ISSUE 39 | OCTOBER 2019
In Loving Memory Barbara â&#x20AC;&#x153;Babsâ&#x20AC;? Hightower
On September 7, 2019 - the world lost a beautiful soul. Babs was a shining light who loved her family, her furbabies and her authors. Indie and Small Published authors lost a dedicated supporter and book lover and she touched the lives of so many. Personally, I met and worked with Babs at BTS Book Reviews and when I was reviewing for BTS, she would laugh and tell me I read too much, since I was finishing books quickly and bugging her for more. She was a friend and supporter of Uncaged when BTS closed and I began this new adventure. Babs - I will miss you - and will feel this loss forever and every time I read a mystery, I will think of you. xoxo Cyrene
The October issue of Uncaged Book Reviews is dedicated to Babs Hightower.
n ot e f ro m t h e e d itor
ctober is here already and so is the popular special Issue of Uncaged Book Reviews, celebrating the horror, paranormal, and dark fantasy.
In September, we lost a staunch supporter to the Indie and Small Published authors. Barbara “Babs” Hightower passed away on September 7, 2019. This edition of Uncaged Book Reviews is dedicated to her memory. Babs loved authors and was a huge supporter on her website Babs Bistro and as an Author Assistant. She touched many lives and will be greatly missed. This the last month that Myra’s Horror Blog will be included. So make sure you check out her reviews. So that leaves an opening in our blog review group. If you have a blog and you review books and would like to get more exposure for your reviews, then shoot me an email. The only requirement is to review 4 books minimum although you can certainly do more.
I n J u ly , t h is w il l b E m a il me to e a new ad s reserv e your pace. s lo t .
There are two Facebook groups to join now. One is the Uncaged Book Club Reviews. In this group, I’ll list books available to review. Readers can claim 2 books at a time, and once they link their review - they can claim more. This is separate from the magazine. Join HERE if you’d like to get some free reads! The second group is Uncaged Promotions. This is a group where you can share your promotions and get in on newsletter swaps with other authors. Join HERE. Enjoy this special edition October issue of Uncaged Book Reviews and have a great month.
The magazine has a new monthly section for authors and their pets! Each month, the Featured Authors will be highlighted with their furry pals in a section separate from their feature slot.
contents 16 30
Kristal Dawn Harris paranormal romance
Michael Loring horror/paranormal
supershowcase 10 Anna Lowe authors and their pets
Issue 39 | October 2019
catchup 24 L.D. Rose
L.D. Rose returns to Uncaged with her latest release in The Order of the Senary Series, Vermilion Lies
82 John Hunt
See a preview of John’s latest occult/horror novel, Off the Grid -releasing Oct. 31
sneakpeeks 66 Kean & Daniels 73 Ayden K. Morgan 86 Elizabeth Rose 103 James Alan Ross 4 Note from the Editor 7 Contributors|Swaps 110 Uncaged Reviews 120 Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews 124 Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews 128 Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews
Uncaged’s Feature Authors introduce you to their devoted writing buddies, and the devotion goes both ways. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
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If youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 36 | July 2019 |
East Coast Author Convention October 4-6, Bucks County, PA https://www.eastcoastauthorcon.com/ Fall in Love with New England October 18-19, Manchester, NH http://fallinlovewithnewengland.com/
Indie Romance Convention October 9-12, Lebanon, TN http://www.indieromanceconvention.com
GayRomLit Retreat October 17â&#x20AC;&#x201C;20, Albuquerque, NM https://www.gayromlit.com/
Shameless Book Con October 19, Orlando FL https://shamelessbookclub.com/shameless-book-con/
Passport to Romance October 19, Uncasville, CT http://gsrwa.org/ecwc/passport-to-romance-readerevent/
KissCon October 26, Bellevue, WA https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kisscon-new-englandtickets-63793094864?aff=ebdssbdestsearch 8| uncagedbooks.com |
super showcase Anna Lowe
FIRE MAIDENS: BILLIONAIRES & BODYGUARDS New series Danger lurks over Europe, where a ruthless dragon clan plots to seize power in the grandest, most glamorous cities. The guardians of old have summoned a new generation of shifter heroes to protect the castles, cathedrals, and cobblestoned streets of their ancestral homes — and to seek out the last of the Fire Maidens, women coveted by the dark lords for their royal blood. Those women are absolutely off-limits to the young warriors tasked with protecting them. But destiny, of course, has other ideas… Fire Maidens: Paris Anna Lowe Paranormal Romance One awful night, a vampire attack exposes Natalie Brewer to a whole new side to the City of Lights — and her own heritage. Can she really be descended from a legendary dragon queen? Every shifter in Paris has set their sights on her, from bloodthirsty vampires to power-hungry dragons and jealous rivals. It’s impossible to know who to trust, other than the mysterious stranger who risks his life for her again and 10| uncagedbooks.com |
again. After a decade in the Foreign Legion, all dragon shifter Tristan Chevalier wants is to settle into a civilian life and a new job. His mission: to prove himself to the Guardians of Paris and to protect the city. But all that is threatened when an innocent woman stumbles into his life — and into his heart. Being appointed her bodyguard is a blessing and a curse, because Natalie is absolutely, positively off-limits despite the burning desire they both feel. For Tristan, it’s the test of a lifetime, and the outcome will affect the future of an entire city. EXCERPT “Please tell me that wasn’t a vampire,” Natalie whispered. Tristan scowled at the fleeing gargoyle, then motioned at the back door of the soup kitchen where Natalie volunteered. “No, that was a vampire. We need to get you out of here.” He hated that his words came out all snippy and cold, when all he wanted was to reassure her. Hold her. Keep her safe. But somehow, he couldn’t get it out the way he meant, what with his mind spinning so quickly. Save mate. Kill vampire. Report to the big boss — who would not be pleased. Shit. What a mess. “A vampire? Are you serious?” Natalie stared at him through those startled doe eyes. “Dead serious,” he murmured in reply. Natalie paled, and he cursed himself. Could he say nothing right? He looked around. His top priority was to keep Natalie safe. Second on the list was not revealing his dragon side, which would be tricky with a vampire to fight. Third was figuring out some way to explain to his boss why he’d engaged a vampire rather than reporting it. “That way.” He pointed left, focusing on priority number one — keeping his mate safe. But as soon as he faced that end of the alley — the one with the shortest distance to the main road — two tall figures swept into view.
“Oh God,” Natalie grabbed Tristan’s arm. “More vampires?” He nodded. “Stay close.” Pricks of red light showed in the vampires’ eyes, a sign that they were on the hunt. Natalie followed him into an about-face, and not a second too soon. She had barely retraced her steps past the back door of the soup kitchen when it flew open, and Olivier, the vampire ringleader, hurtled out. “Stop,” Olivier ordered, using a deep, authoritative tone laced with magic. But Natalie just huffed and hurried on. “Like hell, I am.” Another vampire appeared before them, cutting off their only avenue of escape. Which left Tristan with four vampires after his mate — and only one of him. How was he going to pull that off without revealing his dragon? The kitchen staff threw a few halfhearted protests after Olivier, but even they had the good sense to yank the door shut. A moment later, the heavy grind of a bolt sounded, and the alley went deathly still. Natalie backed away from the fourth vampire, bumping into Tristan’s chest. When he looped an arm around her, she put a hand on his forearm. And, wow. Though Tristan was totally focused on the threat before them, a corner of his mind registered that he would remember that moment for the rest of his life. The trust. The perfect fit of her body against his. The gesture that said, Your fate is mine. But, damn. He had to think fast, with one vampire before him and three more behind. “When I say run, go. Run for your life.” He kept his whisper so low, he wasn’t sure Natalie could hear. But her chin dipped slightly, and her body tensed in the prelude to a sprint. “My dear, what are you doing? You can’t trust him,” Olivier purred in a hypnotizing voice. “You can only trust us with your royal blood.” Tristan frowned. Royal what? Natalie snorted, and Olivier’s brow furrowed. Clearly, the vampire was used to enthralling humans, but Natalie seemed immune. The other vampires murmured
to one another, and their eyes fell to her chest — or rather, her necklace. Tristan couldn’t see it, but he could sense a low, pulsing power and see a hint of a golden glow. “Close your eyes,” he whispered. One curt shake of her head said, Are you nuts? “Close your eyes,” he insisted. He doubted she would, though, and there was no time to waste. So he slapped a hand over her eyes and leaned to one side, opening his mouth on a huge inhale. The vampire’s eyes went wide with an expression that said, Oh shit. Oh shit, was right. Or rather, Oh sh—, because an instant later, Tristan hit the vampire with a long plume of fire. Nothing as big or as powerful as he could summon in dragon form, but enough to make the bastard duck and roll aside. “Run.” Tristan pushed Natalie forward. She took off past the fallen vampire, and for three steps, Tristan followed. Then he spun and held his ground, ready to die for his mate. Fire Maidens: London Anna Lowe Paranormal Romance Releases October 14 “Rebel with a cause” Gemma Archer flees Boston one step ahead of the creep who insists she’s his. Now she’s in London, trying to build a new normal — and absolutely, positively, not getting involved with any men. That is, until an irresistible stranger steps into her life. Liam is a sweet, sexy modern-day knight who sparks sizzling desires Gemma never even knew she had. The problem? He’s as loony as some of her relatives. Dragons? Lion shifters? Werewolves? The poor man really seems to believe the tales he spins. Liam Bennett is fresh out of the military and Issue 39 | October 2019 |
doing his best to adjust to civilian life. But fitting in was never his forte as a shifter of mixed blood. He’s part lion — a member of London’s most noble family lines — and part rogue, with “undesirable” dragon blood. When the Guardians of London hire him to maintain law and order, Liam jumps at the chance to prove himself. Soon, Liam discovers nothing is as it seems — not among his allies, enemies, or even within his family. The only thing he can be sure of is the danger Gemma is in. A deadly foe has stalked Gemma for thousands of miles, and Liam has no choice but to spirit her away to his ancestral dragon home — the remote castle in Wales he’s been avoiding for years. But hiding out is not enough. To save his destined mate, Liam must face cunning enemies — and the deceptions of his past.
EXCERPT Liam stood on guard all afternoon, watching every passerby on Notting Hill for any hint of danger. All in all, it was like some of the guard posts he’d been assigned in the military, without the sandbags and mortars. Plus, there was a huge bonus because Gemma would peek out the shop window from time to time, making his soul sing. We belong together, his inner lion sighed. True, but he would have to convince Gemma of that, and she thought he was insane. Eventually, not long after six, the bell over the map shop door jingled, and Gemma exited, calling goodbye to her boss. Then she stopped, put her hands on her hips, and looked straight at Liam. Her expression wavered between I can’t believe you’re still here and It’s so nice to see you, and Liam was glad too. Then she spun on her heel and headed resolutely down the road. The twisted bun she wore her long, blackish-brown hair in that day bounced as she strode along. He hurried over and fell into step beside her. “Did you have a good day?” 12| uncagedbooks.com |
She threw him an exasperated look. “Yes. No dragons.” He gave his chest a little pat. “See? It pays to have a bodyguard.” She hid the smile and whatever flirty comeback she’d had on the tip of her tongue. “How exactly are you going to protect me against dragons? Are you a knight or something?” He laughed. “No. Just a lion.” Her step hitched, but she covered it up. “I see. A lion.” Boy, she really did think he was crazy. But that was all right. Even liberating, in a way, not having to be constantly on guard against letting the truth slip. “A lion shifter, actually. We can change back and forth.” “I see. Your whole family?” He decided not to go into details, like the fact that his father had been a dragon shifter. “Most of us, anyway.” “Aha. And how exactly would a lion protect me? Dragons can breathe fire, right?” That was exactly the question he’d been mulling over all afternoon. “The trick will be to keep them on neutral territory where they can’t shift into dragon form. They wouldn’t want to be seen.” “Oh no. They definitely wouldn’t want to be seen,” she said in that indulgent tone. He motioned around. “Open streets, the Underground — that should be all right. We’ll have to be careful of wide-open spaces, though.” She shot him a piteous look, then glanced away again. “Military training helps too,” he added. “You know, in case it comes to hand-to-hand combat.” It was a joke, but Gemma looked dead serious. “You were in the British Army?” “No, the French Foreign Legion.” Her jaw swung open — the usual reaction he got. “Really?” He nodded. “I was rebelling. You know — not wanting to conform to what the family wants for you.” Funny how some things don’t change, he almost added. “Where did you serve?” “Oh, you know…” He motioned around, summing up thousands of miles and ten years with a wave of his hand. “Mali. Burkina Faso. The Middle East.” He fingered the scar on his abdomen, then brightened. “We also had some joint training operations in Martinique.” Her expression oozed sorrow, and he could just about
read her mind. Gemma probably thought he was suffering from a bizarre case of PTSD in which he transformed human enemies into dragons, lions, and wolves. He changed the subject. “What about you?” She shook her head. “I decided against joining the Foreign Legion.” For a moment, he stared, then burst out laughing. “You got me there.” She smiled one of those starburst smiles that warmed him from the inside. “No military. I did fence, though.” She swiped a wrist expertly, and he pictured a sword flashing. “That might come in handy.” “What? Against dragons — or strange men who follow me around?” He chuckled. “Touché, fair lady. Touché.”
Don’t miss these titles:
Fire Maidens: Rome Anna Lowe Paranormal Romance Releases December 9 Ever since the time of Romulus and Remus, wolves have ruled Rome. And with the city under threat, the Guardians of Old have called in a new generation of shifter protectors. These warriors are sworn to their duty and absolutely, positively sworn off love. That is, until destiny brings in a woman one lone wolf just can’t resist…
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Kristal Dawn Harris
In 1999, Kristal suffered from an autoimmune disorder called, “Guillain-Barre Syndrome.” The disease caused nerve damage in all extremities. Her road to recovery was a difficult one, but she lives a very healthy, productive life now. She does wear dropfoot braces in her shoes because of the permanent damage. Kristal considers herself a survivor and encourages anyone with a disability to follow their dreams! Kristal began writing short poems at an early age, which evolved into songs, and then novels. Her first book, “The Rings of Faolan-Emeralds,” released October 31, 2018, by The Wild Rose Press. She has gone on to publish six more books in one year. Kristal primarily writes for her publisher, The Wild Rose Press, although she self-released “HandCarved Wolf” and “Thief of Hearts.” She writes paranormal, contemporary, and erotic romance.
K R I S TA L D AW N H A R R I S
ristal Dawn Harris is an American romance author who currently lives in Ohio. She has been married for 27 years and has two, grown children. Kristal finished her Associate degree from Miami University in Accounting Technology. She is an avid reader and, in particular, loves paranormal romance. Her hobbies include coin collecting, physical fitness, spending time with family, and song writing.
Uncaged welcomes Kristal Dawn Harris Uncaged: Your newest book, Red Snowflakes is releasing in November. Can you tell readers more about the book? I was inspired to write Red Snowflakes after developing an interest in stained-glass art. I kept seeing these beautiful images of snowflakes, and the idea of a vampire who creates red, stained-glass snowflakes popped in my head. Dena, the heroine in the story, is a crime scene photographer who also enjoys scenic photography. While on a hike in the mountains of Oregon, Dena is caught in a freak snowstorm, but 16 | UncagedBooks.com
rescued by Dimitri. Red Snowflakes is a beautiful Christmas romance about a lonely vampire who desires to be loved more than anything. Christmas is the season of hope even for a vampire! Uncaged: You also have a couple different series running, can you tell us more about those also? The Rings of Faolan-Emeralds and The Rings of Faolan-Rubies feature modern-day werewolves living in Ireland. The Faolan family is comprised of three siblings: Elise, Michael, and William. Each book tells the story of one of the siblings finding their mate. I’m currently writing the third, and final, book in the series. The books are full of passion, danger, and humor. The Red Heart Club series are historical-erotic novelettes. The stories revolve around illegitimate daughters who set their sight on a member of The Ton for different reasons. The women are sassy, brave, and willing to take a chance on the man of their dreams. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I love paranormal romance, but sometimes I need a break from werewolves and vampires. I’m currently working on a contemporary romance. The female lead, Nena, is stubborn, proud, and sexy. The male lead, Jasper, is controlled, used to having his way, and handsome. Sparks fly, tempers flare, and passion runs rampant when Jasper and Nena meet in a dance club. The book is titled, “Three Propositions,” and should be ready for release in the Spring of 2020. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I would love to meet with Jane Austen. Her humor and style of writing speaks to my soul. Can you imagine being such a talented writer in a maledominated society? I would like to know how she overcame those boundaries. I could see myself seeking her friendship in a room full of elite snobs. No Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | “Natalie” from The Rings of Faolan-Rubies was the most difficult female to write. In the beginning she is more passive, and that is something I don’t relate to. Natalie’s personality strengthens as the story develops, but only because I cannot leave a female in a weak or vulnerable position. Uncaged: What has a character done that you didn’t expect and surprised you?
doubt, we’d find ourselves in all kinds of trouble. From the here and now, I’d like to meet Nora Roberts. She’s another talented writer with a sassy personality. Every time I watch one of her interviews, I end up smiling or laughing at something she says. There is nothing better than someone who can speak their sarcastic mind, but still manage to remain eloquent and in control. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? The easiest character for me to write was “Leon” in The Burn. Leon was an angel, cast from heaven, and cursed to live as a vampire. His loneliness took on a life off its own in the book, and when he meets his mate, his devotion is unwavering. I like those characteristics in my heroes. They are strong, but tender, and they love unconditionally. 18 | UncagedBooks.com
“Shana” from The Burn surprised me by denying her mate. It is a crucial, driving point in the story. Shana does not follow the normal routine of meeting her mate, falling in love, and staying by his side. She fights the attraction to her mate and puts both of their lives in danger. The Burn receives mixed reviews because of this, but I like that the book provokes such intense feelings in my readers. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? I have never had writer’s block (knock on wood). LOL I have stalled in a story not knowing which way I want to go. When that happens, I set it aside for a night or two, then continue. That time gives me a chance to think about which way I want the story to evolve. As for writing quirks, I do have a few. I like to have a sexy song playing on repeat when I write an intimate scene. The song sets the mood. I also cannot write an intimate scene without being alone. Three is enough in the bedroom! LOL If I’m not listening to music, I keep the television volume very low while I write. I need to have background noise. I don’t know why, but it helps.
| KRISTAL DAWN HARRIS | I talk to my characters all the time. Actually, I complain to them. It sounds ridiculous and it probably is, but every once in a while they tug me in a different direction than I intended to go with a manuscript. Funny thing is, they are usually right! Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I read from my tablet or my phone most of the time, so ebooks are what I prefer. With the digital download, I can read anywhere at any time. I do love the feel and smell of a physical book, though, and have spent many hours in the back corner of a bookstore. There is something peaceful about curling up with a physical book, in a quiet spot, with no interruptions.
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know that I have fans yet, but I hope to gain a few in the near future, and I would love to hear from them. I write because I love to write, but I also want readers to enjoy my books. It is so uplifting when a reader leaves a positive review. Readers can follow me on any social media site or sign up for my monthly newsletter at www.kristalharris.com.
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Enjoy an excerpt from Red Snowflake Red Snowflake Kristal Dawn Harris Paranormal Romance Releases Nov. 6 Does a vampire deserve a Christmas miracle?
Forensic photographer, Dena Williams, has spent her life trained to see what others cannot. Vampire, Dimitri Kovac, has waited every Christmas for a miracle that does not come. In the Oregon wilderness, during a snowstorm, these two destined souls collide. Dena’s only hope of survival rests in a vampire with the heart of a poet. Dimitri only has five days to win a skeptical woman’s heart. As the Christmas tree lights burn brightly and the snow continues to fall, will Dena succumb to a vampire’s charms? With so little time, can Dimitri win her love? Excerpt Chapter 4 The eerie feeling of being watched and the warmth from the flames of the fire roused Dena from sleep. She did not want to open her eyes but knew she should, if only to thank her rescuer. She remembered the storm and its fury as it slammed into her back, knocking her to the ground. She remembered the ice breaking and falling into the freezing cold lake. She thought of the struggle to reach this place and how she banged on the door repeatedly with no answer. Her injured leg bled heavily from the deep wound. The knock to her head had to have caused a concussion at the very least. She should be frozen solid in the snow somewhere. She spent too much time in the bitter cold, soaking wet, and lost too much blood, but her body felt warm, healthy, and blessedly alive. It made no sense. Dena sighed quietly and barely opened her eyes to narrow slits. The man who rescued her reclined on 20 | UncagedBooks.com
a couch reading a book. He seemed engrossed in the pages. The vague memory of his strong arms lifting her out of the snow flashed in her mind. A thick, almost black, braid hung over his left shoulder. Angular jaws and high cheekbones intensified his masculinity. Dark eyebrows arched above almond-shaped eyes, but she couldn’t see their color. His lips were full and set in a firm line as he concentrated on whatever he read. Turning on her side, Dena propped her head in her hand. “Thank you for rescuing me.” The man smiled at the pages of the book, closed it softly, and turned to her slowly. “You are very welcome.” Handsome didn’t begin to describe this man. It wasn’t polite to stare, but Dena couldn’t look away. “How is it I have come to the lake several times and never seen this house or you?” The man tilted his head as if pondering how best to answer her question. “Perhaps you weren’t looking for a house caught up in the beauty of the mountains?” Mysterious and handsome equaled a highly attractive man. He deflected her question with ease then reversed it with one of his own, bringing a sly smile to Dena’s face. “I guess that could be true. Since you rescued me and I’m lying naked on a rug in your home, would you mind sharing your name? My name is Dena Williams.” Leaning forward, the man set his book aside. “My name is Dimitri Kovac. Welcome to my home, Dena.” His deep baritone voice seemed to slide over her skin like honey. Dena shivered despite the warmth from the fire. It brought with it the realization she was naked, with a stranger, to the forefront of her mind. Suddenly uncomfortable, her lips twitched, and she bit the inside of her cheek. She glanced at her wet clothing tossed in a pile on the floor then back to Dimitri. “Would you mind if I borrowed some clothing? I would pay you.” Shaking his head, Dimitri chuckled then rose from the couch. Dena fisted the blanket covering her body tightly over her breasts. Naked and alone with a very large and intimidating man, who appeared out of nowhere, had danger written all over it. He moved closer then crouched down in front of her with his hands resting between his knees. Dena held her breath under his intense gaze. This close she could see the deep, sea-blue in his eyes and straight white teeth of his smile. She clutched the blanket tighter when those eyes slid over her face, down her neck to her shoulders, then back up. “Of course. I already set dry clothes beside your wet ones.” A quick glance to her pile of clothes proved Dimitri’s statement true. Her mouth turned down in a frown. She
| KRISTAL DAWN HARRIS | didn’t remember another set being there, but there they were, folded neatly beside her own. She shook her head slightly in confusion. “I could swear my wet clothes were the only ones there a few minutes ago.” A nonchalant shrug of Dimitri’s shoulders and an Iknow-something-you-don’t grin set Dena’s nerves on edge. “Maybe it’s the looking, but not seeing thing again?” One dark eyebrow arched sharply in annoyance over baby-blue eyes. Dena noticed everything. It was engrained in her DNA to sniff out things most people don’t see, and this man was hiding something. Behind that sexy, beautiful smile lay a predator. She felt it in her bones. Dena laughed nervously. “You got me there. If you point me to the nearest bathroom, I’d be most appreciative.” Dimitri’s eyes dropped to her fist clutching the blanket. Even though he couldn’t see anything, Dena had the impression he could see beyond the blanket, through her skin and straight into her soul. His penetrating sea-blue gaze finally locked back on hers. “It makes more sense for me to step out for a moment. Don’t take too long. I’ll be right back.” Suspicious eyes ran down the back of Dimitri’s body as he departed the room. A black sweater snugly defined his wide shoulders and back. Dark jeans molded to his backside and long legs. He was barefoot, which she found odd considering how cold it was outside, and his hiking boots still sat on the floor close to the couch. The black braid hung down to the middle of his back, tied with something at the end. His body moved sleek and silent. If she weren’t watching him, she wouldn’t even know he was in the room. It was unnerving realizing you were in a house with an attractive man who moved the way he did, but was a stranger. Something about Dimitri set her nerves on edge and tempted the woman inside at the same time. This man exuded sensuality and danger mixed together in a deliciously wrapped package. Warning bells sounded in the back of her mind. She’d seen enough through her camera to know people were not always what they appeared, and this man was not. Dena waited until the door closed. With the blanket still wrapped around her body, she jumped to her feet, grabbed the pile of dry clothing, then sat on the couch. A puzzled frown crossed her features when she held up a pair of black lace panties. Where did these come from? Did another woman live here? She pondered her options while staring at the panties.
She could either go commando with a stranger or wear the panties that looked brand new. She sighed deeply then pulled them on feeling like she didn’t really have a choice. A matching black bra lay on the pile next. Dena shook her head while attaching the front hook. Her fingers ran across her thigh, searching for the wound she knew she had before, but only uninjured skin showed. The jeans he left were a perfect fit, as well as the soft, red sweater. Dena turned her gaze to the ceiling and worried her bottom lip. How did this man have clothes to fit her exactly? Was he a pervert or stalker? Why didn’t she have a gash on her leg? Why was she alive? Dena had a list of unanswered question and no one to ask. Her gaze jerked to the double doors when she heard them rattle. She needed to get out of this house and fast. She glanced over her shoulder to the window and frowned when she saw how heavy the snow still fell. Jagged icicles hung from the roof, suspended over the front of the window, so it must be extremely cold. The wind whistled around the house, rattling the window panes. With wet boots, wet gloves, and a soaking-wet coat, she’d never make it to her truck. She didn’t even know which way to go at this point. Worrying her bottom lip, Dena jerked then gasped when she turned back around only to find Dimitri sitting beside her on the couch. How did he do that? He tossed a pair of black, wool socks to her then began to fold the blanket she’d used earlier. Narrowed, suspicious eyes watched her rescuer. “Is there another woman who lives here?” Dimitri chuckled while folding the blanket but didn’t look up. “No one else lives here.” Pulling the socks over her cold, bare feet, Dena glanced beneath her eyelashes warily. “Then how did you have women’s clothing in my exact size?” With his hand in midair, Dimitri paused. “I looked at the sizes on your wet clothing then ran into town before the roads became impassible and bought you a new set. I knew you’d need them when you woke.” “There is a road to your home, and you bought me clothes?” Dimitri frowned while tossing the folded blanket back on the couch. “Of course, there’s a road, and I actually own a vehicle. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it back as hard as it’s snowing now. I doubt the roads will be cleared until after Christmas.” Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | He said all the right things and had a logical answer for her questions, but Dena caught the hesitation before he answered. It was almost as if he were making stuff up as he went. Inquisitive, blue eyes darted around the room, noticing everything she hadn’t seen the first time. Double, vanilla-colored couches faced each other with a dark coffee table in between. An antique desk, surrounded by bookcases, sat at one end of the room. On the other end, windows ran the entire length of the wall, and nothing sat in the space. The red Christmas candle still set in the window. Numerous lamps lit the room along with the fireplace, which must be gas because she didn’t smell wood. She couldn’t find any personal memorabilia of any type in the room. The walls were bare, but clean and painted an offwhite. Dena searched for something she could use as a weapon, but there wasn’t anything besides a few lamps. Frightened and uneasy, Dena whipped back to Dimitri with her arms crossed. “I want to leave.” One dark eyebrow arched on Dimitri’s handsome face. “The storm makes that impossible.” Dena glanced to the window then back to Dimitri. “Something isn’t right here. I feel it in my gut, and my gut is always right.” Leaning back on the couch, Dimitri propped his bare feet on the coffee table. “Why don’t you tell me what I have done to make you uneasy?” With fingers tapping against her crossed arms, Dena paced before the fire. One hundred horrible scenarios passed through her overactive mind, but none of them fit. It annoyed her Dimitri appeared so calm. “Clothes appeared in my exact size that weren’t there before, my leg and my head healed miraculously when I should be close to death or dead, there is no memorabilia in your home—this house is another matter entirely—and the freakish snowstorm that refuses to let up. That unnatural storm came out of nowhere.” Dimitri frowned. “And you think I caused the storm?” It was preposterous to even consider the idea, but this man did seem to be at the center of everything. Dena felt like an idiot asking the question, but she asked anyway. “Did you cause the storm?” Dimitri smiled a sly smile that set Dena’s insides fluttering and caused the hairs to stand up on her arms. Again, she had the impression this man was not what he seemed. “Be careful what you ask, 22 | UncagedBooks.com
Dena. I’d prefer to give you the entire truth up front, but I’m afraid you can’t handle it.” She’d seen more in her lifetime than anyone should. Murders, suicides, and terrible deaths sat at the top of that list, along with abused children and the loss of her parents. Dena stopped pacing, and her spine stiffened. Her eyes narrowed in annoyance as she turned on Dimitri in righteous indignation. “I assure you I can handle anything.” The words barely left her mouth when Dimitri blurred off the couch to stand before her like a statue. Dena jumped back surprised. Movement like that was not normal. No human could move that fast. Dimitri took a step toward her with an almost seductive smile on his face. Dena lifted her chin, refusing to show fear. This man hadn’t hurt her one time. In fact, he saved her life. He was trying to tell her something without saying the words, and she loved a good mystery more than anything. Dena stood her ground, waiting until he stopped directly in front of her—toe to toe. Her gaze lifted from his broad chest to his face. His breath caressed her skin in whispery touches. This close she could see the small lines around his eyes and the long length of his eyelashes. She’d photographed numerous crime scenes and witnessed the arrest of several criminals, so she knew the eyes of a killer. This man did not have those eyes. Predator, yes. Murderer, no. The sea-blue depths emanated tranquility, but there was something else there as well. Trained to see things others didn’t, Dena tilted her head while studying him, trying to see what evaded her eyes. Engrossed in his features, almost drawn to him on a level her mind didn’t understand, her body leaned forward. He didn’t move away, but his pupils tracked every move she made. Dena focused on his eyes, letting her own senses expand. Something was different in those sea-blue depths. They say the eyes are the mirror to the soul, but his seemed more like a mask. Her body jerked when the black of his pupils bled into the blue of the iris and white of his eyes until his sockets completely blacked out, then shifted back to their normal sea-blue color. Curiosity led her. One foot slid between his as she moved even closer until their bodies brushed. For some odd reason, she wasn’t afraid. “What are you?”
| KRISTAL DAWN HARRIS |
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
THIS MONTH WE C AT C H U P W I T H L . D . R ose A N D H E R L AT E S T I N T H E order of the se n ary series
L.D. Rose stops by with Vermilion Lies, the latest release in The Order of the Senary series. Uncaged: Your latest release, Vermilion Lies is the latest installment in The Order of the Senary series – can you tell readers more about this series? I LOVE to write about vampires! Dark, terrifying, and brutal leeches, as they should be. ;) But the real stars of my dark paranormal romance series, The Order of the Senary, are genetically-engineered mercenaries (hybrids!), who are half-vampire, half-human, and they’re assigned to protect humanity from the leeches. Each of these fellas has a “superpower” and they’re so much fun to write! They work hard, play hard, and love harder. Uncaged: At the moment you are working on the next book in the series, Furious Angels. Do you have a tentative release on this book? I’m aiming to turn it into my editor by next summer, so hopefully publication by next fall! But no guarantees at this point. Uncaged: Do you have a set plan on how many books are planned for the series or is it open-ended? This series will have a total of seven books, but I am open to a spin-off :) We shall see! I have so many books I want to write! Uncaged: On July 1st, you finally made it to Attending Doctor – after 10 years of schooling and training. Can you actually get sleep now? Haha! NOPE! First year of attending-hood is actually the toughest year of all medical training (or at least, for most, LOL). I’m definitely feeling it already! But I’ll survive…I always do. :D
| L.D. ROSE |
Enjoy an excerpt from Vermilion Lies Vermilion Lies L.D. Rose Paranormal Romance Giving in to temptation won’t be his only sin. Wherever Dax Knight sets foot, hell is bound to freeze over. As a mercenary for the Order of the Senary, Dax departs for New England to assist his comrades in battling the vampire forces threatening to consume the Northeast. The last thing he expects to find is a gorgeous vampiress who surrenders to him entirely. Ensnared by her allure, their intense attraction ignites, and he discovers she isn’t what she seems. Cindel Konstantinov has been on the run since she escaped her sire’s possession, trading one life of abuse and imprisonment for another. As her hope for freedom wanes, she encounters one of the infamous Knights, and his dangerous appeal is undeniable. After a life-altering moment of mercy, they careen down a path of secrets, lies, and a forbidden passion neither of them can resist. But when her past comes back to haunt them, they’ll have to face the consequences of their actions—and their desires. Dax and Cindel will need each other more than ever as their world spirals into chaos. But are they strong enough to survive the oncoming storm? Excerpt Slipping his SIG into the back of his waistband and his switchblade in his back pocket, Dax quietly descended the stairs on bare feet. The sun Issue 39 | October 2019 |
was about to set and he wanted to be downstairs when the great jailer in the sky made its exit.
She’s the enemy. You remember that.
The leech remained tied to the chair at the corner of the kitchen, head propped against the wall. She sat still, lifeless, her heartbeat a slow, thready rhythm and her respirations just about absent. Her scent was faint, merely a trace in the air now that she was unconscious.
Leaning back in his seat, he tried to make himself comfortable as he bit into the apple. He no longer had an appetite but he forced himself to chew and swallow anyway, silently berating himself for feeling anything for this leech. If he didn’t snap out of it, she would win, and God knew what that meant.
She was fast asleep. Good.
The monster in him sensed the last of the sun’s rays descend into darkness. The visceral tug left as quickly as it came, barely giving him pause as he sank his teeth into the fruit again. As if on cue, her long, clumped lashes fluttered against her high cheekbones like butterflies with broken wings, hardly opening as she shifted her weight. She grimaced, somehow making the expression look lovely as she lifted her head with what seemed like immense effort.
Dax opened the fridge and chose one of three Macintosh apples next to his blood supply. Then he rounded the table, taking a seat at the far end so he’d be the first thing she’d see on waking. He pulled the chair out and palmed his gun, but he stopped mid-motion when he took in her face. Crimson trails smeared her cheeks from eyelids to chin, dribbles of it down her neck, splotches on her chest. The blood had dried into rust, leaving marks behind, tainted with mascara.
When she finally straightened, her eyes split open as he tore off another piece of the apple’s flesh.
His breath deserted him. He’d never seen a vampire cry, never witnessed the bloody evidence of their emotions. Now here it was, right in front of him, and he didn’t want to believe it.
They stared at each other across the dining table for an eternity, the only sounds the crushing of fruit between his jaws and her vitals amplifying in his ears. The tension was electric, charged with lust and misgivings. Rogue strands of her hair fell over her face as she watched him with those black diamond eyes, framed with desperation and misery.
Keep your head straight. She’s manipulating you.
Few men could resist the sight of a pretty girl crying.
Setting the chair down, he sat and laid the gun on the table, eyes absorbing every detail of her face. She looked incredibly tragic, painfully beautiful. Her raven hair hung in tangles around her bloodmarred face, her ivory skin dusted with salt, her body uncomfortably angled in order to rest her head. Guilt stabbed him like a blade to the belly, but he yanked it out and held in his guts.
Even if she was crying blood.
She’d been crying. All night, probably.
He would not feel sympathy for her. He could not feel sympathy for her. The lure still festered in his brain, making him stupid. 26 | UncagedBooks.com
She broke the silence first, her voice silken, low, a seduction in the growing dark. “What does it taste like?” He’d ceased chewing. And he wasn’t breathing again. Snap out of it, Dax. Stop thinking with your dick. Forcing himself to inhale deeply, he filled his lungs then exhaled in a smooth, slow stream through his
| L.D. ROSE | nostrils. He tried to ignore her scent, but it had intensified upon her waking, stroking his senses. “Sour,” he replied. “Sweet.” “Sweet,” she repeated, her eyes settling on his mouth. He wasn’t any better, staring blatantly at hers. The tips of her pearly white fangs flashed every time she spoke, and God, he was supposed to be disgusted, but he was far from it. Focus.
L.D. Rose is a neurotic physician by day, crazed writer by night, and all around wannabe superhero. She writes award-winning dark paranormal fiction and she’s a PAN member of the RWA and FF&P. She currently lives in Rhode Island with her studly hubby, her hyperactive Boxer, and her two devious cats. Sign up for her newsletter for the latest on the Senary, sneak peeks, giveaways, and other fun stuff: https://www.subscribepage.com/ldrose You can also join her reader group on Facebook for more shenanigans! Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Uncaged welcomes Kathryn Knight
K AT H R Y N K N I G H T
Uncaged: Your latest book, The Haunting of Hillwood Farm, is another ghostly tale from you, can you tell readers about the book?
SA TODAY Bestselling Author Kathryn Knight writes books filled with steamy romance, dangerous secrets, and haunting mysteries. Her novels are award-winning #1 Amazon and Barnes & Noble Bestsellers and RomCon Reader-Rated picks. When she’s not reading or writing, Kathryn spends her time exploring abandoned places and searching for ghosts. She lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her husband, their two sons, and a number of rescued pets.
Thanks for having me, and I’d love to! The Haunting of Hillwood Farm is both a ghost mystery and a romantic suspense, set on Cape Cod where I live. The main character, Callie, is a reluctant psychic who’s asked to come investigate mysterious events at a historic farm by the family matriarch, a widow named Alice. But Alice’s grandson also lives on the property, and he doesn’t believe in ghosts, much less psychics, so he’s immediately suspicious of Callie. Despite this, attraction sparks between them, but the paranormal activity at the farm turns dangerous quickly, putting them all at risk. Uncaged: On your website, you say you like to go to abandoned and spooky places, does this inspire some of your writing? It does! I’ve snuck into an abandoned TB Hospital, taken a tour of the skeleton-filled Catacombs beneath Paris, and explored old graveyards. The best example of using one of these experiences as inspiration is probably my visit to the Old Jail House in Barnstable Village, MA. It’s the oldest wooden jailhouse in the country, built circa 1690, and it’s reputedly quite haunted, as many people died there due to poor and crowded conditions. A tour guide told a story about how a ghost followed her home, and the idea for my novel Haunted Souls was born. While Haunted Souls is also a romance, the mystery involves a lost spirit coming home from the Old Jail with the heroine’s son. Uncaged: What are you working on now
that you can tell us about? It’s probably already apparent that ghost mysteries mixed with romance are what I enjoy writing the most, and although I’ve written some other genres (a YA and a Romantic Suspense with no paranormal elements), I always tend to come back to that combination. At the moment, I’m writing a book with the tentative title “Ghost Moon”, and in this one, the main character inherits an old home with a tragic history, and circumstances force her to live there while she attempts to get back on her feet. Frightening things start happening from the moment she arrives and sees a face in the window. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? That’s a tough call, because I admire so many authors. I’d love to have lunch with one of the most important authors of my childhood, Patricia Clapp. She wrote a YA novel, JaneEmily, that introduced me to my own genre and still resonates with me today. I’d especially enjoy telling her how, because of her book, reflecting balls in gardens still frighten me. In fact, my best friend since 5th grade read Jane-Emily at my recommendation, and to this day, we still refer to those mirrored decorations as “Jane-Emily balls”. Neither one of us would dream of having one in our own yards! Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? I’d say the hardest character to write was Staff Sergeant Brett Leeds from Haunted Souls. I’d never written an active duty military character before, and Brett had a very specialized career as an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Device) tech—the military’s elite “Bomb Squad”. This was an important part of his backstory and internal conflict, and I really wanted to get it
right. I did massive amounts of research, including reading autobiographies written by EOD techs and sending questions to a high school classmate I discovered was an EOD tech when I was planning a reunion. The easiest character to write was probably Rain Anderson in Silver Lake, my first novel. All of the characters in Silver Lake—a group of former friends who became estranged when one of their group disappeared their senior year of high school—had become an integral part of my life as I developed the plot of the story in my head for years. So when I finally began writing, I knew them all intimately, down to their birthdays, hobbies, families, and of course, their secrets. Uncaged: What has a character done that you didn’t expect and surprised you? Pretty much all the main characters in Gull Harbor Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | surprised me at some point, because that was the one book I wrote without knowing what was going to happen. I usually like to plan out at least the basic plot, so I know I have a valid story arc. But I just started writing Gull Harbor as soon as my first novel was contracted, because I had a new idea and the words just kept coming. The bad guy in Gull Harbor really surprised me with a few actions, but I don’t want to elaborate on that for fear of spoilers! Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? When I hit a roadblock in a plot, I can usually rely on two things to help get past it. My husband is a great sounding board and can often help me figure out a way to move forward. And I often come up with solutions after exercise…not because I’m thinking about the issue while I’m exercising, but because I’m not, because I’m the instructor. I teach different fitness classes every morning, and it takes every ounce of my attention. I can’t think about anything else during those hours. When I’m finished, my mind is clear and my subconscious has usually found an answer to whatever plot problem was occupying my thoughts. Writer’s block for me is a whole different issue. When I’m actually struggling to write, even when I have ideas, I have to push myself to meet word count goals. It usually helps get me back into a routine. I don’t have any quirks I can think of, unless you count all the research and charts I now make before I start. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? In the past month, I’ve enjoyed books on all three formats! My preference now is ebooks, because I can fit a lot of books on my Kindle, I can control the font size and look up words, and I can easily carry it in my purse. But I’m addicted to audiobooks now as a way to get more “reading” in while I’m driving, gardening, folding laundry, etc. So I am al32 | UncagedBooks.com
And with s ercise thinkin while be
| KATHRYN KNIGHT |
d I often come up solutions after exe…not because I’m ng about the issue I’m exercising, but ecause I’m not.
ways in the middle of at least two different books at the same time, which somehow doesn’t confuse me. Well, it usually doesn’t! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? First off, I want to thank everyone who gives one of my books a read! I’m a big reader, and I know “To Be Read” lists are long, and bookshelves—both physical and virtual—get filled with titles to try. So, I very much appreciate my readers, and my goal when writing is to create a compelling story that pulls you in and won’t let go. I love hearing from readers who enjoyed my stories, and I always respond! It literally makes my day. I’m easy to find via the social media links in this feature, and my blog contains contact information as well: http://kathrynknightbooks.blogspot.com
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Enjoy an excerpt from The Haunting of Hillwood Farm The Haunting of Hillwood Farm Kathryn Knight Paranormal/Ghost After tragedy strikes, Callie Sinclair is left with a gift she never wanted--the ability to communicate with ghosts. But when a desperate widow begs for her help, she reluctantly agrees to investigate the strange occurrences at Hillwood Farm. She quickly realizes she’s dealing with a dangerous presence beyond anything she’s ever experienced, and something else becomes equally clear--the only other living person in the house, Mrs. Turner’s handsome grandson, thinks she’s a scam artist. While she’d prefer to just ignore him, her heart beats a little faster every time he’s nearby. Luke Turner doesn’t believe in spirits. He’s moved back to restore the family farm, but living on the property serves a dual purpose--he can watch out for his grandmother. He’s not happy about the sudden appearance of a self-described psychic, or his inexplicable attraction to her. His initial suspicions crumble as evidence points to an actual haunting, but he’s still determined not to fall for Callie--the past has taught him it’s best to avoid relationships. As Callie is drawn deeper into the mystery, she becomes the target of a vengeful spirit, and Luke can no longer fight his feelings for her. Unable to resist their desire, passion ignites...even as the paranormal activity escalates to a final deadly confrontation. Excerpt With a sharp pop, the light went out, plunging the
room into darkness. Callie stilled, her heartbeat filling her ears. Something rustled behind her, and the hairs on her bare arms prickled. Probably a noise from outside, she told herself, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the trickle of faint light from the parking lot. Another rustle, too close to pass off as wind in the trees. She was rooted in place, suddenly very sure she was not alone in the room. A soft moan floated through the blackness. Panic gripped her, fierce and primal, clawing at her lungs. Did she have a weapon? Would it even work against whatever was here? She struggled for air, a rancid odor filling her nostrils as she slowly inhaled. Death. Decay. Shadows shifted to her left, and her gaze jerked toward the movement. Behind the solid mass of her reflection in the mirror, the gauzy outline of a face peered over her shoulder. Empty eye sockets stared out from gray, filmy features, the hollow black holes somehow filled with menace. A sob gathered in her chest, clogging her throat. Please, God. Let me wake up from this nightmare. Something cold and wet brushed against her upper back, and she screamed. The mirror exploded, shattering with a tremendous crack that reverberated through the silence. The horrific image disintegrated into fractured slivers as glass rained down onto the floor. She spun toward the door and fled from the room, her heart threatening to burst apart like the mirror. Pain flared up her leg as a jagged shard of glass pierced the ball of her foot, but she kept running until she slammed up against the front door, her chest heaving.
acey Mark was born, raised, and currently resides along the Wasatch Front of northern Utah. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been a paranormal story weaver since her early teen years and continues her drive to explore all things spiritual and exciting.
She loves tactile writing, big voices, and surprising plot twists. Winner of the Utah Golden Pen for her Dark Muse series. She is a former member of the
36 | UncagedBooks.com
Utah chapter RWA. Her work is published through The Wild Rose Press.
Uncaged welcomes Kacey Mark
Uncaged: Can you tell us more about your book, Prom Night in Purgatory?
Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?
It’s a ghost story of a different kind, based on a historical amusement park, long lost to the elements. The Grand Saltair was the Coney Island of the West—but what if it didn’t go to its watery grave so easily? What if it’s still down there, luring new victims into its depths every night?
Gena Showalter for sure. Her world building skills leave me spellbound! Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest?
Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about?
All my characters are difficult for me. Because I’m a panster, they are constantly evolving as the stories go on. Sometimes against my better wishes!
I’m nearly finished with a paranormal romance set in the Himalayas. Witch doctors can be such fickle crea-
Uncaged: What has been the most surprising thing a character has done that you didn’t expect when
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | you started? The unexpected death of a main character always takes me by surprise. I sit dumbfounded for several days. Unable to move forward or back. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? I advance, advance, advance the ball. Even if I don’t like where its going—its moving! I also spend a lot of time riffing dialog. That’s quite fun, and it usually gets me out of a slump rather quickly. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Physical books because I don’t have to worry about battery chargers. But when traveling I love audio books! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I live on twitter! I love interacting there far more than anywhere else at the moment. If you like Prom Night in Purgatory, you will love Cursed By Chemistry!
Enjoy an excerpt from Prom Night in Purgartory Prom Night in Purgatory Kacey Mark Paranormal/Ghost As a conduit to the afterlife, Baila Grey holds the record for most risks taken in a lifetime. And with her inability to land a single live boyfriend, she’s ready to shoot that record sky high. Conjuring the ghost of Asher Landin, might be the best option for a finale. 38 | UncagedBooks.com
Asher lives for his job—not that you could really call it living, he’s dead. As a Collector, his gateway to the ever-changing world above only swings one way, and the morsels of life he gathers, his defense against insanity. Until he meets Baila and finds a new meaning to sanity. Asher needs to prove his ability to control not only the realm of purgatory, but his increasing urge to chase Baila around like a lunatic. Asher and Baila can’t deny the feelings they have for each other but can the living and the dead find a happy ever after together? Excerpt They say having one foot in the grave forms a conduit to the afterlife. But as a conduit, Baila never went half-way on anything. She wasn’t the kind that would simply dip a toe in to test the water. Nope. At the first hint of paranormal intrigue, she jumped with both feet. Never afraid of where she’d land. Not even her six-month curfew on life could change that. The growing tingle in her chest kept time with the climbing shaft of light, as it progressed one step at a time, across to the balcony of the old pavilion. The place didn’t show its age much. Not a single cobwebbed corner to be found. The place looked clean. Perfect. No smudged mirrors or dust bunnies for apparitions to hide in. No drafts or shadows to excuse them away either. Goosebumps chased up Baila’s arms. “How much did you say we’re getting paid for this? The place must be positively crawling with energy.” Her voice came out louder than expected. The sound echoed off the dome ceiling, down vast hallways, and dashed away from her sister, Emilia and two best friends. Emilia gave her younger sister a solute with her plastic Champaign glass. “The most haunted place in all of Salt Lake City.” “And most awesome,” Baila added. “Only the best for our birthday girl.” She had that right. Not only did this place offer a hefty paycheck for their ghost busting services, to-
| KACEY MARK | night it would give Baila the best present she could ask for—to not only tempt death, but to get a little action too. Oh, they’d get rid of the ghosts, all right. All save one. Preferably the hottest one. Her two friends, Meg and Liz, brushed at the checkered picnic blanket that stretched across the squeakysterile dance floor. Liz shook her head “Extermination or no, holding prom in a place like this is so reckless. The Saltair’s too close to the gateway.” “Hence the appeal,” Meg tipped her head to one side and choppy, calico highlights flipped about her shoulders. “Just think. All those frisky teenagers, a place this remote. This’ll be a prom to remember.” Liz shot Meg a long, reproachful look. The two friends were polar opposites. Liz, so constricted she could probably use her bra for a bull whip, while Meg—well, probably didn’t even own one. “You get a bunch of ghosts grinding away on the dance floor, your mom’s gonna throw an eppy,” Liz said. Baila smirked at the dim, eight-foot chandelier overhead. “Yes. Yes, I think she will.” Her sister stared. “You’re not actually going…” Baila gave a non-committal shrug. “She wants a stand-by incase any stray ghosties try crashing the party.” “You should’ve taken your medicine like the rest of us and gone to your own senior prom. Maybe then she wouldn’t push this so hard,” Liz said. “Hey, given the chance, what would you do? Spend senior year traveling the world or groom yourself for the touchy-feely guy in AP English.” Meg held up her hand. “No contest. Bring on the plane ticket.” “Well, at least my prom wasn’t held in a death trap.” Liz’s mouth snapped shut and a deep blush crept up her neck. Meg and Emilia hit her from both sides with a fierce glare, but Baila pretended not to notice. That kind of don’t-let-the-terminal-girl-know-she’sdying scenario went lame a long time ago. The word ‘death’ might be a no-no in this intimate circle of four, but not saying the word wouldn’t make it go away. It was inevitable. Terminal. May as well embrace it, or in Baila’s case, mock it. But to ignore it
felt more insulting somehow. The shaft of pale light arced over the girls as Baila anchored the flashlight to her hip. “I assure you, this place is completely safe. It’s only a replica anyway. The original building’s remains are still a mile North West of here. That’s where all the good stuff happens. The remake was moved to avoid the rising water levels.” She gave a reluctant nod. “And spirit infestation.” “Then why are we sitting around here?” Meg asked. “Because the old place is under water. The replica is close enough…maybe too close. Apparently the ghosts don’t know the difference.” Emilia cast a suspicious glance around the room in that protective-sister-with-a-splash-of-mom expression. “And speaking of open water, there are plenty of live fish in the sea, you know. You don’t need to go hunting for a dead one. This isn’t child’s play—like some silly little poltergeist— we’re dealing with here. This is serious power.” True. But with sand running low in her hour glass, and Baila’s reluctance to land even one steady relationship, she may as well place a few orders with a more permanent crowd. A little unethical maybe, but for one last chance to give death the finger, she needed someone larger than life. Meg hooked a gob of rose-colored frosting from the edge of the cake and popped it in her mouth. “Baila likes to think big. And let’s be honest, the pool doesn’t get any bigger than this.” Baila widened her smile, and made a scrunching gesture with her hands. “Ooo. How about a knight? Or a gladiator, that would be fun. All big and muscley and—big.” “Ugh, those dudes didn’t bathe. Could you imagine the stench? . . . Necrotic body odor stew.” The serving knife flashed in Meg’s hand as she made a coaxing gesture. “Go younger. Cleaner.” Liz frowned as she followed Meg’s first slice into the spongy cake. “Seriously, guys, it’s not like they’re all lined up waiting on the other side.” “And why not? Baila’s a great catch. Any boy in school would’ve killed to go out with her,” Emilia said. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Yeah, but that was then. Baila looked to her droopy, chiffon top and loose fitting jeans. She’d regained her strength, but the rounds of chemo had thrashed her appetite and whittled her curves down three sizes. When she moved back home a few guys from her graduating class lingered through the Mom and Pop stores on Main, but with the chime of the entryway bells, announcing her presence, their glances were brief. No recognition lit their eyes. Not that she could blame them, she barely recognized herself. “So how do you go about choosing one anyway?” Meg asked. “Easy. Especially in a place this concentrated.” Emilia unfolded a wad of photocopies and fanned them out under the languid sway of candle light. “I got these from my old paranormal studies professor, so they’re totally legit. Just pick your apparition and I’ll do the rest.” The top page framed a hazy image of a man standing at the end of a whitewashed pier. His details looked clouded and wavering, but his posture couldn’t be more concrete. His broad shoulders squared against a darkening sky, with hands shoved in his pockets, and his head tipped in challenge. Meg gave a low whistle. “I might just take a trip down there myself.” Baila lifted her brows in vague agreement. If the guy commanded that much power in ghost form, what had he looked like in the flesh? No, this guy didn’t look like he belonged down there at all. And what is it with people always calling the afterlife “down there” anyway? They’d all seen the gateway. The twin vaulted doors of steel were perched a hundred feet mid-air. Clearly up, not down. When the gateways first started to appear, they were outlawed. No one allowed within half a mile of one. Any person caught jumping the fence would be sucked in. Not that anyone really knew for sure. The victims didn’t return to verify. Even in spiritual form. But with every disaster that brought mass causalities, another gateway popped up, and it became more difficult to keep 40 | UncagedBooks.com
the mourners away. After more than eighty years, the Saltair gateway had become the most feared location in all of Utah. “You getting something, Emilia?” Baila asked. Her sister paused. Honey streaked curls swayed as she shook her head. “Anything would be better than the last time we were all together. Stupid train station. Like That was a good idea.” Liz wrapped her arms around her cropped cardigan and cast a suspicious frown to the room’s darkened corners. “Bunch of grabby-handed hobo ghosties,” Meg gave Liz a look of mock epiphany. “Yeaaah… kind-a like your old prom date huh.” Baila sighed. Bull Whip Lizzy and Easy Breezy Meg. Endless hours of joyful bitchery. “—I was working Baila up to the grand finale,” Emilia insisted. “No, you were hoping she’d give up before we got this far,” Liz corrected. Baila toyed with the edge of the photo. “You know me better than that. Just a spoonful of suggestion and I’m going at it like a sailor at port.” She held the image at arm’s length and gave it a nod. “I like this one.” “Knew you would.” Emilia angled her smirk to the massive dome ceiling and closed her eyes. Her voice took on a calming note. “You know this place burned down twice?” Liz pushed a single candle into the first slice of cake and brushed the stray crumbs from the plate. “You mentioned that already. Sounds like this place was never meant to be.” “Well, the ghosts like it. Gadspy’s Ghost isn’t the only one. Countless others have haunted this place over the years. With its proximity to the gateway, it’s no wonder this place has become a hub of paranormal activity.” Liz flipped open her lighter and lowered the flame with a steady hand until it licked the tiny pink candle. “You see? That’s exactly why nice places like these get all boarded up. People can’t afford not to believe in ghost stories anymore.” “Why do they call him Gadspy?” Baila asked. “He must have a real name.” Emilia’s voice remained distant. “No one knows who
| KACEY MARK | he is. Just that he’s young, and looks like he’s dressed from the nineteen-twenties.” “What if he’s already taken?” Baila asked. “Won’t know till we ask him.” Meg snorted. “You kidding? With that attitude? This boy’s far from whipped.” Baila laughed. “Dang. And I left mine at home.” “Trying to concentrate here,” Emilia sang out. Baila pressed her lips together and watched the faint wrinkle play over Emilia’s brow. Baila wasn’t the communicator, only the conduit. Her sister had polished her skills as a medium the summer before she hit college, but dropped everything when one of her classmates turned up dead.
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
paranormal | horror-humor
erry Blaisdell is the awardwinning author of The Dead Series, including DEBRIEFING THE DEAD—2019 HOLT Medallion Literary Contest double winner for Best Paranormal & Best First Book, Romance Writers of America RITA® Award finalist, and Royal Palm Literary Award finalist— and its sequel, WAKING THE DEAD, which InD’tale Magazine recommends for “fans of television shows like ‘Constantine’ or ‘Supernatural.’” She also writes Romantic Suspense and Historical Mystery. She has a Bachelor of Arts from UC Berkeley in Comparative Literature (French/ Medieval English), and a Master’s in Teaching English and Advanced Mathematics from the University of Portland. Kerry lives in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest with her husband, two (mostly) adult “kids,” assorted cats and dogs, and more hot pepper plants than anyone could reasonably consume.
Stay Con n e c te d
K E R R Y B L A I S DE L L Please welcome Kerry Blaisdell Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about The Dead Series? What inspired you to write this story?
This series is one of those things where an author gets an idea for a series that seems pretty good, and then upon execution, it morphs into something wildly different. In this case, the idea was about a woman who winds up working as the gatekeeper to the Angel of Death (check!), and each book would be a different “adventure,” tracking down his lost artifacts (not check!). Well, sort of. As I started writing, the characters and plot just sort of took over, and a whole mess of stuff I wasn’t expecting evolved into book one, which changed book two’s plan, etc. But it’s all way
better than my original idea, so it’s all good. LOL! Uncaged: How many books are you planning for the series, or is it open-ended? The first idea mentioned above was supposed to be an open-ended series. After I actually wrote book one, I re-envisioned it as a three-book series, which quickly became four when I started writing the second book. Now, who knows? I have a four-book arc planned (and the last two books are already contracted with my publisher), but I’ve noticed that what I think will happen with this series rarely does, so like my readers, I’m just going to have to wait and see what happens. :) Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? Along with books three and four of the Dead Series, I recently published a Romantic Suspense (PUBLISH OR PERISH), and I have another two books planned in that genre. Not a series, exactly, but at least one may be “connected” to the first book, as I think it will be about one of that hero’s siblings. Plus I have a historical mystery set in Portland, Oregon, just before the Lewis & Clark Exposition in 1904, that I’m currently shopping around. I like to mix it up and keep things interesting!!
cal mysteries. Connie Willis, because DOOMSDAY BOOK is one of my all-time faves, in any genre. And maybe Julie Anne Long, because I just discovered her contemporaries and I love her voice. But really, the answer is pretty much any writer, from any period! Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? None of my characters are really easy or hard to write. Everything I write is character-driven, so from that standpoint, they’re all easy-peasy. I get to know them, and they pretty much take over – I’m just along for the ride! But that can be challenging, too, as they usually won’t do what I want them to, or what will make the plot “easier.” LOL! However, I will say that Hyacinth, from The Dead Series, just really flowed out of me. I have seriously plotted books, especially my RS books, but DE-
Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Oh, boy – how to choose? Jane Austen, for sure, and Shakespeare. I share a birthday with him, so that would be über-cool. L.M. Montgomery – I was born in Canada, and love-love-love the Anne books. Ooh – and Chaucer! That would be SO cool. Agatha Christie, Upton Sinclair, Ariana Franklin. For living writers, Damon Suede because duh, and he’s so intelligent and funny. Judith Rock, because she has such an interesting life/career arc, and I love her historiIssue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | BRIEFING THE DEAD was completely pantsed. Everything about her just sort of fell into place, and I got to know her right away. That said, I’ll share a little secret: All those times in that book where Hyacinth thinks, “I have no idea what to do,” that was really me, having no idea what was going to come out next, plot-wise. LOL! Uncaged: When do you think of a title for a book, before, during or after you’ve written the book? Almost always I get a title as soon as I get the idea for the concept. Sometimes even before! If not then, it’s usually after a chapter or two. For me, the title really conceptualizes the book, so if I don’t know the title, I don’t really know the gist of where I’m going yet. Uncaged: Do you interact with readers on social media a lot? Which platform are you most
active on? I love interacting with readers! I’m probably most active on Facebook, for “author/book” stuff. I post more “personal” photos and things on Instagram – things from my everyday or work life. I do use Twitter quite a bit, but so far, no readers have tried to contact me that way. Feel free – I’m happy to chat anywhere!
Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? All of the above! I listen to audiobooks in the car and while I’m walking my dogs. I tend to read ebooks more than physical, because (a) I can access them on any device, and pick up wherever I left off, and (b) my Kindle has the night-lit screen, so no reading light required if I read before bed. But if I have a physical copy of the book from the library, or an 46 | UncagedBooks.com
| KERRY BLAISDELL | blaisdell.com) and look in the sidebar under “Find Me Online.” I’m everywhere (LOL!): Goodreads, Amazon, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest… Although as noted above, FB, Twitter and IG are probably where I’m most active.
Enjoy an excerpt from Waking the Dead Waking the Dead Kerry Blaisdell Paranormal Romance
event, or that I just happened to buy, I’m happy reading that, too. It really makes no difference to me – I just love a good story! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I so appreciate all my readers! I’m touched (and immediately shy and a little amazed :)) when a reader lets me know they enjoyed one of my books. This was such a long time coming for me, that I still can’t quite believe it’s all real – that the books are out there, and people seem to like them. If anyone wants to follow me, the easiest is to go to my website (http://kerry-
Hyacinth always assumed dying would simplify her life. But when her new boss, Archangel Michael, sends her on her first official mission—to retrieve a powerful rock from a collector in Germany—things go downhill fast. For one thing, the Dead keep popping up, expecting her to guide them to the Afterlife. For another, her part-demon nephew Geordi’s powers are starting to leak out, at age seven. What if Michael finds out about him? Worse, what if Satan does? Then there’s her love life-after-death. Rooming with a dead French cop no one else can see is complicated enough. But when Jason, Geordi’s lying Dioguardi Demon cousin, resurrects himself—so to speak—all Hell breaks loose. Literally. Can Hyacinth get Michael’s rock back before Satan steals its powers and breaks free of his prison? Or will her single-minded pursuit put those she loves—and the rest of the world— in the path of Satan’s fury? Excerpt CHAPTER ONE Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | “The only truly dead are those who have been forgotten.” ~Jewish saying I’m pretty sure my landlady’s alive, but you never know. At least, I don’t. My name’s Hyacinth Finch, and a couple of months ago, I died and was brought back to life— sort of—by Saint Michael the Archangel, who’s now my boss. Also sort of. It’s complicated. Basically, if you met me on the street, you’d think I was one hundred percent alive, no strings attached. But if I met you? Thanks to the “side effects” of rebirth, I wouldn’t know if you were alive, dead, or somewhere in-between, unless you told me. Then there’s this whole thing where my former neighbor, Jason Jones, turned out to be related to my nephew, Geordi Dioguardi, and they both might have demon blood in them. Well, Jason does for sure; it’s Geordi we won’t know about until puberty. And he doesn’t know I’m the Walking Undead, or that he’s being babysat by a dead cop he can’t see, named Eric Guilliot. See? Complicated. Anyway, since my landlady wanted money—cold hard cash she could spend at the market—it’s a safe bet she’s a breather. She blocked the stairwell leading up to the Zürich flat I share with Geordi and Eric, looking like a six-foot tall, Swiss-German metal door in her gray sweater, matching slacks, and sensible black shoes. Her hair was gray too, but her eyes were a watery blue. Not a hint of black, thank God, so at least she wasn’t a demon. Probably. I suppressed a shiver and shifted the heavy paper grocery bag in my arms, putting on my best Trustworthy Tenant smile. “Frau Blauch. So lovely to see you today.” Her frown deepened, and she pointed a finger at my nose. “Rent. You pay now.” She’d appeared from her basement apartment just in time to prevent me from getting under cover of the small overhang above the stoop. The chill late-October drizzle that had fretted all day wasn’t 48 | UncagedBooks.com
much more than a mist now, but it was enough to dampen my bangs and drip cool rivulets into my eyes. I blinked them away, wishing again that Jason hadn’t ditched us. For one thing, he’s even taller than Frau Blauch. For another, he can charm the pants off just about anyone. Me included. I suppressed a shiver of a different sort and said to Frau Blauch, “I’m happy to pay you. But you said I could have an extra week to sort out my finances.” “Ja,” she said agreeably. “Rent. Due now.” The bag started to slip, the weight of peanut butter, milk, and fresh veggies pulling on my aching arms as I hiked it back up. The thing is, she was right. The rent was past due, and deal or not, I don’t renege on my responsibilities. I bend the truth now and then, and my past is shadier than you might expect—okay, I’m a former graverobber and sometime dealer in goods of, er, questionable origin—but I’m an honest thief. Think George-Clooney-charming, not He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named-evil. To make matters worse, Michael was due to pop in any day now, demanding I start my new job. He’s a busy guy, leading all those souls to their Final Destination, while also fighting off Satan’s minions. Since, like the kid in the movie, I see dead people, we struck a deal. If I “pre-sort” some of the Dead for him, I get time to find a good foster family for Geordi. But once he’s settled, I’m off to whichever After Life is reserved for semi-reformed grave-robbing liars. I have other ideas—like staying with Geordi permanently. But that’s a whole other problem. Frau Blauch’s gaze flicked over the wet grocery bag. “You haf little boy, ja? He is upstairs, allein— alone?” Crap. I switched gears to Conscientious Parent and nodded toward the store one door down. “I only left him for a minute—just to get some food.” Her brows lowered further, and she glanced pointedly at the streetlights, which were coming to life. It might be mid-afternoon, but the heavy gray skies meant it was dark already, and I couldn’t very well explain, My dead roommate is babysitting. But our window faces the street, and Geordi’d leaned over the flower box on the sill, watching me go into the
| KERRY BLAISDELL | store, then waving when I came back out. I’d also seen Eric hovering near his shoulder, like a moody blond—and built—guardian angel. If only he wasn’t invisible to everyone but me. Frau Blauch said, “Is not safe, little boy allein like zat. He has nightmares, ja? I hear him, at night. You leave him again, I call Polizei. You pay rent—tomorrow.” She ducked through the small door off to the side of the stairwell, leading to her basement rooms. She was right about this, too. I shouldn’t leave him, and he did have nightmares. What kid wouldn’t, after what he’d been through? Was still experiencing? I sighed and stepped over the stoop into the musty stairwell, lugging the now-soaked grocery bag up the stairs. Geordi, bless him, heard me fumble with the lock and ran to open the door, flinging himself at me. “Tata Hyhy!” “Oof!” By some miracle, I didn’t drop the groceries, and I managed to get one arm around his shoulder, squeezing back. He smelled of moist earth and sweet, lateblooming flowers, and I surmised he’d been digging around in the Angel’s trumpets in the planter, searching for bugs. I leaned back, and sure enough, his fingernails were black and his face was smudged. “Find any as-yet undiscovered species of insect, Professor Finch?” That made him giggle, but I detected uncertainty, too. I let the bag slide to the floor—who cared if a few jars broke?—and pulled him tight for a full-on, aunt-who-loves-him-more-than-life hug. Frau Blauch was right. Regardless of how close the market was, a seven-year-old shouldn’t be left in what he perceived as an empty apartment. I sought out the only adult support I had in this new “life” of mine. From the window seat, my gaze was met by a habitually cynical jade-green one, now oddly tense. I tightened my grip on Geordi and raised an eyebrow, but Eric shook his head and went back to staring out the window. Just then, the lowering sun broke through the clouds, its rays electrifying his golden hair and limning his rigid profile, making him look like a downed wire, about to arc. Had something happened? What?
I tamped down my frustration. How much easier this would be if my babysitter wasn’t dead. But Geordi’s the only son of Nicholas Dioguardi, who was the only son and heir of a very nasty capo in the Sicilian Mob. I say was, because he also died recently, trying to kill Geordi’s mother, my sister Lily. She died, too, but after Nick, and now la familigia wants Geordi back, something I will never let happen. Geordi pulled back and swiped a grubby hand under his nose, giving himself a dirt mustache. His black hair and blue eyes were so like Jason’s that a sudden hot lump rose in my throat. “Tata, when you were gone, I heard a man’s voice.” Shit. The Dioguardis—they had found us. My heart thudded painfully, but I tried to sound calm. “You mean outside, on the street?” He frowned. “Inside.” “Actually in the apartment?” He nodded, and my first thought was, Thank God. Nick’s family would hardly break in, speak once, and then hide in the back room. They’d snatch Geordi and go, and he wouldn’t be in my arms right now. And then what he’d said sunk in and my blood turned to ice. I said carefully, “You mean out in the hall, right?” The frown became a glare—usually I took him more seriously. “Inside.” I blew out a breath. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I know you meant in here. But”—I made a show of glancing around, my gaze lingering on Eric, who studiously avoided eye contact—“there’s no one here. Is there?” Geordi shook his head, but less certainly. “I heard something. And when I looked around, I heard it again.” A faint flush rose on the back of Eric’s neck, and I forced my jaw to unclench. “Sweetie, I need to get the milk in the fridge. Can you help put stuff away?” Geordi nodded, and I gave him another squeeze. “It’s okay. It was probably someone outside after all—or in the flat above or below us. These old buildings—sometimes the sound carries too well.” “Really?” “Yes. Really.” His face lit with relief and he grabbed the milk and Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | ran to the fridge. Ah, the rapid mood swings of the young. I stood more slowly. Eric regarded me warily—as well he should—then abruptly gave one of his resigned half-shrugs—the ones that marked him as supremely French—and I was pretty sure I knew what went down. As a former flic—a cop—I thought I could trust him in most things. Plus, he had a thing for me. Or I had one for him. Okay, we were attracted to each other. But I was already sort of involved with Jason, despite the whole Dioguardi Demon thing. Jason left before we settled anything, and Eric had made it clear he wouldn’t “poach” another man’s territory. Very noble of him. And annoying. As for trusting him in other arenas, well, just because he was an OPJ—un officier de police judiciaire—didn’t mean he’d keep any promises he deemed not completely “necessary.” Like the one he’d made about not trying to get Geordi to sense him. Geordi darted out from behind the fridge door to grab the peanut butter, which my now-bruised veggies had cushioned. He ran back to the kitchenette while I scooped everything else up and followed. Even from across the room, Eric’s emotions popped, hot with energy, but tempered by something cooler. Disappointment. Frustration. Despair. I softened. It was hard to stay mad, knowing how lonely he was, with no one but me for company. And even then, only at odd hours, when Geordi was asleep or in the other room. When all the groceries were tucked into cupboards or the fridge, I said to Geordi, “I saw Monsieur Renaud at the market. He left something outside his door for you—I would’ve grabbed it on my way in, but my arms were full. Do you want to go see what it is?” My rhetorical question earned a shriek of delight. He raced from the apartment, and I heard him pounding down the hall to the flat at the end, by the stairs. I have very vague memories of my parents, who 50 | UncagedBooks.com
died when Lily and I were young, and none at all of any extended generations up the ancestral tree. Which is maybe why I have a soft spot for elderly men. Not in a creepy May-December way; in a simple, “I get along with Old Guys” way. Especially Swiss-French ones, like Monsieur Renaud. Even better, his grandson was Geordi’s age, so he knew what books were au courant for a seven-year-old boy. Geordi ran in, clutching a hardbound collection of Astérix comics. With a big grin, he disappeared into his room and slammed the door. He reads fast, but I figured his new favorite anti-hero would occupy him for an hour at least. I let out a breath, then joined Eric on the window seat, where he once more stared pensively out at the passersby below. The sun had slipped back behind the clouds, and like it, I expected Eric to have, literally, cooled off by now. But if anything, he was more agitated. Often, when he got like this, small objects nearby began vibrating and, sometimes, flew across the room. I checked, but didn’t see any loose scissors or paperweights, or anything else dangerous, so I waited silently. After a moment, he spoke without looking at me. “Ils ne me voient pas. They cannot see me. I could stand before them, and they would walk through me as though I did not exist. And I—I would be powerless to stop them.” “Not entirely powerless,” I said, thinking of the flying objects. “Besides, at least you know who down there is alive. I can’t even tell that, for sure.” “It is not the same. You can touch them—dead or alive. They hear you, they speak to you. No one living speaks to me, and I can touch no one. No one… except you, mon ange.” My angel—his pet name for me. But today the words sounded bitter, not teasing. He said abruptly, “You are angry with me, for attempting to speak with your nephew. For that I do not apologize.” “I’m not angry.” “Truly?” Relief flared in his eyes, followed by a sudden heat, and I fought the urge to lean into him. Sharing a flat,
| KERRY BLAISDELL | without being together, was like putting a diabetic in a candy factory. Not to mention I’m hiding him from Michael, because as a devout Catholic, Eric should have been taken away moments after death. But since he was my only link between my current state of limbo and the After Life, I wasn’t anxious to lose him. Well, that, and other reasons. “I admit I was angry at first. But I know how difficult this is for you.” His jaw hardened. “I do not want your pity. I want you. All of you—I want to take you to the corner café and drink coffee in the morning, while we read the paper. Together. I want to go for a drive in the country, and I want to be at the wheel. Most of all, I want to help you, with your nephew, and whatever absurdly dangerous thing you must do when le saint Michel returns. I want to help you—and I cannot.” “You do help me. I couldn’t do half what I’m doing, if you weren’t here, keeping Geordi safe. Besides, the next rock probably won’t be as hard to retrieve as the last one.” That’s part-two of my new job. The short version is that Satan destroyed one of Michael’s sanctuaries, and now they’re locked in a battle to retrieve the most rock shards from the fallout. If Michael gets more, all is well. If Satan does, he can harness Michael’s energy from the rocks and escape Hell, or destroy the world, or something equally fun. Guess he’s still a teensy bit pissed about being evicted from Heaven. Go figure. Eric shook his head in wonder. “Tu vois? This is what draws me to you—your ability to find the good in a situation. But…there is no good in my situation, other than that you are in it.” I opened my mouth to protest, and he leaned forward, eyes flashing. “Non. It is true. Were I alive, we would be together now. But I cannot ask this of you. Not when we cannot even speak in front of your nephew. I should have gone on. To Heaven, or to Hell—either would be better than this—being near you, wanting you, needing you—but not man enough to treat you properly.” “Eric—”
I stopped, because, really, what could I say? It was my fault he was stuck here. Maybe not initially, but I’d been committing the sin of omission for months now. I took a deep breath. “Do you want me to call Michael down? Just say the word and I’ll do it. I’m forever grateful for all you’ve done. But I can’t ask you to stay. Not when you’re this unhappy.” We were so close, if he’d had breath, it would be caressing my skin. His eyes darkened. “Mon ange… Do you not understand that you are the closest to happy, that I have ever come?” My breath caught, and his gaze dropped to my mouth. He made a noise low in his throat, of frustration, or desire, or both, and suddenly gripped my shoulders, fingers digging in so hard it hurt, keeping me rigidly at arm’s length. He felt so solid to me—so real. I brought my hands up to explore the hard muscles of his chest and shoulders, the smoothness of his neck and jaw, and from there, slid my fingers into the thick waves of his hair. He groaned. “Mon ange, were I not already dead, you would kill me.” I shook my head, denying I had power over him, and he brushed his knuckles over my cheek, then cupped my chin, lowering his mouth until only my own breath separated us. “Si, c’est vrai—I am as surprised as anyone. But I am not afraid to say it—I am yours.” His gaze flicked over my features as though memorizing them, and when he spoke, his voice was fierce. “Et tu—t’es la mienne.” His lips parted, his eyes dark with desire. The cage of his arms relaxed, and I leaned into him. And then a crash! from the hall sent us jumping apart. A deep booming voice I’d know anywhere said, “Hyacinth? Child? Are you in there?” I stared at Eric, heart hammering, adrenaline and all sorts of other, more pleasurable, hormones racing through me. It seemed my new boss had arrived at last.
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
r. Randy Overbeck is a veteran educator who has served children for more than three decades as a teacher and school leader, winning national recognition for his work. Over that time, he has performed many of the roles depicted in his fiction, with responsibilities ranging from coach and yearbook advisor to principal and superintendent. An accomplished writer, he has been published in academia, the popular press and, more recently, in better bookstores. His first novel, Leave No Child Behind, won the 2011 Silver Award for Thriller of the Year from ReadersFavorite.com. His second novel, Blood on the Chesapeake, a ghost story/mystery released this year by the Wild Rose Press, has earned 5 STAR REVIEWS from RaeadersFavorite.com, Long and Short Reviews and Literary Titan. It also garnered a national Award, the GOLD AWARD from Literary Titan. Blood is the first in a new series called the “Haunted Shores Mysteries.” Dr. Overbeck is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and an active member of the literary community. Dr. Overbeck has also been a much soughtafter speaker, with speaking experiences ranging from a keynote speaker at a national conference to sharing engaging programs with more than 150 clubs and organizations across the country. He’s currently sharing his newest presentation, “Things That Go Bump in the Night” with clubs and organizations across the Midwest.
Stay Con n e c te d
ra n d y o v e rb e ck
Welcome Randy Overbeck Uncaged: Can you tell us about your latest release, Blood on the Chesapeake? After being dumped by his fiancé, Darrell Henshaw, a young teacher and coach, decides to find new pastures and lands a job on the Chesapeake Bay. He cannot believe his good fortune as Wilshire, a quiet, scenic and charming resort town on the Eastern Shore offers him his dream job—teaching high school history and coaching football and basketball—and a second chance at love. Except no one told him that a student was murdered at the school and that the kid’s ghost haunts the hallways. You see, Darrell sees ghosts, though he’s not happy about it. His first encounter with the spirit world did not go well and he has the OCD scars to prove it. But, after he’s hounded by the terrifying ghost, he decides to look into the murder, aided by his new love, Erin Caveny. Together, they follow a trail that leads back to the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even the Klu Klux Klan. Then, after two locals who try to help are murdered and Erin’s life is threatened, Darrell is forced to decide if he’s willing to risk his life—and the life of the woman he loves—to expose the killers of a young man he never knew.
Uncaged: You participate in a lot of in person events, and the latest one, the Things that go Bump in the Night presentation, can you tell us what is involved with these events? I’ve already shared my program, “Things That Go Bump in the Night” with more than twenty clubs, organizations, chapters and book clubs across the Midwest and the East—with twenty more booked in the next several months. In the 20-25 minute presentation, I discuss some of the research about ghosts and the spirit world I did for Blood on the Chesapeake, including intriguing reports on real ghosts, some common beliefs and misconceptions about “the spirit world” and even some controversial photos and a video of actual ghost hauntings. Usually, I extend an offer or the club has heard about the program and reaches out. and it serves as a nice introduction for my new novel. Audiences have responded extremely well, already inviting me to return next year when the second book in the series launches. Groups who are interested in reserving a date for this popular program should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a request through my author website www. authorrandyoverbeck.com/upcomingevents. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? This month I’m completing the manuscript for the second installment in the Haunted Shore Mysteries series—titled Crimson at Cape May, another ghost story/mystery, this time taking my teacher/coach/ ghost hunter, Darrell and his girl, Erin, to the beautiful, historic resort town of Cape May, which also happens to be the most haunted seaport on the eastern coast. Great fun ensues there and the romance deepens in this town with an incredible white sand beach and the largest collections of restored Victorian houses in the country. Oh, and Darrell is haunted by several ghosts to take care of some “unfinished business” and solve another cold case murder. This second novel in the series is tentatively scheduled to be released September, 2020. Also, I’m in the early stages of the third book in the series, this time with Issue 39 | October 2019 |
nefarious happenings and another mysterious ghost at a sunny resort in the Caribbean. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Now that is a challenging question, as there are so many. First, I have to say I’ve been very fortunate to attend several writing conferences and learn from some amazing live authors including William Kent Krueger, Hank Phillippi Ryan, James R. Benn and Zoe Sharp. I have found them to be very generous with their time and advice and my writing is better because of them—I think. So, let’s go with a few past great writers. I’ve love to have learned from 56 | UncagedBooks.com
William Shakespeare, as he was able to do so much with the language in his time. I can only imagine what a novel by the bard would have been like! I’d be thrilled to have lunch and a few minutes with Earnest Hemingway. I realize he was a very tortured soul, but he could convey meaning and story so succinctly and had such a way with language, I could learn a lot from him. My third choice is Harper Lee. Granted she only published one book, To Kill a Mockingbird, (the more recent book, Go Set a Watchman, was published after her death end without her consent) but Mockingbird is one of the greatest novels in American Literature. I taught it as a high school English teacher and it was one of the few pieces in American Literature that adolescents actually liked reading. And still do. To learn how to create
such indelible writing and story from her would be a dream come true. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? Easiest character I can answer simply. I spent more than three decades at all levels of education and worked with thousands of those involved in schooling—teachers, principals, coaches, board members. In fact, my protagonist, Darrell Henshaw, history teacher and coach, is a composite of several educators I’ve worked with. Drawing on the traits and foibles of these real teachers, I found it fairly easy to craft my fictional hero. Choosing a character that was most difficult is a little dicey. Probably, I’d have to say Natalia, the medium with other talents, proved to be a challenge as she was created from whole cloth. Without a model or example for her, I had to rely on my imagination—and some help from others—to create this character who has already become a reader favorite. So much so, I found a way to bring her back in book two.
| RANDY OVERBECK | I’ve been stymied at just how to get my character to do A or how to craft a particular plot twist, I can get stuck. Most of the time I’ve been fortunate. I can usually work on another part of the manuscript and my mind subconsciously works out a solution. I’m able to work through it, but while I’m in the midst of the problem, it can be pretty thorny. Quirks? I’m sure I have plenty of quirks, writing and otherwise, though nothing that would fall into the suspicious category. (Strange, I know for a guy who writes ghost stories.) How about this? I really enjoy revising and editing. Like other authors, I’m never thrilled to have to “kill my darlings,” but I actually enjoy the process of revising and editing—usually with some good help and input—and watching my best writing crystalize on the page.
Uncaged: What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I have several interests beyond crafting eerie mysteries. My wife and I travel a good deal, somewhere around ten weeks a year. In fact, our travels have taken us to many interesting places, including the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay (the location for Blood on the Chesapeake) and Cape May (the setting for the second novel in the series). Since the third book in the series is set in Caribbean, guess where our travels will be taking us next. I also enjoy spending time with my family both immediate and extended—which takes some effort as we’re spread over five states. I also exercise a good bit (I used to be a runner, but my knees gave out) and I find it a great way to get my head straight about a plot twist or character trait. When life and time permits, I also like to golf, though I’m not very good. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? Writer’s block is not usually a problem for me. But occasionally, when I’m at a certain point in the narrative, Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Actually I’m comfortable with all three formats, although I have to admit there is something about holding a printed book in your hands and turning the real paper pages. Sometimes, the ebooks work quite well (I always read on iBooks) because I can make the print larger as my aging eyes might like—but I can’t have an author sign an ebook. Also, since I’m on the road a good bit for my writing, I’m always listening to an audiobook or two. I’ve found that some of the narrators can really make the story come alive, so much so I decided to work with the publisher to release an audio version of Blood on the Chesapeake in the next few months. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I’m always thrilled to hear from my readers. Learning their responses to my novels keeps my writing. I’m really encouraged by the rave reviews fans and professionals have given Blood on the Chesapeake and last month the novel even won a national award, the Gold Award from Literary Titan. My hope is that readers looking for a good mystery, those interested in a spooky ghost story and even those searching for a little romance and great beach read will all find something to love in my new novel.
Enjoy an excerpt from Blood on the Chesapeake
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Blood on the Chesapeake Randy Overbeck Paranormal Suspense Wilshire, Maryland seems like the perfect shore town on the Chesapeake Bay—quiet, scenic, charming—and promises Darrell Henshaw a new start in life and a second chance at love. That is, until he learns the town hides an ugly secret. A thirty-year-old murder in the high school. And a frightening ghost stalking his new office. Burned by an earlier encounter with the spirit world—with the OCD scars to prove it—he does NOT want to get involved. But when the desperate ghost hounds him, Darrell concedes. Assisted by his new love, he follows a trail that leads to the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and even the Klu Klux Klan. Then, when two locals who try to help are murdered, Darrell is forced to decide if he’s willing to risk his life—and the life of the woman he loves—to expose the killers of a young man he never knew. Blood on the Chesapeake is a cold case murder mystery wrapped in a ghost story served with a side of romance, all set in one of the most beautiful locations in the U.S. Excerpt Chapter 25 Who was this ghost? Why was he appearing to him? What was Darrell supposed to do? He was relieved he wasn’t going crazy. Their research in Annapolis had confirmed what Darrell had seen, but raised as many questions as they answered. The next day, Monday, his students had been so demanding, he hadn’t had much time to ponder his situation. Now that classes were finished and football practice over, the questions nagged at him again and wouldn’t let up. Preoccupied, he headed down the hall and
| RANDY OVERBECK | didn’t notice the noise at first. Ther-rupp. Ther-rupp. Squeech. Ther-rupp It seemed to be coming from down the hallway and he headed that way. Darrell thought he was alone in the old building, almost. He could hear Jesse, up somewhere on the second floor, his tenor voice crooning some oldie and his footsteps echoing through the stairwell. At least, he hoped it was Jesse. He peered up the empty stairs. “Jesse? You up there?” he hollered. No answer. Darrell figured the custodian was busy, his earphones on, and couldn’t hear him or the noise. Probably. But this clatter was coming from down the hall, on this floor. Ther-rupp. Ther-rupp. Squeech. Ther-rupp It was well past seven and, with the sun dipping low, the central corridor ahead of him was draped in shadow and bathed in the musty smells of pencil lead and discarded paper. He had sent the last of his players home thirty minutes ago and, though exhausted, had taken time to shower and dress. We only needed to stop by his classroom to pick up his manual and, when he stepped through the outside door, he heard it. Ther-rupp. Ther-rupp. Squeech. Ther-rupp. Darrell’s paranoia erupted, amplified by the accounts of ghost appearances they discovered the day before. As he made his way down the hallway, the noise grew louder. He arrived at his classroom, halfway down the stretch, and confirmed the sound wasn’t emanating from there, at least. It was coming from farther down the hall. He blew out a breath. Ther-rupp. Ther-rupp. Squeech. Ther-rupp. He remembered why he’d come. He unlocked and opened his classroom door. He scooped up the American Government manual off his desk, then headed back out the door. Back in the hall, as he turned the key in the old lock, he felt it. A rush of cold air flooded him. He shivered. He swiveled his head, his gaze sweeping up and down the corridor, searching the shadows for...what? Someone was watching him. “Hey, anybody there?” he called down the empty space. The only response was the echo of his voice and the unrelenting, pulsing sound, louder now.
He licked his lips, twice. Ther-rupp. Ther-rupp. Squeech. Therrupp. Fear seized him, battled with intrigue. He’d heard that sound before. He should know what it is. But he wasn’t supposed to be here anyway. Let Jesse take care of it. He wanted to bolt, to head out to the parking lot to the safety of his car. He’d burn rubber out of the lot and squeal his tires on the cracked asphalt. But his feet felt nailed to the floor and the sound seemed to draw him. Ther-rupp. Ther-rupp. Squeech. Therrupp. He took tentative steps down the dim corridor, toward the sound. No lights burned in any of the classrooms. He edged past their darkened doors, one after the other. The racket grew louder. The sound was coming from inside the final door, the teachers’ workroom. He increased his pace, the sense of being watched intensifying with every step. He yanked open the last door. The noise became deafening. THER-RUPP. THER-RUPP. SQUEECH. THER-RUPP. The room was black. He groped for the light switch, first on the wall to the right—nothing there—and then the left. He found it. The room brightened. “There,” he said aloud, to hear something other than the unending racket. When he looked across the room, he released another loud breath. “It’s only the damn copier.” Bathed in bright fluorescents sat the Canon 4000, chugging out copies and spitting out white papers onto a pile. The machine had ejected so many, they overfilled the tray, dumping them onto a messy pile on the floor. Darrell hurried across the room. He scanned the machine’s panel. He had to find the right button. He started pressing everything, but to no effect. Up close to the machine, with the gears rolling and the paper rocketing out of the copier, the clamor was ear-splitting. He couldn’t think. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | THER-RUPP. THER-RUPP. SQUEECH. THER-RUPP. His head pounded. He had to find a way to stop it. His gaze darted around, behind the machine. He ran over and yanked the plug from the wall. The mechanical beast sat motionless. The silence was so complete, it only served to heighten his anxiety. What idiot did this? His neck began to prickle and the room got colder. His gaze darted around the space. He saw no one, but he was not alone. Someone, or something, was watching him. He inspected every inch of the room— small blond Formica table and four folding chairs in the center, papers and supplies stacked in a rack against the right side wall and a counter with a small fridge and microwave on the left. The copier sat against the back wall, hulking, in front of him. The odor of greasy French fries flowed from the trash can next to the table. He studied the pile of papers crowding out of the tray and spilling onto the floor in an unruly heap. He figured there must be almost five hundred sheets of paper, a whole ream maybe. He picked the first sheet from the mound and examined it. Completely blank. What the hell? He grabbed a second, and a third. The same. Darrell flipped through paper after paper in the overstuffed tray and found them all blank. Someone pushed the copy button and simply left it? Who would do that? Exhausted now, his adrenaline drained. He only wanted to go home and collapse in his recliner. Maybe catch a little Monday Night Football. He sure didn’t want to stay here, clean up this mess, but the hairs on his neck still stood on edge. He had to do something. Fumbling with the pages in the tray, he pulled them out and set them on the table, in something close to a stack. As he worked to straighten them, his fingers flipped through twen60 | UncagedBooks.com
ty sheets. He saw only white. They were all blank. Trying to figure out what might’ve been copied, he stepped back to the copier and lifted the lid. Nothing sat on the glass. It must have been a stupid student prank. Damn, he’d have to report this to Douglass in the morning. He stooped down to pick up papers off the floor. As he took them over in groups and added them to his pile on the table, he thumbed through these too. He found only more blank pages. There were so many spilled across the stained linoleum, it took several trips, but he got all the spewed papers off the floor and onto the table. Then, he couldn’t help himself. He re-stacked the papers and hit their edges against the Formica tabletop until they were in a perfect, squared pile again. He turned to go, ready to hit the lights and head out to his car, when he saw it. One sheet still lay on the floor. Hadn’t he gotten all the papers? When he reached down to grab the last one, his fingertips tingled. He held the paper up and studied it. Blank, white, like all the others. Puzzled, he carried it over to the stack on the table. He flipped it over and, when he did, he saw it. The back side held one line of text typed across the middle of the sheet. Please help me find justice.—H Darrell let go of the paper as if stung. His head jerked around, searching the small room again. The piece fluttered onto the pile. His gaze returned to the top sheet and the single line of print, now screaming at him. Please help me find justice.—H He shot a glance back toward the closed door. He grabbed the sheet, folded it and stuffed it inside the Teacher’s Edition. He headed out and flipped the lights off. He hustled out of the room and down the hall, running. The echo of his steps chased him out the front door.
TENA STETLER & Sammy, Taco & Mystic
I have a dog, eclectus parrot and 50 year old turtle. Sammy the turtle pretty much stays out of trouble, even though her enclosure is right next to parrot, Taco’s cage. The same can’t be said for Taco and Mystic, our dog. They always have their heads together plotting to take over the world. This morning however, I believe Sammy was climbing over her rock heading to the kitchen to tattle on Mystic and Taco’s plans. LOL
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CHEYENNE MEADOWS & Nora
Meet Dora, my fifteen year old calico cat. She absolutely has the “tortie-tude” factor noted in tortoiseshell and calico cats. It’s all about what she wants and when she wants it. As a result, I’ve been trained well in the art of kitty servanthood, including getting up in the middle of the night to turn on the bathtub faucet so she can get a drink of fresh water despite her having a full water bowl just a few feet away. She’s slowing down in her twilight years and dealing with significant arthritis, but I’m enjoying every day that I can while working hard to keep her comfortable. Play time is getting rarer and I treasure them. Every evening she turns into a sleepy lap kitty and I am reminded that she loves me. Maybe almost as much as I love her.
A U T H O RS A N D T H E I R P E TS Pets and companions come in many shapes and sizes. From furry to feathered to hairy and scaley - there is a place for all of them. Authors have a special relationship with their pets - whether they remind them to get up and take a break or they inspire their writing. Meet the critters that share their love and devotion to Uncaged Feature Authors.
MICHELLE FOX & Comet & Goober This is Charley. He’s the product of a friend’s un-spayed Chihuahua and their neighbor’s similarly un-neutered Yorkie. Which makes him officially a Chorkie. Also THE most adorable six and a half pounds on the planet. Even our vet, who’s been in business for over twenty years, dubbed him as having “exceptional cuteness.” But he has no idea he’s a small dog – he thinks he’s the family guard dog. He likes me, my son (who is 20 now), and only my daughter (age 17) or husband IF #1 and #2 aren’t around. My mother, who is local and has known him his whole life, gets fiercely barked at every time she comes over, as does any other guest who dares to enter our home. But he’s my baby, and if I could, I’d take him with me everywhere! (Except he dislikes being in the car almost as much as he dislikes other people and other dogs. :)) Also, that’s a vase of flowers behind his head – I didn’t actually make him suffer the indignity of putting flowers in his fur. LOL! Issue 39 | October 2019 |
KRISTAL DAWN HARRIS & Abel & Atlas
These two fine-looking fellows are Abel and Atlas. They are my granddogs. They live with my daughter in Tennessee now, but stayed with me for the last year. When my daughter left, I don’t know if I was sadder to see her go, or the dogs! LOL My daughter brings them with her every time she comes home. They will be staying with me again in November while my daughter trains at work. Abel, the German shepherd, was just a little pup when my daughter first brought him home. He was so chubby he could barely walk. Atlas, the husky, is the sweetest dog you’ll ever meet. He loves to snuggle with me on the bed. I have often thought of rescuing my own dog, but I’m content to visit with these two. It’s amazing how attached you get to animals!
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KACEY MARK & Spirit
Spirit has been by my side since the moment I brought him home. Weighing in at a hefty 140lbs, he runs like a bear and loves to throw his weight around, particularly at me. Not to be malicious or anything, but because he always wants me down on his level. Otherwise, he’s planted firmly on my feet to keep me safe. We both share a love for peanut butter. Because my son is allergic to peanut butter, Spirit and I and enjoy it by the spoonful while hiding in the shade of the barn.
L.D. Rose & Kaia, Oreo & Milk
Kaia is my 9-year-old Boxer pup and still as energetic as ever! She was named after the ocean, although she hates the water, haha. She loves peanut butter, cheese, and long walks on the beach. Oreo and Milk are my 11-year-old cats, brothers who were found abandoned inside a cardboard box in a field. They were extremely friendly and happy kittens, so I had to adopt them both from the local shelter. Now they’re inseparable, although entirely different, with Milk being the sweet and shy one, while Oreo is the troublemaker with way too much charm.
KATHRYN KNIGHT & Otis, Max & Jinx
I’ve always loved animals, and almost every one of my characters has a pet. I grew up spending a lot of time at my mom’s best friend’s barn, where I rode horses and played with all the animals…in fact, the setting of my Young Adult Paranormal Romance, Divine Fall, is virtually that barn, right down to its location in Maryland. I’m passionate about rescue/adoption, and right now I have two rescued black cats, brothers named Max and Jinx, and a rescued Border Collie mix named Otis, who has an energy level I envy. Walks with Otis help clear my mind, and I often write scenes in my head as we circle the neighborhood or explore trails.
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Catherine Kean & Wynter Daniels
A Witch in Time A Witch in Time
Kean & Daniels Time Travel Romance In a violent storm in 1645, Colin Wilshire’s Barbadosbound ship is swept off course. He’s sure he and his pregnant bride are fated to drown when he’s tossed into the sea. He wakes in a strange land and is saved by a blue-haired angel. Twenty-first-century witch and cat rescuer Luna Halpern has fallen for more than her share of unsuitable guys. Finally, a safe, drama-free guy is interested in her, and she’s confident that she’ll muster up an attraction to him. When she stumbles upon a handsome, mysterious man who speaks oddly, seems not to know where he is, or even what century it is, her first instinct is to help him. Certain he’s either stuck in a crazy dream or in limbo between life and death, Colin stays close to Luna. As his feelings for her grow, he’s forced to choose between his obligations in the past and his hopes for the future.
Excerpt Luna was heading toward a large tent with a red cross on the side—the medic station. Colin’s strides slowed as he took in the interior of the tent: a chair that was covered in thin, white parchment and looked like it could be adjusted to form a bed; a table with gauze and some odd-looking instruments that reminded him of torture devices.
sneakpeek Shock and unease gripped him. The woman’s corseted blouse revealed an astonishing amount of cleavage, and her dress…. He blinked. Shook his head. Luna returned to him. “You okay?” A muscle ticked in his jaw. He drew Luna to one side so the other woman wouldn’t hear. “What is the meaning of this?” he hissed. Luna frowned. “I don’t—” “You bring me to a…a….” Her brows rose. “A?” “A pirate wench?” “Um….” “A strumpet?” Luna made a strangled snorting noise. Obviously trying not to laugh, she pressed her hand over her mouth. “This isn’t funny,” he bit out. “Oh, yeah, it is.” “I am most certainly not in the mood to….” Colin waved his hand, lost for words. He’d never imagined discussing fornication with a woman he barely knew. Luna snorted again. “Why do guys think about sex all the time?” “Not true.” He didn’t think about it when he was asleep. He hadn’t once thought about it during the tempest. But, that raised another question. “Do your people believe coupling has healing powers? That it can mend wounds?” Luna squeezed the bridge of her nose and groaned. “Just be quiet for a moment, okay?” He scowled. He didn’t want to be quiet. He wanted to get his injury tended and find Evelyn. But, he couldn’t do those things without Luna’s help, so he nodded. “First of all, she’s not a pirate wench or a strumpet. She’s an RN.” “RN?” “A registered nurse.” He grunted. “Registered in torture?” “What? No!” “What, exactly, does she nurse?”
A woman a little shorter than Luna turned, saw Luna, Luna appeared to be struggling for patience. and they started talking. 66 | UncagedBooks.com
d a v i d n ora
orn in Syracuse, NY, David Nora was a normal child until he saw THE EXORCIST at the age of seven. Sleeping with an actual vile of holy water, he finally recovered with his first viewing of the meta-slasher comedy, SCREAM. Since then he has been devouring everything horror related— except the CHILD’S PLAY movies. He wants nothing to do with that devil doll. Currently, he lives in New York City working as a teacher of the visually impaired and blind.
Stay Con n e c te d
Uncaged welcomes David Nora Uncaged: Can you tell us more about your book, Slasher Crasher? Is this your debut novel? Yes, this is my debut novel and I’m beyond ecstatic. SLASHER CRASHER is a love letter to my high school friends and eighties slashers. A mix of MEAN GIRLS and HALLOWEEN, it is a dark comedic take on horror films and the “final girl” character. Carol J. Clover in the feminist film theory novel, Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, coined the term the “final girl.” She described “final girls” as sweet, virginal characters in horror films and novels who transform into testosterone-fueled warriors that must take down the killers or monsters who have been stalking them. Typically these “final girls” kill the killers/monsters and the story ends. However, I thought: What would happen if the “final girl” wasn’t so nice? What if she kind of had a thing for the killer/monster? SLASHER CRASHER was born. 2) What inspired you to write in the horror genre? 68 | UncagedBooks.com
I received a film education--specifically a horror one-at a young age from my father. By the time I was nine years old I’d seen most of the classics: THE EXORCIST, ROSEMARY’S BABY, JAWS. Although I was terrified of these films in the beginning, I slowly fell in love with the genre venturing out to the world of horror literature. I was so enthralled by the GOOSEBUMPS and SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK series that I thought, ‘Hey. Maybe I could try this whole writing thing.’ Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I’m starting my next novel and I felt like switching things up. A total 180. Instead of horror I wanted to try something more soft, sweet. I also wanted to try my hand at alternative stories in existing fictional universes like WICKED. I don’t want to give it away but I hope it’ll be extra sweet.
Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? SLASHER CRASHER was based on an incident that happened to me in high school, so of course I needed to include myself in the crazy mix of horror and humor. Therefore I was the easiest to write. The hardest character was Nick Roesch, the dimwitted, Michael Meyers-esque serial killer. The character needed to be both funny and scary so it was difficult balancing the two. Also, I feel like no amount of horror films or SNAPPED episodes can truly prepare you to get into the mind of a killer. Uncaged: What do you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing?
Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? My dream author lunch: Clive Barker, Grady Hendrix, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Ira Levin, Christopher Moore, and J.K. Rowling. Not only have these writers entertained me for decades, but I also have a plethora of questions. Questions about writing, love, heartbreak, success, failure, and life in general. Plus I’d be sitting with some of the darkest, funniest, creative minds on the planet. The conversation would flow.
I love taking long walks. There are three parks by my apartment: one in the woods; one by the water, and another built on top of an American Revolution fort. I’m kind of spoiled. So, whenever I need a break, I choose one of them and let my mind wander while taking in the parkscapes. Most of the time my mind finds its way to the story I’m working on. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? Fortunately I don’t tend to suffer from writer’s block. Knock on wood [knock, knock]. However, I’m probably the world’s slowest writer. Stephen King could probably rewrite his novels replacing each character with talking animals before I finish one of mine. But that’s what I find enjoyable about my writing—just staring at the computer screen contemplating the best words. It’s therapeutic. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
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| DAVID NORA | My writing quirk, and this is pretty weird, but whenever I write I take the neck of my shirt and pull it over my nose. Oh no, I’m a freak!
Enjoy an excerpt from Slasher Crasher Slasher Crasher David Nora Horror/Humor
Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks, or physical books? Physical. In my humble opinion books should be broken in: stretched out by your thumbs, bent for comfort, and the pages dog-eared when done for the day. Let those words work for the money and time spent. However, ebooks are growing on me. I read on the bus on my way to work and New York City buses can be like entering the Thunderdome. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Amazon says that there are eight million books so I’m honored that you chose my silly scary thing. As a comedic writer/entertainer my only purpose is to make you laugh so it’s a win for both of us if you do. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter here: @ davidnorajr. I promise that there are no thirst trap photos. Just stupid horror-related jokes and my nerdy adventures.
It’s Halloween. Nick Roesch, a towering figure of evil and stupidity, escapes from the upstate New York mental hospital he’s been committed to for the past five years. Planning to return to his childhood home, where he brutally murdered his babysitter’s boyfriend, his plans are halted when he crosses paths with an even more terrifying beast—two high school friends with some serious beef. Caught in a battle of loyalty that has been brewing for ten years of their friendship, the two girls, Kathleen Strife and Betsy Coleman, force the feud into a savage showdown, pitting the escaped monster against each other. Who will survive this epic deathmatch, and is it totally wrong to fall in love with the murderous lunatic who just tried to kill your ex-best friend with a machete? Excerpt Nick Roesch, 5:00 a.m. It started like an ‘80s slasher film. Not John Carpenter’s Halloween, the classic of suburban horror, but the countless, mostly Canadian copycats that emulated its simple-but-effective formula of the escaped mental patient who [choose one: had been burnt in a high school prank, buried in your runof-the-mill mining accident, and/or mentally abused by Santa Claus] and picks off a sexy group of no-good teenagers on [a beloved American holiday]. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | In this crude rip-off, it was Halloween, and Nick Roesch, a massive, pineapple-shaped teen wearing an oversized gray sweater and blue scrubs, was running through the vast wooded area surrounding Summer Hill House, the psychiatric hospital in Hannibal, New York, where he’d spent the last five years. After a window dive from the hospital’s second floor, he was following the early-morning light that trickled through the pines, hoping it would lead him to a house or road. Eventually, Nick got lucky. After barreling through the maze of trees for nearly thirty minutes, the eighteen-year-old, pale-faced beast came upon a long stretch of road and stopped in the middle of it. Gotta get home, he thought, bending over and heaving a deep breath. Need car. He stood up and scanned the road, waiting for the next vehicle. Again he was lucky; a moment later, as a red Volvo wagon popped out of the horizon, his strained breath eased into its normal inhalewheeze-exhale rhythm. Spotting the dingy car racing toward him, he puffed out his chest like a superhero and walked directly toward it, initiating a horrific version of chicken. Unfortunately, the driver, a seventy-five-year-old man with the distant vision of a headless mole, couldn’t see past his headlights and unwillingly entered the game. About twenty yards away, the man finally noticed the towering figure in the road—“Bigfoot!” he screamed—and swerved out of the way. It was too late, though; he was going too fast to brake and slammed into the guardrail with a thunderous crack. The car lifted off the ground, spun around, and rolled forward, creating an explosion of smoke and dust. After a couple seconds, it stopped, the front end twisted into a modern art sculpture. Still, the left headlight remained intact, shining a yellow beam through the brisk autumn air, while the engine buzzed with a hint of life. With a wicked grin, Nick turned around and marched toward the car. When he reached it, he opened the door and pulled out the white-haired 72 | UncagedBooks.com
driver with his large taloned paws. The elderly fellow, his face smeared with blood, was writhing in pain, mumbling, “No, please,” but the giant didn’t care. He dropped the old guy onto the road like a wad of bellybutton flint and climbed into the Volvo. And then, finally, Nick’s luck ran out. As he reached for the gear selector, his malicious smile disappeared. The car had a manual transmission! He let out a growl then punched the busted dashboard with a hairy fist. How was he supposed to get home? He couldn’t drive a car with a stick shift! Dr. Bonesteel had never taught him!
Ayden K. Morgan
Fight for You Fight for You
Ayden K. Morgan Contemporary Romance Some men deserve redemption. Some men are worthy of salvation. He’s not one of them. With his life in tatters and nowhere left to go, Michael “Cade” Kincaid committed his life to bringing down some of the most dangerous gangs around. As one of Seattle’s most dedicated DEA agents, he buried his tragic past beneath years of ruthless decisions and hard wins. But old memories don’t stay buried for long. When an enemy from his past targets the only girl he’s ever loved, Michael is forced back to the city he fled ten years ago. Confronting his past to save the girl he left behind might be the most painful thing he’s ever had to do, but he’ll do it. For her. January James swore she would never forgive Michael for what happened back then, but now he’s the only thing standing between her and the gang trying to take the neighborhood she vowed to defend. With him in her personal space at every turn, keeping her defenses in place isn’t so easy. He might not be the same boy he was then, but he still has the power to destroy her. Reunited by danger, bound together by feelings that just won’t die, and desperate for forgiveness they don’t believe they deserve, Michael and January will risk their lives to break free of the past. To build a future, they’ll both risk the only thing that really matters: their hearts.
sneakpeek Excerpt My hands shake as I jog up the wooden steps to her front door. The heavy wood rattles beneath my fist from the force of my knock. My mind screams at me to turn around and walk away. But then the door flies open and she’s standing there. She’s so heartbreakingly beautiful with those bright green eyes filled to the brim with hope and her lips forming my name like a kiss. I’m lost. Damned. Please, God, don’t let me destroy her, I pray silently. Don’t let me ruin her life all over again. “You’re wrong,” I blurt out, my pulse pounding so hard I’m sure she can probably hear it. “You think I don’t want you, but I’ve wanted nothing but you since the day I left. You think you weren’t living without me? I was in hell without you. I’m still in hell.” My breath comes in a desperate rasp and my hands shake. My whole body is shaking. “Every day without you was torture, baby girl. I tried to forget you, to move on, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to forget…to forget…” “To forget what?” she whispers when I stumble over the words, not sure how to explain to her that even though she haunted me, I didn’t want to forget her. Because even when I didn’t have her, even when I was certain I’d never step foot in this city again because I couldn’t face being here without her…she still had me. She still had every piece of me. “To forget this,” I rumble and stalk toward her. It takes two steps to cross the threshold. And one more before she’s in my arms. I kick the door closed behind me and then haul her up against my chest. As soon as she’s in my arms, she goes wild. Her body wraps around mine, exactly like she was meant to fit me. Her hands go to my hair, her legs around my waist. Our mouths crash together with such need, such force, that our teeth clack together. I pour everything into our kiss, sucking her tongue into my mouth to steal her breath. I want her air in me, until each breath I take is full of nothing but her. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
t e n a st e tl e r
ena Stetler is a best-selling author of award winning paranormal romance. She has an over-active imagination, which led to writing her first vampire romance as a tween to the chagrin of her mother and delight of her friends. After many years as a paralegal, then an IT Manager at an electrical contracting firm, she decided, with her hubby enthusiastic support, to live out her dream of pursuing a publishing career. With the Rocky Mountains outside her window, she sits at her computer surrounded by a wide array of witches, shapeshifters, demons, faeries, and gryphons, with a Navy SEAL or two mixed in telling their tales. Her books recount stories of magical kick-ass women and mystical alpha males that dare to love them. Travel, adventure and a bit of mystery flourish in her books along with a few companion animals to round out the tales. Colorado is home; shared with her husband of many moons, a brilliant Chow Chow, a spoiled parrot and a fifty-year-old box turtle. When she’s not writing, her time is spent traveling, kayaking, camping, hiking, biking or just relaxing in the great Colorado outdoors. During the winter you can find her curled up in front of a crackling fire with a good book, a mug of hot chocolate and a big bowl of popcorn.
Sta y Co n n e c te d
Please welcome Tena Stetler Uncaged: Can you tell us more about your latest release, Mystic Maples? Is this going to be part of a series? Actually, it’s part of a multi-author series from The Wild Rose Press. Mystic Maples is about Earth/Fire witch Mercy Rose’s insatiable curiosity always gets her in trouble. Silvanus Forrest’s gypsy/fae heritage is a double-edged sword. When Mercy discovers the truth, Silvanus’ well-ordered life unravels and they’re catapulted into the past to right a wrong. There will be a sequel to Mystic Maples. Uncaged: You also have a couple other series running, A Demon’s Witch Series and The Lobster Cove series. Can you tell us a synopsis for both of them? Are you still continuing these series? The award winning Demon’s Witch Series is close to my heart. It started with A Demon’s
Witch, my debut novel, hit best seller status four months after publication, and the series has gone one to win several awards. I am working on book seven as we speak. A Demon’s Witch series follows several paranormal couples introduced in the first book and subsequent books. They are stand alone, but are intertwined. A Demon’s Witch – was born in a hair salon from a song. The hairdresser is a ruggedly handsome demon overlord. A powerful witch breezed into his salon and the attraction was undeniable. A Warlock’s Secrets – Warlock Tristian is forced into a profession shrouded in secrets. Hannah is a cybersecurity specialist with secrets of her own. In his darkest hours, she is dragged into his magical world, if they survive, is she strong enough to heal his hear and tame the warlock? A Vampire’s Unlikely Alliance – Not what you’ve come to expect from a vampire tale. Join Stefan and Brandy on an exciting romantic fantasy that begins in glacier National Park, winds through Australia and ends up in Ireland. Will an Irish folk tale control their destiny? An Angel’s Unintentional Entanglement – Fallen warrior angle, Caden Silverwind, lives alone in Colorado’s rugged Rocky Mountains. Bureau of Indian Affairs Agent, Mystic Rayne’s personal dilemma & assignment nearly gets her killed. A Magic Redemption - Synn, a demon, carries extraordinary magic and power, but there is more within her than she can imangine. Gavin Shaughnessy is the publican at his family’s Irish pub. He is certain Synn is meant to be his and isn’t bothered by her past. When her past comes calling for revenge, will the searing path of destruction destroy all they hold dear? Book number seven is in the works. Lobster Cove is another multi-author series from the Wild Rose Press. A WITCH’S JOURNEY and A WITCH’S HOLIDAY WEDDING are two of my books in that series. Book number three is set in Salem, MA rather than Lobster Cove and I and currently finishing up the first draft.
A little about the series: A Witch’s Journey- A magic adventure unfolds with the dedication of a witch - wildlife rehabilitator & a compassionate former Navy SEAL Their journey begins with building a wildlife rescue and rehab center, her life-long dream. Along the way, they discover the healing power of second chances, love and family. A Witch’s Holiday Wedding - It’s down to the wire, will the nosy McKay ghosts,Lathen’s werewolf pack, Pepper’s parents, and her best friend help or hinder the wedding and holiday plans? Lathen’s covert military mission threatens life as he knows it. Can they overcome the obstacles?
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Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? As I set out above, I have book number seven in A Demon’s Witch Series outlined, I’m nearly done with the first draft of book number three in A Witch’s Journey Series; and Charm Me Again (Sequel to Charm Me) is in the hands of my editor as we speak. Sequel to Mystic Maples is in the outline stages. Yes, I work on several books at a time. To coin a phrase, I write by the seat of my pants. I write my chapters out of order, my books out of order, but they all come together in the end. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Sue Graphton author of the “alphabet series” of mystery novels. I’d like to know how she kept her series going through twenty-five books keeping track of all the characters and their quirks. Molly Harper author of werewolf and vampire series not to mention several contemporize romance series. Her books are snarky and entertaining, I’d love to talk to her about how she keeps track of so many series and find out if she is as humorous in person as in her books. Nora Roberts romance author of over two-hundred books and more murder mysteries as JD Rob. I what to know her secret to success.
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Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? I have to say that Bruce the demon overlord and Angie his mate were the easiest. They were bouncing around in my head for a long time before they made it to a book. So I knew they very well and they were extremely cooperative characters. Now Tristian on the other hand was very difficult. I never planned to give him his own story (maybe that was part of the problem) LOL. He was an assassin for heaven sakes. As it turned out, he had a strong moral compass. But after A Demon’s Witch came out, reviewers and readers were clamoring for his story. Although, I had A Vampire’s Unlikely Alliance al-
| TENA STETLER |
ready written, for the series events to make sense, I had to stop, write, and publish Tristian’s story, A Warlock’s Secrets, before A Vampire’s Unlikely Alliance could be released. Uncaged: What has a character done that you didn’t expect and surprised you? Since I am a panster, my characters always surprise me at nearly every turn. That’s why I gave up trying to plot my books. I’d spend all this time on a plot and a couple chapters into the book, my character had blown my plot and plot points out of the water. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk?
Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I’d have to say to read, I prefer e-books; I love audio books when I’m in the car or cleaning house. But I love physical books that are signed by my favorite authors. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I want to thank profusely all my readers. I’m so glad they suspend believe in the ordinary world to join the magical adventures I try to provide for them. I hope they provide a little stress release and entertainment.
To prevent writer’s block, I take my dog for walks, or work in my veggie of flower gardens. A writing quirk – Sometimes I carry on a conversation out loud to my characters. My husband, will look at me with a raised eyebrow and say “you’re doing it again. Are you talking to me or the voices in your head?” Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR |
Enjoy an excerpt from Mystic Maples Mystic Maples Tena Stetler Fantasy Romance Earth/Fire witch Mercy Rose’s insatiable curiosity always gets her in trouble. After a breakin at her Colorado flower shop, and a court battle that comes to a screeching halt in her favor, she arrives at Deerbourne Inn for a much-needed getaway. Looking for peace and quiet, she finds just the opposite in a startling handsome but mysterious man and his dog. Silvanus Forrest’s gypsy/fae heritage is a doubleedged sword. The land he inherited from his parents is rumored to be enchanted. But when Mercy discovers the truth, his well-ordered life unravels, and they’re catapulted into the past to right a wrong. Along the way their lives intertwine, and they discover the true meaning of family and love. Will they change the past in time to save their future? Excerpt The full moon shone brightly through the lace curtains washing everything in a silvery mist. She jumped up and pushed aside the drape. No ghost here. Then she gazed out the window. Enchanted, eh? Her sister’s words floated through her mind. “Don’t get into trouble.” It was a beautiful summer evening lit by a full moon. What harm could come from simply popping over to Mystic Maples, digging my toes into the earth and see if there is any truth to the rumors? She shrugged. Sis wouldn’t have told me about it, if she hadn’t thought it worth investigating. Right? She toed off her shoes, pulled off her socks and straightened. With a snap of her fingers she left the 80 | UncagedBooks.com
room without a sound and landed smack dab at the edge of the maple trees. Glancing around, she could see the house in the distance and the outline of the sign. “Good, I’m in the right place.” Wandering farther in among the trees, the dirt beneath her feet was cool. Wiggling her toes deeper into the earth, she felt the warmth of the day and something else—a connection. Several trees had a slight glow to them, then it was gone. Am I imagining…She raised her arms out from her sides and turned her face to the starlit sky letting the magic surge through her. It had been almost a year since magic of any kind called to her. It felt so good, she was lost in the moment. Suddenly a male voice broke through her revelry. “What are you doing here?” Her heart thundered in her chest. She hadn’t heard a sound. Yet, there he was standing not three feet from her, hands on hips, and glaring at her. The aura around him flashed red. Not good. Saving grace at the moment was the calm Caribbean ocean blue simmering below the rage red—what’s this—a spark of magic? Where’d that come from? He’s no witch or… Once again her insatiable curiosity over whelmed her good sense. He reached out. It all happened like slow motion, he grabbed her arm pulling her out of her thoughts. Reflex action on her part caused a jolt of magic spark to snap from her palm. A direct hit to his solarplexis. Shit. Uh-oh—there goes the offer of his cottage. “I’m so sorry,” she blurted. Doubling over he gasped for air. She had to admire him. He stayed on his feet. Adrenalin surged through her veins, the fight or flight response alive and well. A final glance at him to make sure he was recovering, then she snapped her fingers and disappeared. Back in her room at Deerbourne Inn, she paced
| TENA STETLER | around, stopped and stomped her foot. “Damn it!” Then she returned to pacing. Grabbing her phone, she scrolled to her sister’s number, turned it off silent, then froze. Her sense of self-preservation and good sense kicked in.
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She could just see her sister, arms crossed over her chest, lips pursed, and shaking her head. Then in that condescending tone Hope would say “Again”. She tossed the phone on the bed. Fell backward onto the handmade quilt and stared at the ceiling. A whoosh of cool air washed over her. She shifted her gaze toward the window. It was closed. A woman’s filmy outline floated across the floor, taking a familiar shape as apparition settled onto the bed a slight indentation on the covers appeared. She sat up. The ghost touched her hand. “My, my, what has you so upset?” The specter’s touch was cool, sending shivers down her spine. She opened her mouth, but no sound came out. At her second attempt to speak only a squeak was audible. “Come, come now girl, spit it out.” The ghost’s smile was reassuring. “Wh—who are you? What do you want with me?” This wasn’t her first encounter with a ghost. But after the night she’d had, it was the last thing she needed.
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
C ATC H UP
j oh n hu n t gives us a preview of his latest occult / horror n ovel - releasi n g O ctober 3 1
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Uncaged: You have a new book coming out, Off The Grid. Can you tell readers more about this book? This is another stand alone title. New characters, new plot, but all the horror of my other novels. My work has had a recent write up by Tony Jones of Horror DNA. His article appears in Inkheist here: https://inkheist. com/2019/09/11/unsung-heroes-of-horror-2-john-hunt/ Here is a summary of the book: Graham Richards was shopping with his family at an outlet mall when an active shooter began indiscriminately murdering people with a rifle. Graham was shot in the face and when he woke up in the hospital, his family was dead. And now, all he wants is to be left alone. Living out in the woods, growing his own food, and using solar power for his energy needs, he hopes to live the rest of his life in obscurity. But when a little girl goes missing in the nearby town, the strange, scarred man in the lonely cabin is the first suspect and Graham finds himself being pulled back into the world he wanted to leave behind. It’s an exciting and terrifying book. I loved writing it. It kept me thinking about plot consistencies and character development and was a challenge for me as a writer. I can’t wait for people to read this book. Uncaged: Where do you get the inspiration for writing in the horror genre? Horror is the only genre I seem to be able to write. Anything I attempt ends up taking a dark turn. It could be all the horror movies and books I watched as a kid left an indelible mark… I don’t really know. All I know is that horror fascinates me. It is a genre that encompasses all ranges of human emotion. I like to explore the ranges, the valleys and the peaks. It keeps me happy. Uncaged: What are you working on next that you can tell us about? Ok. What I am working on now… it will involve a manhunt of an accidentally evil man. And then, yeah, I can’t say much more than that. It will be fast, bloody, and fun. Uncaged: You have also been a co-host on the Movies of the Damned!! Podcast- can you tell us more about
that? Yeah, so, a friend of mine, co-host Kyle, mentioned a couple of years ago that we should do a podcast on horror films. We both love scary movies, know a lot of useless information about them, so he thought we should talk about them. At first, I was like, man, that’s going to take up a lot of my time. Is it worth it? Then I did the research. How to start one, what equipment to buy, what software to use, and it didn’t seem so far fetched. And I’m glad he mentioned it because it is a lot of fun. My oldest son composed and recorded the music and being a huge movie nerd and future director, he sometimes guest hosts on the podcast. And we talk and dissect films we love and hate and go into detail as to the why. It is great fun. Off the Grid John Hunt Occult/Horror Releases October 31 Graham Richards was shopping with his family at an outlet mall when an active shooter began indiscriminately murdering people with a rifle. Graham was shot in the face and when he woke up in the hospital, his family was dead. And now, all he wants is to be left alone. Living out in the woods, growing his own food, and using solar power for his energy needs, he hopes to live the rest of his life in obscurity. But when a little girl goes missing in the nearby town, the strange, scarred man in the lonely cabin is the first suspect and Graham finds himself being pulled back into the world he wanted to leave behind. Excerpt Claire, known as Violet to her clients, was picked up in Scarborough, in front of a convenience store by four men in a Dodge mini-van. She was told to sit in the back and she squished in beside an effeminate man named Mickey. In front of them were three men, two up front and one seated on the middle bench seat. The driver wore a dirty ball Issue 39 | October 2019 |
cap and a heavy beige coat. Beside him, a heavy man wore a blue tank top, the shoulders white and forearms a sunburnt red. Perched high on his head was a Bass Pro Shops cap. The one in the middle wore a Blue Jays cap and a red T-shirt underneath a jean jacket. Looking at them, Claire thought, Shit-kickers… great. Guns n’ Roses Sweet Child of Mine, played over the speakers at a low volume. The inside of the van, although clean and newer looking, smelled of oil. The one in the middle spoke to her and Mickey. He had an unlit cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. Claire didn’t like him. Her likes and dislikes didn’t matter too much in her job but she’d seen enough assholes in her time to pick them out pretty quick. Her danger meter had been fluttering the second the guy on the middle bench turned around in his seat to talk to them. Maybe other people found him charming, Mickey didn’t seem to mind him, but he had a look to him that made Claire think of a nature show she’d once seen of a python swallowing a rabbit. It had crushed the rabbit first, wrapping itself around the struggling animal with its liquid-like moving coils. The rabbit’s eyes protruded and the snake stared at it, a flatness there calmer than a small pond on a windless day. With the same dead eyes, the snake opened its mouth and pulled the rabbit into its maw. The back paws of the rabbit twitched. The snake’s eyes reflected nothingness. Under the man’s eyes talking to her and Mickey, she felt like that rabbit. They talked for some time, the songs changing as they continued on the highway, the unlit cigarette or as her stepfather had called them, coffin nails, dangling from his lip. Claire asked, “Aren’t you going to smoke that?” “Nah, the jerks up front don’t like it.” Mickey said, “Either do I.” Smiling, the man said to Mickey, “Who asked you?” Although delivered with a smile, the statement contained an undercurrent of violence. The man held Mickey’s eyes. Mickey turned away from the glare. 84 | UncagedBooks.com
Seeing a passing sign, Claire frowned and said, “Where are we going?” The man in the middle said, “To my house.” “I thought we were going to a local hotel. That was the deal. We go to a hotel, have our fun and then you take us to the nearest subway.” Raising one eyebrow, the man said, “The deal has changed.” Claire, not liking the man’s lizard eyes and his friend’s silence up front, realized she might be in some real trouble here. Her voice shaking, she said with a placating smile, “Oh yeah? That’ll cost you more you know. I don’t make house calls. I sure as shit don’t leave the city. I don’t know about Mickey here but I certainly don’t. A girl can’t be too careful you know? So although you guys were going to pay me well, I’m going to have to say no to the new deal. If you could drop me at the nearest subway station, that’d be great.” The man laughed, “Hear that? She’s telling us the deal is off!” To Mickey, he said, “How about you pretty boy? You don’t like the new deal?” The words themselves held no animosity and Mickey watched Violet (Claire had introduced herself as Violet) and the man talking, a line drawn between his eyebrows because something was going on here. Something he wasn’t seeing but he could sense it. A tenseness in the van. The driver turned the volume on the music down. Mickey didn’t care about the old deal or the new deal. He needed the money. He needed meth. His body and mind wanted it. If the new deal meant he could get more money to appease the itch for an even longer time then he was all for it. Mickey said, “Whatever. I’m good.” The man laughed again, “You’re good? I’m glad. I really am. I was worried we were about to be turned down by both of you. That would hurt my feelings terribly. A couple of prostitutes turning us down? You’d have to be a special kind of pitiful if that happened.” They continued in silence. The man in the middle with the half smile on his face, shifted around in his seat so he could keep an eye on them. Them wasn’t right, though. He wasn’t looking at them. He was staring at her. Her hands clenched tighter on her purse. She could feel her phone in the thin bag and feeling it
gave her comfort in the same way seeing a life buoy on a boat would. They passed the next exit, the one for Yorkdale plaza. The plaza had a main subway hub attached. Claire said, “You passed my exit.” “Did we?” “Yeah, you did. Remember? The subway?” The man frowned and said, “Now that you mention it, I do remember you saying you wanted off this ride. What I don’t remember is the point in our travels where you became the boss. Now, you said you wanted to be dropped off at the next subway station and I do remember you saying that quite clearly, but I don’t give a fuck what you want little lady. Not one bit. We’re going to get our money’s worth out of you two. Yes, we will.” And then he winked at her. The danger meter zipped into the red zone with the wink. If a wink could convey evil intent, well, this man had perfected said wink. Smiling, she said, “Look, I’ve had this happen before. Picked up, taken out of the city, the evening is over and guess what? I’m out of the fucking city and does my date want to take me home? Hell no. When they drop their cream, they go to sleep and dream.” The man laughed loud at that little quip. A real bellyshaking kind of laugh. The cigarette jumped around on his lip and then popped right off. That made him laugh louder and his friends in the front of the van joined him. They sound like a pack of hyenas, thought Claire and then, Oh god, how am I going to get out of this one? Because she knew this was something more than a little slap, tickle and greasy cash. These men had other plans. A busy father of four with a dog and cat, John Hunt lives and works in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He has had nine short stories published in various anthologies and is a member of the Horror Writers Association. He is the author of Doll House, The Tracker, and the apocalyptic novella, Balance. His newest novel, Off The Grid, will be available this Halloween. He is also a co-host on the Movies of the Damned!! podcast. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Fight for You Highland Storm
Elizabeth Rose Ancient Historical Romance
time for him to be noticed.
Hawke is the son of the well-known and respected laird, Storm MacKeefe. When the King’s Chronicler arrives at the castle to record the heroic acts of the MacKeefe Clan, Hawke decides it is
But before he can devise a way to get mentioned in the Highland Chronicles, disaster strikes. A hunting trip turns into a deadly battle, and things go from bad to worse. Hawke is wounded and left for dead, and his grandfather, laird of the clan, is abducted by the enemy. In one final attempt to even the score, Hawke captures the MacNab’s daughter when she tries to strip him of his belongings on the battlefield. “Phoebe, hurry and go through the pockets of the dead and take everythin’ ye can from the wretched curs,” said another of the MacNabs. Hawke’s eyes drifted open slightly as his world spun before him. The pain in his shoulder hurt like the devil and he tasted bile rising to his throat. Through his blurred vision, he saw the MacNabs capturing his grandfather. All of the rest of the men who had come with Hawke from Hermitage Castle were slain, lying in puddles of blood. “Nay,” he mumbled, willing himself to move, but he couldn’t. He was no longer sure he wouldn’t die with the rest of them. The sound of horses’ hooves on the hard earth echoed in his ears as the MacNabs retreated into the forest. “Let me go,” he heard Ian MacKeefe shouting. “I hate 86 | UncagedBooks.com
sneakpeek Excerpt ye all. Ye just killed my grandson! I’ll have yer bluidy heads for it. I will have my revenge!” “The way I see it, we’re even now,” came a MacNab’s reply. “Yer grandson is to blame for all this. He killed four of our men earlier and now four of yers are dead in exchange.” “Phoebe, let’s go,” someone called out. “Yer faither is goin’ to be happy we brought him The MacKeefe.” “I have one more man to check,” the woman answered, her voice coming closer to Hawke. He heard her light footsteps and the sweep of her gown over the dry earth as she approached him. Then Hawke felt the light touch of a woman’s hand going through his pockets. It took all his strength to keep from drifting into an unconscious state since his pain was so intense. The MacNabs had stolen his sword but he still had a dagger hidden in the waistband of his plaid. Hawke had to do something to save his grandfather or die trying. He would not lose him and neither would he return to the castle without him. Suddenly, an idea came to him. This would be his only chance, so he needed to stay conscious to do it. His hand lashed out and gripped the girl’s wrist as his eyes popped open, scaring her since she thought he was dead. “Och!” she cried, looking down at Hawke in terror. Fear filled her hazel eyes. Because she was startled, it gave him the advantage. She was just a wench so it should be easy to hold her, even with his wounds and his pounding head. Stirring up the strength he needed to continue with his plan, Hawke pulled her to him. At the same time, he sat up, trying to concentrate so he wouldn’t pass out. With his free hand, he reached for his hidden dagger. Then he got to his feet, pulling the wench toward him, holding his blade to her throat. “Release Ian MacKeefe or I’ll kill her, I swear I will!” he shouted, stopping the MacNabs from leaving. Blood covered his chest from his wound, soaking into the girl’s clothes as well. Her body trembled beneath his touch, but she did not fight him.
c h e y e n n e m e a d ows
Uncaged welcomes Cheyenne Meadows Uncaged: Your next release is A Web of Vengeance. Can you tell readers more about this book? Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to sit down and chat with you today.
rowing up in the Midwest, I began reading romance novels in high school, immediately falling in love with the genre, to the point where I decided to write professionally for a career. However, that dream splattered against a brick wall and resulting quick death in my first writing class in college when my professor told me bluntly that I wasn’t any good at it. I shifted gears quickly, and left my writing dreams behind, eventually settling on being a nurse. A few years back, I stumbled across a fan-fiction writing site on a favorite author’s webpage. I began to read stories others wrote, not only making some wonderful close friends from the experience, but also, really learning to write for the very first time. Here I was able to share short stories, practice my writing skills, and truly develop into a writer. More than that, the experience allowed me to revitalize my dream, as I rediscovered joy in writing. When I’m not working or writing, I enjoy working in the garden, canning, and seeing my backyard as a living canvas for my whimsical landscaping, and, of course, reading romance novels.
A Web of Vengeance is about a woman, named Taryn, completely down on her luck. A tragic night and the murder of her sole remaining family member ended her life as she knew it at a young age. She vowed to track down those responsible and enact justice. That vow included preparing to do the job herself, prompting her to spend years practicing to be an assassin. Her ability to achieve invisibility doesn’t help her as much as her sharpshooter skills, but she’d use whatever she has in order to snuff out the lives of those who caused her so much pain many years prior. Then, as sometimes happens, life’s track veers in another direction, leaving Taryn questioning whether all the plans of revenge are worth it. Her life is steady as she goes, uneventful. Just the way she likes it—or so she thinks. Enter in Quint. He’s carrying a huge secret, not only about his reason for showing up out of the blue in the small town of Rushing River, but also about Taryn’s past. His job is to stick to her like glue and prepare for the worst. Except he doesn’t bank on the twists, turns, and Taryn’s inner heart of gold to steal his own away. He has his own special abilities and believes he can both protect Taryn and take out a serial killer hot on her trail. What he doesn’t expect is losing his heart in the process. This was a fun, yet different kind of book for me to write. Serious and filled with anticipa-
tion, angst, and mystery. I struggled with it more than once, but am extremely proud of the finished product. I think Taryn’s story shows that a phoenix can truly rise out of the ashes. Uncaged: You also have a couple shifter romance series running. Are you continuing on with those series or are they complete? I’m so glad you asked about them! The Misfit Shifter Series, a M/M shapeshifter series, will definitely continue forward. The quirky characters that arrive at the Bluebird Valley Preserve have so much potential for growth, salvation, and inspiration. Not to mention, silly chaos. I love this series and intend to keep it going as long as my warped sense of humor can keep up with the unusual shifter varieties and their odd personalities. It’s a ton of fun and definitely pushes my limits in the craziness realm. Romantic humor is my first love and strong suit, so those will keep moving right along. The Shifter Hardball Series has pretty much been put to bed. I enjoyed it greatly and may, one day, pick it up again, but other pursuits have put it well on the back burner. I have a large piles of notes on stories that I want to write. Time limits me at the moment, but I’m working hard to keep putting them out for the readers to glimpse into my wacky brain, enjoy a few laughs, and escape the realities of life for a few hours. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I have a couple of irons in the fire right now. One story is tentatively entitled Weddings, Wolves, and Warm Socks. It’s another of those “what if” stories. It all begins when a question sprouts in my mind. Then I ask, “what if…?” It goes from there. This one revolves around a human woman, Kenzie, attending the wedding of her best friend…in the Arctic Circle. If that wasn’t enough, the village where the wedding is held and the couple will live just happens to be a wolf shifter pack. Our heroine doesn’t know a lick about shifters, love, or living in a forgotten tiny town on the edge of nowhere.
What she does know is that Ridge, the best man makes her hormones hum even if he’s a true lemon in her book. It’s filled with interesting revelations and quirky oddities that are little gems to make up and put down on the screen. The other story I’m trying to get going is the next in the Misfit Shifter Series. I have a couple of options as to which individuals are next. I’m just trying to get a good grasp on both main characters and what trouble will find them along the way. There’s a long list to choose from and it’s like going to an ice cream store and picking a single flavor out of dozens. Yes, dozens! I even have a running list of characters going to help keep me straight on who’s who, what they look like, their shifter variety, and their job. Without it, I’d be pulling my hair out! Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Janet Evanovich. I think she’s got a similar sense of humor and I’d love to experience that firsthand. She’s a rock star. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? Oh, that’s a tough one. Let me see. I think the hardest was the hero of Relentless, named Jag. A jaguar shifter working as a special ops soldier in an allshifter unit. He’s a sniper given the task to take out a serial killer—the same one who killed his husband in front of his eyes. The story takes Jag and his new spotter, Sonar, all over the world, with the majority of their time in war-torn Afghanistan. Emotionally, it was so difficult at times to write about such loss, torment, and a deep seated revenge. Yet, I knew he needed his story told. The easiest character to write has to be Shyanne from my first book that I ever wrote. She was the start of the wacky romantic humor and the “what if” moments. I found my wings with her as the lead and the silliness poured forth. Those are still some of my favorite books to read. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged:What has a character done that you didn’t expect and surprised you? Jag. Definitely. I’ve never been one to write dark, angst, heart wrenching stories. Yet, Jag came along and changed that. It’s not my forte, but I’m proud to have been able to throw myself into a new realm and tell his story. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? Ohhh. Prevent? There’s a way to prevent writer’s block? I haven’t come up with that yet. I wish! Since I’m a planner and plotter, I already know where I need to go, it’s just getting there that’s up in the air. Most times, that’s where I become stuck. When it happens, I tend to either jump ahead and write part of the book that is talking at the moment or even switch to another book to mix things up. Thus I always have at least two stories going at the same time. Many times, more than that. My writing quirk is that I like things completely silent. No television. No radio. Just me, in the office, typing away. Oh, and Dora, the cat, in her hammock sleeping in the sun is a nice perk. It’s relaxing and encouraging. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I’m old school in preferring physical books. There’s just something about opening a front cover. My favorites I will always buy in paperback format. That way I can keep them forever. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I just want to thank each and every one of them for picking up one of my books and giving it a try. Without you guys, I’d have stopped writing a while back. It’s the fans, especially those that email questions or comments that keep me going. I’m honored 90 | UncagedBooks.com
and humbled that people search for my work, spend their hard-earned money to purchase a copy, then spend their precious free time reading. To all of them a huge thank you from the bottom of the heart.
Enjoy an excerpt from A Web of Vengeance A Web of Vengeance Cheyenne Meadows Fantasy Romance Taryn’s entire life has revolved around a single goal—revenge against her grandfather’s murderers. Except she can’t find answers to their identities anywhere. Her ability to achieve invisibility is pretty useless, and her family won’t let the secret of her adoption out of the bag. Quint is a hunter, sent by a secret group called Dalliance, to track down a serial killer who takes out his victims with psionic blasts. He’s certain he can handle the killer, but it’s Taryn, his quarry’s target, that he’s not sure about. Taryn looks to right her past in order to secure her future. The only way she can do so is to trust Quint, the man who may or may not be who he says he is. Love conquers all, or so they say. Too bad Taryn doesn’t believe in love. Excerpt “Surprise seeing you here.” Taryn blinked up at Quint. “It is. A big one. You live here?” He gave a quick nod. “Yep. Apartment 3-A to be exact.” “I’m in 1-A.” Rushing River didn’t sport many apartment buildings, only two that she knew of, anyway.
| CHEYENNE MEADOWS | Both were fairly small, with around a half-dozen rooms each. Even with such low numbers, the manager of her building had a hard time keeping them rented. Most people that grew up locally couldn’t wait to head to the big city, or at least something with more excitement than a small town. They might move away from home, land in the apartments for a few months, then decide to spread their wings farther. Others came from surrounding areas, seeking different scenery. Neither seemed to stay long. In essence, the Cherry Tree Apartments ended up being a stepping stone for most, with seemingly a constant turnover of patrons. Not that she minded. The place offered a quiet place to stay, very little crime, and a landlord that was as kind as he was gray-headed. His wife, one of the sweetest ladies around, baked for special occasions, sharing her fare with the residents. She’d even remembered Taryn’s birthday and brought her a small cake to celebrate. For the special attention, she’d continue to pay her monthly rent without a single complaint. Sure, she could have moved back in with her parents after college, but couldn’t bring herself to do so. Her independent nature demanded she step out into the world, even a baby step, and make it on her own. Her brother, Brandon, moved about an hour and a half away, to the suburbs of Minneapolis. He loved the fast pace of city life and all it had to offer. The company he worked for had a very large office in the city, which afforded Brandon a short drive each weekday. To hear Brandon talk, he adored the job. As he’d always been a nut about cars, taking a position for one of the leading race car specialty businesses was right up his alley. Always on the go, Brandon did make time for their paintball team and for Sunday lunch with their parents. Otherwise, it was work and his latest girlfriend, Jennifer. Taryn had her own busy schedule with plenty of activities to keep her busy. Boredom was never an issue. Paintball and target shooting occupied her weekends, while her week was filled with work. In between, she researched, studied, and read everything she could find on her grandfather’s death. The scant information she’d discovered thus far only whetted her appetite for more. Officially, the police called the event
a burglary and a resulting heart attack. She wasn’t buying it. Yes, her grandfather was well off, but he had security guards. She’d seen them on a daily basis. For someone to get past those men took a grand feat and plan. It wasn’t random in the least. The heart attack didn’t pan out, either. She recalled a few words from that terrifying night which told her that her grandfather was targeted. “It’s still early. Did you want to get something to eat?” Quint offered. Taryn studied his face, trying to determine if he possessed ulterior motives. When she found nothing but a friendly suggestion, she gave in. Maybe I’m being way too cynical. Eric is a jackass, but that doesn’t mean every other man under the sun is too. Since he’d just moved in, Quint probably knew no one. Obviously, he’d be a little lonely and happy to have some company. She’d feel the same way if she were in his shoes. “Sure. My treat.” He frowned. “I asked. I can foot the bill.” “Nope. Consider it a welcome gift.” She fit her key into the lock. “Let me just change really quick.” “Sure.” He closed his door behind him, turning the knob to verify that it did lock. Taryn paused in the doorway, then stepped inside. “Come on in. No sense in standing out in the hallway waiting for me.” Quint came inside, stopped, and looked around. “Nicely done.” Taryn smiled at his observation. She shut the door behind him, then made her way into the middle of the living area, dropping her purse on the kitchen counter along the way. The light blue faux suede couch occupied one wall. A glass coffee table sat in front of it, the legs painted in a similar hue to the sofa. An extra fluffy recliner angled next to them. All faced an average-sized television sitting on a wooden stand. Inlaid rocks of pastel colors added an upscale whimsical atmosphere, especially in relation to the pine hardwood floor. To the left, a large window overlooked part of the park. Each piece and placement, she’d chosen carefully. Settling in had been easy once she found the right furniture to turn it into a true home. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
FEATURE AUTHOR AUTHOR || || FEATURE She ran her hand over the top of the couch. “Thanks. I wanted to present a homey, but light feel. Uplifting, I guess.” Quint checked out the area and gave a quick nod. “I’d say you nailed it. Very nice.” He took a couple more steps, stopping at the window. “You’ve got a flair for interior design. With that sort of talent, I’m surprised you’re living here and working at the gym.” Taryn shrugged. “I’m a small-town girl, I guess. Didn’t have much motivation to pull up roots, head to the big city, and find my way. I like the gym. Get to work out for free, too. That’s a definite bonus.” Quint smiled softly. “I’d say. You’ve got some great moves on those drapes. Never seen such a thing in my life.” She peered over at him. “Aerial silks or ribbons. Drapes makes me sound like an overactive kitten climbing up the window sheers.” Quint’s eyes lit up with humor. “A kitten, huh?” Taryn groaned dramatically. “Flattery will get you nowhere.” She found herself enjoying the conversation. Quint’s laid-back nature put her at ease, something the other men in her life hadn’t come close to accomplishing. They’d added a sense of adventure and the promise of an electrifying tryst with a couple of hot men who knew their way around a bedroom. Taryn took a dip and found the waters too cold for her liking. Quint exuded strength. Ability. And a certain need for companionship. Friendship. Certainly, a nice change. His handsomeness and wit didn’t hurt, either. Before she could make a fool of herself, she strode to the bedroom and shut the door behind her. While a shower would have been best to wash the sweat off, she knew there wasn’t enough time. Instead, she went with a quick change and wipe down. She stripped down completely, dressed again, and spent a few minutes in the bathroom freshening up. Quint wore jeans and a t-shirt. She opted to match him. Butterflies danced in her stomach, though she reminded herself half a dozen times that it wasn’t a date. Just casual dinner 92 | UncagedBooks.com
with a new friend. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. The lecture didn’t quell her excitement in the least. Odd. Since she’d broken up with Eric not too long ago, she’d sworn off men. She hadn’t had an issue with avoiding a social life until Quint arrived. Now, she couldn’t seem to recall why men were off limits entirely. Satisfied with her appearance, she walked back out into the living area, finding Quint staring out the window as if deep in thought. “What do you like to eat?” He turned to face her. “Anything is fine. I’m not picky.” She gave a short nod. “Bobbie’s it is, then.” “Bobbie’s?” Quint asked as he followed her to the door. “Best place to eat around here. Home cooked meals. All kinds of entrees. Nothing fancy, really, but it’s good.” Taryn picked up her purse, ushered Quint out the door, shut and locked it behind her. After dropping her keys into the purse, she led the way out the front door of the apartment building. “I’ll drive.” Taryn made her way to her car, clicked open the doors, then slid into the driver’s seat. Quint wedged himself into the passenger’s seat, seemingly a little squashed with the smaller car’s dimensions. His knees bent up high. Still, he managed to fasten his seat belt and shut the door. “Kind of snug, huh?” “It’s okay.” Taryn grinned at his nonplussed attitude. “The bar is under the front of your seat.” He found it, pulled, and his seat scooted back several inches. “Much better.” “Ready?” “Yeah.” He sat quietly for a couple of minutes before rubbing his chin. “Tell me about yourself.” Taryn placed the keys in the ignition, cranked the engine, and backed out of her parking space. Only when she entered the road did she answer. “Not much to tell.” “Have you always lived here?” Taryn kept her attention focused on the road. Not that traffic was an issue. It never was. She just didn’t care for the distraction Quint presented, nor his in-
| CHEYENNE MEADOWS | nocent questions. “No.” “So, you and your family moved here?” She spared him a glance. “Maybe we should backtrack to why you landed here. It’s not like there’s a major river crossing or fort here. The wagon trains don’t stop by. Heck, I can’t tell you the last time a plane flew overhead.” His full lips softened. “Like I said, I was looking for a place off the beaten path.” Taryn snorted. “Well you found it. I don’t know how, but you did.” She slowed the car for a stop sign. “Have you purchased a parka yet?” “Nope. Do I need one?” “If you’re going to be around for winter, yeah.” She hit the gas again. “I’ll look into it. You can probably point me to a local store. If not, I guess I can get one online.” His mouth thinned out a bit. “Surely it doesn’t get that horribly cold. Snow, yeah. But the frozen tundra seems a little overkill.” “Don’t believe that for a second. It gets plenty cold enough that frostbite is the least of your worries.” How odd. He moved here without really researching first. The fact only added to the mystery that surrounded Quint. “If you tell me that we have to build an igloo, I’m going to call your bluff.” He arched an eyebrow. She shook her head and chuckled as she pulled into the parking lot at Bobbie’s Restaurant. “You’re in luck. I’m a crappy igloo builder myself.” She found a spot near the door, cut the engine, climbed out of the car, waited for Quint to shut his door, then hit the fob to lock the doors. Rushing River didn’t have much crime. Still, there was no excuse to give potential miscreants an opportunity. Quint reached the entrance first and held the door open for her to enter. “Thank you.” Taryn pushed the strap of her purse over her shoulder as she neared Caitlin, the hostess. They’d gone to high school together. Caitlin followed in her family’s footsteps with the restaurant. Unlike me, who happens to be plotting an assassination. She pasted on a smile. “Hi, Caitlin.” “Good to see you, Taryn.” She smiled up at Quint.
“Where did you find him?” “He just showed up on my doorstep.” Taryn waved her hand and chuckled. “Aren’t you the lucky one?” Caitlin licked her lips. Quint inclined his head. “Quint. Nice to meet you.” He scanned the room. “Where would you like us? I’m hungry.” Caitlin gave a quick nod. “Booth or table?” “Booth,” Taryn answered. The best seats lined the wall, and those were all booths. “Follow me.” Caitlin grabbed two glasses of water, a couple of straws, and two menus before leading the way through the mostly empty dining area to a corner booth. “Here you go.” She deposited everything on one side, then the other. “Becky will get your order in a sec.” She turned on her heel and returned to her post after a slow, long look back at Quint. Taryn plopped down with the knowledge that the whole town would know about her meal with Quint by morning. Caitlin was a decent enough person, but she couldn’t keep a secret to save her life. “Would you mind if we traded seats?” Quint asked. She blinked at him. “No, not at all.” She scooted out of the booth, side-stepped around Quint, then sat back down. Curious, she waited for him to settle in before asking, “Why didn’t you like this one?” He glanced to the door, then back to meet her eyes. “I have a thing about having my back to a door.” “Oh.” She pondered that for a second. “Military?” “Why do you ask?” His eyebrows furrowed. She shrugged. “Just trying to figure out where you would learn such survival behaviors that would follow you around for life.” Taryn studied him for another second. “Either cop of military,” she stated with firm conviction. Quint didn’t react in any way to her statement. “Think you can pick those kind of men out easily?” “Yep.” She lowered her gaze to his left side. “I’ll wager you’re packing, too.” “If I was, would it bother you?” Quint eyed her steadily. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | “No. I’m a decent shot, myself. Though I use a rifle, not a handgun.” “A woman who shoots rifles? Not many of those around.” Taryn sat up a little straighter. “Nope. I can hold my own, though.” “Darn tooting, she can.” A middle-aged woman with short, dark hair stepped up to the table. “Taryn isn’t one to brag, but she can hit the center of a target from a mile away.” Becky, the waitress, smiled wide. Taryn’s cheeks heated. “Not that far, Becky.” Becky waved her hand. “Far enough. Bested the boys in all the turkey shoots this spring.” Quint’s eyebrows shot up. “All of them?” Taryn opened her mouth but Becky beat her to it. “Yep. Every single one of them. The men were moping around for a week after the last one.” Becky grinned. “’Bout time they realize that shooting isn’t just for men.” Taryn cleared her throat. “Becky, this is Quint. He just moved here. Lives a couple doors down from me. Quint, this is Becky. She owns this place.” Quint tilted his head. “I thought this place was called Bobbie’s?” Becky chuckled. “That was my grandmother. She started the place. Been gone a while now, but we weren’t about to take her name off it. No way. She’d haunt us from the grave if we did anything to her baby.” “Understandable. Nice to meet you, Becky.” “Same here. Have you two decided what you’d like?” “Umm. Not yet.” Quint grabbed the menu, opened it, and scanned the listings. “How’s the roast beef?” “Best roast beef you’ve ever tasted,” Becky answered. Quint grinned. “Why do I get a feeling she’ll say that about everything?” Taryn smiled. “Probably because she will, but it’s true. The roast beef is very good, not fatty like some places.” “That’ll work. Roast beef with a side of mashed potatoes, no gravy, and iced tea. Unsweetened.” 94 | UncagedBooks.com
Quint closed the menu and handed it over. “I’ll take the grilled chicken salad. Ranch dressing, please.” “And your usual sweet tea?” “You know me well.” Sweet tea was her downfall. She craved the stuff, especially during the summer. While it might be loaded with sugar, she simply looked the other way. An extra few minutes on the treadmill would make up for her splurging. “Yep, I do.” Becky took both menus in hand. “It’ll be just a few minutes.” She walked off, deposited the menus in the stack, and disappeared through a doorway, presumably to the kitchen. Taryn took a sip of her water. “No gravy, huh?” “Nope. Never cared for it.” Quint slid his straw into the glass and took a long drink. “Sweet tea?” She smiled. “My addiction.” She recalled his order. “You don’t like sugar?” “It’s not something I have to have.” “Interesting.” Taryn found the small details about Quint intriguing. “No, what’s interesting is that you’re a crack shot.” Quint set the glass down and met Taryn’s eyes. “I’ve never met a woman who cared for guns.” She glanced down at the table then back up at him. “A lot of men would find my marksmanship skills offputting.” “I’m not most men.” Confidence and truth carried heavily in his tone. The sound reassured her to open up to him, at least a little. “My family grew up living off the land, for the most part. Gardens. Hunting.” She shuddered. “I hated the hunting part. Never participated in it. Couldn’t bring myself to eat the meat.” “It’s not for everyone,” Quint softly replied. Taryn appreciated his kindness in the comment. “I practiced enough to be good. Entered the first turkey shoot at sixteen. Won, too. After that, I decided that could be a way to give back to my family. Not only the money, which they insisted I keep, but the frozen turkey that came as the top prize.” She smiled at the memories. “Kept us in so many turkeys, everyone grew sick of eating it.” Quint smiled. “I bet.” His rubbed his thumb down the
| CHEYENNE MEADOWS | side of his glass. “You said ‘my family,’ not we.” He’s sharp. Too sharp. “Caught that, huh?” “I’m really good at details.” Unsure what that meant in this context, Taryn took her time removing the cover from her straw. All the locals knew her story. Well, the part about the Golds taking her in and keeping her. As far as she discerned, no one had a single clue about her life before that. No one but her. And the bastards that killed her grandfather in cold blood. She mentally shook aside the bitter thoughts and returned to the conversation at hand. “I’m adopted.” “Nothing wrong with that.” “Nope. Nothing at all.” Taryn dropped the straw into her glass and took another drink of her ice water. “What kind of job do you do that you can relocate here?” She thought for a second. “And you never answered my question, military or police?” Quint peered up at the exit, then across the room as if taking a second look at the other diners. “I’m an IT consultant. Can work from anywhere. And neither.” Chatty, he’s not. “Software guru, I take it?” Quint’s shoulders visible relaxed as did the tension in his face. She hadn’t noticed its presence until it eased. “Guru? No. I just know my way around a computer is all.” He took another swallow. “And, before you ask, I’m not running from a nasty divorce or dramatic breakup.” He offered up a lopsided grin, one that invited her to join in the fun. “Not that I was going to ask…” She smiled back. “It was on the tip of your tongue,” he reaffirmed with a rueful grin. Damn, he’s good. She cautioned herself to tread carefully around Quint. It was like he could read minds. Not a good trait to have in her book. “So why Rushing River? It’s not like we’re a busy metropolis. It’s hard to find, truth be told.” “It’s quaint. I wanted somewhere out of the way.” “That doesn’t explain how you got here,” Taryn insisted. “I have the ability to work from anywhere. Once I get bored with a location, I throw a dart at a board, do a little research, then pick up and move. Get to see the country that way. Live the culture, not just stay for a week and leave again.”
“Must be a nice life.” “I’m not complaining.” He unfolded the napkin around his silverware. “Looks like dinner is served.” Sure enough, Becky headed their way with two plates in hand. She set the meal down in front of them, then made a second trip for their glasses of tea. “Anything else for you two?” “No, thanks.” Taryn switched her straw from her water glass to the tea before dribbling the dressing over her salad. “I’m good. Thank you.” Quint smiled up at Becky, grasped his fork, and dug in. One bite and he closed his eyes. “This is amazing.” “Told you so.” Taryn dipped a chunk of meat in the ranch dressing before taking her first taste. “It’s always delicious.” “Remind me to make this my nightly dinner stop.” “Okay.” Taryn watched the way he cut up his food, then took generous bites. Poor guy was hungry. Idly, she wondered how long since he’d had a decent meal. Judging by the way he shoveled the roast beef in, it had been a while. Something about that bothered her. Certainly, he wasn’t starving, but still. The mystery around Quint deepened as she considered his vague answers about his work. In her experience, men loved to brag about themselves. Quint seemed to be the polar opposite. He steered her away from the topic with abrupt answers. He was hiding something. That puzzle piece seemed to fit. What, she didn’t have a clue. Although she already had more than enough on her plate, she found room for a little detective work concerning Quint. As much as he compelled her, tempted her, and intrigued her, she needed to make sure he was on the straight and narrow. If he turned out to be an ax murderer, she’d be very disappointed. Okay. Maybe not an ax murderer. That would be creepy. More like an international jewel thief. That would be still be disappointing. She peeked over at him. Very disappointing, indeed. “Want to play paintball with me Saturday?” The words tumbled out before she could bite them back. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Quint’s eyes widened. “As a date?” She gulped. “Well…” I’m such an idiot. He smiled mischievously. “No backing out now. You asked. I accepted. We’ll toss a coin as to who gets to wash off whom afterwards.” She frowned. “That’s not exactly how it works.” He shrugged. “So, you teach me a few things.” A little voice nagged at her. She took a drink of sweet tea. “I feel I should warn you that I’m not good dating material.” He pinned her with those gorgeous, all-seeing eyes. “Why is that?” “I meant it when I said I have a bad boy complex. Problem is, I don’t look before I leap, and they all end up being toads.” Quint’s lips turned up in a quirky grin. “I happen to be free of warts.” She blinked. “You can check for yourself.” “Umm. No thanks.” She blew out a breath and picked at her food. Barely, she resisted the urge to squirm in her seat. Self-preservation and a stillwounded heart reminded her of the last time she took a chance on a bad boy, and the reason she vowed never again. “Can’t we just go as friends? No pressure. Nothing except for a good time.” “Deal.” She peered up at him from under her lashes. He didn’t appear angry or upset. Instead, he carried an air of confidence, ability, and competence she’d never seen in another man. Leave it to me to be turned on by competence. Not quite romantic, if I do say so myself. Mentally, she rolled her eyes and resumed eating. “Becky said you were an ace,” Quint said. “If you’re worried about fairness, I’ll give you a handicap.” He snorted. “Don’t need one.” “Male pride or do I detect you’ve had some experience with firearms?” For a few seconds Quint worked on his meal. “I can hold my own.” The low timbre of his voice and the spark in his eyes sent a tiny shiver down her back. He’d said nothing, but again, everything. 96 | UncagedBooks.com
“You’re safe with me, Taryn.” She met his eyes, stared back for a long moment, then gave a brief nod. “I’ll hold you to that.”
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hirley grew up in Baton Rouge, LA and started writing at an early age. Always talkative, when she was eleven she began to put her thoughts on paper, writing stories inspired by some of her favorite writers, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Madeline L’Engle. As she grew older, she developed a love of romance and in 2009 she decided to try her hand at paranormal romance. The result was the self-published title The Smoke and the Flame and its sequel, The Wind and the Fire. Her novel, If the Shoe Fits, published by The Wild Rose Press in 2016, was featured at the 2017 Louisiana Book Festival to Shirley’s great delight. Her most recent novel, The Crystal Flame, was published in 2017 Shirley graduated from Nicholls State University where she majored in History and minored in English. Since graduating (she doesn’t like to think about how long ago that was) she has worked at some of the best libraries in the Baton Rouge area. She makes her home there and enjoys spending time with family members. She also loves seeing movies, reading, and going to the park with her niece in her free time. Currently, Shirley is hard at work on her newest venture, titled DragonSong in which a princess turns the tables on the dragon hunting her with the help of the best dragon slayer in the world and The Last Descendant in which the last descendant of Merlin the Magician seeks his kin and finds love with the beautiful scientist helping him. She is also narrating and producing her self-published novella, Awake, in audio format.
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shirleypmccoy.com 98 | UncagedBooks.com
s h irl e y m ccoy Welcome Shirley McCoy Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your book, The Crystal Flame? This idea occurred to me as I was watching the movie Frozen, which has become a favorite of mine, and I got a picture in my head of the first meeting between Lyssa and Finn. The story contains lots of romance, of course, but also action and adventure. Finn’s kingdom is stolen in his absence and Lyssa and others he loves help him to get it back. I feel like I can’t say too much more here because… spoilers! Uncaged: You also have a series out, called The Flame and Fire series. Can you tell us more about that series? How many books are planned for that series?
There are two books in that series and it is finished and complete. Much of my other works are similar and worth checking out, however. The two books in The Flame and Fire series were my first and it was, for me, one story. When I began, I wasn’t sure how many books it would take me to tell that story and it turned out to be two. Below are the blurbs.
his people. The ring, hidden and kept safe for 1000 years by a spell that is waning, is also sought once again by the evil sorcerer Alaster. Ian will never allow Alaster to take his kingdom, his subjects or his lover. He and Sarah will pit themselves and all of their power against Alaster and find the ring before it falls into the evil sorcerer’s hands.
In The Smoke and the Flame, Colleen O’Banyon longs for love and adventure until she encounters Darius McLinnin, one of the fabled race called the Jinn. In each other’s arms they find all the passion, all the love their hearts desire. But there is a ring, ancient and powerful, and only it can control the Jinn. As the ruler of the Jinn and their kingdom, Kaf, Darius is sworn to keep his people safe from it. Willing to protect the man she loves and guard his kingdom with her life, Colleen vows to aid him. Alaster, an evil sorcerer, will stop at nothing to make the ring and Kaf his. The battle begins in The Smoke and the Flame.
Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about?
In The Wind and the Fire, the search for the ring of Solomon continues with Ian, the prince of the Jinn, and Sarah, the woman who released him from his imprisonment, as he prepares to find the ring and save
Right now I am working on a novel tentatively titled Mirror World. The basic premise is that a woman’s, Kate Lawson’s, soul is trapped in a mirror, in Mirror World in fact, and a man named Winchester Scott is the only one who can see her. He does his best to get her out of and keep her out of Mirror World. I was re-watching the show Supernatural and the episode about Bloody Mary inspired this idea. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Past author I would most like to sit and have lunch with would be Jane Austin. I am a huge fan of her work and would love to talk to her as a major force behind the origin of the romance novel. Present author I would most like to sit and have lunch with would be Nora Roberts. Again, I am a huge fan and her advice is some of the best writing advice I have ever run across. She basically said that you can fix a bad page, but you cannot fix a blank page. I would love to meet her, talk writing with her and thank her for that excellent advice. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | So far, the character Winchester Scott in my workin-progress, Mirror World, has been one of the easiest to write. I can just sort of picture this guy and who he is. In my mind, Winchester is a guy who, for once, needs to be reckless, in this amazing situation with this amazing woman. Over the course of the story, he realizes he can be a hero. He can take risks. He is a rule follower but he realizes that really, he makes his own rules. He can find the love of his life and he is not so very ordinary after all.. He realizes that when you love someone, you will do anything for them and vice-versa. So who he is, his motivations feel very clear to me. I cannot name a particular character that has been hard to write, but in general I do find it difficult to write villains sometimes. I find it hard to imagine and create the truly evil because I just do not like to go there. Still, every good story has to have a villain and so I try. I also try to keep in mind another good piece of writing wisdom, everyone is the hero of their own story. If I look at it from that perspective, that makes it easier. Uncaged: What has a character done that you didn’t expect and surprised you? Mostly, my characters do not surprise me. However, I did have this pirate character once that just start talking to me in that part of my brain where my creativity happens and even though I was working on something else at the time, I had to write out his story first. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? I prevent writer’s block by not writing my scenes in a linear fashion. I start off with notecards that each have the basis of a scene then I begin my manuscript. Once I start the manuscript, I write whichever scene I am inspired to write that day. I guess a writing quirk I have is that I am very, very much a planner. I do a lot of what I like to call pre-work before I start my manuscript. 100 | UncagedBooks.com
Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I love all formats! I find e-books very convenient to get access to and so I read more of those than physical books. I also listen to a lot of audio when I cannot sleep and during my commute to work. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I guess I would just like to say thank you to my fans. I write because it is what I love to do, but it means so much to me to share what I have written with others. A large part of what makes writing so special to me is providing some enjoyment for others, providing something
| SHIRLEY MCCOY | that can help you forget your cares for a little while when you have had a difficult day.
Enjoy an excerpt from The Crystal Flame The Crystal Flame Shirley McCoy Fantasy Romance Finn Hale has fire in his blood. He is its lord but not its master. If he can’t learn to control his power, he will go insane. For years, he has searched for someone who will restore the balance and peace he and his kingdom once had. Now Finn has found her. And she is more beautiful than he could have imagined. Lyssa Jensen was born with a dangerous ability; she can create snow and ice. When she caused an unnatural winter to fall, she fled her fractured kingdom. Now known as the Snow Queen, Lyssa lives alone in her frozen mountain palace. Until he came, rash as he is handsome, with a mad proposal… Fire melts ice and ice douses fire. Any feelings between them could have deadly consequences. How will Finn and Lyssa learn to control their powers when they can’t even control their own hearts? Excerpt Even Finn Hale, strong as he was, fire lord of Ravenstone though he was, could not withstand such bitter cold for long. If only he could sleep, just lie down and sleep. No. From somewhere deep inside, his indomitable will conjured that one word. Right now, sleep was death to him so he had to keep going. He must reach her, the beautiful snow queen. Issue 39 | October 2019 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | Failing that, he had to find shelter, but there was nothing, had been nothing, not for miles. He might well die, but he swore he would die fighting. He would not give up until his very last breath. Clinging to consciousness, he wrapped his heavy wool cloak about him and stumbled on. Though it hardly seemed possible, the snow increased while the temperature decreased. Visibility dropped from slight to nil, presenting a whole other host of problems. It would be very easy for him to walk right into a tree or place one foot wrong and end in a crevice with a broken leg. Worse yet, he might even fall right off of the bloody mountain. It focused his mind a trifle to concentrate on her, his possible future wife. The fact that she was surely aware of his presence and was clearly trying to keep him from going any farther motivated him more than a little. Well, by all the gods, he had come this far and he would not be deterred. Yet even his resolute spirit could not resist the inevitable. His sense of reality began to waver then it fractured.
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James Alan Ross
Whispers in Black Willow The Haunting of Dylan Klaypool: Whispers in Black Willow James Alan Ross Ghost/Occult
To hear the truth, she must listen to the silence. Dylan Klaypool’s dark history has her searching for answers that can only be found down a single path: paranormal investigation. Battling demons from her past, the high school junior’s obsession with proving the existence of ghosts has become the only consistent aspect of her troubled life. Now living with her estranged grandmother in a new town and attending a new school, Dylan’s focus has not wavered. And the boarded up, abandoned house she discovered on Cemetery Road might hold the key that can unlock the secrets that have long haunted her.
Excerpt Closing both eyes, she laid her forehead on folded arms feeling the threads of her knitted sweater pressing into her skin. Her breathing slowed, each inhale stretched to full capacity, and the teenager could hear her heartbeat pulsating over the dull hissing that still funneled into her ears. Buh-bump… Buh-bump… Buh-bump… “huh-huhhuh” … Buh-bump… Suddenly, Dylan’s sleepy shell shattered. Between the beats of her heart, she had heard something. Quickly, she raised her head from the desk and hit REWIND on the device. She impatiently watched the seconds rewind from three hours, twelve minutes, and twenty-two seconds. Twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY. “…huh-huh-huh…”
sneakpeek Furling her eyebrows, she concentrated. Sitting alone in the abandoned house on Cemetery, the recorder had captured something. Something that did not belong. REWIND. Twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY. “…huh-no-cents…” Goose pimples covered Dylan’s arms under the long, black sleeves of her sweater. Quickly, she sat up, straightened her spine like a wooden plank. REWIND. Twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY. “…huh-no-sense…” There, on the recording made overnight in a house that no one lived in, were words. But, what were they saying? Dylan’s thoughts ran a race with her pulse. No sense? No cents? Know sense? REWIND. Twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY. “…in no tents…” The hair on the back of her thin neck stood tall; her hands trembled, as the whispering syllables became more apparent each time she played them. REWIND. PLAY. “…in no tense…” Past tense? Some tents? REWIND. PLAY. REWIND. PLAY. REWIND. PLAY. “…in no scent…” Her bones, wrapped tightly with pale, stretched skin, rattled together like primitive instruments playing a worship song to holy, unknown deities. REWIND. Twenty-two, twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen, seventeen, sixteen. PLAY. “…Innocent…” Dylan elevated six inches off her chair when a deafening bell reverberated off the four concrete walls that had held the stirring class hostage for the previous forty-five minutes. Rapidly, her classmates shuffled their belongings with eagerness to calm their rumbling stomachs downstairs in the cafeteria with pizza, chicken nuggets, and nachos. Dylan, however, didn’t budge. She sat frozen as solid as a block of ice floating in the Arctic Ocean. Placing her hand on her chest, the hopeful girl took several calming gasps into her heaving lungs, as eighteen other teenagers made their way past her out the door and raced to lunch.
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Enjoy an excerpt from Dehumanized Dehumanized Michael Loring Horror/Paranormal
ichael Loring was born in Bristol, Connecticut, but has lived in a variety of places such as Florida and Tennessee. He likes to think of himself as an amateur Lycanthropologist, studying werewolves ever since he was eight years old when he first saw An American Werewolf In London. He currently resides in his birthplace of Bristol in a house full of women who won’t stop bothering him until he does his chores. Although they seem to leave him alone on the night of the full moon for some unexplainable reason...
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“WE WILL NOT BE CAGED.” Ryan Zachery lived his life the way all high school teenagers should – carefree, and oblivious to anything around him. He had an attractive girlfriend and hope for the future. One night when he was walking home he was attacked by an unknown assailer. He awoke in the hospital to learn he had been infected by lycanthropy, a disease he had heard about but had ignored. Taken by armed guards, Ryan was thrown into a US camp made for those ‘suffering’ from lycanthropy. Treated like prisoners, he and other lycanthropes were abused by the guards and by their own kind. But at the night of the full moon, the beast within him is freed. When an experimental procedure allows the beast and Ryan to communicate, the two enemies become unlikely allies who will stop at nothing to tear down the walls keeping them prisoner. They caged the beast, but now he will show them that he will never be dehumanized. Excerpt A flash of light and a sudden jolt woke Ryan from his not-so-humble rest. He moaned as a throbbing pain radiated all around his head and down to his neck. Slowly and carefully he pushed himself up from his position on the bed and stared straight ahead through the pane-glass that separated him from the outside world. He sat there for a moment, breathing hard as the energy of waking up so violently still ran through his veins, reminiscing over the dream that haunted him nearly every night. Reliving that memory was torture, and he hated the fact that he couldn’t forget it for as long as he lived.
| MICHAEL LORING | In an attempt to forget that he had dreamed such horrific images he rubbed his tired eyes, only to find one badly bruised. It stung. He hissed when his hand touched the tender skin around his left eye. “Looks bad.” He looked up and found Frederic sulking in his usual corner; his head hung low so that the darkness of the cell shrouded his face from view. The only thing visible was his bright blue eyes that glinted in the little bit of light the room provided. “Yeah...bastards really got me,” he mumbled, sitting up on his bunk. He liked to be on the top bunk because he got a look at the whole room from up there. It wasn’t much of a feat, for the cell was so small, but it was something he would take. “Surprised they didn’t throw me back in the Dungeon,” he said, letting his legs dangle over the edge of his bed slightly. “You’re... lucky.” Frederic fought to use the right word in English, his hulking frame not moving from the spot he was settled in. Ryan nodded lightly, even though he knew his cellmate wouldn’t see it in the darkness. “Guess so. I hate being in that horrid room,” he said, looking down at his hands. There was a little blood on his knuckles, but other than that there was no other indication he had punched a hole through a plated helmet and lashed out on at least twenty men at once. He scrunched up his nose at the lack of wounds and had to hold back grinding his teeth and clenching his fists in resentment. To distract himself, he looked back over at Frederic and asked, “Where were you when I was being ambushed?” His words weren’t meant to sound so angry, but it just came out like that. The large man didn’t budge an inch as Ryan’s voice took on an edge. He was silent for a moment, and then said, “Je ne comprends pas.” Ryan scowled. That was what Frederic said every time he didn’t understand Ryan. He could only imagine the translation being as such. “Right, no understand,” he said dismissively, letting the small grudge wither away before it really implanted itself in him. He watched his cellmate start to shift in his corner, as if uncomfortable. Ryan raised a brow and followed the general direction the large man was looking at and found him staring down at the bottom bunk of Ryan’s bed. “What are you looking-” he hopped down from his bunk to the cold ground to find a figure sitting in the darkness of the bottom bunk. His eyes widened in shock, for he hadn’t expected to find anyone else within the cell. He didn’t even smell the person, whom he could see to be female. “Uh...” he stammered, unsure of what to say to this new person. The woman scooted forward, her dark eyes staring dag-
gers into his chest. She was petite, with a slender build and semi-short stature. The freshly shaved stubble atop her head was dark; leading him to believe her hair had been brunette before arriving. Her face was pleasantly tanned, which, in his opinion, fit perfectly with her large brown eyes. She wore the standard gray garb, but with the sleeves longer than the norm, reaching just below her wrists. She was pretty, he noted with a raised brow, with fair skin and a well-endowed figure. Although the frown that marred her face almost ruined the visage of her beauty, Ryan could tell that radiance would come easy to the stranger if she was given the chance. She scowled at him with her arms crossed over legs that came up under her chin. He could tell she was scared, for she was in a new place with dangerous looking people. She must have been one of the new subjects being brought in earlier... He remembered the vans pulling in through the front gates. It hadn’t really occurred to him that maybe one of them would bring a new cellmate. Though, he should have seen it coming. There were only the two of them in this pod, so it was only a matter of time before they placed someone else in here as well. “Who are you?” he said to her, staring her right in the eye. The girl stared at him, her eyes fierce with something he couldn’t quite fathom. “Where are we?” she ignored his question. “That man won’t answer me.” She said, giving a pointed stare at Frederic. He glanced over at his cellmate, who just gave a light shrug of his broad shoulders. “Of course he didn’t. He speaks barely any English at all. Didn’t you just hear him say ‘whatever’ in French?” The girl gave Frederic a second glance then returned her narrowed eyes to Ryan. “You didn’t answer my question.” He frowned in indignation. Great, our new roommate is a bitch. “You’re at a werewolf rehabilitation camp. Looks like you got caught, like the rest of us.” The woman seemed to consider this before slinking back into the bed, much like Fred on his side of the cell. “Great...” she grumbled. Ryan snorted. “You didn’t answer me before...who are you?” The woman grunted. “Anna Clarke,” she said quietly, not looking at him anymore. “Ryan Zachery. And that giant lug over there is Frederic Stinson.” He pointed to the ever-watchful Fred. “So nice to meet you,” she said dryly. “Same here,” Ryan said, equally as dry. “Welcome to Hell.” Issue 39 | October 2019 |
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Uncaged Reviews Vermilion Lies
Daddy Duty Shane Silvers Urban Fantasy
Wherever Dax Knight sets foot, hell is bound to freeze over.
Two teenaged weredragons. Two terrible dads. A Johnson Beaver concert. A nest of vampires...
L.D. Rose Paranormal Romance
As a mercenary for the Order of the Senary, Dax departs for New England to assist his comrades in battling the vampire forces threatening to consume the Northeast. The last thing he expects to find is a gorgeous vampiress who surrenders to him entirely. Ensnared by her allure, their intense attraction ignites, and he discovers she isn’t what she seems.
Uncaged Review: It’s been awhile since I left the Order of the Senary series, and I quickly found out how much I missed the brothers. These books can be read as standalones, but I recommend you start from the beginning with Releasing the Demons and then Black Bullet. You will understand the relationships better with the brothers, as they are all back in the books even though this book centers on Dax and Cindel, a forbidden love that won’t be denied. These books hit as hard as the Black Dagger Brotherhood – and may leave you with a book hangover so you can process everything you read or catch up on the sleep you will inevitably lose because you can’t put the book down, especially after the 60% mark. This book doesn’t slow much, and it burns down the track like a freight train, and the author holds nothing back – this will leave you wanting more. I had to sit and process this book before I wrote this review, as it batters its reader as much as the characters. And I loved every second of it. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Nate Temple and his pal Alucard just want a little peace and quiet after the events of TINY GODS, but it just isn’t in the cards for them. Tory leaves town and asks them to watch over the rebellious Reds. But the girls have other plans. Uncaged Review: What could possibly go wrong having Alucard and Nate watching over 3 hormonal teenage shifter girls for one night? Well, when it comes to Nate’s world and his kind of luck, just about everything. This book jumps out of the gate pretty fast, with Nate stealing a book from the Centaurs, with them trying to kill him, and Alucard losing the girls, Nate and Alucard are on their way to Kansas City to retrieve them. But it’s a lot more complicated than just finding the three girls, and the comical moments along the way will entertain you and keep you smiling. One thing this book does do, is give you a much better picture of Alucard and his past. So don’t skip this book in the series, it’s worth every chuckle. Alucard is not just Nate’s sidekick – he’s much more bad-ass than he seems. Reviewed by Cyrene
Fallen Academy: Year Four Leia Stone Urban Fantasy Lucifer isn’t happy about Brielle’s escape from hell and he plans to make that known to the inhabitants of earth. Chaos has descended on Angel City and the Fallen Army needs to do everything they can to keep it from falling. Meanwhile, Brielle is training for the fight of a lifetime. She’s ready to fulfill the prophecy. Lucy’s going down.
Uncaged Review: This book is bittersweet for me, it’s the end of a 4 book series, and it goes out with a bang. Plenty of action and it’s time for Brielle to kill Lucifer and fulfill the prophecy, all of Angel City is in chaos, and the demons are gaining ground. This book wraps everything up with plenty of action and humor, and the friendships are as strong as ever, even Tiffany doesn’t make me want to poke her eyes out. This book is a fitting conclusion and even though I do highly recommend the full series. This book also sets up a spin-off series for this world, with the Demon Hunter Academy – a series that I am definitely looking forward to. Reviewed by Cyrene
Black Magic Voodoo Nikki Landis Paranormal/Occult Cassie Howe is a descendant of one of the famous Salem witches. Each year Samhain and the festival of the dead marks the new year, an end to the old while embracing the new. As Cassie begins the month long celebration, she encounters a dark and sinister presence that threatens the balance of her world. Joined by a cast of unlikely heroes, Cassie will confront her darkest fears and seek to find a rogue witch who kills without mercy. Does Cassie have enough courage to stand up against true evil before its too late? Uncaged Review: This is very fun and original book, and I was completely immersed in it until I finished it. Cassie is one of the original descendants of the Salem witches bloodlines, and as her family and others in Mystic Hallows start their month long celebration, a rogue and evil witch is targeting Cassie, and she’ll need her ancestors and her odd group of Cosan, or protectors. This is setting up to be a reverse harem book, but there wasn’t much heat in this one, but the author promises the heat levels will rise with each installment. All the characters are likeable and original, even with all the magic books on the market, the author keeps her voice and the story her own, and how the she manages to toss in a bit of pop culture keeps the books relevant. My only beef with the book was the cliffhanger – but since there are already 4 of the 13 planned books out, I wasn’t overly upset. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Uncaged Reviews Toil and Trouble Nikki Landis Paranormal/Occult A ghoul who craves zombie flesh. A sensitive vampire who cries black blood. A lying werewolf my ancestors adore... And oh yeah, the witch hunter who hates me. Four unlikely heroes sworn to protect the powerful Salem Howe lineage from evil and help prevent the next uprising. home.
Uncaged Review: This series is marketed as each book is an “episode.” They are all within the month of the Samhain celebration, but they are all more novella length, and even though they are all seeming to end in cliffhangers, the main arc in the storyline within the series continues on, but each one does conclude one part of the story in each book. This time out, we learn more about the Cosans, and the evil rogue witch who has now ripped a hole in the veil. If Cassie and her team can’t stop this witch, Mystic Hallows will be gone. I plowed through this book in a couple hours, and I really want to see Cassie become more of the badass that I know that she can be. Right now, she’s on the brink of death in every book and I can’t wait to see her come into her own and really show her true strength. The heat level did rise in this one but it’s still a slow burn. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Something Wicked Caia Daniels Erotic Short fter five years of watching Scandal’s Boys of Summer attend Madame West’s famous play parties, Dane Cruse wants in. Since arriving in New York after his father’s murder, Dane’s been under the Madame’s protection, but tomorrow, he leaves for the city to launch a modeling career. No longer Summer’s responsibility, Dane is ready to make his move. It’s Halloween, and Madame West has a playdate planned with her harem. Can Summer resist the sexy, young playboy’s charm, or will Dane get his wish of finally bedding the enigmatic Madame of Scandal, just once, before she sets him free? Uncaged Review: Dane Cruse was taken in by Summer, and the club, Scandal – a club that serves only female clients that has a secret club within the nightclub, for women to fulfill their sexual fantasies. It’s Halloween, and Dane is leaving for a new career, and just one time, he wants to be in on Madame West’s party. This is a hot sexy book, that is a full on erotica with strong BDSM tendencies. It’s a cleverly written hot romp short story that does its genre justice. And may have you standing in front of a fan with a bucket of ice behind it when you’re done. Reviewed by Cyrene
Gabriel’s Redemption Joel Crofoot Fantasy Romance
Gabriel has buried himself in work to prevent the demons from ever winning another battle, but when his brother invites Anachel to their home, avoidance of his memories and emotions is no longer an option. Anachel has waited for Gabriel to come back to her since he suffered a great loss during WWII, but she can wait no longer. Is he ready for a reunion, or will she lose him forever? The demons are still on the hunt for the first angel/demon hybrid, but what happens when they find it?
Uncaged Review: As the sixth book in a series, where I hadn’t read the first five; the author does a great job making sure the reader can pick up this book and not be lost. It may have enhanced my reading of this book to have the back story on the other five, but I don’t think it would have changed my views, I never felt lost. Gabriel seems to be one of the most broken of the Angels, and carrying the most guilt. The one thing that the author does that is a stretch for me, even in a fantasy, is make the WWII bombing be the fault of demons instead of humans. That said, Gabriel feels the burden of guilt because he couldn’t stop it in time because he rescued another Angel, his love, Anachel. Him getting past the guilt and starting to believe in himself is the basis of this story. This story has plenty of action, a small helping of romance and great characters with a shot of suspense. Probably would be worth it to start at book one in the series. Reviewed by Cyrene
Ravenwood Academy: Wolf Moon Lena Mae Hill YA/Shifter
All Timberlyn wants is to get out of her small town, where she’s branded a freak just because she happens to wear all black and draw gruesome monsters in her notebooks. When a letter arrives saying she’s been accepted to the mysterious Ravenwood Academy for the Exceptionally Gifted, she jumps at the chance. Never mind that she’s not sure what she’s supposedly gifted at, or the fact that she doesn’t remember actually applying there.
Uncaged Review: Timberlyn gets a mysterious acceptance into a school for gifted people. Being an outcast and never fitting in, she jumps at the chance, giving her a great way to start over in a new school and spend time with her grandmother who lives close. This book lays the groundwork, and does the world building, so it’s a tad slow at times as you start out, but the book definitely picks up speed. When girls start disappearing, Timberlyn can’t stop herself from trying to find out why. I really grew to like these characters – and the book had a few surprises of its own that you get toward the end of the book, even though I think I left off with more questions, a few things were answered at the end. I may have rated this higher but for the horrible cliff hanger – and it’s a doozy. But will I read the next one? Yep, call me masochistic. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Uncaged Reviews The Girl Who Loved Caravaggio Belle Ami Romantic Suspense
Art historian Angela Renatus knows she’s different. She can see into the past—into the lives of the greatest artists of all time—but are her visions a gift or a curse? Angela and her fiancé, Alex Caine—a former Navy Seal turned private detective—recover precious works of art for private collectors, museums, and galleries. Enlisted by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence Angela and Alex investigate what is considered one of the greatest art heists in history—the theft of Caravaggio’s “Nativity”. But the deeper they delve into Caravaggio’s life, the more Angela realizes that her visions about the tortured artist go far beyond the missing masterpiece. A web of secrets and lies entangles Angela and Alex on a twisted and treacherous journey into Caravaggio’s very own heart of darkness…and the truth could propel the couple to a point of no return. Uncaged Review: Eat, Search, Love---Belle Ami awakens your senses to the tastes, sounds, smells, and potent actions in contemporary and Renaissance Italy. Get ready for love lost, love gained, and maybe some weight gain if you are a foodie... Reviewed by Sally
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Raider of Her Heart
N. Jade Gray Time Travel Historical
Cavalry scout Judson Stone needs to warn Lawrence, Kansas, of the impending threat of Quantrill and his raiders. Shot and left for dead, he awakes in a strange new time and place. Guilt riddles him over his failed mission as the days pass and he struggles to find a way back to his own time –and overcome growing feelings for a woman who doesn’t trust him. Uncaged Review: Judson Stone is a cavalry scout down to his bones. His current orders are to ride to Lawrence, Kansas to warn the mayor of impending arrival of Quantrill and his raiders. Quantrill’s scouts find him first, shoot him and leave him for dead. Next thing he knows, he’s in a completely new—and strange—time and place. And at the mercy of a lovely woman named Sadie. Sadie Winters is busy. She works full time, runs a farm with mini horses she’s training for therapy work, and keeps an eye on Walt, her trouble-finding but loveable grandpa. Now she has a mysterious man, who Gramps volunteered to watch over, staying on at the farm. Something tells her not to trust Judson Stone. Fans of Kansas history will certainly enjoy the realistic historical elements. What Judson deems as a failed mission provides a strong historical backdrop. Gramps is certainly colorful, if not downright delightful. The slow burn romance between Sadie and Judson is nice. The instant way Gramps accepted Judson’s story and took him under his wing is trite. There are several stock, or easy, avenues that could have been better developed and not so easily swept away. They could have better added to the plotline. However, once the romance is solidified and Judson’s time-traveling mystery is revealed, the story takes a new, refreshing turn. It all leads to a satisfying ending. Reviewed by Ryan Jo
Dragon Blood Linsey Hall Urban Fantasy
A Race Against Time There’s no rest for the wicked. Or for demon slayers. I’m both, so things have been busy. The sort of busy where I spend all my time trying not to get killed or discovered for what I really am—a Dragon Blood with the deadly power to create new magic. Uncaged Review: The second book in this series is even faster paced than the first. Since the author got us through the world building and the characters, it is full steam ahead in book two. And it’s quite a ride, feeling like you hitting the top of the roller coaster before you are plunged downward. This time they need to stop a powerful demon that is almost impossible to take down, and Aeri will take almost fatal chances to save her town and her friends. Her trust in Declan is improving and so is their relationship - that is until the end where the author slams the brakes and brings everything to a grinding halt, conveniently creating tension with the love interest that will only take this series over the top. Other than that, the ride was a good one, and the author does a great job of pulling a reader in, although if you have read Hall’s work before, she follows a similar formula in most of her books. But I love the originality of this world she’s built, and the characters, especially the strong women, and will finish off this series of four books with my hands in the air and screaming as I ride this coaster to the end. Reviewed by Cyrene
Lauri Broadbent Psychological Thriller/Suspense When Professor Michael Peterson learns he has a terminal brain tumor and is faced with no other viable options, he promises complete confidentially to undergo an experimental and highly secretive operation in brain cell grafting.
Uncaged Review: For a debut novel, this author has done a great job. This story seems a bit disjointed when you begin as it’s told in different points of view, but the author brings it all together seamlessly. When Michael is diagnosed with a brain tumor that will likely kill him, he undergoes an experimental operation, receiving a brain cell graft, and the donor is planning a murder. When Michael starts getting flashes of what the man has planned, he’s conflicted about what to do. The book keeps you turning the pages and the twist and turns that the book takes will keep the reader glued to the end. Nice job. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Uncaged Reviews Fire Maidens: Paris
Anna Lowe Paranormal Romance Paris! City of dreams — or shifter nightmares? Natalie Brewer has come to Paris to live out a dream, not a nightmare. Then a vampire attack exposes her to a whole new side to the City of Lights — and to her own heritage. Before she knows it, she’s swept into a world she never imagined, with gargoyles, werewolves, and dragons who claim she’s descended from a legendary shifter queen. Now her life is in danger, and it’s impossible to know who to trust, other than the mysterious stranger who risks his life for her again and again. Uncaged Review: This new series from Anna Lowe, takes place in the same world as the Aloha Shifters – but we are traveling to the City of Light in this book, and we are treated to the budding relationship of Tristan and Natalie. Natalie has come to Paris after a bad break-up – the city of her dreams. When she is rescued from a vampire attack by Tristan, who works as a guardian to the city from rogue vampires, she learns that a supernatural world really exists, and the dreams she’s had of Paris and dragons, may not just be dreams… The world building is spot on, and the characters are well thought out. Humor, sexy and suspenseful with the right amount of action to keep this book a pageturner. Beware, this is a book that will help you make a bad decision about the amount of sleep you will get as you won’t want to put it down until you finish. And I’m thrilled that Liam is getting his book next. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Dragon Burning Bright Michelle Fox Paranormal Romance
Adara Brenton thinks she’s an average girl: single and dreaming of romance. Also? In need of a job. As it turns out, horking up fireballs at work is the fast track to unemploy-
ment. Yes. Fireballs. See, in her family, spontaneous human combustion is genetic...like red hair, only, you know, fatal, and now it’s her turn to burn. Uncaged Review: This is a short read and quite an original take on the dragon shifter world. Adara is starting to burp up fireballs, and believes that it won’t be long and she will follow in her past relatives shoes and burn to death with spontaneous human combustion, but the problem is getting worse…lucky for her, Endre finds her – but she will need to believe before he can save them both. Even in the relatively short amount of space this story takes place in, the reader gets a good feel for the characters and their world. The epilogue in the back sealed the story up nicely. Reviewed by Cyrene
Tamara Hughes Paranormal Romance
She’s enchanted by a beast. He’s enchanted by her. Freed from possession, Kade Rennick is obsessed with ridding the world of dragon spirits—especially the one that infected him with its spawn. But first he must get past the beautiful yet confused witch who is protecting the beast. Uncaged Review: This is the follow up to Bewitching the Beast, the first in the series, and although the characters from book one are here in a supporting cast, this book holds up well as a standalone. This book reminded me a lot of the Goa’uld from the Stargate world and their symbiotic hold over its host. Here it’s a dragon spirit that possesses people and needs to syphon energy from others to stay alive. Faith’s friend, Vance, has been possessed for years, and she believes she can save him, being a witch. But when she runs into Kade, she begins to learn the truth. Some good suspense, and if you are in the mood for a book that is not your everyday paranormal, this is a good book to give a chance to. It was a tad slow for me to get started, but after about the 25% mark, it really took off and became an excellent page turner. Reviewed by Cyrene
Linda Nightingale Paranormal Romance Morgan D’Arcy is an English lord, a classical pianist, and a vampire. He has everything except what he desires most—Isabeau. As the Angel Gabriel he’s steered her life and career choice, preparing her to become Lady D’Arcy. Many forces oppose Morgan’s daring plan—not the least of which is Vampyre law.
Uncaged Review: Sophisticated, arrogant, beautiful, darkness, love. Many things can describe Morgan D’Arcy, these are just a few that came to me right at this moment. He’s as dangerous as he is beautiful, he can be a vampire that is the thing of nightmares, or the passionate lover that everyone wishes for. Morgan is a being of the past, and it still shows even in the modern times. This is a love story, but it’s also a tragic love story and will haunt you long after you finish reading it. This all-consuming love story of Morgan and Isabeau will enthrall the reader as they try to overcome the many obstacles in their path to happiness. There are enough twists and turns in the story to keep you spinning in a different direction and will pull at emotions you didn’t think you’d have for a vampire story, and I can only hope that Morgan will grace us with further stories. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Uncaged Reviews The Letter
Sean-Paul Thomas Dark Romantic Comedy When a quirky, anti-social, young woman with a phobia of other people, falls for her handsome new neighbor in the tenement block of flats where she lives, it is left to her new and only friend, an eleven-year-old girl, to play matchmaker, in this black-humored, adult tale. Uncaged Review: This was a very short and sweet book. About a quiet shy woman called Sarah and how one day thing’s change for her. I wouldn’t say this book has a age limit on it. It’s completely fine for any age and has the reading questioning what they just read. Packs a little punch I thought. Reviewed by Jennifer
The Sidewalk’s Regrets Kate Larkindale YA/Contemporary
Seventeen-year-old Sacha McLeod isn’t looking for someone to rock her world. But when she hears the boy in the music store play the guitar, the music thrills her and she falls hard for Dylan and his sound. Sacha finds herself spending less time with her violin and more time with this guy. Her plans for her violinvirtuoso future—and her self-confidence—are shattered when she screws up the audition for a summer music program. Failure isn’t something she’s had to face before, so when Dylan asks her to spend her vacation with him in the city, she lies to her parents, pretends she won a place in the summer school, and secretly moves in with Dylan. She’s expecting romance, music, and passion, but when she finds herself playing second fiddle to Dylan’s newly acquired drug habit, she realizes despite what the songs say, sometimes love isn’t all you need. Uncaged Review: I was on the fence about how I would feel reading this book. My thoughts would either be love or hate. Turns out I really enjoyed it. I thought Sacha was a believable character who ends up making some tough decisions about her life. This is a young adult book with the subject of drug abuse and alcohol abuse. With lots of real life problems included. Reviewed by Jennifer
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A Witch in Time
Kean & Daniels Time Travel Paranormal Romance
In a violent storm in 1645, Colin Wilshire’s Barbados-bound ship is swept off course. He’s sure he and his pregnant bride are fated to drown when he’s tossed into the sea. He wakes in a strange land and is saved by a bluehaired angel. Uncaged Review: Normally, I am not a huge fan of time travel novels, especially romances - because somewhere along the line, one of the people will have to give something up to keep love, or walk away, and you don’t get to know how it would have been to the ones they leave behind. Not so on this book. This is a charming, shorter read that was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the characters, the mystery and their world. A few laughs, a pinch of danger. With Colin and Luna, they will have to figure out, should Colin go back in time, or should he stay with Luna? This is one of those rare time travel books that had the right ending with a fun epilogue that ties it all together. Reviewed by Cyrene
Chaos of the Fae
Carly Fall Fantasy/Paranormal When one of Gabe’s pack members is brutally murdered, his pack leader brings in Avery to help Gabe solve the case. As it turns out, their long list of possible suspects includes not only members of other wolf packs in the Seattle area, but also Gabe’s pack leader… and Avery’s father.
Uncaged Review: Another nail bitting instalment in Avery and Gabes paranormal adventures. This book can be read as part of the series or as a standalone. I enjoyed reading this book as I have a soft spot for Avery and Gabe since book one. The storyline this time was gripping but the book ends in a cliffhanger so you are only getting half the picture of what happened. This is why I’m only giving this book four star’s and not five. I will be reading book five in this series as I’m totally hooked on this series. Reviewed by Jennifer
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews We Know the Truth, Do You? Various Humorous Science Fiction What’s in Area 51? Is the government hiding aliens? Elvis? Maybe the set of the Apollo moon landing? Do you know? We do. Join this multi-genre group as they explore the hidden recesses of Area 51 which up until now have only been whispered conspiracies. Don’t bother with the raid. Stay home, read these awesome stories and learn all you need to know. The truth is just a page-flip away. (Heat level varies.) * All proceeds will benefit US veterans.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: While I am normally absolutely terrified of aliens, I was very entertained by the Storm Area 51 raid groups. They provided me with hours of entertainment until it was shut down. Because of that, I decided to take a chance and actually read this book. I have to say, I was totally shocked at how much I enjoyed the stories. I’m not in the habit of reading things there’s a good chance I won’t like but, for some reason, I felt like I should at least give it a shot. I figured I would read a couple of the stories and if I didn’t like it, then I just wouldn’t finish it or leave a review. I don’t think it’s right to punish an author for something I don’t like when I know going into it there’s a good chance I won’t. In every anthology, there are some stories that speak to me more than others and that is true in We Know the Truth, Do You? as well, but even if they aren’t my cup of tea, they are very well
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written. I highly recommend this book, even if you’re afraid of aliens like I am. Plus the proceeds go to help Veterans, so even if you aren’t into this kind of thing, chances are you know someone who is. Some people really enjoy surprise books, I know I do!
The Silver Dagger Alistair Cross Horror Brother Against Brother Life in Crimson Cove has been good to the Colter Brothers since Gretchen VanTreese was staked and her horde of vampires scattered. Brooks is once again human, and Cade, the rare Sire Gretchen had determined to take as her mate, is in love. Then the unthinkable happens: Gretchen rises from the grave, and the brothers are torn apart, their lives - and the peace between them - shattered.
Ultimately, this is another great addition to Cross’s already amazing catalog of books. If you haven’t read any of his work yet, you should definitely get on that because he is one of my all-time favorite authors.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Once again Alistair Cross has left me speechless and full of excitement. The Silver Dagger was everything I had hoped it would be. I was worried I would forget some of the more important parts of the storyline since it had been a while since I read the first book, but it’s written in a way that easily reminds the reader of key points along the way. His characters have me dying inside for them, or wanting to dispose of them myself. They are like family to me. Some I adore beyond reason, and others I love to hate. I adore this series and I have yet to be disappointed by anything Cross has written. His Vampires aren’t the lovey or romantic kind you see so often. I love that his vampires are violent and brutal and while they are traditionally sexy, there’s no swooning involved.
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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Burned to a Crisp K.A. Miltimore Paranormal Mystery Nestled deep in the sleepy heart of Enumclaw - a little town in Washington state - Hedy Leckermaul owns a bakery renowned for its strange, sugary confections. Unbeknownst to the town, she also hosts mysterious visitors. Hedy, Adelaide the ghost, and Hedy’s menagerie of animals, offer a place of safety to Enumclaw’s supernatural travelers. Life in the little town in the shadow of Mount Rainier may appear picturesque, but things are often not as they seem.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Burned to a crisp is a cute but mysterious story. The world Miltimore has built is much different than anything I’ve read before and I love the creativity she has used to build it. Hedy is a baker who runs a waystation or something like a bed and breakfast for non-humans. In Burned to a Crisp, she has a salamander and an Undine staying with her. Basically, fire and water. The animals she lives with are able to speak due to a magical artifact and there is a ghost who randomly pops in to offer unsolicited advice. One of my favorite characters in this book is Darro. He’s the Scottish gardener Hedy is somewhat forced to hire after her neighbor continues to complain about the upkeep of her yard. His accent is written into the story and it’s quite entertaining. As far as the storyline goes, I liked it. I feel like it may have dragged a tiny bit in a couple of
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places but not so much that it made me want to stop reading. For once, I wasn’t able to solve the mystery before the characters and, while frustrating, it actually made me happy. I’m not sure if this is what’s considered a “cozy mystery” but it felt like it could be called a “cozy supernatural mystery” and I plan to read the other books in Miltimore’s Gingerbread Hag series. If you are looking for a fun read with a twist of mystery and suspense, as well as supernatural creatures, this may be a good fit for you.
Gilded Kendall Grey Fantasy/Humorous Not all that glitters is gold I thought I was a goner after my old frenemy Odin dropped a Ragnaroksized truth bomb on me at an Asgard Awakening (terrible show--don’t watch it) fan convention, but the situation is contained for now, and I’m heading west to search for the runes that make me immortal. Dying is counterproductive, and I, the great god Loki, enjoy living in the twenty-first century, even if I have to do it in a body that prefers men over women. What can I say? Gunnar Magnusson is, as the cool Midgardian kids say, hot AF. We all make sacrifices. But the unscheduled appearance of a foul-mouthed gangster hummingbird could pull the pin on Odin’s ticking bomb and expose secrets that would not only destroy the first true friendships I’ve forged in centuries but also kill any chance of finding my runes.
piecing the norse mythology many of us love, into something modern and relatable. The characters are definitely learning lessons along the way as we learn about them and their backstories. Obviously, this is fiction and meant to be read with an open mind and a sense of humor. Which, in my opinion, is something more people need in our society. I love how the past and present are brought together in a way that follows the myths for the most part, while creating a new world at the same time. Loki is a horrible person in the myths, so it’s nice to see the change as more and more lessons are learned. The guilt and remorse are expressed in a character I never would have expected that of. This really is a great series and I’m dying to read the next one
Nestled within a golden kingdom called Las Vegas, the mysterious, gilded Nine Realms Resort and Casino is my only lead. It could also prove the biggest gamble of my life.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Gilded is the 2nd book in the Asgard Awakening series. It picks up where the first book, Runed. Which is great because I hate it when there is a big time gap between books and I have to guess what the characters were up to. Loki is still on a mission to find his (or is it her?) runes in order to stay alive. The adventure never stops and neither does the humor. Grey has done a great job of combining the myths with reality and is slowly
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews
Zombie Fallout 7 Mark Tufo Horror/Dystopian Mike is back. The battle with Eliza is past. Now Mike must strike out once again in a desperate race against time as his son and best friend are succumbing to the zombie virus within them. Myra’s Review: We catch up with Mrs. Deneaux, who is still driving the big rig. She picks up a hitchhiker, Dennis, who happens to be friends with the Talbots. When the old woman finds out his connection, she thinks of ditching him, but Dennis has his uses; sucking diesel from vehicles for the truck. Meanwhile, Stephanie and her husband, John the Tripper, are told to leave by the leader of their community. He considers John useless baggage. They take off in a school bus and John’s haphazard driving makes Stephanie question her agreeing to leave her friends so readily. Especially after they are pursued by a gang of bikers and John’s driving becomes manic. At the same time, Mike, family and friends are fighting their way across country, on their quest to find Doc. Tricking out a dump truck the group have a secure place for the journey. A school bus abruptly appears, careening toward them, bikers in pursuit. Mike can hardly believe his eyes when he sees Tripp driving. They take on the thugs and killed enough bikers for the others to finally leave. As usual, Mike has an adrenaline fueled adventure; taking out a huge hive they run across. While suc-
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cessful, being nearly killed is a given. But Talbot had not counted on his group being trapped inside the truck by a horde- the zombies they had not managed to kill. Even with his and Tommy’s super human strength, they are going to be overwhelmed. When their bullets run out, they all start stabbing the undead from their protected truck. But then the zombies figure out that the top can be pried open and Mike knows they do not have much time. Concurrently, a military patrol has been watching the action and decide to jump in and help. Their gun power is not enough and the soldiers call in air support via a helicopter. Everyone is brought aboard the copter by bucket, and Mike is given a shot, passing out. When he wakes up in jail, he is surprised to see Dennis in the next cell. His friend fills him in on the military group that helped and then captured them. Deneaux is in cahoots with the military, so Talbot knows it can’t be good. Mike is happy to find Doc at the facility and he has created a formula that will keep BT from turning into a zombie for a while. But Doc is on a mission - to destroy Tommy - since he murdered the doctor’s whole family. Amid all the turmoil, Talbot is in mind communication with Tommy, who knows their situation and tells Mike he is on the way to get them out. This feels like a cliff hanger, like the old radio shows; stay tuned. Can’t wait. The author’s unique sense of humor pervades the story. I get quite a few chuckles, but when it descends into juvenile territory, referencing Henry’s stinky farts, I have to roll my eyes. As with each book in the series, a thoroughly enjoyable read, filled with lots of fighting zombies and not so nice humans. The series is highly recommended for zombie fans.
Lost Valley Walt Browning Horror/Dystopian War has a way of following some people... John Eric Carver and Shrek are a retired Navy SEAL war dog team, now living in the mountains outside of San Diego. Both man and dog thought their life was now settled, finding peace on the forty acre ranch they had moved to. But life, and a mutated virus, changed all that. Now, they have to survive a worldwide pandemic. Myra’s Review: In case you didn’t read the foreword by Nicholas Sansbury Smith, the infected in this book will seem very familiar, because they are the Variants in Smith’s fabulous Extinction series. We are introduced to multiple people, but the main characters are: Carver, an x-Seal; the military dog, Shrek, who fought with Carver in Afghanistan; Hope, a neighbor and her teen son Kyle. There’s also Jennifer, one of the ladies working at the camp. In the opening, Carver and other personnel are readying the Schoepe Boy Scout Camp for this year’s arrivals. When they start hearing about a virus spreading and the National Guard being called up, Carver’s radar is up. He discovers all military have been recalled to their duty stations, which means something epic is happening. After the parents pick up their kids, Carver starts gathering supplies from his farm and getting the camp organized. Jennifer goes on a drug run in the city; one of the kids still at camp is almost out of insulin. She’d chosen to journey to a city further away because her soldier boyfriend is meeting her there. Abruptly, Garrett is called away to report to duty before they even finish dinner. Upon awakening in the hotel room, Jennifer is shocked when she looks out the window, seeing attacks of people on the street below. The situation escalates and soon the crazy people are running in the hallway outside her room. She is stuck. Staying quiet, the undead wander away and Jennifer finally escapes, but she is trapped in an office in the lobby. Jennifer cries, knowing the door wont’ hold. Like a prayer
answered, the military are on a sweep and she is rescued. Meanwhile, Hope is still at work at the country club as things get terrifyingly dangerous when an infected man runs amok. Carver goes to pick up Hope, running into the deadly scene at the club. Shrek scopes out the infected so Carver can kill them. After being trapped temporarily, they make it out and back to camp. Several families, invited by Jennifer when they came to pick up their children, return to the camp for a secure haven. The Perron family was not invited, because the parents argue constantly. They show up at camp, after much quarreling over stupid decisions at their house. The parents are unwelcome guests, but the camp survivors can’t turn away the children. The family is given a cabin, and the scene following was pitiful as the mom turns. One of the other families included a detective who analyzed the slaughter house, detailing how the infection happened. It did help the others at camp realize that the virus was not air borne, but blood borne, which unfortunately for the Perron’s included carrying in contaminated items. This book is a bit different; because we readers get a peek into the mind of Shrek. It didn’t bother me as a reader, but it does give it a fantasy element. Also we see into the thoughts of a coyote; before infection, during the turning and afterward. The workings of the canine mind as presented by the author made sense and added a unique perspective. Also, we see inside several people’s minds as the infection takes them over; sad and poignant. There was lots of fighting and terror. Recommended for zombie fans and those following the Extinctions series.
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Corporate Wolf Stuart R. West Humorous Shifter If you can’t run with the big dogs… It was supposed to be a corporate retreat and a series of morale-boosting exercises. It was a weekend Shawn Biltmore nearly didn’t survive. There was something else playing in the woods that night, something other than a bunch of corporate drones with paintball guns. And it had chosen Shawn as its new chew toy. …rip ‘em to shreds. The local authorities chalked it up to a bear attack. So did the doctors. Myra’s Review: This book was a slow read at first for me; getting to know corporate behavior is not my cup of tea. But things quickly escalate and I found myself flipping pages, especially to discover who turned Shawn. The witty dialogue keeps the story flowing. Our everyday man/hero was at a corporate retreat when he was attacked by what the authorities thought was a black bear. But soon we find that poor Shawn has been chomped on by a werewolf, because he begins to change. He awakes naked, not remembering what he did the night before, and throwing up really nasty chunks of red meat. Shawn is a man floating through life. When he is asked what he does at his job – his answer is muddled – consisting of shifting papers and trying to avoid the boss. I wasn’t enamored by Shawn’s personality, but I did like his wolfie side. Though his werewolf is savage and strong, it is decisive, while Shawn stays in a job he doesn’t like, and flips flops between two women. He is attracted to 126 | UncagedBooks.com
a coworker, Synthia, an exotic beauty; and Therese, a beautiful, kind nurse. Shawn’s only friend is Redmond, a coworker who is a character and half; my favorite character. Every sentence out of his mouth is funny, raunchy and definitely not politically correct. He reminds me of Ed, the best friend of Shaun in Shaun of the Dead. Hmm. Pure coincidence? Doubtful. I think the author had a clever pairing. Gradually Shawn begins to sense the presence of other werewolves in the company, even smelling them with his heightened senses. Several of the personnel, including his boss, are muscular, testosterone powered men, while Shawn describes himself as a 90 pound weakling. Why would they want him to join their ranks? Near the end of story, Shawn discovers who his Master is; the werewolf who bit him. He also learns he did not eat his coworkers, it was his Master. Shawn wants to be normal again and seek a relationship with Therese. But he can’t. When his Maker threatens Therese it is a fight to the death as his wolf bursts forth. Finally, Shawn discovers the reasons the others wanted him onboard, and neither made sense to him, but what was the point in arguing? He is told to keep away from Therese or she will be slaughtered and Shawn follows orders. This part of the story was sad, but not unexpected. The author’s sharp, humorous quips run throughout the story made the boring corporate world funny. Though there was ripping and rending scares, overall the book was a hoot. Recommended for those who love werewolf tales and also enjoy dark humor.
The Last Survivors Piperbrook & Adair SciFi/Dystopian Survival in Man’s Second Dark Age Three hundred years after the fall of society, the last fragments of civilization are clinging to life, living in the ruins of the ancient cities in nearly-medieval conditions. Technology has been reduced to legend, monsters roam the forests, and fear reigns supreme. But that is just the beginning... Myra’s Review: This story is set 300 years in a postapocalyptic world, brought to near extinction by a zombie virus. There are still many undead around, but most are in the ancient, crumbling cities. The survivors’ fears have turned into rites. Once a year each village holds a “Cleansing”, where those who are infected turn themselves into the officials. Sprouting a boil or bruise is evidence that the infection is beginning. Each citizen is encouraged to self-report, but women are not to be trusted. They are considered liars. Honesty is rewarded with dying via a sword. If you cover up your illness, or are a woman, you are purged by roasting at the stake. Funny, men are seen as trustworthy, but each year some are discovered who tried to cover their infection.
him, but what other choice does she have? Finally arriving at Davenport, they are all stunned. The villagers are strewn about; all dead, some from wounds that are clearly from swords, others being torn apart by the undead. Bray surmises that Blackthorn, the military leader of Ella’s village, sent in troops to dispatch the people because she was headed there to seek sanctuary with family. Afterward, the zombies moved in to feast. I really found it hard to believe that anyone would do such a drastic deed. There aren’t many people in the world. Accepting the author’s scene, I can only conclude Blackthorn is insane. This book reminds me of Salem times; the people are filled with superstition and fear. Not my favorite apocalyptic world to immerse myself. There are too many wrongs against people due to ignorance. There is some hope, with a few characters questioning the order of things. Also, it was pointed out that no one knew if sprouting boils really led to turning into a zombie; the people of this time did not wait to find out. But there was a character at the end, who has warts on his head, yet he is normal.
The main characters in this tale are Ella, a dedicated mother; her son William; and Bray, a zombie killer. When Ella discovers a bump on William’s back, she flees to the forest with him. They did well at first and enjoyed their freedom, but then were attacked by zombies. Ella is shocked when suddenly the heads of the undead surrounding them are chopped off - by a mysterious stranger. Bray kills and sells zombie scalps; doing whatever it takes to survive this harsh world. He agrees to lead Ella and her son to Davenport, where she seeks refuge with relatives. Finding shelter in a mountain cave, they all hope for a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, Bray has decided to rob them of their hard earned silver and food. When he leaves the cave, he sees soldiers from Ella’s village approaching, intent on getting the two back. Bray feels sorry for the boy and returns to help them escape. He has to fight the soldiers and does overcome them. Now, poor Ella can’t trust Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews AntiAmerica T.K. Falco Young Adult Contemporary
Ensnare Leah Moyes War Fiction
AntiAmerica stands at the center of the largest US anarchist uprising in 100 years.
Stay or flee? Life or family? An impossible choice.
When hacktivist group AntiAmerica hacks the nation’s largest banks, the financial industry is left teetering on the brink of collapse. Amy’s Review: Gritty and raw Falco writes a very intriguing and compelling story in AntiAmerica. First, the title doesn’t give the book justice, but it fits the story. Between anarchy and political fall-outs, the story is also tied in with cyber attacks. There are a lot of unpredictable twists with the story, and the characters had a lot of depth. It definitely is filled with action, and the story is raw and gritting in some places, where it doesn’t hold back. I thought this book was magnificently written, and I enjoyed this page-turner. The plot was easy to follow, even though there was some jargon that may not be understood, but it was necessary to know, because the plot flowed well. The characters had a lot of depth, flaws and growth as they were dealing with the environment around them that affected them. AntiAmerica is more that just a group of anarchists, but a great story. I look forward to reading more by this author.
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It’s Aug 13, 1961, in Berlin Germany. Nationale Volksarmee soldiers roll barbed wire across the war-torn city to create the first Berlin Wall. Families are separated, livelihoods destroyed, death comes easily as crippling fear paralyzes the occupants on both sides of the wall. Fifteen-year-old Ella is faced with an agonizing decision. Does she risk crossing the wall and possible death to reach her family? Or does she embrace her new life and blossoming love that could be wrenched from her at any moment? West Germany and possible freedom or East Germany and controlled chaos? Amy’s Review: Great storytelling Moyes pens a grand story in Ensnare. This is the first book in the Berlin Butterfly series, and this story fits with its title and its series title. A historical fiction that introduces the reader to Ella, living in 1961’s Germany, where the east and west are separated by the wall. This story is definitely captivating, and heartbreaking. Ella is a strong character, and she and her family are on a long journey filled with danger, struggles and strength. This story was one with strong characters, and was a definite page-turner. I look forward to reading more by this author, especially the books in this series.
Memory Iota T.K. Ware Christian Suspense/Mystery One year later, after fulfilling the required mission, Michael awakes on a bed.No memory, only a note. All seemed well until they found him. Now Michael must fend for his life as a group of mercenaries seek that which he has forgotten....
Amy’s Review: Enjoyable Ware definitely pens a great story in Memory Iota. I enjoyed the premise of the story and how it uses Michael’s loss of memory as the focus of the story. This story perfectly sets up the backstory that leads to what is about to happen. I like that it made this reader wonder what would happen next, and gave an insight into Micheal. I really enjoyed this story, filled with action and wonder, a real page turner. It’s a quick and easy read, and worth a second or even third read. I look forward to reading more by this author.
Spilling Blood L. Penn Crime Fiction When schoolgirl Toni Simms is horrifically betrayed by her boyfriend David Hilton, she enters a world of bloody revenge. As her best friend Rebecca Hayes comes under attack, they decide to take the law in to their own hands with events leaving a trail of untold plight. Amy’s Review: Raw and Gritty This is a remarkable story by Penn, and definitely not for the light hearted. I have read Penn’s other work, and found this one to be my favorite so far. I like the characters, and the plot feels real and definitely believable. I like that Penn does not step away from the details and concept of revenge against a rapist. The premise was wonderful, and it allowed for hope and wonder of this story. This story grabbed me from the beginning, and I couldn’t stop reading until I reached the end. I look forward to reading more by this author.
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Thalidomide Kid Kate Rigby Childrens
The Adventures of Jasper Michelle Holland Children
Daryl Wainwright is the quirky youngest child of a large family of petty thieves and criminals who calls himself ‘Thalidomide Kid’.
Join in the naughtiness, fun and adventures of Jasper and his furry friends! Their antics will make you laugh out loud and warm your heart.
Celia Burkett is the new girl at the local primary school, and the daughter of the deputy head at the local comprehensive where she is bound the following September. With few friends, Celia soon becomes fascinated by ‘the boy with no arms’. Amy’s Review: Remarkable Story Rigby pens a grand story in Thalidomide Kid. The story premise is very good, and interesting. It’s a character driven book, with Daryl being the main character. He also has a disability, but the story isn’t about that. Rigby’s characters have great depth, and are very interesting. Daryl’s family is interesting, but so is his new friendship with Celia. In the beginning of the book, the author explains about the drug Thalidomide, and how taking it affected many children. I enjoyed reading this book, and look forward to reading more by this author.
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Amy’s Review: A delightful and fun story Holland does it again. She brings a new story filled with furry friends, which is both fun and enchanting. Her love of animals definitely shows, and with this story, Jasper, has fun being himself and playing with his pup siblings. I love when Jasper and Penny have a tug-of-war with a pillow and then make it snow. The pups are naughty and have grand fun, and so did I, reading this wonderful story. When Holland writes it, I will read it.
White Australia has a Black History Barbara Miller Non-fiction History This Is not your typical Australian History book or biography. Behind the dominant story is the black history of white Australia as seen through the eyes and life of William Cooper and other First Nations People.
Amy’s Review: A very educational and interesting read Miller pens White Australia Has A Black History in great detail and interesting story regarding the life of William Cooper. William Cooper was a political activist that lead the movement for Australia’s basic human rights. I had never heard of Cooper or thought about the history of other countries, and the struggles that many had to fight to survive, and just gain equal, basic human rights. I learned a lot in this story, and recommend anyone to read this who has an inkling of passion for history, the good, the bad, and the definite ugly. I look forward to reading more by this author.
After the Final Curtain TL Travis Gay Romance Short What do our boys have in store for us this time around? Through pain, attempted suicide, addiction and loss their bond never faltered. They’ve watched other bands come and go; some weren’t cut out for life on the road. Others simply…disappeared. Amy’s Review: A wonderful and surprising conclusion Travis pens a wonderfully sexy and enticing story in After the Final Curtain. Book five is the final installment in Travis’s Social Sinners series. This band has gone through ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies. Where the other books were focused on just one man’s point of view (which was great, as the reader got to know the characters), this one shares all points of view. I like how Travis writes, and how she tells a story. This was grand ending to a great series. “Family doesn’t need blood to form a bond, it only needs to have a heart.” Yes, the Social Sinners are a family. I look forward to reading more by this author, and was enticed by her upcoming series for next year.
Issue 39 | October 2019 |
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