Uncaged Book Reviews

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ISSUE 59 | JUNE 2021


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n o te fr o m t h e e d it o r


une 2021 - Let me explain why this issue ran so late this month. At the end of May, when the magazine is under full swing to get ready, a tree fell on our backyard fence and one of our dogs ran away. As of this writing, she’s been gone a full week, with no signs of her anywhere. We’ve done the full search mode, from flyers to contacting police, shelters and rescue groups. We’ve posted to social media, we’ve searched the dense woods all around and knocked on doors. We are heartbroken here. And without sightings, it’s hard to know where to go next. But life does go on, even though I think it should stop. We still have hope that someone will see her and we will find her. I’ve made the decision to pull Uncaged Book Reviews into a bi-monthly magazine, for now. At least until the end of the year. With the amount of work here to be done and my own time constraints, this will make it a bit easier and take some pressure off. So starting in July, that issue will cover July/August. I will finish the year in that same way. None of the advertisements will be affected. The Raven Awards will begin voting in July. Sometime in August, I will announce the LIVE Facebook event that will announce the winners. More will be coming very soon on the information regarding the voting and the event. 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

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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 supported through advertisements, but the prices will not increase in 2021. If you’d like to write a guest column for the magazine, you will receive a free premium placement (value $40) inside the magazine. The article needs to be about writing, authors, books, genres, etc. If you’d like to be a Feature Author, 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. The new form for Short Story Submissions has been added, and a Catch Up form will come next. Enjoy the June 2021 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews.

X cyrene


Issue 59 | June 2021

FangFreakinTastic 104

feature authors Stephanie LaVigne 12 cozy mystery 22 32 56

CJ Daly

military romantic suspense

Robert W. Brady Jr. epic fantasy

J.P. Roth

paranormal women’s fiction

short story


Ignition Point, part 5 urban fantasy - Jami Gray

guest column


The Disabled Writer Amy Shannon

A Life in Motion



The Start of the Growing Season Monthly column chronicling life on a small farm.

Cyrene’s Kitchen


John Hazen


Christian Cameron

paranormal suspense

scifi/historical fiction


Sandra Sookoo


Melanie Rose Clarke

historical romance

historical romance

authors and their pets


Ellie Ellis


Shrimp De Jonghe Monthly recipe from Cyrene’s country kitchen

cover image © jplenio

4 7 112 116 120

Note from the Editor Contributors|Partnerships Uncaged Reviews FangFreakinTastic Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Review

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Uncaged’s Feature Authors introduce you to their devoted writing buddies, and the devotion goes both ways. Issue 59 | June 2021 |


Contributors | Partnerships

Follow Uncaged on Facebook

Paranormal lover’s rejoice. Uncaged review contributors.

A blog for horror fans. Uncaged review contributors.

A little bit of everything. Uncaged review contributors.

If you’d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 59 | June 2021 |


upcomingconventions Starting in October, Uncaged will start listing conventions for 2021 since so many have been canceled or modified for 2020. Uncaged will watch for any cancelations or modifications for the 2021 season.

Lori Foster’s Reader & Author Get Together (RAGT) June 2–5, 2021; West Chester, OH http://readerauthorgettogether.com/

​ oas & Tiaras Afternoon Tea B TBA - Allen, TX

Writers on the River July 17, 2021; Peoria, IL https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersontheriver Simply Romance Bookish Weekend June 3–6, 2021; Gatlinburg, TN https://simplyromancecon.com/

RomantiConn Author Signing Event July 24, 2021; Trumbull, CT https://www.eventbrite.com/e/romanticonn-2021-tickets-71912007751 Wild Deadwood Reads June 19, 2021; Deadwood, SD https://wilddeadwoodreads.com/ A Weekend with the Authors (new dates in 2022) All About the Indies (new dates in 2022) VIRTUAL: Romance Slam Jam Convention 8| uncagedbooks.com |

feature authors

mystery | military suspense | fantasy

Stephanie LaVigne

CJ Daly

Robert W. Brady Jr.



tephanie LaVigne comes from a long line of mystery lovers. In an effort to keep them in her goodgraces, her books combine intrigue, quirkiness, and adventure with a healthy dose of humor and wit. She has published over fifty popular, often bestselling, novels under her name, as well as pen names, in both romance and mystery. From hopping trains across the US to crewing a sailboat on a trans-Atlantic crossing, from mushing dogs on a Canadian dogsled to unwittingly hiking Mount Washington, she’s been lucky enough to have incredible adventures alongside all kinds of real-life characters. One of her missions is to introduce readers to the kind of personalities that have | UncagedBooks.com 12colorful

shaped her life. She currently lives in her favorite South Florida neighborhood surrounded by palm trees, peacocks, a few wild kids, one wild husband, and a handful of incredible family members and friends. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Novelists, Inc

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StephanieLaVigne.com Uncaged welcomes Stephanie LaVigne Welcome to Uncaged! Your newest book, Headlines, Deadlines & Lies will release June 26. Can you tell readers more about this book? What draws you to the mystery genre? Headlines, Deadlines & Lies is a genealogical mystery set in a sweet beach town along the Gulf Coast of Florida. Piper Harrington’s life is a blur. Between raising two kids alone with the help of her parents and scrambling to keep up at work, she craves a chance to prove her own dreams are still valid. So when she’s thrown an opportunity to take on a feature article at the local glossy paper where she works, she stretches the truth to make sure she lands her lucky break. Digging deep into the world of genealogy, she’s determined to locate her best friend’s long-lost father for the feel-good story. But between a distractingly handsome crime correspondent, racing between school drop-offs and pickups, and discovering that some secrets want to stay buried, her career ambitions may end up relegated to the backburner permanently. If you like quirky heroines, intriguing puzzles, and slow-burn romance, then you’ll have fun with this feel-good read!

revolve around a life-shattering crime as the catalyst. Instead, by investigating the small lies people tell, I wanted my heroine to try and uncover a mystery in the everyday lives we lead. As for why I love mysteries, I think that I am one of those people who is overly curious by nature. I’m probably built like a good cozy mystery protagonist: inclined toward being nosy, but too polite to be overt about it. So I am secretly nosy. I love trying to figure out what has happened, why it happened, what lead people to act they way they did, what nuanced events lead up to the thing that happening… and I think that is the very nature of a good mystery book. Getting to go through all those paces and knowing that in the end you will have the satisfaction of understanding the who-what-where-and-why. That is the happily-ever-after of the mystery genre. And it is both an invigorating and calming feeling for people who love puzzles. You also have a 4 book series out, Fox Hill Southern Mystery series. Can you tell readers more about these books? Can they be read as standalones? The Fox Hill books are technically standalones, though they center around the same group of people, namely the main character Caitlyn Clayborne and her group of local cohorts. The mysteries in each book are completely unrelated, so you can jump right into any of them and enjoy a fully independent story. Though, as with many series, readers often enjoy reading them in order to watch how their interpersonal relationships develop. Also, one of the main storylines of the Fox Hill series is about how Caitlyn returns to the town and finds that it is on its last legs, with there not being enough business to keep people afloat. So it’s fun to read them in order if you want to see the evolution of the town being reinvigorated through the town folks’ eclectic ideas of how they can turn their tiny podunk town into a tourist hot spot.

I started writing Headlines, Deadlines & Lies with the intention of seeing if I could craft a mystery that didn’t Issue 59 | June 2021 |


What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? I think the beginning of the book is strangely the easiest. I do a lot of thinking about a story before I dive in, but usually one day I just sit down and start typing. I remind myself that I can always go back and change it. But “just starting” has proven one of the best ways for me to kickstart a story and figure out where it is going to go (even with lots of planning, the story will usually develop into something slightly different once I actually start writing it.) The most difficult for me is probably the threequarter point. At that spot, you’ve already put a lot of time into the book, and it’s not quite the end, so it’s an easy spot to get tired at. I’m not a great runner, but I think the same thing happens in a 5k or marathon type race. You go out of the gate strong, and when you know you are near the end the adrenaline kicks in- but in that mid-3/4 point it’s natural to lag a little. When I was a swimmer, one of my races was the 200 Individual Medley, which has four sections. My coach used to tell me that I needed to push hardest during the third part for the same reasons: you naturally start and end a race with adrenaline pushing you harder, so if you can keep pushing through the mushy middle, you will have the best chance of winning. Now if I could only apply that knowledge to my writing… What are you looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do? I am one of those people who adjusted surprisingly well to “quarantine life” and I’m not sure that I’m quite ready for the chaos of regular life to resume. I have three young kids and it has been somewhat nice to simplify our lives by not doing extra things. That being said, I am excited to travel and visit nature. From what I’ve read, I am apparently not alone in that, so I will probably have to wait awhile until life has settled back down for everyone. I have been mentally planning an epic North American roadtrip through the US and Canada…so while we aren’t ready to pull it off yet, that is the thing 14 | UncagedBooks.com

| STEPHANIE LAVIGNE | I’m most excited about post-pandemic! Oh! And I would really love a spa day with one of my friends. Just getting to spend a day relaxing, talking, reading a book, getting massages…that would be pretty nice. Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? Hmmm, great question! I think my mystery books are more character-driven and my romances are more plot or location-centric in the initial stage. But I usually need the main character to inform the plot, and vice versa, so they both have importance early on. My characters get names very early on and I quickly develop a persona in my mind that I use in order to figure out what their story will look like. With a mystery, that might be “a mom who secretly becomes a detective and still has to have dinner on the table every night” – so what would that character’s story look like? What kind of hijinks could she get into? What are her obstacles? Then I start building a world around her, and ask myself questions like, “How does she become a secret detective in the first place?” and begin building the story from there. For romance, I usually create a place that I want my characters to live in. Then I start thinking about who would live there and plan out stories for each of those characters. So that may be “a baker on Main Street has a handsome competitor open up across the street,” “an ambitious interior designer on an exclusive private island gets a handsome big name client, but she’s sworn off love and he’s a known playboy- yet there are sparks,” “city girl comes home for the holidays to her boyfriend’s small hometown,” “siblings start a new venture on their family’s ranch.” But I know all of these characters are going to be interacting with the overarching location, so it’s more about finding fun plots that could work in that environment. What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? Issue 59 | June 2021 |



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Well, like I mentioned, I have three kids, so I don’t get to relax much at this point. I listen to audiobooks, sometimes I squeeze in a movie or tv show on demand (though this can double as work research). I like to bake healthy versions of decadent desserts, and I like to bake in general. That’s a calming activity for me that I try to fit in when I can. One of my favorite things to do is to plan a trip somewhere and then, ideally, go on that trip! Taking little adventures with my family where I can show them things, or just enjoy being somewhere interesting or new is my idea of a perfect day. If you add in eating something in a new place, and doing some sort of activity, well then, I’m golden. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? I live in South Florida so I basically do have one season all year, haha. I’ve lived places with seasons and in those places I would probably take summer or fall year-round. In Florida, I would take “Winter”, which is equivalent to Fall in most other parts of the country. I love bright shiny sunshine and a perfectly pleasant breeze. When it gets “cold” where I live, we bundle up…but then by noon we have to start peeling off our layers because the sun heats everything up. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? It depends. For example, over this last week, I had 2-3 heavy writing days, and then the other days I was only able to sneak in one chapter per day. I have a lot of distractions in the current version of my everyday life, so I do what I can to get it all done. Writing a novel in a month is a good pace for me, but there are a lot of contributing factors as to whether I can write more or less than that.

sell ebooks.


Being in an actual book store is my happy place. I purchase a lot of reference books because I am always trying to learn about something, and that supports my book buying addiction. I have listened to audiobook forever, so I listen to books more than anything else. A huge part of my business is ebooks, but I haven’t yet figured out how to get myself to read consistently on an electronic device. At the end of the day, I’m glad all three exist because it means I can get content no matter what! I’m currently reading two marketing books, but I’m always reading something about personal or business development. I also just finished reading The Magic Misfits series by Neal Patrick Harris to my kids. It was fantastic! What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I am so thankful for all the people who read my books and keep me inspired to keep coming up with stories to share! Every day that goes by, I think about how lucky I am to be a full-time writer. That wouldn’t be possible without all the awesome readers and supportive people I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by. I would make a terrible accountant, so thank you all for allowing me to make a living as an author! You can follow me on Amazon (they are great about notifying people about new releases), Bookbub, Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads!

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I like to buy physical books, listen to audiobooks, and Issue 59 | June 2021 |



Enjoy an excerpt from Headlines, Deadlines & Lies Headlines, Deadlines & Lies Stephanie LaVigne Cozy Mystery Releases June 26


A whirlwind of secrets. A distracting crime reporter. One single mom has a shot at her professional & personal dreams… if she can unravel a complicated family tree

Piper Harrington’s life is a blur. Between raising two kids alone and scrambling to keep up at work, she craves a chance to prove her own dreams are still valid. So when she’s thrown an opportunity to take on a feature article at the local glossy paper where she works, she tells one tiny lie to make sure she lands her lucky break. Digging deep into the world of genealogy, she’s determined to locate her best friend’s long-lost father for the feel-good story. Should be a walk in the park…right? But between a distractingly handsome crime reporter, racing between school drop-offs and pickups, and discovering that some secrets want to stay buried, her career ambitions may end up relegated to the backburner permanently. Can Piper grab her very first headline by the fast-approaching deadline? Or will sorting out the truth from the lies prove that her dreams are too risky to pursue? Excerpt Piper anxiously wiggled her toes tucked under18 | UncagedBooks.com

neath her. Now in her office, her feet slipped out of her wedges, she sat perched back on her heels in her desk chair facing out the window. Her body was trying all it could to dispel the nervous energy she was feeling. It had been over 45 minutes since she had texted her mom and still hadn’t heard back. Pulling the pencil out from behind her ear, she lowered it to the yellow notepad propped atop her lap. She wrote the word “genealogy” in cursive. When nothing more came to her, she started sketching a tree. Her mom had tried to tell her interesting family tree stories so many times, but she was always so preoccupied with the kids or some other life-related logistic, or she was just simply exhausted. Piper dropped her head back and groaned at her ceiling. Uuughghgh! Her exasperation was loud enough that she didn’t hear the subtle click and squeak of her office door opening. “Everything all right in here?” came a deep, unfamiliar voice. Piper’s eyes flew open and she swiveled around to lock eyes with a tall, scruffily bearded hunk of a man in cargo pants and a dark gray V-neck T-shirt, with a worn-in leather bag slung casually over his left shoulder. He looked like he had just hopped off his motorcycle after a rugged cross-country trip. His hair was mussed up, but in a sexy way, and his deep brown eyes were the kind that drew you to them the way good chocolate does. Clearing her throat and casually untucking her shoeless feet from beneath herself, she tried to reclaim her composure. He looked bemused just watching her as she rolled herself back toward her desk on her tiptoes, slipping her feet daintily into the waiting shoes below. She set her pad and pencil on her desk and clasped her hands together in what she hoped looked like a professional manner. “May I help you?” Barely trying to hide his amusement, he shifted his weight before speaking again in that almost gravelly

| STEPHANIE LAVIGNE | voice. “I’m here to meet with one Miss Piper Harrison… Harrinton…” He squinted his eyes slightly, realizing he should have remembered to check her name before coming in. “Harrington. But just Piper is fine.” Piper stood up and reached out her hand. When he took it in his, it seemed to dwarf hers. She could feel smoothed-out calluses on his palm from what she guessed were years of some sort of manual labor. “You are…?” Deep dimples appeared and she wished he would break eye contact with her, but he didn’t. “JP, JP Dean, the new crime reporter.” “Ooooh yessss. Yep, I was totally expecting you,” she lied. She had been so preoccupied with her impending deadline for Gretchen that she had completely spaced on her agreeing to show the new hire around. “I’m sorry, you just caught me off guard. I’m working on a big assignment and I lost track of time.” She pushed her chair back, patted down her now creased clothes, and reached to get her key fob. As she turned back toward JP, she saw him taking a gander at the “big assignment” that she had been working on when he walked in. “A multimedia piece?” He raised a sly eyebrow, smirking. Her cheeks flushed pink as she looked down at the rudimentary pencil sketch and lone word. The absurdity of it caused a laugh to crop up, which she did her best to stifle. A snortle snuck out nonetheless. “Long story. Probably good that I walk away from it for a little while. Let me show you around.” She flipped the pad of paper over so that no other curious eyes would wander by her office and catch sight of it. Then she followed him out the door, trying not to notice the smell of white musk and leather that lightly lingered behind him. *** As they made their way around the office, Piper point-

ed out the relatively hum-drum workstations and introduced JP to her coworkers. She quickly realized that he was the type of guy that other guys instantly wanted to be friends with, and that made grown women giggle, even the married ones. He was tall and imposing, yet approachable and selfdeprecating enough to put people at ease. It almost felt strange that he was on the crime beat, but then again, he definitely looked like a guy who had seen some things in his lifetime. When they got to the elevator, Piper pressed the up button then turned back to face him, only to find his eyes about ten inches from hers. He had leaned down to her height, and in a slightly intimate whisper he said, “Not that I’m not dying to see the third floor or meet the Classifieds Department, but do you know of any good lunch joints around here?” He was definitely too close, she thought, because it felt like they were breathing the same air. She swallowed hard and tried to play it cool. “Oh yeah, for sure. I can recommend a few places and then I can show you the rest of the building when you get back.” He cocked his head. “I was thinking you could show me in person. Like we could have lunch together, if you’re up for that?” He paused a second before adding, “I mean, I don’t want to keep you from your big project. I could tell that there were definitely some fluffy clouds and a rainbow desperately needed on that picture.” She clenched her lips, fighting an embarrassed smile. “Mmm-hmm, very clever.” “I thought so.” When his dimples appeared, the rest of her smile broke free as well. Piper took a few seconds to size him up. She lifted her chin and placed a hand on her hip. “I’m a very serious professional, I’ll have you know.” Keenly amused, he refaced the elevator. “I have no doubt, Ms. Harrington.” “Fine. I’ll join you for lunch.” After what seemed like an eternity, the elevator Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | doors finally pinged open. “Actually, do you mind if we swing by my friend’s desk first? She and I always eat lunch together,” Piper said. “The more, the merrier,” he agreed. Piper and JP made their way down the long hall that led to the Birth, Marriage, and Obituary Office. Just inside stood Boots, a pen clenched between her teeth, half kneeling in her tight, knee-length skirt like a Girl Friday working the telegraph, awaiting word of an approaching war ship. JP turned to Piper. “Don’t any of you sit properly at your desks around here?” Piper just shrugged, knowing full well that neither she nor Boots did anything completely normal when no one was looking. “Hey!” Boots boomed through teeth still gripping the pen, quickly taking in Piper, then JP, then Piper again. She tried to telepathically glean every bit of information as to why her best friend had just entered the dungeon with a surly, swaggering knight in tow. “Boots, this is JP, the new hire on the Crime Beat. JP, this is my closest and oldest friend, Nora. Obit Master and all-around brilliant person.” The two exchanged quick pleasantries as Boots’s computer and phone sent up a swirl of beeps and dings. “We were just coming to see if you wanted to go to lunch a few minutes early?” Piper proposed. Another round of beeping ensued. “What is going on down here? This is usually the most… dare I say, dead place, in the entire building.” Boots rolled her some side-eye. “Normally I’d love to grab lunch with you guys, but I can’t. The mayor has just been in a car accident so it’s all 20 | UncagedBooks.com

hands on deck until we find out how bad it is.” Piper and JP both jerked their heads back and exchanged looks. “Well, that’s a little morbid, if I do say,” JP said. “And coming from me, that’s actually saying quite a bit.” Boots shrugged. “The life of an Obit Queen. What can I say? One day I will grace the stage, but until then, it is my duty to make sure every newly departed person is remembered as a legend in their own right.” She bowed animatedly. “Luckily, one of my sources at the hospital is saying that it doesn’t look bad at all, all things considered. But it’s basic protocol when someone in a power position or with any sort of celebrity gets hurt that we need to be prepared to roll out the proverbial red carpet, from an obituary standpoint. The worst part is, they will probably keep her overnight for observation, meaning I’m manning the computer for the next 48 hours one way or the other.” Boots grimaced adorably, as only she could. “Want us to bring you something back?” Piper offered. “That would be great, thanks!” Boots enthused. “Just get me my regular.” The phone started ringing and Boots picked it up, covering the mouthpiece and whispering, “Sorry, I have to take this,” before blowing Piper an air kiss and snatching her pen back up to scribble some notes from the conversation she was now engaged in. Piper led JP back down the hall and through an emergency door that opened to the outside. A wave of heat hit them as they entered the Florida humidity from the overly air-conditioned building. “How do you know what to get her when we haven’t even decided where we are going yet?” Piper peeked up at him and smiled. “I know her regular order at every place.”



J Daly grew up on the scrabbly plains of Eastern New Mexico. When she was supposed to be helping her six siblings with chores on the family ranch, she was really sneaking behind dusty haystacks to read and dreaming about becoming a writer.

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After graduating high school, CJ moved to Big D, where she quickly put herself through college while trying to rid herself of her country accent. She had better luck with college, graduating magna cum laude with a degree in

English literature. After teaching for a few years, and pausing to have back-to-back boys, she began writing in earnest. A few years later, The Academy Saga was born. Upon its debut, it became an instant Amazon Bestseller and earned a Readers’ Favorite seal of approval. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find CJ running from one athletic field to another to cheer on her boys or feeding the wild animals that show up at her back door. When she isn’t writing, she likes to kick back with her gal pals and sip Texas-sized cocktails while gabbing about their favorite books and TV series. But CJ’s greatest pleasure is sharing The Academy Saga journey with you.

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theacademysaga.com/blog Uncaged welcomes C.J. Daly Welcome to Uncaged! Can you tell readers more The Academy Series? How many books are you planning for the series? The Academy Saga chronicles the journey to love, redemption, and destiny through the lives of Kate Connelly, Cadet Peter Davenport, and Officer Ranger Nealson. Kate is a young woman living off grid on the plains of Nowhere, New Mexico. Her mother has died, rather suddenly and mysteriously, so she has to take care of her brothers, work part time, and help run her family’s fledgling ranch. She could use a little break from the tedium of chores, childcare, and small-town drama. When two handsome cadets crash into her life, they threaten to reveal long-kept secrets. She has to fight their powerful organization, her growing feelings

for Pete, and Ranger’s secret vendetta against her, to save her brothers from a fate that cost her mother her life. Book I is the setup for the planned six-book series. Book III, CAP & Gown, was just released this spring. What are you working on next that you can tell us about? Right now, I’m working on my side gig for a movie producer and his investors. I’ve signed all manner of NDAs, so I can’t really say what it’s about, but it’s been a fun journey and the story turned out pretty dang great. I hope I’ve intrigued you, and that it gets picked up into a series! What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? The easiest scenes for me would have to be the flirty banter and love scenes. Who knew that writing love scenes would flow so easily? I used to think it would be so cringy, especially if my sons read them. LOL! I also think psychological suspense would be my strong suit, and, of course, the science part is the toughest. For all the medical issues, I have a handydandy doctor friend to call upon. And, inexplicably, names seem to be one of the toughest things to come up with. I think because I never want to offend anyone by naming a villain after them, or have someone think that I’m basing the story on them, if I use their name. What are you looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do? Smiling with my mouth, not just my eyes, and traveling with a capital T! Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? That’s a toughy. I’d say for me I had a loose plot idea based on my fascination with elite military Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | and occult abilities government agencies have been using for years. I married these two elements with my love of a slow-burning romance, and added a heroine with an indomitable spirit, and two competing alpha males. And—Voila!—The Academy Saga came to life in my mind. What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I work really hard, nearly every day, so my personal time has become pretty priceless. I do love hanging with my boys. We take turns watching old faves, like Friends & The Office and mix in some boy stuff like Motocross & Marvel movies. I also enjoy hanging with my gal-pals, discussing favorite books and series, and going out to eat. Love not having to cook! If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? In Texas it would be spring or autumn, because it’s so dang HOT here in the summer, and there’s hardly any snow in the winter. But anywhere with a beach, and it would be summer all the way every day. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? That so depends on the day and my mood. If I have a gun to my head, I can write for a couple of productive hours before I get tired. When the characters poke and the mood strikes, I can write from sun up till sun down and not even break to eat. During those creative waterfalls, I love to write because the story just pores out. Then I collapse from exhaustion! A full novel takes me about 6 months for rough draft, then I put it on ice in the safe for a few weeks, then take it back out and take another whack at it, then send it out to my sisters and a few select beta readers. Then I edit/update/clever for another three or four months, then off to the editor. So about a full-on year for each book. But that’s just me. I envy those writers who can whip out a book every three months. How do they do that? Must be magic. 24 | UncagedBooks.com

| CJ DALY | LOL! Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I prefer a good old-fashioned paperback, but have learned to enjoy the instant gratification of an ebook. Have never done audio, and probably never will, unless I go blind. I’m always reading something, usually more than one book. Right now, I’m reading The Hobbit with my seventh-grader. If you can believe it, I’ve never read it before. I’m also reading Bishop T.D. Jakes Destiny. Really need the daily spiritual motivation! What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I would like to thank my fans for all their support, which I often do. The positive reviews, discussions about shocking plot lines, and heated debates about which book boyfriend is best for Kate are always so much fun, and a much-needed shot in the arm when the going gets tough. Fans can follow on all the social media sights, but most TAS fans hang out on Facebook. A fan even started a fan page there. SO honored! But I’m steadily growing on Instagram, and have even started on TikTok (much to my boys’ chagrin). I’m not sure you’ll find me doing the Macarena any time soon, but I still got some moves leftover from my cheerleading days. LOL! I also have some super-fun videos of fans with their #TeamPete & #TeamRanger T-shirts.

Issue 59 | June 2021 |



Enjoy an excerpt from The Academy Saga, Book 1 The Academy Saga, Book 1 CJ Daly Military Romantic Suspense

Kate Connelly should be careful what she wishes for. Just seventeen, she already feels like she’s suffocating. Since her mother’s death, her father’s basically checked out, so she’s stuck raising her brothers by herself out in the New Mexico scrub. All Kate wants is a little distraction from the same-ole, same-ole that is her life. When two mysterious guys show up at the diner where she works, she thinks her wish has come true, until they start giving her a hard time. Like her life isn’t hard enough. Something about them niggles her, but she brushes it off. She’s never going to see them again anyway... right? Then they appear in an alley one night to either rescue or kidnap her (she’s still not sure which) before disappearing like figments of her imagination. Kate decides to put the bizarre encounters out of her mind. She has bigger problems to worry about: like that elite military academy that’s been pursuing her gifted little brother. When one of their cadets shows up at the high school, he creates instant pandemonium. And just happens to be one of those mysterious guys. Coincidence? Mama said there’s no such thing. And to always trust her instinct. But that might be kind of hard, because every time she’s around Cadet Peter Davenport, her gut starts flip-flopping on her. And her heart.

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Excerpt Prologue FIRST ORDERS e are all the walking wounded. Some scars are just more visible than others. Mine are the inside kind: unhealed, pink, festering. Outwardly, I’m still a perfect specimen. That’s why I was chosen for Missions. “Cadet Davenport . . . it’s time.” The voice came from the generically pretty assistant, standing in the doorway to my future. The clichéd metaphor that sprang to mind was subpar, unworthy of a cadet. Something a civilian girl would write in her ACT essay and think herself clever. Maybe something she would write. I glanced at the photo peeking at me from the folder— my mark. I let out a sigh. Sixfreakin’-teen. I clung to the knowledge she had a birthday coming up. Seventeen is the age of consent in New Mexico . . . not that I had to worry about staying within the confines of civilian laws. She must be subpar because The Academy wasn’t looking at her, just her brother, the Potentially Gifted Civilian. He was the ripe old age of eight. The same age as—I mentally snapped a rubber band. I couldn’t even look at his picture without a twisted gut. I was the wrong guy for the job. That’s likely why I was here—dismissed so Ranger could take over. Takeover. That should be his motto: Taking over the world, one mission at a time. The assistant said something to get me moving. She spoke using the clipped tone I’d been accustomed to my whole life. The softest nuance of accent marked her for what she was—a former cadet. If sympathy was what I was looking for today, I wouldn’t find it here. The reflexive, knee-jerk reaction I’d been fighting for weeks hit me—fight or flight. Neither option was possible. I ran a finger along the nape of my neck, feeling the small, precise scar that was a permanent reminder of what I was . . . what I would always be.

| CJ DALY | Unfolding myself as slowly as a six-foot, one-inch frame would allow, I finally stood. The assistant narrowed her eyes at me—no one kept the General waiting. I was sure she had preconceived notions about me. Oh Well. Like the uniform at the end of a scheduled day, I shrugged it off then flicked back my hair, grown out indulgently in the interim. I was surer than sure General Weston wouldn’t be a fan (not that he was anyway). I could claim it was for her, the civilian girl. My eyes wandered to her picture again: dark hair, forlorn eyes, a little unkempt around the edges. The only thing missing from the wholesome face was dimples. She didn’t look so tough . . . I could break her. May as well get on with it. Trudging forward, I caught the assistant looking from her doorway and shot her one of my “special” smiles. It did its job—a little color brought the puppet’s face to life. “Right this way,” she said, her professional tone giving nothing away. Textbook manners, inbred. A lot of inbreeding went on here. I followed her neat bun and long legs through the unmarked door, where my throat immediately closed with the same metal resonance as the door behind us. Deep breath in, I put one foot in front of the other down a long, gray corridor that seemed to wrap around us like a tunnel. Our footsteps automatically fell into the marching rhythm of our youth. I concentrated on the clacking sound of her heels against granite, anything to take my mind off where I was headed. Like a prisoner walking toward my execution. I snorted at the second bad metaphor. She slid me a disapproving glance that had me slowing to a swagger in order to needle Little Miss Efficient. And thumb my nose at The Establishment. Secret, defiant games were a go-to defense mechanism I’d used to keep my sanity over the years. But she didn’t really appear bothered, peeking coyly over her shoulder at notorious Peter Davenport. I rewarded her with a grin and checked out the nametag pinned to her chest. “So . . . Blair. What say you lace that third cup of coffee

Weston’s gonna have with a relaxer we both know he’s in dire need of?” I dropped an arm around her shoulders. “It’s a beautiful day for sailing with a beautiful girl.” Flirting: my next go-to defense mechanism. “The Commander limits his coffee to two cups a day,” she said as though the answer were just as programmed in. And just when I thought she was a lost cause, she let out a girlish giggle but fought it like an unwanted advance. “What’d ya say?” I waggled my eyebrows at her. “I would never!” She tried for outraged, but I knew she’d only set the record straight for the benefit of the cameras, eyeing us discreetly from the corner. “Never’s a long time,” I said, giving her the eyes. She pressed her lips together but couldn’t hide her smile. My own smile died. We had arrived at our destination, and the plaque said it all: Commander General Richard Weston—Commander Dick. I paused to belly sigh, but literally could not put this off another minute. The powers-that-be had decided today was the day to put all that training to good use, so I guess it was. She did the discreet throat-clearing thing. “Aren’t you going to go in? It’s two minutes after.” A tragedy worth being written up for here. “Why don’t you wait two minutes then pull the fire alarm?” I countered. “Then we’ll make our getaway.” I guess this was said too close to the mouth of the lion’s den, because she sucked in her breath like I’d said Wait two minutes then throw the pipe bomb. Did I really have to state the obvious? I raked back some hair. “That’s what one refers to as a joke.” “Well, not very mature behavior for an elite caIssue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | det.” She took the jab poorly, spinning on her heel to continue going about her duties diligently— another cog in the ruthless machine known as The Academy. “Future elite cadet. I don’t graduate till next week!” I called after her departing back. “And, apparently, I’m only seventeen anyway . . . so I have a ways to go.” I thwacked the paperwork against my jeans. Should’ve worn my blues. This oversight would likely cost me. I just hated to dress like a reproduced soldier boy on my brief furlough. Sucking down a last lungful of freedom, I rapped on the door. “Come in.” Even muted behind solid oak, dude sounded like a douche. I stepped in, as reverently as one would, when meeting the figure of authority that could put your balls in a sling and fling ‘em to the canines. “Cadet Davenport reporting for duty, sir.” My fingertips tapped my forehead a beat too late to be believable. Not rising for the occasion of my arrival, Weston stared me down (an intimidation technique used liberally around here). His eyes tightened when he took in the sight before him: floppy hair, black Tshirt fading to gray, torn jeans, scuffed sneakers. A smirk, that didn’t go unnoticed by Weston, snuck to my mouth for a nanosecond. He took his silver pen, and a moment of his valuable time, to tap out some Morse code on top of a closed folder. With my name on it. I took the same moment to take in his man-cave. The ebony desk he was presiding over came equipped with an embedded touch screen and was located dead center of the room. Flanked across from him were two tanned-hide chairs, the likes of which once belonged to animals you might see on a safari. The floor was the polished naked of a woman’s skin, adorned by a single black rug, sliding beneath the sideboard like a discarded robe. A nod to the arts, our corner of the world was renowned for, broke up the wall of windows—gray 28 | UncagedBooks.com

squiggles framed in black. The kind that was light on the art and heavy on the prestige. Rows of gold-star awards ate up all other wall space. And all other frames were taken over by staged photographs: Weston and a couple of ex-presidents, Weston with the governor of California, Weston with the mayor of Tiburon, cutting some bullshit charity ribbon. I looked at Mr. Glad-Hander, commanding from his leather chair and masked my derision. A lot of training went into that. “At ease,” Weston finally growled, and I relaxed my stance. “Peter Anthony Davenport the Third . . .” Just the way he said it sounded like an insult. While that lingered in the air, Weston deliberated over a selection of identical cigars, wedged together in a glossy humidor; their bands of gold flashed like rings. A worthy candidate was brought up to inspect with a critical eye before being run along the tip of his nose. It passed inspection, but I suspected I wouldn’t get off so easily. “I’ve spent—wasted,” he clarified, “my morning reading the saga that is your file.” He snipped the end of the cigar while eyeing me like it was a euphemism for something else. I kept my well-trained face smooth. Weston abruptly stood—iron hard and pushing sixty—to stalk over and open a window. The vista beyond the seawall revealed sailboats, bobbing like bright bathtub toys, in the San Francisco Bay. Back at command post, he ignited his stogie with an ornate lighter before dropping it into a bowl. A loud ping! infiltrated the silence. Then he scooped up the slick navy folder emblazoned with the Academy logo—a lion in mid-roar—and fixed his steel-blue eyes on me. “I don’t recall,” Weston began again, puffing around to face me squarely, “in all my years, ever seeing a cadet get through The Elite Program while being such a screw-up.” I had nothing to say and couldn’t speak out-of-turn anyway.

| CJ DALY | “Or be so goddamn stubborn. Or stupid depending on which way you want to look at it. Attempts to mitigate such behavior . . . have only been moderately successful.” A chimney’s worth of smoke blew my way. This almost brought back my delinquent smirk because smoking, or tobacco use of any kind, was strictly banned for cadets. Junk food, too. Hell, sometimes, I even thought fun was banned here. Weston regarded me through the smoke, one eye at half-mast like he could figure me out better that way.

“No, sir.”

“You trying to get kicked out, Davenport?”

“Should be a fun, quick one.”

“No, sir.” Who did he think he was fooling? There was no escape (that didn’t require embalming or a lobotomy).

I could’ve taken that a couple of different ways. “But no screwing up. Whatsoever. Period. The end.” A fat, finger-wrapped cigar punch punctuated each sentence. I breathed in through my nose, nodded my compliance. Didn’t think I could force out another yes sir.

Weston poked his tongue around his mouth, deliberating. “Good to hear it. But in my experience, actions speak louder than words. Doesn’t appear like your heart’s in the program, son . . . worries me.” His eyes bored into mine while I tried not to look bored. “However, your training profile indicates that you are, indeed, a match for Missions. Despite your shenanigans, you seem to pass everything with flying colors. No easy feat.” A grudging admission. “So you up for your first solo one?” “Yes, sir.” I was on autopilot. He nodded thoughtfully, surveying me as though he were sizing me up for a new suit, he wasn’t sure I would fit. I stared at his mustache, noting it was groomed with an artist’s precision, and that it was the exact grizzled color and bristled texture of his crew cut. “You’ve been handpicked for this job, Davenport,” Weston reminded me. “Tailor made for you, if you will. Should be a cake walk, but I don’t want you sleep-walking your way through.”

“Because I’m not taking any chances with this particular PGC—I have high hopes for him.” Weston picked up the photo of golden-boy, and my stomach seized, yet you’d never know it by looking at me. My face remained impassive as the Queen’s Guard. Next up for inspection: the photo of the girl. After assessing it for a long, drawnout moment, he set it aside and rearranged some phlegm.

The General must’ve taken this for subtle insubordination because he said, “You may not give a deviled dog about furthering your own career, but I’d hate to see Cadet Caruthers be painted with the same yellow paint brush when she doesn’t deserve it. She’s been hard at work on this mission for the last couple of months while you’ve been growing out your hair at the beach.” “I was just recently called to duty, sir,” I reminded him while telltale heat crept up my neck. Bastard. That wasn’t even a veiled threat. Yellow paint referred to a dishonorable discharge—very few and very conspicuous. The unchosen were pluckedout, their navy lockers painted over in yellow, a black DD slashed across the front for all to see. The reminders remained up till December 31, when sledgehammers were passed—baton down their lockers. Locker-bashing to ring in the New Year . . . funny how that good ole Academy tradition never made it into the brochure. Weston considered me another moment. He’d already found a soft spot with Reese, now he was Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | probing for more. “You should thank your lucky stars for your parents’ longstanding dedication to this organization or you’d have been out on your ass in Civilian Land a long time ago . . . after a brief pit stop through Siberia!” I waited for the chill that was supposed to follow this threat. “Need I remind you of the long arms and farreaching powers The Academy has in this country?” Weston prompted. “In the world? “No, sir.” He didn’t. I was all too aware. “Then we understand each other?” “Yes, sir.” Not a lot was needed here: some boot licking, a pair of ears, a dash of contrition. “Because if you fail, I’ll personally bash in your locker and stamp your file with double D myself.” “I won’t let you down, sir,” I capitulated, as we both knew I would. The Academy will always win . . . no matter who gets hurt in the process. The innocent civilian girl and her brother flashed in my mind. Bitter bile clogged my throat. I wanted to hock it out like a loogie—he gave me an impatient hand gesture— right on his boots. I relinquished the mission file to Weston, and he added it to the briefcase holding my first orders. “Cadet Davenport, you are to report directly to the Ops Building at o-nine-hundred hours where Ranger will finish briefing you, give you your civilian ID, and any additional accoutrements needed for the success of this mission,” Weston finalized, clicking shut the briefcase and handing it over. “I highly suggest you finally live up to the potential bred and nurtured in you these past two decades.” He patted my shoulder. “I do hate wasting the valuable resources of the institution I’ve dedicated my life to.” I wanted to shrug his filthy hand off but held myself tightly in check. Weston was good at reading 30 | UncagedBooks.com

minds. And mind games. He leaned in to hiss in my ear: “However, if you do not succeed in bringing this PGC into our ranks forthwith, I will see to it that you are worse than ousted. You will be deplored . . . elsewhere, your parents will be demoted, and this blight will haunt you for the rest of your short life.” The chill I was waiting for came, and it penetrated my whole being like an iceberg up my ass. I’d heard enough rumors to know what “deplored elsewhere” was code for; it would make Siberia look like a day at the beach. Weston smiled benevolently at me. “Please give my regards to both Doctors Davenport. I understand your mother isn’t doing so well these days. Do be careful, Cadet Davenport . . . another loss, like your brother’s, would be catastrophic to your mother’s well-being.” With one final warning pat, Weston strode from the room and closed the door with a resounding thud.




obert W. Brady, Jr. is the author of ‘The Fovean Chronicles.’

Born in Connecticut in 1964, he graduated from University of Connecticut in 1986. He worked his way through college as a construction worker, an infant swimming instructor, a bartender, a waiter, a secretary, the manager of a dry cleaning store a security guard and a model. While in college, he began the first version of the ‘The Fovean Chronicles.’ After college, he lasted exactly three months in the insurance industry as an Assistant Annuities Analyst, and then enlisted in the Naval Nuclear Power Program. 32 | UncagedBooks.com

He served in the Navy from 1987 - 1994, receiving

the Navy Achievement Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Southeast Asia Service Medal, and Good Conduct Medal during the Gulf War. He was certified as an Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist, a Reactor Operator, a Radiological Controls Shift Supervisor and achieved a rank of Petty Officer First Class while serving onboard the USS Truxtun, CGN-35 and the USS Cape Cod, AD43. He has two children, Billy and Jennifer. He and both of his children are born on the same day of different months. Billy also served in the US Navy, following in his father’s footsteps. Since leaving the Navy, he’s been in sales, pest control, auto repair and .Net programming. He ran his own company specializing in add-on software and then sold it to focus more on his writing. He’s very involved in animal rescue, and has two dogs, a cat and several horses which he’s rescued and rehabilitated. Although born in Connecticut, he has lived in Orlando, FL; Bremerton, WA; San Diego, CA; and then for the last fourteen years back in Florida. He currently resides on a horse farm in Tennessee.

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swordsandsorcery.com Uncaged Welcomes Robert W. Brady Jr.

The Fovean Chronicles are the story of a man named Randy from our world who finds himself in another where magic is real and he is the instrument of a god named ‘War.’ War uses Randy to further his machinations against other gods and to become more and more powerful. Randy finds the differences between faith in a god and proof of a god, and has to balance what he feels he can do, with what he must and must not do. What are you working on next that you can tell us about? My next story is science fiction called ‘Colonization Earth – A Whistle in Space’ about the original colonization of the earth by aliens. It’s Ancient Aliens meets plausible deniability On your website, you have rescued and rehabilitated animals and horses. I am on the board of a rescue here in Wisconsin and have been rehabilitating a horse for the last two years as I don’t think it’s a quick process. What do you find most fulfilling about this? Do you rehome any animals that you rescue? Yes, I rehome almost all of them. Some are too far gone to rehome, and I give them a dignified path to the rainbow bridge. Either way – that’s the hardest part, always. Saying good-bye. However you’ve taken an animal out of a bad life and put him/her into a good one where they can thrive, and that’s always rewarding. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest?

Welcome to Uncaged! Can you tell readers more about your series, The Fovean Chronicles? Is this a complete series?

I hate to kill a character, even though it’s part of the story. People have said that they’d recognize my characters if they met them on the street. I put a lot of effort into them and it’s sad when they die.

It is – and there is a ‘series within the series’ called ‘The Intermission,’ which are three short books.

What are you looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do? Issue 59 | June 2021 |


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I haven’t let the pandemic hold me up on anything. I do what I do. Of course, I work from home, have a home office, my 7-year-old truck only had 106,000 miles on it, so it’s not like I was out doing that much.


Enjoy an excerpt from Semper Indomitus

If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why?

Semper Indomitus Robery W. Brady Jr Epic Fantasy

I would never want that – life is about the changes. You wouldn’t know you were cold in the winter without the summer coming, you’d just reconcile yourself to that being the weather.

Imagine yourself, born into the suburbs, your parents working class people, your school nothing special.

How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? On a given day I might write for one hour or for eight. I finished Semper Indomitus in Costa Rica over 10 days, where I wrote for six hours/ day and then went on cruises, went out and partied, etc every day. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I’m in the process of making my books audiobooks, but I hate them. I can’t do that because I tend to tune them out. Give me a real book and a hot bathtub any day, and I’m happy! What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I’m very accessible. I’ve spent hours on the phone with my fans, discussing the books and their meaning. I had one kid do a book report on Indomitus Est and then his teacher, who also read the book, give him a ‘C’ because she felt that he got all of the symbolism wrong. She ended up calling me and explaining to me why I was wrong about the symbolism in my own books. I have a blog on my site but no one uses it. Most people email me.

Imagine that, for some reason far beyond your understanding as a very young child, a god that you didn’t even know existed ear-marked you as his bargaining chip in a trade across realities. Imagine that, from the time of that first first meeting and for your next eighteen years, that god - Anubis - threw everything he could think of at you, to break you, to torment you, to forge you into this thing to be traded. And imagine that, at the end of it all, you passed all of the tests, leaving your life in a shambles, never knowing that you were being tested at all and, when the time came, Anubis appeared and tricked you into giving up your soul to him, only to make the trade and give you over to another god, named War, who by comparison made Anubis seem like a pretty nice guy. I’m Randy Morden - welcome to my world. A world named ‘Fovea,’ where magic is real, technology the stuff of fantasy, and warriors with swords ride horses into battle, trying to stay one step ahead of their gods’ will. I didn’t ask for this life, but I promise you: before anyone ever knocks me down again, I’m going to have their blood on my knuckles, because a man can only be pushed so far!

Issue 59 | June 2021 |



what I would have done as a kid, too.

I tugged on Blizzard’s reins and we turned east toward the trail that would lead to the road. It was approaching noon, and we wouldn’t be moving at Blizzard’s speed any more. We’d be lucky to make camp before dark.

“No,” Dagi said. “Chesswaya’s mother went to the Sure Foot, then the Hunters when they had no women. I met Chesswaya at the Long Manes’ tribe last year, when she came to learn her craft. We didn’t know that we were sisters until the demigod Steel told us.

I expected my son, Eric to ride up next to me, but he hung back with Nina of the Aschire. It turned out that my daughter, Dagi, was the one who rode up next to me, that shield of hers over her back and her sword in a scabbard attached to her saddle. She looked for all the world like an Andaron warrior in Volkhydran clothes.

Whoa – didn’t see that one coming.

We stayed silent for a while. I think she might have been waiting either for Shela, my wife, to replace her or for me to send her back, but neither happened and Shela was actually pretty deep in discussion with our daughter, Lee. “My mother married a Long Manes warrior,” Dagi said, finally. “She has two sons.” I nodded. “Have you thought of adult names for them?” She looked at me. “So you know our traditions?” “Hard not to,” I said. She nodded and was quiet for a while. We were coming up on the main road. “Did she stay with Chesswaya’s mother after her tribe dissolved?” I asked. Chesswaya was my daughter as well, by another Andaron woman. “After you destroyed it, and formed your Wolf Riders, you mean?” Dagi accused me. “Yes,” I said, looking straight at her. She met my eyes. Hers were every bit as cold as I knew mine could be. She was going to feel me out and decide if I was worth staying with. That’s 36 | UncagedBooks.com

“Steel?” I asked. “The Savior. Steel came to you?” Dagi nodded. “In a dream?” She shook her head. “While we were playing chunkee with Nanette and Thorna,” she said. I looked back at Nantar’s daughters, riding side-byside with spears in their hands, just ahead of Eric. If there were a fight, they were positioned to come charging into it. We turned onto the road. The sun overhead gave me a little warmth, but not much. I was going to need to go somewhere and buy furs. “What did Steel have to say to you?” I asked. “Can you tell me?” Dagi was silent for a moment. She looked up at me from her horse and she said, “He came to see the daughters of the Daff Kanaar. I thought that He meant Nanette and Thorna, and He said, “No, the other daughters. He meant Chesswaya and me.” I nodded and stayed quiet. “He told us that it was a new age, and that we needed to go north and to learn a song from a Druid in Volkhydro. He warned us that nothing would be the same.” That was news. “We waited for the men to come back from Toor, and

| ROBERT W. BRADY JR. | most of them did. We went north on strong horses and we found our brother, Agtani Chewla, and then our other brother and his wife. “We saw the war come to our land, and we heard Eric, whom we named Usdi Waya, tell us that if Chatoos fell, then our land would never be the same.” Usdi Waya meant ‘Little Wolf’ in Andaron. Eric had a lot of foresight. “Then we met you, our father,” she said. She was looking straight forward now. “We would have known you, if Steel had never met us.” “Really?” She nodded, still not looking at me. “Chesswaya has your eyes,” she said. “I have your lips and your nose. Mother had described you without naming you – and Chesswaya felt your presence before she met you.” “Chesswaya has great power,” I commented. That got a look from Dagi. “As does Lee,” she said. “Vulpe can sing, and singing is important. Lupennen speaks with animals – I can’t imagine a more powerful gift.”

“Maybe you’re more my child than any of them?” I told her. She regarded me but said nothing. “I can’t speak to animals,” I said. “I can’t cast spells. I can’t stun a crowd with my song, and I had to go to Conflu to get the mark of the Daff Kanaar – no one clashed swords with me and put it there. “I’ve never had anything but my mouth,” I said. “It served me well.” “You forget the horse you ride,” she said. “The sword you carry. You forget the stories about you, sung in every language.” I nodded. “But I got them without magic,” I said. “Without song.” She wasn’t looking at me, so I reached down and I stroked her long, brown hair. She looked back up at me and I asked, “Do you want to learn these things?” She frowned and looked forward. Finally, when I thought I wasn’t going to get an answer, she said, “Yes. I want to know everything.” Good enough, then!


“And Eric is Daff Kanaar,” I said, “and you wonder, ‘What of poor Waya Daganogeda? What does she inherit from the Emperor?” She looked up at me again, and this time I thought I could see some hurt in her eyes. “Yes,” she said. “What of Dagi, who has nothing but her mouth?” An Andaron who ‘has nothing but her mouth,” is usually a woman who’s a gossip, or a complainer. It’s a derogatory term for a spinster, or one who is going to be a spinster if she doesn’t change her ways, because no one wants a woman who’s always giving her opinion. Issue 59 | June 2021 |


A Life in Motion Life in rural Wisconsin is always

A Life in Motion.

A snippet of life on the farm with Cyrene.


A Life in Motion – June 2021 The Start of the Growing Season Each month I’ll share part of my life on this small farm. Some fun, some serious, but always in motion. I’ll share my tips for gardening, show you my gardens and harvests, fixing and rebuilding areas in the barn, the new baby chicks that will arrive in the spring, adventures with my goats and horses and since I’m always cooking and trying new things, I’ll post a recipe that I thought worked out well each month with pictures. Hope you enjoy the column and get a glimpse of what life is like for us here in the country. [This issue and this article is late being written as I’ve spent the majority of time looking for our lost dog, Kiah. A tree fell on my fence and she got out. As of this writing, she’s still missing.] Here in Wisconsin, the rule of thumb is to never plant anything before the middle of May, and many people wait until after Memorial Day. The weather is too unpredictable, and we had actually had frost here at night on the 29th of May. I had only planted some hardy perennials and kept my tomato and pepper plants close to the house, so they were not affected.

ginning of this garden, so I thought I’d show the progress. First of all for some perspective, my bedroom/office is on the lower level. It’s a huge room, and peaceful enough that I can get my work done. The desk is under this window that I put the fairy garden at. So I started out by digging up the dirt near the window and then putting down garden gravel to help with heat, moisture and weed control. I transplanted some miniature rose plants and split some coneflowers I already had and needed thinning, and planted them along side some fairy “houses” and figures that I had. I also tossed in some decorative colored stones. I’ve also added

This year, because of the amount of work needed around the place with the ex-barn I’ve decided not to have a larger vegetable garden like I normally do. I’ll have some tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers and that’s about it. My daughter grows a nice herb garden, and I’ve started work on my fairy garden, and the clematis and honeysuckle vines for the arena. With the last main shelter up for hay storage, I wanted to get my few floral projects completed before we start renovations on the barn. There is also an area behind our backyard fence that has a small pond, but it’s very overgrown. As we clear that out, section by section, I’ll make sure to get pictures to show before and afters. Starting with my small fairy garden, this is the be40 | UncagedBooks.com

some perennials Veronica and succulents. A few annuals that don’t want the afternoon hot sun were also added

| CYRENE OLSON | hill. I will cut thin tree trunk slabs for the steps from the tree that fell with my chainsaw. In the summer months, I spend a huge portion of my time outdoors. With horses and spending so much time with them, I tend to put a lot of energy on making things that work nicely for us and that is useful. The outdoor arena is a well used part of our riding, teaching and training, so making it even prettier was an easy call. What I decided to do, was to have some vines crawl up the outside of the arena to give it some added beauty. After replacing half the boards and restain-

along with some small figurines of fairies and frogs.

ing, planting the flowering vines would give it an added boost of appeal, and it’s something I’ve never seen done before.

On the outside and toward the entrance, I’ve added solar powered lanterns that light up with a moving purple color at night, along with the fairy tree house. I also added a bird feeder to be able to watch the birds, and it’s been quite the attraction to my cat Isla in the window.

I got 3 different clematis and 3 different honeysuckle vines and decided instead of fighting the strong grasses near the arena, we planted them in plant bags and used heavy duty zip ties to attach the bags to the posts. First I filled the bag two thirds full with compost, then garden soil.

This is the start, as you can see, I’ve put down weed barrier material, and plan to plant a ground cover and garden steps up to the fairy garden as it’s at the top of a

I planted 6 vines, 3 clematis and 3 honeysuckle. Then I topped off the bags with some mulch. As these grow and cover the poles, I will entertwine so-

Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| A LIFE IN MOTION COLUMN | lar powered fairy lights to give them extra sparkle. I also plan on adding some sail shades near one side of the arena so we can sit outside in the shade and still see a rider in the arena.

Shrimp De Jonghe Ingredients

The big job this year will be the ex-barn as I am now calling it. I’ll show step by step as we work on it in an upcoming issue. It’s going to be a big job. That’s all for around the farm this month, and as we work and keep hoping and praying for our dog’s safe return home. The recipe this month is a great one. This Shrimp De Jonghe recipe was given to me by a friend years ago, and I’ve modified it slightly - but it’s a great recipe and one my late Aunt thought was better than any restaurant. High praise indeed. Enjoy.

©Copyright 2021 Cyrene Olson www.uncagedbooks.com Cyrene@UncagedBooks.com

42 | UncagedBooks.com

2 lbs. raw shrimp - I like the 26-30 package 1/2 lb. butter – melted 1/3 cup of sherry cooking wine 4 TB of green onion - minced 8 cloves of garlic - minced - purchase in a jar 3 cups of Italian style bread crumbs 3 TB of fresh parsley - minced 2 Tsp - Tarragon Dash Paprika Dash Cayenne Pepper Salt & Pepper to taste 1) Peel and devein shrimp, rinse in cold water and drain well. Set aside. 2) In a small mixing bowl, combine 2 TB of melted butter, sherry, green onions and garlic. Toss in shrimp and mix to coat.

3) In a second small bowl, comgine remaining butter with bread crumbs and the spices. Make sure you taste the bread mixture. You may want to add salt, paprika or even more cayenne. If the bread mixture is blah, the recipe will be too. So make sure this mix tastes good, it’s the soul of the dish. 4) Divide the shrimp mixture into 6 small individual casserole dishes. Then layer the crumb mixture over each bowl.

5) Bake 20-25 mins. in a 400° oven or until the shrimp is opaque in color and the bread crumbs are brown around the edges. This recipe will feed 6, but if you have leftovers, eat them the next day by putting a tablespoon of butter on top and warming it up in the microwave for a minute or so.

Issue 59 | June 2021 |


shortstory Pt. 5

| SHORT STORY | This story will continue in consecutive months.

Ignition Point by Jami Gray I moved toward the bumper and felt the moment Zev set the ward. Thanks to a careful, roundabout questioning of friends, I figured out that I was a bit more sensitive to active magic than most. Zev’s power rose in the still night, rubbing against my skin. The sensation was akin to a porcupine brushing against every exposed inch of flesh. My reaction was instinctive, like your mouth puckering up when it got near a lemon. When he came around the other side, I was still rubbing the uncomfortable sensation away from my arms as my ability quivered in irritation. A quiet ruffle of air turned my attention to the SUV’s roof, where an intimidatingly large hawk stared back with predatory arrogance. It lifted its wings then flexed just enough to resettle the feathers. I stumbled back a step and almost ended up on my ass. The hawk lowered its wings and titled its head. It was probably laughing at me. Stupid bird. Zev strode past. “Let’s go.” With a single wary glance to ensure the bird stayed put, I fell in step behind him. “Tell me you have some sort of plan here?” Without breaking stride, he said, “We go in, I ask questions, they answer, we leave.” I fought the urge to roll my eyes at his completely unilluminating and uncompromising speech. “Sounds like you can handle this all on your own, then. How about I stay back with Jeremy?” That earned me a sidelong glare with a hefty weight of distrust. “You’re staying where I can see you.” Ouch! His mistrust might be earned, but it didn’t make it sting any less. “How good are you with that gun?” Still nursing a snit over his previous comment, I said 46 | UncagedBooks.com

in a voice that came out stiff, “I hit what I aim at.” “You have access to any other weapons?” “Not on me.” His long strides shortened as we drew close to the fence. “So you’re a Traditionalist?” Normally, him referring to me as one of those with weak or nearly nonexistent magic would be considered insulting, but I wasn’t keen on sharing my magical skill set. Especially not with someone intimately tied to one of the families. They tended to covet the unusual. It was my turn to go vague. “Something like that.” He stopped and kept his attention on the gate and the area beyond it. “Huh.” Something in that irritated me enough to ask, “Huh, what?” “I thought the Guild had stringent employment requirements.” “They do.” I stopped at his side, refusing to look at him. “My talents lie in my driving and location skills, hence the Transporter classification.” Okay, maybe sarcasm was the wrong approach, but his arrogance was playing hell with my ego. He half turned toward me. “Wasn’t meant as an insult. I just need to know how much I have to cover your ass.” Heat rose under my skin. This time, it had nothing to do with embarrassment and everything to do with temper. My magic tightened around me as I looked away, hoping he couldn’t see the color spreading along my cheeks. I pulled out my gun, thumbed the safety off, racked the slide, and held it down by my leg as I aimed my attention on the lot. “I can take care of myself. You just do whatever it is that you do.” I lifted my chin toward the loading dock. “You have a plan on blinding those cameras?” He turned back to the fence, mirroring my stance— minus the gun, something he didn’t need, since he had magic at his disposal. “Yep.”

| JAMI GRAY | He reached for his magic, and now, with my own magic firmly in place, the uncomfortable sensation remained distant. I looked up, expecting to see a return of wings. Instead, a soft explosion of startled coos jerked my attention back to the loading dock. “What the...” I trailed off as pigeons popped out from the building’s roof and blitzed the cameras. Feline yowls joined the commotion, and for a few deafening moments, I was sure someone would burst out to find out what in the holy hell was going on. Zev and I stood there as a minute ticked by and no one showed. Only once the pigeons resettled and quiet reclaimed the night did Zev speak. “Come on.” He followed the fence line to the rolling gate secured by a padlock. “Keep an eye out.” I shifted until I could watch the back side of the building and still cover Zev. He grabbed the lock. A tight burst of magic erupted, and the lock fell open a handful of seconds later. Hmm, it looked as if Zev was more than an animal mage. Reluctantly impressed with his magical lockpicking skills, I continued to cover him as he pulled the lock off the gate. With a seemingly negligent push, he shoved the gate back just enough so we could squeeze through. He rolled it back into place before moving forward. I stayed to his right as we crossed the lot to the first loading dock. Fortunately, he didn’t go for the dramatic and do the manly jump up to the platform. Between my bruised ribs and the gun in my hand, I wouldn’t be able to duplicate that move. Instead, he stuck to the ramp. I trailed along, and we kept our backs to the building during our approach. When Zev stilled just to the side of the door, I snuck a glance up at the cameras and bit off a giggle at the white mess that now covered the camera and dripped down the door. That was one way to defeat their video surveillance. Zev tapped my shoulder, and I looked to see him mouthing, “Alarm.” I raised my brows in concern. “Active?” I mouthed back.

He flattened his palm against the door, closed his eyes, and tilted his head as if listening. Yep, definitely more than ananimal mage. Finally, his eyes opened, and he shook his head. I never understood why people put in alarms then never used them, but in this instance, that habit would work in our favor. He stepped away from the wall then grabbed the door’s handle and motioned for me to take the lead. Unfortunately, with no choice but to trust his assessment, I did as directed, moving to the center of the doorway and raising my gun. I blew out a long breath as his fingers did a silent countdown. When the last digit dropped, he yanked open the door. Hinges groaned, eliminating any chance at stealth, but I rushed in, leading with my gun. Mercifully, no one and nothing attacked. Amber light spilled across cement paths lying between towering shelves filled with boxes and who knew what else. I cautiously moved to my right, giving Zev room to move inside. He stepped in behind me, the door closing on another groan behind him. The sound of the lock catching echoed with an ominous finality that sent a line of goose bumps down my spine. Zev moved past me, seemingly unaffected by the unsettling atmosphere. I trailed behind, hoping he knew where the hell he was going, because I was clueless. There was the impression of space and a cool breeze that licked along my skin, but it was hard to see much in the dim light. I shifted my weight to my toes, trying to mute the sound of my boots on the concrete floor. Zev just kept moving like a silent wraith, winding us through the maze of shelves. Through the gaps of the shelves, I caught sight of an open area. Another gap revealed industrial barrels lined against the far side. Nearby a small delivery truck sat in one of the docks. We turned and emerged from the maze of shelves. After skirting a couple of handcarts, we bypassed a small forklift sitting next to a group of piled pallets. Zev kept us close to the walls. I tried to locate any interior cameras but came up empty. Again, that didn’t make sense. Didn’t most companies keep an eye on their inventory? The green glow of an exit sign shone ahead, and unsurprisingly, Zev headed straight for it. Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| SHORT STORY | He stopped and looked at me over his shoulder, his face dark with intent. I didn’t need to see through walls to know what waited on the other side. Beyond that door would be whoever wanted Jeremy. In that moment, it hit me that I would probably end up shooting someone, maybe even killing them. It wouldn’t be the first time, but it also wasn’t a regular thing for me. Granted, I gained my previous experience in killing because I was determined to keep breathing, but still, my conscience trembled. Of course, the minute Zev opened the door and I pulled the trigger, we’d lose any advantage our unexpected appearance would garner. This was a cluster just waiting to happen. I tried not to pant as nerves and pain sent my adrenaline into hyperdrive. Reacting to the danger signals, my magic hummed, and I could feel the invisible shift as its protective layer deepened. I adjusted my grip on my gun, rolled my shoulders, then gave him a nod. In a blink, deep indigo energy flared to life between his hands as he called forth power. This time, he didn’t bother opening the door. Instead, he threw whatever magic he’d gathered at the door. It blew off its hinges with an earsplitting screech. He followed in its wake. An invisible wind tore my hair across my face, blinding me for a split second. Zev’s explosive entrance caught those on the other side off guard, causing a split-second distraction that didn’t end with Zev or me dead. We stalked through the resulting dust cloud into an open area of desks lined with computer monitors and chairs. Along one side was a line of whiteboards, some covered in ink, standing guard before the rattling blinds covering the windows. The bark of a gun was echoed by a sharp pained shout. Leaving Zev to his target, I aimed toward the shooter. I found him half hidden behind the questionable protection of a whiteboard. I waited until he peered around the edge, ready to take his shot at Zev, and I took mine. Since Zev didn’t slow, it was safe to assume the shooter’s shot went wide, but mine took the shooter high in the shoulder. He stumbled back, twisted, and turned his gun my way. My finger was faster on the trigger than his, and this time, he wouldn’t be getting back up. I had no time 48 | UncagedBooks.com

to process my accuracy as something heavy struck me, knocking me into one of the desks. I turned, raising my arm to block whoever was attacking, but no one was there. Instead, a whiteboard zipped by, propelled by an invisible wind to join the other one on a direct route to Zev. Since he was currently engaged in slinging magical punches with a large bald guy, I yelled, “Zev, incoming!” He turned and his face darkened as he caught sight of the careening whiteboards. He made a throwing motion with one hand and blocked the first whiteboard’s attack with the other. Baldy’s torso wrenched back, and his face went from focused aggression to an alarming red color. The second whiteboard slammed into Zev’s back just as I found myself being flung backward across the desks behind me. The unexpected impact rang through me, and my gun tumbled from nerveless fingers to the floor. There was no time to panic as my focus shifted to getting out from under the snarling thin-faced man determined to introduce his fist to my face repeatedly. As he rammed his fist down, I jerked my head to the side. Instead of hitting my face, his fist met the desk with an audible crack. He didn’t wince as the desks trembled under the impact. No way could I afford to have him land a punch. That much strength meant I wouldn’t get back up. Strangely, instead of trying to hit me again, he leaned his weight deeper into me, his lower body pinning me in place as his fingers curled into a claw and aimed for my throat. Now that I was caught in the awkward position, my options were limited. I cupped my hands and slammed them over his ears. His hands flew up as he yowled and jerked back, trying to get out of reach. He struck out, his fist landing a glancing blow on my ribs, the same spot injured in the wreck. My breath whooshed out, proving I was right. His strengthwas magically enhanced. While my magic deflected the worst of it, white edged my vision as pain curled around my torso and breathing became difficult. He struck out again, and this time, my magic returned the favor. He jerked back with a muffled grunt. Desperate to get out from under him and needing to take advantage of the unexpected opening, I fought through the pain. Somehow, I managed to curl my

legs up and kick out with my feet. My boots met his gut and shoved him back. Finally able to move, I did an awkward pain-filled roll off the desk. I almost hit the floor face-first but stayed on my feet, one hand on the desk for balance, the other scrambling for my fallen weapon on the floor. My ribs screamed in protest as my fingers curled around the grip, but before I could get it up and around, my head was wrenched backward. I got my free hand on my hair, trying to keep from being snatched bald by the dick trying to use my hair as a leash. My other hand kept scrambling for the gun. As he pulled, I stumbled back but dragged the gun with me. Despite his grip on my hair, I turned until we were all but breathing the same air. I brought my gun up. His eyes widened, and with a yell, he locked my wrist in an agonizing grip. My bones grated under the pressure, but I pulled the trigger. He cried out as red bloomed along his ribs. He tore his hand out of my hair, and the painful vise around my wrist disappeared. The loud blast of the gun left my ears ringing, but it didn’t slow me down. Utilizing the sudden space between us, I brought my knee up hard, nailing him in the nuts. He went bonewhite and doubled over. It was my turn to grab his short, muddy-brown hair and help his face meet my knee. When I let go, he slumped to the floor, his legs drawn up as he moaned and bled. I scrambled over him and found that Zev really didn’t need my help. In fact, beside the first guy I shot and the one ontemplating a new career as a soprano, I spotted two other bodies. One crushed under a pile of debris that used to be part of the ceiling. All I could see of the other was their slicksoled shoes sticking out from behind a desk.

| JAMI GRAY | The magical pressure increased to a level that made even my teeth ache. Baldy’s spine curved, and his head went back as the tendons on the side of his neck stretched painfully taut. His hands were fisted at his side. Whatever Zev was doing to him obviously hurt like hell. This time, a low groan escaped him, sounding suspiciously close to a curse. As if that sound was a signal, the intensity around Zev ratcheted down a notch, and whatever magic he had wrapped around Baldy lessened. The painful arc of the kneeling man’s spine relaxed, and his head slumped forward, but I still caught the telltale streaks of blood leaking from his eyes and nose. With deceptive casualness, Zev dropped into a crouch, getting to face level with Baldy. He braced his arms on his knees, his hands hanging loose. “Let’s try this again. You’re here to collect the boy.” “Yes.” The word sounded like it was being forced out, and it probably was. Instead of dropping into a chair, I turned away from the two men and made my way toward the windows. The position had the added advantage of giving a clear view of the room’s entrances. This way, I could listen to Zev’s interrogation session and make sure the team we left at the wreck didn’t come back and surprise us. “For who?” “Stephen Trask.” The name made me stop and turn to share a look with Zev. I recognized that name. I tried to remember why and realized that Trask had been in the news recently, thanks to a rather large donation to a local university. Why would he be after Jeremy?

Zev was towering over Baldy, who knelt before him, his face twisted into a grimace. I made my way over. As I got closer, I could feel the press of working magic, but it appeared to be contained to the two men.

Zev went back to Baldy, and I went back to my self assigned position. “Head of Research for Origin.” Zev wasn’t really asking a question so much as verifying exactly who would reap a Family’s vengeance.

Zev’s longish hair fluttered in an invisible wind, and those dark eyes glowed with power. “You can’t keep it up, man.” Despite the apparent wind, sweat beaded Baldy’s skin, trickling down the deep grooves lining his face. His response wasn’t verbal, but whatever he did caused Zev to give a soft grunt.

Still Baldy answered, “Yes.” That explained it. If Jeremy’s mom was selling LanTech information to Origin, Trask would be the buyer. I shook my head and used the Walther’s barrel to Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| SHORT STORY | nudge the blinds enough to see out front. A couple of other buildings sat in front of this one, leaving only a sliver view of the parking lot. So far, everything seemed quiet. Behind me, Zev kept on point. “Why?” “Don’t know.” A strangled moan rode the edge of a scream, but I refused to look. I didn’t want any visuals. “Why go after the boy?” Zev’s voice gained a dangerous darkness that left goose bumps traipsing down my spine. “Don’t know,” Baldy repeated before hitching a sharp breath. Within seconds, he blurted out, “Orders were to set up an ambush, eliminate any witnesses, collect the boy, bring him back. Alive.” My blood froze. Eliminate witnesses? I knew exactly what I would’ve been considered. Guess I should be grateful for Zev’s interference. I continued to stare unseeingly out the window even as I felt the weight of Zev’s attention. Nope, not looking back. That strange sense of being stared at faded. Zev asked, “So the man who had the boy, he wasn’t yours?” “No.” The denial came out on a harsh exhale. Uh, hadn’t even thought about Mr. Jones being the s in witnesses, but it made sense. It also meant if Zev’s assumptions were right, Mr. Jones worked for LanTech. And come to think of it, Frick and Frack probably did as well. A wash of headlights briefly flashed over the parking lot. “We’ve got company,” I warned Zev as I kept my attention on the next approaching threat. Behind me, magic swelled. A panicked grunt was followed by a dull thud. I closed my eyes, knowing what I’d see when I turned around. Guilt tried to find a spot to join the other fun emotions from the night’s adventure, but it didn’t have much room left to get comfortable. I looked back, and sure enough, Baldy was no longer among the living. In fact, he was facedown on the floor, blood seeping into a widening 50 | UncagedBooks.com

pool around his head. Zev straightened and turned to me. Panic rose as he, a predator in human skin, stalked toward me. The way he so casually wielded his magic made my hindbrain claw for escape. Pure stubbornness kept me locked in place. He stepped in close, brushing against me as he used a finger to pull the blinds back enough to see. I did my best to keep my breathing steady, but I couldn’t escape the hint of his scent, one that brought to mind something wild and untamed. It was both intriguing and scary as hell. “What now?” He let the blinds drop back into place with a clatter and shifted to face me. “Now it’s my turn to send a message.” I swallowed hard as he turned away, leaving me to follow. He walked back toward where we made our explosive entrance. I kept pace. “Um, aren’t we going the wrong way?” His answer was to weave his way through the desks. He stopped next to where I left my soprano hopeful on the floor and shot me a disgusted look over his shoulder. “You left him alive?” “He’s not going anywhere.” My words came out defensive, and I wondered why I was defending my choice not to kill. Zev shook his head and dropped into a crouch. From my position, I couldn’t see what he was doing, but I sure could hear the panicked pleas for mercy. When they were abruptly cut short, I winced. Zev stood up, tucked away a small blade, and then came back toward me. When he drew even with where I stood, he leaned in and held my gaze with his. In a low voice, he said, “Now he won’t be coming at our backs.” With that ominous statement, he swept by me. I stood there, tension holding me in place, the grip of my gun heavy in my hand as the fleeting thought ran through my mind that having Zev at my back wasn’t safe either. Not that there was anything I could do about it. The weight of my gun made me reconsider. Well, not that I could easily live with or survive. For now, I just needed to concentrate on getting through this without pissing him off. I wasn’t sure that was

possible, since he seemed to be a permanent grump, but I hoped he’d take his frustration and anger out on Origin’s acquisitions team and leave me the hell alone. I turned and found him watching me from his position by the double doors leading toward the front of the building. Nothing in his expression indicated he knew what I was thinking, but I still felt antsy. Under that disconcerting gaze, I made my way over, slowing when I got close. He arched one brow, a sardonic light gleaming in his eyes. He pulled the door open and gallantly waved me through. “After you.” I refrained, barely, from commenting. Speaking would only get me in trouble, and I had enough trouble on my plate as it was. I stepped through the door and into a wide-open lobby. Under a simple yet beautiful piece of hanging glass artwork was a curving reception desk. Accent lights lay high along the wall edges. The moody light danced along the winding glass lines, creating tiny stars of illumination along the walls. The whimsical play of light helped dissipate the gloom shrouding the space. Large windows curtained by half-opened plantation shutters framed the tinted glass door. Cushy seats were scattered in the waiting area like toppled guards at rest. On the left, sitting back against the wall, appeared to be a coffee maker and water station. You know, for when waiting became strenuous. To the right was a wall open at both ends, creating a dimly lit hall and probably hiding the bathrooms. Behind me, the door shut with a click. Zev brushed by me. “Come on.” I followed him to the front door. “There’s not much cover here.” “We don’t need it.” We didn’t? “We take them as they come in.” With what? A stapler? Or maybe blind them with correction fluid? I couldn’t see either of those items on the freakishly neat reception desk, though. Instead of asking for details on how he planned to accomplish his goal, I checked my ammunition. Four rounds. Not good but better than a stapler.

“How many?”


I looked up. Zev was standing at the edge of the shutters, one finger angling the slats enough so he could watch outside, his attention clearly on our approaching visitors. “Four.” The look he shot me had me adding, “I wasn’t exactly expecting to engage in a shoot-out tonight.” But then, I never planned on such an occurrence. As far as I was concerned, if a situation required more than nine bullets, another nine wouldn’t be much help. He shook his head. “Can you handle a knife?” “Yeah, but I don’t think bringing a knife to a gun fight is the best approach here.” Zev reached to his back and came out with a KABAR Skeleton knife. He offered it to me hilt first. “Consider it a last resort.” Oh, that was encouraging. I took the blade and carefully put it in the inside pocket of my jacket. The knife was lightweight and compact enough not to be obvious, but as a last resort, it would do. “Do you have anything more elaborate than taking them as they come?” “Yeah, get in place on the other side of the door and wait until the last one clears the door before you fire. Make sure they don’t get up.” The cold practicality in his tone sent ice careening through my veins to set up shop in my soul. It left a peculiar numbness behind, but I understood. The fight wouldn’t be about self-defense. It would be a cold-blooded evening of the odds. He turned, his gaze relentless and his face stone hard. “Is that a problem?” I had the feeling that if I said yes, he’d ensure my conscience wouldn’t be bothered for long, so I held that uncomfortable gaze and managed a rough “No.” I made my way to the other side of the door, feeling the weight of his stare at my back. Skirting a couple of cushy chairs, I then put my back to the wall by the shuttered windows, keeping clear of the door, Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| SHORT STORY | and held my gun in a two-handed grip, barrel aimed at the floor. I took a couple of deep breaths and focused, locking down my churning thoughts. As the silence settled, everything took on a preternatural sharpness. The sound of rock scraping against concrete came from outside. Then the muted impact of approaching footsteps. Zev caught my eye and held up four fingers. I dipped my chin in acknowledgement, and he slipped back into the deepening shadows crowding the entrance. One more deep breath and I raised my gun, elbows bent, pulse steady. A series of beeps preceded the latch releasing, then the door opened. Unfortunately, it opened in, blocking my line of sight, but my ears worked just fine. “...know who took him out, but we better find the bastard.” Irritation was clear in the male voice. “Wanna keep your voice down?” the guy taking point uttered in a low, harsh tone. Through the tinted glass of the door I could make out a vague profile of a thick jaw, big nose, heavy brow, buzz cut, and bulky body to match. I held my breath as Bruiser put his back to the door, holding it open with one hand, the familiar outline of a gun in the other as he waved his team in. The one doing the bitching continued to grumble under his breath as he brushed by. He was taller with a leaner build but a similar haircut. I adjusted my aim to just beyond the door, tracking Mr. Grouch. My ammunition was limited, and I didn’t want to waste it shooting through glass. A third individual who moved with a disturbing grace that had me reassessing their threat potential followed on his heels. Their head was angled over their shoulder, so all I could make out was longer hair than the first two, but the build leaned toward female. Before the group’s fourth made an entrance, Lady Luck decided to leave the building. Mr. Grouch cleared the door and was halfway to the empty reception desk when he did a quick glance to his left 52 | UncagedBooks.com

and spotted me. Instead of calling out a warning to the others, he let out a furious roar and charged me. A shimmer around his upraised fist indicated he was about to nail me with some sort of spell. Before he could let loose, I pulled the trigger. He stumbled back, his rage-twisted features going blank and the rising magic sputtering to nothing. There was no time to enjoy my small victory. The scary-ass woman targeted me, leaving Zev to Bruiser and the unknown fourth member of their group. She made an inhuman jump from the door to the top of the reception desk. I had her in my sights when an eerie wail preceded the nearby chairs rising on a rush of air and slamming into me, knocking my shot wide. Air Mage. I darted for the scant protection of the dividing wall by the bathrooms, hoping that by eliminating her line of sight, I could avoid the worst of her attack. A low accent table slid toward me as if shoved by an invisible hand. I made a mad lunge toward the relative safety of the bathroom hall. Too little, too late. The table slammed into my calf. The pain of the impact was sharp and sudden, leaving a shocked numbness in its wake. I stumbled forward and all but dove into the hall like a kid trying to tag a base. Half crawling, half scrambling, gun still in hand, I limped my way toward the other end. If I could make it, it would bring me out behind and to her left. I hugged the wall, using doorjambs and water fountains as anchors against the vicious wind ripping through the hall. Hard as it was, I tried not to stare at the shuddering dividing wall as it shook under the continuous assault of battering furniture on the other side. If I didn’t hurry the hell up, she’d smash her way through and squash me like a fly. The wind arrowed through the narrow hall, plastering my clothes against my limbs in an awkward tangle. The furious gusts wailed, adding to the deafening cacophony, and whipped my hair forward, blinding me. Lethal air currents fought to wrap around my neck, but my protective power did its job. The murderous air currents might toss me around like a broken doll, but they couldn’t tighten enough to strangle me. Of course, trying to breathe wasn’t easy either.

Gritting my teeth against the relentless onslaught, I fought my way forward, gaining inches at a time. Somehow, despite the brutal gusts threatening to tear me away from my precarious hold, I made it to the end, gun still clutched tightly in hand. A few more inches and nothing would stand between me and the Air Mage. If I wanted to survive, I needed to end this quick. Knowing the move was desperate but unable to drum up other options, I let go of the doorjamb. With a gleeful scream, her power slammed into me, all but throwing me clear of the hall and toward the back wall. Pure luck had me twisting as I flew toward the wall, so she and I faced each other. I got a glimpse of an eerie green glow surrounding her as she crouched like a deranged gargoyle on top of the receptionist’s desk. I lifted my gun, finger tightening on the trigger, and felt the gun kick with the last two shots. The gunfire was drowned out under the unnatural gale. My gun clicked empty as my spine hit the wall. The back of my skull was quick to follow, leaving my vision wonky. The windstorm held me in place, pinning me like a butterfly to the wall. My eyes teared, either from the hit or the wind or both. As I blinked the moisture away, a rain of stars fell, showering the Air Mage. The tiny pieces of lights were caught in the swirling currents as they wrapped around her, and for a breathless moment the sight was beautiful, a mesmerizing cloak of stars. Then it went horrifically wrong. The cloak of stars took on a reddish hue that deepened with each passing second, turning into a shroud of glittering glass shards. Score one for the desperate option. My bullets found their mark in the glass artwork adorning the ceiling above the mage. As it shattered, her preternatural wind had gathered the splinters into a lethal cloud of tiny little blades.

| JAMI GRAY | out away from her, she forced her magic to shift direction. Her change caused the pressure holding me in place to disappear. Freed from the invisible restraints, I slid down the wall, but I did it with a smile. As my butt hit the floor, I met her gaze. Her grimace shifted to a frown, but then she retraced the direction of my gaze and looked up. Above her, the large broken shards still swayed from being shot. The unexpected change in air pressure from her airy tantrum snapped the dangling pieces free of their last restraints. Her eyes widened. I winced and looked away as she got a face full of glass. The horrific image of a gory reverse pincushion would haunt me for a damn long while. The dull thud of her body being swept off the desk was joined by the wave of discordant chimes from the death throes of the glass artwork. For a moment I sat on the floor, ears ringing, body aching, head throbbing, and wondered if I could get away with sitting out the rest of the night’s adventures. A body slid across the floor in front of me, its head impacting the wall to my left with enough force to break through the drywall. Guess not.

The End, Pt.5

© Copyright 2020 Jami Gray All rights reserved. Published with permission.

Caught up in the fury of her elemental magic, she missed the unexpected twist in her attack. Numerous slivers found their target on her exposed skin and sank deep, dotting her exposed skin red. At first, she flinched as if shrugging off an annoying bug, but within seconds that flinch turned into a full-blown, teeth-baring grimace as those same razor-edged pieces grew in number. In an effort to direct the fallIssue 59 | June 2021 |


feature authors

fantasy | paranormal suspense

J.P. Roth

John Hazen

J . P. roth


uthor, dreamer, and wild child extraordinaire: JP Roth is an American Novelist, and owner of Rothic comics, founded in 2012, through which she has produced and published five of her original series. JP Roth lives in Long Beach, CA with her beautiful family, and their adorable Bichon Frise. Her days are spent writing fanciful stories, walking on the beach, and attending comic conventions across the globe. While JP Roth enjoys travelling to exotic locations, she admittedly prefers to stay home, 56 | UncagedBooks.com

wrapped in a soft fluffy blanket, drinking tea, and penning her next novel.

Stay Co n n e c te d

Rothic.com Welcome to J.P. Roth Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest book released in May, Ancient Dreams. Can you tell readers more about this story? Ancient Dreams, Blood and Shadows, is the continuation of Cara’s journey. Cara is beginning to piece together the broken memories of a past life that haunts her. Lost in a spell, she relives her own death, and subsequent rescue by Hades’ son, Draken, Drake, the man she died for and can’t stop loving. Wrapped in visions of a life that ended brutally, Cara has thirteen days to break a curse placed on her by the vengeful goddess. The goddess Aphrodite, who once claimed her life and stole her chance at true love. With Drake, and her sister Lily at her side, Cara discovers there is much more to the world of ancient Lore than meets the eye. Vampires, Lycans, witches, and the old gods seek her blood. Warriors of hell stalk her every move as she battles the ghosts of love, sacrifice, and loss. What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I am working on the novel for DiVinica. Currently a comic series produced by Rothic comics, with art by Dawn McTeigue. A dystopian fantasy that tumbles through Mythological realms. In my downtime I do bat-

tle with Ancient Dreams, book three. The Wynter and the Flame. You are also the owner of Rothic Comics. Can you tell readers more about this venture and your contributions? I started Rothic comics in 2011 with the inception of Ancient Dreams. We now have five ongoing series and have since sold comics and graphic novels across the globe. Rothic comics are published through Rothic, Ablaze Publishing & Diamond Previews. Notable, artists that have contributed to my work are, Eric ‘E Bas’ Basaldua, J. Scott Campbell, Dawn McTeigue, Sabine Rich, Mike Krome, Nei Ruffino, Paolo Pantalena, Collette Turner, and Ale Garza. Current titles found in Diamond Previews. Ancient Dreams Southern Nightgown REM 8 Theory of Magic DiVinica What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? I adore writing love scenes. Romance will always be my first crush. I always hope to make each one I write perfect, so in many cases they are also the most difficult scenes for me to write. I often battle with the need for perfection. I have to tell myself to just close my eyes, do my best, and let the rest go. What are you looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do? Comic conventions are resuming around the globe, I look forward to traveling, and seeing all those I have missed so much this past year. Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | Characters, they are always yelling in my ears, each talking over the other, all trying to tell their story. At times it is hard to compartmentalize the clashing narratives. What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I am always reading or listening to an audio book. Sometimes, when I really want a brain break, I game while doing both. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? I love fall time. When light from the witching hour colors the auburn leaves, I see magic. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? I try to average about 2-5k words a day. Time may vary depending on the level of difficulty. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I will read or listen to anything I can get my hands on. My current read is: The things we cannot say, by Kelly Rimmer. Stunning, heartbreaking tale, of love survival and strength. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you so much for bringing this series to life. Thank you for sticking with us since the crazy beginning and having what it takes to wander through all my wild worlds. I love you all.

58 | UncagedBooks.com

| J.P. ROTH |

Enjoy an excerpt from Ancient Dreams Blood and Shadows

Ancient Dreams Blood and Shadows JP Roth Fantasy Releases June 24 In Ancient Dreams, Blood and Shadows, Cara is forced to battle the monsters of her past, and deal with the conclusion of a curse haunting her present. A curse which has the potential to take more than her life. It’s a strange thing to wake up dead, knowing you are standing in the center of unchangeable destiny—strange, yet acceptable. When the moment holds the death of someone you love—that’s where the rules of destiny deserve to be broken—Cara Wynter Cara Wynter read a book that told her stories of another place. A forgotten time. As she read, she remembered the man she loved—the dark stranger in her dreams, re-lived her own death in his arms. Now he is in front of her, wanting her, loving her, desperate to save her, even from herself. From the dark halls of Hades to the hidden mountains of Transylvania, Cara finds herself falling yet again for the man who once traded his soul to save her own. Spells, witches, mythical creatures, and ancient, avenging gods threaten her daily. Terrifying, emerging powers and twisted murders—are her new normal. The horrors she tried for years to ignore, come for her with a vengeance, dragging her into a hidden world of fantasy, and magic.

Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | Excerpt Drake stood at the end of the hall, a silhouette in a beam of rainy light. He and Gary were in the process of lifting the front door off the floor—somehow, impossibly pounded in by monster hands. Drake heard my footsteps, he stopped mid-motion and gave me a romance novel look, like I was the focal point of his universe, the only woman in his world. To him we are, Arias told me. “You are!” I shot back, under my breath. “He doesn’t even know me. I don’t even know him.” That’s not true, is it? She returned, echoing Lily. No, it was not true at all. I knew so many things about him; the way he slept with one hand under his cheek, how he cleared his throat when he was nervous—what all the varying looks in his dark, expressive eyes meant. Especially the look he gave me right now, like his soul had been gutted, and the remaining pieces reduced to ash. “Will you please, just shut up!” I told her. “I beg your pardon?” said Lily, sounding mildly affronted. “Crap, sorry,” I squeaked. “Not you.” “You know,” said Gary, in a conversational tone, giving myself, and Drake sidelong glares. “This door is about two hundred years old,” he grunted, quickly repositioning his hands, “I think it’s also solid oak—not exactly the lightest thing in the world, if we could all rape each other with our eyes later, that would be great.” “Sorry,” grunted Drake, tearing his gaze from me. Swearing, the men jostled the door into place, Drake held it steady while Gary set the hinges. Lily let go of my hand and went to hug Andi, I busied myself by putting on my gloves and trying to walk in a straight line. Drake let go of the door, brushed his hands down the front of his jeans. I saw him try to smile, the emotion on his face conflicted badly with battle raging in his eyes. 60 | UncagedBooks.com

Still, my eyes went to his lips—drawn there by a force beyond my control—consequently my right foot tripped over my left foot and I nearly wiped out. I caught the wall. Steady Cara, I told myself. It was nothing, just a kiss—an extraordinarily little thing which frequently happens to normal girls, on a daily basis. “It is absolutely nothing,” I whispered. A memory, however, of his hands on my naked hips in a room of gold brought a wealth of shivers and made a liar out of me. My cheeks went up in flames. How was I ever going to properly face him? Talk to him for god’s sake—hell, yell if I wanted to. Gary dropped a screw and said a word that made me cringe. “Jesus! Gary!” gasped Lily. Drake bent down, picked up the screw, then handed it back to him. Gary grunted in lieu of thanks—uncharacteristically glum. If Drake noticed the strange rudeness, he made no sign, just bent down again to retrieve the screwdriver. I love you! I wanted to shout. Oh my god! I love you so much, and I missed you so terribly—but I had not, I did not, so I kept silent. It is possible he heard me anyway, because he lifted his head and looked right at me, looked at me the same way he had in his father’s chamber of eternal death, surrounded by fire and stars, our feet planted on that living floor. “How are you?” he asked, walking to stand in front of me. “Physically?” “Yes.” I shrugged and looked in his sad eyes. “I’m—” “Fine?” he finished cynically. “Yes.” I hated the space between us. He stepped closer. “I’m sorry. I’m so damn sorry, Cara.” “Not here,” I told him. I took off my right glove and held out the same hand. “Come with me.”

| JP ROTH | “Anywhere,” he said. My bare fingers touched his palm. I could feel the deep emotion simmering just beneath the surface of his control. Lord, but he was strong! I wished for one second—even if it meant pain for me—that he would just let go and allow himself to feel. I led him through the living room, past Lily’s felled Ficus plants, and through the shattered back door. In silence we walked the small cobblestone path leading to the forest. I stopped a few feet from the tree line, and spun to face him, holding up my ring-wearing hand. “Did you give me this?” I demanded without preamble. I heard anger in my voice. Well, why not?! My mind screamed. Promise breaker! He owes us a freaking explanation! Drake shifted his weight; his eyes were burning. “I thought you found it.” I nodded; my hands made fists at my sides. “Yes, I did, right here actually.” I pointed to a spot under my foot. “I know where I found it this time, did you give it to me last time?” I shook my head. “The first time?” “Cara—” he pleaded. “What? Where did you get it?” I demanded. The ensuing silence stretched for so long I expected him to end it with a lie, shockingly, he did not deliver. “My mother gave it to me, her mother gave it to her,” Drake took a deep, bracing breath. “I gave it to you under a tree in a forest, a very long time ago.” “You mean you gave it to Arias?” Drake shook his head so dark curls fell over his forehead, impatiently he brushed them away while his eyes continued to burn into mine, making ashes of my soul. “No, Cara. I gave it to you.” “I went back?” I whispered, shocked. I had not expected that answer at all. “Oh,” I took a breath. “How long?” Drake closed his eyes. “I had two years with you.” “How?” “I don’t know, little on—” he stopped himself from

dropping the endearment in the last second. “Cara,” he corrected. “I’m sorry, I wish I did. Were I to guess, from what I saw yesterday, I would say my sister had a hand in it. I never knew she wrote that story. It’s sick, such horror—immortalized forever.” He rubbed the back of his neck; his face could have been carved in stone. “Why didn’t you want Andi’s spell to take me back? If I hadn’t gone back, I would be dead.” “Yes,” he said, his eyes pleaded with me to understand. “If you never drank that cursed spell, then you never would have gone back. You would not have been visible to Persephone, and she would not have claimed you. You would have died that night—so many thousands of years ago—I would never have taken my father’s evil deal—and the world would once again be, as it was meant to be. It would be done. No more curses, no more loss or fear, for either of us. If you hadn’t come back—it would simply be over. I don’t want to put you through it all again.” His voice broke. “Put us both through it.” “I don’t understand,” I said. Tears of frustration filled my eyes, I blinked them away. “I don’t even know who I am anymore.” I watched as the hard lines of his face softened. His eyes—red-rimmed and wide—were twin pools of misery drowning me. He tugged on my hand and I flowed into his arms, they closed around me and I felt home. He kissed my forehead and simply held me. “You are Cara,” he said against my temple. “You are Lily’s twin, a Scorpio and a dreamer. You share the soul of a girl from a lost time. You swim like a water goddess and ride a Ducati like a devil.” Leaning back, he touched my chin until I met his eyes. The dark gold flecks dancing in the amber hypnotized me. “You’re brave, selfless and kind. You would give your life to help a stranger,” his voice dropped low. “You are Cara Wynter, a writer, a witch and a beautiful creature.” I swallowed hard, shoving away the intoxicating feeling his words gave me. “When did you give Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | me this ring?” I asked. “A long time ago,” he repeated. I heard the smile in his voice. I could not help my own slight smile. “You’re infuriating, did you know that?” “I’ve been told a time or two, by you actually.” “Drake…when?” I repeated. He waited, I looked down at my hand, so I did not see his expression, his voice however sounded muffled. “The day I married you,” he said. I watched his knuckles tighten convulsively. “I don’t know how it came into your possession this second time—that’s the truth, though I do have my suspicions.” “I almost remember,” I told him. He sighed, deeply. “I know. I am afraid it’s inevitable, I feel the waves rushing to the shore, I fear there is no way to stop them.” “It comes back to me in pieces.” My fingers sunk in his biceps; I think I shook him a little. “Can you make me remember?” “No! Cara! Never!” His tone made my eyes fly up. I saw his eyes and felt a surge of triumph. I had finally broken through his wall, stripped away his tranquil mask. In that second of weakness, I was overcome by his emotions. Rage, anger and so much I felt I would fall to my knees, die in his agony. Drake held me up. I found my feet, and he stepped back. His face was blank, the emotion gone, his eyes bleak and exposed. I felt him lock it all away behind that steel wall I was coming to loathe. “Erastís,” he breathed. “Never.”

62 | UncagedBooks.com



Our resident peacock, Roseby, is a neighborhood pet, but he lives in our tree, so we claim him. He’s not the brightest of birds, but what he lacks in mental brightness he makes up for on glorious plumage. During mating season he can be found fighting with his image reflected on our cars. The rest of the year, he strolls up and down the street, looking cool and searching for snacks. But we love him and are lucky to watch his clumsy flight onto our roof and into his tree every night around sunset.

Meet Bo, our rescue dog. Can you believe some dumb a** left him behind? Good thing my little sister swooped him up and talked me into giving him a good home. We already have a cantankerous Chihuahua mix and a surly cat “gifted” us by our neighbors, plus the slew of wild animals that show up at our back door for organic scraps. Bo has been a breath of fresh air and positive energy in the house, especially during Covid. He not only keeps me company while I’m writing, but he also nudges me for walks when he’s determined I’ve spent enough time on the laptop. Best editor in the world!



This is ‘Cruiser.’ He should be ‘Tank,’ but I was in the Navy, not the Army. He was returned to the humane society three times before they called me and asked me to take him. I have experience with big dogs, and we think he’s a bull mastiff/ Akita mix. He had an intense pursuit instinct to the point where he’ll even chase cars if he’s out without a leash. He resists house training, he’s a ‘marker,’ and he wants to bully my other dog. At the same time, there’s a good boy in there. He’s got love to give. My last dog like him took me 5 years to reach. I never give up – Cruiser will be fine. 64 | UncagedBooks.com

This is a picture of our new cat Sappho lying on my keyboard and preventing me from writing. Even better, when she wandered off I found that my keyboard was locked and only able to type the letter E with an accent aigu…. And that somehow my ‘zoom’ app had been deleted just before I was do to start an interview with English writer Matthew Harfly. Handy. Despite which, she’s a great cat.

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.

J.P ROTH & Prince


Prince is pure white Bichon Frise, and a happy boy, always. He is five years old, and thinks he is the cutest. He loves to run and play. He has many deep thoughts, and intrinsically knows that he is smarter than people. When he is not sleeping, he guards our little family with a vengeance.

Meet Castle, our loveable and crazy Airedale. He’s a handful but he’s also very sweet

Issue 59 | June 2021 |


J OH N h aV E N


ohn Hazen came to writing novels relatively late in life, but once he started he hasn’t looked back. Degrees from Rutgers, The New School and New York and NYU buttress a lifelong passion for learning and a love of history. Inspired by Lynn, his wife of over thirty years, he pursued the dream of becoming an established author and is now working on his fifth book. John and Lynn love to travel, and the experiences of those travels find their way into 66 | UncagedBooks.com

his writing. John’s reading tastes are eclectic, ranging from histories to classic novels to an occasional piece of modern trash. His absolute “must reads” are Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s No Ordinary Time.

Stay Co n n e c te d

Uncaged welcomes John Haven Welcome to Uncaged! Your newest book, The Correction, will release June 3. Can you tell readers more about this book? Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here today. Everybody has something in their past they wished they did differently. They made a wrong decision or said something they shouldn’t have or made a bad choice in life. We look back and wish we could get a do-over, but we know we can’t. In The Correction, we can. It’s the story about a man, Joseph Vance, who has inherited the ability to perform Corrections, which let people go back and change one decision they made. They never know they’ve gone back in time. They go back and live from that point without any knowledge of the change as they proceed with their revised lives. Usually, the change is for the better—a relationship that had been severed for decades because of a misspoken word is repaired or a life that had been ruined is now productive—but that is not always the case. Vance only has the power to change that one instance but has no power to influence how life proceeds after that point. He also does not know how the Correction may affect other people or events. Things sometimes can, and do, go awry. The Correction is a power that goes back eight

hundred years so I’m able to so how this has been used over the centuries, at times resulting in very changes to the world’s history itself. It was indeed a fun book to write. What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I’ve begun to write the fourth book in the Vega Investigative Thriller Series. The series is about a New York City TV Reporter named Francine Vega who uncovers and investigates stories of national and international consequence. Teaming with the FBI, she’s helped to thwart plots that, if she did not act, could have affected a presidential race, plunged the world into a cataclysmic war and irreconcilably damaged race relations in the United States. I am proud to note that BestThrillers.com cited the first book in the series, Fava, as one of “The 18 Best FBI Thriller Books” alongside the likes of James Patterson, Lee Child and David Baldacci, among others (https://bestthrillers.com/the-best-fbi-thrillers/ ). I’m eager to resume this series after a brief hiatus to write The Correction. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? To be honest, I can’t say I find one type of scene any more difficult (or easy) than another. I’ve never attempted a steamy sex scene or some dystopian horror scene, so maybe it’s that I stay within my comfort zone. All I know is that when I get a scene in my head, I see it vividly and the words flow. What are you looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do? My wife, Lynn, and I were to have celebrated our 40th anniversary in Paris last June. Of course, that never happened. We were together and we’re both healthy; that’s what’s truly important. Still, it was a letdown. We were able to reschedule it for this coming September, however. It will be so nice to be back there again. I’ve used Paris as the setting for scenes in a couple of my books, so it will be a Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | chance to reinspire myself and my writing with that magical city. Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? Planning? What’s that? Seriously, I have a general idea, an overall theme for the book and then I start writing. I’ll have the main character and maybe one or two side characters in my mind but that’s about it. The rest—the plot and all the other characters— develop as I’m writing. One of my favorite things is when I create a minor character solely for the limited purpose of advancing the story line but as I progress that character grows before my very eyes and becomes a major character, integral to the entire book. Having characters come alive gives me such a great feeling. What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? Lynn and I play tennis two to three times a week. We love to take long walks along the ocean. We

If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? I grew up in Massachusetts so I’m very partial to the New England autumns. The air is so crisp and the foliage so beautiful. I live in Florida, where there are no real seasons, so it’s great to get back up north occasionally for that season. cook together and enjoy trying new recipes. We like popping old movies into the player and watching them. There seems to be a common thread here, isn’t there? One thing of late that I’ve gotten into on my own is playing my clarinet. I played in high school but hadn’t really touched it in over forty years. Then I started playing with a couple bands and now I’m hooked again. 68 | UncagedBooks.com

How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? I’m extremely undisciplined, so the amount I write per day is very uneven. Sometimes, it would only be an hour or two whereas others it would be six to eight. A lot depends on where I am in a book. If it’s at a key point in the book, I’ll keep writing. Back when I

| JOHN HAZEN | authors and we help each other out as much as we can. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I hope everybody will take a look at The Correction. I think you’ll like it. I want to thank all of you who have purchased and read my books as well as those who will get them in the future. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them. I’m in the process of reviving my defunct website so in the meantime the best place to follow me is on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ JohnHazenAuthor or Twitter at https://twitter.com/ john_hazen

Enjoy an excerpt from The Correction The Correction John Hazen Paranormal Suspense

was working, I’d do a lot of my writing on my train commute and more than once I missed my stop as I was immersed in my writing. On the other hand, if I finish a chapter that I really liked or that inspired me, I’ll sometimes take a one or two-day break to savor it. On average, I’d say it takes me about six to eight months to write a full novel. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I still like the look, feel and smell of a real book in my hands, but I read a large number of ebooks as well. They’re just so convenient and easy. Of late, I’ve been reading books by my fellow authors at Black Rose Writing—Mary Ellen Bramwell, Ricky Ginsburg, and Mark James Miller to name a few. It’s a great group of

It’s human nature to make mistakes. We learn and grow because of them. What we can’t do is go back in time to correct a mistake—that is unless we meet Joseph Vance or his family. When Joe performs Corrections—a gift passed down generation to generation over eight hundred years—people are transported back for a do-over of a wrong decision they made. As a result, lives are changed, usually for the better. But after one Correction goes terribly wrong, Joseph loses what is most dear to him. He must then make a choice, one which will determine whether he will be redeemed or consigned to a life of despair. Excerpt From Chapter 8 “Yes, I’d love to take back what I said. I guess Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | each of us has one thing or another in our lives we’d like to take back, don’t we? An ill-advised decision we made that, looking back, we wish we never made. How about you? You have one of these such decisions?” Vivian nervously considered the question. She looked over at her daughter. “I would have forbidden you going to that party that night. I should have tackled you. I should have blocked the door. I gave in to you and I shouldn’t have. That’s the one decision I wish I could have back.” Vivian put her head in her hands and began to sob. I was part way there, but not all the way. I needed Mary to say it, not her mother. I expected Mary to soften at the sight of her mother crying but the exact opposite happened. She stiffened and seethed as her mother spoke, but still she said nothing. I was losing hope. Then she let her mother have it. “How dare you feel sorry for yourself! I’m the one in a wheelchair for the rest of my life.” “I, I didn’t mean.” “You didn’t mean! You didn’t mean! If I’ve so ruined your life, please leave. I don’t even know why we’re doing this, trying to put on airs we’re normal for a man we just met. Maybe you should leave.” I stood my ground and wasn’t going anywhere. I stared at her intently. “What do you want from me? What do you want me to say? Okay, my life sucks and it’s all my fault! I wish I never left the house that night to go to that damn party! There, are you happy?” “Yes,” I responded. I smiled, leaned over and put my hand on her shoulder. She glared at me for taking such liberties. I closed my eyes as all went dark. When I next opened them, I was in my room at the inn. It was getting late, so I left my room and walked downstairs. Mrs. Tate was in the living room. “How are you this evening, Mrs. Tate?” “I’m doing well, Mr. Vance. Thank you for asking.” I was going to ask her about Mary and Vivian, but then I thought better of it. I remembered talking with her about them a few days earlier but I had learned long ago that, after a Correction, I could not be certain of which reality I now lived in. A Correction can have ripple effects. It is always better to keep my cards close to the vest until I know 70 | UncagedBooks.com

for certain. The next morning, I walked the mile to Calabrese Florist and Greenhouse. The sign was similar, but somewhat different from when I saw it a few days ago. I walked in, tinkling the bell as I entered. A man was behind the counter. I recognized him immediately from the photographs. It was Lou Calabrese, the beloved father who in the previous reality had passed away years earlier. I thought back to what Vivian had told me. Her husband had a weak heart that ultimately gave out after years of strain. His daughter’s accident had been perhaps the biggest strain in his life. The Correction, the saving of his precious daughter from a horrific accident, removed the stress on his heart and, as a result, here he was, alive. “Good morning, can I help you?” he asked. “I’m just passing through for a few days. I’m staying at the Wayfarer and I always love to have some fresh flowers in my room when I travel. Mrs. Tate, the inn’s owner, said this is the place to come.” “How is Wendy? I haven’t seen her in ages.” “She’s doing quite well. She’s a perfect host. I’m stuffed from the magnificent breakfast she laid out for me this morning.” “What kind of flowers are you interested in?” “Orchids. The Cattleya variety. I saw a nice one in the window that would be perfect.” “I’ll fetch it for you.” As he was walking to the window display, I decided to play a hunch. “I selected the Wayfarer because they accept pets. I love to travel with my Airedale. I noticed this morning, however, that he was rather listless and I was wondering if you knew of a veterinarian in town.” His face beamed. “You don’t have to go very far. It just so happens that a couple of fine veterinarians are next door. In the interest of full disclosure, they happen to be my daughter and son-in-law.” “You sound justifiably proud.” “I am.” I paid for my orchid and then headed out. I looked to my left and there was a sign hanging on the front of the house next door. It read: Mansfield Veterinary Clinic. I walked over and on the door were the names Dr. Mary Mansfield, DVM and Dr. Michael Mansfield, DMV. I walked in. There was one woman holding a Siamese cat on her lap in the waiting area. Vivian was seated behind the

| JOHN HAZEN | receptionist’s desk. She looked up when I entered. “Good morning.” She noticed the orchid I was carrying. “I see you’ve been to our shop next door. I hope my husband was nice to you.” “Oh, yes, extremely. I was in a church recently and a woman was wearing one of these on her lapel. I was so taken with it I had to get one of my own for my stay at the Wayfarer Inn.” “It’s funny, my daughter often likes to wear one on her lapel.” Just as she said this, the door behind her that led to the offices and examining areas opened. A middle-aged woman restraining an exuberant golden retriever puppy emerged. The puppy was curious about everything, but most notably the Siamese cat. The cat stiffened but did not otherwise react. Following closely behind was Mary, wearing a white doctor’s coat and sporting a smile of utter joy and contentment. She was obviously happy with her life, doing what she wanted to do. She said a few things to the woman about the care of her dog and then signaled for the other woman to bring the cat in. It was then she noticed me. “Do I know you? You look very familiar.” “I get that a lot. I have one of those faces, it seems.” “Nice orchid you have there. Cattleya labiate, if I’m not mistaken.” “You are quite correct. I bought it next door.” “I thought as much. I helped cultivate them back in high school before turning my attention to furrier life forms. What brings you here?” “I have a listless Airedale back at the Wayfarer and your father said this would be the place to bring him.” “Of course, bring him in. My mother can set you up. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, Mr.?” “Vance, Joseph Vance.” “Well, I better get to my next patient. Siamese cats can get quite temperamental if you ignore them for too long.” “It’s been a pleasure, a distinct pleasure.” She walked back through the door. I turned to Vivian. “I’ll get back to you with a time that’s good. Thank you. You’ve got a nice family, Mrs. Calabrese.” “Why thank you, Mr. Vance. Thank you very much.” I went back to the inn. I packed my bags, settled my bill with Mrs. Tate, and left town. Mary Calabrese was one of my best success stories, so I love to tell it. There was a different story I wanted to tell you but, I’m ninety-nine and scattered. I’m tired now, so you must wait until tomorrow for me to tell you more. I’m off to bed. Issue 59 | June 2021 |


The Disabled Writer Guest column by Amy Shannon


The Disabled Writer By Amy Shannon

A writer needs many things to write. If they are actually writing they need their hands to hold the pen to the paper or to float across the keyboard as they type. Writers have their own writing style, their own writing quirks, and what they use as their implement to write. Some writers write in longhand, in cursive or even print, some type on a manual typewriter, some type in an electric typewriter or some writers type on either computer or a laptop. That’s not all inclusive and doesn’t describe all writers or their styles or quirks. If a writer had the ability to write using their writing style, and then all of a sudden lost use of one or both hands either temporarily or permanently, are they still a writer? Some writers are storytellers. Some writers are information givers. Some are poets, songwriters, nonfiction writers, or fall into academics or journalism or some other form of writing. writers write. It’s what they do. It’s who they are. There are many ways a writer can lose the use of their hands such as disorders, disease or injury. If a writer has always used their hands and then all of a sudden has to figure a way to get their thoughts on paper, it can be a list of trials and errors to see which works for that particular writer. It is not always just about writing especially when you lose the ability to do so. Different emotions can surface such as frustration and anger and even feeling loss. Loss from the ability to do what is part of you to do in your usual way. It is not easy to take your thoughts from your head 74 | UncagedBooks.com

that normally goes straight to your fingers and type out the words or write the words down on paper and have to train yourself to tell your story another way. It can be difficult for the thoughts to be said out loud. There are many different dictation softwares, and some built into current operating systems, such as speech recognition or a dictation ability in one of the applications. The other option for speaking verbally is using a digital recorder or a recording app on a smart phone. With the recording app on a smart phone if you choose just to send it to the computer you would have to convert it to a file that the computer would recognize.

When using speech recognition or some sort of verbal communication to a computer or laptop there are different types of microphones, webcams, and headsets with microphones. It is up to the writer on how and what they use 2 connect so the story can be written. Webcams or some sort of video recording can record the author or writer telling the story or their ideas of the story. This really depends on how the author wants to share the story. If the story ultimately should be put on paper, the writer may want to look at different ways to tell the story. Using dictation or a digital recorder, it is not always easy 4 the computer to recognize words depending on how the author pronounces words or how they speak. It is important if you’re going to use speech recognition that you use the built in ability of speech recognition to train the computer to recognize your form of speech. If you’re going to use specific software that you purchase in order to dictate, do the research to see if it does exactly what you want it to do. There is some software that is used for speech recognition and dictation, but it also has the ability to

transcribe audio files. This would work for those writers who speak into a digital recorder and then transfer the audio files to the computer. One thing to note though is that when reciting or dictating it is important to also speak the punctuation or that would have to be inserted later. There are also hardware options that can help an unsteady or trembling hand such as a mouse where you can change the setting so it’s not so sensitive. Also there are different types of keyboards such as large button keyboards or ergonomically created to help a writer be able to type. The different adaptive technologies that are available can be used for disabled writers with varying disabilities. Some of the adaptive technologies can be fairly expensive but if research is done it is possible to find a comparable item that will also fit the writer’s needs without breaking the bank or spending savings.

| AMY SHANNON | disorder you may want to research that disorder to see how other people have overcome such say or obstacles such as using their hands. There are tools that can be used even if the hand is just unsteady, shaky or one hand is unusable such as dominant hand and the less dominant hand needs to be trained.

Authors note: this article was written through the dictation process in the current version of Microsoft Word. This author has essential tremor disorder, which affects both my hands and my legs and even some other parts of my body. The more I use my hands, the more they shake. I’ve done a lot of research to see when I could use to help still tell stories or even just get information out there in order to help others. This article is about writers and what is most important this to realize that, yes, writers write but what they really do is put their words on paper in whatever way possible. ©Copyright 2021 Amy Shannon for Uncaged Book Reviews www.uncagedbooks.com

In life, there are always obstacles to overcome. Sometimes for a writer losing the use of a hand is only temporary, such as a sprain or broken bone, things that will heal and you just have to make do with what you can do with what you have. Other times there is a disability that is permanent and can affect the writers hands and there are so many different disorders that can affect the hands and it can be very frustrating to have to think about what to do next. Some writers decide to retire, or some writers try to use other methods to get their stories on paper. There is no right or wrong answer because it depends on the individual writer. If you have a disability or some form of physical Issue 59 | June 2021 |


feature authors

scifi | historical romance

Christian Cameron

Sandra Sookoo

Melanie Rose Clarke



hristian Cameron (also Miles Cameron) was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1962. He grew up in Rockport, Massachusetts, Iowa City, Iowa, and Rochester, New York, where he attended McQuaid Jesuit High School and later graduated from the University of Rochester with a degree in history. After the longest undergraduate degree on record (1980-87), he joined the United States Navy, where he served as an intelligence officer and as a backseater in S-3 Vikings in the First Gulf War, in Somalia, and elsewhere. After a dozen years of service, he became a full time writer in 2000. He lives78 in Toronto (that’s Ontario, in Canada) with | UncagedBooks.com

his wife Sarah and their daughter Beatrice, currently age seven. He attends the University of Toronto when the gods move him and may eventually have a Masters in Classics, but right now he’s a full time historical novelist, and it is the best job in the world. Christian is a dedicated reenactor and you can follow some of his recreated projects on the Agora. He’s always recruiting, so if you’d like to try the ancient world, the medieval world, or the late 18th century, follow the link to contact us.

Stay Co n n e c te d hippeis.com traitorson.com

Uncaged welcomes Christian Cameron Welcome to Uncaged! Your newest fantasy book, Hawkwoods Sword will release July 8th – can you tell readers more about this book? Well, it’s actually historical fiction, not fantasy. It’s about real events in the late fourteenth century in Italy, when an English Prince… the Black Prince’s brother… was apparently murdered. The main story arc is about my protagonist, the English knight Sir William Gold, slowly gathering evidence about the murder, but it’s really a period political thriller. I’m a nutter for authenticity, and while I do not guarantee that all the events happen as I represent them, they could have! At the moment, I do have a new fantasy trilogy in at Gollancz for editing. The first book is called ‘Against All Gods’ and it will be out in 2022. It’s inspired, not by knights and elves, but by the Aegean/Egyptian bronze age, with a touch of Peruvian and New World for added fun. Also some pacifist heroes and heroines… perhaps we can talk about that next spring

On your website, you tell us that you are a life-long reenactor. Can you tell us a bit more about that and how it aids your writing? Sure. I said above that I’m a nutter for authenticity. That’s true even when I write fantasy or Science Fiction. Many lifeways and cultural manners are systems, and I like to try an d understand systems. For example, for most of the past, and even into my Grandmother’s kitchen, a cook had ‘coppers’ and she/he had ‘irons.’ Reenacting, and most especially, cooking for reenactments, has taught me why the coppers are for some things and the irons for others in hand’s on way. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? The most difficult scenes for me are the deaths of my lead characters. A very major, long term character dies in ‘Hawkwood’s Sword.’ It was not an easy scene to write. And for character reasons, we needed to examine the protagonist’s feelings, and that… was not fun. In fact, most internal emotion scenes are difficult, and the more ‘real’ the harder they are. By contrast, fight scenes are the easiest for me. I have a pretty extensive background in martial arts and swordsmanship and reenactment battles and even, sadly, a couple of actual wars. I can visualize it and write it without pause. What are you looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do? First and foremost, some reenacting! You knew I was going to say that, right? But also just some travel. I love to travel and so does my wife, and we really want to get going. We’re planning a return to the Camino in Spain, a visit ti Italy and Sicily, and of course, Greece, my favourite place on earth… Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | Character first, just as Aristotle taught in Poetics. Character creates motivation, motivation influences plot. But that said, I use history (or Fantastical history or Sci Fi future history) as a sort of frame, and I do make sure of the frame before I develop the characters… What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love painting miniature figures, which helps me realx and think. I love to sew. I love martial arts, which, honestly, I find very relaxing. Fishing and camping too. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? Autumn. I love the Adirondack Mountains and Cumbria in the UK and Algonquin Park in Canada and all show their best as the leaves turn and the hillsides change…. Also, as a reenactor, a few layers of wool are best in mid-October. And fighting in armour… also better in mid-October. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? I try to write 2500 words a day. I write every day from about 9 to about 2, usually without a pause. It usually takes me about 80 working days to produce a novel, but my new Sci Fi novel (out June 24th in the UK, called ‘Artifact Space’) sprang into my head fully written, I sear, and I put it down in 46 work days. It’s not often like that, though. That was like having a muse sitting by my shoulder, dictating. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I am reading Ben Galley’s excellent fantasy ’The Forever King’ right now while simultaneously reading about six books on Anglo-Saxon England. I confess that I read for research far more than I read fantasy and sci fi, but I’ll drop everything for writ80 | UncagedBooks.com

ers I love, like CJ Cheryh or John Gwynne. 10) What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I’m on Twitter as Phokion1, and currently I’m putting out an almost daily video there called ‘WritingFighting’ on how weapons and armour work. It’s not for martial arts people; it’s for writers. I own a ton of stuff that most people don’t have access to, so it’s sort of a public service. I guess if I could speak to fans, I’d say that I’m a reenactor and I want to write you an immersive experience that will let you feel as if you were ‘there.’ Whether that’s the Battle of Marathon or the streets of my fantasy version of Istanbul, or facing down a Wyvernn in the Adnacrags…

Enjoy an excerpt from Artifact Space Artifact Space Miles Cameron SciFi Releases June 24 Out in the darkness of space, something is targeting the Greatships. With their vast cargo holds and a crew that could fill a city, the Greatships are the lifeblood of human occupied space, transporting an unimaginable volume - and value - of goods from City, the greatest human orbital, all the way to Tradepoint at the other, to trade for xenoglas with an unknowable alien species. It has always been Marca Nbaro’s dream to achieve the near-impossible: escape her upbringing and venture into space.

| CHRISTIAN CAMERON | All it took, to make her way onto the crew of the Greatship Athens was thousands of hours in simulators, dedication, and pawning or selling every scrap of her old life in order to forge a new one. But though she’s made her way onboard with faked papers, leaving her old life - and scandals - behind isn’t so easy. She may have just combined all the dangers of her former life, with all the perils of the new . . . Excerpt Chapter One Day One ‘Someone’s birthright,’ the pawnshop’s owner said. He didn’t say it with any particular tone of judgement or moral responsibility. He just said it, and rubbed the top of his head. ‘It’s real?’ Marca Nbaro tried to force herself not to snarl. ‘Yes.’ ‘Like I can trust a junkie,’ the man said, but with no more tone than before. He had terrible cerisus and what little hair he had was lank; a failed rejuv. Nbaro hadn’t realised that her stolen ‘social assistance’ clothing was so bad. The man pressed a tab in the little statuette. It was of a winged lion, in gold and enamel. A holographic coat of arms sprang into existence. ‘Well, well,’ he said. ‘I guess I could loan you two thousand. Or I’d buy it for three, right now, in cash.’ He nodded, coolly, but a faint note of emotion had crept into his tone for the first time, and the emotion was greed. ‘Someone would kill for this.’ No shit, Nbaro thought. ‘Pawn only. I’ll be back.’ He shrugged. ‘Suit yourself. Not a lot of junkies with patrician patents, eh?’ She held out her tab – a cheap thing, but the best she could afford that wasn’t controlled. ‘Pawn,’ she said. He shrugged. ‘Retinal scan. Or half the amount in cash.’ Retinal scan would leave a real trace. On the other

hand, if she’d been tracked as far as the pawn shop, Nbaro was fucked anyway. ‘Retinal scan,’ she said. The hacker was next. A former classmate . . . Sarah flashed to mind and Nbaro swallowed, hard. A former classmate had found her the hacker. A former classmate who’d been sold to a brothel, and wasn’t broken. Yet. Nbaro walked briskly among the Gothic pillars of the restored palazzo under the xenoglas dome. It was the most beautiful place in the world, or at least in her world, which was City, the greatest orbital in Human Space. She was terribly out of place here in her trashy recycle clothes – the kind of clothes that were given away at the care centres, by Social Care and Assistance, to noncitizens, and mendicant citizens, who everyone called SCAMs. She walked quickly and with purpose, because that was her only defence. If I’m a mendicant, I’ll look like a busy one. Nbaro passed under a light, with its embedded PTZ cameras and an audio link. She put the hood of her recycle jacket up and wondered if every mendicant she’d ever seen was on the run from someone. If the Domini is already looking for me, I’m going to show up on every camera in the City. She might as well have worn her uniform. It was in the disposable spacer’s helmet bag she carried. Maybe I’m a fool, Nbaro thought. But if she was in Orphanage whites, she’d stand out even more. A Security officer glanced at her and then turned for a better look. He wore dark blue, a flightsuit not unlike those worn by Service, and he had a winged-lion badge. He waved a hand casually and stepped towards her, and she stopped. He smiled. ‘No begging here, OK?’ His voice was pleasant and low. Nbaro nodded. ‘Need me to walk you somewhere?’ he asked. She wasn’t taken in by his appearance of friendliness and she ducked her head, shook it, and Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | walked away. She didn’t look back, and he didn’t follow her. And there, at the end of the piazzo, was her man. He was short, and somehow looked too old and too . . . dumb . . . to be a famous criminal hacker. But he was at the right table and he had the Old Catholic Bible next to his coffee. He looked up as Nbaro sat down. ‘Hells, kid, you stick out like a fucking starliner in a navy dock.’ He looked around. ‘I should just leave.’ ‘I have the money.’ He held up his tab. Nbaro thumbed hers and the money was transferred. Just like that – two thousand ducats. Her tab beeped, and he was up. He glanced at her. ‘I did it inside the shore establishment,’ he said. ‘That ship has a fucking AI. A little advice? Don’t fuck with the AIs, sister. A ship AI will protect its own like a mother with a missing child. If that thing gets on to you, you’re fucking dead. So I didn’t touch the ship. Katalaveno?’ he asked in Greek. ‘Got me?’ ‘I understand.’ Something else to fear. ‘Good. This is a favour for your friend. The favour is done. Ciao.’ Favour my ass. I paid you for this. Shore Establishment? That worried her. The Service had a gigantic headquarters, a small orbital of its own, near the New London shipyards. How . . .? He turned and walked away into the vast crowd. In happier times, Nbaro and Sarah had sat here in their uniforms and watched the crowds. Patricians. Spacers. Service. All kinds of people, shopping and chatting, flirting . . . Before the Domini sold Sarah to a brothel. Before . . . Fuck. Nbaro saw the two men emerge from the web of lifts and alleys behind the facade of ancient Venice across the square. She knew them both. They were part of the Orphanage Guard Force. The thugs who roamed the corridors and did as they pleased. 82 | UncagedBooks.com

Was it bad luck? Or had they followed her from the pawn shop? Nbaro dropped her tab on the ground and got down to retrieve it, but instead of standing, she started crawling between the tables towards the arcade of pillars. A tourist noticed her and grabbed her fashionable little backpack away, afraid that the SCAMer would take it; another, a ’gyne from the stations, put their hand on their tab. Nbaro kept crawling. I’m so fucking close. If the hacker had done his job . . . It was all insane. The risks were insane, but . . . No one is taking this away from me. I’ll die fighting for it. Nbaro needed to get to the main drum of the Old City – to the space-side end. It was a single long lift ride away. That’s the way she’d planned it. And she could change in the lift car. But those two bastards were between her and the lifts. The dome that held the square of San Marco, as well as most of the original buildings that had surrounded it, sat in its own xenoglas bubble on the outer walls of the cylinder that was the Old City, where it got the full benefit of spin gravity back in the old days before large-scale artificial gravity came in. Every lift and train from the two docksides at the ends of the cylinder ran to San Marco, because that’s where every spacer and tourist wanted to be. Underside, with its seedy bars, brothels, and nightlife, was almost directly under their feet, ready to relieve them of their digital ducats in a variety of ways. Nbaro reached the arcade of pillars and stood up behind one. No security, no thugs. A couple of interested tourists. And the cameras, of course. She walked along the arcade, head down, trying to blend in. She glanced sidelong at the two Orphanage officers, and kept moving. They began to scan the piazza. So . . . they didn’t have a tracker on her and they weren’t watching her on remotes or using the cameras. Still in the game. Nbaro changed her plan. She could go all the way along the arcaded walk to the far end, and then take a tourist lift downstation to Underside. She could catch a lift for Dockside from there, and leave them . . .

| CHRISTIAN CAMERON | Shit. They both saw her at almost the same time, and they both smiled. Nbaro knew what those smiles meant. This isn’t how I want to die. She dropped caution, and ran.


Issue 59 |June 2021 |




andra Sookoo is a USA Today bestselling author who firmly believes every person deserves acceptance and a happy ending. Most days you can find her creating scandal and mischief in the Regency-era, serendipity and happenstance in Victorian America or snarky, sweet humor in the contemporary world. Most recently she’s moved into infusing her books with mystery and intrigue. Reading is a lot like eating fine chocolates—you can’t just have one. Good thing books don’t have calories! When she’s not wearing out computer keyboards, Sandra time with her real-life Prince Charm| UncagedBooks.com 84 spends

ing in central Indiana where she’s been known to goof off and make moments count because the key to life is laughter. A Disney fan since the age of ten, when her soul gets bogged down and her imagination flags, a trip to Walt Disney World is in order. Nothing fuels her dreams more than the land of eternal happy endings, hope and love stories.

Stay Connected

sandrasookoo.com Uncaged welcomes Sandra Sookoo Welcome to Uncaged! On June 3rd, your book The Soul of a Storme will release and it’s the first in a series. Can you tell readers more about this book and what will connect this series together? Thanks for having me here! I’m so excited for the launch of this brand new Storme Brothers series. It all kicks off with The Soul of a Storme, which is book one. The series revolves around two sets of siblings (cousins) and the first three are brothers. The war again Napoleon tore them all apart from each other, as did family relationships, but now that the fathers have died and the war is over, they brothers (and cousins) will need to learn how to relate to each other all over again, and deal with the lasting scars (emotional and physical) they’ve all endured. They’ll also realize that most of what they learned as they grew up is not necessarily what they need now in life. Each one of these boys was my favorite while writing, so I hope you’ll adore them too. You also have a series called the Colors of Scandal, can you tell readers more about those books? Yes! This series came about by accident when I saw a

premade cover… and then another cover… and then another cover. By the time I collected some, I decided since they were so pretty they needed a series to go with them, so Colors of Scandal was born. All the books in this series tackle some sort of social issue or injustice during the Regency period and they also feature strong female leads. The one thing that ties the books together (in addition to the brightly colored gowns) is that these ladies land into some sort of scandal on their way to finding their happily ever afters. I’m so looking forward to seeing the remainder of 2021’s books in the wild. And I have so much coming out in this series for 2022 too! :) I hope you’ll love them as much as I do. What are you working on now that you can tell us about? At the moment, I’ve just come back from vacation (two years over do to rest my brain) So this week I’ll start two Christmas novellas (incidentally, I’ll have tons of Christmas romances for you this year) one is part of my upcoming Home for the Holiday series and one will be part of a Dragonblade anthology. Then I’ll start a standalone romance called An Accidental Countess. I’m always busy! What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? The most difficult scenes (or chapters) for me to write are what I call transitional chapters/scenes. These are scenes that move the characters/plot from one point to another but would cheat the reader if I just put “five days later” or some such thing. In my 13-year career, I’ve never come to learn to love them LOL What are the easiest scenes? If you can believe it, action/fight scenes. They flow so beautifully for me. What are you looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do? Well, I’m making some headway into that right now by going on vacation and boarding an airplane LOL And trust me, that bumped up against several of my Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | anxieties. I’m still not comfortable being out and about among unmasked crowds, so it’ll take me some time to ease back into society. In July, I’ll do a book signing in Louisville, which will be fun, and to see people in person. Also, dining back inside restaurants. But since the weather is so nice, there’s no need right now. Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? That largely depends on whether I want the book to be plot-driven or character-driven. Since I do detailed outlines on ALL of my books, everything comes together for me at the same time. I never worry about that. What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love to bake and make floral decorations for the house. When I can fit it in, I often read, but try not to read in the genre I write in. Also, my husband and I like to go into Indianapolis and tour museums, the zoo, the botanical gardens, and walk garden acreage where available. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? Hands down, fall. I love the colors, the crispness to the air, all the fun activities offered during that time of year, the sweaters and boots. And best of all, it’s not hot and humid. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? Since I’m a full-time author, I write from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Recently, I’ve been writing 50-80K books in a month or less. Again, that’s the power of an outline :) Writing fast doesn’t always mean an author is writing crappy content. It means we know exactly what we’re doing because we’ve attained that level of skill. 88 | UncagedBooks.com

| SANDRA SOOKOO | Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? Hands down, ebooks. I just don’t have the space in my house to keep physical books, and they collect dust besides. I only keep very special paperbacks from authors I adore. What I’m reading now? I’m re-reading all the Anne of Green Gables books (like I do every spring) since I was 12. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I hope you’ll check out my books. I’ve published over 106 books over the years (some are no longer for sale) so there’s something for everyone. I don’t write cookie-cutter books, which my readers and reviewers and editors appreciate, so get out there and browse the virtual shelves!

Enjoy an exclusive excerpt from The Soul of a Storme The Soul of a Storme Sandra Sookoo Victorian Historical

Andrew Charles Storme— ninth Earl of Hadleigh— has been in a monstrous temper for the better part of two years. Unable to join the fight against Napoleon due to the declining health and subsequent death of his father, his rotten mood worsened when his two brothers survived the war with lifechanging injuries. Ashamed, Drew retreats to his country estate in Derbyshire to spare them his ire. Why the devil was he not worth more than his title? Miss Sarah Copeland is a poor relation. In exchange for room and board, she’s become the Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | governess to her great-uncle’s two rambunctious offspring. It was better than being tossed in the street, but only just. Freedom and imagination are found in playing a flute, especially since dreams of her future died long ago. When she meets her handsome, growling neighbor, she believes she’s finally found her purpose. After all, didn’t music soothe the savage beast? While Drew battles with his guilt and anxiety, he finds safety and solace in Sarah’s company. As they enter into a surprising marriage of convenience, the earl’s temper slowly begins to improve, as does her outlook. But while an unexpected romance blooms over the summer weeks, responsibility to the title rears its ugly head, and his temper flares anew, threatening to tear apart everything they’ve built. Only patience, trust, and love will see them through to a happy ending. Excerpt “Fine.” Never had he been in the acquaintance of anyone as pushy or determined as Miss Sarah Copeland. Drew took up his pen, slashed through a line of writing, and then modified it with a heavy scribble. This new concession irritated the hell out of him, for he enjoyed the Brighton property; why should he agree to give it up? Damnation, that’s where he should have gone when he’d run from London. But had he done that, he would never have met her… “I have many memories of being in Brighton with my father—before he became too ill to travel,” he said as he finished altering the document. “Perhaps it’s time to create new ones—with you as the earl.” Her dulcet tones shivered over his skin, tugged at a piece of his soul he wasn’t ready to give up. So, he grunted. “Do you remember your parents fondly?” She was intriguing, and he needed more from her than she’d told him. “Yes.” The word was said so softly he had to lean closer to hear. Sarah wrapped a hand around the 90 | UncagedBooks.com

ever-present silver locket. “However, that is a conversation for another time.” She kept her focus on the second sheet of the contract. Another stab of hot anger streaked through him. He’d made an overture and she’d rejected it. Damn it, if she wished to close herself off, so be it. Nothing of a personal nature would be shared. “Shall we proceed to the next item? If we part while still wed, all jewels belonging to the Hadleigh estate will return to the estate.” “I object.” She raised her head and stared at him over the tops of her spectacles. “If you give me jewelry, I assume they’re gifts. Therefore, I shall keep them.” What gammon was this? Drew gritted his teeth. “They would have been on loan. Why should I reward a woman with jewelry if she intends to leave me?” Sarah popped a hand onto her hip. Annoyance flashed in her eyes, turning them from plain brown to a whisky hue with golden flecks. “Ah, so anything you give to me is merely a bribe to make me stay, to pretend to fall in love with you? For what purpose? To show the ton you’ve achieved the perfect life?” To the devil with her, the annoying little baggage. To alleviate his building rage and the anxiety twisting through his insides, turning her every word into something skewed, Drew picked up an empty brandy snifter from the sideboard and then hurled it against the fireplace. The satisfying tinkle of broken glass echoed in the silence. “Fine. You may have the jewelry, but I ask that you don’t sell the pieces unless you’re desperate.” With savage strokes that tore slits in the paper, he modified the document. “How lovely. You’ve devolved into acts of tantrums such as my ten-year-old charge might.” She shoved her spectacles back into place. “It is not acceptable from him, and neither is it from you.” While he gawked, she took the pen from him and proceeded to add notes to the document. “The next item deals with children. Which follows nicely into what I just said. I won’t tolerate your temper, and if we do have offspring as a result of this union, if we end up going our separate ways inside the marriage, the children will go with me. There is no reason for them to witness their father conducting his life as a beast.” “Absolutely not!” His roar of objection echoed

| SANDRA SOOKOO | through the room. Drew rounded on her, turned her to face him as rage boiled in his blood. “I’ll not have you poison my children against me.” “Listen to yourself.” She rolled her eyes heavenward. “I have more class and dignity than that.” As he tugged on his suddenly too-tight collar, the intelligent minx searched his face with her gaze, looking for God only knew what. Did he pass muster even when in the grip of anger? His hands shook from the need to belong. “I would prefer the children to know a loving parent over the company of a bevy of servants. No doubt you will be busy enough.” Something inside him snapped. It could have been logic, but the dam that held back the bulk of his rage was no longer there. “How dare you tell me how to run my life. I need air.” Shoving a hand through his hair, he left the study before he said—or did—something he would regret later. He’d barely cleared the room when he was obliged to gasp for breath, his chest tight and squeezing. Black spots flirted with the edges of his vision and he sagged, his back against the wall. When would the terrible pressure and impossible burden of who he was lessen? He rubbed the heels of his hands on his closed eyes. With every new day, he found another reason to antagonize her, and anxiety was always a step behind him, taunting him, pointing out all the ways he’d failed—himself and his title. Why can I not do better? And more appalling yet, if he couldn’t look after himself, what the devil would he do with Sarah? She didn’t deserve the life she would consign herself to, for he wasn’t fit company for anyone. Yet, he needed her. In her, he felt that she’d take him in hand and perhaps pull him from the sucking darkness if only to tell him how wrong he was. Would she remain with him once she knew how mucked up he was as a person, how close to breaking he truly was? Had she only agreed to wed him on an assumption that he would be the strong one? Oh, God, I’m going to fail her. He shook his head. No. Whatever it took, she would be the one person that he’d impress. Somehow, some way, he would do right by her. He had to, for he suspected that he didn’t deserve her at all, but he wanted to.

It took several minutes of deep breaths for his pulse to stop ratcheting and for his temper to fade to a more manageable level. Then, after straightening his spine, Drew returned to his study. “I apologize for my absence. There are times when I must step away to avoid—” “I know,” she said in a soft voice. “I’ve seen your battles and witnessed those attacks you have.” When she touched his sleeve, her hand trembled. “Please know I never wanted to add to your concerns.” It was as if she’d punched a hole in his chest that allowed some of the hot ire out. The sudden surcease of the turbulence staggered him. “Once we wed, you will become a responsibility. That is inevitable.” “Perhaps, but I’m quite capable. If you cannot seem to interact with me unless you’re yelling or storming off, then we shall live separately. All the benefits of the marriage will apply, except for the begetting of an heir. Obviously, the logistics of that won’t work.” Was she so anxious to use him for the title that she’d let him go without another thought? The metaphorical hole in his chest closed, and anxiety came swooping back in like a darkened beast. “I am the earl, Miss Copeland, and as such if I tell you to do something, it will happen. There will be no separation until you have borne a son.” Even to his own ears, he sounded like the biggest blowhard alive. But how to change that without giving into anger? Sarah glanced at him with a raised eyebrow. “You can’t force respect or compliance, my lord.” She held up the third page of the contract where she’d written in a paragraph. “In the matter of a divorce—” “That will not happen.” Dear Lord, she was thinking of leaving him! Drew crossed his arms at chest level and glared. “Perhaps not, but the clause needs to be added all the same, for if you can’t stand to be in the same room with me for the length of time it takes to discuss a contract, it doesn’t give much hope for a lifetime, does it?” Notes of disappointment and Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | resignation threaded through the statement. “It’s not you—” “Hush, my lord. This is simpler.” She went on as if he’d never spoken. “If you take a mistress, I refuse to look the other way. You are marrying me—no matter the circumstances at the present—and you will honor those vows until you have an heir.” “Now see here—” “But if you don’t, a divorce will be procured at your expense without fully besmirching my reputation, though the both of us won’t come out of such proceedings unscathed. You will assume all responsibility and fault in those proceedings.” What the devil? “You can’t be serious.” Sarah continued. “However, if we agree to merely separate and if we don’t have children and you wish to take a mistress, do so discreetly. No harm or foul. Since one of the requirements of this union was for you to have a son.” The delicate tendons in her throat worked with a swallow. “I’m well aware of my age, so I might not be able to bear children at all. If that’s the case, I don’t want you to remain tied to me.” His heart gave an unexpected tug, for he’d never thought of any of this from her perspective. “Sarah, I’m… well, I’m glad I picked you.” For the first time in his life, gratitude swamped him. “We’ll weather each storm as we encounter it.” “Thank you, Andrew.” When she looked at him, a hint of pleasure warmed her eyes. Hearing his name from her lips took him by surprise. Awareness of her skittered up his spine. Grudging admiration snuck in to mix with his anger and took away a portion of the sting. She wasn’t a stupid woman by any stretch, and damn if she wasn’t afraid to meet him toe to toe. “Is that all of your changes?” “There is one more item.” She handed him the last piece of paper. “Since my great uncle won’t put a dowry on me, I want one from you.” “What?” His eyebrows rose. Was she mad? She nodded. “If our marriage goes to hell for whatever reason, I want security in the event of a divorce.” When she met his gaze, uncertainty 92 | UncagedBooks.com

swam in hers—the first hint of vulnerability she’d shown since marching into his study. “Ten thousand pounds in an account under my name with the Bank of England.” “Bloody hell.” He gasped at the princely sum. “And if we remain married?” “Bequeath it to our children.” Yes, she was exactly what he needed. “Fine.” After taking the pen from her, he scribbled his name onto the contract next to hers. Then he threw both the contract and the pen onto the desk. The need to clear his head grew strong, and his bride-to-be would do nicely. “I’m going into the village tomorrow morning to retrieve the signed common license. Would you like to accompany me?” “I would. I’ll need time to find a dress for the ceremony, for I refuse to start a new life clothed in the rags of the old.” When she spun to head for the door, he stepped into her path. “Thank you. I appreciate your attention to detail with the contract.” Surprise jumped into her eyes. “You’re certainly welcome. I want you to know that you’re not alone. Not anymore.” She pushed her spectacles back into place. “However, you do need to work on that temper. I refuse to live with an abusive man.” His respect for her continued to rise, as did his desire. Having her so close and enduring the rapid ebb and flow of high emotions required an outlet. “I’ve never hit anyone, would never lay a hand on a woman in anger. I’d sooner do harm to myself than that.” “Good. I draw the line there.” “Understandable.” He dropped his gaze briefly to her mouth. Yes, a kiss would do nicely. “Let me buy you a gown for the ceremony. Something worthy of a countess. After that, you can hire a modiste to come here and outfit you.” A tentative smile curved her lips. “I would like that. Thank you, my lord.” “Andrew, damn it.” Before she could speak again, he whisked her into his arms and brought his mouth crashing down on hers. She felt every bit as good in his embrace as she had the last time. It took next to no time for her to return his kiss. Despite the intensity, she wended her hands about his

| SANDRA SOOKOO | neck and surrendered to his leading. She welcomed him with the same enthusiasm she’d shown in contract negotiating. Drew walked her backward the few steps until his desk bumped against her bum and stopped the movement. He slid a hand down her back. When he encountered her hips, he pulled her flush against him. Surely she could feel how much he wanted her. Then, daring much, he ran the tip of his tongue along her lips. When she opened for him, he went exploring, sought out her tongue and asked for anything she wished to give. With soft little sounds at the back of her throat, she fenced with him. Satin dueled with silk, and still he devoured her. This woman challenged him on every level, and she’d no doubt lead him a merry chase in the bedroom too. He groaned, his need for her ramping, and as he slipped a hand up her ribcage to cup a breast, she wrenched away. Her breathing was as labored as his, her eyes limpid pools of the finest brandy behind slightly steamed spectacle lenses. “Wed me first. Then you can bed me.” She touched the tip of her tongue to her bottom lip, and he nearly lost the last vestiges of his control. “I won’t have you treat me like a fallen woman merely to alleviate your need.” Instead of letting irritation surge to the forefront, he laughed. She’d thrown down her opening salvo with the negotiations and he’d countered her with the impromptu embrace. The next move was hers, and oh how he would enjoy this little game of chess. “I shall see you tomorrow, unless you’d like tea before you go?” Her throaty chuckle sent a shiver into his groin. “I think it’s safer if I return home. The events of this afternoon have already gone straight to my head.” Gingerly, she stepped around him with one last lingering glance at his mouth. “Enjoy your evening.” He would, for the mere fact that he’d think of inventive ways of routing her on their wedding night, which was approaching at a rapid pace. Perhaps it wouldn’t become the folly he anticipated.

Issue 59 |June 2021 |



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elanie is a three-time Golden Heart finalist. Her manuscripts have earned First Place in the Great Expectations Contest, First Place in the Sweet Spicy Spooky Contest, Unsinkable Heroine Award in the Molly, Third Place in the Southern Heat Contest, Third Place in the STAR Contest and two semi-finalist showings in the Molly Contest. She was a finalist in the FRW Golden Palm, West Houston RWA Emily and Cleveland Rocks Romance competitions. With over two decades of professional writing experience, Melanie has produced thousands of written pieces for businesses and individual clients. Melanie worked both in advertising agencies and marketing departments. Her freelance articles on the web have garnered hundreds of thousands of views. She writes amidst her five beautiful children, her dream come true. Besides writing, she loves to read, exercise and spend time outdoors. She is a member of Mensa.

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Duke of Bradenton. He doesn’t know the person writing anonymous letters to him is a woman, or that she is the lady he is determined to marry. Escaping the Duke is the first in the series, The Secret Crusaders, about ladies fighting for justice and the powerful lords pursuing them. Each manuscript features a lady who is part of this secret society and an irresistible, alpha hero. Even though this is the first novel you’ve written, it’s definitely not the first writing you’ve done. Can you tell us more about the manuscripts and other writings? I love all genres of romance. I have written historical romance, of course, as well as contemporary romance, paranormal romance and romantic suspense. I have dabbled in other genres such as women’s fiction and suspense. After Escaping the Duke, my next offering is Captured by the Earl, about a lady who pretends to be betrothed to an absent earl. When he returns and insists they continue the ruse, she’ll have to keep her clandestine work secret, while trying to learn the identity of a masked hero performing daring rescues. What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

melanieroseclarke.com Uncaged welcomes Melanie Rose Clarke Welcome to Uncaged! Your debut novel, Escaping the Duke will release on June 17th and is the first book in a new series. Can you tell readers more about this book and how this series will connect? First, thank you for having me. I am excited to share my manuscript, Escaping the Duke. Priscilla is a strong, sassy heroine who secretly acts as an informant to the

I just finished (today!) the rough draft of the third manuscript in this series. The Untamed Duke involves a powerful duke, a sassy heroine and a kidnapping or four. Only in this book, they can’t decide who is the kidnapper and who is kidnapped. It’s fun and exciting, and I can’t wait to bring it to you. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? The intimate scenes are the most challenging because I want to portray the connection not merely on a physical level, but on an emotional one as well. I love writing the fun banter between the characters. I Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | put a touch of humor in all my manuscripts. What are you looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do? I would find the grocery store exciting right now! I especially miss going to events, such as arts and crafts fairs and Renaissance festivals. I miss the beach, parities and restaurants. I also can’t wait to see my family. We stay in touch through video calls, but it’s not quite the same. I will be giving lots of hugs! Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? I craft the general story first, with the main plot points. Once I know the beginning and end, I fill in the scenes that will get them there. Afterwards, I create the characters who will navigate the pages. All my characters have unique personalities, but in general I like heroines who are strong in their own right and alpha heroes who are not afraid of going after what they want. What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I have five children, so relaxing no longer exists in my vocabulary. I love to spend time with my beautiful babies. They are between 4 and 15, and they are my life.

a time of rebirth.

We live in sunny Florida, so we enjoy the beach. We go to fairs and festivals of all types, from Renaissance fairs to comic book conventions. I enjoy exercising, spending time outdoors and reading.

I usually start writing at 5:30am, the only time it is quiet in my house. I write on and off all day, and usually manage five or six hours. I finish a book in about four to five months. I am often working on more than one project at a time.

If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? In Florida, our seasons are not too different – a little hot, very hot and fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot – but I still enjoy the different aspects of each time of year. I love the spring. It’s not too hot, cold or rainy, but sunny and cool. Flowers are blooming, and it’s 96 | UncagedBooks.com

How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel?

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I love to hold a real book in my hands, but with the amount of books I read and the needs of my large family, ebooks are my go-to option these days. I read romance novels just about every day. Today, I am reading


Enjoy an excerpt from The Colour of Wednesday

Escaping the Duke Melanie Rose Clarke Victorian Historical Releases June 17 Priscilla Livingston has dedicated her life to social causes, fighting to right the cruel injustices the world ignores. Under the guise of a lord, she sends messages to Edmund Hawkins, the powerful Duke of Bradenton. He doesn’t know his informant is a lady, even as he investigates to uncover her identity. When her father demands she find a husband, she cannot choose Edmund, who would demand total surrender. But when he catches her spying, she may not have a choice. Work with Me by Michelle McCraw. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you so much for allowing me to share Escaping the Duke with you. I am so excited to connect with readers and share my journey. Visit my website at www.MelanieRoseClarke.com for information and to sign up for my newsletter.

Edmund is intrigued by the beautiful lady caught snooping through a dangerous lord’s home. Lady Priscilla may act the perfect duke’s daughter, but fiery mystery burns beneath the flawless façade. He sees the passion she cannot hide, the spirited woman who would make the perfect duchess. He will discover her every secret. Then he will make her his. Excerpt 1817 Dear Lord P, As usual, your tip was impeccable. I cannot fathom how you knew Lord Hamsford would be amenable Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | to changing his vote when he had been so steadfast in his denials, but your suggestion of showing Lady Hamsford the factories worked perfectly. Within the hour, she convinced him to change his mind. Now he is fully supportive of our measure regarding worker conditions. Though you have denied my request already, I ask again for you to emerge from the shadows, for what we can accomplish will be even greater. Yours, Bradenton “It is so refreshing to see a lady who knows her place.” Do not pick up the nearest vase. “Serious matters are simply too much for gentlybred women.” Do not clobber him over the head with said vase. “Leave the important decisions to men, who are far better equipped to handle such matters.” Do not start looking for another vase with which to clobber. As if granted by the heavens above, the song ended, saving Lady Priscilla Livingston from the idiotic ramblings of the exalted earl and her hostess from the loss of a dozen priceless vases. Only years of practice gave her the ability to maintain a serene expression. “Thank you for the dance, my lord. Your wisdom is always so…” Preposterous. Absurd. So ridiculous a potted plant could best you in a game of wits. “Enlightening,” she choked out. “And now there is my next dance partner, right behind the potted plant. I’m afraid I must dash.” She turned before he had a chance to respond, a tad sharply yet not rude enough to blatantly insult. He was off the suitor list and onto the newly created “I’m not nearly that desperate” list. Likely it would amass many, many suitors before the season’s end. She adjusted her ivory dress. The silky gown floated around her, an ethereal masterpiece glittering with delicate beadwork and intricate lace. Matching jewels sparkled upon the complicated creation 98 | UncagedBooks.com

of curls into which her maid had pulled, yanked and otherwise punished her hair. She felt confident, able to conduct both of her tasks: Finding an appropriate suitor and… Investigating. She walked to the refreshment table and took a drink, sipping quietly as she observed the guests. They laughed and danced and mingled, reveling in frivolity. For them, life held no meaning beyond such trivialities. For others… “You’re being hunted.” Priscilla jumped at the whisper in her ear. She turned, relaxed at the sight of Lady Hannah Breckenridge. “May I ask who is hunting me?” Hannah’s gaze remained serious. She grasped Pricilla’s arm and led her to a nearby corner, which afforded a slight measure of privacy. “I’m not joking,” she hissed. The inklings of unease churned in her stomach, yet Priscilla showed none of it. “I am certain you are mistaken. For what purpose would someone hunt me?” “Someone has decided you would make a most eligible bride.” Priscilla released a breath, stood taller. “I am the daughter of a duke, with a handsome dowry, a good family and quite proper behavior.” She smiled, lowered her voice. “The last may not be entirely true. I’ve had offers, but my father will not force me to–” “It’s Bradenton.” Priscilla froze. Tightened. Imagined the man who always got what he wanted. An invisible cage rose on all sides. “That’s right,” Hannah whispered. “The most powerful lord in the ton is interested in you.” “Impossible,” Priscilla claimed, even as icy unease traced her spine. Keep control Breathe. “Bradenton is not looking for a wife.” Hannah shook her head. “I overheard his sisters.” “You must be mistaken.” “I am not. Do you know what will happen if he discovers your secrets?” All too well. Her friend had no idea the extent of the secrets she kept. If the duke uncovered the truth… “I’m sure I can stop it.” That was a lie. “It will be easy to convince him.” That was another lie.

| MELANIE ROSE CLARKE | “I hope you’re right,” Hannah breathed out. “Because if he finds out – our purpose – he could threaten everything.” “I won’t let that happen,” Priscilla promised. “It may be too late.” Priscilla turned… and stared. There was no exact word to describe the moment the Duke of Bradenton entered a room. A distinct murmuring arose, passed from lord to lady, servant to servant, matron to debutante. Conversations changed from rowdy banter to hushed whispers as all turned towards a single target. With a massive body defined by muscle and strikingly handsome features of coal black hair and sapphire eyes, Bradenton commanded attention. He stood well above six feet, with a presence that far transcended his title, one of power, control and unforgiving dominance. He made men cower with a mere look, affected women far more. And her? They meant far more to each other than he could ever imagine. Bradenton garnered attention wherever he went. The matchmaking mamas ran to him, trailed by giggling wide-eyed debutantes. The dignified lords moved only slightly slower, nodding regally, even as they surrounded him. Young pups and ladies of all ages joined what rapidly became a crowd. Acknowledging people with a subtle nod, he seemed to know everyone there, and everyone certainly wanted to know him. The group around him grew as people stood on the outskirts of the rapidly forming mass, watching him as if he was the sole performer on a theater stage. A powerful middle-aged duchess approached, cutting through the crowd with her two eligible daughters. She stopped directly in front of Bradenton, pulling her daughters on either side. Priscilla was too far to hear the words exchanged, yet a ripple came through the crowd. Bradenton reached out… And signed a dance card. Then another. And another.

She froze. The duke was indeed searching for a wife. Something flashed through her, an emotion she couldn’t even name, before she forced it aside. It was inconsequential if Bradenton was looking for a bride. No doubt he’d control every aspect of the wife he would legally own, not allowing her to interfere with his activities or manage her own. It wouldn’t change their relationship. She needed to turn away before someone noticed her perusal. Of course that wasn’t a substantial concern when half the ladies were watching him, and the other half endeavoring to throw their dance cards at him. Yet through it all, she stood frozen. Her heart skipped a beat, then thumped, as she sucked in a breath. The once cool room seemed hot as the summer sun. Then… he looked up. Their eyes locked. The musicians finished the song, and suddenly the moment was broken. She heaved in a breath of air fragrant with dozens of cloying perfumes, from people in excited conversations about the duke. She swallowed the feeling of suffocation, glanced back to where he was holding court. Only he wasn’t there. She turned around. Taller than most, he wasn’t hard to spot. He was no longer stationary, but moving straight towards her! By instinct she took a step, yet a second later, she forced herself to stop. She would not let him chase her down like some small animal. She looked straight at him, raised an eyebrow and turned her head away. It was a clear dismissal. She never would’ve dared from close up, not when it would have left tongues wagging all over London. But they were far enough no one but the two of them would notice. She dared a look back. His eyes were narrowed, his gait slower. Yet even as he stopped, he looked no less determined. He turned. Then pivoted directly towards her mother. Priscilla silently recited every swear word a lady should never know. Then again as Bradenton engaged her mother in conversation, as her mother’s already ruddy cheeks turned even pinker with Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | delight. Bradenton gestured towards her as her mother nodded eagerly. This. Was. Not. Good. Then suddenly they were in motion, walking towards her once more. Priscilla glanced around, searching for a means of escape. She was not running, merely making a strategic exit. It was crazy, of course, hiding from the most eligible lord in the ton, but Bradenton was everything she couldn’t have in a match. Powerful. Authoritative. Domineering. Her greatest secret. She edged closer to a potted plant, a clearly useless exercise. Bradenton’s tall stride ate up the ground, as he greeted but did not stop for the many people approaching him. Her mother’s eager gait made up the distance her much shorter legs lost. Then he was right in front of her. A broad chest. Muscular arms. A tall, powerful body. Perhaps if she had a conversation with his chest, there would be less chance of him reading the truth in his eyes. “Priscilla, look up,” her mother hissed, her tone a dizzying concoction of excitement, elation and exasperation. “You remember Bradenton.” She was being ridiculous. He couldn’t possibly know the truth. “It is a pleasure to see you again,” he spoke, when it became clear she would not. “The pleasure is mine, Your Grace.” “Is it?” He said it low enough to be out of earshot of her mother, who had edged back to provide them with a measure of intimacy. His lips quirked up at the sides. Her mother, clearly sensing that things were not progressing as she’d hoped (since they were not yet betrothed, wedded and expecting her first grandchild) skirted forward. “The duke told me some exciting news. He is hunting for a duchess.” Priscilla cringed. Only her mother, a duchess her100 | UncagedBooks.com

self, could speak so unsubtly without reproof. She forced a smile to her face. “I wish you success, Your Grace. I suspect it will not be a difficult endeavor.” “You flatter me.” His voice was as smooth as finely aged wine. “And exaggerate.” They both knew she didn’t. He had his choice of ladies, some of whom made an art out swooning into his arms. Forty-three had already done so this season. Not that she noticed. “Your mother said you are enjoying your season.” “Of course.” It was far easier to investigate the lords who voted against her causes, gathering information that would change lives. Yet he mustn’t know that. Every moment in his presence brought danger, only what would discourage him? Perhaps, she could be a little too excited. “I just love the season! Who wouldn’t enjoy all the shopping? I always say, you never can have too many gowns. I’d spend all day at the modiste if I could. Oh wait, I do.” She giggled merrily, looking at him from under hooded eyelids. Her mother gave her the same look as when she’d been caught with fourteen of Cook’s tarts hidden in her dress. “Is that so?” he drawled. She hesitated, then nodded. “You are far from alone in that passion,” he said graciously. “My sister regales me daily with tales of the latest fashions from Paris. Tell me, what is your favorite new style?” New style? Despite her words, she spent as little time at the modiste as possible, usually only going when her mother commanded, begged or bribed (usually all three). She had no idea of the styles, old, new or otherwise. But she had to say something. Her mind raced. “Sleeves!” Um, what did she just say? His lips twitched. “Sleeves?”

| MELANIE ROSE CLARKE | “Yes, exactly. The new sleeves are very fashionable. And the skirts. You know I wouldn’t be surprised if hoop skirts came back.” The duchess choked. “My daughter is very accomplished,” she blurted out. “She excels in all the skills of a lady. She is talented with a needle, speaks three languages and sings beautifully. Of course, she reads and writes and does math well enough to take charge of any size household.” Her mother was listing her attributes like a horse for sale. Soon she might gush about her straight teeth and invite the duke to take a look. This had to end. Being in his presence usurped her discretion, and she couldn’t risk slipping. “I have the skills of the average lady.” He cocked his head to the side. “There seems to be far more to you than you admit,” he murmured. Her face heated. “What are you hiding?” She bit back a gasp. “Hiding? What do you mean?” “Don’t play coy.” Did he know? They stared at each other for a minute. “I assume you are an excellent dancer as well,” he prodded. She breathed out in pure relief. “I would be honored if you would grace me with a dance.” Relief died. Yet for just a moment, something akin to excitement flashed through her. She forced it aside. She was not some naïve girl just out of the schoolroom. She knew the consequences of giving herself to a man like Bradenton. “What a gracious honor, Your Grace. How I wish I could say yes, but all my dances are taken.” Instead of disappointment, challenge lit his eyes. Focused. Unrelenting. Unstoppable. “You appear to have several spots remaining.” He pointed to her card, which was hanging at an angle to reveal empty lines. “I left those blank on purpose. I have something to do.” “I see. If you don’t mind my asking, what do you

have planned?” Investigating. “I get a little tired after dancing and need a rest.” She batted her eyelashes. “Besides shopping, resting is my favorite thing to do.” The duke’s eyes lit again. The schemes that worked so well with other men had little effect on the clever lord. “That something you have to do is dance with the duke who was gracious enough to ask.” Her mother snatched the card off her wrist, her lips stretched in a smile so wide, it looked as if her face might crack. She handed the card to the duke. “Take as many dances as you would like, Your Grace.” Priscilla fought not to grab the card back. Of course as a gentleman, he would just hand it back to her– He scribbled his name across two lines. Her mother’s smile became twice as wide and a thousand times more genuine. She clapped her hands. Priscilla counted to ten. One vase, two vases, three vases, four– “You signed two.” He shrugged. “It gives us longer to converse. But don’t worry, you still have plenty of time to rest. And perhaps you will even find the opportunity to shop.” Why, that sneaky– “But Your Grace, if we dance twice in a row, people may get the wrong idea.” Really?” He leaned closer. “And what idea might that be?” Her heart slammed against her ribs. The scent of musk and oakmoss surrounded her. “I don’t see any problem at all!” her mother chirped, her eyes dancing with delight. “Priscilla is very pleased to enjoy your company. Aren’t you, dear?” Priscilla clenched her teeth. “Of course.” She hadn’t a choice. She couldn’t outright insult the duke. At least two dances would give her enough time to convince him to discontinue his pursuit. She wouldn’t think about the consequences if she couldn’t. Issue 59 | June 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | “I look forward to it.” By now, several people had approached, more eager mamas with more eligible ladies. Bradenton nodded at Priscilla, “Until our dance.” With one last nod, he bid her goodbye. He was stealing two dances, but she would not allow him to sabotage her investigation. Lord Roxbury, the ball’s host, always voted against measures that aided the lower classes, convinced others to do the same. If she could find something that would change his mind, it might just be worth scandal. The risk to her person? Still worth it. But now Bradenton scheduled two dances in the span she’d allotted for sleuthing. Was there enough time before then? She couldn’t be late, because he may start searching for her if she didn’t show. Yet if she hurried… She turned around. Roxbury was standing in a corner, arguing with his wife. Lady Roxbury’s face flushed with anger, and with an angry gesture, she stomped off. Priscilla stood up straighter. Her last success with changing votes had been through a lady. With all their talk about how ladies were not their intellectual equals, men were often easily swayed by them. Perhaps if she could talk to Lady Roxbury, she might be able to convince her to influence her husband. She took a deep breath. Her chance was now. With one last quick glance around the ballroom, she turned towards the door. Time for Lord P to do some investigating.

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fang-FREAKIN-tastic reviews

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llie Ellis is a young writer. Her goal was clear when she was 12 years old, a mere teenager. That she wants to be a writer. She learned the tactics of storytelling. And officially started writing some short stories. But the one thing that she always comes back to, are the stories that keep her up at night. During a girl’s weekend at an undisclosed location, an idea for women in midlife with a gloomy past was born. Infused with Fantasy, Romance, and the occasional Werewolf, her stories take the reader on a

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magical journey where things aren’t always as they seem.

Stay Connected


What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working?

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks, or physical books? Are you reading anything now?

Honestly, writing helps me relax. I never felt like I am doing any work. I just enjoy it when I write. Writing is like reading a good book, where you are lost in the scene. I also play badminton. It’s a stress reliever for me though I am not good at it.

Given a choice, I’m a fan of old-school physical books (paperback), but as a nomad who often lives out of a suitcase, I’ve learned to read ebooks. As of now, I love them all, but I tend to read physical books for non-fiction, ebooks for fiction, and audio is saved for podcasts and learning new things. I am reading no less than two books at any given time, and currently, I’m reading: Silver Spells, by Kate Moseman and Magical Midlife Madness, by K.F. Breene. There are also some non-fiction books on my TBR that I will be using for research, some of which have compelling titles, The 5 am Club, by Robin Sharma is one that comes to mind. Now that I am writing paranormal women’s fiction and some mystery, my Google search history and non-fiction book list is pretty interesting.

What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Can you guess what gives a person the maximum satisfaction? When a person’s dream comes true. It was a dream for me to be a writer and you made my dream come true. I write to you. I would like to say that my promise to readers is that my heroines will always be empowered, even if they don’t always start that way, and that there will be a little bit of magic in everything I write. If you haven’t read one of my books, please consider giving me a try. You can download a free copy of Midlife Dragon Mate at https://cutt.ly/5by1BO2 I would love to hear what you think! Also, if you are a fellow writer, I post pretty regularly about my writing journey and what I’ve learned, which you can find on my blog at https://ellieellisbooks.blogspot.com/’. I have a ton of different ways to follow me, and the best place to find all those links is https://ellieellisbooks. blogspot.com/2021/04/follow-me.html. Thank you so much for having me today, and remember to always embrace the journey! I hope you enjoy my stories. On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? Well, to be honest, I have not written a novel so far but I am planning to write in near future and I am plotting the story in my head. I want to be very clear and I don’t want to hire a development editor and for that, I will try to outline my novel in such a way that it does not need a development editor. I am learning the craft of writing and revising a page-turner. I’m hoping the next one will be faster, but it’s hard to know for sure. My goal would be to complete revisions this year and release them in 2022, however, I’m still learning every day. I won’t release the novel until I know I can feel proud. So maybe ask me again in six months?

What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I am currently working on two projects that I am trying to give equal time to. The first is a paranormal mystery series. It would be a trilogy. I love writing series, especially Trilogy. Also, I have recently published a Trilogy named ‘Misery to Power’ in which the protagonist is in her 40’s. The reason why I like older characters is that it’s not fair to have a heroine who is in her 20’s only. All of us grew old but it doesn’t mean that we aren’t beautiful or should not enjoy life. I am in my 20’s. Yeah! You read right. I am in my 20’s but I like to read and write books with mature characters. And secondly, I am enhancing the plot of my previously written series ‘Incubus Prophecy’. I am a huge fan of plot twists, and I can’t wait to share! What gives you inspiration for your stories? My first series was inspired by one of my annual girls’ trips, of all things. I had been thinking long and hard about writing a book where we talked about our ideals in a Hero, sort of “wish list” qualities. One thing led to another, and the ideas were flying so fast that I ended up with plans for four books by the time we came home from that trip. But Issue 59 | June 2021 | 105

as I was a newbie and still I am that’s why I wrote a short story and now I am writing a novella. Soon I’ll be writing a novel. I decided there was just no other way to tell the story in anything less than four books. I have always found inspiration all around me, and I would have to say that pretty much anything interesting that I see or hear winds up coming through my fingers in some way, shape, or form. What are you looking forward to doing when the pandemic is over that you haven’t been able to do? Travel!!! I have missed relaxing on the beach with a good book. Though I am vaccinated I am preventing to go out until and unless everything gets fine. As things open up, I am trying to squeeze some of those things in, but I would imagine it won’t be until sometime next year that I am back to my regular schedule. Believe it or not, it is hard to write without getting out and experiencing things. 106 | UncagedBooks.com

What was the first book that made you laugh and/ or cry? I have been a reader for longer than I would care to admit, so there have been countless books that have moved me. A few that come to mind as having a lasting impact on me are The Stand, by Stephen King, Circe, by Madeline Miller, and The Five People You Meet In Heaven, by Mitch Albom. They touched me for different reasons, and in different stages of my life, but the one that moved me to tears was To kill a mockingbird, by Harper Lee. The first time I held a copy of my own words and two years of my life in my hands, I cried like a baby. It was such an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, one that almost dropped me to my knees.

Enjoy an excerpt from: New Midlife Surprise New Midlife Surprise Ellie Ellis Paranormal Women’s Fiction Ella Turner (nee Yates) is going through a divorce in her forties that sees her without a home. Thankfully, her brother is allowing her to housesit his cabin in the woods, away from the prying eyes of drama and those who once knew her. But before she has a chance to settle into her new life in a small quiet town, her world is turned completely upside down when she lays eyes on a hot pizza delivery guy. Ella has to make the decision of her life: will she choose to stay in the small town and find her own path in life, or will she let Fate drag her into a world where nothing is considered normal anymore? Excerpt I broke down on the steps of the courthouse, bawling my eyes out. I should have been happy with the finalization of my divorce. I should have been glad that I was out of that cheater’s life so my heart would be safe from his philandering ways. Instead, I found myself mourning the loss of the life I once had. Almost in my 40s, it slowly dawned on me that I’d wasted twenty years of my life with a man who’d fallen out of love with me. A man who only cared about the next hot piece of ass he could get his hands on so that he could impress his friends. I had been a fine decoration to him, he’d admitted as much to my face when I’d first flung the divorce papers at him to sign. A decoration that he’d only kept around to boost his fucking ego. I’d outlived my usefulness to him. I had a few more grey hairs than I used to and earned a few wrinkles on my face so my ex-husband

Justin Turner no longer had any use for me. At least, that’s what he wanted me to believe with all the horrible things he said in the courtroom. The saddest fact is that our house was in Justin’s name alone, despite having told me that both of our names were on it, which meant I was out of a home and had nowhere to go. That was a month ago. Tears were shed, I jumped around from one friend’s apartment to another until I got a call from my brother to house-sit his summer home. A country cabin for when his kids are out of school. A place to get away from the city so they can get closer to nature and escape the distractions of modern technology. I scoffed at the idea at first, anxious about the idea of being on my own. It had been so long since I’d had any quiet time to myself that I wasn’t sure what I wanted anymore. But being at this cabin would surely help. “You’ll have everything you need,” my brother huffs as he helps me pull the bags out of the trunk of the car. “There’s a generator in the back if you lose power - I’ll show you later how to use it - and the nearest grocery store’s a fifteen-minute drive towards town. What did you pack in here, bricks?” “Uhh, it’s shoes,” I reply, my face flushing red with embarrassment. I know there’s no need for expensive high heels up here, but I have nowhere else to keep them nor any money to pay for storage. “It won’t take longer than the summer until I can get back on my feet again. I promise.” I pile a few boxes together and lift them out of the trunk. “I’ll be sending resumes every day until I land something.” “Ella, you know you can have a job at my company. I’ve told you that several times.” My brother struggles with dragging the suitcase of shoes over the gravel driveway. “And you know why I can’t, David. What will it look like if you give me a job just because I’m Issue 59 | June 2021 |


your sister?”

There’s no way I can put him through that again.

“That I like to take care of my family?” He shoots me a confused look as if that answer is obvious.

With effort, we get all my luggage out of the trunk and inside the living room. David orders a pizza delivery before showing me the rest of the place and how everything works. The place has everything, which is good because, apart from my clothes, I have nothing of my own. I don’t know how I can ever pay my brother back for all his generosity.

“What it looks like is that your sister is too stupid to find a job on her own because she has no skills other than finding a man to take care of her. And what about whoever deserves that job more than I do?” There are plenty of graduating college students who would do better with that job than I would. It wouldn’t be fair for someone my age to deprive a young adult of that. “You know it wouldn’t hurt to start thinking of yourself for a change. It could be a temporary job until you find what you really want to do.” David nudges the front door open with his hip and drags the suitcase inside. I’m greeted by wonderful hardwood floors and an interior that doesn’t look anything like a cabin. A chandelier hangs in the front foyer, and a marvelous staircase heading upwards to the open second floor, surrounded by wooden balustrades. The large living room connects to the foyer and splits into left and right to form a giant T. To the right is the dining room with tall windows overlooking a deck and the woods. To the left is the kitchen. If I were the cooking type, I would be more than happy with a spectacular kitchen like this. “Ella?” I shake myself out of the awe at the magnificence of this place. This is more than a cabin in the woods, it like a five-star resort. I’m feeling guilty about staying here. “Let me show you to your room.” I smother down my reluctance. He was the one who offered to let me stay here. Backing out now would mean imposing on my friends again and hauling that suitcase of shoes back down to the car. 108 | UncagedBooks.com

“Unfortunately, the reception’s not great up here. You mightn’t get much on the tv.” David turns the TV on while I’m unpacking, only taking out the few things I’ll need tonight. I can do the rest tomorrow after food and a night’s sleep. I’m in the middle of dealing with that dreadful shoe suitcase when there’s a knock on the front door. My stomach rumbles. I hope it’s the pizza. “No doorbell either, so you’re gonna have to listen out for anyone at the front door,” David calls out to me from downstairs, and I hear the door open. Shoving the suitcase aside, I peer over the balustrade to see if my assumption is correct. And boy, was it ever. A tall man in a red shirt and hat appears in the doorway, his chin covered in a well-trimmed beard. The hair peeking out from under the cap is quite dark and his shoulders are broad, much too broad for a pizza delivery guy. He looks more like a construction worker or a personal trainer. “Hey, this is delivery for…” He checks the receipt on the pizza box. “David Yates?” His voice is deep and sounds like liquid sex. I find myself frozen in place, staring, wondering how someone like him is stuck delivering pizzas. I remind myself it’s only been more or less two months since the divorce and the last thing I need is a rebound relationship. I don’t need to jump into another trap. The pizza delivery guy’s eyes shift up when he catches sight of me, and I can feel my legs turn to jelly. I turn and leave to busy myself with something else be-

fore my mind takes me to places it has no right going. And I remain up there until I hear the door close again. I can’t risk making myself look like more of a fool. “Ella, get down here. Pizza’s here.” I take solace in the fact, as I head downstairs, that David didn’t notice me staring at the delivery guy or else he would be saying something about it. “What did you get?” I plop onto the couch and throw one of the boxes open. The wonderful smells of cheese and meat hit me and my stomach growls again. “Pepperoni and mushrooms. Your favorite.” David pulls a piece free and the cheese stretches between the slice and the rest of the pizza still in the box. “If I remember right, that’s your favorite.” I smack him on the shoulder and take two slices for myself. I didn’t think I would be this hungry, but getting all that luggage out, and putting things away must have gotten the best of me. “Which delivery company was that?” I ask with half of my mouth full. “So I remember who to call in the future.”

“If you’d told me... Jesus, Ella, why’d you let him treat you like that?” David stands and starts pacing behind the couch. “I didn’t let him do anything. He was such a good liar. That’s all. Or else I was too stupid to notice at the time.” I shrug. There’s no doubt I had been, too blinded by love to see all the signs that had been there. “No. No. You’re not the stupid one. He’s a fucking idiot for not realizing how good he had it.” David pulls his phone out of his pocket and starts dialing. I panic and throw myself over the back of the couch to pull the phone out of his hand. “David, don’t!” He steps out of the way. “Ella, I’m not calling him. I’m leaving a voicemail with my secretary at the office for tomorrow. Did you forget about the contract I have with him?” Oh. Right. Justin and my brother made a deal about five years ago about renting delivery vehicles for his business when Justin needed it. My brother gave him a pretty good deal too. And with that now gone … I suppress a laugh. Revenge, even the pettiest kind, does feel pretty sweet.

“Sargento’s. Best pizza around.” “From how small that town looked, I’m guessing it’s the only pizza place in town.” I roll my eyes and fiddle with the remote to change the channel. “Correction. The only one that delivers.” He pulls off a piece of pepperoni and tosses it back. We continue to talk as a movie plays in the background, mostly about the divorce. My pride forced me to keep the details of the divorce to myself but it’s so easy to speak about Justin and his cheating now that my heart is healed. I don’t even cry once. David, on the other hand, forgets all about the pizza as he pays full attention to my story. His brow furrows and I can tell he’s pissed off. I don’t know whether I should feel good about that or scared, not knowing what my brother’s going to do once he leaves. I rest my hand on his knee and give it a squeeze. “He’s not worth it, David. It’s done and over with.” Issue 59 | June 2021 |



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Uncaged Reviews Deadly Pretenses Angelique Snowden YA Paranormal Genesis Long and Sebastian Campbell are childhood sweethearts that meet their untimely end in a tragic car accident that occurs on the night of their Senior Prom. But one year later, their spirits continue to haunt their beloved town of Savannah, desperate to be reunited in the afterlife. But is a happy ending all they seek, or does their unfinished business have much deeper, darker roots?

Uncaged Review: There are some really good parts to this book, but some lacking areas also. This is the start of a series, so maybe the plan was not to bog the reader down with too many details, but that’s also a problem with the book – is the back story of this world and the characters is very lax, and at times a bit disjointed. It feels like parts of other ideas/shows etc where all mashed together and this is what we got, and the other bad part, is the ending. Cliffhangers are not good for books, I don’t know why authors think that tossing in a bad cliffhanger will get people to read the next one, but to me, I don’t mind them so much if they wrap up that book’s storyline and let the main arc of the whole series continue on, but when it’s a blatant attempt to make you get the next book, it’s a major turn off to me. With all that said, this is an interesting premise and even if it’s not knocking my socks off with originality, it’s still a good page turner. I will probably read the next one to see where the author is going, but I’m not going to be biting my fingernails waiting for it. A little more back story about these characters and this world, and I’ll be more apt to be all in. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Ghost’s Whisper Ella Summers SciFi/Fantasy The enemy isn’t a monster or a demon this time. It is fear, the destroyer of worlds.

Life has never been better for Leda Pandora, the Angel of Chaos. She is married to the archangel Nero Windstriker, the love of her life. And she commands a vast territory, surrounded by her closest friends and family.

Uncaged Review: I’m not really sure how the author keeps upping the game with this series. This series never seems old hat to me, and I love the characters as much now, as I did in the first book. I would love to have a few days off from life in general just to reread this entire series. It’s that good. In this installment, supernaturals are dying by their own magic. When they use their magic, it backfires on them and is killing them. On top of it all, Nero and Leda are at odds with each other so Leda is working alone. Things get really moving when Leda hires bounty hunters to track down a rogue fallen angel. This book will twist and turn and pull out all the stops. Action packed from the first pages to the end and having Nero and Leda at odds is traumatizing, for the both of them and for me! This is a highly recommended series that anyone who loves urban fantasy will enjoy. Reviewed by Cyrene

Before the Darkest Hour Brenna Harlow Paranormal Romance People are being attacked by bloodsucking monsters, and I’ll do anything to survive. Maggie and her dorm mates are caught in a pickle. The world is crashing and burning outside, monsters are attacking people in the streets, and they have nowhere to hide. Until Jezebel gets the grand idea to call on an old friend for help... Yeah, nothing goes as planned. Now Maggie has to find a way to escape the grasps of a new enemy.

Uncaged Review: This is a prequel to a paranormal romance series, and this is a short, origin story that gives you a bit of a beginning to this world. I’m not real sure how you can get this book anymore since I’m part of the ARC team for this author. But you really don’t have to read this to get a good understanding of the first book in the series. A strange portal looking like a black hole has opened up and the world is filling up with vampire-type aliens that are in the throes of bloodlust. Maggie and her college roommates are watching in horror as people are being killed all over the country. Soon they hear screams close their dorms. One of the roommates calls a guy she dated who was in the military for help, and they come to get them taking them to an underground bunker – but these guys don’t have good intentions… Jacel, who is a leader of the vampire race, sees Maggie getting out of the military vehicle and he’s hit with a Calling, which tells him that Maggie is his mate. But first he has to get her away from these men… This is a good start, and I’m moving right to book one. Giving the reader a bit of background sets the stage nicely for this new world and looking forward to where this goes from here. Reviewed by Cyrene

Blood at Dusk Brenna Harlow Paranormal Romance Will she forgive him for his sins, or is their bond destined to fracture before it’s even forged? KORA Everything changed when the vampires arrived. I’m starving, alone in a dark cave, and grieving those who I lost. Uncaged Review: When I first opened this book, I thought the story would continue directly from the prequel novella, but that idea was quickly squashed when I started reading. In this book, Aldeon comes back to himself from his madness and wakes up in a forest. When he reaches out to find others from his world, he still hears many with the bloodlust madness, but he also hears one other rational dhampir, Brone. He continues to mind speak with Brone as he moves along, until he hears the thoughts of a girl….and The Calling hits him. When he finds Kora, he will have a hard time convincing her that he will only protect her, after she’s seen everyone she cares about killed by the vampires. There are parts of this story that are very compelling and that I wanted to come back to anytime I put it down, but there were also parts I wished had more elaboration on. The author is giving us bits and pieces of the past and the world Azure, where the dhampirs came from, but it’s still so vague. I’d also like to see more of the type of interaction between Kora and Aldeon where she is teaching him more about this world and how he needs to act to fit in better. Other than that, I like the premise of the book, and I think it will bring more understanding with the next books in the series, with the author promising 7 books and a couple novellas along the way. We do find Maggie from the prequel toward the back part of the book – and this is an intriguing storyline that I will look forward to. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews The Dressmaker’s Gift Fiona Valpy 20th Century Historical – Audio and Book

The Vine Witch Luanne G. Smith Fairy Tales Audio and Book

Paris, 1940. With the city occupied by the Nazis, three young seamstresses go about their normal lives as best they can. But all three are hiding secrets. War-scarred Mireille is fighting with the Resistance; Claire has been seduced by a German officer; and Vivienne’s involvement is something she can’t reveal to either of them.

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy set in turn-of-the-century France. For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse.

Uncaged Review: This is a review of both the audio and the book itself, as I split this one into both. I read at times and other times I listened to the audio version. The audio version was just OK, there was very little emotional connection with the audio, spoken in an English accent, which was fine as the narrator pronounced some French titles and words that I only can speak properly in my imagination, but when the narrator lowers or tries to change her voice to match a character’s, she falls flat. So I bounced from reading and the audio on this one. In this book, Harriet finds a photo of her grandmother and two other women in France and she finds herself employed at the same building that her grandmother worked at – and this is one part of the book that has probably been done too many times to count, but it was still a jump off point. The place where Harriet works gives the apartment above the workshop to the employees as a bonus. The book really is glued together by the story of Harriet’s grandmother, Claire and the two women she shares the apartment with during Nazi occupied France during WWII, which Harriet starts to learn from another of the ladies she works with. The book will jump back and forth between Harriet and times from 1940-1945 of Claire’s life, and it will tell you at the top of each chapter. I found myself looking forward more to Claire’s life than Harriet’s in 2017. The book and the audio can be engrossing at times, and other times you feel like skipping ahead. I would have liked more of a real connection between Harriet and Claire, but the author missed a bit on this. Overall, it’s a good read, but not exciting. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Review: This is the 2nd book that did double duty this month, in both audible and reading. I would switch between the two depending on if I was inside or outside. The audible is fine, even though I tended to lose interest easier than if I was reading, which didn’t happen on the first book. So when that happened, I would pause the audible and go back to reading again. That doesn’t mean it was a boring book, it was a decent read. My attention span just wasn’t up to par. This book starts out a bit strange, in that the witch has been cursed into being a toad for the past 7 years, so we are hearing her thoughts as a toad, so it was a bit confusing. When she breaks the curse, she finds that the vineyard that she keeps watch over has been hexed with a dark curse. In this tale, vine witches are the keepers of the vineyards, matching perfectly the picking ages of the grapes and keeping diseases away for the best harvests and wines, but the new owner does not buy into her explanation. One thing that is not very clear in the beginning, is that this is set in historical France, and it becomes better realized as you get into the book more. There is a bit of romance and a bit of suspense and I think it’s a good debut book from this author. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews The Journals of Octavia Hollows: Books 1-6 Stacey Rourke New Adult Fantasy With a touch of her hand, Octavia Hollows can restore life. Yet, she couldn’t save the man she loved from the horrific accident that stole him from her. Octavia thought she could outrun the pain, but ghosts from the past refuse to be silenced. Out of options, she chooses to retrace her wayward journey across the country in search of answers. Surrounded by baffling mysteries of the undead, what she learns about herself along the way might become her greatest weapon.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I’m so glad I got this as a set because I’d have been really mad if I’d had to stop between books. Once I started reading this series, it was all I thought about until I finished it. Now I want more from this world. I met Stacey Rourke at a book event in Daytona Beach, FL in early 2020 (pre-covid mostly). Her sales pitch was perfect for me. Buy the set, get a free chocolate pig. The pig, I ate right away, and it was delicious. The books, I put on my shelf with all the other print books I always forget to read. So I forgot about it. Then I saw an ad for it on Facebook. I immediately picked it up on KU and got to reading. I could kick myself for waiting so long. This series is great. There’s action, adventure, comedy, a pig, all kinds of fun stuff. I love Octavia’s personality. I’ve been trying to somewhat avoid books with younger heroines lately, but I made an exception for her. She’s hilarious. I love her stories and her sense of humor. As I was reading, my husband kept side-eyeing me because I’d laugh so hard, I’d shake the bed. Then I’d force

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him to listen to what I was laughing about. He wasn’t impressed, but then again, he rarely is. I can’t recommend this book enough. It has everything I look for in a book and more. It’s definitely worth reading, just don’t be forgetful like I was and forget all about it.

Magical Midlife Madness K.F. Breene Humorous Fantasy A woman starting over. A new house with an unexpected twist. A cape wearing butler acting as the world’s worst life coach. “Happily Ever After” wasn’t supposed to come with a do-over option. But when my husband of twenty years packs up and heads for greener pastures and my son leaves for college, that’s exactly what my life becomes. Do-over.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Magical Midlife Madness has been popping up on my Kindle screen for months, so I figured I might as well try it. It’s a 5 book series, and I’m currently on book 5. I’m really enjoying the influx of books with more mature characters. Jessie is in her forties, divorced, and a mom, which many of us can relate to. You’d think her age would help her make better decisions, and sometimes it does, but not entirely. She still makes the same mistakes most of us did in our 20’s. The characters in this book are…interesting. Earl, the elderly butler that came with the house, tells Jessie his name is “Mr. Tom”, and that’s all he will respond to. He wears a tuxedo every day and what Jessie thinks is a weird cape. It’s not. We meet Niamh, the old lady who lives next door who throws rocks at trespassers from her front porch and has an ongoing back and forth dislike for Earl/Mr. Tom. Edgar is the gardener of Ivy House. He has a very specific diet. Austin Steele is the hot, single guy who owns the best bar in town. He’s a dominant figure in the community and with good reason. I do like the majority of the characters in this book. They’re quirky and weird, and I like that. It seems like so many books have basically the same character written over and over just with different hair color, it gets old. It was

nice to see characters that aren’t stereotypical. While there’s definitely chemistry between Jessie and Austin, they attempt to avoid a relationship of anything further than friendship. The evolution of their friendship is awkward but at least they’re trying. I like that this book isn’t filled with sex. There is sex in some of the later books, but not the first few. Obviously, there’s magic involved and the creatures these characters become is probably my favorite part of this series. I like that they aren’t just run of the mill paranormal beings. There were even several I’d never heard of so that was cool. I like books with stuff I’ve never experienced before. I do think this story dragged for a bit in the beginning. I had a hard time getting into it because I was just ready for things to start happening. It does pick up, but getting through the beginning was hard. My only real complaint is that when everything was going on as far as Jessie making her decision about accepting the house was her opinion on some of the gifts the house gives when the heir accepts the power. While I understand the desire to want to be taken seriously as an older woman, declining the option of having a freshening up of her wrinkles etc, is just ridiculous. The anti-aging market was expected to reach 191.7 BILLION dollars in 2019. You can’t convince me she wouldn’t have at least accepted a little bit of help with crow’s feet or under the eye bags. She was cool with the help with tightening up the rest of her body, but not her face. That actually made me really annoyed and every time it comes up in the rest of the books, it pisses me off then too. Plus, she’s hurting her team by not doing it. Because of that, Mr. Tom, super old Edgar, and Niamh are all stuck in their excessively old, elderly bodies. They would be a much better asset to her and Ivy House if they were returned to their peak performance form. Overall, this is a fun read. Don’t take it too seriously and just read it for what it is. It’s not something that takes a lot of thought to follow along with, so just enjoy it.

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews New Midlife Surprise Ellie Ellis Fantasy Short Ella Turner (nee Yates) is going through a divorce in her forties that sees her without a home. Thankfully, her brother is allowing her to housesit his cabin in the woods, away from the prying eyes of drama and those who once knew her. But before she has a chance to settle into her new life in a small quiet town, her world is turned completely upside down when she lays eyes on a hot pizza delivery guy. Ella has to make the decision of her life: will she choose to stay in the small town and find her own path in life, or will she let Fate drag her into a world where nothing is considered normal anymore?

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: New Midlife Surprise was a surprise for me. I’ve recently started reading books with more mature main characters and have been pleasantly surprised. It’s nice to see a main character with a bit of life experience who understand life isn’t sunshine and roses. Ella has really been through it thanks to a less than amicable divorce. She really deserves a break from life and moves into her brother’s house in the woods to get that break. What she expects to be a relaxing time turns into anything but. She learns that there are still surprises in life even after the shine wears off. I liked Ella. I don’t think all of her decisions were the best, but we all make mistakes. And without those mistakes, we wouldn’t have a story. This book moves very quickly. Think lightspeed. I really liked the ideas the author is building in this

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world. It’s different from what one normally sees, but not so outrageous in makes it unbelievable. Granted, it’s fiction and supernatural creatures, but there are still limits to the viability of things. The world building is unique enough to be enjoyable but not unrealistic for what it is I guess you could say. Overall, this is a fun start to the series, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what else the author has to offer. There is more sex in this book than I’m used to, but for the most part, the story carries its own if you’re not big into that aspect of things.

The Manor Cesar Juliao Horror/Suspense

This is a great book if you are looking for a short read that has elements of surprise, a bit of gore, and suspense.

How far would you go to find what you’re looking for? When a mysterious letter finds its way to Serenity, she is thrown into a world she didn’t know existed. She slowly unravels secrets and is thrust into a quest for her survival, stopping at nothing until she finds the answers she seeks.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: The Manor is the first book by Cesar Juliao I’ve read, and it certainly won’t be the last. It was different and unusual enough to keep my attention. There were some moments that were a bit predictable, but not so many that it ruins the story. I like the premise of this book. I do wish certain elements were explained just a bit better, but it was still an enjoyable read overall. The length was just about perfect for this type of story. I’m glad he didn’t feel the need to fill it with extra, unnecessary words just to have extra pages. I can appreciate an author who gets to the point without the extra filler. There was enough shock-value to be exciting without overdoing it. I love gore and shock as much as the next person, so this author did a great job of keeping both in just the right amounts. Once I started reading, I read it straight through. It’s not very long, but that’s fine bc I’d have been in trouble if it had been much longer.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Cold Blooded Frank Stanfield Forensic Psychology/Occult Investigators and Central Florida residents were horrified when 16-year-old vampire cult leader Rod Ferrell was arrested and charged with bludgeoning a cult member’s parents. When they realized the slain couple’s 15-year-old daughter was missing, they feared she was a victim, too. Amy’s Review: Powerful and horribly real! Stanfield pens an intense true crime story in Cold Blooded. I haven’t read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it, more like enjoyed the way it was written, and presented, not what Rod Ferrell did. This book gives a lot of information about the crimes of a vampire cult leader (only 16 years old). Not only did he have his cult, but he was charged with murdering the parents of one of his members. As the police continued their investigation, it led them to other states. The crimes themselves are horrid, but the investigation continued, not just with police but journalists as well. Stanfield, the author of this book, is a veteran reporter, and covered it from the beginning. It’s one of those true crime stories that make you cringe, and that deviance has no age limit.

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Faith-Based Fraud Warren Cole Smith Christian Institutions & Organizations We live in a secular, skeptical, and cynical age. Americans have lost faith in its institutions – including the church. Although the vast majority of Christian leaders serve faithfully, examples of financial fraud, greed, sexual and emotional abuse, and other systemic problems are almost everyday occurrences. And a watching world has a right to ask even those who are faithful ministers of the Gospel: “If you knew this was happening, why didn’t you say something?” Amy’s Review: Interesting true crime Warren Cole Smith pens a faith-based, more like a lack of faith-based story in Faith-Based Fraud. I haven’t read work from this author before, and I enjoyed it. This book gives a lot of information about how people look to the credibility of the Church to be restored. It is not an easy thing to maintain faith, when there are the “bad seeds” of the Church that ruin the faith, because of embezzlement of Church funds. The author shares stories of the different types of fraud in the church, from Jim and Tammy Bakker, to Bill Hybels. The author just wants accountability of the Church, and give people back their faith.

Heather G.C. McKay New Adult 14 Reasons Why You Should Get With Heather Loralie

Amy’s Review: Superbly powerful and intense! McKay pens a powerful story in Heather. I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. This story, however, is unlike anything I’ve read recently, and it just stands out. If I could give it a 6 plus, I would. Mixed with disturbing perversion, it’s a magnetic story that just can’t be put down. The story is bold, brazen, and definitely about the dark side of humanity. Besides Heather just being 14, she is unlike any other 14 year old, and has this power she knows she has and can lead others in the wrong direction, directly towards her, especially those who “enjoy” being with children, with Heather. “... if it isn’t obvious by now, the children I work alongside all happen to be female, and they’re each deplorable enough as they are without need of further fabrication on my part...” The interesting, and yet, disturbing part of this story, is that it could be, and probably is, somewhere, someone’s reality. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. It’s unputdownable!

I Love You, Be Careful Judy Snider and Joan Dickow Childrens From the moment we are born, someone is telling us to be careful. No matter what country we call home or what language we speak, these words follow us our entire lives. You might hear parents, friends, family or children lovingly say this phrase at least once a day. Think about all of the times that a loved one goes off to school, play or work, and you say, “I Love You, Be Careful!” Amy’s Review: Heart fulfilling! The book intrigued me when the author was nominated for a showcase of Indie Author Appreciation Month in September of 2019 on my author blog, and the author was nice enough to share the story with me for a review. Authors Snider and Dickow pen a magnificent story in I love you, Be careful. It’s a heartwarming story, and it is one of those things that anyone, and I mean anyone, especially parents, no matter the culture, the background, or home, it will touch you and make you nod gently. I found it to be a powerful story not just for children, but of children of any age, from birth to infinity. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). A very well-written story, and I enjoyed it.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Stalking Gideon Cain Kerry Denney Psychological Thriller Bestselling author Gideon Cain is losing his mind. Everywhere he turns lately, the femme fatales from his psychological thrillers show up—live and in person. Are they actresses playing a cruel joke on him, figments of his increasingly terrifying delusions, or fantastical vigilantes sprung to life from the pages of his books? All he knows for certain is if he doesn’t find answers soon, he’s bound for the psych ward. Amy’s Review: Magnificent read! Denney pens a chilling and exciting story in Stalking Gideon Cain/ I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. The characters were intense (as a lot of writers are) and very realistic. This author brings the story to life. The characters had a lot of depth, and were filled with definite flaws, as we all have. This author has a great imagination and I’m glad it’s being shared with stories. This is a magnificent story, kept this reader turning the pages. A definite attention grabber, so much I couldn’t put it down. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. This story captures the reader’s attention at chapter The author’s technique of raw, magnetic characters and great plotlines is a gift. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. This read is more than just words on a page.

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The Legacy of Old Gran Parks Isobel Blackthorn Horror Southern Australia, 1983. While Middle-aged stalwart Miriam rolls into town in her broken down car, Frankie - a deer hunter - is up in the forested hinterland with her gun. Meanwhile, fisherwoman Old Pearl sits on her front deck with her dog, a glass of whiskey in her hand, and Emily, the English backpacker, scrubs out the pie-encrusted kitchen at the roadhouse. Amy’s Review: Brilliantly chilling! Blackthorn pens a superb story in The Legacy Of Old Gran Parks. I have read anything from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. The characters were enticing and very realistic. It’s a grandly dark story that is one of the most unique, thrilling scare-driven stories I’ve read in a while. Blackthorn definitely brings the reader in from the beginning, and even if you gasp out loud, your eyes can leave the story. This author definitely brings in the sinister lingering of the restless spirit, and also balances it with light humor, just enough to cut into the darkness. 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. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. Love this story. 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.

The Tears We Never Cried Ryshia Kennie Literary Fiction A mother’s tragic diagnosis. A daughter’s life on hold. An ending and a new beginning ... Cassandra McDowall’s mother has been forgetful for a while, but she never anticipated rapidonset Alzheimer’s to come out of nowhere and shake their world to its very core. Amy’s Review: A grand read Kennie pens a grand and emotional story in The Tears We Never Cried. I haven’t read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. The characters were real and very intense, yet had a great connection, especially the bond between mother and daughter. I liked the story, as it showed that there are not only things you don’t know about your parents, but it’s all right to not know. There is also that circle of life, when the child needs to take care of the parent, and caregiving on your own is not an easy task. It’s not just physically draining, but emotionally as well. I liked how Kennie told this story. The characters had a lot of depth, and chemistry throughout the story. An inspiring story. The title drew me in, but the story made me stay.

The Lost Temple of Phoketh Daniel McMillan SciFi Loren Alaysia looks evil straight in the face and is surprised to see a little of herself looking back... Loren is contacted by an archaeologist who has discovered the resting place of the fabled Temple of Tenctu Sychi. He meant to utilize the temple’s legendary power to save his terminally ill wife, but the powers contained in the lost temple came with a hidden price, not just for those who used it, but perhaps for every creature in the Four Arms of the Galaxy. Amy’s Review: Great sequel McMillan pens a grand sci-fi story in The Lost Temple of Phoketh. This is the second book in McMillan’s Loren Alaysia, Galactic Vigilante series. I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. This story relates to the first one, and though you could probably read this without reading the first story, Arc of The Hellion, I recommend that read as well. Loren Alaysia is an interesting and unique character. Yes, she’s a vigilante, but she’s so much more, sometimes teetering on the edge of justice and outlaw. It’s another action-packed journey in the galaxy, with more twists and turns, and definite surprises in this story. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. This author has such a grand imagination. What a fantastical and magical read!

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