ISSUE 27 | October 2018
Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpts from The Departing
Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Warm • Review
Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Gilchrist • Review
S.K. Ryder Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Dark Heart of the Sun
Anthony J. Melchiorri Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from The Tide • Reviews of The Tide Series, Books 1 & 2
Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Magic Born • Review
Iuliana Foos Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Bloodline: Origins
Ben Archer Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Red Sky: Rising • Review
Issue 27 | October 2018
Kevin J. Kennedy Interview • Stay Connected • Short Story
Social media links • Excerpt from Sadie Hawkins
the demon’s favor
77 Delayed Departure
October 1-15, 2018
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upcomingconventions a convention near you and meet 8 Find your favorite authors. 6 Editor’s Desk 7 Blog Roll Call 112 Uncaged Reviews 118 Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews 122 Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews 126 Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews
Find the pumpkins in the magazine for a chance to win an $10 Amazon Gift card or a 8G Flash Drive! 10 winners! Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Welcome to Issue 27, October 2018 - The Special Horror/ Paranormal Edition of Uncaged Book Reviews! Our Feature Authors this month will give you chills as you read about Eric Kapitan, Anthony J. Melchiorri, Daniel Greene, S.K. Ryder, Christian Galacar, Rayanne Haines, Kevin J. Kennedy, Ben Archer & Iuliana Foos! FangFreakinTastic is also bringing us a feature with author Juli Valenti. Don’t miss out on the Scavenger Hunt for a chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card, and 9 more winners will each receive a 8G Flash Drive! Find those pumpkins!
author’s books, (can be read right before the feature) and that I ask that the authors share the magazine with their networks. Read about that HERE. Uncaged is supported through advertising, both in the magazine, and on the site. Please see the Advertising tab on the site for more information on how you can advertise in the magazine and support the Uncaged mission to promote authors. As of this month, Tier 2 review submissions in Uncaged are closed to new submissions. If you want to submit a book, it will be held until the lists open again. Tier 1 review lists will remain open.
All inquiries: UncagedBooks@gmail.com or Cyrene@UncagedBooks.com So thank you and enjoy the spooky October 2018 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews!
We have a couple stories for you also, and don’t miss out on the reviews - with an emphasis on the books that go bump in the night. We have plenty of reviews for you to look over from Uncaged, Fang-Freakin-Tastic, Myra’s Horror Blog, & Amy’s Bookshelf. Thanks to all the affiliates for the wonderful devotion to reading. 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. Uncaged Feature Author slots are now full through December 2018! Watch for when Uncaged opens slots for 2019 sometime in November. 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
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Scavenger Hunt October 1-15, 2018
We’ve lost our pumpkins! There are pumpkins scattered all over the magazine, and we need your help in locating them and putting them back in the pumpkin cart! How to play:
• Find the pumpkins scattered around the magazine • Email Cyrene@UncagedBooks.com with page numbers where you found the pumpkins. Rules & Winners •
The person who finds the most pumpkins will win a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a 8G Flash Drive. In case of a tie, the winner will be chosen through Random.org
• 9 additional winners will be chosen to win a 8G Flash drive. •Entries must be received by October 15, 2018.
Short story Lights out by Nathan Burrows
| SHORT STORY |
LIGHTS OUT by Nathan Burrows It was just a regular day at the office. Then the power went out. When your office is right at the bottom of a top secret bunker in the middle of nowhere, well, let’s just say that’s not good. Technically, it wasn’t a top secret bunker. It was a COSMIC secret bunker, which is two full security levels above top secret. Even the term COSMIC is top secret. Plenty of people knew of the bunker’s existence, but not many knew where it was. I could tell you its exact location, but then I’d have to kill you if I could. You get the picture. I was sitting at my desk at the primary control pod, the office that was the beating heart of the bunker, when everything went dark. One minute the lights were on, the next they were off. As was everything else. Everything. What made this interesting was that above me was a ten storey building, each floor twice the size of a football pitch. Above the ten storeys was another couple of hundred feet of solid earth, and above that, the doors to the outside world, the surface. There wasn’t any heating this far down. There was no need; the earth itself heated it. All we had was air conditioning, and that had to work pretty hard to keep things bearable. I sat there in the dark and listened, but as I couldn’t hear anything other than the beating of my own heart, I figured that the air conditioning had gone the same way as the lighting and everything else. The bunker was the United Kingdom’s bolthole for pretty much anything from a nuclear attack to an extinction level event. It housed the important people who ran the country, and some military grunts like myself to look after them. There was room above me for hundreds and hundreds of guests, everyone from the Prime Minister, the Royal Family (but only as far down as fourth in line to the throne), to some of the brightest and best scientists in the country. Enough supplies to keep them alive for years. Everyone who 12 | UncagedBooks.com
would be needed to get what was left of the country back on its feet had a place somewhere in here. The greens on the golf course outside doubled up as helipads, and the private airfield next to the golf course had a runway large enough for the biggest military transport planes. When the balloon went up, the area outside the bunker would get very busy, very quickly and any surviving civilians soon moved on. I sat in my chair for a few seconds, waiting for the backup generator to kick in. Power outs weren’t that unusual and were in fact one drill that we ran regularly. At the back of my mind was the fact that when the primary power went out, people working in the bunker shouldn’t even notice as the secondary power had enough juice to keep the facility on line without interruption for months. Long enough for us to fix the primary anyway. It wouldn’t do for the Prime Minister to lose half a written e-mail because his computer shut down, now would it? The whole bunker, the entire system, had redundancy upon redundancy. That was the main reason I was sitting there in the bunker’s primary control pod. I was in charge of the whole place. There were two of us below decks altogether. Me, and Sergeant Gordon. I was the officer, he was the enlisted man. I had no idea what his real first name was as I only ever knew him as ‘Flash’. Although he had to call me sir, and salute me when he walked past, down here he was just Flash and I was just Jamie. We were the maintenance crew, tasked with keeping the bunker alive just in case. Everything from the nuclear reactor even further below my feet to the oxygen recycling system built into the walls was designed to be maintained by only two people. Flash and I were one of three teams who rotated through the bunker, two weeks at a time, looking after a mothballed bunker. “Status update,” I called into the darkness. The voice recognition system, normally like Siri on steroids, remained silent. “Status update?” I repeated, louder. No response. I knew in front of me there was my keyboard and lots of monitors, all now useless. There was also an emergency phone, and as I figured that this probably counted as an emergency, I decided to use it.
| NATHAN BURROWS | Blinking, I put my hand out on the desk in front of me, sweeping aside my lunch debris. Even though there was no natural light anywhere, we still stuck to a normal daily routine to help when we changed rotations. Otherwise it would take a week to readjust on the outside. I learnt that one the hard way after my first rotation when I was keen as mustard to be the officer I’d been told I could be. Our timekeeping meant at least I knew what time it was. Just after lunch.
side, I felt the edge of my desk just where I’d hoped it would be. Next was six steps forward which would put me in front of the emergency cupboard. It was designed and equipped for pretty much anything, including a complete power outage. I put my right hand out and winced as I stubbed my fingers. The cupboard was a few inches closer than I thought. Opening the cupboard, I grabbed the heavy rubberised torch and pressed the button to turn it on.
My hand found the telephone just where I knew it was. Eight inches to the left of the computer screen in front of me. It was red, not that I could see it. I picked it up expecting to hear a ring tone, but there was nothing. That didn’t make sense. The phone line wasn’t linked to the electricity supply, or any of the other life support systems. It was just a phone line. For emergencies only. I found the thing you press on the top and rattled it a couple of times. Nothing.
One of the weekly checks we did almost without fail was to ensure that the emergency cupboards were all fully stocked. With three cupboards on each floor, this took a while which is why I say almost without fail. This cupboard was different though, as it was in the primary control pod. I’d checked this cupboard just after breakfast only a few hours ago, so I knew it was up to scratch which is why I was surprised when I pressed the button. The only thing that happened was a click from the button. No blinding beam. Not even a glimmer of light, just a quiet futile click in the darkness. If I didn’t have any light, then I couldn’t read the standard operating procedures. Some procedures, the SOPs, were fixed firm in my head because we exercised them all the time. If the reactor core was overheating, I knew what to do. The same if the oxygen systems went down. But a complete power outage? No idea at all.
“Flash?” I shouted. “Flash? Are you there?” I knew he wasn’t, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. The last time I’d seen him, he’d been heading ‘up top’ to do the daily checks on the access doors to the bunker. There were two of them, far above me, both at least five feet thick. Both five thick feet of metal and concrete. The opening of the main door was huge, large enough to drive a four tonne truck through. We knew it was because which we drove through it in four tonne trucks all the time. The other door was big enough for a man, but no bigger. The metal sills of both doors were angled and countersunk to resist under and over-pressure such as from a nuclear explosion, and they would only ever open outward. Never inward. They would even stand up to a direct hit from a nuke, according to the Americans who’d apparently tried it with the same model of bunker a few years ago. Nothing if not secure, but the complex locking mechanism still needed checking and oiling every day. I felt around for my rifle, which was leaning up against my chair. Never further than two feet away from me at all times even though there was no one else down here. Regulations were regulations after all. Picking it up, I slung it over my shoulder as I did countless times every day and got to my feet. I took one step back, and three to the right. Inching forward with my left hand to my
I reached back into the cupboard for the back-up batteries. Working carefully so as not to spill them as I opened the packet. A battery rolling away into the darkness would be no help at all. Working by touch, I changed the batteries in the torch. Still nothing. Remembering the induction training I’d had, I started to get a sinking feeling in my chest. The only thing that would knock out all the power, even down to the batteries in the torches, was an electromagnetic pulse. What really bothered me was the knowledge it would have to be an EMP large enough to penetrate through hundreds of feet of soil and rock, then ten stories of metal lined floors and ceilings. It would have to have enough power left after all that to knock out both the primary and secondary power sources in the bunker, and of course the batteries in the cupboard. That Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| SHORT STORY | would have to be a massive EMP. I could feel the weight of the bunker pressing down from above, and I started to feel claustrophobic in the silent darkness. I could see nothing, smell nothing, hear nothing but my own body. I took a few deep breaths and tried to quiet my inner panic. No EMP could be that powerful, I reassured myself. It had to be something else. Reactor failure perhaps. An unexpected exercise to test our response. Both much more likely. I put the useless torch back into the cupboard, followed by the batteries I’d swapped out. Think, think, I told myself. I closed my eyes to see if it made any difference, but it was just as dark on both sides of my eyelids. The only thing I could think of to do was to head up and find Flash. Two heads were better than one, and Flash was more experienced than I was. He would know what to do. I frowned, trying to bring up the layout of the bottom floor in my mind. There were stairwells dotted about the place, but most of them only went up one or two stories. The stairwell I needed was the emergency stairwell in the far left corner of the floor if I remembered the plans correctly. Those stairs went all the way up to the surface. I remembered Flash waving this morning as he headed over to them. The only time we ever used the stairwell was for the surface checks as the landing floors and steps were made of steel grids. This meant that if you looked down from the top, you could see all the way to the bottom. Hundreds of feet. Thousands of stairs. Even people who never suffered from vertigo grabbed onto the handrail when they looked down, knuckles white on the steel. I put my hands out in front of me to find the door to the control pod. Pulling it open took much more effort than it had when the power was on, which didn’t make any sense to me as the door was hydraulically assisted. It was only when the door seal broke and I heard a subtle hiss that I realised the pressure inside the control pod was higher than the pressure in the larger office space outside. Either the pressure maintenance system wasn’t working, or the bunker itself was losing pressure somewhere. I’d have to check with Flash when I found him; that was much more his area than mine. 14 | UncagedBooks.com
By the time I inched my way to the outside wall of the bottom floor, I was sweating. I tried to remember where the nearest fridges were but gave up on that when I recalled the water crates at every third floor within the stairwell. I had a few false starts as I worked my round the exterior wall, such as opening a cleaning cupboard and walking into a pile of mops and buckets, but I eventually got to the bottom of the emergency stairs. Pulling the door open was the same as the control pod door. Harder than it should have been, and accompanied by a hiss of air. I walked through the door and almost slipped over on the wet floor. Swearing, I steadied myself and rearranged my rifle on my shoulder. Why was the floor wet? Had some water crates burst? I crouched down and put my hand to the floor. The fluid on the concrete was much thicker than water. As I took an experimental sniff, the copper tang in the back of my nose told me what it was. Blood. “Flash?” I called out under my breath. He was the only other person in the whole complex. “Flash? Are you there, mate?” No response. With my foot I tapped my way round the bottom of the stairwell until my worst fears were realised. There was a body lying at the bottom of the stairwell that could only be Flash’s. It wasn’t the first dead body I’d come across. I was a soldier after all. But Flash was my friend. I swallowed hard, telling myself I could grieve later. Once I was out of the bunker. The air got fresher as I climbed the stairs, but even so I had to stop to get my breath every few flights. I was in good shape, so I told myself it must be stress. I was sweating profusely, which didn’t help my grip on the handrail, but I kept going. I had no idea how Flash had died, whether he’d been killed or had an accident, but I wasn’t planning on hanging around to find out. The inevitable service enquiry would find all that out. I kept going, upwards and upwards. Past the VIP floor where the Prime Minister and the Royals (but only up to the fourth in line) would live. Past the laboratories where bizarre looking scientific equipment I would never understand stood in the darkness. Past the accommodation floor where Flash and I had both lived in our duty bunk rooms, complete with X-Boxes and large screen televisions. As I got to the accommodation floor, I paused. In
| NATHAN BURROWS | my bunk room were photos of my wife and kids. I could pop in and get the pictures, but as I thought about it I realised that I had no idea where my bunk room was in relation to the emergency stairwell. Not in the dark.
greyed out. The greyness got darker and the tunnel I could see through got smaller and smaller until everything faded to black. Just before I lost consciousness, a line from one of the SOPs came into my head.
I kept going upward until I reached the top of the bunker. I knew it was the top because I walked into a wall, winding myself. I had started off keeping count of the floors, but after a while I could only concentrate on climbing and trying to ignore the lactic acid build-up in my thighs. I stood there for a few minutes, catching my breath and waiting for my heart get back to normal. There was a crate of water in the far corner of the room I was now in, which I chugged from gratefully.
“In the event of an extinction level event, NEVER open the bunker door.”
Finding the wall of the large room at the top of the bunker was easy, as was following it round to find the entrance door. I ignored the large door, the one big enough to drive trucks through. The electric motors needed to open it wouldn’t be working, so I felt my way past it to the smaller door. I reached my hands out to find the large metal handle like an oversized steering wheel that secured it. Grunting from the effort, I turned it counterclockwise, and felt the metal cylinders inside grind in their channels. Remembering how much heavier the doors downstairs were when I opened them, I was wondering how I would get this much thicker door open when the wheel was snatched from my grasp and the door flew open. A column of air smacked into my back like a giant fist, and I fell through the door and onto the concrete pan outside. As I went over the lip, my foot caught on the surround and sent me sprawling to my knees. The only thing I could hear was air rushing from the open door behind me, but the sound didn’t last long. The air might have kept rushing out, but both my eardrums bursting took any sound away. Isn’t that supposed to hurt, I asked myself as I looked up at the sky. It was pitch black when it should have been bright blue. Stars so bright they hurt my eyes peppered the dark sky. But it was lunchtime? I gasped at the sight, red hot air searing my lungs, but I couldn’t scream. I looked over at the golf course where I could see columns of water streaming up into the sky from the lakes and ponds that frustrated golfers every day. The skin on my face and hands prickled and I felt it start to burn and crack as the periphery of my vision
Check out the Podcast of The Butcher on Nathan’s website. The first 4 chapters are available now. http://nathanburrows.com/audio
Issue 27 | October 2018 |
horror | paranormal
feature author Eric Kapitan fell in love with the horror genre at a young age. Binge watching Horror Movies such Halloween and Night of the Living Dead. It wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t long before Kapitan wanted to tell Horror stories of his own. Never afraid to push the boundaries, Kapitan believes Horror should be hard-hitting and leave an impression. Eric Kapitan currently resides in Vermont. He enjoys spending time with family/friends, drinking a nice cold Vermont beer, and going to Horror conventions.
Please welcome Eric Kapitan Uncaged: You just released Warm, your latest book. Can you tell readers more about the book? I have always been fascinated with the idea of solitary confinement and the effects it can have on ones self psychically and mentally. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve read articles, watched documentaries, read interviews from prisoners and prison guards. I knew it was something I wanted to try and write about. It was an idea that festered in my mind for two to three years. Warn is a loose sequel to one of my previous books called Burning Down Paradise. Originally, I never intended for it to be but it kinda just happened. I guess my mind was just not finished with those characters. I intentionally wrote it in a way where you could still understand what was going on without having previously read Burning Down Paradise. So It serves as both a sequel and stand alone story. Uncaged: What is the inspiration of writing in the horror genre? I have loved the horror genre for so long that it has become a part of who I am. Halloween was the very first horror movie I saw at 10 years old and from there I was just obsessed. As a teen I read a lot of Stephen King and as I got older I transitioned to Clive Barker, Jack Ketchum and Edward Lee. Those three authors have inspired my writing tremendously. I often compare Horror to being like a roller coaster, providing you with an extreme adrenaline rush. I also
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love horror for the human study aspect, exploring what makes people tick. Uncaged: Besides horror, you also write poetry. Do you have any that you can share with us here? Amusingly enough, most of my poetry is horror based. I have written outside of the genre but nothing that I have officially published. I will share with you,The Little Tiny Spider, it was published in my first book Darkness:Poems of extreme horror. The Little Tiny Spider Birds chirp. Children Play. Its quite the beautiful day. The sun shines brightly over the earth. Temperature reaches eighty five degrees. All the windows are open. Letting in the air. As well as other things. A little tiny spider finds her way through. Running her little legs over carpet. She found herself a nice home. Nightfall hits. Lighting bugs flash in the grass. Stars cover the dark sky. A woman sleeps comfortably in bed. The little tiny spider crawls up her leg.
She reaches her chest. The woman yawns and moves her head. She does not awake. The little tiny spider continues to crawl. She reaches her face, and goes up her nose. She found herself a nice home Birds chirp. Children play. Another beautiful day. The woman still lays in bed. Her skin a lime green color. Her eyes wide open, a pale dead white. Little spider legs pierce through her eyes. Thousands crawl out of the sockets. They come out of her ears. Pour out of her mouth. They crawl out the windows. That are still open in the house. Uncaged: What are some of your favorite genres to read? Horror, (naturally) Comedy, autobiographies, and True Crime Stories. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them? Yes, good or bad I love to read what people think of my work. I try to learn from the critic the best that I can. I am always looking for ways become a better writer. Finding news to improve Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | my craft. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?
Enjoy an excerpt from Warm Warm Eric Kapitan Horror
“You are a sick f*ck.” I loved it so much I used it in some of my marketing.
Only a truly broken soul can be possessed by the ruler of hell. Unfortunately for Adam, every second of his life has molded him into the perfect host.
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I watch horror films, read, drink beer (and drink it well). I have not done it much lately but I love camping as well, being outside in front a campfire while looking up at the stars is a great feeling. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? One thing that really annoys me about most Self published authors is how full of themselves they can be. I cant tell you how many facebook ads I have seen from authors calling themselves “The number 1 best selling author” or “The next Stephen King.” I am realistic, I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read my work and review it. I spend a lot more on just producing my books than what I actually make back. Any profits I do make end up going right back into producing my next work. That is okay though, when you do something you love you don’t do it for the money. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Whether you loved or loathed it. I appreciate you all taking the time to read my little books. Id also like thank all the bloggers out there who have been extremely good to me.
Adam is a killer. There’s no getting around that. The state doesn’t care that he was a child of abuse, that he was beaten near daily by a father who never wanted him. They don’t care that he truly wants to change, more than he’s ever wanted anything. For his crimes, Adam won’t see the sun until the day he’s dead and buried. Deep below Adam’s restless heart, the king of hell has a new name, and he’s desperate to prove himself worthy. In his previous life, Timothy was a serial killer haunted by an all-consuming obsession with death and destruction. Now that he’s dead, he’s determined to rise through the ranks and earn a power like no other. As the king of hell, he’ll be able to re-enter the human world at last—and then tear it down, piece by bloody piece. But for that, he needs a soul just as corrupt as he is. And Adam is ripe for the taking. Warm by Eric Kapitan is a dark fairy tale of disturbing proportions, a gory tale of revenge that will keep readers up all night, haunted by the horrors within. Excerpt Chapter 1 “Oh my God, Adam! I love college! It’s so amazing!
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| ERIC KAPITAN | The people, the classes. I’ve made so many new friends…Oh, you should really try and come and visit so I can show you my dorm room. You can meet my roommate Becca and…” Adam sipped his coffee. He felt the heat rising from the liquid warming the upper part of his face as he listened to Susan speak. He nodded and smiled at her. Her big eyes were bright, filled with positivity and excitement. She used her hands to further illustrate how amazing and cool the thing she was talking about was. It was a trait Adam’s sister had had as long as he could remember. Adam giggled to himself as he continued to stare at Susan, imagining her as the little girl he remembered walking to school and making lunches for. They had both come a long way since they were children. A very long road out of hell it had been. “Oh, listen to me jibber-jab on when I should be asking how you are, big brother…How are things going, Adam?” Susan said as she lifted her coffee mug, taking a sip as she moved a strand of hair away from her face. Adan shrugged his shoulders. “Well, you know me, boo. Not much really ever changes. Just work, work, and more work. Besides, it’s been a month since I’ve seen you. I like hearing what you have to say.” Susan looked down at her coffee as she tried to hide the fact that she was blushing. Adam and Susan were very close. Adam was always more of a father to her than a brother. “So how is Mom—” Before Susan could finish her sentence, she let out a cluster of small coughs. She covered her mouth quickly, not wanting to spread germs. “You OK, Suz?” Adam said as he raised an eyebrow. As Susan continued to cough, she nodded at him. Her cough began to grow louder and more frequent; her face slowly began to turn a light shade of red as Adam got up from the kitchen table and walked over to the sink. “Let me get you some water,” Adam said as he grabbed a clean glass from the dish drainer. He filled the glass halfway and turned around to go back to the table. Before he could even move, the glass fell from his hand, smashing on the floor, water spilling everywhere. Susan’s face was as gray as cement, her eyes blood-
shot, as dark blood ran from her eyes, nose, and mouth. She fell to the floor on her side, her body convulsing as she continued to bleed out. Adam rushed to her side in a panic as tears filled his eyes. “My God, Susan, what’s happening? What do I do?” Snap out of your fantasy.
Adam woke up abruptly as his head smacked against the glass window. He forgot where he was for a moment before the harsh reality sank in again as he looked at the bus. He looked down at his handcuffed hands and chained feet, almost wanting to cry. He knew he couldn’t though. No way could he show any weakness. Only punks showed weakness. He remembered what his mom used to tell him whenever he came home from school crying because a bully picked on him. “Never let them see you cry,” she would always say to him. Those words could not be more true now, Mom. Adam looked out the window, thinking he should enjoy the outside world as much as he could before it was entirely shut out from him. He looked out at the trees moving past him at rapid speed as the bus sped down the road. The sun was beginning to go down, casting the sky in a bright orange. The orange clouds made him think about sherbet ice cream. He remembered how he and Susan used to sneak up to the roof of their apartment building at night and look at the stars. They always brought a container of sherbet ice cream with them. It was Susan’s favorite. Those days were long gone.
Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Uncaged Review A rather strange tale of gruesome discovery into hell. In this book all the characters left an impression on me. In fact I found it fantasizing how the author got all the characters to intertwine throughout out the book. The story is very dark and twisted. Any readers who like their horror books clean cut this is not for you. Even though the story is very dark in places it has loads of human nature and behavior and this author doesn’t do this to shock his readers, he loves the thrill of having the audience left with an impression of horror. Whether it’s good or bad, I have dove into the very bottom of hell with this and have come to the conclusion it’s very dark and twisted but it’s well written by the author. He grabs a hold of the reader and refuses to let them go. Reviewed by Jennifer
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feature author Christian Galacar grew up in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a small suburb north of Boston. He attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he received a BBA degree in Finance. Although interested in writing fiction from a young age, it wasn’t until 2012—and realizing the banking industry wasn’t all that fun—that he decided to pursue it as a career. He is always working on his next book.
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Uncaged welcomes Christian Galacar Uncaged: Your book Gilchrist really gives me the feeling of Stephen King books, especially his early works. Was he an inspiration for you? Absolutely. I’d even say that Gilchrist is an homage to King’s earlier works, with the occasional Easter egg nod. I grew up reading him from a young age, and I remember getting my hands on a copy of Gerald’s Game when I was probably ten years old. I think I “borrowed” it from my friend’s mother after reading the first chapter at their house and being blown away by how different it was than anything else I had ever read. Up to that point, I had only been introduced to books that were age appropriate. But after that first taste of King’s writing, I was hooked, and I’ve been reading him since. I have to be honest, though—I don’t get the same vibe from his newer books that I did when I first read something like It or The Shining. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve gotten older or maybe King has grown beyond his earlier writing self, but I missed his early style of storytelling, and whenever I set out to write a book, the plan is always to write something that I’d want to read. So that’s what I tried to do. Some of it was intentional— mainly the layout of the chapters and the time period—but the writing style and the story itself was just me. If there is a similarity to King’s own writing there, that’s just a result of writing the only way I know how to. When you’ve read forty or so of an author’s books, some influence is bound to show, especially when you’re a young writer still finding your own voice.
Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about Gilchrist? It’s amazing. You should read it. Just kidding. I’d say Gilchrist is a novel for fans of horror that grounds itself in the fears of everyday life and doesn’t veer into campy territory with its supernatural aspects. That’s what I was going for, anyway. Uncaged: On your website, your next book coming in 2019 is called Big Bad. What can you tell us about this book? I can tell you I’m having a good time writing it. I don’t want to say too much because the story is still at a stage where it might change and I don’t want to spoil anything, but I can give a little bit of a vague overview. Here’s the gist of what it’s about: a bizarre murder on a small New England island at the height of a blizzard; the bond shared by sisters; dark underbellies; the lies we tell others and ourselves; the secret histories we bury and how they shape who we become, whether we want them to or not. Wait… isn’t that the same description from my website? Why yes it is, but it’s the best I have at the moment. It’s a tough book to discuss without giving anything away. I can already tell the back blurb for this one is going to be a real pain to write. Uncaged: What are some of your favorite genres to read? I’ll read anything, really. Any book I pick up, no mat-
ter who wrote it or what it’s about, I’ll give fifty pages or so to pull me in, either with its characters or its story, ideally both. If it does, then I’ll read it. But I’d be lying to say that I don’t drift toward dark thrillers. Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs are two of my favorites. Thomas Harris might have been a serial killer in a past life, but I’m okay with that. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them? I used to read them all… obsessively. But not so much anymore. Maybe for the first month or so after a new book is released, just to see how it’s being received. Besides that, I’ll occasionally check in on the negative reviews. Usually it’s the two-stars that have the most valuable info, and I look for trends in the criticism that might help me improve my writing on the next book. One-star reviews, however, I largely ignore—or read with a huge grin on my face. They tend to be full of anger over something someone simply HATED! about the book. I can’t tell you how many angry emails I got after my first novel. People called me a psycho because of a certain scene that doesn’t go so well for a cat. I love cats, by the way. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? That’s a tough one. I can’t say that one thing in particular sticks out. But I’m always happy to Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | hear from a reader who tells me they thoroughly enjoyed one of my stories. It’s kind of surreal. They see me as an author—maybe, I think—and I really don’t. To me, I’m just a thirty-four-yearold man-child who sits in a dark room, making up stories. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I try to get out of the house and be active—take a walk, go to the gym etc. I have a day job at a desk, and then I come home and write at a desk, so I spend a lot of time sitting, which needs to be offset somehow. Other than that, I enjoy cooking, which my wife seems to appreciate, and I built a little woodworking shop for myself last year, so sometimes I’m tinkering with a project in there. As for my favorite place on Earth? That would be standing in front of a woodstove (not a fireplace, a woodstove) while a snowstorm howls outside. Any woodstove will do. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? So far as I know, I am the only Christian Galacar in the world. My last name is oddly unique. Oh, and in college I spent six months working as a private investigator for insurance fraud. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? You keep reading and I’ll keep writing. Readers are the final step in the writing process and perhaps the most important. Follow me by signing up for my newsletter on my website. I have Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, but I’m not terribly active on those platforms. In fact, my Facebook account is currently inactive because I find that it makes me a little cynical these days. If you had to choose one, I’d go with Instagram. 28 | UncagedBooks.com
Enjoy an excerpt from Gilchrist Gilchrist Christian Galacar Horror Two years after losing their infant son to a tragic accident, Peter Martell, a novelist with a peculiar knack for finding lost things, and his wife, Sylvia, are devastated to learn they may no longer be able to have children. In need of a fresh start, and compelled by strange dreams, the couple decide to rent a lake house in the idyllic town of Gilchrist, Massachusetts, a place where bad things might just happen for a reason. As bizarre events begin to unfold around them—a chance encounter with a gifted six-year-old boy, a series of violent deaths, and repeated sightings of a strange creature with a terrifying nature—Peter and Sylvia find themselves drawn into the chaos and soon discover that coming to Gilchrist may not have been their decision at all. Set against a small New England town in the summer of 1966, Gilchrist is a sinister tale about the haunting origins of violence, evil, and the undying power of memory. Excerpt Peter was having a dream. He was kneeling, bent down, and looking at an elderly reflection of himself in a river. When he focused on the constant burbling of moving water, the sound seemed to wax and wane, becoming a rhythm, as if the water itself were breathing. He broke away from his reflection and looked around the sad landscape. An ominous red sky cast a sick light over everything. In the distance, a dilapidated church stood in the middle of an empty field that looked scorched. He went to it. The doors were open, and he could see inside. The pews were covered
| CHRISTIAN GALACAR | in blood. Something moved behind him. Many somethings. He turned around. They were pouring out of the ground like black ropes of oil. But the ropes had eyes. And the ropes slithered. And the ropes had teeth. They were all whispering, and it was one word hissed over and over again: Gilllchrissst… Gilllchrissst… Gilllchrissst… One snaked across the back of Peter’s calf, latched on to him, and bit. He looked down and the ground was covered with them. He tried to scream, but no sound would come. He awoke. Sylvia was snoring when Peter opened his eyes. He caught his breath and picked his watch up off the nightstand: 3:27 a.m. He sat up, drenched in sweat, and searched around the floor with his toes until he found his slippers. A twinge of fear needled his mind as he thought of his foot touching something slick and slithery below, but he wasn’t sure what that something was exactly. The dream was already disintegrating and taking on a lost and distant feeling like a fading echo. It left behind only its disquiet, not its details. He went to the bathroom. He needed water. His mouth tasted like a New York drain gutter. He hadn’t intended to get drunk when they had returned home, but after Sylvia had popped a few extra Equanil and followed through on her promise to go to bed early, he had decided to have a drink or two while he did a little writing on his new book. But as was often the case, one or two drinks became the whole bottle. Then after the bottle was gone, it became whatever else was in the house. He bent over the sink and drank directly from the faucet, lapping the cold water like a greedy dog, each sip feeling somehow purgative. He straightened and looked at himself in the mirror. To spare his eyes, he hadn’t turned on the light, but he could still see his reflection. He looked worn out. A hint of something familiar touched him, but it was too faint, and he was too tired to grasp the connection to his dream. Peter went back to the bedroom and stood at the foot of their bed. He watched Sylvia sleep. She snorted, cleared her throat, and rolled over on her back, kicking her leg out from under the covers. She threw her arm over her head, her hair somehow remaining perfectly
neat. She really was a beautiful woman. Five minutes passed. Maybe ten. The house was so silent, so still. Memories of their happier past seemed to have real volume when he replayed them in his mind at this hour, as if he could reach out and touch them. But behind it all, looming overhead like a storm cloud, was a very real thought. All he could think about was how easy it would be to pack a bag, leave, and never come back. Walk away from it all. That might be the only way either of them could ever have any sort of good life again. Death had hardened the soil of their hearts, and now no new love could grow. The thought sickened him, and a surge of guilt rose up in him for even having it. He would never leave her. He loved her, and they would make it through this together. They would ride it out, no matter what. That’s right, he thought. No matter what. Peter got back into bed, but he didn’t sleep.
Uncaged Review A small town escape for Peter and his wife Sylvia after the loss of their son, trying to scrape their lives back together – and the small town vacation sounds like it might be what the couple needs. Oh but be very leery of small lake towns… Set in 1966, in the small lake town of Gilchrist, Massachusetts – author Peter and his wife rent a house on the lake, intending to relax and unwind. But there is a strange presence in this town, and it’s not all it seems. I can’t get into the story without giving spoilers, but the author really nails this one and slowly ramps up the tension so by the middle of the book you are glued to the pages. Reminiscent of King and Koontz, the author does a brilliant job setting the stage and the characters feel real and believable. I think this book is a hidden gem in the world of horror, my only advice is you might not want to read it before bedtime. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 27 | October 2018 |
feature author Rayanne Haines is an award-winning Fiction Author and Poet with work published in Canada, the United States and the UK. Her work has hit the bestseller lists, both in Canada and abroad. She is the current feature writer for Capital City Press and the executive director of a literary festival. Rayanne writes Paranormal Romance with KickAss Heroines. She believes in magic and legend and all the things we cannot see. Rayanne prefers her alpha males a little gritty and the women who love them, in charge of their own destiny.
Uncaged welcomes Rayanne Haines Uncaged: The Guardian series is fast becoming a favorite of mine. Can you tell readers more about this series? Hi Cyrene, Thank you so much for having in the Magazine this month! The Guardians is a series that follows the adventures and relationships of a group of immortals tasked with protecting the balance of good and evil in the human and immortal world. The series is a bit of a mashup between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. The series has Shifters, Elementals, Witches, Vampires, and more, all living and working among humans with no one the wiser. In book one we learn about the history of the Guardians and a gain a few sneak peaks about what comes next for our band of protectors. In the first book we meet Alex, a young woman who discovers, after a fight in the YMCA parking lot, that she is a Fire Elemental and the fated mate of the leader of the Guardians and the Dragon King, Collum Thronus. Each book focuses on the relationship with the hero and heroine while continuing the overall story-line of the Guardianâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mission to find and stop the darkness threatening them all. Uncaged: Fire Born, the first book in your series won the Raven Award for Favorite Paranormal Romance. How was the experience of having readers choose
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your book? I was shocked and a little overwhelmed with gratitude. I love the book I wrote and feel super invested in the lives of my characters so to see that other people also liked them enough to vote for the book… felt like a gift. It made me want to write an even better book next time :) Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about? I just finished the first draft of Air Born, book three in the series. Currently I’m working through the edits and prepping it to send to my publisher. In book three, Quinn and Lachon get their story with a few more twists thrown at our Guardians, and we learn the identity of the darkness. The release date for that book is set for spring 2019. Uncaged: What are some of your favorite genres to read? Of course, I love Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. I also love regency and historical romances. I grew up on Johanna Lindsey books. Her, Malory Series, was my go to for a few years. I also enjoy Dystopian YA and Women’s fiction. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them?
I do read my reviews. Honestly, I feel like we as authors, spend so much time asking for reviews that we owe it to the reviewer to read them! I’ve had a couple that hurt but everyone has an opinion and 99% of the time even the bad reviews can offer insight for authors. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? I try to make my characters as real as possible. I spend a lot of time creating their backstory to learn as much about them as possible before I even begin writing, so when I hear from people that they loved how I developed my characters or that they cried because of a character’s experience, that means everything to me. It’s humbling. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? So, I actually love running. I sit so much that when I get the chance to throw my shoes on and run in the river valley by my home, it’s a total relief for my glutes and my eyes. One of my favorite places on earth is Salt Spring Island, one of the Gulf Islands in BC, Canada. It is remote and rugged. In fact, I spent the summer there this year and it’s where I finished writing Air Born. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | about you?
than her family was.
I own an English Bulldog who has a bit of an Instagram following. One of the characters in book two of the series is based on her.
But the past has a way of catching up to Mar and the future has a morbid sense of humor. On her first mission, she’s kidnapped by the enemy she’s been running from her entire life. Thankfully the guardians look after their own. As it turns out, so does Neeren.
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for choosing to read my book. I’ll do my best to keep them coming :) You can find me on Twitter @inkrayanne, on Facebook as Rayanne Haines Author, on Instagram @rayanne_haines, and on my personal website – www. rayannehaines.com. I’m also on BookBub @ RayanneHaines.
Enjoy an excerpt from Magic Born Magic Born Rayanne Haines Paranormal Romance/ Urban Fantasy Maria Del Voscova is a powerful witch with a past. When she’s asked to become a member of the elite Guardians she knows she can’t risk sharing the truth about her messedup family. But we don’t always get what we want. Sometimes, we don’t always know what we want. Though Mar absolutely knows she doesn’t want Neeren, King of the Parthen. She alone sees the darkness in him and it reminds her too much of the past. She knows better than to fall for his stoic, tortured soul façade. She’s training to be a Guardian, a shadow; tasked with keeping the balance between good and evil in the world. It’s what she wants—to be better 34 | UncagedBooks.com
As Mar finds herself caught between the past and the future; between blood and bond; between the light and the dark, she realizes her only chance at surviving may be in trusting a man who is the most dangerous of them all. Excerpt She must be losing her touch. Mar opened the makeshift medical office door, only to be swept up into the thunderstorm gaze of Neeren Simine. The Parthen King’s eyes swirled green, black, and yellow. Wicked. Measured. His six-foot four-inch frame exuded cool masculinity. Prowess. Sin. Nonchalance written on every part of his body. He wore tan slacks and a loose white cotton shirt that effortlessly showcased his muscles. His sleeves rolled up above his powerful forearms. His feet were bare. As always. Show-off. Mar had been a guest on his island for close to two weeks and only managed to ruffle his feathers a couple of times. She usually pissed people off at least twice per conversation, but with this guy? Nothing. It was unnerving not knowing what he felt. Schooled in the art of diplomacy and secrecy, his face betrayed nothing. He was ice, through and through. She squinted, hoping to decipher something in his high cheek bones. His square jaw. His thick lower lip. Neeren grinned at her. His yellow eyes remained aloof. “Do you like what you see?” Mar snorted. Refused to give him the satisfaction of knowing he unnerved her. “Dream much?” “Double entendres this early in the day, Maria?” Of course, she hadn’t meant it that way. Trust him to
| RAYANNE HAINES | pick up on subconscious spilling out. Neeren was half parthen and half water elemental. Parthen were shifters (black panther variation) and dream walkers. A race imbued with the ability to enter others dreams and manipulate them. Once inside a person’s mind, dream became reality. Whatever the parthen wanted to happen—happened. Pain or pleasure. They wielded their gift with exacting precision. Needless to say, most immortals were nervous around them. The jury was out as to whether they were admired or reviled. Depends on who you spoke to. The Elementals, a race capable of controlling all the earth’s elements, were one of only a few with a natural ability to block parthen from entering their dreams. because Neeren was both parthen and elemental he could bypass this natural blocking ability. Could do whatever he wanted to any elemental he wanted. Even kill them in their sleep. His secret was out now though. To keep peace, he’d agreed to have his dreamwalking abilities bound against the elemental. Mar was the witch tagged to do the binding. Mar leaned her hip against the door and winked at him. “Funny. Bet you think you’re pretty clever.” “Hardly. If I was clever, I’d have figured out a way around this.” Neeren narrowed his eyes at her. Baring perfect teeth in a sinister grin. A shiver raced up her spine and slammed into her gut. Goddess he annoyed her. Mar pursed her lips. “It’s not going to hurt. I never pegged you for a chicken. Tell me, how many bodyguards are standing guard during this little tet-a-tet?” “Ah yes, that’s it of course. I’m scared.” He grinned again. “How perceptive of you.” She hated his grin. How his lower lip curled up slightly. Her jaw clenched. Realizing they were still standing in the doorway, she retreated a step to let him in. He remained where he was. “Are you coming in or what?” “I’d rather not, thank you.” She sighed. “Alex wasn’t such a baby about it. Just get in here.” He growled. “Yes, well my sister trusts you for some strange reason.” “Look, you two made a deal. It’s time to follow
through, kitten.” He bowed mockingly. “As you command.” Turning away, she walked into the room. Better than telling him to piss off and not come back. She had a job to do. It didn’t include being mocked by some cat. The walls pulsed. Pushed down on her. She hadn’t noticed before. Maybe it hadn’t been as glaring when it was just her and Alex, but the space felt claustrophobic. A single bed lay in the middle of the room. A lone, white metal chair beside it. A small wood burning stove heated the room. Her flesh warmed. A pot of herbs brewed over flames. The smell of sage, lemongrass, and rosemary calmed her. The smell of magic. The room should have felt clinical. It didn’t. Magic required energy and intimacy. The strongest magic came from connection. Mar would have to get very, very close to Neeren for the spell to stick. Dread bounced in her stomach. Beads of sweat collected on her forehead. Dripped down her spine. “So how does this work?” Neeren’s voice jarred her back to the present. “Shall I strip and lie down?” Mar gifted him with her best don’t-fuck-with-me stare. The only way she’d get through this torturous afternoon was by maintaining control. Dude had no idea who he was dealing with. She wasn’t some wet behind the ears novice. She flexed her shoulders. Smirked. She was one of the most powerful witches on the planet. No joke. No fooling. She’d studied her ass off. Trained until her soul bled. She wasn’t the best because she’d been born special. His dreamwalking shit didn’t scare her. And no cat was going to dominate her, even if he was a King. “Oh, kitten, you wish. Go ahead and lay down. But keep your clothes on. This won’t take long.” His voice weaved through the room like honey. “You’ll find things always take longer with me. I expect you to be thorough, witch.” “Oh good, now you’re gonna play the seducer? Lucky me.” She rolled her eyes. Twice. He smirked and glanced away. Like it was nothing. Jerk. She stirred herbs. Placed another log in Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | the stove. Watched fire lick at fresh wood. The flames roared whenever the King’s sister, Alex, entered the room. Mar’s new BFF controlled fire and was one of the toughest people she’d ever known. They were best friends though because Alex took no one’s shit while still being kind. Mar liked kindness. Binding Alex had been easy. Her friend was newly immortal. She’d known about the immortal world for less than a month. When Mar reached into her subconscious, she’d discovered Alex hadn’t fully embraced her immortality. Neeren wouldn’t be so easy. The guy had been born and raised a King. Considered the most powerful of his kind, he’d spent his one hundred and twenty odd years protecting his people from outsiders. Her gut clenched as he climbed onto the bed and stretched out his legs. Muscled calves hung over the edge. His slacks pulled taut around long limbs. Even his stupid feet were perfectly proportioned. Her stilettos clicked her frustration as she stomped across the floor with a pot of herbs. She allowed herself a moment to study him as he closed his eyes. Thick, black lashes swept above his cheekbones. He breathed easy. Ice, she thought again. And too damn masculine for his own good. Mar licked her lips. “I’m going to have to touch you to do this. I’ll reach into your sub consciousness to access your dream world. Then using magic, I’ll lay a block over your abilities. To do this, I’ll rub a herb mixture across your forehead and temples. I may have to touch more of your face. There will be a sense of connection.” She swallowed. “Don’t get any bright ideas about touching back.” Neeren’s eyes remained closed as he replied, “I will endeavor to remain passive and non-reactionary.” Mar leaned over his chest. Her hair spilled across his face. He flinched. “Sorry,” she said. She pushed her hair off her shoulders and leaned in again. A few stray strands fell across his lips. He flinched. 36 | UncagedBooks.com
She grinned. “Sorry.” “Get an elastic band for fuck’s sake.” “I don’t have one.” “Hell.” “Suck it up, Norman. It’s just hair. Now don’t move.” Mar positioned the pot next to his chest, lightly touching his flesh. Placed the fingers on her left hand along his temple. With her right hand, she traced a pattern through the herb mixture. She hummed under her breath. Tracing the exact pattern in a continual motion, until it began to glow. Fire sang. Sweat broke out across her chest. Moisture glistened along Neeren’s upper lip. A blue mist rose above the floor. As it reached her knees, she placed her fingers, coated in moist herbs, against his jaw. He remained motionless. The chant became a wave. An echo. A siren call. The air vibrated. Slowly, Mar traced a new pattern across his face. Swept fingers across his cheek, up his nose, over the forehead, and down his hardened jaw. Repeated the movement again and again. His breathing echoed her chant. Her breathing echoed his. Matched the staccato beat. As they joined, the pattern across his face glowed the same blue as the mist now at her chest. Mar reached for his mind. Stretched for connections. Searched for pieces of him linked to the elemental. Let the spell weave between her and Neeren so they might become one. A shadow appeared. Her consciousness pushed at it. Heat bit her. The blue glow on his flesh singed her. His subconscious fought. Pushed back at light seeking entrance to this deep place. Mar pushed harder. Ignored a burning against her skin. Reached into shadow. Directed light energy. Battered with wiccan power. She would not be stopped. A crack appeared in the gray. She channeled her glow past the barrier Neeren erected. Pain engulfed her. Agony. Her lungs constricted, trying to hide from the force beating at them. Her limbs weakened. Dizzy, she tried to pull free. Neeren grasped her hand. Held it against his face before she could escape. “Finish it,” Neeren moaned through gritted teeth.
| RAYANNE HAINES | Clenched jaw. This was wrong. She shouldn’t be feeling this. “I can’t,” she moaned back. “You have no option now,” he growled. “Complete the spell so we can be done with it.” His eyes remained closed. His face glowed electric blue. His entire body illuminated. Mar forced herself to ignore the burning inside her gut. To ignore the cries of death she heard in his mind. To pretend she hadn’t felt his content. She resumed chanting. Louder this time, almost frantic. Watched as the blue glow finally weaved itself into a wall blocking his power. As soon as it was done, she ripped her hand out of his and fled across the room. “What did you do?” Neeren sat up. Controlled. Swung his legs over the side. Rested his hands on the edge of the cot. Smiled his knowing smile. Replied, “What I was born to do.”
and the author just can’t write fast enough for me. Reviewed by Cyrene
Don’t miss the first book in the series: Fire Born, winner of the 2018 Raven Award for Favorite Paranormal Romance
Uncaged Review In the second installment of The Guardians series, you won’t find a sophomore slump here. And when I opened the book immediately after finishing book one, I was happy to discover this one was about the witch Mar and Alex’s brother Neeren. This book is just as good, if not better than book one. Jumping in after the events of book one, we finally will find out about Mar’s dark and painful past, and the new family she has in Alex, Collum, Glenn and Neeren. If anyone was going to break Neeren’s ice cold exterior and control, leave it to a sassy witch. Many things are not as they appear again, as the author weaves her own brand of magic around her readers. After being asked to be a Guardian, Mar is sent off to Madrid on her first mission, and in the process gets kidnapped. Will Neeren, Collum and Alex find her in time?
All our friends from book one are back, and this series is just getting better, plenty of action, romance and snark, along with a good dash of humor, Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Short story â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;
the demon s favor by James Pack
| SHORT STORY |
the demon's favor by James Pack I first met Mr. Yao at a political rally, although this meeting didn’t occur in the conventional sense. Everyone attended the rally to raise money for street repairs and to get legislation on the next ballot. It didn’t seem like the sort of thing anyone would protest against, but you never really know what motivates other people. Everyone’s cheers and chanting fell. Muffled screams and load pops moved closer to the door. A man with a white beard crashed through the glass doors. “Everyone run! He’s got a gun!” Screams filled the room. Only the loud pops from the rifle broke through the screeching and yelling. I hid around a corner with two others. People fell like sacks of potatoes. Blood slowly crawled along the grout between the tiles. Constant screaming. More rifle pops. The active shooter turned towards me. I closed my eyes with my hands in the air; waiting. The screaming stopped; no noise. Am I dead? I waited a moment. Silence. I opened my eyes. Everyone stood frozen in place; like wax figures. Is this death? Does time stop when you die? That’s when I met Mr. Yao. He walked up to me while everything else remained motionless. “Good evening, Mr. Pion. My name is Mr. Yao. I have a proposition for you.” “What?” “You see, you are about to be shot. I can stop this from happening. I can save your life.” “How? What’s happening?” “As you may or may not have noticed, I have stopped time. I can only hold it for a couple more minutes, so you must make a decision. Would you like to live…” He pointed at the active shooter. “…or die?” “Of course, I want to live!” “Excellent!” With a smoky poof, a stack of papers and a 40 | UncagedBooks.com
pen appeared in Mr. Yao’s hands. “I need your signature before we can move forward.” I stared at the contract. “What’s the catch?” “Simply this, I do a favor for you today and in return sometime in the future, I will call upon you to do a favor for me.” “That’s it?” “That is it. Nothing more and nothing less.” “What if I don’t do your favor?” “Then you die like you were supposed to today.” He remained calm and cool during the whole conversation. Everything about him looked pleasant except his smile; that wolfish grin. Is this a lie so he can eat me? “Time will be starting up soon, Mr. Pion. Sign or do not. It is your choice.” I walked forward, took the pen, and signed my name. “Excellent!” He turned the page. “And sign here.” He turned another page. “Initial here. Initial again. Sign here. Mother’s maiden name. Sign again…” “Can’t I do this all with one signature?” “And finally, stab your index finger with the pen and smear the blood on this page.” “What?” “I am kidding. That is a terrible joke.” “What the hell, dude!?” “Hey, lighten up Mr. Pion. I just saved your life. And please do not call me dude.” With a puff of smoke, he was gone. “NO!” The shooter said. The rifle jammed. Police fired their pistols. The shooter dropped to his knees and the rifle fell to his side. He choked on his own blood and fell to the floor. “The target is down! Move in!” The shooter looked up at me, struggling for words. “Your turn.” He said. *** Seven years passed, and I never thought of that day; a bad dream long forgotten. I lived alone, with my dog Max. I got home one evening excited to see my flop-
py eared friend. “Hey Max. I got you a new bone.” “Hello Mr. Pion.” “Jesus Christ!” With a lump in my throat and chest pounding, I grabbed the umbrella next to my door. Max put his head on the floor with his tail wagging in the air ready to play. “Your jasmine green tea is delicious. And my name is not Jesus.” “Who are you? How’d you get in my house? How’d you get passed my dog? Why are you sitting in the dark drinking my tea?” “I am very offended that you do not remember me, Mr. Pion. I only saved your life many years ago from a misguided shooter. But to answer your questions, you may recall my name is Mr. Yao. I come and go as I please and Max is unaware of my presence, and I’m waiting for you to turn the lights on. Allow me.” He snapped his fingers and the lamp next to him lit up. Max didn’t acknowledge him and acted as if only I stood in the room. “I apologize; I didn’t recognize you.” “No harm; no fowl. Do you recall the agreement we made?” With a poof, a stack of papers appeared in his hands. “I owe you a favor, don’t I?” “Excellent memory, Mr. Pion. Yes, it is time to repay that debt. I am afraid you will not be fully committed to what I am going to ask of you. Do keep in mind, by signing this document, you have already agreed to the undertaking. Would you like to review the contract before I continue?” “I remember the agreement. Let’s just get this over with.” “Very well. Please sit down and enjoy this fabulous tea with me.” A cup of tea poofed onto the coffee table. I couldn’t help but examine it before taking a sip. The aroma climbed up my nostrils with hot steam almost burning my nose. I burned my tongue and the roof of my mouth. It tasted sweet, as though Mr. Yao knew exactly how much honey I like in my tea. How did he make things appear out of thin air? “Simply put Mr. Pion, in exchange for your life, you owe me another life. As I have said, you have already agreed to this and backing out now is not an option. We
| JAMES PACK | cannot go back in time to when you were supposed to die so you must take a life. You can choose the life, or I can choose for you. I will give you one day to decide. I will return this time tomorrow.” Poof. He vanished just as quickly as he appeared. The cup of tea left with him and Max never noticed things coming and going in my living room. The lump in my throat wouldn’t go down and I felt nauseous. I’d never taken a life. I couldn’t sleep. Max snored all night on the floor. I felt anxious the next day. Small children even scared me. “Hey, mister? Bang! Bang!” “Steven, don’t point your toys at people!” I walked by a movie poster covered with monsters and demons and a big, bold ‘Coming Soon’ on the bottom. Every time someone spoke, I heard something different. “You gonna kill some people?” “What!? What are you talking about?” I said. “I said, do you have a light?” “Oh! No, sorry.” I avoided everyone the rest of the way home. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I decided not to go through with the contract. It must have a loophole. I waited, wondering where Mr. Yao would appear. “Hello Mr. Pion.” I never heard a poof. He stood by the front door. “You have no idea what’s happening, do you Max?” “He is quite content with his half-devoured bone. Are you ready to proceed with our arrangement?” “I…I don’t thing I can do it. I’ve never taken a life before. I won’t do it.” His wolfish grin slowly disappeared. “You have already agreed. The contract cannot be broken or altered. In essence, all sales are final.” “But there must be something I can do. There must be some loophole.” “I am starting to lose my patience, Mr. Pion.” His clenched teeth should have warned me to agree, but I ignored this warning. Something I would Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| SHORT STORY | soon regret. Mr. Yao’s eyes turned red. The floor to my house disappeared and I fell through a tunnel made of skeletons and rotting corpses. I thought my skin burned from the heat, though I had no marks; but the stench of burning flesh overpowered my nostrils and I had to fight back the stomach acid in my throat as I continued screaming. I hit a hard surface causing an extraordinary amount of pain, but I could still move. Standing around me were beasts and monsters with waves of heat radiating off their bodies. It felt like I had ten blow dryers on high pointing at my face. One demon with wings looking over everything from a cliff a few feet above, rested his arms on a large sword gleaming in front of his nude body. His face hid in the shadows, but I could see his horns protruding from his head. He spoke with a deep growl that shook the ground where I stood. “You will follow the contract you signed in front of me or you will spend eternity being torn apart by these creatures before you. Now go and await further instructions.” One of the monsters in front of me lifted an axe and swung towards me. That’s when I woke up in my bed, sweating with Max at my feet. I would’ve brushed the whole thing off, but my living room wall had words burned into it. AGREE OR BURN Out of fear, I went to the only place I thought I could for help; a Catholic Church about a mile away. A priest should be able to help me more than anyone else, but would he believe me? I ran in the church. The priest kneeled near the alter. The pews sat empty. “Father? Father, I need your help!” The elderly priest turned and looked at me with glazed, lifeless eyes. “Agree or burn, Mr. Pion.” “What? No!” I turned to see hundreds of people filling the pews, all chanting. “Agree or burn! Agree or burn!” My screams couldn’t deafen the noise and I could still hear them as I raced down the street back home. I slammed my door shut and fell to the floor panting. I’d never run so fast. The room spun and made me dizzy. Any control of myself I had crept 42 | UncagedBooks.com
away. Something seemed off as I laid on the floor. Something felt out of place. I realized Max hadn’t come to the door like he always did when I came home. “Max?” Silence. “Max! Come here boy, let’s go for a walk.” Nothing. No panting or barking. No paws trotting through the kitchen. He loved walks, where could he be? To describe the nightmare on my bed would be uncomfortable. If I were to choose Hell over the contract, Mr. Yao demonstrated my eternal fate on my friend Max. So much blood. I shut the door and silently sobbed on the hallway floor. I sat there for an eternity before Mr. Yao made another appearance. “What will it be Mr. Pion?” “You son of a bitch!” I lunged for him. With a poof, chains wrapped around me and I hovered in the air. Every time I struggled, the chains tightened their grip. “I believe I have made it very clear what happens when I become cross with you so let us play nice. Agreed?” I nodded. The chains disappeared and my knees hit the floor first. I coughed too much to scream. “I…agree…” “As for the contract…” “Yes…I…I will…do it…” “Wonderful! But due to your recent insubordination, I will choose the lives you take.” And then he vanished. Why did he say lives? The nausea and pain caused me to black out. I don’t know how long I slept. My body ached when I woke. I found an envelope on my kitchen table. There were maps and charts, a business card for a rifle and ammo shop, print outs of tactical gear from online stores, and a letter from Mr. Yao. Mr. Pion Within the contents of this envelope you will find all the information you need to carry out your task. You will be required to take the lives of everyone within the Premiere National Bank. The Branch location is listed with the building plans and demographic data provided.
You must acquire an assault rifle, ammunition, and the necessary tactical equipment to ensure your efficiency. You have three days to acquire your materials and execute your objectives. Upon completion of your mission, we will provide further details to complete your contract. Sincerely, T. Yao T. Yao Senior Manager Living Contracts & Accounts Payable 666 W Styx Rd Hades, Utah 66666-6666 Getting a rifle and the gear would be the hardest part with a three-day deadline. I thought some places had a waiting period before purchasing a firearm, but I had to try or else I’d end up like my poor dog Max. I decided to stop by the bank first. There were four teller stations but only two were being used. An older, and fatter, security guard watched the bank floor. Hidden behind his wrinkles were dark, sunken eyes. If his body failed, his eyes acted as sharp as ever. His neatly trimmed mustache framed a pleasant smile he only showed to children. Everyone else he greeted with a polite hello but a cold, indifferent stare. He gave me the same look. If I were to pull this thing off, he would have to go first. It felt unfair to take his life. But I guess fairness disappeared when I cheated death. I couldn’t keep thinking about that. It would eat away at me, so I focused on the task. What kind of trouble would I have at the rifle shop? “You here to pick up the rifle?” The clerk said. “Yes, I’m here to purchase a rifle.” “Mr. Pion?” “Yes?” “Okay. Please sign these forms. Just a formality. I’ll be right back.” The clerk returned from the back room with an assault rifle I’d never seen before. “You picked an excellent rifle Mr. Pion. This thing isn’t even legal in California or Connecticut. It
| JAMES PACK | comes equipped with a night vision scope, perfect for those early morning hunts before sunrise. Everything looks to be in order. Have a nice day sir.” “You don’t need anything else from me?” “No sir. Forms are signed and we got a copy of your driver’s license when you paid in full last week. You’re all set.” “Okay, thank you.” “Thank you, Mr. Pion.” I couldn’t remember being in that store. It had to be one of Mr. Yao’s tricks. Did he control that guy like the men and women at the church? When I got home, a package sat on my porch. It contained all the tactical equipment from the print outs. My name appeared on the box, but I never ordered it. Everything felt too convenient, like Mr. Yao had this all planned out before he ever came to see me; before he killed Max. I sat at my kitchen table staring at the building plans and the rifle, the ammo, the vest and ballistic plates, and Kevlar. Never in my life would I have considered any of this. The nausea rested in my stomach and never left. I couldn’t sleep that night. I still couldn’t muster the strength to enter my room. The smell of blood and decaying meat escaped into the hallway. I couldn’t even close my eyes without crying. Max always knew if I felt anxious and he would climb into my lap pawing at my face. I missed my best friend. The morning came and went. Then the afternoon. Then evening. I finally decided to stop thinking about it all and just do it. I saw no way out. Some of the nausea subsided when I started making a plan. Enter here, do the business, exit here, drive away from here, ditch the car here. It reminded me of those spy movies. Everything felt easier when I didn’t think about the people. You can’t hurt people if you don’t see them as people; just numbers, just obstacles in the way. No people here, no confliction of my humanity. Issue 27 | October 2018 |
It’s like playing Call of Duty. They’re not real, it’s just a game. No harm, no fowl. Just a game. The sun rose and I put all the gear on. I’m a soldier going to kill bad guys. Just like Call of Duty. Just like a game. I’m playing a game. The crisp air visualized my breath in the chill of the morning. My breaths felt different that day; long, deep breaths every time. The transition from cold to warmth as I walked out of the shade into the bright, beaming sunlight felt extreme. I stood in the sun for a moment. I closed my eyes. I imagined being wrapped in a blanket fresh from the dryer. I saw no past. I saw no future. I saw only now. With a deep breath, I loaded my car. When I got to the bank, I just sat there with the engine running. It was 9:23. I started thinking about the people inside. Would the old security guard stop me? How many people would scream or cry? What would it say on the news? Would I get caught? Would they interview the victims’ families? Would I run out of bullets? Would gun laws become stricter? Would I live the rest of my life in happiness or regret and grief? Would anyone come to my funeral? Who will have to clean up my best friend’s mangled body in my bedroom? I started crying thinking of Max. I cried forever. I wiped my tears and cleared my throat. It was 9:25. I stopped thinking, grabbed the rifle, and walked to the door. I saw the security guard through the window. I shot him before he saw me, shattering the glass door as he fell. The screams and breaking glass were 44 | UncagedBooks.com
deafened by the rifle. My ear plugs deafened the gunfire. I heard nothing else. Everyone ran and fell and bleed out and died. I walked past ten bodies and saw a woman crouched down in a corner shaking. She shouted muffled words.
“Please don’t kill me!”
As I squeezed the trigger, the rifle jammed, and she stood three feet closer to me.
I turned around to see three SWAT officers pointing their rifles. They shot, eighteen bullets all over my body and the ballistic plates. I saw the police escort the woman past me as I bled out on the floor. It’s her turn now. I know she signed Mr. Yao’s contact. The last thing I see is Mr. Yao standing over me. I pull out one of my ear plugs. “Ms. Pengo has taken your place. You should have read the fine print in the contract. You are still going to die, and you will burn. Enjoy your stay in Hell Mr. Pion.” He disappears. I inhale one final time as everything disappears.
The End www.thejamespack.com
paranormal | horror
Anthony J. Melchiorri
feature author S.K. Ryder is a software developer by day, a scribe by night and answers to Susan any time. She writes the type of stories she loves to read: heartpounding adventures full of supernatural mysteries and relationships between strong, compelling characters. Though she calls South Florida home, she has also lived in Germany and Canada and has traveled widely, usually in the hot pursuit of wild and scenic nature. When not debugging code, complicating her characters’ lives or plotting her next rafting adventure down the Grand Canyon, she can be found beach combing, scuba diving, sailing or just hanging out with a good book. When push comes to shove, she can also bake a halfway decent cake and stand on her head, though not at the same time.
Please welcome S.K. Ryder Uncaged: I really loved the Dark Destinies series, and am a bit bummed that it’s over, what do you have coming up next that you can tell us about? Don’t be bummed. I have good news. I thought I was done after wrapping up everybody’s story at the end of book 3 (Dark Child of Forever), but I forgot to check with my vampire hero, Dominic. He had another story to tell, this one about how he first meets his sire, Kambyses, and the circumstances that make him who he is when Cassidy moves into his life in Dark Heart of the Sun. It was supposed to be a short story. It ended up being a novella. Entitled Dark Awakening, it’s currently with an editor, and I anticipate a release date in December or January. If more characters pipe up down the road, there may be others in this series, but for now I’m getting back to my first love—sci-fi fantasy (with the prerequisite romantic elements, of course). That’s the genre that first inspired me to write, and it’s been calling to me again. There will be travel in space and time, a big dose of mysticism, and a heroine who is forced to question everything she knows about how the universe works. No dates on that yet, but my mailing list subscribers will be the first to know when any of the above become available. Uncaged: Where did you get the inspiration for Dark Destinies? Short answer: Dominic.
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Longer answer: My hero, Dominic, was born on the fly in a piece of fanfiction I wrote eons ago. But within a couple of scenes I knew he was much more than the plug-and-play vampire I had intended. With every line of dialog he became deeper and more tormented. Around that time I met my first critique partner. She was at the same place in her non-existent writing career as I was, so we started encouraging each other in a quest to get serious about having our work published. When it came time to decide just what my first “serious” book would be, Dominic just sort of cocked a brow at me and said (in that sexy French accent of his) “You really need to ask, chère?” Dark Destinies was the result. Though there are plenty of other characters who tried to hijack it along the way, the series is really Dominic’s story of redemption. Uncaged: What are some of the benefits to signing up for your newsletter? First of all, no spam. Subscribers only hear from me when there really is something to share, such as a new release, sale, or contest. Subscribers are also the first to see new covers and excerpts of upcoming releases. And just by signing up, they get a gift of one or more (this changes) scenes that didn’t make it into the published books. Currently this is the opening scene of Dark Awakening, which is all about Dominic and his happy life on the French Caribbean island of Saint Barthélemy before it all goes horribly pear shaped. (Too happy to be a gripping story opening as it turns out, but still fun.) Uncaged: What are some of your favorite genres to read?
I tend to gravitate to fantasy, sci-fi, and supernatural elements. Really anything that stretches my imagination. I also appreciate a good comedy, caper, or autobiography. Favorite authors include Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, Deborah Harkness, and Hugh Howey, to name but a few. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them? I do. Reviews are often the only feedback an author gets on published work. They’re proof that we’re not just pouring words into a void, that we’ve moved someone enough to take the time to share their thoughts. That alone means the world to me. Positive reviews are tremendously motivating on days when the words won’t flow and I question my ability as a writer. Knowing there are readers out there who have enjoyed my past work and are waiting for more can make all the difference. As for the occasional negative comment, I take those in stride. Everyone has different tastes and expectations, and there’s always a chance that their feedback will be something I can use to improve my writing going forward. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? Every time someone says reading my books kept them up all night because they couldn’t stop, I know I’ve done my job as a storyteller right. One woman took this to an extreme when she started reading my second book on a Friday night and Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | told her family they would have to fend for themselves until she was done Sunday morning. That just blows me away. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? My day job as a software developer takes up most of my time. Everything else, including writing, gets squeezed in around the edges. Those things include hanging out with friends and family, reading, traveling, doing yoga, and spending time on the nearest beach or in a sailboat. When I travel to tropical destinations, I also scuba dive. Where I live on South Florida’s east coast, is one of my favorite places. I’ve tried moving away several times. I keep coming back. (Something about the sunlight and lack of snow, I think.) But my absolute favorite place on Earth (so far) is the Grand Canyon. It’s been years since I spent a week rafting down the entire length of this, but the wild Colorado River and massive sandstone cliffs still haunt my memories. It’s as close as you can get to leaving reality and traveling in time. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? Well, I don’t know how unique this is, but an interesting aspect about me as an English-language writer would have to be that I’m actually not a native English speaker. For the first twelve years of my life, I spoke only German. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? A heart-felt thank you for taking a chance and spending your valuable time visiting my world. You are the reason I write, and I love to hear from you (about any topic of mutual interest, not just my books). I’m not an active poster on social media, but I do visit Facebook and Twitter on a 50 | UncagedBooks.com
regular basis and am always thrilled to find messages from readers waiting. You can also follow me on Amazon, Goodreads, and Bookbub, or simply drop me a line through the contact form on my website. It’s all good.
Enjoy an excerpt from Dark Heart of the Sun Dark Heart of the Sun S.K. Ryder Paranormal Romance His future is already written...in her blood. Rookie journalist Cassidy Chandler wakes to an ugly bruise on her neck, a hole in her memory, and a fiancé who seems to know more about what happened than he’s telling. It’s enough to make Cassidy call off the engagement and move out, even if that means trading a posh South Florida mansion for a dilapidated beach house. Unfortunately, she also trades one devious man for another questionable character in her unexpected new roommate: the darkly enigmatic and exasperatingly French Dominic Marchant. For Dominic Marchant secrecy is a matter of survival. As a newborn vampire with dangerous enemies, he’s sure the headstrong young woman invading his lair with an unknown vampire’s mark on her throat is about to get him killed. But the charming Cassidy resists his every effort to make her leave and even embroils him in her own tumultuous life. Before he knows it, she has stolen his heart and helps him rediscover his lost humanity. Now he’s fighting to protect her not only from the ancient vampires hunting him, but also from his own deadly desire for her. But her secretive ex isn’t done with her yet, and neither is the dark prophecy Cassidy and Dominic’s
unlikely relationship has set in motion. Together they are swept up in a battle where nothing is as it seems, love and deception are the weapons of choice, and the only way to survive is to risk everything—for each other. Excerpt Chapter 2 - Justice Hunched low over the bike, Dominic blew across the causeway bridge to the mainland and through the intersection into town at just shy of one hundred miles per hour. An SUV lurched toward him from the right. He twisted the throttle, increasing his speed, screaming past the front bumper so close he felt it brush past his knee. He ignored the shrieking tires and blasting horn and continued darting among vehicles and across the occasional parking lot and sidewalk. Only a tiny portion of his vampire mind noted, processed, anticipated, and reacted to the shifting traffic patterns as he made his way out to I-95. The majority of his thoughts belonged to one Cassidy Chandler. “Merde, merde, merde...” He was now starving. Every fiber in his being demanded that he remain and take advantage of the meal guaranteed to walk through the door at any moment. He had almost faltered when, on his way out, a little yellow car turned off onto Seagrape Lane, a lone woman at the wheel. It had to be her, returning home. To his home. His lair. No. She was not the type of prey he preferred—or so he told himself. It didn’t matter to the beast that lived in his depraved heart. If it had a pulse, it was prey. There was little he could do about it. This he knew from bitter experience, and the echo of the human he had been not that long ago still battled the violent instinct for blood, any blood, with a bargain— all the blood he wanted, but on very specific terms. Mademoiselle Chandler did not meet these terms. For now she was safe. As was what remained of his conscience. Then again, the night was young. “Fuck.” The machine between his thighs quivered as he leaned
| S.K. RYDER | into the curve of the highway on-ramp. The BMW bike had been modified by its previous owner to a point where no mere mortal rider could hope to maintain control at maximum speed, but Dominic often pushed its limits until the engine screamed. Within seconds, he accelerated well past two hundred, becoming little more than a blur among the snails comprising normal traffic flow. He was one with the bike. He was one with the night. He was the night. And day had moved into his house. “Mon Dieu, aidez-moi.” But God could not help him, not now, if he ever had. Dominic was on his own. Fort Lauderdale was closer to his lair than he liked, but his hunger was too potent. If he waited much longer, he risked becoming careless. He didn’t have to cruise the neighborhoods around Port Everglades for long before opportunity presented itself in the form of two thugs plying their trade in narcotics. As Dominic stashed the bike and let the beast rise, thoughts of the girl faded. From a distance, they mistook him at first, as they always did, for a potential customer, a rival, or an easy mark. His tall, athletic form beguiled with casual grace, and the tousled dark waves of his hair spoke of naïve youth. The silver-studded black leather outfit might have been their only warning of a darker side. “Bonsoir,” he greeted with a dazzling grin. “I have something for you.” They frowned, puzzling over him, but one reached behind him, producing a handgun. “It better be your wallet, punk.” “Much better,” Dominic countered on an inhuman growl of anticipation and savored their dawning unease. “Your death.” He dropped the leash that held the beast, and his reason all but vanished, swallowed whole by the primal need to feed. It was more than the blood. That would have been simple and crude. No, much as Dominic had prepared a prime cut of beef in his previous life, the beast liked to season its prey with measured doses of horror and hope before marinating it in the terror of certain death. They cursed him and they Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | ran. They struggled and begged. They lost their bowels and cried for God. All to no avail. In the end, he sank the powerful fangs hard and fast and tore with savage abandon. The hot, coppery blood hit the roof of his mouth in orgasmic pulses. He went faint with ecstasy, pushed deeper, pulled harder. There was poison in his saliva, in his bite, entering the bloodstream. When it seeped into the brain, the mind of the prey fell open to him, showing him in vivid detail precisely what he was destroying. In this case, the lives he ended were ruled by ego and greed. One had committed gruesome murders. The other had delivered his own sister to those he sought to impress and stood by as they raped her to death. They were the lords of the street. They were above the law. Until tonight. Tonight justice had found them. By the time Dominic drank the second life whole, his face was wet with emotion, both his own and his victims’. He sat alone between the broken corpses in the dark. The sound of traffic hummed nearby. A siren howled farther away. The beast lay coiled, drowsy with satisfaction. He almost felt human again. He didn’t like what he saw. “When will justice come for me?” Try as he might, he had yet to find it. He wiped his face and raked his fingers through his hair, pushing the melancholy out of his mind. Then he got up to retrieve the machete he kept strapped to the bike. There was work to be done. The sky already paled in the east by the time Dominic neared his lair. His body grew sluggish under the sun’s growing weight. Or so it felt to him. He had no true knowledge of what plunged him into oblivion every morning. This was only one of many mysteries bestowed on him without benefit of explanation by the deranged creature that had sired him into this hell. He had no doubt, however, about what the sun would do to him should it catch him in the open. In the confused and horrific months he spent with Kambyses, his sire, he had numerous opportunities to see what remained of a blood-drinker body left in the sun for a day. 52 | UncagedBooks.com
Which was only one reason he had fled Kambyses and now hid from him. Once off A1A, Dominic silenced the bike and pushed it the rest of the way. Whatever he would find, he was in no mood to deal with it this close to sunrise. The house lay not quite dark and not quite silent in the predawn hush. The yellow VW Beetle with Colorado plates squatted in the carport, and the windows upstairs had been flung open to catch the sea breeze. The sheer curtains behind them glowed with a soft light. She slept up there, his unwelcome houseguest. He heard the rhythm of her breath with little effort. He stashed the bike and helmet in the shed behind the cottage, clicked the lock shut, and detoured to the beach. There was still a little time to draw some solace from the sea, to remember the way he had once felt an ocean sunrise like a lover’s intimate embrace. The drowsy shush of the surf greeted him. Wind soughed in the branches of an Australian pine and ruffled his hair. Welcoming. Comforting. Yet his heart lay in his chest like a winter-cold cinder, aching for the tingling heat of the summer sun to light it. An anxious shiver rippled up his spine, forcing him to turn back toward the cottage. Never again would he know the warmth of a sunrise. And perhaps that was all the justice he would ever know, the only punishment for all the lives he had taken. The houseguest, the intruder, had locked the front door. “Merde.” He never locked the door when he went out at night. Dominic stepped back far enough to survey his options, and his gaze fell on the open windows of the upstairs bedroom. He hesitated, considering that room…where his father once slept. Crushing the memories away before they could unhinge him, Dominic leapt onto the porch roof. Shadow-silent he slipped through the window and past the sheer curtains keeping the mosquitos at bay—if not other blood drinking creatures—in lieu of the shredded insect screen. His sinister musings fled when he caught her pure, healthy scent of honeyed fruit and warm musk. The beast stirred with sluggish interest, and Dominic stopped breathing the air and the ambrosia it carried. He intended to speed through the room, but he stopped short when his eyes caught the woman in his parents’
| S.K. RYDER | old bed. Bathed in the warm glow of a nightlight and clad in only a tank top and a pair of floral-patterned panties, she lay across the rumpled sheets with her arms and legs flung out, offering herself to the breezes swirling from the overhead fan. Dominic stood transfixed, letting his gaze wander with unexpected pleasure. In his twenty-seven years before this curse befell him, he had known his fair share of women, but none quite like this. An active life had shaped that smooth, strong body, not starvation dieting and medical procedures. Her face, too, was exquisite in a natural, almost bucolic way, full of stubborn lines and gentle grace. A lock of hair had fallen across her freckled nose and shivered with her breath. On her right hand, an impressive diamond struck an odd contrast with the abused nails and even her presence in a place like this. Alone. A framed picture sat on the nightstand. It depicted her together with a woman in a bright pink ski-cap, a close, older relative, judging by the similar cut of their deep blue eyes. The woman’s smile had an air of resignation. The girl’s—Cassidy, he recalled—was broad, almost fierce. Dominic cocked his head, considering. She didn’t look like she smiled much lately. In fact, she looked exhausted from more than a day spent cleaning his house. The corners of her eyes crinkled with tension even now. Another pair of eyes caught his across the soft curve of her belly. A huge black mass of fur lay there, coiled like a spring. Unlike its mistress, the cat was wideawake and aware of him. Knowing itself discovered, it scrambled backwards and promptly fell off the side of the bed with a thump. Growling, it hustled underneath. Cassidy stirred at the commotion, turning away to mumble into the pillow. When her hair fell away from her neck, the slow throb of her vein there caught his attention. In his enhanced vision, he saw it as a flowing ribbon of golden light. A siren call to his basest needs. He closed his eyes and forced the beast back into its cage. When he opened them again, dread gripped him like an icy vise. No longer distracted by his supernatural awareness of her life force, he saw instead the
dark, crescent bruise marring the fine skin on her neck. Dominic dropped into a crouch, the lethargy growing in his bones forgotten. Another blood-drinker was near. But not here. Not now. He would have sensed another immortal presence. The injury wasn’t fresh—he estimated a day, maybe two since being inflicted—but it was ugly. The bite had been hard, indicating loss of control or intent to kill. Yet she had survived, the attack aborted. Not only that, she was here, in his lair. The odds of this being a coincidence were nonexistent. She must have been compelled, sent here, to him, by another blood-drinker. But to what end? And by who? He could think of several possibilities, all of them justifying her immediate disposal, even if it meant he would have to abandon his lair. If one blooddrinker had found him, it was only a matter of time before his mad sire did as well. If he hadn’t already. The sun was coming, and his thoughts turned slippery inside his skull. At best, he had seconds of consciousness left to decide…what? His gaze flew to the girl with the bruise. No blood-drinker could touch him during the day, but she could. If he killed her now, or if he let her live, the result would be the same—someone, something would find him today or tonight and would do with him as it pleased. If she stayed, he could not. He had to find shelter elsewhere. Now. Dominic got as far as the window. A sky already bright with reflected sunfire scalded his face, forcing him back inside, throwing him to the floor. He lay flat and stared up at the shadows whirling around the ceiling fan. To his eyes, sparks flew from the blades. A droning hum built in his ears, blotting out all else, the roar of the sun barreling across the horizon. Stairs. He was crawling down the stairs, heavy limbs moving as if of their own accord, dragging him to safety. As it always did, the beast took over his body to save itself, taking the decision out of his hands. Tears streamed down his face as the light inside the house built ever faster, burning his eyes, squeezing around him with physical force, Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | wringing all his strength from his bones and emptying his mind. He bit his tongue hard to stifle the agonized howl burning in his throat, to conceal his presence from her, the intruder, the spy. When the door to his sanctuary closed, smothering him in blackness, his body went limp against it and slid to the floor. He reached for the deadbolt, but couldn’t feel it, couldn’t feel his arm flopping by his side. He didn’t know if he had turned the lock, if he was truly safe. With his last coherent thought, he realized it didn’t matter. If she was here to kill him, she would have done it yesterday. And if she wanted to kill him today…justice had found him at last.
This book was reviewed by Uncaged in September, 2016 and received a 5 Star review. Check out the review for Dark Child of Forever in the review section this issue.
Don’t miss the Dark Destinies series BOOK ONE
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feature author Daniel Greene is the awardwinning debut author of the growing apocalyptic thriller series The End Time Saga. He is inspired by the works of George R.R. Martin, Steven Pressfield, Bernard Cornwell, and George Romero. He is an avid traveler and physical fitness enthusiast with a deep passion for history. He fulfilled a quest of iron by worshipping at the shrine of modern bodybuilding, the childhood home of Arnold Schwarzenegger, in Graz, Austria, an experience he will never forget. If he isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t working on his next book, you can find him training his body for the impending rise of the undead. Although he is a Midwesterner for life, he now lives on the East Coast and is a proud member of the Horror Writers Association.
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Uncaged welcomes Daniel Greene Uncaged: Could you tell readers more about The End Time Saga? This series depicts a deadly viral outbreak that raises the dead and throws the world into chaos from a wide array of point of view characters. You will experience the governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lethargic response and the desperate struggles of counterterrorism agents and CDC doctors trying to survive in the field. But thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s only the beginning. With every new novel, we introduce additional characters with competing interests and factions that fill in the power vacuum left behind by the government and societal collapse. The novels follow primary point of view characters as they rise. Each chapter is dedicated to a different character and the reader will see the fall of man through the eyes of the good, bad, and more neutral characters. Many are flawed including our heroes and they make mistakes and pay for them. Every character gives new insight into the fight for survival and response to the collapse of civilization. The series spans the planet and stretches across the United States as our heroes and villains fight, run, and survive. Readers will be dropped into a besieged embassy, secret government bunker in Virginia, a failing quarantine in Pittsburgh, a camp of refugees on Lake Michigan, small farming communities in Iowa and many others as the novels progress. One of the principal characters is counterterrorism
agent Mark Steele who’s been abandoned at McCone airport in Virginia. He will do anything to reach the love of his life and takes charge of a band of survivors and learns to embrace his role as a leader while he battles terrorists, cruel backcountry moonshiners, religious zealots, rogue military units and the dead around every corner. He is balanced by Gwen Reynolds, his love and partner, who emerges the leader of her hometown in Iowa and becomes critical to the survival of the nation. Then there is Dr. Jackowski, a CDC virologist, on his quest to find Patient Zero and develop a vaccine against the Primus Necrovirus. Central to combating the virus at a microbial level he must survive long enough to find a vaccine. The fate of mankind rests on his scrawny shoulders. Retired Air Force Colonel Kinnick is attempting to maintain the integrity of a nation that is eating itself alive. He is thrown into the losing war with a team of Special Forces soldiers as they try to save the nation. Vice President Brady and the vestiges of the leftover government drive him to the brink as they attempt to consolidate their power and exert control over a dead nation. But it’s the antagonists that make a story or in this case, a series. African Warlord Jacobin Kosoko who will do anything to survive and save his son. There is Colonel Jackson and his Legion of remaining National Guard soldiers abandoned by the government. Puck Roberts and his gang of moonshiners dominate the hills. The Chosen people led by the prophetic leader, the pastor,
are hell-bent on creating the Kingdom of God in the rubble of America with fire and brimstone. Others will battle our heroes for supremacy of the remaining resources, albeit if the dead don’t overrun them first. I believe it best to read the series in order, but readers could start with Book 2 as Book 1 gives the backstory and introduction to many characters that will come into prominence later. Book 2 can stand on its own making it a great successor to Book 1, but I wouldn’t advise the reader to start on Book 3, even if it is an excellent follow up to Book 2. Uncaged: The market is pretty saturated in the zombie apocalypse books, and the trend really started ramping up with shows gaining popularity like the The Walking Dead. What I really liked about your books, is the character development and attachment I felt toward them. Most of the time, I try not to get too attached in these type of books, but I really feel this is something that is missing in a lot of the books. Was this a driving force to get your books to stand out in the crowd? I believe there are a few factors that have made The End Time Saga a fan favorite in the zombie apocalypse niche, even while entering the genre so late in the game. I wanted to go much deeper than the standard Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | outbreak tale. I wanted to dig in and explore what the collapse of the United States would look like and what would take its place. I think this is really where my novels stand out. Not many series begin with the outbreak and continue through the subsequent layers of collapse. I wanted to show the readers how new groups and factions emerge from the ashes of the nation. I haven’t read too many zombie apocalypse novels that attempt to address the medical research that goes into finding a solution. I am not a doctor so I had to read a ton and interview current medical professionals to make those parts of the novels both interesting and realistic enough to be believed. It’s not the primary focus of the series, but it definitely adds a layer of complexity and drama that make it different than many books out there. Another thing I really wanted to see in my zombie apocalypse series was a multiple point of view story. It is a difficult way to write successfully, but I adore that style of writing. I believe that readers can always find a character with whom they identify and can really enjoy the story from the different perspectives. This helps build up “minor” characters and gives me the chance to flesh out some of the periphery characters in meaningful ways.
example, there is a scene in the first book where he actively doesn’t save a father and son on his quest to find his loved ones. This was a legit struggle and every single one of us would have that same internal struggle if they were in that situation. Most people would probably like to think they would make the right choice and save the people in need, but if it were between them and your family would you honestly save the others? It’s an open-ended question, but you thought about it. It’s like one of those sayings, “everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face.” I think when society breaks, we probably will fall back into our immediate family units, meaning everyone else takes a backburner. I don’t find Steele’s choice unrealistic; in fact I find it very plausible. The choice that Steele makes comes back to haunt him in the future and he is determined to do the right thing going forward and help others. In both the first and second books of the series he pays for his decision in flesh, blood and internal anguish.
There is also attention to military detail and martial skills that are vital to this genre. There are so many readers who love the weapons, tactics and units, including myself, so it was important to research and meet with people that knew these things to make those parts realistic.
I think some people want their hero like Rambo and their 100% good guy all the time, but that’s not my style. I like to make my characters complex, I like to make them struggle and be challenged outside of the external conflict against the dead. I want the heroes challenged internally with the choices they make, just like you and me. Not everyone is set into good and bad camps. I think generally speaking there are good leaning and bad leaning characters in my novels, but no one in the series is 100% good or 100% bad. This, to me, adds a lot of depth to the series and I think is where you found your attachment to the characters, or at least a few of them.
As for your attachment to the characters- I feel this can make or break a story. The readers have to find commonality and see themselves in the characters. You have to sit back and think, “what would I have done in that situation” and recognize that the characters’ struggles are real and difficult and they don’t always make the right choice. Many times the characters in the series pay for choices they’ve made in flesh and blood. Take Steele for
I also tried to give the reader unique viewpoints. I have an African rebel leader trying to find a cure for his infected son. I have an Air Force Colonel turned State Department official who is forced back into military service. I have a former brewmaster and leader of a loose faction of people living on the shore of Lake Michigan. I have a counterterrorism agent turned leader of refugees fleeing across the United States. I have a CDC doctor struggling to find a vaccine to the incurable
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| DANIEL GREENE | Primus Necrovirus. I wanted to show the government, the doctors, the refugees, the military and other survivors to give a really interesting and meaningful 360-degree view of the collapse. So as a long answer to your question, yes, creating in-depth yet flawed heroes and villains was critical to making the series stand out in a saturated genre. Uncaged: Three books in this series are released now, do you have an estimate when the 4th will release? Do you have a set amount of books planned for the series? The fourth book, The Departing, is set to release October 30, 2018. I’m really excited for this one. We have the comeback of a few of our favorite characters in what will be a cool showdown. The fifth book in the series, The Holding, is already in production and is due to be out early 2019. The series is scheduled to be six books. I’ve done this for a few reasons. First, I did not want to lead readers on a never-ending tale all while rehashing many of the same conflicts over and over. Second, I wanted to make sure that the characters and plotlines make full arcs. I think the best way to do this is plan out a finite timeline and try to stick to it. Third, I am ready to start a new series. I’ve been plotting, planning, and researching my next series. I feel that you really have to write what speaks to you and follow your muse. However, I am open to The End Time Saga going longer and if it does, I won’t consider it a break from what I wanted to do, but just finishing up what I started. You have to be true to yourself and if there is more story then you have to finish it. My goal is to finish up The End Time Saga next year, as well as come out with a new series. Yes, this is very ambitious, but I will work my tail off to get it done and produce good quality novels. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them?
I do read my reviews. I probably check on them much more often than I should. Reviews can be really great and it’s nice to have some affirmation every once and awhile, but more importantly, there is value in clear feedback with what was resonating with your readers/listeners. You find what works with your style of writing and areas to improve on. Reviews can be tough, especially when you are growing as a writer. With each book I get better, and reading a review that someone did not like your first one is frustrating because you know that wasn’t your best work. It may have been at the time, but almost certainly won’t be if you have continued to write and hopefully grow. You hope that they make it to your last work so they can experience you as the writer you are now, not a few years ago. I think it’s important to remember that not everyone is going to like your work. They just aren’t. If all your reviews are good, they won’t be forever. You have to remind yourself it’s not always you. You could have caught somebody on a bad day or maybe their expectations were different than what you wrote. Sometimes there are legitimate concerns or critiques. Pull that out and make your writing better. Some of it is reader preference. If people have an expectation that a character will behave or act in a manner that is consistent with known character tropes and then you challenge those expectations, it can lead to critical reviews. Having somebody say they disliked a character to me is a half-win, because the character was memorable enough to elicit a response. Obviously, I’d love to have everyone enjoy my work but I realize that isn’t going to happen. Personally, there is nothing worse than when I read a story with characters that are so bland I can’t remember their backstory or are such cardboard cutouts that you can predict the entirety of their struggles and responses immediately after meeting them. However, this is my expectation and my reading preference. Doesn’t Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | make me right or wrong, but my reading experience will be enhanced or diminished by certain kinds of characters and stories. The same goes for people who review your books. They have certain preferences that will lead them to enjoy or not enjoy your work. Then there are trolls…an author’s nemesis. They are lashing out for any number of reasons. Don’t try to understand it because it will leave you confused and hurt. It’s best not to engage with them because often, it just gives them a platform. I’ve seen people leave a scathing review so they could plug other authors. I would lump them in with trolls because what they are doing is pitting authors against one another when we have so much to gain by supporting each other. There are better ways to support your favorite authors. Uncaged: -What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? I can’t say anyone has ever told me that my books have saved their life. I’ve had plenty of people tell me they love the series. The books are written for entertainment, but I also think they serve as a warning in that there is a dark side to human nature. As a society, we are only a few natural or manmade disasters away from significant societal collapse. Hell, if the meteorologist is predicting snow where I live, the stores get cleaned out. That is a blizzard; now extrapolate that to a real emergency or several emergencies at once. We tread a fine line today between order and chaos. My books can serve as a warning because they depict a realistic collapse of the government, military, and society. The reason for the collapse is clearly fiction, but the collapse and survivors are all too real. It’s a reminder that you should have some sort of plan to survive a disaster, zombie or otherwise. We can’t always depend on the government to save us. There are real scenarios out there where we only have ourselves to depend on. I 62 | UncagedBooks.com
think this is why the CDC has had used zombie preparedness as a tool as a tool to teach the public about disaster preparedness. Or is it because zombies are totally possible and real? Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I will say this. I’m either writing or operating my author business in most of my free time. She would never say so but I’m sure my wife gets annoyed with me, but I truly love what I do so “working” long hours seems effortless. I am a big physical fitness enthusiast. It has always been a major part of my life and I find that it makes me a better writer. When I am having a hard time working through a difficult part in a story, I walk. It’s like shaking off rust and all of a sudden the ideas flow and answers to questions I couldn’t figure out, solve themselves. Travel is another one of my favorite pastimes. I used to travel a good deal for work and to visit family, and I still love to go to new places and experience new cultures. It’s hard to pick only one favorite place. There are so many places out there that I’d love to visit again and again, but then I wouldn’t be able to visit new places. If I had to pick a few, I’d have to say I am a big fan of Ireland as a whole. It’s kind of weird, but I’ve always felt tied to the place. Traditional Irish music always seemed to speak to me on a deep level as though it’s whispering familiarity to my soul. As many Americans do, I can claim some Irish ancestry along with ties to many other early immigrant groups that had the privilege to find hope and opportunity in the United States. With every visit I’ve made, the Irish people have been genuinely kind and combined with the natural beauty of the island, it just has a magical feel to it. My wife and I were engaged in a castle by the sea there and Ireland will forever hold a place in our hearts.
I am also partial to the Bavaria region in Germany and Austria. On top of being the birthplace of my personal-hero and bodybuilding phenomenon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the country and mountains are just beautiful. Heavy pork-based German cuisine and beer is hard to beat. The fact remains that there are many places and peoples across the planet that I haven’t yet come across and I look forward to epic adventures in new places and many returns to my favorites. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? This isn’t a happy one, and I hope that everyone reading never has to experience it but I think difficult times define us even more than the good times. I was on study abroad in London during the terror attack of July 2005. We could see the smoke billowing out of the metro and victims covered in soot came into our dorm seeking aid. My classmates and I were fortunate enough to not be hurt in the horrific event, but it was another sobering reminder of the world that we live in. There was a whole gambit of feelings: fear, anger, confusion, helplessness, but not without hope, conviction and admiration for those first responders saving lives. While London is a very international city, the British/ Londoners were amazing to watch in action and dealt with the ugly extremist violence in their own unique way. I believe it was similar for them to the American 9/11 experience but on a smaller scale, but no less impactful. I can remember thinking how impressed I was with their persistence and perseverance in such a turbulent time. You just had this feeling that these people were going to go work the next day like nothing had happened, not in a callous way, but in a way they would not be deterred from living their lives and they weren’t going to cower in fear in their homes or bow to some madman’s demands. On a personal level, this event had a huge impact on me in my education and careers that followed. It was a galvanizing experience that I was able to turn into a motivating force for good.
| DANIEL GREENE | Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I would love to say “thank you” for all your support over the years. This is only the beginning of our journey together and there is so much more fun to be had. I have series upon series lining up for production and have been thinking about genre-shifting a bit in the future to do some historical fiction. I was a history major in college and I’ve always wanted to put some of that degree to use. You can find me in a few places. You can subscribe to my mailing list and contact me on my website: DanielGreeneBooks.com Or on Facebook: https:// www.facebook.com/DanielGreenebooks/ Or Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danielgreenebooks/ (But be nice, I’m new to the Instagram world.) You can email me too at DanielGreeneBooks@gmail.com. I love to interact with fans and will always find time for you. Thank you for inviting me to participate in the Uncaged Book Review Author Interview! It’s a really big world out there and I appreciate you making it just a little bit smaller and more connected. Cheers!
Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Enjoy an excerpt from The Departing The Departing Daniel Green Horror/Apocalyptic Releases Oct. 30 Run, hide, or fight are your only options in this deadly game of apocalypse…but you can only run so far.
Steele and his followers retreat before the might of Colonel Jackson’s rogue military unit. Jackson is always two-steps ahead in their small apocalyptic war and Steele’s back is against the ropes. He must find a way to outlast his opponent while holding his loose confederation of allies and former enemies together or face certain annihilation. Back in her small hometown of Hacklebarney, Iowa, Gwen struggles to convince her cautious neighbors to provide refuge for Steele’s haggard forces. If she doesn’t succeed, Jackson’s noose will tighten and her friends and loved ones will be crushed on the banks of the Mississippi River. The remaining loyal United States military implements a daring plan to hold the nation’s eastern flank against the dead. Operation Homefront hinges on the successful training of the civilian population for war. Colonel Kinnick quickly finds that not everyone wants their help. The dead and the living alike march in a struggle for the ashes of a nation. Like a game of chess, every move dictates who will live and who will die in this epic fourth installment of this award-winning saga.
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Excerpt Kevin Mississippi River, Illinois side Hours had passed and the earth had warmed a few degrees, even though the sun was trapped behind the clouds. Kevin didn’t know why Jackson waited. A new guard replaced the old. This soldier had graying temples and a beard. His gaze was much harder than that of the first guard. He held his carbine in his hands as if he expected to use it at any moment. The primitive gallows, like the ones erected to administer frontier justice, rested before them unoccupied and looming. The wood wasn’t uniform. Instead, it was rough with axe and saw cuts exposing interior trunk. The pieces were lashed and nailed to each other. The rope dangling from the crossbeam wasn’t thick hangman’s rope but some sort of black climbing rope. He guessed the kind of rope didn’t matter. It would do the job as intended one way or another. Through the trees, Kevin could barely make out people moving along the island shore. Steele must have seen us by now. Kevin knew he was devising a plan. Steele didn’t leave his people high and dry. After a moment, reality kicked him in the gut. What could he possibly do in this situation? Around noon, the tramp of boots squishing the soft surface came their way. A cadre of military men entered their area led by a short bald man. Jackson. Jackson’s ACUs were covered in mud up to his knees and his collar was in need of adjusting. He was flanked by a stocky man with a necklace so full of rotting ears it might snap at any moment. On his other side was a fiery red-haired sergeant. Other men lined the back of the group. Kevin’s eyes scanned them briefly and settled on one in back. Mauser. Mauser’s gray eyes connected with Kevin’s for a moment. Kevin shook his head at the man very slightly. Shame, he wanted to yell at him. How dare you choose them over us? You betrayed us when we needed you the most. Mauser broke eye contact. “Look at this sorry excuse for an enemy,” Jackson said. His mouth formed a spiteful sneer. “To think that you men, and I hesitate to call you even that, actually
thought you could ambush my soldiers.” The fiery-haired sergeant with a cross on his forearm stepped forward and spit in their direction. The glob splatted into the earth in front of them, breaking apart and disappearing. “Pathetic.” “You’re correct, Sergeant Yates. This is the lowest scum this earth has to offer. Men that would not only betray their country but stand against those that defend it.” “You came for us. We had no feud with your men,” Kevin said. Jackson’s almost nonexistent eyebrows bounced upward. He bent down in front of Kevin. “But I have a feud with you.” Colonel Jackson stood up. “Stand ‘em up. We have a trial today.” Kevin found himself being pulled up by Mauser and the sergeant with the ear necklace. It stunk fiercely. The soldier grunted and pointed to Kevin’s ears. He gave Kevin a crooked smile and a sharp elbow in the ribs. Kevin’s legs worked begrudgingly beneath him. They felt like tired old things that had corroded from neglect and lack of use, the legs of an ancient tin man left to rust out over time. Mauser and his partner carried him more than his legs did. Kevin watched Mauser from the corner of his eye. “The only traitor I see here is you,” Kevin spat, quiet enough so Ear Necklace couldn’t hear him. “Shut up.” His reddish-beard had grown longer since they had last met. The ground slurped as they trekked over the slick mud leading to the gallows. “You should be ashamed. Look at the man you follow. He’s insane. He’s a Nero and you are watching Rome burn,” Kevin hissed. “I said shut up. You did this to yourself. You never should have raised arms against us. Jackson wanted to bring Steele in, not murder everyone.” “You actually believe that? He’s about to hang us.” “You dug your own grave when you took up arms against us.” “You dug your own grave when you joined Jackson.” His mouth clamped shut. How could Mauser be so far off the reservation? He had been a stand-up guy. Now he was a blind man.
| DANIEL GREENE | They stopped at the rickety gallows. The structure was taller than two-and-a-half men, over fifteen feet high. Three ropes hung off the top beam. Ear Necklace shoved Kevin in the back. “Easy, Lowry,” Mauser said. The soldier with the ear necklace clicked his tongue and mouthed “fuck you” to Mauser. Mauser wrapped an arm around Kevin’s and led him to his rope like he was his prom date. Their boots clopped off the wood as they traversed the platform until Mauser stopped him at one of the ropes. He adjusted Kevin’s shoulders manually as he squared him outward. Steele’s group lined the other side of the swamp. Men in leather gear, Michiganders with rifles, men and women with clubs and guns. He could see the tall pastor clad in all black among them. A bearded man stood at the center of the people. Kevin could tell by his strong stance it was Steele. Mauser looped the noose around Kevin’s head. The rope scraped Kevin’s face as he forced it down and around his neck, cinching it tight. He dragged the noose around, rubbing it roughly over his skin until the knot was in the back of his neck. The click of claws sounded above Kevin. He glanced up and backward. Two ravens crowed above him, settled upon the rutty, bark-covered crossbeam. Their feathers shone dark as night and overlapped one another like a jaggedly made metal sculpture. Their heads flittered side to side, and the raven closest to Kevin let out a rolling guttural, “Rock-Rock-Rock.” It’s partner joined in with the same tune. “Rock-Rock-Rock-Rock.” If they could speak, their words would be: “Free food coming up. Come and get it, boys.” “Ha,” Jackson called up from below. “Look, boys, the birds smell fresh meat.” The hundreds of soldiers surrounding the gallows laughed. Even civilians were intermixed among them. A few hooted cheers of excitement. “You can do it,” shouted one. Kevin’s heart pounded in his chest. His mind knew his moments on earth were numbered. His body was preparing to fight or flight. Kevin doubted if he would have the opportunity for either. O’Hara Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | sobbed outright next to Kevin. His body shook uncontrollably, his chin to his chest. Tom stood with his chest puffed out, chin held high. “What fine craftsmanship,” Jackson said from below. He ran a hand down a still-barked log, testing the sturdiness of the gallows. He moved in front, facing the condemned men from below. “You three men are being charged with high treason against the United States Armed Forces? How do you plead?” The ravens cawed in response. Kevin glanced up at the black bird above him. He let his eyes meet the raven’s beady sable eyes. It bounced back and forth, never resting, always taking something new in. In guttural sounds, the raven emitted slow words of death. “Rock. Rock. Rock.” You. Will. Die. “How do you plead?” Jackson demanded. “Not guilty,” Kevin yelled out. Everyone’s eyes were on him, including O’Hara’s and Tom’s. “Not guilty,” Tom said. “Not guilty,” O’Hara mumbled. He sniffled, snot dripping from his nose. Jackson smiled at them. “As I suspected. Unrepentant bastards.” He paced, his feet squelching with every step. “You deny that you placed roadside bombs in an effort to harm, maim, and kill soldiers within my command?” Kevin peered over the marsh, his eyes begging for rescue. Steele stood at the center of his people. His hand rested on his sidearm, motionless. “I do not deny it.” “So you admit that you planted the IEDs and waited in the shadows to unleash them on my men?” Kevin licked his dry lips. “It’s true.” “Then what possible defense can you make for yourself?” Jackson peered hard at Kevin, eagerly awaiting his answer. Kevin collected himself and spoke. “You’ve hunted us and persecuted us across hundreds of miles. Innocent families. Little boys and girls. Old men and women. And for what? Because someone slighted you? What we did was in self-defense. We only defended ourselves when we were ruthlessly persecuted by a force of soldiers that should have 66 | UncagedBooks.com
been shielding us from the dead instead of trying to force us to join them.” Jackson shook his head. “Tell everyone what happened in Youngstown, Kevin. I remember your gangly ass on the video. I saw what you did to those men. My men,” he screamed. Kevin audibly inhaled. “I was there at Youngstown. I was an accomplice to murder.” The group gasped. “Hang him,” came a man’s voice. “Let ‘em do the hangman’s jig,” came another. Jackson waved his hands at them. “So you admit to killing in cold blood?” “I do,” Kevin croaked. The crowd murmured to one another. He perused the bog and the people on the other side. “And I’d do it again,” he growled. The soldiers booed him. A rock sailed past them. Shouts of violence rose up from the angry mob. “You were supposed to protect us!” Kevin said. Another rock struck Tom. He cried out, “Shit.” Kevin stared back out at their angry faces. “You turned your backs on the American public. You’re the ones who should be ashamed. All I did was fight for our people.” The boos continued. More rocks soared angrily through the air. The ravens above Kevin complained. They flapped their wings rapidly and took flight. They circled the gallows overhead, waiting for their fill. “By your own admission, you’ve all committed high treason against the United States by taking up arms against her. I sentence all you men here to die by hanging until you are dead, dead, dead.” Kevin gulped down his fear and stared down at his muddy boots. “Do you have any last words?” Jackson said. His mouth curved into a nasty smile. Kevin peered out. “Don’t have any whiskey by any chance, do you?” Colonel Jackson appeared amused. He blinked rapidly. “Not for the likes of you.” Kevin nodded. He had never put any faith that his last request would be granted. His voice started subdued but grew with every word. “Then I regret only one thing.” “What’s that?” Jackson turned an ear toward Kevin. Kevin made sure to look toward Steele’s camp across the way. Not coming today, are we. It’s been a good
run. We didn’t make it all the way, but we gave it a shot. I guess I won’t be recording our history. Maybe you can record mine. Never give up. Never surrender. Kevin cleared his throat. His mouth was beyond dry and his words came out as more of a caw than a conviction. “That I have but one life to give for my country.” Jackson’s mouth snarled in anger. “Let ‘em rip.” Kevin felt a hard boot in his back and he was launched off the platform. His body was light for a moment before the rope held him back from falling. He felt the intense pressure of his entire body suspended from his neck. His windpipe ceased to function as the rope bit into his skin, blocking it from stealing more air. His feet kicked desperately searching for something, anything to relieve his neck from so much pressure. He couldn’t breathe. The shouts of joy from the people below were almost inaudible over the blood pounding in his skull and eardrums. He felt pressure in his eyes, and they enlarged as his body realized he wasn’t going to take another breath. The rope twisted, spinning his body around. He spun past Tom and O’Hara. O’Hara’s body was limp his tongue dangling out the side of his mouth. Tom fought like a fish out of water, flopping every which way he could. Out of Kevin’s darkening peripheral vision, he could see Tom’s hands free, gripping the tight rope around his throat. Darkness crept in around Kevin’s eyes as if it hesitated to take him. He was met with the smiling faces of the soldiers. They pointed and laughed as he wet himself. He had never read anything about that and he didn’t care. He kicked his legs, searching for the ground that he would never find. Searing pain shot through his neck and spine, but it was nothing compared to the panic of not being able to breathe. He tried to gasp for air, but the rope wouldn’t let him. Crushing all resistance, it sealed his throat from the only thing he desired: sweet air. Kevin’s body twitched and he was gone. His foot moved, his body’s final effort to rescue itself, a distant nerve still struggling to respond that didn’t know it was already dead and gone to the next world. He swung next to the other two men. The rope gently creaked
| DANIEL GREENE | against the rough wooden gallows. The shouts of the soldiers died down, and now, it was the ravens’ turn as they called out from above, finally ready to get their fill.
The first book in this series, End Time is reviewed in the review section this issue.
Don’t miss the first three books in the series, out now
Issue 27 | October 2018 |
feature author Anthony J Melchiorri is a scientist with a PhD in bioengineering. Originally from the Midwest, he now lives in Texas. By day, he develops cellular therapies and 3D-printable artificial organs. By night, he writes apocalyptic, medical, and science-fiction thrillers that blend real-world research with other-worldly possibility. When he isn’t in the lab or at the keyboard, he spends his time running, reading, hiking, and traveling in search of new story ideas.
Uncaged welcomes Anthony J. Melchiorri Uncaged: You have a PhD in Biomedical Engineering and you’ve incorporated a lot of that into your books. How did you come up with the inspiration for The Tide series? For The Tide, I really wanted to do an apocalyptic zombie-like story. But I wanted to do something different. I thought about how to make zombies more frightening than just the shambling, rotting walkers we’re used to. So to accomplish that, I figured I needed two things: 1.) a science-based pathogen and 2.) creatures that were strikingly frightful. I’ve always been interested in nanotechnology, so when I came across the concept of nanobacteria, that really piqued my interest. Theoretically living organisms smaller than anything we could’ve imagined—and they have been suspected to be responsible for kidney stones through calcium apatite (a major component of bone) secretion. Well, the science behind them is quite debatable, but I did wonder if there was something scarier than dealing with kidney stones. How about uncontrolled bone growth? Bones jutting out of a person’s skin, giving them demonic looking appendages, all while their mind rots… And there we have it. Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about The Tide series? The Tide follows a band of covert ops mercenaries who previously ran risky missions for the CIA. They’re kind of like high-tech, modern day pirates, running around the world, fighting biowarfare from a state-of-the-art stealth ship. When the end of the world happens and
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those monsters start roaming the world, the mercs find themselves at a crossroads. Go save their own butts or see if they can’t help save the deteriorating world. Uncaged: There are already seven books in this series – do you have a set amount of books in mind for this series? Yes, Book 8 will be out probably by the time this interview is published (September 30) and then Book 9 is in the pipeline. I think the main story is going to wrap up in Book 10, but there is still a lot left to be explored in this world. I like the idea of being able to come back to the setting and, especially, the characters to write some stories that fans have been clamoring over. Uncaged: What do you have coming up next you can tell us about? I have a somewhat secret project involving biotech and space that goings to blend the best of The Tide action with some of the fun of space adventure from my Eternal Frontier series. I’ll also be continuing to do some co-writing with my good friend and awesome author, Nicholas Sansbury Smith. We’re going to revisit some apocalyptic stories together. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them? I feel like reading reviews is a double-edged sword.
I don’t know why, but the human brain is really conditioned to dwell over negative experiences. I might read a bunch of good reviews and then get one stinker from someone who just didn’t jive with my storytelling or characters or whatever. I don’t fault them, but a bad review can really ruin your day. So I try not to read too many reviews. I do glance over them every once in a while to see if there are any prevailing themes that people are really digging or hating, just so I can improve my own writing. But I really appreciate working closely with readers who can give me constructive feedback on a more one-on-one basis. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? Probably the nicest thing was when I randomly ran into someone at my dayjob who told me they read my books and told me how great they were. There’s something about them taking the time out of their day, recognizing my name, and daring to offer a compliment that really just made my day. It’s hard to remember specific things that people have said that I would say is the nicest. More often, I just really appreciate the personalized email or message. It really makes me feel good to know that someone enjoyed one of my books enough to make the extra effort to tell me so. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Most of my time not writing is spent working in and around the lab. We develop 3D printed tissues for a variety of health concerns in an academic lab. Outside of that, I love to travel. It really provides creative fuel for my stories. It’s difficult to pick a single favorite place, so I’m going to cheat. Japan is definitely one of them. Love the rich culture, history, nature, and food. It’s a place like no other on Earth. After that, I’d have to say Taiwan. I’ve never been somewhere with such sincerely genuine, nice people. Plus, the night markets and food are amazing and fun, and the landscape is out of this world. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? Once, when I was a kid, I was running away from my brother and ran into a tree. I slammed my head so hard against that tree, I had a concussion. I also suffered amnesia for several hours, unable to recall where I was, what I’d done that week, or who had just visited (my grandparents). Kept asking the same questions over and over. A lot of my memories from around that time have slowly trickled back over time, but there is a big void between hitting that tree and when I finally came out of the amnesia. I’d like to say that void is where all my stories come from. Or something like that. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I would love to thank them all for following along with all my stories. Never thought I’d live to see the time when people actually read the stuff that comes through my keyboard, so I’ll forever be thankful that this is actually reality. I’m always grateful for everyone who spends a few hours to read one of my stories, as I know how valuable all our time is. And I hope I can make those few hours worth investing in my books. If you want to hang out with me, the best places to do it are on Facebook or my newsletter. 72 | UncagedBooks.com
Enjoy an excerpt from The Tide The Tide Anthony J. Melchiorri Horror An unearthed scientific secret will bring humanity to its knees. Aboard a clandestine ship with unparalleled technology, Captain Dominic Holland commands a crew of skilled covert operatives and talented scientific personnel dedicated to fighting biological and chemical warfare. Their missions have taken them all over the globe to combat sinister plots and dangerous adversaries. But a new assignment leads them to a genetic engineering laboratory on an abandoned oil rig where they discover the most disturbing threat to mankind they have ever seen. Back in the United States, CIA analyst Meredith Webb exposes a frightening connection between the agency she has devoted her life to and the abandoned oil rig. Her investigations are short-lived when terror spreads across the country. Something is turning humans into nightmarish creatures hell-bent on destruction. Dominic and Meredith face impossible odds in a perilous effort to fight the impending apocalypse. But will their efforts be enough to turn the tide—or is humanity’s fate already sealed? Excerpt Undisclosed Location in the Atlantic Ocean Jay Perry nudged open the steel hatch with his gloved hand. He played the barrel of his suppressed SCAR across the steel counters, stools, and glassware. “What the hell is this?”
| ANTHONY J. MELCHIORRI | “A science lab?” Corey Luna whispered. Like Jay, he wore black fatigues and night-vision goggles strapped over his head. Their footsteps resonated on the grating, and Jay winced with each step. Stealth was key, and he had no intention of being discovered prowling about the enigmatic oil drilling platform. They were deep enough in the metal behemoth that they couldn’t see without the aid of their night-vision goggles. Someone had cut the lights, and no natural light could penetrate the inky darkness this far below decks. With every guarded step, he wondered if there was anybody home. So far, the expedition had been nothing more than a silent meandering through abandoned crew quarters and a mess hall. Their handler at the CIA had warned them she could find little intelligence on the aging structure above the crashing waves in the middle of the Atlantic. It had been tucked away, off the beaten path of the shipping lanes. According to Webb, the platform had been commissioned for a drilling operation, but all the paperwork had somehow fallen through. Webb had found it in the satellite images she’d obtained through some coordinates mistakenly delivered to her. She’d told Jay the op might be dangerous, but so far, they hadn’t found anything. Jay and Corey were nothing but expendable cannon fodder to her, hired guns with a penchant for secrecy and covert ops. The money was good, the risk was high, and the repercussions of failure were even higher. “This is creepier than the mines in Syria,” Corey said. Jay nodded, playing the muzzle of his gun across the countertops. He recalled the bomb-making facilities Webb had sent them to investigate in the Middle Eastern country. At least there, they had recognized what the terrorist facilities were used for. Here they had no idea. Webb had been especially hush-hush this time around. She wouldn’t even tell them why she wanted them to investigate. Normally, Jay would have been skeptical, but the money Webb had offered them was more than enough to retire on. If he and Corey succeeded, Jay could buy a house on the Florida Keys, maybe St. Thomas, or Grand Cayman Island.
Somewhere tropical. A loud blast of thunder rumbled outside. Maybe it was his imagination, but the platform seemed to sway in response. He pictured dark waves outside, crashing against the thick pillars and scaffolding holding the platform above the roiling ocean. Hell, maybe living on an island wasn’t such a great idea. “You know what the fuck this is?” Corey held up a plastic tube. Jay could see a couple of chemical formulas scrawled across a paper tag attached to it. Jay squinted at the label. “No idea. But we should probably snap a couple pictures for Webb.” He slung the strap of his rifle across his back. “Take guard for me.” Corey nodded and crept around the hulking lab bench in the center. He nudged the door closed and locked it. The mechanism clicked loudly, and Jay flinched. “Sorry, boss,” Corey said. Directing his camera over the chemical formulas and unidentified solutions in the lab, Jay snapped a bevy of pictures. He adjusted the second small camera strapped to his head. It provided a constant one-way visual and audio feed back to Webb. He wanted to be sure she saw everything he did back in the States. “I wonder if this is what Webb was interested in,” Corey said. He crept toward the rear of the lab and peered through the porthole. “Shit.” Jay’s heart stopped. He dropped the camera and spun, raising his rifle. “What is it?” “Come look.” Jay joined him and peered through the thick glass of the porthole. Before them stood huge steel drums. Pipes snaked between the drums with gauges reporting pressure, oxygen concentration, and other gas levels. “What the hell is that thing?” In his mind’s eye, Jay pictured one of the courses he’d taken during his year-long training at the CIA before his first assignment. An image of a similar contraption in his biological and chemical warfare class returned to him. “It’s a large-scale bioreactor.” Issue 27 | October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Corey tilted his head. “What’s it for?” “Typically, it’s used in the pharmaceutical and research industries. It grows up populations of cells and can be used for the production of antibodies, proteins, chemicals, medicine, maybe.” His breath fogged the window, and he wiped it away. “At least, that’s what I remember.” “I’m guessing this bioreactor or whatever isn’t just sitting in the middle of the ocean so some company can make hard-on pills.” “You’re right about that,” Jay said. “I’ve seen these things used in the production of chemical and biological weapons.” “Webb didn’t tell us to suit up. You think we’re breathing poison shit in here?” “Too late now, isn’t it?” Jay thought of his imminent retirement again. Complete this mission, take the cash, and he’d be set for life. He could settle down in Mexico, maybe Ecuador. Beach, not island. “I’m sure Webb’s going to want to see this.” Corey nodded and opened the door. “On me,” he said. He angled his suppressed SCAR on the shadows. They scoured the cavernous room, flitting between the looming bioreactors until they reached the opposite end, where another door awaited them. This time, no window offered them a preview of what lay on the other side. Jay snapped a few pictures of the bioreactors and joined Corey near the exit. Corey pressed his ear against the steel door. “I can’t hear anything.” “Then let’s fucking do this.” Jay placed one hand on the handle, and Corey shouldered his rifle. He burst through the door and rushed behind a protruding piece of iron scaffolding. Down the corridor, a couple of blue biosafety suits were hung up on pegs. Beside them, a door lay open, revealing clear plastic curtains. Splotches of dark goo marred them. Tiptoeing forward, Jay fought to manage his fear. “We should go,” Corey said, his voice wavering. “This is fucked up.” Jay ignored him. This must be what Webb wanted to know about. 74 | UncagedBooks.com
He pushed aside the plastic curtain and sniffed the air. Something rotten stung his nostrils, but the odor wasn’t strong enough to deter his curiosity. He slipped beyond the filthy plastic curtains into an antechamber of sorts. A decontamination chamber, he thought. A second set of curtains hung from the opposite side. Metal pipes laced the ceiling above him with intermittent nozzles to deliver the appropriate disinfecting agents. Corey’s worry that something was in the air, something dangerous, made him pause. But the doors had already been opened, and the decontamination chamber hatch had been gaping wide when they’d ventured down here. If there was something in the air, they had already inhaled it. No use going back now. A shadow moved beyond the plastic curtain, derailing his thoughts. Sweat trickled down the back of Jay’s neck. He pointed at his eyes then at Corey and then at the curtain. Jay adjusted the camera strapped to his head. He wanted Webb to have a clear view of whatever lay beyond this partition. With one hand, he peeled back the plastic, and Corey dashed through. Another dark laboratory greeted him. Several biosafety cabinets with enclosed glass chambers stood like hulking mechanized sentinels. Air hoses hung from the ceiling, one with a positive pressure suit still attached. Jay scanned the room as he bent toward the suit. He turned it over, stifling a gag. His stomach lurched at the sight of skeletal remains inside the shredded rubber of the suit. Dried tissue hung off the bones of the corpse. “What the fu—” “Hands up!” Corey’s voice resounded in the laboratory. Jay shot up, his SCAR aimed in concert with Corey’s. On the other side of the lab, a person in a torn biohazard suit stood beyond a rack of glass test tubes and beakers. The person turned slowly, no sense of urgency in their movements. A positive air pressure suit draped across them in tatters. A moment later the figure stepped into Jay’s line of sight. In the green-hued darkness of his night vision, he saw a twisted monstrosity. Before he could react, the thing let out a rasping
| ANTHONY J. MELCHIORRI | majority of its cast as disposable or dead weight, and while I am sure that many of these characters won’t make it all the way through, it’s hard for me to guess at which ones.
scream that echoed throughout the laboratory. A short silence followed before a cacophony of raucous yells answered throughout the platform. The horrible chorus resonated in Jay’s bones. The humanoid creature before them opened and closed its mouth, gnashing a set of long, pointed teeth. It drew back a hand, and he saw that each finger ended in a sharp talon. Bony spikes sprouted from its joints. The thing looked like a person whose skeleton was trying to break out from beneath its flesh. A deep growl escaped its cracked lips. Then the creature sprinted straight at him.
Two tools that are well-utilized here are the use of a cure, and the use of a safe room. Yes, a “zombie” series where there is a cure! It has its limitations, which means getting infected definitely still a threat, but it is another tool that gives characters a second chance. Being scratched or bitten is not the definitive end of a character, and if they are treated on time, they can still be saved. Given the nature of these monsters, which I hesitate to really call zombies at this point (thus the quotation marks above), getting scratched or bitten is relatively inevitable.
Uncaged Review I am a huge fan of monsters, and I’ve always been particularly fascinated by zombies, but one of my biggest problems with how they are portrayed and utilized is that the setting often becomes hopeless. For shorter stories, this is not necessarily a problem, and not all stories have happy endings, which is fine- but in long-running stories using a zombie apocalypse as a setting, it often falls into the trap of being too hopeless. Death should be used sparingly so as to remain effective and shocking, and characters should not be killed before they have had a chance to make an impression and show you what they’re about.
As for the safe room: there is a ship aboard which most of the featured characters make their home, and this provides a much-needed haven from the constant suspense found in the rest of the world. To have a place where not only the characters, but also the reader can rest helps to prevent becoming totally desensitized to the stress employed throughout the rest of the book.
I devoured the first two books of the Tide series by Anthony J Melchiorri in the span of about three days, and the only reason I haven’t started in on the third is because I wanted to write this review first. Melchiorri does a wonderful job building both character and suspense, and managing the number of characters he introduces. Most importantly, there is hope for these characters. They have something to fight for, they feel real and give you something to really hold on to, and even in such an inevitably bleak scenario, there is the hope that there is still some way to survive and moreover, a reason to. Something else I appreciate is that these characters survive because they are resourceful and pragmatic. It’s refreshing to read a series that doesn’t treat the Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Moving on: the infection. So, there is a heavy medical and scientific theme, and I don’t think that I’ve ever read anything that does it quite as well as the Tide series. As it turns out, Melchiorri has a PhD in bioengineering, and that’s why all of it reads as convincingly as it does. I am by no means educated on the subject, so maybe it doesn’t mean much when I say I don’t know what parts of his pseudo-science are actually... well, pseudoscience. I really like that he didn’t just handwave the existence of an infection that turns people into monsters, and instead went to the lengths of telling you how it works, and to an extent, why. The characters make an effort to try and find out how it came to be, and how to fix it. That is an important journey, and ties into that whole ‘hope’ thing I’ve been prattling on about this entire review. The monsters resulting from this infection (re-
| FEATURE AUTHOR | ferred to as Skulls) are also very unique, and uniquely terrifying. They are truly formidable adversaries, and during the second book, they present another frightening quality that I had kind of been hoping for: they begin to diversify. This pushes the characters to strategize further and employ new tactics. I enjoy that the time to strategize is taken in the first place, and I appreciate that the characters can also go off the cuff if they need to. From a narrative perspective, things are lined up in such a way that it never feels like nobody has an unbelievably convenient hero shield, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s very easy to get immersed in the conflict. In fact, I found it difficult to pull myself away from the books. Overall, this is an excellent series so far. I thoroughly enjoy the writing, the characters and the setting. I find the books to be very smartly written, well-edited and well-researched. The pacing is smooth, and I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t feel as though the books suffer in any one place from being too slow or feeling rushed. I would highly recommend picking these up, and I am going to eagerly continue reading them. The only warning I have is not for potential readers, but for the author: if Maggie dies, I will find out where you live, and I will glitter bomb you. Relentlessly. Reviewed by Kaitlin
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Delayed Departure by JB Woods
| SHORT STORY |
Delayed Departure by JB Woods ‘George Hunter Diary 1974’ ‘It was a case of delayed departure for me. I was flying home after finishing my tour in Oman and the aircraft had just rolled back and was taxi-ing towards the runway when these guys jumped up with guns and hand grenades and held us hostage. They were demanding the release of PFLO (Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman) prisoners held by the Oman authorities…’ ‘Can I let go now?’ It was four in the morning and I found breathing through my mouth was not the answer to the fetid, gaseous soup in the Royal Oman VC10. It seeped around the best attempts at filtering and to add to my discomfort my injured ribs were aching from being cramped in my seat for a long period. Decorum had long since been abandoned as had all but the modicum of clothes required for decency. The Muslim men on board must have exercised their beliefs many times at the display of pale skin and female apparel showing places not normally exposed to the sun. I was in the aisle seat three rows from the rear of the aircraft which added further to my misery as the toilets were near full to capacity. The temperature was 41C and the mix in the sceptic tanks was stewing along with the soiled nappies stacked in the cubicle reserved for the women. Surely this was an essential demand of the PFLO highjackers who were holding us hostage in a distant corner of Muscat airport. The germs of many Westerners were very near to contaminating even the cleanest of right hands and ‘indee mushkila – I have a problem,’ under these conditions was a regular cry. ‘Insh Allah – God is willing,’ must by now sound 78 | UncagedBooks.com
incongruous even to the most hardened of terrorist. A branch of the ‘mughir’ tree would be welcome at this time as the smell of frequently sprayed Chanel and Givenchy intensified the attack on the nose. ‘George Hunter,’ I said to myself, ‘It’s time to do something.’ I watched the PFLO insurgent patrolling the aisle through half closed eyes and I counted down the rows as he walked away from me. I knew he would turn at row four before making his way back through the restless, dozing passengers. The moment our custodian reached row six I sprang up, flicked open the catch to the overhead locker and quickly sat down feigning sleep. I was hoping that the many sounds emitted by one-hundred and fifty sleepy occupants would hide my actions and the disarray would distract him from observing the open locker. He swung around ready to throw the primed hand-grenade in his right hand and peered through the cabin lit only by the emergency lighting. Thankfully he noticed nothing but undecided, he paused for a minute before continuing his vigil. I prayed silently, hoping his dulled senses would not be alerted. My prayers were answered. He passed by me, stopped at the rear doors, wrinkled his nose at the smell, turned and walked slowly down the aisle towards the front again kicking aside mislaid footwear. Row eight, seven, six—I jumped up again, grabbed my back-pack from the locker and slumped down once more. The guard looked around with a puzzled expression but seeing nothing shrugged his shoulders and continued his patrol. I fumbled inside my pack and found my favourite stiletto knife. I withdrew it from its scabbard and secreted it in my left hand with the blade flattened against my wrist and waited for the right moment. I didn’t have long to wait. I watched the guard traverse the cabin twice more before the time arrived. Bored by his routine he went only as far as the rear seats, took a desultory glance around and started back. This I judged to be the moment. The instant he passed me I sprang into action. My right
| JB WOODS | arm curled around and I clamped his hand holding the grenade. At the same time my left hand came under his left armpit and with an upward thrust under the ribcage I buried the eight-inch blade to the hilt. I lowered his lifeless body to the floor, eased the grenade from limp fingers, and thrust it at my neighbouring passenger across the aisle. ‘Here, hold that,’ I yelled at him. ‘And don’t let go of that lever whatever happens, savvy?’ The man nodded dumbly, his eyes bulging like a frog on speed. I quickly frisked the terrorist and found an old Browning SP35 self-loading pistol tucked in his belt. I had just cocked the action when the door to the flight deck slammed open and terrorist number two leapt out waving a short AK47. ‘Heads down,’ I bellowed as I snapped off two shots. My aim was good and force of the 9mm slugs slammed him into the bulkhead and he left a smear of blood as he slid to the floor. ‘Two down, two to go,’ I counted mentally. I knew there was one terrorist on the flight deck, but where was the fourth. I’d lost sight of him over the intervening hours. The passengers were getting restless and one or two stood up and looked around. I waved them down and told the man with the grenade to get help and open the rear doors and release the escape chute. Keeping calm was a factor and I quietly spread the word not to panic but to go to the rear one row at a time. Gun at the ready I ventured forward checking each row. I had reached row ten when the insurgent on the flight deck made his move. He came through the door holding a flight attendant in front of him with a pistol to her forehead. ‘Heads down,’ I yelled. ‘Stop Ingleezi,’ the terrorist shouted and brutally thrust his gun hard into her temple. ‘I kill her and blow up plane.’ I stopped with the pistol held two handed in front of me. It was then I noticed the cord dangling over his shoulder which came from his rucksack. I took a deep breath and immediately regretted it. ‘Jeezuz, do people really stink like that?’
‘Drop your gun, Ingleezi.’ I was loathe to do this. I’d had the initiative and I didn’t want to hand it to him but, ‘Where was number four?’ Behind me the passengers stopped disembarking through the rear doors and I could see his eyes flicking between me and them. Tempting fate I took my right hand from the gun and in slow motion reached into my trouser pocket and withdrew my handkerchief. I blew my nose. This harmless distraction seemed to disconcert him and he hesitated long enough for me to wink at the hostess and drop the handkerchief. She was a bright girl and with a groan she slumped in a faint. Her dead weight turned her assailants body slightly to the left. I squeezed the trigger and a hole magically appeared alongside his right ear. I mentally thanked Browning technology. ‘Where the hell was number four?’ There was a tug on my sleeve and I turned to see a woman pointing to her blonde haired daughter who was being held around the neck by a youth. He held a knife to her throat and looked up at me with wide pleading eyes. ‘You no kill, Ingleezi,’ he said in a high pitched voice, ‘and I no kill her. Okay!’ ‘No, okay,’ I said, and squeezed the trigger. At that instant I realised the youth was a girl. I changed my aim quickly and shot her through the right shoulder. I plucked the knife out of numbed fingers and turned to the onlooking passengers. Calmly I said, ‘Open those bloody doors,’ but inside I was shaking like a leaf. As we were milling around on the tarmac some minutes later making the most of the clean air someone touched my arm. It was my fellow passenger from across the aisle. I had forgotten him. He said almost apologetically, ‘Excuse me, sir, can I let go of this now?’ Suddenly, we were alone…
The End Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Authorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Amazon Page
paranormal | horror
Kevin J. Kennedy
feature author Born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, Iuliana Foos currently lives with her husband in San Antonio, Texas. When she doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t daydream or write, she enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee and playing online multi-player games, hoping one day to have a white sanded beach as her backyard. Becoming a traditionally published author has been a life-long dream turned reality.
Please welcome Iuliana Foos Uncaged: Your debut novel, Bloodline Origins and you really hit it out of the park. Can you tell readers more about this series? Thank you for having me. It is an honor to be here, today. Someone pinch me, please. It still feels like a dream. Bloodline Origins is the first book in the Bloodline trilogy. The saga follows a vampireâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s family throughout time, and their unique trials. It takes place in the present time, with incursions in the past, when the first vampires were created, almost two thousand years ago, by aliens in search of a new home. Bloodline Destinies, the second book in the series, takes us five hundred years into the future. After a devastating flood, caused by an alien ship crashed on Earth, the humanity is forever changed, and so are the vampires living among them. Bloodline Revelations, the third book, wraps up all lose end and answers many questions. The aliens who created the first vampires on Earth will return. This time the existence of the human race is in danger, and in the hands of a vampire. Uncaged: Do you have a set amount of books you are planning for the series or is it open-ended at this point?
iulianafoos.com 82 | UncagedBooks.com
There are three books in this series. Already written, they wait for edits and that famous polishing to make them shine. At some point in the future I may revisit their family and add more, but nothing planned yet. Possibilities are countless.
Uncaged: What inspired you to write in the vampire genre?
Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?
I was born and raised in Romania, and visited Dracula’s Castle when I was a teenager. I guess it was when I became interested in vampires and mostly in their immortality. Since I don’t believe in undead, ghosts, or cursed souls, I had no explanation for their existence. What I firmly believe in, is life beyond Earth. It was just a matter of time for me to put the two together.
I think my favorite is: This puts Twilight to shame!!!:). Being compared to such a huge name is the best compliment ever. Of course, when I hear that someone neglected their day by day life because they couldn’t put down my book, my heart does a backflip and I give myself an imaginary high-five.
Uncaged: Do you have a timeline on when the next books will release?
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth?
The second book, Bloodline Destinies is scheduled for February 2019, but no firm date yet. The third, Bloodline Revelations It should be out sometime in the summer/fall 2019. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them? So far I was blessed with all great reviews. Do I read them? All the time, multiple times. Every time I feel a little low, I read my reviews. There is always an energy I am taking from them. Knowing that someone likes what I’m writing gives me the inspiration and motivation to go forward. Writing is a solitary affair. I sit with my nose in a computer screen most of the time, and when I don’t, I’m living, breathing and thinking inside the world only I know about, the place where my characters live. It can get lonely at times, so those wonderful reviews are literally lifting my spirit.
When I don’t write I love to daydream. It is when more ideas are popping in my head. I also am a huge Star Wars fan and I play the on-line multiplayer game SWTOR (Star Wars The Old Republic). Any beach with white sand, palm trees and turquoise waters is Heaven to me. There are quite a few, so I am holding on to my dream, and hope that one day I will have one of those as my backyard. The sound of the waves, the smell of the ocean, and the never-ending movement relaxes my body and inspires my mind. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? Writing in a language that is not my first had been and probably will always be a challenge. English is not even second or third, but fourth language I learned. As a Romanian native, of course my first Issue 27 |October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | is Romanian, a Latin language, a mix of French, Spanish and Italian. It was easy to learn Spanish and French in my younger years. Unfortunately, I haven’t used any of them in a while and forgot most, but I can still understand some. I could probably speak just enough to get me in trouble. I have a special talent for that. Having lived the first twenty-nine years of my life in Romania, almost a year in Montreal, fourteen in Toronto and the most recent six in U.S, all those languages used to fight in my mind. Now they quieted down, leaving only room for Romanian and English.
veals the vampires’ alien descent and sparks war. An army bent on eradicating her coven’s existence threatens her new world. Survival or annihilation will be in Ana’s hands.
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
That’s kind of cool. Ana tried to visualize those chained, and the tall silhouettes gliding inside the cave. It made her shiver.
I would like to thank every single one of my fans. I still can’t believe that I am so lucky to have them. Being a published author, it has been a life-long dream turned reality. My fans keep me going in the darkest days, lift me up when I’m down. I am grateful and humble for every one of them. It is my fans I don’t want to let down. Hopefully I will keep entertaining them with places and people that come alive in my mind and work their way on paper.
Enjoy an excerpt from Bloodline: Origins Bloodline: Origins Iuliana Foo Paranormal Romance Determined to turn her fantasy into reality, Ana starts her journey to become a vampire. Along the way, she learns the truth about their secret society, discovers her prestigious bloodline and falls in love. Not all vampires are accepting of humans and war looms in the shadows. An ancient tome re84 | UncagedBooks.com
Excerpt “Some had pale skin with dark tattoos. Others had darker skin with luminescent body markings. White eyes beamed toward us, empty, emotionless. Most of them had slightly pointed ears. They were taller and bigger than most people I knew. Some glided, others walked, and all wore long black robes.”
“They inspected everyone in the room and separated us into groups. We were the lucky ones, they said, chosen to rule the Earth.” Jonas ran his hand over the lower half of his face. “They spoke our language with ease.” He leaned against the backrest of his chair again, as if he wasn’t used to sitting, or he was uncomfortable. “It seemed the ones with darker skin and luminescent tattoos were higher ranked. One of them signaled, and more came in.” He glanced at Ana. “On some floating carts, motionless human bodies were piled up, and we each got one dropped at our feet—” “Where they dead?” Ana interrupted. Jonas shook his head. “No. They showed us how to feed. That was the first time I drank human blood.” He stopped again. Ghosts seemed to be haunting his eyes, as if trying to escape. Ana gathered her legs, curling them under her frame. She had dismissed the earlier lesson from Mara in regard to the posture. “Who were they?” Ana slightly leaned forward, devouring every word. Jonas stared at her like her words woke him from a trance.
| IULIANA FOOS | “They told us they were from Vamphora. Called themselves Vamphorians and named us vampires.” “Wait. Are you saying they were aliens?” Ana couldn’t believe her own words. “Yes.” Jonas nodded in agreement. “They were searching for a new home. Theirs was on the brink of extinction.”
This book was reviewed by Uncaged in June, 2018 and received a 5 Star rating and was a finalist in the 2018 Raven Awards.
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Issue 27 | October 2018 |
feature author Everyone has a dream. Some hidden talent or inner voice that they want to share with the world. Well, “Red Sky: Rising” is the first chapter of my dream. These are the characters that have kept me up a night, writing until the early morning chirping birds remind me of the need to sleep. It took over 5 years to discover their true voices, but once I did, I couldn’t shut them up! These people, their world and unbelievable situations, poured out of me! This is my version of a band playing in every dive bar they can find. Blazing trails from coast to coast because of some uncontrollable obsession to share their passion with anyone who will listen. Hayden Flynn and Quinn Merrin are my dream; my performance. I want to introduce you to the good, bad, and (hopefully) funny situations found in their tragic story. It’s not perfect, and there’s lots of insanely talented people who could have written it better, but I guarantee that no one loves these characters the way I do. And I want to hear back from you! Let me know what you thought of the horrors of the glass castle! How about their march across the desert, or Eutherians, or the golden-haired boy with blue and green eyes? What’s your opinion of Mr. Templeton? Who was he to you? And lastly, be honest... you never saw that ending coming, did you?
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Uncaged welcomes Ben Archer Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about Red Sky Rising? Red Sky is the direct result of a childhood spent watching too much Stephen King, Richard Pryor, and Mel Brooks. That’s why this world is viewed through such a twisted, warped lens. Uncaged: What inspired this book for you? There’s a two-fold reason: I grew up reading the comics my father wrote in the 70’s. While most were just goofy little indie comics made for anyone who would read them, some ended up being picked up by major publishers; including Marvel. I actually had the pleasure of meeting the artist who did his “Sword of Dragonus” series, Frank Brunner, last year while working with Marvel myself. Frank went on to have an amazing career with legendary runs on Doctor Strange, Conan, Howard the Duck, and much more. It was a surreal experience to chat with this man who had had such an impact on my childhood, yet only met through his artwork. I gratefully look back on the poetic symmetry of how this part of my life eventually came full circle. The second reason is, quite simply, I turned 30. Not
War) and Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead) so be on the lookout for “Generation FX” coming your way soon. On the book side, Red Sky 2 has really been churning along nicely towards its 2019 release date. Since I do all the writing and artwork, it’s a very long process where my editor will tear apart the words while I lock myself in a room and attempt to bring the images in my head to life. Uncaged: What are some of your favorite genres to read?
in like an early mid-life crisis kind of way… I guess I took the advice that “everyone should write a book” a little too seriously. And now I see why! You absolutely learn so much about yourself! It was amazing to blend so many life experiences and people I’ve known throughout the years into these fantastic characters. Hayden’s non-stop, talking without ever saying anything, is mainly my son. Although, since my son is a lot like me, maybe Hayden is me by default? I’m not sure about that part, but I’m totally sure Quinn is based on my teenage daughter- with all the attitude firmly still attached. They’re twins so I enjoyed playing on the dynamics of their unspoken bond instead of traditional romance. Uncaged: Are you planning on making this a series? This is an easy one… Yes. The very last sentence of “Rising” sets up a very different, very dark course for our monsters. (Remember, there are no heroes here. Only monsters.) I promise that the curtains are just being peeled back on this colorful world. Uncaged: What do you have coming up next that you can tell us about? I’ve been developing a television series with the great special effects artists John Blake (Avengers: Infinity
Honestly, everything I put into this book: comedy, horror, and science-fiction. The Sci-fi elements (vampires, robots, vertical cities) are because I believe books should always offer an escape from everyday life. I don’t care if it’s to a different country or world filled with magical beasts, it should always let you experience life as a different person. As far as the comedy and horror, well I think they go together like peanut butter and jelly. Think about it, how can you ride an emotional rollercoaster if you only stay in one place? Humor lifts you up so that horror can crash you back down again. It needs to make you feel something― hopefully unsettled. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? Yes. As a new author I don’t have as many official reviews as I would like, but I’ve had plenty of people give me very long and detailed verbal reviews. My favorite of which was, “Do you need mental help?” I swear that was his first response to my book. Side note: Go out there and leave honest reviews for artists, writers, and musicians. Spread the love! Uncaged: What do you feel you can take away from them? I’ve only had one 2 star review so far, but I can say that artists need to surround themselves with people who believe in them more than they do. Artists are fragile creatures, and if you’re anything like Issue 27 |October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | me, then your art is deeply personal. Whether it’s painting, sculpture, video, or print, we all choose to publicly display these hidden pieces of ourselves to a world that has little to no attachment to us. Especially as an unknown author! The benefit of being able to market yourself directly to the public is also its biggest drawback. Keyboard cowboys of our modern culture will tear your work apart just for fun. They’ll troll you simply because they can. Because they simply don’t care what that artwork means to you. They don’t know how many hours or (like me) years you’ve put into it. But I’ll tell you why I choose to do it anyway. Because riches will come and go, but art is forever. Do we look back on all the wealthy people in history? No. We remember those who added to our culture through idea, innovation, or art. We remember Leonardo for his “Mona Lisa” and Shakespeare for his “Hamlet.” Do you care who the richest person in 1874 was? Probably not. The idea that long after I’m gone, some kid in 2454 will pick up a copy of Red Sky and become emotionally engaged when Quinn’s parents are murdered by giant man bats― as silly as that concept is―is priceless
that truly makes life one big beautiful symphony of chaos.
Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?
The only thing I would say is, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!” I don’t care who you are or what you do, a kind word can literally mold an entire life. People are quick to hand out judgment, but not so quick to pass along a compliment. The feedback I’ve gotten is both surreal and very much appreciated. Being able to finally release these characters out into the real world was similar to sending your kid off on the first day of school. As a parent you just hope you’ve done enough to allow them to fight off the bullies and come back home a stronger person. I’m thrilled to have you along for the ride and feel free to follow Twitter @redskyseries where I give behind the scenes looks at how this book was formed, as well as sneak peaks of the sequel. Thank you so much for wandering through my crazy little world! -Ben
That they’re unpredictable. Everything in pop culture is so damn expected these days! Every story is written in three acts, there’s always a hero waiting to save the day, the bomb always counts down to :01 before it’s defused, and the home team always wins. Well, they don’t. I like the idea that―just as in real life―bad things happen on random Tuesdays. Everything goes great until it suddenly isn’t! Life doesn’t wait for your safety net to be in place. It doesn’t care who’s around to witness your downfall. Most of the stuff Hayden and Quinn go through happens by chance, just like life. Your tire didn’t go flat this morning to drive a story along. It blew because it found an extra sharp rock. Yet, somehow, all these arbitrary experiences end up leading us down the road we’re supposed to be on. It’s this delicate balancing act of order and anarchy 88 | UncagedBooks.com
Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? Being a husband and father to twin 15 year olds takes up pretty much all of my spare time (Hi Morgan, Kylea and Colin!). My favorite places on Earth are anywhere with live music. I don’t care if it’s a dive bar or arena show, music speaks to the soul in a way words can’t. We love to get out and visit music festivals too. My favorites are Bonnaroo, Firefly, Bourbon & Beyond, and Austin City Limits. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I love peanut butter and pickle sandwiches. How can you go wrong with that sweet and salty mix??? Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?
Enjoy an excerpt from Red Sky: Rising Red Sky: Rising Ben Archer SciFi/Post-Apocalyptic Humanity’s gone. People are still wandering around in these soulless husks, but all the beauty inside―love and compassion―has long since died. Now our dark, divided world is nothing more than a trophy to mankind’s failure. And all Hayden Flynn wants is to be left alone. However, when an ancient evil rises from the ashes, he realizes things could always be worse. ...much worse. Now, toeing the line between the living and dead, Hayden will use his elevated senses to prepare for the ultimate hunt. Our salvation will rest on the weary shoulders of one man and a seemingly innocent girl, Quinn Merrin, that crosses his path. Is it destiny or divine intervention that brought them together? Either way, Hayden and Quinn will stop at nothing to find him, even if it means leaving a path of bodies and blood in their wake. Because, after all, what price is too high for salvation? Excerpt Chapter 13: The Color Red Ugggghhhhh. All I smell is wet dog. Where am I? Even though my eyes haven’t opened yet, I’m already pretty confident I won’t like the answer. When they finally do flutter open and my new surroundings come into gradual focus, it’s just as I thought… I don’t love it. It’s dark, dingy, and doesn’t smell like the Points anymore. The flickering fluorescents are giving out a piss-
| BEN ARCHER | colored light that refuses to stay lit for longer than a few seconds at a time. Despite the creep show lighting, I can make out three dirty brick walls, and a fourth that’s made up of thick steel bars that have been generously lined with sharp spikes. There’s also a small rusted pipe in the corner which I guess is supposed to take the place of a real toilet. And that’s all. I spill out of the little cot to clutch my throbbing head. The sizable knot on my forehead is the most likely reason for the sensation of long drills burrowing into each side of my brain. That flame-skulled guy was a real dick! But, to be fair, I did kick him in the balls first. Still, he could have caused serious brain damage with a hit like that! Judging by the way I’m stumbling around my tiny cell, that possibility’s still open. And it’s not likely I’ll be receiving much medical attention in here, either. This is the kind of place you put people to die. Miserably. The only view of the outside world is the miniature window right above the cot. It’s heavily barred and wouldn’t even fit a grapefruit through, so this certainly won’t be my way out. Plus, life doesn’t look too much better on the other side. The only thing out there is a rundown stadium that’s a bizarre blend of Roman coliseum with a modern glass building plopped in the middle. Surrounding it are long rows of old benches leading up to large towers at each corner. The only lights in the entire place are the faint blue reflections coming off the sides of the shiny castle. Everything else appears to be made from old wood, steel tubing, dust, and tears. The entire place seems to revolve around the glass castle. Every sign, step, and chair points directly at it. It sits in the center as the bullseye of this very large target. As for the building itself, it’s constructed of dozens of glass rooms all flowing organically into each other. Its design could even be considered beautiful without all the noticeable blood stains. It’s clear whatever happens in there, is absolutely horrifying. “Hey, you in the box,” floats in a mysterious voice from somewhere outside my cramped cell. “Uh… yeah?” I hesitate. Since I’ve been in jail once Issue 27 |October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | or twice, maybe five times, I’ve learned there are two types of people in here: sheep and lions. So, I step up the macho game, “Yeah, what you want??” Too much, too much. Let’s bring it down a peg. I try finding a more balanced tone between “action movie hero” and “don’t shiv me in the lunch line” to ask, “I guess this is some kind of prison?” The disembodied man answers in a thick southern drawl, “Nah. They jus’ gone hold you ‘til show time come round.” Then I imagine the playground of death outside is the stage? Good times. I half-heartedly ask, “When do the curtains go up?” Even though, again, I really don’t want to know the answer. “Sorry, son. Yours is right soon, I reckon.” the brutally honest cellmate says. “You the guy that done stole that girl?” I concede, “Apparently.” His thick accent makes some of the words hard to understand, but I believe he says, “Yeah, word moves real quick round here. Them bats is comin’.” I had a bad feeling that’s where this is all heading. This leads into the next obvious question, “So, I’m in the Gas Light District?” “Yup” he says very directly. It’s the kind of news that strikes like a lightning bolt to the chest. I fall onto the thin mattress to process exactly what all this could mean. The loud scrape of springs hitting the floor causes the voice to ask, “You okay in there?” My ears register his words, though my mind rejects the optimistic thought. No, I’m not “okay.” I’m actually on the opposite side of the emotional scale as “okay.” So, I ignore the question and replace it with one that carries far less emotional baggage, “What’s your name?” Mindlessly chatting should allow me to turn off my own bruised feelings for a while. “Name’s Bill, but most folk call me Brain Guy.” It’s a struggle to keep my inner child from falling out of his chair with laughter. Seriously though, I doubt the faceless voice got his nickname from an extremely successful neurosurgery practice. “So, why you in here, Bill? Did you have a failed rescue go ridiculously bad, too?” 90 | UncagedBooks.com
“Me? Nah, I got sick s’all.” “Sick? That doesn’t seem like a very serious crime.” My joking tone is probably lighter than appropriate for our situation. “You sure is one crazy sum’ bitch! Means I can’t be in them bloodlines no more s’all.” He says this very directly, as if I should know what in the world he’s talking about. “I’m confused. Bloodlines? Like, they won’t let you have kids?” “Boy, ain’t got nothin’ to do wit them youngins. Can’t feed them lords no more, s’what it is.” Still very matter-of-factly. I’m starting to think that the less I know about this place, the better. However, I need to know what I’m up against. Knowledge is power, so I probe further, “They won’t let you feed the lords because you’re sick? They don’t want you touching their food?” “Hell son, I is their food! The sick’s in my blood so I can’t feed ‘em no more.” He says all this in what is still a very carefree tone. My head sinks deep into my palms as I piece together what Brain Guy has laid on me. This place uses people as walking blood banks. Fantastic. On a good note: My shoulder seems to be working again. On a bad note: Everything else. My attention is suddenly drawn to the cell wall where the dirty bricks have taken on a bright new crimson hue. Even from here, I can tell where it’s coming from. The sky outside has begun burning with an intensely deep-red glow. “What’s going on out there, Bill?” “It’s a Reckonin’.” He sounds much more sympathetic now. “That family gone be put down.” WTF?! Quinn’s family is gonna be killed because I saved her? How the $&@# does that happen? I’m struggling to deal with the madness rapidly exploding like fireworks on the fourth of July. Bill’s next words help to fill in some of the blanks, “Once they go, they don’t come back. They gone make a learnin’ of ‘em.” His voice never waivers; never drops. Nothing about this is unusual to him at all. I leap up to the see the changes taking place outside the small window. The once-empty arena is now fill-
ing with people pouring into every single row. There are so many, there appears to be one seat for every two flooding in. Each one of them has an anxious energy, as if they absolutely cannot wait for what’s getting ready to happen. Locating the source of the burning sky is easy. There’s a room in front of the glass castle that’s completely lined with windows, like an announcer’s box. Sitting on top of it are two enormous spotlights pointing straight up at the clouds. They are what’s turning the entire thing into a thick, bloody soup. I instantly recognize this. It was the red sky from the Eutherian memory. Some twisted trick of fate has landed me in the center of someone’s stolen dream. Except he was on a hill overlooking the town, while I’m trapped in a box inside it. Plus, I have a feeling his storm was a totally different kind than the one getting ready to rain down over me. There’s a flurry of action occurring within the castle walls. It’s awash with brilliant colors that help spotlight the various intricate rooms locked inside. They also better highlight the many stains adorning nearly every wall. The bloody puddles are left completely intact as a clear reminder (or trophy) of the sick things they do here. None of the rooms are large and seem to connect randomly. However, after studying it a few more seconds, I notice the entire thing has actually been crafted with careful precision. While they’re all different sizes: tall towers, narrow halls, square rooms… they all have one thing in common—destructive toys. Each has a mirror, metal cage, or spikes to entertain the bloodthirsty audience. There’s no part of this thing that’s not completely see-through. Not even the floors are solid. It’s built to be a giant display case to highlight every sick twist and turn. They wanna make sure their viewers don’t miss a single thing that happens in the human-sized rat maze. Quinn is being led into the room overlooking the castle. I spy the familiar masked guards from the bar dragging her along. She’s still fighting hard, even though the poor kid looks half-dead. It’s easy to see everything happening inside due to the entire room being one giant window. The guards begin by securing her
| BEN ARCHER | to a sturdy-looking chair that seems custom-built for the occasion. It’s firmly bolted to the ground and features heavily worn streaks from all the unfortunate souls who’ve sat there before. Standing behind her is another familiar mop of blond hair. Shepherd looks my way and we lock eyes for a brief moment. To my amazement, there’s nothing left in his blank gaze. The man I knew, the man I idolized, is simply gone. A greasy-looking chubby man, dressed to the nines, sits in prestige next to him. His pinstripe suit is already soaked from the sweat rolling down his neck folds. It appears he also slicks back his salt and pepper hair with pure cooking oil. The Governor of this fine Colony, I assume. While I’m watching the spectacle unfold in the box, a small group of handcuffed people are led into the ring. They’ve been herded into a tight circle at the entrance of the imposing glass castle. Out front is an older man with distinguished-looking grey hair running along both temples. He’s nervously holding a young girl that couldn’t be more than eight or nine years old. The only thing I can really see of her is the blue velvet bow tied to a single brown braid. Everything else is buried underneath her dad’s worn denim shirt. Next to them is her mother, clinging as tightly as a person possibly can. Her grip is firm enough to bring light swelling to the father’s arm. Behind them stands a barrel-chested young man doing his best to compensate for the biting fear inside. My guess is that he’s not too far removed from his eighteenth birthday. While his strong jaw and stiff arms give an appearance of bravery, the trembling hands are a dead giveaway of how he actually feels inside. The sight of them sends Quinn into a wild hysteria. Spit and water pour from her flushed face. She’s ripping at the thick restraints to absolutely no effect. Her intense screams have forced large, bulging veins to the surface of her forehead. She eventually fights hard enough to pop several of the bolts holding her chair to the ground. The guards have to force her back down, but even they can barely contain all her violent convulsions. She’s as Issue 27 |October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | hostile as anything I’ve ever seen; human, vampire, or edge-of-death wounded animal. Almost lost in the chaos is an announcer babbling while the family is shoved into the first room. The steel door slams shut immediately after the last toe crosses the threshold. With the hallow clang still ringing in my ears, every light goes dark. A thumping heartbeat steadily pulses through the speakers. It begins slow and steady… Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom
… building to a frantic pace. Across the coliseum, feet are pounding with the pulsing beat. Large chunks of drywall are dropping from the worn-down ceiling of my cramped prison cell. Hateful energy visibly leaks from the pores of every person out there. It reaches new heights of disgust when the towers explode into a massive display of fireworks, flames, and shredding guitars. New spotlights shine on the two men ruthlessly banging out the ear-piercing rock chords. Their spectacle helps build the crowd into an even deadlier frenzy. I don’t know what to call these people… they’re not monsters. As cruel as my monster is, these things are a different kind of beast. Pure evil lives here.
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Uncaged Review After the world of humanity fails with a war between vampires and humans – the world is thrust into a new normal, where colonies of people survive under the rule of tyrants. Something unique was seeing how one of our main characters, Hayden is turned into a vampire. This book is violent, suspenseful and humorous. The grudging friendship between Hayden and Quinn is done well, but don’t think that there is romance in this book, there isn’t. But the friendship that they find in each other works very well. This is an action packed book, and it keeps a good pace. There was a couple spots that threw me off a bit and felt a bit disjointed, but I was a little disappointed in the ending. I know this is setting up for a series, but it didn’t feel like it should have ended at the point it did. Still, the dry humor does a lot to break up the horror of the book, and it was a good read and I’d definitely pick up the next book. Reviewed by Cyrene
feature author Kevin J Kennedy is an author/editor from Scotland. He is the coauthor of You Only Get One Shot, and the man behind the best-selling Collected Horror Shorts anthologies and 100 Word Horrors. His stories have featured in many other notable anthologies in the horror genre and he has recently become a guest editor for several publishers. He is an active member of the Horror Writers Association. He lives in a small town in Lanarkshire, with his wife, step daughter and his two little cats, Carlito and Ariel.
Uncaged welcomes Kevin J. Kennedy Uncaged: You write mainly in the horror genre, what is your favorite type of horror novel to write? Who or what inspired you to write? I tend to stick to writing mainly short stories as I spend so much time putting anthologies together. I’m taking a break from the Anthos as soon as the current ones are wrapped up though to focus on writing longer works. I tend to write dark humour stories. I’m a big fan of Jeff Strand and Carlton Mellick and while I don’t try to imitate their style, I feel that I’ve ended up writing stories in a similar vein. I’ve written a few extreme tales too though. The novella’s that I’m co-writing are both post apoc themed and I seem to go back to cannibal stories quite often. Uncaged: What do have coming up next that you can tell us about?
Collected Christmas Horror Shorts 2 and The Horror Collection: The Gold Edition have both just been released. I put both books together and have a story in each of them. They feature most of the usual authors that work with me and a few others that I have worked with for the first time. The Carnival of Horror anthology will also be available very soon. Uncaged: You are also part of several anthologies. How does that come about?
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When I started out I used to just look for open calls and send a story in. I realized some of the books I was getting into barely sold a copy outside of what the authors in the book had bought and decided I didn’t want to waste my time so I put Collected Christmas Horror Shorts together. It did really well so I started putting more Anthos together. They seem to be well received but as I said, I want to focus more on writing now and the anthologies take up a massive amount of time. I’ll still send stories into others that I fancy rather than putting them together but I get invites to anthos pretty often now so I’ll probably just sub to the ones that sound good. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you feel you can take away from them? Yeh, I always try and use the feedback. Collected Christmas Horror Shorts got mainly great reviews but one or two negative ones said a few stories were too short so I upped the minimum word could for the follow up book, Collected Easter Horror Shorts. The Easter one got pretty great feedback too but one or two reviews said that a few stories didn’t have a strong enough Easter theme so when I done the third book, Collected Halloween Horror Shorts I kept the higher minimum word count but rejected more stories that I didn’t feel had strong enough links to the theme, even if I really liked the story. I’m always trying to improve and reader feedback is the best place to start, in my opinion.
Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? My favourite comments are always the ones that comment on the consistent high quality of the releases. I put a lot of time and effort into the books so it’s nice when others notice. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Where is one of your favorite places on Earth? I used to read a lot but I work full time and generally invest a few hours in the books each night so I don’t have a lot of free time. I tend to just watch repeats of shows I’ve seen a million times as I can turn my brain off. Greece has been one of my favourite holiday destinations but more locally I love Fife and more specifically Burnt Island in Fife. My wife and I go there a lot for day trips when the weather is nice. It’s just a little seaside town in the UK that has a carnival in the summer but I have fond memories of it from when I was a kid and it’s just a lovely place to visit. Uncaged: What can you tell us that is very unique about you? I think that I judge everything on the individual story. I don’t just accept a story because I like a particular author or because their name carries Issue 27 |October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | weight. I always reject stories that aren’t good enough but I think most publishers have to have everyone they have ever published a novel or novella by in each of their anthos and some of the stories just aren’t up to scratch. My aim is always to have the best book I can put together. They are in no way perfect but I feel having the ability to say no makes a massive difference. The more I work alongside other publishers I hear all the time that they had trouble selecting the stories or they struggle to send rejections. I don’t. It’s part of the business and if I have taken time to read your story and it’s not for me, I have to be honest about that. Very few authors have taken the huff with me and I continue to have solid working relationships with pretty much everyone I’ve been involved with so I believe my method works. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Just a simple thanks to anyone who has picked up any of the books. The reviews of the books that let me know that others have enjoyed the work is what keeps me doing what I do. I’m easiest to chat to on Facebook or by email but you can find links to my various social media accounts through my website. www.kevinjkennedy.co.uk
Instead of a typical excerpt and review, Kevin is treating us with a scary short story. Enjoy.
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Merry F*ckin’ Christmas Kevin J. Kennedy Christmas Eve is a time for joy, a time to celebrate, to relax with your family, to drink and be merry. It’s a time of year when very few people walk the streets, snow falls from the sky and the drab greys are lost to the beauty of a glistening white landscape. Re-runs of old movies take over the television, Christmas songs filter out from every store you pass, colourful lights sparkle in the windows of every house. It’s a time to forget about life’s troubles if only for a day and look forward to the Christmas dinner. Christmas dinner was Alec’s favourite dinner of the year. He got up first thing in the morning, often before even the kids were awake, to start preparing. The turkey was covered in bacon, and apples were sliced and placed around it for flavour, the stock later being used to make a mouth-watering gravy. He would cut the vegetables and place them into separate bowls to cook later. Next he would set the table. Christmas was the one and only day of the year they used a table cloth. It was white with little bits of red and green trim. Pauline, Alec’s wife had bought the table cloth a few years ago and they had used it every year since. It looked nice adorned with the silverware that they also only used for Christmas. The family wasn’t religious but Christmas wasn’t really a religious holiday anymore. The retail chains owned Christmas now. The 1st of October this year, the stores filled with Christmas decorations, the same day they put out the Halloween decorations. It made no sense, and Alec felt it ruined it all a bit, but at least by Christmas Eve he was home with his family and he could shut out all the world’s problems, if only for twenty-four hours. Alec finished setting the table by placing a few Christmas crackers between the plates. He could smell the turkey cooking, the smell wafting in from the kitchen. It made his mouth water. He always cooked little sausages in with the turkey and by the time it was ready, they fell apart in your mouth. They were his favourite part; the kids loved them too. Christmas had been all about the kids the last few years: seeing their little faces light up with joy as they tore the paper from
| KEVIN J. KENNEDY | their presents, only to fling them aside and grab the next one. They were spoiled, Alec knew, but he just couldn’t help himself, he would have spent his last penny on them just to see they were happy. Walking into the kitchen, Alec opened the oven, then stepped back as the heat spilled out, he grabbed a fork from the shelf and speared three of the little sausages. He closed the oven door then began carefully nibbling on the piping hot sausages stacked on his fork. He leaned against the kitchen unit, staring into space as he finished them off, then threw the fork in the sink. The house was eerily quiet, something Alec wasn’t used to. You didn’t get a lot of quiet time with a wife and two kids. Sarah, who was the older of the two, was reasonably manageable, but his five year old son, Sammy, was a lunatic. The boy only seemed to need occasional small naps, then wake up with a whirlwind of energy. He could tire out both Alec and Pauline in a matter of an hour, however, he was a good boy overall, just noisy and energetic. Alec walked over to the unit on the wall just to the side of the kitchen window, opened it and slipped out a bottle of whiskey. He took his glass from beside the sink and filled it with three fingers then knocked it back in one shot. The burn going down his throat felt good. ‘Daddy’ he heard, but only in his head: there would be no one shouting at him as they came running down the stairs, sounding like a heard of wild elephants, no wife to kiss his cheek and wish him a Merry Christmas, no one to sit at the table with and share his meal, no one to look at and feel filled with love just because they are part of his life. No...fucking...one! Alec launched the glass across the kitchen, smashing it into a million tiny fragments. He picked up the bottle and upended it, taking several gulps before thumping it back down onto the work top. His throat was on fire but it felt good. It felt like the anger that was buzzing around in his head was somewhere else, if only momentarily. Alec knew he would never have a good Christmas ever again. His family had been taken from him, stolen by a scummy drunk driver that had walked free, all because the law was a fucking joke. His lawyer had told him in layman’s terms that the police had fucked up, it was that simple. His family was gone and the guy got off. No justice, no retribu-
tion, just a big ‘fuck you’. Alec lifted the bottle and took another drink of the whiskey; it was having little effect. He had been drinking pretty heavily for weeks now ,and it was taking more and more to have any effect. No matter how much Alec tried to move on, he knew he couldn’t; there was nothing to move on to. His wife and his children had been his life, his sole purpose for living; without them he was nothing and had no reason to go on living. For him, Christmas wasn’t a time for joy, for family, for forgetting about life’s miseries. Instead, It was a time for giving up, self-loathing, pity, anger, hatred, and…revenge! Alec knew what he had to do, knew what this Christmas Eve was for. It was God’s gift to him. The God that no one feared or celebrated anymore and had been replaced by Santa Claus. Alec thought about Christmas and all its modern traditions and smiled to himself. It had all been fun and games while he had a family but now that they were gone he could see how stupid it all was. It was just another distraction, given to the masses so they could be led like sheep through a life of pain by the few who held the power that those same masses gave them. People were weak and no longer fought for anything they believed; it was easier to go home and watch the TV and forget about it all. Not any fucking more, Alec thought to himself. Tonight there will be consequences, he thought, leaving the kitchen with the bottle still in hand. *** The snow was falling heavily, there was already a good eight or nine inches on the ground. It was cold out but Alec felt nothing. The side of the drunk driver’s house was pretty secluded by the high wooden fence, so that the only way he would be seen is if someone was walking by the front of the house and looked down, which was unlikely on a night like this. Alec didn’t really give a fuck but he didn’t want to get arrested before he got started; just like Santa Claus he had more than one person to visit tonight. Alec had half-expected to find the drunk driver sitting alone, in a pile of Issue 27 |October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | his own filth, feeling miserable. It was just the impression he had of drunk drivers but, looking through the small side window, he could see that, in fact, the man had a family just like the one Alec used to have. Two kids, and a wife..un-fuckingbelievable! It was too bad the family was here to witness what Alec had planned, but his mind was made up. Alec was left without a family, and now the driver’s family would be left without a father/husband. It’s not a time of year for giving, he thought, it’s a time of year for taking away. The snow crunched quietly underfoot as Alec made his way around the back of the house. It was a nice neighbourhood so Alec could only hope that the family didn’t lock their doors. He couldn’t believe the man who took his family lived on a nicer street than he could ever afford. He had to wonder if this man was somehow connected to someone in power, having seemingly gotten off so easily. Alec reached out and tried the handle and the door popped open. The houses in the street were pretty new and the door opened silently. Although he didn’t want to alert the family to his arrival, he wasn’t exactly going for a stealth job here. He would enter, take the man and leave. He walked through the kitchen and stopped behind the door, because he knew when he opened it he would be in the dining room where the family were sitting. “Is it getting cold in here?” he heard come from through the door. He turned to see he had left the kitchen door open and the cold night air was spilling in. Fuck it, he thought to himself before pushing the door open and bursting in. Screams filled the air instantly. One of the little girls jumped up from her chair and ran to her mother’s side. Alec pulled the large kitchen knife from the inside of his jacket. “You! C**__t! Come with me or they all die. I’m not here to fuck about, I’m not here to argue with you or make a deal. You get up out of your chair and come with me if you want your family to live. You know who I am. You stood watching me in court, looking smug while getting your ‘not guilty’ verdict. Well you are guilty, and you 98 | UncagedBooks.com
will pay but your family doesn’t have too.” Alec said, pointing the knife straight at the driver. “Okay, okay. Don’t hurt them. I’ll come.” The drive replied. “Barry!” the woman screamed, hugging the girl tight to her side and reaching over the table to grab his arm. “It’s okay, honey. I’m just going to go with the man and sort this out.” Barry replied. “Move!” Alec demanded. Barry got up from his chair and slowly moved around the side of the table that was empty. He never took his eyes from Alec. Alec knew that most men would do whatever it took to protect their family, so had counted on the driver coming quietly. Alec kept the knife pointed at him as he passed into the kitchen then followed him out without looking back at the family. Scaring the two girls was a sad, unintentional consequence of today’s events, and Alec knew they would always remember the bad man who took their father away. But really, what choice did he have when it was their father that caused all of this? And Alec would see to it… Barry had to pay! *** Four hours later Alec pulled his jeep into his driveway, groans coming from the backseat as he did. The snow was still coming down heavily, which had been a godsend in keeping his actions discreet throughout the evening. The roads were empty and no one was walking anywhere at this late hour. It was almost approaching midnight. The kiddies would be wrapped up in their beds to allow Santa to do his rounds and the parents would be trying to squeeze in some much needed rest before the big day. Alec turned and looked over the seat at the Chief of Police, tied up and gagged in the back of his car. “Now we are going to go inside. I’m sure all my neighbours will be asleep and as you know it’s a very important time of year. I would appreciate very much if you could keep the noise down as we go in. I could always just knock you out so you can’t make a noise but I am affording you the opportunity to behave yourself. The downside being that if you don’t behave things will be
| KEVIN J. KENNEDY | much worse for you. Do you understand?” The Chief of Police nodded his head, sweat was running down his brow. It was clear he had been struggling but Alec knew he was going nowhere. Alec came round the side of the jeep and opened the door before pulling the Chief out into the snow. Not bothering to lift him into a standing position he dragged him through the snow to his door leaving a furrow behind them. He took his keys out quietly and unlocked the door. Taking one last look around his street and seeing it was deserted he dragged the Chief inside. Last year when he stood outside the front door having a smoke before he went to bed, he had never felt so good. Tonight though, the only positive feeling was that he had achieved what he had set out to do. The night was far from over, however. *** Sweat dripped from Alec’s head in the kitchen. It had taken him the last few hours to get everything prepared. The turkey had only needed warming up but he had to cook the vegetables and make the gravy. His kitchen was pretty small so the heat built up quickly. He removed the turkey from the cooking tray and settled it on the platter. Lifting it with care he walked back through into the living room and gently placed it in the middle of the still decorated table. “Get anyone a drink?” he asked, looking around at his guests, before chuckling to himself. The three men were tied securely to the hard backed dining chairs, their mouths tightly gagged. They looked from Alec to each other, their eyes filled with fear. Alec felt that people should pay for their transgressions on this most holy of evenings, and especially those he deemed responsible for the tragic loss of his family. Alec had spent the evening rounding them up. They were: the driver who had killed his family, the chief of the police station where the evidence was conveniently lost, and the local politician, primarily because he was a useless, corrupt fuck. Alec left and went back to the kitchen. Twenty minutes later Alec had laid out all the food, the room smelled gorgeous. For a split second, as Alec left the kitchen for the last time that night, he saw his
family sitting around the table, only for the briefest instant and then he was back with the three men--the three wrong doers who represented the problem with this world and the reason that Alec felt like he had no reason left to play the game of being a good guy anymore. His entire life he had questioned himself about the way things worked and often found that though he disagreed with the world on a basic moral level, it was never quite enough to do anything about it at the time. Now everything was different and he no longer felt the need to conform to society and it’s ridiculous rules. The people in charge weren’t looking out for his best interests so he would do it himself in any way he saw fit, and this was the start. “Now gentleman, I know what you’re all thinking. Yes, the food does smell delicious, and no, you wont be able to eat with the gags in your mouths. It’s not for you. I just wanted to do this one last time.” As he finished speaking, a single tear ran down Alec’s cheek. “I loved my family you know, truly loved them. I suppose most people say that, but I really did. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.” As Alec stopped speaking again, instead of sinking into thoughtfulness, this time his face hardened and his brow furrowed. “But you! You cunts took everything from me! Every fucking thing! Look around this place. Does it look like a fucking bachelor pad?” he asked rhetorically. “No!” he answered himself and continued, “It It fuckin’ doesn’t! Do you know why? Because it was a family home, FAMILY! Do you know what I’m saying? A family home.” Alec knew he was getting too worked up and didn’t want any of his neighbours calling the cops before he was finished. “I’m sorry gentlemen, my emotions got the better of me. One moment please.” Alec got up and went back to the kitchen, returning with a new bottle of whiskey. “I’d offer you a drink but…..well, you know.” He snickered. The three men could barely budge since their restraints were so tight. Their eyes flickered nervously from each other to Alec, knowing that the situation couldn’t be much worse. The driver, BarIssue 27 |October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | ry, knew his wife would have called the cops by now. The police chief lived alone, and, since having anyone else around was often someone who ended up knowing too much, so did the politician. “Now. I’ve been drinking a lot, gents, and while this all seems to have gone rather smoothly, I didn’t actually think it through a whole lot. You see, I want you all dead and while I am sure you all would strongly disagree, I truly believe the world will be a better place without the likes of you three.” All three of the men were grunting through the gags now, obviously trying to explain their own reasons for past transgressions. “I’m sorry guys. It’s not an ‘explain yourself and walk out of here’ kind of night. You will all die at this very table. This will be the last Christmas dinner that any of us have—not that you will be eating much.” Alec suddenly broke out in a crazy grin. “You have to admit I put on a great spread for you.” The crazy grin disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared, and Alec grew somber once again as he continued, “My wife always used to say I loved Christmas more than the kids did; maybe she was right.” Leaning over the table Alec used the long, thin lighter to light the candles before getting up and dimming the lights. The snow continued falling outside as Alec started to speak again. “My wife liked to eat by candlelight, We probably didn’t do it enough now that I think about it. I have a lot of regrets, if I’m honest. You always think there will be more time, but there wasn’t… WAS THERE!?” Alex roared, standing up and flipping the table over, all the food flying everywhere. The turkey smashed against the wall and the three men and most of the living room were covered in vegetables. The gravy landed on the politicians lap, burning him, causing the man to reflexively kick his chair over, landing him on his back. Alec stormed out of the room and returned with a claw hammer. He walked over to the bottle of whiskey that lay on its side on the floor, spilling out some of its contents and picked it up. He took a large drink and, still clutching the bottle, dropped his arm back to his side. The men looked 100 | UncagedBooks.com
terrified, they both had their eyes glued to him while the politician stared at the ceiling. Alec sat the bottle in the middle of the floor and hoisted the politician back into an upright position, telling the man sarcastically. “Wouldn’t want you to miss any of the fun now, would we?” As Alec made his way over to his laptop, he smiled to himself as he heard at least one of the men crying; his wife had cried as she died in his arms, their two small children dead already in the backseat. The car had flipped several times after the collision, but landed upright. Alec had been the only one to survive; he wished he hadn’t. After the laptop was fired up, he clicked into his Christmas music and played ‘Santa Claus, You Cunt’ by Kevin Bloody Wilson. He had always liked this one because it made him laugh, though his wife had warned him the kids had better not hear it. For this reason, he’d waited until the children were in bed before he’d played it. ‘Santa Claus, you c**t! Where’s me f*ckin bike, I’ve opened all this other sh…..’ drifted out from the speakers as Alec approached the men. “Okay gentlemen. I think we have wasted quite enough time.” Then like lightening he swung the hammer above his head and brought it back down, blunt-side first, right into the politician’s forehead. Before the man’s head had even bounced back he let out a torrent of blows all over it. He quickly flipped the hammer over and brought the claw side down, sinking it right through the top of the politician’s skull. When he let go of the hammer, it stayed in place. Blood started to run down the length of the handle and drip onto the carpet as the room filled with the scent of piss and shit. He looked at the mess of the skull. For the first time he realised the other two men were screaming through their gags; everything had gone silent while he worked. He realised he didn’t even hear the music that had been playing. He admired his work for another few seconds and returned to the laptop to restart the song. Santa Claus, you c**t! Where’s me f*ckin’…’ started to play again. “You know I think as the years pass by, the world becomes a worse place. We move forward with technology and medicine and various other things but none of it’s real; we are just mice in a cage. I’ve decided to get off the wheel now, guys, which
| KEVIN J. KENNEDY | means you are both pretty f*cked. I’m sure you will now realise I am serious. I want you to think about this question: why shouldn’t someone kill a policeman?” he asked staring at the police chief. “Because you spent a few months at police college? Because you are supposed to uphold the law? You are a bunch of corrupt, drug-taking p*ssies. A force filled with bullyvictims turned bully that look the other way when they are needed. A joke!” Alec stopped his rant and walked over to the bottle of whiskey, lifted it and took two good swigs, then turned his attention to the other man. “And you!” he roared. “A f*cking drunk driver who takes the lives of others because he is too much of a pu**y to control his addiction. A man who has a family, though he has no care or consideration for others and their families. No!...I don’t accept that either of you have a place on this earth.” Alec glanced at the clock. “It’s Christmas day you know. I should be getting up in a few hours to start making a lovely dinner for my family but instead I made one for you c**ts-the people who took them. Not quite as pleasing I have to say. So! Who’s next” Both men started trying to plead through their gags, shaking their heads from side to side and nearly spilling their chairs over onto the floor. ‘Silent Night’ had clicked onto the laptop and Alec laughed. “It would be a silent night if it wasn’t for you two,” he said, grinning and looking between the two men. “What? That’s f*cking funny!” As he said it he stepped out and to the side and swung the biggest punch he had ever swung in his life. When his arm hit the cop in the side of the head, it felt like he had shattered every bone in his hand. The cop’s lights went out and the chair flew onto its side onto the carpet. “Motherfucker!!” Alec raged, rubbing the hand that punched the cop with his other hand. “Ooohhhh, that felt good!” Alec now had a manic look in his eyes. He had drunk well over a bottle of whiskey today and for the first time all day, he was starting to feel drunk. “Let’s wake him up. I’ve always heard people calling the cops, pigs or bacon. Let’s see shall we?” and with that Alec left for the kitchen. He came back shortly after, still smiling. Barry thought Alec had truly lost it now. Earlier, when Alec broke into Barry’s house and kidnapped him, Alec had looked ok at that point. Now he looked deranged, wild-eyed, his
eyes constantly flicking from side to side, unable to settle. He marched across the living room and started dragging the unconscious cop across the floor. He yanked him upright before pulling him through the doorway. There were a few seconds of silence, then an ear-splitting scream, followed shortly after by the smell of charred flesh. Barry figured that Alec had pressed the police officer’s face to the stove- there was no other explanation for what he was hearing and smelling. The cop’s hands were tied by his sides and they hadn’t been in the kitchen long enough for Alec to untie him. Barry knew he was going to die here tonight. He thought about his family and hoped they would be okay without him. He had had a drinking problem for a long time, and any mistakes he’d made, his wife did her best to cover for him, and his kids loved him. He couldn’t deny that he was guilty for the death of this man’s family but he didn’t want to die, just like he hadn’t wanted to go to prison. Money sorted most things out, but he doubted he could buy his way out of this one. Still, he hoped he would have enough time to try. The screams coming from the other room continued. Surely the neighbours must have heard that, Barry thought to himself. Someone must have called the police. As Barry thought about rescue, Alec appeared in the doorway again, dragging the dead cop with him. The man’s face was a mess of burnt tissue: bright red and bubbling with ring shapes imprinted on it. A knife was buried in his ear. “Making too much noise, so he was. I got a little carried away, but I can’t go waking up the neighbours at this time on Christmas day.” The smile was now pasted onto Alec’s face; he really did look like he had lost it. He walked across the room, stopped in front of Barry and proceeded to untie the gag from the back of his head. “I don’t suppose it matters if you scream now, does it? It’s not like you will be any louder than the pig was. Oh, and by the way, he didn’t smell like bacon. It’s all bulls**t.” As Alec finished speaking, he remained standing in front of Barry but his mind seemed to wander off. Here was his opportunity, Barry thought. “Alec, I have money, lots of it. You have seen Issue 27 |October 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | my house, you know I’m well-off. You’ve already had your fun. Let me help make the pain go away; money can solve a lot of problems. By tomorrow you could be gone, sitting on a warm beach, sipping a cocktail. F*ck! You could start a new family with the kind of cash I could give you.” As Barry finished his sentence he knew he had gone too far. He saw the smile slip from Alec’s face. “Oh! I could start a new family could I? Set me up with a new life, make me happy? Is that what you think you will do? How about this? I’ll make you a deal. I’ll untie you and let you walk out of here free if you can do one thing for me. Give me my family back-not a new one, the one I had before I crossed paths with you. Can you do that? Can you give me my fucking family back, Barry?!” Barry didn’t know what to say to save his life: no amount of pleading, or begging, or any type of bribe would sway this man. “You’re not going to hurt my family are you?” was the only thing he could think to ask as he resigned himself to his fate. “No Barry, I’m not. I’m not really a bad guy, truth be told. I doubt that sounds realistic to you under the current circumstances but I don’t really give a fuck. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to be good while others do what they want, and life always seems to bite me in the arse anyway. Yet scum roam the earth, polluting it with their spawn…the next generation of shite who will ruin good people’s lives. If it was up to me I’d put you all down, since most people are cunts. It’s just the way of it; humans are selfish creatures who try to kid themselves that they are more important than they really are. Personally, I think most people just go along with the status quo for an easy ride. Why rock the boat? It doesn’t really matter anymore. When I’m done with you, I will take my own life and join my family. Barry squirmed in his chair. He already knew there was no way to escape but it was clear that Alec was coming to the end of the proceedings and if he was ever going to get out of here, it would have to be now. With one final burst of strength he flexed against the cords that tied him to the chair and broke down sobbing with the realisation that this 102 | UncagedBooks.com
was it, he was going to die very soon and no one was coming to rescue him. “Alec, please! If not for me then for my daughters!” Barry begged. “Sorry, mate. I need you. Look around you. What’s missing? Yeh, that’s right. You guessed it. A Christmas tree! That’s where you come in, my friend.” As Alex finished speaking, he put the gag back into Barry’s mouth and tied it tight behind his head. He had heard enough, had toyed with him enough- it was time to end it all. Alec marched back into the kitchen and reappeared almost immediately, dragging a large cardboard box with ‘Tree decorations’ scribbled on the side, and left it sitting next to Barry. “It looks like you will need to step in as our Christmas tree, mate.” Alec made his way over to the laptop and after a minute ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ started to play from the speakers. Alec smiled as it drowned out the sound of Barry sobbing through his gag. As far as Alec could tell, at least he had stopped trying to beg for his miserable life. Alec leaned down into the box, grabbed a long red piece of tinsel and started to wrap it around Barry, working from his feet up. The tinsel still had little tabs of tape stuck to it from last year; there wasn’t much glue left on it, but enough that it hung around him as it would a tree. He leaned back in and this time grabbed a long green piece and repeated the procedure. Alec stepped back and took a look at Barry. Sitting in the chair he was wider at the bottom with his knees sticking out and thinner at the top; Alec thought it looked pretty good if a little sparse. He grabbed one more piece, silver this time and again wrapped it around his new ‘Christmas tree’. His wife had always liked bobbles, and while he wasn’t a fan, he believed you should keep the wife happy, so they’d always had them. For a split second Alec toyed with the idea of nailing them to his victim but he doubted Barry would last long enough. He grabbed a roll of tape that still lay in the box and started biting off little strips. When he had about twenty he started taping the bobbles all over Barry, some seemed to have trouble sticking so Alec was a little over excessive with the tape. When he was done with the bobbles, he reached into the box and grabbed a can of spray snow. “This is the part my kids
| KEVIN J. KENNEDY | used to love doing, “ he remarked to Barry as he began to cover him with the stuff. There was a little hitch in his voice as he said it. Once he had finished he disappeared into the kitchen again and came back with a box of Christmas lights. “Thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?” he asked, knowing there would be no answer. “Normally we use the same old lights, but who can be bothered untangling them all? It’s not like I need to watch my money carefully now, anyway.” Alec ripped the box open, tossed it aside and started to wrap them around Barry. The spray snow seemed to have gotten into Barry’s eyes because it didn’t look like he could see very well anymore. Alec was a little disappointed that Barry wouldn’t see how good he looked. Alec walked over to the wall and plugged the lights in, then flipped the switch so they would flicker and change colour. He stood back admiring his work; he had done a good job, but it needed just one last touch. He went to the box again and retrieved the Christmas star that he had jammed down onto a tent spike so it would work. He stepped up and in front of Barry, raised it high above his head and slammed it down, double handed with all the force he could muster. The peg pierced Barry’s skull and sank in, his body going into such spasms, Alec had to grab the chair to keep it from tipping over. Barry died quickly and Alec again stepped back to admire his work. His ‘tree’ looked much better with the star, and though it did hang to one side, the star had always been too heavy and caused the tops of their trees to hang sideways. Blood was running from the peg down Barry’s face but as it was red, it didn’t look too out of place with the decorations wrapped around him. Alec stood in front of Barry for a few minutes, not really paying any attention to his creation, his mind just wandering through previous Christmases with his family. The sirens coming from somewhere not too far in the distance was what snapped Alec back to reality. With no more than an accepting nod, Alec went back into the kitchen and returned carrying his nail gun. He sat in the chair facing his new tree and pulled out a picture of Pauline, Sarah and Sammy that he had taken a few days before he lost them. He sat looking at it, nail gun hanging at his side. He could hear the sirens getting closer as a tear dripped onto the photo. “I’m
sorry I couldn’t save you,” he whispered sadly. Alec raised the nail gun so that it was pointing upwards, then placed it under his chin and, clenching the picture tightly, his finger began to push against the trigger when he suddenly felt someone touch his shoulder. Whipping around quickly and finding no one there, he then heard his wife’s voice saying, “No, Alec, not yet. There are other bad men to punish. Go. Go now before they get here. Your job isn’t done yet.” “Pauline….. baby” he responded tearfully, but she was gone and he knew it. Wasting no time, Alec was up and out of his chair, dropping the nail gun next to it. He went straight for the back door and left it wide open as he ran out into a bright Christmas morning. He couldn’t get caught just yet. There were more bad men to punish. “Merry fuckin’ Christmas!” he said to no one but himself as he disappeared out into the day, thinking that he wouldn’t let his wife down this time. The End
Issue 27 |October 2018 |
| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR |
Juli Valenti is a contemporary romance author who just can’t seem to make up her mind. She enjoys writing everything from sweet and funny romantic comedies, to ugly cry, heartbreaking stories, and even romantic suspense. Her newest series, Redemption Reigns MC, has become a pivotal turning point in motorcycle club romance novels, changing the pace and bring diversity to a world run by men… which is so much fun! Juli is from Bentonville, Arkansas, home of WalMart and currently resides in Florida with her two sons just minutes from the beach. Juli is currently working to bring more MC novels to the table, as well as more collaborations with Author Rene Folsom, and a bunch more! Keep on the look out and remember to sign up for her newsletter to stay up to date. 106 | UncagedBooks.com
Enjoy an excerpt from Sadie Hawkins Sadie Hawkins Juli Valenti Romantic Suspense
My story isn’t a fairy tale. It isn’t filled with princes and castles and happily ever afters. My story is real — the truth as I know it. It’s fueled by drugs and debauchery and bad decisions. In my world, there are no happy endings, only darkness and rabbit holes. My name is Sadie Hawkins... will you come dance with me? Excerpt “Happiness I cannot feel and love to me is so unreal.” ~Black Sabbath My life wasn’t supposed to be this way. I had a bright future, a successful future, an entirely different life
| JULI VALENTI | ahead of me – not the powdered white nightmare, the ash and discarded needle daydream, in front of me. Shut up and do it, the angry voice sounded in my head, the one I couldn’t silence. The one only muted by destructive, dangerous actions. In truth, I wish I could blame all my mistakes on that voice; hell, I had blamed it … and everything and everyone else around me. But, deep down, I knew the truth. Those mistakes were all mine; the fault was on me. Accepting my fate, I rolled the dollar bill tightly and bent to the table. Inhaling deeply, I ignored the burning in my nose as the drug entered me, making its way quickly into my blood, completing me. This was what I craved: the fire coursing through me, alighting my senses before bringing its temporary silence and peace. This, where the lingering memories of past choices no longer existed, becoming nothing but the trailing wisps of a life unreal.
good against my skin. I made no move to shift away or clean the mess. Calm overtook me, filled me, and I didn’t care. I was relaxed ... finally, utterly relaxed. The noise in my head was blessedly quiet, for once, and I was blissfully numb once more. Vaguely I felt the all-too-familiar trickle of blood trailing from my nose, drawing a crimson path toward my mouth. Even that didn’t bother me, nor any possible repercussions of my actions, nor the distant knocking on my door. Darkness soon closed in around me and I smiled, content, as it finally overtook me, taking everything away as it did.
Wanting more of what the thin white lines deceitfully offered me, I repeated the action three more times and reclined back with a sigh. I’d never ventured as far as I had gone today, but I was desperate, wanting – no, needing - to escape. The kit, complete with alcohol and spoon, syringes and elastic bands, mingled on my dirty table with the cocaine that had grown to be my only friend. I know you don’t understand; you never will, but that’s okay. You don’t have to. My family doesn’t either … no one does. I’m alone – in this room, this house, this life. I’ve accepted that, the absolute loss of light and love. The loss of promise and hope, friends and dreams. My head swam as the drug took effect. Usually it took longer to hit me, my general tolerance growing, which was why I’d increased my buy amount. But now my eyes blurred while the room around me wavered. As the walls tilted and tightened around me, I could distantly hear a small voice yelling for help in my mind. I was too far gone to heed the warnings, though.
Hands dropping limply to my sides, I felt coldness on my lower back – the bottle of vodka I’d balanced next to me obviously tipping, spilling, soaking my shirt and shorts, the couch. I didn’t feel the wetness, only the cold, and it felt Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Uncaged Reviews Dark Child of Forever S.K. Ryder Paranormal Romance
A reluctant new Lord of Night. His vulnerable human queen. If they can’t change five thousand years of history now, it will change them. Forever. Fate has cast vampire Dominic Marchant and the human love of his life, Cassidy Chandler, into roles they never imagined.
Uncaged Review: This is the final book in the Dark Destinies trilogy, and the author brings it home with a bang. I read the first two books in the series, and I have to say, this is my favorite, even though the other two got 5 stars from me also. But this book brings it all together – everything Dominic and Cassidy has fought for, all the answers and all the feels. Dominic and Cassidy’s bond is stronger than ever, and Dominic finally embraces his role of Lord of the Night. He comes to accept his immortality and his role in the vampire world. But don’t get too comfortable, there is plenty of danger and action in this book, and it will have you on the edge of your seat. The secondary characters also grow and evolve, and the friendship between Jackson and Dominic, and even Cassidy shows that no mountain is too high to climb. Even Garrett works with Dominic on an honest level – something we never would have believed not too long ago. For vampire lovers, this is a trilogy that you need to pick up. It just gets better and better, unlike other series that start to drag, this one picks up speed as it goes. I’m sad to see it end as I’ve grown to love these characters, but the ending leaves no stone unturned and it is an honorable addition, and ending, to a fantastic series. It’s definitely going on my to-be-read-again pile. Reviewed by Cyrene
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End Time Daniel Greene Horror Protests in front of an embassy aren’t what they seem... In the dark primal jungles of the Congo River basin, something is ravaging the local population. When protests turn violent in front of the US Embassy Kinshasa, only the foreign policy experts paid attention. Civil war erupts and people rip each other apart in the streets of the African capital. Uncaged Review: I really enjoy a good zombie book, and Daniel Greene does not disappoint me in this first book in a series. It doesn’t take very long to get tossed into the action and by the half-way point I had a hard time putting the book down. The world goes to hell in a handbasket faster than you can turn the pages, and what a doctor thought was a case of Monkeypox, mutates and turns deadly, turning its victims into the cannibal undead within minutes of being bitten, instead of days. A great thing about this book, is I was attached to the characters, something that is a very bad idea in these type of books. This book will tell the stories of survival of each group, from chapter to chapter, and you will see how they all intertwine by the end. Most of the action in this book with the zombies isn’t really anything all that new, but Mr. Greene gives us a fresh look at survival. With the original doctor from the Congo – where the virus seemed to originate desperately tucked away at a military underground compound searching for a cure, to our team of survivors trying to get to the safe zone, it’s an action packed book that will keep you glued to the pages. But will the safe zone hold? If you like the zombie genre, this is a great addition. Reviewed by Cyrene
The Dead Woods Daniel Parsons Horror THE PAID ACTORS AT THE NECROVILLE SURVIVAL EXPERIENCE ARE VERY GOOD AT PRETENDING TO BE ZOMBIES. TOO GOOD… When Will and his friends decide to spend one last night together after graduating university, none of them realise the danger that lurks in plain sight. At first they’re having fun, caught up in the thrill of running through the forest, firing Nerf guns at under-paid zombies-actors. Then that all changes when darkness falls.
Uncaged Review: This book was re-released with the new title, once known as Necroville. This is a good introduction into the Necroville series. A group of college students sign up for a zombie survival experience and they got that and a whole lot more. Armed with nerf guns, they are sent out for a 16 hour survival with zombie actors, but when one zombie doesn’t go down with a nerf shot to the head like he’s supposed to, all hell breaks loose. The group will have to find their way out of this night to truly survive. A little bit of humor, and a whole lot of gore – sets up the series and the author’s style of writing. It was a fun quick novella and an entertaining and scary read. Reviewed by Cyrene
The Hex Files: Wicked Never Sleeps Gina LaManna Paranormal Suspense Welcome to Wicked. Wicked—the paranormal sixth borough of New York—is home to witches and goblins, werewolves and necromancers, elves and vampires…and former Detective Dani DeMarco. Dani’s busy with the grand opening of her family’s pizza parlor, when a knock on the door leaves her face to face with the stunning, yet lethal vampire in charge of the NYPD’s supernatural branch—Captain Matthew King. Uncaged Review: This is a fun book, and a great start to a series that is a spin-off in a round-a-bout way from Magic and Mixology series. I’ve never read this author before, and this book has a lot going for it, well flushed out characters, nice world building and plenty of action. It does have some “romance” in it, but it’s a bit too tame for my tastes. The author does a good job, and I didn’t find any flat or slow spots, the book kept its pace very well. The author tells this story in different POV’s, which is nice to be able to see the story unfold between more than one view and that will change from chapter to chapter. All in all, I had a fun time reading the book, and I’d probably like it a bit more if the romance was a bigger player, but for those readers who don’t care about that should have a fun time reading this one. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Uncaged Reviews Dragon’s Heart Eden Ashe Paranormal Romance After millennia as king of the dragon-shifters, Daniel Ashborne wants a little peace and quiet, especially from the beautiful Hollywood starlet who haunts his memories. His escape tactics end abruptly when he is called to the ER to save the one woman he wants to forget, but who now bears his mark.
Uncaged Review: A very unique tale on dragon shifters – who mate for life after having sex three times with the same person. Daniel doesn’t realize that he mated to a beautiful celebrity, until she’s attacked and dying in the hospital. Only her “mate” can give her the energy she needs to survive. When she does come to, the story gets humming along. I enjoyed the story, but it had some inconsistencies that didn’t make sense to me. First of all, there is way too much anger and angst in Daniel and even though he’s close to going feral, some of his emotions are a bit over the top and repeated. As for Shelby, she’s pretty sassy, but she accepted Daniel back a little too fast – from an extreme hurt to an extreme love. A nice suspenseful read, that’s not a perfect shifter book, but with enough humor and sass that it kept me entertained. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Finding Faith April A. Luna Paranormal Romance Faith Kometo cleans out the church coffers of a quaint village, flees on foot from pitchfork-wielding townsfolk, and ends up entangled in the veil between parallel worlds by a primordial spirit with Hayden Cox, an elite scout with the Order of Hunters, hot on her trail. It’s taken Hayden two years and three timelines to trap his gargouille prey—a member of the Kometo clan. Now that he has his target in hand, he’ll stop at nothing to unearth the truth behind the order, genocide, and love’s pull. Uncaged Review: The 12th book in the Soul Mate Tree series, and in this outing, we come to know Faith – a gargouille, or gargoyle and the hunters that have almost hunted her species to extinction. This book is a shorter, novella length and it jams quite a bit into its pages, but could definitely have been flushed out more. One of the confusing parts about this book, is the different timelines and parallel worlds, and trying to keep what happened in each world compared to the final one we enter. The romance was a bit too sudden, even within this series of fantasy, I think the pull of a soul mate between Hayden and Faith goes from zero to a hundred in a bit too short of a timeline. But all-in-all, this is a fitting addition to this series on a whole and it had enough action and a few good twists to keep me turning pages. Reviewed by Cyrene
Collected Halloween Shorts Various Horror
If you love horror, Halloween is probably your favourite time of the year. Well… It’s ours, too. A mixture of authors from Collected Christmas Horror Shorts and Collected Easter Horror Shorts have come back together, and invited a few friends, to make this Halloween an extra special one. Lock your door, dim your lights, add some pumpkin spice to whatever you are drinking and light your jack-o’-lanterns. This will be a Halloween you will never forget.
Uncaged Review: This is quite the set to get creeped out on to get ready for Halloween. I can’t give any clues to any of the stories, but this anthology is pretty good mix. A few of my favorites were, Halloweenland by Kevin J. Kennedy, Black Widow by Christina Bergling and The First Shot by J.C. Michael. If you are looking at scary anthologies, this one is worth the fun. I wouldn’t read most of these on a dark, cold, foggy night though, right before you go to bed. Reviewed by Cyrene
The Dragon’s Flame Karin Shah Paranormal Romance
For her crime there can be no forgiveness … Billionaire chimera-shifter Kyle Mara’s hold on his humanity is slipping away. Fortunately, his mate has at last been revealed. Unfortunately, she’s the wicked witch who almost killed one of his brothers.
Uncaged Review: What happens when a chimera and a witch walk into a bar...but I digress. This is the 5th book in a series, but I did not get lost at all, the author does a good job with the story so that a reader can pick up the series at any place, but - I still think I would have had a better experience reading this story if I had read the first four. You don’t “have” to, this one held up well, but the secondary characters don’t just pop up and say hello, they are a true supporting cast, so it would have been nice to have their backgrounds. This is a case of a mate being also the enemy, and for them to break the bond, they will need to find a special artifact. The nice part about this story is the author does a nice job with the background and keeping CJ likeable enough, even though she works for the enemy. I liked the original content and am looking forward to going back and reading the other books in the series. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Uncaged Reviews The Tome
Troy Christensen Horror Nerdy teen Jimmy Jason spends most of his school day hiding from his tormentors behind a fortress of books. In need of a change of scene, he ventures out to a new bookstore believed to cast a darkness around town. And it’s within these walls where he discovers an ancient tome. Buried in its pages are magical secrets on how to manipulate the minds of others. Will Jimmy choose to use his power for good, or to exact revenge? Uncaged Review: Wow, this story really packs a punch for such a short story. I’m always amazed at what authors can pack into such a small amount of room, but Mr. Christensen does a good job here. I can’t really give you anything about the story since it’s so short, but it really felt like this could be a teaser to a full length novel. And the ending? I doubt any reader will expect it. I rarely give more than 4 stars to a short story, but this one deserves it. Kids need to rethink their bullying of the nerdy kids in school. Reviewed by Cyrene
Fallen Academy: Year One Leia Stone Urban Fantasy
Brielle Atwater isn’t sure of much, but she knows a few things: 1. Having black wings is not normal. 2. Selling her soul to the demons was
a mistake. 3. Lincoln Grey is the biggest jerk she’s ever met … but not falling in love with him might prove impossible. When angels fell from the sky to war with the demons that ravaged Earth, their combined powers infected humanity. Now, the humans are assigned one of two fates, being either demon gifted or angel blessed. Uncaged Review: This is a fantastic urban fantasy beginning, and one I know I’m going to be itching to get the next book as the author publishes. This is marketed as a young adult, but I wouldn’t go less than older teen, as there is some gore and cussing. The very little romance is more “closed door” type but the violence is well described. Great action, great characters and world building and the classic, good vs. evil is all here, and the author keeps you gripped to the pages. The dialog and the strong female lead with Brielle is a character you can cheer for, and wanting the next installment as soon as it’s out. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Mere Joyce YA/Paranormal Callum Silver sees dead people. It’s not a gift. But it will change his life. Callum’s family thinks he’s crazy. Sometimes he thinks he’s crazy. He’s forced to live his life surrounded by nothing but the searing pain, sickening smells and desperate moans that come with the murdered ghosts who seek him out. But is there more to his gift than he thought?
Uncaged Review: A supernatural young adult book with lots of ghosts. Perfect for a chilly October read, I enjoyed this book. That I read it so slow because I didn’t want it to end. Think of Harry Potter meets Ghosts vibe. Of course this is only the first book in the Oracle of the senders series. I am crazy about being apart of this summer camp. I wish I could go. Counting the days until book two. This book is a big five stars from me I highly recommend this. Reviewed by Jennifer
The Unexpected Wife Caroline Warfield Historical Regency
Charles Wheatly, Duke of Murnane, accepts an unofficial fact-finding mission to the East India Company’s enclave in Canton, China, on behalf of the queen. He anticipates intrigue, international tensions, and an outlet for his grief over the death of his young son. He isn’t entirely surprised when he also encounters the troublesome offspring of his mentor, the Duke of Sudbury, but the profound love he discovers for the determined young woman is unforeseen and untimely. Charles certainly doesn’t expect to also face his troubled marriage in such an exotic locale. The appearance of his estranged wife in the company of their enemy throws the entire enterprise into conflict, and tensions boil over when the woman he loves is put at risk by his wife’s scheming— and the beginnings of the First Opium War.
Uncaged Review: This book concludes the Children of the Empire series, but can also be read as a standalone novel. We are thrown into a thrilling story of the great opium war and addiction. I think this is my favorite book of this series, as it was romantic and very emotional. I have also always been interested in subject of the opium trade. I really enjoyed this book it was interesting and addictive. Highly recommend. Reviewed by Jennifer
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Uncaged Reviews Sea Lust
Joy Smith Contemporary Romance
Time is of the essence. During the busiest boating season of the year, Joe Carella needs a delivery crew to transport his dead father’s prize sailing yacht home to Mystic, Connecticut, from Florida, traversing one of the most dangerous areas of the Atlantic Ocean. Desperate, he hires a captain with an iffy reputation. Despite his lack of skill confidence, and courage, Joe, who has always lived under the shadow of his famous father, feels obligated to go along to prove his worth. Uncaged Review: Joe Carella’s father is missing at sea, and presumed dead, lost while sailing his beloved yacht, the Anna Bella. Now it falls upon Joe to get the recovered boat from Florida back home to Mystic, Connecticut. He’s no sailor, in fact he has spent his life living under his dad’s controlling shadow, but he feels obligated to get the boat home. To succeed, he will need a good captain who knows what they’re doing. Marty Chase is a fishing boat captain, now living in disgrace in Mystic, Connecticut. Resigned to painting the undersides of boats since she took the rap for a boating accident, she leaps at the chance to captain Joe Carella’s boat back home. He’s a privileged son of a famous yacht racer. This could be the turning point in her captain career. Never mind she never handled large yachts or deep ocean waters. How different can it be from a fishing boat in local waters? Set sail aboard the luxury yacht the Anna Bella. Joe needs this trip to prove something to himself. And so does Marty. What they encounter is bigger than both of them. A brewing hurricane is just the start of their problems. Toss in a jealous ghost onboard, hijackers, being left for dead and having to fight to survive. The story does not suffer from 116 | UncagedBooks.com
lack of action. In places the pacing does drag and there are frequent cases of abrupt timing changes. There are times Marty seems confused or inconsistent with her romantic choices between an old lover she knows she has to stay away from and her growing attraction to Joe. However, the chemistry between Marty and Joe is great, it’s hard not to root for them. The sex scenes are short, detailed without being overly descriptive. The author is knowledgeable about boats and boating and her familiarity shows throughout the pages. Reviewed by Ryan Jo
Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Sadie Hawkins Juli Valenti Romantic Suspense My story isn’t a fairy tale. It isn’t filled with princes and castles and happily ever afters. My story is real — the truth as I know it. It’s fueled by drugs and debauchery and bad decisions. In my world, there are no happy endings, only darkness and rabbit holes. My name is Sadie Hawkins... will you come dance with me?
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: God, where to start with this book? This isn’t my usual type of read but I’ve got to say, it’s one hell of a ride. As the parent of a college student, Sadie Hawkins is somewhat terrifying. It gets dark, and it gets dark quickly. When the blurb says, “there’s no happy endings, only darkness and rabbit holes,” it’s not exaggerating. Sadie is a drug addict. She didn’t start out that way. She was once a struggling student attending law school. What started out as a means to complete an abundance of school work turned into a train wreck. She’s now a stripper and her dreams of graduating law school are dust in the wind. I’m not entirely sure what genre this would be classified as other than fiction, but it’s a believable fiction. In this day and age with so many people struggling with addiction, many of us can see someone we know in Sadie. It’s heartbreaking and infuriating at the same time. I wanted to slap the shit out of her and tell her to get it together, but I know that has little to no effect on the truly
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This book had me in knots worrying about what was going to happen next. I highly recommend Sadie Hawkins to anyone looking to read something that’s a bit different and can give you some insight as to what can, and often does, go through the mind of an addict.
The Queuing Dead Various Horror Shorts A Very British Zombie Anthology. Have you ever watched The Walking Dead and thought to yourself “That is not how things would go down here!” ?
Kevin J. Kennedy’s story was one of my favorites even though I didn’t feel like it should have ended there. I wanted more. It didn’t feel unfinished, I just wanted to story to continue. Overall, I really enjoyed The Queuing Dead. If you enjoy a variety of zombie situations and characters, take the time to check this one out. You won’t be disappointed.
This anthology addresses the question of what would happen if a zombie apocalypse were to hit the United Kingdom. How would Londoners react to walkers roaming the streets? How would a scouser deal with the undead? This anthology gathers some of the finest indie-horror and zombie authors together to answer those questions. A collection of incredible tales from all across the United Kingdom from masters of the craft. 15 Amazing Authors. 15 Rich, Entertaining and Diverse Zombie stories set in the United Kingdom. Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: The Queuing Dead is a different sort of zombie anthology. It gives a glimpse into the world of a zombie apocalypse occurring in Britain. Highlighting some very British tendencies, it kept my attention. Each story was well thought out and while some did more for me than others, I can honestly say I enjoyed every one of them. This book ran the gamut of emotions for me. There were stories where I felt sorry for the characters, some where hilarious and others made me want to stab the main characters. Which I think is fairly common for a well written anthology.
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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Exposed J. Nicole Parkins Paranormal Fiona Jennings sees things that should stay hidden. The powerful clairvoyant—terrified of her unstable powers—hasn’t left her home in years. She believes her selfimposed cage is safe. Until danger knocks on her front door. Forced to flee, Fiona finds refuge in the least likely place, surrounded by strangers with powers of their own. A grounder with a southern drawl that melts more than just her resolve to stay distant, a ghost with a perverted sense of humor, and a tempestuous shifter that connects them all. But the sanctuary hides more than its share of secrets. Nightmarish visions strip away her sanity, and danger comes from more directions than even the best seer can predict. Under constant pressure, will she weather the danger that’s coming? Or perish in the storm? Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I can’t even tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this book! As the third book in the series, I have been going crazy to find out what else was going to happen in our crazy world of people with special powers, vampires and god knows what other surprises Parkins has up her sleeve. Fiona is a woman who absorbs memories from items she touches. God forbid she touches another person. She can pick up whatever memories decide to pop up and it’s not always pleasant. It honestly sounds like a terrible thing to have to
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live with. One of my favorite things about this book is the appearance of a character I thought we had heard the last of after the first book. I was so excited when I found out this character was back I refused to stop reading that evening until I fell asleep and smacked myself in the face with my kindle when I dropped it. THAT’S how happy I was they were back. I can only say so much without giving away too much of the story, but I’m confident in my continuing love for this series. My only disappointment is that the next book isn’t written yet and I will have to wait to find out what happens next. Exposed does a great job of building up for the next story in the book and I can’t wait!
Collected Christmas Vol. II Various Horror Shorts Some people love Christmas for religious reasons, others prefer it for the food, drink and parties, but for some other people, it’s just another time of year to get up to mischief. This anthology is filled with tales of not-so-happy Christmases, tales that they don’t want to tell you about in the movies or songs.
that reminds the reader that not everything is sugarplums and Santa Claus. Overall, this is another great anthology by an author I have come to trust to deliver the best of the best
It’s time to break out your new Christmas slippers, rip open a box of chocolates and pour yourself a drink. Lock your doors and get comfy. You’re in for one helluva ride. Merry Christmas from all of us!
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Anthologies
can be difficult to review. I’m noticing that more and more of my anthology reviews sound strikingly alike and that’s a bit frustrating as a reviewer. There is really only so much one can say about a collection of stories where they can find little to no complaints with. That’s the problem I’m having today. I’ve come to love the anthologies put together by Kevin J. Kennedy. I have yet to be disappointed by any of his work. With any anthology there are some stories that resonate more with some people than others. Some stories I absolutely adored, and others that while good, just weren’t my bag. That being said, there is something for everyone. There’s something disturbing about Horror stories based on Christmas, but it’s that fun part of disturbing
Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews
Slow Burn 5 Bobby Adair Horror Survive the Infection! Survive the Infected! Following his none-too-soon reunion with his friends at the safe house, Zed is hoping things can finally fall into a stable routine, but in post-virus Austin, things are far from stable. On a mission to raid the ammunition bunkers at Camp Mabry, Zed and Murphy spot a group of the newer, naked infected, who are exhibiting some sophisticated and disturbing new behaviors, such as scouting and hunting – for them. After a narrow escape, the two pass the home of Mr. Mays on the return trip, stirring Zed’s predictable rescuer impulse. Finding Mr. Mays dead, Zed brings fellow chain gang escapee Nico along to join the group, whose numbers have grown again, thanks to their merger with the girls on the riverboat, where the group has moved, as seems to be the safest hiding place… Or is it?
Myra’s Review: Zed and Murphy head to check out the ammunition supplies at Camp Mabry. They notice that some Whites appear to be evolving, exhibiting scouting and hunting techniques. Until he can figure out a way around these new zombie dangers, Zed changes his mission. He and Murphy decide to check on Nico and Mr. Mays. The old man is dead in the living room, attacked by zombies, or so Nico reports. Zed takes Nico to the safety of the group aboard the riverboat. Zed decides to test Nico’s ability to be helpful on scavenging runs. He is a dismal failure, but they still manage to find a truck loaded with supplies. Murphy and Zed restart their mission to Camp Mabry, an arduous task since many streets and the river are flooded. Once they do find the camp, they discover loads of ammunition and many soldiers who had died defending it. They encounter Whites during several successful supply runs, and while on their journey, they see the riverboat in trouble when looking at the river. Whites manage to get onboard, fighting ensues and the boat is ripped from its mooring. At the end, the friends search for the riverboat. We’ll have to wait to book 6 to find out what happened to their group and how many of their friends made it out alive. While this rates a 5 star as each book in the series, the scenes with Zed and Murphy overcoming flood obstacles became redundant. As always, I recommend this series to zombie and
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Bobby Adair fans.
Zombie Road II David A. Simpson Horror The people that tried to kill the world almost succeeded. They were fiendishly clever but they didn’t take into account the vets, the truckers and the two-fisted fighters who didn’t know how to give up. Gunny and his band of survivors continue their journey along the Zombie Road, saving as many as they can along the way. They power through the undead hordes with their modified semi-trucks to beat the ticking clock of nuclear meltdowns. Lacy fights her way out of the high-rise office building and the kids who had managed to escape the high school and make it home face a new enemy. Boredom. New evil raises its ugly head and new heroes are born as they all battle to make it to a place of safety. Get ready for a Bloodbath on the Blacktop. Myra’s Review: Gunny & his crew of truck drivers outfit their 18 wheelers to take on the zombie hordes. Their mission is to rescue as many survivors as they can, including Gunny’s family, plus figure out how to keep the Muslims from taking over America. First, the Jihadists released the virus, wiping out most Americans. Now they are going to nuclear plants, taking out the rods so the U.S. won’t become a nuclear wasteland. Meanwhile, Gunny’s son Jessie and his friends are doing well at the family lake house. But when they get bored, poor decisions are made to go look for en-
tertainment. The teenagers get trapped in a strip mall and Jessie escapes to the roof, but it appears his friends have died. Gunny’s wife Lacy is done with being stuck in her office building in Atlanta. She manages a daring escape with a fellow employee and they go to the lake house. She can tell the kids left, but why? They go hunting for the teens. Gunny is in nightly communication with the General, one of the high ranking officials left in the government. He informs Gunny that the world powers know the score. The plan is to allow the Muslims to power down the nuclear plants, then all functioning nations that remain, including China and Russia, will blow the Middle East back to the Stone Age. The “Road Warriors” fight multitudes of the undead on their way to Lakota, the place they chose that is one of the safe zones if nuclear fallout occurs. Once entering the town, they find it in mayhem. They discover what is left of the townspeople are secure in a fallout shelter, but are also trapped by zombies. A big fight ensues to take back the town. Lakota had a lake on one side, securing it from the dead, but was open on other sides. There are train tracks and if they can find a train with cargo containers, they can be placed strategically around the town, creating a high fence. Other community members head to a nearby Ammo Plant to gather much needed weapons. In town, Gunny has his first encounter with the scum-bag criminal Casey. After getting the town secured, Gunny is going to take the train to Atlanta and find his family. The action continues in the series; with heroes, villains, Muslim extremists, and hordes of the undead. Highly recommended for zombie and David A. Simpson fans.
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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Tomorrow War J.L. Bourne Thriller/Dystopian On an unacknowledged mission inside the Syrian border, a government operative unwittingly triggers an incredible event that unleashes a weapon with the power to destroy the moral fabric of humanity. As the crisis unfolds, hyperinflation cripples the US economy. Families struggle to find food, water, and electricity. Post-war armored military vehicles patrol the streets as martial law is imposed. The US government appears to offer salvation, but there is a sinister catch... Myra’s Review: An apocalyptic story, and once the world order began to crumble, one I couldn’t put down. Max is a government agent, sent with a female agent to insert a virus into Syria’s network. As they part, Maggie suggests he take a 2 week vacation and get ready for things to go bad. He is not sure what all he did taken part in and wishes he’d asked more questions. Following Maggie’s advice, he takes vacation time and removes all his funds from the bank. First, he notices a ripple in the stock market and then the banks start closing. Max realizes that whatever they started or participated in, is finding its way into the American economy. Losing no time, Max starts prepping; buying a container his cousins bury underground per his instructions, food, gas and an endless list of supplies. Wanting Intel, Max makes a trip into town via a bike and realizes things are worse than he guessed. FEMA has been confiscating guns in exchange for lining up for food handouts. He meets
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Richard, a Santa Clause look-alike, who is a survivalist, clearly with military expertise. Richard has set up home in a cargo container on an abandoned train. Unbeknownst to the locals and authorities, there are lots of supplies in the containers and Max is impressed. A man, Peterson, has taken overseeing operations in the area, but with his methods, it is clear he is not government sanctioned. Peterson rounds up dissenters by the thousands and imprisons them. Others are shot, and he utilizes motorcycle gangs that could rival MS13 in brutality, to put down those who oppose him. Max and Richard decide to become the Resistance. Using his Ultralight, Max runs missions, including blowing up one of Peterson’s radio towers, and later freeing the prisoners. Richard’s extensive knowledge of radios and ham radios, help them plan strikes, and they listen in on the enemy, plus speak in code in case they are overheard. Near the end, the Government removes people like Peterson, but considers the friends terrorists. With those who joined their cause to win back a free America, the Resistance moves the train to the mountains to continue the fight. Filled with heroics and ingenious techniques a few warriors used against bigger forces, rogue thugs, and the government taking away freedom to maintain order. I’ve read and reviewed many apocalyptic zombie novels. While there are no undead in this story, it’s one of the scariest books I’ve read. Why? Because the terrifying events unfolding could really happen. I can’t wait to read the 2nd book now. A must read for those who love a great apocalypse tale.
Zombie Road III David A. Simpson Horror The third book of the Zombie Road tale. It’s been a month since the outbreak and the survivors of the zombie apocalypse have started a new life in a walled city. There are still a few enemies that need to be dealt with, the kind that can think and plan, and they can be more devastating than a horde of the undead. Myra’s Review: Gunny & his team head the train toward Atlanta, hoping to pick up survivors. They squash thousands of zombies by reversing the train. In the meantime, Gunny’s son, Jessie, returns home and tricks out his dad’s old Mercury. He runs across a preteen, Jimmy, who takes him to an orphanage with survivors. Jessie leads the horde away, tells them how to survive encounters with the undead and to head to Lakota. Casey, the low-life criminal we met in the last book, set himself up as the leader of prisoners he released from a state penitentiary. Using gusto and calling himself Casey the Cannibal, he fools them into thinking he is a bad-ass. Next, they liberate female prisoners and plan on taking over Lakota. We learn the self-proclaimed new Madame President, who served an important position in the White House before everything fell, is in cahoots with Muslims, who are set on their Caliphate. The Jihadists used the zombie virus to kick things off, but something went wrong and it got out of hand. Still, the “President” is confident she can bring order to the remaining survivors and she will be the new leader for them to follow. It’s easy to figure out which power-hungry lady the author referred to in the story.
Lakota. It looks pretty hopeless. But Gunny gets the slip on Casey and convinces him to join forces against the Jihadi troops. After all, 10,000 undead are headed toward the compound and the only way anyone will survive is to fight together to overcome the extremists. The fighting is intense, but our heroes from Lakota defeat the enemy. Slippery Casey does damage to the groups escape plan, which seems irreversible. But Gunny takes on the undead in a last ditch heroic act that appears he won’t escape from alive, and he saves the community. With fortuitous timing, Jessie plows into the remaining zombies and saves his dad. This is not a politically correct treatise on an apocalypse – I wouldn’t expect one to be PC. I agree wholeheartedly with the author that the Madame President depicted in the story would do anything to stay in power. I fully expected her to be eaten by zombies as a satisfying retribution for her many heartless acts, but I approved of the ending Simpson chose for her. Such a beast in human form should suffer after the thoughtless way she treated fellow Americans, like mere chess pieces in order for her to win the “Queendom.” Another action-packed, adrenaline driven story that was a fun ride.
The Muslims attack and take over the train, in spite of the valiant efforts of Gunny and his friends. At the end, the Muslims and Casey’s group bear down on Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Every Moment and Not a Second More Natalie Hanson Satire In 2012, scientists used the world’s largest machine to slam matter together and discover ‘The God Particle’. At the same time the universe sends Emily, a woman adrift in life, crashing into three strangers. Amy’s Review: A vast cast of characters This was a very interesting read, as Every Moment and Not a Second More is filled with unique characters, and a loveable heroine. Emily is the main character, who has a lot of depth, has issues of her own, which I like. She is far from perfect, and a little bit lost. This is one of those reads you don’t put down until the end, and then you want to tell others about. I find it very well-written, filled with humor, and some action and a journey that keeps you on the edge of your seat. A very compelling and enjoyable story. I look forward to reading more stories from this new author.
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I’m a Little Brain Dead Kimberly Davis Basso Biography/Humor What would you do? Are you prepared to have a medical crisis, unable to speak or walk? Would your kids know what to do? It’s time to make an escape plan. Kimberly will walk (or rather shuffle) readers through her experience in an honest, hilarious look at the site of the world’s smallest zombie apocalypse - her brain. Amy’s Review: Incredible memoirs The author shares her memoirs in “I’m a little Brain Dead” as she suffered a stroke. She takes a serious part of her life, and turns it into something interestingly humorous, so much that you almost feel bad for smiling at her words. It’s a powerful thing for people to share their experiences, especially with something like a stroke. The book is a unique perspective, and also shares some of her experiences which provide information that could be very helpful, even save a life. She has an incredible outlook on life and her experiences. I applaud her sharing her words with such intensity and bravery. I look forward to reading more stories from this new author.
Every 200 Years Dillon Rohe Political Satire Witty tale about four unqualified candidates running for president, and the progressive billionaire who takes matters into his own hands to change the course of history.
Amy’s Review: A wonderful read This story was read at the right moment in time, and I think it was written in the right moment in time as well. I enjoyed the story, and its humor as well as depth of thought into the political world. It’s full of twists, which I enjoyed, and it’s unpredictable. The force of politics and trying to change the world is compelling. The flow of the story runs perfectly paced, and the kidnapping of the candidates adds dimension to the story, even if the behaviors of the candidates seem a bit strange. I liked this story. I look forward to more stories from this new author.
Billy Tree-Folks Lawrence M. Nysschens Fantasy/Young Adult Don’t Judge a Tree by its bark! Walking the woods and the forests may never be the same. Walking the city sidewalk you may wonder: Was that a human being who passed by me?
Amy’s Review: Quirky and witty Nysschens pens an unique and interesting novella, about the tree-folks. I really enjoyed this story, as it was written very well. A lot of details lend to the depth of the story, and it’s a talent to create a short story and provide a true story out of it. I liked how it was written from the point of view of the tree-folks and their perception of “humans.” It was a great story, as this author’s writing always impresses me.
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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Murder by Association Gary Starta Mystery/Suspense/Crime As Boston’s most lethal serial killer jeopardizes the city’s anniversary celebration, CSI Detective Stanford Carter desperately fights for forensic clues to nail the perp. But the “Plunger” after stabbing his victims through the heart, leaves only Tarot cards as evidence. The mayor demanding an arrest is also keeping a secret. Soon, something even more dangerous threatens the city. Carter must find out what it is before it steals his sanity and the life of the woman he loves. Amy’s Review: Chilling thriller! Starta has done it again with this great story. He fills his plots with clues that will keep the reader guessing. I like how it has many layers, not just to the mystery, but the characters as well. Carter and Seacrest are in the middle of a case involving politics and serial murders. It’s an interesting prequel in the Stanford Carter series, and it tells a good story about the beginnings of Carter and Seacrest.
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Friction in Motion Simon Kadella Humor Hop in the car and ride along on a bizarre and funny cross-country road trip with a highly dysfunctional family. On this trip the main character, an emotionally detached child prodigy who is on the spectrum, encounters a quirky cast of characters including a mobster uncle, a channeling aunt, a Native American healer, and a depressed punker who has read The Bell Jar five times. But none of the characters found on the road are as odd as the protagonist s own immediate family. There are many lessons along the way. The most important being that wherever there is motion, there is bound to be friction, and within this lies the secret to wisdom and the strength to break free. Amy’s Review: An interesting road trip Friction in Motion is one of those books that you just can’t help but read. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing of this journey. It was an interesting road trip with a cast of unique characters. This family is truly dysfunctional, which made the story interesting to read. The story revolves around the family, but also the people they encounter on their trip. This book definitely fits the title, and this book should not be judged by its cover. Kadella tells a great story, and I enjoyed going along for the ride. I look forward to reading more by this new author.
Before We Died Joan Schweighardt Historical Two young men battle corruption, the forces of nature, and their own weaknesses (including the issue of their love for the same woman) in the deepest part of the Brazilian jungle: In 1908 two Irish American brothers leave their jobs on the docks of Hoboken, NJ to make their fortune tapping rubber trees in the South American rainforest. They expect to encounter floods, snakes, malaria, extreme hunger and unfriendly competitors, but nothing prepares them for the psychological hurdles that will befall them. Amy’s Review: Remarkable read It’s an interesting story that takes place over a hundred years ago. It’s quite a story that brings to life the characters, the characters within a family, where the heartiest of riches is rubber trees. The story is wonderfully told by the narrator, Jack, who he and his brother play a big part in the story. Still grieving from their father’s death, they must take care of their family. The life and culture bring a grand perspective of how love of family and kinship have to go against greed and thievery.
Caina Joe Albanese Crime Fiction Twins tend to be closer than typical siblings. They often share a bond that is oftentimes unexplainable.* For some reason that bond didn’t apply to Grant and Lee Tolan. Grant was always the responsible one. Lee, on the other hand, was always in trouble and in jail, self-destructing to the point the twins hadn’t seen or spoken in years.
Amy’s Review: Love, loyalty, and death Caina was a very powerful and raw story. It was very well-written, as it took the reader into the lives of twin brothers, Grant and Lee. However, these two were total opposites and had a strained relationship, but something brings them together, death. I enjoyed this story, and it brought the reader into a unique plot that brought pain, action and survival on the line. It was a book that I won’t soon forget. I look forward to reading more stories from this new author.
Issue 27 | October 2018 |
Do you have a short story that you’d like published in Uncaged? Uncaged is now accepting short stories - in return, Uncaged will provide ONE FULL PAGE to promote up to 3 books from the author, OR a free Sneak Peek promotion!
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