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ISSUE 16 | November 2017



Michelle L. Levigne

cont 70

Interview • Social Media • Excerpt from Music in the Night • Review


P.J. Mann

Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Highland Chance • Review


Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from A Tale of a Rough Diamond • Review


Eva Pasco

Lyra Shanti Interview • Excerpt of Shiva XIV • Review

Skylar McKinzie Interview • Excerpt from Cursed • Review


Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from An Enlightening Quiche • Review


S.R. Mitchell

V.A. Dold Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Dangerous Destiny • Review


M.Rain Ranalli & J.L. Clayton Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Delusional Condut • Review



Issue 16 | November 2017




Danger - Road Closed ahead continues... JB Woods


featureauthor 93

Chris Roy

Interview • Stay Connected • Short Story Marsh Madness • Review

marsh Madness Chris Roy

specialfeature 11

Marketing for Authors with

Dawn Seewer

Marketing eCourse for Authors - learn the do’s and don’t’s of marketing your book.



Indie Bookfest Wrap-up with Fang-Freakin-Tastic

sneakpeeks 08 32 4 5 68 101 102 114 118 122 126

Tim Cross Judy Witt

Editor’s Desk Bargain Bin | Blog Roll Call Best Seller Lists New Releases Uncaged Reviews Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Jen’s Book Reviews

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


from the

editor’s desk

Welcome to Issue 16, November 2017 - Uncaged Book Reviews! This month dig into the feature authors, Michelle Levigne, P.J. Mann, Eva Pasco, Lyra Shanti, Skylar McKinzie, S.R. Mitchell, V.A. Dold and M. Rain Ranalli & J.L. Clayton!

in Uncaged tab on the site for more information on how you can advertise in the magazine and support the Uncaged mission to promote authors.

All inquiries: or So thank you and enjoy the November Edition of Uncaged Book Reviews!

Fang-Freakin-Tastic also brings Uncaged a feature author with Chris Roy. We also continue on our journey with the short story from JB Woods, and a second story by Chris Roy. We have plenty of reviews for you to look over from Uncaged, Fang-Freakin-Tastic, Myra’s Horror Blog, Amy’s Bookshelf and Jen’s Reviews. Thanks to all the affiliates for the wonderful devotion to reading. This month we have a special interview with Dawn Seewer that can help make marketing easier for authors and Fang-Freakin-Tastic wraps up the 2017 Indie Bookfest with tons of fun!

For those that celebrate in the U.S., Uncaged wishes you all a very Happy Thanksgiving

Authors can now submit a Short Story, and in return, I’ll give space for either a full page ad, or a 1-page Sneak Peek of a book for an approved story. You can read more about that here. We are now back to serving seven authors per month in the features, and stay tuned for our upcoming holiday and romance issues. The Featured Authors that are promoted in Uncaged, is a FREE service to authors. The only requirements being that Uncaged has read at least one of the author’s books, (can be read right before the feature) and that I ask that the authors share the magazine with their networks. Read about that HERE. Uncaged is supported through advertising, both in the magazine, and on the site. Please see the Advertising

Bargain Bin

Bargains, Free Reads & Giveaways Great way to discover new authors and enter to win free books, both print and eBooks. https://www.

Free Book Sifter

This site will sniff out all the free eBooks being offered on Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Amazon. Choose the site you’re looking for in the drop down list. This site helps narrow down the search.

Blog Roll Call Contributors, Advertising Swaps

Follow Uncaged on Facebook

Paranormal lover’s rejoice. Uncaged review contributors. Pick your genre and let FreeBooksy find the deals, even freebies! Choose your passion from fiction, non-fiction, academic and even audio books. Free to join, free ebooks to download. Let BookBub send you daily deals right to your email, customized to your perferences. Every Friday, InstaFreebie will email you with weekend freebies from all genres. Emailing deals right to your inbox. Romance deals delivered to your email.

A blog for horror fans. Uncaged review contributors.

A little bit of everything. Uncaged review contributors.

Cozy mysteries, suspense and romance. Uncaged review contributors.

Help for authors and businesses. If you’d like your banner here, please email me at Issue 16 | November 2017 |


showcase Tim Cross

Poetica Erotica

Poetica Erotica Tim Cross Poetry

I was inspired and influenced by women I had been in contact with. Not necessarily meeting them in person but generally via the internet. If they were on dating websites they generally used pseudonyms in order not to be recognized by anyone who may know them. _ is intrigued me as to why they felt or needed to be on these websites in the first place. I wondered about their motives, did loneliness instigate their actions, did they do it just for fun or were they actually looking for another partner or even a discreet lover.

US Review of Books “Many times I thought I was history Because this woman was a mystery� Romantically charged poetry is certain nothing new but the author of this book gives the genre a more modern twist concerning his inspiration and muses. In this collection are over one hundred poems composed and compiled based on the profiles of women on dating sites or the interactions he has with said women. The selections range from reflections on unrequited affection to full on lustful fantasies, made all the more effective with explicit details and imagery. At times the focus is on personality traits and physical features, other times focusing more on sexual acts and remembered or imagined trysts. The line between reality and fantasy blurs as the mood of each poem alternates between the achievement of satisfaction and yearning desire. In every new poem the author presents a new thrilling possibility that lets the mind and body wonder in anticipation. Every poem in this collection is written with a certain woman in mind, calling into imagination her manner of dress, the way she carries or describes herself, or the way she behaves herself in bed. Not every poem in this collection focuses on explicit sexual encounters, but the erotic nature of this title is a fairly constant theme. The variations on this theme present themselves through each unique situation or fantasy presented on every page, in each poem. Whether in the mood for something adult and adventurous or just looking for a collection of poems with a fresh and unique angle, these are poems created to satisfy and stoke that curious urge. Traditionally, when people write poems of love and affection, they usually recall moments of courtship or quiet moments of togetherness. As the title of this book implies, the author focuses instead on acts of sexuality, real or imagined. It goes without saying that based on

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the adult nature of these poems, this book should only be enjoyed by mature audiences. The actual structure of the book is pretty loose and free, not getting bogged down in a consistent rhyming structure but also not eschewing one altogether. There is some repetition in the focus at times, but that likely has more to do with the author’s personal tastes and desires than anything else. Overall, the tone of the book is playful, cheeky, and maybe a little mischievous. The amount of poetry contained in this volume is impressive, and the length of each poem varies between a couple of stanzas to a few that spread across two pages. It won’t take more than an afternoon to get through this breezy read, but it can also be savored and enjoyed in small bursts over a much longer period of time. The perspective of the author should be easily understandable by anyone with an active sexual appetite or for someone using a dating site hoping that it would lead to something more. The end result is something people can enjoy whether reading just for entertainment or to spark a romantic encounter. Enjoyed privately or with a partner, this collection of poetry is certain to set the mood.

About the Author I was born on the 18th March 1953 at my parents’ home in the village of Spratton near Northampton. My father was a leather tanner and my mother was the daughter of a brewer. I went to the local village school before I was sent to a boarding school called Beachborough in the village of Westbury near Brackley. From this school, I was sent to Oundle which is a private school near Peterborough. After Oundle, I went on a round the world trip with a friend, before spending a year at The Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester.

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Special feature Dawn Seewer

talks about easy marketing for authors and her new eCourse



met Dawn back when I started working with BTS Book Reviews. She was the lead and it was always a great working relationship that grew to a friendship. The one question that I ask authors quite often is what is one of their least favorite things about being an author, and the response is overwhelmingly that they don’t like marketing. When Dawn told me about a new eCourse that she developed for authors and how to market their books, I jumped onboard and asked her to talk about it here in Uncaged. So please welcome Dawn to Uncaged, we are excited to learn more on this daunting subject.

Why is marketing so important for authors? If you don’t have a way to genuinely connect with people, to share your message, how will they even find out about your books? Unless your name is Nora Roberts, and then well, you know, you’re Nora Roberts and that’s all you need. But for the rest of us, marketing is what gets the word out about what you have to offer. That being said, one of the very first points I make in the Marketing for Authors course is that marketing is not the same thing as selling. Book sales are the result of effective marketing, not the source. I think this is a really important distinction that a lot of wellmeaning books and blogs fail to hammer home. Marketing is not about making a sale, marketing is about connecting with the people who will support your work. Sales are about a single transaction, marketing is about building relationships that cultivate 12 |

long-term sales over your entire writing career. Because, as we learn in the course, marketing is relationship building, it is the vehicle that drives long-term success. It not only get the word out about your books, but it also ensures that you don’t lose your entire audience between releases. It’s not so much about driving sales for a particular product, marketing as a whole, is about creating a community of people who will consistently support your work. How should an author get started marketing their book? The first thing I recommend to every author, whether you write romances or how-tos, is to sit down and create a marketing plan. I know, I know, everyone hates the marketing plan, but the biggest complaint I hear from authors is that they really don’t have any idea what do or where to begin when it comes to their marketing. As much as we all hate the marketing plan, this is exactly what it is designed for. A good marketing plan will not only help you determine your goals and strategies, it will actually ensure that you are creating marketing that is going to be effective. There is nothing

worse then create a marketing campaign that goes completely unnoticed, talk about a waste of time. You could have been writing, right? A marketing plan (and as we also discuss in the course, a campaign strategy) will help you make the most of the time you spend marketing. What is the best way for authors to market and sale their book online? I’m going to let you in on a little secret, social media is the worst place to try to sell a book (or any product for that matter). Your website, Amazon, your publisher’s site, these are the places sales are made. Even if you click on a Facebook ad, you don’t actually make the purchase in Facebook, it takes you somewhere else. So please, please, please don’t waste your time trying to sell your book on social media. If you want to focus on sales, focus your efforts on the venues where the sales actually happen: pump up your Amazon reviews, get featured on your publisher’s site and make your own website a sales machine. Social media is however a fantastic place for cultivating relationships, and marketing is after

all, relationship building. Use social media for the purpose in which it was intended: to make connections, engage with readers, and provide content of real value that makes a positive impact in someone’s life. Put the “social” back in social media and focus on building connections that will allow you to share your message and funnel your audience toward your sales. What is the most important thing for an author to know about marketing? That your marketing is not really about you, LOL. Authors have a tendency to market in a way that serves our own needs rather than the needs of our readers. We create blog posts and share items on Facebook that interest us, as the writer, rather than what interests our readers. We sometimes forget that as authors, we must operate in service to our readers. While we certainly find joy and fulfillment in our writing, we write primarily to share our knowledge or our stories with someone else, to be in service to others. If our books were just written for us, we’d never need to learn how to market because Issue 16 | November 2017 |



we’d never need to publish a single word. Thus, your marketing is not really about you, it’s about your readers. So instead of asking: how can I market my books, start asking yourself: how can I be of service to my readers? Marketing is about making your message connect with your audience, to do that, you have to make sure that your message actually serves a purpose in their life. I know this can be challenging, especially for fiction authors, so we really go into a lot of detail on this point in the course. Even if you write about blood-sucking vampires, you can still be of service to your readers. You can still create messages that add value to their lives. Look for those points of value and let them drive your messages. When is the best time for an author to start marketing? Now. Right now. It doesn’t matter if you have one book out or ten. It doesn’t matter if your latest release just hit the shelves or has been collecting dust there for the last few years. It doesn’t matter if your next release is ten days out or ten months out. It doesn’t even matter if you haven’t released a book yet. As an author, or a soon-to-be-author, you should always be marketing, because marketing is relationship building. That means you should always be working not only to build new connections, but to maintain the connections you already have. If you shift your mindset from marketing as a task to be checked off your list, to marketing as a way to connect with the people 14 |

who will buy your books, you’ll find that this marketing thing isn’t really that hard. Sure, you have to work to put strategies into place and build campaigns, but at the heart of it all, you’ll find that the best marketing is really just genuine connecting. When you stop thinking of marketing as a way to peddle your work and start seeing marketing as a way to share the books you love to write with the people who can’t wait to read them, it stops being a chore. Tell us about this course you mentioned. Marketing for Authors is the first course from my new Author eCourses program. It is a selfpaced course that not only teaches authors how to develop a marketing strategy that fosters long-term growth and facilitates sales, but also offer the tools and techniques to build a loyal reader base and create content that engages those readers. You’ll learn the strategies behind successfully marketing, but more importantly, you’ll have a easy-to-follow, step-by-step plan to help you master your marketing. You can find out more about this course at (

Dawn Seewer is a digital marketer and designer. Her passion is helping authors, entrepreneurs, and businesses translate their story into marketing that people will love. She is also the creator of Author eCourses. Find out more at http://dawnseewer. com/ and

feature authors steampunk

Michelle L. Levigne




contemporary scifi





feature author On the road to publication, Michelle fell into fandom in college (she is a recovering Trekker, and adores “Warehouse 13,” “Stargate SG-1,” “The Dresden Files,” and “The Librarians.”), and has 40+ stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a BA in theater/ English from Northwestern College and a MA focused on film and writing from Regent University. She has published 70+ books and novellas with multiple small presses, in science fiction and fantasy, YA, and sub-genres of romance. Her official launch into publishing came with winning first place in the Writers of the Future contest in 1990. She has been a finalist in the EPIC Awards competition more than thirteen times, winning with Lorien in 2006 and The Meruk Episodes, I-V, in 2010. Her training includes the Institute for Children’s Literature; proofreading at an advertising agency; and working at a community newspaper. She freelance edits for a living ( for info/rates), but only enough to give her time to write. Publishers: Writers Exchange: (Commonwealth novels, The Hunt/YA fantasy, Faxinor series, Wildvine series) Desert Breeze Publishing: (Tabor Heights, Ohio series, Quarry Hall series, Guardians of the Time Stream, and coming in 2018, The Match Girls) Uncial Press: (Zygradon Chronicles/Arthurian fantasy, Neighborlee, Ohio series/urban fantasy/humor) Mundania Press: (fantasy)

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Uncaged welcomes Michelle L. Levigne! Uncaged: The Guardians of the Time Stream series, can you explain this series for readers? This is alternate history. Steampunk. Some years after the Civil War. President Lincoln has survived several assassination attempts. There are airships and steampowered conveyances. The main character is Odessa Fremont. Also the title of the first book. We first meet her when she’s 14 years old, living in an odious boarding school. Her archeologist grandparents vanish in South America, presumed dead, and the headmistress plots to confiscate Ess’s inheritance. She runs away, using her grandparents’ inventions, proving her intelligence and grit. After traveling with the circus and working for the Secret Service, she ends up a Pinkerton Agent. That’s the first book. In the next two books, Ess meets up with friends of her parents and grandparents, and discovers her heritage, which was blocked from her memory to protect her. Her family is involved in a secret society called the Originators. Their nemeses are the Revisionists. The ancestors of the Revisionists traveled into the past to change history. The ancestors of the Originators, as implied by their name, followed them to prevent those changes. Part of the major conflict between the two groups is finding the hidden pieces of crystal, the major component of the Great Machine – the time traveling machine, disassembled to prevent the Revisionists from trying again. In the final book, MUSIC IN THE NIGHT, Ess is searching for Carmen, a childhood friend who is now on the run from several enemies. The girls spoke to each other in their dreams, via roses made of the crystal. Enemies want to control Carmen because of her inborn ability to control the crystal. There’s a strong element of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in this book, taking place in tunnels under 1870s Cleveland, with music, visions, and a scarred hero. Uncaged: The latest book in this series, Music in the Night – is the 4th book, how many are you planning for this series?

Well, I thought MUSIC was the last book, but during final edits, my editor wrote “Continued in …?” after “The End.” So she’s kind of hinting for more. I’m playing with the idea of a follow-up series that explores the dimensional gateways (spoiler alert!) discovered during MUSIC. I need to do some brainstorming. The tentative title for the series would be “Hidden Mountain,” because the gateways lead to a mountainside where it’s always summer noontime. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I do read reviews. When readers “get” the story, that lets me know I’m communicating clearly. When they don’t, then I try to figure out what didn’t work, and fix it in future books. Of course, when a review mentions characters and events that weren’t in the book, then I have to wonder. <G> When characters “click” with readers, then I know I’m doing something right. There’s always room for improvement. What I’ve found, though, is that the books I had the most fun writing are the ones readers seem to enjoy the most. Go figure! Uncaged: You also write in many other genres – what can you tell us about your other series? I write a lot of genres because I read a lot of different genres. For contemporary and inspirational romance, I have my small-town series, Tabor Heights. A spin-off series that’s women’s fiction, mixed with suspense and a touch of angelic interference is Quarry Hall. These are tough chicks who travel the country, helping the little people and risking their lives. Then I have my weird little small town series, Neighborlee, Ohio, a mixture of Buffy’s Sunnyvale, Roswell, and Eureka – but without the weird science or vampires. Visitors from other dimensions pass through, and the Fae visit, and there’s a shop at the center of town called Divine’s Emporium that is bigger inside than

outside. Magic. Superheroes. YA. Humor. Romance. Then there’s the Commonwealth Universe, SF, set in a star-spanning civilization that imploded, descended into anarchy, then rose to touch the stars again. I bounce all over through about 1,000 years of history, with shapeshifters and people who are almost immortal, the victims of genetic manipulation, military groups, a YA series about a boy growing up on a small starship, lost colonies, and characters based on Zorro and Captain Blood -- and their daughters, who take up the duty of defending their world after daddy retires. Fun! Then there’s my fantasy series, Faxinor – it started out with a dream about a girl and a magic sword and needing to rescue her kidnapped mother. I gave the heroine, Andrixine, six brothers and sisters, so each of the Faxinor children are going to get their own book. Eventually. And on the theme of swords, there’s my Arthurian fantasy series, Zygradon. It starts with the birth of the Merlin-character, and ends with the Arthurcharacter’s daughter saving the world 2,000 years in the future. Want to know how that happened? Read …. Then there’s my Steampunk series, Guardians of the Time Stream, featuring the descendants of two groups of time travelers, racing to get the pieces of the dismantled time machine. One wants to change history, the other wants to prevent change. Yeah, I write a lot of different stories. This doesn’t even list them all. Fantasy and SF are pretty equally represented, with a lot of YA future projects. And romance. Gotta have the romance, even if it’s a minor storyline. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | from people you know? I get to know my characters during the rough draft stage. I know pieces of their history before I start writing, the things that make them do what they do, the choices they make, the details necessary for their choices and actions to make sense. I learn a lot as I put them through their paces. Sometimes I do change details, because as the characters become real and solid, they sometimes dig their heels in and refuse to do what I need for the plot to work – because it’s against their characters. That’s frustrating, and yet fun. When the characters become solid enough, it’s like I’m just watching their stories. Wind them up and let them go. I do borrow details, character traits, scenes from life, from people around me. Bits and pieces, never large portions of the people. Or the whole person. I might name a character after a friend because the character is something like that friend. I also have a tendency to name noxious creatures and villains after whoever is in the news or especially irritating in my life lately. You thought it was bad when Dr. Banner told someone, “Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I get angry”? “Hacketh not off the writer, for lo, she shall write thee into her next book. Yea, verily, she shall smite thee in messy and embarrassing ways.” Just saying. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? Your least favorite? I love the ability to just play “what if?” all the time. The weaving of details together. Creating another world. Fighting with my characters when they become real enough to rebel. The brainstorms that come at the most inconvenient times. Waking up in the middle of the night with the answers to problems. That feeling of, “Of course, how could it be any other way?” when little details and plot twists just pop into place. Least favorite? When characters are fighting me and keep changing their minds about the problem just when I think I’ve fixed it. When I don’t have the time or freedom to spend five or six solid hours writing because life gets in the way. The times when I just can’t figure out what’s got to 20 |

happen next even though I have an outline and ten pages of notes. Oh yeah, and having to actually go out and SELL the stories after they’re written. I would prefer to be a cave troll and sit in my lair writing, and the world just beats a path to my door, begging for more books … ah, that’ll be the day! Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Reading. Watching the Indians (next year, World Series for sure!). Experimenting with my bread machine. Movies. Hanging with other writers. There are places I like to visit every year, such as Put-in-Bay or Hartville Flea Market. Used bookstores. Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? I love the In Death series by JD Robb, and I’ve just fallen in love with the Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher, and Shelley Adina’s steampunk Lady of Devices series. Devour them when I can get a new one. Thanks goodness for Overdrive and Cuyahoga County Public Library loaning e-books. Usually when I find a book I don’t like, I figure it out within a couple chapters, and I don’t finish the book, so I don’t let it get to the book-banger stage. <G> I’m not going to name books because a lot of times it’s more a matter of taste than skill. What really hacks me off, though, are books on writing that are full of grammar and spelling mistakes. How can you trust those people to help you improve their writing when they can’t even get the basic mechanics right? Aauugghh! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I would love it if you gave me a chance – I have so many different stories and universes and genres, there has to be something you’ll like. If you want to see more stories set in a universe you’ve visited already, or more about a specific character, or you want to know if a secondary character will have her own story, go ahead and ask! Maybe your questions will spark ideas for the next adventure. I’m on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter (@michellelevigne), Facebook (2 pages, personal and author), blog (, website

| MICHELLE L. LEVIGNE | ( and you can sign up for my newsletter on my blog and Facebook pages and website – and contact me directly: MichelleLevigne@gmail. com I also post fan fiction on Wattpad ( where you can see some of my really early stories. Writing fan fiction is a great place to learn how to write without having to create a new universe. You’re playing in someone else’s playground. I post an excerpt from some fan writing on my blog every Saturday, and include a link to the full story on Wattpad. Right now I have fan fiction for Beauty and the Beast, Starman, The Phoenix, Highlander and Matrix posted. Including a full-length Highlander fan novel. Enjoy!

Enjoy an excerpt from Music in the Night Music in the Night Michelle L. Levigne Steampunk Ess and Carmen are childhood friends who only met in dreams. Orphaned and destitute, Carmen flees enemies she doesn’t understand. Ess desperately seeks for her friend, knowing their enemies all too well. Brogan is a creature of the darkness, his music stolen and his face scarred by tragedy. He leads an underground community of people left destitute by injustice and tragedy. Crystal in his flesh and bone allows him to hear Carmen sing in the night. When she takes refuge in his world of tunnels and shadows, she brings him hope that he isn’t going mad after all. Ess and Carmen finally meet, resolving puzzles more than twenty years old. A future of possibilities open before them, but only if they can defeat the Revisionists who will destroy them all to control crystal’s power, the future, and rewrite the past.

Excerpt From Chapter 3 Two hundred miles west, with most of the width of Michigan between the Golden Nile and Chicago, Carmen Mackenzie rubbed the condensation of her breath off the window and watched for the sunrise to penetrate the snow-heavy clouds. She prayed as she always did when she woke each morning, asking for guidance, for the miracle of a friendly face, for God’s grace to shine upon her once more and prove that the last year had been some horrible dream. She leaned her forehead against the cold glass and tried to believe that the heavy footsteps in the hallway outside the drafty little boarding house room would turn into her father’s feet, coming to fetch her for breakfast, and then a long day of walking the streets of the city. They would meander wherever the wind blew, stopping for him to say a few words of encouragement on a street corner or for Carmen to sing a few verses of a hymn, and invite people to come to the camp meeting tent set up outside town in the evening. The rumble of the train on the tracks on the other side of the boarding house shredded her daydream before she could quite convince herself. No, she was still in Chicago, following the shreds of old memories. After yesterday, that had to end. She should have given up long ago and moved on. Whatever friends her mother had known here, either they had died or moved on, or they lived in a part of town that Carmen never saw. She had grown comfortable enough with her surroundings and her fellow laborers in the enormous hotel kitchen that she had ventured to sing over her work, peeling and cutting and kneading. She had been happier than she had felt since before her father died. Since before Richard Boniface whispered his sweet, false promises of love. Her co-workers liked her voice and requested songs from her. The last few days, other workers came in during breaks, hoping to hear her sing. They didn’t even mind that all the songs she knew were hymns and spirituals and camp meeting songs. Carmen had thought perhaps she had Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | a chance to plant some spiritual seed, and she had felt that sweet contentment she thought she would never feel again. A man in a slick black suit, with a red silk vest and a pointed black beard came into the kitchen yesterday, while she sang in rhythm with the potato peelings falling from her knife. He didn’t make his presence known until she finished, though she thought she had sensed something, some change in the comfortably steamy atmosphere thick with the smells of good cooking. “Very nice,” he said, his smile cold when his voice startled a squeak out of her. He came around to stand on the other side of the table from her. “You should be singing upstairs.” “I’m a cook.” “Yes, with those clothes, what else would you be?” His upper lip curled as he looked her over. “I’m Gio Frierri. You know who I am?” “You’re the owner.” Carmen set the knife down on the table and wiped her hands on her apron, then kept her hands on her lap, hidden under the table, so he wouldn’t see them shaking. When he asked her to sing again, she hesitated. He rapped out the titles of songs she had never heard of, but didn’t look upset when each time she shook her head and told him she didn’t know them. “That’s all right. You’ll learn them, and right quick,” he said, looking her over again. “Get rid of those widow’s weeds and put on some decent clothes.” “These are all I have, and I’m still in mourning,” Carmen had said. “Why should it matter what I wear in the kitchen, or what I sing, for that matter? My friends haven’t complained about the songs I sing.” “Yeah, but my friends will.” He grinned at her, and she shuddered with the momentary illusion that his teeth were pointed. “You’re gonna be the new, private entertainment for special guests.” “Thank you, but no.” She wished she had held onto the paring knife, even knowing it wouldn’t have done her any good. “I’ll stay here in the kitchen, if it’s all the same with you.” “It’s not.” He snatched hold of her by her elbow 22 |

and yanked her up off the stool, kicking aside the bucket with the potato peelings. “You work in the special parlor, or you don’t work at all. Understand?” “Yes, I understand.” He left with a chuckle. Carmen waited until the break after the lunchtime rush, then went to the manager to ask for her pay up through that morning. Frierri must have anticipated she would try to run. The manager, who had always been kind to her, looked afraid when he told her to report to Madame Collette. He whispered that if she was smart, she would leave town tonight. Madame Collete informed Carmen that her pay was being applied to the dresses Frierri wanted her to wear when she entertained. She smiled warmly enough, but the warmth never reached her eyes. She added that if Carmen did well, she would be offered a room at the hotel, so she wouldn’t have any expenses to worry about besides “making pretty.” Carmen complied with the fittings for the dresses and tried to calculate how much money she had saved. If only she hadn’t bought new boots last week, and a cloak to replace her threadbare shawl. Precious little remained of her pitiful savings, compared to the distance she had to travel to evade Gio Frierri’s reach. “Cleveland certainly isn’t far enough,” Carmen whispered now, staring at the condensation on the window. She stood up straight, frowning. When had the idea of Cleveland come into her head? If anything, she should head west, maybe try to reach her father’s friends in Denver. Carmen shivered, hearing Essie, her make believe friend, insisting she had to go to Cleveland. Perhaps the strain of her circumstances had become too much for her and she had broken, at long last? She was losing her mind, imagining a friend who came to her in the darkness and shadows and promised help and whispered advice. Yet what if she weren’t losing her mind? Her mother had always told her to pay attention to her dreams, and to never dismiss the impossible when it happened in front of her. Anna had taught her to search for details and patterns and think

| MICHELLE L. LEVIGNE | about the why and how of things. Otherwise, how would she have realized that wonderful, small, helpful things happened when she sang? Granted, her singing in the kitchen hadn’t led to something wonderful, but Carmen had to be honest with herself and admit that she had left out an important piece of the pattern. Wonderful things happened when she sang while she wore her mother’s crystal rose. She had no idea how, she only knew that when she sang for the children who came to the camp meetings, especially when she held them in her arms, she saw pictures of their fears and dreams, their skinned knees and sore fingers, and knew what to say to encourage them. After she held and sang to them, pain vanished. Carmen could only attribute the incidents to being used as a vessel of Almighty God’s power to do good in the world. A lamp didn’t boast over the light it produced. After all, it was only the receptacle of the oil and a resting place for the wick. She hadn’t worn the crystal rose and the cross in months. She hadn’t worn it when she worked in the hotel kitchen. Perhaps if she had worn the cross while she sang today, God might have worked through her song to protect her, just like the Almighty used her song to help the children. Last night, when she returned to her room from the hotel, Carmen had pulled the cross out of its hiding place in the slot under the windowsill, where the wallboard had rotted away. She had curled up with it and cried herself to sleep, in between praying for answers. Thinking back, she decided that she hadn’t dreamed of Essie, her make believe friend, until she wore the cross again. Before she fell asleep, she had pondered how much money she needed to go out west, and how much money she could get by selling the cross. If only she could remember the name of the man who offered her so much money for it last year. Then Essie burst from the shadows, begging her not to sell, and most certainly not to him. Whoever he was. “How do you know who he is, when I can’t remember?” she whispered, and leaned back to study the clear spot on the glass where her forehead had rested. “I wish you could talk to me when I am

awake. We could understand each other better. I’ve never been much good at remembering dreams once I wake up.” Sighing, she stepped back to sit on the edge of her bed. Raising her hands to be even with her nose, she stared into the sparkles of light and hints of color within the crystal rose. “Mother, I wish I could remember what you taught me. How can my memories be stored inside the rose? Even if I had a jeweler’s tools, I wouldn’t be able to write all my thoughts and memories on the petals. Certainly not so they could be read, to remind me.” Carmen sighed a bit of laughter at her moment of whimsy. Common sense would dictate that she pack up her few possessions, find the pawnshop six blocks away, and wait on the front step until it opened. Then she would offer her last few worthwhile possessions until the man in the shop gave her enough money to head west. The wind moaned past her window and she shivered, feeling the chill touch through the drafty window before it actually reached her. Maybe go south? Certainly Texas was warmer than Colorado at this time of the year. Had any of her father’s friends gone to Texas? She knew no one in Cleveland. “Why do I keep thinking of Cleveland?” she murmured, staring into the crystal petals of the rose, trying to follow the play of pink and green and even a few pale blue sparkles. If only she had been able to remember the people her mother had met when they visited Chicago. She never would have taken the job at the hotel, if she had had someone to advise her. Who were her mother’s friends? Where were they hiding? Carmen gasped as an image of her mother seemed to swirl among the crystal petals of the rose. She saw Anna walking past this very boarding house. That made no sense. Carmen knew she should pull herself out of the images dancing before her eyes, among the sparkles of color and light. Yet she couldn’t. She was twelve years old, and had awakened before dawn, disturbed by the sound of a train whistle howling so mournfully a dozen blocks Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | away from the hotel. She had dressed with the intention of finding the hotel parlor and practicing the new piece of sheet music Reverend Darlington had given her at the society meeting last month. When she stepped out of her room, into the parlor of the suite she shared with her parents, she saw her mother at the door of the suite, swinging her cloak around herself. Without thinking, she had darted back to her room for her own coat and bonnet and hurried to follow Anna. The morning was rainy and overcast. Carmen lost her mother several times in shadows and walking down alleys between buildings. They had passed the boarding house Carmen stood in now, and walked four more blocks, then turned and walked several more blocks. Then Anna had gone to a narrow, tall wooden house shoehorned between two other buildings. The door opened immediately after the first knock. Carmen had been afraid to linger, and hurried back to the hotel. She had never told her mother what she saw, and never asked what she had done that early, gloomy, cold morning. Now, though, when it was too late to ask, Carmen wanted to know. Could she remember the way? If she could find the house, would the woman who had answered the door that morning still be there? Would the strong resemblance between Carmen and her mother help her, or hinder? Hands shaking, Carmen slid the cross down the neck of her dress and blinked rapidly, trying to regain her focus on the present moment and place. Had the vision been an answer to her prayers for help? Despite the losses and betrayals she had endured, Carmen still believed in prayer and the guidance of the Almighty in her life. “Doesn’t really matter, does it?” she whispered, refocused her gaze, and looked around the room. “I need to leave. I need to be gone before he sends someone looking for me. If this doesn’t work out, I’ll just keep moving.” She got up on unsteady legs and gathered up her few possessions, folding them carefully almost without thought. Mrs. Blomfield didn’t seem to know how to 24 |

smile, but she had a warm heart and looked out for her boarders well as she could. Carmen regretted not saying goodbye to her landlady, but at least she was paid up for three more days, so Mrs. Blomfield wouldn’t suffer while she looked for a new boarder. If Frierri was as much a danger as she feared, telling her landlady she was leaving would just get the old woman in trouble. Carmen left a note in her room, with the bedding pulled off the bed and folded by the door, the room neatened as best she could. She tried to say her thanks and apologize without revealing anything her pursuer could use. Carmen calculated she had perhaps an hour of leeway before her failure to arrive at the hotel sent someone hunting for her. Hopefully, her cooperation yesterday, being fitted for the new dresses, fooled Frierri into thinking she wouldn’t run, so he wouldn’t have anyone watching the boarding house to make sure she showed up for work. There were plenty of people leaving for work in the darkness before dawn, and she could blend in unnoticed. Snow or sleet would have been welcome, to help her fade from notice even more. She remembered the way to the odd, narrow house as if she had walked it many times since she followed her mother here. Carmen shivered whenever her vision doubled and she saw a ghostly image of the streets and buildings as they had been years before, overlaid on the present streets and buildings. Often, the only changes were a touch of shabbiness. Some places, the buildings were painted a different color, or the shutters, or the signs for businesses had changed. The narrow little house was a comfortable brownish-red now instead of the weathered gray with black shutters it wore in her vision. Walking up to the front door, Carmen’s steps slowed. She wanted to turn around before she reached the door. A moment after she knocked, she considered running. She counted her heartbeats as she waited for someone to respond. This was utter madness. Most likely everyone in this house was still asleep in bed. How rude was she, to come at such an early hour? She was a fool to hope-The door opened, and the same woman, her dark gray hair now completely white, stared at her. She pressed both hands to her generous bosom.

“Child, they told me you were--” She choked on the words. “I’m Anna’s daughter,” Carmen hurried to say. “Ah, the little one.” The woman blinked rapidly, as if she fought tears. Then she went up on her toes and looked past Carmen, out onto the street. “Come inside. Quickly now. They likely haven’t seen you, but better to be cautious than sorry, yes?” Carmen let the strong, thin fingers pull her inside. She stepped past the heavyset woman and down the narrow hallway that extended all the way to the back of the building. “You’re in trouble, aren’t you?” Gesturing for Carmen to follow, she pushed a door open and led her into the kitchen, just as long as the hallway. They settled at the table that appeared to be anchored to the wall, and the woman poured coffee into battered tin cups. “Please, I don’t even know your name. And no, before you ask, Mother never told me about you. I followed her here on one of our last visits to Chicago. That’s how I knew the way.” Sighing, she slid her bonnet off the back of her head and let it hang by the strings from around her neck. “And yes, I am in trouble.” She cradled the tin cup of coffee, welcoming the heat. “How do you know my mother?” “When someone is in trouble, and needs to hide and flee, they find us, or we find them.” She chuckled. “I’m Harriet. Just Harriet. I worked with the Abolitionists before the war. That’s how your mother and I met, and then when she needed help, well...” Harriet spread her hands, as if the explanation didn’t need to be spoken. “I don’t understand. Did she need to hide with you? Why did she come here? She came here every time we came to Chicago, didn’t she?” “She had a gift, and she was determined to use it for the right cause.” Harriet shrugged and then seemed to deflate a little into her chair. “I think maybe she was trying to atone for the sins of her ancestors. Whenever she found a new piece, she brought it to me and I passed it along to those better suited to deal with it. We always agreed that she couldn’t come to see me for at least three, four months after she gave me one, just to make sure that anyone trying to figure out my source wouldn’t spot her. I always

| MICHELLE L. LEVIGNE | waited for a month after one of her visits, before I passed it along.” A sigh escaped her. “In the end, we weren’t nearly clever enough, or careful enough. Not even being married to a preacherman could provide her enough protection.” “From whom?” Carmen said, her voice dropping close to a whisper. “If you don’t know, child, then Anna didn’t pass on her burden or her knowledge to you. If you didn’t wear her face, I’d be willing to wager you were safe, but...” Another sigh. “Why hasn’t your father told you anything? Anna told him everything about her past, about her burden and her mission in life. He should have at least given you her journals, or told you what she told him. Are you sure you don’t know what your mother used to be, the horrible people she escaped?” “My father is dead. All I was left of my mother’s legacy is this.” She reached into the collar of her black dress and pulled out the cross. The color fled Harriet’s cheeks. “I’m ready to sell this for enough money to go somewhere safe. Except for a cache of books and some mementos and photographs, this is all I have.” “If you have to, sell the cross for the silver, but don’t let that rose out of your sight. That is...” Harriet shuddered, her gaze fixed on the cross now lying on the table between them. “Well, if your mother didn’t tell you about your heritage, then maybe you don’t have a heritage. Doesn’t matter six days from Sunday... I could take all the other pieces for Anna, but not this. If the wrong person saw this, they’d know and then wouldn’t I have hellfire to explain?” A weak chuckle escaped her. She finally blinked and tore her gaze away from the rose. “What is so special about the rose?” “It has a twin. The woman who made both roses befriended your mother when she escaped her terrible heritage. Anna referred to her as her lifeline, a true sister of her soul.” “Can I go to her? Will she help me?” “I truly wish you could, but she’s been dead longer than your mother. Near to tore Anna’s heart out. She was that sure Vivian had died protecting her. No, and that’s the reason you can’t let Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | that rose out of your sight. Or at least, not until you hand it over to the right people,” Harriet added, her voice slowing. She nodded once, like a punctuation mark. “Anyone who knew Vivian would recognize that rose. What you need to do is go to someone who was close to Vivian, someone with the connections to protect you and dispose of that tricky little trinket properly. Ah, if only Vivian’s in-laws were still... well, it’s no use crying over spilled milk, is it?” She thumped both hands flat on the table. “Give me time to think on where you need to go and who you need to talk to for help. In the meantime, let me feed you good. If you don’t mind my saying, you do look more than a little down on your luck.” Harriet scurried around the narrow kitchen with agility that was amazing for her size, and put together a breakfast Carmen hadn’t seen since the glory days, before her mother died. Her hostess told her a few stories of when she had known her mother, before Anna met Reverend Mackenzie and dedicated her life to God’s service. Carmen refused to divulge the heartbreaking way her father’s associates had turned on him. She merely said that he had slowed his travels as old age crept up on him. She had lost contact with many of his friends and associates, so when they were robbed, there was no recourse but to sell personal property to pay her father’s outstanding debts after his death. Harriet’s sympathy and her outrage nearly loosened Carmen’s tongue, to spill the reservoir of hurt that sometimes threatened to drown her soul.

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Uncaged Review One way to describe this book and series, is it’s very intelligently written. It draws you in almost immediately and even though it’s not jam packed with action, the story is interesting and original. I did not read the first books in this series, but I was lucky enough that the author was kind and sent me detailed sypnopsis’ for the previous books knowing my time was limited. So I wouldn’t recommend anyone going into these books without starting at the beginning. And you won’t be sorry. This is a nicely written story, with the characters racing to find the final pieces of the Time Machine. Ess and Carmen have been connecting through the crystals trying to find each other. But there is danger lurking at every street corner, and the race is on to defeat the Revisionists who want full power, and all hope relies on Ess, Carmen and their team. There is wonderful history woven with the alternate steampunk, and it’s so cleverly done and I’ve never read anything quite like it before. The characters are easy to like, including Brogan, with the disfigured face with the crystals embedded in his bones, being able to hear the music through the crystals giving us the Phantom of the Opera feel. Ess and Carmen are strong young women who you can easily get behind. So if you are looking for a good steampunk series, dashed with scifi, history and a playwrite’s drama, you won’t be disappointed with this series. And who doesn’t like crazy inventions? Reviewed by Cyrene


Issue 16 | November 2017 |



Indie Bookfest a family to many of us. We look forward to the one weekend a year where we can all get together, learn from one another and find new readers and authors to welcome into the family.


ndie Bookfest took place in Orlando, Florida - September 28 - October 1, 2017. Our boots on the ground for this event was none other than the blogging and reviewing team of Melanie and Andi from Fang-Freakin-Tastic, and they share their experience with Uncaged. Every fall, something wonderful happens here in Central Florida. Readers and authors come from all over the United States, and sometimes from other countries, to see old friends and make new ones. I was super excited this year because my co-blogger, Andi, flew in from Oregon to go with me to Indie Bookfest. It was her first year attending this event and not only did she have a great time, but she made it extra special for me.

Indie Bookfest is a yearly author and reader conference organized by novelists Tawdra Kandle and Mandie Stevens. It features authors from practically every genre and method of publishing. Be it traditionally published, small print or self published, experienced with 30 books or still working on their first, all are welcome. In its fifth year, IBF has become something of 28 |

This year, the event started Thursday night with a delicious buffet at the host hotel. I can honestly say that I’ve never been to a buffet dinner with such good food. I actually liked everything being served and the quality was well worth the price. I can be picky at times, so I hate paying for stuff I won’t eat. I loved the freedom of the dining set up also. There were no assigned seats, so each table was a mix of both friends and strangers, though no one stays a stranger for long among the IBF crowd. Friday was “Industry Day” which consisted of panels and presentations geared towards authors and other industry professionals. Forums on marketing, writing dialog, time management, and things authors wish they’d known starting out, are just a few topics one would find being covered in the various conference rooms. It’s an engaging, fun, and warm atmosphere. The authors and other industry professionals are all there to help one another. It’s not a competition, there is no pettiness dirtying the waters. It’s a community. They inspire each other to be the best they can at what they do. They give each other advice without judgment of knowledge levels, unlike what you sometimes find in the online community. I attended as a volunteer and blogger, which has become something of a tradition for me. I’ve been a part of the event every single year since the first IBF was

Wrap-up held. I like helping the organizers, because they work so hard to bring us an amazing and memorable event. I want to take pressure off of them however I can to help make sure they have time to enjoy themselves as well. This year, I spent some time at the registration table helping get people checked in and ready for the day. Lucky for me there were two lovely ladies there helping me figure out what I was doing. Lexi and Annah were super fun to get to know and hang out with. They remind me of my own daughters. They are both funny, but know how to listen when there are witnesses. I look forward to seeing them again soon! The vendors on site varied in provided services, such as cover design, editing, and publishing options. There were also vendors of a less specific nature. AD Roland was there with her line of super cute bags, which she was making at her table- a particularly engaging venture as ‘making on site’ allowed people to choose their fabrics with their orders. The fabrics were unique and fun, adding to the custom-made adorableness. I saw one that had ninja cats and another with mermaids. There was also a lady there who made jewelry, one who made candles and a lady who provided free information on vacations. After an exhausting day of networking and peopling, we attended “Fanfare”. Fanfare is basically a meet and greet. Authors sit or stand near their table and the readers walk around meeting them and getting goodies without any pressure to buy or sell books. It gives everyone the opportunity to get to know one another without any sales pitches involved. Andi and I ended up at H.D. Smith’s Alice in Wonderland themed table. She always has the cutest marketing ideas. For readers, it’s a lot like trick-or-treating going from one table to the next, chatting with the authors and getting little perks in return. Again, food was provided and was just as tasty as the buffet we had the night before.

| INDIE BOOKFEST WRAP-UP | Saturday morning was when the majority of readers arrived. Eager to get their exciting day started, we got them through registration as efficiently as possible. The keynote speech was at 9am and we didn’t want anyone to miss it due to registration. A few weeks earlier Tawdra asked past attendees to send her little notes of experiences or memories of the previous years. I shared my story of almost giving birth to my son at IBF 3 years ago. There was seriously only a few hours between my leaving IBF that year and him being born. I love being a part of IBF so much that I sometimes wish I had given birth at the event instead of the hospital. This year, I came in a couple of minutes late to the keynote speech (which was coincidentally the only IBF keynote speech I’ve made it to in the last 5 years of attending, so of course Tawdra calls me out. It was quite funny. Tawdra continued with her speech after making me laugh (and maybe blush a bit) and she started telling the story of someone she’d met at her first book event. She said that this person had become her adopted little sister and she meant so much to her. I thought it was sweet and that she was talking about someone sitting in front of me. Then I realized she was talking about me when she started telling my memorable birth story. Tawdra made me ugly cry in front of everyone first thing in the morning (damn you Tawdra and your words!) I say that, but I can honestly say there is no better reason to ugly cry than to feel the way she made me feel that morning. Reader panels began shortly after Tawdra’s speech ended. On each panel were three to five authors and a moderator who would ask questions of them. There were a variety of panels ranging from the “Young Authors” panel that was just for kids under 18 who were interested in becoming authors Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| SPECIAL REPORT | someday, to topics like “Strong Women and Alpha Males: Can They Co-Exist on the Same Page?” and “From Gargoyles to Mermaids: Post Twilight, Post Zombie, what are the new creatures on the paranormal scene?” There was a ‘free to the public’ book signing after the panels ended and we’d had lunch. From three to six o’clock, the room was PACKED with people. It wasn’t anything overwhelming like I’ve experienced at some events, but it was crowded in a good way. Authors were having a great time interacting with readers and vise versa. Andi bought so many books that she had to mail them all home because they wouldn’t fit in her suitcase! After the signing, everyone went to grab a bite to eat before coming back for the party that night. It was a “Pajama Party” theme. There were quite a few onesies there despite it being October in Florida and the weather is still hot. I got quite a few compliments on my monster onesie despite feeling like the love child of Mike Wazowski and Sully from Monsters Inc. I felt ridiculous, but I still had fun. Julie Morgan wore Jack Skellington pj’s and there was another attendee with the cutest dragon pj’s. The party was crashed by a little devil named Seth, who I believe is somehow associated with Violet Howe, known troublemaker extraordinaire! Violet was nice enough to sponsor the pajama party and provided karaoke for us to embarrass ourselves on. There were several entertaining and/or talented performers. They kept us laughing 30 |

and having fun. Lucky for everyone, I didn’t get brave enough to try belting out one of my Blink 182 songs. Don’t worry, there’s always next year! After the pajama party, some of the attendees decided the party wasn’t over just yet and got together in the hotel lobby to play Cards Against Humanity. Now that’s a party. I laughed so hard! If you ever have the opportunity to play this game with a group of authors and are not easily offended…play with them. You probably won’t regret it. After such an exhausting and exciting weekend, I was ready to go home when I woke up on Sunday. We still had plenty of goodbyes to say as well as a few small author/reader “dates.” Andi and I went to the date out on the pool deck hosted by authors Violet Howe and Heather Hildebrand. They served mimosas and doughnuts. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, and maybe Andi, but I had an amazing time. I couldn’t be happier for our friends Tawdra and Mandie who, once again, put together a well-organized, informative, yet fun and entertaining event. They are memory makers and we are lucky to have two ladies such as them in our community. I highly recommend this event to anyone who can make it. It will be held again next year on August 9-12th and I will definitely be there. Overall, Indie Bookfest is a great conference that I believe everyone in the book industry- whether readers, authors, vendors, or any other position within the community- should experience at least once.


Violet Howe

Tawdra and Susan Thatcher

Leslie C. Halpern

Julie Morgan & Andi

L.E. Perez

Taira Wilds

Robbie Cox

Dan & Robin Johnson Issue 16 | November 2017 |


showcase Judy Witt

Shades of Africa

Shades of Africa Judy Witt Fiction

This is a story about a white girl, Shirley Schreiber, and her family. Growing up in South Africa and Rhodesia during the early years of racial discrimination including the apartheid years: 1944–1972. Shirley grows up during the years of racism and apartheid and the black power push for communism; when both sides are right, both are wrong. The betrayal by blacks and whites, each with a fierce passion for this cruel, unforgiving land where to trust could mean death.

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US Revie “…my father…had grown up with a mixture of English, German, Afrikaans, Zulu, and Xhosa on the farm in the Transkei.” This novel is based on the true story of Shirley Schreiber, a white girl who grew up in some of the most troubled places in Southern Africa during the late 1950s. It is written with the hindsight of adulthood but felt from the heart of an unhappy childhood. Because this is a novel with an autobiographical underpinning, separating actual disturbing events from fiction sometimes resembles solving a mystery. Why must her father drink? Was he abusive, protective, or both? Did she inherit his strong determination and artistic talent or her mother’s sewing skills and ability to love obediently? Would Shirley repeat their mistakes? The author’s pen name, Toko Loshe, undoubtedly holds subtle meaning. But the book’s subtitle, KWASUKA SUKELA, clearly translates as “Long, long ago.” These are the words Shirley’s black nanny of the Zulu tribe used to begin the ancient stories she told of African history. The indigenous religion of the area was based on communicating with ancestors, and Nelson Mandela acknowledged that the desire to free his people came about after learning of ancient battles his Xhosa tribe had won over white colonists. This book has sharp contrasts. Black versus white is obvious, with murders of both white neighbors and kaffir workers traumatizing a confused girl. Catholic convent schools topped with crosses housed stern nuns who applied a ruler to the wrist of any wayward student, while Sangoma shamans were chosen for their people skills and healing abilities. Did the turquoise beads and blessing of the shaman/healer protect Shirley or was it her father’s strong belief in family? Would life prove safer in the city than on a Southern Rhodesian farm? Certainly, it was not safe for a white man to work at the Congo Belt’s copper mines in 1960 as the re-

ew of Books public was birthed. The family escaped by car over roads where marauders burned and killed those fleeing. The family moved further south again, just before Northern Rhodesia became Zambia in 1964. How much of these political happenings the author remembers is uncertain. In a newspaper she was using to pack dishes, Shirley read about Nelson Mandela, a black lawyer, accused of inciting racial trouble. Other places in the book it seems as if she fills in with facts learned from books or online. But the fear experienced in that family car was real! In the book, childhood memories get mixed in with drums passing warnings and blood from dead chickens, broken glass, and monkey scratches. The eyes of the shamans roll up exposing their whites as they see what the author calls the shades of Africa―where a Gogo mama might replace the white grandmother Shirley was not allowed to meet, or where a cousin might rape a teenage girl. The drums stop when the family moves to a Johannesburg suburb. But the bloody path that began with a gruesome flashback concludes 224 pages later, when the girl dares to become a woman, and, like her father, bravely challenges those who would hurt her and her family. In Shades of Africa, the author demonstrates that looking into the past enables us―no matter our religious beliefs―to clearly see the protection that brought us to this present moment where we can face the future confidently. Judy Witt, or Toko Loshe as she prefers, has written a truly film-worthy story. RECOMMENDED by the US Review

About the Author Judy Witt (also known as author Toko Loshe) was born in South Africa on January 1944. The family moved to Southern Rhodesia then Northern Rhodesia during the years that those countries were fighting for freedom and independence. Caught up in the violence and terror that evolved and the Congo Revolution spillover, they returned to South Africa the day before Zambia’s independence. Toko now lives in Sydney, Australia, with her husband, four married children, nine grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


feature author

Paula J. Mann was born in a small town in Italy in 1973. She graduated from the Art Institute of Perugia (Italy), but continued her educational path at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, and graduated in Geosciences at the University of Perugia. Not seeing any great career chances she moved to Germany, where she enrolled in the Faculty of Geosciences in Tübingen and graduated in Applied Environmental Geosciences. Her wanderings were not yet over, and soon after the graduation, she moved to Finland where she started a career in engineering geologist. During her career, she edited and written several scientific papers, but she could not forget her artistic background, so she started to write novels. None of those was meant to be published, until one day, encouraged by one of her best friends, she decided to share her stories with the rest of the world. She doesn’t like a particular genre, she likes to experiment as many genres as possible. She likes to tell stories about what she observes around her. She loves travelling and photography, and from those experiences, she gets the most of her inspirations.

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Uncaged welcomes P.J. Mann! Uncaged: A Tale of a Rough Diamond, is this your first published novel? Can you explain the book to readers? This is my first novel and only one so far, the next one is on the beauty farm, a.k.a. in the wise hands of an editor to make it shine. The rough diamond is a metaphor to explain what it takes to grow up to the adulthood in a world that seems conspire against you. In the case of the main character of the book, Stephan Mills, this means growing up with a dysfunctional family coping in all the wrong ways – overprotection, rejection, and envy. The main enemy is represented by his brother, ready to everything to obtain what he wants. It is a tale about very strong feelings, like remorse, fear, jealousy, love, and regret. Every character has his/her story to tell, and there is a lesson about compassion and understanding to be learned. Unccaged: What inspired the plot for this book? Is suspense your preferred genre to write in? It came by talking with my husband about how wrong people can be when judging someone they do not know. From that consideration, I thought that we all are like precious stones, we are born underground, under unbearable conditions, but we shine only if there is someone ready to believe in us, the one who is going to cut the precious stone in a way that it will reflect the light, transforming it into a shiny rainbow. Following this idea, I started to create the main character, trying to

give a strong personality and impact also to those who were the main actors in the cutting of that gemstone. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I try to learn if there has been anything in my writing that can be improved if there were some issues to be fixed for the next novel. I find reviews very crucial to my growth as an author. I don’t mind if someone gives me a low rate, what is important is that the rate is explained in a constructive way. Uncaged: Is there anything coming up next that you can tell us about? Yes, I can give you some information about the next novel, “the ghosts of Morgan Street.” Once again, I am breaking the stereotypes of the typical crime novel, adding some personal dramas, going deep into the vicissitudes of those who live their lives on the fringes of the society (the ghosts). Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? Would you believe it? Most of the times I just google them. There are a lot of sites where to find names and surnames. However, it can happen that I try to find their names according to their inner nature, or profession. In this case, I go searching for names and their meaning.

Uncaged: What is your favorite part about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? The best part of being an author is the chance of living a thousand lives. I am every one of my characters. I am the evil, the poor, the brave, the heroic, the coward. I believe that we are all a bit of everyone, we just decide the identity we feel more comfortable with. Being an author frees me from all the schemes and allows me to be whoever I want. The worst part… Perhaps climbing the ladder of success as a self-published author. Like once upon a time the AC/DC sang, “it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll,” I’d say that it’s a long way to the top whatever you decide to do, it takes passion and perseverance. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? A lot of things, I love to walk in the woods and take pictures of almost everything that grabs my attention. I got the passion for photography from my father. We used to spend a lot of time walking in the woods and taking photographs. Besides that, I love to travel, and I keep a blog about all my travel destinations ( Another thing I love to do is gardening, but here in Finland, it is quite restricted due to the climate. I also love cooking and experiment a lot of new things in the kitchen. In my household, there is a big competition between my husband, who is a great cook, and me. Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? I loved (loved, loved and loved) “Follow your heart” (va dove ti porta il cuore) by Susanna Tamaro. It was such an intense story that also taught me how to listen only to my heart to find the real happiness and accept myself for the person I am, without listening to what the others might think or say. “50 shades of grey”, was the worst thing I ever had the misfortune to put my hands on. I didn’t throw it against the wall, but the temptation was high. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I know I should have a mailing list, I am desperately working on that. For the moment my fans can follow me on my blog, where I post weekly new travel diaries, news about me when I fall into deep considerations, new photography content I’d like to share or the next projects I am into. Of course, fans can follow my fan page on Facebook, or my twitter profile, even if, I must admit, recently I have been a bit busy to post.

Enjoy an excerpt from Day of the Spiders A Tale of a Rough Diamond P.J. Mann Suspense Not all that glitters is diamond; sometimes it is only glass. But even its sharp edges will never hurt you like family. Stephan is living a life every teenager would envy. Son of a wealthy businessman, he lives carefree and carelessly. However, nothing is as it seems, and his 36 |

perfect life is doomed; it has been since before he was even born. Days thrill-seeking, nights lock-picking; it’s all just about to fall apart. His older brother has uncovered a secret. For all their years together, Roger has envied Stephan’s life, his success, the attention he has from their father, but now Roger can wait no longer; this is the moment, the moment he can hurt Stephan the most, when he can turn Stephan’s choices against him, tear apart everything he cherishes, and steal away his future. With secrecy and the resources of the Russian Mafia on his side, the older Mills brother effortlessly brings Stephan’s world down around him, a single tip-off to the police burying him under the ruins of his former life. After a year behind bars, Stephan seems to have no hope, no future. Cut off even from the rest of his family, can he reclaim his life and freedom, or will he sink still lower? Will his years of petty crime damn him, or will they be enough to help him fight back? And will he have to do it alone? Excerpt 1.


The hall was immersed in darkness, with only the buzzing sound of the air-conditioning system and his heartbeat breaking the silence. He sneaked from a secondary road to the basement where, according to the information he could gather about the security system of the building, no surveillance cameras were installed. He studied the blueprints in detail. Every single corner, from the basement to the parking hall, and from the emergency stairs to the floor corridor, was taken into account. However, he felt uncomfortably nervous, as he was rightly aware that surprises were not to be underestimated; flats in residential areas were well-watched by surveillance cameras. And for a reason, he thought, smiling. He took a deep breath and covered his face whilst walking along the shadow zones of the cameras in the parking hall, towards the emergency stairs. He opened the door to the stairwell and started to climb.

| P.J. MANN | His target was the fifth floor. If the information he’d got from J. was right, at Flat number 306 he should find an empty apartment. Empty of the owner, and soon empty of all the things he would be stealing from there. He felt the adrenaline rush streaming inside his body. Third floor. He stopped and took another deep breath, allowing his heart to regain the pace. Fourth floor. He was almost there. He felt his mouth dry. Fifth floor. He remained still for a moment to regain his breath. Then he opened the door leading out to the corridor. It would remain in darkness for a few minutes, just enough time for him to get inside the apartment. He walked to his target, silent as the shadows, unseen and unheard by the other inhabitants of the floor, and finally to Flat 306. His daily El Dorado. He carefully examined the lock of the door and shook his head. The further technology advances, the easier it gets, he thought happily, singing in his mind. He was a burglar and a fairly skilled one, too. Well, surely skilled, but lucky... not quite. His misfortune put him in jail on a regular basis. There were times, in the past, when he had never thought this would become his life; and, if he had to be honest, he didn’t much enjoy it. He wanted to have an honest and steady job, to make a life. He wanted to be like all the people he robbed... Normal. Once, when he was still a kid, he used to introduce himself to other people’s apartments just for the sake of it. Then, later, it became a necessity, the only way to survive for various reasons; all aliens from his real will. But, perhaps it was what he truly deserved, and he should have stopped thinking of himself as a victim? He shook his head. Everything started the day he was born, the day that he, sometimes, regretted the most. For, from that day on, he had to learn that the person he yearned to call Mom was not willing to be his mother at all, but rather his brother’s Mom. He was born into a fairly rich family as Stephan Mills. His father, Jonathan Mills, was in the timber business and co-owned, with his brothers, a well-

known family firm that exported raw material all over the States. Jonathan was aware of the difficult relationship between his wife and their son, so he tried as much as possible to compensate, with his attentions, the lack of motherly love his son should have received from her. However, that was not enough for Stephan; he yearned desperately for his mother’s love, the same love that was reserved exclusively for his brother. Her behavior didn’t fit with those of the other mothers of the kids at school, and Stephan felt jealous of them all. His older brother, Roger, didn’t seem to have a lot of sympathy towards him, but mostly he thought it was just because of the difference in age. Roger was five years older than Stephan, so they didn’t have many opportunities to share the same interests. They were, moreover, decidedly different in character as in aspect. Stephan was shorter but strong-built, dark-haired and brown-eyed. His skin was a healthy tanned brown, all year round. Roger, on the other hand, was extremely thin and delicate. His pale skin gave him a sort of melancholic, peaky look that raised, more than once, the concern of his parents. Even though he was surrounded by the love of both his mom and dad, Roger always felt jealous of Stephan. He felt that his younger brother’s presence took away from him part of his father’s affection that, otherwise, would have been destined for him. For this reason, Roger devoted his life to a single purpose: to destroy the image of Stephan in front of his father’s eyes, and so reclaim what was originally meant to be intended only for him. He didn’t know how he would achieve his goal, but he was sure that, sooner or later, he would find the way. Years passed by and, even from elementary school, one could have probably forecasted the kind of characters the two brothers would have developed when they reached adulthood. Roger was an obedient and calm boy; he would get only the best grades at school so as to make his parIssue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | ents proud of him. Stephan, on the other hand, was more interested in looking for trouble rather than studying; being averse to any kind of rule or regulation, he often ended up in detention. “Look at yourself, Stephan,” his father said as he picked him up from the umpteenth detention. “What can I do to make you understand that rules are made to be followed? That they are not made only for people like your brother? Why can’t you be more like him?” “I’m sorry, Dad. But this time it was not my fault, honest,” Stephan replied, trying to explain the reason why he always seemed to end up in trouble. He knew already that, this time, he wouldn’t be able to escape the punishment waiting for him. “Oh, so you are going to tell me that it wasn’t you who was caught damaging the rector’s car?” his father asked impatiently, although curious to see what kind of excuse his son would come up with this time. “Yes, but you see... they put me in…” Stephan tried to explain, being sure that his fate was already decided. “I see,” his father said. “They must have forced you, so you couldn’t escape. Then, as soon as the guard saw you, your friends untied you, so that you could get all the blame. Isn’t that so?” “No, but…” Stephan didn’t quite know how to explain to his dad that, if he had refused, he would have been considered a loser. “Then everything is clear, and you are grounded… for a month,” his father replied seriously. “A month? Oh man!” said Stephan, upset. He felt terribly annoyed about the punishment. However, he knew that, somehow, he deserved it. It was like in that book he was reading; he didn’t get the meaning before, but now it was clear. What was the title? He tried to remember. At, that was it! Crime and Punishment, or something like that. He realized how stupid he had been, to follow what his friends told him to do; he must have looked like an idiot. And, at that moment, whatever looked cool before, became suddenly fool38 |

ish. They just played him at their whim; they knew he didn’t like to be compared to his brother, that he would have done anything so as not to be considered a loser. “I’m sorry, Dad,” he said, turning his head down. “You’re right, I should have thought of the consequences.” “Apologizing is not actually fixing things up, you know,” said Roger smugly, overhearing the conversation. “You have to learn how to behave in a civilized society.” “Oh, shut up, you!” Stephan replied. He already felt stupid enough, without him to rub it in. “Stephan! You are not allowed to speak to your brother like that, especially when he is right. Apologize immediately to him,” his father said, raising the tone of his voice. “I didn’t mean to be rude to you,” said Stephan. “I was just feeling upset.” He turned his face to his brother, who was sitting in the back seat of the car. Roger smiled victoriously. “Apologies accepted. But you should learn to understand the difference between right and wrong, or soon you will find yourself in bigger trouble,” he replied. That wouldn’t have been the first, nor the last, time that Stephan was caught doing something wrong. School was mostly too boring for his lively character, and he was sure that the teachers couldn’t understand him. So, the only way to escape the boredom was to hang around, during the recess and after school, with his friends, who shared the same problem; they wanted more than to sit on a chair for hours learning something about grammar, maths and uninteresting things like that. The event, which started up the definitive rupture between him and his family, took place one summer’s night. Everyone was sleeping at home, when the telephone rang. Jonathan Mills reached for the bedside table and finally got the phone. “Hello…?” he answered, almost whispering, looking at his wife sleeping peacefully at his side. “Mr. Jonathan Mills?” a voice asked. “Yes, that’s me… Who’s there?” he asked, standing

| P.J. MANN | up from bed and walking out of the room. “This is Officer O’Connell. We have arrested your son, Stephan Mills, as he broke into an apartment with the intention to rob it. He should have called you himself, but we can’t calm him down. I guess he is pretty scared. Anyway, he is in our custody and soon will be debriefed. You might want to come and take him home, but he will have to face trial.” Jonathan simply stared into the phone. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “In my opinion,” continued the police officer, “since this is the first time he has done anything like this, he won’t be judged severely… probably he will be set a house arrest, or be given over to the social services, particularly if you can afford a good lawyer. I think that you need to have a serious talk with him.” Jonathan thought that perhaps he was just dreaming. “Sorry,” he said. “I didn’t understand. You are saying that my son is a burglar and he might go to jail?” He tried to stay calm and to comprehend what was happening. “I do mean exactly that, Sir,” said O’Connell, lowering the tone of his voice. “I’m sorry; this must be a shock for you.” “No, well… Yes, I mean… Sure, I will come as soon as I can. Thank you, Officer,” Jonathan replied, hanging up the phone. He couldn’t believe his ears; why did that boy have to behave like that? What had he done wrong in educating him? His only thoughts as he got dressed were to collect him from the police station. He was almost at the door when Roger switched on the light. Jonathan looked at him in surprise, like a child who was caught stealing from the candy jar. “Where are you going, Dad? You look like a thief,” Roger asked, smiling. “Shh,” whispered Jonathan. “I need to get your brother from the police station. It seems he was caught burglaring a private apartment.” “He did what?” replied Roger loudly. “Silence!” hissed Jonathan. “Don’t wake up your mother. Come on, come with me,” and he pushed him out of the door. “Hey, let me get dressed first,” protested Roger. “I can’t go in pajamas.”

“Okay, but hurry up,” said his father, wiping his forehead with his hand. “So, what are you going to do?” Roger asked as they were driving to the police station. “I don’t know,” replied his father. “I honestly have no idea what is going on in your brother’s head, sometimes. He is a sweet and kind boy, but when he comes up against something exciting, his brain stops working. Plus, he is so easily influenced by those friends of his. They are just abusing his ingenuity, to make him do whatever they want.” “I understand it is none of my business,” said Roger. “But, in my opinion, you should be firm with him, Dad, and perhaps take some drastic decisions. As long as he knows you will unfailingly be there, to cover for his mistakes, he will never learn to be a responsible man, and he will always be at the mercy of people who will use him. Today it’s a robbery, tomorrow you won’t know what it might be.” “Hmm, I don’t know,” said Jonathan. “Maybe you’re right. But, in my heart, I can’t help but take care of him.” “But don’t you understand?” replied Roger. “It is just by taking too much care of him, as you say, that you are letting him down. How can he learn if you don’t give him a lesson to remember? What will happen when you won’t be there to help him? You won’t be around forever; you can’t watch over him perpetually. He has to learn how to walk on his own two legs.” His father remained silent, thinking about what Roger had said, and he had to admit that maybe that was his mistake. He had covered up for Stephan’s mistakes too often, and never let him grow up to face his responsibilities. Roger was right; he knew it. Even if it was difficult, he decided that Stephan would have to take it like a man. They eventually arrived at the police station. Inside, it was quiet, and the neon lights made the place look more like an old dungeon. Jonathan walked up to the information desk. “Good evening,” he said. “Officer O’Connell called me. You have arrested my son, Stephan Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | Mills. May I see him?” The police officer looked at him and smiled. “Sure, come with me,” he replied. “We finally managed to calm the boy down.” He led them through a corridor and to the room where Stephan was being kept. As they walked in, Stephan stood up and ran to hug his father. “Dad, please,” he whispered, sobbing desperately. “I’m so scared.” Jonathan had never seen his son in such a state before, and felt dreadfully sorry for him. However, when he glanced at Roger, he remembered that this time he had to be firmer, for Stephan’s sake. Jonathan parted from him and slapped him. “You should truly feel ashamed,” he shouted angrily, “just as I am right now. What was the big idea of robbing an apartment? As if you don’t have everything you desire. We can afford to grant you whatever wish you might have. What’s your excuse now? You are eighteen years old, Stephan. You should be able to recognize right from wrong.” Stephan remained silent. He was dumbfounded by his father’s response, but he knew he was right. He had no reason to act the way he did, apart from the boredom and the need to feel the adrenaline rush. “Dad…” he said, confused. “No, this time you are going to listen to me,” his father interrupted. “I don’t want you to say a word. You have gone way too far this time, Stephan, and you are going to pay for it right now.” Jonathan looked at his son for a moment before continuing. “I am not going to pay to have you released tonight. You will wait in jail for the trial,” he said severely. “Neither am I going to pay for a lawyer to get you out of this mess. You put yourself into this, and you are going to get yourself out and pay the consequences of your stupidity. Maybe then you will learn a valuable lesson.” Stephan stared at his father in disbelief. “Dad… you can’t leave me here,” he said. “Please, I can explain…” “What are you going to explain?” replied his father. “I don’t want to hear another word from you. 40 |

I only hope that you will finally learn to respect the law and act like a civilized adult. I’ll see you when you get out of jail. I expect you to use this time to reflect on your actions and to think about your behavior in the future.” With that, Jonathan turned away to walk out of the room. “Dad, please, I’d like to exchange some words with my brother,” said Roger. “Can I have some time alone with him?” He looked at his father and then at the police officer. “I’ll be in the car waiting for you,” Jonathan said to Roger as he exited the room, without looking back. “Not more than five minutes,” the officer said, closing the door behind him. When they were finally left alone, Stephan turned his gaze away from the door, and the inquisitorial eyes of Roger, and focused his attention on a hole in the wall. “So, Stephan, my dear brother…” began Roger sarcastically. Stephan continued to stare at that hole in the wall. He wished he were small enough to be able to crawl in there and disappear from the world, to be far from his brother, from his mistakes, and from the unbearable feeling of shame. “Now it is time for you to pay for having intruded in my life,” Roger continued. Stephan looked at him, not quite getting the meaning of what he was saying. “What do you mean?” he asked, surprised. “I’ve finally got you exactly where I wanted you,” replied Roger. “Ever since you were born, you have been stealing the attention of Dad away from me. You have constantly been the special one to him, the one to be protected from everything. Instead, I was always the last in line. Now things are going to change. It wasn’t easy to convince Dad to leave you here, for he was determined to bring you home, and have a serious talk with you.” Roger paused and looked at his brother coldly. “He would have paid for the best lawyer money could buy,” he went on. “It was by luck that I caught him as he was going out of the house. I convinced him that the only way to help you would be to leave you here. Now that you are going to be far away for quite some time, I will have time to convince him

| P.J. MANN | to cast you away from our family. You have brought shame on all of us. You have ruined the good name of the entire family! How could you?” Stephan looked at his brother in shock. He didn’t know what to say. “Well, brother,” said Roger, “I guess my time is ticking away. I will have to leave you soon.” “Roger,” replied Stephan, “please, what is going on? Why are you doing this to me?” He was in tears. “Because I hate you,” spat Roger. “You don’t deserve to be part of our family.” “This cannot happen,” said Stephan, confused. “It must be a dream, but…” He was not quite sure what to say. “But what?” replied Roger. “You still don’t get it. Are you seriously that stupid? Look at yourself; do you actually think that, after this scandal, Dad will welcome you back into our family as if nothing has happened? I will make sure there is no place left for you there.” Stephan knew that his brother was somehow right; he took for granted too many things in his life, and now he had probably lost everything he’d had – his family, his home. Everything was gone, because of his stupidity. He then wondered what would happen if the police found out it was not the first robbery in which he’d participated. He began to panic. He had no idea what was going to happen to him from that day on. However, there was one thing he did know for sure, and that was that he was alone. Stephan wondered how much time he would have to spend in jail, and what would happen to him there. Could he still hope for house arrest instead? “Please Roger, don’t destroy my life,” he begged. “What do you want from me? What should I do?” “I want you out of my life,” replied Roger angrily, “and there’s nothing you can do about it. Now I’ll return home. Good night and sweet dreams, brother.” He laughed as he walked out from the room, leaving Stephan alone. Stephan sat on the bench, without any strength left in his body. He wanted to rewind all his life and rewrite it from the beginning, deleting all the moments he had disappointed his father, all the times he’d let

himself be misguided by his so-called friends just to be “cool”. Thinking about it, at that moment the only word that came into his mind was “loser”. He wanted so badly to be back in his own home, in his bed, where he could finally feel safe.

Uncaged Review A nicely done suspense, that keeps you guessing. For me, this book started a tad too slow and didn’t really catch me very quickly, but don’t be put off by that – it does become much more intriguing and engaging. As a teenager, Stephan has a good life, but he’s always pushing the boundaries. Finally, he ends up in prison, and his father refuses to bail him out this time, mainly because his brother convinces his father that Stephan needs to learn his lessons. Heartbreaking for both Stephan and his father. The very long first chapter deals mostly with Stephan in jail and how he comes to terms with his life. There is a nice twist to the story that I did guess in part, but the author did a good job getting me to feel empathy for Stephan, and although he was on the wrong path and did deserve some of his punishment, you’ll want to seek revenge of your own on his brother. Some of the wording is a bit stiff, but all in all, it was an enjoyable read. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


feature author Undergoing a mid-life renaissance, Eva Pasco rekindled her passion for storytelling. She composes Contemporary Women’s Fiction distinguished for its characterdriven plots featuring protagonists who plunge the depths of despair and suffer the consequences in their darkest hours prior to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. A native Rhode Islander, she adds local flavor by incorporating geographic entities, historic landmarks, and regional culture in her novels. Eva tiptoes through the tulips in her recent Nonfiction publication, 100 Wild Mushrooms: Memoirs of the Sixties, a coming-of-age collection of serious, sentimental, and silly reflections. The author has also published numerous Retro Flashbacks pertaining to the Sixties, and essays about her native state of Rhode Island. Her weekly blogs relate to writing and social marketing. And, Eva’s memoirs continue to mushroom! All of the author’s Works are available to read at her web page on Authors Den.

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Uncaged welcomes Eva Pasco! First off, thank you so much for taking the time for the interview! I’m honored and excited to be featured in Uncaged! Uncaged: You retired from being an elementary teacher to being an author. Are there any similarities in the two professions? If I thought the teaching profession required devoting many hours in addition to those spent in the classroom—being an author is practically a 24-hour proposition. Ironically, I do see similarities in both professions, which I’ll narrow down to three: Self-Discipline: In elementary education, a teacher must have thoroughly prepared lessons for multiple subjects every single day, along with possessing the mental fortitude to switch gears should any one of those lessons fizzle with the students. An author—foremost, a “writer,” by trade—must ply himself/herself to the craft every single day, along with possessing the mental fortitude to scrap what doesn’t ring true for storytelling. Relevancy:

Author’s Den 44 |

In the teaching profession, the instructor must tailor lessons and material to his/her students’ needs and inter-

ests. In the writing profession, the author must tailor an engaging story to a target audience. A Thick Skin: Just as a teacher cannot let an unruly student ruffle feathers—you know, “Never let them see you sweat”— a published author cannot wallow in mean-spirited, negative book reviews. Uncaged: An Enlightening Quiche – this is your second fiction novel, is that right? How can you explain the book to readers? The teacher commends you because you’ve clearly done your homework. Yes, An Enlightening Quiche is my second novel in the genre of Contemporary Women’s Fiction. Succinctly put, the book is about two headstrong women in their forties coming from different moral directions, clashing within the confines of northern Rhode Island’s French-Canadian mill town of Beauchemins. Their narratives relate how an heirloom quiche recipe and baking rivalry redress misconceptions, misdeeds, and maliciousness—all of which wreak havoc by altering the lives of those caught in the crossfires of a tragedy.

Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I’m very appreciative of reviews. I look for consistencies. Thus far, they validate what I hoped to achieve as a storyteller by enabling the reader to feel he/she is part of the world I created. That’s what I desired to achieve all along. Uncaged: You also have a new release in nonfiction, a memoir of sorts, 100 Wild Mushrooms: Memoirs of the ‘60s, just released in October. Which do you prefer to write in, fiction or nonfiction? I prefer writing full-length novels in the genre of Contemporary Women’s fiction to capitalize on various aspects of the human condition. However, I do enjoy writing non-fiction memoirs which enable me to extract wisdom from the daily minutiae of life, and share it. It is my pleasure to share Memoir # 55 – “The Zapruder Effect” The Zapruder film as defined by my run-on sentence is as follows: the 26-second, silent, 8 mm, color, home movie of 35th President of the Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, during his presidential motorcade in a 1961 midnight blue Lincoln with the bubble top removed and bulletproof side windows rolled down, inching through Dealy Plaza, Elm St., Texas, on November 22, 1963. Filmed by private citizen, Abraham Zapruder, it is the most complete visual recording of JFK’s assassination, signifying the end of a mythical Camelot. JFK’s assassination and the sequence of events to follow would leave imprints in our minds impervious to heat, moisture, or chemical breakdown—the Zapruder effect!

and visibly upset Mr. B.

Jackie’s pink suit, her stately composure, JohnJohn’s salute, and the cadence of the funeral procession are part of our repertoire, though the real Zapruder reel is that of the 8 mm chronology played out for each of us old enough to recall an ill-fated day in history—our own “grassy knoll,” if you will.

1:00 CST, 2:00 EST: Assistant Presidential Press Secretary, Malcolm Kilduff made his press announcement. “President John F. Kennedy died at approximately 1 PM Central Standard Time today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain. I have no other details of the assassination.”

In 1963 I was a seventh grader at Lincoln Jr. High. Last period of the day, right up until dismissal, would capture footage of me in Social Studies. I sat in the third seat of the second row from the window, flanked by Martha in front of me, Nancy to my left, Lois to my right, and Kay diagonally behind me on my left. Before class officially started, we’d trade gossip and pass jokes to insulate us from the regimen and rigors perpetrated by a teacher who must have laid claim to OCDs. Mr. B made sure our rows were aligned before initiating instruction and during lessons, often stopping mid-sentence to correct any misalignment in the aisles. He’d frequently adjust his tie, clear his throat, and smooth the lone strand of hair over his bald pate in no particular order. By rote, each of us read a paragraph from our history books, followed by discussion. 12:30 CST, 1:30 EST in Rhode Island: a shot was fired at JFK’s limousine. Shortly thereafter, our principal made an announcement over the PA system which created a shock wave in the classroom 46 |

Dismissal occurred at 2:15 and I boarded my bus as usual. Si was our driver: a regular no-hassle, go-withthe-flow sort of guy who tuned his radio to rock n’ roll, talked chicks with the guys, tolerated loudness, and permitted smoking in his caboose. He could get tough when he needed to, and no one gave him any guff. As was customary, Si rolled past the junior high, made it through the red-light at the deserted cross section, and crawled along Great Road.

A slight delay before we found out, I remember Si pulling the bus over to the side of the narrow, rural, country-bumpkin thoroughfare of Great Road. Bare bony tree branches scraped along the windows until the bus came to a halt. Si got up from his seat and took a stand. Adopting the uncharacteristic persona of a parson, he signaled for silence and got it quick. Without ceremony, the man at the helm announced President Kennedy had just died and we’d all better say a prayer. The tragic event that felled a president only two years in office would scar the Kennedy family and shake America to its core. This political assassination created its own Zapruder effect as each of us bowed our heads in silence, for who knows—maybe 25 seconds. It was enough time to replay the surreal events of November 22, 1963 from the perspective of a 12-yearold, forever preserved in the

| EVA PASCO | archives of my mind. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? For my first published novel in the genre of Contemporary, I chose character surnames conducive to the plots flavored with Rhode Island Italian-style: Castelli, Martucci, Scalabrini, Molinara, etc. The protagonist, Carla Matteo, is a composite of autobiographical traits.

those elusive phrases that aren’t forthcoming when I’m sitting at the keyboard working out a scene. I like taking scenic drives, hiking, and walking the shoreline any time of day or season. Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? Since one of my goals to support fellow Indies is that of reading and reviewing their books in-between my writing obligations, I’ve had the fortune to come across many worthwhile reads—none of which I’d throw against a wall.

For my second novel in the genre of Contemporary where the setting is a fictitious French-Canadian mill town in Rhode Island, I took care that my names had a matching ethnic vibe: Yolande Marchand, Blanche Bessette, Serge Chuggere—you get the idea.

One of the most memorable books I’d like to extol is the historic fiction novel, Miriamne the Magdala by JB Richards. Book 1 of an upcoming series, the author’s unsurpassed storytelling prowess and her meticulous attention to historic accuracy weave a magnificent tapestry of words.

Each character was fleshed from my imagination, and bear not even the slightest resemblance to anyone I know.

Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? Besides the exercise of writing to nail the story percolating in my mind, I’d have to say it is engaging with other authors in the Indie community as we forge ahead through the arduous journey of self-publication’s perks and peccadilloes. My least favorite part about being an author is devoting time and energy to managing the “business” of writing which involves marketing and promoting my books. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? When I’m not writing, I actually enjoy housework. I find it cathartic, as well as an outlet for channeling

My heartfelt appreciation to all of you. Without your leap of faith, my books would sit on a shelf, and my writing voice would not be heard.

Enjoy an excerpt from An Enlightening Quiche An Enlightening Quiche Eva Pasco Contemporary

An heirloom quiche recipe and baking rivalry turn up the heat in a Rhode Island mill town rife with secrets and scandals! Misconceptions, misdeeds, and maliciousness wreak havoc on those caught in the crossfire of a tragedy. Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | Excerpt From An Enlightening Quiche: Chapter 10 in Entirety Augusta: “I wish you’d find a good man to settle down with by the time your next one comes around!” The crux of Oncle Emil’s “flirty in your thirties; finished at forty” pronouncement at last year’s milestone birthday fête hit my psyche with the displacement of an earthquake’s aftershock when the forty-first made landfall. Settling down with any one of the misfits I found myself attracted to, while shunning decent enough men like Ray Provost, a ticking time bomb by profession, unsettled those who positioned themselves along the periphery of a gladiatorial arena, helpless to shield me from deep wounds self-inflicted by engaging in morally destructive behavior. Hooking up is one thing. Falling in love with any of the riffraff I bedded, a dim prospect aligned with descending the rungs of a ladder into an abysmal abyss. Stuck in a holding pattern, I didn’t want to fall in love only to have my heart broken into irretrievable pieces. Before the spectacle of the upcoming candle blowout took place, during one and the same period of grace leading up to Thanksgiving, a stranger’s downward climb precipitated even more disgraceful conduct which eventually put me in the bad graces of those detrimentally affected by my actions. On my own collision course with destiny, hitting Blackstone’s rock bottom seemed the only way I could ever gain enough insight to navigate through dire straits and orient my moral compass toward beau chemins. *** According to the National Weather Service, November’s average temperature of 49.6 degrees in the Northeast tied us 2nd place with the topaz months of 1927 and 1948. A lucky break for Marc who got off to a late start lining up estimates for a roof replacement, then deciding to abandon his systematic search midway through 48 |

the alphabetical list of prospects in favor of hiring the A team comprised of a scruffy, hungry-for-work, two-man band of brothers who billed themselves as “Above the Rest Roofies.” A price quote and handyman pitch in laymen terms convinced Marc a Tremont roof over our heads would keep us dry for many years to come. Undistracted and undaunted by my serial yawns of boredom induced from having reached a saturation point on the subject of roofs, Marc continued his monologue despite my detachment. “Ignorance or lack of proper workmanship eventually causes the gravel to be moved or removed from the tarpaper, exposing the roof to the elements so that over time water gets in. I’ve been assured they’re going to use a tarpaper variant where gravel is applied to the hot tar during the manufacturing process, forming a permanent layer to give the roof ongoing protection. Not bad, eh?” “Oui oui.” I muttered Beauchemins’ equivalent of “uh huh.” My lack of enthusiasm merited one of Marc’s noogies to my head before he left the office to oversee printing and binding operations. Ouais! Yeah! Our banner November ranked second amongst the warmest in recorded history, going as far back to the late 1800s when the first roof insulated the newly constructed building known as American Voyager Luggage. Forwarding fast to Brulé Bookbinding, a few roofs later, I’ll relate straightaway how atmospheric conditions struck at the heart of matters due to a gift horse of 68-degree, sunny weather on a Thursday which reigned in holy terror. *** Marc hadn’t bargained for the two-man band of brothers blaring hard rock from a boom box up on the roo-oo-oof, a trouble-proof paradise where their cares may have drifted into space, while the rumble of guitar riffs menaced those who occupied the world below— namely moi! Most days Marc took refuge inside the belly of the mill, preferring the steady onslaught of noise produced by cacophonous machinery for hours on end. Or, he’d barricade himself within the vault of the restoration room, a sanctified humidor for a cloistered bunch who restored and rebound rare books.

A glutton for auditory punishment, I managed to overcome my struggle against friction and opened the oversized office window halfway to take advantage of the afternoon’s unseasonal balminess. As a consequence of fulcrum’s folly, several attempts to schedule new work orders proved futile while mentally battling a barrage of riffs from “Smoke on the Water.” Daaah daaah daaah …! Amazingly, a piercing cry of agony could be heard above Deep Purple’s smoke screen, alarming one of the bros to kill the deafening decibels. A salvo of expletives rife with obscenities ripped through the air, zooming in one ear and out the other, kicking off a visual with potential to set my loins on fire if executed in slow motion. Timing may be everything, but so is tempo when it comes to priming one’s libido for ribald, raunchy sex! Strange, what a woman’s desire can influence her to fantasize through envisioning a wicked game of trailing an ice cube from sternum to steel-panel abs on a select male! Rhythmic fluctuations of high voltage ping-ponging throughout my brain created a rapid-fire pulsation whenever I mobilized the memory of a midday descent from a rooftop as a slow tango, in stark contrast to the slapstick antics of a beau jester frenetically fleeing his assailant and hell-bent on making a beeline for temporary asylum in my office. Forever committing his magnum force to memory, I’ll begin with the first tantalizing increment of a roofer’s rush to the ground along the rungs of a stabilizing, extension ladder. His boots, worn and rugged as the man who slipped inside them. Those leather work boots portended a toughened and wizened individual who blazed the less-traveled roads in life, slogging through mud and trampling over brushwood, incurring abrasive scrapes and scratches, yet emerging a formidable survivor for having endured and overcome setbacks along a precarious journey. Thighs tightly squeezed inside the loincloth of washed-out denim jeans emphasized lean musculature chiseled from daily exertion on limbs attached to a man who manually labored and belabored on a rooftop dawn to dusk. Licensed, reliable, and you betchya— affordable, after shooting himself in the

| EVA PASCO | foot by undercutting prices to get a leg up on competitors all vying for their place in the sun. Then, paying through the roof for general liability insurance in order to improve his rating in procuring work for a client base who wouldn’t consider job bids otherwise. Sky-high thighs couldn’t afford to be riddled with arthritis or sustain injury on the job if the man connected to them intended to support a family and supply its daily bread. What about health insurance? At skyscraping prices, not likely, unless covered under a spouse’s plan, depending on costs for deductibles or co-pays. Amen. Furthering along the rungway, the full monty slide progressed to a fit n’ trim torso which no tool belt could disguise. Since roofing demands physical strength to lift and lug heavy materials, the muscles along his equatorial region were terra firma, imploring me to speculate if I could bounce a quarter off of his solar plexus as well as his gluteus maximus. Curiosity in conjunction with lacking the psychological acumen to delay gratification creates a lethal combination where I’m concerned. Eye movement proceeded up, up, and away from the flyway to the byway of biceps on sinewy upper arms sun-bronzed and bulging from the tightness of his grip on the side rails of the ladder as he shimmied closer to ground level. This cat on a hot tin roof sheathed inside a frayed, faded T-shirt stained with perspiration harbored no fat! Lean and agile, though far from fragile, and nimble without a quibble, this roofer achieved peak performance with every mount. Double entendre, intended! Seducing and inducing me to believe the counterpoise necessary for navigating slope transferred an ability to shoulder responsibility in juggling the onslaught of lemons life hurled at him. Having progressed this far along my voyeuristic excursion of roofer madness, the cumulative effect from each salacious revelation built a sexual tension which would either downgrade to a fizzle or escalate to a frenzy, hinging upon my reaction the first time ever I saw his face for determinIssue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | ing whether the sun rose or froze in his eyes. Turn-on or turn-off? That is the salient, silent, theatrical question posed by two people who find themselves thrust together on a make-do stage paired inside a theater of the round, oblong, square, oval, or heart-shaped for that matter. The locale of such meetings proves incidental and inconsequential as does an inspection of each facial feature, separate and apart from its composite effect, better discerned by a holistic approach when scaling the topographical canvas of configurative physiognomy. Circumstances behind the downslide decreed and decried the parameters of our face-off when the eagle landed on turf in front of my window, panting in sheer terror and barely managing to issue a disarming call to armament. “Call 911! I’ve been stung by a yellow jacket! Could lose consciousness under ten minutes from … allergic reac …” *** A surge of adrenalin ramped up my retreat from the window, inciting a mad dash to the fridge for Blanche’s EpiPen. Frantic pounding on the outside door initiated an abrupt turnaround where I practically fell flat on my face from the disorientation of spinning my heels to unlock and open it. A race against time staged a comedy of errors fueled by trauma on the other side of the heavy metal conduit to safety. Both of us dispensing with formal introductions, I grabbed him by the arm and led him to my desk chair where shoving him onto the seat nearly caused an overturn. I rushed back to the fridge, and while rummaging its interior for the elusive pen, he rolled up to me, inches from my derriere, primed for a confrontation undoubtedly ripe with derisive accusations as to what I was doing on my hands and knees when I should be phoning in a medical emergency. Voila! Concealed behind Charlemagne’s yogurt army. Forearmed, I stood up and towered over a cornered rat. Before he could vent aggression, I took high aim and jabbed the EpiPen into his outer thigh with all my might to make sure I penetrated denim’s tough hide and 50 |

made contact with flesh. A split second of bewilderment gave me the chance to step back out of harm’s way, fearful he’d slug me in retaliation for the pain I’d inflicted, then top it off by adding insult to injury. Shock mutated into agony verbalized as a savage groan while he grasped the shiverme-timbers, wooden side arms to buck up. Rooted in fear from a precarious predicament of raising the hackles on a surly beast, I braced myself for the seething rage about to spew. Cued by the grotesque transfiguration of lips contorted into a snarl, and teeth clenched for conveying vehemence, I fortified my psyche to withstand any unscripted insult he might add to my injurious jab. “You’re deranged and oughta be locked up in a psycho ward! I’ll be lucky if I can walk outta here!” He couldn’t. He stood, but complained of feeling faint and collapsed onto the seat’s unforgiving surface I never had the prescience to soften with a chair pad. Dizziness! Blanche’s one-time tutorial, more of a fire-and-brimstone homily before a congregation on coffee break, prophesied the deadly sins of bee stings. One of them, lightheadedness, or a sharp drop in blood pressure. Another, a red rash spreading beyond the sting site, his easily discernible as a tumescent lump on the side of his neck, and most definitely red-flagged. Two symptoms too many! Severe allergic reactions aside, Blanche instilled the fear of God in her flock when she impressed upon us the thirty-second margin for removing the stinger to prevent any more bee venom from entering the bloodstream, and further cautioned first responders not to pull out that sucker. Scraping it with a stiff-edged object, or fingernail if need be, would inhibit releasing more toxins into the skin. Time and tide wait for no man. Seconds had trespassed into minutes since he sounded his own alarm. Coûte que coûte, as in hook or by crook, I had to make it snappy. Que ça saute! Ransacking the top drawer of my desk and spilling much of its contents onto the floor during the search, I made a split-second judgment call for Bic to do the trick and pried the pen cap loose with my teeth. The element of surprise attack no longer a viable

option, I banked on power of persuasion to convince the crumpled mass slumped forward in a heap of my target objective to approach his jugular with a cap clip. Offering no resistance, he wearily nodded his consent. Frazzled but belatedly pressed to depress the 911 phone pistons as a last resort after an expenditure of energy void of coordination, I bit my lower lip in trepidation, pondering whether his family might initiate a civil action suit by filing a wrongful death claim stemming from my negligence to engage an emergency service tout de suite. I never completed the push button triad, prevented from doing so when Tremont no. 2 burst into the office, facilitated by my overt neglect to lock the door behind me when I admitted Tremont no. 1. The stockier, more clean-shaven half of the brotherhood, who unceremoniously introduced himself as Ashe, suspiciously eyed the phone receiver in my hand, and voiced his irritability by insinuating I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. “Hang it up!” Startled, I dropped the receiver which dangled by its cord over the desk, emitting an offhook quad frequency demanding an urgent smack down on the cradle. “My brother doesn’t know you saved my life by nearly stabbing me to death! I’m Gabe, by the way.” Analogous to calling a truce on a bloody battlefield, he proffered a handshake. Brief as the interlude may have been for me to reciprocate an introduction, the warmth and might of his clutch felt like the laying on of hands to incite a primeval, Pentecostal uprising deep from within. Sing Gabe’s praises to the skies! Long, lean fingers coveted my hand in a grasp sending telepathic shock waves via my cutaneous receptors. Bare-handed bandying put a hold on flesh rough to the touch on its posterior surface and smoothly callused on the palm. The second tier of ripples emanating from this outof-body experience intensified from a bemused grin overlaid during the shake. In the aftermath, the eyes had it! Heavy-lidded browns exercised their optimal, optical power of illusion to undress their subject in effigy by leaving nothing unaddressed. The last vestiges of reserve and resolve dissolved under his

| EVA PASCO | scrutiny, affecting my voice to falter in a falsetto, audibly foreign to my own ears, dubbed as an unnaturally, high-pitched wail of a banshee. “Your hide was saved today on account of an employee prone to severe allergic reactions from bee stings keeps her spare EpiPen in the fridge.” Ashe grabbed one of those paisley honker hankies the size of a bandanna from his back pocket and wiped sweat off his brow, conceding relief his kid brother wasn’t a gonner from fumbling with his own EpiPen and dropping it on the weed-infested ground, nowhere to be found. He helped his brother up on his feet, resolute in driving him posthaste to Landmark Emergency in Woonsocket for follow up medical care in case the dosage wasn’t enough to reverse his allergic reaction. “Second close call, hey, bro? Maybe now you’ll consider those allergy shots.” Woozy from a prolapsed adrenalin rush, I collapsed onto the swivel chair’s hard- knocked surface to recuperate and gather my wits before collecting desk debris scattered in every direction. A blade named Gabe tarried a fleeting moment by the open door, the gleam in his brooding browns once again ascertaining the pull of our animal magnetism. “Tell that lady I owe her one.” Mon Dieu! Ephemeral traces of Gabe Tremont lingered after he disappeared from view. The seat radiated his body heat. The signature muskiness of his perspiration hovered as an aphrodisiacal cloud nine committed to my olfactory memory. Intoxicated by his pheromones, I closed my eyes to siphon his image in the residue of energy he’d left behind, envisioning his shaggy locks heavily dispersed with gray. His face shadowed in stubble, chiseled lean, browbeaten to a leathery tan by the relentless assault of the elements; lines permanently etched from having passed the focal point of fifty—my judgment call. His visage, a passageway to reach his soul, entreated me to stroke his cheek and trail my index finger along his lips to silence them in readiness for a kiss. The sexual tension which certainly would have erupted in erotic spasms subsided out of sheer Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | necessity for me to take leave of my senses and leap from my chair to find Blanche, hereby rendered defenseless against a venomous mortal enemy without her antidote. By the time twilight’s dark shadows encroached, Jacasseuse pollinated the air with gossip about her heroic action as a silent benefactor. The prattle even permeated the sheltered restoration room by ricochet. Bridgie Doyenne, who ran into Blanche on her way back from squatting over the lone porcelain throne inside the tight quarters of our unisex lavatory, smoked Marc out of hiding in the restoration room. Eager for the scoop from a primary source, he hurried back to our office where he discovered me crawling on all fours gathering debris strewn helter-skelter. Poor choice of words perhaps, but, stooping to my level, he crawled alongside me, shoulder to shoulder, helping to reclaim sundries while ingesting the perilous facts. Peering into his eyes, magnified by the lenses of tortoise shell rims, the placidity of those ocean blues induced me to buckle under and surrender tears which gave way to convulsive sobs. He put his arms around me, lending a shoulder to cushion my distress. When the tide ebbed, he dried my tears with his handkerchief, and led me to my chair where I collapsed like a ragdoll. At Marc’s insistence, I sipped a glass of orange juice he’d poured. Too weak to refuse his ultimatum, I let him drive me home. Faster than a yellow jacket’s flight in search of another poor sap, news of the rescue had spread throughout Beauchemins by the time Marc deposited me curbside in front of the Marchands’ abode. Dragging my hindquarters up the porch stairs in an altered state, Yolande opened her door, stifling a gasp at my expense. She thwarted my hasty retreat to crash by redirecting me to have dinner with her and Norm, then admonishing me to get to bed soon afterward. “Sacre bleu de Tabarnak! Some reaction you had!”

52 |

Uncaged Review This was a hard book for me to really get into and enjoy. Although the book is really well written with engaging characters and storyline, the word play, the puns, and the descriptions were very distracting for me and disrupted the flow of the story. The CanadianFrench connection in the book is a bit lost on me – so that is a connection I never made. This is also written in the first person narrative and switches between the main characters – which worked fine, but within those narratives, it almost felt like it would switch to second person for a paragraph or so. Intelligent writing? Yes. But for me, it was like a roast that was left in the oven just a few minutes too long. But once you get used to the writing style, you find an original and engaging story that leaps over its own hurdles. With all that said, if you can get beyond those aspects, you’ll find a very original storyline with strong women and life in this small town. Between saving the local mill and the quiche bake-off, you will find friendship, betrayal and skeletons in closets with mysteries you are eager to solve. Reviewed by Cyrene

feature author Lyra Shanti is a novelist, poet, playwright, and songwriter who currently lives in Florida with partner and spouse, Timothy, and their two insane cats. A lover of nature, animals, anime, music, theatre, movies, myths, and of course, great books, Lyra seeks inspiration from everywhere possible! Author of the award winning sci-fi series, Shiva XIV, Lyra is a dreamer of worlds far away. Further information about Lyra’s stories, music, and more can be found at

Uncaged welcomes Lyra Shanti! Uncaged: You describe yourself as a novelist, playwright, poet and singer-songwriter.Have any of your plays gone to/or planning to go to stage? Yes, my husband, Timothy Casey, and I are writing partners (he’s a skilled musician and composer, and budding novelist too!) We’ve been writing plays and musicals together since the early 90s. We had a children’s musical performed at a local theatre, but we’ve since recorded a concept album for our full length musical “#chat.” You can find out more and even listen to clips from the show here: You can also find clips of my own music at my website here: 2) For the SciFi novels, Shiva XIV series, can you explain this series to readers? 54 |

The story begins with a sheltered boy named Ayn, born to be a king called Shiva the Fourteenth. He is told by the priests who raise him about a prophecy that claims he will become their “Bodanya,” the messiah of his planet. It’s a lot to take on his young shoulders, but Ayn feels he must become The Bodanya so he can save their Galaxy from disease and destruction. Through the course of 4 books, Ayn is forced to make an epic journey where he meets friends and foes, and magical creatures! As he comes of age, Ayn faces his darkest fears and gains powers that will either save his Galaxy… or destroy it! There is adventure, intrigue, mysticism, romance, and plenty of battle scenes. Pure science fantasy all the way! Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I do read them, actually. The best reviews are when

the reviewer is honest, yet gives positive feedback. I love when they mention certain plot or character elements that inspired or moved them. It makes my day! Reviews really matter and help an indie author to be seen! Uncaged: You are planning five books to this series and a prequel. When can we expect to see the next book in the series release? The 4th book, The River of Time (releasing Nov 6th!) is actually the “final” book in the Shiva XIV series. The 5th book will be a combo prequel/sequel, largely having to do with the mystery of Ayn’s past life, and first legendary incarnation of The Bodanya. It will be quite an undertaking, so it’ll probably take a years or two to complete. However, I will probably do a few more “Shiva Shorts” - backstories in the world of Shiva XIV. There are already 3 I’ve done, the latest being

“The Dragon Warrior of Kri,” which is a backstory novella about Meddhi, the high priest who raises Ayn. It shows how Meddhi went from priest to warrior, and back again to priest. There are battles and dragons with intense romance too, and I loved writing it! (Dragon Warrior can be found here: I plan to publish at least a few more of these shorts next year. They’re so much fun! 5) Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? The names, and the characters themselves, are usually born from the back recesses of my subconscious; they are usually created from instinct and dreams. On rare occasion, I get stuck on a name, and then I’ll consult my husband… or Google. I admit that I put a lot of my own personality in my characters, especially Ayn. There are a few Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | characters whom I’ve laced with traits from various people I’ve known, but only the lucky few. ;) Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite?

Hmm… I try to avoid really bad books. Truthfully, if I’m not enjoying myself, I stop and just don’t make it long enough to throw against walls. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

My favorite part is the actual writing. The freedom I feel to write about other worlds and people is immeasurable and nearly euphoric! I also love being able to inspire others to dream, or perhaps to write themselves.

Hi, fans and new readers alike! I want you to know I wouldn’t be the author I am now without you, and I truly appreciate all your feedback and support! Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the stories that spring forth from my wacky brain! :)

My least favorite part is probably the same for most indie authors: the dreaded marketing! I hate having to promote myself. It just doesn’t come naturally for me, and it can be quite exhausting. I like interviews though!

You can find me most often at either my website: or on Facebook: https://

Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? When I’m not writing, I’m watching anime or movies, or I’m reading (usually other indie authors!) I like all kinds of genres, but I mostly love getting lost in fantasy and sci-fi, or anything epic and imaginary. My latest obsession is the new Voltron (Legendary Defender) series on Netflix. I’ve been binging like crazy! It’s like crack! Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? The last book I read and loved was Tempus Fugit by my brilliant other half, Timothy Casey. If you like sexy time-traveling action-romance with a big helping of satirical humor, this is totally the next book you’ll adore! It’s like if an R rated Doctor Who had a baby with Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s still in the editing stage, but should be releasing soon! Last book I wanted to throw against the wall? 56 |

Enjoy an excerpt from Shiva XIV Shiva X1V Lyra Shanti SciFi/Space Opera Prophecy rules, science rebels, and the fate of all depends on a boy named Ayn. Predestined to become the great messiah of his people, Ayn must save his galaxy from disease and war. But when an unknown enemy threatens everyone he loves, the destiny he thought was his spins out of control. A coming of age story amidst galactic turmoil, Shiva XIV has action, romance, mysticism, and magical creatures. Join Ayn and his friends as his journey to become a heroic legend unfolds! *Adult themes, intended for mature teens and up.

|LYRA SHANTI | Excerpt “That’s The Chord!” Zin shouted as it went

by. “The Chord?“ Ayn yelled back. “What is it exactly?” “It’s the main way everyone here commutes. We should take it into the heart of the city!” Zin happily exclaimed. Following close behind his new friend and guide, Ayn clumsily carried his suitcase, trying his best to keep the pace. They soon went upstairs, which spiraled and seemed to go on for miles. Finally, when they reached the top, they had to wait a few minutes for the next train to slide through the opened silver dome that covered them from the smog-filled sky. When the oval doors to the train opened automatically, Zin smiled at Ayn with a wink. It was as if this was the happiest day of Zin’s young life, and Ayn had absolutely no idea why. However, as they sat down upon the long horizontal benches, Ayn began feeling a sense of wonder and calm. It was the first time since the horror of his birthday that he didn’t feel a deep emptiness and sorrow. He even felt a small amount of Zin’s excitement as he peered through the window in order to watch the traffic of floating vehicles hovering below them. “Look!” cried Zin. “It’s the Hithra Temple!” Ayn followed Zin’s pointed finger and looked to his right. Ayn could just make out a massive structure that had a marble surface with sharp triangular edges. He wondered what a temple was doing in a city that was known to be free of religion, but he didn’t ask his excitable friend. Zin was in such a happy state, and Ayn didn’t want to disturb him. As the train raced through the city, it made several stops before Zin got up and motioned to Ayn that it was time to leave. The two halves of the oval door slid open and they exited the train quickly with luggage in tow. “Where exactly are we going?” Ayn asked, already tuckered out. “Well,” said Zin as he paused for a moment, scratching above his right eyebrow, “I think we should just head into the artist’s section of the city and see where fate takes us.”

“Fate?” scoffed Ayn. After everything that had happened, he seriously wondered if fate existed. “Aren’t your people scientists?” Ayn said with a hint of sarcasm. “Do you even believe in the concept of fate?” “My people may not,” Zin casually replied, “but I do.”

Uncaged Review The first book in this SciFi is a great beginning and if you’ve never read Space Opera or you’ve wanted to and didn’t know where to start, this is a good place to begin. A very nicely thought out world, with quite a cast of characters. The main characters are Ayn and Zin, with Ayn the next savior of his people, like the next Buddah if you will. He’s also intersex, meaning he has both female and male genitalia, and I was wondering where this was going, but in this first book it is more of a coming of age story and coming to terms with his future and this aspect of his character may be left to later editions. The book was slow going the first third of the way through, but the world building and character development is superb. The plot gets moving when Zin helps Ayn escape danger - and at this point, the reader has slogged through the slow part of the first book in a series often suffers from - the background building and getting the reader up to speed. Just one negative is the overuse of exclamation points. I don’t feel they gave the emphasis that was intended, more of an irritant. Being the first novel from this author, I can easily shrug it off. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Short story Danger - Road closed Ahead, PT 3-B by JB. Woods


This short story will be brought to you differently than in the past. Each month you will receive a chapter, so come back each month to read the full story.

Danger - Road closed Ahead pt 3-B JB. Woods They awoke in mid-afternoon and spent the rest of the day window shopping without arousing curiosity before hunger got the better of them and at the insistence of the landlord they ate bowls of bigos with shots of local Vodka until they could take no more. It was while Anna engaged their host in polite conversation that Hunter took the opportunity to change to their second set of number plates and discard two hub caps. As an afterthought he kicked a dent in one of the rear doors and removed the nearside tail light bulb. Satisfied the car now looked clapped out enough to be of Eastern European origin he joined Anna to decide on their next course of action. They opted to head away from the East German border area before turning south for Czechoslovakia and Bratislava, their eventual destination being the River Danube. Satisfied, they refuelled at the first garage and drove through the town until they reached the main East—West highway. It was a good metalled road and Hunter estimated they should reach the Border in a little over four and a half hours if they drove steadily. They skirted around Wroclaw and thirty kilometres later Hunter suddenly swung off the main road, switched off the lights and pushed on down a country lane. Ten minutes later he pulled into a wood. ‘What are you doing, Hunter?’ 60 |

‘I’m getting jumpy. There’s been a car holding station behind us for the last half hour. He was quite a way back but you never know. Come on, lets walk back to the main road and have a look.’ They stood in the undergrowth just short of the junction and listened. It was both black and silent. Hunter breathed a sigh of relief, gave Anna a hug and they walked slowly back to the car holding hands. ‘We won’t take chances,’ said Hunter. ‘We’ll wait a while longer. Let’s study the map and see where this road takes us.’ By the blue circle of light given out by the night torch they found they were headed towards a heavily forested area and they decided to continue to the next town before planning the next step of their journey. He replaced the tail-light bulb he had removed earlier and when they moved off he drove the first ten minutes without lights. An hour later they entered the small town of Nysa. Driving slowly they crept through and continued onwards to the village of Glucholazy. The forest loomed up on the right and short of the village, with fingers crossed, Hunter turned into a track and proceeded cautiously. A quarter of an hour later he stopped. ‘We’ll put the English plates on here, Anna, and from here on you drive.’ ‘Me, Hunter! It’s nothing but a footpath and you want me to drive? ‘Anna, you don’t do yourself justice. Stay in low gear and bump along slowly and let’s just see what comes. ‘Why can’t you drive?’ ‘I’m playing the drunken husband and if we get stopped I’m going to be stinking of Vodka and you got lost. Keep that bottle of whisky handy and some dollars but I’m hoping there’s no one there.’ He finished changing the plates and before he slumped in the passengers seat he splashed a few drops of Vodka on his clothes and took a deep swig for effect. Anna drove cautiously through the forest and after half an hour Hunter decided they had gone far enough to cross into Czechoslovakia and he sat upright relieved at the ease by which they’d done it. ‘Now to navigate down to Bratislava.’

| JB WOODS | As he fumbled for the map Anna shouted, ‘There’s a barrier ahead.’ He slumped down once more and loosened his gun as Anna pulled up short of a red and white swing barrier. She waited for a few moments and nothing stirred. ‘What do I do now, Hunter?’ ‘Get out and lift that pole.’ She grumbled quietly, slid out of the car and by the light of the headlights she pushed down on the counter weight and opened the obstruction to their progress, waited for a moment, shrugged, and walked back to the car. Before she could open the door an authoritative voice shouted, ‘Stop! Wprowadzone ręce wasze na dachu samochodu.’ Anna froze. ‘English tourist! We’re lost,’ she replied in Polish and cringed as she felt the cold barrel of an AK47 nuzzle the side of her neck. ‘Show Passport.’ ‘It’s in the car, okay?’ The young soldier looked closely at Hunter and smelt the Vodka before replying. ‘Yes, but I shoot if you make funny move.’ Anna retrieved the Passports from the cubbyhole below the radio and held them out. ‘Bring to front in light.’ With the gun firmly pressed between her shoulders she did as she was asked and in a brave attempt to be helpful she opened them for inspection. He took the passports from her and by the shaded light of a torch studied them but instead of handing them back he dropped the passports to the floor and leaned his gun on the car. Before Anna could react he grabbed one of her arms and she yelped as he twisted it up her back. She could feel his breath on her neck as he said, ‘I like your smell. You come.’ He pushed her towards the trees. Twenty metres in he threw her to the ground and muttered in her ear. ‘Drop jeans. We make love.’ Anna struggled but this only made him more eager and he pulled a bayonet from its scabbard and held it against her neck. He released her arm and pulled at the waistband of her jeans. The sight of her delicate underwear urged him on and he yanked them

down to her knees before straddling her and wrestling with his fly buttons. He was breathing heavy and only intent on having his way when there was a muffled shot and she grimaced as blood spattered her face and the soldier slumped sideways. As she rolled away she looked up to see Hunter with his jacket folded over the muzzle of his smoking gun. ‘Move girl. Get in the car while I sort this guy out. Quickly now, that shot was loud enough to travel.’ He went through the pockets of the dead man and removed money from a wallet before he threw it alongside the body. He then confiscated a watch, ring and boots. Satisfied he ran back to the car and cursed as he heard the sound of an engine approaching through the forest. ‘Shit! It must be his relief.’ Without time to adjust the seat and with his knees jammed against the steering wheel he engaged first gear, switched off the lights and drove forward a few metres. He wasted valuable seconds lowering the barrier and then with a close eye on the rearview mirror and hopeful that there were no hidden obstructions lurking in the blackness of the forest he pushed on down the track. Fifty metres further on they passed an abandoned sentry hut which they took to be the Czech border post. He drove on for a further twenty minutes before he pulled up and with a sigh of relief pushed the seat back and stretched his legs. ‘You okay, Anna?’ ‘Yes, but you took your time back there.’ ‘Yeah, I’m sorry. I had to let him concentrate on what he was doing before I could move. Clean yourself up while we listen.’ They waited for fifteen minutes and concluded they were safe for the moment and resumed their journey hoping that the pine needles covering the rough road would disguise any tracks. Anna sat deep in thought for a short while before she asked, ‘Hunter—why did you remove that stuff from the body?’ ‘Oh, that. A diversion. I’m hoping they’ll put it down to a robbery gone wrong. Which reminds me, I have to claim for a new jacket.’ She didn’t reply but looked at him thoughtfully. Issue 16 | November 2017 | 61

| SHORT STORY | Ten minutes later they burst out of the forest and joined a metalled road not dissimilar to those in Poland. Two cars width with a dirt track either side for farm vehicles. Hunter pressed on as fast as he could taking alternate left and right turns but heading in a general southerly direction. It was daybreak before they came across a country garage on the edge of a small town. He drove past it and pulled up fifty metres further on. ‘Wait here Anna, I’ll see if I can steal some Czech plates.’ He walked back to the garage with cautious optimism that Czech driving standards were as poor as Poland and to his relief there were a number of dumped vehicles in a side field. Before he could remove the first screw the ever-present family dog began barking. He quickly ducked below the hedge and ran back to the car cursing his luck and Czech dogs in general. With the lights out they sped off as the first hint of dawn pushed over the horizon. Half an hour later they pulled into an Inn on the outskirts of Olomouc and parked around the back. Once more Anna’s knowledge of the Eastern European languages helped when they checked in and after a light breakfast they went to bed. A little after mid-day they got up and were disturbed to find a policeman in the bar and another looking over their car. Anna spoke to the one in the bar with a cheery smile. ‘Dobrý den. Stalo se něco ?’ ‘Dobrý den, slečno. Your car, it has English numbers.’ ‘We’re tourists going to Bratislava and we’re lost.’ He held his hand out and said roughly, ‘Passports!’ Anna looked in her handbag and shuffled the contents. Startled she glanced across at Hunter and saw him patting his pockets desperately before shaking his head and shrugging. Anna turned to the Policeman. ‘I’m sorry, Officer. I think they’ve been stolen. Can I look in the car?’ At that moment the second policeman joined them and had a brief conversation with his colleague before he signalled Hunter to accompany him out to the car. Hunter did a thorough search and found nothing. 62 |

He cursed under his breath as he realised they had forgotten to pick them up after the incident at the Border Post. Pretending to search further he leaned into the boot and surreptitiously slipped the remaining bottle of Johnny Walker and a bundle of dollars into his pocket before he followed the policeman back into the guest house. Anna looked at him for help. ‘Anna, I’m sorry, but I must have forgotten to pick them up when they checked them at the border. Either that or they’ve been stolen. Ask him if it’s okay to go back for them.’ Anna had a garbled conversation before she said to Hunter. ‘It’s not on and they want to know how our car got damaged. What do I say?’ ‘Tell him about the run in with the Russian tank.’ Anna turned back to the policeman. ‘We had to pull over for a convoy of Russian tanks in Legnica and one hit us and pushed us into another car.’ The policeman smiled and shook his head. ‘Damn Ruski’s.’ Hunter nudged Anna and took the whisky from his pocket and put it on the bar along with a substantial wad of dollars. ‘Ask him the way to Bratislava.’ She smiled at their inquisitor, nodded towards the bribe and said sweetly, ‘Kudy do Bratislavy?’ This started an animated conversation interspersed with smiles and nods which went on in Hunter’s mind far longer than was necessary to direct someone to anywhere. At last they finished and after the local plod had scooped up their booty and disappeared he asked her what went on. Anna laughed. ‘He was flirting but the outcome was that we should keep going south and we would come to a main highway which would take us all the way and he advised us to go to the British Consul there and get temporary visas.’ Hunter was a little peeved at the effrontery of the man chatting up his partner and mumbled, ‘Nevertheless we’ll change the number plates. Has this place got a phone?’ Anna spoke to the landlord and he showed them into the back of the premises and proudly showed them his phone. It was a Bakelite relic of the thirties made in Chile.

| JB WOODS | ‘Ask him if we can ring the Consul.’ Permission was granted but the landlord pointed out that all calls were monitored by the authorities. ‘Suits us, tell him. Anna, call the Consul and arrange temporary passports for us to collect and make sure you get a reference number. Don’t be afraid. Tell them everything they need to know about us. I want these idiots to think we’re genuine.’ Fifteen minutes later they were finished and with a hefty tip and grovelling apologies to the landlord they went out to the car. Hunter settled himself and then cursed. ‘Damn and blast. Don’t these guys know what to do with a bribe.’ He slid his gun from its holster and gave it to Anna. ‘As we go out through the gate pepper that Police car. Aim for the tyres.’ He selected reverse gear and rammed the gas pedal to the floor. They shot backwards and yanking the wheel hard over and pulling on the handbrake at the same time the complaining car spun in its own length spraying debris everywhere. That’s when Anna saw the two policemen with guns drawn cowering from the barrage of grit spraying over them. Hunter rammed it into first gear and charged at the entrance and the Police car partially blocking it. He didn’t care now and aimed the offside of their car to strike the front wheel of the Lada. At the same time Anna was pumping as many bullets as she could into its tyres and a last one into the windscreen for good measure. Zigzagging away from the Inn and swerving around approaching traffic they made their getaway north back the way they had come. Outside the town boundary Anna reported she could hear sirens but there was no sign of pursuit. That was enough for Hunter and he braked hard and threw the car sharply into the next right turn, which was a narrow country lane, and slowed down. ‘Don’t want to leave a signal for the Indians to follow, do we.’ Repeating the same procedure they had used before they did a series of right turns, some of them deadends. Gradually they manoeuvred themselves back into a southerly direction. When Hunter estimated they had circled the town far enough to avoid detection they drove into a small wood to inspect the

further damage to the car. ‘Not bad considering, Anna, but we’ve got to get rid of this heap now. Put just the necessaries into the sports bag. Money, ammunition, booze for medicinal purposes and as many knickers as you can manage and we’ll try our luck at stealing something. Keep hold of a pair of those Polish number plates.’ ‘Hunter, I meant to ask you. Why do you keep swapping number plates?’ ‘It’s just a delaying tactic, Anna. If anyone gets suspicious I hope during the confusion to gain a few minutes.’ ‘Okay, but what about my shopping?’ ‘I’m sorry, darling, we have to travel light. I’ll get you some more when we get back.’ ‘I’ll hold you to that, Hunter, and I’m staying with you until you do.’ ‘Anna! Do you really want to? I have awful habits.’ She stopped in front of him, their bodies touching, and looked up into his face. ‘I know, Hunter, but I’m a girl who likes to take a risk. Now kiss me while the mood lasts.’ The musky odour of pine needles sheltered natures answer to reproduction. Their first attempts at stealing a car were thwarted by dogs and Hunter decided they were better off trying their luck in a town. They hurried on south as Hunter surmised there were likely to be checks on the main roads close to where the incident took place. Without warning he swerved into the side. ‘There’s a likely one back there, Anna.’ He paused only long enough to put a pair of socks over his shoes and keeping to the shadows he crept back to his target. ‘Thank goodness for eastern technology,’ he muttered as the second skeleton key flipped the lock. He eased the door open and on his knees began fiddling under the dash. The car started first time and he drove off waving to Anna as he spurted past. Half an hour later he pulled into a small copse and moments later she joined him. They spent twenty minutes transferring their remaining resources at the same time siphoning petrol from the Ford and pouring it into the Lada they had Issue 16 | November 2017 | 63

| SHORT STORY | stolen and replacing the number plates with a Polish set. Hunter then drove the Ford onto some open ground, tore a strip of material of a discarded vest, soaked it in petrol and threaded it down the filler pipe leaving a few inches hanging out. He struck a match and lit the end before he hurried over to the Lada and drove off. Having estimated they would have a few minutes before the flames reached the petrol tank they put as much distance between it and themselves. ‘That’ll keep them guessing but it won’t be long before they connect us to the missing vehicle.’ ‘That’s all very well, Hunter, but what do we do meanwhile. We’re stuck in commie land with no ID, a stolen car and false number plates.’ ‘Pray!’ She punched him. ‘Hunter, you’re impossible.’ Hunter didn’t push the Lada and they slid past Brno in the early hours of the morning and pressed on south. The silvery thread of dawn appeared on the horizon and they turned off the highway and into the densely forested area south-west of Brodska. He drove slowly for ten minutes trying not to disturb the pine needle forest floor when he suddenly stopped and gingerly reversed until they were opposite a barely noticeable unused trail sloping away from the main track. ‘That should do us, Anna. Looks like it hasn’t been in use for some time.’ In the growing light he turned into it and rolled gently forwards until the track ended and with a little difficulty parked between two trees. ‘Anna, I’m going to retrace our way in and see if we left any tell tale tracks. Could you throw a couple of branches across the front of the car?’ He returned a few minutes later satisfied with their hiding place when Anna said, ‘Good job we stopped, Hunter.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because the track ends just there.’ She pointed to a spot not three metres away. ‘It’s the bank of a stream almost a river in fact.’ ‘Not deep enough for fishing?’ ‘I don’t think so, it’s running pretty fast.’ ‘Good. That means we shouldn’t be disturbed al64 |

though I fancied fish for supper.’ He replaced the Czech number plates and then studied the map. ‘How do we cross the border, Hunter?’ ‘I’m not sure but it looks like we may have to swim the Danube. You see this tributary here, the River March? ‘Yes.’ ‘We’ll try that. In the morning we’ll creep back into Brodska and exchange our remaining dollars, ditch the car and catch the train to Bratislava. Right now catch up on some sleep.’ — Through bleary eyes Hunter struggled to see his watch. ‘Bloody hell, is that the time?’ Suddenly wide awake he shook his wrist and held the watch to his ear and then realised the futility of listening to an electronic watch. ‘Shit!’ He reached over the back of the seat and shook Anna who pushed him off. ‘Come on, girl, it’s after nine. I wanted to be away before eight.’ ‘Hunter—I’m comfortable.’ She closed her eyes and wriggled down. ‘Come on, look alive, girl, we have to look like a couple and I need you to swap our cash.’ Anna struggled up and yawned. ‘Don’t rush, I’m going down to the river to freshen up.’ ‘I’ll join you but make it quick.’ Fifteen minutes later they retraced their steps back to the main road and after a short drive turned down the ‘B’ road leading into Brodska. At the first corner shop he pulled up and waited while Anna bought some bread rolls and cheese spread with their remaining Czech money and then tried her luck persuading the shop-keeper to change a few dollars. Anna returned flushed and urged him to make haste towards the railway station. ‘What’s the hurry, lass?’ ‘Nothing really. I managed to exchange quite a few but I think the shop-keeper was suspicious and although he was friendly I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t warn somebody of our activities.’ ‘I didn’t see him come outside, Anna, so I don’t think he took notice of the car but just in case we’ll ditch it now.’

| JB WOODS | ‘Look, Hunter, there’s a little square. Park here amongst the locals and I’ll ask the way to the station.’ He slipped the car in the first gap they came upon but before they got out Hunter rummaged under his seat and pulled out a tattered cap left there by the previous owner and put it on. ‘Do I look the part, Anna?’ ‘With that stubble, yes, but don’t open your mouth.’ She found a head scarf in the sports bag, folded it into a triangle and knotted it under her chin. ‘Do I look enough like a peasant?’ ‘I refuse to answer that on the grounds that I may incriminate myself.’ She leaned over and gave him a peck on the cheek. ‘You clown.’ Hunter threw the sports bag over his shoulder and arm in arm they wandered around pausing occasionally to look into shop windows and using each brief moment to surreptitiously look back. They came to what appeared to be the main road and turned into it. Once out of sight of the square he removed his cap and Anna her headscarf before she ventured into a café and enquired where the railway station was. By chance they had chosen right and a five minute walk brought them to it. They bought return tickets to Lamac a suburb of Bratislava and the last stop before the terminus. The next train wasn’t due for half an hour and they had a few anxious moments watching new and prospective fellow passengers as they came onto the platform. On the train they replaced their headgear and breathed a sigh of relief when the Inspector checked their tickets and moved on without a second glance but they spent a tense hour and a quarter before they alighted in Lamac a little after one o’clock. ‘We’re walking from here, lass, and we have to head northwest. We’ll follow the crowd and see if we can find the way under this damn railway.’ It was only a short walk to the underpass which took them under the railway and along the road into the village of Dubravka on the other side. Spotting a mini-market Hunter urged Anna to purchase a twenty litre bottle of water. ‘What for?’

‘Because, dearest, I’m shit scared of water and I can’t swim very well and I need something to keep me afloat when we get to the river. By the way, can you swim?’ ‘Aren’t you the lucky one. Yes, I can, but I’ve left my medals at home.’ ‘Good, then stop chatting and fetch the bloody water, woman and something to eat. It’ll be a shame to waste the water but needs must.’ Anna gave him a stern glance and noticed the laughter behind his eyes and said nothing as she went in and made their purchase. When she returned Hunter lifted the bottle onto his shoulder and with the carrier bag of bread rolls, soft cheese spread and biscuits in his other hand and Anna carrying the sports bag they set off in what Hunter hoped was northwest. Progress was slow and Hunter had to change the water bottle from shoulder to shoulder many times before they came to the outskirts of the village. Further on a bend in the road leading to the woodlands bordering the river afforded them cover to empty the water bottle. A little way into the wood a local farmer offered them a lift in his two-wheeled tractor and cart. They declined and as he drove off he looked over his shoulder and gave them a long quizzical look. ‘I don’t like that,’ Hunter said. ‘Let him get out of sight and we’ll have a quick check of our position.’ They didn’t have long to wait and they darted into the undergrowth and stopped in a small clearing out of sight of passers-by. Hunter looked at the map. ‘I see why he gave us a funny look, Anna. There’s nowt at the end of this road but a tiny hamlet where I suspect they all know each other. We’ll wait here until after dark before we press on. The river is only a few hundred metres past the houses.’ After a quick snack Anna cuddled up to him and he took the opportunity to ask if she would marry him. Nature and love sealed their betrothal and they dozed the rest of the day the only interruption being when a military jeep drove past. Hunter cursed. The one night they wanted clouds the Milky Way was draped across the sky in a magical diamante cloak and the moon was lighting up the countryside like a celestial super-trouper spotlight. Issue 16 | November 2017 | 65

| SHORT STORY | Fifteen minutes after they left their hiding place they reached the houses and using the grass verge they crept past until they came to a junction with a narrow road which followed the course of the river. Opposite was a footpath which lead them steeply down through a small wood to the rivers edge. In the shelter of the trees Hunter stopped. ‘Wait here, Anna. I spotted a pallet and another water bottle at the side of that barn back there.’ ‘Do you think it’s wise, Hunter?’ ‘I’ll be okay. If anything happens head for the river and don’t wait for me. Just go!’ ‘Hunter, be careful.’ She reached up and gave him a kiss and whispered, ‘I love you.’ He paused and screwed his face up as he began welling up inside. He grabbed her and gave her a hug. ‘I’ll be two minutes.’ Crouching low he hurried towards the barn before she could stop him. He changed his plan and picked up the water bottle first and dashed back to her. ‘See how easy that was. Dump our stuff and zip the two bottles into the bag. When you’ve done that head for the river and I’ll follow with the pallet. Keep your gun handy.’ He raced to the barn once more and grabbed the first pallet off the pile. In his haste he disturbed the next one which slid sideways with a clatter. Instantly the ubiquitous house dog started his tirade. Throwing caution to the wind Hunter thrust an arm through the pallet and weighed down as he was dashed in a stumbling gait for the cover of the trees. His progress was followed by shouts as the front door of a house burst open accompanied by a shotgun blast and he heard the pellets shredding the leaves from the trees as he reached the shelter of the undergrowth. The path down to the river was steep and unable to steady himself he slipped on the loose gravel. He let go of the pallet and followed it in a roly-poly race to the river bank thirty feet below where he caught up with Anna. ‘Are you okay, Hunter?’ ‘Yes! Let’s go, quick.’ He could hear the dog and the farmer getting closer and when he looked back the dog was hurtling 66 |

down the path towards them in a snarling angry frenzy. He drew his gun, aimed and shot it with ten metres to spare. At that moment the farmer appeared at the top of the bank and raised his shotgun. Hunter fired twice and the man stumbled and rolled down towards them. His shotgun bounced into the air and both barrels exploded as it crashed into a tree. Hunter felt the sting as wayward pellets embedded in his shoulder, arm and hand. He grimaced, sheathed his gun and picked up the pallet with his other hand and dragged it the last few metres to the river. ‘Anna, use the bag as water wings. I’ll jump on the pallet and paddle like crazy.’ He stooped and picked up a piece of fence panel driftwood and pushed the pallet into the water but hesitated to take the leap on board. ‘What are you waiting for, Hunter? Jump on, before it goes without you.’ He went to jump again and Anna helped with a push in the back as the current tried to drag the pallet away from him. When the shock of the alpine water hit him he shouted. ‘Jesus! It’s bloody freezing.’ Anna tucked the holdall under her arms and waded in thanking Hunter silently for his insistence on buying it in the first place. Using the driftwood as a paddle and with Anna pushing from behind they edged away from the bank and into midstream. The cold water numbed the pain in his arm and he realised that she must be suffering fully immersed as she was. ‘Anna, there’s room on here.’ ‘I’m fine, Hunter. Let’s go a little further and then I’ll join you.’ Hunter saw the splash of bullets before he recognized the cracking sound of Kalashnikov’s being fired. He stopped paddling and looked back and in the moonlight he saw four uniformed figures firing at them with only one thought in their minds. ‘Anna! Get around to the side quickly!’

Watch for the next chapter in the next issue!

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feature authors

historical paranormal horror thriller





V.A. Dold

J.L Clayton & M. Rain Ranalli

feature author Author of Historical Romance, Historical Paranormal Romance, and Contemporary Paranormal Romance. I am a Texas born, wife, mother, and writer. I love writing words to enchant your soul and fill your heart with love... Please welcome S.R. Mitchell to Uncaged!

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Uncaged: You write in both historical and paranormal genres, and the Highland Chance series has a special twist to them that help them stand out. Can you give readers some information about how this series came about and what inspired it? I thinking with so many different stories available, it is important to try to have a unique twist. These stories are all intertwined and not only offer the reader time travel, but a ghostly, magical element. They started with a dream and I built the idea for each book from there.


Uncaged: The Highland Chance series was released as a three book set, even though they have the same underlying theme, they are all standalones. Can you give the readers information on these books? Yes, they can be read as standalones, but to understand the full story and connection between each story, it is best to read them in order. Each woman faces her own mortality followed by an experience of epic proportion. They have to make hard decisions whilst considering those they love and the impact that decision will have. Uncaged: As a reviewer, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews?

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Yes, I do read reviews for my books. I take into consideration what the readers says and thinks about the book. Creative criticism helps an Author better their own writing and build their experience as an author.

When I am not writing, I am a wife and mother. I also have a full-time job that requires a lot of attention. When I am not writing, I am living and enjoying life.

Uncaged: What are you working on now, and whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s next for readers?

Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)?

I currently have several works in progress, but I am focusing on working on a new paranormal romance. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? When writing, I have a general outline of the story, but I let the story build as I write and things just happen, flow. As the story grows, so do the characters and their personalities. Uncaged: What is your favorite part about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? I love being an Author, writing of course is what I thoroughly enjoy, but I also love connecting with my readers!

Taking Down Brooklyn, this book was fantastic and left the reader wanting more. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love connecting with my fans and I am so thankful for all their love and support. Without them I could not do this, writing. They have encouraged me and support me with each book. They can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, AllAuthor, and Goodreads! I would love to have them. My readers can also stay up-to-date on new releases and sales by subscribing to my newsletter!

Uncaged: What do you like to do when you arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t writing? Issue 16 | November 2017 |



Enjoy an excerpt from Book Two – Highland Tides by Chance Highland Chance Box Set - 3 Book Series S.R. Mitchell Historical/Time Travel Second Chance with a Highlander (Book 1) When Kate looks into his eyes she realizes she has seen him before, in her dreams. She has felt his kisses and

touched his skin. Now Kate finds herself in a different place and time. He is not a dream but very real and handsome, intoxicating.

Highland Tides by Chance (Book 2) Nothing very exciting ever happened to Anna until she woke up wet, covered in sand, and with a man standing above her. He is tall. He is strong. He is very handsome. He makes her mouth water and her body quiver. A Chance to Love a Highlander (Book 3) When Elle finds herself in the ghostly way-dead-- everything is put into perspective, but that will not change the feelings she has grown for one man even though she believes him forever lost to her. Elle and Mikel have more in common than she realized. They are both in for a surprise of epic proportions and only time will write their ending... Finding His Heart ~ Maverick’s Story Bonus Novelette Maverick never thought he’d find love as he watched each of his closest friends find just that; 72 |

earth shatterimg love. What he finds defies time... Excerpt - Chapter 16 “Wake up!” Elle all but shouted in Anna’s ear. She was standing on the side of the bed, closest to the sliding doors to the small balcony. The sliding doors were open letting in the cool night breeze. “Why are you yelling?” asked Anna as she sat up in the bed trying to gain her bearings. Anna looked to the open sliding door and shivered. “Well? Why are you yelling?” Elle just smiled at her. “Get up out of that bed and come look.” Elle was very excited. “You will not believe where the next port of call is.” Anna paled. Something was up for her sister to be so excited. “The next port?” “Yeah,” answered Elle, waving her hands toward the balcony. “I think this is maybe the last one if I remember the itinerary right; then we are homeward bound.” Anna slowly made her way to the balcony on shaky legs. High on the cliff was a small stone building looking out onto the water. Anna stood frozen in place and watched as the rocky cliff went by to reveal a town built up behind a small port. A few small fishing boats dotted the water. “Oh, shit,” Anna finally said. “This is where I fell.” She turned to look at her sister before turning back. “The port is so different, but…” Anna couldn’t finish. What were the odds they would be at this particular port? The cruise ship would have a land excursion planned for this small town, and Anna planned to be on it. “This is all meant to be.” Elle turned excitedly to her sister, but her excitement faded when she saw Anna’s expression. “What’s wrong?” Anna was shaking. “When you woke me up,” Anna said quietly. “I was dreaming of Hamish.” Elle walked over to her sister and grabbed her shoulders reassuringly. “That’s a good thing, right? What did you dream about?” “He was building that little stone structure on the cliffs,” Anna smiled sadly. “Hamish was asking why I’d had to leave and that he loved me.” Her eyes connected with her sister. “It was so real. When I said

I loved him too, I could have sworn he heard me.” “Oh my,” breathed Elle, “like in that small stone building?” Anna just shook her head. “Hurry,” urged Elle. “Take a quick shower and get dressed. We need to get off this ship and on the boat headed for the port.” Anna felt excited. All she could manage was a nod as she grabbed some clean clothes and headed toward the bathroom. Halfway to the bathroom, Anna froze. “If this is a sign of something and I am not just getting my hopes up,” Anna paused. “I want to call and talk to Mom and Dad before we leave. I want them to know that everything is okay, that I am okay.” Elle smiled. “I think that’s a great idea. Are they up now?” “No,” Anna said, reaching for the phone beside her bed and waited for the communication service to answer. “They’re almost seven hours behind us, but…” “You need to,” finished Elle. Anna nodded her head in agreement. “After everything that’s happened, I’ve learned that nothing is what is seems to be, and anything is possible. I need to talk to them.” Elle understood, and sadness pulled at her heart. “I wish I could talk to them, too.” ~*~ Two hours later, after Anna grabbed a small breakfast, they were in line to board the boats set for the port. Elle stood beside her looking just as eager as Anna felt. Now they both had a reason to get back, Anna thought. People surrounding her were so excited and chatty; it was contagious. Anna felt the excitement growing inside as they finally began boarding the excursion boat. The whole boat ride, Anna tried to keep down her excitement, wondering what this all meant. What if they reached the stone building and it meant nothing? She kept trying to tell herself it was a coincidence. Turning to smile at her sister, Anna stared

| S.R. MITCHELL | into the face of a cheerful elderly woman. Now was not the time for this, Anna thought. She looked around the entire boat for her sister, but she was nowhere to be found. Anna sighed and sat down in one of the few empty chairs that dotted the deck space. She watched all the excited faces around her and realized how crazy this whole thing was and how uncertain was the outcome. Standing to disembark, Anna glanced around once more. “I am so sorry,” Elle said. “I don’t know what happened. I was beside you one second and then the next I was floating like in a dream,” Elle whispered in her sister’s ear. “It was like having a crazy acid trip.” “I wondered where you had gone to,” Anna responded as she continued walking on the path along the street. There were little shops all along the road facing the water. Each building was only one or two stories tall with the occasional three-story building in different colors. “Well isn’t this quaint.” “He was there,” Elle breathed heavy. “What?” Anna stopped still. “Who?” “Mikel,” Elle smiled happily. “He was reaching his hand toward me. The look on his face was…was…” Elle paused, “want.” “Oh, so you pop out to have a lust-filled floating acid dream?” Anna huffed. “No,” Elle countered, perturbed. “Like love.” “Elle,” Anna started. Elle held up her hand, “I know,” she chuckled. “I am a dead girl, but something was different. I could almost feel him, and I could hear the waves behind us.” They both turned toward the cliffs to the small stone structure, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Anna. “Yes,” answered Elle, “let’s go.” After hours hunting down a local willing to drive them up to the site on top of the cliff, they stood staring at the little stone structure. It was beautiful and familiar. Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | “This is how we can get back,” said Elle as she tentatively stepped toward the arched opening that was the doorway. “Anna, follow me.” Elle stopped to reach for her sister’s hand. “This is what you wanted.” She stared at the structure. Anna placed her hands gently on her belly where life grew. “What if it hurts the baby?” “I do not think we would have been led here if doing this would in any way harm the baby,” Elle reassured Anna. “I am walking through that opening with you,” Elle affirmed, “hand in hand.” Anna hesitated a moment before she took a big deep breath and grabbed her sister’s hand. “What will happen?” “I don’t know,” Elle smiled. “Maybe nothing, but it is worth a try.” “But what if I lose you?” Anna countered. “No matter what happens, you will eventually see me again,” she assured Anna. “You two belong together.” The wind howled as dark clouds seemed to form overhead and the water below grew choppy. Anna nodded. “This has been the craziest experience of my life. I love you, Elle.” “I love you too, sis,” Elle smiled. They held on to each other’s hand and walked through the stone opening.

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Uncaged Review

Second Chance with a Highlander Book One I wasn’t sure how this story was going to go with the way we started – but Kate is dying of cancer and prays for a miracle. In the hospital, she loses consciousness, and she realizes it’s time – but right when the peace of the darkness begins to envelope her, she’s tossed back into life, into a body in medieval Scotland – in a body that has been tortured. When she is found by Connor and taken back to his castle, she realizes that she’s dreamed of Connor and her soul is at peace with him. This is a second chance at life, and a second chance for two souls to find each other, over and over. Heartwarming, intriguing and engaging. The only part I wasn’t a big fan of was the epilogue. I personally would have liked it better if it was left off. Reviewed by Cyrene

feature author

Skylar McKinzie lives in the small town of Screven, Ga. When she’s not writing, she’s cooking, baking, reading, and spending time with her family. She also loves long walks and sitting by the bonfire in October, which is her favorite month of the year.

She writes horror and paranormal romance. She is working on her next novel due to be released by the end of the year.

Believe it or not, this book was inspired from a RPG writing forum I was a part of. It started with just Skye and her boyfriend in a town full of witches and took off from there.

Uncaged welcomes Skylar McKinzie! Uncaged: Is Cursed your first full length published novel? Can you help explain this book to readers? What inspired this book? Cursed is my first full length published novel. It’s about three triplet sisters who are reincarnated from witches during the Salem Witch Trials. They live in Discovery, Massachusetts and as their twenty-fifth birthday approaches they realize some of the residents of the town are treating them differently. Skylar, Stormy, and Savi have to come to terms with who they are and save the town they love from the creatures that are determined to destroy them. 76 |

Uncaged: You’ve also been a part of a couple anthologies. How did that come about? I was fortunate enough to meet the amazing R.L. Weeks who took a look at my work and let me submit to a couple of the anthologies she was publishing. I was working on Cursed at the time and that prompted me to get it done and published! Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? I read every review that I get and try to put the comments into practice. I’ve been lucky to have positive reviews from awesome readers so far. Uncaged: What are you working on now, and what’s next for readers?

I’m working on a co-write with R.L. Weeks at the moment. It’s called Willow Woods Witches Academy: Blood Moon Coven. It’s the first book of a YA series. It’s been so much fun to work on! The release date is November 12 of this year. I’m also working on another co-write with Rena Marin called Dead Oaks Terrors: Halloween Nightmare, another YA series that is due out early next year. I’m also hard at work on a small town romance I hope to have ready to publish at the beginning of 2018. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? Naming my characters is hard for me. I usually have to write for a bit, get to know the characters personality, then a name comes to me. I have pulled from the personalities of people I know, but mostly my characters are their own people with their own distinct personalities that reveal themselves as I write. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite?

My favorite part of being an author has to be the actual writing. I can lose myself in the worlds I’m building and not come up for air for hours on end. I also love the interaction with the readers. Just the fact that someone reads and enjoys my work is thrilling to me. Hmm, my least favorite part has to be the editing. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? There’s other things in the world besides writing? Just kidding! No seriously, I like to watch movies, read, cook, and spend time with my family. If it’s horror or paranormal related, I’ll watch it. I love to cook and bake just about anything and my family is my life. Oh, and I love the Hallmark channel. Doesn’t everyone? Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | The last book I read that I really loved was Nora Robert’s Dark Witch. I just love her style of writing and that was one of her best. Hmmm, the last book I wanted to throw against the wall was Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep. I love his books, but he went a little far with the torturing a kid scene. I finally just had to put it down, something I have never done with a King book before. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love each and every one of my fans and hope they continue to read my books for many years to come. Without you, there would be no us.

Enjoy excerpts from Cursed Cursed Skylar McKinzie Horror Skye, Stormy, and Savannah Davidson are no different from the other residents of Discovery, Massachusetts, or so they think. As their 25th birthday approaches, the town begins to treat them with wariness and suspicion. Skye begins to believe the triplets are special. Can they solve the puzzle of their past to save the town from the evil forces that affect their future? Excerpt Cursed Excerpt: Prologue: 1692: Discovery, Massachusetts The growl from the other side of the door spurred Faith into action like nothing else could. It wouldn’t be long before they came for her, 78 |

because of what they thought she was. Granny had warned her about going out during the hunt, but she simply wanted to, no, had to see him one more time. She knew it was a risk. She knew the magistrate watched her and her family, searching for any excuse to accuse them of witchcraft. She reached down to stroke the agitated wolf at her feet. Faith knew she should send him running into the darkness but was unable to bring herself to part with him before she had to. “Shh, Wolfe,” she rubbed his soft fur to quiet him. Maybe Wolfe reacted to the growl from the dogs outside or, perhaps, he innately knew the mob was coming for her. Whatever the cause, his reaction galvanized her and she tore the house apart, looking for a place to hide the book that would condemn her and her sisters. Wolfe padded behind her, growling occasionally, as if to remind her the men grew closer. Faith turned to see her sisters, Chasity and Hope, standing in the doorway. “Did I not tell you to run?” Faith quickly gathered some potions, vials and other essentials they would need, putting them hastily into a bag. With their flowing, black hair and blue eyes, they appeared identical to Faith, another mark against them as far as the town was concerned. Three babies, born at once, all resembling the same person, had to be witchcraft, didn’t it? “Run!” Faith tossed the bags at the young women. She knew she caused the hunters to come for them. If only she hadn’t gone to see him, if she had simply listened to her granny. She darted after her sisters, out the back door of the huge house, understanding she would never darken its doors again. Fleeing through the woods behind her former home, Faith heard the rapid breathing of her sisters, running beside her, and the padding footsteps of Wolfe as he led them to where their only salvation lie. Their lovers waited to spirit them away from this place, away from the ignorance consuming this town. The six of them would leave to a new land and begin again, somewhere they weren’t feared and wouldn’t be put to death for being different. Faith sighed with relief when she saw horses ahead. “We’ve made it. It will all be okay now,” she whis-

| SKYLAR MCKINZIE | pered, turning to her sisters as she stopped to pat the top of Wolfe’s head. She looked up in shock as the magistrate came out of the darkness, his razor-sharp eyes full of hatred. “Did you really think we would let three witches descend on the world outside of Salem? There’s no telling what kind of disaster that would cause.” Faith watched in dismay as her sisters were grabbed. She tried to go to them, but was stopped by hands gripping her arms from behind. To no avail, Faith struggled against the hands holding her. “But, how…” she asked, tears filling her eyes when they stepped out of the shadows. “You! You betrayed us,” she murmured, tears falling as she was led to one of the three stakes erected; she had failed to see as they burst into the clearing. The wide-eyed terror on the faces of the sisters she swore to protect prompted Faith to reveal their true nature. Flames licking towards their feet, the smell of burning material in her nose, she started to chant, her sisters’ voices soon adding to the incantation. As the fire rose to meet their feet, their voices grew louder and Faith saw the townspeople fidget as their nerves got the better of them. She looked directly at the family who betrayed them, the family she, no they put their entire trust in. The birthmark on her shoulder stung, and the rain fell. Chapter 1 2016: Discovery, Massachusetts: Skye Davidson giggled as children plastered their little faces to the window to see the Halloween display she had hung the night before. Skye loved this time of year and wore a huge smile on her face as she went to start the pots of coffee her customers would inhale as soon as The Witches Brew’s door opened. Outside, the wind grabbed the hat of a young kid, blowing it down the street as the child gave chase. The chatter outside, combined with Dr. John Andrews expected arrival for his morning coffee, was enough to get Skye singing as she worked. It was two weeks until Halloween in Discovery, and Skye wanted to seize the opportunity to cater to the tourists that would come through the area on their way to nearby

Salem. Halloween was heavily celebrated in these parts, and the Davidson sisters were more than a little involved in the festivities every year. Skye, Stormy, and Savannah Davidson grew up on the stories of the Salem witches, their granny hinting more than once that they were related to the infamous witches. Their mom pooh-poohed such notions every time their granny started her ‘nonsense’. Tabitha Davidson would shake her head, saying, “My three girls will keep their feet on the ground and their heads out of the clouds,” then shoot their granny a look they never understood before corralling the girls into the kitchen, leaving their granny teary-eyed behind them. When alone, granny would tell them that being triplets was unique and that, when they were older, they would understand. Stormy, being the eldest of the three by ten minutes, scoffed after their granny went to bed, telling her siblings that, although she loved the stories their granny told, they were crazy rants and nothing else. Skye couldn’t prevent the laugh escaping her as she recalled ten-year-old Stormy, hands on her hips, informing her ‘younger’ sisters that magic, ghosts, and witches were not real. Skye sighed when arms wrapped around her from behind, dragging her back into the present. Granny had been gone for a few years now but the memories still stung. “What has you so tickled this morning, gorgeous?” John asked as he kissed the back of her neck, her bare skin tingling where his lips touched. Skye turned in his arms, “Just happy this morning,” She pecked him lightly on the lips and pulled away as giggles from the other side of the counter registered. Skye leaned over to view the two little girls who smiled up at her, “Are you trying to sneak up on us?” She teased, reaching behind her to grab two pumpkin spice cookies from the display case. “Here, run along now, and tell your mom her order will be ready at six.” She looked back in time to see a strange look cross John’s face, “I guess we grossed them out.” Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | “What’s that look for?” She asked. Recently, some of the residents in town had been treating the Davidson sisters as if they had sprouted two heads. “What look?” John responded, his gentle face pulled into an innocent expression. Skye tugged on a lock of his curly, brown hair, “The look that says you’re going to take me out for a nice dinner tonight.” “Is that the look you’re referring to?” He wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close, his blue eyes twinkling, “You’re on then.” ****** After John left for work and things slowed in the shop, Skye mused over the strange glance. Her thoughts went back to the previous day, when she and Savi were in town. Talking to one of the shop owners, things were going fine until she mentioned their upcoming twenty-fifth birthday. The girl’s mother, who had been knitting in the corner, let out a string of words that sounded foreign to Skye. The woman crossed herself before bolting into the back room. Stuff like that seemed to happen everywhere they went and Skye swore she heard one woman mutter “Witches, they will destroy us yet,” when she passed her in the street this morning. She pushed the thought from her mind, customers flowing through the door for the lunch rush. She would think about it later. Business was steady all day and Skye was exhausted, ready to close the Witches Brew as the clock struck six. Locking the door, she had barely finished sweeping the floor when the phone rang. After assuring Stormy for five minutes that she would be home for dinner, she returned to the front of the cozy, little shop, broom in hand. She stopped short at the sight in front of her, the broom dropping to the floor with a clatter. The door to the shop stood wide open. The Halloween decorations were not as she had left them: each of them—even the miniature, ceramic pumpkins—had their eyes trained on her as she stood frozen in the doorway. Scarecrows were turned upside down, straw trailing across the floor, a bat 80 |

was stuffed into the mouth of one Jack-O-Lantern, its fangs bared. She started towards the front door, the eyes of the Jack-O-Lanterns following her every step. Scanning the streets for an intruder, she slammed the door shut and leaned against it, her heart racing. ***** The man watched from the shadows across the street, chuckling at the fear and puzzlement on the girl’s face as she shut the door. He bathed in the scent of her fear for a moment, then glanced around, shifting forms, before fading into the darkness from which he had come.

Uncaged Review A town called Discovery near Salem where three triplets called the Davidsons learn that the reason why the town members have been looking at them funny is because there really witches. After learning this fact the three sisters do everything they can to learn their powers, quickly so they can banish the evil causing chaos in their town. This story is filled with magic and history and is very entertaining. Book 1 is really giving you some characters history and background and plotting up to tell us who is really the big bad is. I thought this book was a mixture of Charmed meets Vampire Diaries. Patiently awaiting book two.


Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t miss these titles:

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


feature author V.A. Dold is the bestselling author of the Awardwinning Le Beau Series and the K.I.S.S series.

in the hayloft.

Her idea of absolute heaven is a day in the French Quarter with her computer, her coffee mug, and the Brothers, of course. Or a night with a sexy cowboy

A Midwest native with her heart lost to Louisiana & Texas. She has a penchant for titillating tales featuring sexy men and strong women. When she’s not writing, she’s probably taking in a movie, reading, or traveling. Oh, and there is the distinct possibility she is out cowboy hunting. V.A. Dold also provides sweet versions of her books at Tori-Austin/e/B013XIV8HE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_ lnk_1?qid=1439933940&sr=1-1

Stay Connected 82 |

Uncaged welcomes V. A. Dold! Uncaged: You have a very well received paranormal series, the Le Beau Series with shifters, and Dangerous Destiny, you jump in to the vampire/witches fray. How did this series come about? Are you planning on continuing it? Dangerous Destiny is the first of my vampire series, which will include Etienne’s story. You first meet Etienne in Book #1 of the Le Beau Series. I had meant for Etienne to be a sub character that would appear every once in while in my shifter series, but the readers fell in love with him and clamored for his story. This lead to an entire series. Uncaged: You will be an attending author for Wild Deadwood Reads in 2018. Are there any other conventions or personal appearances that you are planning? YES! Kinky in Kansas City Booking in Biloxi Royal Readers Penn’ed Con Booking in Baton Rouge Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you

read them and what do you take away from the reviews?

Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

I read almost everyone! They validate that all of my work is worth it.

Sit in a quiet room. I don’t do well with noise when I’m writing.

Uncaged: What are you working on now, and what’s next for readers?

Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)?

I am writing Seth, the next book in the Le Beau series and also researching an interstellar mate agency series. I have a lot of world building for that one. LOL Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? The Characters showed themselves to me (Little voices in my head). The non paranormal half of the couples are often names after people I know :) A few of the despicable characters too. Beware the wrath of an author. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? The response from the readers is the absolute best part. The WORST part is writing a blurb. UGH.

I recently devoured J.R. Ward’s fallen angles. SO GOOD! Worst… hmmm. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s books Styxx and Acheron. Their stories frustrated the heck out of me and I won’t read them again. I have many of her dark hunter books that I read repeatedly but those two are off the list. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? If you haven’t given the Le beau series a chance, grab Cade for free. You can find it on all the major retailers. I have several places to follow me. My website has my blog but my facebook group the Bayou Babes or my author page is where I post the most. Issue 16 | November 2017 |



Enjoy excerpts from Dangerous Destiny Dangerous Destiny V.A. Dold Paranormal

You can find the ebook version of this book in the Boxed set Sigils & Spells. The Guild an order of witch hunters organized in the 1600s is alive and well. And they have Carolyn in their sights. Carolyn Soucek is a witch who can see the future, all except her own. Desperate for answers she consults a seer. Her destiny awaits her in Savannah, Georgia. At least that’s what the gifted psychic tells her. Darius Drummond is a vampire sworn to protect witches from the Guild. Hundreds of years, dealing with singular witches weren’t enough to prepare him for Carolyn. Now that he’s found his soulmate, can he save her from the pyre? Excerpt Carolyn Soucek’s eyes closed and she calmed her mind. The ticking of the Grandfather clock faded into the background as her thoughts silenced. Through her third eye, the warm, welcoming glow of her crown chakra bloomed like a flower under the sunshine of spring. A gentle brush of psychic talent caressed her mind in welcome as the connection to the ethereal world opened. Respected psychics told Carolyn that her talent was rare. Few witches could tap into the future of others. To Carolyn, it was like breathing, a part of everyday life. When she did readings, blurred images of that person’s life slowly came into focus and voices whispered secrets of the client’s future. As a favored daughter of the universal source, she was highly gifted and sought by believers and skeptics alike. Those who loved Carolyn— clambered for a reading. Those who didn’t—gave 84 |

Carolyn a wide berth. Pushing her curtain of long blonde hair over her shoulder, she huffed out a frustrated breath. Why didn’t her foresight work for her as it did for everyone else? No matter how many hours she meditated, how calm she made her mind, she never received information in regards to her future. “Nothing?” her friend Lynn asked. Carolyn huffed out a breath. “Notta.” Lynn grabbed her phone and scrolled through the contacts. “That’s it. We need to know what you’ve been sensing. We can’t avoid or fight whatever the danger is if we’re unprepared. I’m making an appointment with Maggie. She’ll be able to read you. Who knows, maybe you’ll get a twofer. Maggie may also get a bead on what you’ve sensed is missing in your life.” Carolyn rubbed her arms, trying to wipe away an odd burning sensation. “Fine. I’ll give Maggie a shot. Margaret Stewart is very gifted. I’m sure she’ll have something to tell me. A witch that comes from such a long line of Scottish seers has to be able to tap into the danger I feel lurking in the shadows. Heck, if she can’t tell me what the threat is, no one can.” Two days later Carolyn pushed Maggie’s shop door open. Cool airconditioned air washed over her face, and the tiny silver bells over the door tinkled softly, heralding a customer’s arrival. Margaret’s antiquated alarm system always brought a smile to her face. She and her friends often shopped for supplies at Maggie’s. And why not? It was the best new age shop in town. She must have gotten a shipment in. The glass shelves that filled the small shop were bursting with artfully arranged crystals, amulets, and other assorted Wiccan items. Carolyn took a closer look at a collection of Amethyst. She could use a cluster next to her bed. She took first one then another and held it to sense the energy. The third one was perfect. Crystal in hand she turned to the display counter that ran along the right wall, but Maggie wasn’t there or anywhere else in the shop for that matter. She must

| V.A. DOLD | be in the backroom. Carolyn closed her eyes and breathed deeply, candles and herbs scented the air. Vanilla, lemongrass, and sandalwood seemed to be the fragrance of the day. Nice choices. The shop always smelled divine. A familiar warm, husky voice pulled Carolyn from her reverie. “Carolyn darling, it’s lovely to see you.” “Good afternoon, Maggie. How are you today?” Carolyn smiled as she took in Margaret Stewart’s appearance. She looked like a gypsy of old. Colorfully dressed, with a scarf wrapped around fluffy, graying hair, bracelets jingled at her wrists, and large hoop earrings swayed with each step. “I’m well. Are you ready for your reading or did you want to shop first?” Carolyn held up the crystal. “I already did a little shopping. Would you like me to pay for it now?” Maggie waved her to the back room, hidden behind a brocade curtain. “Not a chance. That amethyst was meant for you. If the fates want you to have it who am I to argue. Now, tell me what I can do for you.” “I sense danger drawing near. The feeling of dread grows stronger every day. I have nightmares every night, but I never remember them when I wake. I’ve tried to look into my future, but my gift has never worked for me.” Maggie took a seat at a small table covered with a beautiful family heirloom of embroidered cloth. “Ah, yes. The plague with which we all deal. Our gifts are meant to benefit others and never work when we attempt to use them on ourselves. Make yourself comfortable and give me your hands, I won’t need my cards or bones for this.” Maggie studied the lines in Carolyn’s palms for a long minute, and then closed her eyes. Her head cocked to the right as if listening to unheard voices. “Interesting. Very interesting. There’s danger on the horizon. I can see it clearly. Your worries are justified. Before the danger is defeated, you will experience overwhelming pain. I want you to keep in mind as you travel this path that you’ll come out the other side a stronger person. But what is truly remarkable is the change I see coming of a romantic nature. Destiny is barreling hell bent for leather into your life. Your existence is about to be turned on its head

by a tall, brunette, very handsome man. He’s not human. If I’m not mistaken, he’s a vampire. “The combination of a vampire and a witch as soulmates packs a powerful punch. Don’t be surprised when you experience an instant, profound connection with this man. This relationship you’re about to enter won’t follow the normal rules society dictates we follow. When a vampire finds a soulmate the two people are drawn together like metal to a magnet and just as inseparable. It’s not uncommon for the couple to fall instantly in love. Do yourself a favor and don’t question your attraction when it happens. If you do, you may regret it. Grab your bags, young lady. You’re going to Savannah tonight. You must stay at the Hotel Indigo and attend the masquerade ball held there on All Hallows’ Eve.” “Savannah? Tonight? I can’t just up and leave.” Maggie patted Carolyn’s hand. “Of course you can. Destiny has cleared your path. You don’t screw with destiny or the gods. You know that as well as I. Now hurry home. You need to book your flight and hotel.”

Uncaged Review A great start to a spin-off series from the author’s popular Le Beau Brothers series. Witch hunters in the Guild are out to kill witches, and our main heroine, Carolyn is targeted – she goes to see a Seer whom she trusts. Darius, is a vampire in the League of Guardians, who protect witches from the manhunt. Darius is assigned to protect Carolyn in Savannah. I’m not giving anything more away, this book is a fast and furious read and even though I haven’t read any of this author’s other books, it’s definitely put them on my radar. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


feature author J.L. Clayton I live in a small town and works at the local post office, delivering mail every day with a smile on my face. My husband, Robert, and I have a beautiful daughter, Shyla. I currently have three full length novels, and two short story’s in the Chosen Saga published. I also have contributed to several anthologies. I’m always busy doing something with writing. Keep an eye out.

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inspiration came from back then. I’ve always had a fascination with serial killers and Vampires, I secretly still want to be one, a Vamp not a Serial killer just to clarify. Which probably led to me getting my 1st degree in Forensic Science and deciding that I wasn’t so much interested in the how a crime was committed but the why or what drove someone to do such horrible things. I switched majors and finished with a Masters in Abnormal Psychology and now work with court ordered defendants. Which is where my inspiration for my characters come from, Delusional Conduct part 1 is cowritten with an amazing friend Jen and is just a short peek into the Delusions series which fill your minds with a deep psychological undertone, once I am finished with this It’s onto various sub genres of Paranormal for me. I lived my life backward, having my 1st child as soon as I graduated HS, 6 years later I had my second, then when he was two I moved from a small town outside of Philly called Morrisville, best place to grow up when I was young. Then I went home on vacation, ran into my 1st true love, within a month he moved across the country to live with me, neither of us had ever been married until our Halloween Wedding in 2014, giving me an amazing Stepson right in the middle of what was my oldest and youngest, now my hubby & I have completed our family with a now 2yr old. If you’ve made it this far I applaud you for your dedication. I love Tattoos I never know exactly how many I have unless I count them. I have always been eccentric and change my hair color more than some change their underwear, I have no filter so I tend to speak before thinking and that has gotten me in trouble at times. But I am who I am and nothing will change that.

Stay Connected M. Rain Ranalli I have been reading and writing dark and Scary stories since I was 7 and snuck into my moms bookcase and began reading all her Stephen King books. The old school B horror movies started around the same age, so did the nightmares which is where my 86 |

Uncaged welcomes J.L. Clayton and M. Rain Ranalli! Uncaged: How did the two of you get together to write Delusional Conduct? What was the process of writing together? Since it’s billed as book one in a saga, how many books are planned? I would say J.L. and I got together to write this story mainly because I “Fan-Girled” her until an amazing friendship was built. She is so funny and so kind to her fans, I couldn’t help feel an instant connection with her. I shared my dreams of one day being brave enough to put my work out for others to see, so she knew I was going to need an extra little kick to get moving in the right direction. The process we used is probably a little different than most who cowrite. We pretty much knew exactly where we were going with the storyline and were writing chapter for chapter at the same time J.L. had another book coming out. We decided I would finish writing what was left of our first draft once her deadline was getting close and it was crunch time for her other project. I left her major chunk out, that part was her specialty and I was not going to attempt it, but that part was pre-planned and agreed on by both of us. When I finished, I sent her a completely unedited version, with sort of a “fill in the blanks” style rough draft. Unfortunately there was a mix-up with our release date, leaving the awesomeness known as J.L. Clayton only three DAYS, instead of the five WEEKS we thought we had to come up with an appropriate first draft. She came to the rescue and quickly edited some of the story, made a few changes and finished on a cliffhanger. We always planned to only write one book together. it was meant to be a full length novel; however, that one ended on a semi-cliffhanger leaving it open for me to continue with these characters if they remained in my head and

decided they had more to tell. Now, it’s looking like there will be three books altogether. Uncaged: Can you explain the series to readers and what inspired this story? I will start with what inspired the story because it’s kind of funny, at least we think it is. :) As I mentioned I was a fan-girl of J.L’s, but I was / am also a blogger. During the Blog-Launch, my partner recommended offering a 500-800 word “FlashFiction” option using 3 keywords. The stories coming in were great and many featured me in them. So, around 3 in the morning I couldn’t sleep and decided to use my phone to email myself a “FlashFiction” using the same keywords. I don’t know what made me also email it to four other actual authors, but I did. They all told me pretty much the same thing, “polish it up, add to it, and get over your fear and put this out because it could be something great.” I had written the “present-day” part and when converted into a word doc it was closer to 5K words than the 800 I thought. I had an “implied” beginning. The 16yrs ago part, and that is what J.L. and I really were focusing on. Giving the readers a chance to get to know the characters in their lateteens, so the readers could relate better and understand the “whys” of what they do. So, that is where the inspiration came from. Explaining the series is a little tricky, because the characters are taking me in a different direction than originally planned. But, it starts with five close friends living in a small town, these friends are all descendants of the founding families. The small town holds many secrets of its own, including ones that surround the 113 year old asylum which recently closed. The friends have their own inner demons lurking beneath their skin, only one character isn’t afraid to show hers and is waiting Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | for the perfect chance to unleash her friends dark desires. Which does arrive in part one. The main idea of this series is - the friends all have certain personality disorders, alone they are dangerous, but together they may be deadly. The series gets darker, more twists arise, they are trying to find the truth the town is hiding, which may or may not involve something supernatural, on top of the hidden truth behind several murders written off as runaways or accidents and no one knows if what they are seeing is reality or just a delusion. The best genre would be, psychological suspense, with elements from several others thrown in. Uncaged: As a reviewer, I’m always curious as to what authors can take away from the reviews, do you read them and what do you take away from the reviews? M. Rain = I do read the reviews, I enjoy knowing what the reader liked or did not like about the story, I feel that it will help me become a better writer by knowing why they didn’t like something. Being a reviewer myself, I just hope the one writing the review is being honest and not just nice. J.L. = As M. Rain said, I believe that all authors love reading what their readers thought of the story they have crafted. I think any critique whether it be good or bad, helps an author grow in there writing. Of cures no one likes the bad reviews even if it helps. :) Uncaged: What is coming up from both of you next separately? M. Rain = I am currently working on finishing this series. I am already at the point where I could cut it off on another cliffhanger and send the 2nd book “The Chosen” to an editor; however, I have decided that I am just going to keep writing until the story finishes itself and then figure out where to separate the 2nd and 3rd and be able to release the last two within six-eight weeks of each other. After that I have a “Biblical-Paranormal” series coming 88 |

out. It is more in my wheelhouse of the way I have always written, 1st person POV, with the first story being told by the main two characters. Lord only knows why my 1st attempt was in a style I’ve never used and knew nothing about, 3rd person past limited POV :) J.L. = I always have something in the works. Right now, I am working on the 4th book in my Chosen Saga. Uncaged: Where do you come up with your characters and their names? How much do you pull from people you know? M. Rain = Funny you should ask. For anyone who has read or plans to read Delusion Conduct you may recognize the names. When I first wrote the “joke” email I named the characters after myself and the authors I sent it to, you will find Michelle, Jen, Steve a.k.a Steven Evans, Jeremy a.k.a Jeremy Simons and of course Becky a.k.a R.L. Weeks. When we decided to make this a story we asked if it was okay to use their names of course. I have always pulled from real life situations and traits from people I know. Of course in this series the “bad parts” are not related to the people we named the characters after. But some of the funny things they say we took from real life. Same with the concept of small town Pennsylvania, the asylum and the woods, I got from my own memories of where I grew up. J.L. = My characters all come from my mind. I have so many running around up there that I sometimes think I could be schizophrenic from all the voices inside my head. The names I normally just look up, or it was already there in that volt I call my brain. :) Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? M. Rain = Favorite part is simple, it’s always been my dream. I write for myself and if I lose that, I am afraid I will lose my passion. Least Fav is also simple, I am afraid that I will stop writing for myself, thinking my work isn’t good enough and try to write for other people. Oh, and the time. I am so limited on time to be-

gin with that it is almost impossible for me to even find the time to answer these :) J.L. = I have so many favorite parts. My top three reasons. 1) It takes you away for reality were sometimes in the real-world life isn’t as simple as it is when you are inventing a dream one. 2) All the amazing fans and friends I have made. 3) Writing is something I was meant to do and that in itself is an amazing feeling to know you are doing what you love.

| CLAYTON & RANALLI | bad leaving out so many other favorites I’ve had along the way. Of course ALL of Jen’s books and short stories in anthologies. Her Chosen saga is epic #TeamTru all the way. Steven Evans Weeping Willow books 1 & 2 made me feel so much raw emotion. Jeremy Simons is awesome, and I can’t forget R.L. Weeks, I’ve read every single book she has written, including her short horror stories and all her stories in anthologies - over 22 of them and they are all 5 star reads for sure.

Lest favorite is when I feel rushed and I have to get something finished. Time isn’t my friend.

J.L.= Thank you M.Rain for the shutout that was really sweet of you. I love every book I read, in fact I’ve only came across two stories that I didn’t like. But one of my all-time favorites is by author Richelle Mead Vampire Academy.

Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you?

M. Rain = When I am not writing, it seems like I am always working. The limited free time I do have I enjoy spending with my Hubby, and our 4 kids oldest is 19 and youngest is 2yrs old. (I am not crazy old, I had a baby young lol) We go kayaking and “Jeeping” almost all year round. Camping, rock climbing, anything outdoors, and of course reading.

M. Rain = To my short list of fans / friends, THANK YOU for having faith in me and, sticking with me.. YOU GUYS KEEP ME GOING, KEEP ME FROM THROWING IN THE TOWEL WHEN THINGS GET TOUGH.

J.L. = Everything and anything. If I haven’t tried it I will. I always love new things. I also love hanging with my daughter, friends and family. Uncaged: I know that my favorites change as I read more and more books, but was the last book you loved? The last book you wanted to throw against a wall (good or bad)? M. Rain = Wow tough question. Mine change all the time too, with every new 5 star read in fact. I will keep it simple and just stick with the very 1st ebook I ever read (yes I was very late in discovering not only “indie authors” but what a Kindle was) Apryl Baker’s The Ghost Files series is where e-reading came into my life, I feel in love with the first book and am impatiently waiting for Halloween when the last releases. But i feel

Enjoy an excerpt from Delusional Conduct Delusional Conduct Ranalli & Clayton Psychological Thriller When five lifelong friends with an incredible birthright, and their old town, already harboring secrets of its own, becomes overrun by new wealth after the ancient asylum closes for good, a chain of events are set in motion and no one is safe from what’s to come. On the outside, Michelle and Jen appear to have everything going for them, including their three Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | best friends; however, appearances aren’t everything. When Brody and his spoiled friends play a cruel joke on one of the towns less fortunate the five friends devise a plan to get revenge. Once everything is almost set, a greater evil emerges, one that cannot be ignored. Are Michelle and Jen manipulating the others, herding them like sheep to the slaughter? Or is this a twisted game where something much more sinister is taking place? With tension rising and madness taking hold, can these friends keep it together, or will one crack under the pressure? After all blood, death and secrets always have repercussions. Excerpt Michelle led the way as Jen followed behind her silently. Their spot in the woods was ironically close to the back side of the asylum, whether consciously or unconsciously Michelle led them right down the fastest path which landed them right behind the burnt wing. Michelle turned to look at Jen. They had always been so close that they never needed words to communicate before; so, Michelle didn’t think she needed to start changing things now. If something was off Michelle was sure Jen would tell her. She stepped aside and let Jen take the lead. Michelle followed her friend through the large, broken-down backside of the building and into an area that somehow survived the flames. Michelle needed to break the silence that had now become awkward, half joking she said, “I’ve always wondered why they referred to this building for the criminally insane as a ward in the infamous “”Sawsville asylum for the severely mentally ill”.” “Yeah, and then they went and changed it to “Sawsville Estates: A home with Extra Care”,” Jen said with a smile on her face. Victory. At least she is speaking normally 90 |

again. Jen continued to walk, her head down and the smile gone. I guess that victory celebration was a little too soon. Jen navigated her way through the broken doors and windows that separated various sections of the building like she was on a mission to reach a particular place and fast. Michelle knew this building like she knew her own home, but a gut instinct told her Jen knew it better than she should. As usual, Michelle’s gut was right, Jen knew exactly where she was leading her best friend. Jen pushed through a rusted door and sat on a melted metal bed. She looked over at Michelle and asked in a creepy whisper, “Do you know where we are, Michelle?” Michelle knew exactly where they were. Chills ran up her spine, she wanted to grab Jen’s hand and leave. Forcing more confidence into her voice then she felt, Michelle said, “Yeah, Jen, I know where we are. We are in his cell. But what I don’t know, is why?” Jen seemed to be annoyed by Michelle’s response. She let out a slight groan and stated in a very matter of fact way, “This is where he comes. Every night he is here, sleeping! He thinks I don’t know, but I do. Look around.” Jen spread her arms wide. “You can’t lie to me anymore, Michelle. You can’t try to make me think I’m going crazy. I know the truth,” Jen started to cry, “I’ve been right all along. Damn it. I’ve been right all this time. He had never died. He has been living here the whole time.” Michelle stared at Jen, not saying a word. As the silence stretched, Jen became more agitated. “Michelle, why are you not saying anything? Don’t you get it? The man that murdered my sister isn’t dead. Or gone. He is still here and I know that you know it too.” Michelle was in shock, she didn’t know what to say, or how to say it. Does the truth always set you free, or is that just a saying? Michelle wondered before finally speaking. She chose her words carefully.

| RANALLI & CLAYTON | “Oh Jen, I know you’re not crazy. He was gone, I came here a lot. In fact, for years this is where I’d wake up, with no idea how I got here. I’ve never told anyone, but I’ve been sleepwalking a lot since…. well, since I found Jess. It’s happening more recently. But Jen, you have to believe me when I say I didn’t know he was back until a few days ago. That’s all I know.” Michelle, being superstitious, put her hands behind her back and crossed her fingers as she lied to her best friend.

Uncaged Review A fast packed action filled story about five friends who believe themselves to be protecting their small town from some new kids who have harmed some of the other local kids. But one of the members of their group is hiding a dark family secret that if uncovered would cost alot of problems. I really enjoyed this book and I was pleasantly surprised that Michelle and her group of friends were kinda what you would call the good kids. This story is really dark and I loved reading every minute of it. Keeping my fingers crossed part two is out soon. As the story leaves you at a good place. Reviewed by Jennifer

Don’t miss these titles:

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


fang-FREAKIN-tastic reviews

feature author


Chris Roy

| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | Until 1999, Chris lived comfortably with the modest criminal ventures of his youth. But a fistfight ended tragically, his opponent died, resulting in a life sentence for Chris, which he started serving in the Mississippi Department of Corrections from January 2000. Hard knocks are the best teachers - the author learned this almost too late, though he did rid himself of drugs and violence. Chris’ institutional record hasn’t been marred by a single fight or involvement in drugs - an incredible feat, considering the brutally challenging prison environment he lives in. Nowadays he lives his life of crime vicariously, through the edgy characters and fast-paced stories he pens, hoping to entertain readers. When he isn’t writing, he’s reading, drawing or looking for prospects to train in boxing.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic welcomes Chris Roy! Who are you, and what have you written? Chris Roy. Shocking Circumstances and Sharp as a Razor are my crime thriller trilogies published by New Pulp Press. Marsh Madness and re-Pete are my only dark fiction published so far. You can find those at Near to the Knuckle. Describe yourself using 6 words. Loyal to my tribe problem solver.

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What was an early life experience where you learned that language has power? My mom speaks well. She was always correcting her kids’ mispronunciations, and would tell us why enunciating correctly was important. Talk like an ignoramus and people think you are one. Speak well and people listen to you. Mom taught me that language can be wielded for power. How has writing in the prison environment affected your writing?

94 |

It’s a challenge to focus on writing in here. There’s always something to disrupt the creative feeling. Floods, fires, constant screaming and fighting. Shakedowns. I know I would be more productive in a less hostile environment.

As a prisoner serving a life sentence, why is your voice an important part of the literary world? People tend to believe what they read. Unfortunately, all the tough on crime content in the media is inaccurate. It’s constantly harming our communities and destroying lives. I’ve seen seventeen years of ruined lives that are a direct result of the tough on crime laws. I offer a view rooted in reality. A perspective observed from the consequences of harsh laws and unjust sentences. The characters in Shocking Circumstances experience serious changes in their views of crime and punishment, based on the reality of today’s justice system. How many books have you written, and where do you write them? Seven. New Pulp Press signed me for six of them. They were all written in small concrete and steel cells in Parchman. I write them with pen and paper, then they’re typed for rewrites and editing. You set your novels in and around the places you grew up in. What are your favorite things about the MS Gulf Coast?

What were your hobbies as a kid, as a convict? Hobbies. As a kid, any activity that didn’t involve woods, water, tools or dark clothes didn’t interest me. As a teenager, I added money to the list. Now I’m just a boring dude that is bored of drawing, tattooing, and fitness goals. I used to write as a hobby. Writing has become a passion, and I hope readers will sense that while enjoying my works. What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Whatever genre you want to write in, read a LOT of the bestsellers and classics. Study books on writing. All of them. And you can’t judge your first works too harshly. They will likely be terrible. Mine were. Experience changes that. Study a few lesson books, write a few thousand pages, and you’ll see a profound difference. Is there anything else you would like to share? Sure. A quote from my old coach: “Fights aren’t won in the ring; they’re won in the gym, by training hard.”

The water, of course! Fishing, swimming, boating, and enjoying the beach. Mardi Gras, Cruisin’ the Coast and the drag strip… restaurants and boxing matches at the casinos. Lots of family oriented fun to be had. Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | Sharp as a Razon Chris Roy Thriller/Crime Elaborate cons, impossible heists and highspeed chases were his thing. His talent in boxing and engineering made those pursuits a gamble with death he never wanted to quit. Then he left the world of crime with his woman, a blonde bombshell who was also accomplished in boxing and was his engineering equal. Their late boxing coach gives them a reason to return to The Life with his last wish. His will instructs his former pupils to join with other multitalented individuals, form a team that will commit major crimes for the sake of communities on the Gulf Coast. A job Coach Eddy started before he was murdered: Taking on the Vietnamese Mafia.

Enjoy a free short story from Chris Roy Marsh madness by Chris Roy The heron stalked through the flooded marsh, eyes intent on movement below the muddy surface. Beak aimed like a javelin. It stopped, poised to strike. Patient. The heron flinched before it burst out of the water, thrust from its huge wings leaving a mist like a jet’s contrail as it soared to a safe height over the maze of marsh islands. 96 |

Out of the haze of fog drifting over the water emerged a man. Behind him, as if he had bore a tunnel through the thick gloom, were woods with ancient oak trees twisting out into the bayou. Long tendrils of dull gray moss snaking down to the mud seemed to vibrate with a dissonant buzz; hundreds of thousands of insects clung to the trees and brush along the bank, belting out a chorus that was randomly broken up by disturbances in the water. Hunched over, dull gray beard hanging like moss from a sun-weathered face, the man blazed a trail of silence, stepping through the muck with a heron’s patience. His eyes, black and stretched wide, had an unnatural gleam in the twilight. An alligator hide rifle case was slung across his back, one hand holding the butt close to his flank, silencing its movement and that of his rubber waders. With his other hand he pushed aside sharp blades of grass that would have sliced into most people’s skin. He came to the edge of the marsh island and stilled himself. Standing tall, a scarecrow overlooking a huge field of dead corn stalks, his eyes shifted to the left as theme park music began playing in the far distance. A ferris wheel stood above the fog bank, lights from several small rides glaring up at it, giving the entire fairgrounds a faint glow. The high pitched, tinny notes penetrated the thick gloom, floating along with it. The man bared his black gums in that direction for a moment. Deep wrinkles spread from his eyes and mouth. Absently, he rubbed his ear; a twisted, misshapen scar ran right through it. A dog barked. The man’s head turned forward in a blink, wrinkles deepening with a smile. Across the narrow channel was a large dog standing on a low wooden pier. A golden retriever. Behind the dog, on top of a hill, a dark gray mist shrouded a small mobile home. A breeze pushed out of the woods, momentarily showing a porch, a yellow light struggling to illuminate steps. A swing set, barbeque grill and trampoline were haphazardly placed in a large overgrown yard that sloped down to disappear into the high tide.

Claws ticked and scrambled over broken, failing planks. The dog barked at the water. A wave of silence spread rapidly throughout the marsh. The insects started up again. The dog’s panting could be heard clearly across the channel. The object of the dog’s interest was three feet below the end of the pier. Sticking up like an old stump was the head of a bull alligator. The dog, unafraid, seemed to play a game familiar between the two. The barking, clawing and loud panting continued. Around the man frogs had joined the bugs, quieting after barks, as if considering how to reply and join in their game. “Mario! Mario! Dummy. Get away from there.” A small boy materialized in the mist at the top of the yard. A screen door creaked and slammed on the trailer. He ran down to the pier, stopped and whistled, clapped his hands. “Come here, boy. Mario!” The retriever glanced at the boy, tongue lolling. Started wagging his tail. His head swiveled back to the alligator, mouth opening, closing, tip of his tongue wiggling with each pant. He barked again, pawed the pier. Bounced up and down, darted from side to side. The man hadn’t moved. He observed the alligator, peripherally tracking the boy and dog. “Stupid dog! Come on. We’re not supposed to play on the pier. Mom’s gonna yell at us.” He wrung his hands, chewing on his lip. Mario kept barking and wagging at the alligator. The boy stepped carefully onto the pier, looked over his shoulder at the trailer, then ran to the end of the pier, leaping a jagged hole. His sneakers thumped to a stop, arms encircling Mario’s neck. “Come on… What are you do-ing?” He looked down into the water. Wide-set emotionless eyes looked back at him. “Whoa! Crud! The alligator – !” The dog turned to lick the boy, rear end wagging, and threw him from his feet. He shouted as his hands and chin banged hard on the planks. His shoes splashed in the water, legs sliding in. The alligator’s head disappeared in a swirl of black.

| CHRIS ROY | The man moved quickly. Grabbing the top of the rifle case he unsnapped it, slid out a crossbow and unfolded the arms, locking them. Loaded a bolt. Brought it to his shoulder, aiming through a highpowered scope at the boy’s legs. “Mario!” All the boy’s breath burst from him in a single scream. Around the man the marsh creatures scattered into the grass or water. The boy tore at the planks with his tiny fingers, shoes thudding into the water behind him. The dog wore a puzzled expression. He chuffed, pawed the pier in front of the boy. Then he stretched and bit the collar of the boy’s shirt, jerked and snatched him back onto the pier. The boy’s shoes cleared right as the alligator popped up under them. “Whoa! Shoot! Whoa! WHOA!” The boy staggered, gripping his shirt, pushing at Mario until he let go. The big dog abruptly spun and ran off the pier. The screen door slapped shut from the trailer and a tall sandy haired woman in jeans and flip-flops walked down to the water gesturing with a hair brush. “God-damnit, Sam! Really? I told you to not play by the water, and specifically not on the pier. And your freaking clothes are wet? Get your ass in the house and get changed! You’re going to be late for the bus.” She stuck the brush in a back pocket. Whistled loudly, clapped her hands. “Mario! Let’s go, boy. Get your ass in the house! You better not be wet, too.” Mario barked and waggled, looking at the woman. Then he bound up the yard and raced past her. The woman turned to follow her chastened son and the man aimed the scope at her ass. His lips peeled back, blackened gums catching light that darkened them further, lines branching from the corners of his eyes blending into single deep furrows. Jeans stretched over hips, dug into buttocks at 70x. The man’s finger caressed the weapon’s trigger. The stump appeared in the water again. This time where the yard met the water. The dog zoomed past the woman and boy, barking up a storm. Issue 16 | November 2017 |


| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | The man tracked the alligator as it moved slowly towards the yard, crosshairs centered just behind its eyes. Mario, bounding downhill, tongue lolling in a toothy smile, barked his I’m-a-Good-Dog-Let’sPlay bark. As he came to a sudden stop, the man brought the crossbow up slightly and shot the dog in the front leg. Gravity and momentum were against the big dog. He pitched over into the bayou. The stump vanished. The dog never surfaced. The splash made Sam and the woman stop and turn around. They didn’t see Mario. The woman frowned severely. The boy looked alarmed. When Mario didn’t respond to his name being called Sam ran back to the pier. The woman followed, flip-flops slapping hard against her feet. The man took aim at her chest, shirt straining against her swaying breasts. His finger moved faster, though still gently, over the trigger. “Well, where the hell is he?” The woman planted her feet, fists on hips. “Mario!” She demanded for Sam to find his dog and get his ass to the bus stop, wet clothes and all. Sam, completely bewildered, looked from the pier to the water. Looked at his mom and shrugged. He squinted at the woods. Leaned over and peered intently through the fog, at the marsh across the channel. He gasped and jerked upright. A sob caught in his throat as his eyes moved back to the pier. To the water. He turned toward his mom. “The alligator, Mom. The alligator!” “The alligator? What about the alligator?” The woman muttered “Shit” and walked down next to Sam. Frowned at the water. Her eyebrows lifted. She put a hand to her mouth. She almost said, But that old ‘gator and Mario are friends… But Sam 98 |

knew better, and so did she. Sam took a deep, sharp breath and let out a wail that pierced deep into the bayou. The heavy fog began lifting. A fresh breeze billowed Sam’s wet pants as he clung to his mother’s leg, sobbing. The man’s smile broadened to a full grin, tiny pinpoints of light refracting from his jet eyes and gums. One eye closed and he looked through the scope once more. A dry suction emitted from his throat, tongue pressing into his top gum, unsticking. Carnival music, louder now that the fog was lifting, tinkled on the breeze as the man studied the woman’s backside again. She bent over to pick up her crying son and carried him up to the porch.

New Releases November Release Dates - A Selection

November 7

November 21

Renegades by Marissa Meyer The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin Bonfire by Krysten Ritter The Midnight Line by Lee Child Hooking Up by Helena Hunting Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay Nightfall by Shannon Messenger War of the Cards by Colleen Oakes The November Girl by Lydia Kang Now Is Everything by Amy Giles The Billionaireâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Secrets by J.S. Scott Every Breath You Take by Mary Higgins Clark

Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart The Whispering Room by Dean Koontz Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris Poison by Galt Niederhoffer Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper Alien Caged by Tracy St. John

November 14 Nov 14 Oathbringerby Brandon Sanderson Artemis by Andy Weir Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance by Ruth Emmie Lang Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty End Game by David Baldacci Insurrection by Sherrilyn Kenyon Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda Defiant Queen by Meghan March Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont

November 28 Darker by E.L. James Van by Sawyer Bennett The Brightest Embers by Jeaniene Frost Under Water by Casey Barrett Close Contact by Lori Foster The Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michele Richardson A Crazy Kind of Love by Mary Ann Marlow I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows Fix Me by Lisa M. Cronkhite A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole Final Scream by Lisa Jackson

Publishers and authors: If you would like a new release in these lists, please email me at Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Uncaged Reviews Shifter’s Shadow Ella Summers Urban Fantasy

“So this was just one gigantic, cosmic war between light and dark magic. And we were only a small part of it, a tiny dot in the gods’ empire. It was no wonder that they saw us as insignificant.” Tested by the gods, Leda and her angelic mate Nero venture into the City of Ashes, a fallen fortress in the Western Wilderness where nightmarish monsters reign supreme and an ancient secret is buried. To survive the Gods’ Trials, they will have to save the city— and they will have to do it without their magic. Their victory, however, comes at a heavy price. And the secret they uncover will upset the balance of power between Earth and heaven.

Uncaged Review: Again, we hit the ground running in book 5 of this series. The book is action packed, and the characters are well developed. I was all-in from the first page to the last. We are starting to see the main arc with the series as it gets a bit more focused now, and all the minor arcs that have been happening in these books are leading to the grand plan. There is nothing that I didn’t like in this book, sometimes when you are reading a series, as it gets further and further into the series, they are almost on life-support and you are trudging through them anyway because of the loyalty you feel for the characters and author. But this series is just getting stronger – and I’m seriously wanting book six. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Language, violence, sex

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Edge Serena Sallow Horror Trapped on a staircase with no end or beginning, a young boy and girl must fight fear, isolation, hallucinations, and the most potent of all killers: themselves. -On the staircase, nothing is certain. Which way is up; which way is down; what is real, or what isn’t. Everything is left open to interpretation. It’s hard to figure out where you’re going when you don’t even know from where you’re coming -- but this doesn’t stop our protagonists from doing their best to figure just this out... Uncaged Review: A simple tale set in a place that holds a staircase. You either go up or down or simply fall to your death. We follow two kids nicknamed Freckles and Screech and their journey on the staircase. I was slightly puzzled with the story at some points as we are given a little glimpse into Freckles life, then thrown back into the mystery of the staircase. I liked the idea of this story but was a bit disappointed at the end. I guess I was hoping for a different outcome. It’s still worth a read though. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Language, sexual assault, dark themes

Brynnde M Pepper Langlinais Historical Regency Brynnde Archambault needs to find someone to marry, else she’ll be stuck with dull Mr. Dallweather. The answer to her problem arrives in the form of handsome and witty Viscount Burbridge, but just when everything seems to be going smoothly, scandal strikes and the engagement ends. Meanwhile, Brynnde has no trouble matchmaking her friends and even her own brother. But while she breezily finds suitors for everyone else, for her time is running out. Must she resign herself to becoming Mrs. Dallweather? Or will Brynnde yet succeed in making a match for herself?

Uncaged Review: An engaging, clean romance that is very captivating. Brynnde is great at matchmaking, but when she’s told she must choose a husband soon, or marry the very dodgy and boring Mr. Dallweather. Enter Garrick, and to avoid a scandal, marriage seems to be her only option. The banter between Brynnde and Garrick is entertaining, and the book kept me hooked on their story from the go. This is a sweet and clean story with a lighthearted feel that is recommended on those cold days when you just want to curl up with a book. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult No major warnings

Managed 3 Clarissa Carlyle Rock Star Romance This is Book 3 in the Managed: a rock star romance series. Throw caution to the wind, dreams won’t work unless you do... Will Jasper turn away from the growing chemistry that Hailey and he share? Is recovering the image of his fans far more important than exploring a love that he never expected to occur? Or will he throw caution to the wind and seek out the woman who refuses to leave his mind?

Uncaged Review: Finally, Hailey sees Matthew for the scumbag he is, even though she still puts up with way too much from her boss at work. Carl is the only saving grace at that firm. Jasper and Hailey still won’t talk about their feelings for each other. This is the first time I wasn’t upset about the ending though, even though it was a cliffhanger, I’m OK with it. I said before and I’ll reinforce that here, most people would be better off waiting until this full set is out, or if the author releases a box set instead of being strung along - but I HAVE to see this through to the end. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Uncaged Reviews Zombie Virus Samuel T. Raven Young Adult/SciFi/Horror Ben excels in the stupidity department, however, he fancies an intelligent girl, Charlie, but she’s not interested. She prefers boys who can hold up a decent level of intellectual conversation. When Ben finds a drug that may increase his intellect, he takes it, hoping this will open to the door to Charlie’s heart. However, this has disastrous consequences as the virus adapts, causing widespread disease. The only thing that stands between it and the complete annihilation of mankind is a time traveler from the future who only has limited interaction with the present. Can this time traveler help prevent the end of days for humanity whilst at the same time help Ben find true love? Uncaged Review: Part 1 in a 6 part series follows Ben and Alex, best friends at college. Ben has a crush on a girl called Charlie and is desperate for her to notice him. He takes some important vials from a science centre trip which nearly brings about a zombie outbreak. Ben does have some tricks up his sleeve to help try and end this. I really liked this book the first half felt a little rushed like the author was trying to fit massive amounts of plot into a short book. Towards the second half of the book it was very action packed and full of zombie fun. Of course it ends in a cliffhanger and I’m desperate to see what happens next. Reviewed by Jennifer

Love and the Shameless Lady Barbara Monahem Historical Regency Disgraced lady Daisy Warren serves ale in a tumbledown inn, sings crude songs for the smugglers, and writes romantic novels in her spare time. Shunned by her own class, she’s resigned to her lowly life—until someone tries to kill her. Gentleman spy Sir Julian Kerr noses out seditionists and traitors. When he visits the inn to investigate two suspicious Frenchmen, he meets the lovely but hostile Daisy. He doesn’t intend to get involved with her—but then he learns that someone is threatening her life. He wants to find out more—it’s part of his investigation. He wants to protect her—he’s a chivalrous man. He wants her. But will Daisy’s bitter past allow her to risk love again? Uncaged Review: This is the first book I’ve read from this author, and I am happy to report, I hope it won’t be my last. This is an engaging regency, with the heroine committing all types of faus paux in the era, from having sex before marriage, to writing racy novels. Being shunned by society, Daisy works at a pub, slinging ale and food to unsavory types. Enter Julian – who takes an interest in Daisy and can’t get her off his mind. But Julian also has secrets… Suspense, romance, likeable characters and a couple nice plot twists give this original regency a bit of zest. The danger to Daisy’s life throws both Julian and Daisy together, and we watch a slow brewing romance. Recommended. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Young Adult mild violence and language

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

mild violence, sexual situations

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Seasons Iesha S. Walker Romantic Erotica Troy Delaney has spent her dating years compartmentalizing the men in her life. Men were necessary, but interchangeable. Troy never felt the need to settle down or foster real connections with men. Men were necessary because “Like the four seasons each one of them served a purpose” in her life. Men were interchangeable because if they failed to fulfill their purpose they could be replaced by the next man who could. Uncaged Review: A prospective story on life dramas and the struggle of finding love. Troy isn’t the type of girl to just settle with one guy. She likes four guys like the seasons of the year. So she will never be hurt or really have to commit to a guy. But when a tragic acident changes the way Troy views life, she may just never be the same. I really liked this book. As Troy is the type of girl that you feel could be you. Her emotions and fears are real and you can feel them on the page. I found myself caring about Troy and wishing her to find a happy ending. The pleasent thing about this book is it deals with a lot of issues surrounding females. Can’t wait to see what this Author brings out next.. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Sex, language


David Kummer Young Adult/Thriller

It’s been twenty years since the children went missing. Everybody has forgotten. They always do. And now, they’ll regret it. Hardy is a sleepy town on the river. In 1995, it’s nothing special. Nobody pays attention to it. Nobody thinks about the woods nearby. But something comes out of them. It watches. It takes. It kills. Michael is a teenager, enjoying his summer. His friends, his little sister, and his community feel the excitement building. That all changes in one night. The kidnappings... are back. Uncaged Review: The first book wrote by this young author who is off to a promising start. “She” is a old woman who takes kids every 20 years. Some describe her as a witch. Others look at her as a scary tale to tell the kids. If you see her you can bet your life she’s watching you. Life will never be the same again for a group of friends after they encounter She. I really enjoyed this book it wasn’t in your face horror, more psychological horror - the kind that gives you the creeps. I found myself wanting to find out even more history that concerns She. This book would make a great film or tv drama. Can’t wait until book 2 - this author is someone to keep a eye on. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Teens OK

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Uncaged Reviews Inception

Bianca Scardoni Young Adult/Paranormal

My name is Jemma Blackburn and I have a secret. I know vampires are real. I watched one murder my father eight months ago, and even though they tried to convince me it didn’t happen—that I’d lost touch with reality due to the trauma, I know what I saw was real... Uncaged Review: This is a terrific page turner, and touted as a new adult/paranormal – but also it’s in the category of Childrens – and I would definitely not go that route – new/young adult is okay. The twists and turns that this book takes you on, will have you screaming. There were times I didn’t even like Jemma as she acted a bit too childish, and other times I was on her bandwagon – but I was always engaged. The other characters are also engaging, but trust me, you’ll want to go after a couple of them yourself when this is over. I finished this book in one day, and when a book grabs me that well, it’s a winner. There are three books in this series out now, and a fourth slated soon, but with over 500 reviews on Amazon, I had to see what the fuss was about and it didn’t disappoint. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Young Adult Mild violence

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S. Wharton Horror Shorts This is a ‘deeply unsettling collection’ of dark fiction by a British female author: “Shah Wharton is worthy of being recognized as a fantastic voice in the horror genre.” Amazon Reviewer. Within this collection of two novellas and one short from three different dark fiction genres, the author explores the internal processes of DREAD.

Uncaged Review: A mixture of horror shorts featuring a woman who can’t remember what happened after a night out. Only to wake up next to dead bodies and covered in blood. Finds out the world is a little different to she’s used too.There is also another two short stories in this book. A slightly amusing one called The Dead Party which was my favorite. I should also mention the fact that this book is set in the U.K. So the stories are all very British. I found this to be a okay read and think people will enjoy it. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence, adult situations

The Reluctant Wife Caroline Warfield Historical Regency

Captain Fred Wheatly’s comfortable life on the fringes of Bengal comes crashing down around him when his mistress dies, leaving him with two children he never expected to have to raise. When he chooses justice over army regulations, he’s forced to resign his position, leaving him with no way to support his unexpected family. He’s already had enough failures in his life. The last thing he needs is an attractive, interfering woman bedeviling his steps, reminding him of his duties... Uncaged Review: The first page starts with a lot of action we are introduced to Fred who learns he has two daughters to care for now. As their mother has suddenly died. A witness to this is Claire, who was hoping to speak to her brother Philip who is Fred’s Major in the army. Claire and Fred find themselves thrown into traveling together, which will hold many problems for them both. I really enjoyed this book it was filled with alot of action and suspense. Enough to keep the readers on their toes. I’m looking forward to reading the next book by this author. Reviewed by Jennifer

Witch’s Stone

Jamaila Brinkley Historical Paranormal Duncan Lowell’s explosive magic is fueled by an equally explosive temper. He’s stayed away from the earldom he rules from afar to escape memories of his vicious father. But when he must return, other memories surface, too – of his childhood friend and conspirator, Fiona: the future Witch of Kilgoran...

Uncaged Review: Set in Scotland we meet Fiona who is a witch like her Grandmother and Mother. Where it seems to be accepted that witches exist and help others of the village less fortunate then themselves. She finds herself and her childhood friend Duncan off to London to pick up a rather powerful jewel called the Witch’s Stone which has only just been found again after it went missing from her family’s home. This is a rather simple tale of magic and lost loves. I hadn’t read any of this author’s books before, but found it easy to pick up on the characters and their backgrounds easily. I can see this book appealing to quite a wide audience. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Young Adult No major warnings

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Sexual situations, mild violence

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Uncaged Reviews The Devil in Black Creek D.R. Bartlette Psychological Thriller

1986 is the year everything blew apart … Twelve-year-old tomboy Cassie lives a pretty boring life in smalltown Black Creek, Arkansas, until her mom and dad divorce, throwing her into poverty and shattering her sheltered life. Then the rich, elderly Henson sisters take pity on her, taking her under their wings and into the church. Except the handsome, charming new preacher has something strange going on in his shed. When Cassie starts snooping around his property looking for her lost dog, she discovers something so awful, no one will believe her – and that may put her own life in danger.... And he was involved with The Lumen, a shadowy religious order whose members know too much about demons. As the life she thought she knew crumbles around her, Mekaisto’s charms become harder to resist. Forced to face a horrible truth, Celina struggles against her late husband’s betrayal and the dark seduction of the devil she knows.

Uncaged Review: 1986 is the year everything blew apart …. Twelve year old tomboy Cassie lived a pretty boring life in small town Black Creek, Arkansas, until her Mom and Dad divorced, throwing her into poverty and shattering her sheltered life. Then the rich, elderly Henson sisters take pity on her, taking her under their wings and into the church. Except the handsome, charming new preacher has something strange going on in his shed. When Cassie starts snooping around the property looking for her lost dog she discovers something awful, no one will believe her and that may put her life in danger. When I started reading this book, I must admit 108 |

I was tempted to give up after the first five chapters. The short sentences and very descriptive writing was doing my head in. It seemed the author captured every minute detail of daily life and wrote it down. Writing a review based on the first five chapters would not be doing the author justice so I bit the bullet and hoped it would get better. Continuing to read, I found that I started to enjoy the story line more and the descriptive nature of the book while not at first taking my fancy turned the remaining chapters into a well told story. By the end I was rooting for Cassie to defeat the preacher and bring to light what he had done. Reviewed by Skye

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

The Awakening

Michael Timmins Dark Fantasy The Druid War has ended after a year of bloody combat, as Lycan armies battled each other to decide the course of civilization. Kestrel and her Lycan army have been defeated by the Druidess Sylvanis’ Lycan army. Kestrel, unbeknownst to Sylvanis, has cast a powerful spell. One, that upon her death, her essence shall remain upon this Earth until the last stone of the Calendar, what we know now as Stonehenge, falls. The spell will also awaken the power of lycanthropy in the ancestors of her champions, allowing her to cheat death and return to once again wage war on civilization. Sylvanis executes Kestrel for her crimes, thus setting in motion Kestrel’s spell. Sylvanis discovers the deceit and is left with no alternative but to cast a spell of her own. When Kestrel’s spell goes into effect, Sylvanis will be reborn, and her champions will awake as well, to fight against Kestrel and her Lycans....

Uncaged Review: The Awakening is high energy and exciting. The story has unique perspectives and gives new takes on old ideas. Druids and lycans are both age old story ideas, but Timmins does a great job of giving a new twist on both. Personally, I had a little trouble getting past the beginning. I actually put it down a couple of times because I was somewhat bored and having trouble following the storyline because of it. Eventually the story does take off and once it does, it’s nonstop. I’m glad I didn’t give up on this book. I’m not a fantasy reader, and this had a bit more fantasy than I generally like, but it’s not overwhelming. That being said I did enjoy this book more than I thought I would after struggling with the beginning. The character development is great and Timmins has a talent for creating characters that are both fantastical but believable as well as being relatable. Overall this was an enjoyable read, not my favorite, but I think if you can get past the beginning with the world building and character development, most people who enjoy fantasy will like this book as well. Reviewed by Melanie

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

I Am Terry Walker Skye Andrews Fiction/Serial Killer

I Am Terry Walker is about a serial killer who uses torture methods to kill his victims. For two decades, he remained anonymous. This is his story.

Uncaged Review: This book reads as a journal with date by date accounts of his victims, and it jumps into the thoughts of a serial killer, his thoughts and his own warped reasoning on the different ways he kills his victims. This book does not hold back, and it’s not recommended for the squeamish. It’s one of those books you don’t really want to read, but you can’t put it down either. I don’t think I’ll even ask where the author got their information on some of the torture methods, as there were quite a few I never heard of before. This isn’t a long book – but it’s a sick look into the mind of a very sick man. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Graphic violence


Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Uncaged Reviews Stealing the Show

Lilliana Rose Contemporary Western Kristie comes to the Royal Adelaide Show every year with the sheep. This year will she return with more than just prizes? Or will she steal the heart of a man as well, and snag the love of her life? Kristie Johnson plans to run the family farm one day. As the only child, she lives with her parents and struggles to get them to see that she can make her own decisions and that she is a grown woman. Then, she meets Tully Row, a dancer performing at the show and she turns to him for a few days of fun. Instead she finds herself falling for him, especially when she finds out he’s a country boy himself.

Uncaged Review: Stealing the Show is the second book in Lilliana Rose’s Showtime Fever series. Tully is working as a dance to help pay for his law degree. There was no room on the dairy farm and he had to do something. At the annual Royal Adelaide Show and a miss understanding at the coffee shop brings Kristie and Tully together however briefly there was a spark. Kristie helps her family’s sheep. Can these two come back together? I like the way the author tells her story. The reader feels like they are right there in the showroom with Tully and Kristie. Kristie keeps coming back to see Tully and you can’t help but see these two make some kind of relationship. Reviewed by Babs

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

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Insanity Tales III Various Horror Anthology

Step into the world of a brilliant grad student who creates a powerful new drug that pushes the imagination to its darkest edge. Shudder with a woman who becomes lost in the catacombs beneath an ancient church, only to discover she’s not alone. Feel the back of your neck tingle when an orphan brings a dangerous secret into her loving new home. Cringe as a young boy is seduced by a sinister technology. Cry out with two lovers who encounter a bizarre creature at a secluded beach.

Uncaged Review: A collaboration of horror tales that leave you feeling that just anything anywhere can get you. It could be a routine shopping trip or even the job you kept putting off about. Finally fixing your vegetable garden. So readers beware - anything can happen in this book. You are in for a treat there’s some real goodies featured in this book. So put the kettle on take a break and enjoy a tale or two. Happy reading folks! Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Violence, language, sexual situations

Lovely Scars

The Savage from the Sea

Cassandra Jamison Young Adult Snooping on your boyfriend’s phone is never a good idea. Collins can’t help herself after he unexpectedly commits suicide, but what she finds makes her grateful he’s dead. Collins Carpenter has always been the textbook good girl until her freshman year of college when an unplanned pregnancy with her best friend, Everett, complicates everything. In a desperate attempt to deny her feelings for her child’s father and her jealousy toward his new girlfriend, Collins jumps into a relationship with Brock Webber. Nobody suspects that his good looks and charm masks something quite sinister until after his death, when the things he had been involved in finally come to light. Disturbing and inexplicable events leave Collins wondering if Brock’s spirit is not at rest or if somebody from his past is after her. Somebody who may be closer than she thinks.

Uncaged Review: A dark read that kept me on my toes reading. I admit I can sometimes guess the bad person in the book. This time I was pleased to see the author out-did me. A young single mother finds herself in danger after finding out her boyfriend isn’t who he says he is. A game of cat and mouse begins. I can highly recommend this book as I think this was a great read. Looking forward to seeing what the author comes up with next. Reviewed by Jennifer

Claire Harris Viking/Medieval

The pagan Vikings pillage the shores of Anglo-Saxon England, striking fear in the hearts of the people. Fighting alongside the men, Finna Vidisdóttir is all too happy to participate in their destruction, until a near-fatal defeat lands her in the hands of the enemy. ...

Uncaged Review: Finna was raised and trained as a warrior for her clan. Strong and capable, and when they plan a raid on enemy lands, most of her clan is killed along with her husband. Taken captive, she slowly learns that the leader of the clan, Colby, is an honorable man and she fights her growing feelings. As she gains his trust, will she be able to go back to her clan when the bartering is over? This is a really well done Viking historical. Finna is a warrior and Colby doesn’t understand how women from Finna’s clan can be allowed to fight, when he believes women need to be cherished and honored. As feelings grow between them, each of them see the honor and passion in the other. This book is hard to put down – even from the first chapter – it captured my interest and held it all the way through. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Young Adult Mild language, sexual situations

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence, sex

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Uncaged Reviews Enslaving the Day

The Corona Book of Horror Stories Various Horror Shorts

The Corona Book of Horror Stories celebrates the best in new horror writing and brings you 16 dark tales from the best horror writers you’ve never heard of. Herein you will find the brilliant products of dark imaginations, certainly; and something to scare you, revolt you or unnerve you, probably – it depends on how jaded and degenerate a soul you are. What we can promise you is a wealth of new writing talent with a variety of different takes on what can constitute horror. You will meet horror that is graphic, or merely sinister; supernatural, or natural - where the source of the horror is all too human. There’s the tale of the breakfast that is life-changing (and not in a good way), the story of the loner whose obsession in life is keeping parasites .... among many more dark delights to be found inside.

Uncaged Review: I think in this book there is something for everyone in the slightly weird and strange tales the storytellers have come up with. A rather strange box appears one day on your window. Would you keep it or throw it away only to have it return the next day. Readers beware shopping for lovely ornaments for your house, you never know the story behind them. A rather entertaining read which leaves you gobsmacked at some of the stories. Also this book is a good way to read some new talented authors you may never have heard of or some you do. I was very happy to be lucky enough to have been able to read this. A must have for horror fans. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations, language

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Jenn Langston Historical Regency

One night’s mistake finds Lady Annalise Hera in a very compromising situation. Pregnant, unmarried, and on her way to Gretna Green. Although Baron Dailey put her in this position, she belatedly realizes she can’t marry him and will do anything to get him to release her. Even lie. After all, life would be better as a disgraced, unwed mother than the wife of a cocky, irritating man she can barely tolerate.

Uncaged Review: If Annalise has quite the reputation as its believed she has - she’s not as innocent as she would have others think, so when she finds herself with child the worrying begins on the outcome this will bring to her and the rest of her family. Thoughts of telling the father occur to her, but remain worthless as the father of her child has a mistress. I really enjoyed this book and have been very lucky to have read both in the series. This books focuses on the touched by fire series. The series is based on a group of childhood friends who got injured in a fire and there attempts. To find happiness. I think the series is very entertaining and the books can also be enjoyed as standalone reads. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

Ellie Walker’s Justice

Worship Me

Susan Federici Historical Western

Craig Stewart Horror

When Ellie Walker spots smoke coming from the direction of her farm, she races home to find her father mortally wounded and everything they own, burned to the ground. As her father lay dying, he tells Ellie that the son of his estranged wife, Tom Gordon, is the one responsible. Ellie vows to find Tom and bring him to justice.

Uncaged Review: Ellie rushes to her home when she sees smoke when she arrives she sees everything gone and her father wounded. He tells Ellie who has done this and she vows to get Tom as her father dies. She works hard to learn how to shoot better and with her neighbors Mustang she heads out to find Tom and make him pay. Ellie saves Clint’s life in a range war and after he sees how she handles herself he delays her journey but not before his mother and his old sweetheart arrive. Delphine doesn’t make Ellie’s life easy. She is hurt and leaves to Clint’s dismay. He has to find her fast but Ellie needs to find Tom. The authors does an excellent job with the plot and characters. You really want Ellie to find Tom but yet you feel for Clint and what he is going through. The reader can feel the pull between the characters and it makes you want to turn the pages to find out what happens. Reviewed by Babs

Something is listening to the prayers of St. Paul’s United Church, but it’s not the god they asked for; it’s something much, much older....

Uncaged Review: Something is listening to the prayers of St Paul’s United Church but it’s not the God they asked for; it’s something much, much older A quiet Sunday service turns into a living hell when this ancient entity descends upon the house of worship and claims the congregation for its own. The terrified church goers must now prove their loyalty to their new God by giving it one of their children or in two days time it will return and destroy them all. As fear rips the congregation apart, it becomes clear that they’re to survive this untold horror, the faithful must become faithless and enter into a battle against God itself. But as time runs out, they discover that true monsters come not from heaven or hell ….. they come from within. Apart from a couple of spelling errors and the occasional number randomly dumped in here and there, I enjoyed the book. The ending was a little open which could lead onto a sequel. There didn’t seem to be a winner at the end and I was a little disappointed that it didn’t really have a conclusion. Reviewed by Skye

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews The Witches of Ravencrest Tamara Thorne &Alistair Cross Horror/Paranormal Dark and Unnatural Powers In a remote part of California just above the coastal town of Devilswood, Ravencrest Manor, imported stone-by-stone from England more than two centuries ago, looms tall and terrifying, gathering its dark and unnatural powers, and drawing those it wants as its own. Murder Lurks in the Shadows Governess Belinda Moorland has settled into life at Ravencrest and, as summer gives way to autumn, romance is in the air. She and multi-millionaire Eric Manning are falling in love … but powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart. And as the annual Harvest Ball is set to begin, evil abounds at Ravencrest. Murder lurks in the shadows, evil spirits freely roam the halls, a phantom baby cries, signaling a death in the mansion, and in the notoriously haunted east wing, three blood-soaked nuns, Sisters Faith, Hope, and Charity, tend to the demented needs of a maid gone mad. Vengeful Spirits Ravencrest has come to life. In the gardens below, granite statues dance by moonlight, and a scarecrow goes on a killing rampage, collecting a gruesome assortment of body parts from unwilling donors … But Belinda’s greatest danger is the vengeful spirit of Rebecca Dane. Once the mistress of Ravencrest, Rebecca Dane has a centuries-old ax to grind with the powerful witch, Cordelia Heller - and Belinda becomes her weapon of choice.

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: These guys are assholes. Seriously, they are assholes. I say that because I love them, but that is so not what I expected from this book. I mean, granted, overall, this was what I expected, but I so did not see that ending coming and I feel somewhat disgruntled. I love these authors and this ending doesn’t change that, but dammit! The Witches of Ravencrest follows right after The Ghosts of Ravencrest ended. Cordelia Heller is still a pain in the ass and Belinda is still discovering who she is. It’s exciting to me to see how they are both developing and growing as characters. We learn more and more about the family that calls Ravencrest home, both their back-stories and tales of their personal lives. With each story, we learn more and more and I think it really helps the reader develop an attachment to both the story and the family. It’s hard for me to say much about this book without giving anything away. Just know that it will grab your attention and not let go until it’s had its way with you.

Diary of a Single Wedding Planner Violet Howe Humor Wedding planner Tyler Warren left heartbreak behind when she ran away from her small Southern hometown and started a new life in a big city. Years later, she wants to believe in the fairy-tale endings her job promotes, but the clients she meets day after day seem to be more “Crazily Ever After” than “Happily Ever After.” Meanwhile, her own attempts at romance play out as bizarre comedies rather than love stories, and she’s starting to think Prince Charming either fell off his horse or got eaten by a dragon. When unresolved issues from Tyler’s past complicate things even further, she discovers she may yet have some things to figure out before she can find her own happy ending. This delightful first book in the Tales Behind the Veils series chronicles Tyler’s wacky misadventures, both personal and professional. Whether she’s getting insane requests from brides or outlandish requests on dates, you’re sure to be charmed and entertained by the Diary of a Single Wedding Planner.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I don’t read Romance. I avoid it at all costs, yet I somehow found myself dragged kicking and screaming into Diary of a Single Wedding Planner. I don’t know how it happened really. I was minding my own business, and the next thing I know, I’ve bought, read and loved all the books. This is a book for chicks who don’t like chick books. It’s freaking hilarious. If you have ever been married or a bridesmaid you can probably relate to a lot of what is in this book. The people Tyler encounters while planning weddings are truly insane. There were times where I wanted to grab her by the face and shake the crap out of her. She didn’t always make decisions I was happy about, but the overall story itself had me hooked from the first paragraph. Besides, in reality, who makes perfect decisions every time? I wish she had been a bit less of a pushover, but it’s not my book. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a gut busting laugh that will make you question whether or not you were this insane when you were planning your own wedding. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be glad you don’t have Tyler’s job! If you don’t like romance, but do like to laugh at it, this may be the book for you.

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Monsterland Michael Okon Horror/Young Adult Welcome to Monsterland—the scariest place on Earth. Wyatt Baldwin’s senior year is not going well. His parents divorce, then his dad mysteriously dies. He’s not exactly comfortable with his new stepfather, Carter White, either. An ongoing debate with his best friends Melvin and Howard Drucker over which monster is superior has gotten stale. He’d much rather spend his days with beautiful and popular Jade. However, she’s dating the brash high-school quarterback Nolan, and Wyatt thinks he doesn’t stand a chance. Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Monsterland by Michael Okon is an interesting take on the whole monster genre. It is unique but lighthearted while having a dark side at the same time. Wyatt sounds like a normal teenager and is easy to relate to. He’s got an interesting home life, and in some ways is your stereotypical “different” kid. He brother is kind of a dick, but what can you do? Okon does a remarkable job of making the story come to life in Monsterland. From his description of the Monsterland logo, which I would really like to see in real life, to the descriptions of the different “lands” of Monsterland, I felt I could see the story in it’s entirety. The living condition of each species of “monsters” is both interesting and heartbreaking at the same time. The impression is given the monsters

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are happy and content where they are, but once the story gets going, it does make you wonder if that is truly the case. Monsterland is much like a zoo. The animals appear happy, but is that actually the case? What would happen if they could communicate with one another to escape? The monsters are seen as completely inhuman, as though there is no chance for redemption among them. I have random notes within my kindle of different thoughts I had while reading. One especially made me laugh. The idea the werewolves are located in the Everglades had me cracking up. While I was reading this, my husband was planning his biannual fishing trip to the Everglades. Since he’s more into werewolves and I’m more into vampires, I thought it was funny how much he enjoys going down there. Another note I have is referencing the correlation between the music industry and vampires. I honestly have no idea what that was about but my note says “ask about music industry connection” when they are talking about Melvin’s mother lol. I do have to say I was disappointed in the Vampires intelligence. They seem fairly dumb and single minded. I wish they had been smarter, but that’s life. Or unlife. Or whatever. Overall, this is a pretty good book. I enjoyed reading it, as well as the different perspective it offered. It’s not often you come across a monster book with any truly unique properties, but Monsterland definitely offers a take on things much different than other’s I’ve read. I recommend it to anyone looking for a paranormal/horror-ish type of book that’s an easy and fun read.

Pursuing the Light Bonnie Gill Fantasy/Paranormal L.A.M.P.S. hunter Leif Gunther grew up as an only child. He has a system for keeping order in his life while hunting Cryptids. He enjoys the solitude and quiet the job provides. Until a chatty redhead is assigned to assist him in his quest for the pack of Goochies terrorizing West Virginia and his systemized life gets turned upside down. ...

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: One of the things I like about Bonnie Gill’s books is that they are supernatural, but don’t necessarily follow traditional creature rules. She doesn’t focus on mainstream monsters, but takes lesser known beasts and throws her own spin on them. Her first book features the Jersey Devil and a girl that turns into it whenever she gets her period. Which, let’s face it, many of us turn into something similar. In Pursuing the Light, our focus is on Goochies. Which sound adorable right up until they are chewing your face off. I’m not one to normally comment on covers, but I really did think this one was cute. Holly is the kind of character I think of when I hear of a woman who is strong and a monster hunter. She has a personality and can be warm and caring, while also being a bad ass and takes no shit from anyone, especially someone who tells her she can’t do something. At the same time, and I speak from experience, that isn’t always the best way to be. I’m more likely to do something stupid if someone tells me I’m not capable just to prove them wrong.

Holly is hunting Goochies. Which are these little furballs that behave like piranha. They are up in West Virginia near Holly’s family home tearing up farm animals and worse. She is having to work as a cleaner for Leif, the guy who pissed her off during her L.A.M.P.S tryouts. Did I mention Leif is super hot? Well, Holly thinks he is. He has a bad attitude due to past experiences and carries quite the chip on his shoulder. Overall, I like the way the story is written, as well as how the characters develop etc. It has everything a good story needs. There is sexual tension and light romantic aspects, while filling pages with plenty of action as well. There is a big emphasis on the personal interaction between Holly and Leif throughout the story and their “relationship” is a big part of the story itself. We are given hints as to parts of Holly’s background, but I would like to have known just a bit more. I didn’t feel like the condition of her family home is talked about or explained quite enough as well as her situation with her mother. I do love the addition of the Sheepsquatch. As her “furry godmother” Tilly sounds awesome. She lends a level of humor and uniqueness to the story. I wouldn’t mind reading a prequel novella or something like that about the relationship between Tilly and Holly. Pursuing the Light is a good read for anyone looking for something a little different, but not too far off center. It’s believable in the world of the unbelievable and kept my attention throughout. I didn’t laugh quite as much as I did with the first book, but there was still a lot of humor.

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews

Wasteland Frank Tayell Horror/Post-Apocalyptic Billions died during the global civil war that followed the outbreak. Anarchy took grip. Chaos ruled. The world collapsed. In Britain, the evacuation failed. Nowhere is safe from the un-

dead. Three months after the outbreak, Bill Wright has found safety in a ruined Abbey in southern England, but he is still alone. All he has for company are the files sent to him before the outbreak by the shadowy Washington fixer he only knows as Sholto. On those, he believes he has found the origins of the undead, and the vast conspiracy in which he discovers he played an unwitting part...

Myra’s Review: Bill has made it to Brazely Abbey and it’s pretty secure but he knows he’ll be running out of food by the winter. He decides to try for Lenham Hill. Sure, the government bunker should have plenty of supplies if he can get in, but his ultimate goal is the virus. Is it still stockpiled there? If so, he wants to make sure it is destroyed. Meeting other survivors feels good to Bill at first, especially after rescuing Karen. The teen Annette 118 |

and the baby Daisy are also welcome new members. But he’s not sure about a small group they meet later. There’s something “off” about each one and Bill doesn’t trust them. As a reader I didn’t either. After the new group members read Bill’s journal (scumbags for reading a person’s private journal!), they are angry and accusatory; he is the creator of the evacuation plans. Bill was correct in not trusting the new people, who betray him and Karen by leaving them to the zombies, and running off with Annette and Daisy. They persevere and are determined to get the kids back from the others. There’s lots of fighting zombies and surviving, but this book didn’t have the tense, exciting feel of the first novel. The series has me hooked but I hope the next book edges back to the intensity of the first. Series recommended for zombie fans and those who love Britain as a setting like I do.

White Flag of the Dead Joseph Talluto Horror/Post-Apocalyptic Millions died when the Enillo Virus swept the earth. Millions more were lost when the victims of the plague refused to stay dead, instead rising to slay and feed on those left alive. For survivors like John Talon and his son Jake, they are faced with a choice: Do they submit to the dead, raising the white flag of surrender? Or do they find the will to fight, to try and hang on to the last shreds or humanity?

Myra’s Review: I enjoyed this story very much. John Talon was an interesting character and likeable even though he was hard-ass in dealing with stupid people or marauders. John was methodical and smart in watching how others made deadly mistakes and not repeating them; such as when fighting a zombie don’t stand still and make yourself more of a target. He observed and learned, like noting passersby riding bikes; a good, quiet method of escaping the zombies. It was refreshing to find a character who didn’t repeatedly make stupid mistakes.

only for himself but the growing community. He wants to expand outward and gradually take back the land from the undead; to create thriving communities. There’s lots of fighting which is always fun, including the killing of some real scumbag humans. Of course there is also scavenging for items; some in houses, some in stores. I bring this up because one reviewer said it was unrealistic (paraphrasing) that stores would still be found stocked. I totally disagree and have always thought it dumb that when the world goes “undead” in a fast take-over, that survivors search for food or other supplies like there are none left. To me, it is realistic in these scenarios to expect the world to be full of items just waiting to be found. Recommended for zombie fans. I’ve had this book in my collection for years and had forgotten about it. A reread tells me I need to order the next book and thankfully the author has written many zombie novels since I purchased this one.

I found the relationship between John and his infant son, Jake, very touching. You can tell the author is a dad the way he describes little details only a parent would know. Even though he lost his wife in a sad scene, John is determined to live for his son and to keep him alive, no matter what it takes. The hero gradually runs into other survivors and they soon start a community. The ideas John and his friends come up with for were inventive in many cases. I love the use of shipping containers for fencing. What could be stronger? I’ve read this in another book but that is the only one I can remember using the same technique. Talon has plans for a future, not Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Shattered Hourglass J.L. Bourne Horror/Post-Apocalyptic In a desperate bid to take back the continental United States— where hordes of undead now dominate the ravaged human population—a Navy commander leads a global mission to the heart of the pandemic. Task Force Hourglass is humanity’s final hope, and his team’s agonizing decisions could mean living one more day—or surrendering to the eternal hell that exists between life and death. Myra’s Review: Kil is taken aboard a submarine, the USS Virginia. Those in command in the government want Kil to help with a secret mission into China; bringing back Patient Zero. They hope to create a cure from the first victim. When it is revealed who/what Patient Zero is, it was strange to say the least. Meanwhile, Kil’s girlfriend, Tara and the rest of his friends are onboard the ship USS George Washington. Unbeknownst to them, radioactive specimens (from nuked cities) have been brought onboard to study. Needless to say, these creatures cause mayhem later. A special ops team is sent into the interior of Oahu. They were brave and fought valiantly against crazy odds, but unfortunately two were killed. Honestly, I did not understand why these soldiers were sent on this mission. Also, a four man team are sent to secure Hotel 23. The team must move around only at night; one, the undead don’t see well in the dark and two, the mysterious group who sent Project Hurricane to Hotel 23 in the last book can have “eyes” on the group during the day. Unfortunately, a deadly fig-

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ure known as “God” does in fact have eyes on them. Meanwhile, several unlucky scientists and soldiers are trapped in the frozen Arctic. They really can’t expect rescue but start communicating with the USS George Washington, in hopes that something can be done eventually to help them. Their worst issue is the cold. Fuel is running short and the idea they came up with to use the undead to create fuel was gross and brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed the first 2 installments of this series. These were written in first person while this novel was written in 3rd person. I actually like 3rd person stories better, but for this series it didn’t work as well. The story didn’t feel as personal. There were too many characters to me; it was hard to keep track of everyone and their missions. I like military jargon in a zombie apocalypse, which gives it a “real” flavor. But the overuse of it was overkill for this reader and made the reading very slow.

World War Z Max Brooks Horror/Post-Apocalyptic The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched firsthand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.... Myra’s Review: If you’ve watched the movie, and not read the book, I highly recommend it. As many other fans of the book expressed; I was disappointed the movie did not follow the plot of the book. The main reason I love zombie stories so much is seeing how people survive and this book was filled with many such stories. We follow a reporter who interviews survivors after the zombie wars. People still have to deal with the undead, but in manageable numbers, not the onslaught that almost extinguished the human race. The reporter journals the techniques people used to survive, with some ingenious methods and fascinating stories; such as the use of old castles in Europe, or a town who lived in houses on stilts.

survive zombies and shared online. But it wasn’t real to him, until Kondo threw back his curtains and realized the zombie infestation on the streets was outside his door. The way he escaped was interesting and dangerous. Tomonaga was an old blind man in Japan, one of the Hibakusha (survivors of the bomb in WW II. They were treated with sympathy and sorrow, but were little more than social outcasts) . He escaped to the Hiddaka Mountains national park, hoping to get away from people, so as not to be a burden while humanity fought to survive. Tomonaga quickly learned to kill zombies with a shovel he’d brought with him as a cane. He knew each part of the park and used hills, rocks and other natural obstacles to give him the advantage in fights. He piled up many kills. One day a human stumbles into the park. Tomonaga and Kondo team up; the old man becoming a mentor to the frightened young man. Two other favorites were; one, a man who was a dog hater and became one of the trainers who paired with a canine in order to recon zombie locations. How he went from dog hater to dog lover was a searing tale of guilt and regret. The second was about a female pilot making survival drops to sieged people. When her plane crashes, her survival is tied to a mysterious ham operator, a skywatcher (those who watch for downed planes and do what they can to aid in rescue). We discover in the end, the interactions were not possible. Not only was there no record of the woman operator, but the pilot’s radio was busted when she landed via parachute. This novel is a Must Read for zombie fans!

My favorite story was two different characters whose tales intersected. Kondo was a computer geek in Japan. He and his internet friends researched how to Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews On The Couch Alma H. Bond Historical Fiction Barbra Streisand has been a show business staple for decades, from Funny Girl and Hello, Dolly! to The Way We Were and, more recently, the Fockers franchise. Whether gracing a stage, screen, or album cover, Barbra’s iconic silhouette is a globally-familiar image. We know Barbra the star, but how well do we know Barbra the woman? Amy’s Review: Absolutely gripping If you’re a fan, or just curious about Streisand, this is a book you won’t want to miss out on. I couldn’t put it down. I could picture Babs on the couch, pouring her heart out, sharing her personal and celebrity life. It’s not a non fiction book, but it was created so perfectly with past real interviews, and events that were used to create these couch “sessions”. It was a remarkable book and I really enjoyed it. I look forward to reading more of Dr. Bond’s work, especially her other couch sessions. The book took the reader on the journey of Streisand’s life, including triumphs and tribulations throughout her life. Totally compelling, and a book you read from cover to cover, and maybe even reread.

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Shattered Lies S.J. Francis Women’s Fiction She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone... Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm--until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen. Amy’s Review: Heartfelt and inspiring! It’s one of those books that once you finish, you’ll put on your shelf to read it again. I really was connected with Kate, and her story. It’s a remarkable journey and it was written so much that you could feel the emotions jump off the page. There was a hint of mystery and a grand family connection, and a link to her home. A place that has always been her home, and always welcomed her, except for the secrets of the attic. This story brings you into an adventurous drama. Highly recommended!

Serenity Avenger Craig A. Hart Suspense/Crime A ruthless crime boss…a mansion with a chilling secret…a young man faced with the biggest decision of his life. When his daughter goes into premature labor, Shelby Alexander leaves his northern hideaway for downstate. No sooner does he drive into town, than things go sour. His ex-wife, Helen, faces deadly consequences after hard times force her to take desperate measures, setting off a dangerous chain of events. Racing against time to save those he loves the most and avoid unspeakable tragedy, Shelby faces down an evil crime lord, trained killers, and one of the closest brushes with death yet. Amy’s Review: Thrilling! I haven’t read the first two books in the series, and found it probably isn’t necessary, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go back and read those. Shelby is one of those intriguing characters and the story is filled with action. Shelby is forced to save his ex-wife and daughter, and it’s one of those I-can’t-put-it-down books. I look forward to starting from the beginning to get a better feel for Shelby and hopefully there will be more to come.

Break Point Kate Rigby Gay Fiction/Sports It’s the start of the 1999 Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Break Point is not only about an obsession with Wimbledon: the game of tennis itself becomes a metaphor for the other psychological matches taking place at the house of peevish old Gwen McMahon. Carers come and go, but who will survive to the final?

Amy’s Review: Game. Set. Match! What a great story. Now, I am a big fan of Rigby and the way she writes and tells a story. Now, this is a great story with the focus on a tennis, and the obsession of the career that focuses on Wimbledon. However, there is a mix of romance within this tale, but there is a great connection between the characters. The basis for the story may seem like it’s the tennis obsession, but I think there is that daring exploration of relationships within the story, both past and present, sexual and not sexual. A lot of emotions running through this book, and it’s one of those, that you won’t want to put down.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews The Pacifist Mehreen Ahmed Historical Fiction In 1866, Peter Baxter’s misfortune ends the day he leaves Badgerys Creek orphanage. Unsure of what to do next, Peter finds himself on a farm run by Mr. Brown. An aging man, Brown needs help and is happy to give Peter a place to live in exchange for his labor. Unbeknownst to Peter, Brown’s past is riddled with dark secrets tied to the same orphanage, which he has documented in a red folder.

Amy’s Review: Storytelling at its best! This book was nominated for one of my Best Indie Titles of 2017 awards on my author blog, and I was honored to already have read the book before the nomination. Something about the way this story was put together and how it was told, draws the reader in immediately. Ahmed shows the audience the difference between richness and poverty. Being rich or poor is not an issue when it comes to love, but it can be, especially in one’s own mind. The pen is a grand storyteller, and it paints a wondrous and dark story that brings the reader right in the middle of the families, and the secrets that are held close. Darkness is a loom over the story, but it brings that element that is needed, a hint of realism and soulfulness of both Peter and Rose. The demons of the past are sure to haunt the future, and the backstory is what makes the story enriching and compelling.

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No More Crying Angels Bella Capo, Morgan St. James, Dennis N. Griffin Women/Memoirs THIS TRUE STORY WILL SHOCK AND INSPIRE YOU. Bella Capo is not her given name, but who she has become. Bella grew up as the abused child of a well-to-do power broker with organized crime ties, a drug-addicted mother and a physically and sexually abusive brother. Amy’s Review: Inspiring and amazing A true story that holds onto the reader and doesn’t let go. Bella is a remarkable person who is sharing her experiences of survival and the life she led, and the life she was trying to escape from. It’s more powerful and gripping because it’s based on a true story. There is a light in this story, and it’s more than just survival, surviving the past, and PTSD that is hard to ever get away from, but being able to share the story and help others. Healing helps heal others. A story that needs to be read and shared.

Take Me to the Pink Yacht 2 Aurora Diamond Young Adult Parents. Teens. Coming of age kids. This a another heart-warming humorous read in the Pink Yacht series. Are you an overprotective parent? Would you sail 88 nautical miles to spy on your teen on her first date? Hop onto the Pink Yacht! The Pink Yacht goes to war. Before that happens, Saddy’s son Toti returns home after three years of being a vagabond, just lucky to evade arrest. But as he turns his life around, he ends up being incarcerated anyway- he has to stay in an old jailhouse he found to avoid living on the streets. Adrién Kòck is known for being an overprotective parent. He crosses over the line this time, trying to protect his daughter Donna from falling in love too soon. Then one day, Aurora Discovers a deadly secret while they spied on their daughter’s dating activities. It was the last time they ever did anything like that. Amy’s Review: Enjoyed this one as much as the first I liked the first one, and this one continues the work of this author. I like the witty story and it kept me reading, page after page. I laughed out loud. As a mother of grown boys, I found this story fun and interesting and a few head nods as I was reading it. I’ve read some of Diamond’s other work and am very impressed with her storytelling abilities. I know there’s a third book in this series and I look forward to reading that one as well.

An Accidental Messiah Dan Sofer Fiction/Religion THE JEWISH MESSIAH IS HERE. HE DOESN’T HAVE A CLUE. Rooms at the Dry Bones Society are filling up as more and more Israelis leave their graves to rejoin the living. But not everyone is happy to see them. Amy’s Review: Better than the first I read the first book in this series and absolutely loved it. This one, I think I liked it better than the first (An Unexpected Afterlife). There is something wonderfully surreal when dead Jews start appearing in the cemetery, wandering around naked. It started as a phenomenon but developed into something wonderful and yet sad. It is taken to a deep, heavy heart when a someone is being searched for her, but her remains were never recovered. ““The Germans? If you had told me the French I would have believed you, but the Germans? How many Jews died?” the question leaves a lump in your throat, but the answer makes you sick to your stomach. It’s a story that you should read from beginning to end, and hope there will be another one to follow. The reader of the first book will be familiar with many of the characters that are in this one, each having his or her own story and depth of personality. Filled with culture and heartwarming heartbreak. Love this story, recommend reading both, back to back if you can.

Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Jen’s Book Reviews Butterfly Dreams Sarah Northwood Poetry Poems that inspire a touch of magic, imagination and fantasy. Uplifting and light to read.

Jen’s Review: A collection of unique and magical poems featuring a unicorn called Jessie. Also Picnics in the Sky. Which I think is just the best thing ever readers young or old will enjoy this book. The author has a way lighting up even the darkest days with her words. Enjoy this collection of poems, I know I did.

Three Little Monsters, The Ghost of Wisdom Woods Jessica Snape Children Meet Grouch, Grumble & Gruesome, three little monsters who live in Wisdom Woods. They must score enough scare points each week by scaring people that wander into their home but, will a chance encounter with two mischievous children called Max and Melissa give them a fright they were not expecting and also cost Gruesome his points for the week? Jen’s Review: The first book in the monsters series which tells us a little history of the monsters home and how a bad tempered ghost ends up staying in their basement. This book also tells the readers a rather important message in a fun way. Not to go exploring strange houses - a rather entertaining read. With elements of Monster Inc. thrown in for good measure.

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Three Little Monsters, Gruesome Gets a Tooth Jessica Snape Children Gruesome finds out the hard way that even scary monsters have to go to the Dentist when he eats his favourite food…Snails! A trip to Doctor Cavity should sort his problem out as long as he listens to what the Dentist says…but will he?

Jen’s Review: A delightful story for young children featuring a monster called Gruesome who has a bad toothache that requires his two friends to go with him to the dentist for support. But the naughty little monster does not listen to the advice he’s been given and ends up being a handful. I think this book is a good way to get kids to learn in a fun way what happens when you get a toothache and what happens on a trip to the dentist. Some sound advice in this story for kids and adults alike

Heart Songs Mica Rossi Poetry Every new beginning comes from an ending. Life throws you curves and potholes just when you’re traveling the smoothest and straightest of roads. Whether you live inside a sugarplum fairy tale, a jagged-edged nightmare, or somewhere in between, within these covers you’ll find a story or poem that will resonate to the music of your soul, a three hundred sixty degree sojourn of all our Heartsongs in their infinite capacities. Jen’s Review: Through a door you will see a glimpse of Eden - beautiful if you enter. Temptation may be too much. What would you do if a loved one was sick? The only way you could help is if you sold the very thing they held precious to them. What if you were awakened one day in the forest only to find that you’re mated? The one you love is really a wolf. This is just some of the stories thoughts and poems that make up this wonderful heartfelt book. I really enjoyed reading this as I started each new page I was taken to a world where anything could happen.

Visit Jen on Goodreads Issue 16 | November 2017 |


Jen’s Book Reviews Seaview Terrace Kate Rigby Humor Maxine lives in Number 7, the peeling Jewish house, where she has to stand on cushions to change light bulbs because she doesn’t know anyone well enough to ask for the use of their stepladder. She is also trapped in an unsatisfactory relationship with her misanthropist boyfriend Warren who “sits there baiting or attacking people in the road” and is indiscriminate with his prejudices. She is longing for a summer of excitement and change. Jen’s Review: A summer of madness over parking spaces and lost loves. In the little flats there’s all sorts staying, but this summer things get a little mad. As a new couple move in and people complain when they have to park miles away from there homes. New people come and go and relationships end and start. Everything you would expect from a hot summer and little holiday sea towns. I found this story quite amusing as it had a lot of rich characters and it just shows you that nosy neighbours come from any type of neighbourhood. Be it beach houses or villages. The bonus of this book as well is it’s a quick read that can be enjoyed at any time

Fifty Years of Fear Ross Greenwood Suspense/Crime Could you forgive murder? What if it was something worse? A childhood accident robs Vincent of his memories, causing him to become sensitive and anxious around others. His differences attract bullies, and he comes to rely heavily on the support of his family. After the devastating loss of his parents, a remarkable woman teaches him to embrace life and, little by little, he realises the world is far more forgiving than he imagined. When fragments of his memory return, he begins to unravel his past... Jen’s Review: A rather emotional masterpiece of reading in this third book. Giving insight into the prison world and how it can in a way be preprogrammed into our upbringing to turn out to have certain traits passed on to us by one of our parents. We follow Vincent and Frank, two brothers with very different views on life and how the choices they choose shape their lives. Some of the subject matter makes for a little uncomfortable reading and what we think we know about certain aspects of prisoners and prison life leads to a lot of eye opening. Or so it did in my opinion. I still enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it. This has a different subject matter to Ross Greenwood other two books. This focuses on providing us information on the prison world.

Visit Jen on Goodreads 128 |

Cora, Twisted Roots E.J Bennett Young Adult/Fantasy Cora De’mar is the princess of the witches. However her life is nowhere near a fairy tale. Her father is sick and the day she has been dreading since a child is looming closer. Soon she will be queen. But is being queen more than she can handle? Her youngest sister doesn’t trust her future husband. But there is nothing Cora can do, she has a duty. One that she must honour, for the sake of her people.

Jen’s Review: Cora now Queen to the Witches of De’mar finds herself in the heart of a battle to save her people and restore peace to the land or have darkness rule forever. This is a great first book telling the readers all about the witches of De’mar and is very action packed. I can see people enjoying Cora and her storyline. I for one can’t wait to jump into book 2.

Visit Jen on Goodreads Issue 16 | November 2017 |


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Uncaged Book Reviews  

November 2017 - Issue 16 Feature Authors - Michelle Levigne, P.J. Mann, Eva Pasco, Lyra Shanti, Skylar McKinzie, S.R. Mitchell, V.A. Dold, M...

Uncaged Book Reviews  

November 2017 - Issue 16 Feature Authors - Michelle Levigne, P.J. Mann, Eva Pasco, Lyra Shanti, Skylar McKinzie, S.R. Mitchell, V.A. Dold, M...