ISSUE 33 | April 2019
Welcome to Issue 32, March 2019 - Uncaged Book Reviews! Our Feature Authors this month are Isobel Blackthorn, Katherine Wyvern, L. Salt, James Murphy, Tabetha Waite, M.A. Jewell, Lacee Hightower, Barbara M. Britton and Megan Morgan.
FangFreakinTastic is also bringing us a feature with author Valerie Willis We have part one of a short story this month from Myrtle Brooks, called Just Some Time Away. At this time, Uncaged has closed Tier 2 review submissions until our lists are cleared. I can’t give a date on when they will reopen, but I would guesstimate that it will be at least 4 months, probably longer. This does effect the Raven Awards, if the book is not reviewed by Uncaged, then it’s not eligible, but until Uncaged has a larger pool of steady reviewers, then it cannot be helped.
and that I ask that the authors share the magazine with their networks. Read about that HERE. Uncaged is supported through advertising, both in the magazine, and on the site. Please see the Advertising tab on the site for more information on how you can advertise in the magazine and support the Uncaged mission to promote authors. Tier 2 review submissions in Uncaged are now open to new submissions. Because of an ongoing backlog, books that are reviewed for feature authors will be placed in the Uncaged review section of the magazine, and although the author needs to be willing to allow Uncaged to review a book to become featured, the review is not a requirement within the feature itself. This is to attempt to clear up the long review submission lists.
All inquiries: UncagedBooks@gmail.com or Cyrene@UncagedBooks.com Some changes to Uncaged for 2019 are already in effect, so stay tuned as improvements are made all year long. Until next month - keep reading!
Thanks to all the affiliates for the wonderful devotion to reading. Uncaged is now in a review collaboration with Aurora Publicity. Uncaged and Aurora reviewers will review for Uncaged and you’ll see more Aurora author’s books being reviewed through Uncaged. Authors can now submit a Short Story, and in return, I’ll give space for either a full page ad, or a 1-page Sneak Peek of a book for an approved story. You can read more about that here. The Featured Authors that are promoted in Uncaged, is a FREE service to authors. The only requirements being that Uncaged has read at least one of the author’s books, (can be read right before the feature) 2| uncagedbooks.com
Genevieve Elle Jack Lewis
Issue 33 | April 2019
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Issue 33 | April 2019 |
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upcomingconventions Southern Kentucky Book Fest April 26-27, Bowling Green, KY https://sokybookfest.org/
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urban fantasy | paranormal | fantasy
feature author USA Today bestselling author Genevieve Jack writes wild, witty, and wicked-hot paranormal romance and fantasy. Coffee and wine are her biofuel, the love lives of witches, shifters, and vampires her favorite topic of conversation. She harbors a passion for old cemeteries and ghost tours thanks to her years attending a high school rumored to be haunted. Although originally from the Midwest, she adores the beaches of the southeast, where she spends her days with her laptop and one lazy dog.
Please welcome Genevieve Jack Uncaged: I loved your latest release, The Dragon of New Orleans, and the second book in the series, Windy City Dragon will release in April. Can you tell readers more about the series? The Dragon of New Orleans is book 1 in the Treasure of Paragon series. This series follows eight royal dragon-shifter siblings who magically are transported to Earth for their protection after a coup in their native realm of Paragon threatens their lives. They are the Treasure of Paragon, the true heirs to the throne. Unfortunately, the same person who sent them here warned them to stay apart. So, the siblings don’t even have each other for comfort, and, of course, their dragon nature must be kept secret. Each book in this series focuses on a different sibling in a different city and tells the story of how they each find their one true mate.
There’s a saying in Paragon, “Dragon’s do not mate lightly.” Finding a mate for a dragon is an intense and permanent affair. These books are brimming with magic, romance, and happily ever afters. The Dragon of New Orleans is available now, Windy City Dragon releases April 23rd, and Manhattan Dragon is slated for Fall 2019. Uncaged: How many books are you planning for this series?
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with other authors. Although that novel can stand alone, the concept of this world was confusing to readers and, to this day, it is my least successful novel. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books?
At this time, nine books are planned in this series. Uncaged: Are you planning on attending any conventions or in-person signings this year? I will be attending Writers on the River in Peoria IL on July 20th, RWA “Readers for Life” Literacy Signing in New York on July 27th, and Penned Con in St. Louis, MO on September 13-14. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? There are so many fascinating authors out there. I love everything J.R. Ward writes, so she would be high on my list. Diana Gabaldon is a favorite and a wealth of knowledge. J.K. Rowling would surely be an entertaining lunch companion. But honestly, I’m sometimes quiet in person, as many authors are, so I would have lunch with anyone who needs a good listener. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I am a staunch believer in the holy triad, that the quality of the book itself, the cover, and the description sell the book. When I focus on those and targeting all three to a specific audience, my books seem to succeed. The least successful marketing I’ve ever been involved with was to release a novel as part of a greater world
I’m not sure I’d describe it as “unusual” but one thing that often surprises me is how many readers write to me to say my books carried them through particularly difficult times in their lives. It’s a reminder that we all need an escape from reality now and then. I try to remind myself of that when I’m writing. How can I make this scene more vibrant and enthralling for the mom siting by her child’s side in the hospital or the person healing from a major illness or injury who might need it to cope? Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I read a lot, in all genres. I’m currently on a contemporary romance binge and loving THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne. I also enjoy museums of all kinds, musical theater, and all types of performing art. When possible, my husband and I love to travel as well. My favorite place on Earth to visit is the beaches of the southeast United States, especially Hilton Head Island. It’s a lovely area with breathtaking ocean views and an interesting history. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? Just one thing? Here’s a couple… I can’t sleep unless I have a glass of water next to my bed. I am patently against self-service anything because I want more jobs available to people, yet, ironically, Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | I am an introvert who is sometimes uncomfortable around people. I’m not a big fan of ice cream unless it’s on pie. I always take my coffee hot, even in the hottest of weather. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I appreciate every single one of you. There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to reading and I am humbled and thankful every time a reader gives one of my books a shot.
Enjoy an excerpt from The Dragon of New Orleans The Dragon of New Orleans Genevieve Jack Urban Fantasy New Orleans: city of intrigue, supernatural secrets, and one enigmatic dragon. A deadly curse.... For 300 years, Gabriel Blakemore has survived in New Orleans after a coup in his native realm of Paragon scattered him and his dragon siblings across the globe. Now a voodoo curse threatens to end his immortal existence. His only hope is to find an antidote, one that may rest in a mortal woman. A lifesaving gift... After five years of unsuccessful treatment for her brain cancer, death is a welcome end for Raven Tanglewood. Her illness has become a prison her adventurous spirit cannot abide. Salvation comes in the form of Gabriel, who uses dragon magic to save her. 12 | UncagedBooks.com
A harrowing price... To Raven, the bond that results from Gabriel’s gift is another kind of captivity. Can Gabriel win Raven’s love and trust in time to awaken the life-saving magic within her? Or will his fiery personality and possessive ways drive her from his side and seal his fate? Excerpt Chapter One Gabriel Blakemore was running out of time, which was laughable considering time had never meant anything to him in the past. As an immortal dragon, his life thus far had flowed like an endless river, each new day guaranteed by the last. Not anymore. He thumbed the emerald ring on his finger. Already the curse at its center gave the jewel the appearance of a cat’s eye in bright light, a thin black pupil visible at the center of the green. His affliction was spreading. Hunched over the seventeenth-century Spanish baroque desk in his office at Blakemore’s Antiques, he sifted through the stack of papers in front of him, praying for a savior, anyone who had the slightest potential for breaking the curse. None of the candidates seemed powerful enough. He needed more options. Anxiously, he tugged at the bond connecting him to his manservant. Richard appeared at the door to his office almost immediately, carrying a stack of papers that he squared on the desk in front of Gabriel. “More for you.” Gabriel nodded at the man. Impeccably dressed, as always, in a pinstripe three-piece suit, Richard had proved a crucial asset these days, researching magical options when Gabriel could not. Gabriel had bought the former slave’s freedom in 1799, a wise choice. Not only had Richard become a close friend over the centuries, he’d retained a sharp wit and an eye for detail. The man dusted off his hands before rubbing his sternum. “You don’t need to scream down the bond, you know. I’m in the next room. I want to find a cure as much as you do.” Gabriel grunted. “Are all dragons as friendly and chipper as you, or was I just lucky to be bonded to the best of them?” Richard folded into the chair across the desk, throw-
ing a lanky arm across its back. “How are sales today?” Gabriel asked, ignoring the man’s gibe. He hadn’t meant to cause Richard discomfort, but he didn’t plan to apologize for it either. Not when the situation was so dire. “Strong enough that if we all live another year, we can throw one hell of a party,” Richard said. “How’s that plan coming along? You find a way for us to do that? Live another year? There must be something here. For God’s sake, we live in the voodoo capital of America, the home and burial place of Marie Laveau herself.” A whiff of cinnamon and molasses curled off Gabriel’s coffee, and he took a long, steadying drink. “Marie would roll over in her tomb if she knew who was running this city now.” New Orleans was brimming with humans claiming to have supernatural abilities. Liars, most of them. Unfortunately, the voodoo priestess who’d cast the curse on his ring was the real thing, and she did not take prisoners. Anyone left with true power in the city was either on her side or too afraid to oppose her. Gabriel snorted. Three hundred years in this realm, only to be turned to stone by the jealous rage of a woman who couldn’t take no for an answer. The thought made his fingers drum against the desk. Tap-tap-tap. Always in threes. The compulsion to tap was so strong when it hit him, not doing so resulted in pain. Muscle tremors ran the length of his arms and hands. He flipped his thumb against the corner of the paper nearest him, hoping it would curb the impulse. Richard frowned at his fidgeting. “You should rest, Gabriel. It’s getting worse. This is the third time this morning.” “Soon.” “That’s what you said an hour ago.” Gabriel pulled the pile of papers toward him. His hands cramped with the effort, and the stack spilled across the walnut desk. He cursed, but the word caught in his throat. A woman’s picture had been revealed in the collapse, instantly catching his eye. He lifted the folded newspaper to get a better look. Enchanting. That was the only way to describe her. He couldn’t look away. The woman had eyes the color of deep water and curly black hair as wild as the hint of trouble she carried in her smile. He had the sudden intense desire to kiss away that lopsided grin and further tangle that hair. Where had such an urge come
| GENEVIEVE JACK | from? A dragon like Gabriel didn’t often find himself drawn to human women. He closed his eyes and gave his head a well-deserved shake. “Who is this?” he demanded. Richard leaned over the desk in order to get a better look, and Gabriel turned the article in his direction. Richard groaned. “That, my friend, is a long shot.” # Ravenna Tanglewood opened her eyes to darkness. She blinked and blinked again, but the eyelid flutter didn’t seem to help. This was new. While she’d slept, an irregular blotch had formed in her vision, partially obstructing her view. Now it painted itself like black ink against the sterile white walls of her hospital room. A Rorschach test, she thought. What did she see in it? An oil slick. A dark cumulus cloud. A rough joke told by her brain cancer. Cancer. That fucking bitch. The aroma of this morning’s half-eaten eggs and the tang of antiseptic brought her fully awake. She was in the exact same place she’d been every day for the past three months: the hospice at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans. Only the last time she’d drifted off, there wasn’t a stain obstructing half her field of vision. She rolled her head and the dark splotch followed, blotting out the left side of the room. She closed her eyes again, counted to ten. No change. Damn, that couldn’t be good. Through her working eye, she watched her mother sleep in the chair next to the bed; she at least was the same as Raven had left her. A Cosmo was sprawled across her mother’s lap as if she’d drifted off midsentence. Though now that Raven looked more closely, the lifestyle magazine was wrapped around a disturbingly worn copy of Surviving Divorce by Amy Dickerman, PhD. Raven winced. So her father’s pronounced absence had come to this. Or maybe it was a preemptive read, a talisman against the inevitable. As far as she knew, her parents had only separated—the burden of her illness giving rise to separate bank accounts, separate bedrooms, separate lives—in that order. Her care had become an act of full-time charity her father could not abide. Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | As usual, her mom was bearing the parental weight alone this morning, although the chair beside her held her older sister Avery’s rosary. When had she dug that thing up? Raven hadn’t seen the likes of it since their aunt had gifted it to her for her first communion. Avery had never been the praying type. Leave it to death to bring out the inner Falwell in everyone. Did she think she could pray the cancer away? Raven snorted at the thought. Pull the plug. That’s what she’d say if she had a say, and if she were plugged in to anything more than Mr. Drippy, her full-time fluid and drug-delivery companion. So far, she could breathe on her own and swallow, unlike the man across the hall. Stopped the vent, she’d heard the nurses whisper. Lucky bastard. “Hey, beautiful,” Dr. Freemont said. Raven rolled her head back to center, then slightly to the left so she could see him clearly out of her good eye. Dr. Freemont was a balding, portly man whose gray temples gave away his advanced age. Still, he was more fun than his stodgy contemporaries. She liked him. “Hey, ugly,” she responded, although the words sounded choked off and raspy. His bushy silver brows sank over his bulbous nose. “What’s this about? You’re holding your head at an angle. Raven, can you look at me straight on?” “No,” she drawled. “Dark.” Every word was like lifting a two-ton boulder from the depths of her skull and carrying it through a labyrinth of synapses to finally hoist over her lips. It was exhausting. Dr. Freemont placed one hand gently on her head, then drew a penlight from his pocket. He swung it in front of her right eye, then her left, where the light disappeared inside the dark fog. “Squeeze my fingers,” he commanded, touching her right hand. She did as he asked, then wondered why he never placed his fingers in her left, although he’d walked to that side of the bed. Or maybe he had. She could no longer feel that hand. As Dr. Freemont continued his assessment, she noticed a trend. Her left side wasn’t working. Not just her eye, but also her shoulder, her hand, her thigh, all the way to her pinky toe. Numb. Dead. 14 | UncagedBooks.com
She was dying in halves. “Why?” she demanded, but she knew. “The tumor,” he said simply. “The pressure in your brain.” He kept speaking, but Raven’s mind couldn’t keep up with his medical explanation. She did catch the word stroke. It didn’t matter. They wouldn’t treat her for it anyway. “Donate?” she asked. Half cloaked in shadow, his face turned grim and he lowered his voice. “Yes. The cancer is only in your brain. You’ll be able to donate your organs. It’s all arranged.” His voice was funny, and she wondered if he was lying. Normally Dr. Freemont didn’t talk to his patients much about organ donation, but she’d pressed him about it early on. For her, it was a light at the end of the tunnel. Every time he reassured her of her donation status, her heart leaped a little. She’d do something with this life. Leave a part of herself behind that mattered. If he was lying, she didn’t want to know the truth. “Long?” she asked. He knew what she meant. How long until she died? They’d been at this for over five years on and off. Through railroad spikes of pain that left her begging for someone to bash her head in. Months of chemo that turned her inside out. There was nothing left to try. There would be no more chemo. No more surgeries. Raven wanted to live, but if living wasn’t possible, she would settle for being free. His pale eyes met hers, and he gripped her fingers on the right where she could feel his reassurance. “Not long now.” Not long now. She tried her best to smile. “Good.” Her mother roused, her magazine-wrapped book falling from her lap and clattering to the floor. “Oh! Doctor. Excuse me. I must have drifted off. How is she?” When he turned to look at her, his eyes glossier than usual, his face changed. A mask slipped into place, clinical and authoritative. Raven rolled her head on her pillow to see her mother, and the dark splotch swallowed most of Dr. Freemont’s head. She couldn’t see anything above his shoulders when he answered. “I would never put an expiration date on your daughter, Mrs. Tanglewood… Sarah. We both know how strong she is.” “Yes, I know. This one came out fighting.” Her moth-
| GENEVIEVE JACK | er still believed Raven could beat this thing. She was wrong. “Raven’s comfort measures are working. We’ll maintain the course.” He straightened as if he might leave. Raven squeezed his hand. “Do it,” she said. It was the best part of her day. She wouldn’t let him leave without giving it to her. He turned an impassive expression toward her, half light and half dark as she looked at him straight on. “I have no idea what you are talking about, Raven.” The corner of his mouth twitched. With whatever part of her face was still working, she sent him the sternest glare she could muster. Raising one eyebrow, he backed up a few steps and glanced into the hall. “You know, I don’t do this for all my patients. Only for you.” She smiled lopsidedly. He removed his white lab coat, cleared his throat, and glanced again at the door. There was no one out there. Ceremoniously, he wrapped his coat around Mr. Drippy, holding the neck in place with one hand and gripping the sleeve with the other. He squared his shoulders. “I get no drip from champagne…,” he began to sing, deep and throaty, in the style of Frank Sinatra. He swayed with her IV pole as much as the length of the tubes leading to the port in her chest would allow. “Mere Toradol doesn’t move me at all, but morphine and fentanyl too… Yes, I get a drip out of you.” He cradled the screen of the IV pole and dipped it below his round belly, careful not to upset the hanging medications. His lips puckered in an air-kiss toward the screen. Raven couldn’t help it. She started to laugh. Her mother did too, which made her laugh even harder. As always, the sight of that normally stiff and paunchy man dancing with her IV pole tickled something deep inside her, something that bitch cancer hadn’t ruined yet. She laughed and laughed until her throat constricted like the valve of a pinched balloon. Her laugh turned into a cough and then a wheeze. Dr. Freemont stopped singing. The next moment he was leaning over her, his pale hands gently shaking her shoulders, and she realized she’d been unconscious. Not long, judging by the look on his surprised face.
“Welcome back,” he murmured. He was half dark again. “That’s never happened before,” her mother said nervously. “That’s just Raven’s body telling us she needs rest,” he said. “I’ll leave you to it.” He removed his lab coat from Mr. Drippy and shrugged it on before nodding his goodbye. “Well, that sounded promising,” Mom said after he was gone. “You just need more rest.” She stood up and tucked Raven in, her face positively glowing with denial. Raven adjusted her head so her good eye was pointed at the door. Not long now, he’d said. That was the day cancer stole her laugh. It was the last time the doctor sang for her. The last time she was awake long enough to ask him to. There were flashes of color and light, the feel of anointing oil crossed on her forehead and wrists as prayers were whispered over her, Avery’s rosary dangling from her fingertips above her chest, Dr. Freemont’s humorless face as he answered her mother’s questions. But most of the following days consisted of darkness. Until, one night, he came for her.
Releasing April 23
Issue 33 | April 2019 |
feature author Elle Lewis lives in Florida with her husband, son, and a phenomenal orange cat named Cheddar. She is a nurse by profession, but her heart belongs to monsters, fictional worlds, and all things conjured up by the imagination. She dreams of one day moving to the mountains and living in a small town that resembles The
Uncaged welcomes Elle Lewis Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your book, Dark Touch? Iâ€™m a huge fan of Urban Fantasy and the paranormal. I love the traditional monsters- vampires, demons, werewolves etc. But for Dark Touch, I wanted to create something entirely new. Dark Touch features new supernatural creatures and original lore. It is a fastpaced book, filled with action and a hint of romance. The main character is a strong protagonist with a painful past that she is trying to escape. While the overall theme is fantasy, it is at heart a human story, and I think readers will relate to Sloan and her journey. Uncaged: This is the first book in a trilogy, do you have a release date on the second book that you can tell us about? An early book two draft is complete, but I am in the editing and rewriting phase. Currently I do not have a release date but Iâ€™ll be submitting it to my publisher once its finished.
Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Oh wow, it would have to be a big table! There are so many authors I would love to sit with. Tolkien of course, and C.S Lewis. If I were able to meet Tolkien and Lewis, I think I would cry. They both have had
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Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books?
such a strong influence on me, not only on my writing but who I am as a person. And I would also like to include Stan Lee. He is my hero. I admire him and the incredible characters and stories he created. He did so much! Present day Authors? I would love to chat with Martha Wells. Her writing skills are so impressive. She has an incredible ability to world build in such an effortless way. I would love to pick her brain; and JK Rowling. I would love to sit with Rowling and hear her life story, her inspirations, and all that she’s learned from the writing industry. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I’ve really enjoyed being on podcasts to talk about the book. I think that is a great avenue to market new books. Netgalley was (and still is) productive as well. I’m still working on marketing Dark Touch. This week my husband and I will be filming a short commercial for Dark Touch, with some fun practical effects. And then I am planning to attend Megacon this year cosplaying as one of my own characters! I’m looking forward to meeting new readers and promoting the book–all while geeking out! I will have to let you know how it all turns out! Social media is probably the least successful. I think its more effective to form relationships and simply enjoy the writing community online instead of using it as a marketing platform.
I don’t know about unusual but there has been a real craving from readers to learn more about the supernatural creatures in the book. There’s a lot of original lore behind them and it has been wonderful to hear readers geek out over them. I get a lot of follow up questions like “Are they capable of love?” or “What are their motivations?” Readers seem eager to learn more about them. In book two, there is a lot of world building, as well as expounding on who they are. Giving readers all those fun details in book two has been a blast to write. Something unusual I occasionally come across is a potential reader thinking it’s a “YA” novel. Dark Touch is adult fiction and contains mature content. The characters are in their early to midtwenties, attending college. So, this one puzzles me sometimes! That said, I do think YA audiences would enjoy the read. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I LOVE the beach. It’s absolutely my favorite place. The sun. The waves. My toes in the sand. It’s where I feel the calmest and at peace. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I am a cardiac nurse by day! I often joke that both sides of my brain work- the science side and the creative side. And while I love my job, my imagination is always going! My heart belongs to SF/F and it’s dream to be able to write full time. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love my readers! My favorite books to read are the ones that sweep me away and take me into Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | another world, and that’s the type of book that I wanted to write with Dark Touch. I want to give readers a break from their day to day lives and create an exciting world for them to escape to. There is also a deeper message within Dark Touch that I wanted to share. Sloan’s past is complicated and the things she struggles with are problems that I feel many people face. I wanted to reach out and let all my readers know they aren’t alone in their struggles. I am on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I also have an author blog where I post short stories in the Grimdark Fantasy genre.
Enjoy an excerpt from Dark Touch Dark Touch Elle Lewis Paranormal Suspense Sloan left home a year ago, hoping to escape her past. One night, a chance encounter will change her life forever. Sloan crosses paths with a dangerous being. He is ancient. Evil. And she has caught his attention. Sloan attempts to continue with day to day life but soon realizes that she has become his obsession. Not only does he stalk her by day, but he can enter her dreams, tormenting her while she sleeps. Desperate, Sloan searches for answers. And time is running short. Excerpt My fingers flew over the keyboard, contributing to the small orchestra of key strokes that echoed within the dismal office. The smell of burnt cof20 | UncagedBooks.com
fee and office paper hung on the air, bright florescent lights making everything appear over exposed. My eyes flicked to the clock on my computer—it was almost 5:15. Why did the last fifteen minutes of work always drag? Schnakenberg and Associates was a small yet busy Seattle law firm, and I was lucky enough to have snagged the job of assistant to the executive assistant of smalltime defense attorney, Mark Schnakenberg. I usually left this small detail out when in conversation. It was ridiculous to say I was an assistant to an assistant, but—well, there you have it. The sound of tinkling rain outside rose to a loud crescendo, thundering noisily over the office chatter. I rolled my chair backward to peek around the dull cubical wall that surrounded my desk to watch the rain through one of the only windows that existed in the building. Wet streams poured down the glass, glistening like liquid silver. The perpetual rain and gloom of Seattle was an adjustment from Los Angeles, where the warm sun coated everything like sticky honey. Here, the deep grey storm clouds always seemed so close. The constant rain created a dark world, filled with delicate strands of emerald grass that swayed beneath a stormy sky. I watched the water pour down, dumbfounded that a year had already passed since I left home. An unwanted rush of memories flooded my mind, tightening my throat. The overweight form of my boss and his skinny redhaired executive assistant snapped me back into the present. Mark Schnakenberg barreled down the aisle, barking instructions as Penny tittered behind him balancing a huge stack of paperwork. Mark Schnakenberg had greasy dark hair which was combed to the side, and every day without fail, he wore the most disgusting putrid green tie. I immediately rolled back into my cubicle and began typing frantically, trying to look busy. Mark passed by quickly. Penny on the other hand stopped outside of my cubicle, a tight smile on her face. “I can’t tell what you accomplish more Sloan,” she said. “Work or day dreaming.” Penny had an annoyingly high voice and typically addressed people as if they were petulant children. I turned and plastered a smile on my face. “Work of course, Penny.” She snickered, still holding the gigantic stack of paperwork. Penny Pidanskey was tall and painfully thin, her red hair pulled back in a tight bun. Her business out-
| ELLE LEWIS | fits were typically devoid of color, which didn’t help her complexion. She was extremely pale, and not in the good way like when people use the words fair or porcelain. It literally seemed as if she was drained of all color. “We are doing important work, Miss Stolar,” she chided. “Upholding the law, keeping clients out of jail and here you are, watching the rain.” She waited, expectant. My eyes flicked to the clock again. Five-twenty. Ten more minutes. “Is there something I can help with, Penny?” I asked, politely. “Well, Mark and I just left a very important disposition and I will need you to finish these before the end of the day.” She slapped the stack of paperwork on my desk. “Now, when you are finished kindly place them on my desk and I will review them on Monday.” I looked at the huge mound of paperwork. My heart fell. It would easily take several hours. “Penny, it’s Friday night.” Not that I had any plans. I was just going to make the long drive home and spend the night working on art like usual, but still. Was she serious? “Well then, you had better get started!” She began walking away and then stopped. “Oh, and one last thing, Sloan. Mark drinks a VENTI CAPPUCCINO. Not a latte. Not a mocha. CAP-PU-CCINO.” She enunciated every syllable. “I always have a tall black coffee. That cold blended thing you brought me this morning was just awful.” We already had this discussion this morning—in front of the entire office. But of course, she wanted to go over it again—because the only thing she loved more than ugly clothes was to boss me around. “Okay, Penny. No problem.” “So, you will get it right on Monday? Or do I need to write it down for you?” It took herculean effort to keep my face neutral. “No, I got it.” A smile popped on her face. “Great! See you Monday!” I scooted back up to my desk and rested my chin in my hand, brooding. It was 5:30. I could hear everyone in the office heading for the elevators. Leaving to meet friends at a bar, maybe go on a date, or simply go home to their families. I grabbed a hair tie from my bag and pulled my long black hair into a bun, and then reached for the mountain of paperwork. I didn’t mind working in an empty office. I liked being alone. It was familiar and oddly comforting. Being around
a lot of people made me feel out of place. They always seemed to pester me with personal questions, which I in no way wanted to answer. Not that I was antisocial or anything. *** It was still raining when I got to my car, an old white Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep was beat-up but ran great. I lived in Issaquah, a picturesque mountain town to the east of Seattle. The drive to and from the city was a little long, especially with traffic, but Issaquah was much more affordable than living in the city. Besides, there was something about the small town that caught my attention when I first moved here. Despite the rain, the city brimmed with people. Wet droplets glistened off colorful umbrellas and galoshes that boldly poked through the gloom. The tall buildings stretched into the stormy night sky, city lights reflecting in the big black puddles that filled the slick roads. The traffic light up ahead flicked to red. I eased onto the breaks. I looked at the city as I waited, noting how all the colors and lights mingled on the wet concrete like melted crayons. That’s when I saw him. He stood to my left, at the corner of Marion and 5th, a homeless man soaked in the pouring rain. He held a limp cardboard sign, the words nearly washed away. He wore ragged clothes that hung loosely off his emaciated body. I usually never did this. Maybe it was because Penny had been such a bitch to me today and I felt inspired to be a good person. I reached in my bag and fished for spare cash. I finally found a five hiding at the bottom, and I rolled down my window. I held it out to him, the cold rain splashing on my skin. He headed towards my car, walking slowly and with a limp. As he approached, I noticed that he had the strangest shade of white hair. It was cut close to his head, but the color was icy and pale, like snow. He stood next to my window for a few moments, staring at me. His features were strange, his bone structure sharp and angular. I shook the money. “Take it.” The man smiled slowly. Rain slithered down his face, pooling at the corners of his lips. He reached Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | out but instead of simply taking the money, his entire hand wrapped around mine. I felt uncomfortable and quickly regretted my decision to help a stranger. I tried to slide my hand out of his, but his fingers tightened with a surprising amount of strength. And then, before I could do anything else, an electric current raced into my hand. It felt as if an invisible fire had left his fingers and entered my own. I gasped, jerking my arm back in an instinctive reaction to the pain. But the stranger held on, his grip unwavering. And the pain began to intensify. A strangled little scream escaped my lips. “Stop! Let go of me! What are you doing?” I pulled my hand in earnest, using all my strength, desperate to unlock my hand from his. And then, the man began to laugh. The sound was coated with sinister intent. It was as if darkness had awoken and then crawled out of his mouth. One thought sprang to my mind—evil. Chills went down my spine and my heartbeat increased to an alarming rate. I stopped trying to break his grip and looked up into his eyes. What I saw made my stomach warm with fear. The man’s eyes were now utterly black. The whites of his eyes, even his irises, were pitch dark. I stared into two fathomless pits. I froze, my breath coming out in quick panicked gasps. And then, quickly and suddenly, he let me go. As he drew away, he trailed a finger down the back of my hand. I watched as he walked away from my car, eventually fading into the rainy night. I sat in shock, my breathing and heart rate still much too fast. My left hand continued to burn. I cradled it to my chest, tears springing into my eyes. What the fuck just happened? The blare of a car horn from behind made me jump. I realized that the light had finally turned green. I eased the car forward and made myself grip the wheel with both hands. My entire body trembled. I could feel a cold spot of sweat on my lower back. “Shit, what the hell?” I said aloud. The rain thundered in a steady torrent as I turned onto the interstate. I felt extremely shaken and couldn’t seem to calm down. All I wanted was to get home. I pushed the car to nearly a hundred mph, which wasn’t smart considering the weath22 | UncagedBooks.com
er, but fuck it. The rain thundered loudly on my roof, the windshield wipers scraping continuously against the glass. The night had morphed into something menacing. The forest that lined the interstate even appeared ominous, with its dark shadows and gnarled branches that looked like hands, reaching for me. To distract myself, I turned on the radio. Music flooded the silent car. My hand hurt, but even stranger, the pain was moving. It began at my fingertips and was steadily creeping up my arm. It was almost to my shoulder now. I took in a deep breath and let it out, trying to calm down. Get a grip, Sloan. Slowly, I released my death grip on the steering wheel and let up off the gas, easing the car down to the speed limit. I flicked on the overhead light and unbuckled my seatbelt so that I could take off my rain coat. I rolled up my left sleeve and looked at my hand and arm. There was nothing visibly wrong. My pale skin was smooth. Normal. No marks, no bruises, nothing. It made me feel a little better, but my heart didn’t want to slow down. It beat violently, like a sledgehammer rhythmically pounding inside my chest. I turned off the overhead light and focused on the road, trying to think about something else. Maybe if I did, my heartrate would return to normal. Happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts. There wasn’t much to pull from. My mind typically orbited planet morbid. I took in another deep breath, let it out slowly, and thought about my house in Issaquah. It was the one thing that could usually cheer me up. It was a small house, at the end of a very long road in the mountains. At night, little lights peeked out from all different spots on the mountain side, giving away the locations of other homes that were nestled among the trees. Mine wasn’t much to look at. The outside was a faded gray color, and it only had one bedroom and one bathroom. Every room in the house was small, except for the garage, which was wide and spacious. I had turned it into an art room, always parking the Jeep outside on the long driveway. Yellow tulips grew everywhere around it. There was a graceful cherry tree to the left of the driveway that sprouted bright pink blossoms in the spring. The kitchen was also very small, with barely any room to cook. But it had a window that faced the woods like a picture frame. All my furniture was mismatched, purchased at a few different garage sales. As soon as I got home, I would go into the garage and
| ELLE LEWIS | work on some art, just like any other night, and everything would be fine. Everything will be fine. I repeated this over and over in my mind for the rest of the drive, desperately trying not to think about how his eyes had turned into pure, black, nothingness. *** I parked the car and cut the engine, listening. The rain had finally stopped, the trees softly swaying in the night air. It took all my self-control not to run to the door. My eyes watched the shadows as I walked up the driveway, my heart still beating abnormally fast. I unlocked the front door with shaky hands, and then immediately locked it behind me. The house was completely dark. I hurriedly turned on all the lights and then went to the bathroom and undressed in front of the mirror. My skin was creamy white, and no matter how I turned and twisted, I couldn’t find anything wrong. I leaned in closer, gently prodding the skin on my left arm and shoulder. The burning pain remained constant. It seemed to be radiating from beneath my skin, as if my blood had caught fire. I yanked my jet-black hair out of the bun, letting it fall. It tumbled in waves down my back. My eyes were a vibrant hazel. I had full shapely pink lips, which right now were nearly quivering. I didn’t know what to think and felt extremely scared. I pulled on some sweats and an oversized T-shirt, grabbed my cell phone and went into the garage. There were two shelves pressed against each wall, lined with art supplies. A worn old red couch was tucked in one corner, where I usually sat and outlined my next project. My favorite way to work was to open the garage door and listen to the rain, but tonight it would stay closed. There was an overhead light, plus two extra standing work lamps. I turned on all three and then sat on the couch, pulling my knees up to my chest. I stared at my art project that lay in the center of the room. Lately I had been experimenting with gluing broken pieces of glass together to make a colorful mural. Off to the side was an easel and canvas, with a painting for art class half finished. I had planned to work on the painting all weekend, including tonight, as it was due next week. But I was too freaked out to paint. I turned my cell phone over and over in my hand, de-
bating on calling Millie, my one and only friend in Seattle. I moved here exactly one year ago, last October. Once I was settled, I signed up for the spring art class at Seattle University. Millie and I met in class during that first semester. It was the only subject I was enrolled in, but we had taken another class together over the summer and were currently enrolled in advanced art for the fall. Millie and her boyfriend Donovan were both full time students. It was a little after eleven. She was most likely still awake, but at the moment I really didn’t feel like talking. Millie would immediately know something was wrong and would ask a million questions. There was no point worrying her. Especially over something I wasn’t even sure of myself. I shuddered as I thought of the way his eyes had turned completely black. There had to be a way to reason through it. I racked my brain for a logical answer but came up with nothing. It was impossible for a person’s eyes to suddenly melt into black nothingness. I lay down on the couch and curled into a ball. Why had he grabbed me like that? The whole thing happened so fast and was just so bizarre. Not only the way he had snapped, but the strange sensation I felt when our skin met. It felt like a strong forceful surge of electricity. And for some reason that I could not explain, I was still in pain. It started at my left finger tips, ran up my arm and shoulder, and was creeping towards my neck. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to tell myself that I was fine. I regretted my isolated life style. Being alone was something that I typically sought after and enjoyed. But now, I desperately wanted some company. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t manage to get the image of those black eyes out of my mind. Exhaustion tugged at me. The garage was warm, and it was comforting to be home, surrounded by my art work. Gradually I relaxed, even though my heart was still beating too fast. The searing pain continued to slowly creep up my neck as I drifted off to sleep. My fingers flew over the keyboard, contributing Issue 33 | April 2019 |
feature author LM Spangler lives in South Central Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, three dogs, a cat, a rabbit, and some fish. Her son serves his country in the US Navy She is a fan of college football and any kind of baseball and likes to watch the Discovery, Velocity, HGTV, DIY, Science, and any channel showing a college football game. She also watches old game shows like $25,000 Pyramid and Match Game
Uncaged welcomes L.M. Spangler Uncaged: You have three short stories known as The Aphrodite Chronicles series. Are you planning on writing more for this series? I’m always plotting stories in my mind. Though I haven’t plotted the next book yet, no paranormal species is off limits! Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about? My next release is a contemporary erotic short story titled Took You For Granted, releasing April 15th through The Wild Rose Press. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?
I would love to pick Nora Roberts mind. She was a huge influence of mine. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be writing. I would also love to dine with Clive Cussler. He is, by far, my favorite action/adventure author. His mind is so creative. Uncaged: What did you consider your best market-
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The Game Show Network and MotorTrend are two of my favorite channels! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I would hope my books provide you with an escape for an hour or two. You can follow me on Facebook as LMSpangler, on Twitter as authorLMSpangler, and at my website, www.LMSpangler.weebly.com.
ing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? Probably the best marketing has been graphic design. I’ve come to realize that people are visual. I create my own graphics and trailers and I’ve found they get a lot of views. Honestly, just posting buy links on social media seems to be a turn off for some people. They look right over them. That’s why I like graphics and trailers. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? I had a reader tell me after she read one of my books, that she wanted some “quality time” with her husband. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I love to fish. Two of my favorite places is Lake Pinchot and Lake Williams. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I love to watch auto restoration and old game shows. Issue 33 | April 2019 |
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Enjoy an excerpt from Return to Me Return to Me L.M. Spangler Fantasy Romance Her secret tore them apart.
her and her husband.
Naida Bouche foolishly thought she could live only as a human. Her true nature hung over her like a thunderhead, driving a wedge between
Excerpt Water cascaded off her nude body. Small rivulets ran over her breasts and down her slightly rounded stomach, disappearing into the surface of the lake. She was one with the water. She could, literally, become one with it. Moonlight reflected off the mirror-smooth surface, adding a soft glow to the night. Crickets serenaded her with their chirping song. The cicadas added their buzzing to the symphony. There were a lot of cicadas, hence the name of the lake. A wolf howled in the distance. Nature cocooned her. She grinned and dove under. Liquid embraced her, still heated by the sun’s rays from earlier in the day. Her body became insubstantial, fragmenting into molecules of H2O. Disorientation left her bewildered, but the feeling came and went. Weightless warmth enveloped her, and the ebb and flow of the tide lulled her into blissful relaxation. The moon slid across the sky. Hours had passed. Her body became corporeal with a single thought. After regaining her human form, she cut through the water with powerful strokes and rose to the surface in a rush of bubbles. 26 | UncagedBooks.com
The night air chilled her damp skin, raising goose pimples along her flesh. She pushed the long fall of hair from her face and glanced into the deep, lush woods that ringed the lake. Soon the leaves would change to shades of gold, orange, red, and brown. In would come the autumnal chill. Her time in the waters would decrease, and then winter would set in and freeze her out. When that happened, she’d resort to the swimming pool located on the basement level of her large home. Even with the greenery she had sprinkled about, it never fully replaced the exhilaration of the lake, the feel of fresh air against her skin, and the scent of the wilderness. She repeated the cycle, year after year. The monotony had long since worn short on her nerves. She had someone in her life, someone to break the monotony. More accurately, she would only have him until the end of the day. Tonight would be the last night they would be together. She’d tell him that they were over and done with. The sad part of the whole shitty deal was she couldn’t really give him a reason why. How could he understand? Hell, she’d have trouble believing the truth, if it wasn’t her life. The root of their problems were otherworldly, as her father was human and her mother was a water nymph. The nymph side of her heritage presented two problems. First, she needed daily contact with water. The more the better. Like her pool in the basement. Second, she also needed sex … a lot. Preferably once or twice a day. After all, the term “nymphomaniac” had been born of a nymph’s sex drive. They had a lot of sex, but there were times when their hectic lives interfered with his libido. He was human and his sex drive was human. She couldn’t guess how he’d react if she said, “I’m a nympho which means we have to have sex all the time. Day and night. Over and over and over.” He wouldn’t understand it and she’d allowed it to build a wall between them. No, he had never known the truth of her desires. She had pushed him away, afraid of exposing her real self. And that fear, that uncertainty, would leave her alone … and needy.
horror | romantic suspense | contemporary
feature author Please welcome John Hunt Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about some of your books? A busy father of four with a dog and cat, John Hunt lives and works in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He has had nine short stories published in various anthologies and is a member of the Horror Writers Association. He is the author of Doll House, The Tracker, and the apocalyptic novella, Balance. He is also a co-host on the Movies of the Damned!! podcast.
I have two full length books and one novella. I have had nine short stories published in different anthologies. All of these stories can be found on my Amazon Author page here: https://www.amazon.com/John-Hunt/ My first novel, Doll House, is about a couple of serial killers who abduct women and keep them trapped in a home for their amusement. The protagonist, Olivia, escapes and rescues two other women. One killer isn’t done with her yet. It is a horror, thriller, who-dun-it story that has been very well reviewed. At last count, it has 1,614 ratings on Goodreads and is maintaining a 3.99 star. I’m very happy about that. My second novel, The Tracker, is a fast paced game of hide and seek. In this one, you don’t know if the hero, protagonist, is actually being chased by a supernatural creature or if he is insane and on a murderous rampage. You never really know either, not until the end. This book has also been doing well with horror fans. It was listed as one of Horror Talk’s top ten horror novels of 2018. I was very flattered about that one. Well, floored would be more accurate. My novella, Balance, is a post-apocalyptic tale without zombies, aliens, or sunbursts. It’s a creep-crawlie adventure filled with fun-facts about one of humankind’s most abhorred creatures. I like this one a lot. It’s different, cool and has fun characters.
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love to sit and have lunch with and why? This list has the potential to be never-ending. I read everything. The only genre I don’t read is romance and the subsets of romance. But since listing everyone would take forever, I’ll list the one that immediately spring to mind: Stephen King, Elmore Leonard and Richard Matheson.
Uncaged: You write mostly in the horror/suspense categories, what inspires your stories? I’m really just a big horror fan. A friend and I have a podcast. It’s called Movies of the Damned!! We discuss horror films because we love them. For me, I enjoy horror because it can showcase a plethora of human behaviour in the most terrible of circumstances. And horror scares me. I’m fascinated by what scares me. The best way to explore this fascination for me is to write about it. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I have a new book coming out this year titled, OFF THE GRID. It should be out around Halloween. And I have to say, I love it. It is very dark, fast-paced and according to my beta readers, it was very, very intense. I can’t wait to share it with my audience. In the future though, I have three projects planned in my head. I don’t have that many details that I can share at this point. I can say that one of the projects is a sequel to Doll House. I didn’t think I could do a sequel to this one, but I woke up at like 3am one morning, and had this idea, noted it on my phone and went back to sleep. Normally when this happens, in the morning I’ll look at it and think, what the heck? That’s terrible. This time I was like, wait a minute, this could work. This really has some great potential here. I’m excited to get started on it once everything I need to do for OFF THE GRID is finalized. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you
Why Stephen King? Cmon. He’s Stephen King. I don’t think there is a book or short story he has written that I was disappointed with. There are some I liked and loved more than others, sure, but not disappointed. Disappointment is not something I ever experienced reading his work. Elmore Leonard. He was the king of dialogue. I learned a lot from reading his work. From his westerns to his crime fiction, his dialogue was superb and entertaining. Richard Matheson. I loved I am Legend. It was original, exceptionally written and I could go on and on. Very powerful book. I studied it, wanting to figure out why it worked so well. What elements did it possess that made me think about it for years after reading it? I’m still trying to work that out. I would like to talk to them all about their work. To understand their process is to learn from it. I know I have a lot to learn and it would be an honour and a pleasure to learn from such writers. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? My publisher, Black Rose Writing, took care of most of the marketing. I would say that I saw a direct climb on the Amazon Sales Ranking whenever one of my books was on BookBub. I am growing my Twitter following but I don’t have a metric to determine how following growth results in sales. So, really, the answer to this question is I don’t really know. Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? This is a funny question considering that it only proved that the unusual question from a reader seemed to be insightful. One reader on Goodreads asked me if I would be doing a sequel to Doll House. At the time, I thought there was no way there would ever be a sequel. I thought it evident with the ending so I considered it to be an unusual question. Clearly I was wrong. I have a sequel planned and it’s going to be excellent. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I spend time with my family, I read, I ran a marathon recently and plan to run in more or do one of those Spartan races. I have varied interests. My favorite place on Earth is Italy. I went there with my family and saw Rome, Florence and Venice. Since that trip, I’ve been reading about ancient Rome. I can’t seem to get enough of it. I’m going to have to go back. Like, it’s a must. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I don’t know what makes me unique or even if I am. I’m just trying to be the best me that I can. I love my family, I love writing, I love learning and I love deep discussions with people of the same mindset and the opposite mindset. We all have things that we love. I don’t know that pursuing those things or making time for those things makes me unique. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Any person who takes time out of their life to read one of my books, I would like to say thanks. I don’t know if I can convey with words how much that means to me. Actually, I do know. I 30 | UncagedBooks.com
can’t convey it. It’s awesome to think there are people out there that read my books and were scared at some moments and happy in the next. It’s cool that people joined the characters I created on their adventures in my mind. I love it actually and all I can say is thank you. You can follow me on Twitter: @johnhuntfiction, on Wordpress: johnhuntfiction.wordpress.com and on Facebook at JohnHuntFiction. And if you like horror movies, you can listen to me and my friend discuss horror films on the Movie of the Damned!! Podcast here: https://www.blubrry.com/ moviesofthedamned/
Enjoy an excerpt from The Tracker The Tracker John Hunt Horror/Suspense Taylor is being hunted. A sinister shadow trails him playing a game of hide and seek. If Taylor is caught, a cruel death awaits him. There are rules for this game. To break them would mean dire consequences for Taylor and anyone close to him. Taylor must outwit and outlast the fiend for forty-eight hours. Excerpt Taylor got tired of running… Taylor sniffed and tasted the blood trickling into his mouth. He grimaced and plodded forward, his sodden feet squelching in his boots. His stomach growled and he looked down at it as though it were separate from him. He grabbed a roll of fat in his hands and thought he could stand to lose a few pounds. Hell, he could probably lose the
weight of another person and he’d still be overweight but that was a problem for another day. Considering everything going on in his life, this was the first time he couldn’t give a crap about his weight. He squinted at the sign hanging above the squat building. It read GUELPH POLICE DEPARTMENT. To Taylor, it looked like a bunker in an old World War II movie, one with John Wayne leading the charge against the villainous Nazis. It wouldn’t seem out of place to see a platoon of soldiers walk out of the front door with rifles slung on their shoulders and their feet stomping in perfect marching cadence. He was so tired. He couldn’t remember being this tired ever in his life. He wiped a hand across his mouth and tasted more blood. He must look a sight. He could feel the blood all over his body, sticky and hardening on his skin and in his hair. He knew the police were looking for him. They had been since the first body had been found. He had been seen on video running from the scene. The police had released the surveillance video to the news stations and they flooded the TV with the images. They cut frames out of the reel and although not the Ultra HD 4K everyone is used to seeing, the pictures were recognizable. Good enough for someone who knew him well to identify him. Not too many people did know him well. Taylor never had many friends. After this, it wasn’t likely he ever would. Still, Taylor thought he had won in the end. He had beaten it. He made it past the timeline. He couldn’t feel it behind him, gaining ground on him anymore. It had left some bodies behind though. It sure had and the police thought Taylor had killed those people. Since he had been present for all them they had every reason to believe that. His lips trembled and his eyes misted. He hadn’t done it. He’d seen it. Right up close. Got their blood all over him, didn’t he? When it twisted that poor man’s head around, so his face was in the middle of his back…Taylor shivered. A police car cruised by and Taylor stopped breathing as it passed him. Then he remembered he was going to them for help, so what was he worried about? He wasn’t worried. Terrified was a better word. Because the story he had to tell, who would believe it? He didn’t believe it half the time. Oh, but when it slid out of the dark, gurgling its gravel voice, promising to eat him,
| JOHN HUNT | starting at his feet, telling him to run fat boy, run, then he believed it. He believed it like he believed in gravity. It just was. And boy did he run. It was over and time for him to stop. He didn’t want to run anymore. He didn’t want to be afraid anymore. He could run from the police but they would find him. For something like this they would never stop looking for him. And then where would he be? He would be right where he was now, just more tired. Taylor moved toward the sign, hoping to hell someone would believe him and knowing in his heart no one would.
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Issue 33 | April 2019 |
feature author Some would call me a little naughty but I see myself as a writer of spicy thoughts. Being an erotic romance writer is something that I never imagined I would be doing. There is nothing more rewarding than to put your thoughts down and share them. I began writing three years ago and have enjoyed every minute of it. When I first began writing, I really wasn’t sure what I was going to write. It didn’t take me long to realize that romance would be my niche. I believe that every life deserves a little bit of romance, a little spice doesn’t hurt either. When I am not writing, I enjoy the company of good friends and relaxing with a delicious glass of red wine. I am also an award winning author and recipient of the National Indie Excellence Award.
Welcome A. L. Long Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your books and series you have out? What are you working on now? My books are of the spicy kind. I began with the Shattered Innocence Trilogy and followed that by the Jagged Edge Series, which is actually a spin-off of the Trilogy. I have written 15 books in all. Currently I am working on another series which I hope book one will be out in April 2019. Uncaged: You will be an attending author at Wild Deadwood Reads this year. What are you looking forward to the most from the convention? This will be the first time that I have attended this event. Mostly I am looking forward to meeting new readers and new authors. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I would love to sit and have lunch with Meredith Wild. She is an amazing writer and I have always loved her work.
Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I’m a giver and I love doing giveaways. It is the best
32 | UncagedBooks.com
Enjoy an excerpt from Saving Hanna Saving Hanna A.L. Long Romantic Suspense
way to increase your reader list and get to know them. I really haven’t had any unsuccessful marketing. Any type of response is good. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? Not sure how unusual this is, but a reader asked me once if she could have the phone numbers to the men of Jagged Edge. I was pretty sure she was joking. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I love traveling. One of my most favorite places is St. Maarten. I have visited it many times and always look forward to going back, at least when I can. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I was born during baby week. Back then it was a big deal. I guess my parents got a lot a free stuff. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? There really no words that can express the appreciation that I have for all of their support. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. It is because of them that I continue to write.
For as long as Hanna can remember she always did everything she could to keep her brother Carter out of trouble. She soon finds out that not even your own family can be trusted and blood isn’t thicker than water. Losing the only home, she knew to her brother’s greed, Hanna does everything she can to make a new life for herself and get back the life she once knew. Hanna never thought Aiden Drake would be the one person who could give back what was taken from her. All it would take is one night, only that one night never comes when revenge comes knocking and the one man to save her is also the one man with more greed than her brother. Excerpt My name is Hanna Marsh, and this is where my story begins. I am twenty-five years old, born in the country, where the only thing I ever knew was being a farmer’s daughter. Life wasn’t so bad. It was simple. All I had to worry about was making sure I fed the pigs and chickens and collected the eggs that Maggie, our one and only hen, laid. More than that, I was the oldest and given the responsibility of keeping my younger brother, Carter, out of trouble. I think my father figured it was a good way to keep Carter out of his hair since he was no more interested in farming than I was in wearing the dresses that Ma had sewn for me, which I wore every Sunday when we attended church. Not that they weren’t pretty, but I liked wearing my worn jeans and my faded tshirts instead. Ma said, “Hanna, you need to look like a girl instead of like your brother.” It was the only Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | thing I could remember about her before she died. I was only fourteen, but I would never forget what seemed to be a dying wish. My father passed shortly after my Ma. Some said his heart was broken and loneliness set in. My Ma was his world. I guess he didn’t want to live without her and taking his life was his way of being with her. I wish he had thought it through because he left behind me and Carter. The farm was all I had left to remind me of my father. To this day, I am still feeding the chickens and the pigs and collecting eggs from Maggie. At least, I was until two days ago. I should have known something was up with Carter when I hadn’t heard from him in a while. He never liked the country life, and I accepted that he wanted to move to the city to make something of himself. Little did I know that it would cost me everything I loved. I never imagined I would lose the farm to pay for his dream. The day I lost the farm was the day I lost my brother. I would never forgive him for taking away the last bit of happiness I ever knew. ~****~ “Hanna, table three needs water. Would you mind cleaning table seven after you are finished with the water?” Dotty’s voice rang from across the small café. It had been exactly one year and two days since I lost the farm. I would never forget the day I handed the keys to the house to the banker that took possession as payment for my brother’s debt. I wish I could have bought my brother out so I could take him off the deed. To this day, I still didn’t know how Carter had the know-how to put the farm up as collateral to get a loan he had no intention of ever paying back. I put away every penny I’d earned working at the café, hoping one day to buy back the farm, or at least buy a chunk of land somewhere in the country where I could build a new one. Living in the country was a way of life for me. The overcrowded city of Houston, Texas, was the last place I wanted to settle down. There was only one thing good about Houston, and that was my chances of running into Carter were next to impossible. Heading over to table three, I heard the bell above the door ring as another customer to Dotty’s Diner entered the small diner. The customers were always the same: elderly and in need of a good home-cooked meal. Most of them were long-time 34 | UncagedBooks.com
customers of Dotty’s who had been coming in since she opened the café some thirty years ago. It was much smaller than, according to Dotty, until she took out a loan against the diner to buy the shop next door. She wanted to expand even more, but could never get the owner on the other side to agree to sell his shop. Every day she looked out the door and watched him enter his shop. She always said, “If that old coot would just kick the bucket, then I could buy his store too.” She hated the people his store attracted as he was a pawn dealer. And he wasn’t willing to sell her his shop, at least not while he was still alive and able to run it. It didn’t matter that he was older than dirt and on his last leg. He knew how much Dotty hated his clientele and he did everything he could do to take advantage of that fact. Once, he even displayed some of his pawned items on the sidewalk outside his shop just to draw in the customers, knowing how angry Dotty would get. Gathering the last of the dishes from table seven, I quickly wiped it clean, making it ready for the next customer. Hearing the bell ring once again above the door, I looked up with a smile to greet the customer. My smile changed into that of bewilderment when a tall gentleman wearing an expensive suit entered the diner. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him as he took a seat at the counter. As confident as he appeared to be, there was no way he belonged here. The diner sported the laid-back kind of people, and this man seemed far from laid back. Picking up the gray tub filled with dirty dishes, I headed over to where the man sat to get a better look at him. His masculine features did him justice. He was beyond handsome. The minute he looked my way and our eyes met, I knew I had been caught staring at him. My face must have turned ten different shades of red from embarrassment. I wasn’t the type to stare at strangers, but this man was picture-perfect and my eyes were glued to him, and that was putting it mildly. Turning away from him to hide my embarrassment, I pushed open the swinging door to the kitchen to make my escape. One thing I didn’t count on was Byron coming from the other side to meet me. Being embarrassed twice in one day was the last thing I wanted, but the tub I was carrying flew in the air above me. Trying to catch it before it hit the floor, I ended up losing my balance, sending me on the way down. I could only pray that when I hit the floor, I wouldn’t end up
| A.L. LONG | really hurting myself. Closing my eyes, I waited for the inevitable to happen, only it never came. Knowing Byron was in front of me, I did not expect someone to grab me from behind to keep my body upright so I would avoid a hard crash to the floor. His voice was deep. “Miss, are you okay?” Readjusting the dress that looked like it had come from the 1960s, I turned to the voice to find it was the handsome gentleman that had my mind spinning. Tongue-tied, I smiled gratefully and said, “Thank you,” in a shy, shallow voice. What I really wanted to say was, “Where did you come from?” Our eyes were connected for much longer than we both had expected, tipping on the edge of awkwardness before the man responded, “You’re quite welcome. It would sadden me if as pretty a girl as yourself would have injured herself.” I could feel my cheeks redden in reaction to his comment. No one had ever regarded me as pretty. Sending the man one last smile, I bent down and helped Byron clean up the mess I had made. Thankfully, the man returned to his seat, giving me the room I needed to compose myself. Looking over to Byron, he didn’t seem at all happy with what had just taken place. Come to think about it, he never seemed happy about anything. He was definitely a different breed of man. More gothic than anything with his dark black hair, which I was positive he colored to match his painted black fingernails. It was no wonder that Dotty kept him in the kitchen. Removing his nail polish and the many piercings he had on his face wasn’t an option for him, but for Dotty it was the only way she would consider moving him out of his current position of dishwasher. Handing the tub to Byron, I headed back to the dining area to welcome any customers that might have entered during my absence. Glancing quickly over to the counter, the handsome gentleman had his attention drawn to the menu. Seeing that no one had entered the diner, I headed his way to take his order. Pulling the small notepad from my apron, I flipped it open to a clean sheet. Before I reached the counter, I grabbed a full water pitcher sitting near the waitress station. By the time I had reached to counter, he must have already made his choice as the menu was now lying flat against the counter. With a welcoming smile, I stood opposite of him and asked timidly, “Are you ready to order?” while taking
a clean glass from under the counter and filling it with water. When he looked up at me, I couldn’t help but notice his eyes. I couldn’t tell if they were blue or green, but they were warm and inviting, which had no problem drawing me in. Catching myself once again on the verge of an embarrassing situation, I cleared my throat and said, “What will it be then?” With a smile that was more like a mischievous grin, he replied, “What do you recommend, Hanna?” Smiling up at him, knowing his reference to my name was because it was embroidered on my pink dress, I opened the menu and pointed to the County Skillet with a side of dollar pancakes and two slices of bacon and nervously replied, “It’s the best.”
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Issue 33 | April 2019 |
feature author Anna Hague spends part of her days in the writing cave creating her own spin on love stories. The other part of her days, she is a freelance sports reporter crafting stories about a variety of athletic events including high school, college, and professional level
sports. She’s had the fiction bug her whole life, but three years ago decided, “It’s now or never.” In November of 2016, her contemporary novel Captured Hearts debuted. Anna reads all sorts of love stories, and she writes the same way. She recently published the first book of an erotic romance series with Wild Rose Press. Her motto: Creating different paths to love because different is the only way I know. She is a member of the RWA and the Indiana RWA. Anna lives in Central Indiana with her husband, three parrots, and two dogs.
annahague.com 36 | UncagedBooks.com
Uncaged welcomes Anna Hague Uncaged: How did you make the transition from sports writing for newspapers to romance novels? Can you tell us what you are working on now? I’m still a sports writer, which can make switching back and forth strange and a little difficult. The styles are very different and even the punctuation as well, but I love it and am not ready to completely give it up. Right now, I’m going over the final line edits for Sabrina’s Seduction which is Book 2 in the trilogy, going through second round edits for Book 3, Jordan’s Trials, waiting on my editor to return Stolen Hearts, book three in the Heart series and trying to finish Risk, Reward, or Ruin, which is a romantic suspense book I want to have out in the fall. Uncaged: You will be an attending author at Wild Deadwood Reads this year. What are you looking forward to the most from the convention? Several things. I love meeting readers face to face and getting to know them. I love meeting new authors to me because I am a reader, and I want the same great books everyone else does. Also, my husband and I are making this a vacation because we’ve always wanted to visit Deadwood. We are both history buffs. AND, the other big thing is my husband and I are having a western style vow renewal ceremony at
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
the convention hotel. I have some author friends attending and will be some readers through my Facebook takeovers. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I’ve meet Kat Martin when we both lived in California. She gave me a lot of inspiration, and I was always a big fan of hers. I’d like to take her to lunch or dinner sometime and thank her. I’m also a big fan of Carl Hiaasen. His characters are so real and so hysterically funny sometimes. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? My best marketing is going to author signings. Then readers know to watch for another book. I do pretty decent with Amazon ads, but Twitter has not been the best outlet for me.
My husband and I love sports of all types but especially IndyCar racing. We go to a lot of events and concerts too. I like the open venues in the summer when we can take the dogs. My favorite place I’ve visited is Portugal. My husband had a business trip there, and I tagged along. Portugal was one of the most beautiful trips ever. The people, the landscape, the food were amazing. This is a country I could live in easily. I loved every minute and hope to return someday. My husband tells me I need to set one of my books there, and I think I will. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I’m a journalist which means I have to talk to people all of the time. However, I have a bit of a phone phobia and practically freeze when I have to do an interview on the phone with someone I’ve not met before. I’m fine as long as they call me, but if I have to call them, it’s terror. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I really love when fans tell me they’ve liked my books. The stories are fiction, but they really are a part of your soul and hearing you made someone happy with your story gives me pure joy.
Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? My older sister read Angel’s Collar and loved it, but she told me she kept having to say to herself, “This is not my sister. This is not my sister.” I thought it was hilarious. Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Enjoy an excerpt from Angel’s Collar Angel’s Collar Anna Hague Contemporary Fiction/ BDSM/Erotic I have it all...until he shows me more. I didn’t intentionally spill wine all over the most beautiful guy in the room, and one look at those icyblue eyes brings on a major lapse in coherent speech. Jordan Caldera tells me his secret and wants me to join him. This is where my journey into submission begins. So much about BDSM freaks me out, but at the same time, I can’t help but be intrigued. When I imagine Jordan doing those things to me, I can’t resist the adventure. Mind-blowing sex aside, my life is changing at an alarming rate and getting very complicated. Between balancing my career and my best friend’s concerns, the secrets I’m keeping are killing me. What am I willing to risk for the new lifestyle I’ve embraced...and the man I love? Excerpt : Jordan did call three days later. Three days of an agonizing wait. Sure, I could have called him. I’m an adult woman with a career, but I wanted him to want me. When we talked, he asked to meet for lunch. I thought that was a great idea. I had just an hour for lunch, and if lunch turned into a disaster, and I could survive a short disaster. Then I could lament for years about the hot guy who wasn’t so hot. 38 | UncagedBooks.com
To my dread, things were far from horrible, and I had to leave to go back to work, but just before we left the deli, he asked if we could go to dinner on Friday evening. The sensible side of me wanted to play hard to get, but the hot for him side, swung a bat at the sensible side and we agreed to meet at Ernie’s Steak House for dinner. At least the sensible side wasn’t quite ready to get into a car with him. She wanted to know him a little better first. Although, if the opportunity presented itself, I might be coaxed into bed with this god of my fantasy. When I arrived at Ernie’s, Jordan was waiting in the lobby, and I had to shut my eyes briefly. You know that moment when you think something just couldn’t possibly get any better? Well there he stood revealing an even hotter version of what I considered perfection when we met at the fundraiser. Was a breeze actually ruffling his hair? Or were my fantasies happening in real time? Wearing dark jeans, white dress shirt and black leather jacket. I said a silent Dayyammn. Good thing he had no face stubble because that scene would have been too much for me to bear. Even now, he appeared as if he just came from a photo shoot for Men Who Make you Go Weak in the Knees, Indianapolis version. My gaze aimed to his white shirt. “You like living dangerously, don’t you?” “If you only knew,” he replied with a smile and raised eyebrows. “There will be a table between us so I feel relatively safe… at least for now.” Why did that statement give me chills? Stop it. But my command went unheeded by the butterflies rocketing around in my stomach. His semblance of cool unnerved me, and his air of confidence made me feel like a virgin on an offering pyre. Once we sat down and ordered drinks, I chose white wine this time, and my nerves calmed. He laughed with little effort, told stupid jokes and was interested in what I had to say. He asked about my job and if I liked what I did. My job, not so much. Him definitely yes. “So how long have you worked at Millennial Publishing?”
| ANNA HAGUE | The server set two cups of St. Elmo’s special navy bean soup in front of us. “Um, about three years. I taught high school English for two years before I went to work there.” “You were a teacher?” He spooned a mouthful of soup. “I bet all the kids wanted in your class. Cool, young, hot teacher. Why’d you quit?” Hot. He just said I was hot. “I didn’t mind the kids. The parents, though, ugh.” I shook my head at the nightmarish reminder anyone is allowed to be a parent. “Parents drove me nuts. Either they didn’t care or their only concern was how an A minus would affect their son or daughter’s entry into the most prestigious universities in the country. Because naturally their kid was the brightest one ever born on earth or any other planet with a modicum of life.” I tore a piece of bread and dipped it into the soup. Not the thing to do in public, but too late now. Jordan’s gaze followed my hand dipping bread in the soup. Shit. Bad choice. He dipped his, and I released the breath I didn’t realize I was holding. “So what don’t you like about your job now?” “I guess maybe I’m bored. I don’t know. I’m reading the same things over and over. They just have a different title. I need something new and different in my life.” “So find something new and different.”
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Issue 33 | April 2019 |
Short story Just Some Time Away
| SHORT STORY |
Just Some Time Away Part 2
© Copyright 2018 Myrtle Brooks At the end of February, on her day off, she took the kids to Vegas in her 1995 Chevy Impala on a sunny, 60-degree day’s outing. They toured the Venetian, Paris and Bellagio; after which she brought them to the casino hotels of old: the Tropicana, Flamingo and Circus. Brian and Mary Beth chased through halls and across lobbies, giggling, Danny straining to keep pace, as the sides of Terry’s mouth pushed upwards. They went for a late lunch afterward in a good-sized eatery along the Strip. Danny ordered chicken tenders and fries, Mary Beth fried chicken and biscuits, Brian hotdogs, beans and potato salad, Terry a burger, rare, with coleslaw. When the waitress left the table, Terry found the ladies’ room along a back corridor. A few moments later, she came out into the dining area to meet the fire blazing in the large stone hearth opposite her. “A moth to the flame,” she mumbled as she drew herself closer to make out the wrought iron stand to the right. The bellows… the brush, shovel… tongs… She heard the pickup turn into the driveway from upstairs as she crammed Trudy into the pink floral suitcase - Mary Beth’s favorite doll - and yanked the zipper closed. Giving out short gasps, she surveyed the necessities yet to be packed, strewn about the master bedroom. She flew downstairs, seized the poker from the fireplace stand and lay in wait behind the door. Last chance. And the bastard’s here to ruin it, too. Here to… kill… my last chance… Pointed at the end with a projecting side hook, the poker tore into his head, neck and left temple a fourth and fifth time. She made a dash for the washroom off the kitchen and pumped the liquid soap with a fury until it covered the poker tip; watching the soap run into the drain in red ribbons until the hot water turned it sudsy pink. Then she dried the poker with a hand towel and replaced it in the utensil stand beside the bellows, brush, shovel… tongs… No. You must be insane. Retrieving it, concealing it with garden gloves and spade in a trash bag, she carried it to the Fairlane 42 | UncagedBooks.com
with the luggage. Five minutes from the house was a foggy stretch of wooded oaks and maples. She pulled the Fairlane to the edge and walked until the road was no longer visible. The spade cut through the earth, and she cast the poker inside, heaped the soil, twigs and dampened leaves on top and smoothed the surface. As the waitress brought out Danny and Mary Beth’s orders, Terry slipped to the floor . The kids huddled on a waiting room seat at the Sunrise Hospital Emergency Room, Brian and Danny wailing, Mary Beth’s arms wrapped around both, herself crying. A nurse poured them cups of apple juice, handed out lollipops and patted their shoulders. “Don’t worry, your Mom’s going to be fine. She got dizzy, that’s all. She’ll be out to see you soon.” An hour later, the doctor, who ascribed her condition to fatigue and stress, sent her home with a mild sedative to take before bed. “Sorry I ruined it for you again,” Terry eyed the kids helplessly. “I’m… so, so sorry.” “That’s okay, Mommy.” Danny held her hand. “We know you tried.” “We’ll come back another day, right, Mommy?” Mary Beth confirmed. “Of… course we will, darling.” On Wednesday mid-morning, a week-and-a-half later, Terry worked the sixth floor with Flossie, a middle-aged blonde divorcee from Georgia who liked men and didn’t hesitate to admit it. When they were changing the linens on a king size bed, two men in their forties sauntered past the open doorway, looking in once, then going their way. “Your type?” Terry quipped in a low voice. Flossie wrinkled her nose. “Maybe the muscular one with the short beard and buzz cut. Mr. Frosty-Tips looks too pretty-boy for me,” she whispered. Terry giggled. “Why did I know you’d say that?” “Which one you like best?” Terry trotted to the doorway to check out the men, who had paused several yards away, caught up in conversation. “Okay,” the beard responded to the frosted tips. “Don’t you find it the least bit intriguing she skipped with three kids and never returned?” She froze a moment; then withdrew herself from the door as she heard the other man answer: “Annie was always a strange bird. As soon as the court awarded her sole custody… I mean, it wasn’t like her ex was threatening her or anything. He was never around. Basically, he left first.”
| MYRTLE BROOKS | “Took you that long to decide, huh?” Flossie was plumping the pillows. “I… yeah… guess it did.” Terry laughed it off. Her shift ended at 2, and she sought refuge upstairs, in her room with the door bolted, where she pulled off shoes and uniform and stepped into the shower. She allowed the water jets to pummel her shoulders longer than usual as she reflected on the pros and cons of resettling the kids in Illinois and going to the police. In April, the day before Holy Thursday, she and the kids returned to tour the Mandalay Bay, Excalibur and MGM hotels and several other points of interest along the Vegas Strip, before ducking into a Chinese buffet with no fireplace. Terry parked in a lot opposite the recently opened City Center, and they bought t-shirts and coffee mugs in a souvenir shop, and then crossed over at the light. Ahead of them stood the ultra-modern Aria Hotel, where they rode the Tram first above the entrance and walkway whose overhang comprised sharp, protruding spikes that blended with those of the giant aloe. Before their return, the kids delighted in peering through the windows of Louis Vuitton, Tiffany and Cartier along the circuit of hotels and luxury Shops at Crystals. The Aria’s abstract interior design prompted Brian to exclaim: “Mommy, this place is cool.” “Way cool,” Danny echoed, and they raced to the registration counter and back, while Mary Beth stared at the series of asymmetrical filigreed rectangles covering the lights on a lowhanging stretch of ceiling. “Totally cool,” Terry murmured. “C’mon, let’s start on the side with the casino.” “Can we go upstairs, too?” Danny pointed. “Sure.” They passed a corner coffee shop to the left to meet the gigantic metal sculptures of playing cards announcing the poker room, across the corridor from an expanse of slot machines. Several long, red poker tables were in use, the players sitting in matching striped chairs, immersed in their hands. The kids assessed the texture of the sculptures while boasting of royal flushes and jokers with four aces. Then Danny beelined toward the tables. “No way, Mister,” Terry grabbed his arm. “You can’t never, ever interrupt people when they play poker. If they lose, you’ll be the one they blame.” When they had passed the room and were approaching the Skybox Sports Bar and Grill,
Kevin Harker emerged from behind his cards. He rose, expressing “an overwhelming need to use the restroom.” At a distance, he watched Terry and the kids mount the escalator, then followed them upstairs. Upstairs, they wove to and fro between the three swimming pools and spa; after which they peeked through the doors of the Elvis Theater and windowshopped at the souvenir store. As the kids scampered around the circular skylights built into the floor, and Terry stood staring into the arcade, Kevin approached wearing a black bandana. “Terry.” A series of involuntary spasmodic movements quivered through her. “Please, Terry. Don’t leave.” His tone reflected an astonishing level of compassion. “You have my word, Irene and the children will know nothing: they’re upstairs.” Terry stayed silent, teeth clenched lest her mouth tremble too. Kevin motioned towards the opposite corridor, and she followed when she knew the kids weren’t looking. “You’ve walked a hard path a while now, haven’t you? You, Mary Beth, Brian, Danny… therefore, you understand, don’t you, that this will haunt you the rest of your life? “Irene and me, we love the children and promise to look after them… as long as it takes…” Terry’s eyes watered, and she gave several short heaves and fell into his waiting arms. “Oh God, Kevin. I… can’t remember any of it. I swear to God.” He rubbed her shoulders, then reached for her forearms, his grip increasing in intensity, as his eyes, inches from hers, turned from gentle to cold. “Mike was my best friend.” His voice remained soft. “Blood brothers. Methinks it a poor excuse, blowing him off the way you did, saying you ‘can’t remember.’ Easy way out.” “I’m… not lying, Kevin. I’ve tried. Again and again.” “Terry, I truly don’t believe you’re lying on a conscious level. But Mike’s dead. Murdered. While you conveniently park yourself in the lane of denial. If I weren’t a God-fearing man, I’d kill you myself.” Terry struggled to free herself and felt the imprint of his thumbs as they probed deeper in search of the raw nerve. “Unless you turn yourself in.” “I… need a few days to… think it through. I can’t, not right now.” “You have three.” He released her. “Don’t suppose you can head the opposite way. I have a wealth of pictures of you and the children in the computer and friends all over the country on and off Facebook. All I have to do is make the call.” He departed, his back turned. Issue 33 | April 2019 | 43
| SHORT STORY | As Terry hastened to collect up the kids, she caught sight of the skylights themselves beyond the guardrails. Resembling white glass bowls with their bottoms sawed out, replaced by transparent plugs in concentric circles, they sported jagged wooden supports appearing as blades ready to whir and cut, clockwise-counter-clockwise. She grabbed the kids by their hands. “It’s getting late. Let’s go.” They descended the rear escalator; what was asymmetrical before, now surreal, the designs disjointed and incoherent. To the right, the huge slanted window loomed over Mary Beth, Brian, Danny… buckling, closing in, readying at any moment to shatter around them. Downstairs, past the labyrinth of twisting corridors, the reception desk met them face-to-face, with its signs bearing the employees’ names set with finality in metallic crosses with flower holders at their base. “Brian… Danny, Mary Beth…” When they were outside, Terry looked back. Back to the kirin statues standing guard on either side of the entrance doors, armored and fierce with pointed, jagged manes and extended claws. Back to the entrance and walkway, to the overhang of sharp, protruding spikes like fireplace pokers aimed in every direction, outmatched not even by the aloe. The walk to the parking lot across Las Vegas Boulevard was interminable, no matter her pace, the questions from the kids the same. “Mommy, why do you look so afraid?” “Mommy, are you running away again?” “Mommy, can we stop for ice cream?” “When… we get home.” She checked the rearview mirrors and the passing vehicles for as many times as was safe while driving along I-15 south to Henderson. Three days later, after the nightfall which came less early in April, they checked into a motel off Interstate 80 shortly before Iowa City, Iowa, 220 miles from Elwood, Illinois, where Terry reflected on her choices. The kids were all too quiet: her Mary Beth, her Brian, her Danny. Unlike the night they had returned from Vegas, and Terry packed their possessions into suitcases covered with heavy duty trash bags and stole them to the Impala; the night they cried, one after the other. Did you mess up again? Mary Beth wailed. I have a life, now. A good school. Friends… who I’ll never see again: I can’t even call them. Is someone after us, Mommy? Brian wept into his Teddy. I told you the monsters are real. Danny stood forlorn 44 | UncagedBooks.com
holding a crumpled tissue. Nobody believed me. It’s… the last time. I promise you, I will never run away again. They will hate me. Terry’s thoughts were near-audible in the shower, after she had tucked them in bed. They will when I turn myself in… But they have the rest of their lives; I have to face it for their sake… Donning pajamas and robe, she opened the internet to the Times Weekly, questioning the sense behind it. A few moments later, she drew a sharp breath and set down hard her glass of coke, spilling it on the desk and floor. That early morning, the police had picked up a man one town over from Elwood for attempted robbery of a grocery store; then charged him with the murder of Mike Longdon. His accomplice, Steve Darrow (no photo), who resided in Elwood, was at large. The accused killer, Kevin Harker, had a record of two prior arrests, the last ten years ago for heroin possession. Realization soon overtook her initial shock, that it was too dangerous for the kids to return either to Elwood or Henderson. And the money was running out for hotels and gas. She drove as far as Iowa City the next day where she took a furnished room and an overnight waitressing job at a seedy 24-hour diner. Drunken men made passes at her, 2:30 in the mornings, when they entered the place after the bars closed, and “Shorty,” the short order cook, was not apt to become involved, though cordial. Afraid, she looked for alternate employment. She told Mary Beth, Brian and Danny it was a temporary layover to save money to go home. Eleven days later, the police apprehended Steve Darrow for dealing heroin in Salt Lake City, as he had cross-country. They acted on a tip from Kevin, who agreed to confess for a lighter sentence. Mike always said he trusted him, Terry recalled as she read Kevin’s words line-by-line. He said they were buddies. Kevin was always over the house when Mike was home. Steve Darrow, Terry recognized as someone she had met once, maybe twice, as “a friend of Kevin”: softspoken, polite, eyes that didn’t meet your glance. “Steve propositioned Mike to make a couple extra stops on his truck runs,” Kevin related. “After he said no a few times, Mike said: ‘Okay. But just this once.’ Was thinking of moving out, getting his own place. Trouble with the wife. Could use the money to start off with. “Mike stuck with ‘No’ the second time. But Steve, he didn’t accept ‘No.’ He sent me on a hit. I told him Mike’s my buddy, but he threatened to do to me what he told me to do to Mike.
“Mike called around midnight, three days after he got home and was getting ready to leave out on another run. Told me Terry stormed out in a drunken rage. Said he messed up bad. Admitted he was cheating on her, and she came home early and caught them in bed. Terry took the fireplace poker and smashed up the porch lights and threatened to use the poker on him after he locked the bedroom door. Told him he’d have to come out to use the bathroom sooner or later. Then she walked out. “I said: ‘You damn fool, of course she walked out. I’ll be over in the morning to talk, after you drop the children off to school and before you leave for LITCO.’ “It all fit together… I go inside the house, act like Mike and I are talking, real casual. Had a Glock semi-automatic in my hip pocket, but I never used it. Instead, I see the fireplace poker lying on the floor near the living room wall: knew they’d implicate the wife first. Turns out she skipped town with the children. I tell Mike: ‘Take me upstairs and show me where it happened.’ Come up behind him, bash him in the head unconscious, hit him in the temple after that. “Hid the poker in the backwoods… even I don’t remember where I buried it…” Terry’s outlook took a steeper decline as she contemplated her choices. She could go back to Illinois and turn herself in for skipping with the kids and face the likelihood of being a suspect for complicity in Mike’s murder. There was little if any chance of a clean break in Henderson. Too many ghosts. Can’t go back in life. I’ve got no reason to live in Elwood, either… no one… Irene and her kids? Mike’s brother, Corey? Jeannie Stiles? She had zero faith in me. I doubt she’d admit she was wrong enough to make amends. And even then… Look up my parents? They’d… probably say I did it. Or I caused it. Or their no good daughter brought shame to them. It would just be the police station… Might as well stay put, get a better job and an apartment. If the cops come looking, I’ll do the right thing. Better I be thrown to the lions than keep throwing Mary Beth, Brian and Danny to them. Terry kept the furnished room for two weeks more. Then, one afternoon, she scooped up Mary Beth, Brian and Danny, hugged them, cried and said: “C’mon. We’re going home.”
| MYRTLE BROOKS | door; the day the Times Weekly printed a second, smaller article on Steven Darrow’s arrest. Complete with Terry’s picture. Complete with someone’s eyewitness account of Terry having breakfast with her three children in a coffee shop in Aspen, Colorado. “Still Out There,” the headlines raked. “Because of you, a widowed Mom and three kids are still in hiding,” Maureen rebuked Brenda. “If you’re that much worried about yourself, I guess you were a one-night stand after all.” Another recurring dream visited Brenda, more vivid than those preceding it. Terry was chasing her with a bloodied fireplace poker which transformed into a mirror reflecting Brenda holding a bloodier version. She came out of work one mid-afternoon, left her car at LITCO Trucking and walked two blocks to the police station. Shaking afterwards, sobbing, she got behind the wheel, gained composure and drove into Joliet. “I… have a story…” she told a city reporter at the Times Weekly. “Terry didn’t have a clue about Mike and me until that night. She wouldn’t have had time or motive to plan his murder. The only fights she and Mike got into were her drinking. He told me she never tried to swing at him, that her fits of rage were self-destructive. Said he hated to see her hurting herself. Needed an outlet. “I was in love with Mike, wanted to fill his need. But I knew there were things with Mike I couldn’t reach.” John, from Reno, had mentioned over the phone when Terry looked him up, that Arleen, the hotel’s General Manager, shook her head when she read the news. “Honey, anyone else would’ve bolted outta here, same way she did.” “Oh, and by the way, they’ll be looking for a new barkeep,” John continued. “I’m retiring. End of next month.”
The End © Copyright 2018 Myrtle Brooks Published with permission.
Brenda Culvert had appeared withdrawn of late. It was after Maureen, the company secretary, took her into a vacant office during lunch hour and closed the Issue 33 | April 2019 |
war fiction | christian historical | contemporary
feature author John H Brown is the author of ‘Augie’s War’. Mr. Brown served a year in Vietnam (1969–70) as an Army enlisted man with the Americal Division. After he retired from a career in public relations, he began writing Augie’s War. The novel is an outrageously funny, but deadly serious story of war, family and coming of age. The protagonist, Augie Cumpton, must find a way to survive his deployment to Vietnam. So he escapes the horror and insanity of war by retreating to his safe haven; a cerebral sanctuary where he can reflect on family and friends, humorous incidents, and a coterie of unforgettable characters from back home. Acclaimed author of ‘Rocket Boys’, Homer Hickam, had this to say about Augie’s War. “One of the most powerful novels I’ve yet read on the Vietnam War. As a veteran of that awful conflict, I was absolutely riveted by the tale of Augie and his buddies, and every word rang true.” Mr. Brown is also a newspaper wine and food columnist who writes for the Charleston (WV) Gazette-Mail and for The State Journal, a statewide business publication. He is a graduate of West Virginia University and lives in Charleston, West Virginia.
Please welcome John H. Brown Uncaged: Your book, Augie’s War was something you had been wanting to write for a long time, and after you retired, you finally were able to. Can you tell readers more about the book? What do you hope readers will take away from reading Augie’s War? The novel is a story of one man’s experience in a war zone and the unique way he copes with the daily physical and emotional trauma of the Vietnam conflict. The book also explores the healing power of family to recharge the human spirit when wartime experiences threaten to darken the very soul of the protagonist. In the story, Augie Cumpton leans on, and flashes back to, childhood memories of his large and boisterous ItalianAmerican family, the bakery where he worked and the humorous, sometimes outrageous, but always memorable characters of his youth. Those who read Augie’s War should have a better understanding of the random and brutal nature of the Vietnam War, and the toll it took on the more than one million men and women who served. I also hope readers will be inspired by the resiliency of soldiers to survive the experience by leaning on one another to help achieve their single- minded goal of making it back home to family and friends. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you are working on now? I’m currently working on a sequel to Augie’s War. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you
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the mountains of West Virginia at a place called Canaan Valley. I would rather spend time there than just about anywhere else on the planet. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I’ve been a wine and food columnist for nearly forty years and I’m a home wine maker. love to sit and have lunch with and why?
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
I would love to have met and spoken with Joseph Heller who wrote “Catch-22.” That World War II book inspired me to keep writing my novel. Heller took about 10 years to complete his book while it took me almost 50 years to get mine finished. I would also have liked to sit and sip a glass of wine with Ernest Hemingway. I admire the way he was able to tell a story with great impact using an economy of words.
I really appreciate the folks who have read and commented on my novel, particularly those who have taken the time to give me feedback or write a review. Folks who wish can follow me on FaceBook, Twitter and on my website at: www. augieswar.com
Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I suppose the most effective marketing effort involved the pre-publicity for my novel. I was fortunate to have acclaimed author Homer Hickam read the manuscript and offer a great cover blurb. I’m still hoping to get a broader readership for the novel, and I suppose that’s what I’ve been struggling with most from a marketing perspective.
Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? A reviewer of Augie’s War described the book as “a grim, but awfully funny war novel.”
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I like to cook and enjoy my family – particularly my grand children -when I’m not writing. I have a home in Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Enjoy an excerpt from Augie’s War Augie’s War John H. Brown War Fiction Augie Cumpton has to find a way to survive his deployment to Vietnam so he escapes the horror and insanity of war by retreating to his safe haven; a cerebral sanctuary where he can reflect on family and friends, humorous incidents, and a coterie of unforgettable characters from back home. But now as his tour is about to end and the war intensifies, he faces a legal and moral dilemma when corrupt superiors make criminal demands on him. If he refuses to comply, he might end up dead – a victim of friendly fire. So now it’s up to Augie to survive both the war, and the demands of disreputable officers in order to make it home in one piece. Excerpt Prologue Qui Dong, South Vietnam 15 February 1970 Dear Mom and Dad, If you’re reading this letter, you know that I won’t be coming home. I can’t imagine what it must be like to get that worst of all possible notifications. But as I sit here trying to write this difficult letter, I am filled with love and gratitude, and I hope my words will somehow ease your pain. 50 | UncagedBooks.com
Things have been pretty crazy around here the last several weeks, and I didn’t write because I didn’t want to worry or upset you. But lately things have gotten a lot worse, and I believe there’s a real possibility I won’t make it back. In that event, I have had this letter inserted into my personnel file with instructions that it be sent to you. So this may be the last chance I have to tell you some things I should have told you years ago. First of all, I want you to know that I love you. I don’t know if I’ve ever said that to you out loud before, but this is no time to hold back or be embarrassed to express my true feelings. You gave me opportunities you never had, and I can’t thank you enough for your love and support. So no matter what happens, I want you to know that when things got really bad over here, I always flashed back to special memories of you and our family, and all the good times I had growing up in Riverview. Also, please tell Grandpa, Grandma, and my aunts and uncles— especially Aunt Lia and Uncle Sal— how much they mean to me. And let Uncle Dante and Uncle Giorgio know that memories of those years I spent with them working at the bakery keep me smiling even during the hardest days. I have lost some very good friends over here, and this war has made me understand how precious life really is. That’s why I cherish thoughts of home so much. Those memories have gotten me through the worst of times, and I know that if I don’t make it back, I have had a very good life. With all my love, Augie Guard Duty It had taken the enemy sapper just twenty minutes to cut through the wire and crawl on his stomach over almost 250 meters of open ground, pushing a bando-
| J.H. BROWN | leer of high explosives in front of him with one hand and dragging his AK-47 assault rifle with the other. The man was clothed only in shorts, and the rest of his body was blackened with mud. He was aided in his mission by a very dark and cloudy night with no visible moon. The sapper could now hear the hum of the giant American generator. He silently cursed it and the searchlights it powered, which swept over the kill zone, where he was hoping to avoid detection. Now twenty-five meters from his target, he located the deadly enemy claymore mine just to his left and moved to it. Satisfied that the Americans had not booby-trapped the mine, he gingerly picked it up, turned it around 180 degrees and angled it up toward the bunker directly in front of him. It was time. He had been trained well and now, he thought to himself, he must be courageous and go through with the plan. He would live to tell about the experience, his leaders had assured him, if he followed their instructions. Slowly he stood, directly in front of the enemy bunker, raised his AK 47, and aimed it at Perimeter Three. Riverview If you were fortunate enough to grow up in Riverview, you knew everyone and everyone knew you. We had an interesting cast of characters in our little neck of the woods. The kids in our neighborhood, like most children of the 1950s, spent the majority of daylight hours outside. We played hide-and-seek, kick the can, and many other traditional games, but we were also adept at creating our own games, some of which, looking back on them now, seem a little bit strange. Take Fling Cat, for example. Johnny Trupo was a burly twelve-year-old with jetblack hair that stood straight up in thick clumps. He looked as if he had stuck his finger in a light socket. He was also the creator of Fling Cat. Johnny, who lived down the street from the bakery, had a bizarre
habit of forensically examining previously animate creatures. Johnny was able to do this because he was immune to the physical reactions most kids have to foul-smelling and decaying dead animals. He had no gag reflex. Instead of avoiding the carcass of a dead dog, bird, or snake, Johnny would poke the rotting creatures with a stick or dissect them with a pen knife. He was particularly intrigued by dead cats, especially ones that had been run over repeatedly by a succession of vehicles for an extended period of time, until the felines had been effectively flattened. The first time Johnny found one of these unfortunate creatures, he carried it off to a place in the woods and patiently checked on it over a period of weeks. Once the carcass had become completely desiccated, he proudly presented it to us and announced it was time to play a new game he called “Fling Cat.” Since the now-flattened feline still retained a slight odor, we were all reluctant to participate in the game, until Johnny demonstrated, with a flick of the wrist, the aerodynamic possibilities of Fling Cat. A freakish cross between horseshoes and Bocce, the object of the game, as Johnny explained it, was to fling the cat toward a goal, usually a telephone pole. The person whose fling resulted in the cat being closest to the goal would be declared the winner. I remember my cousin Benito quizzing Johnny about the game the first time he introduced it to us. “Hey Johnny, how many of those cats do you have?” he asked. “Just this one now, but I’ll get some more. Hey, if you find any dead cats, especially ones that got run over, let me know and I’ll make some more of these Flingers.” “What about other dead animals? Does it have to Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | be cats? ”Benito asked. “I don’t think any others would work. Maybe a rabbit or a squirrel, but they gotta be flat.” So that was the beginning of Fling Cat, a game that was popular until Junior Lacosta, another of our Riverview friends, tried his hand at copying Johnny’s formula for creating a Flinger. Unfortunately, he selected a not-quite-flattened and stillripe skunk carcass. As a result, every kid in the vicinity of Fling Skunk that day was subjected to a vinegar bath administered by a bevy of angry mothers. That ripe skunk proved the demise of Fling Cat, one of the more unique games we played in Riverview. Rocket Attack It was at 4:40 a.m. when the whistling whine of 100-pound rockets played their brief warning melody and then began to rain down on us. The rockets exploded in thunderous roars, indiscriminately spewing chunks of hot metal that landed harmlessly in open areas or tore through structures and into sleeping human beings. If you heard the impact, you were safe, at least for the next few seconds, and usually able to scramble outside your hooch into the protective bunkers. Sometimes, guys like me, who had been incountry for months, could sleep through a minor attack, particularly if we had done some heavy drinking or drugging the night before. But the sheer intensity of this bombardment had set off the auxiliary alarm in my mind and had brought me to an immediate, panic- filled consciousness. Rolling out of my cot, I ripped the mosquito netting and in a rush, fueled by pure adrenalin, I stumbled out of the hooch and fell hard, tripping on the wooden steps. I was vaguely aware of men running over and around me. I lay there for a few seconds unable to move. Stunned by the fall, I was now also paralyzed by the sensory overload, as the sights, sounds, and smells of the 52 | UncagedBooks.com
attack overwhelmed me. I drank it all in: the bright white flashes and red flames, the searing heat, the acrid burning stench, and the deafening explosions. Then, suddenly, the paralysis was gone and I was crawling painfully, toward the bunker. With a lurch, I tumbled into the enclosure. My head throbbed and I felt a dull pain in my left wrist, as I tried to lift myself to a crouch. All around me my friends huddled, most in silence, some praying and all cringing with each explosion. We were trying not to think of what a direct hit on our bunker would do to us. I thought this must be the heaviest rocket attack I had yet experienced, and I willed myself not to scream, not to give in to the almost obsessive desire to let it all go, to strip my soul bare and to use my voice to implore the enemy, God, anyone, or anything to make it stop. The blasts seemed to be coming once every few seconds now, and they seemed to be all around our bunker…
feature author Ginny Sterling is an avid romance writer. She enjoys telling tales that tug at the heart. She enjoys reading and creating stories that leave the reader smiling, laughing or crying. She mostly writes Western Romances Books including two new series: Brokken Road Romances and The Lawkeepers. She also writes Contemporary romance, as well as the Timeless Brides Series (Time travel romance) under the pen name, Gina Cole.
Uncaged welcomes Ginny Sterling Uncaged: You write under two pen names, Ginny Sterling and Ginny Cole. Can you tell readers the difference in the writing between the two names? As Ginny Sterling, I write clean, Christian books that are sweet/loving and inspirational. Under the pen name, Gina Cole – I write some of the behind-the-closed-door scenes and time travel romances. I get to dabble in a little bit of everything while keeping it separate as to not confuse readers. Ginny is sweet… Gina is a naughty girl. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next?
Well, it’s probably writing and editing. I am scheduled to release twenty-three books this year under my pen names. I have Spying on the Billionaire releasing on 3/30/19 and it’s a clean, contemporary romance full of intrigue. Wanted: Hired Gun is coming in April and part of the Silverpines Series of books – that was a fun twist and lovely storyline that simply made me smile the entire time! Uncaged: You will be an attending author at Wild Deadwood Reads this year. What are you looking forward to the most from the convention?
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Meeting everyone! I am a people person and my husband jokes that I could talk to anyone. I can’t wait to meet fans (both old and new!) and see some of my own favorite authors in person. I’m thrilled to be surrounded by people that are so talented, like Ginger Ring, Jenna
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
Brandt, George McVey and so on! So if you see a strawberry blond woman working a table let out a massive squeal of delight… that is probably me. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? As a kid, I wasn’t much of a reader until about ten years old and I read my first Harlequin romance. I couldn’t believe that things could fall together so perfectly and that someone out there was destined to love the main character. I think the book was called “Jenny, My Love”. From there I branched out to a variety of books by different authors such as, Jean Auel, Jack McKinney, Christine Feehan, Lynsay Sands… and out of them? I would love to meet Lynsay Sands because she made me realize that love & laughter go hand-in-hand. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful? I am still learning – honestly. I try different marketing strategies and still trying to narrow down what works. I adore Bargain Booksy but also promote heavily myself on different social media platforms and through newsletters.
Travel!. I want to see the world in all its glory. From the cherry blossoms in Japan, the glaciers off the coast of Alaska… to the fjords of Norway. So far, Lake Tahoe and Puerta Vallarta have to be my most beloved spots but I am always searching for the next favorite one! Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? Just about my whole immediate family writes… my sister, my mother, my father – we all have books available. The writing bug has bit us all, just at different stages in our lives. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I truly adore each and every one of you! I read your reviews, comments and messages- taking each one to heart. You motivate me to continue sharing stories, coming up with characters we can relate to, and dreaming of our next romance. I can be found on Facebook, Bookbub, Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest… I am a social media fiend. If you visit my webpage, you can sign up for my newsletter so you are on top of the next upcoming release at www. GinnySterling.com
Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? That my book might have motivated someone to remove themselves from a bad situation, that they drew inspiration from it and thanked me. I’m a normal person who likes to dream – A LOT… so when I hear that I touched someone? It’s truly humbling. Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Enjoy an excerpt from Hopefully Matched Hopefully Matched Ginny Sterling Historical Christian Romance
Married at the brink of the Civil War, young Ava Buchannan dutifully bids farewell to her new husband as any proper southern woman would. The problem is she never dreamed that it would be the last time she ever saw him. In her heart, she knew she should wait for his return, yet her mind told her differently. In the seven years that have passed since her marriage, she’s seen other women move forward with their lives. Yet she is trapped maintaining the family business of undertaker for the town of Maypearl, Texas. Seeing so much death, having no prospects of happiness, and a squeamish constitution were all taking their toll on her… until hope arrived in the form of a letter. Desperate for a fresh start after the war, Jeremiah Ellington responded to an ad in the paper for a job. His home had been razed, his family gone, and he had only the items on his back to begin his life again. When he received a response to the ad for an assistant to the town’s undertaker, it seemed to be a perfect solution for a former surgeon in the army. One look at the lovely undertaker and his dead heart came alive. Jeremiah would do anything to have Ava in his life, including making her forget her long lost husband. Can Ava let down her guard enough to begin to enjoy the life around her? Can Jeremiah find a way to break through the shell that is protecting her heart as they are suddenly hopefully matched together. 56 | UncagedBooks.com
Excerpt February 1868 Maypearl, Texas “Lordy have mercy poo,” Ava Buchannan silently muttered under her breath as the rancid stench wafted up from the body that was delivered to her. If someone had told her that accepting Peter Buchannan’s proposal before the war would have left her as the town’s undertaker, she might have put off the idea of their wedding. It had been no surprise that Peter had proposed. The fact that the handsome, young, rich man had been courting her was completely flattering. It was more devastating to be married and then suddenly abandoned. Her new husband had left a few weeks later to fight in a war for their independence. A war they lost. A war that left her alone for the last seven years. The Buchannan family owned Buchannan Undertaker and Funeral Home. It was ironic. Buchannan meant death in German. Peter was from a long line of undertakers and was expected to take over the family business just as his father had before him. Unfortunately, there had been many passing in their family due to illness and Peter was the only Buchannan left. Their courtship had been exactly what every southern belle dreamed of. Public displays of affection from deep bows as he kissed her gloved hand in public to trinkets delivered to her home that tickled her father to no end. Her father knew if she married Peter that she would be set financially for life. Oh yes… this felt like a life sentence all right, Ava thought. She stared calmly at the disheveled body that had been haphazardly placed on a sturdy wooden table in the back of the funeral home. She could hear the sounds of loss and mourning from the other room. There was still so much death from the war. Infections that had slowly sucked at the wounded soldiers’ lives and desperation that caused theft resulting in casualty. But worst of all were the suicides from the devastation and hopelessness that they felt in coming home. Plastering a calm smile over her nausea, she turned to the two men that had limped into the funeral home’s lavish, but dated, parlor. The velvet settees were starting to get bleached from the sun streaming in the windows. The lace panels over the glass did little to block the hot Texas sun. There was no sense in
pouring what little money she had left into the business when she was sustaining herself right now and doing a service for the community. “Thank you kindly, gentlemen, for carrying him for me. I appreciate it greatly,” she said politely with a warm smile. Crossing her hands over her stomach, she prayed it would settle. Being squeamish did not help her new role thrust upon her one bit. “Shall we?” she said with firmness, guiding the men out. Pulling the doors closed behind her, she turned to address the new widow and his family. “Mrs. Miller, your husband was a fine gentleman and fought valiantly in the war,” Ava reassured her, pulling the frail, shaking woman into her arms for a sympathetic hug. “Dear, dear! Please, calm yourself. He cannot hear your tears or sense your heartbreak any longer. Be strong and let us discuss his farewell.” Ava handed her a small glass vial and a handkerchief. The vials were something that struck her as personal and she had incorporated them into the funeral home almost immediately. The ladies could delicately save their tears and mourn as was the fashion. The glass vials made them immediately thankful at the gesture while it helped support others. A mere penny spent was well worth it, if they could get down to business. This would enable her to get to the gruesome task ahead of her. Mr. Miller had left for the war and returned with a massive limp. She was guessing from the smell that emitted from his corpse, that infection or gangrene had set in and eventually taken over. It would be a long night between bouts of nausea and fatigue that preparing him would involve. Ava carefully went over details with the distraught widow. She hated the preparations almost as much as discussing the money. However, it was a necessary evil. When Peter had left, there had only been two levels of burial: rich and poor. The rich ones had a flamboyant burial with a glass cart that would parade them down North Main as they circled the city in an effort to allow the townsfolk to say goodbye. The first time she had tried to maintain this style of funeral, the horse bit her as she tethered it. It had been most brutal trying to find someone to help her load the glass cart with the casket because she simply wasn’t strong enough, nor was she surrounded by men in town. Most men were gone off to the war. It had taken eight women to lift the frail man’s body
| GINNY STERLING | into the glass cart. Ava had felt horribly mortified to ask for help. As she drove the glass hearse wagon through the streets, she had seen so much of the town had been almost abandoned. Children came to the street as the bell jingled on the black, glass hearse wagon. Children and women. The looks of sympathy on their faces broke her heart. What was more crushing was the hopelessness she saw in their eyes. There was a good chance that all of their husbands would not return from the war, the death and destruction was so pronounced. They were also starving and working themselves to the bone. No one would be paying for the gaudy, flamboyant funerals and it seemed like such a waste. Instead, she put the cart into storage and changed the funeral packages that very day. “Mrs. Miller, we have two options for your husband. We can bury him quietly with dignity to put you and your family at ease. He would want you to save your money and take care of each other, I’m sure. Or, if you’d like, we can bury him with a bit more pomp and circumstance as his military honors dictate. It’s up to you,” Ava said, taking a second to gather herself. This was where the shock, hurt, desperation and pain all came flying back. The country was torn financially in the south after the war and they were just beginning to recover somewhat. Southern money was no good and the new dollars were simply hard to come by. “If you’d like to do a private burial with just your family, something dignified and simple, the cost is five dollars.” Peter would be so upset to hear of her discounting the funerals. She remembered how he proudly boasted that a decent funeral was almost eighty dollars and “well worth every penny”. “Or, if you would like a notice in the paper and a viewing with all the formalities, I would be happy to accommodate you. We’ll make him look quite regal in his uniform, if you have it.” “How much is it?” Ava steeled herself for the painful, wounded expression that seemed to always come. It wasn’t easy to wash or prepare the body. She hated embalming but the scent of death was much worse. Why couldn’t Peter come home? Why couldn’t they have been millers or blacksmiths? Although, she wasn’t sure she could wield a hammer or shoe Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | a horse either. Darn things always seemed to go after her! she mused. “A more elaborate ceremony is twenty dollars.” “That’s disgraceful! How could…” Mrs. Miller bit off her outrage and drew herself up silently. Ava watched the expressions dance across her face. Anger, frustration, devastation, humiliation and then acceptance. Twenty dollars was a lot of money, but it was nothing compared to what the family had charged before the war. The Maypearl brothers had run off with what funds were in the bank leaving most of the town destitute. Ava had dropped the prices significantly simply because she couldn’t sleep at night with the thought of emptying the coffers of other families, when she herself might be widowed and not know it. She prayed and hoped that if Peter wasn’t coming home that someone somewhere would have done a simple burial for him. “There is a third option. I didn’t mention it because I haven’t done many funerals like it since the war ended. During the war,” Ava dropped her voice down to a whisper as to not embarrass the widow in front of other family members. “When the war hit, we would do funerals for two dollars. It’s nothing fancy or elaborate. We’d simply clean him up and then bury him. No viewing, no frills. He would be put to rest quietly. I didn’t mention it because I knew John Miller and I apologize if I assumed wrong. He had been good friends with my father before the war.” “Can we do something in-between? I have some Confederate bills saved aside for just this situation and will supply you with eggs for the year. We have plenty of chickens still. I only have three dollars,” the other woman whispered, mortified. Ava swallowed hard and held back tears. This broke her heart. Mrs. Miller wanted to do right by her husband but, due to the war, she no longer could. The Confederate bills were worthless and the three dollars wouldn’t cover the cost of the casket. “Of course,” Ava nodded. No embalming then. And today was Wednesday. She would have to hurry or it would be a wretched funeral for them all. She couldn’t have that on her conscience. “We’ll make sure that he is laid out presentably for you on Thursday evening. I will post the no58 | UncagedBooks.com
tice immediately in the morning. Can your daughter run the uniform back here this afternoon so I may get started? Time is of the essence.” “She will return posthaste,” Mrs. Miller replied gratefully. Ava clenched Mrs. Miller’s trembling, veiny hand. This had to be so hard for them all, she would not add to the pain and loss. Ava guided them all to the door in order to begin her work. Shutting it firmly, she sagged against it wearily. A casket was five dollars. She would simply reuse the one she had purchased years ago just for this instance. She had bought it when she could afford to. Another widow had come to her with a dollar for her husband’s funeral. The dollar would cover the cost of the grave digging and the shroud. Ava had bought the casket and realized that the trail of women losing their husbands was only just beginning. She vowed that she would give each lost solider a proud send off if at all possible. It was the least she could do in thanks. Ava left the windows open for long into the night as she worked. She had surmised that John Miller had died from infection and was quite right. The rancid smell coming from him was quite terrible, gagging her quite often. As she cleaned and prepped the corpse, she felt hot tears running down her own face. This life had changed her. She knew it and recognized it, but felt almost trapped. There was no one else to take over the business until Peter returned. Ava wasn’t strong enough physically to do this alone. She remembered her husband’s large shoulders as he would work. His decision to leave for the war had forced long hours at his side learning a trade. She had been mortified at the thought of having to perform the job thrust at her. She was quickly put in her place by his strong words that burned in her mind. “Wife, you’ll do your duty as I shall. I shall be fighting for our cause. You’ll be here holding our home together. Duty is always first. That is why we married. You know your place and your duty. My duty to my family is to keep the business in line. Yours is to me,” he had snapped when she balked at the morbid teachings. He was right. Duty had been ingrained in southern ladies from the very beginning. Duty, grace and pride. She had kept the business going as instructed and learned quickly from her husband. Her very proud husband. As she stared at the soapy cloth that was about to wash the corpse, she hesitated.
| GINNY STERLING | It had been almost three years since the war ended and practically four years without word from him. The last letter had him in Virginia, over a thousand miles from home. Was he injured and making his way slowly? Was he dead? She pictured his smiling face at their small wedding. His blond hair and pale bright eyes. She had always marveled at his light coloring compared to her dark brown hair and eyes. He had been a kind husband to her and she eagerly awaited his return so she had companionship. Shaking her head at the memories, she picked up a limp arm and began washing the cool skin. She had learned so much over the years regarding bodies, burial and decomposition. The bruising on the skin and marbling of the flesh would be hard to mask if they had put off the funeral any longer than Thursday. She was glad it would be done tomorrow. Grabbing some scented oils, she profusely added it to the soapy water to help mask the smell that was sure to get worse. Dressing the body was carefully done. It had infinitely gotten easier by slicing the back of the uniform in order to tuck it underneath. Ava just couldn’t lift the limp body herself and every jostling movement made her sick to her stomach as the corpse responded in kind. It was disgusting and better to be done quickly. She tucked the uniform pant legs carefully and then wrapped them in shroud linens. Melissa Miller had brought the uniform and a flag. She would cover the majority of her handiwork with the flag. This could be folded and returned to Mrs. Miller as a keepsake. Grabbing a long, thin branch, she crossed it over and tied it with another, forming a small cross. This she tucked in his hand that rested peacefully on the chest of his uniform. The final touch would be carefully combing his thin, grey hair, powdering and rouging his face to hide the bluing that death brought. Standing back, she looked over her work and stretched. Mr. Miller would lie in state, in his uniform, for the night undisturbed. Tomorrow morning, she would put the notice in the paper. She also would have one of the children of the town run up and down the streets as a crier, in exchange for a bit of hard candy. The grave digging would also be arranged in the morning. It was now late into the evening and time to go home. Ava shut all the windows in the funeral home, knowing that the cloying scent of oils and decay would be stifling in the afternoon regardless of the cold temperatures outside. She would need to return here first
thing in the morning in order to get a breeze going. Leaving the windows open at night was not an option, else there was a chance an animal might gain entry. Lowering the lamps, she remembered how she had once been afraid to be in the room with the corpse. Now, she felt numb. She was lonely, tired and missed having someone in her life. Picking up her tattered, woolen shawl, she threw it around her shoulders and stepped quietly out into the street. Very few carts and horses were on the road in the moonlight. It was, unfortunately, later than she realized and exhaustion was beating at her. There was much to do and it would be an early start. Crossing West Street quickly, she was glad her tiny home was practically cattycorner to the funeral home. She couldn’t imagine walking a long distance in the darkness alone nor could she fathom riding a horse. There was simply something about her and horses that did not mix! Ava entered her small home and did not light any lamps. Rather, she simply locked the door behind her and climbed the stairs wearily. Entering her bedroom in the dark, she stared at the bed that she and Peter had shared wistfully. She missed simply having him nearby. They had been friends before and he had always been cordial to her. They’d never had a great romantic love, but rather a warm and tender friendship. She yearned for the peace and tranquility that having someone to turn to brought to her life. Sitting on the edge of her bed in the darkness, she stared at the moon that seemed to pierce the sky. “Peter, where are you?” she whispered to herself.
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feature author Transported by books as a child, Hope Malory developed an interest in writing in second grade when she discovered poetry. Those early seeds, along with a penchant for happy endings, led her to fulfill her dream of becoming a romance novelist. After thirty years in the education field, Hope traded in a commute, traffic, and early mornings for inventing strong-willed characters and putting them in unpredictable situations. Now, whether relaxing on the beach, traveling with her husband, or spending time at home, she is busy writing her next novel.
Uncaged welcomes Hope Malory Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your book, Wildfire and Roses? The hero and heroine are strong, independent, and have faced considerable adversity. Beasley is fiercely loyal to her family, her landscaping business, and her small hometown in Tennessee. Will is competent as a smokejumper who fights wildland fires, and equally loves his home in California near Lake Tahoe, over 2,000 miles from Beasley. My contemporary romance novel describes many of their outdoor adventures from a search and rescue, mountain climbing in Yosemite, kayaking on Lake Tahoe, and hiking in the Smokies. Wildfire and Roses chronicles Beasley and Willâ€™s tumultuous relationship and unearths a shocking family secret. Uncaged: Is this your debut novel?
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Yes, Wildfire and Roses is my first published novel and is the first in a series. Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about?
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
The second and third in the Azalea Valley Series are written and under contract for publication. I am currently writing the fourth. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? There are so many I’d love to have lunch with. Barbara Taylor Bradford to discuss one of her memorable strong female characters, Emma Harte, in a historical romance published in 1979. Nora Roberts because of her vast experience in the romance writing industry. Debbie Macomber to seek her advice on writing small town series. And romance writers like Jill Shalvis, Susan Mallery, and Kristen Higgins because I enjoy their books. Uncaged: What did you consider your best marketing that you did for your book? What was the least successful?
I love to travel, spend time with my grandchildren, read, go to movies and live concerts, and get together with friends. I have been fortunate to visit some amazing places and have many favorites, but my Europe trip was at the top: London, Paris, Lucerne, Tuscany, and Rome. And I have to mention the beach. We try to go somewhere with a beach every year. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I imagine it is unique that I didn’t start writing until after I retired. Most writers start at a much younger age. It’s never too late to start working toward your dream! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? With so many books on the market, I’m honored you chose Wildfire and Roses. Thank you for reading it, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’d love to connect with and hear from you in the form of reviews, social media, or in person at events.
A month-long blog tour was my most successful resulting in considerable visibility for Wildfire and Roses and a boost in followers on social media and BookBub. The least successful was one particular paid ad which yielded no sales, no followers or even comments, and was only visible on the site for one day. Uncaged: What is one of the most unusual things that a reader has said to you about your books? It was a question and the phrasing was interesting. Someone asked if my book was like Hallmark or Fifty Shades of Gray. Answer: Somewhere in between.
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| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Enjoy an excerpt from Wildfire and Roses Wildfire and Roses Hope Malory Contemporary Romance
Sparks fly when tenacious mountain climber and hiker Beasley McLemore meets hot smokejumper Will Gregor on a search and rescue mission in Yosemite. Getting together, however, isn’t easy. Strong-willed Beasley is bent on building a thriving landscaping business back home in the foothills of the majestic Smoky Mountains. Busy working 24/7, she has no time or energy for a man in her life...she thinks. Scorched by love in his past, Will is content to live near awe-inspiring Lake Tahoe where he saves lives and forests as a remote wildland firefighter. He doesn’t need a committed relationship complicating his dangerous lifestyle...he thinks. Through life-changing events and a family mystery, each must question long held beliefs about work, love, and life. Looming over their blossoming love affair is the 2,400 miles separating their homes and livelihoods. Will love keep them together or distance tear them apart? Excerpt “When did his parents discover he was missing?” Beasley turned and strained to listen to the man’s conversation but shook her head and continued to gather supplies. No, she refused to volunteer this time. I have to prepare for a climb. 62 | UncagedBooks.com
To brush away the question in her mind, she focused on the scribbled list of food and essentials. Snatching a premade ham and cheese on wheat from the shelf, she tossed the sandwich in the shopping basket and struggled to catch more of the conversation over the rattle of broken wheels. “Dang, only seven?” The same age as Tyler. Her stomach flipped. The terror when her nephew wandered away and disappeared for over two hours stuck with her. “What were they doing there? That’s crazy, it is way too dangerous, especially if a kid is with them . . . Sure, I’ll get right on it.” Crap. So much for not getting involved. She abandoned her wounded cart and hustled toward the male voice. The middle-aged man, whose face conveyed an image of someone who seldom smiled, wore a uniform with Ranger Josh Walsh, Yosemite National Park, printed on his name badge. “Excuse me. I’m Beasley McLemore. I overheard your conversation about a lost child, and I want to help with the search.” His brow wrinkled. “I appreciate the offer, but a search and rescue in the mountains requires specialized training and extensive experience.” Ignoring his dismissive attitude, she said, “Sir, I am exp—” “Look, we’ve got it covered. We don’t send novices on rescue missions.” He turned and walked away. She bristled at the novice suggestion. Surely, they could use every pair of eyes on the hunt since time was critical. An old memory flooded back. As a child, while she backcountry skied with her older brothers, she zoomed out in front during a snowstorm and veered off the trail into a gully. She sat under a pine
| HOPE MALORY | tree for two hours, remembering she should stay in one place if she was to be found. The relief was palpable when she saw her eldest brother’s face. He had doubled back and followed her tracks to the snow berm she had crawled into for shelter from the storm. She imagined the child waiting dutifully in whatever rock cubby he had found for his parents to return. Adamant not to let it go, she followed him out the door of the Yosemite Village Store. “Wait.” Beasley grasped the ranger’s arm. “I’m qualified. You need me . . . and he needs me.” Furrows formed between his brows. “You’re what, sixteen or seventeen? That’s too young. Sorry, I have to go.” With no makeup and a frizzy ponytail billowing out of a ball cap, she acknowledged she looked like a teenager. The clothes—a fitted cropped tank top, cut-off denim shorts, and Converse high-tops—didn’t help. “I’m twenty-four.” Frustration churned in her stomach. After repeated attempts failed, her words spilled out in rapid succession. “I’ve hiked the Appalachian, Colorado, and Pacific Crest trails. On the Colorado, I took part in a search and rescue. I am a mountain climber experienced in the back country and I’m here to climb El Cap. My Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician certification is current, and I grew up with four older brothers. I’m stronger than you think.” She blew out a breath and held his stare. The annoyance etched on his face disappeared. “You’re a determined young lady.” “Yes, sir.” The ranger, with tanned skin layered in wrinkles, probably from years in the sun, fished through his backpack, drew out a set of papers, and handed them to her. “All right, read this approved list of equipment and our guidelines. Gather your gear and meet me at this spot in one hour.” “But I need to buy supplies, change, and pack, and I
walked here from Camp 4.” “One hour,” he repeated. “Plan for an overnight in case. You’ll be on my team, but if you can’t keep up, find your own way back. Understand?” “Yes, sir. I’ll be here on time.” Organized and accustomed to working under deadlines, she scanned the list and marked the critical items. After rushing through the store gathering food and supplies, she paid for the purchases and jogged down Northside Drive to her vehicle. She had parked the blue Jeep in the lot adjacent to Camp 4 Campground, a legendary hangout for rock climbers. A risk-taker, she took calculated chances, but not the daredevil kind. She climbed mountains, hiked long distances, kayaked, and built a business. While she pushed the limits, she always had a plan. Never a Girl Scout, she, however, lived by the same motto: Be Prepared. She repacked in a few minutes. After a family left their site, she rushed to check in and hauled her gear up the hill to claim the spot. No time to pitch the tent or chat with neighboring campers. Instead, she waved to them and moved on. After she located the bear-proof lockers, she stuffed her food into one before she jogged to the bathroom. Once inside, she changed into an olive shirt worn over a white ribbed camisole, Danner Mountain hiking boots, and khaki cargo shorts. After collecting the rest of the mandatory gear, she grabbed the sandwich she had bought in the village. She shouldered her backpack and ate the ham and cheese as she sprinted to the rendezvous point while getting a glimpse of the rock face she intended to scale. Her favorite location to climb was near her home in Azalea Valley, Tennessee. The Smokies were her mountains, and she loved their quiet, gentle Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | beauty. But she also enjoyed climbing in Yosemite, with its glaciers, spectacular exposed views, tall waterfalls, and sequoias. The entire process took fifty-six minutes. “Here I am.” Walsh checked his wristwatch. The corners of his mouth curved up a fraction. He glanced at her well-worn Gregory Mountain backpack, adorned with half a dozen patches from various parks and trails. “Yes, I figured that out.” He said something else, but the profile of a guy who paced and talked on his cell distracted her. Mmm, nice body. When he shifted and she saw his face, she gasped. The man about her age bore a striking resemblance to Tom Brady, her favorite football quarterback. She tried to concentrate on what the ranger said, but her eyes kept veering toward the hunk on the phone. He appeared to be arguing with someone. Focus, Beasley. “. . . and we’ll head out as soon as our third team member gets here.” She set her backpack on the sidewalk for the wait and reread the guidelines. The Tom Brady double stepped up beside them. Her heart pumped hard against her chest, and her sprint didn’t cause it. She caught herself staring. Something seemed different about the way he held himself. Was he confident, or was he arrogant? “Beasley McLemore, this is Will Gregor.” “This might be interesting,” she said under her breath and gazed into his sky-blue eyes hoping she wouldn’t give away what churned inside her body. 64 | UncagedBooks.com
“Hello, Will.” She didn’t miss the skeptical expression on his face before he nodded and turned to pick up his gear. He didn’t even respond. Crap. This wouldn’t be the first time she had encountered a guy who didn’t think she could handle herself in the woods. “Are you worried I won’t keep up?” “There’s more to this than keeping up,” he answered in a brusque tone. Arrogant. Ranger Walsh continued, “A seven-year-old boy wandered away from his parents. Cole has blond hair and blue eyes and was wearing jeans, a navy Dallas Cowboys hoodie, and white Nikes. Searchers often find missing persons close by within a short time, but the urgency is greater when it involves a child. We’ll check the obvious places first like the trails and shelters, then we’ll hit any nearby meadows and creek beds. Soon after his mom and dad reported his disappearance, officials at the command post dispatched a team to do a quick scan of the immediate vicinity. At least two other ground crews are out now with maps and detailed coordinates for the search zone. One group is out conducting a more thorough search of a quartermile radius around the point last seen. The incident commander instructed us to start on the Yosemite Falls Trail next to Camp 4.” Her head jerked up. “But I just came from Camp 4. I could have met you.” “I needed to find out if you can follow instructions,” he said, making it clear he was in charge. After pausing for several seconds, he continued his directions. “The trail has a lot of switchbacks and steep drop-offs. Don’t veer off the path. Stay together and keep up.” Doubt registered on Will’s face, and he hesitated. He still isn’t sure they should take me along. In a deliber-
| HOPE MALORY | ate attempt to provoke him, she whispered, “Don’t stand around and look pretty. Let’s go.” Will scrubbed his hand across the back of his neck. Instead of saying anything, he ignored her and marched ahead to talk to the ranger. She hated for anyone to ignore her, one of her pet peeves. Will may look like Tom Brady, but that is all he has going for him. The man was not worth getting upset over, and she concentrated on finding the little boy who must be terrified by now. *** Will wasn’t happy about teaming up with this woman. What an attitude. Not in the best of moods, he had been abrupt with her. Why did his ex-girlfriend choose that time, right before they left, to call and argue and then hang up on him? He didn’t need anything to distract him from concentrating on their mission. This was too important. His priority was to find this child. In his line of work, he had seen too many people die. The memory of a casualty on a smoke jump last year still haunted him. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t rid his senses of the panic marked faces of a family engulfed in flames, their tormented screams, or the stench of burning flesh. He and his team had worked forty-eight hours straight to extinguish the wildfire. Dry conditions and wind caused it to spread toward a cabin built in a remote section of the mountains. The reporters called them heroes since they stopped the fire before flames reached any other homes, but he didn’t feel like one. Now he had a chance to save a young boy and whatever he needed to do, he would do it. His teammate’s ego would not hamper their progress.
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| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR |
Blaze wrote over seventy legacy published horror novels. He was a ghostwriter long before anyone had an idea they were lurking about. Through his adventures in the craft, he-or his author alter egos-have won virtually every award to be won. But awards mean little, don’t they? It is the reader we wish to enthrall, and our souls to purge. So now it is time for Blaze to write as Blaze, and time for previous recipients of his tales to write more of their own material. In addition to his dark novels, he wrote horror shorts, flash fiction, and poetry. Blaze is single and has eight children, his youngest only three years old. They are his life and the reason he fights the demons and the pain.
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Enjoy an excerpt from Mists of Papoose Pond Mists of Papoose Pond Blaze McRob Horror What does the future hold? Where will it begin? On a mountaintop? At the bottom of the sea? In a spaceship? Or perhaps in a cabin by a pond enveloped by mysterious
mists. Mysterious mists that secrete forces of nature… And good and evil.
Ed Hageman wants nothing more than to relax at Papoose Pond, but that’s not to be. As the ultimate battle between good and evil shapes up around him, creatures are not what they seem. Many twists of fate, and many shocks await not only Ed and his companions, but those of you who read his story. Prophets of yore were not all-seeing after all. Gods and devils are not how holy books described them.
| BLAZE MCROB | Excerpt I can’t sleep. My bedroom is stifling, even though it’s usually cool in the early morning hours in this part of Maine. “Shit!” I mutter to myself. “I might as well grab a smoke and go outside where it’s cooler.” Slipping into my boxers, I grab my Camels and my lighter and hightail it outdoors where I do enjoy a little more refreshing air. I slide up to the railing of the porch and sit, watching the mists roll across the pond. Pond: that’s a misnomer for you. Nothing in Maine is the same as any place else. Anywhere else, this would be a lake. It’s three miles long by a mile or more wide. In New Jersey where I come from, that’s a damned lake. What difference does it make? They call it Papoose Pond, so Papoose Pond it is. My family has been coming up here for years. At least until my grandfather stopped bringing us. All at once, for no apparent reason, he decided he no longer wanted to spend a week in the rustic cabins in southwestern Maine. Being the tight-lipped German he was, no one was about to get any information out of him. Stubborn was his middle name. What difference does it make? My siblings and I have long since split apart, my parents and grandparents are dead, my wife is now my ex, and I just want some me time for a change. Fuck everyone else. This is the perfect place for it: the getaway; my retreat into relaxation before I throw my life back together. My grandfather told the owners of the pond many years ago that they should fix things up a bit, modernize, get with the times. They did to a point but still manage to keep the rustic look and feel of the place. And the fishing? Still fantastic! Crappie and White Perch still hover around twenty inches long and have deep, thick bodies. As for the Bass fishing . . .just try plying a surface plug through the waters at night and see how far it goes before some Largemouth or Bronzeback plasters the living hell out of it. I caught my share of fish hours ago, keeping only enough for some fish stew later in the day, but the sounds floating around, catching my ears, are not the ones associated with fish frolicking and chasing their
smaller counterparts before closing in on them for the kill. These sounds are different. I have heard them before, even from my bed. This morning they are closer because I am outside. The smoke from my Camel curls up into the air, dancing about, trying to mimic the mists rolling in from out on the pond. They’re coming in from the north end where the lily pads sit thick at the edge of a deep water drop off. This is the best place on the pond to catch the giant White Perch and Crappies. It is adjacent to the Crooked River access, and springs are in abundance there. Something else also resides there. I have always felt it, not knowing what it is, but feeling it play along my skin, teasing me, and creating goosebumps before vanishing into nothingness. From something to nothing in a matter of minutes. Not one time but many. Could this be what caused my grandfather to stop coming here? Did the fear finally get to him? Maybe he found out what it was and wanted no part of it. I’ll never know. Dead men don’t talk. Or do they? What about the day we had a giant stringer of huge fish on the stringer, attached to the oarlocks of the row boat? Somehow the stringer managed to come free from its attachments and the fish slowly sank towards the deepest part of the lily pad area. My grandfather had plenty of time to snag the stringer with the oar in his hand, but he froze, unable to move, and the stringer and the fish vanished from sight. I started to ask him why he made no effort, but I stopped, knowing the kind of answer I would get: or wouldn’t get. The mists come closer and closer to the cabin, and even though it sits some fifty yards from the pond’s edge, the dancing droplets of condensation seemingly pirouette their way across the beach to where I’m sitting, first ankle high, then reaching mid way up my chest. The cigarette smoke joins with the swirling fog and they cavort as one, creating a calming feeling massaging my unsettled mind. Peaceful shapes dance all around me. I smile at ballerinas performing their amazing tip-toe Issue 33 | April 2019 |
| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | jumps and landings, the mists opening and closing to accentuate their delicate, precise movements. I put my cigarette out, thinking I can go back to sleep, contentment putting me in the mood. A sudden chill hits me before I can get to my feet: bone-chilling cold, causing my hands to turn blue instantly. The ballerina’s faces vanish, replaced by monstrous, billowing towers of inhuman shapes. Substance . . .substance comes from the distortion of the mists! Flesh and bone hovering over me, smiling at me; no, not smiling: leering at me! Brownish-yellow teeth, sharp and pointed, force their way into prominence when the creatures open their mouths, tongues lapping at miniscule lips, telling me where their next meal is coming from. Me! They want me! I run to the door of the cabin, hoping to get inside and lock the door behind me so they can’t get inside. Sure, as if the door will pose a problem for these monsters! A huge, scaly leg reaches out and trips me, sending me to the floor of the porch. Gigantic webbed hands reach out to me, the sharpened, elongated nails threatening to tear me apart. Water drips off these creatures combining with a slime from their powerful chests and finds its way into my eyes. I scream in pain as blindness overcomes me! It’s just as well: I don’t want to see what’s going to happen next. Let it be over! Let it be over! The pressure of the air coming down on me, forced by the behemoths’ closeness, intensifies. They are almost on me!
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Don’t miss these titles
Uncaged Reviews Fairy’s Touch
Ella Summers Urban Fantasy The games of gods play out upon the backbones of mortals. Leda Pierce has come a long way since she left her home on the frontier of civilization one year ago to join the Legion of Angels. She is a soldier in the gods’ army, has crossed swords with demons, and shares an apartment with her angel lover in New York.
Uncaged Review: Sometimes when you get this deep into a series (this is the 7th book in the series) the series starts to slow down and get repetitive and monotonous. This is not one of those series. This time out, the suspense and secrets that are revealed ramp up the book in different ways than previous installments. The action sequences are spot on without overdoing them, and the connection between Leda and Nero is stronger than ever. We learn a lot more about the gods, and their secrets and the dangerous games they are playing. Keeping her own secrets safe from being known, is getting harder and harder for Leda and Nero. There is more than one twist and turn in this book, and it’s a great ride. I also like the fact that this author keeps her main characters together and makes their bond stronger and doesn’t break them apart just to create tension. Well told and written, even the few small typos didn’t detract from this story and I’m looking forward to the next one. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Knightly Dreams Anna Markland Contemporary/Medieval Romance Peter Bateson is an accomplished graduate student whose doctoral thesis proves conclusively that the Templar treasure no longer exists. (Sorry Dan Brown). His wellresearched theories and his comfortable lifestyle are challenged when he meets Susie, a university drop out who insists the treasure still exists because the Templar Knight who visits her dreams told her so. Uncaged Review: The sub-genres this book is marketed in is a bit confusing, but it’s really not a historical romance, but a contemporary with a historical twist, and it’s definitely not for the young adult audience, I would caution strongly against that. This is a charming story that has a ghostly presence – a Templar Knight visits Susie in her dreams to try to lead her to a Templar secret. When Susie meets Peter and his friends at a local bar she works in, they tell her about Peter’s thesis he’s giving on the Templar Knights. But when Peter offers to give Susie a ride to a Medieval weekend, in the place that the Templars used to be, the day turns into something more for both of them. What does it mean that the Knight keeps coming to Susie, what is he trying to tell her? This is a short story that is nicely paced and even though the romance is a bit too fast to really believe, the nice ending was a great touch. Reviewed by Cyrene
Ghost Bound Vera Sparks Paranormal
Undercover Siren Ellen Mint Romantic Suspense
Everything is going Ivy’s way when she lands an interview with a renowned Law firm. She’s always wanted to help seek justice for those in need, and now she finally has a way to fulfill that dream.
He was only supposed to be a job. Why can’t she walk away?
Bu there’s a catch. Since the day of revelation, vampires and werewolves have been shown to walk amongst mankind and are fighting for full equal rights. The amazing law firm she’s going to? Owned and run by a devilishly handsome vampire. Ivy’s inability to turn tail at the exciting opportunity may just prove to be her unwinding. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
Uncaged Review: This short story is a good introduction to how it all begins for Ivy with the first full length novel releasing on March 30. In this world, vampires and werewolves live among all of society and accepted by some and discriminated by others. Ivy takes a job as a secretary for a supernatural lawyer, Alex and his team. When a job comes up that needs someone to get a confession out of a shifter, Ivy becomes the bait. But more can go wrong than just the meeting.
Colton Davies, an ex-Marine turned cop, stumbles across a damsel in distress while working the beat and rushes to her aid. Unbeknownst to him, Kristen Trevelyan isn’t an old classmate who accidentally locked her keys in the car, but a spy working for a classified agency. She’s tasked with getting close to the police officer, but she never anticipated how close they’d become. Uncaged Review: This is a nice action packed debut from an author. The portrayal of Colton, an ex-marine that suffers from PTSD, is realistically written and not glossed over. Kristen’s job is to get close to Colton, so she can get inside information – of course, unbeknown to Colton. The romance is not an instant romance, and as a job, Kristen is having problems separating her job from the man. This story would have benefitted with a bit more background on the agency that Kristen works for. Since it wasn’t explained, it did pull me out of the story a bit. But all in all, this is a great debut and this author will be one to watch in the future. Reviewed by Cyrene
I liked the premise of the prequel, and the world that is building. I wasn’t totally sure about Ivy, as I thought she was a bit naïve when she’s dating Alex and all it entails to date a vampire. Surely in the time that they had spent together and the time that she knew she was attracted to him, she would have thought most things out. Even with that said, I am definitely looking forward to the first full length book. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Uncaged Reviews Touch of Darkness Dawn Husted Urban Fantasy Wanting to leave his supernatural family behind, seventeenyear-old Thanatos runs away. Against his better judgment, he befriends an ordinary girl. But it won’t be long until the darkness he’s hiding from comes calling--he can’t hide forever. Uncaged Review: This is a really good prequel story to an upcoming series that shows how Thanatos life is shaped by a young girl. It sets in motion his life, and it does exactly what a prequel is supposed to do, get the reader fired up to read the first book in the series. The characters are well developed for the amount of space they get here, and the ending probably isn’t what you expect. It definitely has my interest for the first full length novel – when I actually get time to read it. Reviewed by Cyrene
The Unlikeable Demon Hunter: Burn Deborah Wilde Urban Fantasy It’s the End of the World as We Know It ... Nava has come a long way from being a hot mess flying solo. She’s now one of the major players on the chessboard, leading the charge against a witch with dark magic, a powermad rabbi, and the impending apocalypse. Uncaged Review: This story wraps up the Nava Katz series – and it’s going out with a bang. I’m very sad to see this series end, but also very excited for this book. This book is a fitting end to the series and the author unbelievably wraps up all the loose ends without rushing or sacrificing the storyline in any way. Action packed with witty dialog and a perfect romance, this series has it all. But don’t cheat yourself and not read this series from the beginning, you really need to get to know how it all begins with these fantastic characters. Even the supporting cast are as likeable as the main characters. I have to say, the author threw in a couple major curve balls on this, and had me gasping and furiously reading and turning pages to get where it was taking me. But the author won’t let you down – and I plan on going back and reliving in Nava’s world again one day. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Captured by the Vampire Kellie McAllen Paranormal Romance
When Zoë reveals proof of vampires to the world, has she sentenced the one she loves to death? After years of being alone, Rowan is ready to end his immortal life. Weak from starvation and overcome by bloodlust, he attacks a human in public and is captured by police.
Uncaged Review: This is the beginning story to introduce the Vampire Enforcement Agency series. Rowan is a centuries old vampire, who is tired of being alone, and has never met another vampire except for his mate, whom died. Tired of being alone, he decides it is time to end his life. Half starved, and getting ready to meet the sunrise when a car accident happens close by, he stumbles over to see if he can help them one last time. But he isn’t prepared for the bloodlust. Even though the victim is already dead, he’s caught trying to drink the blood and tossed into jail. Too weak to break himself out of jail, he befriends a young girl who is a janitor at the prison, who believes him when he says he’s a vampire. When they find out that vampires have now come forward and living in society along with humans, Zoe knows she needs to get Rowan strong enough to escape. This is a nice beginning, to introduce you to this new world. It’s well thought out, even if it’s been done quite often, the author has a put their own twist on the story, and this story wraps up well. Reviewed by Cyrene
Sin & Chocolate K.F. Breene
Paranormal Suspense Some people are ordained for greatness... Those people usually have a lot of drama in their life. Drama I happily do without. I live in a forgotten corner of nowhere for a reason: there is safety in anonymity. I have enough problems just trying to get by.
Uncaged Review: Touted as a paranormal romantic suspense, everything is in place except the romance. It’s started here, but it’s really not completely in that sub-genre in this book. I really liked the book, but it was a slow starter for me. Once we got past the 50% mark, it picked up and carried the book the rest of the way. I think that the follow up books to this series will hum along a lot better now that the world building and getting to know the characters is out of the way. This is a nicely original story, that I haven’t seen a lot before, and the characters are likeable. There are a couple nice twists that I didn’t guess. I’m definitely onboard with book two, and hoping that the romance will ramp up a little better, as I see Kieran and Alexis as a pretty good power duo if they team up in the future books. Something that breaks up the tension and may have the reader laugh out loud are some of the crazy one-liners that pop up. Definitely worth taking a chance on. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Uncaged Reviews Fallen Academy: Year Three Leia Stone Urban Fantasy
It will take every ounce of strength and training Brielle has to survive year three. Meanwhile, Lincoln will also be fighting his own battle for survival. Each of them worlds apart. Uncaged Review: I was really looking forward to reading this one, especially after the super crappy ending from book two. This time out, we get a much better ending. Brielle has been taken by Lucifer and is a prisoner in Hell. Separated from her blade, Sera, and drugged so she can’t use her powers, she’s going to have to be on top of her game and acting skills to find a way out. Back at home, her family, Lincoln and her friends all believe she is dead. So half the book, Brielle is working on a way out of hell, and when she does manage to escape, she finds that Lincoln has gone undercover in one of the worst demon infested cities – San Francisco. If he’s alive, Brielle is determined to bring him back. But Lucifer is still pissed – and she’ll have to utilize all her skills with her friends, to get in and out of San Francisco in one piece. A lot of good action – a much better ending, and a good lead up to book four. I don’t know how many books are planned for the series, but I’m looking forward to the next one. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Anna Lowe Shifter Romance/Suspense
The scent of destiny... The danger in desire. Lana Dixon knows well enough to steer clear of alpha males, but Ty Hawthorne is as impossible to avoid as the sizzling Arizona sun. Her inner wolf just won’t give up on the alpha who’s tall, dark, and more than a little dangerous. One midnight romp under the full moon is enough for Lana to know she’ll risk her life for him — but what about her pride? Uncaged Review: The first book in this series we meet Ty, the son and next alpha of the Twin Moon Ranch pack in Arizona. Ty is intense, and broody and almost impossible to be around. Until Lana Dixon shows up. Even though they try to stay away from each other, destiny and fate have other plans. I’m not going to give anything more away, but I have always enjoyed this author’s writing, and this book is no different. There is some danger and suspense added along with the impossible romance and it all works. The book is not very long, I read it in one sitting, but it’s a great intro to this pack, and I’m looking forward to learning about other pack members in the series which is already 6 books strong. Reviewed by Cyrene
Hell on Earth Tony Urban Horror
Twelve survivors struggle to remain alive in a country overrun with hundreds of millions of zombies. Heroes and villains rise from the ashes of what used to be civilization and an epic, blood-soaked, and brutally realistic post-apocalyptic adventure begins.
Uncaged Review: There are no true blue heroes in this book, and yet, there are. What I liked about this book is the characters were realistic, in different situations with different backgrounds – but all with the same goal – staying alive. What I liked about the book is also what I didn’t like about the book. 12 main characters to keep track of, and each chapter is dedicated to a character and then it would be several chapters longer before you got back to that character. So just as the tension was ramping up, I’d be tossed out of the storyline into a different character. Also, this book is not for the faint of heart. The author holds no punches on the gorey details. All-in-all, this is a good zombie start to a series and well earns its place in the genre. If you can keep up with all the characters, you’re in for good story telling. Reviewed by Cyrene
Orlando A. Sanchez Urban Fantasy There’s no place like home…but they’re not headed to Kansas. The Sanctuary is the hidden home of the Golden Circle-a sect of powerful mages. It’s a sacred place of learning, magic, and deep secrets. When Tristan discovers his father, Connor Montague is being held prisoner, he vows to return to the Sanctuary and release him. There’s only one problem. The Sanctuary has been taken over by Mage Oliver. An Elder who has unleashed the magistrates and promises to destroy Tristan the moment he steps foot on the mountain. Now together with the help of Simon, they must face a mountain of mages, free his father, and escape the Sanctuary before an Arch Mage erases them from existence.
Uncaged Review: Death, destruction – two words that seem to follow Tristan and Simon around everywhere they go. The fifth book in this series, where some series are starting to lose a bit of steam, this series seems to be just ramping up. And it’s a fun ride, with some great characters, fun banter and great action sequences, you won’t put this series down for long. We learn more in each book about the backgrounds that made Simon and Monty who they are. This time out, Tristan’s father is a prisoner of a crazed Mage and to free him, and he’ll need all his wits about him to survive. Along with Simon, Peaches and some fun characters, they will work to get to Tristan’s dad before it’s too late – along with fun banter and great action. If you are an urban fantasy lover, you can’t go wrong with this series, but start at the beginning – it’s well worth it. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Uncaged Reviews No God is Safe
Orlando A. Sanchez Urban Fantasy A Dangerous Client. An Impossible Case. An Offer He Should’ve Refused. Children have gone missing in NYC. Detective Simon Strong takes on what he thinks is a routine case-get proof of a spouse’s infidelity. When he digs deeper, he stumbles onto the trail of the missing children, but what he discovers shatters his concepts of reality. Tristan Montague is a mage on the run. Hiding from his sect and banned from the magical societies, he follows a trail of missing children to NYC. Now, together with Simon, they must prevent more abductions and stop those responsible for the disappearances. They will face an enemy unlike any other-hungry for power and willing to destroy anyone who gets in their way. Will they locate the missing children? Will they reveal the power behind the abductions and stop them? Uncaged Review: This is a short story that gives us a background on how Tristan and Simon met, and their first case together – and it can be read at any time within the series – and I’m actually glad I read it after I was already into the series. Even within the short amount of space, you find a great action packed storyline and the author teases you with a bit more information on this duo. It may not answer ALL of the questions surrounding these two, but it will put a few pieces of the puzzle that is Montague and Strong in place. I rarely give 5 stars to short origin stories, but this one earned it. Reviewed by Cyrene
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The Sea Lord
Hildie McQueen Medieval Historical
Can a beautiful heiress lure a pirate to life on land? When offered a royal pardon, Pirate Kevin MacAlpin accepts an assignment to rescue a kidnapped heiress. Unfortunately, the beauty is found on his ship and the discovery could lead to dire consequences. What is worse, the woman turns out to be more enticing than a siren and soon Captain MacAlpin wonders if the one captured is him. Uncaged Review: Another story in the Britannia Connected World, and in this story, the pirate Captain MacAlpin takes on an assignment that may give him his freedom, to rescue a woman who is kidnapped. Unbeknown to him, she is then stolen from the kidnappers and put on a different ship. I love a good pirate story and have a ton of respect for the authors that go the extra mile on their research for sea worthy books. The characters in this story are likeable and the romance simmers beneath the surface and soon you will be wondering who kidnapped who, was Gailyn kidnapped, or was Captain MacAlpin? Fun, shorter read that is a nice addition to this connected world of pirates. Reviewed by Cyrene
The Deserted Heart
Oh, and host Friendsgiving for his guests - an Angel, Achilles, and Death, just to name a few... Easy-Peasy... The Beast Master has come to town, and he’s kidnapping shifter kids for his
Unmarriageable? Or simply unusual?
Shayne Silvers Urban Fantasy
show. But the Queens of Fae also want a little deep-fried wizard for the holidays.
Uncaged Review: This may be my favorite book yet in this series. This author has a talent of messing with your equilibrium and throwing you off course. And this book is no different. Nate is again cursed – and he’ll need to embrace his inner demon to come out of this one alive and face the Beast Master. With a little help from his friends, this very original, action-packed story will keep you on the edge of your seat. A lot of base things happened in this story that propelled this story forward in ways I didn’t see coming and gives us some answers to some questions, but raises one big question, who and what the hell is Mallory?? Start from the beginning, and get ready for a great series – you won’t want to put this one down. Reviewed by Cyrene
Mary Lancaster Historical Victorian
There can only be one reason for the proud Duke of Alvan’s proposed visit to Audley Park. He means to offer for Lord Overton’s beautiful daughter, Thomasina, thus saving the family’s waning fortune. In the midst of the hectic preparations for his arrival, Overton’s least marriageable daughter Charlotte remembers to collect her young brothers from school for the holidays.
Uncaged Review: The start of the Unmarriageable Series is a good intro this series. When the Duke of Alvan comes to visit Lord Overton’s family, it’s with the belief that he will ask for Thomasina’s hand. Being wealthy, marrying off the oldest daughter would solve a lot ot the family’s financial problems. But the Duke wasn’t counting on meeting Charlotte, the daughter that was sickly as a child, and not considered to be of great beauty - so not thought of in the family as a “marriageable” daughter. Always having the hand me downs, Charlotte never is upset about her lot in life and never resents it. But when her feelings begin to develop for the Duke, she must not allow that to happen, as it’s her sister that is supposed to marry him. Fun with some mystery and fun thrown in - this is a nice romance, although it took a little too long to develop and the romantic ending was a bit lackluster. But the closeness of Charlotte’s family was satisfying. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 33 | April 2019 |
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Palace of Ghosts Thomas S. Flowers Ghost Fiction Evil resides in Amon Palace. Something worse came to visit. Four veterans of the Iraq War seeking a cure for Post-TraumaticStress Disorder arrive at a notoriously haunted house in the bogs of Galveston Island called Amon Palace. Samantha Green, a friendless former Army K-9 handler looking for a way to put her loss behind her. Brad Myers, a lighthearted former Military Police Officer severally wounded in war wanting nothing more than a good nights sleep. Andy Lovejoy, an overweight light spoken drone operator who once watched the war from above now questions who he has become. Marcus Pangborn, a headstrong Marine who desperately wants a dead friend’s forgiveness.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I’m not really sure there are words to describe how I feel about Palace of Ghosts but I’ll do my best. I think being around Veterans and Active Duty soldiers my entire life made me a little protective of the characters. Their pain was real and I wanted to take it all away for them. I think the fact that knowing from the beginning the eventual outcome was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because I thought my heart wouldn’t break the same way with a surprise death, but a curse because I knew there would be death so it was hard for me to have any hope for
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the characters I came to love. Flowers has done an amazing job with the imagery he puts into Palace of Ghosts. I could have lived without the spider imagery, but I understand it’s purpose. His stories paint pictures in your head that you can’t unsee just because you stopped reading. The long and short of it is, I loved this book. I can’t imagine writing a story like this would be easy for anyone but I appreciate the heart and thought that went into doing so. Flowers created a dangerous world full of fear and I loved every minute.
The Haunting of Bechdel Mansion Roger Hayden Horror/Occult A paranormal phenomenon, a mysterious curse, and an unsolved murder forty years in the making. A young couple move into their dream home only to find a dark presence lurking from within. For Curtis and Mary, the small town of Redwood, Indiana seems too good to be true. Everything is perfect, including the Victorian mansion they purchased at a great price. But they soon experience terrifying supernatural encounters tied to the deadly secrets of an unsolved mass murder. Can they solve the mystery in time? Or will they face the same doomed fate as the tenants who came before them?
a woman who can see ghosts. The main questions remain, who killed them, and what will be done about it? This book was very similar to the other series in the set, The Haunting of Winchester Mansion. Both were good despite the similarities and horrible cliffhangers. They are worth reading but only if you get the whole set of each series at once.
In this new mystery supernatural thriller, best-selling author Roger Hayden delivers a frightening world where nothing is as it seems with “The Haunting of Bechdel Mansion,” a bold new supernatural series certain to have readers leaving their lights on. Because in the town of Redwood, no one gets out alive…
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I read this series as part of a box set. While the story is really good, the abruptness of the cliffhangers at the end of each story (in this story as well as the other story in the set) is very off-putting. I understand the desire to keep a reader interested in the story to make them want to buy the next book, but to cut it off in the ways they did made me not want to continue reading at all. It made me distrustful of the authors. I love a good murder mystery, especially if it involves ghosts. The Haunting of Bechdel Mansion had exactly that. A decades old, unsolved mass murder in a small town, suspicious townspeople, and
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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews
Safe Haven Rise of the Rams Christopher Artinian Horror The planet has succumbed to a monstrous virus. Those who die from the infection return as savage predators hell-bent on spreading the virus to the rest of the human population. The UK and Ireland are the last hold-outs, but when the infrastructure supporting their self-imposed quarantine collapses, it’s everyone for themselves. Myra’s Review: Mike, along with his sister Emma and two young siblings are trying to survive the day –to-day grind. Keep the kids occupied, go get supplies when it’s their turn once a week, and oh, be on the lookout for the undead. So far they haven’t seen any, but then Alex, Mike’s beloved stepfather turns. The young man had to put Alex down and it was a harrowing experience. Then, unexpectedly Doctor Lucy and Nurse Samantha show up at their door seeking shelter. They had recently been to the house to check everyone for infection after Alex’s death was reported. After the two women share their terrifying day running from the RAMS (reanimated corpses), they decide to go with the family when invited. Mike plans on traveling to his Grans house in Scotland, which is isolated. Everyone knows the journey will be perilous, but there is no safer place Mike can think of taking his family. Their trip is fraught with dangerous encounters with zombies, but they still stop to help a farm family 84 | UncagedBooks.com
who had been attacked by raiders. Joseph and his family decide to join the group. The farmer invited them to his brother’s farm near the town of Candleton, which is much closer. Mike wants to head to his Grans, but they’ll stay a night or two to recuperate. Before they can make it, a horde of RAMS attack them when one of the vehicles breaks down. Mike leads the zombies away, while the families regroup and head toward Candleton. When they make it to the area, they are surprised how organized and safe it is; almost an island with a river around the community. The only 2 access points are bridges, guarded by soldiers who escaped to Candleton when things fell apart. When Mike doesn’t return, everyone assumes he is dead and sorrow runs through the group. Meanwhile Mike did barely escape being devoured and makes it to the local library. He needs a map so he can find Candleton. He discovers 3 survivors in the building, but they refuse to leave with him. They have a good setup, but already decided on a suicide pact when their supplies run out. When Mike arrives at the town, the joy is overwhelming. Lucy and Mike finally realize their feelings for one another. He agrees to stay for now in the virtual paradise compared to the horrors of the world outside. There’s only one fly in the ointment; Joseph had been scratched by a RAM earlier and is slowly turning. There is a lot of action I couldn’t cover in this review. Also much heartfelt sadness and joy as the characters experience the gut-wrenching world around them. Recommended for zombie fans, followers of the author, and those looking for an exciting series. If you haven’t read Before Safe Haven: Lucy, the beginning catches readers up. If you read Lucy, it’s redundant, just skip read.
Jillybean’s First Adventure Peter Meredith SciFi/Apocalyptic When the apocalypse hits and nearly wipes out humanity, the survivors band together in little knots, fighting desperately to stay alive. All except one forgotten child. Sixyear-old Jillybean has been alone for months with “monsters” prowling endlessly around her house, looking to eat her as they did Mrs. Polarski from up the street. Myra’s Review: Jillybean is a 6 year old girl, alone in a zombie infested world. Her mommy died and is still in her bedroom. Jillybean’s only companion is a toy zebra, Ipes. He talks to her, giving her sound advice, sometimes in her dad’s voice. Ipes is clearly her subconscious giving her suggestions through this unusual device adults would question, but not a young child. Ipes urges the girl to search for supplies outside; she’s been without food for 2 days. Jillybean is terrified because the monsters roam the neighborhood. When she emerges from the house, Jillybean draws the attention of old Mrs. Bennett, now one of the scary creatures. Using stealth and speed, she evades the zombie. Sadly, she runs across her best friend Becca, who is now a monster too. Although only a novella, this story was fascinating and full-bodied. You feel so sorry for this poor child. The author does a great job of showing a shattered mind in the making. Who among us wouldn’t feel the same, even more so for a child. My background is Psychology and I was impressed with Meredith’s understanding of a confused, terrified individual. If you’ve followed the Generation Z series, you know that not only does Jillybean survive, but has some unique coping abilities – her mind.
Before Safe Haven Mike Christopher Artinian Horror Trapped in a corrupt hellhole with thieves, sadists and killers, Mike didn’t think things could get any worse. He was wrong. When everyone around him opted to do the easy thing, he chose to do the right thing. He chose to stand up. Several years on, and a new Hell has found him. A virus has infected billions all over the world, turning its victims into vicious zombies. The UK and Ireland have remained uninfected...until now. Myra’s Review: As Mike is sent to Juvenile Detention for beating a priest, it looks bad. But then when you understand his reason; maybe not. The priest told his young preteen brother that his recently dead mother wasn’t going to heaven. He finds the youth prison is corrupt. Cole, an inmate, is the brother of a gangster on the outside. He runs things – from selling drugs to the kids to physical and sexual abuse by him and his buddies. Mike can’t turn a blind eye. He was abused by his father, until he got big enough to take him on, and he hates bullies. He comes up with a brilliant plan to take down Cole and the staff in cahoots with him. Some time later, we see Mike after being released, as the world is overwhelmed by a deadly virus and the UK takes steps to keep their land safe. Mike’s confrontation with thugs intent on raping a woman shows us his conscious hasn’t faltered. Right is right to him. It’s not long before Mike is involved in another fray, this time with thieves robbing a local convenience store. As with the previous jerks, he makes short order of them. Mike hits hard and fast, taking down opponents before they can beat him down or kill him. The story is chronological with large gaps in time, showing the progression of the plague; how peoIssue 33 | April 2019 |
Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews ple and the government are coping. This was well thought out and interesting. We delve into Mike’s world before the apocalypse erupted and directly after. We see a physically strong older teen with a tenacious sense of right and wrong. There is no gray area for Mike; everything is black and white. Hence, the 20 year old we get to know in Safe Haven, is an extension of the youth, but with more hard circumstances thrust into his world. Plus, we see how Mike takes care of his family no matter what is thrown his way. If you’ve read Safe Haven and liked Mike, I’d recommend reading this book so you get a more in-depth study of his character. I read Lucy and Safe Haven before reading this story, and I admired Mike in both, now even more. I look forward to reading more in the series. Recommended for zombie fans and those following Christian Artinian’s novels.
The Dead Charlie Higson Horror THE DEAD begins one year before the action in THE ENEMY, just after the Disaster. A terrible disease has struck everyone sixteen and over, leaving them either dead or a decomposing, flesh-eating creature. The action starts in a boarding school just outside London, where all the teachers have turned into sickos. A few kids survive and travel by bus into the city. The bus driver, an adult named Greg, seems to be unaffected by the disease. Then he begins to show the dreaded signs: outer blisters and inner madness. The kids escape Greg and end up at the Imperial War Museum. A huge fire in South London drives them all to the Thames, and eventually over the river to the Tower of London. 86 | UncagedBooks.com
Myra’s Review: It started on YouTube with a video posted from a young boy, titled “Scared Kid”. Everyone thought it was a good prank, a boy terrified beyond belief- claiming that Mothers and Fathers (hence the nickname for the infected adults) were killing kids. Who would believe it? Not until the crazed cannibals raged through their streets and pounded on their door, did people realize a deadly virus was sweeping through the UK and the world. Friends Jack and Ed were trapped in their school when the infection erupted, along with other schoolmates. When the sickos broke through their barriers, they managed to escape. The children counted it a blessing when Greg came along in a school bus and picked them up, along with other kids already onboard. They didn’t understand why the driver hadn’t turned like all adults; they were just happy for the safety the bus afforded. When Greg began to sprout sores and act crazy, they fled the bus, fighting infected waiting outside, seeking shelter in the Imperial War Museum. The Museum’s leader, Jordan, doesn’t want them staying past one night. Then he relents, agreeing they can stay if they provide for themselves. The Museum is a gold mine, filled with weapons, many unusable, but plenty that are good for killing. Seeking supplies, Jack and his friends run across scores of the sickos on the streets and miraculously discover a large truck filled with food. Jordan welcomes them back with open arms when he sees how resourceful they are at scavenging. Jack has been determined from the beginning to head back home and see it one last time. Bam and Ed insist on going with him, and not unexpectedly, they ran into many sickos. Jack was an interesting character. Stubborn, a fighter and leader, someone the kids needed during their darkest hours. While I understood his desire to see his home again, his pigheadedness ultimately got his friend Bam killed and then led to his own demise. Ed was a multifaceted character study. He seemed a coward at first, never wanting to confront the horrors around them. But he reached a breaking point, where he went into a rage, reminding me of “berserkers”, doing real damage to the infected attacking them. The end scene between Jack and Ed was very touching.
After Jack dies, Ed heads back to the museum and gets surrounded by adults. He has no hope of coming out alive, but then hears shots coming his way. Surprisingly, a troop of schoolboys wearing red blazers rescue him. Once they get back to the museum, it is clear the leader, David, wants to run things. His group is told by Jordan to look elsewhere for their own place.
Myra’s Review: Tony, the main character keeps a journal when a zombie apocalypse strikes. He notes down the people in his group of survivors. The first bad experience he jotted down was checking out an encampment nearby. Would they be friendly, hostile, or survivors who need help? They discover human remains and are disgusted of course.
This story pulls you into a lot of action between children trying to survive and the crazed adults wanting to devour them. There is sadness along with many uplifting moments as the kids fight heroically. There are numerous minor characters and horrific scenes which could not be covered in this review. Recommended for zombie lovers and followers of the Enemy series.
The group decides to move, being too close to cannibals is not a good idea. They chose an isolated Lewis & Clark compound, one used for tourists when the world was normal. It is called Fort Clatsop and it is already nicely set up with a tall, wooden fence. The survivors make the fort even more secure. Tony notes that the people are slimming down but looking healthier. No more fast food and sitting in front of the TV or computer. They are eating from the natural resources around them, including bear and elk. One of the young men, Harley, is bitten and they chop off his arm. After he recovers, Tony notices Harley is showing increased abilities – running fast and seeing for a long distance.
Kings of the Dead Tony Faville Horror No synopsis
I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong with this book, why it didn’t make more impact on me as a reader until I thought about it. First, there is very little character development. When Tony says Heather is killed, it took me reading a bit further to realize it was his wife. I had no grasp of her as a character so it didn’t stick with me who Heather was. Second, most of the story is telling not showing. Showing is always better - it puts you in the middle of the action and the characters world/emotions. If this book were rewritten with more in-depth character development and more showing, it would be good. The story lines were interesting. I do see on Amazon it says in the new version that the story was revised and expanded. Hopefully these problems were addressed.
Issue 33 | April 2019 |
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews A Family Garden Frank Zajaczkowski Biographical Fiction
Forgive Me Father TL Travis Gay Erotica
How can you turn down the last request of a dying friend? You can’t, even if it tears your world apart.
Shunned and cast aside by his faith and family, Jamie is left to do whatever it takes to survive.
Chris Baker has wasted most of his life fearing emotional connections. Emptiness has become his comfort zone. And yes, there are painful reasons for his fears. But an unusual request from an estranged friend exposes his heart in the most difficult way possible…with the love he once betrayed. Amy’s Review: Wonderfully magnetic story! Zajaczkowski pens a magnificent story in A Family Garden. This is the first book of Zajaczkowski that I’ve read, and I found that this author is a wonderful story teller. The characters are vivid and full of depth, and much of this story is emotionally charged. The reader is taken on the journey and gains a sense of family and triumph, as well as dealing with obstacles and pain. It’s a story that takes the reader back in time, as the narrator of the story tells the perspective of one of the characters, Chris. It’s a remarkable journey when the past feels incomplete and unresolved, but there is a major task at hand, a new adventure, journey, a dangerous journey. I was on the edge of my seat, and I liked how it was all put together. A real page-turner. I look forward to reading more by this author.
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He comes across a group of kids in the same predicament, braving the streets of Seattle due to circumstances beyond their control. Lost souls who’ve slipped through the cracks of the broken systems society forced them into. Yet they still offer what little they have to him, including their home. Amy’s Review: Intense story Travis pens a very intense and emotional story in Forgive me Father: For I Have Sinned. I read the story Greyson Fox, and was introduced to Jamie. (By the way, I loved that first story). Now, the reader can really get to know Jamie and his evolution through the darkness. Yes, there are a lot of emotional triggers in this story, but the story is very well put together, and the topic of the abuse is done very delicately and appropriately. It fits the story, and helps lend to the troubled life of these wonderful characters. I just fell in love with Jamie, and how he grows, though tormented and almost broken. Yes, almost broken. It’s a great story, and I’m honored to have read it. I read this book with the intention of completing it in one sitting, and where it is a page turner, sometimes I just had to stop and take a breath. Whatever Travis writes, I will read.
Heart of a Dire Wolf Carol Van Natta Shifter Suspense/Romance
Letters to Sis Cesare Giannetti Memoir
To stay together, they’ll have to escape prison, outsmart wizards, and solve the mystery of a magical sanctuary town.
Letters to Sis originated from the letters I wrote my sister, from when I first enlisted into Army,to her death, following a short and fierce battle with breast cancer.
Skyla Chekal is in trouble. She’s a prisoner in an illegal underground auction house that sells magical creatures. If they learn she’s a dire wolf with free magic, they’ll hold a special high-roller sale just for her. She needs to keep her head down and escape, but she can’t because she smells someone who stirs her in the way only a true mate can. She can’t leave without him. Amy’s Review: My favorite in the series so far Van Natta pens a magnificent story with Heart of a Dire Wolf as book 3 in the Ice Age Shifters series. I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, but something about this one, made this my favorite of the series (so far). It’s mysterious and magical, and brings the characters (and the reader) on an adventure. Skyla is an unforgettable character, and the survival instinct is definitely clear. Somethings can be stand out and be unwritten, and this story brings that all together, chemistry of characters, magical intensity of survival. A grand story.
Amy’s Review: Another magnificent story by Giannetti I read Giannetti’s book, Back to Serve: Return of a Soldier, and definitely looked forward to reading this one, Letters to Sis: Memoirs of a Solider. Both had the tone of honor and legacy, but this was more emotionally charged, as it documented or remembered correspondence between the author and his sister, who he lost. First, it was put together very well, and you can read the emotions behind the words and the experiences. It was absolutely heart-breaking and heart-thrilling, and I highly recommend reading this book. If there is more Giannetti has to offer, I will definitely read. I felt very honored to read this book.
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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Suburban Luchador Philip Rivera Parenting Humor His minivan is his chariot. His mower is his weapon. Enter the whimsical world of suburbia’s favorite underdog. Author Philip Rivera is a father to three, a husband to one... and a hero to all. When he’s not fighting crime in his fighter-jetcloaked-as-a-minivan, he can be found teaching high school and patrolling the ‘hood for story material. He’s the man who’s making mortgages, meatloaf, and the middle-class sexy again. Amy’s Review: Wonderfully Told Rivera pens a grandly creative story in Suburban Luchador Memoirs From Suburbia. Now, I did read Suburban Luchador: Tales from the Burb Side, and enjoyed that one as but that’s what the author calls his mini-preview, and I guess it is. I thoroughly enjoyed this full length story. It’s a wonderfully fun and imaginative story that only comes from parenthood. From the beginning, when I read ““Papi, wait! We still need to do the Princess, Planes and Dragons Fight!” I looked in the living room, and lined up in battle formation was a Tropical Fun Barbie, a half-made paper airplane and a plastic, three-horned chameleon. Sleep would have to wait for this knight as the drums of war beat on the distant Saturday morning horizon,” from his instruction, I knew it was a story I would not be able to put down, and I didn’t, until I finished. I look forward to reading more creative works by this author.
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Treading the Uneven Road L.M. Brown Short Stories The stories in this collection are set 1980’s and 90’s Ireland. A by-pass around a small village has rid the residents of their once busy traffic. They feel forgotten by the world. The need to reach out and be heard is explored in every story, from the young woman who starts to have phone conversations with her husband’s gay lover, to the dyslexic man who confronts his cruel teacher years later and the woman whose dreams are shattered because of a married lover. Treading the Uneven Road introduces us to a society that is unraveling and we cannot help feel for Brown’s characters who need to make a choice on how to carry on. Amy’s Review: A wonderful collection Brown introduces the readers to a magnificent collection of short stories with Treading the Uneven Road. I must say that, though I’ve read each one, the one that really stuck with me is the The Lady on The Bridge. As I read it, I wasn’t sure how the title fit, but when I read those final words of the story, it all seemed to fit together, and yet wonder what could come next. Short stories are not easy to write and Brown writes remarkably well. I look forward to reading more stories by this author.
The Story of Keilah Joann Keder Humorous Fiction
The Dark Terror Jerry Knaak Vampire Suspense
A horrible loss. New beginnings in a quirky town. A twist you’ll never see coming.
Keilah hasn’t gotten over the death of her best friend, and now her father has died too. She learns she must leave the farm for five years in order to collect her share of the inheritance. “Use the time to journal about your life and figure out how you got here,” her therapist says. She finds herself in Sandy Salts, Iowa, where her strange landlord, Dee has secrets she’ll “tell her later,” and her bosses’ daughter, Nova, is set on Keilah’s destruction. When Keilah decides to solve Dee’s mystery, she uncovers disturbing secrets about her own past. What she discovers will change Sandy Salts and Keilah Brownwell forever. Amy’s Review: Secrets, loss and more loss Keder pens a remarkable story in The Story of Keilah. This is the first of Keder’s that I’ve had the honor of reading, and I thoroughly enjoyed this page-turner. Keder tells a wonderful story that surrounds the Title character, Keilah. It takes her on this journey of loss and secrets, as well as trying to figure out things about herself. It’s both Keilah’s personal journey, but also discovery about the town she ends up in, and the mystery behind her connection to other characters. These characters have a lot of depth and growth within the book, and it is definitely well written. I liked the writing style of this author, and look forward to reading more by this author.
As Elizabeth Rubis learns to rule the children of the night and develop her abilities, her recent past comes back to haunt her. Friends become fiends and victims rise from the grave creating new dilemmas and harrowing situations. Amy’s Review: Gaspingly Magnificent! Knaak pens a wonderfully terrifying story in The Dark Terror. This is book three in the Knaak’s Dark Passage series. I’ve read the books that came before this one, and I think this one is my favorite, although, they all are quite great. Knaak has a way of telling a story that puts the reader on the edge of the seat. Elizabeth is a wonderful character who has grown over the past three books, and I enjoy reading about her terrorizing adventures into the vampiric world around her. Knaak writes very well for the vampires, and this tale of survival keeps this reader turning the pages, and gasping out loud.
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Jen’s Book Reviews Deep Dirty Truth Steph Broadribb Crime Thriller Single-mother bounty-hunter Lori Anderson finally has her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob – and they want her dead. Rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them. If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed. If she fails, they die. Jen’s Review: Lori Anderson the bounty hunter is back. In a all new action packed case once again she’s left on the run. Fighting for her life and struggling to prove her innocence with a old wound. That refuses to stay closed. This can be read as part of the series or as a standalone book. Filled with lot’s of action and rich characters throughout. I think any fan of crime or action books will love this. A very enjoyable read.
The Ghost Midwife Annelisa Christensen YA/Ghost Fiction The Ghost Midwife is a true story closely based on a ballad sung in 1680 London coffee houses and taverns In a well to-do house in Holborn lies a dark secret. A macabre secret hidden for fifteen years. Mysterious and frightening ghostly events throw the servants of Rotten Row into deep alarm, and when it centers around house servant Mary, she becomes the focus of suspicion and speculation. Why her? Mary discovers she is more entangled with the unwelcome guest than she cares to be. Jen’s Review: This novella is based on a ballad sung in London in 1680 about the ghost midwife. I honestly had never heard of this before or even knew it existed. Now I want to research more about this ballad and the ghost midwife. This book was fantastic and gripping had me desperate to know what happens next. I know the author’s books focus on midwives. I can’t wait to read the next instalment in this series. Can be read as a standalone book or as part of the series.
Visit Jen on Goodreads 92 | UncagedBooks.com
Wicked Forest E.J Bennett YA Fantasy Crystal just wants to be normal, without magic and the laws and secrets that come with it. However that is only a small problem for the socially awkward teen to the one that is yet to come. Halloween brings her world crashing down around her when she finds herself in a new world, where she is faced with the sins of her peoples past. Jen’s Review: Crystal wants to be a normal teenage girl without rules and boundaries. Crystals relationship with her family is very tense and dramatic. The slightest thing like asking to go to a Halloween party could cause problems. I really enjoyed reading this and getting to grips with what was really going on. Also getting a little insight into the hidden world characters. This is just the beginning of this series. Can’t wait to read book 2.
The Key of F Jennifer Haskin Young Adult/Fantasy Fale, Takanori warriorin-training, begins having visions on her eighteenth birthday. When she realizes the visions are coming true, she intervenes and changes one to save the life of her crush. Soon after, thugs climb out of the woodwork chasing them with the intent to kill. Their only clue lies in the key Fale wears, given to her by her father on his deathbed. Could the key have something to do with her destiny? Can they live long enough to find the answers? Jen’s Review: A good start to what I hope will be a wicked action meets fantasy series. Fale is a young girl who is training to be a warrior while dealing with the usual teenage problems. She begins to have some strange visions hoping that she and her friends can understand what this means. Life takes a unexpected journey. This book held my attention and made me care what happens to Fale and company. Leaving me with a cliffhanger on what’s going to happen next.
Visit Jen on Goodreads Issue 33 | April 2019 |
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Issue 33, April 2019 Featured authors: Genevieve Jack, Hope Malory, Elle Lewis, L.M. Spangler, Anna Hague, A.L. Long, Ginny Sterling, J. H....
Published on Mar 31, 2019
Issue 33, April 2019 Featured authors: Genevieve Jack, Hope Malory, Elle Lewis, L.M. Spangler, Anna Hague, A.L. Long, Ginny Sterling, J. H....