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ISSUE 38 | SEPTEMBER 2019


note from the editor

I

t’s September and coming on my favorite time of the year, specially for riding horses! Cooler weather, bugs are dying off, and it’s time to harvest a lot from the garden. I love Autumn.

The Raven Awards were awarded in a very successful live event on Facebook. It was a lot of fun with several authors giving away books, and the authors got to win showcases for their books that will be coming in the months ahead. I can’t wait until next year! The October issue is the last time that Myra’s Horror Blog will be included. Myra is taking a step back from blogging and will continue to read for pleasure. She will continue to promote Uncaged as always and I thank her so much for her contributions for so long. 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 .

section separate from their feature slot. 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 September 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

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X cyrene


contents 14 26

Tricia Schneider paranormal romance

Michelle Fox

paranormal romance

30

Linda Nightingale

38

Laura Strickland

46

Laylah Abrams

FangFreakinTastic

88

historical romance

western historical romance

Lindsey Ouimet

64

Jennifer Carole Lewis

74

Jo A. Hiestand

DE McCluskey horror/occult

catchup

22

paranormal romance

58

80

Issue 38 | September 2019

Jami Gray Jami returns to Uncaged with her latest release in the PSY-IV Teams series, Fractured by Deceit

Raven Awards

10 2019 Winners upcomingconventions

8

Find a convention near you and meet your favorite authors.

young adult/contemporary

romantic suspense

promospecials 86 2019 Promotion Special 3 Uncaged Pre-made Covers

mystery/suspense

Charlene Namdhari erotic suspense

4 Note from the Editor 7 Contributors|Swaps 98 Uncaged Reviews 104 Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews 108 Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews 112 Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

authors and their pets

52

Uncaged’s Feature Authors introduce you to their devoted writing buddies, and the devotion goes both ways. Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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Contributors | Advertising Swaps

Follow Uncaged on Facebook

Paranormal lover’s rejoice. Uncaged review contributors.

A blog for horror fans. Uncaged review contributors.

A little bit of everything. Uncaged review contributors.

Help for authors and businesses.

If you’d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 36 | July 2019 |

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upcomingconventions

Penned Con Sept. 12-14, St. Louis, MO https://pennedcon.com/

Historical Romance Retreat September 11-15, Riverside, CA https://www.historicalromanceretreat.com/

Swirling the Big Easy September 14-19, New Orleans, LA https://www.eventbrite.com/e/swirling-the-bigeasy-conference-after-party-cruise-2019-tickets-41322696297

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East Coast Author Convention October 4-6, Bucks County, PA https://www.eastcoastauthorcon.com/

Indie Romance Convention October 9-12, Lebanon, TN http://www.indieromanceconvention.com

GayRomLit Retreat October 17–20, Albuquerque, NM https://www.gayromlit.com/


Favorite Cover: Kathryn Le Veque – High Warrior Runner-Up Cover: Nancy Thorne – Victorian Town Mystery/Suspense Winner: Belle Ami – The Girl Who Knew Da Vinci Runner-Up: J.R. Ward – Consumed Contemporary Winner: Susan B. James – Maybe This Time Runner-Up: Rhonda Frankhouser – Escape from Ruby’s Ranch Urban Fantasy Winner: R.J. Blain – Blending In Runner-Up: Orlando A. Sanchez – Tombyards & Butterflies SciFi/Fantasy Winner: Claire Buss – The Rose Thief Runner-Up: Suzanne M. Sabol - Violet Abyss Paranormal Romance Winner: Tamara Hughes – Bewitching the Beast Runner-Up: Anna Lowe – Desert Moon 10| uncagedbooks.com |

Rav Awa

2019 Wi

The Raven Awards Live event was a prizes to readers and kept the party badges & a 2-Page Showcase ($40 caged. Runner-Up winners won a cu value) in an upcoming issue. Uncaged you to all who voted this year, and Fantasy Romance Winner: Mary Morgan – Trial of a Warrior Runner-Up: Elizabeth Rose – Lady and the Wolf Novella Winner: Orlando A. Sanchez – No God is Safe Runner-Up: Anna Markland – Knightly Dreams Historical-Scottish/Highlands Winner: Madelyn Hill – Highland Faith Runner-Up: Elizabeth Rose – Highland Secrets


ven ards

inners

a great time! Many authors gave out y going! All winners receive custom 0 value) in an upcoming issue of Unustom badge and a Sneak Peek ($20 d also gave prizes to authors! Thank d hope to see you back next year! Historical: Regency/Victorian/ Western Winner: Caroline Warfield – The Unexpected Wife

Uncaged Prize Winners Full Size Ad Winners:

($20 value)

Ginny Sterling Genevieve Jack Angela Scavone Rj Frankhouser Jane Ederlyn

Runner-Up: Lynda J. Cox – Controlled Burn

Inside Cover Ad Winners:

Horror/Thriller Winner: Isobel Blackthorn – The Legacy of Old Gran Parks

Linda Rae Sande Beth Carter Eric Kapitan Caroline Warfield

Runner-Up: James Alan Ross – The Haunting of Dylan Klaypool

($50 value)

Young Adult Winner: Scarlett Kol – Wicked Descent Runner-Up: Abby J. Reed – When Planets Fall

Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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feature authors

paranormal romance

Tricia Schneider

Michelle Fox

Linda Nightingale


Uncaged welcomes Tricia Schneider

TR I C I A S C HNE I DER

Uncaged: Your latest release is within an anthology release called Guardian. How did that collaboration come about for you? Can you tell readers more about the theme and your part in it?

T

ricia Schneider is a full-time dreamer who writes romance novels and short stories. She’s been an archaeologist, a spaceship captain and a vampire hunter. She’s sailed the Seven Seas with sexy pirates and danced the night away with Prince Charming. Before the supernatural took possession of her pen, she worked as Assistant Manager and bookseller at Waldenbooks. She firmly believes there is a book for everyone. After the store closed, she turned to writing full-time, publishing paranormal and historical romances. From werewolves and witches to pirates and Regency lords and ladies, she escapes into sensual stories where happily-ever-after is a guarantee. Tricia lives in Pennsylvania with her four young children and two rescued cats. When she’s not hard at work typing away on her laptop, she’s riding shotgun in a ’67 Impala while keeping her eyes open for a madman in a Big Blue Box.

Stay Connected

It’s become a habit of mine to search the internet for publisher’s calls for submissions. That’s how I published my first book, The Witch and the Wolf, with The Wild Rose Press. For Guardian, I found a post on a Facebook group looking for werewolf or wolf shifter romance stories and was thrilled when my book was accepted. Guardian is a collection of paranormal and fantasy romances with sexy wolf shifters. Since I’m a fan of werewolves, this was a good fit for me. For this collection, I wrote a historical paranormal romance called The Wolf ’s Bride set in Regency England about a werewolf hunter and a wolf shifter. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I typically have more than one project going at a time. I’ve just completed a fantasy romance novella called Ice Princess that will be included in another multi-author collection titled Fire & Ice. I’m adding the finishing touches to a paranormal shifter romance novel called Loving Boone in a Cougar Shifter series which will be releasing this fall. I’m currently writing the second and third book in that series. I’m editing a gothic paranormal romance that I’ve been working on for a while. I’m so excited to see that one nearly complete. Also, I finished a paranormal romance with a couple up against witches and zombies that has a post-apocalyptic feel to it that I’ve recently submitted to a publisher. Uncaged: You also have an active blog. What are some of the things you like to talk about or highlight on your blog? I really enjoy blogging! It’s a great place to get my thoughts down and connect with readers and other writers. I participate in a lot of blog hops and blog

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challenges. Those are my favorite! A prompt is given and I write about whatever comes to mind. I talk a lot about my writing life and processes. Also, my family and life experiences. I love to talk about traveling. Books, of course, are a huge topic! I worked as a bookseller for over a decade, so talking about books is second nature. I truly enjoy helping readers find great books to read (not only mine!) and I use my blog as a tool for that. I also write book reviews hoping to help readers find those gripping, page-turning books. I believe there is a book for everyone, it’s just a matter of finding the right one to make that person an avid reader. Uncaged: Besides Paranormal, you also write Historical. Do you also prefer to read those genres or do you have eclectic tastes in books?

I will read anything that I can find really. While I lean toward romance (of all subgenres, although paranormal and historical are my favorites), I do read a fair amount of mystery, urban fantasy and occasionally sci-fi and horror. I read a massive amount of nonfiction, too. Mostly while researching for my stories, but it is fun to learn new things. Children and young adult books are also on my reading list. I have four children from ages 4 to 13, so I’ve read quite a few children’s books out loud at bedtime over recent years. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? This is a tough question! There are so many authors Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | I enjoy reading and would love to talk to. The top three authors that instantly pop into my head are Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Janet Evanovich. Jane Austen because I’d love to learn more about life in the Regency era and what better way than to talk to someone who lived and wrote during that time! Sir Arthur Conan Doyle because I’m absolutely fascinated with Sherlock Holmes and would love to know more about how he developed that character and the mysteries he solved. Also, oddly enough, the author of the famous detective is well known for being a believer in spiritualism and the supernatural. I think we could have some interesting conversations on that topic. And Janet Evanovich because I’d love to hear about how she developed the wacky characters in her books. And, really, who is Stephanie Plum going to end up with? Joe Morelli or Ranger? I need to know! Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? Sage Merriweather from The Witch’s Kiss had been whispering in my ear for quite some time before I finally wrote his story. By the time I got to the fourth book in The Merriweather Witches series, I knew exactly what was going to happen to Sage. He was probably the easiest for me to write. The most difficult character is without a doubt Madeline Hawkins from The Wolf ’s Bride included in Guardian. I’ve had her and the hero, Gareth, in my head for a long time before I finally began writing their story. But it was difficult to figure Madeline out. At first, she started as a simple governess, but she was so much more complicated than that. There was something else about her, something she kept hidden (even from me!) that I couldn’t figure out for a long time. When I finally began writing her story, I realized she was only pretending to be 16 | UncagedBooks.com

a governess! Uncaged: What has been the most surprising thing a character has done that you didn’t expect when you started? As I explained in the last question, Madeline Hawkins was a difficult character to write because she was hiding something from me. When I began writing, her secrets slowly unfolded with surprising results. She wasn’t merely a governess as I intended her to be. She was really a werewolf hunter. I’m not giving any spoilers away by saying so, since the first scene is with Madeline confronting suspected werewolf Gareth while he’s taking a bath! Yes, another surprise scene that appeared while I was writing. I actually wrote that scene a little later. The story originally began with Madeline and her family traveling in a carriage, but the bath scene popped into my head and felt more like an opening scene to get the story rolling. Then I let the characters tell their stories which turned out to be an exciting adventure. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? I do come across this frequently. Well, not so much the typical writer’s block, but sometimes I get to a point in my story where I just don’t know what happens next. I typically work with loose outlines for my books. I have certain points where I know what happens and other times, I let the characters tell


| TRICIA SCHNEIDER | their stories. Occasionally, there comes a moment when the characters stop talking to me and I just don’t know where to go from there. I have multiple techniques for dealing with this situation. Typically, I’ll take a long walk or go on a quiet drive across some scenic Pennsylvania backroads. Sometimes I’ll take a long shower or simply get comfy on my sofa, close my eyes and listen to soothing music. Throughout all these situations, I’ll think about my story, visualize the characters and what they’re doing. Try to envision what comes next. Sometimes, I’ll go through several scenarios, trying to see where the story unfolds and pick the most exciting one. When none of that works, when the characters are completely silent and my visualizations are coming up blank, then I know I have to walk away for a while. This is why I always work on multiple projects at a time. There are times when my brain needs a break from writing, so I’ll edit something instead. When I come back to my writing, I usually see what’s been missing and take it from there. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Physical books always win my number one spot for favorite format. There’s something about holding the physical book, smelling the dried ink and paper, and flipping the pages that triggers pleasure in my brain. However, I

read a lot of ebooks, too. I love my Kindle! I’ve read many bedtime stories to my children with my Kindle. It’s easier to turn off the lights to get them settled in their beds. The light from my Kindle is enough to read to them in the dark. I spent a year reading the entire Harry Potter series out loud to my kids at bedtime from my Kindle. Although, I do have the entire series in hardback, too! I’m pretty picky when it comes to audiobooks, but I’ve found quite a few that I enjoy listening to while I’m walking on my treadmill. I do prefer nonfiction and dramatizations for audiobooks. I’ve listened to some Doctor Who books narrated by David Tennant. I love listening to a man with a Scottish accent! Probably, my favorite are the dramatizations with multiple narrators. It makes me feel like I’m listening to one of those old radio shows. When I was kid, some of the television channels weren’t available to us and could be viewed in black and white static, but the audio still worked. I could hear the movie, but not see it. It was fun as a kid to listen to the characters and imagine what was happening to them. Listening to dramatizations is kind of like that for me. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I’m ever grateful for my readers! They are special people to me. I’d love to say thank you to each one of them for reading my books and writing reviews and sending me email. It’s an incredibly joyous experience to be a writer with such wonderful readers who believe in you enough to buy your books. I can’t thank them enough! I have several hangouts where readers can find me. Readers can find out all about me and my books at my website, http://www.TriciaSchneider.com. I’m usually participating in different monthly contests for readers to win prizes. It’s my way of thanking my readers for following me on this journey.

Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR |

Enjoy an excerpt from The Ice Queen from Fire and Ice The Ice Queen from the Fire & Ice Anthology Tricia Schneider Fantasy Releases Oct. 29

Princess Lily is determined to save her kingdom from the evil influence of the sorcerer in their midst. When she makes her stand, he curses her beloved to turn into a dragon and casts a spell that seals her in a block of ice where she will sleep for all eternity. Eternity arrives earlier than expected when Rick Stamos tears down a wall to the tavern he’s renovating. He never expects to find a woman encased in ice hidden in his basement. After melting the ice, he’s more surprised when the woman wakes and claims he is her beloved. Did the spell that kept Lily frozen for so long also curse Rick? Is he really her beloved or a stranger with the same face? Excerpt The stone crumbled beneath the sledgehammer as if he sliced a knife through a loaf of fresh bread. With each swing, the hole in the wall grew larger and larger until it was wide enough and tall enough for a man to step through. As Rick suspected, there was another room hidden in the basement. If it was large enough, he could utilize this space for storing cases of alcohol. It would give the tavern he planned to open an area to store more product. Rick paused, set the sledgehammer aside and wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. “How’s it going?” Pete stomped down the wooden stairs behind him. “Hey,” Rick said. “You want to save some stairs for the rest of us?” Pete smirked and ignored his brother’s reprimand. 18 | UncagedBooks.com

“Did you get it open?” “Yeah,” Rick said, looking around the many shelves in the basement. “I thought I saw a flashlight down here.” “It’s over there.” Pete pointed to the corner. Rick spotted the flashlight and returned to the hole he’d just punched into the wall. He flicked the light on and leaned through the hole, peering cautiously into the dark. “So, you were right.” Pete chuckled. “There was an empty space. I wonder why they closed it off?” “I don’t know.” The space on the other side of the wall was filled with nothing but cobwebs and debris. The flashlight shone into the chamber, dust particles swirling in the light’s path. “It looks spacious enough. Like a whole other room. I thought it might be big enough for a closet, but this is larger than I imagined.” “Anything in there?” “No,” Rick said with a quick shake of his head, then paused. “Wait. There is something in here.” The light’s ray fell upon a long box near the center of the chamber. It sat solitary on the ground covered in a thick layer of dust. “There’s a box in here.” Rick ducked his head low and stepped into the chamber, careful to watch his step around the fallen stone he had crushed to get in here. He heard his brother’s muffled curses as he followed, hitting his head on a large stone that jutted out. “What is it?” Pete came to stand beside Rick, one hand holding a spot on his head. “Buried treasure, do you think?” “I highly doubt it,” Rick said, with a laugh. “I don’t think pirates sailed this far inland.” “You never know.” Rick stepped closer to the box. It was long and wooden. The hair on the back of his arms rose. “It looks like a coffin.” Pete’s lowered voice echoed his thoughts. Rick shook his head. “Why would someone hide a coffin in a secret room in the basement of a tavern?” “Vampire?” Pete kept his voice low as if he feared waking the supposed creature hidden within the box. “Like that old TV show with the coffin hidden in a secret chamber in the family’s mausoleum. There was a vampire in there.” Rick raised a quizzical eyebrow at his brother. Pete returned his stare, then shrugged. “You never know,” he repeated. “Any other theories, genius?” “I probably could come up with a few more.” “I’ll spare you the effort,” Rick said. “We don’t want to


| TRICIA SCHNEIDER | overtax your brain with too much thought.” “Hey,” Pete said indignantly but chuckled all the same. Rick knelt beside the box, noticing four locks that secured it, two on either side. “Hand me that sledgehammer.” Pete disappeared for a moment and returned with the sledgehammer. Rick swapped items, taking the sledgehammer and handing Pete the flashlight. With Pete aiming the light at the metal locks, Rick swung the hammer down, crushing the locks with one swing each. When all three were broken and mangled, Rick set the sledgehammer aside and opened the locks. “Ready?” Rick glanced at Pete but couldn’t see his brother’s face from the light shining in his direction. “Yeah,” Pete said. “If it’s a vampire, I’ll grab the sledgehammer. That ought to keep it down until you can find a stake.” “My hero.” “I thought so.” Rick shook his head but didn’t wait any longer to open the casket-like box. He lifted the lid which slid off easily with broken locks. Rick blinked as soon as he gazed upon the contents of the box. The light from the flashlight bounced off the glossy surface of a block of ice, striking him in the face. “Give me that,” Rick said, swiping the flashlight out of his brother’s hands so he could look more closely at the ice. “What the…?” One huge, solid block of ice filled the entire area of the box as if the wooden casket had been built around it. He touched the surface with one hand, sliding his fingers along the smooth, cold hardness of the block. “Look, Rick.” Pete leaned over Rick’s shoulder and pointed to within the ice. “There’s something frozen inside.” Rick tilted the flashlight, angling it until he could see a flash of color within the icy depths. Shades of purple, blue and gold glimmered within the block. He scanned the flashlight from the middle to the top and sucked in a lungful of musty, dull air. “Oh,” Pete gasped from his elbow. A face shimmered within the ice. It was difficult to make out most of the features, but from what Rick could see it looked like a woman’s face. A delicate chin, red lips, high cheekbones surrounded by a mass of black hair. “What is a woman doing frozen in your basement?” Pete nearly shouted, stepping back from the box. “I don’t know,” Rick said. “I didn’t put her here.”

“Do you think she’s dead?” “Well, let me think, genius,” Rick said. “She’s encased in a frozen block of ice and has probably been locked in here for at least a hundred or two hundred years if we go by the state of that wall.” Rick paused and leaned back to look at the entire block of ice again. “How did this stay frozen for all that time? It’s the middle of summer.” The basement was decidedly cooler than the upper stories in the tavern, but by no means was it cold enough to keep ice frozen for any length of time. Without a refrigeration unit installed down here, any ice stored in the basement would eventually melt. How was this block of ice still frozen at all? “Should we call someone?” Pete shoved a hand into his brown hair, pulling at the strands as he stared wide-eyed at the woman in the ice. “Like who?” Rick leaned back on his haunches, glancing from his brother to the ice. “The police? The fire brigade? National Geographic? How should I know?” Rick shook his head and shrugged. “Hell, if I know. I never bargained on finding a body buried in my basement. I only just bought this tavern a month ago. If I had known, I would have renegotiated the price.” “This isn’t funny,” Pete said. “You’re making jokes.” “What do you want, Pete?” Rick stood. “I don’t know what to do.” “I think we should call someone.” “Like who?” Rick sighed. “This will delay everything. If I call the police, there will be an investigation. We can’t afford that right now. You know that.” Rick raised an eyebrow at his brother. Pete nodded. “Then what do we do?” Rick sighed again, glaring at the block of ice. “We can’t just cover it up. I need this space. We’ve got to get her out of here. Maybe we can load the ice onto the truck, drive it a few miles away and dump it. Then we’ll call the cops anonymously and let them know that there’s a body there.” “Yeah,” Pete said, his voice slightly higher pitched than usual. “Sure. Sounds like a plan.” Rick leaned over and put the lid back onto the top of the box. Then he bent down to test the weight of the box. He pushed it, leaning his strength against it. “We might have a problem.” He sighed. “I don’t think we’ll be able to lift it.” Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | “Let’s try.” Pete set the flashlight onto the box, letting the light beam upward to illuminate the chamber. “You on that side, me on this.” “Okay.” Rick nodded. “One, two, three.” They both lifted, grunting with effort. The box nudged to the side a fraction of an inch, knocking the flashlight over. At the same moment, they both released their grip, leaning back to stare at the box. Rick stood with hands on hips, breathing heavily from the exertion. “What if we melt her?” Pete sat on the ground, looking up at Rick. The idea had merit. In fact, that was a brilliant solution. Carrying a woman who weighed a buck twenty versus a casket-sized block of ice was much more reasonable. “Yeah.” Rick nodded. “That’s good.” “You want me to get some space heaters?” Rick slanted a look at his brother and shook his head. “I got this.” He stretched his right arm toward the ice, his fingers splayed wide. He forced his tense muscles to relax, closed his eyes and concentrated on the warmth deep within. A flame flickered there, light in color, hidden deep inside him. Once he located the flame, he stoked it, encouraging it to grow, expand, fueled by his desire to bring the heat to surface. The fire sparked and lengthened, grew until the warmth spread to his chest. He focused the heat to travel through his arm to his right hand where his fingers spread open. He placed his hand on the ice, closed his eyes and concentrated on heating his hand until he felt the solid block beneath his fingers soften. The ice melted beneath his touch. He blinked his eyes to watch the solid turn to liquid. “Hey,” Pete said, smiling. “That fire-breathing stuff comes in handy sometimes.” “Shut up.” Rick forced his concentration back to the heat he controlled with his hands. It was a trick he had discovered when he was a teenager. He’d accidentally burned down the shed in their backyard because Rick’s temper flared when he found out that Pete had ‘borrowed’ his bike and returned it with two flat tires. Since then, he tried to keep his power under wraps, but on occasion and when no one other than Pete or Steph was around, Rick tested it. It was like a muscle. To keep it under control, he had to use it from time to time, to maintain his discipline so it 20 | UncagedBooks.com

wouldn’t flare to the surface without warning one day. It would be more than embarrassing if he burned someone’s car on the highway if they cut him off. Road rage sent to a whole new level with a guy who could spark flame from his fingertips. It took some time to melt the ice. There was a whole casket full, but after a while the clothing on the woman’s body became visible. She wore a long white, velvet gown trimmed with lace and satin. Her hands were folded over her chest with a single rose clasped between her bejeweled fingers. She was elegantly dressed as a woman of nobility and placed with great care before her body was in some way submerged in water and frozen. Rick wondered if she was someone of importance. A woman lost within the pages of history and time. The ice near her head melted away revealing a face of rare beauty. Perfect, pale skin with red-rose colored lips. Her midnight black hair cascaded in waves around her face and shoulders, dampened by the melting ice. Matching black eyelashes swept down over her cheeks. Rick wished he’d known the color of her eyes. As he stared at the woman, a humming began in his blood, a strange sense of familiarity itched in his brain. Had he seen this woman before? It was obviously not possible. Perhaps he’d seen a woman with her likeness somewhere. An actress on television or a movie. Or someone in the tabloids. Pete whistled with appreciation from his elbow. “I have to admit,” Pete said. “She’s hot for a dead girl.” Rick rolled his eyes. “What?” Pete said as if seeing his brother’s reaction. “You don’t think?” “No,” Rick said. “I admit it. She’s beautiful.” “More than beautiful. She’s exquisite. Like a porcelain doll. And the way she’s posed in the block of ice.” Pete paused and leaned over her for a closer look. “She reminds me of someone.” “You, too?” Relief swamped Rick. He wasn’t the only one with this nagging sense of familiarity. “She reminds me of someone, too, but I just can’t place her face.” “Snow White.” “What?” “You know,” Pete sighed. “The fairy tale. Snow White and those dwarfs. Or maybe Sleeping Beauty. I get those two mixed up. There’s a lot of comatose gals in fairy tales.” “That’s not what I meant,” Rick said, shaking his head.


| TRICIA SCHNEIDER | “I meant a real person. Not some imaginary fairy tale girl.” “Maybe she’s not so imaginary.” Pete waved his head. “Maybe one of us should kiss her.” “What?” “Kiss her to break the spell.” “You’re insane.” “You never know.” “Yeah, you’re right. You never know anything. Ever.” Rick continued to stare at the woman as the ice melted into puddles of water on the stone floor. He folded his arms across his chest. “I wonder who she was.” “A princess. Maybe a queen.” Rick glanced at Pete with a raised eyebrow. “Well, she must be someone important. Look at the way she’s dressed.” An exact echo of Rick’s earlier thoughts. Rick bent over the woman, taking in her beauty once more and the deep suspicion he knew her. His gaze swept over her face and form, then fell to the rose. It was a rose in full bloom. Not wilted with age, neglect or natural decay. A rose with full, blood-red petals on a stem laced with sharp thorns. How could a flower remain in such perfect condition in these types of circumstances? The whole situation seemed incredulous. If Rick hadn’t known better, he’d say this whole thing had been set up as some prank. He pried the rose away from her cold fingers, taking the flower in his hands to inspect more closely. “I guess she could be nobility,” Rick said. “But she—” A gasp stopped him from speaking. The sound came from the woman. Both Rick and his brother stumbled back a few feet, stopping to stare at the now breathing woman on the remaining block of cracked and melting ice. “Did she?” “Yeah, I think.” Rick tilted his head, staring at the woman’s ample bosom rising and falling with each breath. Then her black eyelashes flickered across her cheeks, sweeping up to reveal the greenest eyes Rick had ever seen on another human being. They were a deep, vibrant emerald color that appeared almost inhuman and yet so beautiful he couldn’t compare them to anything else he’d ever seen. The woman blinked and took another deep, gasping breath. The rose fell, forgotten from his fingertips as Rick re-

turned to the woman’s side and knelt beside her. As soon as her gaze met his, she smiled. Her lips curved and her face brightened with love and warmth and radiance. An electric shock zipped through his arms and legs, settling deep in his chest. Rick knew at that moment he was lost. “Ashford.” The woman’s voice was like a song of spring. Light, full of hope, happiness and renewal. “You found me.”

Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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CATC H UP

THIS MONTH WE C AT C H U P W I T H J A M I G R AY A N D H E R L AT E S T I N T H E P S YIV TEAMS SERIES


Jami Gray stops by with her latest release, Fractured by Deceit Uncaged:You just released your latest in the PSY-IV Teams series, Fractured by Deceit. Can you tell readers more about the series? This series came about because I love the idea of psychic abilities and what kind of impact such skills would have on individuals. Urban Fantasy is my first love, the whole magic in the real world, but for this series, it’s been fun examining a different kind of “magic” to torment my characters with. Fractured by Deceit is the fourth book in my paranormal romance series, PSY-IV Teams and follows Bishop, the team’s uncanny strategist, who finds more questions than answers with the recently rescued Megan. This series centers around a mixed group of ex-military psychics who’ve been recruited by a retired Colonel to work as a covert ops team. Currently the team is engaged in a very dangerous game with a mercenary group of equally determined psychics. The team is introduced in Hunted by the Past when Cyn Arden, a post-cog, is brought home by a panicked phone call from her sister. Only, when she gets home, her sister is MIA and Cyn is forced to work with Kayden Shaw, the man who stood aside while the military cut her career short. Each book focuses on different team members, and the second follows Tag, a touch empath, who finds himself partnering with the often exasperating seer of the team, Risia, even as he tries to determine who may be betraying the team. Then there’s Wolf, the team’s telepath, who’s fascinated by Risia’s best friend, Meli and the fact she’s the one person he can’t read. I’m currently working on Rabbit and Jinx’s book set to release in early 2020, with the remaining two team members, Ricochet and Doc, to come along after. Uncaged: You also have a couple other series running, can you tell us about those? I’d love to. My first series is The Kyn Kronicles, currently at five books, with a sixth planned for 2020/2021. It’s Urban Fantasy and centers around the Kyn, a collec-

| JAMI GRAY | tion of supernatural races that have managed to live alongside the humans and police their own, until science and the rise of technology begins to shred the shadows they live in. It starts with Shadow’s Edge and Raine McCord, but does switch to other characters at Shadow’s Moon and through Shadow’s Dream. The sixth book will make a return to Raine and Gavin. My other series is a post-apocalyptic romance with high levels of adrenaline and suspense. While I love to explore the unusual and unexpected, in this series, I sank that fascination into exploring a world after the collapse of commonly accepted civilization. Fate’s Vultures is a four book series where each book focuses on one member of the Vultures, a nomadic band of arbitrators known for their ruthless dealings. They’re dragged into a sticky web of betrayal and intrigue that threatens to destroy the fragile new beginning man has managed to rebuild after the Collapse. The fourth and final book, Fear the Reaper, comes out in September. Uncaged: What’s next for Jami Gray? First up, finishing Linked by Deception, Rabbit and Jinx’s book for early 2020 release. While my writing plan is fluid, I plan on doing the sixth Kyn book, followed by the next two PSY-IV Teams. Not sure on the order, but no matter the order, I tend to stick to a two book per year release schedule. Sometimes, if I’m on a roll, I can manage three, but no promises. So you can expect another release late 2020. Somewhere in between I’ll be working on a new urban fantasy series, but since I’m still in the creative phase, I don’t have any hard dates to share. Uncaged: When you aren’t slaving away at the keyboard, what do you like to do? Besides being an avid bookworm and doing the day job thing? Um, let’s see…my Knight in Slightly Muddy Armor and I have made it a point to get more active, so we tend to do hikes (when it’s not 120 - we live in Arizona). We’re also trying to travel when we can, which is a little more often now that our two Issue 38 | September 2019 | 23


sons have broken free and are starting their college journey. To combat the dreaded curse of every writer who’s stuck in a chair for hours, I like to do yoga as a reminder that I really should bend a certain way, not creak like rusty hinges when I move. Then I have two beautiful and overly-enthusiastic furry girls who like to take their humans for walks.

Enjoy an excerpt from Fractured by Deceit Fractured by Deceit Jami Gray Paranormal Romance Hunted by a faceless enemy, she turns to him for help… Megan Rouser survived six months at the hands of a brutal telepath only to emerge with fractured memories and a terrifying premonition of impending danger. Determined to regain control of her life, she turns to the one man who held her together and brought her out of hell…Bishop. But who’ll protect him from her… Jacob Archer, aka Bishop, has spent his life protecting others, and as part of the off-the-books psychic ex-military team known as PSY-IV, it’s a skill he’s mastered. Rescuing the determined and intriguing Megan triggers all his white knight tendencies, despite lingering suspicions about her kidnapping. But what happens when the threat he should be watching for, is her? As Megan and Bishop delve deeper into the twisted mind of a madman, will they find a way to survive unseen threats or be torn apart by the most intimate of betrayals? Excerpt

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831 wc “Megan.” Hearing my name in that rough rasp, I felt some of the paralyzing pressure ease. I looked up and met the gaze of the man who’d brought me out of hell and somehow managed to become my talisman. Bishop. My therapist would probably have a field day when I told her about the weird sensation of knowing Bishop way more than I actually did—that having him there made me feel safe and steadied my world. I latched onto his calm steadiness and strange familiarity as I realized that although neither the colonel nor Bishop had denied my insanity claim, they weren’t reaching to phone the men in white coats either. This could be a good thing. “I need to understand,” I said. “Understand what?” the colonel asked. Her question unlocked a flood of thoughts and words. They tumbled out one after another. “Why me?” I couldn’t hide my scalding anger. Before they could answer, I said, “I don’t know why they chose me. I don’t know anything—not really. Not anything important. I push… pushed papers, arranged schedules, made appointments, filed reports. It makes no sense why they took me or why they held me for six months.” I rubbed my forehead because that wasn’t exactly true—I had an idea of why. I just didn’t want to admit it. Implacable and calm, Delacourt called me out. “You know the truth about what we do.” Yeah, I did. No matter how safe my previous job had seemed, there was no escaping the fact there were still risks involved. Security clearances weren’t for giggles. I held her gaze. “So I know the teams are psychic. What good does that do anyone?” “You’re an access point.” The hard edge in Bishop’s voice sent shivers down my spine. I turned to him as he continued. “You had access to the colonel, her office, and all our records. The chance that you saw or heard something was probably high enough for them to risk taking you. Add in the fact you’re basically a civilian with no training in surviving interrogation, and you become the weakest point. Hell, if they couldn’t get to our team, they could use you against your brother and his team.” It hurt to hear him refer to me as the weakest point,


| JAMI GRAY | even if his words were somewhat true. But the pieces of his theory weren’t fitting together. “If I was leverage, then why didn’t they contact him? Why keep me for six months?” Anxiety crawled through me as my suspicions grew. I met his eyes, and something about this man gave me the strength to voice my insidious fears. “I think they did something to me.” Over the last few weeks, my confidence in my own perceptions had eroded, and despite my best intentions, I couldn’t say any more. Suffocating pressure returned with a vengeance, bringing the sickening feeling of standing outside of myself as I fell apart. Everything around me was nothing more than a desperate dream. A frantic warning to wake up reverberated through my mind. The tightness in my chest grew as panic set its claws deep and dragged me toward the hazy blackness edging my vision. Something heavy and warm pressed against the back of my neck, and I followed its lead, bending forward. The touch, rough and solid against my chilled skin, was so unexpected it almost hurt. It gave me something real to focus on. “Breathe, Megan.” Bishop’s deep voice accompanied a soothing stroke along my spine, anchoring me. “You’re okay. I’ve got you.” Sucking in much-needed air, I opened my eyes, only to be caught by the velvet darkness of his gaze. Staring into those eyes, I couldn’t have stopped my whispered confession if I’d tried. “There’s something wrong with me.” His face darkened. “Then we’ll fix it.” “Promise?” The stupid question escaped before I could lock it down. “Yeah.” I knew better, but it didn’t stop me from holding tight to his reassurance. Why did I have to fall apart in front of him, of all people? I shoved the humiliation back into its warped cage. That useless panic attack proved I was right—the voices and nightmares weren’t going away. In fact, they were getting worse, almost as if someone or something was determined to drive me insane. That sounded paranoid even in the privacy of my own mind, but I couldn’t shake my conviction. Whether or not anyone ever believed me, I knew something bad had happened, and the memory of it

was buried deep. My stomach pitched as a new fear rose, one I hadn’t considered: what if I was a danger to those around me? I’d be damned if I’d put my friends and family at risk. Maybe I should consider checking myself in to a mental health facility, even if it meant being locked away for the rest of my life. It wasn’t the best life goal to have, but it was better than nothing.

Jami Gray is the coffee addicted, music junkie, Queen Nerd of her personal Geek Squad, Alpha Mom of the Fur Minxes, and award-winning author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams, and her latest Romantic Suspense series, Fate’s Vultures. She writes to soothe the voices in her head. Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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Uncaged welcomes Michelle Fox Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your latest release, Dragon Burning Bright? Okay. Deep breath. Here we goooo. Nerd alert! Did you know there’s such a thing as latent, unexpressed DNA? For example, chickens are dinosaurs, but back in the dinosaur era, they had tails. Of course, they didn’t quite look like they do now. However, the DNA for those lizard tails is still inside chickens and entire research teams are attempting to figure out how to trigger that DNA to express again. That is a true story, by the way. Every word. There’s even a documentary somewhere.

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Y Times and USA Today Bestselling author Michelle Fox lives in the Midwest with her husband, kids, the occasional exchange student and a black lab who is an unrepentant kleptomaniac and a chocolate lab rescue who is a living teddy bear and likes to be rocked (he’s also eighty pounds). Michelle loves fantasy and romance, which makes writing paranormal romance and urban fantasy a natural fit. Occasionally, she goes through a maverick phase and writes contemporary romance. In her spare time, she’s been known to shake her bon-bon at Zumba, watch the news like she’s a pundit (she’s not), make spectacular cheesecakes, hoard vintage costume jewelry, and eat way too much ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra for the win!).

Sooo. I had that odd bit of science trivia poking at my brain, and one day, I thought ‘well, what if spontaneous human combustion was just latent dragon DNA trying to express itself?’ That was the seed of Dragon Burning Bright. Adara is burning up and Endre is just the dragon to save her. I knew it was an unusual premise for the paranormal romance market, but I also knew the story worked. Adara is a great heroine. I was so pleased when Dragon Burning Bright received a fantastic critical review saying it was funny and awesome. That was amazing. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

Stay Connected

All the things? I have so many books I need to finish. Book three of my Urban Fantasy Immortal Kin series is on deck right now and I’m hoping to have a rough draft done by the end of September. Uncaged: What inspires you to write in the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy genre? My imagination is way too wild for the regular world. Sad, but true. I’m that chick who goes to parties and talks about psychic phenomenon and immortal jelly fish. I have to write paranormal and


power in her voice is amazing. I’d probably hang out with Oprah, too. She counts as an author, right? Then Charles Dickens just because I think he’d be interesting. Also, Edward Gorey because I love the Victorian Goth vibe in his work. Lastly, Janet Evanovich because she’s awesome. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? All of them have been easy and all of them have been hard. Characters are generally uncooperative in my experience, and they have a nasty habit of talking about food whenever I am hungry. I love Mel from the Immortal Kin series. She’s very pragmatic and unimpressed by things. Adara in Dragon Burning Bright was exactly the kind of heroine I wanted, and I’ve got a yet to be published mermaid who comes from a place of ‘Hell no’ and ‘Eff off ’ which is tremendous fun to write.

urban fantasy to find my tribe. They don’t hang out at parties so much.

you started?

Uncaged: What has been the most surprising thing a character has done that you didn’t expect when

Free books. And giveaways. And more free books. Plus, getting to know me and I get to know you and we have lots of fun.

The hero decided to die in Kiss the Dragon. As I was writing, I was slow motion yelling, “Noooooooooooo. Whhhhhhhhy?” It’s kind of hard to have a romance when the hero is a dead body (and not of the zombie or vampire persuasion). I had to do some fancy foot work to write my way out of the hole he insisted flinging himself into.

Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why?

Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk?

Moliere and Shakespeare top my list. After that, Toni Morrison. She was born right by where I live and the

Walks help me work out plot. Refueling with art helps, too. Musicals, museums, creative projects,

Uncaged: What are the benefits of signing up for your newsletter?

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | reading...that all greases the wheels. And I take breaks as well. As for a quirk...when I’m deep in the flow of writing, I actually stare at the wall while I type. I don’t even look at the screen. There aren’t many typos either. It’s kind of weird. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I don’t like audiobooks because I can read much faster than I can listen. Although, we have started listening to podcasts on long drives, so maybe there is hope for me. As for ebooks vs. physical books...I like physical books for non-fiction and ebooks for fiction, but I’m flexible. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Hi! It’s nice to meet you. Come try me out. Take my freebies for a spin...I have several, and a few have gone viral with hundreds of thousands of downloads. I specialize in plots you haven’t read before and readers have compared my stories to Laurel K. Hamilton and Ilona Andrews.

Enjoy an excerpt from Dragon Burning Bright 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 unemployment.

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. What she doesn’t 28 | UncagedBooks.com

know is the fire inside her is a legacy and the only way to survive is to be brave enough to claim it. Endre Felman has lived deep inside a mountain for centuries, adding to his hoard and looking for his mate. Meeting Adara before she goes up in smoke gives him hope, but convincing her dragons are real, that he’s the dragon of her heart, and keeping her alive through what’s to come proves to be more difficult than he ever imagined. She fights him at every turn, resisting their shared destiny. In the end, they may both burn to ash because no dragon lives forever without love. Excerpt My pizza was early, and judging from the heavy, insistent knocking, the delivery guy was in a hurry. Well, so was I. My stomach had gone from grumbling to yowling with a hunger so desperate, the Donner Party would’ve been a breeze. Horking up fireballs and walking home in a snowstorm built up a Godzilla appetite. Who knew? “I’m coming.” I swung open the front door and then quickly slammed it shut. I pressed my back into the door and blinked fast. Had I seen...? No. No, that couldn’t be right. I must be hallucinating from hunger. More knocks sounded, each one thudding into my spine. Should I be able to feel that? I spun around and squinted through the peephole. Oh hell. I hadn’t seen the half of it! Or him, to be more precise. “I’m calling the police, you perv.” It hadn’t been the pizza guy, but a naked (OMG. So very NAKED!) man. He’d been so wide he’d filled the doorway with all his flesh. And he was still knocking. WTF? “I’m not opening the door. You can just take your naked butt somewhere else.” I hadn’t seen much of him, but he did have a lot of muscle. Enough that I would bet his butt was quite nice. But I refused to think about that. Because he was probably insane.


| MICHELLE FOX | Normal people didn’t knock on doors naked. Only weirdoes, and I had a firm ‘no weirdoes in my personal space’ policy. They were like spiders. Outside, where they were supposed to be, they were fine, but once they came into my house? They had to die. Except, while a shoe might squish a spider, I didn’t think it would be enough to save me from the guy outside my door. I probably should have bought a gun or baseball bat at some point before this moment. I fidgeted against the door. Gee, it was getting hot inside. It felt like a stove burner on my back. Wait a second. That wasn’t normal. Stepping to the side, I peeked out the living room window. The naked man was shooting a steady stream of fire at my door. From his mouth. Stunned, I just stared at him for a good long minute. What the hell? He was burning, too? And setting my house on fire? The one I’d barely been able to afford to rent? I felt an angry fireball coming on. “You stop that right now, you...you...flaming weirdo!” The man gave no indication he heard me. His brow furrowed, he continued to focus on my front door, which was now a charred black on the outside. In a minute or less, it would be easy to kick in. Home invasion by fire. That was a new one. Running into the kitchen, I grabbed the ice tray from the freezer and a frying pan from the stove. The ice, I crammed down my throat as fast as I could. The fireball forming in my chest felt big and way hotter than any of the other I’d let loose before. I tucked the frying pan under my arm to free up my hands for the ice tray. I threw a handful of ice cubes in my mouth as fast as I could. They melted almost instantly. Not good. Back at the living room window, I tapped the ice tray on the window. “Hey. Naked guy. What the hell are you doing?” Sparks sizzled from my mouth with each word. I batted them away, trying to get them before they ruined the carpet. I was already never going to see my security deposit back, might as well not owe the landlord money on top of that. He looked at me this time. “Open the door.” I blinked, surprised at the baritone boom of his voice. It was just as full and rich as all the muscles rippling under his skin. Shoving another ice cube into my mouth,

I ground it into small pieces and swallowed. Did I let him in or let him burn the door down? The question was moot. The door was a goner. I wasn’t going to keep him out, so I focused on what I could control. Tossing the ice tray on the couch, I cocked the frying pan and opened what was left of the door. He stepped inside and I launched myself at him with a screeching battle cry. The frying pan was all set to connect with his face, but he batted it away like it was a fly. I stumbled as the force of my swing pulled me off balance. Spinning around, I recovered and went in for a second attempt. He plucked the frying pan out of my hand like he was picking flowers. I backed up until I bumped into the wall. He was so big and so naked and...way too much for me. “I don’t know what you want, but I don’t have it, whatever it is.” My gaze darted around the living room. There had to be something I could use as a weapon. “You are Adara Brenton?” He had a faint accent that made my name sound important. “Oh her? No. She moved.” I hiccupped then, the fireball inside me regrouping despite the ice. A minute spark shot out of my mouth and hung suspended in the air for a long second before it flamed out. We both stared at it. “I think you’re Adara.” The man advanced on me, his gaze intense. He had a face built of strength and a rough hewed masculinity that contrasted with his ice blue eyes. I shrank back into the wall. “Just go. Please, just go.” “You have the fire, just like me.” He held out his palm and a small ball of fire formed. Launching it up into the air, he juggled it from hand to hand. “Only, unlike you, I’m not going to die from it.” I just blinked, unable to believe my eyes. “Why are you the one who gets to live?”

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A

fter 14 years in Texas, Linda just returned home to her roots in South Carolina. She has seven published novels, five of which are available from Audible.com in audio. Breeding and showing Andalusians, she’s seen a lot of this country from the windshield of a truck pulling a horse trailer. She has won several writing awards, including the Georgia Romance Writers’ Magnolia Award and the SARA Merritt. She retired from

a career as a legal assistant at MD Anderson Cancer Center to write full time. She has 2 wonderful sons—one in Texas; one in England—and 4 equally marvelous grandchildren. She enjoys dressing up and hosting formal dinner parties!

Sta y Conne c t e d

L I ND A N I G HT I N G A L E

lindanightingale.com Uncaged welcomes Linda Nightingale Uncaged: You are re-releasing the book Sinners’ Opera, with the very wonderful character of Morgan D’Arcy. Can you tell readers more about the book? Oh, I’d be glad to describe the book of my heart, and Morgan will be happy to help. Sinners’ Opera is a story of love and obsession. In their own ways, the Morgan and Isabeau is each obsessed with the other. In fact, every character in the book has a passionate obsession. Morgan calls their love affair their folie a deux, double madness. Morgan isn’t a re-animated corpse, but a scientific miracle, all of which is explained in the book. He has spent centuries searching for his love of a lifetime. He has found that woman in Isabeau. But love isn’t his only motive or the extent to which he’s gone to find her. Isabeau is a celebrated geneticist and can help Morgan achieve his dream—a plan strictly prohibited by Vampyre law. He has never cared much for rules and is quite happy to break the Vampyre Ten Commandments.

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Sinners’ Opera is also a love story. Cocktails and Books said of Sinners’ Opera: “Morgan and Isabeau are characters that could be placed in the same category as some of the most famous couples in romance history - Romeo and his Juliet, Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy - and their romance plays out like one of Beethoven’s famous love letters.” Lynn, an Amazon reviewer said: “The scenes become quite clear in your head—dark, surreal, heavy with a Gothic feel. It’s what you want in a Vampire tale, but be prepared to have it delivered…” I quoted those two reviews because they describe the book from others’ points of view. Their love story plays out against the backdrop of beautiful Charleston, SC, my favorite spot in this country. My son lives in Yorkshire, UK, but that’s another story! This book is the first book I wrote. I hope you like it as much as I do. Uncaged: Are you planning on writing more books with these characters? What are you working on now

that you can tell us about? I have written the sequel to Sinners’ Opera, titled Sinners’ Obsession, and have the prequel, Sinners’ Waltz, waiting patiently in my computer, called the D*** Thing (the computer I mean). The sequel takes the main characters on through the realization of Morgan’s dreams. Other forces arise to challenge those dreams, but Morgan is hellbent to prevail until one of his enemies is revealed as a friend. The prequel tells the story of his life in the seventeen-hundreds before and shortly after becoming a vampire. I’m also working on a companion story called The Piano Man. In this tale, Morgan meets a woman he’d loved during WWII, and he hasn’t changed at all since he was a dashing RAF pilot flying night raids over Germany. Uncaged: You used to breed and show Andalusian horses, I personally have horses myself, one is an Andalusian/Arabian cross – do you still have horses?

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | I don’t have horses now. It’s a sad feature of becoming city folk, but I’ll never lose the love of them. I think one never does. Now, I’m dying to know who the sire of your horse is. It might even be my beloved Bonito. The Andalusian/Arab cross is a beautiful cross and produces some spectacular foals. How old is he or she? What color? I get started on horses, and you can’t shut me up. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? No hesitation. Oscar Wilde. He was so witty, but his work and his witticisms struck at the heart of his life and times…well, even now. The second one is Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor. He wrote his autobiography in A King’s Story. He is the king who abdicated the throne of England to marry ‘the woman I love’. I wonder what kind of love could cause a man to do that. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? Morgan is always my easiest character to write. When I get bogged down in writers’ block, I turn to writing a Morgan story. Usually, he can pull me out of it, but this time, life has thrown small events that pulled me out of The Piano Man, which I hope to offer free on Amazon to promote Sinners’ Opera. We’ll see, depending on my publisher’s say-so. In Love For Sale, the heroine March was a little hard to write. She had the same serious medical condition I once had and going back there was a little rough. Still, I think that I was able to write her emotions better than I would have been otherwise. The second was Becca in Gambler’s Choice. She is a spoiled little rich girl, and no one, including me, liked her at first. Uncaged: What has been the most surprising thing a character has done that you didn’t expect when you started? In Love For Sale, the android Christian (totally humanlike) in response to an argument, decides to leave his heroine. That surprised me. He wasn’t supposed to be able to do that, but I went with it, and it turned out 32 | UncagedBooks.com


| KAT CAULBERG | okay. It was a spike in his character arc, I suppose. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? I try writing something from Morgan’s POV. Uncaged: Do you have a writing quirk? I think all of my writing is quirky. Seriously, I like to listen to music that fits the theme of the story. Morgan is classical. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I like all three! On the move—traveling or waiting in doctors’ offices—I like my iPad with its selection of eBooks. In the car, I like audiobooks. It is fascinating to hear the characters brought to life by one voice actor. When I get the chance to read at home, I love the feel, smell, and the weight of a physical book. Of the three, I guess I can go back to the original question and say physical books. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love to hear from my readers—what they liked about a book and, heaven forbid, what they didn’t! I enjoy chatting with a reader, get to know him or her as that person gets to know me. As an author, you spend a lot of time alone, although accompanied by a cast of your characters. Hearing from a reader is telling you that someone has engaged with your work and understood what you were saying. It’s a validation for those hours at the keyboard. Knowing that people feel submerged in the story is a big compliment. I didn’t start out wanting to be an author—just writing for myself was enough. But my characters demanded more, so I gave it a shot and gained some new friends in the bargain

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Enjoy an excerpt from Sinner’s Opera Sinner’s Opera Linda Nightingale Paranormal Romance Releases Oct. 7 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. Isabeau Gervase is a brilliant geneticist. Though she no longer believes in angels, she sees a ticket to a Nobel Prize in Gabriel’s secrets—secrets that have led her to a startling conclusion. Gabriel isn’t human, and she fully intends to identify the species she named the Angel Genome. Morgan is ready to come back into Isabeau’s life, but this time as a man not an angel. Will he outsmart his enemies, protect his beloved and escape death himself? For the first time in eternity, the clock is ticking. Excerpt “Are you a bum?” She cocked her head, one eyebrow arched. “Do I look like a bum?” I’d dreamed of changing the world. How the Mighty fall. “Well, yeah.” She stressed the last word. A bitter laugh burned my throat. “Hold on to your dreams. Dreams do come true.” My hand shook, and I almost dropped the wallet engraved with my initials and the St. Averil crest—worthless reminders of a life left behind. “Come closer. I won’t harm you. I promise.” I folded the sodden currency and shoved it into her hand. She gasped. “Is this real money?” Her eyes nar34 | UncagedBooks.com

rowed. “Oh, my, it is. A lot of money.” An accusing gaze captured mine. “Did you rob a bank?” “The money is mine. Now it’s yours.” Thinking of a special little girl I’d taught to dream, I smiled wistfully. “I must warn you. Princes are in short supply.” “You are an angel,” she whispered reverently. “Grandma said angels didn’t always look like angels when they appeared to you.” A sharp pain lanced my heart, sadness welling deep inside. “I’m not an angel, child. Run along home before you catch a chill.” I used energy I couldn’t afford to expend to disappear and reappear behind a nearby mausoleum. Past new headstones, I fled, gliding around the shadowed turns. The path twisted left, the bricks chipped and broken. The old cemetery dated to the birth of the colony—a time I’d well enjoyed. Here, there were no faded silk flowers. The loved ones who’d tended these graves were moldering in other graves. I stopped at a raised tomb, wiped the inscription with my sleeve. Samuel Rutledge, a soldier of the South. “Sam, old man, I shall be honored to accept your hospitality this bleak evening.” I eased the lid of the crypt back. The stench of aged death assaulted me, but I’d run out of luck and choices. I climbed into dusty but dry darkness and settled the stone in place, extinguishing the fury of the night. The static of lightning capered along taut nerves. Thunder sounded the final chords of my requiem, but I was safe from the storm raging outside. A different storm raged inside the tomb I shared with Samuel. Eventually, one must pay the piper.


feature authors

historical romance | young adult

Laura Strickland

Laylah Abrams

Lindsey Ouimet


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ulti award-winning author Laura Strickland delights in time traveling to the past and searching out settings for her books, be they Historical Romance, Steampunk or something in between. Her first Scottish Historical hero, Devil Black, battled his way onto the publishing scene in 2013, and the author never looked back. Nor has she tapped the limits of her imagination. Venturing beyond Historical and Contemporary Romance, she created a new world with her ground-breaking Buffalo Steampunk Adventure series set in her native city, in Western New York. Married and the parent of one grown daughter, Laura has also been privileged to mother a number of very special rescue dogs, and is intensely interested in animal welfare. These days while she’s writing, you can always find her latest rescue, Lacy, nearby. Her love of dogs, and her lifelong interest in Celtic history, magic and music, are all reflected in her writing. Laura’s mantra is Lore, Legend, Love, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stay Con n e c te d

L au r a s t r ic k la n d Please welcome Laura Strickland Uncaged: Your latest release is One Enchanted Scottish Knight. Can you tell readers more about this book? This book was born from a single image: I had a flash of a young woman bound to a pillar at a crossroads. She had long, black hair and uncanny, silver eyes. I knew right then I would need to do a thorough job of weaving magic into this story. And I asked myself (as I so frequently do), What if? What if, having been accused of witchcraft, she denied the charge to spare herself, though she was indeed a witch? What if she lied even to the knight who rescued her? Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about?

laurastricklandbooks.com

I just submitted the seventh book in my Buffalo Steampunk Adventures series to my editor, and I’m in the middle of correcting a galley for my next Historical Romance, The Berserker’s Bride, which features a male lead who’s subject to battle madness. I love dam-


aged heroes. In fact, I love characters in general who aren’t perfect. I find them vastly enjoyable to write as well as to read. Uncaged: You also write in other genres, including contemporary and steampunk. Which is your favorite genre to read? I’ve always been an avid reader. I believe many writers are. Just as I tend to genre-hop when I write, I’m all over the place with my reading. What I choose to read depends on my mood at any cosmic point in time. So I don’t think I can say I have a favorite, though I would be happy to reread any one of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Disc World books, regardless of my mood. Uncaged: I am part of a rescue organization for horses, and you are a supporter of animal adoption. What would you like people to know about rescuing and adopting? I am someone who finds it difficult, if not impossible, to live without a dog, so keeping a canine companion is far from a selfless act for me. But there are many

ways to go about obtaining that companion, be it dog, cat, pony or any other living creature. All but two of my past dogs have been rescues. My reasoning is, if there are warm and loving creatures sitting in cages, aching for homes, and I fail to choose one of them to fill an available space in my life, what then can I say to myself? There’s no excuse. The soul of the animal who has been let down by circumstances or by humans and is in need of rescue is just as precious as that of the purebred puppy. S/he will love you just as much. And I promise, you will love her/him more than you ever believed possible. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I would love to set a table for Louisa May Alcott and Henry David Thoreau, sit them down together and try to discern…was she truly in love with him? Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? I have had many characters who wrote themselves,

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | hijacked the story and did the work for me. I simply had to record their actions, and what they said to one another. Liam McMahon—the hero of my first Buffalo Steampunk Adventure, Dead Handsome— was one of these. The hardest to write? Probably Wick map Radoc of my Scottish Historical, Valiant and Wise. He had lost faith in himself, and a strong hero who’s in doubt is difficult to portray. Uncaged: What has been the most surprising thing a character has done that you didn’t expect when you started? I created an incidental character, or so I thought then, in the first of my Buffalo Steampunk Adventures—a hybrid automaton known only by a number. Much to my surprise, he morphed into a fullblown personality named Patrick Kelly, who has appeared in every book of the series since, the only character to do so. He has in fact become a unifying feature of the series. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? I’m tremendously fortunate in that I rarely suffer from writer’s block. Most often, I’m subject to the opposite—having too many ideas swooping around in my brain, like planes waiting to land at an airport, making me feel desperate for time. If I’m away from a story too long and get stuck, I find going back and reading what I’ve written so far will catapult me right back into action. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I have no real preference. Once the story begins, via any medium, it all goes on behind my eyes. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? To my fans, I’d like to say, thank you for being willing to share my mad journeys, be they through ancient Scotland or the brick streets of Victorian 40 | UncagedBooks.com

Buffalo. Thank you for helping to complete the circle that begins when an idea sparks in my head, and for watching it soar into flame. Thank you for coming back again and again. We share a rare bond of understanding.

Enjoy an excerpt from One Enchanted Scottish Knight One Enchanted Scottish Knight Laura Strickland Scottish Historical Romance From a young age, Tansy Bellrose Gant has been getting into trouble and wanting what she should not have. Just because she can make certain things happen by wishing doesn’t mean she’s a witch. But when she rashly curses a neighbor, her fellow villagers tie her to a stake at the crossroads and threaten to send her to the Royal Commission for trial. Malcolm Montgomery is a man carrying an unbearable burden of guilt and obligation. The last thing he needs is an encounter with a troublesome wee lassie who just might be a witch. But once rescued, she won’t go away. In fact, she insists on involving herself in his quest to ransom his brother, and she charms her way into his bed, as well. Has Tansy merely enchanted him, or has she claimed his heart? When she faces the ultimate danger, how will love be enough to save her? Excerpt The road looked like all the others Malcolm Montgomery had traveled since leaving Dun Ballan, where he’d lately been imprisoned—narrow, hedged by


| LAURA STRICKLAND | flowering bushes, and backed by rolling fields and hills. He could not say what set all his senses on alert or caused him to check his weary horse and search the stretch just ahead. Two rows of puddles remained after last night’s rain, and a rise kept him from seeing very far. His mount—one of Latham’s animals given to him for his task—snorted and blew. Once fresh, the animal no doubt now felt as spent as Malcom did, for he ached with bone-deep weariness, kept at bay only by iron determination. This road, to the best of his estimation, led straight northward, though certainly he had never ridden it before. Northward—homeward—had been his chosen direction ever since his release from Latham’s dungeon. Upon that thought, and in defiance of the pleasant day, he began to sweat as he did each time he remembered the black hole that had housed him…how many days? Faith and he’d lost count. He dragged in a deep lungful of clean air and let his eyes follow the flight of a bird on the horizon. He’d been unable to breathe properly in the dungeon. A few days longer and he might well have lost his senses. And his brother, Mercien—most beloved person in Malcolm’s world—languished in Dun Ballan still, in a hole no doubt identical to the one Malcolm had occupied. That bastard, Latham, had not permitted Malcolm to see Mercien—nay, that would have been too merciful, too heartening. Latham would not understand the advantage of a kind gesture if it walked up and slapped him. Nay, he’d but given Malcolm the chance to ransom his brother in the most impossible of ways. And now Malcolm could feel something ahead, just over the rise in the road, that both called to him and made him want to turn his horse around and ride as fast as he could in the opposite direction. Trouble. He’d always had an instinct for it. It had served him and Mercien well in battle when they fought together under Lord Turney’s banner. Before Lord Turney had fallen, that was, and his lands were confiscated by the King. Before Mercien got himself captured for love

of a woman, and the world, as both Montgomery brothers knew it, fell apart. Women. God defend him from them! He drew another breath and concentrated on the sensation that slithered down the road toward him. A calling. An invitation. A demand. He recognized the longing contained in that call— the same that had possessed him when, chained to the dungeon wall, he’d ached to be set free. It spoke to him so loudly he urged his horse forward with his knees, leaving his hands free to slide his sword from its scabbard. This sword had traveled with him to France and back, fighting other men’s battles, and when Latham had returned it to him, he’d sworn it would be raised hereafter only in his own or his family’s service. But his heart trembled at the force of what came to him down that narrow lane. And instinct far stronger than intention took him forward. The scene burst upon his eyes as soon as he crested the hill. A throng of people occupied a crossroads just ahead. He could see a tiny clachan beyond, its peacefulness so at variance with the rest of the scene he could scarcely reconcile it. The noise found him likewise—screaming and hollering, voices raised in what sounded like anger and protest. The emotions, too, rushed at him, all too close to what he’d felt in his confinement. Anger. Despair. He slowed his horse once more, seeking for wisdom. He should ride on. Skirt this dire situation with all its trouble, for God knew he had trouble enough of his own. One thing stopped him. A figure stood lashed to the pillar at the center of the crossroads. Even at this distance, he knew it for a woman, a slender figure with wild black hair tumbled over her shoulders, tied to the post. The desperation and agony he sensed stemmed directly from her, feelings so powerful they slammed into him like a crashing wave. The other figures danced around her like devils ’round a bonfire. Even at a distance of thirty paces, Malcolm registered their eagerness, their glee. Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | What unholy thing took place here in this bucolic place? Naught to him. He told himself so even as he once more urged his mount forward, drawn by curiosity and that odd sense of compulsion. Everything seemed to slow down. He could hear the voices of the folk gathered around the post—like the cries of birds— sharp with excitement and something else far less savory. He saw what looked like glee as their faces turned toward him; he felt the impact—like a hard blow to the gut—as the woman tied to the post looked up and her gaze met his. Aye, and it might as well be a blow; the desperation he’d sensed all the way down the road roared from her, bright as pain or the light reflected from a battle shield. Her eyes, silver as any shield, looked uncanny, terrified—fey. “What goes on here?” he called out and the crowd went silent, like a field of barley when the wind dies. The sweating faces, most flushed, registered shock at his appearance. No one replied. “I say, what is this madness?” “Sir Knight!” A man stepped forward. Tall and rawboned, he had blood on his face and a wild look in his eye. “I beg for your succor. They have seized my daughter. They accuse her of witchcraft.” Witchcraft. For an instant the edges of Malcolm’s world darkened; he flailed inwardly. The pursuit of witches had become a sickness in the land he loved and a blackness at its heart. He hauled involuntarily at his mount’s reins, and the animal danced a few steps. He looked at the woman tied to the post. Young. So many of those accused were aged grannies accused of imagined slights—not a bit of evil in them. He knew that too well. But to accuse this lass, her body bound against the post like a graceful willow bough, eyes great with longing, struck him hard. An abomination. But not his trouble, not at all. The man reached for the bridle of Malcolm’s horse. “Please, Sir Knight. They will send her to the Royal Commission for questioning.” 42 | UncagedBooks.com

Would they? To Malcolm, it looked more like they meant to burn her on the spot. He called out, “Who is in charge, here?” Another man stepped forward. This one, stout and balding, wore good boots and a fine jacket. His face shone red with effort or annoyance. “I am Stephen Farquharson, miller. This, Sir Knight, is a town matter and naught to do with you.” So it was. Malcolm experienced an almost overwhelming desire to ride away—leave these madmen and women to their unsavory pursuits. But the lanky man still gripped his bridle, gaze beseeching. “Please, Sir Knight, stop them.” “I have no power to stop them, my good man.” Who was he to brandish authority? Just a dispossessed knight on an impossible quest. “But my daughter, she is a good lass. A bit wayward at times, mayhap, like her mother…” “Her mother,” seethed a young woman, who might have been bonny if not for her sharp expression. “A witch of the first water, that one.” “Let the Commission decide,” declared the stout man. “For, Sir Knight, this one did curse my daughter, and we dare no longer suffer her here in Slurt.” “Then turn her out along the open roads. The Commission is no’ called for.” Malcolm paused. From what he’d heard, he’d not wish to see a true witch fall into their hands. And the woman lashed to the post looked like naught more than an ordinary lass, even though Malcolm could feel the emotions streaming off her like steam from a kettle. The stout man looked horrified. “Let her go? And have her come creeping back in the dead of night?” Impatience touched Malcolm. He tried to free his reins from the lanky man’s grasp and move around the post. “Leave go of me.” Please. The word came in an agonized whisper, so soft that for a moment he doubted he’d heard anything at all. His head swiveled involuntarily, and his gaze found that of the accused witch. By all that was holy! She truly had the most uncanny eyes he’d ever seen—silver, as he’d marked even from a distance, flashing bright. And they held an


| LAURA STRICKLAND | intensity that seemed to reach right inside him, take hold of his spirit, and bend it to her will. A magpie called close overhead. Even the harsh sound failed to sunder the fierce connection that had fused itself to Malcolm’s soul. Please. Free me. Free— Aye. He brandished his already-bared sword and jerked his horse’s head free all in one movement. Two big, young louts stood guard at either side of the post. A strike to the arm eliminated one; the second shied away when Malcolm looked at him. He pressed his mount in close to the post, close enough to see naked hope flood the young woman’s eyes. Close enough to slash the bonds that held her.

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la y la h abrams Welcome Laylah Abrams

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aylah Abrams has always been both a romantic sort and fond of making up stories, so it was inevitable that she would someday start writing romance novels. In her real life, she works as a science writer and is currently living happily ever after with her husband and children in Oregon.

Stay Con n e c te d

Uncaged: Your book, A Fair Trade released in July 2018. Is this your debut novel? Can you tell readers more about the book? Yes, it is my debut novel. A Fair Trade is a historical romance set along the Oregon trail and at the end of the Oregon Trail, in Oregon City. There’s a damsel in distress, a rugged hero, and a marriage of convenience, but they’re not quite what they seem. I liked putting little twists on characters and situations to make this story unique. Uncaged: On Amazon, you said you were inspired to write the Historical Western because of your move to Oregon and wanting to learn the history of the state. Are you planning on staying within this genre with future books? I enjoyed the background reading and research I did for A Fair Trade very much, but at this point, I’m not sure if I will write another historical western. I don’t have any ideas in that genre right now, though I have a few ideas for contemporary novels. That doesn’t mean I won’t come back to westerns later. It all depends on what kind of story pops into my head. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I am putting the final touches on a contemporary romance novel right now, but my husband and I are also in the middle of writing a sci-fi adventure novel together. It’s certainly a departure from A Fair Trade, but it’s the only genre we both read. Working on a novel with someone else is interesting because you learn so much about how that person thinks based on their word choices and insight into characters. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? You probably get this a lot, but I would say Jane Austen. Back in high school, among Crime and Punishment, Heart of Darkness, 1984, and various other not very optimistic books, I was introduced


to Pride and Prejudice. It was still a respected work, but different from everything else. It broadened my view of what good writing could be. Plus, I like her sense of humor. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? I think the easiest character to write in A Fair Trade was the hero, Jack Briggs. I’m drawn into books where the hero is honorable. Not an arrogant tough guy, but a good guy. Jack is tough, but he’s also gentle. Charles McKay, who is somewhat of a villain in the book, was also easy to write because he is the opposite of Jack in many ways. The hardest to write was the heroine, Penelope. As a woman in the 1800s, she has few options in life and has conflicting feelings about who she is, how she is supposed to live, and what she deserves to have. Yet, she is willing to walk across the continent alone if she has to.

Uncaged: What has been the most surprising thing a character has done that you didn’t expect when you started? I try not to give my characters a chance to surprise me. Long before I start typing the first sentence of a book, I have gone to bed with the story in my head, maybe for months, planning everything that’s going to happen. Every once in a while, though, after I’ve begun writing, one of the characters shows a facet of their personality I didn’t predict. In the contemporary romance I’m finishing, characters who are supposed to be unlikable sometimes charm me anyway. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? I handle writer’s block by putting away whatever I’m writing and thinking about it for a few days. After a while, it just comes out. It’s often in those few minutes just before falling asleep, though

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | sometimes those ideas don’t make a lot of sense in the morning. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I’ve primarily been reading ebooks lately. It’s very convenient to just browse online and download a book to read. But I do like having a physical book to hold and turn the pages. I’ve listened to audiobooks on long car rides with my kids, but I find it a little harder to concentrate on the words when listening to an audiobook. It’s just a different experience. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I would absolutely like to thank my fans. I’m still amazed that people out there are reading words that I wrote, in a story I made up. They can follow me on Facebook as Laylah Abrams Author.

Enjoy an excerpt from A Fair Trade A Fair Trade Laylah Abrams Historical Western Romance Raised by his fur trapper father and uncles, Jack Briggs has always made do with little more than a knife and flask. Alone now, he searches for a place to call home. And refined and beautiful Penelope Findley may be the person who can help him find it as he leads the Findleys’ wagon to Oregon. Honor-bound by her marriage vows, Penelope snubs the rugged wagon leader whenever he shows an interest in her. But when she is widowed during the journey, Jack tempts her with the 48 | UncagedBooks.com

means to remain independent: protection in a temporary marriage and payment once he receives the free acreage allotted to married settlers in Oregon. Penelope doesn’t realize all Jack really wants is her. All she wants is the freedom he promised. After all, could he ever love her if he knew about her past? Excerpt When they stopped in the afternoon to rest, Jack marched through camp, past the playing Long children and the men relaxing with their pipes. He spotted her sitting with little Bess in the shade beside one of the wagons. The girl wiped her eyes as Penelope held her tight. “No, little angel,” he heard her say. “We are all going to make it just fine.” Her voice wavered a tiny bit. “And there are no monsters in Oregon, no matter what your brother told you.” “Are you sure?” “Yes. And if you don’t believe me, here comes Mr. Briggs. He knows all about it, for he’s been there before.” The girl’s eyes widened until she looked like a little owl trying to burrow into Penelope’s lap. She whispered something that Jack couldn’t hear. “Oh, he’s not so very frightening,” Penelope answered. He smiled at them both. Bess let out her usual squeal at his presence and hopped away. They watched as she ran back to where the other children played. “Well, I was hopin’ to speak to you alone, Princesa,” he said, turning to her. He had a speech planned. “I know you don’t like takin’ help from me, but I want you to consider a proposal.” She stood and put up her hand to stop him. “I expect I understand very well what you are proposing, Mr. Briggs. Mr. Reaves has already brought up the subject, and I have already given him my answer. I can assure you I would sooner die out here than—” “That’s not at all what I’m proposin’. What I’m askin’ is for you to marry me.” Penelope stared at him. “Marry you? Why would you want me to marry you?” “Well, it would be an arrangement of sorts,” he answered. “What I’d like when we get to Oregon City is for that register to say I’m a married man, entitled to 640 acres of land.”


| LAYLAH ABRAMS | She nodded. Unmarried men were given 320 acres, but married settlers were given twice that amount. She apparently had no difficulty believing his proposal was mercenary. “But half that land would be in your wife’s name, not yours.” “Yes, but you wouldn’t get anything at all as a single woman. I’ll pay you a reasonable fee for it.” She tilted her head. “But there are requirements to live on and improve the land. You can’t just sell it once you have it.” “I realize that. I plan to live on, at least, some of the plot.” “How will you pay me if the land can’t be sold yet?” “I’m not penniless. I was in California before I came to St. Louis. And I got there early.” She huffed. “I find it difficult to believe that you have hidden treasure.” “Not treasure, exactly,” he said and pulled out a small pouch. He had exchanged most of it for dollars in St. Louis, but this he’d kept. He opened it, so she could see the gold nuggets inside. “But enough to get started in a trade or a farm, enough for a livelihood. It’s not somethin’ I wanna make widely known.” “And the ‘marriage’ ends once you have your land?” “We can cordially decide to part ways then,” he told her, though his hope was that it would never come to that. “So this would just be a business arrangement?” she asked cautiously. “I didn’t say that,” he answered. This was something he didn’t like to admit. He didn’t want to lay his heart open. “I want you to be my wife, with everything that involves. Just like your first marriage.” She gave him that cold, disdainful look of hers. The one that said she knew every despicable thought in his head and that he wasn’t fit to touch the dusty hem of her dress. “Until we get to Oregon City.” “We can figure that out once we get there.” She looked at him blankly. She didn’t understand what he wanted from her. He knew it didn’t make sense. He couldn’t explain how he felt about her, how he hoped to make her happy with him. “I wanna make sure it’s legal. That our marriage is recognized. I don’t want the land being taken away later. So we might live together for a while…at least, until the spring.” “And I would be your wife until then?” “Yes. And I, your devoted husband.”

She made a little “humph” of disbelief. “And what happens to me after we part ways?” she asked. “I will still be married to you. It isn’t easy to divorce.” “No, but as I said, I’ll pay you for your 320 acres. Once I sell some of the land, I could help you get set up in a house.” Her shoulders straightened. “I would have a home of my own?” “Yes, if that’s what you want.” Again the blank look, as though it were obvious that was all she could possibly want from him. “But you want to settle down?” As little as she knew of him, she found the idea as incredible as he had at first. “I’ve been wanderin’ my whole life,” Jack explained. “I was raised by trappers. Once there was no money in that, my pa and I worked as guides for hunters, botanists, and the like. I wandered throughout Oregon after my pa died, scoutin’ for the army, guidin’ folks like yourself. It gets tiresome. After California, I decided to settle down and headed east, but the land didn’t appeal to me. I know, if I’m gonna settle anywhere, it has to be in Oregon.” She pursed her lips, considering the proposition. “There are many single men on the trail. In fact, Mr. Binnicker in that company from Illinois up ahead has already asked me to marry him. I was going to accept later today, when our trains converged.” “Don’t. My offer is better.” “How so?” “First, the obvious: he’s twenty years older than you, as round as a sow, and smells nearly as bad. But secondly, and more importantly, if you marry him, you’ll be stuck with him for life.” “But you I could leave, and you would allow me the means to do it?” “Yes,” he admitted. “I’ll never force you to do anything. You’ll always have a choice. That’s a promise.” “And why should I believe you?” Her eyes searched his, wary and yet hopeful. “Well,” he said, “I suppose you’d have to take a chance.”

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TRICIA SCHNEIDER & Oscar, Cassius & Harley

sofa while I wrote late at night after I put my kids to bed. I’ve grown quite attached to my fur babies who are also my writing companions even if they are cats. I love them very much! And I don’t know how they’re going to deal with me getting a dog one day! They’ll have to train the dog, too, I guess.

LINDSEY OUIMET & Kenyerko I’m a dog person living with a house full of cats. I grew up with dogs, so I was uncertain how to handle kittens when I first got them. Eventually, we learned to live with each other. Or rather, they trained me! Two of my cats, Oscar and Cassius, were rescued as kittens after their mama gave birth to a litter beneath the deck behind my house. My third kitty, Harley, found me while I was bringing in groceries from my car the day before a blizzard hit. Her pathetic little mewling from my back porch caught my attention. She was ill and starving, but I nursed her back to health and ever since that first day when she found me, she’s been my constant companion. She follows me everywhere in the house and is never far from my side. Despite being a dog person, I feel like my cats have chosen my family to call their own and I’m happy with that. Cassius curls himself around my feet while I write, and Harley simply nudges my laptop aside to make room for herself. Sadly, my cat that behaved like a dog, Oscar, passed away earlier this year. But for eight wonderful years, he also joined me on my 52 | UncagedBooks.com

Kenyerko, the adorable jerk you see here, is my bff. My husband gave him to me as a Christmas gift the year before we got married, and I joke that he kind of shot himself in the foot because it’s a gift he’ll never be able to top. He is absolutely no help in my writing process, and usually huffs and sighs until I take a break and pay him the attention he so desperately craves.


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 My current co-writers are Comet and Goober. Comet is a black lab and we’re pretty sure she was a master thief in a past life. She steals all the things. Constantly. Goober is our chocolate lab rescue and he has gorgeous gold, lion eyes. Whenever I’m writing, they are right there, bumping my elbow with their cold noses, insisting I give up on this author thing and devote my life to belly rubs, but so far, I’ve been able to resist. Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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LAURA STRICKLAND & Lacy

I hope I never have to live my life without a dog. As anyone who chooses to share his or her life with animals can attest, animal companions provide love and a sense of belonging like no other. They can also bring us to the absolute depths of despair, when they depart from us. A love that reaches so deep, also leaves a terribly deep wound behind. Why, then, would anyone choose to adopt a senior dog, who arrives with a presumably truncated life span? I have chosen to adopt two seniors, so perhaps can speak to the reasoning. After I lost my heart dog, Mara—a rescue we adopted at five months old—the pain was tremendous. I wasn’t sure I could love another dog. But…something made me look at the rescue sites online. And there, I saw Shannon. At around eight years old, she’d been bailed out of a high-kill shelter by a rescue, after her elderly owner entered the hospital and did not come out again. Only imagine her distress and confusion—why didn’t her person return for her? It tore my 54 | UncagedBooks.com

heart, and I adopted. My husband and I had Shannon three years, almost to the day, before we lost her to a spinal disorder. What to do then? We had learned that senior adoption was a double-edged sword, preloaded with pain, but also carrying a very sweet and precious brand of love. So, like the fools we are, we turned around and adopted another senior, Jessie, and yes, the love and pain came with her, and lasted a mere four years. Our latest rescue, Lacy, came from a high-kill shelter in Kentucky, where she was picked up as a stray with her puppy. Someone else adopted the puppy, and we adopted mama dog. We will never know her story—whether she lost the rest of her litter, if she belonged to a backyard breeder, if she ever had a good home. She’s estimated at between six and seven years, and we’re now living on faith. Because, once again, the love reaches deep, and I can’t lose her. Not for a long, long time.

LINDA NIGHTINGALE & Bonito VIII


I’ve always had pets and thought I always would, but now I find myself without one, though I am thinking of adopting a cat, a large orange marmalade fellow please. With long hair. A kitty is nice to have around the house, and such a good writing companion. I’d like a miniature pony, but city ordinances would have something to say about that!

JAMI GRAY & Angel & Lola

Since I don’t have a pet now, I’d like to introduce you to Bonito VIII, my Andalusian stallion, and my equine soulmate. We did musical freestyle exhibitions, traveling around performing our Phantom of the Opera ride to that fabulous music, entering the ring on the first ominous notes. Here’s a pic of us in our costume.

LAYLAH ABRAMS & Nathan

My Knight and I are huge dog people, and as soon as we were settled and knew we weren’t planning on moving anytime soon, we added a beautiful lab our boys named Stitch to our family. We had him for eleven fabulously wonderful years, but as it happens, we had to let him go over the Rainbow Bridge. I was heartbroken, so were my boys, and it took me a while before I could think about welcoming a new fur love.

This is Nathan, our silver tabby. He’s not a great helper when it comes to writing because he mainly tries to chew my hands until he gets belly rubs. He does, however, perform more tricks than the average cat (provided there are enough treats).

Well, when it was time, my Knight and I decided this time we wanted a pair and we were going to use a rescue because there are enough fur babies out there that need good homes. So we started the process (and it was a lot) Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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to open our home and hearts to new members. About two weeks after we were approved, the rescue organization posted a video of two sisters, a bonded pair, about six months old, who they just received. Their post on Facebook was blowing up, but Knight and I were determined to make through the flood of applicants. We called, set up an appointment for the next day (which happened to be our anniversary), drove down to Tucson to meet the girls. We took one look and our hearts were gone. The feeling was mutual, and we were able to bring them both home with us that day. It’s now four years later and our family would not be complete without these two precious, distinctly different girls. May I present, Angel, who loves to sit like people and watch TV because she’s people, and Lola, aka Lolabee, our snuggle bunny of a lab, who’s all about the lovin’s. There is no doubt these sisters chose us as much as we choose them!

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JO A. HIESTAND & Tennyson

This is my Russian Blue cat, Tennyson. He joined in the total solar eclipse viewing party on August 26, 2017. He has his pair of glasses, so he’s eclipse-viewing safe.

JENNIFER CAROLE LEWIS & Ceili, Neelix & Lynyrd


I’ve got two cats and a dog. The oldest is camera shy, a dignified matriarch of 19 years named Ceili. The newest is our eternal kitten, Neelix, who is always playful and curious. Her favorite activities are stealing my pens and chasing any flies foolish enough to wander into the house. The dog is my son’s service dog, an adorable Lab mix named Lynyrd. For most of my adult life, I’ve had cats with a wide variety of personalities and habits. Getting used to sharing the house with an 85 pound dog was a real learning curve for our family but now I can’t imagine life without him. Lynyrd is so sweet and welltrained that he’s become an indispensable part of the family. He was trained for two years by National Service Dogs before he came to us, and I’ve rarely seen a dog so responsive and eager to work. He’s made a huge difference to us and I can’t thank National Service Dogs enough. They rely entirely on donations to cover the costs of raising the dogs and paying their staff but they give the dogs to the families for free, so that the families can get the support they need. Link for National Service Dogs: http://www. nsd.on.ca

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L I ND S EY O U I MET

L

indsey Ouimet is an author and fan of young adult literature. When not obsessing over fictional characters, she spends most of her time watching bad reality television, forgetting about the tea she just made, and refreshing her Twitter feed. She lives in Georgia with her husband and small army of pets.

Stay Co n n e c te d

Uncaged welcomes Lindsey Ouimet Uncaged: Your latest book, (Not Quite) The Same Old about the book and what inspired you to write it? Thank you for having me!

(Not Quite) The Same Old Song is a contemporary youn drugs, and rock-n-roll”, except not quite. Here’s the sum

When her brother relapses—again—and disappears with


the one thing that means the most to her. Her guitar, Darlene. Suddenly the plus-size teen’s plans for a stress-free summer before senior year are washed down the drain. Now she must earn enough money to get her brother the help he needs and to buy Darlene back. Enter Grey, the pawnshop owner’s son. Popular, annoyingly hot, and inexplicably on stage with Darlene in his hands. Not only is he playing her guitar, but he kind of sucks at it. Before she can stop herself, Darcy is offering Grey guitar lessons, adding yet another complication to her plans – a summer romance with the last boy she ever thought would be interested in her. It’s all sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Except, not quite. She’s down one guitar, the drugs are her brother’s problem, and once school starts back, Darcy is afraid Grey is embarrassed to be seen with her. But when an opportunity to win money for her brother’s rehab arises, she won’t let all that stand in her way. So you have the sex, the drugs, and the rock-n-roll. But you also have socio-economic issues, messy sibling relationships, and the journey to feeling comfortable and confident in your own skin. Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? I’m currently working on something a little witchy that has been so much fun to write! Think southern witches in a small, coastal town, a family curse, and maybe even an undead ex-boyfriend or two. Song released this year. Can you tell readers more

ng adult novel that was inspired by the adage of “sex, mmary -

h the rent money, Darcy Andrews is forced to pawn

Uncaged: What attracts you to writing in the Young Adult genre? I joke with people that there’s a part of my soul that will forever be seventeen. Other than that, there’s just so much possibility when it comes to young adult. So many firsts just waiting to be explored. So many questions that the main characters are trying to answer. So many different paths they can take. These things make writing YA exciting. Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I love every word Julie Murphy has ever had published, and I have many things I’d love to ask her. In actuality, I’d probably lose the ability to speak and nod a lot. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? The main character of my second novel Perdition was probably the easiest to write. Michaela is bold, brave, to the point, and cares very little (but also, deep down, very much) about what others think. As an adult, I’ve grown more comfortable speaking up on subjects that I never would have had the guts to even address as a teenager, so she was easier for me to write than I thought she would be. Darcy, from this newest release, was probably the hardest. Not because she was an especially difficult character to write, but she was just a difficult personality in general. Harsh when she didn’t need to be, soft in places I didn’t expect her to be. Overall, she was very surprising. Uncaged: What has been the most surprising thing a character has done that you didn’t expect when you started? I don’t think I’d say any of my characters have surprised me by their actions, but as I mentioned earlier, I definitely didn’t expect Darcy (from NQtSOS) to have such a soft side. She’s gritty and tough in almost every aspect of her life and personality, but with a gooey center I did not see coming. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? 60 | UncagedBooks.com

I believe that sometimes you just have to walk away from the story in order to regain your excitement and confidence in telling it. It’s okay to take a break if you need to. I also have the terrible habit of delving further into research when the words just won’t come. Not useful research, though. More along the lines of “are there any good ghost stories in (insert town/region my current work in progress is based)”. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I don’t discriminate! I definitely have more ebooks than physical books simply for lack of space, but my bookshelves are the happiest spots in my home for sure. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for taking a chance on my work! As an author published with a small press, it truly means the world to me.


Enjoy an excerpt from (Not Quite) The Same Old Song (Not Quite) The Same Old Song Lindsey Ouimet Young Adult/Contemporary When her brother relapses— again—and disappears with the rent money, Darcy Andrews is forced to pawn the one thing that means the most to her. Her guitar, Darlene. Suddenly the plus-size teen’s plans for a stress-free summer before senior year are washed down the drain. Now she must earn enough money to get her brother the help he needs and to buy Darlene back. Enter Grey, the pawnshop owner’s son. Popular, annoyingly hot, and inexplicably on stage with Darlene in his hands. Not only is he playing her guitar, but he kind of sucks at it. Before she can stop herself, Darcy is offering Grey guitar lessons, adding yet another complication to her plans—a summer romance with the last boy she ever thought would be interested in her. It’s all sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Except, not quite. She’s down one guitar, the drugs are her brother’s problem, and once school starts back, Darcy is afraid Grey is embarrassed to be seen with her. But when an opportunity to win money for her brother’s rehab arises, she won’t let all that stand in her way. Excerpt I was going to kill my brother. Yep. Kill, as in maim brutally until he succumbed to death’s cold, dark embrace. Because a slow death wouldn’t do. No, he deserved to suffer. I didn’t know much about Chinese water torture, but I could learn.

And the leaky faucet in the bathroom, the one he’d promised to fix months ago, would do the trick. A couple of hours of that would surely drive him insane. His brain might even start to liquefy. Maybe dribble out of his ears a bit. I wondered if that would be painful enough. Or painful at all, considering he’d killed most of his brain cells already, taking hit after hit of whatever his crackhead friends put in front of him. I hoped wherever he was at that moment, whatever he was smoking was laced with some bad shit. I didn’t even feel bad thinking it. This always happened. He’d disappear, lifting cash from Mom’s purse and leaving her sick with worry instead of anger. One day turned into two, three, eight at the most. He’d stumble in eventually, visibly worse for the wear, but with a sheepish I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m sorry, Darcy. I promise I’ll be better from now on smile plastered on his face. And then he’d do it all over again a couple of months later. Getting clean was part of Quinn’s regimen. Staying clean was a different story. Eventually, he’d fall back off the wagon. He’d get picked up in the alleyway behind a bar or hanging out at one of the other trailer parks in town, the ones far worse than our own. He’d spend time in the county jail but would never be dumb enough to call us from it asking for bail. He knew we wouldn’t have it. Mostly because he’d pocketed what we did have to score whatever shit landed him there in the first place, but also because … well, the residents of Whispering Oaks Mobile Home Community weren’t exactly rolling in dough in the first place. And even though Mom had started doing clients’ hair in our poorly lit kitchen on the side, we were barely getting by. Really, he was no worse off than half of our methaddicted town, but it was bad enough to make Mom cry at night when she thought I couldn’t hear her. Our trailer walls were paper thin though, and I hadn’t slept soundly since I was thirteen and woke up to find one of my brother’s acquaintances rifling through my dresser drawers at three AM. Junkies were the goddamned worst. Beating the snot out of him always crossed my Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | mind. I’d tighten my fists at my sides when he inevitably made his reappearance, or when I’d find him sitting at the kitchen table in the mornings before I left for school, smiling nervously as he pushed a plate of apology pancakes—dusted with powdered sugar the way I liked—in my direction. Every time, I’d bite my tongue and forgive him. Every time, I’d wonder if one day those apologies would actually mean something. I hoped they would. Whatever apology he offered this time, though, it was going to have to be good. And it damned well needed to mean something. The guitar case slipped in my sweat-slicked hands and I nearly lost my hold on it as I pushed through the heavy glass door, the bell jingling to signal my entrance to Addams Gold & Pawn. My fingers tightened around the handle of the battered and beaten-to-hell case. The leather was cracked, torn, and covered in stickers from dozens of different bands—some long-forgotten, others legendary. And it held my favorite thing in the world. When I was little, my father let me have the honor of opening this case for him each time he played the guitar inside it. Later, he taught me how to play it myself. Letting it go, even temporarily, was going to hurt like a bitch. I straightened my shoulders and walked to the front counter. This time… Well, this time I really was going to kill my brother.

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Don’t miss these titles:


feature authors

romantic suspense | mystery | erotic suspense

Jennifer Carole Lewis

Jo A. Hiestand

Charlene Namdhari


j e n n i f e r ca r o l e l e w is

J

ennifer Carole Lewis is a full-time mom with a full time job managing human resources for a small company, and a full-time author of paranormal romance and romantic suspense, which means she would be very interested in speaking to anyone who comes up with any form of functional time-travel devices or practical cloning methods. Until then, she’ll just continue to see sleep as an optional part of life. She’s from north of the border, in the fair but often frosty land of Canada. She is a proud member of the Ottawa Romance Writers’ Association and the Romance Writers of America. Without them, she would still be dreaming about being a writer rather than sharing her books with readers. She is a devoted comic book geek and Marvel movie enthusiast. She spends far too much of her precious free time watching TV, especially police procedural dramas. Her enthusiasm outstrips her talent in karaoke, cross-stitch and jigsaw puzzles. She is a voracious reader of a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction and always enjoys seeking out new suggestions for books to enjoy. She is especially grateful to the friend who recommended that first romance and opened her eyes to a new and wonderful genre full of amazing writers and stories that inspire hope.

Sta y Co n n e c te d

pastthemirror.com

Please welcome Jennifer Carole Lewis Uncaged: Your newest book will release in October, called Deadly Potential. Can you tell readers more about this book? Deadly Potential emerged out of two thoughts. First, I was playing with an idea for the Cinderella story. What if the fairy godmother was the bad guy, driving Cinderella into dangerous situations, and what if the step-sister was actually Cinderella’s ally, protecting her against the ill-intentioned magical being? The second idea came when I was watching a documentary on stalkers and I found myself wondering: what if there was a stalker with psychic powers? What if that person could be in a room, and have everyone else forget they were there? None of the usual precautions and advice would work to protect the stalker’s targets. In order to save the targets, the authorities would need to understand how such psychic powers worked and what their limitations are. They would


probably have to call in specialists, much as local law enforcement calls in the Behavioral Analysis Unit from the FBI when dealing with a serial killer. And that’s how Special Investigations was born. I knew I wanted to do a companion series to my Lalassu series, which focuses on people with various supernatural abilities. I wanted a new series, set in the same world, which would explore people who may or may not have those abilities, but who have to deal with those powers. As soon as I had the basic idea, the rest flowed very quickly. My hero, Ben, would be one of Special Investigation’s top analysts. I knew he would be closed off emotionally from an earlier trauma, channeling his energies entirely into his work. He would spend every waking moment trying to be a hero, wanting to save everyone. And his rare failures would haunt him, driving him to do better next time. My heroine, Katie, would be the step-sister of a globally recognized pop culture icon. She writes the songs that drive her step-sister’s career, manages the international tour, and performs onstage. She would be independent, inclined to deal with things herself rather than trusting others to handle them. She would be guarded, protecting her privacy and her sister’s from those looking to exploit them. The two of them would have a strong chemistry, but also the insight to recognize the challenges they face, aside from facing a supernatural serial killer. Ben would be unused to opening up to anyone. Katie would be used to keeping her relationships casual. Both of them would struggle with the intensity of their feelings and the situation, but in the end, the two of them need one another because neither of them can face this alone. As for my villain, the Director, it was interesting (and a little sad) to think about what his life would have been like. If he couldn’t control his power, then he would have been forgotten whenever someone turned away or left the room. I thought he would become obsessed with legends and stories, the historical and fictional characters who make a mark across generations and cultures. He could see himself as the equivalent of a fairy godmother, bestowing “gifts” on deserving wom-

en by making their dreams appear to come true. But when they hit midnight, they don’t just have their magical gowns and pumpkin carriages vanish, but are forever frozen in the moment of their illusion of triumph. The two ideas tied together well and then it was a matter of getting everything down as quickly as possible. Uncaged: This book is the first book in a new series. How many books are you planning, or is it open-ended? So far, I have three books plotted out for the Special Investigations Case Files, with rough notes on a fourth. With my first series, I had an overall plot arc that stretched through multiple books. For Special Investigations, I wanted something that could be more stand-alone for each individual story. At this point, I don’t have a definitive end in sight. I’m really enjoying these characters and concept, so right now, I want to write all of their stories, and all of the ideas bubbling in the back of my mind. However, generally I feel it’s a good idea to start spin-off series rather than continuing indefinitely in an openended one. I know that, as a reader, I get intimidated when I realize that the book I’ve picked up off the shelf is number 37 in a long running series. To me, spin-off series allow the best of both options, giving the author an opportunity to explore different characters and concepts within the same world, while still keeping in touch with old favorites. Uncaged: You also have another series out, the Lalassu series. Is that series complete or are you planning on continuing it? I currently have the first four books of the Lalassu series available, with the fifth currently being edited. I have a sixth and final book plotted out but the manuscript isn’t ready yet. I am planning on finishing the series because I don’t want my readers to get frustrated, wondering what happened. As a reader, I always want to know how things ended. And the Lalassu is a series that I’ve been thinking about and Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | planning for nearly a decade. However, I have a lot of manuscript balls in the air right now, so it will probably take a little time to get the final book put together the way I want. I wish I was a faster writer, because I’d love to be able to get the stories out into the hands of readers without delay, but unfortunately, my day job and family would probably be quite upset if I decided to vanish entirely into my writing cave. (Or writing sofa, if I’m being accurate.) If readers are interested in checking out the Lalassu series, the first book, Revelations, is on sale for only 99 cents. Uncaged: What are the benefits of signing up for your newsletter? Those who sign up for my newsletter get a lot of fun stuff. I’m a visual person, so I often begin my character development with a photo and I love sharing those photos with my fans. I’ll share deleted scenes, and bonus scenes for existing works as well. There are also regular updates on the progress on the different manuscripts I’m working on and my ICYMI links to my weekly blog posts, including my Heroine Fix (a look at the amazing characters who have inspired me) and my Hidden Diamonds (other awesome authors who write exciting romance, thrilling suspense, and fantastic characters). Those who become members of my Superfan club get exclusive free short stories and material, as well as access to special draws, and notice of sales on their preferred reading platforms. Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? This one is a tough question. I’ve had great visits with some amazing authors. Time spent with A.M. Griffon, Stefanie London, and Kelley Armstrong are some of my favorite moments. Not mention my monthly get togethers with my local chapter of 66 | UncagedBooks.com


| JENNIFER CAROLE LEWIS | RWA (shout out to Eve Langlais, Lucy Farago, and all my other ORWA peeps) And I will never forget the moment when I met Tanya Huff, who was one of the authors who inspired me to start writing. Especially the part when she told me that she’d read my first book, Revelations, and loved it! So I would happily sit down with any of them again. However, there are some I’d really like to meet with. I like to think I would have great conversations with Mary Shelley or Jane Austen, though I’d probably be having too much fun with a time machine to stop with only visiting them. Those two have always struck me as the road-pavers for women writers, not to mention they seem to have had great senses of humor. For those still with us, I’d love to meet Jenna Black. I love her characters and how she builds her worlds. Or Jeaniene Frost, whose sarcastic Vlad is one of my favorite heroes. And I would probably be dumbstruck with overwhelmed geekiness if I got the chance to sit down with J. Michael Straczynski, who writes some of the best fully-developed characters and interlocking stories I’ve ever seen. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? For Deadly Potential, the easiest character to write was Ray, Ben’s partner. He says all the sarcastic and irreverent things that are on the tip of my tongue. He doesn’t care about other people’s opinions, he cares about doing what’s right and making sure the people around him don’t miss out on a chance on happiness because they’re caught up in their own fears and expectations. He’s going to be a recurring character in the Special Investigations Case Files. For this book, the hardest character to write was the Director. I needed to make it clear to the reader what was happening without the main characters being able to see or remember what he was doing. With the help of my ORWA friends and critique partner, I came up with some creative solutions that feel natural to the story, but it was definitely a technical challenge.

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What has been the most surprising thing a character has done that you didn’t expect when you started? The biggest character surprise of my career so far was when a secondary character I’d only intended to use for a small part in my first book ended up demanding her own turn in the spotlight. Martha was originally only going to be briefly referenced in Revelations, but my mind kept going back to her and what she was going through, raising a daughter who she thought was schizophrenic but later discovers is actually speaking to ghosts. Eventually she got her own book, Judgment, the fourth book in the Lalassu series.

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For Deadly Potential, my biggest surprise was how hostile one of the secondary characters, a reporter, ended up being toward my main characters. I’d initially planned for her to be sympathetic, and end up helping Katie and Ben with the Director. However, when I would write her scenes, there was always a hard, suspicious edge to her dialogue. I went with it, and had an opportunity to explore the role of the press in pop culture and how we make snap judgments based on only part of the story. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? For me, writer’s block tends to happen when one of two things have occurred. First, there’s too much else going on in my life and I just don’t have the energy to


be creative. Second option, there’s a flaw in what I’m trying to write. Perhaps the scene is unnecessary or it doesn’t match the characters or will put a hole in the plot arc. If it’s the first case, I try to be gentle with myself. Maybe I only wrote 200 words instead of 2000, but that’s still 200 words closer to The End. If I realize there’s a flaw, the best way to get around it is to write it down or talk it over with other people. Physically writing activates a different part of the brain than typing, so sometimes that shakes everything loose and an answer will appear. The same with talking to someone. Even if they can’t give you a solution, sometimes the act of talking about it will bring inspiration. I do have something of a writing quirk. I’m usually quite busy, so I only get small bursts of time in which to write, usually 30-60 minutes a day. I don’t want to spend that time trying to remember what I was planning to do, so I take the last 5-10 minutes of each session to jot down detailed notes about what I want to do next. That lets me get back into a scene quickly when my next writing opportunity rolls around. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I prefer physical books, but my library is getting so full that I’m running out of shelf space to keep everything. I like the convenience of ebooks, especially when reading at night before I fall asleep or when I’m travelling. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that I don’t do well with audiobooks, though that may be because I’ve tried to use them when I was busy doing other things. I get distracted and then I lose track of what’s happening. Of course, this is all strictly what works to me. I think it’s wonderful that there are so many different options available for people who want to enjoy stories. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? The big thing I would like to say to fans is “Thank you.” A story can exist in an author’s head and if they’re lucky, they can get it down on the page. But I don’t think a story really comes alive until readers have a chance to make it live in their heads. To me the biggest compliment an author can get is when readers love

| JENNIFER CAROLE LEWIS | the characters and the world so much that they want to create their small part of it, be it fan art or fan fiction or any of the other ways that people express their love of stories. A friend of mine received a set of knitted dolls of all of her characters, which I thought was wonderful. So thank you to the readers for giving my stories a home in their imaginations.

Enjoy an excerpt from Deadly Potential Deadly Potential Jennifer Carole Lewis Romantic Suspense Releases Oct. 23 On the other side of the spotlight, anyone could be watching. How can anyone protect themselves from a serial killer who can make someone forget they ever saw him? In a world where superpowers are very real, that’s where the Investigators of the Bureau of Special Investigations come in. When songwriter and manager Katie Ballard first began getting letters, she thought they were just another example of the fan mail that has been pouring in ever since her sister Aggi first became the Princess of Pop. With a global concert tour to run and a sharp eye out for those who seek to take advantage of Aggi’s wealth and celebrity, Katie dismisses her secretive admirer until Investigators from Special Investigations arrive on her doorstep. Investigator Ben Morgan’s life is all about his work, protecting both those who have powers and ordinary citizens from one another. But from the moment he takes this case, he finds himself Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | distracted by the cool, competent manager being targeted by one of the most infamous serial killers of the last decade. He’ll need all of his renowned expertise and ability to think outside the box if he hopes to keep her alive. For Katie, Ben might be one of the most attractive men she’s ever met but having her life turned upside down is hardly the way she wanted to begin a romance. She might be used to handling everything on her own, but she will have to trust Ben as a protector and with her heart. Together they’ll fight to keep Katie alive and out of the hands of a man who thinks the best way to get a happily ever after is to make sure there’s no tomorrow. Excerpt “What was the ‘small gift’?” Investigator Ben Morgan asked his boss as he and his partner read through the case file. He sometimes missed the simplicity of his life before joining Special Investigations. Back then, he could assume anyone who talked to voices in their head needed a psych eval. Once the world found out superpowers were real, it changed everything in law enforcement. If an individual could transform into an animal or bend metal with their bare hands, then anything could be possible. “A blue silk evening dress, hand-sewn and fitted to the target.” Director Henry Delacroix closed the door. As he returned to his desk, he rolled up the sleeves of white dress shirt to reveal forearms covered in wiry black hair. “The unsub left it backstage in Miss Ballard’s dressing room at their concert in Tucson, along with the handwritten note.” “How very brash.” Investigator Ray Corwin shook his head in mock dismay. “He’s in complete violation of stalker etiquette. A gift like that should be saved for after the second restraining order.” Ben hid a smile, keeping his gaze focused on the 70 | UncagedBooks.com

old-fashioned rows of file cabinets lining the walls of Delacroix’s office. His partner might be new to Special Investigations, but he did not lack confidence to share his opinions. There were lots of rumors about the man ruffling high-ranking feathers back in the FBI. Something we have in common. He had learned to respect Ray’s keen insight. Delacroix’s mouth twitched, the tiny smile appearing and disappearing almost too quickly to register. Ben checked the file again, reading the first two letters. Both were short, only a few sentences. They seemed like ordinary fan mail. “How were these two sent?” “Social media accounts. Each set up right before the messages were sent and shut down immediately after the reply. No way to trace them.” Delacroix tapped the folder resting on his battered metal desk. “The FBI thinks it might be the Director.” Shit. He remembered the serial killer’s name from his own days at the Bureau. Eight women stalked and killed in the last ten years. Ben hated using lurid names, preferring the generic term unsub, an abbreviation for unknown subject. This unsub sent his target letters and gifts before kidnapping and killing them. He then posed their bodies in elaborate settings and costumes. Even Ray stilled at the dropped name. The Director held the honor of being one of the most terrifying serial killers currently operating in the United States. “There’s a concern the unsub may be an occulata hominum.” Delacroix rattled off the Latin term smoothly. He came down hard on any Investigator who used the slang insult loocy to describe those with supernatural powers. “We’ve been asked to consult and determine how the unsub has been able to evade capture despite some very slick operations. This is our chance to show why Special Investigations should be allowed to continue our work.” At its creation three years ago, the Bureau of Special Investigations had attracted a large number of bigots and bullies. They used the badge to boost their own egos and stoke their own hatred. The agency was still trying to purge the bad apples from their ranks while also struggling to cope with every hint of paranormal activity and every weirdo with delusions of comic-


| JENNIFER CAROLE LEWIS | book grandeur. Ben had joined Special Investigations immediately after the Jackson Square incident, determined to make certain these newly revealed powers didn’t allow their users to escape the law. He’d heard rumors that Delacroix had been one of the FBI’s Little Green Men and Tinfoil Hat file chasers. People dismissed Delacroix as a conspiracy nut, but they were absolutely wrong. His boss treated every investigation with meticulous care and an unwavering focus on the evidence. Ben followed the same track. “What about the target?” Delacroix handed them a glossy magazine to add to the file. “Katherine Ballard.” A pretty, scantily-clad blonde stared regally from the cover. Ben didn’t recognize her, despite the name AGGI helpfully spelled out in big letters along with a promise to share her trade secrets for staying fit and keeping grounded. If this is the same unsub, a one name pop star isn’t his typical target. A picture inside the magazine caught his attention. The same blond woman from the cover, laughing with her arms around a young woman with dark red hair caught up in a practical ponytail that did nothing to hide her heart-shaped face or big eyes. She caught Ben’s eye more than the practiced glamor of the blonde. The redhead wasn’t looking at the camera, but her brilliant smile shone through the lens. Ben frowned. “The caption says they’re sisters.” “Technically, they’re stepsisters,” Ray said. “Aggi’s mother married Katie’s father when they were both young. They call each other sisters. Referring to them as stepsisters really pisses them off.” Delacroix and Ben both stared at him in surprise. Ray clucked his tongue to express disbelief. “Aggi has been the hottest musical act in town for the last five years. How have the two of you missed her?” “Katherine is Aggi’s manager and business partner,” Delacroix explained. “And she writes songs for a lot of top-forty artists, including Aggi.” Ray turned his focus back to the magazine photo. “It’s hard not to sympathize with the Director. Aggi is wearing her own brand of workout gear, while Katie chooses an oversized T-

shirt and leggings? The girl practically cries out for a proper stylist.” His partner’s comment hit Ben like a spark hitting an unexpected pocket of gasoline fumes, threatening an unprofessional eruption. Luckily his boss wasn’t about to let the commentary stand. Delacroix glared at his latest recruit. “Keep your opinions on her personal choices to yourself.” Ben sucked in a deep breath. It wasn’t like him to be so unsettled this early in a case. He’d been up late finishing a report for Denver PD about an arsonist with suspected paranormal abilities. Maybe I need more sleep. “The FBI suspects the unsub could be an occulata,” Delacroix continued. “He’s not a criminal mastermind. He leaves trace evidence and DNA. But no one has been able to get close to him.” “Any clues on what powers this guy might have?” Ben realized he was running a fascinated finger along the edge of the next picture featuring the unsub’s target. Even in a simple T-shirt and leggings, she carried herself with an air of competence and confidence. A woman who probably bulldozed through most obstacles. She’d ignored the first two messages, but alerted the authorities immediately when the sender crossed a boundary. She wasn’t easily frightened or intimidated. Making her even more vulnerable to someone like this unsub. The realization hit him like a stab to the gut. They had less than a week to find and stop the unsub before the body count went up another notch. “No idea on powers. Which is why I’m putting the two of you on the case.” Delacroix’s dark eyes fixed on him. “Ben, you know the most about the different types of powers. Ray, you have a talent for getting information no one else can. Together, two of you are the best I have at getting to the right conclusions on the slimmest data, aside from Investigator Adler.” “And she won’t leave with a class in progress,” Ben finished. “Her loss is our celebrity gain. When do we leave?” Ray asked brightly. Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | “Your plane leaves in two hours. Good luck, gentlemen.” Ben stood up at Delcroix’s dismissal. The familiar surge of anticipation loosened his muscles and sharpened his mind. This assignment held more of a challenge than going around to local precincts to deliver be-tolerant-but-careful lectures about what could be lurking on their streets. The prospect of a real hunt against an adversary who’d already made a fool of top-level law enforcement promised a satisfying challenge. They left Delacroix’s office and jogged down two flights of stairs. Ray hesitated at the bottom landing. “I suppose there’s hardly time to stop at home and pick up my albums for Aggi to sign.” “Just tell me your go-bag is ready this time.” Ben walked rapidly through the utilitarian lobby and shoved open the glass doors, eager to begin the case. They’d need at least an hour to reach the airport, and while federal officers might get to speed through security, no one would be holding the plane for them. “One trip being forced to wear off-the-rack was deterrent enough.” Ray gave an elaborate shudder as they crossed the parking lot. “My luggage is waiting in the car.” Ben couldn’t decide if his partner actually had money, or only liked to pretend he did. Distinguishing between the high-end designers and Walmart wasn’t one of his skills. His own go-bag held two changes of clothing, an extra sweater, decent hiking boots and his assigned weapons. Everything fit in a moderately sized gym bag with room to spare. “Come on, partner, aren’t you the least bit excited?” Ray’s smile held more than a hint of mischief as he lifted two large suitcases out of the trunk of his sleek black luxury car. “We’re going behind the scenes into the glamorous world of rock and roll. Or at least pop and party. It could be a chance to break out of your enforced hermitage and meet some pretty young thing. I’ve heard the dancers with Aggi’s tour are impres72 | UncagedBooks.com

sively athletic.” “Have you even heard of the term sexual harassment?” Ben gritted his teeth as his partner transferred the bags to the trunk of Ben’s battered sedan. “Have I ever been less than professional in person?” Ray slid into the passenger seat, completely unruffled by his partner’s irritation. Ben pulled the car into traffic. “Don’t I count as a person?” “In the eyes of the law.” Ray grinned. “Trust me, I have a lot of experience in navigating boundaries. I would never push.” He’s right. While his partner’s behavior sounded outrageous, he did seem to have a knack for setting people at ease. Peter could do that, too. His mind shied away from the memory. “I’m a shameless flirt. It’s how I navigate the world and this job. I’m playing to my strengths,” Ray continued. “For you, the whole prematurely grumpy, crusty cynic thing works even if you aren’t much over thirty. The day-old stubble and shadows under your eyes are a method actor’s dream.” Ben’s hands tightened around the leather-clad steering wheel. “This conversation has officially reached the uncomfortable and awkward silence stage.” “It wouldn’t destroy your reputation to loosen up the teensiest bit. But I’m not about to judge.” Ray waved his hand in cheerful dismissal. “Your grumpiness won’t affect my ability to enjoy all of the beautiful men and women that are sure to be hanging around Aggi.” “We’re there for the sister. Katherine.” Even as he spoke, Ben regretted snapping at his partner. Something about this case had triggered an aggressive protective instinct. He ignored the vivid image of the target’s face lingering in the back of his mind. “Actually, we’re there as consultants,” Ray corrected. “To be wise and experienced teachers to the ignorant, not action heroes. Which is a shame, because I would look stunning walking away from an explosion in slow motion.” Ben cracked a grin. “Are you ever serious?” “I don’t expect you to break character on my account. You go on perfecting your bad cop, and I’ll


| JENNIFER CAROLE LEWIS | enjoy performing all the other emotional roles.” Ray closed his eyes, effectively ending the conversation. A small smile still clung stubbornly to Ben’s lips despite his best efforts to remain stern. When he’d first met Ray Morgan, Ben had accepted the flippant surface for the truth. During their first assignment, he’d expected Ray to storm off in a huff when protesters identified them as Special Investigations, and began pelting them with garbage and insults. Ben had been prepared to restrain his partner, but to his surprise, Ray had simply wiped away the smelly remnants, apologized to the protesters on behalf of the agency, and left the scene. When Ben caught up to him, Ray explained his reasoning. “They’re absolutely right. Special Investigations has done some horrible things. We’ve taken people out of their homes. We held them in that terrible camp up North without any chance of release. And we did it all because we were scared of people who were different.” Ben hesitated. “Given how you feel, I’m surprised you joined the agency.” “There’s still an important job to be done. The public needs a sense of safety, or else you’re likely to have riots and lynch mobs. If good people refuse to join Special Investigations because of its past, then it’s going to be filled with the wrong type of people to do the job.” All in all, flamboyance and irreverence were a small price to pay for the reassurance of knowing he could trust his partner to make the right choice in a tough situation. Ben grudgingly apologized. “I’ll do my best not to be a buzz-kill.” “I’ll keep my stash of gold stars handy,” Ray replied, his eyes still closed, and his voice dry with sardonic amusement. “You’re not going to ruin my cheer today, no matter how much doom and gloom you insist on packing. We’re going to catch a serial killer who has eluded justice for a decade, hang out with music royalty, and enjoy some West Coast sun. You’ll see, it will all work out splendidly.” Ben wished it could be so easy. Good guys win, bad guys lose, everyone goes home happy. But he’d al-

ready learned the hard-taught lesson of reality, nothing was guaranteed. Sometimes bad guys won, and good guys didn’t get to go home at all.

Don’t miss this title:

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Uncaged welcomes Jo A. Hiestand

j o a . h i e s ta n d

Uncaged: You have different series running, one based in St. Louis, and two that are British. Can you tell readers more about the different series? Have you ever thought about having a cross-over of a couple of the series?

I

grew up reading Dumas, Twain, duMaurier, Dickens and the Brontes. I loved the atmosphere of those books. Add the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce movies and the moods of 1940s/50s movies like Brief Encounter, Night Must Fall, and The Thirty-Nine Steps, and I knew I wanted to write mysteries, and the books had to be set in Britain. That was a must even though I knew only what I’d seen in the movies and read in the novels. But the British pull was tenacious. Three years ago I discovered that I have literally centuries and centuries of English, Scottish and Welsh ancestry. Do genes mean anything? My first visit to England was during my college years and that cemented my joy of Things British. Since then, I’ve been lured back nearly a dozen times, and lived there for a year during my professional folksinging stint. I combined my love of writing, mysteries, music, and board games by co-inventing a mystery-solving treasure-hunting game, P.I.R.A.T.E.S. I founded the Greater St. Louis Chapter of the international mystery writers/readers organization Sisters in Crime, serving as its first president. In 2001, I graduated from Webster University with a BA degree in English and departmental honors. I live in the St. Louis, MO area with my cat, Tennyson, and way too many kilts.

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The Linn House mysteries is an amateur sleuth series featuring Rona Murray and her ex-husband, Johnny. Rona owns a bakery and events center and she gets involved in mysteries via friends and her own circumstances. The first book, “The House on Devil’s Bar,” propels Rona into investigating a woman’s drowning in the Mississippi River (her place is on the banks of the river). In order to clear herself of suspicion in the death, she launches her own investigation. My two British series are The McLaren Mysteries and The Peak District Mysteries. Michael McLaren is a former police detective who quit his job over a great injustice. He now repairs dry stone walls in Derbyshire as his livelihood and he investigates cold cases on his own. It’s great fun to write because McLaren can do anything he wants; he’s not bound by police procedure. The Peak District series, on the other hand, features the CID team of the Derbyshire Constabulary. These books are written first person from the main character’s POV. That’s Detective Sgt Brenna Taylor. The series uses British customs as the backbone of each book’s plot. They are extremely fun to research and then come up with the people and story that could be involved in each custom. These include such things as watching the church porch (villagers watch throughout the night for villagers’ spirits to parade past


the church porch), turning the devil’s stone (villagers must turn over a large boulder to prevent calamity from striking their village), and a St Nicholas festival. The customs actually exist—I couldn’t invent some of these quirky things! I’ve actually referred to the Peak District series’ villain in the McLaren series, and one of the characters in the Peak series does pop up for several chapters in one of the McLaren books. But I’ve also considered giving McLaren a vacation in the Linn House series area, so who knows what will happen! Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? The eleventh McLaren book, “Black Moon,” came out at the end of August. I started the twelfth book a while ago. It’s slightly different in that McLaren investigates a current murder instead of a cold case. His best mate, Jamie, has just been promoted to Detective Sergeant rank and a corpse appears during the party. Uncaged: You like to travel a lot, what has been one of your favorite destinations that you can recommend? New Zealand, without hesitation. The air is so pure and crisp, the landscape is gorgeous, and it’s such a different world from my patch of the U.S. The region is

varied: volcanoes, glaciers, snow-capped mountains, sub-tropical rain forest, mud pools and thermal springs, pastureland, beaches… The Maori culture is fascinating, and you can glimpse the country’s old gold rush era at different small towns. Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? I’d lunch with Golden Age mystery author Ngaio Marsh. She had a fascinating life as a theater director, fine artist, and mystery author. Her home was in New Zealand but she spent many years living in England. I’d like to talk with her about her plots, where she got her ideas, her characters (who are extremely “alive”), her life in general, and her ideas on directing plays. She was very well known in New Zealand as a director, and she had unique ideas, like her production of “Julius Caesar,” which she staged in Fascist uniforms. I’d also like to lunch and talk with Alexander Dumas and Daphne duMaurier, and I’ll add current authors Tracy Borman and Peter Watson. I’d talk with Dumas and duMaurier because their storylines and writing are excellent. I’d like to hear how Tracy Borman does all her incredible research for her Tudor-age histories, and I’d like to learn how Peter Watson got into the field of writing about art thefts and his involvement in regaining and tracing stolen artwork. All interesting people, I’m sure. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? Easiest is McLaren because he doesn’t have to follow police procedure, so I don’t have to worry about rules or investigation timelines, etc. He does what he wants and can step on people’s toes. The hardest to write is anyone in the Peak District mysteries because I don’t know British police procedure. There are obviously rules and the proper way of doing things and these things have to be done in a certain order. These are sometimes different from America’s methods, so it does me no Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | good to ask anyone in the US for help! I’m lucky to have a retired head of Derbyshire Constabulary CID answer my questions on procedure and then read my ms to see if there are problems (and to correct any American words that creep into the story). I also know two Detective Sergeants, also with Derbyshire Constabulary, who answer my questions. But it’s still difficult for me to write the series because I’m constantly halting and asking questions. One book, “In a Wintry Wood,” I wrote and sent the finished ms to my friend. He read it and said I needed to have the car picked up so the police could look for blood and hair, etc in it. He told me how long that would take. Yikes! That completely wrecked the timeline of my story. So not only did I have to write in that bit about the car search but I also had to rearrange the story timeline—and that wasn’t easy when the book was already written! Uncaged: What has been the most surprising thing a character has done that you didn’t expect when you started? Two characters getting married to each other. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? I’ve never had writer’s block. I agree beginning a new book is difficult and very slow, but it’s plotted, the characters developed, etc. I just have a rough time starting it: is someone speaking, where is the scene, what will be revealed, how much of the characters’ history should I reveal then and what will it be, etc. That’s hard for me. It might take me a week to get the first chapter right. But I write (sometimes I force myself) a few paragraphs a day until it starts flowing. I have a writing quirk in that when I begin a new book I clean my desk of the months of dust that’s adorned everything. I have a favorite set of clothes I usually wear for the fall and winter months, so I don those. Other than that, I’m fairly normal (whatever normal is). 76 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? I like real, physical books. I like the feel of the paper and the cover. I like holding it. I like my bookcases filled with books. It gives me a sense of peace and comfort to see the books. It’s kind of like love staring back at me. I do like audiobooks, though. The narrator’s voice brings the characters to life in a way my imagination can’t. Five of my McLaren mysteries are in or about to be audiobooks. Hearing the narrator speak my words in different voices really brings McLaren, Jamie and all to life. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? It may sound trite, but I really am honored someone takes the time to read my book. I also appreciate the people who write a review. There are so many books published each year it’s extremely difficult to get any attention for a book. So, I’m thankful to the person who sees and grabs my book. I need you—thanks for helping me.

Enjoy an excerpt from Black Moon Black Moon Jo A. Hiestand Mystery/Suspense Each April the members of a mystery writing group gather on Stanton Moon for camaraderie and to fuel their plots. The moody area seems the perfect setting for hatching a whodunit. Unfortunately, an unscripted mystery materializes like an unsolicited manuscript on a publisher’s slush pile— the leader of their group is found on the moor, her head bashed in and very dead. Lesley Keeton’s murder takes on the aspects of a novel’s first draft: the suspects shadowy and the


| JO A. HIESTAND | killer unnamed. Now, a year later, ex-police detective Michael McLaren is asked to tidy up the plot and expose the killer. McLaren investigates and discovers anger and jealousy cropping up as often as editor’s red marks on a manuscript page. The group members crafted more than stories—they planned a mass exodus, fleeing Lesley’s tutelage, dictatorship and tongue lashings. Add a tinge of blackmail, an illegal business and an affair to this framework, and the deadly combination has the earmarks of a bestseller. In the midst of this, McLaren’s lady friend arrives unannounced and disrupts the case…and unbalances his emotions. Both are tested one dark night in a churchyard when she stumbles into the arms of the killer…and McLaren must rescue her without letting evil go free. Excerpt “If you can spare a bit of time from your wall repairing jobs, how’d you like to solve a murder?” Michael McLaren eyed his friend with a sense of apprehension. The feeling was justified. Several times in the past year McLaren had suffered a variety of assaults while investigating cold murder cases. He wasn’t too anxious to repeat the experiences, and said so. Jamie Kydd drew in the corner of his mouth and gave McLaren a look that would’ve said “Don’t exaggerate” if he’d spoken. He slid his hand over the tabletop, the dark wood dented and worn smooth by countless customers and years, and grabbed his beer mug. “Why do you always expect the worst? You don’t tangle with everyone on every case you take on.” “Oh no, of course not everyone. At least Janet Ennis’ seventy-three year old mother didn’t try to slug me or run me off the road this past September, and neither did that teenage girl two months ago, in February. It’s just everyone else who thought I would make a good target for their fists or cars.” He sank against the wooden back of the booth, letting the conversations and clink of metal cutlery fill the pause in their conversation. The Split Oak—the pub born from a seventeenth-century coaching inn in McLaren’s home

village of Somerley—seemed overly warm that April evening. He rolled up the sleeves of his blue shirt, seeking some relief from the heat that added to the intimate atmosphere. Despite the modern additions of electricity and Wi Fi, the slate roof still sagged over the oak beam ceiling; the wooden floor still dipped and creaked; the wind still buffeted the thickset casement windows and moaned into the expanse. At the moment, however, rain pelted the windows and slid down the wavy glass panes to collect in puddles on the sills. The management saw no need to dispose of timeworn ambience as long as the windows worked. The drafts, creaks and groans were all minor inconveniences when compared to the three-centuries-plus history within the pub’s walls. McLaren watched a husband and wife settle their toddler in a highchair, then glanced around the area. The room was filled to near capacity, which was unusual for a Monday evening. Already the aromas of fried foods filled the air. He picked up his glass mug and wrapped his hands around it, then stared at Jamie. “Who’s in such dire need of help? And why doesn’t she go to the police?” He swallowed some beer, then set the mug on the cardboard mat. “It’s not a woman. It’s a man. A bloke I know via the job,” Jamie explained, lowering his voice. “He at Silverlands, then?” The question came slowly, as if McLaren was uneasy about an affirmation. Jamie shook his head, leaning forward. “He’s not at my police station. He’s up in Cumbria. That is, he was.” McLaren sighed, running his fingers through his blond hair. It was going to be a long explanation. “He’s not in Cumbria now and he’s not in Buxton, with the Derbyshire Constabulary. Where is he? Undercover?” He said it with more skepticism than he’d meant, then flashed a smile, hoping to ease the cynicism he conveyed. “He’s retired. I know him when we worked together on several cases, when our two constabularies shared information. He’s a nice, decent bloke. Hard working. He retired a detective serIssue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | geant.” “Congrats to him, but I repeat: why does he— or at least you—think he needs my assistance? If the murder case is that bad, why can’t he ring up B Division in Derbyshire and get help?” He frowned, sizing up Jamie’s expression. He didn’t look happy. “He try already and Derbyshire Constabulary turned him down?” Jamie shook his head and grabbed his beer mug. “He hasn’t talked to anyone at the station, Mike, and he hasn’t asked for any help, either.” “Brilliant. Nothing like pushing me into something neither he nor I want me to take on. You’re daft if you think I’m going to butt in. And you’re daft if you think he’ll welcome it if I do.” “Just hear me out, Mike.” A bead of condensation ran down the mug and dripped onto the front of his black tee shirt. He seemed not to notice. “His name’s Holton Lacy. As I said, he’s a retired detective sergeant. He moved from Cumbria to put some distance between him and some of the berks he dealt with.” “In prison or at his station?” “Both, probably. You know how it is.” McLaren nodded. He’d had his own run-ins with colleagues and bosses. And with people he’d arrested and helped send away. The person who most readily came to mind was a former coworker who’d arrested McLaren’s seventy-yearold friend for defending himself, his wife and his business from a burglar. The absurdity of the co-worker’s action so enraged McLaren that he’d pushed the detective into a handy rose bush. For his act, McLaren had been reprimanded for obstructing a police officer in the course of his duty and given the choice of reduction in rank or being escorted out the door. McLaren had resigned that week and at age thirty-six turned to repairing stone walls as his livelihood. All had gone well during the ensuing twenty-two months until several weeks ago when the former co-worker had stalked and ambushed McLaren, and had died in the resulting life-or-death fight. Jamie gave his friend several seconds to consider the situation before continuing. “Holton’s turned 78 | UncagedBooks.com

to writing mystery novels as his main time-filler.” “Great. I can just imagine them. Tough, noir stuff, right?” “Actually, they’re not. They’re quite high in the online book rankings.” “So, what’s he need me for? Surely it can’t be for procedural information if he was a detective.” McLaren leaned forward so their faces were mere inches apart. “All you’ve told me is this brilliant bloke’s retired and now fills his days with concocting fiction. What the hell is this old murder about?” “He belongs to a writing group, Mike. You know what they’re like—the kind that gets together monthly to talk over members’ writing problems and to offer moral support.” “Fine.” “They have an annual retreat. It’s a weekend of working on their individual manuscripts and they discuss ideas on book marketing. You know.” McLaren ran his fingertip around the lip of his glass. “Get to the point, Jamie.” “Well, during the writing retreat last year one of the group was murdered.”


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orn and raised in the coastal city of Durban, South Africa, she now lives in the City of Gold, Johannesburg. Charlene’s days are an energetic mixture of a full time job, a wife and mom to two beautiful teenagers and four dogs. She holds a law degree and is a passionate events manager. Charlene enjoys travelling, a Mediterranean cruise being her most recent venture. She hopes to retire to a beautiful seaside cottage where she can spend lazy days on the beach drinking cocktails and focus all her energy on writing. She is of the firm opinion that one should not give up on a dream but rather make every attempt to get there no matter how long it takes. Her love for writing stemmed from an avid interest in English at School, more so Literature and enjoyed writing short stories. She attempted her first full length novel fifteen years ago and although she loved the finish product decided she’d write mainly as a hobby and only recently sought publishing. Believing writing is the wings to holistic escapism, she makes the time in her busy schedule giving life to her dreams of bringing together passion filled heroes and heroines in a happily ever after.

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charlene Na m d h a r i Welcome Charlene Namdhari Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about your latest book, Undercover Affection? Undercover Affection is an erotic suspense that features a sassy copy who goes undercover to spy on a billionaire and pretty soon sparks fly. Uncaged: It seems you already have a very busy life, as an events manager, a wife and mother – what inspired you to jump into the writing world?

charlenenamdhari.co.za

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I wrote a few stories about fifteen years ago as a hobby that stemmed from my love for English Lit. The idea was to keep writing as a hobby until my hubby encouraged me to seek publishing.


Uncaged: What are you working on now that you can tell us about? My new book, I Belong To You, releases on 17th September. Fans of J Lo’s The Wedding Planner may enjoy this story Uncaged: Past or present, which authors would you love to sit and have lunch with and why? Stephen King – I absolutely loved his horror stories and would like to get an insight into his thought processes. Uncaged: Which character has been the easiest for you to write? Which has been the hardest? The easiest would be Ashni Callahan from Undercover Affection – she’s a tough cop who knows what she wants and goes for – traits I resonate well with. Hardest would Cody Bentley from Daredevil’s Mistress – his a true arrogant alpha male. I wanted readers to get angry with him before they fell in love with him. Uncaged: What do you do to prevent a writer’s block? Do you have a writing quirk? Writer’s block – I write when I want to, when my characters speak to me and try not to force the story Quirk – I tend to write in front of the tv while watching a movie or show. Uncaged: Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Physical books Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Very few readers take a chance on new authors and for that I am grateful. Hopefully, I’ll be able to keep writing and give you stories you’ll look forward to.

Enjoy an excerpt from Undercover Affection Undercover Affection Charlene Namdhari Erotic Suspense Their attraction undeniable…Their love illicit Ashni Scott Callahan is a tough as nails detective with no time for love. She’s taken down drug lords, human traffickers and diamond smugglers. So going undercover is as easy as eating a slice of pie. That is until she has to spy on sexy billionaire, Avinash Rai. Could a potential criminal be this delicious? One slice, she soon discovers is not enough, she wants to lick the whole damn plate. Avinash Rai, hardworking billionaire, takes what he wants when he wants, but prides himself on honesty. He’s a man women don’t ignore, that is until a sexy stranger visits his usual hangouts without so much as a glance in his direction. Intrigued, he’s up for the challenge. Only, nothing prepares him for her spirited personality or their intense attraction. Will Ashni surrender to the man’s charms and jeopardize her case? Will Avinash finally understand his father’s motto: in life, you win some, you lose some and then you fall in love? And will he be able to forgive Ashni’s lies? Excerpt Under a cloudless afternoon sky, Ashni lay prone on her vantage point atop a grassy knoll and observed her target, Pinero, in the middle of Central Park. Numb from spending almost two hours in the same spot doing nothing, she suppressed a yawn. Dressed in frayed denim, an old sweatshirt, her thick locks swept up into a ponytail under a Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | baseball cap, she passed for an ordinary twentysomething out for a day at the park. She glanced away from two teens tackling a football. Her gaze landed on a heavyset man dressed in dark denim and a conspicuous yellow shirt. The man approached Pinero. The break she’d been waiting for finally came. Her patience had paid off. The two men exchanged a few words and barely noticeable packages before they parted ways. Excited, Ashni’s camera whirred and captured the scene. Shoving the small camera into her jeans pocket, she followed Pinero as he made his way out of Central Park. She watched him doggedly and scratched her chin in confusion when he abruptly stopped then hurried off. Whatever the man was doing, wherever he was headed, it appeared to be more than just ambling on home. He didn’t halt when some elderly ladies jogged out from beneath the motorway bridge. Instead, he rushed on as fast as his massive bulk allowed. Weirdly, he doubled back on himself twice before emerging out of the park level on East Sixty-ninth Street. Ashni groaned in frustration. A stream of yellow cabs moved at a gradual pace, north along Fifth Avenue. Horns honked and tires hissed against the heated tar. Drivers whistled tunelessly as if without a single care in the world. If only life was as simple as driving a cab. She continued her quest. Pinero hesitated at the curb, and then made an impulsive dash across the street. Ashni stayed as far back as possible so as not to risk discovery. Though, that seemed unlikely, seeing as Pinero didn’t appear intelligent enough to figure someone was on his trail. The constant flow of pedestrians made it easier to follow him undetected. Weaving between the crowds, she continued her pursuit. Almost missing a gaunt teenager on roller-skates, she reached the curb. Eyes alert, she watched Pinero head along Sixty-ninth Street. She gave him a half block lead, only, by the time she crossed the street, he disappeared. “Dammit.” She surveyed the area. “Come out, come out wherever you are, douche bag.” She 82 | UncagedBooks.com

pulled off her cap. Agitated; she raked her hand through her hair. She deliberated whether to give up or stay put. Her lip between her teeth, she impulsively spun around ninety-degrees. Got you. She caught sight of Pinero. He hovered at the intersection as though he debated his next move. Another two seconds passed before he turned left on to Madison Avenue. “What the hell are you up to, Pinero?” Frustrated, she set off in a short sprint, determined not to lose him a second time. She arrived at the end of the block just in time to see him turn left. To her annoyance, he abruptly changed direction once more. It looked like he was headed east. He appeared lost, disorientated, or plain evasive. She wasn’t sure. “Trying to lose someone?” Ashni muttered. Making a slight detour, she followed him on the parallel street. At the end of the block, he paused, and she did the same. He glanced everywhere but behind him. “You’re getting careless, Pinero.” Oblivious to his pursuer, he continued walking then changed course yet again. He reached the subway station at Sixty-eighth Street. Impatient, Ashni pushed forward and kept up. Her eyes on his back, she watched him slip his subway token into the barrier. She followed suit. His actions indicated he was heading uptown. He hesitated briefly when the train shuddered to a stop, then jumped on at the very last second. He obviously did that to ensure no one had followed him. Still, being a woman paid dividends. A man, more or less Ashni’s age, wedged a shoulder between the doors. His action caused the doors to spring back allowing her to jump on. The doors, however, stayed open. Three cars down from where Pinero boarded, she thanked the man for his help, made her way between cars, and stopped a couple seats behind Pinero. Observing him was easy from where she stood. He leaned against the railing near the doors, his gaze wary. The man appeared every bit of the suspicious character he was. She wouldn’t be surprised if someone called the cops at the mere sight of him. Just as the train was about to pull out from the station, Pinero lunged toward the closing doors and leaped off onto the platform. Vigilant, Ashni anticipated his dodgy moves. She jumped off with seconds to spare.


| CHARLENE NAMDHARI | Exposed on the empty platform, she scrambled for cover behind a flight of stairs. There was no need for anxiety though. Oblivious to everything but his swift gait, her target marched off in the opposite direction. With a dismal grunt, Ashni stuffed the baseball cap into her pocket and fell into step. Cautiously, she shadowed Pinero, only to discover him changing lines once more. She kept up the pace and followed him on to the crosstown train, her annoyance close to boiling point. The train took them to Ninety-sixth Street and Broadway. Pinero avoided heading back into the streets. Whatever kept him down here appeared to be more than just evasive maneuvers. And there’d be hell to pay when she finally nabbed him. Ashni took a deep breath. She was on the verge of walking up to him when he boarded the ‘A’ train that headed back uptown, north toward Harlem. He jumped off the minute the train pulled into the station. “About flippin’ time.” She took the stairs two at a time and emerged into brilliant sunlight. Crap. Ashni scanned her surroundings. She was in the heart of the Bronx but she wasn’t about to let that intimidate her. Pinero was on the other side of the street. She settled into a reluctant amble, with him about fifty yards ahead. His cautious gait from five minutes ago reduced to a casual stroll and an out of tune whistle. The man appeared to be familiar with the area. Without the busy streets to act as a shield, Ashni experienced some doubt. Being out in the open made her an easy target for Pinero’s gang if they turned up. The sun retained its brilliance while the pavements shimmered. A slight breeze picked up and gave Ashni an unceremonious chill. She huddled into her sweatshirt. On her left, apartment buildings stood tall, most in need of some urgent care. Windows barred by iron grilles suggested a high crime rate or troublesome pigeons. On the opposite side, green grass interweaved with sporadic shrubs, and trees led down to the Harlem River. Not the best place for a woman alone. Undaunted, she continued. She intended to arrest Pinero today. Nothing would stand in her way. Not even the possibility that Pinero’s men may turn up. The abrupt vibrating of her mobile phone startled her. She reached hastily into her denim pocket. Fishing

out the device, she answered in a whisper, “Yes.” “Ashni? Where the hell are you?” her partner, Mason, yelled. “The Bronx.” “The Bronx? Are you stupid, woman? What the hell are you doing there?” “No, I’m not stupid, I’m tailing Pinero—” “Fuck sakes, Ash. Don’t you think following Pinero into his territory is a little extreme?” Mason cut her off. She let out a frustrated breath. “C’mon, Mace, it’s either this or risk losing him until God knows when. This is my only chance.” Ashni couldn’t keep the irritation out of her voice. “Fine. Tell me exactly where you are, and I’ll throw in some company. For free.” He tried to make light of her situation. They were both aware of the potential danger. Although Ashni was cautious, there was too much room for error. She relented. “I came up from the 168th station. We’re heading straight ahead. No turns yet. Looks like Pinero’s headed for the Harlem River. Listen, Mason, there’s no need for you to come out here. I’ve got this under control—” A loud screech of rubber pierced the silence. Ashni spun on her heels. She disconnected the call, ignoring Mason’s shouts. A dark blue Lincoln with smoked-glass windows and chromespoke tires was headed in her direction. Chances of it being for her were remote. She didn’t know anyone in this part of the city. Yet, once again, a brusque chill crept over her body. A sense of foreboding prevailed. She shifted her gaze. Pinero had also turned around. He watched the vehicle with a somewhat menacing smile. Ashni whipped around and observed the vehicle which was approaching fast. It swerved left, then right and narrowly missed another stationary vehicle. With another nasty squeal of rubber, it slipped across the road. She groaned. The car was definitely headed her way. It hit the curb, skidded sideways along the pavement and turned sharply. The rear right side halted inches from her legs. Ashni stood still after barely moving out of harm’s way. Four doors opened simultaneously revealing Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | four men with death-defying faces. They glowered at her. Dressed alike in black denim, black t-shirts, and short black leather jackets, they could easily pass for brothers. Two men at the back wore their hair bleached and cut to a quarter of an inch from their scalps, almost punk like. The two in front looked nothing short of ordinary, apart from the driver’s broken nose and the large scar across the cheek of his passenger. Their stances were threatening, and they wielded lethal-looking tire-irons. All this, Ashni observed in less than a minute. Their conceited grins brought a smile to her lips. Don’t worry boys, I’ll wipe off your smirks. She swung her gaze away from the four men. Pinero made his way toward them. She attempted to move, but the driver’s stern look froze her in place. “Move, and you die, lady.” Focusing cold eyes on him, Ashni grinned. “Is that right?’ “Yeah.” “Well, well, well, Detective Callahan, how nice to see you again. Ah, how splendid of you to pay homage to my backyard,” Pinero’s sanguine Italian accent reached her ears, as he moved into her view and leaned against the trunk of the car. He chuckled with undisguised sarcasm. “Boys, meet the bane of my existence. Detective Ashni Scott Callahan. The only cop with balls big enough to make my life a living hell.” “Spare me the compliments, Pinero. You’re under arrest,” Ashni said through clenched teeth. She refrained from pulling out her gun figuring it’d be a clear waste of time. “Under arrest? Care to elaborate?” Pinero shoved his hands into the pockets of his brown leather jacket and offered Ashni a devil-may-care grin. A tall man with broad shoulders, his build did little to deter her. Despite their previous encounter, she didn’t seem to intimidate the man. A couple months ago, she’d belittled him in front of his entire staff and customers by stripping him to his jocks. She’d subsequently marched him to the police vehicle outside his restaurant. “Oh, you have a pretty good idea. Drugs, armed 84 | UncagedBooks.com

robbery, stolen vehicles, murder. Should I go on? The list is endless you know.” “And who’s going to arrest me, Detective?” “Me.” Despite her current situation, fear was the furthest thing from her mind. Pinero’s blasé attitude irked the crap out of her. She aimed to wipe his arrogance away permanently. “You and which army? From where I stand you look kinda outnumbered.” “I don’t need one, I’ll take you in myself. That’s a promise.” “Danced you a merry chase, didn’t I, Detective?’ His offhand remark threw her briefly off guard. So, she hadn’t been as clandestine as she’d hoped. No wonder he’d appeared so relaxed when the car pitched up. I’m such an idiot. But she wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction of seeing her shock. “Case of being in the right place at the right time, I guess.” She shrugged. “Oh, trust me, you’re in the right place all right. I’m going to make you suffer like you made me. I’ve big plans for you, Detective. Pretty little thing, isn’t she, boys?” His eyes narrowed as his goons grunted in voracious agreement. Aware of his trade of selling western women to the east, Ashni bristled beneath his underlying cynicism. His poor treatment of women annoyed her. His threats, however, didn’t concern her. She was adept at taking care of herself. “Seeing as none of your police buddies are here to help you, getting rid of you will be much easier, don’t you agree?” He rescued a cigarette out of his pocket. Ashni glared holes through him. “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I won’t give in so easily.” Lighter to his cigarette, Pinero laughed. The harsh sound grated on Ashni’s ears. Similar to steel against steel. His companions joined in the fun. “Laugh all you want, Pinero. You know what they say about the one who laughs last. I’ll definitely laugh hard when I escort you to the cell, we’ve kept warm for you.” “Brave words for a woman. A lone woman at that.” The snub irked her. Without another word, Ashni moved with lightning speed. She kicked out a limber leg and caught Pinero by surprise. He stumbled backward into one of his startled men. Blood streamed


| CHARLENE NAMDHARI | from his nose. With a howl, he cupped a hand to his nose. His eyes a devilish glare, he scowled at Ashni. “You broke my fucking nose. You’re going to pay bitc—” “Watch your mouth, Pinero. I don’t take kindly to insults. If you know what’s good for you, I’d suggest you come with me quietly. But, if you want something else broken, let’s dance.” Her tone deadly calm. “What are you standing there for, get her, fucking idiots,” Pinero growled at his men. The four of them approached Ashni. Their gestures hostile. She backed away from the car into a clearing. They formed an arc in front of her and left her rear clear. “Scared, lady?” the driver sneered. “We’re going to whack you silly.” His passenger thumped the iron against his palm. “We’ll see who’s whacking who,” Ashni said. “Hear that, boys. We’ve got ourselves a tough lady,” the driver goaded her. They all guffawed. “So, who’s first?” Ashni moved into a karate defense position. Bending her knees slightly, she tightened her chest and pushed out her hands. The action forced rigidity into her fingers. Mind clear, she concentrated on her task. Flexing her right hand, she flicked her index finger in a “come hither” gesture. The driver stepped forward, his stance arrogant. “Boy, am I going to enjoy this?” Those were his last words. He swung the tire iron over his head in Ashni’s direction. With only a split second to make her move, she stepped toward him, her left hand raised in defense. Without a break in movement, her right leg shot upward. The toe of her metal-tipped boot caught the idiot squarely on the chin. The instant her boot made a bone-jarring contact, she twirled away from the iron. Her flow perfect. Stunned, the metal dropped from the driver’s hand. He went down as if pole-axed and hit the ground with a wounded cry. Another goon raised his iron to attack, his lips parted in a menacing snarl. He pounced. Ashni reacted instinctively. With a quick step forward, she karate-chopped him on his hand. Then the other in a blur of motion as it came down. The iron dropped from his paralyzed hand. Unrelenting, she swiveled. Her right leg shot up and kicked out hard to connect with his stomach in an

unpleasant crunch. The man doubled over in pain. He dropped to his knees. She chopped at the back of his neck and sent him sprawling, face down. The two remaining punks glanced at each other briefly. Irons raised over their heads as they charged forward. Anticipating their movements, Ashni ran toward them. Her body lifted effortlessly as she jumped up and delivered a neatly timed split kick catching both men in the chest. Grunting, they fell backward and clutched their chests. One of them got up with effort. His jaw bonded with a solid right hook from a merciless Ashni. He went down like a bag of flour. The other guy stood, his hand on his chest. With a short run, she leaped up and came down with a firm elbow to the back of his neck. He went down hard. This time he stayed down. His groan resembled the cry of a kid. Ashni caught the flash of someone behind her. She spun in a half turn. Her gaze raked over the driver before his hands rose above his head and descended quickly. With the agility of a cheetah, Ashni dropped on her back the same time her right leg shot up. She connected with the man’s groin. His thighs closed instinctively. He glared at her for a full second before the iron fell from his hand and he grasped his crotch. His face a mask of paralyzed anguish, he doubled over and fell forward, almost on top of Ashni, but she rolled away in time.

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fang-FREAKIN-tastic reviews

feature author DE McCluskey


I

began writing in 2011, making up funny, rhyming stories, with a horror-based theme, mostly for my daughter who was only four years of age at the time and loved a good scare (albeit a funny one). These stories became popular so I started to write them down in a book. That’s when the idea for a comic sprung into mind, and Interesting Tymes was created. An anthology of short horror stories, all written in rhyme, and child friendly. I had enough tales written to make another, and Interesting Tymes X 2 continued where the first one left off, with Edward D’Ammage introducing another six horror tales. From then I began to expand on my tales, taking the original themes, and making them into longer narratives. I wrote, commissioned, and produced my first, short, horror comic, Wooden Heart the year after. I had the bug then, and The Few was written, followed by a more ambitious project. My first full length graphic novel. Doppelganger is over 100 pages long and is a dark psychological tale of a man descending into madness. As I wrote almost exclusively in horror, I wanted to try something different, so I wrote and produced another full graphic novel, Olf. This is a

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children’s tale about Santa Claus and his reindeer. I wrote this trying to balance my brain between the darkness of Doppelganger and my desire to write something that my daughter could read. After a number of other short and long horror stories, I wanted to do something else that would rekindle my love for Christmas, of old comics like The Beano. I partnered up with a fantastic artist called Joe Matthews, and we produced one of my proudest pieces of work. We undertook the mammoth job of re-writing Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, completely in rhyme. Joe did the artwork in his fantastic Beano-esque style. This has been my best seller to date. After producing a number of other comics, I found writing them a long, laborious and expensive hobby. I have no talent for drawing, but I am able to see the panels in my head and I’m good at articulating them to the illustrators. I decided to change the script I had written for a graphic novel called Thirteen into a novel. I changed the name of it to The Twelve and it is currently selling well on Amazon, and from me via my Facebook page. Stirred on by the success of The Twelve, I teamed up with a local musical historian who I used to work with back in the days of playing in bands around Liverpool. We developed a historical tale about the old Liverpool music scene. Tony did the research into the swing music scene in Liverpool after the war, and my second novel came to life. In The mood… For Murder was released, to excellent reviews. There are big things in the pipeline for this book, least of all, a sequel. In my spare time, I work as a computer engineer, I am a full-time father to my daughter Grace (who will be bringing out her own children’s book in 2019, entitled The Hangry Hamster), I also do stand-up comedy around the north-west of England.


| D E MCCLUSKEY | pectedly, earlier this year. He never got the see the finished article. But, we had fleshed out the ideas for another 2 boos in this series, and they will ALL proudly feature his name on the front page. If your book came with a theme song, what would it be and why? Oooooh, something like Sympathy for the Devil… Not the Guns ‘n Roses version that was on Interview with a Vampire, but the original Rolling Stones version. Who is your favourite character and why? Where did you find the inspiration for your book The Contract? I wrote this book years and years ago. It started life as a rhyming story for kids, but then it became dark, and then it go even darker… before I knew it, it was a dark as anything… It was now, nowhere near suitable for kids. So I decided to write it as a continuing comic, each episode would have been another murder… but still it continued to grow. The artist I had attached (because I can’t even draw a stick) told me that he was going to buy his own house with the money it was going to cost me to produce this comic. I then decided to shelve it, because, I’m far from rich, and I was not going to pay for someone else’s house. I kept on revisiting the story because I loved it, but it just needed something… extra! Anyway, at a convention I got talking to the girlfriend of another author who was living in Liverpool, and she introduced us. We read each others works and found out that we both likes the writing styles. We decided to work together, his work was what I was looking for in this book, and I showed it to him, and we decided to work together on it. Unfortunately, C William Giles passed away, unex-

FBI Agent Symes is my favourite character. He is dry witted, he is good at his job, and is a total ladies man. He is flawed in many ways, but is a very strong character. I also LOVE the character of Dr Broom. He is an English professor, and I used this cliché to full effect for pure comedy moments in an otherwise intense read. What is your favourite genre/author to read? Ask me this question 10 years ago and I would have said, without a shadow of a doubt, Stephen King. BUT… his stuff has become so hum-drum and stale as of late, I still read his later stuff, but it doesn’t hold a light to the fantastic tales I have read of his in the past. The Stand, Cujo, The Tommyknockers, IT, The Shining… need I go on??? James Herbert is another influence of mine. I love all of his books. The feel of them, usually set in middle England with a strange and horrible narrative that sucks you in. Currently, I like to read a lot of indie authors. I’m reading quite a bit of Catherine Cavendish at the moment. She is very like James Herbert. I also adore Neil Gaiman. I love his kids work and his adult work too… I haven’t read a bad book by him yet… (although I have given up on the book Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | he wrote with Terry Pratchet, Good Omens, I felt it was trying too hard to be funny, like a poor Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

Wisconsin (where I’ve never been). It’s a ghost story but not in MY usual style. Less horror, more thriller/ nostalgia.

Do you have any tips on the process of getting published?

I am also putting the last edits together on a book I have been working on for a few years now, entitled TimeRipper. It’s a time travel/sci-fi/historical take on Jack the Ripper. It’s my longest book to date (it sits at 102k words) and one of the ones I’m most proud of. I did BIG TIME research into all the lore surrounding JtR, all the truths and the fictions, and I hope that I have done the tale justice. I’m not doing any big reveal on who I think the ripper is (Aaron Kozlowski, in my opinion, not the books), it’s pure fiction and is an exciting, and historically accurate take on it…

LOL… Absolutely not! That’s all I have to say on this subject… Except that I think that the traditional publishing model is dying a death. There are a million people about who will tell you different, but for each of them, there are another five million people who will tell you that self-publishing is the way forwards… I don’t know… so my ‘NOPE’ answer still stands When you’re not writing, what other hobbies do you have? When I’m not writing, I am usually found thinking about what I’m going to write, and if I’m not thinking about what I’m going to write I am busy daydreaming about stuff I could write. And if I’m not doing that… then I’m editing! In my spare time (of which I have very little) I work a 9:30 till 18:00 job, I am a full time father, and I do a spots of stand-up comedy, mostly around the north-west. I’m also in negotiations to make one of my novels into a film, so I’m in constant dialogue with the script-writer and potential director. On top of all of this I also write comics and graphic novels. So, I am usually in negotiations with artists, letterers, cover artists, printers… So… my life is pretty much full on. What are you working on at the moment? I have just finished a first draft of a novel that I want to bring out next Christmas, entitled The Spirit of Christmas. It’s a ghost story set in the wilds of 90 | UncagedBooks.com

I’m also putting the final touches to Mutant Superhero Zombie Killing Disco Cheerleaders from Outer Space (with Uzis)… yes, that it the full title. It just rolls off the tongue. This is a 1980’s B movie in a novel format. I am also writing Reboot: A Cosmic Horror… this is a funny take on Lovecraftian lore. I have a love/hate relationship with Lovecraft. His ideas are superb and totally out there, but his actual writing is awful and difficult to read. Where is your favourite place to write? I can write pretty much anywhere. In fact, one of the senior managers in the company I work for thinks that the company should hold some of the IP for my stories as he says most of them were written when I should have been working… He has a point!!! (he will never read this, so I can say that). I love to write in coffee shops or even McDonalds. I can write in chaos, sometimes I need that chaos. If I write at home, when I’m on my own, I usually end up watching something stupid on the internet, or a box set, or a movie, or cleaning up (that’s a joke, I’m a total scruff) What are your go to tools for writing? My trusty old MacBook Air… MS Word… iTunes… A cup of tea… turn the internet off and away I go. Do you prefer it quiet or some background noise when


| D E MCCLUSKEY | you’re working? If you prefer background noise what do you usually have on? The noisier the better… the louder the music the better. I love to listen to ANYTHING rocky when writing, and I mean anything. Going from Blondie to The Beatles, to Queen, Aerosmith, Black Sabbath, GnR, Bon Jovi… anything!!! I do great work in chaos. When my daughter was younger I used to take her to them climbing frame places where the kids run around, sugared up to high Heaven, screaming and yelling and crying… their mums running after them, hitching up their jogging pants, while still holding onto their cut of tea for love or money… I can write page after page after page in these places. Or, I can be that pretentious (insert swear word here) who sits in a coffee shop with his laptop open while staring out of the window while my double shot skinny mocca latte fusion is cooling in front of me… I also get the fever to write when I have to be somewhere, urgent. Usually about an hour or so before I have to leave, my muse will hit me and I have to write until the very last millisecond before I HAVE to leave…

Enjoy an excerpt from The Contract The Contract DE McCluskey Horror/Occult There’s a killer on the loose Three Gruesome Murders. A shooting, a garroting, a drowning… all in different states with no connections between the victims. But, as the victims are identified, it appears they are not model citizens. Add to that, the fact that a calling card has been left at every scene...

A single white feather! But no ordinary white feather. It becomes apparent that there is a serial killer on the loose. As the body count rises, FBI Agents Cox and Symes are plunged into a cat and mouse chase across the USA and beyond, to find the elusive, brutal killer. All they have to go on is the description of a thin, white male with a blond beard, and the trail of strange white feathers. But just like his signature, there is nothing ordinary about this killer. Judge, Jury, Executioner... This contract must be fulfilled Excerpt THAD CARR WAS in a bad mood. He had walked through the office that morning and passed the open-plan desks without so much as a ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ to any of the other workers. He had reached his destination and entered it, closing the door to his own plush office behind him. People in the open-plan area looked at each other, raised their eyebrows and smiled. Normally, Mr Carr, or Thad as he liked to be known, was a pleasant, even jovial, man. He was in his early forties, although due to his extensive fitness regime and (mostly) good living, he could easily pass for early thirties. The consensus between the women of the office was that he was the most eligible bachelor in the company and that he was very pleasing on the eye. As he closed the door, he rested his back against the cool, frosted glass and sighed a deep, resounding sigh. He loved this job, and normally he loved his workforce, but he hated the first day back in the office after his annual vacation. He always came back with the knowledge that his inbox would be stacked with trivial matters, matters that any one of those lazy bastards in there could have handled while I was away! The last thought Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | depressed him. He needed time to ease himself slowly back into the work ethic. He sat in his luxurious leather chair and closed his eyes. He was a deep believer in zen, and right now he needed to find his, just to get him through this first day. After a moment or two of collecting his thoughts, he leaned forward and pressed a button on his desk phone. ‘Mr Carr, what can I do for you?’ the electronic version of his administrative assistant’s voice asked over the speaker. Jean was new, and she was shaping up to be an excellent addition to the team, but she hadn’t gotten the hang of calling him Thad yet. ‘Jean, I think I need half an hour or so, just to prepare myself for the day. Can you screen my calls and bring me in a coffee?’ ‘No problem, Mr Carr,’ the officious voice on the other end of the line replied. ‘Excellent!’ He sat back in his chair again, put his hands behind his head, and leaned back, closing his eyes. His thoughts rolled back to his days out of the state, fishing and partying in the Everglades. ~~~~ With his feet up on the desk and a zen smile on his face, Thad Carr was slowly coming back from a salacious daydream. He opened one eye and glanced at the pile of papers before him. With the smile on his face fading to the resigned look of a man with impending work to do, work that was not going to go away on its own, he leaned over and pressed the intercom button. ‘Jean?’ The electronic voice of his secretary replied. ‘Yes, Mr Carr?’ ‘Could you bring me that coffee now rather than later? I’d love a latte with a double caffeine shot and a cinnamon cookie if you could.’ ‘Yes sir, not a problem. I’ll run down and get it for you now. Do you want anything else?’ He smiled. He loved subservient women. ‘No, thank you, just the latte and cookie will be fine.’ ‘Ten minutes, sir.’ He could hear the de92 | UncagedBooks.com

light in her voice as he released the button. This pleased him. He fired up his computer and began his day by picking up the first sheet of paper from the large stack in his inbox. As he immersed himself in the work at hand, the reminiscences regarding his time in the Everglades were still emerging. A nice little tingle within his trousers entertained him as the debauchery and revelry they had partaken in gave him a small sexual thrill. I’ll take care of myself a little later on, then I might call Kate. Kate was his current squeeze, hand-picked from the office. Ambitious, hungry, and very liberated. He liked her because he knew that he could manipulate her into doing anything that he wanted. It’s good to be the king, he thought with a smile. Mel Brooks’s History of the World, Part One had always been one of his favourite films. The secret lives that he and Mike lived while on their vacations always caused his mouth to water. They made him smile, no matter how bad life was treating him. Sometimes, he knew his smile could be more akin to a hideous sneer, but he couldn’t help that. It is what it is. As he waited for his coffee to come, he scoffed and reached for another sheet of paper from the inbox. A small noise disturbed him. It sounded like a rumble of thunder from outside his office window. He turned his head and glanced out at the rapidly darkening Georgia sky. A sickly greengrey shade was spreading through the morning. The clouds looked pregnant, ready to drop their downpour over the expectant city. If anything, this put him more in mind of his time in Florida. There had been many a thunderstorm down there, and he always revelled in the darkness and warm humidity of a storm. The sly look of his secret knowledge returned to his face. It was there for just the briefest of moments, replaced by a mild startled look when the bright flash of lightning caught him out. He chuckled to himself, thinking about one particular girl they had chased during another thunderstorm. She had very nearly gotten away from them in the difficult conditions. Almost, but not quite, he thought. He stared out at the main office through the frosted glass of his door, at the coloured blobs of the other


| D E MCCLUSKEY | employees passing by. Look at them, he laughed to himself. Scurrying along in their day to day lives, trying to make ends meet. None of them know what it’s really about. Not when you have the power of life and death in your very own hands. Knowing what it feels like to brandish it at your will, to dish it out at your own discretion. He put his feet back up on his desk and started to read another memo. His earlier bad mood was now entirely forgotten. A ceiling tile began to move silently above him. As it slid aside almost five inches, a long, thin loop of wire inched down, almost but not quite hitting Thad’s scalp. He felt something brush the short hairs on the top of his head and absent-mindedly flicked his hand, thinking it was a fly buzzing around him. That was another reminder of the Glades, the endless stream of fucking insects. It was particularly noticeable when there was a lot of dead meat lying around, as well as the scent of fresh blood in the air. He returned to his mundane report with thoughts of thunder and lightning, naked girls, fan boats and gators! Warm rain falling in downpours was running through his mind. A glow took over him, filling his senses. An erection was threatening to appear as he mused on everything they had done. He could almost smell the blood in the water. That final distraction proved to be his downfall. Another rumble of thunder followed by a rapid flash of lightning told him that the storm was getting nearer. The flash coincided with the continued journey of the metal wire. It crossed his eye-line. At first, he didn’t react, thinking it was just the lighting. The thin, almost invisible, wire grazed his cheek, and he swatted at it. It hit his chin, and then it was too late. He looked up quickly, allowing the wire to drop past his chin and slip beneath and around his neck. Almost as quick as the flash of lighting, the loop that the wire was tied in tightened as he craned his neck. Instantly, it closed, cutting into his soft flesh. His hands rose up instinctively in a vain bid to grasp the noose, which now had him at its mercy. The more he struggled, the tighter the wire became, cutting off the air supply to his throat, disabling his ability to speak, or even scream. Terror took hold of him, and his fingertips began

to bleed as he frantically clawed at the garrotte around his neck. The thin wire cut further into his flesh, slicing through the dermal layers of his straining neck. Blood began to flow freely as the wound opened further, caused by the thrashing of his legs behind the desk. If there had been any witnesses to this event, it would have looked like Mr Carr was dancing, or attempting to get away from a troublesome wasp or insect that was bothering him. In his peripheral vision, he caught sight of the window. The rain was now raging against the glass. To his tearing eyes, however, it wasn’t rain that was coming down so heavily. It was fire! Liquid fire! It was pouring from the heavens and steaming as it hit the buildings and pavements below. Smoke rose from the streets as the molten flames dropped past his window, hissing on their descent. The force behind the wire became more insistent, and in his struggle, he could feel himself being lifted from his seat. The strength of the pull was impressive, lifting him further and further until he was out of the seat completely and onto his feet. He looked up. It was difficult to see anything as his eyes clouded from the strain put upon them, but he was desperate for some understanding. He needed to know what was happening to him in the relative safety of his own office. What he saw above only melted his mind even further. His eyes followed what he could see of the wire. It consisted of a single, slender but strong, metal strand. As he followed it up towards the ceiling, the strand began to grow wider. Its width expanded, and instead of metal, it was a soft, pink, almost flesh-like tendril. Becoming wider and thicker, it was a twisting and turning muscle. As it tightened, pulling him further up towards the ceiling, he saw that the white tiles had gone. He was lifting towards an enormous, gaping darkness. The obsidian swirled, it morphed before his petrified eyes. It became a maw, an abyss. The edges of the hole sprouted teeth. Long, sharp, dangerous teeth. A sulphuric smell emanated from it. His confused mind likened the smell to spoilt eggs, but a hundred, no, a million times worse. He was danIssue 38 | September 2019 |

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| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | gling now with his legs kicking uselessly in the air. His fingers were struggling with the muscular vine that was now wrapped, tightly around his neck. The hole, above him, began to elongate, as if it was ready to greet him, to embrace him. The dark, filthy mouth descending towards him, sprouted more teeth from what had clearly become jaws. Flesh formed around them, wet, dripping, green flesh. The teeth were stained dark with what he only could think of as blood. Viscous liquid was dripping down the pale pink flesh of the grotesque tongue that he was hanging from. Hot, putrid breath issued from the orifice, as the tongue stole his head into the dark chasm. Screams echoed inside the darkness, screams that he recognised. These, coupled with the unmistakable smell of the Florida Everglades beneath the rank sulphur, brought to mind alligators. His legs spasmed, kicked out, knocking papers and files from his desk. His desperation to survive made his heart thump in his chest with a slow, dreaded beat. His ears were ringing. Or where they? Were these the sounds of trumpets blaring triumphantly, and drums beating to the march of soldiers? Were they in the distance, or were they in his office with him, right now? He no longer cared about the pain of the tongue wrapped around his neck. He no longer thought about the fact that he couldn’t breathe. All that consumed him right now was the horrible, screeching, musical disharmony exploding in his ears. The music, if anyone could call it that, was getting louder, closer. His only hope was that someone from the main office would hear it and come in to investigate. Maybe they could cut him down from the vile, dripping alligator in his ceiling. The fire had ceased to fall from the sky outside his window and had started to fall from the ceiling inside. The jaws, of the alligator from Hell, began to close around his head. This was when his bladder gave way. His suit trousers stained dark, before dripping with his own steaming piss. His tongue lolled from his mouth, bloated and purple. Blood and thick, pink spittle dripped from his mouth, onto his desk. 94 | UncagedBooks.com

A single white feather fell from the hole in the ceiling where the tile had been pushed away and landed gently on the desk, next to the pool of blood and saliva. There was no longer an alligator languishing in the ceiling, just a small hole where a tile had been moved. There was no longer fire falling from the tiles, or from the sky outside. All there was, was the limp, dangling body of Thad Carr, area manager and murderer of twelve innocent women. A few moments after Thad expired in the jaws of his imaginary alligator, Jean came into the office with his coffee. She carried it in on a tray which also contained a small plate with a few cookies on it ‘to keep him sweet.’ She knocked at the door and entered without his beckoning, which was the norm. Her head was down, mindful of not spilling his coffee. Mr Carr hated spilled coffee. ‘Oh, Mr Carr, the angels must be crying in Heaven today, sir. That rain is coming down something fierce ...’ At that point she looked up. The sight that she beheld, she would carry with her for the rest of her days on Earth. Mr Carr, the nice Mr Carr, was hanging by his neck from the ceiling. Blood stained his shirt and fingers. Urine stained his pants and pooled below him, mixing with the blood and saliva. His tongue protruded from his mouth, swollen and purple. Papers and files had been strewn across the floor around his upturned chair. For the briefest of moments, Jean absorbed the whole scene before her grasp on the tray faltered and she spilled the coffee over herself and the floor. As the porcelain cup and the metal tray crashed onto the expensive carpet, she began to scream. It was a long while before she stopped.


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Uncaged Reviews Born to Run

Mystic Maples Tena Stetler Fantasy Romance

Alexandra Anderson is on the run from the law. When the thirteen-year-old orphan can run no further, she collapses at the gates of the prestigious racing and breeding farm, North Oak. Horse racing strikes a deep chord in her. She hears a higher calling in the jingle jangle of bit and stirrup and in the thunder of hooves on the turn for home. It tells her she has a place in the world.

Earth/Fire witch Mercy Rose’s insatiable curiosity always gets her in trouble. After a break-in 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.

Ann Hunter Young Adult Contemporary

Uncaged Review: Alexandra is brought up in the foster system, and she was dealt a crappy blow with her foster home. The foster mother is a drunk, mean, and beats and abuses the kids in her home. When she finally escapes and gets to North Oak, then maybe she’ll begin to heal. She instantly bonds with a young colt named Promenade. Even though the people at North Oak take her in (there is more to this story that you find out in the end of this book as to why they so quickly agreed) – her past with the law and the foster home will return…. There was some confusing parts – one scene would just quickly switch to another one without more than a paragraph break, and do a bit of a time skip, which threw me out of the story a bit. A nice start to this series, I had to let my own prejudices that I have for the horse racing world be put on the side for this story – but it was well told. Obviously there are many secrets, and not all of them get answered in this book but it doesn’t toss you into a major cliffhanger. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Review: This is a quick read, with the witch Mercy, needing to take some time off and get away. When the booking at the hotel she’s staying at gets mixed up, a man – Silvanus - offers to rent her a cottage on his property for the remainder of her stay. This is a sweet story of love and learning to trust – just long enough to give you a good feel for the characters, but not overly long that it drags out unnecessarily. There was a lot of information that I didn’t get answers to, and I think Mercy and Sil’s relationship was a bit fast, but all in all, it’s a nice fantasy romance easy enough to read in a couple of hours. Reviewed by Cyrene


Tiny Gods Shayne Silvers Urban Fantasy

Lisa KM Lowe Shifter Romance

Power is patient, power is kind…

Soulmates will overcome anything.

No, wait. That’s not right. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely… Just ask Nate’s ex-fiancée. It’s almost this wizard’s birthday, so, he can cry if he wants to. That is, if he lives to see it…

Uncaged Review: The sixth book in this series just flat out slays. There were a lot of mysteries solved – I know who Mallory is!!!! – and of course, tons of action. And the action sequences in this series is quite intelligent. I have no idea how the author keeps this stuff straight and where the heck in his brain it comes from, but I’m all in. This may have been my favorite so far – and that’s saying a lot this deep into the series. Nate gets answers, but of course, a lot of questions. This series is just starting to take a breath. Mr. Silvers makes Harry Potter seem like Kindergarten. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Cyrene

When Lisa was left on the hospital steps seventeen years ago, it left a lot of unanswered questions in her mind. Where did she come from? Why was she abandoned? What did her future hold? Uncaged Review: This is a nice story with a lot of potential. For Lisa, she’s lived a human life since she was adopted by her parents, never knowing that she was shifter with the potential of amazing powers. Pulled away from a ruthless alpha father and left to die after her mother dies after childbirth. Fortunately, Jasper – who was the true soulmate of Lisa’s mother, promises her mother on her deathbed that he will protect her. He has her placed in a loving home and moves in not too far away to keep an eye out. Since Jasper is an enforcer for the shifter counsel, when a raid of band of rogues, he finds a baby boy – who is left to fend for himself in this rogue pack. He takes the boy and raises him as his own and names him Markus. Markus and Lisa are drawn to each other and become the best of friends all their life. Now I won’t go into more, and although I really liked the story, it felt a little disjointed. It didn’t have the fluidity from scene to scene and the action scenes were a bit lackluster. There wasn’t a lot of tension in the romance between Lisa and Markus and it would have been nice to see Lisa and the others as wolves more than they were in the book. The book seemed more dialog oriented than most, and from chapter to chapter you are getting a different perspective, which threw me a couple times. All in all – it’s a nice start and an entertaining read. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews Debriefing the Dead Kerry Blaisdell Paranormal

Diomere’s Healer Sabrina A. Fish Fantasy Romance

HYACINTH FINCH HAS GOT ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE, THE OTHER KICKING ASS.

Five Gates. Five Sisters. Five Very Different Men.

The only thing Hyacinth wants is her life back. Literally. She and her sister were murdered by Demons, leaving her young nephew, Geordi, to his father’s family in the brutal Sicilian Mob. Then Archangel Michael offers her a deal: recapture a powerful rock the Demons stole, and she can live long enough to find Geordi a safe home. Uncaged Review: First of all, for a debut author, this is about as good as it gets. Well written, original and well edited, I only found a couple little snafus which were easy to disregard. This is marketed as a Paranormal Ghost Romance, and it’s not really that…at least not yet. Sure, there are a couple of candidates, but nothing really concrete at this point. A very original tale, after Hyacinth and her sister are murdered, Hyacinth is sent back by Archangel Michael to retrieve the rock she gave to the goons. She gets help from her friend and neighbor Jason, but she really doesn’t know him that well, and why does he want to help her so badly? A lot of the questions that you will have right off the bat are settled within the back part of the book. When Hyacinth is sent back by Michael, she can now sense and talk to the dead – whether or not that’s because she’s not really alive herself – she doesn’t know, but it’s helpful when she befriends the dead guy, Eric. This book has some great action, nice humor and a nice original storyline – and for a debut novel, that’s pretty sweet. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Once there were two worlds connected by five gates. Then the Gate Keepers closed the gates and disappeared. The Gate Keepers have returned. Uncaged Review: Even though this is the second book in a series, I had no issues keeping up with it. And this is well thought out and well written. This is a very original concept, of showing how Arri can heal – there are many books in the fantasy realm that have healers, but the descriptive way the author brings these healing powers to the reader is very fascinating and so well done. Arri – a light fairy/merperson needs to save her king, and to do that, she must venture out from the gates that seals off the lands and it’s a dangerous journey that she must take. Treves is a manticore whose job is a jeweler, and he must embark on dangerous missions to find the gems. A lot of danger and action, and a good heaping spoon of sexy times, this is a page turner, and not one to miss. The use of some mythical creatures we don’t read about much is refreshing and the characters are easy to like Reviewed by Cyrene


Lovely Digits Jeanine Englert

Historical Suspense When two murders strike the sleepy Victorian town of Clun, England, an unlikely partnership forms. But can the killer be found before there is a third? Lovely Digits is the town oddity . . . Quirky spinster Lucy Wycliffe prefers to ignore gossip and embrace her position as the town’s layer out of the dead, despite how her parents’ deaths thrust her into such unlikely work

Uncaged Review: This book is such a nice surprise, and for a debut novel, I can only imagine this author getting better and better. The descriptions have you stepping in the snow with Lucy and John, and taking in the stars. This is such an original concept – Lucy is a “layer-out” or a mortician of the past. Giving the families and the victims the care and respect before they are laid to rest. John comes in as the new constable, and approaches Lucy for her to help solve some recent murders – and for more than one reason. I am not a suspense person per say, but this historical is a sweet romance that builds with trust, and add in the mystery of a killer, and the different ways they find their clues in this time long gone and the author did a fantastic job making me believe it. Great beginning. Reviewed by Cyrene

Dirty Damsels Peggy Jaeger

Contemporary Romance What if Cynderella had a one-night stand with a man named Prince? When I first saw Cynderella all covered in soot in that sexy maid uniform, I knew I wanted to be her Prince.She’s a smart and savvy businesswoman who’s built her cleaning company from the ground up. But now that Dirty Damsels was booming, I’ve been hired to arrange a hostile takeover.

Uncaged Review: I’ve read a number of the fairy tale re-telling books, but this one is just fun, and one of my favorites. When Ella has a one night stand, she has no idea that the man she’s with is a man aiding a greedy business man to take over her company. But does he know who she is, and is he using her to help his client? This is a quick read and kept me smiling and glued to the pages – and that’s saying a lot since contemporary romances are not my normal go-to read. Too bad we all can’t have our own Prince. A steamy romance with great characters – and this just may go on my to-be-read-again pile for when I need to be pulled out of a funk. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews Witch’s Reign

Taming a Defiant Duke

They think her an underdog against impossible odds… And she will fight tooth and nail to prove them wrong.

A surly duke and a desperate lady….

Shannon Mayer Urban Fantasy

The Witch’s Reign…a land of eternal, unnatural winter ruled by the Ice Witch. In turn she is guarded by three supernatural creatures who wander her lands hunting for unwary souls, killing any who cross their paths. Uncaged Review: This is a really good start to a series, with some twists and turns that you won’t see coming with Zamira – or with Maks, her human partner she’s been saddled with. Nothing is as it seems, so be ready for a lot of one liners that will keep you smiling, and enough action to keep you furiously tapping the next page on your Kindle to see what happens next. And after the dragons come into the storyline, you wonder if it’s going to be another lie that is piled on top of Zam. I’m not going to blow smoke and tell everyone that I loved the book. I liked it and think it’s a good start, but I’m not head over heels in love with the series…. yet. But I’ve always liked Mayer’s writing style in the past, so I’m willing to give myself time and let the series brew a bit longer and see where it takes me.

Reviewed by Cyrene

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Tammy Andresen Historical Regency

Can one difficult duke ruin all her future plans? The answer is most decidedly yes. Emily Mayweather is desperate to provide a future for herself after her father’s death. But she hasn’t lost her pride and she won’t be ordered around by a surly arrogant duke no matter how much he blusters. Nor will she feel sorry for disrupting his perfect orderly life. Soon enough he can go back to being his grumpy self and besides, he’s the one who inserted himself into her affairs. Uncaged Review: A nice short regency romance that I read in a couple hours. The characters are likeable enough eventually even though they could have been flushed out better with the supporting characters that didn’t get a lot of page time. The danger element was a little too passive and the villain just a sniveling rat. But all in all, this is a good book to sit down with for a couple hours. I think both characters needed a good swift kick at times, but they were well suited. The supporting character that really got my interest was Harry, Bar’s younger brother. Sounds like his book would be a hoot. Reviewed by Cyrene


Irish Magic

Susan B. James Romantic Comedy

A romantic comedy with a touch of magic. What do you do when everything goes wrong? Make a wish on a four-leaf clover, right? There’s no other logical way out of it! But a clover wish is a heart wish. Everyone knows that. When part leprechaun Bradley Flynn is charged with finding Kate’s true love, he calls on retired matchmaker Essie O’Callaghan who happens to have a mission of her own. Uncaged Review: This book is a romantic comedy at its core, with a touch of fantasy woven in. Kate has had some major bad luck, with a fiancé that jilted her and a writer’s block that she can’t get past to fix her second novel, which she was paid an advance for and the deadline came and went and now they want their money back. Trying to stall them so she can get her hero in the book back on track, she books a trip to Ireland, with the rest of her money. But she wished upon a 4-leaf clover, and the leprechaun Bradley, is sent in to find Kate’s true love, without using magic of any kind.

Demon Slayer Linsey Hall Urban Fantasy

Got a demon that needs killing? I’m your girl. So, I’m in trouble. Big trouble. I’m a demon slayer, and one of those suckers has escaped. Even worse, it knows my secret... that I’m a Dragon Blood, able to create new magic and kick some serious butt with it.

Uncaged Review: A first book in a 4 book series and the author hit this out of the park. I was grabbed from the first few pages until the end. Plenty of action with humor and snark all the way through. Every time I set this book down, I was thinking about when I would be able to pick it back up. The well-developed main characters have perfect chemistry and the secondary characters complement the main duo. This time you also have a woman character that is on equal footing with her male counterpart. Magic abounds in this book and some of the action scenes will remind you of Indiana Jones. I love that the author tosses in some real architectural history to not only educate us, but to throw some realism into a book about supernatural beings, clever and smart. Already downloaded book two. Reviewed by Cyrene

There was some funny moments, and the pacing was good, it did stall out in a couple places, but some of the plot slowed down a bit when reading the short excerpts of Kate’s novel she’s trying to fix. It’s definitely a book that was entertaining and a nice concept. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Magic’s Mate Robbie Cox Paranormal Romance Adira Brennan never felt so foolish. Jensen never intended to mate with her, never intended to use her for anything except a good time until his true mate returned. Now, with her magic in shards thanks to using it to bring harm, Adira is sent to Bull Creek to help the alpha there take a stand against a pack of coyotes, but can she rely on her magic when the time comes?

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: This is the first book in the Destined Mates series. The story’s main protagonist is Adria. She is a witch done wrong by a wolf shifter. I mean really wrong. She decides at the urging of a fellow witch to check out Bull Creek. I mean why not get out into the wilderness. Help those people who need help. It will be a breath of fresh air. But the older witch does nothing without a plan in place. Oh, and her magic is on the fritz, but it’s because of the abovementioned wolf shifter. Dimitri is a cougar shifter, or I guess a mountain lion or a Panther depending on where you are from. Anyways, he is the leader of Bull Creek. Bull Creek is somewhere I would like to live, a place where people can be themselves. It is a place for the broken. Not to wallow in their pain, but to fix themselves. Regardless of shifter, power, human, Bull Creek is a safe haven. Or it was. No safe haven is without those who want to control, those who want to be in power, those with an agenda. Can Dimitri protect his town from those who wish

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to do it harm? Will Adria fix her power? Is peace out there for two individuals with damage? Well since I read the book, I know. But you will need to read it as I don’t give up the goods, at least without some libations and a good conversation. Obviously, as one who reads my reviews, you will notice that I read them out of order. Yes, I was offered #7 to read as an arc before official publication. So, I read it. #1 has been sitting since I bought it at BoBase earlier this year. I know I am horrible with both reviews and reading my TBR list, but I swear I am getting better. With the minion out of the house soon for school, I should have more time to read. That is what they all say though, right? This book has some heat, I mean you have mated partners, there is going to be some heat. It doesn’t have as much as with some of Robbie’s other books, so if you are looking for a book that burns your fingers from the heat, this one may just singe a little. Overall, I like the way the world is building. As it is the first in the series, there is more world building versus character building that comes into play.


Putting the Fun in Funeral Diana Pharoah Francis Humorous Fantasy Beck Wyatt has always hated her mother—enough to kill her. As luck would have it, someone beats her to murdering Mommy Dearest and now Beck gets to plan the tackiest funeral the world has ever seen for the worst woman she’s ever known.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I am going to shine a bit of a light into the hot mess that I am. When I finish a book on kindle, which really is my phone because who knows where my not 1, not 2, but 3 kindles are, I look at what I have to read and just pick one. I do have a TBR, and I do follow it for the most part, but if I am in the bath or somewhere not near my TBR, I will scan through the books and pick one. That is what how I ran across “Putting the Fun in Funeral” by Diana Pharaoh Francis. The main character is a bit of a hot mess, a wealthy hot mess, but a hot mess the same. But it is definitely someone I could be friends with. Her mom dies, and the first thing her friends do is celebrate, and get smashed. I personally will be a wet pool of tears, but my mom was not like Beck Wyatt’s mother. Where my mom cares, her mom hates. Where my mom likes my friends, her mom hated hers. There is a lot more but that would spoil the fun ;). Actually it really would, because you need to read this book to really know why Beck is jumping for joy when her mother was declared dead and police show up at her door.

really doesn’t know anyone else that does magic, except dear, dead, mommy. It isn’t like she is going to dig her up and ask her about magic, especially when her friends all volunteered to pee on her grave. This book isn’t your typical paranormal book. There are some serious issues that go beyond humans not liking magic users, which actually doesn’t really come up. It talks about pain, suffering, abuse, self-esteem issues, commitment issues, kidnapping, and even torture. In places, it is pretty deep while others have a high level of levity. Personally, the self-esteem issues starting to grind at me a bit. It almost felt sometimes it was there just to increase word count. I know that sounds jaded, but how many times does one need to read about how they aren’t good enough to be with a guy, or aren’t good enough to tell friends their secret, or aren’t good enough to be... anything. It is more than a romance, it is also a mystery. There are twists and turns, and surprises that I wasn’t even ready for. Knowing how much I read, I am ready for just about anything. It is a bit long, at 469 pages. It could have probably been shorter, but it kept me entertained throughout. If the author felt it needed to be that long, then it is that long. Overall I think it is a good book and one that is worth reading, if nothing other than to find out how Dear Dead Mommy died.. and trust me, it is a death for the ages

Beck is your typical, everyday estate business owner, who just happens to have a smidge of magic in her. Or at least she thinks she only has a smidge as she

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews A Good Day D.L. McCleary Military Romance Lieutenant Colonel David “Deuce” Wilcox’s last mission ends his military career and changes his life forever. His return to civilian life leads to a new job and introduces him and his wife to a world far different from anything he has experienced before.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: A Good Day starts off with a loving couple who have one of the worst days of their lives. The main character comes under fire while overseas. His injuries are severe and life-threatening. While he survives, nothing will ever be the same for him and his wife. The future is unsure as discharge papers arrive via carrier. Things, however, do fall into place for both of them. Not all pieces are good, and some are great. As someone who’s a spouse went on deployment, it is scary when they are away and you just hope that it is a phone call and not a knock on the door. For those who don’t know, when a service member dies, there is a knock on the door A phone call means that they have injuries, but are alive. Thankfully I did not have to experience either. Now this book is a precursor to what the author writes about, which is the art of rope play. The author actually participates in it himself, and so while this book does not discuss it, it does discuss underground sex clubs. Some of the content may be hard for sensitive readers to digest. Some people are okay with blood and guts. Oth-

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ers are okay with a little sex among consenting adults shouldn’t bother you. But with that said, it is okay and if that is your line, then it is your line. I enjoyed this book, there were a couple of things that stood out as weird, or at least not completely understandable. For example, they decide they want a bigger house, which is fine and fits into what they need. However, the way they go about it is a little off-putting. Also, I think that there is a lot of soul searching we don’t see. We see some of it with Isabel, but we don’t, in my opinion, see enough from Deuce. I would have liked to see the inner turmoil that I would expect there to be with that kind of lifealtering decision. I also thought that pace was good for the first 3/4rds of the book. However, for me, the last 1/4 went really fast. I am not saying it was a rush to finish, but it almost reads that way. It got to where it was to be at the end, and it wrapped up nicely, so overall I think it is a good book. It is also a good starter into this lifestyle.


The Detective Wins the Witch Kristen Painter Paranormal Romance Welcome to Nocturne Falls, the town that celebrates Halloween 365 days a year. The tourists think it’s all a show: the vampires, the werewolves, the witches, the occasional gargoyle flying through the sky. But the supernaturals populating the town know better. Living in Nocturne Falls means being yourself. Fangs, fur, and all.

Like all the other books, this one takes a predictable pattern. Girl meets boy, boy or girl need something. Something bad happens, girl or boy needs help. Just because the pattern is the same doesn’t mean they aren’t good reads. One reason I like this series is that it makes it feel real. While yes the stories may be a pattern, the environment is life-like and because of that, you feel like you are in the story. It doesn’t matter if you even believe in the paranormal. This town, with the little shops and family-friendly atmosphere, is enough to make you want to live there.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: In Kristen Painter’s latest Nocturne Falls book, “The Detective Wins The Witch,’ we look at Marigold, a local witch that owns the floral shop. Her mom and two sisters are also witches. You have Pandora and Charisma who are her sisters. Mom is Corette who is dating Batholomew who works for the Ellinghams, which Alice Bishop, another witch also does. So Marigold is a single mother of a wonderful daughter, Saffron. When she finds out that she needs a date to a wedding, she asks a local detective, Wyatt, if he would join her. This is another good book from Kristen. Her universe is diverse and really expands with each book. Yes, there are the main characters, but each one brings in someone new or expands on someone we may not have known about as well as we would like. For example, this book really digs into Alice as well as Marigold and her family. Alice, as readers of the series know, is the witch that helps the Ellingham’s walk in the sunlight.

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews

The End of Everything Christopher Artinian Horror/Dystopian For sisters Robyn and Wren, nothing will ever be the same. The cities are burning, the world is in chaos. The dead are rising...and they’re hungry. Safety? Security? These words are meaningless now. They fight, they hide, they run. No rest. No respite. All they can cling to is hope. Myra’s Review: In the opening scene, we learn more about the men who live at Loch Uig; several had visited the farm in Book one. Sadly, they do whatever they wish, including murder, stealing, and keeping women captive as sex slaves. In the meantime, the girls decide to check out a nearby archery club; after all, it would be handy to take out the undead from a safe distance. They both try regular bow and arrows on the target range, and discover Robyn is a natural, becoming more proficient with each shot. Wren not so much. Upon finding a cross bow and testing it, Wren is happy she is proficient in this archery weapon. The sisters, who are happy to be taken in by the kind Jack family, go with them to search for supplies at the nearest town. Only Mrs. Jack stayed home. The trip was a disaster; the whole family is killed by the undead. Reason? They were not ready for this horrid new world, unwilling to fight to live. Of course the girls are devastated, but are in for another shock. Mrs. Jack has disappeared 108 | UncagedBooks.com

when they get back, and there’s a blood trail near the front. Another zombie casualty. Robyn wants to pack and run, but Wren convinces her to stay. Can they find a better place? The setup is good, they just need to secure the main house with a strong gate and put up fencing where needed. Wren, the book worm, starts studying; from how to put up a gate to putting up barbed wire. There are lots of other helpful books on hand, with helpful tips on subjects like canning food. Their luck changes when an elderly farmer, a friend of the family, drops by. Jeb has never seen, much less fought one of the undead, but has a multitude of knowledge to run a farm. Earlier, the sisters had set fire to the surgery center in the nearby town to escape a horde. Now they discover poor Jeb is about to run out of his heart meds and had planned on refilling at the Center. Wren and Robyn feel responsible and make plans to enter the building and look for meds. Jeb wants none of it, but being strong young women, they convince him to go along with the plan. The execution is beyond dangerous and both girls are almost killed. But after they succeed, Jeb drives them to the archery club so they can restock. Jeb is shocked by the girl’s abilities and feels shame he couldn’t help. Still, they make a pact to help each other; the sisters will kill zombies and Jeb will teach them how to run a farm. At the end, Jeb has some senior moments and the sisters wonder if he has Alzheimer’s. Though it seems not to be a good choice, they are going to stand by their new friend. An enjoyable follow up to Book One. Recommended for zombie fans and those following Christopher Artinian.


Eve of Darkness Julia French Occult Stephanie Cook’s world has turned upside down. Fired from her job and her relationship with the man she loves in ruins, she decides to make a complete break from her old life. After she buys a house far away from the city, sight unseen, an injured man shows up on her doorstep and plunges her and her ex-fiance into the pursuit of a nightmare.

Stephanie had been a little more defined, the book would have earned a higher rating. While this wasn’t a bad read, I think it is best suited for those who enjoy occult, supernatural books. There were occult, Wiccan, supernatural, and magical aspects throughout the book. So many, it felt overwhelming to me, like the cook who throws all the food in the pantry into the pot. I was often confused, not being familiar with many of these elements. I had three issues with the book, the biggest; there were two different story lines in the book. I kept expecting to intersect they did not. The second was putting so many elements in one book. Third, while there was character development, I never clearly understood Stephanie’s motives for her choices in life.

Myra’s Review: Stephanie breaks up with her boyfriend Sam and buys a house outside town. She quickly meets her nearest neighbor, an old man, Mr. Moss. There’s something strange about him, but she can’t put her finger on it. Walking her property, she discovers 3 lovely apple trees; they are both attractive and repellent to her. Later, when Stephanie bites into one, she has hallucinations. Finding a tunnel which leads to the river, she is determined to uncover its mysteries. An old trunk inside is sometimes a newer trunk and sometimes invisible. Soon after, a stranger, near dead, knocks on her door. Elliott is trying to catch a huge fish in the nearby river; one Stephanie had spied on her hike. I didn’t understand why Stephanie so easily jumped in to help this man she didn’t know, even giving him a room in her house. Summation: Elliott is dead and only has a limited time to catch the creature for a wizard, who is the one who put the “death spell” on him. Mr. Moss is involved in the supernatural, giving clues from ancient symbols to a mysterious pair of brothers, who dip into the magical realm. The “fish” is in fact the larvae stage for a large dragon. I did quickly surmise that the apple trees were tied to Eve (Adam’s wife). The story that unfolds at the end between the trees and the dragon was interesting. If the two divergent story lines had merged, there had been a bit less mix of all things supernatural, and Issue 38 | September 2019 |

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Turbulent T.L. Payne Young Adult Dystopian In an instant, everything stops. No lights. No phones. No transportation. When coordinated EMP and Cyber attacks wipe out the nation’s power grid and communications, ultramarathon runner, Maddie Langston, is forced to run for her life. Stranded in a Chicago airport when the lights go out, Maddie is in a race against time. According to her father, she doesn’t have long before the city descends into chaos. She must leave the airport before it is too late. Myra’s Review: In this exciting EMP apocalyptic book, there are three main characters we follow. Maddie is a young woman stranded in the Chicago airport, while her brother Zach is stuck on a school bus in Marshall, Illinois when the EMP’s were set off. Also, their mom, Beth, is in San Diego taking care of her parents. The main focus is on Maddie. While she realizes very quickly an EMP has struck, it takes her a bit to leap into action. Her dad, a Marine, had trained the whole family regularly for disaster situations. She feels guilty at her earlier scoffing of her dad’s teachings and wishes he were with her, but he’d died in an accident. After fleeing the airport, Maddie joins up with a nice couple and their 10 year old daughter. Sadly, the parents are killed by thugs and Maddie is determined to keep Emma safe. She studies a map, planning the safest routes out of the city. Chicago is in chaos, filled with looting and killing. Maddie witnesses many atrocities on her 110 | UncagedBooks.com

journey, including a teen girl being brutally raped and left for dead. Meanwhile, Zach and his friends are taken off the bus and given shelter at a church. Soon after, FEMA shows up and takes them to a camp. Zach regrets his hesitation in leaving the bus and heading back home. He is resistant to FEMA’s questions and therefore considered a trouble maker. Later he is put in a van, headed for another camp, one he is sure is marked for those like him. When the vehicle gets in an accident, Zach takes the opportunity to escape. He really wants to head to Chicago and look for Maddie, but knows it has surely been quarantined. Also, his sister may have left already. Instead, he decides to travel to his Uncle Ryan in Illinois. While her children were trying to fight their way out of dire situations, Beth is worried about being stuck at her parents. She is desperate to find Maddie and Zach, but her mom is dying of cancer and her step-father disabled. The decision is made for her when her mom dies and her step-dad commits suicide. A disgusting villain, Carl, joins the mix. He is a junky and sees opportunity when the world order disintegrates. He devises a plan to kidnap young girls to sell to a local flesh merchant. His earnings will keep Carl well supplied with drugs. After spying Maddie, he does capture her. I was really hoping she wouldn’t end up as a sex slave. Though panicked and crying, Maddie finally calms enough to remember her dad’s teachings; specifically how to get out of zip-ties. While escaping, Carl confronts her and Maddie takes him out. Although I’ve only read one other EMP apocalyptic book, I’ve been meaning to review more. While zombie apocalypse tales are my favorite, this story has a different flavor - man, not zombies, are the enemy. A good read and the start of a new series to review. Recommended for those who love apocalyptic tales and fans of T.L. Payne.


Last Man Standing: Vaccine Keith Taylor Horror There is no safe zone. The United States has been infected from coast to coast by hordes of ravening, rapacious zombies. Countless millions have died, and yet more are infected with the zombie spore. Every American is already dead. Some of them just haven’t noticed yet. But wait... Just when all hope seems lost an old ally arrives, and he brings with him the faintest glimpse of hope. Hope that the human race may yet win through. Hope that some may survive. Hope that this great nation may still have one last fight left in it. Myra’s Review: The group is trying to escape the compound after the intense fire fight at the end of book 2. They are confronted by a heavily armed, masked man. Tom is shocked when the man removes the mask; it is Private Rhodes, who had been his guard for a short time back at Camp One. Rhodes had been decent to the prisoners. But Vee is angry. Why was the private working with the murderers in this place? Rhodes explained he had been conscripted and was waiting for an opportunity to escape. He has a very important mission. A doctor at Camp One had given him a notebook and begged him to get it to the CDC near Vegas. The doctor stated she’d discovered a vaccine but didn’t have time to create it. Now the camp is being overrun and she wants to be sure the notebook gets in the right hands. Rhodes tells them that the Chief had kept young women as sex slaves and the friends quickly decide to execute a rescue mission. Sadly, when they arrive at the room where the girls were, all except one were zombies, having been attacked earlier. After a gun fight with Lawrence (the Chief), Tom releases the ropes tying the undead down and they take care of Lawrence, a fitting end for a human monster. Kaylee, the young woman they rescued, went through a harrowing experience being locked up in jail, before being caught by Lawrence’s crew. The friends notice she seems a bit “spacey” and for good reason; she uses drugs. They are surprised and wary when Kaylee states she knows where there is a plane that can carry them all to Vegas. Oh, and she can pilot it. Her dad supposedly owns a small

airport, and they are happy but cautious when they discover a nice plane in a hangar. Can Kaylee really pilot it? Kaylee’s smoking pot while flying the craft makes them question their decision, but she does land them near Vegas. The group doesn’t know the residents of Las Vegas were doing well with electricity and running water. It was isolated and no infected had shown up yet. Fifty soldiers from a nearby base had organized the remaining people Meanwhile, Jack, a 25 year old soldier, found himself in charge of the city, but he doesn’t feel he should be, but there is no one else. Nonetheless, he makes a correct decision when he takes down an approaching plane with a stinger missile. It was one of the planes sent to distribute the infection; target Vegas. It was pure bad luck that the craft Tom and the others were on, was thought to be another plane send to spread the deadly disease. Jack shoots down their small plane, but it’s a near miss, and they all survive, except Kaylee. Following their interrogation, the friends are put into the Luxor hotel. Shortly after, Jack comes storming in, accusing them of bringing the plague with them; an outbreak has erupted. After convincing the young soldier otherwise, things quickly get out of control and the hotel is surrounded by zombies. Hearing soldiers reporting to Jack via a 2-way radio and Jack’s illinformed response, Lieutenant Vee assumes command from Jack. She bolts out orders to protect the citizens, then she and Tom go to rescue the doctors ensconced in the Luxor. Vee stays behind on the first floor, allowing Tom to escape on the elevator. She tricked Tom by jumping out as the doors close, and he almost goes back, but he realizes all hope lies in the doctors upstairs. Unfortunately, all were killed except Dr. Wyatt. Tom is shocked when later a blood-soaked Vee shows up, having fought her way out of the hotel. Thankfully, after studying the notebook, Dr. Wyatt realizes the vaccine is easy to synthesize and sets about to create a batch. As word spreads, survivors begin showing up in planes, from across the U.S. to some from other countries, to pick up the vaccine. The ending where Tom is thinking about their last minute “save” was very poignant. I like an ending this intense and heartfelt. This was my favorite book in the series. Lots of angst, fighting, and Vegas was an interesting stop in the apocalypse. Recommended for zombie fans and those following Keith Taylor.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Regency Love TL Clark Historical Regency

The Crimson Corset Alistair Cross Paranormal/Horror

Balls and parties are not all fun and frivolity…

Welcome to Crimson Cove

Finding a husband on the marriage mart is a serious business. Lady Anne sets out with an unromantic heart, appreciating how narrow her field of choice is – dukes are not in abundance. However, her heart is won over by charm and flattery. Can Lord Felsenworth prove himself worthy despite his lower rank of earl? Her papa, the Duke of Hesford, will take much persuasion. Amy’s Review: Magnificent story Clark puts together a magnificent story in Regency Love. It’s a historical fiction filled with era correct ranks and culture in England. I like that the story is unpredictable and yet shows the reader a grand insight into the life of Lady Anne. It was filled with twists and intrigue, surrounded by the gossip and intentions of the characters, who are very well-developed. This is one of those stories that keeps this reader, reading and turning the pages. Lady Anne is quite a remarkable character, with strengths, flaws, intentions, and longing. I enjoyed this story, as I do of all of Clark’s work. I look forward to reading more from Clark.

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Sheltered by ancient redwoods overlooking the California coast, the cozy village of Crimson Cove has it all: sophisticated retreats, fine dining, and a notorious nightclub, The Crimson Corset. It seems like a perfect place to relax and get close to nature. But not everything in Crimson Cove is natural. Amy’s Review: Magnificently scary Cross has done it again, and this time with the start of a new series, Crimson Cove. I am a fan of Cross’s work, and enjoyed each word as it kept me on the edge of my seat. Crimson Cove is definitely a scary and terrifying place to be, and it was magnificent. It’s not a typical vampiric story, and each character was extremely well written. This story was definitely unpredictable, and could easily make one jump. A grand story by a wonderful author, who definitely controls his pen, and does it wonderfully. If he writes it, I will read it.


The Day the Earth Swallowed Louis Jeffrey Miller Suspense/Thriller Louis Patterson is having a bad day. A very bad day. His wife left him. He’s in a dead-end job. He gets robbed. His favorite TV show was canceled. And then a sinkhole opens up under his house. Louis is a troubled vet, who’s haunted by the death of his best friend when they were deployed to Afghanistan with their National Guard unit—a death that Louis feels responsible for.

Amy’s Review: A remarkable Story Miller pens a great story in The Day the Earth Swallowed Louis. This is the first book of Miller’s that I’ve read. Poor Louis, and that’s just the beginning. I really enjoyed Miller’s story, and how it played out. The plot was very unique and well-written. I liked Louis and really felt for him. The story has a very strong plot, and it makes the reader wonder what else could go wrong for Louis. This reader turned each page, rooting for Louis, and feeling for his triumphs and tragedies. I believe there is more figuratively as well as literally when it involves Louis and the sinkhole. Yes, this story does make the reader think. It’s magnificent page-turner. I look forward to reading more by this author

The Magical Secret of the Crystal Kingdom P. S. Nicholls Children’s Fantasy My name is Rose Jones and I have a question for you. Have you ever been transformed into a unicorn? How about a dragon or an eagle or even a dolphin? Have you ever been on a magical adventure, not knowing how you will ever get home? Well let me tell you, it’s Fantastic!! I should know because it happened to me, my brother and some of our friends. We were transported through a portal into a world full of magical animals that we called The Crystal Kingdom. Amy’s Review: Wonderful Story Nicholls pens a wonderful young adult’s story in The Magical Secret of the Crystal Kingdom. It’s actually a story that many would love, no matter the age. It’s full of magic and dreams fulfilled, and the wonderful imagination of the author, and of course, Rose and George. It’s a wonderful story, and it was also unpredictable. I found it a very unique journey for both Rose and George, and this reader. One of the chapters that really caught my eye was Chapter 18 entitled “The Letter,” I couldn’t imagine what could happen next, and I’m glad I kept reading. I look forward to reading more by this author.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Lake on the Moon H.E. Wilburson SciFi When a Martian cylinder lands on Horsell Common, Ogilvy the astronomer barely survives a deadly heatray attack and wakes up in a hospital inundated with casualties as the first War of the Worlds alien invasion rages. He alone discovers the real significance of the Red Weed brought to Earth by the Martians and dispatches vital evidence on board HMS Thunder Child, but it is lost when the ship is attacked and sunk by Martian tripods. Amy’s Review: Exciting new sequel Lake on the Moon is the next sequel in Martian Diaries audiobooks. This is a grand story and I loved listening to it, as it brought it to life. The war of the worlds is in the midst of the devastating and compelling alien invasion. I like that Wilburson was able to continue the iconic H. G Wells’ story War of the Worlds, and create magnificent narrative stories. The narration was wonderful, and gave a life to the story with his voice and storytelling ability. This was a book I had to listen to from beginning to end. Absolutely remarkable. Great Characters, and it definitely adds to its own legacy. If there is more to come, I’ll be right there to listen.

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Don’t Drink the Pink B.C.R. Fegan Children Follow the special relationship between Madeline and her Grandfather as they both grow and share in the most magical birthday experiences. Filled with secrets to uncover and brimming with imagination, Don’t Drink the Pink explores a number of basic concepts including colors, numbers and the reality of growing older.

Amy’s Review: Remarkable story Fegan shares the story and relationship between Madeline and her Grandfather Gilderberry. It’s a very enjoyable story, and Grandfather is a very unique man. The story introduces the reader to the family and what they feel and think about Grandfather. I enjoyed the story, and the writing, which is great for a child to read or just listen to. Madeline is telling the reader the story about her birthdays and her Grandfather, and there are emphasis on different colors. A wonderful children’s story, but this adult enjoyed it as well.


The Mourner’s Cradle Tommy B. Smith Horror Suspense

The Jracon’s Oath Tom Simmons Young Adult Fantasy

The tale of a widow’s harrowing journey through grief and peril into the cold remnants of a dead world.

When all seems lost, the strong do not give up hope.

Damon Sharpe had in part found victory, he believed, in his battle to unearth a truth obscured by time. By autumn, he was dead, leaving to his wife Anne a house of unfulfilled wishes, remnants, and the key to the enigma of his obsession, the Mourner’s Cradle.

Amy’s Review: Raw and gritty Smith pens a great horror story in The Mourner’s Cradle. It’s an interesting story featuring Anne Sharpe. This story takes the reader on Anne’s journey. It’s filled with intrigue and grit, and I enjoyed this story. There was an intense feeling that lingers throughout the story. It gives a sense of despicable behavior of the human condition, while also sharing grief and even a bit of insanity. This story was well-written, and the pace of the story was part of great flow from beginning to end. Yes, it’s a horror story, but there are no outright evil monsters, which makes it all the more terrifying. A great story. I look forward to reading more by this author.

The Hawker Clan have taken the Chama Fogo Enchiridion - a powerful book of elemental fire magic. Dax and his dragonfly companions are badly injured. If he has any chance of getting the Book back and protecting those he loves from certain danger then he must find the Book, carried off by the nightmarish creature known as the Jraconoid, before it reaches the Hawkers’ subterranean fortress, the Basilica. Amy’s Review: Great next story Simmons pens a great story in The Jracon’s Oath, which is the next book in the The Odonata Chronicles (TBC) series. I read the one that came before it and was honored to read this one as well. Simmons tells a great story, and it’s a very unique one, at that. Dax is yet again struggling, and is on a new journey. It’s filled with action, magic, and definite faith in the future. I could see the growth of the characters, and even the growth of the author’s writing in this story. It’s a great story, and a tumultuous journey the characters must follow. I look forward to reading more by this author, not only with this series, but any other stories as well.

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Uncaged Book Reviews  

Issue 38 - September2019 Feature authors: Tricia Schneider, Michelle Fox, Linda Nightingale, Laura Strickland, Jennifer Carole Lewis, Lindse...

Uncaged Book Reviews  

Issue 38 - September2019 Feature authors: Tricia Schneider, Michelle Fox, Linda Nightingale, Laura Strickland, Jennifer Carole Lewis, Lindse...