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ISSUE 19 | February 2018


cont featureauthors Jayne Frost

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Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from West of Forgotten • Review

Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Lost for You • Review

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Maria Elena

Alonso-Sierra

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Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from The Coin • Review

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Teresa Keefer

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C.J. Bower Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from On Track with Icing • Review

sneakpeek

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Tina Susedik Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from The Guardians • Review

Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Blessed Be • Review

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Lynda J. Cox

A first look at The Wicked Ones by J.Z. Foster


tents

Issue 19 | February 2018

shortstory

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DAnger-Road closed Ahead JB Woods Pt4c,5A

FangFreakinTastic

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Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Halloween House Party • Review

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Renaissance to Regency Historical Couture

Victoria Vane

CatchUp

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Need an original historical gown for a special occassion? Look no further.

Ginger Ring

Ginger Ring is back with her latest book in the Genoa Mafia Series, Escaping Ryan.

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Linda Rae Sande

Emily Wesley Stringer

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2018 Special Promotion

Editor’s Desk Blog Roll Call Uncaged Reviews Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Jen’s Book Reviews Sweet Southern Book Reviews

What’s next for Linda and a peek at her latest release, The Dream of a Duchess. Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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from the

editor’s desk Welcome to Issue 19, February 2018 - Uncaged Book Reviews! Our Feature Authors this month are all about the romance! This month we welcome Jayne Frost, Tina Susedik, Linda J. Cox, Teresa Keefer, C.J. Bower and Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra!

FangFreakinTastic is also bringing us a feature with author Emily Wesley Stringer! We are continuing our short story from JB Woods, Danger - Road Ahead Closed. Are you attending any historical retreats in the near future? Or just a book convention and you don’t have anything to wear? Look no further than the original designs of Victoria Vane’s Renaissance to Regency Historical Couture! Uncaged talked to Best Selling Author, Victoria Vane who moonlights as a fantastic dress designer! See page xx to learn more!

June 2018! We will be featuring several authors over the next few months that are attending the Wild Deadwood Reads convention in June! 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 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: UncagedBooks@gmail.com or cyrene.olson@gmail.com So thank you and enjoy the February 2018 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews!

We have plenty of reviews for you to look over from Uncaged, Fang-Freakin-Tastic, Myra’s Horror Blog, Amy’s Bookshelf, Jen’s Reviews and Sweet Southern Book Reviews. Thanks to all the affiliates for the wonderful devotion to reading. The Uncaged website now has a video playlist of some of the tunes I listened to as I put together the magazine, be warned, I have eclectic tastes in music. :) Authors can now submit a Short Story, and in return, I’ll give space for either a full page ad, or a 1-page Sneak Peek of a book for an approved story. You can read more about that here. Uncaged Feature Authors are now full through

UncagedBooks.com


Blog Roll Call Contributors, Advertising Swaps

Follow Uncaged on Facebook

Paranormal lover’s rejoice. Uncaged review contributors.

A blog for horror fans. Uncaged review contributors.

A little bit of everything. Uncaged review contributors.

Cozy mysteries, suspense and romance. Uncaged review contributors.

Help for authors and businesses.

If you’d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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showcase J.Z.Foster

The Wicked Ones The Wicked Ones J.Z. Foster Horror Releases Feb. 13, 2018

You know, the best thing about nightmares is that they’re not real. It’s all just in your head, and as soon as you wake up, pop! It’s all gone. You’re safe. It’s not like they could crawl out, creeping from your mind with long, slender fingers and milky yellow eyes sunken into heads with pointed horns bursting out. That’d just be insane. Daniel Tanner’s life is insane. A mysterious disease came to claim his son, seemingly pulling him into the grave with cold fingers named misery and hopelessness. Now a stranger has come calling with an even stranger tale of monsters—horrible things that take children in the middle of the night and leave their own, things that crawled out of the fairy tales our barbarous ancestors used to tell, things that they tried to warn us about. We didn’t listen. Because monsters aren’t real, are they? There’s no reason to fear the dark, no reason at all to believe the old tales about the creatures with a taste for human meat. That would be insane… wouldn’t it?

Excerpt

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A dead man’s stink crept up from the back seat of the car. It clung to clothing, seeped out through open windows and pierced the senses of those nearby. A cheerful whistle in the air said the pale man wasn’t concerned about the smell; rather it brought a tune to his lips. His feet were propped up on the dashboard as he enjoyed the glowing lights of New Athens. “You know what I like about small cities?” he asked the dead man. “They just fit so comfortably, don’t they?” “He can’t hear you,” came a childish voice, as fingers dug at the dead man’s flesh. “He’s dead!” “Heh, heh, heh. I always find the dead are the best listeners.” A thing prowled around in the darkness between the trees, snorting, followed by a low growl. “Looks like we have company,” the pale man said with a thin, gray-lipped grin toward the dead. He stretched up to his feet and stepped from the car, wiping a long, stringy strand of hair from his face and leaving the car door hanging open in the cool night air. “Oh boy, oh boy! Does that mean I can see my family now?” The creature in the back seat climbed out through the window and hopped to the ground, barely able to contain its excitement. “I think it does.” The pale man patted the creature’s raw, bald head. “You were always my favorite.” It looked up to him and smiled with a mouth full of needle teeth and pinkish, rubbery gums laced with purple veins. The thing from the woods stalked out, heavy and large, a nightmare given form. It used its arms like an extra set of legs, and its neck snaked out several feet. It dropped large chunks of mauled meat into the grass before the pale man, a gift of submission to a greater beast. The meat was so torn and violated that it gave no hint to what it once had been.


Without hesitation, the small child leapt at the offering, tearing meat from bone with its pointed teeth. Nearly a half-dozen sets of eyes opened in the darkness, and their hungry mouths followed the scent of meat. The pale man took one last deep breath as he looked out over the city. “Great city.” His grin stretched even farther. “I think I’ll take it.”

JZ Foster is an Urban Fantasy / Horror writer originally from Ohio. He spent several years in South Korea where he met and married his wife and together they opened an English school. Now a first time father, he’s moving back to the states - and his hometown roots. He received the writing bug from his mother, NYTimes best selling author, Lori Foster. You can follow his writing progress on his Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/JZFosterAuthor/ If you enjoyed this Witch Hunter preview and you’d like to know what else is happening in Richard’s world, write him directly - and he may just write you back! You can reach him at Boogeymancomes4u@gmail.com

jzfoster.com

Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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2018 Promotion Special Purchase any ad valued at $20 and up in 2018 (starting with the February Issue of Uncaged Book Reviews) and receive a FREE rotating footer ad on the website the following month! The rotating ad will be seen on all pages of the website, and not be subject to adblockers and remain onsite for 1 month!

Uncaged can design! Ad is 300px tall x 250px wide and linked to your choosing! Uncaged website has an average of 10-30,000 visitors per month!


Special feature

Renaissance to Regency - Historical Couture original creations by

Victoria Vane


| SPECIAL FEATURE |

V

ictoria Vane is not only Best-Selling Author but her original creations are awe-inspiring. Whether you are going to a historical convention, a historical writer’s retreat or just want to dress for any special occassion, look no further than Victoria Vane’s Renaissance to Regency Historical Couture. Each dress is an original masterpiece and historically correct. Uncaged talked with Victoria for this month’s issue, and stop by her Facebook page to see even more stunning gowns. Uncaged: I’ve been watching your beautiful work making the fabulous historical dresses for several months. Can you tell us how you got started in this venture? My historical dressmaking began two years ago, I was looking online for a historical costume to wear to a conference. I found this gorgeous gown online from a Chinese retailer (buyer beware). Three weeks later the package came and I was horrified! It looked NOTHING like the dress I ordered. It was absolutely hideous! But I still needed a dress, so I took a pair of scissors and cut it up! I literally took it apart and put it back together with an $88 Brother sewing machine I bought on Amazon! (Here is a link to a whole blog about it) After that I bought a very simple Regency pattern and made a dress from scratch. I was so proud of myself that I posted a picture of it on FB. One of my author friends really loved it and asked if she could buy it. I figured, why Not? I’ll just make another one for myself. The same thing happened a second, and then a third time! My dresses were getting attention and I adored making them! It has now been exactly two years and 80 dresses spanning from the medieval era to 1960! I am passionately in love with historical dressmaking! Uncaged: You make a lot of modifications to patterns, and even make some of your own designs. Where did you learn to sew? I took Home Ec in junior high and made one skirt. 12 | UncagedBooks.com

Other than that I am self-taught. Youtube has been my best resource! Uncaged follow-up: So much talent, I’m lucky to sew a button on after Home Ec classes. :) Uncaged: I’ve seen a lot of pictures of historical


| VICTORIA VANE | authors at retreats and conventions wearing some of your gowns. Are authors some of your biggest customers? Do you also do custom work and what that does that entail? Can you design any size? Authors have been my best customers, primarily because I know so many of them and we have so many opportunities to wear them at conferences and other author/reader events. Everything I make is custom. My creations are all one-of-a kind. I have made dresses in all sizes from little girls up to ladies size 20. Uncaged: Being a best-selling author, how do you divide your time between writing and sewing and the rest of your life, and can you send me a duplicate of you? ;) I have always been a night owl and do most of my writing at night, which leaves me time for sewing during the day. I generally wake up at about 9AM and stay up until about 2AM. (I usually take a short afternoon nap!) Uncaged: You were a feature author back in September 2016 – only the third issue of Uncaged, so first of all, thank you for helping to launch Uncaged Book Reviews. Can you tell readers what you’ve been up to since, and what we have to look forward to from you? After several years of trying to straddle both contemporary and historical romance, I have decided this year to focus only on historicals. My only reason for this is market driven. I just can’t write fast enough to stay relevant in two genres. I have also decided to do what I do best, which is writing very meaty stories with both strong history and a compelling romance. My latest project is my SONS OF SCOTLAND SERIES. The first book, VIRTUE released in September and the second book, VALOR, is coming in late February. I love these stories and believe they represent some of my very best work.

Uncaged: Finally, where can people contact you to inquire about the wonderful dresses and see more examples of your work? I post pictures of everything I create on both my personal FACEBOOK account https://www.facebook.com/author.v.vane and on my dressmaking Facebook page : RENAISSANCE TO REGENCY HISTORICAL COUTURE

Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| SPECIAL FEATURE | I also have a number of videos on you tube. Here is a link to my dress creations playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHZpwbysD2PWeESd9oH20wYY__TaCXofE For dress inquiries, email me directly at Victoria.vane@hotmail.com My prices range from $150-$375 depending on type of dress and materials used. (Regency gowns are the least expensive and Victorian bustle gowns are the highest)

Click to play below:

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| VICTORIA VANE |

Available now:

Coming in 2018 Victoria Vane is a bestselling, award-winning author of historical and contemporary romance whose books have received numerous accolades to include a 2016 RONE Award for BEAUTY AND THE BULL RIDER, 2015 Red Carpet Award for JEWEL OF THE EAST, 2014 RONE Award for TREACHEROUS TEMPTATIONS, and 2012 Library Journal Best E-Book romance for THE DEVIL DEVERE series. Victoria also has a passion for historical fashion and lives in the beautiful upstate of South Carolina with her husband, two sons, a little black dog, and an Arabian horse.

victoriavane.com

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ŠVictoria Vane - All Rights Reserved Used with permission.


feature authors

romance: contemporary suspense paranormal

Jayne Frost

Maria Elena

AlonsoSierra

Teresa

Keefer


feature author Jayne Frost, author of the Sixth Street Bands Romance Series, grew up in California with a dream of moving to Seattle to become a rock star. When the grunge thing didn’t work out (she never even made it to the Washington border) Jayne set her sights on Austin, Texas. After quickly becoming immersed in the Sixth Street Music scene… and discovering she couldn’t actually sing, Jayne decided to do the next best thing—write kick ass romances about hot rockstars and the women who steal their hearts. Want to join the tour and become a Jayne Frost VIP? Sign up for the Sixth Street Heat Newsletter http://eepurl.com/7XX-n to receive exclusive members only content, swag, giveaway opportunities, and all the latest news.

Stay Connected

Uncaged welcomes Jayne Frost! Uncaged: You just released your fourth book in the Sixth Street Band Series, Lost for You. Can you give the readers more information about this series? How many books are planned for this series, or is it openended? The series is open ended at the moment. The idea for Sixth Street Bands came to me in 2005-ish while I was driving on this backroad by Lake Travis in Austin. I always picture it as three bands. Right now, though, I just want to get book five finished. Logan’s book. Uncaged: What does an average day of writing look like for you? A writing day… Hm…what’s that? Lol. Ever since I released Missing From Me, I’ve been doing a lot of promotion, so my days aren’t just writing anymore. My ideal writing day consists of three to four hours of writing in the morning, interacting with readers for a little while in the early afternoon, then three more hours in the evening. Uncaged: I read the post on your blog about reviews – and as a matter of fact, you have some great blog posts. Do you still have need for that drawer with the Hershey bar stash?

Jaynefrost.com 18 | UncagedBooks.com

I’ll always have that drawer. Bad reviews sting. It’s hard putting your work out there for people to critique. I love all my characters and when someone doesn’t


connect with them it makes me feel like I’ve let the character down. And the reader.

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

Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? (Please tell me Logan is involved soon):)

Thank you so much for reading my stories. I try to put a piece of myself in every book.

LOGAN! Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? That they identified with the characters. That they forgot they were rockstars. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? My favorite part is the readers. I love the readers. My least favorite part would have to be trying to make sure I don’t let down the readers. :) Double edged sword. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Spend time with my husband and daughter. Doing anything with them Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? OMG. The first 3-5 chapters KILL me. I never know where to start. The end of the book is the easiest. I always know how it’s going to end.

Enjoy an excerpt from Lost for You Lost for You Jayne Frost Contemporary Rockstar Romance I’ve been clean for years. But now my addiction has a face. Her face... At eighteen, I stood at the precipice of stardom. I had the record deal. And the tour to back it up. But I succumbed to the pressure of that life. The dark side. Now, I skate on the fringe. My brother is the genius guitarist for the band Caged, and I’m the Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | one who helped make that happen. I’m happy to run my bars and my land development company. Sure I am. And then I meet her—Taryn Ayers—the music manager behind the three biggest bands in the country. She doesn’t know I’m Cam’s older brother. Or that I’ve got a secret that makes her world and mine fundamentally incompatible. Problem is, I want to know Taryn. I crave her as much as any drug. But can I risk letting her know me? Lost For You is a STAND ALONE New Adult Romance with recurring characters. Pick up books 1-3 to get the full experience! Intended for mature audiences due to hot as sin rockstars and the world they live in. **Please note: This book contains instances of drug use.** Taryn 5 years ago

Excerpt

A faint ringtone roused me, echoing off the walls in the loft. Indistinct. Generic. I pulled the blanket to my chin. Go away … “Phone, babe,” Beckett grumbled, his voice muffled by the pillow. Groaning, I patted the nightstand, searching for the source of my annoyance. When I came up empty, I cracked one eye open and spotted my jeans next to the bed, my phone hanging out of the back pocket. Teetering on the edge of the mattress, I snatched up the device and issued a groggy “Hello.” “May I speak to Taryn Ayers?” The woman’s voice, all business, filtered through 20 | UncagedBooks.com

the hum of conversation in the background. As I settled against the pillows, the room spun from too much wine at dinner and too much Beckett for dessert. “This is she.” Beckett draped an arm around my waist, his thumb skimming my ribs. Smiling, I rolled over and brushed a thick lock of hair from his face. His lips quirked but he didn’t move. “Miss Ayers, this is the Travis County Sheriff’s department dispatch calling.” The thick fog of sleep receded, leaving me fully awake. “Who?” “Miss Ayers … I’m a dispatcher with the Travis County Sheriff’s Department.” Slowly, I rose to my elbow. “Yeah … okay. What is it?” Beckett’s lids fluttered open and his cobalt eyes found mine. “Miss Ayers, we got your name from Preferred Motor Coach. There’s been an accident outside Fredericksburg involving a tour bus. Your name was listed as the point of contact.” Disentangling myself from the sheet, I sat up and scooted to the edge of the bed, my legs dangling over the side. “I’m sorry … an accident? What kind of accident?” “A semi-truck crossed the median and hit the bus at a high rate of speed. The survi … the injured parties are being transported to Brackenridge Hospital via Care Flight.” Beckett’s fingers brushed the base of my spine. “What is it, babe?” When I didn’t answer, his footfalls sounded on the hardwood. And then he was in front of me, moonlight from the floor to ceiling window framing his broad shoulders and illuminating the tips of his dark locks. He needs a haircut. Shifting my attention back to the faceless woman on the other end of the line, I cleared my throat. “But everyone’s all right, though?” After an eternity, she started to speak, but I couldn’t process what she said. Everything after


| JAYNE FROST | “I’m sorry” faded to white noise. And then, like a crash of thunder, her last words exploded in my head. “… officers’ on the scene reported two survivors and three fatalities at the crash site.” In front of me, Beckett crouched, his lips moving soundlessly as a tiny fissure formed in my chest. And then something shattered deep inside and the phone slipped from my numb fingers. Beckett scooped up the device and began to speak, but I couldn’t hear anything but the four-word refrain echoing in my head. Two survivors … three fatalities. Beckett cupped my cheek. “Taryn …baby …” “Hmmm?” When I didn’t look up, he slid his fingers into my hair and gently tipped my chin, forcing me to meet his gaze. “Baby … you’ve got to get dressed now.” Tears rolled down his cheeks, and I tracked a tiny rivulet with my finger. “Why?” Catching my hand, the crease in his brow deepened. “Why … I don’t …” Clumsy fingers circled my biceps. “Here … let me help you.” Wobbling to my feet, I yanked free from his hold. “Why?” Beckett scrubbed a hand over his face. “Babe, I don’t know why.” He snagged my jeans from the floor and shoved them at me. “Please, just get dressed. We have to go to the hospital.” Two survivors and three fatalities. A calm washed over me. Sweet relief. “It’s a mistake.” “Taryn—” “Listen to me!” Clutching his arm, my nails sank deep into his skin. “Don’t you see? Rhenn, Tori, Paige, and Miles.” Holding up a finger for every name I ticked off, I wiggled my digits. “That’s four. It’s a mistake.” Beckett crushed me to his chest. “Babe, it’s not a mistake. We have to go now. Please.” Confused, I peered up at him, the placid smile wobbling on my lips. “But I just told you …” Taking my face between his palms, he rested his

forehead against mine, anchoring us together. “Taryn, listen to me. There were five people on the bus. You didn’t count the driver.”

Uncaged Review Jayne Frost is a new author to me, and Lost for You is a fantastic introduction. I was all-in. Take two broken people, one a recovering drug addict and a successful business man that doesn’t do relationships, at all. One night, and a lot of “one nights” is all Chase Noble can handle. Then we have Taryn, a dynamic music manager at the top of her game, who lost two friends and nearly a third in a bus crash. Both broken people. When Chase meets Taryn and recognizes her in a Starbuck’s, he can’t fight the attraction. And Taryn seems up for a good one-nighter herself, or is she? Secrets and pasts that can either ultimately tear two people apart or bring them together, and it’s all brought together expertly by Ms. Frost. The seriousness of drug addiction is handled with believability, and a rawness that provokes your empathy with his struggle, and anger when he fell off the wagon. This book is not all sunshine and roses – there is a lot of angst and depressing moments for the characters, and at times I wanted to shake the hell out of Taryn for some of her actions, but I was engaged and committed to the characters and the story. To diffuse the seriousness of the book, there were bits of humor and genuine smiling moments infused throughout to lighten the tension. Don’t go into this story thinking it’s just a fun rockstar romp – but instead prepare yourself to be completely immersed in a sometimes serious, sometimes tense, sometimes witty, sarcastic, fun and sexy and an always an engaging story with nicely developed characters. I stayed up way too late reading this one. Reviewed by Cyrene

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feature author

Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra is a romantic suspense author with a unique point of view. Her adventure novels take place in locales across Europe and the United States, reflecting her international upbringing and extensive time as a global traveler. In her duology, The Coin and The Book of Hours, her characters, Gabriela and Richard, walk the same paths as their creator, though her life was never in so much danger. Her short story collection, The Fish Tank: And Other Short Stories, takes the reader on a ride across all genres; but the section, “Soul Songs,” delves into the gut-wrenching experience of exile through fictionalized Cuban Diaspora stories based on Ms. Alonso-Sierra’s own experience of exile. NY Literary Magazine describes The Fish Tank: And Other Short Stories as “a gracefully-written, varied collection of entertaining, touching, suspenseful and thought-provoking short stories. Her prose is vivid and distinct.” The author’s creepy short story, “Retribution Served”, is featured in the anthology Book Dreams: Volume 1, as well, available through all retailers. Ms. Alonso-Sierra’s writing career began circa age thirteen with a very juvenile science fiction short story, but the writing bug hit, and she has been writing, in one capacity or another, ever since. She has worked as a professional dancer, singer, journalist, and literature teacher in both the university and mid-

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dle school levels (and not necessarily in that order) and holds a Masters in English literature. She loves to hear from readers and, when not writing, roams around to discover new places to set her novels.

Stay Connected

mariaelenawrites.com


Uncaged welcomes Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra! Uncaged: Can you tell readers about your romantic suspense series, The Coin and The Book of Hours? The Coin and The Book of Hours are romantic suspense thrillers that revolve around an artist, Gabriela Martinez and Richard Harrison, the man who falls in love with her. In The Coin, readers see how Gabriela’s life is basically torn apart the moment she finds a coin in the middle of the mountain. That innocent incident thrusts her into a struggle between governments, terrorists, and madmen, all seeking knowledge she doesn’t know she has. Richard Harrison, the intelligence officer assigned to protect her, has all he can do to keep her safe. But when the psychological games to terrorize Gabriela escalate beyond his control, Richard must find a solution, especially since their bond grows, complicating things beyond the difficult. With the assistance of Maurice Nôret, Richard’s counterpart in French Intelligence, it’s a race to catch this killer before he can make his threat a reality—kill Gabriela. Fast forward four years later. In The Book of Hours, Gabriela’s life is somewhat normal, although the events of four years earlier are still affecting her, propelling her to an important crossroad in life. But at the moment, she’s focused on the auction of her medieval

manuscript recreation, one that, banking on her fame, will bring a lot of money for the children’s charity she sponsors. However, when art dealer, Arnold Wickham, catches a glimpse of Gabriela’s new work, he is like a man possessed. Now, he will do anything in order to claim it, and nothing, especially not Gabriela, will stand in his way. Richard discovers that Gabriela’s life may be in danger from another psychopath, and he takes the opportunity to protect her again. It is a gift, a second chance that can bring them together once more. This time around, however, Richard is not going to be a self-sacrificing idiot, but will fight tooth and nail for her. But, in the shadow of this new threat, the stakes are now much higher, and there is much more to lose. So, if Richard doesn’t stay one step ahead of the danger, their lives, but especially their future, may be forever be lost. The series is a wild ride, full of adventure, funny moments, and suspense. It also tackles important issues like love, loyalty, insanity, greed, family duty, hate, obsession, and deserved second-chances. It was a lot of fun writing it. Uncaged: The Coin is one of those rare books that could easily translate to the big screen in my opinion. The right amount of danger, intrigue Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | and romance would be a great story in a movie format. Who could you see playing the roles? Did you have any notable people imagined while writing?

work with them. It is very satisfying and a lot of fun.

Thanks. I think it can translate well to the big screen, too. I already have the screenplay written. Haven’t had time to pitch it, though. And who I could see playing the roles? Ah, that is an easy one. When I started writing the novel, a visual of a young Harrison Ford was in my mind

Yes. I read every review. I love reading reviews—great, good, and somewhat good—even the negative ones (haven’t gotten too many of those, thank goodness). Anyway, you can’t please everyone, not all the time and with all things, but I appreciate their honesty. What I found most satisfying is that most reviews agree the characters are strong and that the story was good. Some other reviews make me scratch my head and think: “Say what? Did you really read the novel?” But, like I said, I appreciate everyone who writes one.

for Richard. Later it changed to a young Hugh Jackman. And the reason for those choices is the eyes, and their expression of a depth to the man

Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next?

that goes beyond the physical beauty. For Gabriela, it was a bit difficult, since the visual in my mind didn’t match anyone. I finally chose Rachel Wiesz for my Gabriela. Again, it’s the eyes. Uncaged: You are an attending author for Wild Deadwood Reads convention coming in June. Have you been to an event like this one in the past? What are you looking forward to the most? I have been to many conventions such as Wild Deadwood Reads (but never in the same place twice). But what I’m looking forward to the most is meet new readers from a state I have not visited before. I love meeting people, sharing my experiences as author, and sharing my characters with them. I also love meeting new authors and net26 | UncagedBooks.com

Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them?

I’m working on a detective novel, set in New York City (another place I’ve lived). He’s detective Nick Larson. The novel should be done by February, with a launch of late March/April. It is titled: Hanging Softly in the Night: A Detective Nick Larson Thriller. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? That the characters and the story made them laugh and cry, and that they experienced everything about the action. Uncaged: What is your favorite part about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? Creating the story and the characters that live it. Putting down on paper what you have imagined and making it come to life is a real thrill. The least favorite is the time I have to devote to the marketing of the novel. It really takes its toll and takes a big chunk of time from my writing. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?


| MARIA ELENA ALONSO-SIERRA | Traveling. Exploring new places for future novels. Meeting new people. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? The hardest part is showing what is in my mind to readers without drowning them with pages and pages of unnecessary descriptions. I’ve learned to shorthand it. Sometimes you can’t help but want to share the minutia, and you have to cut to make it tighter and thrilling. The easiest is creating the characters and the dialogue. Don’t know why that comes easier. It takes me about a year from start to finish to complete a novel. For the short story collection – that took about 6 months. It’s a process, since you write, edit, send to editor, have your graphic designer create a cover, do the edits, send it to a proofreader, make those edits, check everything, format in various platforms, and then publish. Exhausting and time-consuming. But I take care that what comes out is the best I can give my readers. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I’m so grateful to them. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am, and I wouldn’t do what I do. I really appreciate the time they take to read my words and to comment on those words. And I love talking about my characters to them. It’s like sharing family with others who’ve adopted them.

Enjoy an excerpt from The Coin The Coin Maria Elena Alonso-Sierra Suspense/Romantic France, 1993. WHO EVER THOUGHT A COIN COULD GET YOU KILLED? A cunning killer trusted his secret was safe, an innocent woman holds the key to his destruction, and an intelligence officer must keep her alive before the madman can strike the fatal blow. A DANGEROUS FIND For artist Gabriela Martinez, life has become complicated: she suspects her mentor and friend wants her as his mistress, her husband is neglecting her, and her latest illustration is ruined. Seeking peace, she visits her favorite thinking spot in La Marbriére, the mountain overlooking her home in the Côte d’Azur. Distracted, she winds up in an unfamiliar clearing, where she discovers a 1945 French coin half-buried in the ground. Delighted with its beauty, she has it set on her favorite bracelet. TREACHEROUS KNOWLEDGE Richard Harrison, an American intelligence officer, is livid. A simple favor for his boss has turned his vacation in the French Riviera into a hellish assignment. Now, not only does he learn the truth about the coin, but he must also protect Gabriela from a cunning killer who will stop at nothing. TIME IS RUNNING OUT Together with Maurice Nôret, from French intelligence, Richard attempts to discover the madman’s identity, except his budding love for this beautiful artist is turning into a dangerous handicap. Every one of his moves is thwarted with brutal countermoves. Soon, the psychological games to terrorize Gabriela escalate beyond his control. If Richard doesn’t find a solution, it may be too late for them Issue 19 | February 2018 | 27


| FEATURE AUTHOR | both. Set in the exotic French Riviera, The Coin is a story of hatred, betrayal, love and duty—of terrible and painful choices that, nonetheless, bring about personal triumph. Excerpt The car suddenly gathered speed. The landscape of trees and houses became a blur; the wind hissed at them through the tightly shut windows. Richard zigzagged around cars, heedless of the onrushing traffic, angry motorists flicking their car’s high beams as he brushed past. Gabriela shut her eyes for a fraction of a second. They couldn’t have been discovered so soon, could they? His warning came like an explosion. “Shit. Hang on.” Gabriela’s strangling grip of the seat was instinctive and came not a moment too soon. Richard rounded the corner into the small street at an alarming speed, the car’s rear skidding and tires screaming against the loose gravel. Gabriela’s body thumped against the door and she felt, rather than saw, Richard slam his foot on the accelerator. So this was fear. Richard didn’t transmit his, but Gabriela felt hers, tasted it, and it was horrible. She became hot and cold, her extremities shook, and her heart pounded inside her chest, wanting to flee her body. Everything took on bizarre proportions— the reckless speed of the car, the concentrated grimace of the man beside her, the heavy forest bordering the road, the black monstrosity behind them that seemed to get closer and closer each time she glanced furtively in the mirror. “He’s catching up to us,” he stated coldly and 28 | UncagedBooks.com

hit the wheel so hard, Gabriela winced. “Son-of-abitch has a turbo, too, and I don’t have my gun.” Gabriela’s muscles froze, her palms sweating so profusely she couldn’t keep a proper grip on the seat. The car increased its momentum, the curving road, landmarks, and trees rushing by like an old slapstick movie. Frantically, she prayed they wouldn’t find any traffic on this street. It was too narrow, had too many sheer drops on the sides, and too many trees. There were just too many things that could get them killed. Her stomach lurched, threatening to retch its contents any minute. She grabbed her mouth tightly with one hand while she strangled the door handle with the other. “Keep your wits about you,” Richard said harshly. “Concentrate on the road. I need you to guide me.” He glanced at her briefly. “Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, and exhale. You’re hyperventilating.” She tried to do what he suggested. Concentrate on the road, she kept repeating to herself like a broken record. Don’t panic. Everything will work out. Oh, God! Oh, God! Breathe. Breathe. The force of metal hitting metal caught her by surprise. Her entire body jerked forward, her head bouncing back and forth in opposing motion with the car. The second hit came as quickly, but more viciously. Her body jerked like a rag doll, the strap of her seat belt biting hard against her chest and shoulders. This wasn’t real, she thought. This could not be happening to her. “Brace yourself,” Richard shouted. The car gave another sickening lurch, but this time the rear was slammed sideways. Gabriela’s head smashed against the window, her eyesight blurred, and she tasted the rising bile in her mouth. To compound her horror, the car was now out of control, heading straight for a fifteen-foot drop. There, a front-line of grotesquely shaped trees seemed to


| MARIA ELENA ALONSO-SIERRA | be eagerly extending their gnarled branches in hopes of grabbing them. Gabriela closed her eyes and thought, we’re dead. We’re going to die.

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Her body suddenly slammed against Richard’s as he desperately tried to keep the car under control. A small cry escaped her lips as her body again smacked against the door. She heard the roar of the turbo engine as it got ready for another onslaught, and braced her body for the impact. Her panicky brain struggled to keep control of her body and she forced herself to look out the window. With a wrench, Richard maneuvered the car away from the other. “Where do I go, Gabriela?” he asked, his voice as tight as his hands on the steering wheel. When his question solicited no response, his voice hardened, “Gabriela. Stay with me. Guide me. Where?”

Uncaged Review Set in the early 1990’s in France, this is a story that creeps up on you. Although it didn’t catch me right away, before I even realized it, I was completely involved. I sat down to read figuring I could get a few minutes in reading and the next thing I knew an hour has gone by. This is a book that will have you on the edge of your seat, as Richard tries to get to the bottom of the case and trying to protect Gabriela at the same time. Wonderful character development – this is one of those books that could easily translate to the big screen, and I’d be first in line to get a ticket. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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CatchUp with

Ginger Ring

Ginger Ring was a Featured Author in September of 2017. Since that time, she’s released Escaping Ryan, the next book in her Genoa Mafia Series. Uncaged: You were a Featured Author in Uncaged Book Reviews in September 2017. How was your experience being in the magazine? I love Uncaged so it was great fun. I’m a very shy in person and about sharing my work but it was easy to do and I loved how the article came out. Uncaged: You are helping organize the Wild Deadwood Reads this year. Can you tell readers more about the convention? Yes we are a multi genre book signing so we welcome authors and readers of all kinds of books. We have a lot of romance writers but you can also find mystery, history, self-help, children’s, and even a cookbook or two. The idea for the event came about while talking to other readers and authors. We discussed how we loved going to events but missed our families. That’s why we chose the Black Hills as the back drop of our book signing. I hear all the time how authors and readers are bringing their whole family to sightsee while they are there. In addition to the book signing, there is also a PBR rodeo in town, a bus trip where you can pan for gold, visit the Crazy Horse Memorial, and stop at a winery. We also have a book reading planned at a Victorian style theatre and a meet and greet the first night. Uncaged: Your latest book in the Genoa Mafia series, Escaping Ryan, just released. What can you tell readers about this book and what do you have coming up after? 32 | UncagedBooks.com

Escaping Ryan is Valentina’s story. She is the sister of Roman from the Crossing Roman book and she is also the daughter of a mafia don. Valentina is trying to find her way in life out from under the shadow of her infamous family and falling for a local cop is only going to make things more complicated. The small town of Genoa is also dealing with something that has everyone on edge and hiding behind locked doors – a serial killer. Like all my books, there is suspense, humor, and love. I hope readers will enjoy this book. I also just finished a short story called Taken to the Cleaner about the next couple in this series and that will be featured in the Loyalty anthology coming out in March. I am currently working on their full length story which is of now called Destroying Dominic. Uncaged: Will you be attending other events besides Wild Deadwood Reads this year? Yes, it will be a busy year. In April I will be at Clear Lake, Iowa for the North Iowa Book Bash, June is WDR in Deadwood, September I will be in Madison, WI for Mayhem in the Midwest, October will be the Fall into Books event in Sioux Falls, SD and finally Wisconsin Dells, WI in November for the Midwestern Book Lover’s Unite event. Come see me!! Ginger Ring is an eclectic, hat-loving Midwestern girl with a weakness for cheese, dark chocolate, and the Green Bay Packers. She loves reading, playing with her cats, watching great movies, and has a quirky sense of humor. Publishing a book has been a lifelong dream of hers and she is excited to share her romantic stories with you. Her heroines are classy, sassy and in search of love and adventure. When Ginger isn’t tracking down old gangster haunts or stopping at historical landmarks, you can find her on the backwaters of the Mississippi River fishing with her husband.


Enjoy an excerpt from Escaping Ryan Escaping Ryan Ginger Ring Contemporary Mafia Romance Valentina Caponelli is more than a spoiled mafia princess…

independence.

She flees her father’s Chicago mansion to start a law office in a small-town in Wisconsin, determined to gain her

Free of her father. Free of her heritage. Free of dangerous enemies of the family. Then she falls in love with the one man who may cause her more harm than all the rest. Officer Ryan Donavan is married to the force… But the long-legged brunette he cared for after a car crash is all he can think about. The problem is, Valentina is the sister of mob boss Roman Caponelli. The one man who definitely does not want his only sibling dating a lawman. Ryan and Roman have made a tenuous peace, but if Ryan gives in to this passion, that peace will be shattered. A killer is already roaming the streets, and all hell is about to break loose in Lake Genoa, Wisconsin. Can love really conquer all—or only make matters more deadly?

| GINGER RING | Excerpt Valentina Caponelli cranked the radio up and sang a little louder. The headache she’d had earlier disappeared the minute she crossed the border into Wisconsin. Big city living had its advantages, but she’d missed the small town of Lake Genoa, or as the locals just called it, Genoa. She’d done what her father wished. Her law school diploma was proudly framed and sitting in a box in the backseat of the car. When you were born into a mafia family, you did what they expected you to do, whether you wanted to or not. Valentina excelled in school and therefore she was the one chosen to attend law school. It never hurt to have someone in the family who knew the ins and outs of the legal system, as well as what a person could and couldn’t get away with. When you did something you shouldn’t, they knew how to keep you from going to jail. The only problem was that her father didn’t want her to have other any other clients outside the family. That wouldn’t keep her very busy, and that was something she enjoyed doing—keeping busy. The more irons in the fire, the more Valentina excelled. The more she felt like her life had purpose and she wasn’t just the spoiled mafia princess everyone expected her to be. If law was her passion, that was yet to be discovered, but she was giving it a try. Her father also had the nerve to point out that she was getting a little long in the tooth and needed to find a man soon. Make that a nice Italian boy approved by him to marry. Give me a break. When did being in your mid-twenties make you an old maid? Screw the old ways. If she could be a female lawyer, why did she have to marry? Who had time to date anyway when you were studying twenty-four seven? She tapped her fingers on the steering wheel and hummed along with the latest Carrie Underwood song. No one would ever suspect her of being a country fan with her high heels, business suits, and her hair often in a chignon. People needed to Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| CATCH UP | see her as a professional, and wearing her thick dark hair long while sporting blue jeans and cowboy boots just didn’t cut it. All the cramming in law school had taken its toll on her eyes. Now sporting reading glasses on occasion, her serious look had become more matronly librarian than anything else. That wasn’t going to turn the heads of too many men. It was her father who had started her morning migraine and her sudden exodus from Chicago. If her older brother, Roman, could run parts of their father’s dealings from Genoa, so could she. Valentina had been away from her business, Firenza, for way too long and Escaping Ryan 7 it was time to get back to doing something she enjoyed. Sure, law was easy and intriguing to her, but making that a success would be a huge undertaking. Firenza was an old lakeside mansion Roman bought for her to run as a restaurant in the summertime and event center year-round. While in Chicago, they’d hired a manager to oversee the place and her sister-in-law, Madison, also helped in her absence. It didn’t take her long to realize that she wanted to put her lawyer shingle out in Genoa to be close to Firenza. Heck, it was almost time for Firenza to host the Snowflake Ball again. Roman had met his wife at last year’s ball. Valentina sang along to the next tune thinking about her sibling and his lovely wife. It was hard to say which one she loved more. Madison may have been new to the family but she already felt like her sister. It had killed Valentina that she had to concentrate on the bar exam when she would’ve rather been more involved with the planning of their wedding. Actually, there hadn’t been too much to plan, it happened so fast. Still, it had been far too long since she’d gotten to spend time with either of them. Then again, maybe she didn’t want to. They were so much in love the two could barely keep their hands off each other. All she needed 34 | UncagedBooks.com

was a constant reminder that there was no man in her life, no one man enough to be in her life. What self-respecting, law-abiding man would date the daughter of Chicago’s biggest crime boss anyway?

gingerring.com Don’t miss these books in this series


feature author Teresa Keefer is an indie romance author with an avid love of books since the tender age of 4. She started writing poetry in high school and after encouragement from her best friend, wrote her first full length romance novel in 2007. Coming Home was finally released as a self-published book in 2011 and was intended as a stand-alone until several readers contacted her to ask for more on the secondary characters which was the beginning of the Possum Creek series. In addition to writing under her own name, she also writes erotica under Autumn Drake and will be releasing her first political thriller in 2018 under the name of Ann Nevada. Teresa holds an MBA in Human Resources and attended law school for two years and has been in the human resource profession for over 25 years. She has also served on several boards of directors for human resource professionals and has taught human resource classes at the college level as an adjunct instructor. Her ultimate goal is to become a full-time author and have the time and resources to contribute to various community functions to raise awareness about domestic violence, human trafficking, and substance abuse/ addiction issues. In addition to reading romantic fiction, she enjoys reading a variety of other material including horror, thrillers, mysteries, and non-fiction. As a woman with many interests, she balances out her life by doing crafts, gardening, cooking and studying spiritualism. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she presently lives in a rural area with a 36 | UncagedBooks.com

menagerie of animals close to her three adult daughters and seven grandchildren.

Stay Connected

teresakeeferauthor.weebly.com Uncaged welcomes Teresa Keefer Uncaged: I really enjoyed Blessed Be, can you tell readers more about The Summers Sisters series? With there being three sisters, is this series a planned trilogy, or will it continue afterward? The Summers Sisters series is a trilogy that will feature each of the three sisters. The characters were inspired by my own three daughters, who have very unique personalities. You will also find some components of spiritualism in the books, as I am presently a student of spiritualistic studies. The second book—Threefold— was released last fall and the last book of the series— Namaste—will be released in the upcoming weeks. I


also am bouncing around the idea of Rowena’s Song which will be a story about their mother. Uncaged: You live in a rural area with a small farm, much like I do. What is your normal daily routine with work, the farm and writing like? Do you set aside writing time or can you write wherever you are? I am an HR professional by career, so I do work a full-time job to pay the bills. I also live in a rural area and only wish I had a small farm...but I do have a mini horse, a dog, three cats, and will likely purchase some chickens here shortly. I have a nice sized garden which I grow and can my own food and I have a summer place at the lake that I just bought last year. I don’t really plan out my writing time, I write when the mood hits me and have sometimes written for 20 hours straight with only food and bathroom breaks. I am going to try to do better this year at planning the time out but I can pretty much write wherever I am. Uncaged: You are an attending author for Wild Deadwood Reads convention coming in June. Have you been to an event like this one in the past? What are you looking forward to the most? I attended the event last year and had the time of my life! This is the only book signing that had so many other activities going on that a person could actually make a mini-vacation out of attending the event. Last

year, I went horseback riding, ghost hunting, rode the train, visited wineries, and attended the rodeo. I am really looking forward to the rodeo again this year and can’t wait to pick up some more wine at Prairie Berry Winery! I met so many wonderful authors and readers last year and even some of the Deadwood residents and hope to do the same again this year. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them? I DO read my reviews! And what I take away from them is humble pride that someone would actually take the time to read and review my books. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? Sure! Where do I start? I will be introducing a new genre this year and it will be written under the pen name of Ann Nevada. The first book I am going to release under that name will be a political thriller that my best friend and companion gave me the idea for—he’s the person who encouraged me the most from the very beginning so I’m going to take the idea he posed to me and run with it. I am also going to be releasing the 4th book in the Possum Creek series and if anyone is familiar with that series, it will be based on the female veterinarian in Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | town and a coon hunter. I will also be working on a couple of novellas that were previously released as part of two different anthologies. I have a busy year in the works!

brain run off and start on other book ideas, I can write a book in less than three months. However, I would say on the average it takes six months for me to complete a book. Again, because my monkey brain has other ideas!

Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books?

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

That is a hard question to answer. I always love it when someone says ANYTHING about my books. It doesn’t even have to be nice because if they took the time to comment about them, they must have took the time to read them, right?

I would like to say thank you. My readers are the reason I write the books I write and I appreciate each and every one of them. You can follow me at www.facebook.com/TeresaAKeefer or email me at teresa.keefer. author@hotmail.com to get added to my mailing list and you can find me on Instagram and Twitter as well.

Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? My favorite part is taking an idea and bringing it to life. I also love the traveling to book signings and meeting people. I hate marketing and social media work...which is why my daughter now does most of this for me. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Like I said earlier, I am in the process of studying spiritualism. I also enjoy gardening and cooking and when I need a break from writing, I will sit down and do a craft project. When I’m not enjoying being a homebody, I like going to movies or out to dinner or the occasional concert. I also will take a run to the casino a couple times a year. I volunteer for a local group that provides assistance to addicts and I have a lake place that I hope to get a lot more use out of this year. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? I have no problem getting started but I do have trouble getting to THE END. If I can stay focused on the same book and not let my monkey 38 | UncagedBooks.com

Enjoy an excerpt from Blessed Be Blessed Be Teresa Keefer Paranormal Suspense Alana Summers was quite content with her life. A peaceful farm tucked in a wooded area by the lake with her pets for company. A shop in the small tourist town where she sells a potpourri of items that reflect everything about her. She’s at peace. She’s Wiccan. Logan Farmer is the local sheriff. Small town boy who went to the big city and joined the police force. Then he came home where he belonged. He is deeply rooted in his Native American heritage. Both had grown up knowing that there was more to the world that could be explained or seen. But neither of them knew that their peaceful lives could be disrupted in an instant by a legend long buried. A tale that had been told to them by Logan’s grandmother when they were young along with a warning that the ancient legend could replay during their lifetime.


| TERESA KEEFER | But was it really an ancient paranormal evil come to roost or were the recent events merely the doings of a warped human mind? Or had the human’s events shaped the return of the evil? Excerpt Alana sat gazing into the fire she built earlier in the day to drive off the chill from the rain that fell steadily down and battered against the tin roof of her little cabin. Normally, she would have enjoyed the music created by the rain. It was normally a soothing sound to her. But tonight, something kept sending chills up her spine as if in warning of some impending crisis. She shivered then, as the chill became more pronounced when she thought about it. Pulling the heavy crocheted afghan around her more tightly, she scooted her chair closer to the fire and rested her feet on the thick, tri-colored fur of her mixed breed dog, Buddy. The big animal was laying on the rag rug by the hearth. He snorted in his sleep and rolled on his back to expose his belly. Part bloodhound, part St. Bernard, and part God only knew what, he still played like a puppy even though he was nearing six years old this winter. “You’re such a silly dog, you even want your belly rubbed in your sleep.” She laughed and ran her stocking foot along his chest. The big dog was a comfort to her on nights like this. Alana wasn’t afraid to be out here, in the middle of nowhere, alone. It was just that tonight, something troubling was brewing and it was pricking at the edges of her peace. The day had started out like most of her early autumn days. Getting up well before the sun came up, she had done some yoga, meditated and gave thanks for the many blessings life had given her. Breakfast had been a healthy combination of fruit, yogurt and granola with a cup of Irish breakfast tea sweetened with honey from the local beekeeper. After Buddy and Anastasia, her cross-eyed white Siamese cat had been fed, she spent some time cutting lavender and collecting ripe vegetables from her garden. Since the day had been sunny, she decided to leave the truck in the barn and ride her bicycle the three miles into

town where she had her shop, Blessed Be. Blessed Be was her pride and joy. A little bit of everything that Alana loved. She carried candles, potpourri and soaps made in her kitchen, herbs she grew in her own garden, used and new books, music CDs, and handmade crafts. Occasionally she would do the occasional spell or reading when it felt right to do so. This morning the shop had been especially busy for a week day and she didn’t notice when the clouds started gathering off to the west, filtering out the sun. She did some accounting work while she ate her lunch, vegetable soup brought to her by her friend Bessie at the little diner opposite her shop, and caught up on her internet orders. When the delivery man pulled up out front to collect her shipments, he shook his head. “Sure is a long winded storm brewing on the other side of the lake. I hope you drove to work this morning.” She looked up from her work, a calligraphy piece with an Irish blessing on recycled paper, she noticed through the front window the dark clouds that appeared to be boiling in the sky. By the time she closed the shop at five, the clouds were still hanging angrily in the sky but had not moved any closer to Lakeview, the small town that sat on the northern bank of Victory Lake. The main street of town ended at the public access beach which boasted a smattering of guest cabins that were generally full the entire summer. As she rode her bicycle home, she kept a close watch over her left shoulder and noticed that the clouds were moving along the same path as her own. She got the first chill up her spine as she rode the bicycle down the lane to her little farm. Sitting here now, she had a feeling something was about to usurp the peacefulness of their small town. She had circled her cabin and barn with salt, reciting the protection spell her mother taught her and her sisters many years ago while they were mere children. “It is the most important spell you must learn.” She could hear her as if she were right in front of her today, even though Rowena was tucked away in County Kildare in Ireland with Alana’s stepfather Niall Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Fitzgerald. Rowena decided when the last of her daughters had turned twenty-one, it was time for her to go in search of her heritage which led her to Ireland. Alana, being the oldest of the three sisters probably remembered her father the most. Hobart Summers was a somber man, the exact opposite of their mother who was always filled with light, laughter and good spirit. He had been a good provider and when he passed from a sudden brain aneurism at thirty-five, he had left them with enough to live comfortably until they were all grown. With her husband gone, Rowena was tired of living in the city and felt drawn to move all of them to Lakeview where she had worked as the manager to the lake cabins during the tourist season and part time at the small, local library during the off season. Alana loved the peaceful solitude here in the country on her farm, and she relished the familiarity of small town life. Her sisters had chosen entirely different lives. Teagan was the materialistic one of the three and she had gone to college with the intent of learning something that would land her a wealthy husband and lifestyle. Not faring well on the first with a messy divorce behind her, she was a travel agent in Miami, Florida. Riana was the youngest of them, she was still finding her way in life, living like a modernday gypsy moving every few months and doing whatever job appealed to her at the moment. The last Alana knew, she was working as a black jack dealer in Las Vegas. Alana smiled to herself as she thought of her sisters. She missed them when they weren’t here and when they were both here for a visit, she spent most of her time and patience mediating between the younger two. Teagan always judging Riana for her lack of direction and Riana reminding Teagan that she was the one who had married a drunk playboy that had made sure she didn’t have ‘jackshit’ to show for it when they got divorced. And when Alana tried to intervene, they both inevitably turned on her and told her 40 | UncagedBooks.com

that she was going to live like an old maid the rest of her life if she stayed in this boring hole of a town. Rowena called weekly to check on all of them, but most of the time the only one that she could ever get hold of on a regular basis was Alana. “You are such a grounding force for our family, Alana.” That was always how Rowena ended their calls. Sometimes, Alana didn’t want to be the grounding force but it was what it was. Alana’s Wiccan element was Earth and that was what Earth did, it grounded. She reached for her tea and took a sip, enjoying the rich flavor of Earl Grey, her favorite. The fire crackled and Buddy groaned in his sleep, his back leg jumping as he dreamed of chasing some poor rabbit or squirrel in the woods. Anastasia was perched on the back of the sofa, her purring so loud that Alana could hear her from where she sat in her grandmother’s old wing chair on the opposite side of the room. The lights flickered a bit, but Alana was well prepared after spending the first winter without electric about half of the time. She had installed a propane powered generator the following spring which switched on automatically if the power went completely out. Her cabin was cozy. She didn’t know exactly when it had been built, but she guessed probably in the early nineteen thirties when Lakeview first became a tourist spot. The property sat three miles from the town and about three and a half from the main shoreline but in this spot there was a small inlet the size of a large pond just a few hundred yards behind the barn. The main living area was open with the kitchen to the front on the right side of the entrance with a breakfast bar being the only thing that separated it from the small dining area that held a round table with two ladder back chairs. The hand hewn, pine cabinets were plentiful and she had a laundry room off the kitchen which had yet more pantry storage. Beyond that area was her bathroom with its antique, claw foot tub and a more recently added modern shower. The sitting area of the living room was to the back of the cabin with a natural stone fireplace on one wall and bookcases tucked under the open staircase that led to the loft above. A door was in the middle of the bookcases


| TERESA KEEFER | and that door led to a small guest room where the previous owners had left twin beds. A set of French doors faced the back, something that Alana had installed when she moved in so that she could have a good view of the woods from the covered back porch during the summer and from her living room in the winter. She used the space in the loft for her bedroom where she had put a king-sized bed in the middle of the room where the peak of the roof was. Her plan was to someday have a skylight installed in the roof above her bed so that she could see the moon and stars from her bed at night and so that the sun shone down on her every morning. Generally, she watched television in the evening once the sun went down while she either read a book or did a needlecraft project. Her home was filled with things she had created herself and she loved books, which was evident by the full shelves under the staircase. Tonight, the satellite dish had gone on the fritz long before the rain started, so she turned on the CD player and listened to some relaxing instrumental music while she ate her dinner. Ham and cheese sandwich between two slices of homemade bread and a handful of sweet potato chips dipped in some caramel sauce. She pondered how to fill the evening ahead. It had gotten dark early because of the approaching storm, a stark reminder that as the coming days passed by, winter would be nearer. When she consulted the earth spirits over the weekend during her Sunday afternoon ritual, they warned of an early winter and urged her to finish up the harvest as quickly as possible. However, the popcorn was not nearly mature enough to harvest and would need at least another month. The pumpkins and squash weren’t completely ripened either and her three apple trees had not fared well this year because of a late freeze that killed most of the early blooms. But she had heeded their warning and picked what she could, spending most of the afternoon on Sunday roasting sunflower seeds and stringing peppers to hang in the laundry room to dry. The book on the table by her chair beckoned to her. It was a recent best seller by one of her favorite authors, a romance writer who threw in a little bit

of paranormal for a twist. She picked up the book and tucked her legs up beneath her, the afghan wrapped around her lower body. Maybe reading something romantic would ease the uncomfortable feeling that still permeated her body. The sound of the rain on the roof, the crackle of the fire, the softly playing music combined to relax Alana as she read and she felt her eyelids go heavy. Her breathing became shallow and the book slipped from her hands onto her lap as she dozed off. She was running through the woods toward the small inlet behind the barn. The full moon overhead lit her way through the branches of the trees that had shed a portion of their leaves. Something, someone was compelling her to come. Help. Help me. Please help me. A cloud drifted across the moon and the woods was dark for a moment but it didn’t matter, she knew these woods like the back of her hand. One of the gifts of having Earth as her own element. Her bare feet touched the damp ground, the recent rain leaving puddles in some parts of the path that weren’t covered by the trees. Why am I here? Oh, yes, the compelling subconscious knowledge that she was needed to help someone. Suddenly, the woods closed up and the path disappeared. How could this be? This was a familiar path. Where was Buddy? He had been ahead of me. She tried to call out to him but nothing came out of her mouth. Had she remembered to ground and protect herself before rushing out of the cabin in the middle of the night? She couldn’t remember. The moon disappeared completely, only it wasn’t the clouds that were covering the moon. What is it? It feels bad. Evil. Wicked. She tripped over a root that shouldn’t have been in her path and felt herself falling. Falling. Falling. The wind picked up outside the cabin and a branch banged against the window, causing Anastasia to come off her perch on the back of the sofa and hiss. It was a chain reaction then, with Buddy stiffening up under her feet and sending out a warning growl. Anastasia growled low in her throat, a warning growl, then arched her back Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | with the hair standing up. Buddy came to his feet and ran toward the door, barking vigorously, the sound echoing throughout the cabin. Alana awoke with a start and took a relaxing breath when she realized she had fallen asleep and was dreaming. But something was wrong, she could sense it. Buddy was still barking furiously at the door and as she got up, his tail started wagging and he let out a whine about the same time a knock sounded at her door. Buddy whined again and pawed at the door. She blinked the last remnants of sleep out of her eyes and got up from the chair, crossing the wood floor in her stocking feet. Reaching for the door knob she pushed gently at Buddy with her foot. “Move, you big lug. I can’t open the door with you in front of it.” The dog complied, his whole body wagging now and his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, ready to give a serious tongue bath to whomever was on the other side of the door. When she pulled the door open, a tall, familiar form was standing on her porch under the yellowish light. His back was to her, but she recognized the jeans clad figure with the holster at his side. Logan Farmer, the county sheriff, turned to face her and the look on his face was a grim one. “Alana. It’s not good.” He took a breath, his shoulders lifting and falling with the action. “Old Herman Monroe. I got the call about an hour ago.” He looked down at his feet for a moment and Alana followed his gaze. The boots were covered with mud and something else. Blood. She put a hand out to touch his arm. She and Logan had been friends since they were kids and he had even dated her sister, Teagan, briefly. Very briefly. “What is it, Logan?” When he looked up at her, his dark eyes were glistening with unshed tears. “He’s dead, Alana. His wife went to search for him when he didn’t come in for dinner and she found him in the barnyard. She thought maybe he slipped in the mud when he was feeding the livestock but when she looked closer, it looked…” His words trailed off and he appeared to be trying to compose him42 | UncagedBooks.com

self before he continued. This time, when Alana touched his arm she closed her eyes and the image came into her mind as clearly as if she had seen it herself. The old man lying in the muddy barnyard with his dead eyes staring up in fear and his throat ripped out. She pulled away, her stomach roiling and tears coming to her eyes. “An animal? How can that be, Logan?” He lifted his eyes to meet hers. “You know how as well as I do. We all knew this was going to happen.” She sighed and twisted her hands with worry. Yes, it had been predicted many years ago that something dark would emerge in this place and attempt to wreak havoc on the peaceful quiet of the lake town. It had perhaps been the reason that Rowena had felt drawn here and the reason her sisters had left as soon as they could. Things happened for a reason and the fates always brought what was needed to the point they needed to be. She reached out and touched Logan’s arm again. “Come in for a few minutes and have something to drink to calm you. I need to gather myself before you take me there.” Logan stepped inside and closed the door behind him, bending down to ruffle the dog’s coat. Buddy rolled over on his back, his way of directing the location of the ruffling to his belly. Logan smiled wearily. “You big rascal, you couldn’t harm a flea could you?” Glancing up he saw that Alana had returned with a short glass of amber liquid. “Please tell me that’s bourbon and not some sort of tea.” “Of course, it’s bourbon.” She shoved the glass at him. “Some things just can’t be fixed with tea. Drink up.” He sighed thankfully and took the glass before he gulped the strong liquor without taking a breath. She knew he never consumed alcohol on duty. Touching his arm. Carefully, this time, she frowned. “I thought you were off duty this weekend?” He grimaced as he returned the glass to her. “This call came in after I got home to pack up my fishing poles for a weekend on the lake. Lance Myers, one of my college buddies and I were going up on the north shore of the lake to fish and drink beer.” He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and held up a


| TERESA KEEFER | finger. “I better call him and let him know with what had happened tonight, it looks like the trip is going to have be postponed. The image of Herman Monroe’s mauled body kept returning to her and reminded her of the old prophecy. A prophecy that had been passed down from Logan’s great grandfather, a Sioux elder and shaman. The legend sent chills up her spine and dread filled her heart. “Are you ready?” His voice interrupted her thoughts. “Hold on, let me go get dressed.” She wandered in a daze to her bedroom and changed into jeans, a plaid flannel shirt in fall colors and her feet tucked into a pair of nondescript, black rubber boots that reached almost to her knees. She tossed on a bright orange rain slicker with a hood and returned to the dining room. “There’s no reason to put this off, Logan. You know we have to get a step ahead of this.” He nodded and stood up from where he had been kneeling by the dog. Somehow, the big mutt seemed to have had a calming effect on him. Or maybe it was the bourbon. “I know, let’s get going.”

part thriller. It’s a good balance, and even though this wrapped up the arc running in this book, the series main arc still continues. Reviewed by Cyrene

Don’t miss Book Two, now available

Uncaged Review This story is a light paranormal. Even though some of the main characters are Wiccan and are witches with mild magical powers and spells, it’s not a full on magical story. It weaves the magical parts into the story and is gentle enough not to let it overrun the story or the characters. When some strange deaths start happening, Alana and Logan begin to believe that the legend Logan’s grandmother told them when they were young could be coming true. Alana’s mother, Rowena calls and tells Alana she needs to get her two sisters home and she was catching a flight – they needed the strength of all them together if they were to fight the evil. But is it the evil that is warping the human minds in town, or is it just a twisted killer? This is part love story, part mild paranormal, and Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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Short story Danger - Road closed Ahead PT 4C. 5A by JB. Woods


| SHORT STORY |

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 4-C, 5-A JB. Woods Hunter walked back to the Station and collected his overnight bag from the left luggage and after a few enquiries walked back into the centre of town and booked into the Pantiles Hotel. Rather than spend time hanging around the hotel he opted to grab a snack in town and a quiet pint in a nearby Pub before doing some personal shopping. His afternoon was made for him when he managed to find a first edition of his favourite travel author H.V. Morton, and negotiated a reasonable price for a rare version of the ‘Diaries of Arminus Vambury.’ After dinner he decided he’d worn away enough shoe leather for one day and instead caught a taxi back to the James house. He was expected and the front door opened almost immediately in response to his ring. ‘Come in, George. Did you find somewhere to stay?’ ‘Yes, sir, the Pantiles.’ ‘Oh, good, go through and make yourself at home. Would you like a coffee or something stronger. I do a good line in whisky.’ ‘I’d like a whisky with a little water, sir.’ Colonel James followed him into the lounge and poured two whiskies before he left to call up the stairs, ‘Naomi! Your visitor’s here.’ Hunter froze, his glass halfway to his mouth. ‘It couldn’t be.’ He then recalled what Colonel James had said earlier about his grand-daughter going to a show. ‘Oh, brother!’ He heard her coming down the stairs and stood up to prepare himself for the onslaught and was taken 46 | UncagedBooks.com

aback when she breezed in with a cheery, ‘Hello, we meet again.’ The Colonel looked puzzled as he glanced between the two of them. ‘You two know each other?’ They both went to answer and laughed together before Hunter ventured. ‘Yes, sir, we bumped into each other literally. I was responsible for spreading her homework all over Waterloo Station last night. It was my fault for not looking where I was going.’ Naomi followed Hunter’s lead. ‘That’s why I had to return to the office and decided to stay in town, Pops. You would enjoy the show.’ Hunter returned to his seat and Naomi was about to curl up on the sofa when the Colonel said, ‘Why don’t you two go into the study and then I can watch some TV?’ ‘I have a better idea,’ said Naomi brightly, ‘would you like to join me down at the pub. Oh, dear, I’ve forgotten your name.’ ‘She’s good,’ thought Hunter, before he replied, ‘Hunter, George Hunter, and I wouldn’t mind going for that drink.’ In the street and a safe distance from the house she said to Hunter, ‘I knew it was you as soon as Pops said something about an Army pal. I was dying to come down earlier but I didn’t want to let on too soon.’ Hunter glanced across at her and nodded. ‘It could have been tricky. Now tell me about your Dad.’ She looped an arm through his. ‘Oh, no, Hunter, that can wait. Tell me about yourself.’ He had expected a much cooler reception and he delayed while he formulated a story that would sound both truthful and sincere and he was thankful as they turned the corner to find the pub close by. They found a quiet table in a corner of the lounge and as soon as she was settled he asked, ‘Double Vodka and splash, is it?’ ‘No thanks, I’ll have a glass of red wine, please.’ He never said anything but liked a girl who didn’t stick to the same drink. When he returned he sat on the padded bench seat around the wall of the lounge and was surprised and secretly pleased when she sidled up close to him. He could feel the warmth of her and smell the same spring aroma of her perfume Annais-Annais which had been Anna’s favourite. She touched his arm and felt him tense. ‘What do you


| JB WOODS | want to know about my father, Hunter. Are you an old pal for real?’ ‘Yes, I am. Our Army numbers are only a few hundred apart and because we joined at the same time, five of us clicked, although we all came from different backgrounds. I remember your Dad had a plum in his mouth and we used to wind him up a bit.’ ‘I think he lost the plum but he does speak well but what line of the Army were you in?’ ‘It’s a long story but I transferred to the Paras almost immediately after leaving college and later somehow qualified for the SAS. I never saw your Dad after we parted on our Passing Out day in sixty-one. The other four of us have crossed paths but do you know what happened to him? Come to think of it he must have had you around that time.’ ‘I was born when Dad was sixteen the same age as my Mother. They were married when Mum was eighteen but it wasn’t a love match and because he was away for long periods it all finished in an acrimonious divorce. I was brought up by Pops and Grandma from the age of ten.’ ‘He kept that bloody quiet. Where did he go?’ ‘I don’t know but I never saw him in uniform. He would turn up in civilian clothes, good clothes mind you, and then disappear a few days later. Mum said he was an international salesman or something to do with trade. I don’t see him for long periods but he does sometimes phone long distance from Germany I think.’ ‘What makes you think he was in Germany?’ ‘When Pops or Grandma answered the phone they would just say to me—It’s your Dad—like they didn’t approve but I answered one day and the operator said—Long distance from Berlin.’ ‘How long ago was that?’ ‘Just recently.’ ‘He didn’t use STD. Could he have been in the Eastern Bloc by any chance?’ ‘Hunter, why are you asking all these questions?’ ‘Just interested. By recently, do you mean in the last three months?’ ‘This is nonsense. You’re not an Army pal at all.’ ‘I am actually but I’ll tell you the real reason. He’s gone missing and the Government have asked me to find him.’ He felt her move away. ‘What for, has he done some-

thing wrong?’ ‘He works undercover for the Intelligence Agency. They think the Commies may have him so any info you have on his last whereabouts would be most helpful in his rescue.’ ‘Are you saying he’s a spy?’ ‘If you like to put it like that—Yes.’ ‘Oh… That would explain a lot. What have you learnt up to now, Hunter?’ ‘Not a lot, only what you’ve told me. That he probably rang from the East, when did you say exactly?’ ‘Four weeks ago.’ ‘Did he sound under duress when he spoke?’ ‘Err… He talked slower but I thought that was because he was over a bad line but he sounded okay otherwise.’ ‘Which narrows him down to East Berlin a month ago. That’s my next port of call.’ ‘East Berlin!’ She clutched his arm tightly and pulled herself closer. ‘Hunter, you can’t. You mustn’t put yourself in danger. I would never sleep at night if I thought you had been caught because of anything I said.’ ‘Relax, lass, it’s part of the job. Would you like another?’ ‘Yes, please, make it a double G & T.’ Hunter ruefully fiddled with the change in his pocket before he walked to the bar. When he returned she sat close to him and hung onto his arm. ‘Hunter… I’m coming with you.’ ‘Eh… What… You can’t. I mean, I’m on official business. I can’t pay for you and the department won’t.’ ‘I have some money and I want to see my Dad.’ ‘Naomi, I can move around easier on my own and it could be dangerous.’ ‘I don’t care.’ Hunter sat quiet for a moment and he could think of nothing but, ‘What’ll your Grand-parents think, and your work, what about that?’ ‘I’ve got some holidays due and I’ll tell Pops I’m going abroad for two weeks. I’m a big girl and he won’t argue.’ Accepting the fait accompli Hunter continued with light conversation until it was closing time and he called a taxi. Outside the house he said goodnight and gave his word that he would call for her the next morning. Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| SHORT STORY | She leaned across and pecked him on the cheek. ‘Thanks, Hunter. Until tomorrow.’ — He arrived at the Station in time for the first off-peak train feeling guilty but as he strolled onto the platform a familiar voice called out to him. ‘Hunter! Hunter, over here.’ He stifled the groan and turned towards the voice. She looked like she had just jumped out of the latest fashion catalogue her only concession to travel being her hair which she had tied back in a pony tail. Her dark green leather coat with fur trimmings and knee high boots shouted quality. Hunter could only admire her but wondered if she really knew what she was letting herself in for. She stopped before him and smiled. ‘Hunter, if you think you can get away with deceit, think again. Lawyers live on it. I must admit I was about to give up on you when you arrived although I have been here since seven.’ ‘Naomi, I won’t say I’m glad to see you because I’m not, but now you’re here…’ His voice was drowned out by the arrival of the train and he unwillingly held the carriage door while she man-handled the largest suitcase he had ever seen. He deliberately didn’t help her in the hope that his intransigence may persuade her to give up on her plans but he hadn’t figured on her determination. Once settled she raised the question of their next move. ‘Where’s it to be, Hunter?’ ‘I have to go to the office and organise my trip to Germany. We’ll leave your suitcase at Paddington left luggage and then you can sit in the coffee bar around the corner from the office while I pop in.’ ‘Oh, no, Hunter, I’m not letting you out of my sight.’ He shrugged and Naomi could sense his mood but remained quiet for the rest of their journey as he steadfastly refused to help her in the transfer across London. When they arrived at Admiralty House in his desperate effort to show his manhood and unconcern about her welfare he dashed up the stairs two at a time but she unfalteringly followed. He was glad of the few moments afforded by her slowness as it gave him time to catch his breath. Maggie, however, was in no mood for tomfoolery 48 | UncagedBooks.com

and she urged Hunter to stop messing around and close the door. ‘I can’t Maggie, we have a visitor.’ ‘Are they authorised?’ ‘Nope, and before you say anything it’s not my fault. She’s the eternal bad bloody penny.’ Red faced and holding the door jamb while catching her breath Naomi gave Maggie a half hearted wave. ‘Hi, I’m Naomi…’ She took another couple of breaths, ‘Naomi Anderson.’ Maggie gave Hunter a disapproving look and said, ‘Hunter—get her a chair and close the door before the whole of Russia walks in.’ Silently acknowledging defeat he complied and in anticipation of the third degree that was coming he said, ‘Maggie dearest, can you make arrangements to get us to Berlin via Hannover,’ he nodded in Naomi’s direction, ‘and Miss here, will pay her own fare.’ Naomi interrupted, ‘Mrs, if you don’t mind.’ ‘Hello, Hunter, what are you doing here and who’s the delightful young lady with you?’ Hunter and Naomi turned towards the voice as Brian Warren entered the office. ‘Hi, Brian. This is Naomi, Chas’s daughter. She insists on following me and we’re here to arrange travelling plans. His last known whereabouts is East Berlin.’ Warren’s face clouded over and then changed almost immediately. ‘Hunter, my office. Naomi you wait here. Maggie, have you got any coffee on the go?’ Maggie stood and saluted. ‘Yes, sir.’ Naomi giggled as Brian turned his back and walked down the corridor with Hunter in tow. ‘Close the door, Hunter. Tell me what’s going on but I think I can guess.’ Hunter related the facts without embellishment but added that he would like to dissuade Naomi from her objective. ‘No, Hunter, I think it’s a good idea. Take her with you, we may be able to tempt James to give himself up.’ ‘You reckon. What happens if he gets naughty?’ ‘Then you, Hunter, have a decision to make.’ ‘Thanks for that, Brian. I’ll give her one thing, she’s feisty. Are you going to make her legal?’ ‘No. We’ll provide her with any visas and pay for her


| JB WOODS | passage but it will go better for her if she remains a civilian.’ ‘Okay, you’re the boss, but you don’t half give me some bloody problems. First Anna and now her.’ ‘Get away with you, you old smoothie. She’ll be eating out of your hand in no time.’ Hunter remained non-committal and returned to Reception and a cup of Maggie’s coffee.

5

T

he early autumn weather did nothing to enhance Hannover Airport. A barn of a building, the walk to baggage claim and the queue at Passport control soured what should be a good experience for many passengers. While they waited inside the terminal for their transport Hunter whiled away the time comparing those arriving and those about to depart. There was the travel weary awkward gait of someone who had spent hours cramped in a seat and had the battered look of having arrived from a bad journey and who despaired at the delay between the aircraft and the Arrivals Hall and those leaving who had a bright eyed expectant, almost conspiritual look as they prepared for the adventure they were about to embark on. His thoughts were interrupted by a uniformed chauffeur who handed Hunter a package and took control of their trolley before leading them out to the waiting Mercedes. When Naomi had settled herself she had a furtive look at Hunter and made a quick reappraisal of him. Anyone who commanded this kind of service for his country was worthy of a little admiration. Perks for Government Officials stopped short of five star and they booked into a pleasant four star family Hotel close to the centre of the city. In the quietness of his room Hunter opened the package which contained the Makarov automatic with a full magazine and several Ilford film cartridges. These were used to disguise spare ammunition. He had just checked the action when there was a light tap on the door and Naomi walked in unexpectedly. He dropped the gun on the bed and hoped he wasn’t too obvious when he threw his coat over it. He could only stop and admire as she approached

him. Her hair hung loose over a cream blouse and her waist was nipped in by a black leather belt which complimented her pencil skirt. It was a style Hunter liked. It was fashionable, functional and damn sexy. She stopped in front of him and ran a finger down his tie. He dreaded what was coming next. Women did this sort of thing only when they wanted something. ‘Hunter, I’m in need of liquid refreshment. Will you join me for a drink.’ He relaxed. This type of demand he could put up with. ‘I was about to call you, lass. Give me a few seconds to brush up and I’ll collect you.’ ‘That’s okay, I’ll wait. Are you going to take some photos while we’re here?’ He hid the grimace and scooped his coat and gun up with both hands and made a show of hanging it in the wardrobe. Not ideal but the best he could think of on the spur of the moment. A quick splash in the bathroom and three minutes later he declared himself ready. ‘Right, miss or is it misses, let’s show ourselves to the world.’ ‘Naomi, will do,’ she said and looped her arm through his as they walked down the corridor towards the lift. In the lounge she chose to sit on a stool and made no effort to hide her legs. Hunter stood opposite leaning on the bar and noticed the overt glances at his companion and wondered how the hell they were going to stay unobtrusive with this beacon of beauty and her lustrous red hair lighting their path. ‘What’ll it be?’ Her eyes sparkled at his change in attitude towards her and she smiled openly. Hunter suppressed a groan and said to himself, ‘I wish she wouldn’t do that.’ Naomi on the other hand said cheerfully, ‘As the first drink in foreign parts this calls for a Vodka Martini.’ ‘Would, madam, like it shaken or stirred?’ Entering into the lightness of the moment she said, ‘In view of our mission, definitely shaken.’ Hunter laughed. He liked her but he wished it was under different circumstances. He stuck to a glass of the local bier and when they clicked their glasses he said, ‘Here’s to your Dad. I hope it doesn’t take too long, I would like a holiday after this.’ Issue 19 | February 2018 | 49


| SHORT STORY | When she took her first swallow he noticed she was wearing her wedding ring for the first time. ‘Why the ring?’ She looked at him through laughing narrowed eyes and said, ‘To protect me from predators.’ ‘Had you anyone in mind,’ and then on a more serious note he said, ‘it’ll come in handy later but tomorrow morning, lass, I want you to go shopping while I pay a visit to the British Consulate. Get yourself an overnight bag and some German style clothing. Take a note of the local fashion as we need to blend in.’ ‘Hunter,’ she said sombrely, ‘you will come back, won’t you?’ He patted her knee. ‘I’m under orders.’ That evening Naomi retired early and left Hunter to indulge in his hobby in a nearby Bierstube. — Over breakfast they were told that their ‘hire’ car had been delivered and would they pick up the keys from reception. Hunter acknowledged and told Naomi to take a cab while he took the car for a spin before going about his business with the Consul. He waited five minutes before he walked across the foyer on his way to the car-park and out of the corner of his eye he noticed a man raise a copy of the Bild Zeitung to shield his face. Hunter made a mental note and felt the comfortable lump of the Makarov under his right armpit. He didn’t break step and came upon the car parked close to the Hotel entrance. Pleased to see that the powers that be had given him a Ford Taunus, a useful family car similar to a Cortina but left-hand drive. He made a fuss of checking it over at the same time keeping an eye open for anyone acting suspiciously. When he drove off he followed Highway 6 in the direction of Nienburg. At the ten kilometre post he braked hard and swerved into a Petrol Station at the last moment. Ignoring the pumps he drove through and back onto the highway towards Hannover noting with satisfaction a dark Mercedes pulling into the side unable to do a U-turn quick enough. Throwing caution to the wind Hunter ignored the speed limit and threaded his way through the traffic and drove out to the Airport keeping a close eye on his rear view mirror. Satisfied he was no longer being followed he parked 50 | UncagedBooks.com

and went to the Observation lounge, purchased the local rag and sat near the window. He ordered a coffee and although he didn’t take sugar he left the spoon upright in his cup. He didn’t have long to wait when a blank business card was dropped onto the table and a quiet confident voice said, ‘That which is crooked cannot be made straight.’ Hunter didn’t look up but took a corresponding card from his top pocket and replied, ‘For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.’ A thick-set man of about Hunter’s age wearing a short leather coat and a traditional German peaked cap sat down and ordered coffee before he spoke. ‘Venator?’ Hunter folded his paper and replied in German, ‘I am he. Have you any word?’ They shook hands before the man spoke again. ‘Rudë Bingen, and the answer to your question is—Yes. We keep a note of all International calls particularly those from the GDR and we traced the call to his daughter a little over a month ago but not only that he has called her number from the FDR several times since.’ ‘And the latest?’ ‘Just a week ago. He knows we’re onto him.’ ‘What day was that exactly?’ ‘Last Tuesday.’ Hunter was puzzled. ‘That was the day she asked me if she could come along. She must have known or guessed the reason for my coming here.’ He paused while he unscrambled the information. ‘Rudë, where exactly did James call from?’ Rudë pulled a bundle of papers from his inside pocket and gave one to Hunter. ‘The Celler Hof Hotel, in Celle. That’s not far from here and close to the British Army Garrison at Bergen-Belsen.’ ‘That sounds like a good place to start.’ He stood and shook hands. ‘Thanks for the info, Rudë, I’ll be in touch.’ ‘Mister Venator. You never told me your name.’ Hunter tapped the side of his nose. ‘Need to know, old boy.’ He picked up his paper and scribbled the telephone information Rudë had given him across the top and with a quick check of his watch walked out to the car.


| JB WOODS | — He was waiting in the Bar for Naomi idly watching his fellow guests when one couple caught his eye and he thought it didn’t matter which nationality you were the rituals were always the same. The young man reached across the table and took the girls hand and leaning forward with a deep look of repentance in his eye he was trying hard to console her about his future behaviour. The moody look of distain on her face was enough for Hunter whose unexpressed thought was, ‘It’s no good, son, you have more chance of meeting the Pope and she’ll only bring it up in the future.’ At that moment Naomi walked in. He didn’t immediately recognise her in figure hugging designer jeans and outrageous high heels but when he did he appreciated the poise with which she crossed the room. At the same time he groaned. ‘Oh, my God,’ he said mentally, ‘even when she dresses down she stands out like a sore thumb.’ She draped her brown single breasted leather jacket over the back of the stool and with the grace of a panther sat opposite him. ‘What is it, Hunter, don’t you like, and before you answer that, I’ll have a beer.’ ‘Naomi, you’re supposed to blend in with the crowd. Right now you’re like a bloody lighthouse.’ ‘I’m dressed like the local women as you clearly said.’ ‘I meant the hoi polloi.’ ‘Hunter, I’m not one of the masses. Now, do I get that beer or what?’ He waited until she’d been served before he said, ‘Pack your bags tonight, gal, we’re checking out tomorrow.’ ‘Oh, where’re we going?’ ‘It’s a secret but I’ve a nice hotel in mind. What are you doing for the rest of the afternoon?’ ‘They have a pool here so I’m going for a swim. Will you join me?’ Hunter shuddered as visions of deep water flashed through his brain. ‘No thanks, I’ll see you at dinner.’ Hunter made no attempt to evade the Mercedes following them and they arrived in Celle a little before twelve and while Naomi was unpacking her wardrobe he took the opportu-

nity to return to Reception. Waiting for the right moment he approached the desk and playing plainly with a twenty-mark note he slid a photograph of James across to the clerk and said, ‘I’m trying to trace this man. He’s an old Army pal and I’m told he stayed here last week. Can you check for me?’ ‘I’m sorry, sir, customer confidentiality.’ Hunter let his jacket fall open until the butt of his gun was visible and at the same time he produced a fiftymark note. ‘Try again. Did this man stay here last week and what name was he using?’ The clerk stood wide-eyed and stuttered, ‘Err… One moment. I’ll check the Register.’ He flicked back a page and ran a finger down the list. ‘That’s Herr Schmidt. He checked out yesterday.’ ‘Did he leave a forwarding address?’ The Clerk riffled through piles of A4 and post-it notes on a spike before he said, ‘Wait a moment, I’ll ask my relief?’ He picked up the phone and pressed a button and muttered a few words. Satisfied he put the phone down and opened a draw and retrieved a shoe box of paper notes. ‘It should be near the top, sir, be patient. Ah, here it is. He was expecting a phone call and he left a number to ring when he left.’ Hunter took a note of the number and returned the scrap of paper. ‘What did he do while he was here?’ ‘He went out everyday in his car. He has stayed with us many times and I thought he was a travelling salesman but I don’t think he’s German even though he has a Federal Passport.’ ‘Thanks. Do you recognise the code?’ ‘Yes, It’s East Berlin.’ Hunter dropped the fifty-marks on the desk. ‘I’d like to make a call to this number, where’s the nearest public phone?’ The receptionist pointed across the room. ‘We don’t have one but if you go into that kiosk I’ll dial the number and put it through.’ ‘Okay, thanks.’ The phone was ringing as he opened the door and when he answered it a woman spoke. She first repeated the number before giving her name. ‘Frau Dankert!’ ‘Sorry, Ma’am,’ said Hunter, ‘I must have a wrong Issue 19 | February 2018 | 51


| SHORT STORY | number. I was trying to find Herr Schmidt.’ There was a pause and he could hear muffled talk in the background before she spoke again. ‘I’m sorry, there’s no one of that name here.’ The phone went dead and Hunter was left looking at the receiver with a bemused expression before he shrugged his shoulders and replaced it on the hook. ‘Somebody’s hiding something.’ This was the first sign of any misinformation on the part of James. Thus far Hunter had been surprised by the ease with which he had been able to find that number and James’s cover name in the East. The tardiness regarding open phone calls and contact numbers was unusual for a man of James’s experience. He returned to Reception and said to the clerk. ‘If Mrs Anderson asks after me tell her I’ve gone for a walk and will be back shortly.’ ‘Yes, sir.’ Hunter went out to the road and looked left and right before making up his mind and going right. He walked two blocks before he came to a public phone and had to wait several minutes while a young woman finished giggling to some distant lover. His call was answered immediately and checking no one was in earshot he gave the information regarding James’s telephone number and asked for a trace before sauntering back to the hotel where he again went directly to the receptionist. They exchanged a few words and the clerk nodded before Hunter wandered into the bar where he found Naomi. Keeping greetings to a minimum he ordered lunch. They had been eating in silence for ten minutes when Naomi exploded. ‘For goodness sake, Hunter, what’s the matter. Have I suddenly got the plague?’ Hunter put his knife and fork down and looked her straight in the eye. ‘You lied!’ ‘When. No I didn’t. I’ve told you everything.’ ‘What about the phone calls. How am I expected to help your Dad if you don’t tell me where he is. He phoned you from this hotel the day before we left and goodness knows how many times in between. You do know we’re being followed.’ ‘Are you checking up on me. You’re not an Army pal at all, you’re one of them. Why are you out to get him?’ ‘Naomi, your Dad is selling secrets to the other side 52 | UncagedBooks.com

and quite possibly has ratted on several of our agents. We need to find him before the Stasi.’ ‘Why? Are you going to kill him?’ ‘Do you think life will be a bed of roses if he crosses over. It will be a lonely life in a pokey flat somewhere where he will die an alcoholic in five years. They supply the Vodka free, it’s the only perk he’ll get.’ ‘And what will it be if he gives himself up?’ ‘I can’t say. That’s not my department. I only find them and bring them home one way or another. Possibly a short jail sentence and a change of identity but still alive.’ He finished his beer and ordered another to hide his guilt. ‘Now tell me what you told him when you phoned him earlier.’ She sat contemplating his request for a minute before she said, ‘I told him where we were up to. He sounded surprised when I said it was you who’s looking for him. He said it was your job to round up the strays. Why do you want to know?’ ‘He betrayed me on my last job, not once but twice, and it would be fair to say I’m a little bit aggrieved.’ ‘You’re going to kill him?’ ‘That’s as maybe. Go and pack your bags while I settle up. We’re leaving in an hour and from now on you don’t leave my sight.’ He waited until she had gone upstairs before he went to the toilet where he fitted the silencer onto the Makarov. Leaving the washroom he pretended to wipe his hands on his handkerchief as he openly walked out to the street and around the side of the building to the car-park. His guess that his shadow would follow proved correct and he ducked quickly around the last corner and drew his gun. As the man drew level Hunter jabbed the pistol into the back of the man’s neck and directed him to walk slowly to the Mercedes. ‘Get in,’ he urged the man with a sharp prod, ‘and put the keys in the ignition.’

Watch for the next chapter in the next issue!


Author’s Amazon Page


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romance: historical contemporary

Lynda J. Cox

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C.J. Bower


feature author I was born and raised on Chicago’s south side, into a family of staunch White Sox fans and Democratic Party bosses...and much to their consternation, I’m not a White Sox fan and I refuse to discuss politics. (Some things are much better left unsaid.) To think that I would finally see my beloved Cubbies win the World Series was too much to hope for, but they finally did it in my lifetime. If anyone asks, I bleed Cubbie blue. I also grew up with a steady diet of syndicated Western television shows, John Wayne movies, and the Sunday night staple of Lassie. I blame those television shows and movies for my lifelong love of the American West and Collies. Only after researching the breed did I learn two very important things about Collies. One is that Lassie is really not a beautiful collie (as far as confirmation goes) but he (yes, HE) has been the best PR my breed could ever ask for. And secondly, Lassie lied...Collies are not that smart. By the time I was legally an adult (I refuse to grow up), I couldn’t wait to get out of Dodge, so to speak. I moved first to the wilds of central Wisconsin and then to south central Indiana to the middle of a corn field, where I currently reside with my best friend, biggest supporter, and husband, Ken. We have a beautiful piece of property in the woods of central Tennessee I escape to every chance I get. Now, to just convince hubby it’s time to put away the veterinary practice and become a backwoodsman in Tennessee. Does he really think I was learning all those survival skills because I’m expecting 56 | UncagedBooks.com

an apocalypse of biblical proportions? (Don’t answer that, Dear Heart!) I wrote my first published novel while working on the critical introduction of my creative project for my master’s degree. It wasn’t the most perfect timing but my Muse isn’t the most cooperative, either. She dropped Colt and Amelia into my head and insisted I write their story. So, I tried to reason with Her. Yeah... that wasn’t going to work either. In between writing pages of that critical intro, I kept a second document open and wrote their story. I have to say that The Devil’s Own Desperado was inspired by my husband. He was complaining shortly before I started writing that novel about not being able to retire because his clients wouldn’t let him. If I remember rightly, he said, “They won’t let me hang up the hardware.” All of my published novels are western historical romance. I love this period of our nation’s history. The national psyche was recovering and healing in the aftermath of the American Civil War and the westward expansion helped to heal that psyche. The research I’ve had to do with each novel makes the history geek in my totally giddy. Those weren’t survival skills I was learning. I was researching how my characters would have lived. The Devil’s Own Desperado won The Laramie Award for best debut novel, and the next three novels (Smolder on a Slow Burn, Seize the Flame, and West of Forgotten) have all received 4 stars or better from InD’Tale Magazine, and two were RONE nominated. When I’m not writing, I show those Collies I first fell in love with as a child. I’ve bred more than thirty champions and am currently campaigning my smooth boy, Vander (known to his closest friends as “Lavender Larry Princess Paws”). For the past five years, he has been ranked in the top ten. The greatest thrill of my life showing this boy was to win Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Variety at the National specialty show in 2017. I also make beaded “bling” leads to sell to help support my dog show addiction/habit. Dog shows are the reason I don’t have too many vices--I can’t afford another habit.


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lyndajcox.com Please welcome Lynda J. Cox Uncaged: I really enjoyed West of Forgotten. Can you tell readers more about your books? Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it. It was a difficult book to write because of the issues that I dealt with, so to have people say they enjoyed it made the journey to help Harrison and Rachel find their happily ever after worth it. All of my so far published books are western historical romance, and all are set in the fictional town of Federal, Wyoming Territory. (At one time, Federal did exist—but now it’s not even a wide spot on a spur of the Burlington/Northern Railroad line.) All of my books also deal with second chances and redemption. Uncaged: You are part of Writers on the River, Penned Con and Wild Deadwood Reads. Have you participated in the past? What are you looking forward to most at the events? I’ve participated in all three of these conferences previously. These are the three that I decided to attend this year for a few reasons—first and foremost are the charities that the author tables and reader tickets support and all are charities that are near and dear to my heart. Writers on the River supports Thistle Farms and Heal-

ing with Words—both charities that assist battered women to escape the cycle of violence and make a new start. Penned Con supports additional social services for children on the autism spectrum and their families. And, this year, Wild Deadwood Reads is adding support for wild horses, the very living symbol of the American West. What I look forward to the most at these conferences is the interaction between reader and authors. Selling books at these conferences is nice, but it’s not the main goal. I want to talk to the people who buy my books, find out what they like to read. I’m always amazed at the great books suggested to me by readers and I usually go home from a conference with more books bought than I ever sell. Uncaged: You write historical western romances, how much research do you do for each book? One of the blessings of setting all my books in the same local is I don’t have to do a lot of research for subsequent books. However, as with any book, there is research to be done. Most of the research for the first one was done over a period of twenty years… with every vacation hubby and I took to Wyoming. I usually try to figure out what I need to research before I start writing because if I don’t have a fact right, I will hear about it. And, if I need to research while writing, I’m terrified of that great rabbit hole called “internet research.” A body can get lost for days down there. That being said, I’m always looking for interesting facts and tidbits of information that help to bring authenticity to the novel. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | I’m actually working on a sequel to my second book. A reader pointed out as vile as the villain was in that book, just being in jail wouldn’t keep him down. And, that comment started the wheels turning. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? As someone who was three credit hours short of a third undergrad major in American history, to be told how historically accurate my books are is one of the nicest things I’ve been told. But, the nicest thing I’ve been told is when a reader says she’s fallen in love with the hero in one of my books. Uncaged: What is your favorite part about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? My favorite part of being an author is I get to have imaginary friends and I can share my make-believe friends with the real world. The least favorite part is when my family forgets that this writing gig is a job. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? When I’m not writing, I’m usually on my way to or home from a dog show. I’ve shown collies for more than thirty five years now. If you’ve ever seen the movie Best in Show, yes, I know people JUST like that. It’s a crazy hobby. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? For me, the hardest part to write is “THAT” scene. That sex scene has to move the plot forward, I refuse to allow it to be gratuitous, and I often struggle to keep it from reading like I’m giving stage direction in a low budget porn film. I can hear the gasps now about referring to a sex scene as “porn” but I’m not really calling it that. It’s what I really want 58 | UncagedBooks.com

to avoid. The easiest part for me is writing the opening scene and the closing scene. I want to grab the reader by the collar and pull them immediately into the action. How long it takes to write a book depends on the book, but on average, it takes me almost six to eight months to write a complete novel. I sweat every word. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I promise a happy ending, no matter how many twists and turns it takes to get there. It’s just not romance without a happy ever after—or at least a happy for now ending. If anyone wants to follow me, I’m on Twitter at @LyndaCox; on Facebook at https://www. facebook.com/lyndajcox; I’m on Amazon at https:// www.amazon.com/Lynda-J.-Cox/e/B009LW3JZ6; and my web site is www.lyndajcox.com

Enjoy an excerpt from West of Forgotten West of Forgotten Lynda J. Cox Historical Western Romance Banished from civilization to the Wyoming Territory, U.S. Marshal Harrison Taylor holds a deed to half the Lazy L. He isn’t sure why his beautiful new partner, Rachel Leonard, doesn’t trust him. He has to convince her he is nothing like the man who abused her and he must earn her trust before the escalating attacks at the Lazy L turn deadly. For six years, Rachel has worked to repair a shattered life. Caring for her son and invalid father leaves little time to keep the Lazy L profitable. She doesn’t want a business partner simply because her father gambled away half of her beloved ranch, and most certainly doesn’t desire a husband. Unfortunately, she’s stuck with the former and can’t trust Harrison as the latter.


| LYNDA J. COX | But unless she can learn to trust him, everything and everyone Rachel loves will be lost. Excerpt Chapter One Between the towns of Forgotten and Federal, Wyoming Territory Late August, 1875 “Son of a—” Harrison Taylor bit off the curse as he struggled to bring his rearing horse under control. He pulled the black’s head down to his right and shifted his weight forward to avoid being pitched from the saddle. When the horse dropped to all four hooves, he reined the snorting, startled animal in a tight circle. “I realize you haven’t been shot at in ten years, Demon, but I’d think you’d remember not to throw me.” He ran a calming hand down the horse’s sweatsoaked neck and used the moment to steal a glance in the direction that the shot had originated. It had been a shotgun, if the buzzing like so many angry hornets as the projectiles flew overhead was any indication. The question remained if the scatter-gun was a single shot. The figure in the shadows of the heavily shaded porch shifted and the late afternoon sunlight glinted on the muzzle. “There’s nothing here for you, mister.” Even though the voice in the shadows sounded young, there was no waver in the words. The levelness in the simple statement answered the question of whether the shotgun was a single shot. He nudged his hat back a little, unshrouding his face. “I just need water for my horse and me. I’m not looking for trouble.” The muzzle of the long gun emerged from the depths of the porch, gesturing toward the water trough he’d glimpsed in his attempt to calm the horse. “Get a drink then move along. If you reach into those saddle bags when you dismount, I’ll cut you in half.” To emphasize the point, the sharp click of a hammer cocked back traveled across the hot land. Smart kid. Even though he wasn’t wearing his sidearm, the boy correctly guessed he had a weapon in the saddlebags. Harrison crossed his arm over his

midsection and deliberately leaned his elbow onto the pommel. “I was told in town there might be work to be had here.” “You were told wrong.” There was still a dead level cadence to the words. “You’ve got ten seconds to decide if you want a drink for you and your horse or if you’re just going to keep riding.” He didn’t need the ten seconds. Harrison tugged one rein, directing the large black to the water trough. He dismounted and worked the pump. Fresh, cold water filled the nearly empty tank. While his horse drank, he picked up the cup tied to the pump and worked the handle again. When he and his mount had quenched their thirst, he backed the animal from the trough. As he grabbed a hank of mane and put his foot into the stirrup, the kid on the porch asked, “Who told you in town there was work here?” It wasn’t so much curiosity he heard in the boy’s voice, but anger. Aware of the shotgun still aimed at his midsection, Harrison stepped down and kept a firm grip on Demon’s reins. “I stretched the truth just a bit.” He nodded toward the remains of a garden near the house. “I figured from the looks of things when I rode up there was work to be had. Kinda hard to keep a garden growing when the fence is down and it looks like cows have been trampling it.” He took a step closer to the house and halted when the muzzle of the gun glinted again in the afternoon sunlight as it was pulled into a shooting position. He paused, weighing his options. “Look, kid—” The kid stepped out of the shadows. Auburn hair was pulled up into a loose chignon, though several tendrils had escaped to frame a slender face. Harrison took in the faded chambray shirt, denim trousers patched repeatedly at the knees, and scuffed boots, all covering what was a decidedly feminine shape. Though the clothes were overly large and hung on her with as much form as a potato sack, there was no doubt it was a woman holding him at bay. He felt his jaw drop. “You’re not a boy.” “I never said I was.” She gestured with the shotgun. “Mount up, mister, and leave.” Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Harrison looked over his shoulder at the southwestern horizon. Towering thunderheads rolled forward, churning over one another, growing darker with each passing minute. “Ma’am, if that sky is any indication, it’s going to be a long, wet night. I’ll admit I wasn’t honest with you about being told in town there was work here. If you’ll let me stay the night in your barn, at first light I’ll get that garden fence repaired.” He pulled his hat off, completely unshrouding his features. “I was honest when I said I’m not looking for trouble.” “And what guarantee do I have that you’ll be here at first light? Or that you won’t try to rob us blind in the middle of the night?” She pointed the shotgun directly into his stomach, even as she descended the steps of the porch and closed the distance between them. “Or attempt to murder all of us in our sleep?” Us? He would have bet she was the only one there. Her blunt questions raked over him even though he had given her cause to challenge his honesty. “Ma’am, if I give you my word, I aim to keep it.” He didn’t like being on the receiving end of any weapon but he pulled his gaze from the shotgun and scanned the ranch house, noting the faded whitewash, the boarded-up window on the second floor, the sagging step on the porch. He lowered his line of sight to her face and offered what he hoped was a friendly smile. “And, no offense meant, but it doesn’t look like you have anything worth stealing. As to the other…I’m no killer. I’m not about to start now.” Her jaw clenched as she met his gaze. He’d never seen eyes quite like hers; almost a quicksilver grey with an undertone of deep blue. “Why should I believe you?” “You’ve got every reason to keep that shotgun pointed at me and make me keep riding. All I can do is give you my word as a gentleman and hope you believe it.” Her unnerving stare never left him but her features softened while she appeared to weigh his words. He could rationalize her misgivings. She was a woman, alone on this wide open plain. Even dressed as a boy, there was no doubting 60 | UncagedBooks.com

she was a woman—and a rather becoming one at that. There wasn’t a man on the place if the state of disrepair to the house was any indication. A lack of male protection made her vulnerable. He was a total stranger and she’d be a fool to so lightly offer trust… He knew the moment she reached her decision as the quicksilver of her eyes darkened into a deeper bluegrey. She lowered the shotgun in degrees and eased the hammer home. Harrison allowed himself a slow exhalation and relaxed his hold on the horse’s reins. “I’ve got three dairy cows. They go into the barn at night. You’re more than welcome to bed your horse down in one of the other stalls and you can throw your bedroll out in an open stall or the tack room.” Her gaze lifted to the horizon he had mentioned earlier. “I don’t have a lot of grain, but I can spare a scoop of oats for your horse.” “Ma’am?” He wasn’t sure what he was hearing, other than he wasn’t going to be trying to find shelter in the middle of a thunderstorm. “I was not raised to turn away those in need. You need a place out of the weather for the night.” Resignation clung to the words before her voice firmed. “You may as well put your horse in the small corral next to the barn until that storm gets here. I would appreciate it if you clean his stall before you leave in the morning.” “Yes, ma’am.” Harrison plopped his hat onto his head. He tugged on Demon’s reins, then paused and asked, “What’s the name of this place?” Demon nudged the middle of his back, staggering him a step forward and closer to the woman. “The town or the ranch?” “Both, actually.” He pushed the horse’s head away from his shoulder, circumventing another hard nudge from the black. “I’m not sure where I am.” “It depends on which direction you rode in from. We’re west of Forgotten and almost to Federal.” The slightest hint of a smile tugged at a corner of her mouth and some of the tension faded from her features. He wondered if that was meant to be a joke. She paused, brushing a wayward tendril of hair from her face. “The name of the ranch is the Lazy L.” The last time he’d been this surprised Harrison was


| LYNDA J. COX | playing poker and saw a fifth ace dealt. “If this is the Lazy L, I need to see Sam Leonard. My name’s Taylor. Harrison Taylor.” Her expression shuttered more quickly than he could have believed. Her pinched features tightened again and she drew back, sucking in a quick breath. “Why do you need to see him?” Harrison didn’t miss the small break in her voice, or the rapid manner the color leeched from her face. “I’m hoping that Sam can straighten something out for me. About six or seven years ago, I oversaw purchasing beef for the Army troops in the Western Theater and I met Sam at Fort Scott, Kansas.” Her posture stiffened and her chin jutted out at him. Those disconcerting eyes narrowed. “The Lazy L sold a lot of cattle to the Army then, Mr. Taylor.” He was startled by the vehemence with which she spat his name at him. “It’s not about the beef. Sam and I were in the same poker game and he lost to me. He lost a lot.” She slowly shook her head. Harrison wondered what she was trying to negate. “Sam couldn’t cover his bet. He said he had the deed to a ranch. I’ve got what he wrote out for me in my saddle bag.” Without waiting for her permission, he reached into the saddle bag. The muzzle of the shotgun lifting caught in the corner of his eye. He deliberately avoided the revolver resting in its holster in the depths of the leather pouch and pulled out a packet of often folded papers. He pulled one from the small group—the handwritten deed giving him one acre less than half of the total deeded ranch—and unfolded it. He glanced at the page. “I can read it for you if—” “I can read.” The sharp words were accompanied by her small hand thrusting out to take the paper from him. Realizing his mistake, he let her take the creased page from him. He hadn’t expected a woman on this frontier to be educated enough to read and certainly hadn’t expected one dressed in denims to have that ability. Her head dipped as she scanned the handwriting. The page crumpled with the tightening of her fingers. “How could he do this?” Anger edged her thin

whisper. She looked again at the paper. Her voice thickened and increased in volume with her distress. “He can’t—This can’t possibly be legal.” This young woman dressed in the most unladylike manner had to be Sam Leonard’s daughter, the paragon Sam’s bragging about had become almost tedious during their poker game. Harrison lifted his gaze to the house as he found he was unable to look at the woman in front of him, a woman who seemed to have the weight of the whole world on her slender shoulders. He couldn’t shake the sensation he had just added to that heavy burden. “Ma’am, he was almost five thousand dollars into me when he wrote that to cover his last bet.” “I’m sure he was.” Her hand closed around the paper, nearly wadding it into a ball before she thrust it in his direction. “He never did know when to walk away. Sam’s in the house. I’ll take you in to him, though I’m not sure what it will accomplish.” She rounded on her heel, leaving Harrison no choice but to follow. He couldn’t stop the admiration coursing through him when he saw the butt of what appeared to be a heavy caliber revolver tucked into the waistband of her denims in the small of her back. The lady was well armed. Even though she had agreed to shelter him for the night in her barn and had lowered the shotgun, she still had a way to defend herself. He released Demon’s drop rein and jogged a few steps to catch up, shoving the paper into his trouser pocket. Just inside she paused only long enough to prop the shotgun near the door and settle the revolver on the counter. She then continued a determined march through the house. Harrison raised a brow. He hadn’t seen a Colt Dragoon in better than ten years. He noted the covered Dutch oven on the massive Hoosier stove in a corner of the kitchen and the scent of baking bread mingled with the mouth-watering aroma of what he guessed to be chicken stew. His rumbling stomach reminded him it had been several days since he’d had a decent meal. He looked at the floor, hoping she hadn’t heard his growling Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | stomach. The pine planking was scored in places. He guessed the gouging happened when any hands the ranch employed failed to remove their spurs before entering. His weren’t going to add any more damage to the flooring as there was no rowel on the short shank, blunted ends. Her footfalls faded when she left the kitchen and stepped onto a thick carpet runner in an Oriental pattern. He lengthened his stride to catch up to her again. This house wasn’t the usual sod house he’d seen on the prairies. Unlike those soddies, this house hadn’t grown up overnight. Despite the fact it needed maintenance and upkeep, this was a building that had been constructed to silently but firmly convey a message of wealth and authority. He didn’t know a lot about rugs or wall coverings or even construction. He’d never bothered to learn. Those aspects of a home had always been covered by his family’s money, but even he could tell this wasn’t the place of a dirt-poor homesteader. The ceiling in the kitchen was covered with patterned copper squares, though they needed burnishing as indicated by the green patina of the metal. The board running the length of the hallway above the dark wood wainscoting had been joined so it appeared seamless and had been carved with an intricate, twisting ivy pattern. Flocking embossed the wallpaper of the hallway. It was easy to see where someone—he guessed this young woman as her fingertips brushed along the wall while she led the way— had trailed a hand for years, leaving a shining path in the muted sunlight where the flocking had worn off the wallpaper. The hallway ended in a large foyer. A set of double doors adorned with rippling leaded glass was to his right. To his left a flight of stairs made their way to a second floor. The young woman paused in front of a set of closed pocket doors. Next to those was an opened room—a less formal parlor, if the natural light and airiness of the room was any indication. A petticoat table with its mirror at floor level stood near the opened doors. Considering his guide’s proclivity for denim trousers, 62 | UncagedBooks.com

boots, and chambray shirts, he didn’t think that mirror was used often. He hadn’t seen a home with a ladies’ parlor since he left New Orleans more than two years earlier. “You might not recognize my father. He was in an accident about six years ago and he’s never recovered.” She looked over her shoulder. An old pain defined the lines of her face, darkened her eyes, and layered her voice. “He hasn’t been the same since then. Apoplexy shortly afterward exacerbated the damage caused by the accident.” His assumption that this was Sam’s daughter had been correct. “You must be Rachel.” She nodded, once, and opened the doors to the closed parlor. Before he walked into the room, Rachel grabbed his shirt sleeve and stopped him. “Please don’t upset him. He’s very fragile.” Fragile was not a word he would have ever thought to use in conjunction with the man he so vividly remembered after only a few bare hours engaged in what became a high-stakes poker game. His recollections of Sam Leonard were of a barrel-chested giant of a man, capable of putting away copious amounts of alcohol, who became louder and brasher as the evening wore on, and of a man overbearingly proud of his only child. The paragon of feminine virtues created through Sam’s bragging was far from the reality of the young woman impeding his entrance into the parlor. Harrison made the offer after a single glance into the room. A wheeled chair bathed in the elongating rays of the late afternoon sun faced the southern exposed windows. What he could see of the individual slumped in the chair made him question if it was even the man he had known. “It won’t be a long conversation, Mr. Taylor.” Rachel walked into the room and directly to the chair. “Daddy,” she said and knelt at her father’s side. “Someone is here to see you about the ranch.” The gurgling sounds from the hunched figure somehow still managed to sound angry and one hand flailed the air near Rachel’s face. She stood and drew back. Harrison crossed the room and stared down at the man imprisoned in the wicker wheelchair. The bull


| LYNDA J. COX | of a man he remembered was gone. Sam’s complexion was ashen, half his face drooping. Drool had trickled from a side of his mouth and dried to a thick, white line. His left arm hung uselessly in his lap. The other was still flailing. From mid-thigh down, Sam’s legs were missing. A heavy quilt covered his lap, while a wide swathe of what appeared to be linen wrapped around the man’s once barrel chest, under his arms, and was tied around the back of the chair, to keep him from tumbling onto the floor. It was the pure, stark terror crossing the old man’s face though that tore through Harrison. The man thrashed his hand at Harrison, as if to push him away, and the incomprehensible sounds breaking from him were those of a frightened, wounded creature. A long, low, distant rumble of thunder intruded into the room. Rachel stepped between Harrison and her father. “You might want to go put your horse up, Mr. Taylor. That storm is getting closer.” “What happened to him?” He couldn’t take his gaze from the shell that stared up at him with undisguised fear. “He was blasting a played-out silver mine shut and it collapsed on him. Please, go, now.” She gestured at the opened doors. “You’re upsetting him and Doc says anything that makes him upset could kill him.” Harrison wasn’t sure if what was left of Sam was living and that death wouldn’t be kinder, and even as he thought that, he bit the words back. He stepped away, hesitating just long enough to see Rachel lift a white rag from a wash basin near her father and gently dab at his face. “It’s all right,” he heard her murmur. “I’m right here, Daddy.”

Uncaged Review West of Forgotten is a nicely written western that tackles some very dark issues, including sexual abuse. The author blends these issues into the storyline with credibility and believability. Our heroine Rachel is strong and broken at the same time, and the reader believes it every step of the way. The hero in Harrison is exactly the type of man that every woman needs in her corner who needs to learn to trust both other people, and herself – and the author makes sure that it doesn’t overpower the story. It was satisfying to watch Rachel grow into the woman that she was meant to be, and love how she was meant to love. My sole gripe is that I wished it were a bit longer, to see them realize their dreams for the ranch. Even though it ended well, and tied up its storyline, I am just a bit selfish and would have truly enjoyed an epilogue on this one. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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CatchUp with

Linda Rae Sande

Linda Rae Sande was a Feature Author in the October 2016 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews. We catch up with her this month to see what she’s been up to since we last chatted. Uncaged: You were a Featured Author in Uncaged Book Reviews in October 2016. How was your experience being in the magazine? We had a great experience! So many readers contacted us with comments about the article as well as the excellent reviews you posted on the three books that make up “The Sisters of the Aristocracy”. That series has since been released as a book bundle and has a completely new audience.

love writing the books that feature men as the main characters—they’re so interesting to research. And interviewing live men is always entertaining. We don’t mean to embarrass them—truly—so it helps to get a couple of drinks into them before asking for their takes on what happens between the sheets. Speaking of books featuring men, the book bundle THE BROTHERS OF THE ARISTOCRACY is now available at most online retailers and will release on Amazon February 23. The first book in that series, THE LOVE OF A RAKE, is only 99¢ and is a favorite with my male readers. Uncaged: You will be attending some in-person events this year including Wild Deadwood Reads – can you tell readers where they can meet you this year? We’ll be at RT in Reno, Deadwood for Wild Deadwood Reads, and the Novelist, Inc. convention, NINC, in Florida and possibly InD’Scribe in Burbank.

Scarsdale Publishing released THE ENIGMA OF A SPY in ebook on Amazon and TTP released THE ENIGMA OF A WIDOW in paperback as well as THE PRIDE OF A GENTLEMAN, THE SECRETS OF A VISCOUNT, THE CHRISTMAS OF A COUNTESS and THE SISTERS OF THE ARISTOCRACY: BOXED SET.

A former technical writer, Linda Rae Sande’s interest in the Regency has resulted in nineteen books set during that era. When she’s not writing, she can frequently be found at the local cinema enjoying the latest action-adventure movie. During the winter, she follows the local junior hockey team and is a fan of the San Jose Sharks. She makes her home in Cody, Wyoming. Read more about her books on her website: https://www.lindaraesande.com.

Uncaged: The Dream of a Duchess released on January 19, 2018, also in your Aristocracy family. What else is coming up in 2018?

lindaraesande.com

Uncaged: You’ve been very busy this past year! You’ve had five books release in 2017, is that correct? Usually, we write three full-length novels and release a book bundle of one of the series. That’s our regular schedule with Twisted Teacup Publishing.

We’re currently writing THE VISION OF A VISCOUNT for release in May (hopefully in time for RT Convention) and will follow it up with another in The Widowers of the Aristocracy series. We 64 | UncagedBooks.com


Enjoy an excerpt from The Dream of a Duchess The Dream of a Duchess Linda Rae Sande Historical Regency When Lady Isabella witnesses the murder of her mother—by her father, the Earl of Craythorne—she rides off to London in search of the man her mother, Arabella, instructed she contact lest anything befall her. Directions send Isabella to the doors of The Elegant Courtesan, a high-end brothel owned by David Fitzwillim, Earl of Norwick, to whom she relates her gruesome tale. Stunned and heartbroken at hearing the fate of Arabella, David vows to ensure Isabella’s safety from Craythorne, and he enlists the aid of Octavius, Duke of Huntington, to provide protection and a home in the country, where she won’t be found. He would do it himself, but he’s due to marry the girl’s aunt, Lady Clarinda, and has some courting to do— his twin brother seems determined to make her his own wife. Still suffering from the loss of his wife in childbirth, Octavius has long since given up the joy he took in his race horses—choosing to ignore his stables and country estate and live in London, immersed in reading and attending sessions of Parliament. Not particularly pleased with having a ward, Octavius soon discovers Isabella’s passion for horses goes far beyond just riding them. With a new generation of racehorses in his stables, and his country estate suddenly in pristine condition, he may just experience some horse sense himself in “The Dream of a Duchess”. Excerpt

| LINDA RAE SANDE | Octavius continued to listen to the quiet in the front hall of Huntinghurst, wondering where the servants might be. He didn’t bother trying to soften the sound of his boot heels as he finally made his way down the hall that led to the courtyard. Perhaps everyone was outside, or in the village. He nearly stopped in his tracks when he remembered it was market day. Allowing a rather loud sigh of annoyance, he decided to make his way to the stables. He was already out the door and on the crushed granite path before he realized there was someone in the parterre garden. And something with her. Pausing, he angled his head to one side and watched as Isabella walked through the paths between the boxwood hedges. Wearing an apple green muslin gown and short gloves, her hair gathered into a bun atop her head, she looked as if she could be any one of a dozen chits he might pass in Jermyn Street whilst shopping, except instead of holding onto the handles of a hat box or shopping bag, she held onto a rope that encircled the neck of a colt. Isabella had nearly reached the end of one row and was coaxing the colt to turn onto the next row in the pattern when she suddenly glanced in his direction. Resuming his walk toward her, Octavius watched as Isabella had the colt turning onto a path that would allow her and the colt to exit the parterre and head in his direction. He met her just as the colt cleared the boxwood-lined path. “Your Grace! What a pleasant surprise,” Isabella gushed as she pulled the colt to stand alongside her. She dipped a curtsy and, instead of offering her gloved hand, she stepped forward, wrapped her free hand around the back of his neck, and bestowed a kiss on his cheek. Next to her, the timid colt finally overcame its initial fear of the duke and showed a bit of curiosity by sniffing at his pockets. A bit surprised by her greeting, Octavius managed to capture her free hand as she stepped back. He brushed his lips over the back of it. “For me, as well,” he replied, wondering at her affectionIssue 19 | February 2018 |

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| CATCH UP | ate greeting. Had she been taught a version of the French way to welcome an old friend? No one was about the grounds to see what she had done, though, so he decided not to admonish her. “Who do we have here?” he asked, rather stunned to see a colt so soon in the spring. “This is Hermés. He’s proving to be as ornery a colt as his older namesake was.” Octavius arched both eyebrows, rather surprised to hear the assessment given she had a lead around the colt’s neck. And the colt had seemed to follow her through the garden without trampling the plantings. “Yet he seems to be behaving right now.” “It’s early,” she countered with a grin. “Pray tell, do you have something in your pocket?” she asked. “I’m afraid I’m all out of carrots, and he seems to think you have a treat,” she added as she noted how the colt was nosing his topcoat. Remembering he carried the pasteboard box David had given him, he was about to pull it out of one pocket and hand it to her, but thought better of it. Instead, he reached into the other pocket and pulled out a small apple. He had intended it for his own mount, thinking he would go for a ride since he had spent the entire trip to Huntinghurst in the coach. He offered the apple to the overly curious colt. Isabella rolled her eyes as the horse knickered and proudly downed the apple. Hermés was about to reach over and continue sniffing at the duke’s topcoat when Isabella said, “No, you’ve had quite enough,” as she pulled back on the lead. Hermés’ stubbornness became apparent, though, and Isabella finally undid the lead from around his neck. “I’ve had enough of you today. Off to your mum,” she said as she placed a hand against the side of his head and gave a slight push. “It’s probably his dinner time anyway,” she added as she returned her attention to the duke. Octavius watched as the colt, realizing it was free of the rope, hurried off to join Maia. The mare was tethered to a post just beyond the par66 | UncagedBooks.com

terre garden. “Other than the fact that she’s outside of the fence, why is Maia tied up?” Octavius wondered as he squinted in the direction of the brood mare. A descendent of several racing horses, she had the perfect lines and profile to be one herself, but he had never trained her for the track. He rather doubted she had ever had a saddle on her. “She’s finally learning patience,” Isabella replied as she turned her attention back to the duke. “She manages to be the first at everything, you see.” Octavius resumed his walk toward the stables, offering an arm to Isabella as he contemplated her mention of Maia being first at everything. Could she have been first at the finish line? he wondered. Well, it was too late given her age. She was well past six years, the top age for any of the races that took place in England. “For example?” he prompted, rather entertained by Isabella’s comment. “She’s first at the hay, first out of the stables in the morning, first with the stud, first to foal...” She allowed the sentence to trail off as she placed her hand on his arm and walked alongside the duke. “I must admit I didn’t expect to find any foals this early,” he said. “How many more will there be, do you suppose?” Ever since Jane’s death, he hadn’t given half a thought to the stables at Huntinghurst. Knowing Isabella took an interest and seemed amenable to spending time with the horses allowed him to continue his ambivalence. “Just three,” Isabella replied with a sigh.

Read the Uncaged Review for The Dream of a Duchess in the review section.


feature author Tina Susedik is an award-winning, multi-published author with books in both fiction and non-fiction, including history, children’s, military books and romances. Her favorite is writing romance stories where her characters live happily ever after. She lives in Northwestern Wisconsin and is a member of Romance Writers of America, Wisconsin Romance Writers of America, Wisconsin Writer’s Association, and Sisters In crime. Tina also write spicier romances as Anita Kidesu.

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Newsletter tina-susedik.com

Uncaged welcomes Tina Susedik Uncaged: Can you tell the readers about the different books you have out right now? I have fifteen books in print, which include five romantic mysteries and short stories in three anthologies, plus erotic romances under my pen name, Anita Kidesu. I also have three children’s books published. Uncaged: Where did you get the inspiration for the love notes in envelopes in Missing My Heart? At the beginning of the story, Ellie knocks over “The Horse,” one of her grandmother’s prized possessions. I actually have the horse described in the story and did knock it over when I was vacuuming. The saddle fell off and sawdust spilled on the floor. A sudden idea hit me of love notes hidden in the horse. I needed more notes and since her grandmother was a hoarder of sorts and Ellie needed to clean out her house, I thought finding envelopes with notes and money in them would be mysterious. Uncaged: You also have leant your talent to short

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stories in three different anthologies. How is it different to write for an anthology vs. your own full length novel? For me it’s a bit more difficult to write a short story. Most of my other books are 60,000 words or longer. There’s always so much more I want to put in a short story. Writing short stories tend to make my writing tighter, though. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I have another book in the Sable Hunters’ Hell Yeah! KindleWorld being released on February 21st. My last book with her was A Photograph of Love. There are four siblings in the story. The oldest was in the first book. Love With a Side of Crazy is about the youngest sibling, Marie. I am planning books for the other two siblings. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? When someone said my books were on her keeper shelf. I cried. I have a keeper shelf of my favorites and to know someone has mine on her shelf was emotional. 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 is creating char-

acters and putting them in difficult and humorous situations, then trying to figure out how resolve their problems. The part of least like is promotion. I’m an introvert and putting myself out there (and figuring out the best way to do it) is difficult. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Read, of course. I also love photography, especially nature and old barns. My husband and I hike, bike, and camp. I can’t forget spending time with my five grandchildren. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? For me the hardest part of writing a book is editing – and sometimes, since I write mystery, figuring out “whodunit.” I’ve had several occasions when I get to the last chapter and have no idea who the bad guy is. The easiest part is coming up with the idea. I’m a panster, so I let my characters tell me what they want. It’s hard to say how long it takes to write a book. It depends on the length. Unless I’m given a specific word count, I never know how long the story will end up. Once I’m done writing the rough draft, I set the story aside and start the next one, then go back and start edits, so I’m usually working on two projects at once. Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I want to thank my fans for reading my books. I appreciate that they think enough of my stories to spend their hard-earned money on them.

Enjoy an excerpt from Missing My Heart Missing My Heart Tina Susedik Romantic Suspense/Humor After the death of the grandmother Ellie Farrell had lived with since she was sixteen, she is tasked with the job of cleaning out the over-packed house. When Ellie begins to find love notes and money from a Bert to Randi spanning over four decades, she sets out to find out who these people are and what they have to do with her. An unexpected check for $100,000 dollars delivered to her house, ramps up the mystery - especially when death threats begin to arrive. Patton Trullinger, an investigative reporter, comes to Chandler County to research bootleggers for a book he’s contracted for. As a Vietnam veteran, he’s dealing with PTSD. When he meets Ellie, he finds her mystery too good to pass up. Who are Bert and Randi? Who is sending death threats? Will Ellie and Patton’s love bloom as the mystery deepens? Excerpt Ellie smiled as she leaned against a counter, eating a bowl of her favorite cereal. This was her house now and she could do any damn thing she wanted. And today she wanted to attack the kitchen. The first thing she needed to do was call for a dump70 | UncagedBooks.com

ster—a very large dumpster. She glanced around the room. Maybe two dumpsters. She tapped a finger against her lips. Which cupboard would get the ax today? The door to the spice cabinet bulged open several inches and beckoned for help. Her grandmother loved cooking and trying new seasonings. The only problem was, instead of planning ahead, she’d think of what to cook while at the store. As the years went on, she couldn’t recall what she had at home and simply bought more. Lord only knew how many duplicates nor how old they were. Several containers spilled to the counter when she opened the door. A mixture of cinnamon, poultry seasoning, nutmeg, and other scents she couldn’t identify wafted over her. Before sorting, she pulled a large garbage bag from under the kitchen sink. Since Miranda never used the cleaning supplies, it was the only organized cupboard in the kitchen. One-by-one she removed container after container, some tall, some short, and set them in rows by spice on the gray, 1940s oval kitchen table. She’d pulled back the red and white vinyl chairs to make it easier to walk around the table. The chrome legs and table edgings gleamed in the morning light. The jars in the front of the cupboard were recent. As she moved further into the supply, the dates ranged from 1972 to 1970. Halfway through the cupboard, she came across an envelope. Her breath caught. She dropped onto a chair. Inside were five one-hundreddollar bills. Why had Grandma kept that much money hidden? There had been times when money was in short supply. Why hadn’t she used it? Had she forgotten it was there? But who would forget that much money? She searched the envelope for a note, but no such luck. After setting the envelope aside, she went back to the cupboard. The rows of spices on the table grew. Behind the last batch of containers lay another envelope, this one yellowed and brittle. “What the hell?” She pulled out another five onehundred-dollar bills wrapped in a narrow piece of paper with the words For M on it. The handwriting looked familiar, but it wasn’t Miranda’s. She placed the envelope on top of the first one. Her grandmoth-


| TINA SUSEDIK | er had become absent-minded in the past few years, but both the envelopes looked to be older than that. In fact, the last one seemed to be several decades old. Her grandmother had lived through the Great Depression. Had this been her way of squirreling away money? Ellie removed the last jar and set it on the table. Geez, Louise. Five jars of cinnamon, four of nutmeg, six poultry seasoning, five meat seasoning, three cilantro. What the hell was cilantro? With the various other spices, there were forty-four jars. Did other people have that many spices? She couldn’t recall what her own mother had used. After setting aside those whose dates were from the current year, she held the black garbage bag open at the end of the table and, with a sweep of her arm, sent them crashing into the bag. She tied it shut and tried lifting it. “Damn, this is heavy.” She let it sag to the floor and opened the door to the back yard to haul it out there until the dumpster came. No sense in letting the neighbors see what she was discarding. Then she grabbed the bag, and moving backwards, tugged it out the door, letting it drop to the concrete patio. She brushed her hands together and surveyed the room. “One down, too damn many more to go. Not to mention having to clean them all.” Before moving to the next cupboard, she wiped the spice one clean and replaced the seven seasonings she would actually use. The double door pantry was next. She pulled the doors open and gasped. How had she not known how much food Miranda had squirreled away? When Ellie had started making her own money after high school, her grandmother had designated one cupboard for her use, saying she wasn’t going to pay for food that wasn’t good to eat. So, she’d had no reason to go into any cabinets other than her own and the ones for dishes, glasses, silverware, and cups. Canned fruit and vegetables, boxes of gelatin and cereal, packages of noodles, and cans of soup were stacked haphazardly. Why were there so many boxes of cereal? She couldn’t even recall her grandmother eating cereal. Oatmeal, yes, but not cereal. With a deep sigh, she once again began the arduous task of removing each item, checking the expiration dates,

keeping those that were still good, and tossing the rest into garbage bags. Except for the cereal boxes, since these items were heavier than the spices, the bags couldn’t be as full before she dragged them outside. She tugged a particularly heavy bag across the floor, bumping into the table with her rear. A box of cereal that had been opened who knew how long ago tipped over. The top flap popped open and flakes spilled out like a waterfall onto the floor. A corner of something white caught her eye when she picked up the box. Hoping no creepy-crawlies were in the box, she used two fingers to pull out an envelope similar to those in the spice cabinet. Like in a magic show, one more appeared, then another. Three envelopes in one box. Each containing a cryptic note and several hundred dollars. Buy something pretty for yourself. B. When can I see you again? B. If we could be together again, my life would be complete. B. She assumed B was this Bert guy. Ellie put the envelopes with the others. So far there was close to two thousand dollars. She scooped up the fallen flakes with a dust pan and dumped them in the garage bag, then stopped and raced out the back door. What if this wasn’t the only box containing envelopes? She’d tossed away fifteen opened boxes. Thankfully, the bags weren’t as heavy as the ones with canned goods, so bringing them back into the house was easy. She flipped open the flap of the first box, the one with a rooster on the side. Anticipating another envelope hidden in with the cereal, she was surprised to find the inner bag still sealed. What the heck? Why would the box be unsealed, but not the sack? She gave it a tug and found an envelope taped to the side. Without bothering to open it, she grabbed the next box, then the next. As if an alien had taken possession of her body, she ripped, pulled, jerked, and tossed envelopes in a pile, not paying attention to the mess taking over the room. “Ellie. What the hell are you doing?” Ellie jumped at Pam’s voice. The box jerked in Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | her hand, sending little round, brown pieces of cereal shooting across the room. Pam stood in the living room doorway, eyes wide, fingers over her mouth. “Have you gone crazy?” Maybe she was crazy. Scary thought considering her mother had been. She focused on the mess she’d created in her frenzy. Boxes with leprechauns, tigers, silly rabbits, a captain, a dog dressed as a sheriff, and a moose were scattered around the room. Cereal in various shapes and colors littered the floor, making it look like a huge bag of confetti had thrown up in the kitchen. The cereal crunched beneath her feet as she grabbed Pam’s hand. “You won’t believe what I’ve found.” “I hope like hell it’s your brain, because I think you’ve lost yours.” “Look.” Ellie held out the stack of envelopes. Pam took them, brushed flakes from a chair and sat down. “What’s the big deal?” “Open one.” “Oh, my gosh. There’s five hundred dollars in here.” She fanned the pile. “There’s at least twenty envelopes here.” “I haven’t looked through every single one.” Ellie pulled up a chair and sat next to her friend. She swept her hand over the table, sending flakes, pebbles, and marshmallow shapes to the floor. “I found two in with the spices. Then I started on the pantry. I was just throwing away all the old stuff. A box of cereal got knocked over and I found another envelope. Then I figured I should go through all the boxes.” She leaned back in her chair and held back a fit of giggles. “Every single box had one, if not two envelopes in it. The first ones I found totaled two thousand dollars. Each one has a note like the ones we found in The Horse.” Pam frowned and opened another one. “Wow. I mean, like wow.” She glanced around the kitchen. “How come you never found them before?” “Grandma did all the cooking and except for the cupboard that was mine and the one with the dishes and pots and pans, she wouldn’t let me go 72 | UncagedBooks.com

in them. You know how she was. I didn’t dare touch anything.” “Yeah. I hate to speak ill of the dead, but she could be quite the bitch.” “Tell me about it.” Ellie bit her bottom lip. “I simply can’t imagine why she hid this money.” “Sounds like another mystery to me.” Pam’s eyes sparkled. “Do you think there’s more?” “Who knows? I mean, this was just from going through the cereal.” She shook her head. The idea of going through the massive amount of food was getting to her. Even the thought of the money didn’t make the job seem easier. “There’s boxes of other junk in there.” “I came over to ask if you want to go to lunch, but now I want to help. Can I?” Relief washed through her. “I would love it.” Pam set the envelopes on the table and rose. “How about it I go grab us a frozen pizza from the store. It can cook while we devise a plan of action. I think we need to be methodic about this.” “That sounds wonderful. I’ll clean up this mess while you’re gone and try to get a bit more organized.” She opened one of the envelopes and handed Pam a fifty-dollar bill. “Why don’t you get us some wine and soda and more garbage bags while you’re at it.” When her friend was gone, Ellie stood in the middle of the kitchen, hands on her hips, tears pooling in her eyes. “Geez, Grandma, what were you thinking? Why were we living from hand to mouth when you had all this money? Why did you act like I was such a financial burden to you?” If it wasn’t for the fact that some of the envelopes were in boxes with expiration dates from the previous year, she’d think Miranda had forgotten about the money. Maybe she had, but why hadn’t she ever used the money? And the biggest questions were, who the hell was Bert and what was his relationship to Miranda?


| TINA SUSEDIK |

Uncaged Review Set in the 1970’s, Ellie begins finding envelopes with notes and money hidden all over the house after her grandmother’s death. The notes seem to be love notes, although Ellie doesn’t know any of the story. Patton, a veteran who is also researching for a book, is friends with Ellie’s best friend’s husband, and comes along when they all come over to help her move heavy furniture to the garage to unclutter the house. When she receives a large check from an anonymous sender, she also starts receiving threats. I enjoyed the original concept, and the suspense builds along with a romance between Ellie and Patton. I was not pulled into the book right away, it felt a little sluggish in the first few chapters. Many secrets will be revealed that will surprise Ellie and the reader. A good suspense that kept me intrigued and turning the pages. Reviewed by Cyrene

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feature author Reading and writing have always been a part of CJ’s life. Ever since she can remember, she’s been putting pen to paper, creating complex characters in rich environments. She lives in Western Wisconsin with her husband and fur-baby. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking, cake decorating, and of course, watching NASCAR. She picked up her first piping bag at age fourteen and started decorating full-time at age twenty-three. Using the experience she’d gained while working in her family’s bakery, along with her love of racing, she created the setting for her first series of novels. She also enjoys volunteering at the local animal rescue shelters and advocating for those who are unable to speak for themselves.

Stay Connected

Uncaged welcomes C.J. Bower Uncaged: Can you tell readers about your Caked with Pleasure series? How many books are you planning for the series? Someone once said “in order to write well, you must write what you know.” Well, here’s what I know. Baking and racing. With my love of writing, the two seemed to come together naturally. Jacqui and Nick were supposed to be a one-off, however, her friends had other ideas. Peri and Cami insisted I give them their own stories. There are 2 books currently available in the series, with the third in progress. There are possibilities for more, but for now I’m sticking to three. Uncaged: On Track with Icing was your first full length novel, and honestly, I never thought about the pairing of a bakery owner and a racecar driver, but it works. What was the inspiration for these characters? I drew on my own personal experiences when I created these characters. I’ve been a race fan for as long as I can remember, and I come from a family of bakers. I even worked in my family’s bakery for a few years, and drew on that experience to create Jacqui’s Bakery.

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NASCAR brought me together with my husband, who spent many years working with a female driver at our local track, and he was a wealth of information when it came to getting the mechanics of the cars and accuracy of the on-track action. Uncaged: You also have a “day job,” do your coworkers know about your books? I honestly don’t think my coworkers are interested in reading my books. Or if they are, they haven’t approached me. I have the covers on my desk, but as yet no inquiries about them. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them? Of course I read reviews! I want to know what my audience thinks of my books, good or bad. If I don’t know where my mistakes are, I can’t fix them. Being a part of an amazing critique group, I see every review as an opportunity to improve both my craft. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I get asked frequently about when Cami’s story, Knotted Up with Passion, will come out. I still have a huge, gaping hole in her timeline that I need to fill (because

she’s in captivity and I don’t want to bore my readers when she’s stuck in her cell), and I need to get her reunited with her man (whom I have not officially announced yet, though readers will probably pick up on it pretty quick. I kinda left a trail of bread crumbs in the first two.) In addition to Knotted Up with Passion, I’ve also started a massive project I call my Romantic American Tour. One romance story for each state. One of my favorite authors created her Americana series back in the 70s and 80s, and she inspired me to write my own series. I’ll be writing my own stories, using different locations of the states as backdrops. I have Wisconsin and North Carolina done, with Wyoming, Pennsylvania and Maine currently in progress. I also have outlines for Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Virginia. Without outlines I would probably go stark raving mad with this project! Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? Someone told me once that Jacqui’s story made her cry, that she could relate to Jacqui’s inability to have children. Hearing how someone else, even if she’s just a fictional character, dealt with endomeIssue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | triosis and the subsequent consequences, helped her cope with a similar situation. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? My favorite part about being an author? Writing of course! Creating fascinating characters in exciting locations. I also love meeting fellow writers and readers. Encouragement from the readers helps keep me going. My least favorite part? Probably everything else. Promotions are the hardest thing, because I’m extremely introverted. I’ve always hated drawing attention to myself, and now I’m forced to in order to promote my work. And there’s no magic formula for instant readership, so it’s constant trial and error. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I love reading, of course, which inspired me to get into writing. I read a number of badly-written romances, and had the “brilliant idea” (said with a sarcastic smirk) that I could write better. So I put my pen where my mouth was, so to speak. On Track with Icing was the first novel that I felt was worthy of publication. When I need a break from writing I enjoy crafting. Crochet, loom-knitting, counted cross-stitch, sewing. Last year for Halloween I made my own Ursula costume from a pattern I had left over for a different costume. I even turned my front porch into Ursula’s Lair, which was a huge hit with the kids. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? The hardest part for me is probably just sitting 76 | UncagedBooks.com

down to write. Between the day job and other demands on my time, I have to make time to write. The easiest, I’d say, is the actual writing. Once I get in my zone, I can easily get several chapters written. As for how long it takes to finish a complete book, well, it varies. On Track was 3-year project, however Icing the Competition was written within a few months. Knotted up with Passion is currently going on 2 ½ years from the first moment I started the first chapter. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I want to thank the readers. Without them no author, me included, would be where they are. So please, show them your appreciation by leaving a review and passing along the word about their books.

Enjoy an excerpt from On Track with Icing On Track with Icing C.J. Bower Contemporary Romance She’s everything he wanted in a woman…except for one thing. Plus-sized bakery owner Jacqui Jacobson’s confidence is at an alltime low after her public divorce and her ex-husband’s despicable accusations. So the last person she expects to show interest in her is racing hot-shot Nick Barrister. But when the two click over her risqué cake designs, it seems like icing on the cake. However, Jacqui hasn’t told him that not being able to have children was the main cause for her marriage ending. As her relationship with Nick turns from casual to serious he expresses his desire for children,


| C.J. BOWER | and now time is running out. Can she tell him first before her ex-husband, who has reared his ugly head and is determined to destroy her new-found happiness, beats her to it? And will Nick still want her once he finds out? Excerpt Shawn is so going to owe me, Nick thought as he opened the door to the bakery. This was not part of the job description. The chime of the doorway reminded him of the one from his favorite childhood candy store, and he grinned. He looked around the shop, the colors also reminiscent of the candy store. The bakery’s walls were decorated in pastels and the floor was set in a series of multi-colored tiles alternating with white in a checkerboard pattern. The yeasty aroma of baking bread still permeated the air. He’d died and gone to heaven. Instead of the rotund, pock-faced chocolatier who had owned the candy shop, the woman who stepped from behind the counter stole his breath. She was lovely, with a voluptuous figure. Her smile was beautiful, lighting her up from within. He had the sudden urge to unwind the coil of her hair to see how long it was. “Good afternoon! How can I help you?” And she was tall. She topped him by a good four inches. The dark-haired beauty before him had a gorgeous, kissable mouth, and glowing cheeks. Her wide-set, deep green eyes sparkled like the sea. cake.”

Nick cleared his throat, “I need to order a

“Sure.” She reached across the counter, the action pulling her top across her luscious curves and giving him a tantalizing glimpse of her cleavage. But it was her stunning gray-green eyes that captured the majority of his attention. He’d gotten so lost in the pool of her gor-

geous gaze that he missed her question. He smiled sheepishly. “I’m sorry?” “For your cake.” Was that amusement in her voice? “What would you like?” He had no clue how to respond. “Is the cake for you or for someone else?” Yep. She was laughing at him. Heat rose to his face. “Someone else,” he replied. “Male? Female?” She rapidly fired off the questions. “Male.” He cleared his throat. Where had this embarrassment come from? He was usually more female-savvy, but for some reason this voluptuous woman fried his circuits. Maybe it was because he was used to handling the stick-thin women at the track who propositioned him with trashy come-ons about making sure all of his pistons were firing. This woman, though, he would love to get to know away from the track. At thirty-five years old, thoughts of settling down and starting a family had begun going through his mind every once in a while. Not that he thought of marriage often – more like never – but when he did, his bride was always a nameless, faceless supermodel-like figure swathed in white satin and lace. Unfortunately life at two hundred miles per hour didn’t leave much time for a personal life. “Occasion?” Her lyrical voice slid down his spine like a caress. “I’m sorry?” he said again. “Birthday?” she suggested. “Uh, no,” he stammered, his discomfiture over having to order his friend’s cake intensifyIssue 19 | February 2018 |

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ing. He shifted his weight. “Bachelor party.” “Ah.” She pointed to a thick black threering binder propped open on a display board. “Feel free to browse through the designs. Let me know if you find one you think your friend would like.” “Thank you.” He gave her the smile made famous by the media in all of his Victory Lane celebrations before sinking into the book like a lifeline, feeling out of his element in the Candyland-style shop that was Jacqui’s Bakery. Nick turned several pages with the intention of going right to the bachelor section, but found himself looking at the wedding cakes instead. As he flipped through the pages he felt both uncomfortable and intrigued. It wasn’t something he did every day, but the sheer artistry of the cakes amazed him. They were all perfectly displayed; the lettering in even, precise cursive. No doubt done by hand. Ribbons, string work, every flower imaginable and adornments resembling his grandmother’s embroidery were all showcased in her designs. The deceptively simple, classy, elegant ones caught his attention the most. He finally flipped to bachelor and bachelorette selection. They ranged from funny to outrageously raunchy to downright pornographic. He couldn’t help it; he laughed. “Don’t you get turned on by these cakes?” The woman across from him shrugged, and a corner of her mouth kicked up in a sexy little half-smile. “I guess I don’t think about it anymore, I’ve been creating them for so long.” The faint color settling high across her cheekbones was endearing. He’d been around brazen pageant queens and pit lizards so long that the blushing beauty before him was refreshing. As much pride as she took in her work, 78 | UncagedBooks.com

Nick wondered if she carried the same level of commitment over to other aspects of her life. Something told him she’d be worth the time and effort it would take to get to know her. Nick turned the page and spotted the shape of a woman’s body, anatomically correct, covered in an icing corset. Attached were garters with rosebuds, which held up lace-trimmed, thigh-high fishnet stockings. The most startling feature, however, was the swirls of brown at the juncture of the thighs. “That’s my favorite,” the woman behind the counter said, twirling the pen between her slender fingers. “There’s a cherry hidden beneath the chocolate icing, and I use them for the nipples as well.” He couldn’t hide his surprise as their gazes held. The sparkle of mischief in her eyes had him chuckling again. And if he wasn’t mistaken, the graygreen color changed to emerald. The racy design put them on a more equal footing, and he became more comfortable talking with her. While he appreciated the art of the cake, he couldn’t help thinking he’d be embarrassed making that cake more than once. He bared his teeth in a wolfish grin. “May I ask why it’s your favorite?” “No reason. I just like creating beautiful things,” she said evasively. “Did you find a cake that would be suitable for your friend?” Her carefully worded question had Nick smiling even broader. “Don’t you mean to ask if I saw anything I liked? Or if I saw anything that interested me?” He paused, still grinning. “As a matter of fact, the answer is yes on both counts.” He hesitated for effect, and then waggled his eyebrows in an exaggerated Groucho Marx imitation as he said, “Yes to all three if you count the cake.” He’d never had this much fun flirting with a woman before. He delighted in her response to his teasing, and watched as she gathered her wits and pulled her professional discretion around her like a


cloak. asked.

“So you’re interested in the bustier then?” she

Her voice wasn’t quite steady, which sent sparks of pleasure shooting through his system like electricity. “I’m definitely interested,” he said suggestively, watching her blush again. “Which cake?” she managed to ask, though not without difficulty. Nick let her change the subject for the time being. It was time to discuss business anyway. The pleasure could come after. There would be pleasure. Any woman who created such risqué cake designs would know how to have fun and enjoy life. “I’ll take that one,” he said, indicating the bustier design. “Where are the prices?” “The standard pricing guide for the sheet cakes is on the wall,” she said pointing behind her. “But the specialty cakes in the book are based on how elaborate the design is.” “Makes sense,” he said, nodding. She flipped to one of her floral tiered creations. “Especially with the wedding cakes. My specialty is the handmade flowers. It sets my bakery above the rest, and I absolutely love the therapy of making them.” “So you’re –” She nodded. “Yes, I’m Jacqui.” He pointed to the flowers on the cake. “They look too real to be icing.” “They’re not,” Jacqui explained. “At least not butter cream or royal icing.”

Nick looked at the flowers again, then back at Jacqui. There was a husky quality to her voice that he loved, and wanted to keep her talking. She had grace and elegance. Her overall package knocked him in the solar plexus and he had difficulty remembering his own name. To make her feel more at ease with him, he asked, “What is it, then?” “Gum paste. It’s rolled out like cookie dough and dries like porcelain, but it’s really delicate and can be damaged easily. I color the finished flowers with food-safe chalk dust brushed onto each petal, air brush, or in some cases I dip the whole flower into liquid food dye. Gum paste is edible, but I wouldn’t recommend eating it because of the wires.” look.”

He looked at a few more cakes. “I like the

“I do, as well. It’s really dramatic in this cake, with the bold color against the pure white butter cream.” She flipped to a wedding cake where she’d applied the technique. “Many of my past clients saved the gum paste toppers as souvenirs because if they’re handled just right they last forever.” “If I ever get married that’s definitely the cake I’ll be looking for.” “I’d be honored if you kept my bakery in mind when planning such an occasion.” Nick didn’t want her to just be honored at the thought of doing a cake for his wedding. It surprised him how much he wanted her to be a part of that wedding, and not just as the bakery service. As his bride? Could they create a future together? The thoughts came completely from left field and momentarily blindsided him like a T-bone crash at Bristol. He filed the information away in his brain for pondering at a later date. Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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Nick placed the order for his friend, and fellow racecar driver, Shawn Sheldon. Shawn’s bachelor party coincided with the October night race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. Nick found it amazing that he’d lived in the posh Lake Norman neighborhood north of Charlotte for most of his racing career, yet he’d never heard of Jacqui’s until he’d passed by on a detour through Center City. Nick gave Jacqui the time he’d pick up the cake on his way to the track. Shawn’s either going to love it or he’ll kill me, Nick thought as he walked out the door. But it wasn’t the risqué cake or his friend’s reaction that he thought about as he climbed into his Mustang. It was Jacqui.

Uncaged Review A nicely written romance and this being the author’s first full length novel – there is a lot to look forward to from her. She does a great job and I enjoyed Jacqui and Nick’s story and I’m looking forward to reading more by Ms. Bower. Some stuff I loved about the story, is the fact that the author didn’t stick with perfect characters, or a perfect couple that society has deemed the norm. Jacqui is a plus size girl and tall, where Nick is shorter than her by several inches. It’s nice to see the author not shying away from it and taking the easy way out and also not letting it bother her characters. Some things I didn’t like so much, is the romance was shot out of the cannon at warp speed. Jacqui is divorced from an emotionally abusive ex-husband, and for her to kick it into high gear so quickly is a bit unrealistic. Secondly, she runs so hot and cold in the beginning, I surprised Nick didn’t have whiplash. When Nick orders a cake at Jacqui’s bakery the first time they meet, they talk for a very short time and when Nick leaves, he’s already has the word “family” floating in his head. With all this said, this is a nicely written story – 80 | UncagedBooks.com

and even though the plot is a bit predictable with the bad-guy-ex, it’s a sexy, easy read that jumps away from the norm and well worth a look. Reviewed by Cyrene

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fang-FREAKIN-tastic reviews

feature author

welcomes

Emily Wesley Stringer


| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | Emily Wesley Stringer is an indie author living in Kentucky with her husband and dog. She writes horror and mystery.

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in about a week. Halloween House Party took a I bit longer. I started it in October 2016 and finished it up September 2017. I needed the Halloween inspiration of the season to finish that one. My book series, The Movie Star Murders, has taken several years because it’s a lot more complicated. FFT: Has anyone told you that your mind seems to be quite twisted? (This is a good thing in my opinion)

emilywstringer.com FangFreakinTastic welcomes Emily Wesley Stringer! FFT: What made you think to write a zombie book that takes place at a wedding? I honestly don’t know. The idea just sort of came to me. It hasn’t been done before (as far as I know) and I thought it would be fun. FFT: How long does it normally take you to write a book? Anywhere from a few weeks to a year. It really just depends what all I have going on in my life at the moment. I wrote The Bride Wore Brains 82 | UncagedBooks.com

LOL constantly by those who know me. I’m pretty sure my husband thinks I’m going to kill him someday. FFT: Halloween House Party is quite slasher-ish. Were you inspired by anything in particular such as a movie or Halloween in general? Yes! I took the concept of wrong-place-wrong-time, mixed it with the classic slasher formula, the “dead body in the room” from the Hitchcock movie Rope, and some comedy. I wanted to write a straight up, good ol’ fashioned slasher. As someone who is a huge horror fan, I feel a majority of the horror genre today (when it comes to movies) is very arthouse, pretentious, and trying too hard to be cutting edge and “different”. These movies are horror movies for people who don’t like horror movies. Obviously, I don’t make movies, but I wanted to create a fun, simple, horror story reminiscent of the horror stories I grew up with. FFT: Do you ever feel bad killing off characters?


Never. Not even a little bit. I’m pretty much constantly thinking of horrible ways to kill characters. FFT: Do you have any authors you enjoy reading? I like Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis. If you’ve read any of my books, I feel like those two are obvious. I love the master, Stephen King. I also love James Ellroy and Jackie Collins. I’m a sucker for a combination of murder, movie stars, and gangsters, which is what my book series is about. I tend to read a lot of nonfiction. I love true crime and biographies. FFT: What is the coolest or nicest thing anyone has said about your books? Honestly, if anyone says they like anything I’ve written, it makes me happy. I strive to write fun, entertaining content for people to read drunk on the beach. I’m not out to make a point or create a metaphor for society. I just want to write stories and hope people enjoy them. FFT: What do you think your readers would be surprised to learn about you? Despite the things I write, I’m the type of person sweet, old ladies talk to at the grocery store. FFT: What is it about the Horror genre that makes you want to write it?

Horror is my favorite genre and I love how it can bring people together for the shared experienced of being shocked and scared. That makes me want to be a part of it. Since it is my favorite genre, writing horror stories is usually easy for me, and it is something I enjoy. FFT: When did you first realize you were a horror fan? I really have no choice since my birthday is on Halloween. My mom and step mom love horror and true crime, and it rubbed off on me over the years. In 2006, my mom, younger brother, and myself went to go see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning on opening night. A family outing to see Leatherface on a Friday night was normal for me, so it makes sense I would grow up and write about masked slashers and zombies attacking weddings. FFT: What can we expect to see from you in the future? Upcoming releases? Appearances or signings? As far as appearances, you can find me wandering the aisles of Target and raiding the Trader Joe’s wine shop. That’s actually true. As far as books go, I have a murder mystery series set in 1930’s Hollywood called The Movie Star Murders on Amazon. The first book in the series, Live Fast, Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | Die Pretty was released in February 2016. The second installment in the series, Kiss Me Deadly will be released this year. I’m also working on a vampire book.

Enjoy an excerpt from Halloween House Party

Halloween House Party Emily Wesley Stringer Horror Short Story

Twin brothers, Chris and Craig along with their roommate Goober have been planning a blowout Halloween party for months. It’s their senior year of college, their last time to really throw down. When an unfortunate accident meets wrong place at the wrong time, the boys are determined not to let the setback literally crash their party. As the Halloween shenanigans continue, an escaped psycho killer joins the party for his own breed of murderous fun. *Contains violence, strong language, and sexual situations which might not be appropriate for all readers.* Excerpt “He did it again.” The cell was empty. As usual, there were no signs of escape. It was only a matter of time… “This can’t be happening!” the nurse exclaimed. She’d been there the first time he struck, the second, and now the third. It was like a horror movie with endless sequels. Only this was real. Everyone called him The Brookhaven Butcher. His real name didn’t matter; he wasn’t even human. Putting a real name with the face would do little to justify his actions. It seemed as if his 84 | UncagedBooks.com

real name was lost to time. Trying to humanize this monster was a wasted effort. The nurse and the doctor looked at each other, panicked. Neither of them could believe it, yet they should’ve known it would happen. “We put state of the art security in this bastard’s cell. He hasn’t been outside this shit hole since 1989! How the hell did he get out?” the doctor yelled, frustrated and terrified, as beads of sweat formed on his brow, the color draining from his round face. “Not true,” the nurse said. “You weren’t here in ‘04. Only that time we caught him before he could do too much damage. He’s a psychotic killer. Don’t put anything past people like that, something you should know. We do work in a facility for the mentally insane after all.” The doctor sighed. “I don’t need your shit right now, Sharon. We need to get this situation under control. Call a code red. Put this place on lockdown. I’ll get in touch with the police. With it being Halloween, an APB is vital, especially with the college kids out partying.” The nurse knew what he was talking about. Locals never forgot what happened on Halloween 1989. They tried by locking the Butcher away – but he always found a way to remind them… Everyone in town knew the tale. The younger generations thought it was an urban legend. Parents lied to their children when asked about the stories of the Brookhaven Butcher, telling them that it was only a story meant to scare kids on Halloween. The kids didn’t know it was all true. The nurse sped down the hallway to the phone, on her way to theoretically save the day, when she let out a bone chilling scream. The doctor came running down the hall and stopped right before he stepped into a giant puddle of blood. “Oh. My. God,” he stammered looking like he was going to barf. A night shift nurse and a doctor were both wrapped in fake spider web. Blood seeped from their heads which were no longer attached to their bodies, but rather lying on the floor with looks of terror forever frozen on their faces. Lit jack-o-lanterns were placed on the empty stump


| EMILY WESLEY STRINGER | of their necks. Their stomachs were hollowed out and filled with the candy that had been set out on the front desk for visitors. Blood, bile, and other viscous fluids dripped onto the floor from their abdominal cavities. The sight made the doctor never want another Reese Pumpkin. Their intestines and entrails were arranged on the floor, spelling out the words “Trick or Treat.” The Brookhaven Butcher was back.

Don’t miss

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Halloween House Party is the second book I’ve read by Emily Wesley Stringer. I adored the first book, and I absolutely loved the second as well. She has never let me down. Her writing style is blunt but creative and gory, just how I like my horror stories. While this story is quite short and somewhat predictable, it contains all the action of a horror movie only in written form. Halloween House party is full of amazing imagery that I never thought possible. Stringer really knows how to create a picture of disturbing and graphic violence. I’ll be honest, don’t expect to be intellectually stimulated by this book. There is no “come to Jesus” moments. It is a little bit ridiculous in its believability, but it really is similar to your ever-popular slasher movies. If you took Halloween and Friday the 13th and smashed them together, you would get Halloween House Party. I recommend this book to anyone who likes an outrageous, yet sickeningly entertaining slasher film in book form. This book isn’t for the faint of heart, but you do need to have a sense of humor while reading it

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Uncaged Reviews Gather the Stars

Kimberly Cates Historical Highlands An English Patriot… British general’s daughter, Rachel de Lacy, is betrothed to Sir Dunstan Wells, the hero of Culloden Moor, a man determined to crush the highlanders forever. When she is kidnapped at an officer’s ball by her fiancé’s nemesis—a fierce raider known as the Glen Lyon—she discovers the outlaw is none other than the branded coward Gavin Carstares, Earl of Glenlyon

Uncaged Review: A first book in a series, and it starts out with a bang. The first couple chapters didn’t draw me in as quickly as some do, but that didn’t make all that much difference in the great scheme of things, because when it hooked me, it got me hook, line and sinker. To be honest, I didn’t like our heroine Rachel in the beginning. She was a spoiled and arrogant, and used a contest on who would be the best warrior to win her hand in marriage. The British are fighting the Scottish, and the one enemy that keeps eluding them is the mythical Glen Lyon. A Robin Hood of the Scots, trying to free the women and children from the war ravaged lands. Kidnapping Rachel, the general’s daughter is a bargaining tool that the Glen Lyon needs to get a boat of his people free. The romance simmers slowly and the characters are well developed. The author does a great job of building this world so you can imagine the setting as you read along. As the characters develop, you see a huge turnabout in Rachel, when she finally discovers the truth and who she really is and what she really wants – not just as the general’s daughter. By the time I moved into the middle of this book, Rachel had moved into my good graces. Gavin makes his own self-discoveries along 88 | UncagedBooks.com

the way, and maybe he wasn’t the coward everyone pegged him as. The devastation of the war is not glossed over and the secondary characters are as interesting as the main characters in this book, and I’ll be looking forward to reading their stories also. Reviewed by Cyrene

Edging Michael Schutz Horror/Gay Intenze is the newest designer drug. Take it, and nightmares come alive. “Edging” is a better rush than the Tower of Terror. It’s a fraction of the price of a Six Flags admission. And it’s the most addictive high the tiny suburb of New London has ever known. Uncaged Review: A must read for any dark horror fan. Edging is the new drug all the cool people are trying. Especially those who like living life to the edge. I really liked this author’s style of writing and you can tell. He’s a big horror fan quite early on in the book. A book to read with the lights on. I would highly recommend this to people who like dark reads. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Language, drugs, sexual situations


The Feral Sentence G.C. Julien YA/Dystopian/SciFi The year is 2087 and the federal government is no longer sending murderers to prison. Instead, convicted felons are being stripped of their belongings and dropped into the waters of Kormace Island—the Island of Killers—to fend for themselves.

Uncaged Review: Lydia Brone is sentenced to a three year exile on Kormace island. It’s a new form of punishment for those convicted of first-degree murder. Despite the fact that she only killed in selfdefense, she is sent to this tropical island, which is filled entirely with other female murderers. When she arrives, she is quickly given a role and initiated into the existing society on the island. She soon learns that her community is not the only one on the island, and although some try to live in peace, others are out for blood. Can she survive among wild animals and feral women? If you enjoyed Orange is the New Black, you will love this book. Not only are criminals placed together, but they are expected to survive without basic necessities. They have to work together to find food and water. The community that Brone finds herself in has existed for a while, but there are still challenges, and each day is a true struggle. I found this story very compelling. Lydia Brone starts out as a very weak and shallow girl but develops into a strong and capable person throughout the story. There are a lot of emotions, there is a lot of heartbreak, and there are a lot of shocking and disturbing moments. It is a wild environment, but I was very intrigued by the concept that a very structured society had been built out of necessity. The island is a huge place, and the possibilities for this universe are vast. What’s fascinating about this story is that it is set in a

contemporary universe. It’s not really a dystopian or post-apocalyptic setting, but the way they have to survive is very similar to that setting/genre. I am extremely interested to see what happens if people from the real world catch on to what’s really going on. The story is written in parts (kind of like a TV series). I read the compilation edition, and I am glad I did. The story is quite full of cliffhangers. I am definitely going to be getting the next book. I will probably wait until the whole second book is out before I read it though, to avoid the large cliffhangers. My single complaint is that this book was slightly too tame for me. It is YA, so the language, sex, and gore is limited. However, that is pretty great for younger readers, although there are still some things that might be a little too graphic for young readers. Brone becomes a hunter, and there are some intense battle scenes where people are hurt and killed. This was a great book, and I am very much looking forward to the next in the series! Reviewed by Emily

Uncaged Ratings: Young Adult Some Violence

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Uncaged Reviews Revenant: Blood Justice Leslie Joan Linden Horror/Occult You have probably heard a lot about vampires. The bloodthirsty prowling, the rapacious sex—the bats, mist, and mind control. Enid has heard it all too. And since she is an actual vampire, she could tell you which rumors are true. But the first thing that Enid would want you to know is that you humans really have it all wrong. Uncaged Review: Enid and her sister are unlike other vampires. They find themselves in a battle against other deadly evils. The whole story is filled with non-stop action. Also what I hope to be the first in a whole new series. Featuring Enid and her sister. I enjoyed reading this book. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Sexual situations, language, violence

Fire Born Rayanne Haines Paranormal/Shifters Independent, tough as nails, and fierce to her core, Alex Taleisin can’t quite believe it when she has to fight for her life against something not-quite-human in the YMCA parking lot. That’s when her aunt lets her in on the family secret. They’re immortal—Elementals to be precise, and Alex is the long-lost daughter of the strongest female warrior of their time. Uncaged Review: Alex has always known she was different. Fire acted different around her. It wasn’t until after a confrontation in a steam room that her life would change. Turns out her Aunt Quinn has been keeping a huge secret. A secret that puts Alex into the protection of Collum Thronus, the Dragon King. A lot of Alex’s past and future are about to come to light. Family she never knew existed and family she believed gone will come forward. What Alex truely is will be revealed. Can the immortal world handle her or will it lead to a war that has been brewing for quite a few years. I loved this book! The characters are very well written and you can’t help but lose yourself in the storyline. The world Ms. Haines has written is magical and you can’t help but fall in love with this series!! I cannot wait to read book 2!! Reviewed by Danielle

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

90 | UncagedBooks.com


The Dream of a Duchess Linda Rae Sande Historical Regency

When Lady Isabella witnesses the murder of her mother—by her father, the Earl of Craythorne—she rides off to London in search of the man her mother, Arabella, instructed she contact lest anything befall her. Directions send Isabella to the doors of The Elegant Courtesan, a high-end brothel owned by David Fitzwillim, Earl of Norwick, to whom she relates her gruesome tale. Stunned and heartbroken at hearing the fate of Arabella, David vows to ensure Isabella’s safety from Craythorne, and he enlists the aid of Octavius, Duke of Huntington, to provide protection and a home in the country, where she won’t be found. He would do it himself, but he’s due to marry the girl’s aunt, Lady Clarinda, and has some courting to do— his twin brother seems determined to make her his own wife. Still suffering from the loss of his wife in childbirth, Octavius has long since given up the joy he took in his race horses—choosing to ignore his stables and country estate and live in London, immersed in reading and attending sessions of Parliament.

the right touch of romance. I liked that this is an unconventional regency and that all the characters were flawed and had to grow beyond to reach their HEA. There is more than one story running in this book – and a couple of the supporting cast will be getting their own stories, which I am definitely looking forward to reading. And I definitely admit to reading the last chapter more than once.

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

Uncaged Review: When Lady Isabella sees her father murder her mother, she runs away, jumping on her horse and going to the one place her mother told her to go if anything ever happened to her – the Earl of Norwick, David. David is determined to see to her safety, so he asks a Duke, to hide her away at his country estate. Tucked away at the estate, Isabella finds a dream come true in Octavius’ stable of race horses. She’s given permission to work with his horses, and she spends most of her waking moments in the stables, as Octavius is in London most of the time with Parliament duties. This is nice regency, with a bit of suspense and just Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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Uncaged Reviews Redemption Lake

Ensnared

Susan Clayton-Goldner Mystery/Crime

Sian B. Claven Horror/Young Adult

Read between the lines. Nestled away in a farm, surrounded by a dead forest, Amari is about to embark on her greatest adventure, or her worst nightmare. Unknown to Amari the farmhouse that they have moved into holds a sad and dark history and she will need to do everything that she can to protect her family and the dreams they have for their new home.

Uncaged Review: A story that will have you hooked from page one. Amari and her parents move to a farm house where Amari finds a strange journal. Spooky things start to happen. I read this in one sitting as I fell in love with the story. It hooked me from the start and didn’t fail to entertain me until I had finished it. I would now read more of this author’s work. Such a perfect spooky tale for any age to read. Reviewed by Jennifer

Tucson, Arizona – Eighteen-year-old Matt Garrison is harboring two terrible secrets: his involvement in the drowning death of his 12-year-old cousin, and a night of drunken sex with his best friend’s mother, Crystal, whom he finds dead in a bathtub of blood. Guilt forces Matt to act on impulse and hide his involvement with Crystal. Detective Winston Radhauser knows Matt is hiding something. But as the investigation progresses, Radhauser’s attention is focused on Matt’s father. Matt’s world closes in when his father is arrested for Crystal’s murder, and Travis breaks off their friendship.

Uncaged Review: Don’t you hate it when you are halfway through a book and know who the killer is before it is revealed? This is not one of those books. It kept me in suspense the whole way through. This book is well written and the imagery had me there and then. I look forward to reading more from this author. This is a must for any TBR list Reviewed by Skye

Uncaged Ratings: Young Adult Occult

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

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The Wicked Ones

J.Z. Foster Horror/Paranormal Releases February 13, 2018 You know, the best thing about nightmares is that they’re not real. It’s all just in your head, and as soon as you wake up, pop! It’s all gone. You’re safe. It’s not like they could crawl out, creeping from your mind with long, slender fingers and milky yellow eyes sunken into heads with pointed horns bursting out. That’d just be insane.

Uncaged Review: A very creepy tale that speaks of a creature stealing your kids and replacing them with a monster to raise as your own. As a poor dad grieves his son, he learns that things aren’t what he thought. This takes him on a strange journey into darkness and evil. I really enjoyed this book and can see this author becoming one of my must reads. Please dive into the darkness with this book. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence, language

Escaping Ryan

Ginger Ring Contemporary Mafia Romance Valentina Caponelli is more than a spoiled mafia princess… She flees her father’s Chicago mansion to start a law office in a smalltown in Wisconsin, determined to gain her independence. Free of her father. Free of her heritage. Free of dangerous enemies of the family. Then she falls in love with the one man who may cause her more harm than all the rest.

Uncaged Review: Ginger Ring is back with the next installment in this series, and this one lives up to its predecessor with ease. This can be read as a standalone, but reading Madison’s Mobster and Crossing Roman will give you a much better background, as the characters from the previous books are back in this one. This time we are getting to know Valentina, daughter of a Mafia Kingpin and sister of Roman. Back in town after finishing her law degree, Valentina plans on opening shop in Genoa. When a car accident lands her back on the radar with Ryan, a longtime crush of Valentina’s, things get interesting. But with Valentina from a mobster family and Ryan a law officer, things get complicated quickly. Plenty of suspense when people start ending up dead. Ryan will have his hands full trying to protect Valentina and deal with Roman. Plenty of suspense and romance – keeps the reader turning the pages. The author not only gives you strong men in her books, but the women are no pushovers either. Great mafia series. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Uncaged Reviews The Organ Donor Matthew Warner Horror

They knew it was wrong to purchase a kidney off the Chinese black market. But what the Taylor brothers didn’t realize was that its unwilling donor was an executed prisoner—and an immortal being from Chinese mythology. Pursuing them to Washington, DC, this ancient king will stop at nothing to recover what was once his.

Uncaged Review: A tale of two brothers, one who needs a organ donor. After a trip to China finds the brothers getting the organs they need. They find themselves in the middle of a battle with someone very old and powerful. I found this story very interesting and would encourage others to give it a read. Reviewed by Jennifer

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations

94 | UncagedBooks.com

The Darkest Loop James Fant SciFi/Time Travel

Dallas Anderson is stuck in a time loop that repeats Labor Day 2001 to September 11, 2001. He thinks he must prevent the terrorist attacks to break the loop. But each loop challenges that theory, igniting a fiery romance between him and his best friend’s sister and exposing the dark truth behind Déjà vu. Uncaged Review: Dallas’s world is turned upside down when on September 4, 2001, his best friend, Kevin, is killed in an accident. He begins to grieve and connect with members of Kevin’s family, but then something odd happens. After watching the tragic events on September 11, he wakes up and finds himself back in September 3, 2001. He feels like he has an opportunity to do things differently and save Kevin’s life. Then he begins to think that he should set his goal a little higher. Can he stop the events of 9/11? I initially chose this book because the idea of being stuck in a time loop seemed very interesting to me. I loved “Groundhog Day” and “Life After Life” by Kate Atkinson. This book started out in a way that I did not expect. I didn’t relate to the main character – or even like the main character to be honest. He came across as kind of ne’er do well who didn’t treat women very well. It turns out that this is the absolute perfect setup for some awesome character growth. The character development in this book was truly amazing. This book also had an awesome pace and plot. There were constant twists and turns. I would expect a book about time loops to have some repetitiveness, but there was surprisingly little of that. I was so engaged in this book that I almost read it in one sitting (that is rare enough for me as it is, but this is not really a very short book.) This is honestly one of the best thrillers


I can ever recall having read. The interactions between characters, the humor, the surprises, and even the explanation for the time loop was very well done. You can tell that the author did a lot of research for this book and took care in making things accurate and understandable. Even though the editing wasn’t perfect, and there were some real oddities in the wording sometimes, I enjoyed this book a lot. I was impressed with how my opinion and interest just kept improving as I read more and more. (To be totally honest, I was thinking as I began reading that I was going to have to drag myself through the book. Never has my opinion turned around so completely.) What is also great about this book is that it is very clean. Where the author could have chosen to include coarse language and explicit sex scenes, he did not. It worked so well for this book. There is only one scene that is pretty disturbing (spoilers: torture, frightening and extreme violence). Otherwise, I would even recommend this book to some younger readers. I would definitely be interested in reading more from this author. This book is just great entertainment, pure and simple. Reviewed by Emily

Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence

Testament

Mark P. Dunn Suspense/Thriller

On the surface, it looks like Paul Callahan has it all. The family, the house, the job. But nothing is ever as perfect as it seems, and when a college friend contacts Paul out of the blue, he finds himself reliving his first year of college, when everything went so right, and then so very wrong. Uncaged Review: “…you want to keep reading… I will definitely be looking for more of his work.” A key strength of this novel is one of the most important in any book - you want to keep reading! But it does not stop there. I found character development to be very good, and the main characters were credible on a number of levels. Writing about how someone goes through their college experiences to a mature adult is not easy, because you are subject to the values of each reader. In this novel, the principal characters each attempt to resolve their own demons, while at the same time balancing the relationships between themselves. A Prologue sets the stage, and then ‘Testament’ combines elements of mystery, suspense, and drama to take the reader on a journey, providing just enough clues to connect all the dots, without really giving the ending away. Mark Dunn has delivered a professional grade novel. I will definitely be looking for more of his work. Reviewed by Doug

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Uncaged Reviews Prisoner of Fate

Tami Lund Paranormal/Shifters The bad guys are winning. There are two types of shifters in the world: Rakshasa--the bad guys who want to destroy the world—and Light Ones—the good guys who want to protect it. Lily’s one of the good guys, the last of her kind, the only one who can save their species. She’s also a 170-year-old virgin who isn’t in a hurry to get tied down. And then she meets Matteo, a Rakshasa who has been a prisoner of the Fates for a thousand years. They should be mortal enemies. She shouldn’t strike up a friendship with the man. She certainly shouldn’t develop feelings for him. And while we’re listing don’ts, she definitely shouldn’t give the man her most precious commodity: her innocence. Because otherwise who’s going to save humanity?

Uncaged Review: This is the third installment to a series in which I haven’t read the others. After checking this one out, I plan on catching up. In this world, there are two types of shifters, Rakshasas, who are the darker side and want to end the world, and the Light Ones, those who are trying to protect it. The story revolves around Lily, a light one, who is the last of her kind and the only one who can see to her species continuing. Lily is also a 170 year old virgin who meets Matteo, a Rakshasa who should be her enemy but she finds herself drawn to. He has been a prisoner of fate for thousands of years and Lily finds herself developing feelings for him. Their story turns into a great read that will keep you wondering as to what will happen between them. Reviewed by Rena

96 | UncagedBooks.com

Crone

C.L. Marin Young Adult/Paranormal

Tara is grief stricken over the death of her mother, and heartbroken about Connor’s kidnapping. She drives on, regardless, trying to tap into her authentic powers with the help of Isaac, while the Moodus coven grows impatient waiting for her to fulfill a prophecy she never wanted to know about in the first place. Uncaged Review: Without offering any spoilers, I will say I truly enjoyed this read. The story of Tara deals quite a bit with heartache. You find she is suffering from the grief of her mother’s death as well as the kidnapping of Connor. She isn’t able to take the time she needs however with her coven pushing her to fulfill a prophecy centered around her. With the help of Isaac, who wants to help her realize her full power, she takes off in search of the one who killed her mother, ignoring what her coven needs from her. Tara then finds herself in the middle of a war where her greatest chance is to call upon the Crone for help. The writer did a great job of laying out such a detailed story. In many parts, you felt as if you were there. I look forward to reading more of her work soon. Reviewed by Rena


The Coffin, The Scarry Inn Shirley McCann Suspense/Thriller

When Clare, Lise, and Kelly arrive at The Scarry Inn just before a major storm, they’re thrilled to learn they’ll be staying in a room known as The Coffin, which is adorned with coffin beds and other macabre decorations. Little do they know that one of them will end up in a coffin for real--because a tornado isn’t the only thing threatening the inn’s grand opening. A killer is determined to make sure the inn doesn’t open at all. And that person will stop at nothing to achieve that end. Uncaged Review: Scary Inn was definitely a page turner, when a murder mystery weekend turns into a real who done it. The inn and characters where bought to life in this thrilling book. A enjoyable read to the last page. Reviewed by Skye.

Lying in Ruins

Jami Gray Dystopian/Fantasy In a world gone to hell, it’s hard to tell the good guys from the bad... The world didn’t end in fire and explosions, instead it collapsed slowly, like falling dominoes, an intensifying panic of disease, food shortages, wild weather and collapsing economies, until what remained of humanity battles for survival in a harsh new reality.

Uncaged Review: This is the first book in a new series for Jami Gray, and Ms. Gray is one of my favorite authors, and this book did not let me down. The author builds a new world from the ground up. Country, state and city borders are different now, and run by strong leaders. Charity is considered a “Hound,” someone who has a gift of being able to track and find anything, from people to information. While she is tracking a missing kid, she goes to Crane, another leader - only to find Raiders have attacked and Crane killed. The author really ramps up the action and the romance between Charity and Ruin (a Vulture) brews at a satisfying pace. The danger and violence the two of them face in this new world is fast paced and engaging. One of those books that I kept thinking of when I had to put it down. Excellent world building and character building that Jami Gray is known for. Reviewed by Cyrene

Uncaged Ratings: Adult

Violence, language, sexual situations

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Dream a Little Dream of Me Jolie St. Amant Paranormal Chateau Rouge is a reputedly haunted hotel. It hides secrets and stories within its walls, tales that lure guests from all over the world. Yet there’s one story that has never been told. The story of a New Orleans bordello Madam who had to endure the pain of watching her true love die…twice.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Dream a Little Dream of Me by Jolie St. Amant is an interesting little read. It’s somewhat predictable, but not completely. It’s nicely written and the pace is fairly quick. It’s interesting and I would like to learn more about these characters as well as the Chateau Rouge. Josie is relatable and I really want to know more about her. She seems damaged, but not broken. It sounds to me like she just wants to be loved. The story itself is solid for the most part. My main complaint is that I really don’t like where it ends. It felt extremely abrupt after everything else I had just read. Almost as if the author just forgot to add the last chapter. Overall, I think this is a good story. I think anyone who is looking for a somewhat sweet paranormal romance with vampires will like this story. It’s a fairly short read, and I’m hoping the next book comes out soon

Winter Thrillz Vol. 2 T.L. Katt Erotica/Occult Jazzy is denied a flight to Atlanta for her best friend’s funeral and, worse, hauled into an interrogation room within the airport. Security lets her go with nothing to hold her on and she makes the decision to drive to Georgia. Along the way she runs into trouble when Matt, the large muscular man who hauled her into interrogation, and a few comrades find her. Things get worse when a huge black bear with armor-like skin attacks them. Together they must fight against the beast. Will they survive?

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Winter Thrillz vol 2 is the 2nd book in the Winter Thrillz collection. It contains 2 paranormal romance stories that are steamy and fun. Jazzy is a cool story. I like how Katt presented the shifters and how they behave. Jazzy is spunky but smart. She knows what she’s doing and has a great personality on top of her abilities to defend herself. Esma Rose is a bit weird. I can’t really tell you much about this story without giving away the big surprises, but I can say it was worth the read. I’d like to see this story expanded on. I will say this; I feel Winter Thrillz vol 2 is a better example of this author’s abilities than the previous book. The stories are just overall written better. Not to say volume 1 was bad, it just wasn’t as strong as volume 2. The sexytimes are even more expanded and just seem better. Overall, I do suggest Winter Thrillz vol 2 to anyone

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looking for a short, steamy paranormal story to pass the time

Treasured Chests Various Horror Anthology

messed up as mine is. I definitely enjoyed every minute of Pimp in the Pulpit. I could easily sympathize with the main character, it was funny, and it was entertaining. I recommend Pimp in the Pulpit to anyone looking for a hilarious and short read that might make you feel better about your own family!

Pimp in the Pulpit is a short story filled with unique characters. Each has a different outlook on life and how they treat family and friends. What is acceptable to some is nothing more than the devils work to the others. The large family has met on several occasions for gatherings, parties and reunions, some went OK but most didn’t. Nobody was sure what went wrong to cause such chaos when the family gathered. There was speculation that when Minister Tierra Joy become involved in any family event planning it quickly turned into a hot ghetto mess.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: If I didn’t know better, I would swear that Thomas McRae was a fly on the wall around my family. Pimp in the Pulpit is a short tale about a dysfunctional family. They really know how to put the “fun” in dysfunctional! Pimp in the Pulpit is a short piece of fiction. I’m not exactly sure how to explain this story as it kind of skips around but is still easily followed. It had me cracking up the whole time. I really wish it had been longer. Being from a dysfunctional family myself, I could absolutely relate to Cleopatra. I had always thought only my family did the ridiculous things in this book, so it’s funny to read about a fictional family that is as

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Cruise of the Living Dead Scott M. Baker Horror Shorts An outbreak of the living dead aboard a cruise ship. Cannibalism among the survivors of the rising. Steampunk reanimates. These are some of the nightmarish scenarios that Scott M. Baker has written about. Now most of his zombie-themed short stories have been pulled together in Cruise of the Living Dead: A Zombie Anthology. This collection contains the never-before-published short story “Recognition” which follows the turning of a human into one of the living dead from the zombie’s point of view. Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Cruise of the Living Dead is an ok book. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. I do think it will appeal to other readers though. There is a variety of stories in this book, all within the zombie realm that others will probably enjoy. I felt like some of the stories were just a bit too short and felt unfinished. I did like the creativity the author used in writing these stories. There isn’t a particular story that stands out more or less than any others, which means there wasn’t anything that grabbed my attention and left an impression. Overall, this isn’t a bad book, it just didn’t appeal to me as much as I had hoped it would.

The Hunted Various Horror Anthology Hundreds of years ago in the town of Whitebridge, Native and European alike fought evil and won. The result, a town disconnected from our reality except for one day a year, the longest day, the day of the summer solstice. Unfortunately the evil they thought beaten has just been biding its time. As generations have worked toward reconnecting with our world, some are content with the evil that surfaces once a year. With disappearances and random deaths of both residents and outsiders increasing, factions fight to either free the town or condemn it for all eternity. Join the TOTH authors as they tell the story of Whitebridge, from Dani Lyons the current town Sheriff who begins to discover the truth of what has been going on, to Ariane Nantuck, one of the towns oldest residents who holds more secrets than anyone knows, to Billy Bane, who always appears crazy as a fox or is he just crazy. No one person knows the truth, will you?.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: The Hunted is a horror anthology like no other. All of the stories take place in the unique little town of Whitebridge. What is so unique about Whitebridge you ask? Well, you can only find the town during the summer solstice. The rest of the time it doesn’t seem to exist. The Thrill of the Hunt anthology series is one that I’ve been enjoying from its inception several years ago. Each year, there are new topics and new authors to “meet” and enjoy. This version is no different when it comes to the variety of stories and authors. You may be wondering why, if it is so great did I only gave it 3 stars/fangs. Well, to be honest, I didn’t love this book as I did the others. Not because the writing

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was bad or the stories sucked or anything like that. It’s mainly because I had a lot of trouble following the book. There was no real timeline. While all of the stories occur in the same area, some of them share characters as well and the overlap can cause some confusion. I had a very hard time following along, but others may not. Like I said, the writing itself is good, so don’t shy away from The Hunted because I had trouble, you may have a totally different experience. I do recommend this book to anyone looking for possibly new to them authors in a world they’ve not been to before.

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews

The Vision Dean Koontz Thriller/Suspense Mary Bergen aids the police in solving crimes, those that have happened and those that are about to. Now this gifted clairvoyant is using her psychic gift to help track a serial killer. But something terrible from Mary’s past has been invading her dreams and she is haunted by the sound of leathery wings. The killer knows secrets even she has locked away. Knows about the torture she was administered at the hands of a psycho when she was a little girl. And he is coming for her next. Myra’s Review: An early horror thriller from master story teller Dean Koontz. Latest reprint 2012; original print 1977. My copy is from 1978yep, my keepers are really old! Mary is a clairvoyant. She not only helps people find lost items, but assists police with murder cases…that is, when they believe in her abilities. After helping find a serial killer, Mary and her husband Max (who helps guide her through her visions) get involved in another hunt for a rapist/serial killer. For some reason this one haunts Mary more than any other case. Meanwhile, nightmares continue to plague Mary; images from 102 | UncagedBooks.com

her childhood too terrifying to grasp. At 6 years old she was brutally attacked and Max suspects this is where her psychic powers were born. It is thought by authorities that these abilities are often triggered by head trauma or some horrific event. Unknown to Mary, buried in her subconscious is the identity of the killer, the same twisted, evil person who attacked her as a child. A fascinating tale that takes you inside a sick mind, which Koontz is stellar at, slowly revealing a story that is chilling and appalling. Recommended for horror and Koontz fans.


Rise of the Dead Jeremy Dyson Post-Apocalyptic Blake was never one for taking chances. He lived in a world of formulas and equations. A statistician in a controlled society where everything had become predictably mundane. That world disappeared the day the dead got up and began attacking the living. Now, the end is here. Blake finds himself fighting for his life in a world that is rapidly spiraling out of control. He struggles to keep himself alive and must risk everything to find his family.

and is built like a castle. It had great potential; strong place and a lot of food. But the people didn’t think things through well and an infected person ran amuck, ruining this great safe haven. Add in the military busting in to look for supplies, it was a lost cause. While the two main characters were rescued by the military, I was disappointed this interesting place wasn’t turned into a shelter. Something was missing in this novel, even though I enjoyed reading it. Perhaps it needed a stand out hero or an action event that was truly memorable...

Along the way, Blake finds himself thrust among other unlikely survivors. Together they must adapt to the realities of the undead world, or join the legion of zombies. The characters must overcome their conditioned human apathy and come together if they have any chance of survival. Myra’s Review: I liked that the zombie outbreak started at a train; one of those terrifying scenarios, almost right up there with being stuck in a traffic jam or crammed on a plane with no escape. Except the people can run from the train in this story since it was stopped, awaiting passengers. From Blake, the main character’s eyes, events around him are erupting and it’s a confusing mess. No one really knows what is going on. I enjoyed the descriptions as Blake was caught in the mayhem. When he sees people rise up who are clearly dead, he runs, helping a young woman to head for the nearby racetrack. Others gather there, hoping to find security, but the undead quickly break in. Escaping, the next stop is a cemetery, not secure enough, but they do come across other survivors. The group decides to try for a restaurant that serves up medieval entertainment Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews The Gathering Dead Stephen Knight Horror The Horde Is Always Hungry... The zombie apocalypse has begun, and Major Cordell McDaniels is given the most important mission of his career: lead a Special Forces team into New York City to rescue the one man who can stop the ghastly virus that reanimates the dead. But as a growing army of flesh-eating corpses takes over the streets and a violent storm renders airborne extraction impossible, McDaniels struggles to find a way out of the Big Apple. The odds of anyone getting out alive plummet further when slaughtered members of his own Special Forces team join the ranks of the gathering dead... with their military skills intact!

Myra’s Review: As the zombie apocalypse erupts, Colonel McDaniels and his special ops team are tasked with extracting a doctor from New York, who may hold the key to stopping the virus that started the undead walking. Things escalate quickly out of control as the helicopters sent in for rescue, crash. The streets are filling with the dead, who are vicious and never stop. The team secures a fairly safe spot in the top floor of an office building. Earl, a maintenance man for the company is hiding out with his two daughters. He helped the team get food and directed them to important designations in the building; such as the garage where they secured a hardy vehicle. I liked that a family joined with the military group so there more of a mixture of individuals. 104 | UncagedBooks.com

The action increases as zombies continually attack, including some undead special team members, who have memory of operating guns and even throwing grenades. It made the teams escape much more difficult. This was different than anything I’ve read so far in a zombie novel. There was a lot of fighting, shooting and dying heroes. For this reader, the shooting scenes became a bit repetitive. A good novel and recommended for zombie fans.

Dead Days, Season One Ryan Casey Horror How would you survive the Dead Days? Riley Jameson is a regular guy. A little hard-of-luck and going through a rough time at work, but nothing he can’t handle. That was before the creatures rose. Feasting on human flesh, their hunger is insatiable. The zombies are unstoppable. The police are gone. The government has collapsed. The world as Riley knew it has changed, forever. Myra’s Review: This a novella, at only 93 pages. Riley was returning from a job interview when he spotted an injured man in the parking garage. It was a neighbor and his rib cage was split open. It didn’t take long for Riley to realize the man was dead or undead, because a live man can’t pull himself along on the ground with his intestines trailing behind him. Riley and his roommate figure out an escape plan once zombies collect outside the fence surrounding


their apartment complex. Riley is determined to reach his grandmother, who he loves dearly. While this read wasn’t bad, there was nothing new. The negative for me was it was too similar in several parts to Shaun of the Dead. Not that it takes place in England, but that the roommate sounds just like Ed; fat, lazy and consumed with video games. And just like Shaun’s concern to rescue his mom, Riley’s main focus is to get to his grandma.

Behold Darkness L.C. Champlin Post-Apocalyptic Carpe jugulum. That’s the credo of ambitious New York businessman Nathan Serebus, a man content to consider himself anything but a hero. But that’s before a San Francisco business trip with his attorney Albin Conrad lands them both in the middle of a multiple-target terrorist attack.

Nathan was a dark hero, not blinking an eye when he has to kill. Interesting character, as was Albin. I wanted a deeper peek into Albin’s background and that was provided at the end of the story. The author’s descriptions are hard-hitting action in a rapid fire manner. A lot of intrigue and chess move strategies between Nathan and the Arabic leader of the terrorists. I was a bit confused about the hero. Descriptions of wolves howling in his mind made me wonder if he were a shifter. Then it was shared that one of his ancestors was a Viking berserker I kept hoping the rage of the berserker would come over Nathan; that would have been cool. Near the end we find out why he keeps hearing the wolves, what they are, and what they represent. For this reader there was too much going into rooms and buildings. Less of that would have chiseled the story into a more concise read. If you enjoy books with action and the main characters overcoming terrorists, check this one out.

The strikes are a cover for the extremists’ true purpose: release a contagion that transforms people into savage, unthinking killers. Myra’s Review: Nathan and his personal assistant, Albin, are caught in the middle of a terrorist attack. To make matters more chaotic, the terrorist have released a virus which turns people into cannibals. The two friends are trying to make it to safety, help others, and stop the terrorist from getting their hands on the deadly formula for creating human monsters. As a lover of all things zombie, I would have enjoyed more encounters with the cannibals, but the scenes with cannibals were well done.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Call Me Grandma Jerry Pociask Children’s Becoming a Grandmother is supposed to be a mothers “crowning glory.” However, when told the news of an unexpected grandchild, this Grandma becomes obsessed with the welfare of her children and her new grandchild. Amy’s Review: Adoring and magnificent story! Call me Grandma is one that will definitely touch your heart. If you are a grandmother, have a grandmother or even haven’t yet become one, this will touch your heart. Now, I am a big fan of Pociask, as he is one remarkable storyteller. I’ve read all of his published work and look forward any more stories that will come from his brilliant mind. He writes with his heart and it shows in his stories. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and I think as I read the paperback gift from the author, that it in my hand, turning actual pages, reading and rereading the lines and gazing at the images painted on the pages, I enjoyed it all the more. It’s one of those highly recommended books, and he is one highly recommended author.

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Kids, Camels, & Cairo Jill Dobbe Non-fiction/Travel Traveling across the globe to work in an international school in Cairo, Egypt, was not exactly the glamorous lifestyle I thought it would be. I cherished my travels to the Red Sea, delighted in visiting the Pyramids, and appreciated the natural wonders of the Nile River. However, I also spent days without electricity or internet, was leered at by rude Egyptian men, breathed in Cairo’s cancerous black smog, and coaxed school work from rich, apathetic students. Amy’s Review: Amazing journey I found this book just simply amazing. It was a fascinating learning experience and a wonderful journey. I felt I was with the author on this captivating journey. I didn’t know much about Cairo before reading it, and I’ve learned a lot. I felt like I was almost there. There was a lot of details, about the little things and about major events, which made the story balanced. Filled with a lot of truths about humanity and inhumanity. It’s a totally different world, but it’s a wonderful read and learning experience.


Esquire T.K. Ware Christian/Suspense Francis Newberry was a loving mother, a devoted wife, and a faithful servant of the Lord—those qualities shifted when her life was threatened by her abusive husband. A heated argument created a ghastly scene that sent Missionary Francis to jail for the crime of a double homicide—husband and the neighbor. Frozen in unprecedented horror, she turns to the one man known as ESQUIRE. As the case unfold, strangers Amy’s Review: A real page-turner Something about receiving a 9mm gun as a gift, especially when it was inscribed, made this story one of those I couldn’t put down until the end. This isn’t the first book of Ware’s that I’ve read, and I look forward to much more from Ware, but this is one that is on my unforgettable list. As usual, with his other stories, there is faith and trust in God, and a great story line mixed with twists, turns, and justice. I thoroughly enjoyed this well written story, and read it from the title page to the final page in one sitting. Highly recommended, but of course, I recommend all of his work.

Another Heart to Another Annette Whitaker-Moss Poetry Another Heart to Another is so vivid that one could actually feel each tear, laugher, comfort, love, and inspiration shown to persevere through the journey of life. It expresses words and thoughts that cover the whole spectrum of the emotional colors of our lives and relationships, as well as our personal spirituality. Readers will be in agreement and encouraged as they are filled with confident to move toward a fulfilled lifestyle. Amy’s Review: Poetry in motion This collection of poetry by Whitaker-Moss is as expected, a wonderful grouping of free verse prose. Her words resonate with the reader, and bring to life her perceptions. Each poem brings emotions and expresses what is in the heart of the poet, and what is relatable by the reader. I thoroughly enjoyed this poet’s work, and look forward to more from her. I’m sure she has more poems to share with the world, and if you like poetry that can make you laugh, cry and be inspired, this will touch your heart.

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Murder on the Streetcar Alma H. Bond Mystery/Suspense Dr. Mary Wells is a psychoanalyst, whose patient, Cecily Johnson, is playing the part of Stella in a new production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Cecily gives the doctor two tickets to see a performance of the play. She invites Lt. John Franklin, a detective who is her lover, to accompany her. During a particularly rowdy scene, the sound of a shot is heard. The audience thinks it is part of the play, until the stage manager comes out and announces that a person has been shot back stage and the performance cannot continue Amy’s Review: Another great mystery Book two of the Dr. Mary Wells series, and it is just as wonderfully written as the first one. The more I read of Dr. Bond’s work, the more I love her writing and connection to her characters. There is a subtly in the writing that brings a hint of romance and mystery, and total unpredictability. The story brings the setting of a play “A Streetcar named Desire” and is reflected in the title. It’s still an early romance with Wells and Franklin, and that helps lend to sub plots of the main story. I look forward to the next story in the series.

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Abandoned by the Vatican Jack Doherty Memoir/Religion ABANDONED BY THE VATICAN (An Analytical Memoir) By Jack Doherty If you love gripping intrigue and adventure and hate betrayal and hypocrisy, you’ll be both rewarded and disgusted by reading Abandoned by the Vatican. Accompany the author as he crosses over the Iron Curtain, the dead man’s land of mine fields, electrified fences and shooting fields. Amy’s Review: Wonderfully controversial Doherty takes on the church, and it’s an interesting look inside his visit and research of Russia and secret priests. I haven’t read Doherty’s work before, but with the writing of this work and looking at his other titles, I will be adding them to my TBR, definitely. There is a deep controversy of religion and faith, and the conduct can shake even the most faithful person’s beliefs. The truth can be disheartening and wonderful at the same time, Doherty has the skills in his writing to reveal secrets that should or must come to surface. I’m not a religious person but reading this story gives me more insight into the history of the church, and the secrets of history. Adventurous, controversial and educational.


Advice for President Trump from our Past Leaders Murray Suid Politics/Humor In this timely and practical guide, all the past American presidents of the USA share their wisdom with Donald Trump. The quotations cover scores of important topics including budgeting, foreign relations, immigration, the environment, labor, the media, war, and peace Amy’s Review: Perfect read for any American or American President I really enjoyed how this book was put together by Suid. It’s filled with information and quotes from former U.S. Presidents, and how a current one can or should handle the Presidency. It’s remarkably humorous and educational, and is for anyone who enjoys books about the Presidents. I love a good historical Presidential book, and this one fits in. Maybe our current President (and future Presidents) should read it and take notice.

Take Me to the Pink Yacht 3 Aurora Diamond Young Adult/Fantasy 17 Chockinges… really does choke! Some educationally deficient, spooky words were spotted on a yacht that suddenly appeared on the waters of Rome. In reality, the yacht was a complete copycat of Aurora and Adrien’s. Amy’s Review: Grand adventure I have read the first two books in the series, and loved them. I think Diamond’s pink yacht series is a real hit. She pens a great story, and it immediately draws the reader in. Most importantly, the reader can relate to the adventures or even misadventures of dealing with life. This story is very and I emphasize the word very ... entertaining. It was a wondrous ride of mystery and suspense. I absolutely adore the characters, especially Aurora and Adrien. Each character is unique and beautiful, and they all connect in a grand way. Love the story, and recommend the series.

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Jen’s Book Reviews The Spawn of Lilith Dana Fredsti Horror/Dark Fantasy Out of the spotlight, in the darker corners of the studio backlots, Hollywood hides a remarkable secret. Actor or actress, set designer, electrician, best boy, or grip—in la-la land, it pays not to be human. Vampires, succubae, trolls, elementals, goblins—studios hire anyone and anything that can take direction, be discreet, and not eat the extras. (The less you know about your agent, the better.) Jen’s Review: Lee is part of an elite stuntman group. She gets a part as a stunt and extra double. In an up-and-coming film called Pale Dreamer. Everything goes to plan apart from a few tantrums from the lead role. There’s a few supernatural twists and turns in this book that keep the reader entertained throughout. I can’t wait to see what’s next in this very promising new series.

A Mother Like Mine Kate Hewitt Women’s Fiction Welcome to England’s beautiful Lake District, where a reluctant reunion forges a new bond between a daughter and her wayward mother.... Abby Rhodes is just starting to get her life on track. After her fiancé’s unexpected death, she returned with her young son to the small village where she grew up and threw herself into helping her ailing grandmother run the town’s beach café. Then one evening, her mother, Laura, shows up in Hartley-by-the-Sea and announces her plan to stay. After twenty years away, she now wants to focus on the future—and has no intention, it seems, of revisiting the painful past. Jen’s Review: Set in small town Hartley by the Sea, Abby gets a surprise visit from her mother after abandoning her to her gran when she was just two years old. This story is very focused on the relationship between Abby and her mother and what made her mother leave all that time ago. It’s a remarkable journey they both go through.

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Tomorrow Brings Sorrow Mary Wood Historical Romance Tomorrow Brings Sorrow

by war.

Set in 1939 – 1959, this is a story of passion and love that is sometimes forbidden and sometimes driven by fear as the world faces many changes brought on

Jen’s Review: The third in the series but can also be read as a standalone novel like I did as I’m very new to this author myself. You can pick up the storytelling and the background of the characters very easy. It features a small group of close friends and family that finds themselves connected either by love or loss or drama. I found myself easily hooked in the story even though I don’t read many books of this type. I was really surprised I liked this book, it’s worth checking out.

A Walk in the Park Helen Pryke Fantasy Short Every day Anne stops off at the park on her way to work, buys a coffee and sits down on her favourite bench to relax. But imagine her surprise when one morning a mysterious man is sitting in her place. Who is he? And more importantly, why is he there on her bench? A romantic fairy tale with a twist at the end, by the author of Walls of Silence and Autumn Sky. Jen’s Review: A short story about a girl called Anne who meets a special stranger one day in the park. This is such a beautiful story that makes you smile and think sometimes magical things do happen in real life. A perfect modern fairy tale for anyone.

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Jen’s Book Reviews You Only Get One Shot Kevin J. Kennedy & J.C. Michael Crime/Suspense/Short Synopsis

depended on it.

What would you do if someone demanded you write the best story of your life, to be judged online? That your life

Jen’s Review: A collection of four different tales featuring one shot to win. Or rather keep your life after a email hits four different authors. Saying they must submit a story that will be judged by someone who if they impress them with the story they will be able to keep their life. This story is on the edge of you’re seat reading and has a unique ending. I really enjoyed this book and will think others will too.

Seven for a Secret Rumor Haven Erotica/Horror It’s the year 2000, and twentyfour-year-old Kate moves into a new apartment to find a new state of independence in a new millennium. Almost immediately, she starts crushing on a hot guy who lives in her building. Deciding to take a break from her boyfriend Dexter, Kate believes the only thing now separating her from the fresh object of her sexual fantasies is the thin wall between their neighboring apartments. Jen’s Review: I basically read this book in one sitting I got caught up in Kate and her story. Of seeing a ghost from the 1920s when she moves into a new apartment. She uncovers a love affair that Had secrets and tragedy all mixed together. This was a very interesting story and I felt it went in and out of the two timelines very smoothly. I highly recommend this book.

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Sweet Southern Book Reviews Freak Erin Lee Young Adult/Bullying

The Place That Never Existed Jim Ody Psychological Thriller

Regret Comes in Every Color of the Rainbow Based on Erin Lee’s novella, Her Name Was Sam, Freak is the story of Kelly and Morgan, the mother and sister of Sam Harris, in the aftermath of her suicide. Bullied for being brave enough to show her true colors to the world...

For Paul and Debbie it was meant to be the happiest time of their lives. A small village wedding in front of their family and friends, followed by a quiet honeymoon in Devon. Not everyone had been happy to see them together. A woman from their past refused to accept it. Her actions over the previous year had ended in tragedy, and had almost broken the happy couple apart.

SSReview: This story was amazing. From the opening I felt it tugging at my heart strings and making me question my own parenting. The hurt and regret that Kelly struggled with was written so well it was as if you were feeling it along with her. Morgan’s attempts to deal with both her emotions of losing her sister, and of trying to cope with life as a teenager whose sister was different, were so real that you could imagine yourself in her shoes. Sam and her visions from cloud space were in ways the most touching. Her love for her family shone through as did her concern for what would become of them. It truly opens your eyes to what goes through the mind of a teenager or anyone for that matter that feels different or alone. Ryan and Willow story showed how life could go full circle and the difference having support and love in your life can have on someone in a difficult situation. Ryan having others for support made his situation much different and opened your heart to both him and his dear friend Willow. The author did an amazing job. I found myself in tears many times. I would highly recommend this book!

SSReview: From the very beginning this story had my attention. The story is woven through the experiences of many characters, mainly newlyweds Paul and Debbie, but all leading to the small village of Huntswood Cove and its house of legend. While on their honeymoon in the little fishing village Paul and Debbie meet a number of locals who are a bit strange by their standards, which gives the village an odd vibe in their opinion. Finding the abandoned house where a serial killer once lived, they hear a strange scream and watch an unusual scene unfold. As the story of The Place that Never Existed unfolds you find the town has their own secrets, as does the house, but also Paul and Debbie. With a strange child wondering around town, a mentally unstable ex girlfriend, and new acquaintances they can’t quite get a handle on, Paul and Debbie find themselves in for a honeymoon they will never forget. This is an excellent read! The author does an amazing job of introducing you to a cast of characters that you find yourself invested in while also unraveling the mystery surrounding the village and its residents. I cannot wait to read more by this author!

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How Being Broken Saved Me Angelia Vernon Menchan Non-fiction/Family This is my story and others are only mentioned to show how being broken saved me. I hear many stories of people who are unable to get past being black, poor, and fatherless, molested, maligned, ignored or abused. I experienced all of these things and I stand whole and able to share. SSReview: I have been reading Angelia Vernon Men-

chan’s writing for almost two years now...and I have to say that her writing is some of the best that I have had the pleasure and honor of reading!!! Mrs. Menchan writes from the heart, telling an honest and real story!! How Being Broken Saved ME... is no different. I think what spoke to me the most is this book is not fiction, but a testimony. Mrs. Menchan bared her soul for her readers in this book. Giving us a clear picture of who she is and what has helped shaped her into the woman that she has become. While reading this book, I kept asking myself...What can I take away from this book to help make myself a better person? I realized that the answer is simple...stop focusing on the bad that has happened in my life and let it help shape me into a better...stronger person. Also, I can’t go back in time and change what happened...Everything has happened for a reason. Now that I have survived it, it is up to me to take what I have lived through and use it better me and those around me. This book is a wonderful guide to how to become the best me. Mrs. Menchan stresses that she is not perfect. She is human, made many mistakes, and will continue to make many more before she takes her final breath. What she has done and I think is trying to impart to others is to not let your mistakes and misfortune define you. Learn from them, grow from them, and if given the opportunity use your knowledge to help someone else. Mentoring others is clearly what Mrs. Menchan was called to do. She uses her platform as an author to share her truth and inspire others. I read this book in one day. I could not put it down once I picked it up. I was drawn to the words on the pages and felt such a connection to Mrs. Menchan’s story. I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who has struggled or will struggle with something in their life. This story gives hope that you will be OK and that you CAN weather whatever storm is placed in your path.

This book is a very easy Five+ star read for me!!! It was very easy to read and very relevant to this crazy thing called life. This book provides comfort even if you don’t realize that you need it. I look forward to not only reading this book again, but more from Angelia Vernon Menchan in the very near future!!!

Mafia by Blood Rumer Raines Crime/Suspense It was a dying wish. “Take over the family business.” Any son would be thrilled that his father thought so highly of him.

SSReview: Torn between his job as a Chicago cop,

and his father’s dying wish that he take over the family business, Frank Deluca, is a man with a long list of problems. He had been kept in the dark about the true nature of his family’s business, and had no idea his father was the Chicago Mafia’s Don, until he is asked to take over the business as his father’s last request. Enter new partner, Lola Covelli, who wants nothing more than to take down the mob, his family, and Frank’s entire world seems to spiral around him. Frank is torn between his loyalty to the family he loves, even his hot-headed brother who would like nothing more than to be the leader himself, and his belief in right and wrong. When Lola begins to get too close Frank has no choice but to make his decision, figure out what Lola is up to, and let the family know whether he’s taking charge or staying on the sidelines. This book was very entertaining. This was the first I have read by the author and plan on catching a few more. The story moves quickly, keeping you wondering what will happen next. Frank is a great character whose loyalties shine through from beginning to end.

Sweet Southern Book Reviews Issue 19 | February 2018 |

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