in the shadows but nothing is there. My name is Sadie.” “Okay, Sadie, I’ll see what—” An awful screeching yowl of a cat nearby made me yelp, making me drop the phone and it clattered under my seat. Heart clamoring against my ribs I mentally cursed the feline. That was probably the shadow I had seen and scrambled down to search for my cell, desperately hoping Jackson was still on the line so I could at least thank him for the dedication. His voice
lured me to my device and just as I reached for it, the driver’s door sprang open. On instinct my fingers brushed past the phone, kept moving until they reached the baseball bat I always had beneath my seat and then I was yanked out the door, pulling the bat with me. “Hey!” I landed on my ass and came up in full swing with the twenty-five ounces of sanded and polished wood, aiming it at whatever or whoever was within range. The thirty inches of solid ash I held felt like an extension of my arm. I had played ball for most of my life, making it to one of Texas’ Single A fastball leagues before I got married, becoming the top female batting champ in the state and second best overall in the league. Although my small stature gave me the advantage of being a fast runner, it was swinging line drives for double hits where I really shone. And right now whoever had yanked me out of my van was going to get a taste of my 40/400 average. The sound of bone exploding on impact with a sickening crunch came before a roar of pain ripped through the air. I dodged to the side, ready for another swing but before I could make it more than half way around, something that felt like a Mac truck slammed into the back of my head and the world turned to darkness.
DON’T MISS THESE TITLES:
Issue 49 | August 2020 |
young adult fantasy | epic fantasy
rittany is the author of Awakening the Trinity and its sequel, The Calling of the Trinity. Brittany grew up in rural Ohio where most of her childhood was spent with her younger sister playing make-believe. She graduated college with a photography degree, and later became a canine obedience instructor. During the day, Brittany manages an FBO at a local hometown airport and services aircraft. Writing has always been her greatest passion. She enjoys listening to music, hiking the great outdoors, and exploring new places in an endless quest to keep that artistic inspiration burning.
Stay Co n n e c te d
BrittanyEliseAuthor.com Please welcome Brittany Elise Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! You will release the 2nd book in your Trinity Cycle series, The Calling of the Trinity on August 6th. This is a young adult fantasy series; can you tell readers more about this series? The Trinity of Light series is a young adult supernatural/magical realism fiction series. The first book, Awakening the Trinity, is about a teenage witch who discovers she shares a magical connection with her super powerful ancestors known as the Original Trinity. The purpose of the Trinity is 46 | UncagedBooks.com
to make sure the world is always in balance with Light and Dark forces. The book takes place in the mythical town of Silver Mountain where Dark forces are working to awaken a witch who wrought terror in medieval Ireland, and it’s the Trinity’s job to stop it from happening. The books are fast-paced and adventure oriented. There’s a bit of drama and romance, and tough decisionmaking for our young characters. Uncaged: How many books are you planning with the series? There are three books in the series, with a prequel to introduce a character that will play a major role in the third and final book in the series. I’ve been asked to consider writing about the Original Trinity as well, so we’ll see where it goes. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I’ve been working on a couple different books. One is a futuristic post-apocalyptic YA, and the other is more of an adult supernatural/romance novel. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? I am probably one of the few that can say the pandemic hasn’t changed much of my lifestyle. My full-time job is in aviation, so I’ve been fortunate enough to be considered ‘essential’ since the pandemic occurred. I still have my regular writing routine, and still have time for new adventures, however limited those adventures may be. The great thing about being a writer is that I can rely on my imagination for inspiration, and I scarcely find myself running out of material. Uncaged: Do you write full-time or part-time? Does your family/colleagues read your books? Right now, writing is a part-time gig. I consider myself a bit of a hobbyist and enjoy a myriad of diIssue 49 | August 2020 |
verse creativity so it kind of just depends on where inspiration is striking the most. Whenever I work on something new, I have a handful of supporters who are always first in line to read my work–often including my sister and a few work associated colleagues. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Sarah Dessen, in my opinion, is the literary queen of young adult fiction. I’ve been following her work since I was in high school, and she’s a major reason why I wanted to become an author in the first place. I was fortunate enough to meet her at a book signing for the release of The Rest of the Story. She was so down to earth and inspirational; I would just love
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to have an opportunity to sit with her again and absorb everything she has to say. And, of course, authors like Tolkien and Edgar Allan Poe speak to my literary soul as well. It would be beyond fascinating to have lunch with them and learn about their world and writing. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? Always. I start out with a very loose skeleton outline when I write. I have an idea of how I want to begin, a place for the middle, and a place for the end. I’m not a chapter outliner. Too many factors change when I’m writing the characters and the scenes. I like to discover who they are as I go along. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax
when you aren’t writing or working? I’m a total busybody, honestly. I love being outside – hiking and kayaking or taking my dogs on adventures. If I must relax, music is an absolute requirement.
| BRITTANY ELISE |
Enjoy an excerpt from The Calling of the Trinity The Calling of the Trinity Brittany Elise Young Adult/Fantasy Releases August 6
Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? For me, it’s about getting to do what I love and hoping above all that someone is enjoying what I create. I remember being a teenager and having such overwhelming emotions after finishing a truly good book. I still get that way today when I read something engaging. It feels as though the story burns a hole through my heart and catches fire to my soul. If a book is powerful enough to make you feel something, I see that as success. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? Physical books. Nothing quite beats the feel and smell of an actual good old fashioned page-turning book. I’m currently reading the books from An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir upon my sister’s recommendation. They’re excellent YA dystopian novels. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I just want to say thank you for the support, and for reading my books. I couldn’t do what I do without you. If you’re interested in following me and staying current with what comes next, I’m active on Instagram: @ Carbon_Stardust and you can also find me on Facebook under Brittany Elise Author, and also on my website: BrittanyEliseAuthor.com
The fate of the supernatural world lies in the hands of the Trinity. Now that their powers have awakened, they’re one step closer to putting and end to the Darkness surrounding them. Or so they thought. The death of Wren’s father brings and unsolicited visit from the Alpha Master of the Thornwood werewolf pack, and with it some troublesome news. Wren is faced with a decision that could end his life if he doesn’t choose wisely. A mysterious book hidden in a secret room just might have the answers the Trinity is searching for. Perhaps with a little help from the past, a winged guardian, and some new friends - the Trinity can persevere and rise against the Darkness. Excerpt Chapter Two The Harbinger Niall’s cabin sat atop the mountain, tucked within a quaint meadow that was surrounded by a grove of towering pines. A wisp of smoke rose from the chimney, coiling through the atmosphere before joining the clouds. Inside, I shrugged out of my jacket, draping it over the back of a kitchen chair as my lungs filled with the scent of sweet grass and Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | sage. Niall may have been gone, but so much of his spirit still remained, nestled in the shell of his home. A dull ache throbbed behind my breastbone and I reached up to massage the hurt with the heel of my hand. Blaire helped herself to the fridge, shuffling through its scarce contents until she came up with a few beer bottles that were tucked in the back. “Anyone care for a drink?” “I think I’ll pass,” Annabelle commented. “My parents will smell it on me and I’ll be grounded until I’m thirty.” “Suit yourself.” Blaire twisted the cap off and took a long pull from the bottle before setting in on the table. A beat later her phone buzzed and she fished the mechanical device from her pocket, studying the message. “It’s from my sister. Her flight arrives tomorrow night.” I nodded. Bryna, Blaire’s sister, was in the process of making her way to the States from Ireland, and she was traveling with singularly dangerous cargo. When Rionach the Dark was vanquished in the Battle of the Dark Ages, she left behind her talisman. Nothing on earth could destroy such magic, so the White Witch placed the powerful trinket under the protection of the Aurora Coven. It’s said that the amulet possesses the power to return the Dark Witch to her physical form. There were Dark forces at work trying to achieve just that, and it was up to the Trinity to stop it from happening. We were recently led to believe that Blaire’s aunt was a part of that force, and though neither of us wanted to think she was capable of convening with the Darkness, we thought it best to get the talisman on the move. “Has anyone from the Coven seen Penny?” I asked. Blaire shook her head. “No, not yet, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t there.” “Do you really think she would have fled to Ireland?” Annabelle asked. “If she truly is trying to get her hands on the talisman, that would be the only logical move,” Blaire answered. “She’s tapped out her resources 50 | UncagedBooks.com
here. Perhaps she hoped to intercept Bryna, or perhaps she’s gone into hiding. There’s no way of knowing for certain what her intentions are.” Blaire’s voice cracked as she scratched at the label on her beer bottle. Tiny beads of paper were collecting on the counter beside her trembling hand. “Blaire,” I spoke softly, “we can’t be sure that those rogue werewolves were telling the truth about her. There’s still a chance Penny could be innocent.” Blaire openly scoffed. “I appreciate you trying to make me feel better, but all evidence points to the contrary, I’m afraid. If she were innocent, she wouldn’t have run.” “I just don’t understand what would make her do it,” Annabelle commented. “You have to be mentally warped if you want to bring the ultimate mistress of evil back to the land of the living.” No one had a reply for that. I mashed my lips in a tight line. The night we had invoked the Trinity bond, we learned that the Dark Witch’s spirit could only be summoned by her own bloodline. A werewolf by the name of Garrett informed us that Penny–and therefore Blaire–just happened to share Rionach’s DNA which is how Penny’s role supposedly came into play. Someone or something knew how to find her and coerced her into the shadows. We just didn’t know why. My head was beginning to pound from the tangled web of information we still couldn’t piece together. I dragged my hand across my face, pulling at my eyelid as if that alone could tear away the weariness from all the sleepless nights my mind refused to shut out the chaos. “So,” Annabelle cleared her throat, fingers drumming against the counter, “what exactly are you planning to do with the amulet once you have it?”
erin sc h ul z Uncaged welcomes Erin Schulz Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Can you tell readers more about your young adult fantasy, Super Doll?
rin Schulz is an American writer from Newport, Rhode Island. She holds a baccalaureate in history from Fordham University and a postgraduate degree in international affairs from American University’s School of International Service. She is also a graduate of the Swiss finishing school, Institut Villa Pierrefeu. She will soon be living in Florida.
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Thank you so much for the interview! It is a pleasure to be featured in Uncaged. My young adult fantasy novel “Super Doll” is a coming-of-age girl power book about a seventeen-year-old Air Force brat named Piper who wins a chance to study Spanish on the fictional Caribbean island of Carabajel. It is the summer before she is a freshman at Vassar, and it is her first time living abroad and her first real adventure on her own. But when she arrives on the island, she is haunted by déjà vu and the feeling that she has been there before. She slowly begins to realize she is pawn between the island’s ruling factions, the dictator General Castillo and a sect of beautiful nuns who have turned to black magic. Then she falls in love with the General’s son, Julian, which only adds to the twists in the story…. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I am working on my third book which is also my second novel. It is a suspense thriller which centers around a journalist’s investigation of a plane crash off Venezuela. Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? I have been incredibly lucky during this pandemic because I was already working on my books from home so my lifestyle was not overturned. When I first started working from home several years ago, it was quite an adjustment so I can only imagine what some people are going through. I feel terribly apathetic by admitting that the worst thing for me was losing my ability to do the writing-in-a- café thing which I used to do.
Uncaged: Do you write full-time or part-time? Does your family/colleagues read your books? I write full-time. For some reason, I am quite shy about sharing my work until the very end and then only my immediate family reads my final draft. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?
I didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have to think about this question at all. I already knew the answers! From the past it is VC Andrews and Mary Higgins Clark. I would love to ask them about writing suspense. From the present, it is without a doubt, Danielle Steel. She has the most extraordinary discipline to write so many books a year. I truly have no idea how she does it. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done
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| FEATURE AUTHOR | something that you didn’t intend when you began? Yes, in my suspense book my ending keeps changing drastically because one of characters keep changing direction. Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I can’t imagine a world without books. When I not writing, I am reading. I read everything from history to biography to young adult to contemporary fiction. Besides reading books, I love to be on the water whether it is swimming, or being on a boat, or just relaxing by the ocean. Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? Seeing my books in a bookstore is success for me. And I am so excited that Super Doll and my first book, The King and Mrs. Simpson, a creative nonfiction work about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, will be in select independent bookstores this fall thanks to DartFrog Books. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I have a Kindle which I use at night or when I am traveling, but I still prefer physical books. Right now my fun book is Mary Higgins Clark’s The Lost Years. And my research book for my new novel is Raul Gallegos’s Crude Nation about the economic crisis in Venezuela. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you so much for reading my books! Writing is a dream come true and the support I have received from all of you is greatly appreciated. I am new to the social media, but I do have a little Instagram page dedicated to my work. @erinschulzwriter 54 | UncagedBooks.com
Enjoy an excerpt from Superdoll Super Doll Erin Schulz Young Adult Fantasy Rebellious 17-year-old Air Force brat, Ruth “Piper” Pfeiffer, has always dreamed of seeing the world. When she wins a contest to spend eight weeks on the mysterious Caribbean island of Carabajel studying Spanish she jumps at the chance. Carabajel is a stunning landscape, and her jet-set classmates are rich and glamorous, but nothing prepares her for a lurking darkness behind the island’s lush beauty. From the moment she lands on the island things are amiss. Haunted by a strange sense of déjà vu, she soon notices the locals are taken aback by her mere presence. Before long she finds herself a pawn between the islands two warring factions - the ruling leader, General Miguel Castillo, and Malfaedra, the high priestess of the Black Mariahs, an order of nuns who have turned to black magic. When General Castillo’s son, Julian, falls in love with her, Piper finds herself in a race against time and a hurricane to uncover the truth of her connection to Carabajel. Excerpt Our little airplane bursts through the cloud bank into the sun, conquering in a nanosecond the turbulence that has plagued us since takeoff. My window shade is open, and I’m accosted by the sudden change of light. Severe clear. An Air Force term from my dad’s world. Even though I’m seated in the last row, the solitary flight attendant rather thoughtfully serves me first. On the linen-covered tray rests an egg salad sandwich
| ERIN SCHULZ | and a tiny piece of chocolate cake. It has been hours since my last meal, but I slide the tray table away from me and slump lower in my seat. I can’t think about eating. Not now. Not after what happened. “Are you okay, honey?” the flight attendant asks. She looks crisp and neat, her dark uniform pressed and tailored to her frame. “The hurricane,” I murmur. I don’t know how else to explain my disheveled appearance. My clothes are soaked and tattered. My hair is a tangled, windblown mess. She either misunderstands me or is being kind. Her smile, it is sympathetic. “Oh, don’t worry,” she says. “We’re flying far ahead of it now. Your island will be fine, I’m sure.” She pats my shoulder and moves on. My island? Was it ever mine? Could it still be? With Julian, perhaps. I clutch the black velvet pouch tighter in my palm. I think of the journal I left behind covered in black lace by Becky with love. Black velvet and black lace. Black sugar and black diamonds. Storm clouds over an island gone astray, an island missing from maps. How did it all begin? One second I was an ordinary military brat, dreaming big. “Dreaming of prairies without fences,” my dad once said. The next second, I was somebody. But whom? The girlfriend of an uncrowned prince? The doppelganger of a dead island queen. Or, alarmingly, someone much, much more. *** This saga started on what should have been a forgettable Thursday in May. Had the fire alarm not gone off in the middle of calculus, and had Mr. Carlton not accidentally locked the classroom door behind us when we evacuated and promptly lost his keys, I never would have seen the advertisement for the essay contest. I never would have gone to the island. I never would have met Coco or Orchid. Or Julian. Especially Julian. The advertisement was thumbtacked to one of those bulletin boards no one ever looks at, and I wouldn’t have, either, except we were stuck in the hallway,
waiting for Carlton to find a spare set of keys. For lack of anything better to do, I stifled a yawn and stared at the bulletin board. It was filled with club announcements on colored paper, all stamped with smiley faces and the words “Approved by the Administration.” What caught my attention was a photograph near the top of the board. Next to a massive promotion for class rings was a picture of a beautiful place. Triangular, dark-green mountains draped by clouds. An aquamarine sea washing up on a beach lined with palms. This Summer Learn Spanish Through the Immersion Method, the poster read in black letters. It was followed by a tempting invitation. Essay Contest: Win the Chance to Spend Eight Weeks on the Caribbean island of Carabajel with the Intercultural Language Institute. There were little serrated tabs at the bottom of the poster with the contest information. It sounded pretty simple. I had to write one thousand words on how language unites the world and email it to the address listed on the tab. I knew it was a long shot at best. But I really did need to learn Spanish. And fast. Two months before, I had received word I’d been accepted into the international studies program at Vassar College on one nearly impossible condition—I needed to arrive on campus in September with fluency in the language of my choice. Not an easy feat considering even though I was in Advanced Placement Spanish, my conversation skills were borderline non-existent. I tore off one of the tabs and put it in my pocket when I thought no one was looking. “Spanish, huh?” I jumped at the noise and turned to see one of the varsity baseball players standing over me. His name was either Ted or T.J. “I saw you got into Vassar, Pipes,” he said. “I always knew you were a smart cookie.” “Yes,” I replied, “and I heard you got into…” I let my voice trail off because I actually had no idea where he had been accepted. Sandy Point High School prided itself on being college prep, and the guidance department put up a huge congratulatory Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | poster in the main lobby with everyone’s name and college. But I wasn’t sure what this guy’s first name was, let alone his last name. The one thing no one ever tells you about being an Air Force kid and moving around from place to place is people start to look the same. Not sort of the same, but exactly the same. Marlene from Austin looks exactly like Elizabeth from Albuquerque, and Tara looks even more like Jackie from Cheyenne. Chris resembles Angelo, and Angelo is a dead ringer for Adam. And if there is one thing in this life that will kill a possible friendship immediately, it’s repeatedly calling someone the wrong name. I always tried to be a part of my class and fit in, but sometimes it was too hard to keep track of whether it was Tara/ Jackie who stole Adam/Angelo, or if I was remembering that from another school. Meanwhile, Ted/T.J. was still grinning down at me. “I got accepted to Stevens Tech,” he said. “It’s still Jersey, but I’m going to party it up in Hoboken. You around for the summer?” I nodded. “I don’t leave until late August.” And I was counting down the days. As far as I was concerned, Vassar was a ticket out of the dull towns and military bases that defined my life. I was dead tired of the regimented lifestyle, the gray buildings, and the talk of desert wars. I wanted exoticism instead of drabness. I wanted to see places where everything didn’t match, places unlike our duplex housing units with officers drifting about in identical uniforms. In my seventeen years, we had lived on six bases in six states—Alaska, Nevada, Texas, Wyoming, New Mexico, and New Jersey—and each one was nearly indistinguishable from the others. To tranquilize myself against the sterility, I collected old maps, read travel blogs, and stared at my nightlight globe, plotting the day when I would escape the Air Force. Someone at the end of the hallway of lockers yelled, “Richardson, let’s go!” and Ted/T.J. hollered, “Yeah, man!” Before he headed off in the direction of his friend, he said, “Text me this summer, Pipes. We can 56 | UncagedBooks.com
hang out or something.” “Yes, or something,” I replied, somewhat surprised. I didn’t get many invitations. In the eight months we had been stationed on Sandy Point, I had managed to make all of about two friends and three acquaintances. I wasn’t against anyone, and no one was against me. I just didn’t make much of an effort considering it was already senior year. I was also kind of obsessed with studying. I realized early on a high grade point average was the key to my future. Needless to say, I spent a lot of weekends hanging around the house with my father and his new wife, Becky. For the rest of the day, I thought about the essay contest and how random it would be if I actually won. I didn’t think I had a fighting chance. I never had exceptionally good luck. But later, after dinner, I was a little excited when I took the tab out of my pocket and turned on my laptop. I wrote about my Finnish mother who came to America when she married my father. She died from mental illness because she couldn’t express the pain of her existence on the isolated Alaskan base with her limited English. I wrote about how I barely remembered her, but I knew from photographs she bequeathed me her face and her white-blonde hair even though she didn’t wear it in dreadlocks like me. I argued had she learned English properly through instruction rather than half-hearted attempts to pick it up from television, she might have been better able to communicate the extent of the demons that haunted her. I wasn’t sure I was writing the entire truth, but every so often, my dad lamented the inadequacy of the base hospital and his own inadequacy for not recognizing the warning signs of suicide. She hid behind an extraordinary reserve, I typed, or so my father says. Language could have saved her life. A few weeks later, a congratulatory letter from the Institute arrived the old-fashioned way—in our mailbox. I stood frozen in place, astonished I had actually pulled it off. Instead of spending the summer on base with a language tutor, I would be living on an island in the Caribbean Sea. I didn’t know if I should laugh, cry, or jump for joy.
| ERIN SCHULZ | First Vassar, then the contest. It was beyond belief. I read the letter twice to be sure I had not missed anything. I couldn’t fathom it really said, Dear Ruth Pfeiffer, we are delighted to inform you… It went on to explain, in a fashion a little too brief for my liking, that for decades the island of Carabajel had been closed to tourism, and its only communication with the outside world was based entirely on the exportation of a rare black sugar. Only recently had Carabajel’s military regime started to move the island out of its self-inflicted isolation. The Institute noted my acceptance would grant me unprecedented access to an island shrouded in mystery. They used words like adventure, exploration, and intercultural communication. They said it was my chance to be a true ambassador of the United States, along with the seven other high school graduates who had signed up for the program. Once I was confident I was not dreaming, it occurred to me for all my love of geography, I knew absolutely nothing about where I was going. I raced up to my room and turned on my laptop. At first, the online map registered the island as a tiny speck in the blue Caribbean Sea, due north of Colombia. But when I zoomed in to try to get a closer look, the detail of the island refused to load. Even the satellite view displayed nothing more than a green blob. Undeterred, mostly out of fear of telling my dad I was going to spend the summer on an island I knew absolutely nothing about, I opened up my browser and searched Carabajel. But the Internet was little help. It described the island as remote, impenetrable, and mystical—a place cut off by reefs and drenched in fog, its surrounding waters littered with the wreckage of downed ships and planes. A mid-century navigator was even quoted a bit disconcertingly as saying it was a land of sacrilege. The few photographs I managed to find showed a paradise of lush beauty just like the essay contest poster. The sharp, triangular mountains. The palm trees lining the banks of a black sand beach. A city hidden by mist. “Of all places!” my dad exclaimed when he heard the news. We were having dinner at the Officers’ Club
where we ate every Friday night. He was wavering between being thrilled I won an essay contest and being deliriously unhappy I was leaving home sooner than August. Becky, however, said, “Piper, how fantastic.” “It is fantastic she won, yes, but heck, she can learn a language here without flying off to some deserted island.” He slapped the table with his palm for emphasis. “It’s more than learning a language, Dad. I’m going to be an intercultural ambassador.” “And what exactly does that mean?” Becky jumped in to save me. “Steve, she beat out hundreds of other applicants to win this contest. The Intercultural Language Institute is very prestigious. This is an honor, indeed.” My father looked skeptical, and I was shocked Becky had even heard of the program. Unless she just pretended to know it to help me. Before my father could get back to his original question about what I would be doing in my role as an ambassador, I blurted out the concrete details. “I will be gone from June 17th to August 17th, and everything is paid for—my flight, accommodations, meals—everything.” The fact all the costs were covered by the program pacified my father a bit. It is no secret the budgets of military men are always a little tight. I conveniently left out the tiny detail about the Institute suggesting I bring a small amount of spending money, but I wasn’t too concerned. I had a little saved up from working afternoons and weekends at the library on base. Besides, I couldn’t imagine what I would need to spend my money on, considering I was going to an isolated island in the middle of the sea. “Also, Dad,” I added, “at the end of the program, I’ll be able to take the language requirement exam at Vassar.” “This will count at Vassar?” he asked. I nodded. My father shook his head with resignation. “I’m not sure why we are even discussing this, Piper, because you are going to do what you want to do anyway.” Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | “You make it sound like I’m rebelling, but I swear, I’m not,” I protested. “That’s a first,” he said sounding annoyed. But he was smiling. When we got home from dinner, I signed the acceptance letter and dropped it in the mailbox on the corner. Then I took Arthur, my Shiba Inu, to the abandoned stretch of beach by the old fort. I sat down on the sand and leaned back on my elbows while Arthur ran in circles, chasing seagulls. Way off in the distance, I could see the skyscrapers of Manhattan and the parachute jump on Coney Island. I watched as a jumbo jet took off from JFK airport and headed east above the anchored freighters in the channel. The thought that I would soon be on a plane lifting off for somewhere filled me with a rush of excitement. The seventeenth of June was less than a month away. I had little to do except finish my senior year, graduate, and apologize to my boss at the base library for bailing on her for the summer. I stayed on the beach long after dusk and waited for the stars even though I never could quite see them on Sandy Point. Not like the way I used to out west. “The glow of the city lights obscures the night sky,” the speaker at the base planetarium once told our class. “Go offshore, and the stars will fall around you as though you are in a snow globe made of diamonds.” A snow globe made of diamonds. Black sugar and black diamonds. Black velvet and black lace. How ignorant I had been then to worlds beyond my own.
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v. s . h o l m es Uncaged: Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest book, Blood and Mercy is part of the epic fantasy series, Blood of Titans. Can you tell readers more about this series? Can each book be read as standalones?
. S. Holmes is an international bestselling author. They created the REFORGED series and the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book in their fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary’s Excellence in Independent Publishing Award in 2015 and a Literary Titan Gold Award in 2020.
Thanks so much for having me, this is really fun! Blood of Titans is an epic fantasy world. Each of the series within it focuses on the machinations of war between the gods and the creatures who created them. The first series follows three characters caught in the crossfire of that war and heroes who are as broken as the world they’re trying to save.
In Madness and Gods and Blood and Mercy a Deaf former soldier plots reWhen not writing, they work as a contract archaeologist throughout bellion while married to a queer, teenthe northeastern U.S. They live in a Tiny House with their spouse, a aged god. While Rih juggles life in a fellow archaeologist, their not-so-tiny dog, and own too many books foriegn country and revolution, Kefor such a small abode. As a disabled and queer human, they work as plan struggles with addiction, visions, an advocate and educator for representation in SFF worlds. and murder. He hopes the world ends, she prays it doesn’t. Stay Connected
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Uncaged: You also have another series running that is very unique, the Nel Bently series which shares a crossover world with author Cameron J. Quinn. How did this series come about? Can you tell readers more about the series?
Dr. Nel Bently is a hot-tempered, skeptic archaeologist who discovers her dream site is the centerpiece to a 13,000 year old feud that has not only gone global, but interstellar. Add to the mix sentient sound, heads in jars, and one mysterious-as-she-is-alluring political liaison. Nel’s story started as a standalone, but as I got into her head I realized there was a lot more to explore. Cameron and I were writing separate series (hers is the Starsboro Chronicles, a series of urban fantasy novellas) at the time, but we realized it’d be fun if a few of our characters shared some history--her character Tabby is one of Nel’s many exes. Now we borrow each other’s characters as supporting roles and have a shared timeline of various catastrophic events. You don’t have to read both series, but it’s much more fun if you do! Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I’ve got a few projects going most of the time. Currently I’m working on the fourth Nel Bently book, Heretics, which releases this October, Covid-willing. In this one Nel and her spacegirlfriend, Lin, embark on a global mission of connect-the-dots searching for the victims of a deadly radio transmission. Without answers, Nel’s own mother--and the few communities clinging to life--will be next. I’m also outlining the next Blood of Titans title, Dagger’s Dance, the first in a new duology (think flintlock fantasy with steam engines and dinosaurs). There’s another semi-secret project in the works as well that’s full of death and magic and longing and different from anything I’ve done before.
Uncaged: How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your lifestyle? I work as archaeologist for my day job and during the winter when the ground’s frozen, I stay home, work on the house, write, and cook. So to that end, this is very familiar-we’ve been doing it since December to a lesser degree. Plus, since my spouse and I usually work together the proximity hasn’t been much of an adjustment either, thankfully! The rest of the year looks a bit grim, financially, and we’re nervous since both my mother and I are high risk, so we’re being very careful. Luckily we live in a rural area, so there’s room to walk and garden and be outside safely. Uncaged: Do you write full-time or parttime? Does your family/colleagues read your books? I write full time hours, but like many of us, I still have a day job, though it’s seasonal. I keep my worlds pretty separate, but my spouse and a few colleagues have read some of my work. I also got word that my brother in-law is working his way through Blood of Titans, which is exciting! Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I was incredibly lucky to interview J. A. Pitts, one of my favorite authors, just a year before he died, and I would have loved for Issue 49 | August 2020 |
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| V.S. HOLMES |
that conversation to be longer. I’d also want to speak with Tamora Pierce and Tamsyn Muir about the industry and craft. Uncaged: Have any of your characters ever done something that you didn’t intend when you began? Certainly! I’m not someone who thinks my characters actually speak to me, but there are many times when I realize I hadn’t been untangling knots the right way or looking at things thoroughly. A great example is Bren from Smoke and Rain was supposed to be a side character and now he’s one of the cornerstones to the series! Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I’m a bit of a workaholic, but it’s something I’m working on (heh). I grew up in the woods so nature is my thing. I love to tend to my houseplants--we have over fourty in our studio apartment-and garden. I also collect bones and insects. I enjoy walking in the woods with our dog, Rory, and playing indie games or reading.
Uncaged: What does success as an author look like to you? For me the most important part of success is making an impact on someone. If a reader can find themselves, or something that gives them strength or insight in my books, I’ll have succeeded. Making those connections and building a community is really important to me and I’m honored to be able to pay forward what other authors did for me. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I’m pretty flexible, but ebooks are much easier on the wrists when reading! If it’s a favorite, though, I’ll splurge on a paperback or hardcover. I’m reading The Line Between by Tosca Lee and What’s in a Name by Angela Breen. Both are great so far! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I’d say that their support means the world to me! I hope you enjoy reading my worlds and characters as much as I enjoy creating them, and that you’ve found something in Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
my work who speaks to you, or a tiny dream and the strength to hold fast. You can find me most frequently on Twitter, or if you want to see if you like work there are two stories--a Nel prequel and a standalone Blood of Titans short--that you can grab for free from my site.
Enjoy an excerpt from Blood and Mercy Blood and Mercy V.S. Holmes Epic Fantasy Saving the world may have doomed them all. Keplan reels in the wake of grief and guilt at the blood on his hands. Outside the city walls, however, winter grows fiercer and droughts longer. Alea reforged the fractured world twenty years before-so why is it withering before his eyes? Then, just as he masters being a monarch, a prophet arrives spouting scripture about a One True God. Keplan’s own mother killed the last gods, yet this one matches his description perfectly--and its wrath is about to fall upon Athrolan. Isolated within the same cold, marble walls as Athrolan’s murderous king, Rih struggles to plot her rebellion leagues 64 | UncagedBooks.com
away from everything she has ever known. With an unexpected ally, she may have finally found a way to the Mirikin Hetmir--until tragedy strikes. With religious fanatics at their walls, blight in their fields, and a king floundering from addiction, Athrolan spirals out of control. Now Rih must choose between a mad king’s life and her own revolution. Excerpt 37th Day of Lumord, 1272 The Eastern Banis Prairie THE FOURTH NIGHT ON the trail, wolves circled the tents. At the camp’s edge, where cookfires burned, they crept even closer. Rih leaned over, peering past the licking flames at the bright eyes blinking at the edge of the firelight. Already the weather was colder, the air carrying teeth as sharp as those glinting several paces away. “You’d think they’d be frightened, with this many people,” she signed to the woman beside her. The guard spared a glance for the predators. “War makes everyone hungry. It’s been centuries since wolves were seen this far west. They’ve probably come to eat our dead.” She turned back to her bowl with a shudder. Rih winced and looked back to the camp’s boundary. The glittering eyes were gone, just a memory lit on her eyes when she closed them. It would take another week to reach Athrolan’s capital, more if the river crossing tomorrow went poorly. Even marches as a foot soldier didn’t take this long, thousands of pounding feet beating their steady way across the dusty grasslands. It was hard to manage the transition from soldier to dignitary, but the differences in the march made the gulf between the two yawn wider. When she saw that Bimet was through with her food she leaned forward. “I have something to ask of you.”
| V.S. HOLMES | “Are you certain that’s a good idea?” Bimet’s gaze moved from Rih to the looming tent of the emperor’s ambassador. Vi-baln’s shadow paced the tent wall, pausing when a runner appeared. Rih raised the spear beside her. It was mostly decorative, but the blade was sharp. “I’ll be quick.” Her fingers curled with ease, forcing casual comfort into the conversation to ease her guard’s worry. The guard’s shoulders heaved in a sigh and fell into step beside Rih as she set off through the camp. Fire lit the makeshift road between the linen tents. Once out of eyeline of Vi-baln’s tent, Rih ducked between the gently waving fabric walls of the larger barrack tents. Guards paced the edge of camp. Already she caught sight of armbands, caught glimpses of a fist, rising, opening. Liberty. She settled on the outcropping, legs tucked beneath her, and raised her face to the soft air. There was little time to acquaint herself with the surrounding women, but there would be chance enough upon arriving in Athrolan, where they would be watched more but understood less. Bimet found an outcropping still within whistle distance of the camp, but outside the reach of firelight. Of Rih’s half-dozen attendants, Bimet was the only one she had known before any of this. Their troops had worked together often, and the red armband she donned on the second day of their march told Rih enough. “I don’t like this,” Bimet signed, lips pursed. Rih shrugged. “There’s no other option. I can’t trust letters yet, not until I am safely in Athrolan. There’re too many eyes on me. And not only Vi-baln’s.” “Then I assume it’s important?” “Fourth Riding is being transferred to a nearby town,” she said by way of answer. “A little one I can’t remember the name of.” Bimet watched the glowing orbs in the trees bob and slink for a moment. “And?” Beneath Rih’s hand the rock was rough, ragged, and
gray. Gone was the smooth red of home, the earth stained red by rust or blood. Her fingers curled in the crags, a tether to this changing world. “They’re led by Baniol Desfal, of the Third Arc. I don’t want him to leave the town alive. I know there are sympathizers there.” She fixed Bimet with a pointed expression. “Understood?” “Understood. I’ll get the word out now. It’ll go out with the morning progress runners tomorrow at dawn.” Bimet rose, hand pressing the small of her back when she straightened. “I’ll walk you back to camp.” Rih shook her head. “I can manage myself. The messengers’ tent is on the other side of the camp from ours.” When Bimet was gone, Rih’s attention drifted to the darkness before her. A small piece of her wished, fleetingly, that she could disappear in the makeshift roads and slip away into the night. She would not, no matter how inviting the dark woods and winding trails might be. But for a few moments, she could pretend. In a fortnight’s time she would be in a different type of forest, one of cold white stone and looming duties. Already she missed Ki-elte. Already her heart ached for home. A woman will bleed and die for Ban. She would see them again in a year, perhaps two, on the field of battle. Somehow, she would find a way, find those who would join their cause. In Athrolan, isolation would be their greatest ally. She just hoped she could survive it long enough to see her rebellion through. Coarse grass pricked her feet through her silken slippers as she wound back to her tent, beside Vibaln’s. She turned the corner and froze. Vi-baln stood in the opening to his tent. Lanterns glowed behind him, gleaming off his broad, bare shoulders. His attention was fixed on her. “You’d best mind your slippers,” he called, gray eyes never leaving hers. Issue 49 | August 2020 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | She risked a nod, knowing he knew few, if any, of her signs. “Wolves and all.” It was only after she had ducked into the illusion of safety inside her tent that she let herself shudder. Bimet was right to be cautious. The emperor’s reach was long. Even here his ambassador served as sharpened claws. This is temporary. He would be gone once she married. Even as Athrolan’s bride, however, safety was not guaranteed. Not for the first time, she wondered what His Majesty looked like. How he might act. Would she wish to sew his mouth shut as she wished so often of the baniol? Would he learn her signs? Would he be kind? She drew a long, slow breath. She was a soldier and marriage was war.
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orn and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Cassandra Lawson first discovered her love of writing at a young age. A few early typing classes in middle school planted the seeds of a young author, who enjoyed learning to type through her exploration of storytelling. Head over heels for a good happily ever after, she has dedicated her career to creating dynamic, entertaining, and spicy, romance novels. Ranging from the paranormal to contemporary settings, Cassandra Lawson breathes life into the many different ways people experience love. A hard-working mom, she spends her days writing and homeschooling her children. A lover of music, good food, and a great book, Cassandra remains a resident of the Bay Area, basking in the culture and all the inspiration it affords.
Stay Co n n e c te d
Enjoy an excerpt from: Rocking Standby Rocking Standby Cassandra Lawson Contemporary Romance It all started with a chance encounter and a kiss that left me longing for more. Gage seemed perfect. Until reality came crashing down around me. Getting involved with up-andcoming rock star Gage Addison would mean breaking two of my big rules—never date a musician, and never give a man a second chance to hurt me. His kisses leave me breathless. His apologies sound sincere. He’s weakening my defenses.
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Breaking all my rules for Gage is risky, but I’m not sure I can resist. Excerpt
| CASSANDRA LAWSON | It seemed the woman at my side recognized me. With wide green eyes, she reached forward again and tugged out her purse. I was prepared for her to hand me something to sign. What she did instead was toss a lightweight sweater onto my lap. I’d had panties thrown at me, but never sweaters. This was a new one. At my expression of confusion, she explained, “You have a huge hole in the crotch of your jeans.” I blinked twice, not at all sure how to respond. Instead of being my usually suave self, I asked, “You were looking at my junk?” I could have smacked myself as soon as the words left my mouth. “Not intentionally,” she insisted. “How does one accidentally check out a guy’s junk?” Things were getting worse. I seemed incapable of saying anything that didn’t make me sound like an asshole. “If you’re going to be rude, I’ll take my sweater back,” she warned, her hand reaching out to snatch it off my lap. I chuckled and caught her hand. “Don’t take the sweater away. I promise I’ll behave.” She pulled her hand back and smiled at me. That smile hit me like a gut punch. She was definitely not my type. I had a thing for model-thin blondes. The woman sitting beside me had an impressive figure, soft curves that could easily make a man hard. I’d never gone for the girl-next-door type. As if the heart-shaped face framed by curly brown hair that rested just below her shoulders wasn’t enough, she also had freckles. Her green eyes were alight with humor. “You’d better reach under there and put your seatbelt on,” she advised. I’d been staring at my girl-next-door instead of paying attention to what was going on around me. Looking away, I fastened my seatbelt before pretending to pay attention to the safety instructions from the flight attendant. After our flight was in the air, I decided I should thank my neighbor for her help. I also wanted to talk to her more. A big part of me wanted to figure out if she was pretending she didn’t recognize me. She seemed sweet and genuine, but that could also be an act. “Thanks for the loan of the sweater,” I began. “I can’t believe I was in such a hurry, I missed a huge hole in my jeans. You’d think someone would have mentioned it.” “The hole probably didn’t stand out until you sat down. I’m glad I could help,” she replied. “I have a tendency to hold onto my old jeans until they’re falling apart, too. Luckily, I’ve never had that particular problem.”
“I was going to grab a newer pair, but I hate being uncomfortable on a flight,” I admitted. “It bugs me that my jeans fall apart when they start to get really comfortable.” “I know,” she agreed. “I have some that look so bad, I only wear them around the house, but I can’t give them up. It seems as soon as they’re finally broken in, they need to be tossed.” “Ah, so you are at least smart enough to stick to wearing your worn jeans at home,” I told her. “I’d prefer to avoid having the world see my panties,” she added. “Your situation could be worse.” “Yeah,” I agreed with a laugh. “I might have a seatmate who doesn’t care enough to tell me about the hole in my jeans.” “You could have also gone commando,” she stated. I chuckled at her suggestion. That scenario could have ended with pictures of my junk all over the internet. “I’d like to think I would have noticed if the air was hitting things down there.” “One would hope, but I don’t know you well enough to judge how observant you are,” was her response. “Good point,” I agreed with a grin. “Since you’re stuck with me for the next hour, I may as well introduce myself. I’m Gage.” “I’m Bentley,” she replied. “Bentley?” I asked. “I don’t believe I’ve ever met anyone named Bentley. Do you go by your last name?” “No, my father has a thing for cars,” she explained. “That makes sense. It had to be either that or motorcycles with a first name like Bentley,” I remarked. “Motorcycles would have been great,” she mused. “Then I might have been named Harley. That is a much cooler name than Bentley.” “I can’t picture you as a Harley,” I told her. “Can you honestly picture me as a Bentley?” she asked. “It is your name, so I don’t have any trouble seeing you as Bentley,” I replied. “And if I’d introduced myself as Harley, you’d have no trouble picturing me as a Harley,” she argued. I shook my head before responding. “Sorry, but you definitely don’t look like a Harley.” “I would have been more badass,” she told me. “How could I have been anything less with such an awesome name?” “Do you have a nickname?” I asked. “I usually go by my middle name because it’s easier for people,” she replied. “People mess up my name all the time. I get called Whitney or Betsy.” Issue 49 | August 2020 |
“Those names don’t even sound like Bentley,” I said with a shake of my head. “People don’t do well with unusual names,” she explained. “It is a unique name,” I agreed before adding, “I mean that in a good way. Gage was uncommon when I was a kid. All the boys were named Michael, Matthew, or Christopher.” “There were several Jacobs in my classes, too,” she added. “It seemed every girl in my class was named Jessica or Ashley. Back then, I wanted to have a more common name. Now, I realize how lucky I was that I could just go by my first name in school.” “Our teachers used to add a letter to everyone’s name. I remember having a Michael S, a Michael A, and a Michael M in one class.” “It was so confusing,” she agreed. “At least, outside of class we could use nicknames. In my group of friends I had Jessica, Jessie, Jessa, and Jess.” “Guys do things a little different,” I explained. “I have a brother, so I know,” she assured me. “You can’t simply call someone Chris. You have to add some description to the name. My brother was friends with Crack-head Chris, Corvette Chris, and Chris Cross.” “I’d like to say I’ve outgrown that, but it would be a lie,” I admitted. “My friends didn’t need a name for me. That didn’t stop them from calling me Twelve Gage for a year.” “That would have been hard for a bunch of preteen boys to resist,” she said around a giggle. “How about you?” I asked. “I can resist calling you Twelve Gage,” she said with a straight face. “Smart ass,” I accused. “Do you have a nickname? I mean other than your middle name.” “A few people call me Bennie, mostly family,” she replied. “I like Bentley better,” I told her. Our discussion of unusual names was interrupted when a flight attendant came by to take drink orders. After he left, I looked over at Bentley again. “So, what do you do for a living?” “My job title is executive assistant, but I’m not sure that accurately describes what I do,” she began. “I basically put out every fire and make every arrangement for my employer.” “That sounds stressful,” I remarked. “It is, but I seem to thrive on the stress,” she replied. “How about you, Gage? What do you do for 70 | UncagedBooks.com
a living?” I wasn’t ready to answer that question. I liked that she thought I was just some guy with a hole in his pants. I wanted to continue with our easy banter.
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Uncaged Reviews By the Unholy Hand Kathryn Le Veque Medieval Romance
1200 A.D. - In the time following the death of Richard the Lionheart and the ascension of his brother, John, to the throne of England, a plot against the new king is hatched from an unexpected place – deep within the bowels of The Lateran Palace in Rome. It is rumored that the Pope himself is behind it. It is a plot so dark, and so dastardly, that William Marshal needs men who specialize in dark and dirty games in order to save a king they all hate, yet a king that England desperately needs.
Uncaged Review: The first book of The Unholy Trinity series and the Executioner Knights, and this one is focusing on Maxton. The Knights are tracking an assassination attempt on King John, and when this story unravels all the twisted and dark knots of this story it will be quite surprising. The reader is brought into this intricate tale like they are right in the story watching it unfold in person. There is a romance here, it’s not the main part of the story, but it’s also a story of equals, as equal as a man and woman can be in this age. Lady Andressa is as smart and cunning as a Knight, and proves her worth time and again. The epilogue in this book was almost a story in itself, and gives us a good idea where we may go next in the 2nd book in the series, and shows us what life has been like for Max and Andie a few years down the road. I’ve never been disappointed by this author’s books, and this book didn’t let me down, and she has a knack of yanking me into her story very early in the book. I am very much looking forward to the next book. Reviewed by Cyrene
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The Fall of Arcades Azriel Hope Fantasy Romance Though I am the darkness...let me be your light! Farrow Latimer, Prince of the Arcades:
I am the prince of darkness, the executioner and fallen angel royalty who is forbidden love. No matter how many men or women I take to my bed none capture my heart. As the Arcades teem with lust, debauchery, and destruction, I neither relish nor abhor my role as the most brutal of all and then I catch her....the small fairy halfling who changes my world.
Uncaged Review: This is a well written first novel in this series – and the play on the author’s pen name is not lost on me. Well, at least I “think” it’s a pen name. The world that is built here is dark and tragic, and brutal and evil and corrupt. Rayelynn is part fairy, a gentle soul that is gifted at healing. Farrow’s life is thrown into disarray– a fallen angel who is forbidden to love when he comes into contact with Rayelynn. Rayelynn will change Farrow’s life – and he will see who he truly is because of her. This is a well written fantasy, and one that was hard to put down. This newer author did a good job pulling me into the story, and it was different than most of the fantasy romances that I’ve read. This book does have quite a bit of violence, and there is a love scene, but it’s toward the back half of the book. If you like fantasy romances that have fallen angels, fairies and immortals to name a few, this could be a good selection. Reviewed by Cyrene
Supernatural Custody Dany Stone YA Fantasy I robbed Heaven. Now there’s Hell to pay. Cursed with the ability to steal the form of anyone I touch, I am one of Chatham’s most feared supernaturals. Hunted by those who fear my power. Betrayed by those who crave it. And I can only outrun them for so long.
Uncaged Review: This book/series has a lot of potential, but there is no back story to the main characters, there is no understanding of this world in any sense. The book is written in first person narrative, and changes every chapter, and that limits the story in too many ways. There are formatting and grammatical errors that are very noticeable and this book is marketed as a Young Adult, and I would caution against that rating, from the violence, language and situations. It also seems like it’s setting up to be a reverse harem, and I can see three potential partners. I really think this could have been a much better story, but I don’t see the author translating her vision the best way in this book. There needed to be a prologue, or even a prequel book to let us know about this world and the how and why of each character and their relationship history with Lux. With a bit more work and better editing, this could have a lot of potential. Reviewed by Cyrene
Ignition Point Jami Gray Fantasy When a questionable, but lucrative delivery job takes an unexpected turn, will Rory survive the collision or crash and burn? Rory Costas, Premier Transporter, has a plan for her future and the first step includes getting out from under her debt to the Arcane Guild. When an anonymous party offers a lucrative side job with shady details and a hefty paycheck, the professional implications of a successful delivery override her personal reservations. Uncaged Review: This is a good jump off to a new series. I still want to know more about these two main characters and this world and back story, but I’ve read this author before, and she always delivers. This was a shorter novella that introduces the character of Rory and Zev. Rory is a transporter of Arcane/Magical items and the magic we’ve seen Rory wield so far is mostly defensive. I am looking forward to how this series and characters develop. This is an action packed novella, with the attempted kidnapping of a kid and quite a bit of violence, but not overly gory. The author achieved her goal with getting this series on my must read list. Great start. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Uncaged Reviews Modified, Vol 1 Kat Stiles Humorous Fantasy
In My Dreams T.A. Moorman Paranormal Romance Short
Sometimes super powers aren’t all they’re cracked up to be...
Reina and Ricardo have a relationship that’s as close to perfect as one can get. Coming home after a romantic honeymoon, they’re ready to settle down and begin their life together.
Kate has enough problems - a boss that’s a little too friendly, a sex life that’s non-existent, and a cat with zero tolerance for late meals. The last thing she needs is to be kidnapped, even if it is by a hot Brit. Uncaged Review: This is a very misleading book in many ways. Even the description. Kate was kidnapped one night and has no idea what happened to her. She finds out from a different woman named Vi, that she’s been “modified” with a super power. You will never know “why” or by “who” or even “what” the power is or anything about it. This actually reads like the first few chapters of a book, and leaves off in a weird place, right when you might start to get an inkling of what the power is. This is a free read, so you can check it out for yourself – but this felt very incomplete to me, even prequels seem more informing than this one. I did like the little bit I read and may read the next volume to see where this is going. Reviewed by Cyrene
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But when Reina literally bumps into someone from her past, their future turns into a thing of uncertainty, and her life begins to unravel. Things are no longer as they seem when this dangerous stranger embeds himself into their lives. Uncaged Review: This is a short story, that is part of an established world, but it wasn’t too hard to keep up with it and the author does a pretty good job catching a reader up who hasn’t read the other books. Reina, a newly turned vampire, is haunted by vivid dreams, unknown to her that they are caused by a warlock. I can’t give away too many clues as the story is shorter, but you will start out wondering if Reina was kidnapped, as she has some memory loss from before she was turned. I didn’t connect very well with Reina and Ricardo as a couple, although I did gravitate toward Reina more than Ricardo – a character that seemed pretty flat to me and one dimensional. I think I would have liked to see this as a bit longer, so I could connect better with this couple and the world. Reviewed by Cyrene
Angel Fire Ella Summers
Something in the Heir Jenny Gardiner
Cadence Lightbringer, daughter of an archangel, has trained from birth to one day drink the Nectar of the gods and ascend to the angels’ ranks. She’s always been the perfect soldier. She’s always known exactly where her life is headed.
He’s a prince with a problem, she’s a commoner with a getaway plan.
Until she is assigned to a mission with Damiel Dragonsire, Master Interrogator of the Legion of Angels.
Uncaged Review: This is a prequel trilogy to the Legion of Angel series, and we learn about Nero’s parents and their journey and that will give us better insight into Nero’s magic and according to the author, will enhance our reading of the Legion of Angels series, which is one of my favorite series. And the first book does not disappoint. Cadence is a perfect daughter, perfect soldier and has been molded by her father since birth. Damiel is a Master Interrogator – hard, concise, and unforgiving – and doesn’t trust anyone. When the two are assigned together on a mission, they both will find out that neither are what they were led to believe. There are a few good twists in this, and you don’t see Cadence moving up the ranks like we’ve watched Leda, this is much quicker and the romance – although a slow burn throughout this book, it’s much faster than Nero and Leda. I can’t say that I liked this one as much as the main series, but it’s very enlightening, and I am beginning to have a much clearer picture of Cadence and Damiel. Reviewed by Cyrene
Modern-day Prince Adrian of Monaforte has a most old-fashioned problem: his demanding mother wants him wed to her best friend’s daughter, the hard-partying Serena. When his refusal falls on deaf ears, Adrian decides it’s time for him to slip away from his gilded cage and figure out his life, all on his own. As luck would have it, event photographer Emma Davison, weary of a revolving door of lost-cause men and tired of her outsider-looking-in career, is in need of her own escape clause, just in time to help a wayward prince in need. And she soon discovers that sometimes a girl’s gotta sweep a prince off his feet
Uncaged Review: This is a light hearted romance, with a bit of laughter – and it actually reminds me of those cheesy Hallmark movies that we all seem addicted to in the winter. This book is really dialog driven, and written in first person, but jumps from chapter to chapter from Adrian to Emma. The dialog seemed a bit young, for the lack of a better word. Emma felt a bit immature to me, and I’m not real sure what attracts Adrian to her. It’s also a little unbelievable that a prince doesn’t even know how to do much of anything, including making coffee. I can hardly believe that they are that sheltered these days. Some people are going to be overly critical and some will love it. I’m sitting firmly in the middle. Take this book for what it is, an easy shorter read that isn’t trying to win any literature awards, but easy to read when you just want a fantasy romance to read and a few hours to kill without over taxing your brain. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 49 | August 2020 |
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Raven’s Blood Cassandra Lawson Psychic/Vampire Suspense Engineered with evil intent, the Moon Virus was a weapon disguised as a cure. A weapon that changed the world forever. In a land once ruled by humans, vampires are now the dominant species. Enter the world of the Moon Virus survivors in this dystopian paranormal series filled with magic, romance, and adventure.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Raven’s Blood is one of those books I thoroughly enjoyed and couldn’t put down. It was engaging, exciting, and had that little bit of something truly different from many of the other paranormal romance books I have read. In Raven’s Blood, vampires are created in a whole different way than we are used to. It was created by a pharmaceutical company. Unfortunately, I can completely see something like this happening in real life due to greed and the lack of respect for human life found in society today. After creating this virus to do one thing, and it doesn’t go as planned, we are taken to a postapocalyptic type world where humans and vampires are definitely not allies. However, hope is not lost. There are some out there who are trying to make things better. Each of the main characters really has their own important role. If I were to break each one down, this review would be days long. They are each so unique, and in many ways relatable, that I really look forward to reading more in this series. I found myself really hoping for things to go well for this character or that, and I couldn’t wait for Raven and Connor to get their brains on straight
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and see what was right in front of them! I really can’t think of anything I didn’t like about Raven’s Blood. The story drew me in and didn’t let me go until it was over. There was enough action to keep it from being too mushy, there was angst, there were characters who surprised me, and characters who were definitely the pieces of crap I thought they were who had no redeeming qualities, and I couldn’t wait for them to die. I enjoyed the way it was written, and I really liked the use of humor that some of the characters displayed. It lightened the mood when it was necessary and helped them all to seem human, even when they weren’t. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a vampire book with a different spin on creation, with some pretty intense sex stuff that doesn’t overpower the story, and has a rising conflict that makes you wonder just what will happen next.
The Good, The Bad and the Undead Bonnie Gill Dystopian/Horror The law is gone. Zombies are here. Will Raven and her misfit friends survive? Raven Murphy is a prepper, but not for the same reason most other folks do it. She’s the reason her ex-boyfriend went to jail. If he ever gets out, she’ll need to grab her sister and head off-grid. In the meantime, she’s a top-notch auto mechanic with an entire arsenal of her much loved firearms in the closet of her trailer. She’s ready to go to war with the ex if she ever needs to. The people in her trailer park in Fox Lake are a unique community. A little quirky, and some are downright weird, but for Raven, they’re family. But when a plague hits the country, victims of a creepy virus, are headed toward them, Raven teams up with pals, including a couple of ex-Army guys, to protect her neighbors. Whatever’s coming, the good, the bad, or the undead, Raven and her gun-shooting, bomb-making, booby-trap-setting team aren’t going down without a fight.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: What a fun start to an exciting new series. Lots of action, realistic characters, and zombies. What else could I ask for? This book had me on the edge of my seat, and I was so anxious about how things would go. I read it so fast because I couldn’t wait to find out what was coming next.
would be a better place if more people thought like that. My actual favorite character though, is Helga. There is something about that fruitcake that I just can’t help but love. I’ll be honest, this book kind of freaked me out. As I was reading it, I noticed the similarities between what was going on in the book and what is currently going on in our world, but I know for a fact this book was written before any of the current insanity even started. I’m slightly suspicious that this author maybe be psychic. If she’s not, she just has some really good timing. The action in this book seems realistic to me. There was nothing that stood out as impossible. I’m not fighting or battle expert, but for the average person, I think it’s easy to follow. I think there is just the right amount of action in comparison to story itself. I don’t care for books that are like one big fight scene so this was a nice balance. This really is a good book. I enjoyed the thought processes behind the characters and the overall feel of the book. It read quickly and kept my attention the entire time. I normally like really long books, but I think this is a good average length. It’s just the right size to keep me entertained for a while without becoming boring with filler info that’s just there to fill pages. If you like zombie stories, this is worth the read.
Raven is a character I can relate to. Her life seems to have prepared her for this moment, and she’s smart. I like that she thinks ahead and that, to her, family is more than just blood. She’s created a little family among those she cares about and I think the world
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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Spite & Pride Valerie Puri Horror Short Emery Bernand had to go. He embodied everything I loathed in a business partner. Stealing my ideas, taking credit for my work, and belittling me in front of others. When he went too far and had an affair with my fiancé, I knew the time had come for revenge. I made my plan, and set the stage. Emery would finally find out what happens to those who cross me. By the end of the night, one of us would be as good as dead.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Just when you think you know what’s going on, everything gets turned on its head. Spite and Pride is a very quick read but it gives the reader everything it could possibly want, all condensed into a short story. This is a great book if you don’t have a lot of time to read. I hate it when I’m reading a book that I like but then I have to stop to take care of something else. Then when I go back to it, I’ve forgotten what happened and then I have to re-read parts of it. You don’t have that issue with this book. Alex is a weird guy. He’s dead set on revenge and he really does get a bit creative with it. I like the gothic, Edgar Allan Poe-ish take he brings to the table. I’ve always been a fan of darker literature so this was right up my alley. I could have lived with a little bit more backstory and that kind of thing, but at the same time, the author really does get right to the point. I’m not a fan of words just to fill pages, but the meat of the story is then only sprinkled in between. You risk losing the important details that way along with the reader.
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So, the length of this one really works in my opinion. You know the important details and that’s what matters. I really enjoyed this book. It moved a quite a pace and I never found myself wishing they would hurry up and get to the point. The twist at the end was not what I expected and that’s almost always a good thing. I recommend this if you are looking for dark and short read that leaves you almost breathless at the end.
Operation 420 JoJo Strange Humorous Short It’s a job for professionals. They’re a group of amateurs. Like that’s going to stop them. Never in the history of heists, has the payoff been this high.
over complicate things to the point of being just out there ridiculous. If you are looking for a short, fast paced, and exciting book about some people trying to get one over on the man after the man started it, check out Operation 420. It’s a fairly short book, and it doesn’t have a bunch of unnecessary filler. That filler info is what can cause a book to go downhill fast for me, so I appreciate it when the author gets to the point. Operation 420 is worth every star I’m giving it.
Lock your door Close your curtains Get out the air freshener Load this into your favorite reading device And get ready to inhale the most cronic caper ever! Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: The description says Operation 420 is Ocean’s 11 meets Half- baked, but I think it’s more like Ocean’s 11 meets the Dukes of Hazzard, if the Dukes of Hazzard were trying to steal their own pot. This book moves really quickly, so once you start reading, hold onto your pants because this story pretty much just takes off. The redneck ingenuity in this book is on point. As someone with family of the redder necked variety, the things they pull off in Operation 420 sounds exactly like something my family would come up with but would probably be too stoned to follow through with. That being said, I think I can relate to the characters and that makes them feel much more real to me. I could absolutely picture my cousin’s trying to pull off a stunt like this. I should have expected this book would be a fun ride since that is all Jojo Strange seems to produce, but I’m always a little surprised at how well it comes together in his books. I’ll be honest, despite my faith in this author, I was a little hesitant because sometimes even the best have their not so best moments. I wasn’t sure if he was going to bring everything together in a way that was realistic to some degree, but I should have known. Obviously, the things in this book couldn’t happen (or could they?) but he didn’t
Issue 49 | August 2020 |
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Reaper Revealed L.E. Perez & Mia Ellas YA Shifter Surrounded by death, one young woman must learn to wield it or succumb to it. There was a time, not long ago, when I heard the word reaper and thought of skeletal beasts shrouded in hooded cloaks who tormented people with their soul-
sucking sickles. Now, they are the mean girls I pass in the halls at L’Academie L’Mort, and the insanely hot guy with perfect hair I’m told I will be working with. Oh, and after graduation, it turns out I’ll be one, too. Confused? Join the club. The line forms behind me.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: What a great way to start a series. I love the diversity of the characters and the way the authors create this twist on reapers that I haven’t seen before. Reaper books are usually pretty hit or miss for me. It’s been hard to find a book about reapers that isn’t the same kind of run of the mill thing. This definitely brings something new to the table. The action scenes are great. I could really see the action without questioning if something would actually work that way. Too many authors completely miss the mark on their fight scenes and that is definitely not a problem with this book. This is a cool story about a girl trying to figure out where she fits into her new reality and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
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Blood in the Mirror Various Horror Anthology Life-changing, world-changing, these authors have taken the theme and made it their own. From Angie Martin’s - Happy Birthday, Aiko, Brian McCord’s – Rise of the Quaranteens, T. Elizabeth Guthrie’s - Theory of Terror, CeeCee Elaine’s – The Children Of Canyon Lake, Courtney Lynn Rose’s – Legacy, Annamarie Gardner’s – Bloody Fingers and Jess Bagnall’s – Purgatory. Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: As someone who has had a lifelong fear of mirrors due to a weird experience at 10 years old, this book freaked me out. In a good way of course, but the creep factor was off the charts. This book actually brings out a lot of my fears and reminds me of why I don’t look in mirrors unless I have to, but never in a dark room. Each story has its own level of creepiness that made me want to just cover all the mirrors in my house and be done with it. Since its in an anthology, you never know what you are going to get. Each author has their own strengths and weaknesses, but luckily their weaknesses aren’t anything that seems to affect their ability to write a great horror story. There were a few times where I had to put the book down and read something just a tad lighter just to get out of my own head with it. The longer I thought about the stories, the more they bothered me. I’m the type that likes that creepy feeling up to a point so it’s not normally an issue for me, but I can admit I did want to sleep with the mirrors covered after reading this book. Great anthology. Great stories and great authors. It was nice to come across an anthology of this caliper that didn’t let me down. I had never read anything by most of these authors before I read this book, so now I have a handful of new horror authors to add to my never-ending TBR list.
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews What Frees the Heart Karen A., Wyle Historical Western Can they set each other free? Cowbird Creek has its share of troubled souls. For Tom, a farmer’s son, losing his leg felt like losing his future. Jenny, a young prostitute at Madam Mamie’s parlor house, has never thought she had much future to lose. Amy’s Review: Magnificent story Wyle pens a remarkable historical romance story in What Frees the Heart. I’ve read the first book in this series, and liked it, but I think this one really caught my interest. Jenny was one tough lady, and not like what others expected her to be. They wanted her a bit more “lady like”. This author brings the stories to life, and this was an interesting story. There is a great chemistry between the characters, especially Jenny and Tom, who saw something in each other, along with a great depth that makes them realistic and flawed. A very well-written story, and I enjoyed it. It is always a joy to read this author’s stories. The storyline and era were written with great care to make sure the details were correct, but also brought lively and grand characters to both the foreground and background, to lend details to the story. I have fast become a big fan of (this author).
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The Lane Betrayal John A. Heldt Time Travel Virginia physicist Mark Lane has a problem. Weeks after privately creating two time machines, he learns his corporate partner wants to use the portable devices for nefarious purposes. Rather than give him the chance to do so, Mark takes the time boxes and escapes to the relative safety of 1865. Amy’s Review: One of my favorites by Heldt! Heldt pens a gripping and impressive story in The Lane Betrayal. I have read a lot of work from this author before, and I really enjoyed this one, maybe it’s my favorite so far. The characters were realistic and created with great depth. I enjoy Heldt’s time traveling stories, almost feels so real. The antagonist was a character that I felt was both devious and yet, in a way, enjoyable to read about. The story brings in the believable, even if almost impossible. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). It is always a joy to read this author’s stories. This author is not just a writer but a great storyteller. The author’s technique of intense characters and great plotlines is a gift. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. The Lane family is one of greatness and one that has a great loyalty to one another, really, how many families would be willing to go back to 1865? This story is well done! A definite must read!
Spring of Fire JW Robitaille Mystery A town threatened with extremist violence. One woman is tasked with defusing the threat. Can she uncover the truth before her town explodes in violence?
Amy’s Review: Another great Cory Marin Mystery! Robitaille pens a remarkable story in Spring of Fire, the fifth of the series about Cory Marin, Detective. I have read stories from this author before, and I really enjoyed all of them. The characters were filled with depth and very realistic. There is a great chemistry between the characters, and a depth that makes them realistic and flawed. Marin is on another case, but this time she’s pregnant, so that brings an added edge to the story. Dealing with conflict and betrayal, Marin tries to defuse what she can, while dealing with extremists on both sides of conflict. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). A very well-written story, and I enjoyed it. It is always a joy to read this author’s stories. This author is not just a writer but a great storyteller. Magnificent story, kept this reader turning the pages. A definite attention grabber. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. Love this story.
Nightmare Asylum and other Deadly Delights Sonia Kilvington Horror Shorts Nightmare Asylum – Despised by day, tortured by night. A midwifery student’s life disintegrates into a terrifying nightmare, after a disturbing encounter with the notorious child killer, Evelyn Green. Dark secrets from Lydia’s past unleash a truth that conjures her fears into unspeakable horror. Amy’s Review: Absolutely page-turning horror Kilvington pens terrifying stories in Nightmare Asylum & Other Deadly Delights. I haven’t read anything from this author before, and I really enjoyed this title. The characters were delightfully deadly and very raw and intense. A definite attention grabber. The thrills, terror, horror and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. This author’s characters develop and interacts well with the other characters. I have fast become a big fan of Kilvington. Writing short stories, especially with this depth of detail is not easy, and Kilvington managed to do it in each story, keeping the reader glued to the pages, savoring every word. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). This author is not just a writer but a great storyteller. The collection fit together with varying themes, but all with deadly twists and the unexpected.
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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews I Love You Too, Daddy Shervin Jamali Biographical Fiction A young man hears a voice, compelling him to write the story of his life. About a father, and brother, he adores. And perhaps a mother, who got lost in the shuffle. But there’s so much more. The voice convinces him others might benefit from his tale. That they too could overcome loss as a result. So Jason writes his emotional journey. Amy’s Review: Magnificent Story! I am a fan of Jamali’s and it is always an honor to read this author’s work. I couldn’t wait to read this one when offered, and I’m so glad I read it. Jamali pens an impeccable story in I love you, too, Daddy. It’s something that can’t easily be explained, but it draws the reader in from the beginning. The story is a journey of the life of Jason, and not only the story he tells but why he decided to share it as well. It’s both heartfulling and heartbreaking, and a definite must read. It is always a joy to read this author’s stories. This author is not just a writer but a great storyteller. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. This author’s characters develop and interacts well with the other characters. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more).
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Esqiuire, The Appeal T.K. Ware Suspense/Crime Banker, Alabama has had its share of crime, mayhem, and litigation. Beneath it all, the city is controlled by the tentacles of Dave and Burg Law Firm. In the midst of the darkness around the city, emerged a light--Charles ESQUIRE Everson, a defender of truth, protector of the innocent, and a man of faith and his protege, Theodore ESQUIRE Walker. Amy’s Review: Grand Story Ware pens another magnificent story in Esquire: The Appeal. This is a story that is in the Esquire series, and it does not disappoint. I’ve read the other books in the story and definitely recommend reading them all. They are stand alone, but reading the stories from the beginning lends to the depth of the stories, and the connections with all the characters. It’s a grand plot that brings this reader back some of my favorite characters. It is always a joy to read this author’s stories. This author is not just a writer but a great storyteller. Esquire has a lot of depth, and the characters are far from perfect, which the flaws make it part of the joy to read. e author’s technique of intense characters and great plotlines is a gift. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. This author’s characters develop and interacts well with the other characters. Yes, I am a fan of Ware. If he writes it, I’ll read it. I never have expectations of the stories I read, and with Ware, I am never disappointed.
Dark Justice James Musgrave Native American Suspense
Carnal Knowledge Rachael Tamayo Thriller/Suspense
When Abortion was Against the Law, Attorney Clara Foltz Confronts the Establishment In the fifth mystery of the Portia of the Pacific series, Attorney and Detective Clara Shortridge Foltz and her partner, Attorney Laura de Force Gordon, become involved in two trials.
What do you do when you know you’re on a serial killer’s hit list?
Amy’s Review: Another Outstanding Story! I am a definite fan of Musgrave, and the Portia of the Pacific Historical Mysteries series. Dark Justice is just the read that brings paranormal, mystery, history and thrilling plot lines to the reader. This story definitely delivers all that great page-turning intense attention grabbing plot that the reader needs. A controversial subject and great characters brings 1887 to life, and serves as a reminder of how far humanity has come. The story brings in the believable, even if almost impossible. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). It is always a joy to read this author’s stories. This author is not just a writer but a great storyteller, and he provides an enjoyable journey. The author’s technique of intense characters and great plotlines is a gift. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next.
Newly separated and struggling to start her life over after her husband’s infidelity, Wren tries to remember what happened to her, but nothing is adding up as more horrors unfold around her. Amy’s Review: Powerful Read Tamayo pens an absolutely powerful and raw story in Carnal Knowledge. The title definitely fits this story, and I read it in one sitting, from beginning to end. Wren is a remarkably strong character, as she suffers from a great traumatic event. Her life almost seems to unravel, and it’s amazing how it is kept together. The story was unpredictable, and the ending very, very surprising. The characters, especially Ricky and Alex were realistic and filled with flaws, some seen, some hidden. Magnificent story, kept this reader turning the pages. A definite attention grabber. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. The title drew me in, but the story made me stay. The author’s technique of intense characters and great plotlines is a gift.
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