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uly/August 2021 - Because of time constraints, I’ve decided to move Uncaged Book Reviews to a bi-monthly magazine for the forseeable future. It is a bit larger and this issue will boast three guest columns, so please be sure to check those out. The images above are all from Lake Michigan and the beauty of this Great Lake. I did not take these pictures, I do have the rights to use them, but this is a place I like to go to recharge. The serenity of the lake, with the wildlife and the water slapping on the shore never fails to bring me some peace. We do swim in the lake, but not usually until late July or August as it takes quite awhile to warm this lake up. A road trip that visits the different light houses on this lake in Wisconsin is something I plan to do one day. There are even bald eagles coming back to nest along the lake, something they haven’t done in a very long time. The Raven Awards voting has begun and right now we are voting on semi-finals. We will be continuing with the “Buy 2, Get 1” promotion we’ve been running. It really does help from a marketing standpoint, to have an advertisment run three months in a row - to repeat in the readers mind. You don’t just see a commercial on TV one time and remember it, right? So we will continue to try and provide the best bang for your buck and get the most eyes we can on your work. Uncaged is supported through advertisements, but the prices will not increase in 2021.

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If you’d like to write a guest column for the magazine, you will receive a free premium placement (value $40) inside the magazine. The article needs to be about writing, authors, books, genres, etc. If you’d like to be a Feature Author, you can also fill out a form on the Reviews/Feature Info Page to request a Feature in 2021. Put in your top 3 choices and this is normally first come/first serve, but I do move around months to keep a good selection of genres in each issue. Soon I will also put up forms for Catch Up Features - these are for past feature authors that have a new book releasing, and we can do a shorter feature, and also a Short Story Submission form. Any author submitting an approved short story receives a full page ad in the same issue. The new form for Short Story Submissions has been added, and a Catch Up form will come next. Enjoy the July/August issue of Uncaged Book Reviews.

X cyrene

contents feature authors Chasity Bowlin 16 historical romance 24

Cheryl Bolen


Catherine Stein


Karen E. Osborne

70 90 98 108

historical romance

steampunk historical


William Gensburger


Zola Blue fantasy

Kristi Charish scifi/fantasy

Len Boswell fantasy

authors and their pets


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

cyrene’s kitchen


Issue 60 | July/August 2021

fangfreakintastic Brynn Myers 118 dark fantasy

short story


Ignition Point, FINAL urban fantasy - Jami Gray

catch up


Humphrey Hawksley

guest columns

12 86


The Most Unforgettable Characters

Amy Shannon

A Superversive Scribe in a Subversive Land Richard Paolinelli Decision Fatigue, Perfectionism, and The Land Mines of Fiction Writing

Connor Judson Garrett

a life in motion


Small Town Living Monthly column chronicling life on a small farm.

cover image © jplenio

4 7 124 128 132

Note from the Editor Contributors|Partnerships Uncaged Reviews FangFreakinTastic Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Review

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Country Meat Loaf Monthly recipe from Cyrene’s country kitchen Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


Contributors | Partnerships

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.

If you’d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


upcomingconventions Starting in October, Uncaged will start listing conventions for 2021 since so many have been canceled or modified for 2020. Uncaged will watch for any cancelations or modifications for the 2021 season.

​ oas & Tiaras Afternoon Tea B TBA - Allen, TX Orlando Reads Books Convention August 26-29 2021; Orlando FL https://www.facebook.com/OrlandoReadsBooks/

Writers on the River July 17, 2021; Peoria, IL https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersontheriver

Romancing The Gold Coast October 21-24, 2021; Mineola, New York https://romancingthegoldcoast.com/ RomantiConn Author Signing Event July 24, 2021; Trumbull, CT https://www.eventbrite.com/e/romanticonn-2021-tickets-71912007751

A Weekend with the Authors (new dates in 2022) All About the Indies (new dates in 2022) VIRTUAL: Romance Slam Jam Convention 8| uncagedbooks.com |

GayRomLit Retreat October 7-10, 2021; St. Louis, Missouri https://www.gayromlit.com/

The Most Unforgettable Characters Guest column by Amy Shannon


The Most Unforgettable Characters

Amy Shannon Writer. Storyteller. Poet. Book Review. Blogger. Indie Author Supporter Author of “Smashed: A Savvy Macavoy Story” and (soon to be released “The Relic: A Savvy Macavoy Story”)

Any writer who wants to tell a story needs to bring in characters. The characters, no matter what species or being, needs to be more than one dimensional. The characters make up the story, and breathe life into it. Sometimes there can be too many characters and sometimes there is not enough, and sometimes it is just the right amount that tells a story. More like shows the story. Preparation One way that a writer can prepare is by crea t i n g character profiles. The profiles can be in-depth details about every aspect of the character’s life, or a quick biography that may grow within the story. The profiles can also help decide the occupation, back ground or back story of the character, and where they may have originated from. The name game An important part of a character’s growth is the naming process. Writers may create a placeholder name (any name will do) until they come up with the perfect name for a character. Personally, I ponder the name if it doesn’t come right away. I don’t use placeholders, but I have changed names in the context of the story as it didn’t seem to fit. In my book, “Contrary Measures” my main character, Rayna, was originally named “Emily” but one chapter in, I realized it didn’t fit the toughness of the character. (Tip, though, when changing the name while writing the story, or even during editing, make sure you 12 | UncagedBooks.com

change every instance of the name). Character names can play a big part of the story. My book “Smashed”, my character Savvy Macavoy (real name Sunshine Rainbow S a v v y Macavoy) was raised as a hippie, so her (and her brothers) unique names play a big part of the story. Background, ethnicity or race also lends to the story. The character surnames are just as important as the first names. If the character is Italian, it’s important for the surname to be Italian, unless the character was adopted or parentage is different. Language and Voice Characters background and upbringing should also be reflected in how they speak, and if they speak different languages. How languages are translated within the story is up to the author. In some cases, I have wrote out the Italian or Spanish words and either added parenthesis with the translation, or I have had other characters translate. I’ve also had characters use ASL (American Sign Language), and make sure that instead of the word “said” was written, the word “signed” was indicated. One thing about vocalization and language, writers should be clear to indicate what the character is saying, and not always be hung up on how the words sound coming from their mouth. Indication of an accent without having to write the accent can be better and clearer, and other times, writing ‘bout instead of about or ‘cause instead of because may be worth the emphasis. Minor Characters Minor characters are not always just the background

characters, such as a reporter asking questions or a receptionist that is always sitting behind the desk at the hospital. I like to name the real background characters, if they may appear in the story more than once. I’ve also had characters that started out in the story to be minor and really became part of the story in a whole new way. It wasn’t how I intended it, but sometimes the characters grow along with the story, as its written. Any writer will understand that no matter how much or little is planned in the writing process, a story can take on a whole new level, especially with the characters. In my first book, “Unwritten Life” the character Jim originally was just going to be a technician, who worked for Alex. However, he and Alex ended up falling in love, and then created a whole Saga of books based on their family. Other characters Characters are not just the “people” or beings (and I say beings because many characters have been animals, aliens, monsters, humans etc. The other characters can be the ones that are ‘non-beings.’ The non-beings can be the environment, scenery, or the building (or even spaceship) that the story takes place in. These characters are what the story revolves around, and can dictate how others react and act within the story. These “other” characters bring a new level of the story. Environment characters can bring a myriad of weather or natural disasters. My saga of books set in a fictional town Sars Springs, AZ is out near the desert. Several stories revolved around weather or natural disasters, such as an earthquake and flood, and even the dry heat. These affect the stories and the characters reactions. Flaws No character should be perfect, unless they are an angel. Even then, there should be some flaws. Characters who have flaws are the greatest, and characters should grow. Some characters may drink too much, some are self-absorbed, some want to rule the world, and some just want to live their life and fall in love. Not everyone should be rich and have an endless amount of money, and some should be hard working people, sometimes down on their luck. I’ve written about millionaires, law enforcement officers, lawyers, Private Investigators, homeless veterans, among just a few types, and none of them are like the other. They have quirks, and flaws, and qualities that make them human (or human-like).


Villains For me, personally villains are the most fun to write for. I say write for, because I am telling their story. Villains are mean or ruthless, sometimes violent or crazy, and sometimes just misunderstood. Villains can be redeemed or partially redeemed, and villains can get away with crime or be caught again and again. Villains should be written as villains, the kind people love to hate, or just that people plain hate them. If they hate your villain, its OK, that’s what they are there for. Good can turn to evil, but there needs to be some type of indication, even if its minor. And evil can turn to almost-good. It’s how the character is written, and how they act. I like those villains that aren’t quite villains, but are rude, jerks and just love to antagonize others. Characters, plain and simple

Characters should never just be plain or simple, but sometimes that is what is required. Characters can add levity or humor to dark situations, giving a sense of lightness in the story, even for a moment or at a time when it may feel inappropriate, but be needed. Think of a cop procedural show, when three cops are standing over a dead body at a crime scene, and one quips a one-liner about the cause of death. It seems inappropriate, but it may be how they deal with the situation they are in. Characters can make or break a story. They should be thought out but allowed to grow. Yes, the characters come from the writer’s mind, but when it’s out on paper, they should be able to take a breath and journey through the plot. They are not just part of the story, they are the story. ©Copyright 2021 Amy Shannon for Uncaged Book Reviews www.uncagedbooks.com

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


feature authors

historical romance | steampunk historical

Chasity Bowlin

Cheryl Bolen

Catherine Stein



hasity Bowlin lives in Kentucky with her husband and their collection of dogs and cats. She loves writing, traveling and enjoys incorporating tidbits of her actual vacations into her books. She is an avid Anglophile, loving all things British, but specifically all things Regency. Growing up in Tennessee, spending as much time as possible with her doting grandparents, soap operas were a part of her daily existence, followed by back to back episodes of Scooby Doo. Her path to becoming a romance novelist was set when, rather than simply have her Barbie dolls cruise around in a pink convertible, 16 | UncagedBooks.com

they time traveled, hosted lavish dinner parties and one even had an evil twin locked in the attic.

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chasitybowlin.com Uncaged welcomes Chasity Bowlin Welcome to Uncaged! Your newest book, Sleepless in Southhampton will release July 13 and is the fourth book in a series. Can you tell us more about the series and this book? What do all the books have in common? The Hellion Club Series was born out of this snippet I read in some research material about gentlemen providing for their illegitimate children, but specifically their daughters so they might marry well. Part of that would obviously involve educating them in how to navigate society. I envisioned a school where this could take place, the domain of the illegitimate daughter of a duke, who has taken it upon herself to give these girls an option… to marry well, to become governesses or companions—a way to live their life on their own terms. In this era, where women were essentially the property of their fathers or their husbands, illegitimacy actually provided a kind of freedom that they would not have had otherwise. You also write a more gothic style historical romance, can you tell readers more about those books? I’ve always adored gothic romance. I’m a former paranormal investigator! I tell the story frequently that, as a kid, I would rush home from the school bus stop to get to my grandmother’s house where I could watch the

last half hour of my favorite soap opera and the minute it went off, I would switch the channel to watch Scooby-Doo. So marrying my love of romance and of things that are more suspenseful or scary was just natural for me. Some of my books feature very earthly forms of villainy. Other books take a more supernatural view of the world. But above all, in every book I write, love always triumphs. I think putting characters in these situations of extreme danger, whether it’s from another human being or something more ephemeral, can heighten the emotion. Any time you up the stakes for them, it drives them closer together and to that moment where they must confront their feelings for one another. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? That is one of those things that varies from book to book. Historically, I will say that the beginning of a book is usually smooth sailing. The end of the book feels like a race, like my fingers can’t type fast enough to keep up with what’s happening inside my head. But that middle part… oh, goodness. It’s like walking uphill in a blizzard at times. So slow and bogged down that you think the end will never come. What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most? Prior to becoming an author, I worked as a social worker in a family preservation program. I was working on my Master’s in Mental Health Counseling when my first book was published. So that was definitely a big fork in my path. But I have no regrets. That background helps me write more complex characters and gives me better insights into why they might do the things they do. I love what I do and wouldn’t change anything. Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? Definitely the characters. I don’t plot. I’m as surprised by how my books end as anyone else. Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love to cook. I love to travel. I’m a bathtub thinker. I’ll soak for hours and just sort out my thoughts. I also have an eight month old little boy, so relaxation of any kind is in short supply right now. But he’s so much fun. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? Oh, that’s so hard! I love fall. When the air is crisp and the sky is that perfect blue. The sound of leaves rustling as you walk through them. And the clothes, obviously. I love that late 70’s/early 80’s vibe in fashion. So cowl neck sweaters, plaid skirts, tall boots. And hot chocolate. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? If the outside world does not intrude, I can write about 4,000 words a day. I normally write about four days a week (more if I have chid care). So, ideally, I can finish a book in about 6 weeks. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I love the convenience of an ebook. I normally read on my phone. Right now, I’m working on revamping an older contemporary series of mine and writing another book in that world. So, I’ve been re-reading my own books in the Bourbon & Blood Series to refresh myself. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Just thank you. Thank you so much for your support, for your patience as I tried to get the hang of being a full time author and a new mom. God bless you all for loving my characters and being willing to suspend reality and fall into this made up world of mine. 18 | UncagedBooks.com

Enjoy an excerpt from Sleepless in Southhampton Sleepless in Southhampton Chasity Bowlin Victorian Historical Releases July 13 PROLOGUE Lord Henry Meredith, Viscount Marchwood, stared at the broken wheel of his carriage and uttered a mild curse. They were not even fully out of London yet. He could still see the heavy cloud of soot that marked the city behind them as it hovered just above the tree line. Not that he’d had any great desire to go to London anyway. He detested being in town and was far more content at his country estate. But alas, prior to his jaunt to Hampshire, he’d been summoned by his cousin who was having some issues with his eldest progeny and gambling. In fact, his younger cousin had been sent down from University and rather than returning to the family fold, had fled to Hampshire himself. Recalling the conversation with his cousin, Horace, and Horace’s pleading look as he’d stated, “But you’re going to Southampton anyway. Surely it won’t be too much of a bother to have a word with him, will it?” It would, actually. But as always, Henry felt he didn’t have the luxury of saying no. He never refused them anything and that was part of his frustration now. He had a limited amount of time and a new task added to his schedule. Glancing at the coachman who appeared far less concerned about the matter than he should, Henry demanded, “I asked you to have that wheel replaced a week ago. Not just repaired—again—but replaced.” Was it his lot in life to be so “nice” that even his own servants had no fear of reprisal for blatantly disobeying his edicts? Of course, it was hardly an edict when he always phrased it as a request.

| CHASITY BOWLIN | “Aye, m’lord. But it were so expensive to replace when patching it would do,” the driver protested in his heavy brogue. Henry blinked at the man in disbelief. Was he truly so lacking in spine that even his servants felt disobeying direct instructions was without consequence? “Clearly just patching it did not do. If it had, I wouldn’t be standing on the side of the road four miles out of London.” The coachman had the grace to look somewhat sheepish. “I can have a new one made and have it on by the morning.” Henry sighed. It wouldn’t work. He’d promised his aunt that he would be in Southampton by the following day. There was much to do in advance of his uncle’s birthday. After all, the Duke of Thornhill’s fiftieth birthday was not an occasion to be missed. The entire family was gathering at the seaside to spend several weeks together at the family’s estate there. Southampton had become their gathering place of choice given poor Philippa’s deteriorating condition. The resort town with access to many spas and sites for sea bathing made it a good destination for them. The less strenuous and active social whirl, as compared to Brighton and Bath—or heaven forbid, London—made it perfect for them. Of course, it wasn’t just his uncle’s birthday which made time of the essence. There was the other matter for his cousin. If he was to catch the boy still at the Duke of Wellington Inn in Southampton, he’d need to move quickly. Indeed, if someone didn’t step in and take the reins, young Julian could find himself in a world of trouble. Julian was getting into a great deal of trouble and a great deal of debt that his branch of the family had no means of correcting. Still, it wasn’t entirely duty and obligation. The notion of gathering with his family in its entirety, when he spent so much time alone, was something he’d been anticipating for a while. He enjoyed his aunt’s and uncle’s company, so long as they weren’t throwing potential brides in his path. And spending time with his cousin was always a welcome respite from estate management and endless rows of columns that had to be added and subtracted and balanced. Henry had long suspected that he wasn’t cut out to be a gentle-

man of leisure. He’d have much preferred working in the fields to working on an account book. Being locked in a study all day poring over documents was not the life he wanted for himself. He couldn’t say precisely where it came from, but a feeling of restlessness had been slowly creeping over him. It was a feeling of being unsettled by the sameness of his days, a need to escape his ever growing sense of ennui and the resentment his position as heir apparent had sparked inside him. Perhaps having his seemingly well-ordered travel plans interrupted was a blessing in disguise. “Burton, how long has it been since I’ve done something irresponsible?” Henry asked. “Far as I know, you’ve never done anything irresponsible, so I couldn’t rightly say, my lord,” the coachman replied, his tone cautious as if perhaps he thought his employer was ready for Bedlam. “Neither could I,” Henry mused. “In fact, for the last several years, I’ve done nothing that wasn’t related to managing my own estate or preparing for the heavy workload of managing those my uncle will leave in my care.” “Yes, my lord.” Now the coachman was simply humoring him, agreeing with whatever he said in order to not get sacked. He could be angry or frustrated. He could fire his longtime coachman or castigate the man right there in the middle of the road. But ultimately, Henry decided to go a different route—a route that might, even if just for a day, give him a chance to alter that sameness which was weighing so heavily on him. If one chose to look at it in a more favorable light, he was being presented with an opportunity. “There’s an inn a mile or so up ahead where the public stage stops, isn’t there?” Henry asked. The coachman nodded, but his expression had gone from slightly wary to entirely skeptical and perhaps even scandalized. “Aye, my lord. But a gentleman such as you on a public stage is hardly—” Henry walked away abruptly. His motions were Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | brisk, purposeful and quite decisive as he opened one of the small trunks strapped to the back of the carriage. After rifling through it for a moment, he emerged victorious having found what he was looking for. An older coat with a frayed cuff and a waistcoat that was more plain and of slightly less luxurious materials were clutched in his hands. By adjusting his wardrobe, he could alter his position in the eyes of others quite easily. Rather than a wealthy viscount who was heir to a duke, he might now be taken for a second or even third son, perhaps a clerk or even a would-be cleric. In short, he could be someone else, at least for a day. Without even checking to be certain anyone was about, he switched them out there on the roadside and then reappeared. “Now, I’ll blend with my fellow travelers.” The coachman looked dubious. “My lord, I think it’s a very bad idea. There’s all sorts on the public coach—” “Get that wheel replaced, Burton, then return to Haverton Abbey. I’ll hire a coach when I return,” Henry instructed one last time and then began marching down the road. He needed to get there in time to get on the next coach to Southampton. Besides, it was an adventure. He needed an adventure. He needed something in his life that was not expected, that was not determined by others, and that would allow him to forget that he was not only a viscount, but the heir apparent to a dukedom with vast wealth and properties to be maintained. In short, he was running away from his life, albeit temporarily. And it felt marvelous. *** “You’re certain about this?” Miss Sophia Upchurch, or Sophie as she preferred, checked her valise once more, making certain that it was properly fastened. “I’m quite certain,” she replied. Miss Euphemia Darrow sighed heavily. “You are 20 | UncagedBooks.com

the youngest of my pupils to set out on her own, Sophie. I know you’re tired of hearing it, but I’m very worried. You are only just eighteen, after all. And while many of the other girls were of a similar age to you, they were—well, they knew much more of the world than you do. I fear I have sheltered you too much.” Sophie let out her own sigh. She’d been with Effie since she was so young she couldn’t recall where or whom she’d been with before. She’d been left on Effie’s door like a foundling with a hefty sum of money to cover her care and education and a note that promised more would be forthcoming so long as she remained there. It was an old and familiar story to her, but she was still very grateful to Effie for taking her in when the Darrow School had never been intended for children as young as she had been at that time. It was so much more than a school. It was her home and its occupants were her family. “Effie, I will be fine. Why, I’ll be there long before nightfall even. Besides, you’ve met Lady Parkhurst. She’s very respectable!” “And utterly horrid,” Effie replied with a grim expression. She reached over and adjusted the collar of Sophie’s pelisse. “I don’t have favorites, Sophie. It would be terrible of me to do so. In truth, I love all of my girls. Every one of you that has crossed that threshold has become my family, like my own daughters, and I simply adore you all. But you are very special to me. You were such a tiny thing when you first came that perhaps my feelings toward you do tend to be much more maternal than for some of the other girls.” “I love you, Effie. And yes, for all intents and purposes, you are my mother and I could not have asked for better,” Sophie admitted. “But I can’t simply hide behind your skirts forever. I have to start making my way in the world. The more birds that fly from your nest, the more room there will be for new ones who need you, too. Also, it is terribly unfair to the other girls that they should have to become independent while you continue to support me! Not to mention that this is an excellent opportunity.” Effie nodded. “I could at least see you all the way to Southampton. There is no need to take the public coach!”

| CHASITY BOWLIN | Sophie bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. “Yes, because all servants are delivered to their employer’s doorstep in a fashionable barouche! No, Effie. I will take the public coach as befits my station and you will stop worrying. It’s one day’s travel time along a route that is well trafficked and quite safe. I shall be at Lady Parkhurst’s before nightfall and ready to begin my duties.” Effie threw her hands up as she stepped back. There were tears in her eyes. “Fine. You’re right. I know that you are and that I’m worrying needlessly. You are a very good girl and a very smart and capable one. I have taught you well and prepared you for every eventuality that I could foresee. But it’s the ones which I could not foresee—those leave me utterly petrified. Be careful. Promise me that you will.” “I will,” Sophie promised. “And if Lady Parkhurst is too difficult, you will come home,” Effie stated. “There are other positions. You need not be miserable and bullied by her.” “She surely will not be so bad,” Sophie protested. Actually, she could possibly. During their one meeting the woman had been sour and contrary. But she’d also been amusing, though that amusement might wear thin after a while as it had tended to be rather meanspirited in nature. “I can do this, Effie. I’m ready.” As if on cue, the coach pulled in then and the bustling activity of the busy inn suddenly doubled. It became so noisy that not a word could be heard between them. So they both said a silent goodbye, punctuated with a long hug as Sophie climbed into the coach with the assistance of the driver and settled herself on one of the ill-sprung seats. A glance through the grimy window showed Effie still standing in the inn yard watching, her face etched with worry, as the coach pulled away. I will not fail, Sophie vowed to herself. I will not be cowed and I will not come running back to cling to Effie’s apron strings.

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |




ince her first book (A Duke Deceived) was published to acclaim in 1998, Cheryl Bolen has written more than three dozen Regency-set historical romances. Several of her books have won Best Historical awards, and she’s a New York Times and USA Today bestseller as well as an Amazon All Star whose books have been translated into nine languages. She’s also been penning articles about Regency England and giving workshops on the era for more than twenty years. 24 | UncagedBooks.com

In previous lives, she was a journalist and an English teacher. She’s married to a recently retired college professor, and they’re the parents of two grown sons, both of whom she says are brilliant and handsome! All four Bolens (and their new daughterin-law) love to travel to England, and Cheryl loves college football and basketball and adores reading letters and diaries penned by long-dead Englishwomen.

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CherylBolen.com Uncaged welcomes Cheryl Bolen Welcome to Uncaged! Your newest book, Lady Mary’s Dangerous Encounter will release August 10, and is the first book in a series. Can you tell readers more about the book and what will tie this series together? I am so excited about my new The Beresford Adventure series. In recent years my books have taken a turn to not only be romantic Regencies but also to be lighthearted mysteries. The Beresford family was introduced in an earlier, six-book series of mine, Brazen Brides, the first book published by Kensington in 2005, and the most recent released in 2020. The heroine of my lighthearted 2016 book, Oh, What a (Wedding) Night, is Sophia Beresford, and also in that book we met her brother, Lord Devere (hero of the second Beresford Adventures). Oh, and a lot of Americans have trouble pronouncing Beresford. It’s bare-is-ferd! Now, the other Beresfords get their stories told in The Beresford Adventures. Impetuous Lady Mary Beresford is the heroine of the new series’ first book, Lady Mary’s Dangerous Encounter. I had so much fun writing this. It’s a Regency-era take on an Ethel Lina White book immortalized in the Hitchcock Film, The Lady Van-

ishes. Defying her guardian brother, Lord Devere, Mary rushes off across the Continent—alone—to meet her sister, Sophia, in Vienna. Worried, but unable to follow his sister because of a broken leg, Devere asks his friend, a diplomat who’s a duke’s son, Stephen Stanhope, who’s traveling to the Congress of Vienna, to watch out for his sister. In the White/Hitchcock tale, the heroine is on a train. Because there were no trains in the Regency, I had my heroine get snowed in at an Alpine chalet, and this is where Stephen catches up with her. An elderly lady who Mary had befriended during the journey has gone missing, and all her fellow travelers are in a conspiracy to deny the old woman’s existence. Mary refuses to continue traveling until the elderly woman is located. With everyone against her, Mary delights in Stephen’s arrival, as he become her champion. Stephen thinks she’s spoiled and daft. Until there’s an attempt upon her life. To keep her safe, he proposes she stay in his room at the inn … What are you working on next that you can tell us about? The Beresford Adventures trilogy has consumed me this year and the latter part of 2020, so I’m a bit brain dead as to what I’m going to write next. As the author of eight series, I get a lot of fan mail asking for more stories in my most popular series. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of requests for more Cheryl Bolen Regencies: A Mystery and Match. But I haven’t made up my mind. Truthfully, after spending one year not leaving the house and writing thousands of pages, I may give myself a much-needed break for a bit. I’ve been publishing for 23 years.

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |



This photo shows the various drafts and edits of the thousands of pages I’ve written since the start of the pandemic. 26 | UncagedBooks.com

What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? Without hesitation I say writing sex scenes is the most difficult part of writing for me. First, I have a problem allowing an unmarried Regency heroine to sleep with a man to whom she’s not married. I want my heroine to be respected by the reader and true to what was reality among the upper classes in the Regency. Those girls did not sleep around. Writing sex scenes wasn’t that much of a problem earlier in my career when most of my books were marriageof-convenience stories. It’s fine for married people to make love to each other!

| CHERYL BOLEN | What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? My favorite thing to do when not working on a book is traveling. We’ve been going to England for 30 years, and several times have taken a flat in London to use as a base, while traveling from one corner to the other of the country on our BritRail passes. We’ve taken our now-grown sons to England five times. They especially love London. And especially the pubs! If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why?

I’ve polled my readers, and about half of them like spicy stuff in their books, and about half of them like books they can share with their daughters and granddaughters. It’s hard to please both. And it’s hard to strike a balance between writing a tender scene that sizzles without being too graphic.

It’s tough to pick one season because I love wearing winter clothes and I love snuggling by the fire, but I also want sunny skies. Gray skies sink my mood. If I were wishing, I’d wish to live in Southern California, where the weather is mostly always lovely. In most places there, it doesn’t usually get too hot in the summer nor too cold in the winter.

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel?

Because I’m so huge a researcher and have three college degrees, people have a difficult time picturing me at a gambling casino. But that’s my guilty secret. I love to gamble. I love poker. A lot of women in the Regency were rabid gamblers.

I am usually at my desk all day, up to seven days a week. However, that’s not all writing time. Authors have a lot of duties that go along with the actual writing of books. I typically write at least two hours a day. It used to take me five months to write a book, but my books are shorter than the long books that were published back in the nineties, when I started publishing. Now some of my books can be written in about three months. It takes me a month to write a novella. I’m not a particularly fast writer.

Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? Often my books are dictated by readers who want me to make a secondary character from a previous book into a hero or heroine of my next book; so, much of the time my books are dictated by character. However, in a case like Lady Mary’s Dangerous Encounter, I wanted to write my own story based on that plot idea of the vanishing lady. The last book in the Beresford Adventures, With a Little Help from My Lord, was inspired by one of my all-time favorite movies, Foul Play, in which Goldie Hawn is jeopardized in a cute plot with lots of humor.

Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I love, love reading on an ereader. For my research books, though, I prefer print. Basically, it’s ebook for fiction, print for non-fiction. I’m currently reading a British cozy mystery in ebook and a nutrition book in print! Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |



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What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Readers can learn about me and my backlist on my website, www.CherylBolen.com, and they can join my reader group, Lady Cheryl’s Ladies of the Ton, at https:// www.facebook.com/groups/2586590498319473/. I’m not super active on social media, but I invite readers to visit my Cheryl Bolen Books Facebook page at http:// fbl.ink/Facebook.

Enjoy an excerpt from Lady Mary’s Dangerous Encounter Lady Mary’s Dangerous Encounter Cheryl Bolen Victorian Historical Releases August 10 Lady Mary’s traveling companion has disappeared and only one man believes she ever existed.

ing author Cheryl Bolen!

Welcome to book 1 in the adventurous new series from USA Today Bestsell-

Lord Stephen Stanhope, a duke’s diplomat son who’s traveling to the Congress of Vienna, agrees to protect his friend’s wayward sister on Stephen’s journey to Austria. Lady Mary Beresford has impetuously set off on her own for Vienna. Vexed with the headstrong woman he’s yet to meet, Stephen despairs of ever catching up with the maddening lady. They eventually meet at an inn in the Alps, where the guests’ progress has been impeded by two matters: a blizzard— and Lady Mary’s refusal to leave until she’s found an elderly fellow traveler who has disappeared. Mary’s infuriated that everyone at the inn is in a conspiracy to deny the woman ever existed and to

| CHERYL BOLEN | imply Mary invented her. Just when every person at the inn is against her, the handsome Lord Stephen arrives and becomes her champion. Stephen doesn’t tell her he’s been sent by her brother, nor does he actually believe her preposterous story. Until there’s an attempt on her life. Excerpt He came and put a reassuring arm around her and spoke softly. “Now, tell me what’s happened.” “Someone . . .” She burst into a fresh round of tears that wracked her whole body. He drew her closer, patting her shoulders. Then it occurred to him that someone must have come into her bedchamber as she slept. “Dear God, did someone enter your chamber?” He held her at arm’s length and peered at her. Her eyes were red, and her face was slick with the tears that flowed as if from a spigot. She nodded. “He tried to kill me.” He closed his eyes from revulsion. “I failed you. We knew they had a key to your room. I should have done something.” “It’s not your fault.” But he could have prevented this. She could be dead right now. He was furious with himself. He should at least have given her his locks. He was far better equipped to fend off a would-be killer than this slightly built female. But who would ever have thought someone would try to kill her? “Tell me everything that happened.” She collapsed against him and clung like heated wax until her crying eventually tapered off. “I awakened to find someone pushing a pillow into my face.” It sickened him to think that this could have happened—and right next to his chamber. She would Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | not have been able to see anything, nor could she even scream to summon him. Thank God she had survived. “How were you able to fight off such an attack?” “I owe my survival to Devere.” His brows lowered. “How is that possible?” “He instructed his sisters of a particular thrust he said would disable any attacker, and he proved to be right. Smirking, Stephen nodded knowingly. His admiration for Devere increased even more. A pity he had given her brother his word that he’d not reveal their acquaintance. “I understand. Bravo to you— and to Devere. Would that you could have done to him what he wanted to do to you.” “You mean kill him?”

“You had to have heard footsteps.” “I would have, had I not made the mistake of going back for my knife.” “No. You did the right thing. It was not worth risking your life to identify him. Had you confronted him in the corridor, he could very well have tried to finish the job he started, only with a knife.” She winced. “I can see why he preferred smothering me—to make it look like a natural death.” He eased away from her. Holding her felt entirely too good. He had to keep reminding himself this was Devere’s little sister. “Especially since it’s been established you were sick when you arrived here. They all would have brushed off your demise by saying you suffered from poor health.”

Stephen was not normally so bloodthirsty, but he would have had no qualms about killing a fiend who tried to murder a sleeping woman. “He deserves it.”

She gave a mock groan. “And they would just have dumped my cold, dead body into the snow,” she said with a martyred expression.

“He most certainly does, the beastly, no-good, murdering spawn of Lucifer.”

“This is no teasing matter. Were it not for your brother, you most likely would be dead right now.”

Stephen sighed. It was good to have Mary back. Thanks to Devere. Would she ever know how much she owed her brother? Had it not been for Devere, she would have been completely alone in this evil place. “So when you disabled him, did you not see him well enough to identify him?” She shook her head forlornly. “It was a male, and he wore a dark hood. I tried to follow him, but it was as if he had vanished. I saw nothing, heard nothing.”

“Too true. I couldn’t even call out with that instrument of murder smashing into my face.”

“You went right after him?” asked Stephen, his brows lowered. “Not exactly. I started to, but then I went back and got my knife. By the time I reached the corridor, there was no evidence of him. He’d completely vanished, like Miss Willets.” 30 | UncagedBooks.com

“It sickens me to think I wouldn’t have been able to help you.” The fire in his hearth was on the verge of going out, so he moved away from her and stooped to throw a pair of logs and some kindling onto it. After he succeeded in building up the fire, he beckoned for her to come sit close to it on the settle. “You must be cold in just your night shift. Shall I go to your room to fetch a shawl or something?” She whipped around to face him, terror in her eyes. “No, please, don’t leave me!”



ward-winning author Catherine Stein believes that everyone deserves love and that Happily Ever After has the power to help, to heal, and to comfort. She writes sassy, sexy romance set during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Her books are full of action, adventure, magic, and fantastic technologies. Catherine lives in Michigan with her husband and three rambunctious kids. She loves steampunk and Oxford commas, and can often be found dressed in Renaissance Festival clothing, drinking copious amounts of tea. 34 | UncagedBooks.com

Stay Connected

ferent time periods and feature a range of settings and diverse characters. My story is set at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. What are you working on next you can tell us about?

catsteinbooks.com Uncaged Welcomes Catherine Stein Welcome to Uncaged! Dead Dukes Tell No Tales will release on July 9th, the third book in the Sass and Steam series. Can you tell readers more about this book and series? Thanks for having me! The Sass and Steam series is an early 1900s steampunk world where feisty heroines and the heroes who love them fend off dastardly villains on the way to happily ever after. Dead Dukes Tell No Tales features an American single dad, Cliff Kinsley, who has unexpectedly inherited an English dukedom from a distant relative. He doesn’t want the debt-riddled inheritance, so he plans to fake his death and escape. Cliff’s neighbor is airship pirate Sabine Diebin, who is on the hunt for a priceless treasure. They agree to help each other, and that sparks a world-wide journey to evade enemies, find the treasure, and learn to open their hearts. In August, you also have an anthology coming out called Summer Pleasures with other authors. Can you tell readers more about what this set is about and what connects the stories? Summer Pleasures is a historical romance anthology put out by the Romance Cafe, who have published a number of charity anthologies to support breast cancer research. The anthology features a mix of established and new authors writing summer-themed short stories. The stories are all historical but will cover several dif-

I’m currently working on edits to The Spinster’s Swindle, the second book in my Arcane Tales Victorian romance series. The Spinster’s Swindle tells the story of Lydia Weaver, a secondary character from The Scoundrel’s New Con. It has a Rumpelstiltskin inspiration, Victorian Egyptomania, a spiritualist heroine, and a playwright hero. It’s scheduled for release in November. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? This can vary a lot depending on how the writing is going in general and what part of the story I’m at. The middle is always harder than the beginning or the end. Overall, I find the slower-paced more description-heavy parts more difficult to write and the fast, dialog-heavy parts easier. What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most? I’m a huge sports fan, especially for the teams from my alma mater, The University of Michigan. In college I was in the marching band and hockey band, and now I still play trumpet with the alumni band. I also play hockey on a team started by band alums. Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? 100% the characters. The way I write, there isn’t much of a planning stage. I get ideas for characters and a situation and mull it over in my head. Once I have the idea of who these people are and what they want, I start writing and they make the plot happen.

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


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What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? My biggest relaxation thing is taking walks. It’s especially nice if I can get out to a park and hike a trail, but even a daily walk in my neighborhood helps my state of mind. I like to listen to audiobooks while I’m walking. I also enjoy reading paper or ebooks and doing crafts and puzzles. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? Definitely the fall. I like weather that’s not too hot, not too cold, and lets me wear my cute jackets, hats, and boots. I also love cider, pumpkins, Halloween, and football season. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? The numbers of hours a day varies quite a bit. It can be as little as an hour or as many as five or six. I try to get some amount of writing done every day. Full novels take about three months to draft. Usually I am also doing edits and other work on another book during that same time period. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I love all of them! I’ve been reading a ton of historical romance, because many favorite authors have summer releases, including Bethany Bennett’s West End Earl, Harper St. George’s The Devil and the Heiress, and Caroline Linden’s A Scot to the Heart. I also recently read Alyssa Cole’s contemporary How to Find a Princess. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thanks for letting me share a little bit about myself and my books! I love to connect with readers and share fun history tidbits and chat about books. You can find me all over social media @catsteinbooks and at my website www.catsteinbooks.com.


Enjoy an excerpt from Dead Dukes Tell No Tales

Dead Dukes Tell No Tales Catherine Stein Steampunk Historical Releases July 9 Airship pirates, mysterious inventions, and a treasure beyond compare? All in a duke’s work. Chicago scrap metal mogul Clifford Kinsley has never encountered an obstacle he couldn’t dismantle. Until he inherits a dukedom burdened with mountains of debt, stifling rules, and people who want to ship his seven-year-old daughter off to boarding school. He’s stuck with the title for life. Which leaves only one solution: kill the duke. And for that, he’ll need the assistance of a professional. Sabine Diebin, the infamous pirate captain La Capitaine, has one final treasure to find before she settles down to a well-deserved retirement. Unfortunately, the key to finding her prize is buried somewhere in the mess left behind by the late Duke of Hartleigh. To speed up her search, Sabine makes a deal with the oddly charming new duke-next-door. If he digs through her clutter, she’ll help him disappear. Working together, Cliff and Sabine uncover a trail of clues that sends them on a world-wide search for a potentially life-changing device. With their combined skills, they can dodge murderous enemies and unravel baffling messages, but they can’t deny their growing bond or the desire sparking between them. Pirates don’t have partners. But if they dare to open their hearts, they might discover that the greatest treasures of all can’t be buried. Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | Excerpt England January, 1906 “‘I am very sorry to inform you of the death…’ No, no. Not dramatic enough. ‘I am immeasurably sorry to inform you of the tragic death of His Grace, the sixteenth-and-three-quarters Duke of Hartleigh.’” “Twelfth, Daddy. You’re the twelfth duke.” Clifford Kinsley, who, much to his dismay, was now apparently the twelfth Duke of Hartleigh, set down his pen and turned in his chair to face his seven-year-old daughter. “How do you know that?” Lola shrugged one shoulder, the movement setting her jet-black curls bouncing. “I counted the pictures.” “Pictures?” She pointed across the study to where a pile of ghastly, faded portraits leaned against the empty bookshelves. “Those pictures. They’re old dukes or something. There’s ten pictures there, plus the big statue outside. Eleven. Are you going to get a picture made, Daddy?” Cliff grimaced. “God, no.” “Miss Wallace says you’re not supposed to say ‘God’ all the time. She says I should say ‘goodness’ if I say anything.” “Who the hell is Miss Wallace?” Lola shrugged again. “That lady who’s here to watch me. I think she’s a teacher, but they called her a word I don’t know. It sounded like ‘government’ or something.” “Governess.” “That.” She stuffed her hands in her pockets. “Don’t drop spiders on her.” Lola pulled her hands out and turned them palms up. “No spiders.” “Good.” Cliff pushed his spectacles more firmly onto his nose. “I’m sure you’re as frustrated with all this as I am, but we both should remember that the people who work here didn’t ask for this any more than we did. We should be nice to them.” 40 | UncagedBooks.com

Her little head bobbed in agreement. Cliff glanced at the door. It was closed, but who knew whether there were servants lurking outside. This place was crawling with people. At home it had always been just him and Lo. And that’s how he liked it. Since his arrival in England, he’d been surrounded at almost all times. A driver had met him at the train station and driven him to this massive house, apologizing for its small size and unsuitability. Only later had Cliff discovered this was a “dower house,” intended as a residence for the old duke’s widow. The stilllarger house across the gardens was meant to be his home. Apparently it had been sold off due to some questionable point of law. He owned the land, but not the house. Cliff remained baffled by the entire thing. Fortunately, the dower house included this cozy, if sparsely furnished study. And when he retreated here, no one intruded without knocking. It was the closest thing he had to a refuge at the moment. He glanced again at the door and lowered his voice. “We won’t be here much longer. Soon the twelfth duke will be dead and you and I will start a new life in California.” Lola skipped over to him and climbed into his lap. “What’s it like in California?” “I don’t know. I’ve never been there.” “I want to go home to Chicago. I miss the city. I miss the lake.” She nuzzled against his chest, and Cliff pressed a kiss into her hair. “Me too, baby. Me too. You’ll like San Francisco. It’s right on the ocean.” She straightened up, frowning at him. “I don’t like the ocean. The boat made my tummy sick and it was so long.” “Maybe we’ll take an airship this time.” Her eyes widened. “Ooh, like a sky-pirate ship?” Cliff winced. Lord save him from pirate-loving little girls. “More like a naval ship. Very clean. Organized. I’ll make sure to buy you a telescope and you can learn about air currents and steam engines.” “And how to sword fight?” She made a slashing motion with her arm, smacking him on the side of the head. He grunted and lifted her off his lap. “Not around me. I don’t want to die for real. Now go back to your toys.

| CATHERINE STEIN | I need to finish brainstorming ways to kill the duke.” She slashed the air. “Swords!” “We have to disappear, Lo. Something like drowning in the ocean or falling into a bog.” “Hmm.” She plopped on the ground beside her dolls, and for a few minutes, Cliff thought that was the end of it. He scribbled about half a page of mostly worthless notes. Honestly, he didn’t have anything better than the bog. Set upon by thieves in London would spark a search for a body. For a duke they’d probably dredge the whole damned Thames. “Washed out to sea while fishing?” he muttered. He probably owned some sort of boat, and it was probably full of holes. “Daddy? Can it be pirates?” For the love of God. “Babe, there really aren’t that many pirates.” “The lady next door is a pirate.” “What?” Cliff knew nothing about the woman who lived in the former Hartleigh mansion, except that she was rich. He’d never even seen her. “Don’t be ridiculous.” “It’s true.” He shook his head. “Pirates don’t live in giant ducal houses in the Middle of Nowhere, England.” Lola hopped up, clutching her favorite doll to her chest. “It’s true, Daddy. I saw her. I was playing outside and she was practicing with her sword and slicing things up, and she saw me and did this.” Lola put a single finger to her lips. “She was secret pirate practicing.” Cliff fought not to roll his eyes. “I don’t think she’s a pirate, Lo, but maybe we’ll walk over tomorrow and pay her a visit.” It couldn’t hurt to get to know his neighbor a bit. People would take it as a sign he was growing accustomed to this whole duke thing. Put them at ease. Make them more likely to believe him truly dead when he vanished without a trace. And with luck it would quash Lola’s absurd pirate talk. After her constant buccaneer chatter throughout the agonizingly long ocean voyage, he really didn’t think he could stand much more of it. Lola bounced in place, clapping her hands. “Ooh, ooh! Can we really, Daddy? You’ll see! She’s a real pirate! I promise!”

He sighed and ruffled her hair. “If you say so, babe. Now let’s get you to bed. It’s getting late.” Cliff walked Lola upstairs to the bedroom she’d claimed as her own and helped her prepare for bed. Before she finished buttoning up her footed blanket sleeper, he popped open the metal plate in the center of her chest that protected the delicate workings of her biomechanical heart. Nestled among brass tubes and copper pipes, a small fuel tube filled with precious luxene glowed bright green. “Fuel looks great,” he said, then gently pressed the plate closed so it once again meshed snugly with her skin. “Next time we refuel, can I do it all by myself?” Lola asked. “You may, but only with supervision.” He buttoned her up, tucked her into bed, and kissed her goodnight, wishing for the millionth time they didn’t need to have these conversations. Never would he forget his terror when the doctors had discovered the defect in Lola’s heart. He’d consulted dozens of specialists before choosing the biomechanologist who had crafted her lifesaving device. He trudged back down to the study. When he’d set out for England, he’d hoped the prestige of his new title might be of benefit to Lola. He’d thought perhaps it would give him access to a substantial, unadulterated supply of her rare and expensive fuel. Or give him a connection to top scientists, who might have better and safer alternatives to power her biomechanics. Instead he had debts, a house full of people who thought him strange, and a neighbor his daughter believed was a pirate. Cliff sank into his seat at the desk. He had no real work, no real purpose, just this unmitigated mess of an inheritance. He tapped his pen on the paper, then wrote, Kidnapped by pirates and thrown overboard. The sooner Hartleigh died, the better

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


A Life in Motion Life in rural Wisconsin is always

A Life in Motion.

A snippet of life on the farm with Cyrene.


A Life in Motion – July/August 2021 Small Town Living

named for two of the children of early settlers. Lake Mary is the busiest of the two lakes. Swimming,

Each month I’ll share part of my life on this small farm. Some fun, some serious, but always in motion. I’ll share my tips for gardening, show you my gardens and harvests, fixing and rebuilding areas in the barn, the new baby chicks that will arrive in the spring, adventures with my goats and horses and since I’m always cooking and trying new things, I’ll post a recipe that I thought worked out well each month with pictures. Hope you enjoy the column and get a glimpse of what life is like for us here in the country. In June, I hurt the back of my knee/calf muscle from dehydration and overuse. Ha. So my building and projects went on pause while I rested and healed. I’m not 100% yet, but I am getting there. So this month I’m sharing a bit of what life in our small town is like. I live in southeast Wisconsin, in a small township of Randall, but since Randall doesn’t have a post office, we are lumped in with Twin Lakes. Twin Lakes is a mostly tourist town, famous for being the inspiration of the song “Lake Marie” by John Prine. We are 10 miles south of Lake Geneva (an affluent tourist area and also the inspiration for author Ginger Ring’s Genoa Mafia series) and the host of Country Thunder. When we moved here in 1985, there was a population of 2400 people in Twin Lakes. Today that number is a bit over 6100. Our small farm is a couple miles outside the town. Twin Lakes is 53 miles southwest of Milwaukee, 56 miles northwest of Chicago and 30 miles west of Lake Michigan. It was named for our two lakes, Lake Mary and Lake Elizabeth, 44 | UncagedBooks.com

boating, water skiing, jet skis, sailboats - these activities are common all summer long. Lake Mary is about 327 acres and has a depth of 33 feet. It’s also the home of the award winning Aquanut Ski Show that takes place every Wednesday evening that is free to watch. The second lake, Lake Elizabeth is the larger lake at 725 acres, but it has no-wake rules and is considered the fishing lake and is stocked with walleye, pike and bass. Twin Lakes is a classic small town, with some small town charms. A couple nights a month, they host a “Movie in the Park” for free, you bring your own lawn chairs...and bug spray.

| CYRENE OLSON | Friday night fish fries are the rage in Wisconsin, and Twin Lakes has a good one. Mad Dan’s will serve all-you-can-eat fish fry along with a loaf of homemade bread that is never left at the table when finished with coleslaw and choice of fries or their famous potato pancakes for about $13.50 a person. My advice? Go hungry. Every Friday, we have a small Farmer’s Market where you can find some local treasures. I’ve found some wonderul goat milk soap from one local vendor and crafted kitchen towels at another. Twin Lakes has only one grocery store, but it has a few restaurants that are rated pretty high locally. Morning breakfast has to be at Manny’s. This diner is

A newer place in Twin Lakes that has a Friday night Open Mic night and live music on Saturday nights and even has an official Friends couch replica that seating is reserved and rented out for donations to Children’s Wisconsin charity. They also have some of the best coffee in town. There is also a few parades each year, a July 4th celebration called Libertyfest, Harvestfest which brings out the crafters and some fun things to do during the Christmas season like Parade of Trees and Elf Hunt. One of the big summer draws to Twin Lakes every July is Country Thunder, a 4-day country music festival.

small, but the food is good, in good-sized portions and served with lightning speed. If you watch, you might see Manny dancing and cooking when you’re there. But plan accordingly, sometimes there are lines outside waiting to get in, specially on weekends. Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| A LIFE IN MOTION COLUMN | Personally, I stock up on any groceries we may need before the festival starts and stay out of town until it passes. Many festival goers are also camping on the Country Thunder grounds, so it’s the one time of year that Twin Lakes is not all that appealing to me. I’ve been to the festival once, but it would take a special act to pull me into that madness again.

Country Meat Loaf I can’t begin to remember where I got this recipe, but I’ve been making this for years. It’s one of the best recipes for meat loaf that I’ve tried and I like that this makes a sizable loaf to have leftovers for sandwiches. Even though this area has been quiet for us, it’s changed a lot in the 30+ years we’ve been here. Some good, some not so good, as with anywhere. It’s gotten busier and more farmers have sold off their land and more houses have gone up. When we moved, there was 3 houses on the few hundred acre corner. Today there are 8, a couple more going up and the 250 acres across the street from us has been sold. So far they are farming the land and I hope that continues. When it’s time for us to move, I hope we will find a place that is much like how this town was when we first moved here, maybe with a little bit more of milder weather. The recipe this month is a country meat loaf recipe that I make so that there are leftovers for meat loaf sandwiches the next day.

©Copyright 2021 Cyrene Olson www.uncagedbooks.com Cyrene@UncagedBooks.com

Ingredients 2 lbs. ground beef 1 TB oil 1 medium onion, finely chopped 1 stalk celery, finely chopped 1 medium carrot, finely shredded 2 cloves minced garlic 3 slices of bread 4 oz. tomato sauce (8 oz can, half mixed inside the loaf and half for the glaze) 1 egg Salt & Pepper to taste Glaze: 4 oz tomato sauce 1 TB mustard 1 TB brown sugar 1 TB cider vinegar 1) Saute the onion and celery in oil until tender, about 10 minutes. 2) In a bowl, tear up the bread pieces into small pieces,

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add the finely shredded carrot, garlic, egg and 1/2 the can of tomato sauce. Add the onion and celery mix and salt and pepper. Add the ground beef and mix all ingredients well. 3) Mix the glaze ingredients together for the topping. Don’t get too hung up on the glaze. If you don’t have all the ingredients for the glaze, you can even slap on ketchup, it will still be fine. 3) Form the loaf in a larger pan, this loaf will not fit in a normal sized loaf pan, I use a 8 x 12 glass greased baking dish for mine. Spread the glaze on top.

4) Cook in a 350° oven for 1 1/2 hrs. Remove from oven and siphon off all the liquid in the bottom of the pan with a baster. Let sit for at least 15 minutes to set. This recipe should feed 6 easily, we are only a family of 4, so this makes great sandwiches the next day, always a huge bonus.

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


shortstory FINAL

| SHORT STORY | This story will continue in consecutive months.

Ignition Point by Jami Gray I scrambled to my feet with newfound energy. The sudden change of position left me light-headed, and I caught my balance with one hand on the wall. Fortunately, the body didn’t move. In fact, based upon the bloody trail outlining the incoming path and the unnatural angle of its neck to its spine as it sprawled on the floor, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t get up anytime soon. I looked over from where it came from and saw Zev grappling with the Bruiser. I made a wild guess that the human thumbtack was probably the team’s fourth member. A loud crash sounded as Bruiser sent Zev careening back into the coffee station. Zev managed to catch himself on the counter’s edge, but the impact doubled him over. He pushed off and raised an arm to block a vicious swing from a hamfisted Bruiser. As he completed his turn, he hurled the rack of K-Cups and condiments into Bruiser’s face. Bruiser stumbled back. Zev barely paused before following up with a round kick to the ribs. The kick dropped Bruiser over Zev’s leg. Because of their positions and the dim lighting, I missed what happened next, but whatever it was, Zev went down. I was too far away to help, and my heart seized. Get up, Zev! A wheezing Bruiser straightened, the muscles in his back and shoulders shifting as his arms rose to shoulder height. With a rumbling roar, he lifted his right leg and slammed it down, as if trying to squash a spider, except that spider was Zev’s chest. Despite the tumbled furniture and coffee items, Zev rolled out of the way and straight into an overturned chair. Undaunted, Bruiser followed, doing his best to violently foot stomp his way to victory. I winced when a pained grunt sounded from a half-obscured Zev, indicating Bruiser found his mark. Unable to stand by and watch Zev get pummeled, I darted forward before my brain could issue a protest. The floor was littered with broken glass and wrecked 50 | UncagedBooks.com

furniture, which left my footing on par with a drunken monkey’s. My foot slipped on the broken glass and tangled in the shredded cushions. I crashed into the reception desk, but Bruiser, consumed with kicking the shit out of Zev, paid me no heed. If I didn’t create a distraction quick, Zev would be dead an outcome I violently rejected. I reached into my jacket and pulled out the Skeleton knife. The weight was all wrong for throwing, but I could work with it. Bracing against the desk, I held the blade between my fingers and aimed for the widest part of Bruiser, his back. I took a deep breath in, and on the exhale, I let the knife fly. It flew, end over end, and by some miracle, hit blade first. The point sank to its hilt just to the side of Bruiser’s spine. It was nowhere near fatal, but it did get his attention. He roared and reared back, one hand scrambling to get to the knife, but its awkward position meant he couldn’t reach it. He left off trying to grab it and spun around to face me. Fury painted his face in a menacing mask, and his eyes held a disturbing light reminiscent of age-old berserkers. He took a step forward. Shoving away from the desk, I darted back, tripped over a cushion, and fell to the floor. Glass bit into my palms, and my ass hit the floor, the impact leaving my tailbone numb. Bruiser didn’t give me time to register the pain. He lunged toward me with unexpected speed. Using my heels and hands, I managed a panicked backward crab crawl. My hand hit something solid. I risked a glance and saw it was a broken coffee-table leg. Twisting to the side, I snatched it up, continuing my movement until I was on my feet. Upright, I gripped it like a baseball bat and swung out at the charging Bruiser. It hit but not where I intended. Bruiser caught the swing, his hands clamping down on my makeshift weapon. Stunned, I stared at those meaty hands. When my gaze lifted, all I could see was the mad grin lighting his face. He yanked on his end, forcing me a few steps forward. Desperation is a wonderful thing. I dug my heels in and jerked back. For a brief moment, we engaged in a weird tug-of-war. Before I could lose, Zev’s battered face, illuminated by an eerie blue aura, appeared behind Bruiser. An echo of

| JAMI GRAY | Zev’s magic burned in his eyes as his lips curled into a feral snarl. He grabbed Bruiser’s ears, using them to pull him backward. With another roar, Bruiser lost his grip on the wood. Unprepared for the sudden change, I fell back a few steps before finding my balance. I stood there, improv bat forgotten, as in front of me, Bruiser clawed at Zev’s hold. As the two men struggled, Zev’s magic bled over Bruiser. I stared as blood began to drip from Bruiser’s nose and his fury faded into panic. Bloody tears began to leak out of his eyes. He began to strike out—not to hurt but to escape. Zev was relentless. His lips were pulled back from his teeth in a feral snarl, an unholy light in his eyes as he held tight. A wordless cry of agony burst from Bruiser, and he dropped to his knees, his hands still trying to pry Zev’s grip free. Bruiser’s spine arced, and terror was etched deep on his blood-streaked face. His hands dropped, his cry shifting into a high-pitched wail that filled the air for torturously long seconds. When it finally stopped, Zev lifted his hands. Bruiser’s lifeless body collapsed, landing facedown at my feet. I stared at the grisly sight as my flight-or-fight responses tried to recalibrate. My brain skipped, trying to reassemble the last few minutes into an understandable context. “Thanks.” Zev’s voice dragged my attention from the dead man to him. His face was a mess. Dark bruises marred his skin, mixing in with various cuts and abrasions. My voice was still MIA, but I managed a jerky nod. He swiped at a seeping cut above a swelling eye and winced. “Dammit.” He wiped his hand on his pants and stepped over Bruiser. Zev moved to the desk, skirting the ragged piles of glass, and leaned over. Then he let out a low, appreciative whistle and looked back at me. “That’s one way to do it.” Not keen on bonding over the various ways to kill, I redirected the conversation. “We need to get out of here.” Preferably before the police showed up, found the numerous dead bodies, and demanded an explanation. Zev was obviously not feeling the same urgency. “In a

minute.” He rounded the desk, glass crunching under his feet. He got behind it and dropped low, disappearing behind the high counter. Noises rose as he did something I wasn’t sure I wanted to know about. Unfortunately, curiosity had me inching closer, only to realize I was still clutching the broken coffee-table leg. I carefully set it on the floor and took a couple of steps forward. “What are you doing?” “Checking pockets,” Zev answered. “I don’t think they carry business cards.” Or wallets for that matter, but what did I know? He rose, pocketing something, and came out from behind the desk. Ignoring my comment, he went to Bruiser and crouched down. With one hand, he used the dead man’s hair to lift his head. Just enough to take a photo with the phone he held in the other hand. He then repeated his routine with the one I shot and the one half impaled in the wall. After taking his last photo, he straightened and headed for the door leading back the way we’d come. He held the door open with one arm. “After you.” Not eager to be left behind, since the scapegoat role was not my thing, I picked my way through bodies and debris, passing Zev. I kept my attention on the door leading back toward the loading dock, trying to ignore the macabre mess. I had the back door open, escape within reach, when Zev’s voice brought me up short. “Hold up a second.” Sucking in a breath and fisting my hands at my side, I pivoted, putting my back to the door, holding it open. Zev completed his grisly photo shoot, pocketed the phone, checked his watch, and then strode toward me. “We need to book it back to the SUV before Jeremy makes that call.” Since I was all for getting the hell out of there, I didn’t wait for a second invite. This time, I led the way back. The SUV came into view, appearing undisturbed. With Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| SHORT STORY | the illusion of safety close at hand, my pace increased until I was all but sprinting. Zev kept up, gliding like a dark shadow at my side.

ing toward us. Panic caught my breath in my chest and locked it down. It didn’t release until the cop car zipped by us without slowing.

An avian caw drifted from above as we drew close. I slowed as the skin-prickling sensation of Zev’s wards greeted me. I stopped just outside the invisible line of magic and kept a wary eye on the bird circling lazily above us. As soon as Zev took his wards down, I pulled the passenger door open and clambered inside.

I snuck a peek at Zev. His attention shifted from his side mirror back to the road ahead. The stiff line of his shoulders relaxed, and the hard edges of his face eased just a bit. Nice to know I wasn’t the only jumpy one.

Jeremy’s head popped up between the front seats. “You’re okay.” I could not miss the lingering panic in his voice or on his pale face. “Here.” He handed the cell phone to Zev. “Are we going home now?” “Yeah, kid.” Zev took the cell and added, “You’re safe. They won’t be coming after you.”

I decided it was better to brave the quiet and find out what my future held. “Are they going to be looking for us?” “It’s being taken care of.” “And Trask?” “Do you really want to know?”

Instead of the expected “You’re sure?” that I was certain Jeremy would ask, the boy studied his uncle’s face for a long moment. Whatever he saw obviously reassured him, because he managed a wan smile and a relieved, “Okay.”

Nope, I really didn’t, but the thing was, I was involved. Considering the names flying about tonight, I was worried the fallout would snare me in its messy web. “Just want to be sure I’m prepared should the police come knocking.”

“Get strapped in.” After issuing that command, Zev took a few seconds to send a text, then he tossed the phone into the holder between our seats. He started the SUV and left his lights off as he pulled out onto the darkened road. He made a series of turns through smaller, deserted streets, finally coming out on one of the main roads south of the warehouse. Only then did he turn his headlights back on as he joined the few other cars on the road.

“They won’t be knocking.”

His phone rattled in the holder. He grabbed it, and whatever he read eased some of the lines around his mouth. Then he set his phone down and went back to driving without saying a word.

“Now, I get Jeremy home.”

Before I could ask, I caught the faint whine of sirens. I twisted in my seat to look out the back window, expecting to find the police rushing toward us. Instead, the street remained authority free. I met Jeremy’s gaze and managed a smile that felt fake but worked because he returned a faint grin before turning to gaze out his window. I settled back into my seat, the tension that haunted me slowly seeping away as the distance from the scene grew. A flash of red and blue came from ahead, speed52 | UncagedBooks.com

The depth of arrogance in his statement warned me not to push. But that wasn’t the only reason not to be curious. If he or the family he worked for had enough power and influence to pull off cleaning up after a mess like this, they were not the kind of people I wanted to cross. Deciding to brave my second question, I asked, “So, what now?”

There was a finality to his voice that kept me quiet. For a while, the only sound was the steady thrum of the road under the tires. Exhaustion was setting in, and along with the various aches and pains, I kept squirming in my seat, trying to find a comfortable position. At one point, I looked back and found Jeremy nodding off. Probably exhausted by his ordeal. Poor kid. Zev stuck to the surface streets, though I would’ve preferred the faster route of the highway. But since I wasn’t the one behind the wheel, my wants didn’t count. Zev’s low voice slid through the hushed interior. “I’m curious.”

I shifted off a sore hip, which angled me toward him. Although it probably wasn’t wise, I asked, “About?” He shot me an unreadable look. “Why did you take this job?” I turned my attention out the windshield, doing my best to hide my racing thoughts. There was no way I wanted to share my reasonings. Not only was it unwise to give this predator any kind of scent, but it was highly personal. Besides, he wasn’t the only one who could do inscrutable. “It’s what I do.” I waited for his response. It never came. Uh. Okay then. “Are we good?” He slowed for a red light. Only when the car came to a full stop did he look at me, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. “I don’t know about good, but let’s say we’re even.” Before I could release a sigh of relief, he added ominously, “For now.” I decided to accept it, despite the implied threat. I’d make sure to steer clear of anything that would put me in Zev’s sights in the future. The light turned green, and we moved forward. “You got an address?” His question caused a burst of apprehension, leaving my voice tight. “Address?” “Where you want to be dropped off?” Relief left me light-headed. Ignoring the hint of humor in his voice, I focused on our surroundings. I was thankful we were nowhere near where I lived. I caught sight of a familiar yellow sign belonging to an all-night diner. “You can drop me off there, at the 5 & Diner.” My request earned me a skeptical, “Hungry?” No, I just wanted the night to end. Preferably with me still breathing. I hadn’t forgotten his earlier threats. “Yeah.” He shook his head, his lips curling just enough that I understood he caught my lie but wasn’t going to call me on it. “Right, then.” He didn’t say anything else as he pulled the SUV into the

parking lot and put it in park.


I undid my seat belt, took one last look at the kid still sleeping in the backseat, and then turned to Zev. “He’ll be okay, right?” I wanted to call the question back, but part of me worried about the ghosts that Jeremy would carry from tonight. Something I didn’t understand flashed across Zev’s face before it resumed the sardonic cast I was starting to believe was his normal go-to expression. “Yeah, he’ll be okay.” With nothing to add, I gave a nod, pulled open my door, and slid out. As I stood awkwardly in the door, I managed a lame, “Um...good luck and stuff.” He leaned over, his eyes on mine. This time, there was no missing his smile. It was strangely scary and attractive at the same time. “I’ll be seeing you.” I swore my face paled because I hoped to hell not. Instead of blurting that sentiment out, I closed the door on his low chuckle. I turned away and headed for the safety of the restaurant, doing my best not to look like I was running away. My foot hit the sidewalk when the SUV’s engine revved. I snuck a look as it pulled away, the red lights disappearing down the road. For the first time in what seemed like forever, my muscles uncoiled, adrenaline eased, and the tension riding my ass like a tick finally began to recede. I reached into my pocket before remembering that my phone was still somewhere back in the damn wreck. A plethora of curses scrolled through my head. I made a mental note to call the Guild to request a wipe from the electro mages. I got to the door and, under the outside light, caught sight of my reflection in the glass. I winced. I looked like hell, and my suit was in a sorry state. Dammit, now I’d need to go shopping on top of everything else. So much for getting ahead financially. The only good thing out of tonight was that at least I was still breathing. Go me! Once inside, I somehow managed to convince the hostess to let me borrow her phone. I dialed Lena’s number from memory. Her voicemail kicked in, and I left a message. “Hey, it’s me. I’m still breathing, but I need a ride.” I added the diner’s address and hung up, knowIssue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| SHORT STORY | ing she’d show. Because there was one thing she and I held sacred—when things turned to shit, it was your best friend’s duty to ride to your rescue. Sure enough, four cups of coffee and half a plate of cheese fries later, Lena strolled in. She took one look at me and said, “I told you it was a bad idea.” *************** The buzz of my doorbell interrupted my late morning chore of gun cleaning and pity party as I lamented my dismal future of continued servitude to the Guild. I set my coffee aside and padded barefoot to the door. A quick check through the peephole came up empty. Hmm, I wasn’t expecting a delivery. With last night still fresh in my mind, I went back to the table and put my gun back together, and only then did I go back and open the door. I stuck my head out, but the hall was empty. I looked down and saw a small box on my doorstep. I dropped into a crouch, keeping an eye on my surroundings as I held my free hand over the innocuous box. My magic hummed but didn’t spike in warning or rush to protect me. Deciding the box was safe enough, I grabbed it, stood up, and backed into my apartment. With the security lock re-engaged, I took the box and dropped it and the gun on the table. Other than my name and address in a uniformly block writing, there was nothing to indicate who sent it. The mystery didn’t stop my imagination from kicking in. It flashed the name I swore to forget, along with everything else that had happened last night, through my mind. My pulse picked up speed even as I chose to ignore the frisson of stupid excitement. I used a kitchen knife to slice through the tape, and when I finally got the box open, I found my phone, complete with a cracked screen, tucked inside. Stuck to the mangled screen was a sticky note with three words: “Check your account.” Confused but curious, I did as instructed. When my bankaccount finally came up, the balance made my ass drop into my chair. I blinked, wondering if I was hallucinating. A click on recent deposits said I wasn’t. Holy shit. 54 | UncagedBooks.com

Looked like my future plans were back on track. *************** - THE END FOR NOW *************** Thank you for taking a ride with Rory. I hope you continue the journey to find out where the road takes her with GRAVE CARGO.

The End

© Copyright 2020 Jami Gray All rights reserved. Published with permission.

feature authors

mystery/suspense | fantasy

Karen E. Osborne

William Gensburger



’ve been writing since the age of twelve and making up stories for as long as I can remember.

As a kid on the block in the Bronx, I kept my friends enthralled with fake adventures I pretended to experience. In middle school (junior high back then), I submitted book reports on fiction I created in my head. Gave them titles and authors. Never got caught. Under my photo in my high school yearbook next to 58 | UncagedBooks.com

“Ambition” it read “Writer.” For forty-three years I worked first as an academic administrator and then, in partnership with my husband, Bob, as co-owner of The Osborne Group consulting and training firm. Together and a part we traveled the United States and the world helping nonprofits raise money, build great boards, and manage effectively. I wrote the first draft of Getting It Right (Akashic Books), on airplanes, in the Delta Sky Club, and in hotel rooms. The book tour was amazing. Friends hosted me in their homes, clubs, events, conferences, and book clubs. Independent and Barnes & Nobel bookstores across the country welcomed me. I’m looking forward to sharing Tangled Lies (Black Rose Writing), with new and returning readers when it launches July 22, 2021. A native New Yorker, Bob and I have two grown children and three grandsons. We live in Port Saint Lucie, FL.

murdered. Three months later she is involved in a suspicious hit-and-run car accident, witnessed by Dani, who is on the run from the train-wreck of her own life. As circumstances throw Vera and Dani into an unlikely alliance, the two find themselves embroiled in a web of truths and lies that imperils them both, but also may bring Charlie’s murderer to justice. The story is, at its core, a tale of two women from different cultures and generations finding their way to forgiveness and redemption as they solve a murder together. On your blog, you have a series of videos with other authors called, “What are you reading? What are you writing?” How did this get started? How often are you surprised by the other authors you talk to?

Welcome to Karen E. Osborne

I believe in writers helping writers and I enjoy video conversations that are short, fun, and engaging. The vlog gives the interviewees an opportunity to meet different audiences and potential readers and provides me with the same opportunity. I have so much fun doing them. And, yes, I’m often surprised. One of the authors writes children’s books — Jason Lady. I purchased his book for my 10-year-old grandson, Aidan, an avid and discerning reader, who pronounced it “the best book I’ve ever read.” Jason sent him a signed copy of his second book and offered to speak to class. Other authors have helped me with marketing ideas, offered to be beta readers for my third novel, shared encouragement. Most I met for the first time right before the interview. Writers are generous.

Welcome to Uncaged! Tangled Lies will release July 22. Can you tell readers more about this book?

What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest?

I like this quote from one of my early reviews

It depends on the characters. In Getting It Right, I cried through my protagonist, Kara’s, confrontation with the father who abandoned her. In Tangled Lies, I wanted Dani, who is 25, a hot mess and in love, not to come off too needy but I also wanted the reader to feel her hunger.

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— ““Gritty and gripping, Tangled Lies is a murder mystery with a tender heart at its core.” Author Jenny Jaeckel captured the tone of the book with that quote. The story begins on an ice day in February, when Vera arrives home to find her grown son, Charlie, brutally

Writing well is hard work, but my characters help Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |



How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel?

me by urging me on. What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most? I began writing at age 12 and declared being a writer as my career ambition in my high school graduation yearbook. My debut novel came out when I was 69. Poets & Writers magazine did a two-page spread on me in their 5 over 50 series. I’m living proof that one is never too old for dreams to come true. Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? Always the characters. One of them starts talking to me. I can see and hear her. I ask her questions. She lets me know she wants her story told. Then I think through the plot. Sometimes, the characters take the plot to places I hadn’t considered. I write about strong, complex women and they can be bossy. LOL What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? My husband Bob and I are serial volunteers. We serve on nonprofit boards, help feed those with food insecurities, and pitch in when others need a hand. We also date at least once a week and we’re both deeply involved with our family. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? Spring. The weather is lovely, the flowers and trees showy, lots of birds and animals busy with new families, and people often feel hopeful. 60 | UncagedBooks.com

Some days I write for four or five hours, others I can only squeeze in 15 to 30 minutes, but I try to write every day. It takes me about a year to complete a first draft. And then years of editing! Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? Yes, yes, and yes. I love books. I read on my tablet and listen when I’m working out. I own stacks of physical books and my “to read” list is long! I just finished Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and before that Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby and A.J. McCarthy’s new book Faux Friends. My vlog introduces me to so

many books, it is hard to keep up, but I enjoy trying. One can’t be or become a good writer without being a constant reader. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you. Thank you for reading Getting It Right and Tangled Lies. Thanks for following me, sending me notes, hosting me at your book clubs and conferences. For those who are meeting me for the first time please visit my website — www.KarenEOsborne.com, subscribe to my YouTube channel, follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and on Amazon.


Enjoy an excerpt from Ancient Dreams Blood and Shadows Tangled Lies Karen E. Osborne Mystery/Thriller Releases July 22

On an ice day in February, Vera Moon arrives home to find her grown son, Charlie, brutally murdered. Three months later, she is involved in a suspicious hit-and-run accident, witnessed by Dani, a twenty-five-yar old on the run from the train-wreck of her own life. As circumstances throw Vera and Dani into an unlikely alliance, the two find themselves embroiled in a web of and truths and lies that imperils them both, but also may bring Charlie’s murderer to justice. Excerpt Chapter 1 Vera Disquiet hung in the air. It filled Vera’s lungs, traveled down her spine, and spread by tingling nerves to her limbs, fingertips, and toes. She stood still and concentrated. Wintry gusts chilled her cheeks. She listened. Nothing. She hoisted her re-usable grocery bags and struggled across the parking lot, careful to step around the ice patches from the recent February storm. The cold converted her breaths to fog-puffs. Already low in the sky, the pale sun made it around four. She promised Charlie dinner by seven — chicken again, but she planned to dress it up. Glazed carrots, scratch biscuits, and brownies for dessert. All three of her adult children loved chocolate. The unmistakable stench of fresh urine assailed Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | her nose. Vera pressed the elevator button. What a place. Her late husband, Vincent, would be sick if he saw her here. With the fat of her thumb, its cuticle ragged, she pushed again. Something else she gave up. No more manicures or pedicures. No more trips to the hair salon to straighten her curls. Charlie had to find a proper job soon. Six months without steady pay, only a contract here and there. He paid the rent and insurance, but Vera’s Social Security covered everything else. Charlie apologized for how and where they lived and sometimes, she hated to admit, for the unsavory-looking people who dropped by. What could she do? She was a guest with no options. A positive person, she focused on the minor pleasures of her life instead. Dancing in the living room to Motown, The Brian Lehrer Show on public radio, and novels she borrowed from the library. Although Charlie decorated the apartment using inexpensive pieces he scavenged, he had made room for some of her favorite things — the walnut bookcase, her hand-knotted Persian rug, an antique floorlength mirror, and two wing chairs covered in plush mocha. There were days, however, when she cringed at the trash-edged grass and the hall’s vexing brown stains. For the third time, Vera hit the elevator’s upbutton. Please God, send it down. She stopped. How selfish to pray for a working elevator while children starved in Somalia. She took the prayer back and waited. No creak or bang. The super had promised to fix it more than a week ago. Never mind. She was not too old to climb four flights. She started up the narrow staircase. By the time she reached the third-floor landing, her breathing became audible. God created elevators for a reason. She pushed on and made it to her front door anticipating comfort and peace. She imagined the lavender scent of her bath, heard the water’s undercurrent, and the soundtrack provided by Smokey and Gladys, easing tired muscles before she turned her attention to dinner. 62 | UncagedBooks.com

One bag still in her hand and the other on the welcome mat, Vera inserted her key. The door swung open. Silence. “Charlie?” Brandy’s yelps pierced the eerie quiet. Cold air stung her ankles. Charlie’s writing desk lay crippled, almost halved, wood splinters scattered across the Persian rug. Her treasured bookcase sat face down next to the desk. Papers, books, and shards of glass spiraled out from the epicenter. The grocery bag slammed to the ground. Coffee and canned tomatoes thumped onto the hardwood floor. A dozen eggs puddled around her feet, oozing over a bloody footprint. She stepped inside. Brandy, her bark almost a human wail, strained against her collar and leash, bound to something outside the opened living room window. Blood smeared her matted coat. Angling around the debris, right hand pressed against the wall, Vera followed the blood smears to Charlie’s bedroom. The stench of raw meat, vomit, and feces filled her nostrils. A metallic taste made her gag. Splattered blood streaked the walls, dark red, almost black. His head faced her on a blood-soaked mattress. Huge brown eyes, always amused, stared opaque and blank. His opened mouth seemed to call to her. Cocoa-brown skin stretched over sunken cheekbones. Her legs sagged. A weight crushed her chest. She forced her gaze away from his. Only then she saw the rest of his body, two feet away, severed from his head.


This is Murphy. I didn’t pick him. He picked me. We got him when he was a just a little bitty thing. He took one look at me and started trying to climb the kennel wall to get to me. We got him out, he curled into my lap and stayed there contented as he could be. He then walked over to sniff my husband, give him a lick, and came right back to me and snuggled in again. This was HUGE. My husband is like the dog whisperer. They never love me more than they love him. So I knew, that was it. Murphy was my meanttobe-baby.

WILLIAM GENSBURGER & Dinkerson I’ve attached a photo of Dinkerson, our cat. She plays fetch, is very affectionate, not nocturnal, and wakes us up at 6 am each morning (on the dot) by knocking my wife’s reading glasses off the bedside table.



Captain in my series The Adventures of Owl, is a vampire attacking Mau and Owl’s constant companion through any and all antiquities chasing adventure. While Captain is a fictional creature, he is shamelessly based off my very own sock-eviscerating Ragdoll, Flash. Xena and I. She’s like my own daughter.

66 | UncagedBooks.com

A U T H O RS A N D T H E I R P E TS Pets and companions come in many shapes and sizes. From furry to feathered to hairy and scaley - there is a place for all of them. Authors have a special relationship with their pets - whether they remind them to get up and take a break or they inspire their writing. Meet the critters that share their love and devotion to Uncaged Feature Authors.


. I’ve attached a pic of one of my dogs, Shadow. He’s a bit of a goofball now, but his early days were far from fun. His previous owners kicked him, shattering his femur. My wife and I were lucky enough to rescue the little guy, who is now an 80-pound lapdog.

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


W illiam ge n sburger


illiam Gensburger is the author of TEXAS DEAD, a murder mystery novel, DISTANT RUMORS, an anthology of 16 stories about life and death, and HOMO IDIOTUS, a collection of published newspaper editorials. He is also the publisher of ‘Books’N Pieces Magazine (soon to be a video podcast), where he has worked with many different authors, as well 70 | UncagedBooks.com

as publishing The Concordian, a 24-page monthly community newspaper, until 2016. He currently lives in Texas with his wife and children, and a cat that runs his life.

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capture realism and be able to convey a setting to a reader in a way that makes sense, lots of details must match up to be able to make sense, hold the reader’s attention, and add impact to the plot. What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most? I am my own worst critic. It is not uncommon for me to write something that others would consider well written, but I find objection to, then destroy, and start over.

MisterWriter.com Uncaged welcomes William Gensburger Welcome to Uncaged! Your newest book, Texas Dead just released in June. Can you tell readers more about this book? This is A Mackenzie Michaels Mystery, is this the start of a series? ‘Texas Dead’ is a mystery/thriller set in Corpus Christi. The latest victim, financier Curtis Delaney, unlike other victims in a series of murders, causes celebrity detective Mackenzie ‘Maxie’ Michaels and her partner Kobe Jameson, to try and make sense of the whole thing. As she uncovers more clues and finds a greater web of crime at play, things become dangerous, putting her life, and the lives of those around her, in grave danger. What are you working on next that you can tell us about? This is the first book in the series. Book 2, which should be released in September this year, is titled: ‘American Dead’ and continues with a non-stop triple threat they surely cannot survive. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? Difficult scenes are complicated scenes. In order to

Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? A basic plot comes first. Even a kernel of an idea that holds potential. Then I need to figure ways to achieve the desired result. Then from that characters emerge, usually in opposition to each other or the plotline. Conflict is an essential component. What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I like to draw, doodle, sketch, read, create some music (iPad), work out. I am never bored. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? One year-round season: Spring. Fresh, new, great temperature, the promise of things to come. What’s not to love about Spring? How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? I write, in some form, for most of the day. When writing a novel I usually write in four-hour (approx) blocks. Once I am on a roll I hate to stop. But when I do I revise, delete, redo…. As for the length of time it takes to write a novel—first draft in a month to six weeks (around 2,000 words a day). Then as long as needed for revisions until it feels right. Usually quite a few revisions/rewrites. Then off to Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |



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editing and proofing. Usually I avoid reading it until it comes back. By then I usually find more errors, inconsistencies, or I may want a scene rewritten in a better way. This all takes time. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I prefer paper-books. But I do read e-books because of the convenience. I don’t listen to audiobooks because I would rather read. Right now I am reading ‘Fools Die’ by Mario Puzo (who wrote The Godfather), ‘The Tenth Cycle,’ by my friend, and bestselling author, JC Ryan, and also ‘The Drive-By Wife’ by Mike Wells, a talented thriller author. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I appreciate fans, and I am always interested in chatting with readers as much as I am able. I also like to have contests for people on my VIP Reader List. A contest coming up will be a drawing for four people to become characters in my next book. They will be themselves, interact with the main characters and I will interview them for details to make it authentic. You can find me at www.MisterWriter.com where I have a blog, tips, and also a sign-up for my VIP Reader list. You can also download a free short story, watch/read interviews, and much more.

Enjoy an excerpt from Texas Dead Texas Dead William Gensburger Mystery/Suspense A series of murders in Corpus Christi leaves residents uneasy. All the victims were shot in the back of the head. But when a prominent financial genius is also found murdered, and not in the same way, celebrity detec-

| WILLIAM GENSBURGER | tive Mackenzie ‘Maxie’ Michaels and her partner Kobe Jameson, must race to find the person responsible before more murders occur. As they uncover clues, the mystery deepens, dragging in powerful people, and threatening to erupt in a full-on war. Excerpt On the drive to Bud’s, she joked about it with Jameson. Then, she fell silent. He would notice after a few minutes, glance over at her to see if she was all right. She pretended not to notice. After a few more minutes of silence, he gave up and awaited the inevitable play. “Did you kill him, Kobe?” she asked her partner, matter-of-factly. Kobe laughed. He knew this game; she played it often, especially if she had time to kill. “Where were you last night between the hours of ten and midnight?” She did this with no facial expression. He chuckled again. “You’re a spy, aren’t you?” she added. “You’re working for the Russians? Or is it the Chinese?” “You got me there,” he answered. “But, I do have an alibi.” “What might that be?” He looked at her. “Were we not playing poker on your deck last night?” “Ah,” she said, a massive grin on her face. “That is your excuse? You left at nine, as I recall. Nice try, though.” “So am I under arrest?” he asked resignedly. “I’m mulling it over. It might be necessary for me to have you wear the cuffs, though.” Jameson shook his head. “It would make my driving quite dangerous.” “I suppose. Well, don’t leave town. I may have Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | more questions later.” “I will not leave,” he assured her. “I have nowhere else to go.” After they reached the repair shop, while she waited for her car to be brought out, she dialed the number on Curtis Delaney’s wallet card to leave a message. “Mr. Devin Parker, this is Detective Michaels at CCPD. I need to speak with you at your earliest convenience. Could you please come down to the station at 321 John Sartain Street, at the corner of North Chaparral? You can call me at this number if you can’t find it. Thank you.” “It will not be a pleasant day for him,” Jameson said. “Can’t be helped. He needs to identify the body. I have an odd feeling about this one, Kobe. It isn’t straight-forward like the others.” The lot boy, an eighteen-something, with shaggy hair tied into a man-bun, brought out her GalaxyBlue Metallic Audi Q7. “You washed her,” she gushed. “You guys are too much. Thank you.” “It’s a beautiful color,” the lot boy told her with a hint of envy in his voice. He would have loved to own the car, unlike the heavily-used Dodge truck he had bought for five hundred dollars, systematically replacing the alternator, fuel pump, tires, and rebuilding the engine over three weeks, using money earned from his job. “It truly is,” Maxie replied. She turned to Jameson. “Thanks for the ride.” “You are welcome. I will see you at the office after you...?” “After I what?” “You know what,” he said. “You always stop.” “Stop where?” she said coyly. “Kobe, I have no idea what you are talking about.” “You know where,” he laughed, his prominent teeth white against his skin. “You can bring me a 74 | UncagedBooks.com

Danish as a thank you for driving you around.” Now it was her turn to laugh. He did know her well. She nodded, watched as he started up his car and drove off. She waved after him. Jameson met her back at the station. She had an actual office there, unlike other detectives who had desks in the central area, mostly because she had asked for one. It was a no-brainer. Maxie had solved more cases in her time on the force here than most people. Her tenacity, style, and—despite ruffling some feathers of her colleagues—her open-ended way of dealing with the media, the public, and city officials, made her invaluable. When it came to Maxie, there were no limitations. Maxie could have whatever she wanted, not that she was demanding, nor did she take advantage of her status. Maxie was astute. Professionally, personally, and financially. Wise investments in the stock market had netted her enough for a luxurious, two-story waterfront house on Padre Island, complete with a boat dock and her sailboat. She had named it: Lady Tears, had the name painted in gold lettering and outlined in black, across the stern. The boat was a 1982 Bristol 40, centerboard/sloop, sleek, fast, with a shallow draft and a waterline length of twenty-seven and a half feet. Reddish-brown mahogany interior colors, a small galley and room for a handful of people to sleep, she loved taking her out on the bay, hoisting sails, after using the Westerbeke motor to get out of the channel. There was a sense of peace about sailing rather than using the motor. She used the boat frequently, finding the change of scenery conducive to solving crime, as well as schmoozing with everyone from the police chief, city council, city mayors, and others who came seeking her counsel. It was her home away from home and her retreat. And she could handle the sails alone, and with relative ease, to a point where she considered herself proficient. “He is in your office,” Jameson told her as she walked in, handing him the small brown bag with his Danish inside. “I gave him a coffee.” She nodded, strode

| WILLIAM GENSBURGER | past, casting him a ‘you didn’t give him that awful swill, did you?’ look before entering the corner office. Her office had been painted a light peach, and she had decorated it with her two favorite things: tall, lush plants and ornaments with a nautical theme. On her desk, a small wooden sailboat served to remind her of her boat. A wooden inbox was now a tiny beach oasis; she added sand, shells, and a small plastic dolphin. Large paintings of various beach scenes, one with an abandoned wood lifeboat, another with two images of pelicans, adorned the walls. It was less an office than a retreat. And she had left an open invitation for any other detectives needing a place to retreat, to use without asking permission, something that had ingratiated her with them even more than her charm. At least no one openly seemed to resent her for it. Devin was sitting on one of the twin chairs by the desk, flipping through his phone messages. She closed the door. “Mr. Parker, Maxie Michaels,” she said, extending a hand for him to shake. “Thanks for coming in.” He started to stand, but she waved him back down, instead lifting the paper coffee cup and placing it on the opposite edge of the desk. “Trust me, you don’t want to drink this,” she said quietly. Devin was in his late-thirties, six-foot tall, muscular in the right places. He had a shock of dark hair that fell over his face—he swept it back. His eyes were a compelling, deep-blue color. “No one would tell me why I’m here.” “I asked them to let me,” she said, pulling out her chair and sitting down. “I apologize. There’s no easy way for me to say this, but we found Curtis Delaney dead this morning.” She held out the business card they had retrieved from the body. Devin’s face fell, the blood draining from the shock of what he had just heard. “Curtis...that’s not possible. I just spoke with him yesterday.” “I am so sorry for your loss. We got your name from this card.” She flipped it over. “He carried it in his wallet. How exactly are you related?” “We’re cousins. Long story. How...? What hap-

pened?” Devin could barely get the words out. His head felt suddenly waterlogged, and he was unable to clear his thoughts. He hadn’t seen Curtis for some time, each promising to arrange a dinner, or a weekend away fishing, but both were always extremely busy, and time mercilessly, slipped by unnoticed. Maxie sat upright and leaned closer, her hand reaching for the box of Kleenex she kept on the side of the desk and moved it closer to him. Devin’s face, she noted, was frozen, and she knew he was struggling to process the information. “Murdered,” she explained. “Blunt force to the back of the head.” She let it sink in for a moment. “Do you know anyone who would want to hurt him?” Devin shook his head. “Curtis is...was...the most honest person I knew. He always treated everyone fairly.” Maxie was watching his expressions for any telltale signs of a lie or deception. There were none— he was genuinely distraught and caught off-guard, and she felt sorry for him, for the pain that she knew he was experiencing. It never got any easier having to tell people a loved one was murdered— that was the only news she delivered as a homicide detective. “No enemies?” “God, no,” Devin said. “What line of work was he in—Stanton Investments. What is that?” “Financial advisor. He was always good with money, finances, stocks. He advised so many people where to put their money. He was considered somewhat of a genius with money.” “Could someone have been seeking revenge for a bad investment?” Maxie asked. Devin shook his head. “There were not many bad investments. People knew Curtis put his money where his mouth was—he always invested where Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | he advised his clients to invest. If they lost money, so did he. God, this is terrible.” He put his face into his hands, felt the tears surging, and quickly grabbed a Kleenex, fighting them back. “I am sorry,” Maxie said. “I know this is difficult.” She was sizing him up, noting the way his body hunched over as he fought back the tears. She studied how he sat, what he wore—tailored, open collared shirt, high quality cotton and wellironed, tailored slacks, Allen Edmonds Cap Toe Oxford shoes—stylish, she thought. His mannerisms confirmed what her gut had already assessed: Devin Parker was not involved in the death of Curtis Delaney in any way. And this made her job much more straightforward—she would remove him from her suspect list rather than having to ferret out information had he been trying to be deceptive. “We’ll talk more about Curtis later as I learn more, but now, I’m afraid I need to ask you to do something uncomfortable. I need you to positively identify the body for me? Can you do that?” Devin’s face answered the question. A look of horror—he would have to look upon the lifeless body of his cousin, let alone how he had been murdered. But he knew he had to do it—there was no other family to do so. He nodded slowly. Maxie stood and came around to help him up. “Take a moment if you need it,” she said softly. He shook his head, brushed his hair back and took a deep breath. “It’s okay,” he said. “There’s no avoiding it. I’d rather get this done.” “Good,” she said reassuringly. “We’ll take my car—it’s a short slog to the Medical Examiner’s office.” They walked together through the precinct, the bright, overhead neons hiding the plain look of the place. The walls had the usual OSHA safety notices, some Wanted posters, and two walls devoted to awards—an Officer of the Year plaque covering the last ten years, and an enclosed glass bookcase with older artifacts from earlier days of Corpus law enforcement, such as old handcuffs, 76 | UncagedBooks.com

uniforms and defunct weaponry. They avoided the eyes of the curious, down the stairs to the lobby and out the rear door where her car was parked. She unlocked it remotely. “Where’d you park?” He pointed to a jet-black, Ducati Multistrada 1200 Enduro motorcycle in the visitor lot. It was a beautiful bike to look at, designed for adventure riding. Devin didn’t off-road with it, so did not have mud tires, nonetheless, it was the kind of bike that would catch your eyes, as it passed you on the road. “Nice,” she said. “I thought about getting one, what with traffic and all.” But really, she had not—bikes were not her style, besides which, she loved her Audi, had custom-picked the color, and no way would she part with it voluntarily. A handful of minutes later, they had passed under the Crosstown Freeway and were heading south on 17th Street. Devin had been silent the whole way, and Maxie knew the shock of the news had cemented itself. “Doing okay?” “Does it ever get easier?” he asked her. “Does what get easier?” “Dealing with death?” Maxie considered the question. She had certainly seen her fair share of death since joining the force. Almost none were from natural causes, such as heart failure or hospital illness deaths. Only the homicides came her way. “The day it does is the day I quit,” she answered. “Death should always affect you, remind you how precious life is.”


Welcome back! We are Catching Up with Humphrey Hawksley today, and you have just released the third book in the Rake Ozenna Thriller series, Man on Fire. Can you tell readers more about this series and this book? The Rake Ozenna series began with Man on Ice which I wrote after a BBC reporting assignment on the USRussian border in the Bering Strait off the west coast of Alaska. The western-most American island is Little Diomede, a community of less than a hundred people, who wake up every morning looking across a narrow stretch of water to a Russian military base. Rake’s character reflects this wild inhospitable environment and is a blend of the incredible people I met on Little Diomede. Several are veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars. With the second thriller, Man on Edge, I wanted to show the reader not just what Rake can do in survival and action but how he thought, his wants, his fears. He loves his close island community but knows that he has to escape its worst aspects. His parents have disappeared from his life. There are rumors that his father is living in Russia, and, some day, Rake is determined to find him. He has a soul mate and lover in trauma surgeon Carrie Walker from Brooklyn. But they live in different worlds. Rake develops as we all do with experience and challenges. In Man on Ice, his straightforward task is to cross the frozen Bering Strait and get the bad guys. In Man on Edge we see his character develop, his flaws and hs moral compass. In my latest, Man on Fire, he is an experienced political infighter as well as a hard-as-nails soldier. In MAN ON FIRE, I have set the stakes higher with a weapon of modern warfare of which very few of us are aware. I have also filled out the four key characters that run through the series teasing out their flaws, motivations and hopes. Readers are getting to know them and flagging up to me their favourites. What are you working on next that you can tell us about? I am working on ICE ISLANDS, the fourth in the Rake Ozenna series which will be outr next year. It begins with Rake in action in Finland and moves to Japan as

he becomes entwined in today’s challenges of the increasing blur between government, corporations, organized crime and hi-tech warfare. I continue working as a journalist, specializing in China and the Indo-Pacific. I am about to go back to Alaska to research more for the Rake Ozenna series and report on the Northeast Asian geographical nexus where America, Russia, China and Japan all meet. With another hat, I am co-host of the brand new weekly Goldster book show which launched in Britain last year and plans to move into North America in 2022, and the monthly Democracy Forum debates which examines international issues, mainly in the IndoPacific. Are you planning on attending any in-person events or conventions in 2021? We are hoping that my hosting of The Democracy Forum and Goldster Book shows will have live audiences once lockdown restrictions are lifted. Iam looking forward to the next Thrillerfest in the U.S. and events with the Crime Writers Association and Society of Authors in the U.K. Humphrey is an awardwinning author and foreign correspondent whose assignments with the BBC have taken him to crises all over the world. His Rake Ozenna series originated when reporting from the US-Russian border during heightened tension. He has been guest lecturer at universities and think tanks such as the RAND Corporation, The Center for Strategic and International Studies and MENSA Cambridge. He has presented numerous BBC documentaries and his latest non-fiction work is Asian Waters: The Struggle Over the Indo-Pacific and the Challenge to American Power. He moderates the monthly Democracy Forum debates on international issues and is a host on the weekly Goldster Book Club where he discusses books and talks to authors. Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |



Enjoy an excerpt from Man on Fire

Man on Fire Humphrey Hawksley Political Thriller A tense firefight on the Russian-American border heralds the start of a terrifying high-stakes mission for special forces agent Major Rake Ozenna in this gripping espionage thriller. Instructed to guide in a speed boat crossing from Russia in the Bering Strait, special forces Major Rake Ozenna watches in horror as the operation culminates in a fatal firefight - and the loss of vital intelligence of a deadly new weapon. A weapon of unimaginable power. A weapon that, if it were unleashed, would cripple civilization as we know it. But who sabotaged the mission? Who possesses the weapon - and what is their ultimate goal? Rake’s search takes him to the remote outpost of Uelen on the Russian coast - and the discovery that he is up against a formidable enemy from his past. As world leaders gather in Bonn for the signing of the new European security treaty, Rake enters a desperate race against time to prevent a catastrophe beyond imagining. Excerpt ‘Two o’clock.’ Rake pointed to his right. Mikki sighted the weapon through thick fog. Rake saw a blur, texture changing in the mist. Sound was clearer. The high, incoming pitch of an engine travelling at a speed. On normal days, if a Little Diomede fishing dinghy came too close, the Russians would use a massive public address system to yell at them to stay back. Today, they stayed silent. The approaching engine missed a beat and picked 80 | UncagedBooks.com

up again, increasing power. From behind came a siren, not the usual one, more screaming like an emergency vehicle. ‘Two vessels.’ Mikki’s right eye was on the rifle’s scope. Rake moved the dinghy forward. The GPS said they were a hundred and fifty meters inside American territory. They were not permitted to cross into Russia. They could touch the line. A red flare went up, its glow scattering through mist cloud. Rake identified the outboard as the sort used on a fast, long-range river craft. Somewhere nearby he heard the second vessel, the familiar inboard hum of a Russian military patrol vessel. ‘Ten o’clock,’ said Mikki. To their left, an inflatable ribbed craft came into sight, going fast and erratically. Someone was either leaning or collapsed over the wheel. A flash of white yellow blazed from behind, followed by a streak of tracer and the roar of machine-gun fire that tore into the inflatable, shredding fiberglass and rubber. The vessel tilted back, weighed down by the outboard. The person in it clawed at the sides, failing to get a grip, tearing at frayed rubber. ‘Go back, Americans.’ A patrol boat voice in broken English. ‘This is Russian territory.’ The GPS put the sinking inflatable thirty feet inside Russia, moving east toward the American line. Rake eased back his throttle. The patrol boat had used a weapon he recognized as the 7.62-mm general-purpose machine gun, standard issue on Russian coastal vessels. The more powerful heavy machine gun would have been from the Russian island itself, two weapons deployed simultaneously on a border where guns were usually quiet. The command again: ‘Go back, Americans, or we will open fire on you.’

| HUMPHREY HAWKSLEY | They would not shoot him, thought Rake. Not here, not with the way the American President was cozying up to Russia. ‘Distract them,’ Rake instructed Mikki. He clipped a rope to his belt, took out his earpiece, sheathed his fishing knife and slipped into the sea. Cold water rushed around him, pumping his heart. He swam, barely breaking a ripple. Mikki turned on a recording they used to irritate Russian border guards, a mix of speeches by Stalin, Gorbachev, Putin, military music, a local Alaska radio talk show, people yelling at each other about Arctic drilling, all jumbled together, speakers turned up full volume. Rake reached the inflatable. A limp hand, a woman’s, hung over the side. He pushed himself up. The rubber tore more, and the craft dipped. Water poured in. She toppled over him, her fingers gripping his, and fell dead-weight into the sea, taking Rake under with her. He surfaced and hooked his arms under hers, lifeguard style. He kicked his way back to the dinghy, using the belt rope to guide him. Blood trailed from her. The sea-water temperature was low enough to kill within minutes. She grasped him, feeling for his hand. She was alive, with energy. Mikki pulled in the rope. Rake swam hard toward the dinghy. Mikki stretched down, taking her weight from Rake, who let go just as a fist struck the right side of his head, glancing across the temple. Arms wrapped around his neck and dragged him backward. Water flooded into his mouth, catching in his throat, choking him. A second blow smashed into the left side of his head, blurring his concentration. There were two swimmers, in wetsuits, goggles, oxygen tanks, flippers, the works. One had an arm locked skillfully around his neck. The other had the woman. Water swept over him, the swell from the patrol boat coming toward them, men on deck, shouting instructions.

had shot her with intention to kill. Rake would try to get away once he’d worked out how to neutralize both swimmers simultaneously. The Russian plan must be to bring back all three of them. They would portray it as a rescue operation for a fishing dinghy in trouble. They would cite the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue under which Russia and America operated. There was cooperation in the Bering Strait, which made what was unfolding so strange and out of place. A Russian search lamp, bouncing through the fog, succeeded only in splaying light into a glare. The second swimmer let go of the woman. She floated free, probably unconscious, left to die. The swimmer had two hands clasped to the bow of the dinghy to stop Mikki going into the water after her. The patrol boat was close, water splashing through from its propellers. Mikki drew his state-trooperissue Glock 22. Unexpectedly, Rake’s swimmer turned to look back, his arm loosening enough for Rake to unsheathe his knife. The swimmer saw the glint of steel, lit by the search lamp. Rake’s blade moved through the water. Instead of blocking it, the Russian pushed himself back. ‘Udachi,’ he shouted through the mouthpiece. Good luck. On the dinghy, Mikki had his pistol poised to fire. But his swimmer let go of the bow, ducking under the water and away, two military frogmen following a sudden reversal of orders to leave. Rake guessed what was happening: forget about the Americans, too much trouble. Deal with the woman, floating between Rake and the dinghy. Her leg kicked. A Russian frogman broke surface inches from her, a knife in his right hand, raised to strike and kill her.

Rake let himself be taken. They could have killed him. They hadn’t, but that didn’t apply to the woman. They Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |




A Superversive Scribe in a Subversive Land by Richard Paolinelli

I’ve been feeling a little down about the future of science fiction/fantasy for a few years now. It seems to me that the “highly-acclaimed” works have all been

venture, intrigue, romance and – most importantly – was filled with hope for better days ahead. We call this Superversive writing. It isn’t easy being Superversive in a world seemingly being consumed by the forces of the subversive. The subversive, by its very nature, seeks to tear down that which has been built up over the years, decades, and centuries. We see it at work whenever we watch the news on TV or on the ‘Net. We even see it in the realms of fiction within the last decade. Long established characters and franchises with followings created over decades, are being “re-imagined.” The alterations tearing down what had been built up and what has emerged from the rubble is hardly recognizable. This has become even more prevalent in science fiction over the last few years. A recent award-winner viciously attacked the memory of one of science fiction’s greatest masters – and was hailed for it by those that adhere to the subversive philosophy.

dystopian in nature. Everything is bad, everything is dark and the future is only going to be darker. After a year-and-a-half of a world caught in a dystopian nightmare called COVID-19, do we really need our entertainment to be equally as dismal? Can we not have some small measure of escape from this reality? Making matters worse, I was getting the feeling that very few others out there shared my longing for release from a 24/7 nightmare. Then came a ray of sunshine and suddenly I realize that there are many more out there that share my point of view. During a recent appearance on a radio show to talk about my book, Galen’s Way, both of the hosts mentioned that they enjoyed the book and one of the reasons why was that it was not dystopian. Even though bad things happened to the characters in Galen’s Way, the book was still filled with fun, ad86 | UncagedBooks.com

A review of what used to be considered the crème de la crème of SF/F awards, the Hugos and Nebulas, shows how pervasive the subversive mindset has become. Those awards are now warnings of what to avoid as opposed to the best SF/F has to offer. Which is where the Superversive creators come in. We seek to return SF/F to its former glory, one book, one graphic novel, one comic book, one short film, one animated film, one film, one video game and one magazine at a time. We seek to tell uplifting stories that the reader will be happy they read and will want to read over and over again. We seek to make SF/F a joy again. To fill the consumer with a sense of awe, wonder, adventure, and joy again as

| RICHARD PAOLINELLI | they weave their way through the pages or images. To be excited again and filled with the desire to rush out and share with everyone they encounter this amazing new world they have discovered. I have yet to see anyone immersed in the subversive act this way with any of the subversive works being held up as “great works” to be inspired by. But I have seen this reaction to Superversive works. And I am seeing it more and more. Our calling, as Superversive scribes, is to create as much as we can and as quickly as we can. To weave our way through the subversive darkness and share our works far and wide to those readers aching for Superversive tales.

©Copyright 2021 Richard Paolinelli for Uncaged Book Reviews www.uncagedbooks.com

This is the path I have chosen to walk. If you seek the Superversive in your reading you can find me, along with many other Superversive creators listed on my website, right here: E- & PB BOOKS: Amazon. com HARDCOVERS: Via Lulu. com WEBSITE: SciFiScribe.com PODCAST: In The Superversive Spotlight RADIO: The Writer’s Block on L.A. Talk Radio SUBSCRIBE: Buy Me A Coffee MAILING LIST: Postcards From Infinity FACEBOOK: Richard Paolinelli TWITTER: @R_D_PAOLINELLI

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


Review books are free to reviewers

feature authors

Zola Blue

Kristi Charish

fantasy | scifi

Len Boswell



orn in Florida, I am a resident of the US, but now I reside on a lovely island in British Columbia, Canada, with my husband and two dogs, and one cat.   I love to read, and over my lifetime, I have probably read hundreds of books. Now that life has given me a bit more time to concentrate on my personal time, I am building my relationship with God and writing fun, fanciful fiction stories that blend over into the fantasy realm. I hope that each time I put words on the paper, they make my readers want more and desire to voraciously continue reading. 90 | UncagedBooks.com

Stay Co n n e c te d

description of place and characters. Creating vivid descriptions and details unique to each character is most interesting for me. What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?

zolablueauthor.com Uncaged welcomes Zola Blue Welcome to Uncaged! You are releasing the third book in your fantasy series The Mejuarian Series. Can you tell readers more about the series and the newest book, Courage of One: Conviction to Stand? The first book explains the origins of the Mejuarian, the second explains how they have grown as a civilization and how they respond to a near catastrophic event. While the new story introduces Mejuarian to humans on earth as well as new species on their own planet. To me this is one of the only series of books that has human alien encounters of the most enjoyable kind. Since my story is based on what we knew in the past without internet or advanced exploration the aliens are mistaken for household pets and are quickly accepted without cause for alarm. Can these books be read as standalones? Each book is complete however the story is linear and some of the subtle details will only be understood when you read the entire series. I think any reader can jump into the series on any book and still be satisfied with the chronology. Then decide if they would like to backtrack or continue forward. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? To me the hardest scenes to write are the fights not being a fight fan. The easiest are when I have a lot of

Construction is not my thing however I physically built my own house with my husband. He did the cutting and I got to nail concrete forms, screw walls together, and bolt down roofing materials all while wearing a dress, and leggings; I don’t own a pair of pants. I would like to say it was a lot of strenuous work as well as personal satisfaction and a new home. Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? My original draft has many characters created to help me get my story down. Once I have my plot in line some of the characters are deleted which is very hard to do even when I love that character. Some of my favorites had to go because they did not drive the plot. What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I am a gamer, an avid gardener both flowers and produce. I have two goats, both wethers for pets only, two dogs and a cat. The cat now called Kitty Boo arrived at night to our home a couple of years ago starving. Six pounds when we found her, now twenty-six pounds, she is a big cat. One day I saw her leading another animal towards the house. At first, I thought it was a cat but as it got closer, I realized it was a racoon. We have several racoon visitors at night but to see one in the daylight is rare. As I looked closer, I could see the masked intruder was very disheveled with only half a tail. Kitty Boo led the racoon to the house and water and food bowls outside. To this day that racoon still comes back to visit with Kitty Boo. They all add to my home life. I also enjoy feeding birds off my porch, so many species here with so many colors. Literally dozens of Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | hummingbirds daily, I am regularly topping up their feeders. Living on an island in the Pacific Ocean has also motivated me to go crabbing. One of my favorite foods. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? Well I am from Florida, so I love the sun not the snow however there is something very satisfying about spring, so much new life is inspiring. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? I wish it was like a regular job where I logged a planned number of hours, but it is not. I would say I binge work for days then take a break for a day or two then binge again. As for overall writing time, around four months per novel. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I have my books available in ebook and audiobook and I enjoy both, my favorite will always be printed books. I like the feel of the pages with the weight of the books in my hand. Something about my books on my shelf that gives a sense of pride and accomplishment. I have been an avid reader all my life, I do stop reading other authors while I am writing my novels so not to be temped by another’s words. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you so much for reading my work and I hope you really enjoy it. I appreciate anyone who spends their valuable time to enjoy my fantasy style.

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Enjoy an excerpt from Courage of One Courage of One Zola Blue Fantasy In ancient times on earth, there lived a race called Dragonors. Following in a tradition to gain status and recognition in the village, those able would compete in rigorous games of cunning and abilities. Tournaments culminated into a weapon battle to the death or submission while riding a dragon; at its end, the winner was given status within the village. In this event, a blacksmith named Luken intended to win and gain the regard necessary to ask for Talulah’s hand in marriage from her father Ephenio, lord of the village, competed in the challenge. Luken, who had no dragon or experience dragon-riding or battling, had no choice but to win against all the other competitors for his love. The final contest pits him against the worthiest aggressor. He is fortunate to use the more aggressive dragon of his true love, Talulah, that carries the battle and allows him a most unlikely victory. Over time the happiness of Luken and the Dragonor princess turned to despair as men invade their once pristine swamplands. The earthlings eventually caused the death of Talulah, and the great Lords of the Dragonors decide to leave the earth instead of destroying men. Dragonors run into unlikely allies in their new lands, the Mejuarian, and the two different groups in all ways and mannerism develop friendships and a familial bond. This closeness compelled the valiant dragon riders to assist the king of the Mejuarian in the recovery of his missing mewlings. As luck would have it, King Teloby also discovers a new diminutive race interested in a friendly alliance

| ZOLA BLUE | with both the Mejuarian and Dragonors. A meeting with Marina, Queen of the Arvunglies, revealed that she has found one of the three missing nests and treasures it as a colorful bauble. The little queen agreed to return the nest happily. Still, she told them that rescue of the other two could prove a challenge. To retrieve the babies, they had to venture and most likely defeat a rogue dragon that attacked their small village from time to time. On earth in 1960, Ren discovers two nests while exploring by a lake. His father, a veterinarian, drew an interest in them and took them back to his facility for further investigation. Ren feared they were UFOs with body-snatching capabilities. Ren’s fears soon disappear when his father indirectly hatched the two creatures in his incubator and discovers they are lovely, intelligent creatures that reminded him of some rare species of puppies. Unaware that the missing nests fell to earth off the airship on their way to the Dragonor land, king Teloby prepared himself. For the next day, the three groups would head out for the dubious task of entering and searching the dragon’s lair for his missing mewling. Excerpt Chapter Two Another Story Many, Many Centuries Ago Talulah was the most beautiful female in his clan, Luken felt. Along with two other hunters, she stood at the well, polishing her thin blade. Long hair matted in places, blades of grass and twigs sticking out of her silvery locks, even though she was back from a hunt and dirty, she was still very pretty. Luken stared at her; his heartbeat quickened, creating a nervous tension within. A hammer he was using fell from his hands, and the hefty instrument clattered against the steel anvil loudly, making an awful sound. Talulah and her friends looked over at Luken, and she smiled at him. However, the other two in her hunting party laughed and then went back to cleaning their steel. Fine weapons he or his father crafted. Her smile might have made Luken hopeful that she

was noticing him; this was not the case, though. When he was trying to pick up his hammer, he stumbled and knocked over a small pan of coals, burning his hand. This was her way of attempting to make him feel a little bit better in his embarrassment and pain. A member of the Glade Dragonor clan, they were hunters, and Luken knew she had been on a chase. Dragonor females dressed just like the males and wore garments of polished animal leather dyed black. Tight tunics across their chests and tight pants, the two groups looked identical, except for a few lumps upon their chests and curves along their backside. Besides those few features and a difference in hair color, it was hard to distinguish in their muscular agile bodies. Like the coloring of scaly reptiles, their skins varied in all the neutral tones. Too depending upon their mood or the temperature of their bodies, their skins’ hues would change. Black leather pants clung to her body as she moved, and her figure-hugging tunic, a vest-like garment, although stained with mud and animal blood, she was most admirable and yet beautiful. Slender arms, lime in color, too soiled in dirt, it was hard to see their scaley pattern. Even so, Luken wanted her for his mate and desired nothing more than to love her. Talulah was the daughter of Lord Ephenio, the leader of the clan of Glade Dragonors. Only the son of Tinzadri, a blacksmith nobody for the clan, his father held no position of authority, and marriage between himself and Talulah was very unlikely. Luken did not own a dragon, and his secret love owned one of the quickest and largest in the clan. Luken knew the only way for him to gain a position of notice was to win the Challenge of the Cypress. The Challenge of the Cypress was the most challenging game the Dragonors held. Every five years, both the Northern and Western Prairie Dragonors and the Glade Dragonors participated in this event. With physical endurance and mental problem-solving skills, the clans’ leaders tested the young Dragonors in all-around skills. A grueling challenge on the back of a dragon, the Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | participants had to compete in a battle with their dragons to test their dragon-riding abilities. Although he did not have one, Luken was going to need to ride a dragon. By then, he hoped to have gained enough allies out of his friends that they might allow him to ride their precious companions. “Hi, Luken. I hear you have entered the Challenge of the Cypress.” Raphazk said, grinning at him. A long back braid rolled atop his head in a bun, matted in twigs as well, his clothing also was mud and bloodstained. It was evident the two of them were together. Luken felt a twinge of jealousy when Talulah walked up to him and placed her hand on the young Dragonor’s shoulder. “Wonderful news Luken. Is it not fabulous that you joined? All the luck of the glades with you.” She smiled at him again. Two grins in one day; he truly felt honored. “Have you entered, Talulah?” “Ha. I bet Luken doesn’t make it past the first event. I’ve only seen him make a sword but never yield one.” Laughter from Raphazk upset him. Luken felt anger growing within, but he said nothing, only continued peering at Talulah. “Luken can handle a sword. I have seen him do so.” Flattered that she would take up for him, he blushed lightly. Cheeks growing hot, he was sure his emerald-green skin turned darker upon his face. Respect for her compliment, he bowed his head and said, “Thank you, Talulah.” A stern glare given to her companion hunter, he answered, “Yes, I can handle a blade, and quite well, as you will find out.” Luken felt nervousness around Talulah. There was no fear or lack of confidence in himself for her comrade. Luken could not wait to go against him in the games. “Will you compete in the games, Talulah?” “No, my father won’t let me. He knows I will make all of you all look like weaklings,” she laughed, slapping Raphazk against the back, then grabbed him around the chest and held him in a gentle bear hug. Talulah peeked over his shoulder at Luken. 94 | UncagedBooks.com

Eyes the color of the sky, their bluish color mesmerized him, even though she played with her hunting partner so carefreely. Luken stuttered, “I have no doubt of that,” looking away from their antics. “Luken, come to the gathering tonight. Everyone is going to be there.” “He has no time. I am sure he has a lot of gear to make for others in the competition. My father, of course, has Dalardus craft our weapons,” he commented, winking smugly at Luken. “You are a real idiot sometimes,” she said, shoving him away from her. She approached Luken. “Do not worry about his words. Come to the lake.” Kindness from her as well. Talulah had never spoken to him, in such a way, all of their over ninety years of life. “It is possible I will come, Talulah.” “Great. I hope you do.” A smile once again came across her lips, and she beamed at him for the first time. Three smiles in one day. Luken was happy, and when he finished at the forge tonight, he might clean up and go to the lake. Luken left after making seven arrows with engraved platinum tips for Lemet, went home, changed out of his grungy work tunic, and left for the swamps. Arriving much later than the rest, the younger Dragonors had already taken the choice spots. They lazed around the marshy lake upon couch-lily pads, resting while cooling themselves and enjoying the lethargic sensation the cold water provided. Talulah was not in the lake. Accompanied by her hunting companion, she sat talking with Raphazk on a leather blanket on the moist ground several feet from the pool. “Luken, come join us.” Tonight she traded in her tunic for a comfortable white dress draping loosely over her body. Moonlight shining upon the sheer white garment, Luken dared not look down and gazed at her lovely face, illuminating it from the gleam of the fabric. Luken walked over and sat next to Talulah. “Well, I might as well say welcome Luken,” Raphazk commented disrespectfully. Luken nodded. “So, you ready for the big challenge tomorrow, Luken? Maybe you should be sleeping. You don’t know how exhausting long days are like the rest of

| ZOLA BLUE | us,” he smirked, lying back on the blanket, resting his head upon his arms. Raphazk gazed at the sky, not bothering to look at Luken. “Of course, he is ready. You are a perfect cow, aren’t you, Raphazk?” She had taken up for him again. “I am ready. Do not concern yourself with my ability to beat you, Raphazk,” Luken replied. “Like I told you, I have not seen you handle a blade or bow,” he laughed. “So, this should be interesting.” Under the moonlike, his blue skin looked black. Combined with his dark hair, he was indeed an intimidating Dragonor, and others in the clan thought him to be the next leader of the village. Larger in build than Luken, he looked mighty and fierce, like the Dragornors of legends. Luken understood why Talulah might like him. He, however, wanted to hit him in the face to stop the dark yellow haughty gaze in Raphazk’s hateful stare. “Ra…” Before she could finish her response, Luken touched her hand gently. “As for me, I shall be prepared, Raphazk. I hope that skin of wine has not dullened your abilities. Since I was, in fact, looking for a challenge.” Talulah giggled. “Perhaps he is right. Do you believe that your confidence might betray you tomorrow?” Talulah giggled, gazing at Luken. For once, the loud young Dragonor had nothing to say and only lay brooding. “The night is nice,” Talulah spoke up. “Yes, it is.” Raphazk apparently stewed for a bit, thinking of what to say. “My confidence shall never betray me. It is this blacksmith that should worry. He does not have a dragon. How is he to complete the final event?” Raging agitation in his voice, he and Talulah looked over at him, disturbed by his sudden outburst. Although haughty in his ways and attitude, he told the truth, so Luken held his tongue. Others could not know of his plans right now, which might hinder some kind Dragonor from lending him their trusted comrade. “I will let Luken ride mine. You are rude, too.” With a smugness in his manner and tone, he smirked, “Are you mad? You can’t let anyone ride Magnus.

Your father will not allow it.” “He is my dragon. He chose me so no one, including my father, will tell me what I will do with him.” “Thank you for your offer, Talulah, but that is not necessary,” Luken told her. “It is what I would like, Luken. Do not listen to Raphazk. Don’t you think he has had too much wine?” “I have not had nearly enough if my ears heard you said. Allowing Luken to ride Magnus!” While still lying on his back, Raphazk put the wineskin to his mouth and drank out of the opening; the contents spilled down the corners of his mouth. “He is right. Magnus is a great dragon, and I…” “What, now you are too arrogant to accept my gift!” She stood up, and glaring at the both of them she said, “I am off to bed.” “I will walk you.” “No, both of you stay away from me,” she retorted and stormed off. Luken sat in silence for a moment. “What just happened there?” “Talulah is convinced that because she is female, her opinion does not matter. Some type of female trauma thing, I think.” A chuckle came from his lips. “She knows Lord Ephenio will not let you ride Magnus too.” Luken liked the sudden outburst of spirited behavior in Talulah. Although her display was confusing to him, she had so much life flowing from her, intoxicating him by her passionate aura. “I like,” he began to say, yet it was not wise to let his foe know of his attraction. “What did you say?” “Nothing really,” he responded and walked away. Luken awoke that morning smiling, and he knew why he was so happy. An unexpected closeness from Talulah revitalized him and gave him even more confidence in its own way. Lastly, offering Magnus for his use made his heart flutter. Barely peeked through the tall cypress trees, the sun was just starting to come up when Luken prepared to leave. The challenge scheduled to begin at daybreak, so to get there bright and early would Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | be to his advantage. Many secrets and shortcuts were told as stories by those competing in prior events, boasting tales of glory and success. Luken rolled his long black hair behind his head and tied it with a leather band; putting on his black tunic and greaves, he left the house, ensuring that his tall black boots were clean. Clean boots were a compulsion with him, and also unsoiled leathers. His small knife stuck into the top of his boot, and his travel sack carrying twine, wire, and lead stones, he was ready.


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risti Charish is the author of KINCAID STRANGE, a paranormal mystery series about a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle with the ghost of a grunge rocker, and THE ADVENTURES OF OWL, an adventure fantasy about ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix— better known now as Owl—a modern-day “Indiana Jane” who reluctantly navigates the hidden supernatural world. Kristi writes what she loves; adventure heavy stories featuring strong, protagonists, pop culture, and the occasional RPG fantasy game thrown in the mix. Kristi also a scientist. She has a BSc and MSc 98 |isUncagedBooks.com

Photo ©Alex Renwick

from Simon Fraser University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and a PhD in Zoology from the University of British Columbia. She specializes in genetics, cell biology, and molecular biology and gratuitously uses her expertise throughout her fiction. You can find Kristi with her laptop on Vancouver film sets, getting paid to write while filling in the background.

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At the moment, no - the series are no longer under contract with the publishers.. That doesn’t mean there won’t be more books, but I’m not currently working on them. My current project on my laptop is a spy spoof about the people who make the world’s greatest spies look good, even when they aren’t. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? Romance is the hardest- I always feel a little ridiculous when I write them. I absolutely love writing action scenes and the plot reveals that I spend so much time setting up.

kristicharish.com Uncaged welcomes Kristi Charish Welcome to Uncaged! You have books out in two series, the latest being The Kincaid Strange series, and also The Owl series. Can you tell readers more about these series? The Adventures of Owl is about ex-archaeology grad student turned international antiquities thief, Alix—better known now as Owl— who has one rule. No supernatural jobs. Ever. Until a red dragon who owns and runs the Japanese Circus Casino in Las Vegas makes her an offer she can’t refuse: retrieve a three thousand year old artifact and he’ll get rid of a pack of vampires that want her dead. Kincaid Strange is a paranormal murder mystery about, a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle with the ghost of a grunge rocker. When a stray zombie turns up outside her neighbourhood bar with no recollection of how he died or who raised him, Kincaid fast realizes he’s tied to a spate of murders in Seattle’s infamous Underground City, a paranormal hub. When the police refuse to investigate, the City’s oldest and foremost zombie asks Kincaid to help solve the murders - hopefully before she becomes the target. Are you still planning on adding to each series? What are you working on next you can tell us about?

What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most? Gosh- I don’t know. My readers already know I have background in the sciences….That I grew up in a rainforest with all sorts of cool, nighttime animals? Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? The characters come first along with a handful of scenes and interaction. Once I’ve collected a handful of those, I find the plot tends to work itself outor kickstart. What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I love walking with music. I find it helps me write and work through tricky plot points. Cozy mysteries are a guilty pleasure- I’m currently mainlining Murder in Paradise. Midsomer Murders is another favorite. There is something so wonderfully wrong about an ideal, scenic seaside town with a murder rate higher than Honduras… If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| KRISTI CHARISH | Summer. I love the heat. A sunny day on a rocky shoreline is my ideal writing day. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? Post or Pre Pandemic? Pre pandemic I was averaging 2-3 novels a year and writing an average of 6-8 hours a day. Last year in the midst of the pandemic, I managed 4 drafts but didn’t finish anything - I also wasn’t able to write 6 hours uninterrupted. The goal this year is to polish and finish the four manuscripts. I’ve had some novels take me 5 months, others have taken me 9. It all depends on how much focussed time I get and just how many other things I’m trying to juggle at once. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? I prefer books. I will take any and all forms of literature to consume, including video games (some of the best SFF fiction over the last decade is in video game format). Over the past few years I’ve been listening to audiobooks but I love my kindle as well. I always have multiple books on the go - I’m listening to Plague by CC Humphreys and reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank-you for reading me! @kristicharish on Twitter, @KristiCharishAuthor on FB, @charishkristi on Instagram, and www.kristicharish.com.

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Enjoy an excerpt from Owl and the Tiger Thieves

ner I’d eked out to the left of the cell door. I’d reasoned the guards would be less likely to single me out if I was absent from their line of site. So much for that idea.

Owl and the Tiger Thieves Kristi Charish SciFi/Fantasy Through no fault of her own, Alix has found herself essential to the fate of the world as we know it. She didn’t mean for this to happen—she was quite happy being merely the notorious antiquities thief, and exarcheologist, known as Owl. However, years ago, Owl reluctantly entered the secret world of the supernatural. Her goals: complete one job, escape one bounty on her head, continue her thieving in peace. Fast forward to today. Now, she has become a key player in a brutal paranormal civil war that is rapidly getting out of hand. The leader of one of these factions—a lethal opponent called the Electric Samurai—grows more powerful by the second. To stop him, Owl sets out to find the longlost, legendary group known as the Tiger Thieves. But will it be too little too late? One thing Owl misses about “normal” archaeology: there are few emergencies with thousand-year-old relics. Excerpt St Albinus of Angers Prison, Peru. Time? Beats me. I haven’t seen the sun in a week. I swore—loudly—and sat up with a start as ice water drenched me, shocking me out of whatever semblance of sleep my brain had managed to achieve huddling against the stone wall in the cor102 | UncagedBooks.com

I bit down on the sides of my mouth to hold back the tirade of curses threatening to unleash at the guard standing over me, his features vague in the dim torchlight. Still, I caught the flash of gold teeth. I’d wondered more than once whether they were trophies from inmates—the mismatched sizes indicated as much. He hissed and I cast my eyes down, focusing on the flashlight glow reflecting off his black boots. Fear. That was something they expected from us—and if you didn’t deliver . . . Besides, this wasn’t the first or last time a guard would drench me with a bucket of frozen water. That was one of the first things I’d learned in this Peruvian hellhole. The second? Keep your mouth shut. Letting the guards see you sweat is like tossing a bucket of entrails at a pack of jackals. They don’t care if you’re already dead; they still move in for the kill. I blinked as he passed the flashlight over me, willing my eyes to adjust to the light faster as I kept them on the dirt floor. For the most part we were left in darkness, no lamps, no candles—no electricity either. Didn’t want anyone with an engineering bent getting any ideas. “Levántate. Ahora!” the guard barked in Spanish, adding a hard kick to my leg just to be clear the message carried across the language barrier. Get up. Now! Again I bit my tongue as I used the wall to balance, pushing myself to stand on underused leg muscles as quickly as possible, the memories of the last few weeks coming back in an unwelcome rush. How long had it been since one of them had stopped

| KRISTI CHARISH | by? A day? Two? I guessed it had been almost a full day since we’d seen the light pass by underneath the door—the anonymous deaf and mute Peruvian woman who walked the halls with her cart, sliding something reminiscent of food under the bolted and iron-reinforced door. Another brand of torture they’d cooked up—not the food but the latch: large enough to fit your arm through, small enough that your shoulder inevitably got caught. I should know—I’d gotten stuck twice, each time earning me a kick from the guard who’d found me. “Ahora!” Now! “Yeah, yeah, Kujo.” My nickname for our goldtoothed guard since he seemed to be more interested in using them to growl than speak. “Getting up.” Not wanting to elicit another kick, I pushed myself off the wall wincing at the resulting aches and pains. The guards didn’t strike me as particularly concerned with whether or not we were dead or maimed, and Albinus hadn’t been designed with long-term inmate survival in mind. More along the lines of “We stuck you here to rot away and die a horrible death, so get on with it already.” The prison I was in wasn’t Virgen de Fátima, the notorious women’s Peruvian prison, nor was I stuck in the desert in Ancón. No, this place was much worse. No virgins or scavengers circling overhead with a permanent offer of relief. This was the Albino’s prison—St. Albinus of Angers, to be precise. The patron saint against pirates. The prison had been built in the 1600s to house the pirates that preyed upon the Spanish along the Peruvian coast. It was repurposed in the early 1900s by the International Archaeology Association and promptly scrubbed from the history books. Ancient pirate jail? What pirate jail? They used it to get rid of the odd thief who was stupid enough or unlucky enough to get caught pilfering goods out of the more

. . . exotic South American sites, shall we say— the ones where the supernaturals hang out. Occasionally they just wanted their goods back, but mostly they just wanted us forgotten. Which begged the question, to what did I owe today’s honor? I tried again to calculate in my head how long I’d been down here. Without the sun or anything resembling a routine, day and night melded together, taking all sense of time with them. A week? Maybe. I stumbled as Kujo shoved me towards the door, my aching back protesting. That was another thing about the Albino, after a day or so you drifted off into a state between waking and sleep. It was a dark place, the one that waited in the back of your mind, a low pit of despair and boredom where the only things that seemed to play out were all the wrong choices that had landed you here. And if your mistakes were the sound track, your regrets were the script playing out in Technicolor, burning a permanent hole in your retinas. I wondered if that was on purpose—part of the Albino’s plan to keep the pirates imprisoned by stone and deep despair. Despite the iron shackles around my ankles and my wrists I straightened and did my best to walk upright, back straight. I still had some standards to maintain. Funny thing was, irrespective of the prison, the questionable company, and the even more questionable guards. I didn’t need St. Albino’s help to wallow in the deep dark pit I’d sunken into of late—I’d found that place all on my own. “Pssst.” The sound, little more than a highpitched, forceful hiss, came from the corner nearest the door.

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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Kujo barked a command in Spanish—something in the local dialect that I didn’t quite catch—and kicked the lavatory bucket towards the disturbance. The cell I’d been locked up in was nine by nine feet, carved out of the cliffs with no seams to speak of; I’d checked every inch of it. Four of us shared it at the moment—and usually we had the sense to keep to ourselves. Out of the corner of my eye I glanced at the woman who’d risked drawing the ire of Kujo. It was Mathilda, a French archaeology graduate student who’d been on an IAA excavation of Písac—Incan ruins that weren’t Machu Picchu. She’d been caught lifting diagrams from one of the burial chambers, using rice paper and charcoal, and selling them online to discerning collectors. The youngest and most inexperienced of the four of us when it came to IAA’s extreme crackdowns. She I actually felt bad for. She really didn’t deserve to be here. The rest of us? Grave robbers of some stripe, every last one of us. The light from Kujo’s flashlight barely reached her, still I could make out her face and the direction in which she jerked her chin—the slightest nod. Towards the cell door, now open. But it wasn’t escape she was hinting at. Faint footsteps echoed down the hall. Uneven, one ong, the second short, jarring, and uneven—as if one leg were shorter than the other or, as in this case, the knee were unable to bend. Shit. Miguelito.

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en Boswell is the author of nine books, including the award-winning Simon Grave Mysteries and additional works of fiction and nonfiction. He lives in the mountains of West Virginia with his wife, Ruth, and their two dogs, Shadow and Cinder.

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Uncaged welcomes Melanie Rose Clarke Welcome to Uncaged! Your latest release, The Cave of the Six Arrows will release August 12. Can you tell readers more about this book? This is book one in a series, do you have a set number of books for the series in mind? This is the first book in an open-ended series. When 15-year-old Rhynt, a disabled but fierce girl with magic skills, decides to run away from a powerful, demanding monk, the last thing she expects is to be taken under the wing of a legendary warrior. There’s just one problem. The warrior, Calax Halfhand, is being pursued by assassins. Worse, he’s now on a mission to find the man behind the assassins. What neither realizes as they begin their flight and their quest is that forces are already at work to bring them both to a mysterious gathering that will change their lives forever—or end them on the spot. To survive, they must fight through an unforgiving world of assassins, ancient myth, and forgotten gods to a mythical land where their fates await.

whatever comes, including the secrets foretold in the Cave of the Six Arrows. The second book in the series, The Fool’s Gambit, is now in development. You also have a series, the Simon Grave Mystery series. Can you tell us more about that series and are you planning on adding to it? Publishers Weekly describes the award-winning Simon Grave Mysteries as a “genre-defying adventure,” a sort of cozy, sort of sci-fi, sort of paranormal, always funny series set in the 2050s. There are currently four books in the open-ended series: A Grave Misunderstanding, Simon Grave and the Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime, Simon Grave and Drone of the Basque Orvilles, and Simon Grave and the Sons of Irony. A fifth, Simon Grave and the School of Casual Invisibility, is due out in early 2022. What is the most difficult scene for you to write? What is the easiest? For the most part, the first scene is always the easiest and the last is always the hardest. Types of scenes (battles, sex, etc.) don’t give me too much trouble one way or the other. What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most? I don’t read for pleasure while I’m actively writing a book. When I do that, I tend to take on the voice of whomever I’m reading at the time. So If I have to research something, yes, I’ll read. Otherwise, not. Which comes first, the plot or the characters in the planning stages? For me, it always starts with an idea, and then the plot and characters flow from that.

As they face danger after danger, Rhynt begins to realize she has more than enough power to deal with Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | What are some things you like to do to relax when you aren’t writing or working? I’m a big movie fan, so a lot of my downtime is spent watching movies, old and new. If you could have one all-year season, which would it be and why? I like everything about Spring, from the temperatures to the rebirth of trees and plants. So many different greens to enjoy. How many hours a day do you write? On average, how long does it take to write a full novel? I write NO MORE THAN 1500 words a day, but my goal is 1000 words a day. Usually this takes me a couple of hours, typically from 6 am to 8 am. That includes reading and editing the previous day’s 1000 words. I’ve found that if I write more, the quality suffers. So, 80 days for an 80,000-word book, then another 30 days for revising and refining. Do you prefer ebooks, audiobooks or physical books? Are you reading anything now? Given a choice, I will always opt for a physical book. However, I’m comfortable with all formats. What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Whatever book of mine you pick up, whether it’s a mystery or a fantasy or a piece of creative nonfiction, you will always find whimsy. My life advice to each of you: never lose your grip on frivolity!

Enjoy an excerpt from The Cave of the Six Arrows The Cave of the Six Arrows Len Boswell Fantasy Releases August 12 When 15-year-old Rhynt, a disabled but fierce girl with magic skills, decides to run away from a powerful, demanding monk, the last thing she expects is to be taken under the wing of a legendary warrior. There’s just one problem. The warrior, Calax Halfhand, is being pursued by assassins. Worse, he’s now on a mission to find the man behind the assassins. What neither realizes as they begin their flight and their quest is that forces are already at work to bring

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them both to a mysterious gathering that will change their lives forever—or end them on the spot. To survive, they must fight through an unforgiving world of assassins, ancient myth, and forgotten gods to a mythical land where their fates await. As they face danger after danger, Rhynt begins to realize she has more than enough power to deal with whatever comes, including the secrets foretold in The Cave of the Six Arrows. Excerpt The sky rumbled, raven clouds roiling, whipping rain near sideways. He had to tug hard on the reins to keep the horse steady as they crested the rock-strewn hill, everything so gray that, if not for the bright yellow shaft of the arrow, he would certainly have passed by the body of the man in gray, thinking him nothing more than another boulder. Calax Halfhand had seen dead men before, and he

much preferred them to the wide-eyed screaming wounded that he’d had to dispatch over the years, sending them to their peace and their gods and the carrion eaters with his broadsword. He dismounted, tied his steed to a scrub pine, and approached the body, tugging out the strange arrow before turning the body over to see the man’s face. The man’s eyes, gray as his cloak, stared up at Calax blankly, the rain pooling in them, making them seem to twitch with life. But he was dead, all right, a man two score at least, his beard grizzled, his face a lacework of scars, though none recent. He was tall, maybe two hands taller than Calax, and built like an ox, heavy in the chest. He was righthanded certainly, his forearm huge from repeated swings of a broadsword or mace. His hair, black as wood char, was shorn close, with a diamond pattern shaved to the skin above each ear. Green dye of some sort had been applied there to match the sigil on his cloak, one unknown to Calax. He smelled of woodsmoke and sweat, a sign that he’d been traveling for some distance. Days, certainly, perhaps weeks. The man was unarmed save for a small dagger sticking from his scuffed boot. Calax pulled it out and hefted it—light, much lighter than his own. The grip was carved bone, common enough, but the blade had a green cast to it, as if its maker had somehow combined iron with emeralds. Calax slid the dagger into his own boot and turned his attention to the cracked leather pouch hanging around the man’s neck, opening it and emptying its contents on the man’s chest: a few coins from an unknown kingdom, a piece of weir’s root for sour stomach, a flint, some moss from a witch’s oak, and a small scroll tied with gut. Calax opened the scroll and read a single sentence written in the common tongue: You will know him by his hand, or the half of it, and the name Calax Halfhand. You must bring him to me. Calax blinked, hard. What? Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


| FEATURE AUTHOR | He read the scroll again, but the words persisted. Someone wanted to see him, or perhaps kill him. Why else would he send a warrior? And why was this strange warrior killed? Was it because of Calax? He looked around to see if anyone else was nearby, perhaps lying in wait for him, but all he saw was the steady rain in the failing light. He put everything back into the pouch and tucked it under his belt. His stead stamped its hoof into the gray mud and snorted. “All right, Gash,” said Calax. “Let’s find us some shelter for the night.” He stood, grabbed the reins, and led Gash toward an outcropping that seemed tall enough and deep enough to get them both out of the rain. Gash began shaking almost immediately, spraying Calax. “Oh, come on, wasn’t the rain enough?” Gash snorted and looked away. “That’s better. Now let me see if there’s anything here that will burn. I don’t know about you, but I could use a good fire right about now.” He pulled off Gash’s saddle and tied him loosely to a sapling that was clearly struggling to grow in the shadow of the outcropping. “Well, let’s see now. Ah, there you are.” He gathered some moss and orange rock lichens and fluffed them into a ball beneath a handful of twigs. Three strikes of the flint was all he needed to get the fire going. There wasn’t much dry wood beneath the outcropping, so the fire would be small and short-lived, but it would be enough to warm him and dry him off a bit before he fell asleep. He looked down at his left hand, or what served 112 | UncagedBooks.com

as a hand. It was really nothing more than a piece of wood, artfully carved to match his right hand and hidden beneath a glove. The wood extended upward, becoming his wooden forearm. Rawhide straps held the fake forearm fast to his real hand, a withered, malformed hand with just three fingers, seemingly bursting from his elbow. The fingers were not without skills however. They could manipulate the articulated hand, tugging on gut strands to open and close the fingers with every nuance of a natural hand. And three fingers were enough to hold a dagger if the need arose. The birth defect had been a challenge for him as a child, but had given him a name now feared by all who knew it: Calax Halfhand, warrior. Calax Halfhand, berserker. If he had not been in battle armor, most people would have taken him for an ordinary man, a tradesman perhaps, or a baker. Nothing about him suggested his prowess on the battlefield. He was not overly tall and though he was strong, he was nothing like the muscular brutes he often fought in battle. His hair was a thatch of brown, as was his unkempt beard. A nob of a nose was set squarely between eyes that matched the sky. For all his fighting, he had but one velvety scar, which ran from his ear to his chin, the work of a wellaimed sword, seen a second too late. Calax started to unstrap the arm extension, but then thought better of it. Better to let the rawhide dry naturally. Taking it off now would just complicate things in the morning. Besides, he was exhausted. He fed the fire as long as he could, then settled down near Gash, his back resting against the wall of the outcropping. It was dark enough now that he could no longer see the gray body that lay just a few yards away in the rain. On the morrow, he would have to deal with that, and find the warrior’s horse. And then he’d have to figure out who this man was and what his failed errand was all about. Sleep came quickly, and with it dreams.

Decision Fatigue, Perfectionism, and The Land Mines of Fiction Writing Guest column by Connor Judson Garrett


Decision Fatigue, Perfectionism, and The Land Mines of Fiction Writing by Connor Judson Garrett

Fiction writing is harder than it may appear. In theory, the freedom to invent from scratch should give fiction writers flexibility and an all-around more fluid writing experience. In practice, it doesn’t always work out like that. There’s a reason so few authors have managed to sustain large scale fictional universes like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and George R.R. Martin (who lost steam in his series, by the way). Fiction writing is a field covered in landmines; hidden bombs ready to blow a good idea to bits. In fact, that’s part of the reason why so many half-finished novels never mature to their final, publishable form. What are these “landmines” and how can a writer detect and work around them? The first landmine is the author themselves. Only bad writers believe that every drop of ink they put on a page is gold. Good writers question themselves; their characters; their plot; and every decision they make. More specifically, this landmine is perfectionism and the decision fatigue that develops as a result of it. Good fiction writers want to make sure the story is as close to perfect as it can be. While perfection is an unattainable and somewhat subjective goal, a degree of objectivity still exists in the arts. We can generally agree on what is good versus bad writing. A writer is aware of this intuitive criteria and tries to write their perfect manuscript. This obstacle is greater in fiction than nonfiction because of the sheer number of choices the author has to make. For example, in nonfiction, the characters, the plot, 114 | UncagedBooks.com

and the dialogue occurred in real life. While that’s a fairly obvious statement, what it also means is that a nonfiction author is a curator instead of being an inventor. The nonfiction writer can focus on the lyricism of their prose and the arrangement of the events as opposed to getting bogged down with doubt about the plot, the setting, and all the other from-scratch fictional story ingredients. The more choices the author has to make, the more room they have to doubt themselves and their decisions. A massive amount of the mental exhaustion in fiction writing stems from self-doubt. The inner-critic is necessary. You can’t and shouldn’t try to kill it off, but how can you quiet it down long enough to finish that first draft? A few keys to avoiding this landmine are outlining and developing your own writing process. Fiction writing, especially when it comes to novels and other long-form, is an emotional and mental marathon. That means, the author has to have a roadmap to maintain momentum in spite of the wrenches life may throw at them. After all, nobody has the fortune of creating in a vacuum. Personally, as an author with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), my process and outlining system is designed to compensate for certain challenges that I face. I outline scene-by-scene and then write pages and pages of notes and research in order to get rid of the sensation of having missed crucial details. Create a writing process that matches your life and your personality. For instance, if you tend to lose focus easily, you should probably aggressively write your first draft. Outlining Spellbound Under The Spanish Moss: A Southern Tale of Magic took my father and I several months, but the actual writing took us three weeks to complete. In my case, I have a strict rule that I do not edit or revise before the first draft is finished.

The next landmine fiction writers will find perilous actually comes from the readers — suspension of disbelief. Fiction is more unbelievable than nonfiction. While this may seem like another obvious fact, it’s worth noting that a fiction writer has to work harder to make the reader forget that they are reading about something that likely could never have happened. Your job is to suspend their disbelief. Take for example, Aquaman — terrible movie, but it was interesting to see the complaints about it. Critics were lambasting the awful special effects such as how the actors’ hair moved underwater, calling it unrealistic. While the criticisms were valid, they just sound a bit absurd considering nothing about Aquaman is realistic. But that’s the challenge of fiction — people sort of accept that the events of nonfiction happened, but with fiction, the writer has to work twice as hard to make it “believable.” The safest path around this landmine is to first make the story believable for yourself. The best fiction is grounded in detail. Whether your story takes place in outer space, a distant future, underwater, or in a completely invented setting, readers will look for things they can relate to. Research history, politics, economics, and people. Use dialogue from conversations you’ve overheard or been a part of. Even fiction grows

| CONNOR JUDSON GARRETT | from a seed of truth and it’s this truth that will help you believe in what you’re writing. The more you believe in your work, the more your readers will, too. Fall thoroughly in love with your process and write the book you want to read. Worry about commercialization as you edit and revise.

©Copyright 2021 Connor Judson Garrett for Uncaged Book Reviews www.uncagedbooks.com

graphic novels.

Garrett dreams of and is blazing his way towards a career writing in a multitude of genres ranging from fantasy to science fiction, as well as, works in a variety of formats such as

Website: https://lucidhousepublishing.com/ Amazon author page:https://www.amazon.com/ Connor-Judson-Garrett/e/B07VS4TKX3 Instagram: @connorjudsongarrett Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/connorjudsongarrettwrites Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/ show/18142598.Connor_Judson_Garrett YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/ UCSEZ0xNaH5saMiYqnSswgUQ Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


fang-FREAKIN-tastic reviews

feature author

Brynn Myers



rynn Myers is a paranormal romance author. After considering writing a hobby for years, she finally turned her passion and talent into a career. She came into the paranormal genre later than most but has always loved fairy-tales and all things magical. Using that love, she creates charmed worlds by writing stories involving passionate, strong willed characters with something to discover.

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You write in a variety of genres, is there one you prefer over others? I love PNR, but these days the muses who find their way to me are more interested in getting into trouble and unraveling a mystery than they are about falling in love. From Blood to Ink is the first book I’ve written that didn’t feature a romance, even though Indigo was crushing hard on Ben. Who knows what the future may hold for them in the end, though. :P ` The good news is no matter what I write, you’ll always be able to count on me to stay rooted in mythology and/ or things that go bump in the night. I do love my supernatural beings––good and bad! For your newest book, From Blood to Ink, how was it writing essentially two unique books that combined into one? It was challenging at times, but for the most part, I feel like it flowed. Indigo and Cilla were easy characters to embrace. In fact, I got so comfortable writing them that I became laser-focused on the idea of what it would be like to actually talk to them face to face and used that to drive the story forward––kind of like how some of us wish we could bring one or two of our book boyfriends here to the earthly plane. LOL! Same concept, different reward. :P Are any of your books inspired by real life? From Blood to Ink is 100% inspired by real life. I was suffering from the worst case of writer’s block, and I let that be where the story began. I wanted to share the day-to-day moments of how it felt to not be productive by getting words on a page daily. Moments when I was

inspired after a morning of research, only to be disappointed by the afternoon with a dead-end plot I’d need to rework in order to move forward. I wanted a hit––a book everyone could get into, so I stopped trying to control every element and simply let my heart and the muses drive the story. And whenever I let fear and doubt slip into my own mind, I let that be part of the story too. I’m grateful for Indigo and Cilla and the rest of the cast of From Blood to Ink for allowing me to mold and shape their stories to suit my own. Where did your inspiration for this story come from? The world has been so chaotic over this past year and a half, and so when I started researching what Greek mythos I wanted to focus on, chaos and fear kept popping into my head. Those two words led me to Eris and Phobos, and I felt compelled to combine their true natures with what I was feeling about my writer’s block––it felt like a win-win. I had no idea I would create Cilla or that she’d become as important to me as she is now. When I began plotting her story, she had quite a few alternate beginnings before it all fell into place, and Cilla became the primary focus. I really like her and think she’s only just beginning to realize her true potential––Indigo too. How do you select the names of characters in your book? I envisioned the character and then let whatever name popped into my head be the one I rolled with. That’s not my usual MO, but I didn’t want to overthink this one. I just wanted it to flow and knew I needed to stay in the zone for fear I would break the writing streak. However, for the fantasy characters, I did spend a little bit of time making sure their names suited their personalities. I’d started the story with Eris being the goddess of chaos and Phobos, aka Phin being the embodiment of fear, and I needed to do the same for the others as well. For example, Cilla’s name means venerable: accorded a great deal of respect, especially because of age, wisdom, or character. I thought it suited her perfectly. :P Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


How do you cope with writer’s block? Chocolate! Lots and lots of chocolate. Then when that doesn’t work, I listen to music, watch a show, or read a book, anything to get unstuck. And if all that fails––wine or Tito’s vodka. LOL!

Enjoy an excerpt from: From Blood to Ink From Blood to Ink Brynn Myers Dark Fantasy

What do you have coming up next? Well, I’m pondering a few directions, actually, and I’m hoping for some clarity here soon. I have all these ideas popping into my head and no clue where to begin or which one should jump to the front of the line. At the moment, I’m intrigued by a dybbuk. Maybe I’ll write a short story to launch before Halloween. I mean, how cool would it be to write a malevolent spirit/displaced soul that possesses a living being and can only depart from its host once it has achieved some sort of goal? The trouble it could cause would be epic! I’m totally rubbing my hands together with all the possibilities. I’d also like to continue with Indigo, Zoe, and Cilla’s adventures. What happened after all the dust settled? Would Cilla be okay? Would Indigo? Any repercussions from the events that took place? As I researched Greek goddesses to interact with them in a future story, a few interesting ones came up that tied into other stories I’ve written, and I got distracted. I guess I went from having writer’s block to having writer’s ADD. LOL! I’m sure I’ll land on one of these soon enough and be back in the writing cave hammering out plots before I know it.

Indigo James was a successful author until the day she got writer’s block, and everything changed. Weeks turned into months without anything but fleeting thoughts and half-ass ideas. That is until the day she met Mila Aeress—aka the Goddess of Chaos. Suddenly Indigo is thrust into a world she only thought existed in books. Now she’s bound to her writing for a completely different reason. Her life and her works are more than labors of love; they’re a matter of life or death. Each new manuscript becomes a book of sacrifice when her blood literally turns to ink. Excerpt Words. They should be simple enough. I mean, everything begins with them, right? A single letter can be a word. A series of words become sentences. A series of sentences become paragraphs: papers, short stories, novellas, novels. Sounds easy, and yet as I sat there staring at a blank page, I couldn’t for the life of me seem to put my thoughts into a cohesive flow. I was suffering from a severe case of writer’s block, and my muses seemed to be on the longest coffee break ever. This would have been all well and good if I weren’t under a deadline with my publisher. Naomi had been kind enough to give me three extensions but had made it clear there would not be a fourth. I sent her some pages in hopes she’d take pity on me, but instead, she emailed them back to me in a bold, harsh font and told me they lacked my usual passion and fire and to go back to the drawing board.

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Nine hours later, I was still staring at a blank screen. Hope of any inspiration knocking me over was as cold as the cup of coffee and a half-eaten chicken sandwich sitting on my desk. Nothing was working—not the junk food or the caffeine. Maybe I should grab some chocolate and alcohol, I thought. Wasn’t it Ernest Hemingway who said, “Write drunk, edit sober”? Hell, what did I have to lose at this point? I tossed everything into the trash can in my office, grabbed my empty water bottle, and padded toward the kitchen. A Florida storm had rolled in, and the house was dark and ominous as the thunder and lightning railed outside. When I flipped on the light, the dogs lifted their heads, gave a weary why are you disturbing me look, and lay back down as I rifled through the cabinet for my stash of dark chocolate chips and an almost full bottle of Tito’s vodka. Bentley watched as I poured a handful of chocolate into a small bowl. His only concern was whether or not I’d be sharing. “You can’t have these chips, bulldog. Want a cookie instead?” I reached for the container of salmon dog treats. Good thing he doesn’t know what he’s actually missing out on, because salmon is no substitute for dark chocolate no matter how you try and spin it. Max seemed indifferent to the sound of the bag but still made his way to the kitchen to receive his compensation for the disturbance. I tossed him a treat too and flipped off the light as I made my way back to my desk, bowl in one hand and the bottle of Tito’s in the other. I twisted the cap off and poured the vodka over the stale remains of my midday coffee. Not the best combo, but it was that or straight from the bottle, since I’d forgotten to bring a glass with me. The first sip had a bite, but the second and third went down smoothly. I stared at the blinking cursor and lifted the mug. “Alcohol, because no great story begins with a salad. Cheers to getting this story written.”

scampered across my brain but were fleeting. They began with great plot points but fell dead on the vine when I reached the part where the climax and goal of the characters were meant to peak. My story ideas were as lame as I was at the moment. “I wish I could just come up with something, anything,” I called out, as if anyone other than the dogs would hear me. “Wait, not just anything, something my publisher won’t kick back and can be a New York Times/USA Today bestseller.” You’re supposed to think big, right? “No thought or dream is too big to manifest” was all the buzz. So I went BIG. “Come on, universe, surprise me with the best plotline of my life.” Bentley barked at my last outburst. I assumed that in dog speak that was the equivalent of STFU. I laughed and then hit it me—I’ll write a dystopian space alien novel with complex characters and hella world-building. Delete. Delete. Delete. Okay, so that was clearly the Tito’s talking. My eyes grew heavy, and I was done trying for the night. Maybe I’d have some epic dreams that I could use as my jumping-off point. I reached out and grabbed my monitor and pleaded for it to be kinder to me tomorrow. I’d venture to say that if it were a person, it would’ve flipped me off. It wasn’t its fault I could only gently massage the keys instead of operating in my usual rapid-fire, can’t-getthe-thought-out-of-my-head-fast-enough mode. I screwed the cap back onto the top of the bottle and clicked off my desk lamp. Tomorrow was another day, and I’d try again. New day, new opportunities. I shook my head as I left my office. If I were writing Hallmark cards, I’d be golden.

I downed the fourth sip, and the effects began to take hold. I dropped my head in my hands and sighed. Just great, Indigo, your writing skills have devolved into Pinterest quotes and clichés. Get it together. Thoughts Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |



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Uncaged Reviews Revenge & Rapture Deborah Wilde Urban Fantasy Ash is tightening the noose on her enemies … and praying the rope holds. Ash’s revenge plans for Chariot and Isaac Montefiore take a surreal turn when Isaac’s wife hires Ash to find an item that Isaac is obsessed with. Ash takes the job, but this quest throws her back into Levi’s path and puts Rafael in grave peril.

Uncaged Review: The fourth and final addition to this series goes off with a bang. Full of twists and turns, with plenty of action, with humor and great secondary characters that this author pulls off so well. The entire story arc comes together and answers all the questions and then some. Right when the story gets tense, the author tosses in some humor to break up the tension. Ash is in rare form and this is one of those books I carried around with me waiting for a chance to get in a few more pages. You won’t just love the main characters, you will fall for most of the secondary ones also, a gift this author has and uses wisely. This is another book and series that will go on my to-be-read-again file. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Demon Moon Brad Magnarella Urban Fantasy

Everson Croft, professor of mythology and behind-the-scenes wizard Show me an amateur conjurer, and I’ll stop him before he gets himself killed. That’s the idea, anyway. But New York City isn’t what it used to be, and I don’t mean the recent crash. Amateur casters are calling up creatures they shouldn’t be able to. And there’s been a murder at the city’s most hallowed cathedral, a message in blood on the victim’s back the NYPD wants me to interpret, like yesterday.

Uncaged Review: This is a pretty good start to a series and although it didn’t blow me away, it did hold my interest for the most part. I will more than likely go to the next book in the series now that a lot of the world building and characters are flushed out. I still think there are some things and back story that needs to be flushed out a bit more, but it started to come together pretty well at the back quarter of the book. Everson is a wizard, but on the lower end of the wizard spectrum and is being watched by The Order, the magic law, if you will. In this book, there are some killings happening by amateur conjurers and bringing in demons that are causing havoc, and on top of all that, Everson always seems to be in trouble with the police and his job at the university is at stake. Although Croft seems to get himself in a lot of jams, at the same time it’s fun to see how he manages to get out of them. There was some good action sequences, some good demons and some original magic and a fun and obnoxious oversized succubus cat called Tabitha. I’m going to keep going, but there is a prequel novella called Book of Souls that I would recommend reading first. Reviewed by Cyrene

Second Chance Fate Ella J. Smyth Fantasy Romance Homework on top of a life sentence for murder? You’ve got to be kidding me! “One minute, I’m your average high school student. The next, I find myself at a magical academy against my will. All because I killed a few people.

Uncaged Review: Another first book in a series, and this one is a bit different. There are two types of magical people in this world, the ones born with magic, and the ones that became magical when there was a fallout, our main character in this book is of the latter. Amber’s magic manifests and without any control, Amber ends up killing three people with her lightning magic. She’s then shipped off to a school that will teach her all about her magic and how to control it. At first this book was a bit annoyingly high schoolish. As it went along it got a little better, although the main character completely lacks interest in things that are told to her, like her life is in danger in the school. She’s put into a dorm room with two roommates and along with Amber, there is not a good backstory with the two girls, just the typical nice one and the typical bitchy one. This book is moving toward a reverse harem, and I’ve read several and some are pretty good, but I didn’t feel the connection with Amber and Kiernan – and she seemed to fall in love with by talking to him once. As for the other boy, Julian, I felt more of a connection with him and Amber, although it all seemed a bit fast. I’m going to move to the second book, as I thought it did OK in some aspects and I really am curious about Slug. We’ll see where he fits in. Reviewed by Cyrene

A Queen to Come Frances Ellen YA Fantasy Up until her eighteenth birthday the new Queen was brought up as human in a secret location, with no knowledge of the crown she will be expected to wear or the rare magic she possesses. She will join the Asters, and she will become the most powerful creature to ever live. But a Dark King knows of her upcoming accession, and will do whatever it takes to stop it. Uncaged Review: This is the first book in a trilogy of what the author is calling, “prequel novellas.” It is the length of a longer novella, but I’m not sure what the prequel part is, unless there is a fullfledged series coming in after these prequels are completed. Time will tell. In this book, the Asters are the magic keepers and warriors. Each warrior has a special magic and skill set. The Asters protect the human population from the Dark Kings of the Underworld. The Asters haven’t had a Queen in 500 years – but she’s been reborn and scheduled to return to the hidden and protected lands where the Asters are. Some of this is a bit hard to explain, but the author does a pretty good job with it so the reader is in the loop the whole time. There is plenty of action and the fight sequences are pretty good. I’d like to see more world building, as you only get a taste of it here. The ending was a trip, but I won’t give anything away. This is a good start but I would also make sure it’s cautioned against very young teens as the fight scenes can be quite graphic. Reviewed by Cyrene

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


Uncaged Reviews His Demon Prize Stella Del Mar Paranormal Romance/Erotica

Undead Men Tell No Tales Corrine O’Flynn Historical Fantasy

I made a deal with the devil, but now his daughter is the only prize I want. Her body broadcasts sin. Her curves scream seduction. When I hold her in my arms, the rest of the

Even the craftiest pirate can’t outrun the curse of the sea witch.

world disappears. I can’t get her out of my head—the devil’s runaway daughter, the succubus who haunts my fantasies. Yet spending a single night in Elle’s bed promises almostcertain death.

Uncaged Review: The devil, Styx, is trying to find his daughter’s their happily ever afters. When he matches a demon hunter with Elle, he makes a bargain with the hunter. I can’t give away too much as the book is novella length, but it’s an erotic tale with some BDSM thrown in for fun. Elle is a succubus who feeds off of sexual energy and Finn will be risking his life to be with her… I thought this was an OK read. It was short and easy to read in an hour or so. The book flips POV every chapter, but it is listed at the top of the chapter, so that can be a bit confusing at times if you just sailed through. I think that there was a lot of lost potential in this book, and I don’t know that there is really a full plot except if getting Elle and Finn together is going to work. This is book one, so we will see where the next one leads. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Known on the high seas as the Fog Queen, Morianna Swift never imagined her life as a pirate. But after her father and brother’s deaths, she has no choice; she’ll be damned if she’ll stand by and watch as the family fortune is taken by the murderous thieves at the East India Company. While fleeing her previous life as a high-born lady, Morianna is cursed with a powerful hex that imprisons her forever upon the waves.

Uncaged Review: I’ve always been a huge fan of pirates and books on the seas, and when you combine that with my first love of fantasy, then it of course grabs my attention. This book did that, and more. Morianna’s husband, brother and father were all killed on the seas and the family’s company being stolen by the East India Company, who sells goods at prices few can afford. Morianna takes over, raiding the ships and selling the goods at reasonable costs. When a witch puts a hex on Morianna, she’ll need to bargain with the powerful Sea Witch to get rid of the hex, but bargaining with her is dangerous… This book has a lot going for it. Plenty of action and the world building is original and fast paced. A few twists and a group of characters that I look forward to getting to know more. The book did not end on a hard cliffhanger, the overall arc is still ongoing, but the last part of the book actually surprised me, which is not that easy to do. Looking forward to the next book in the series. Reviewed by Cyrene

Earl of Gold Tammy Andresen Historical Regency Why did he need love if he had gold? The Earl of Goldthwaite had spent his entire adult life accumulating wealth. It was his life’s goal to never end up as his father had, penniless and rotting in some debtor’s prison. He has no time for such silly notions as love or romance.

Uncaged Review: The 7th book in the Lords of Scandal series, and this is my favorite so far. This book yanked me in right away and had me wanting to get back to it whenever I put it down. When an author can take a character that is as unlikeable as Logan, and turn him into a character you love and root for, then the author has done a great job. Penny is the perfect foil for him, to give him back his heart, and Penny’s cause of saving orphans is a winner. The author even manages to weave the Wicked Earl’s Club and connects that world and characters to this one. The nice thing about this series, is you do normally meet past characters in the books, or even characters that will have their own story in the near future. And I really enjoyed the epilogue in this one. And at the end, you know there is a story with Clarissa coming – with the Earl of Baxter. I’m looking forward to it. Reviewed by Cyrene

Rare Breed Dina Haynes Shifter Romance She was exiled at birth. He terrifies the other monsters. Can two outsider wereleopards overcome prejudice and find their own way to love? Los Angeles. MacKenzie is a loner by necessity, not choice. Hiding from the intolerance of the shifter world by living among humans, she’s terrified when she accidentally kills her date and blows her cover. Not only does she have to elude the LAPD, she’s on the run from the most feared bounty hunter in the were community. Uncaged Review: This was a very slow starter for me, as a matter of fact, it took until the 30-40% mark to even get interesting. For me these days, shifter books need to be extraordinary as the market is glutted with them. This book did get to the point where it finally caught my interest, but it was slow getting there. Mac is a wereleopard that cannot fully shift into leopard form, a “malfunction” in Mac’s mind. Trying to hide in the human world is how she survives considering the shifter world has zero tolerance for her type and would kill her on sight. Now this book gets really moving better when Ramone steps in. Ramone is a bounty hunter tasked to tracking and grabbing her, instead wants to help and the slow burn romance begins. I think this book is a good start to a series, and maybe now that the world has been built somewhat, the next book in the series will be worth checking out. Reviewed by Cyrene

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Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews From Blood to Ink Brynn Myers Dark Fantasy Indigo James was a successful author until the day she got writer’s block, and everything changed. Weeks turned into months without anything but fleeting thoughts and half-ass ideas. That is until the day she met Mila Aeress—aka the Goddess of Chaos. Suddenly Indigo is thrust into a world she only thought existed in books. Now she’s bound to her writing for a completely different reason. Her life and her works are more than labors of love; they’re a matter of life or death. Each new manuscript becomes a book of sacrifice when her blood literally turns to ink.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: From Blood to Ink is just like, whoa. It will never cease to amaze me the things that Brynn Myers can do with her writing. Myers builds these worlds I can see myself in. I can relate to her characters in ways I don’t normally get to. I can picture every scene without hesitation and she gets me worked up when very good or very bad things happen to the characters. Her characters are always either the very best or the very worst in the sense that you love the good and hate the bad. It’s easy to fall into any of her books. The ideas in From Blood to Ink are really cool. An author with writer’s block, some bored deities with questionable morals, and some absolute insanity make this book something special. At no point did I feel like I could put the book down and do anything else. I had to know how things were going to turn out for Indigo and Cilla. It was interesting to me to see what Indigo was going through and how she was handling her writer’s

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block. She has essentially written two stories in one. On the one side, we have what is going on with Indigo and the gods, then on the other side, we have the story she’s writing. I am beyond invested in both stories. I’m attached to both Indigo and Cilla and cannot wait to see what comes next.

In the End GJ Stevens Post-Apocalyptic When humanity faces an undead nightmare, one man’s party turns into a race to survive. Logan has always taken things a little too seriously. So when his New Year’s Eve attempt to unwind descends into chaos, he’s the first to realize it’s no joke. After Logan and his friends miss the evacuation transport, he’s given a choice: lead the group to safety or watch all of his friends come back from the dead… When Logan discovers the military and government have no interest in saving them, making it to sanctuary alive may be their only hope. And after he learns his party of survivors might hold the key to a cure, the fate of humanity rests on his shoulders. But saving his species could mean sacrificing himself… Can Logan stave off the end of the world or will one wrong decision doom humankind?

I LOVED that the characters had actually heard of zombies. In most of the zombie books I’ve read (as well as movies), it seems like they’ve never heard of zombies or headshots, and that drives me crazy. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Loved it. I like zombie books that start in the very beginning. I want to know who was where and what they were doing when everything went down. Otherwise, I spend most of the book wondering stuff the author probably isn’t going to tell me more than a smidge about.

This book gives a bit of a unique spin on the typical zombie book. It’s nothing too outrageous, which makes it more plausible to me. It’s much easier to picture yourself in the same situation when it’s plausible, and therefore easier to connect with. These characters aren’t perfect. Their flaws are obvious but relatable. I can’t stand it when there’s a character who just conveniently knows how to do everything or gets everything right the first time. These characters make mistakes, just as most of us would in that situation.

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews The Black Wasp Alistair Cross Vampire Horror She Comes with the Fog Something is coming … As he grieves the death of his girlfriend at the fangs of his own brother, Cade Colter attracts the attention of a group of fanatical vampire killers. His life is in turmoil and just when it seems things couldn’t get any worse, a new evil comes to town. The Woman in Black is back … Now, something else roams the streets of Crimson Cove — something far deadlier than any vampire. She comes with the fog, she comes with the night, and she’s spreading a lethal poison that slowly rots her victims from the inside out … and she’s looking for Cade.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Every time I pick up an Alistair Cross book, I know I’m going to be pretty much useless for the next couple of days. His stories grab me by the head and refuse to let go until I’ve finished reading the book. I walk around with my face in my Kindle, attempting to do housework while reading and then staying up extra late and reading until I fall asleep. Last night, every time I woke up, I read a few more pages. The Black Wasp makes me feel things I didn’t know were possible. The pain that radiates through Cade, the strength of Brook’s trying to resist temptation, the vileness of Gretchen. If there was ever a vampire who needed to be staked, it’s her. She’s such a contradiction of beauty and grace to pure evil. There are so many things I want to say, but I don’t want to give anything away. The way Alistair Cross

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paints the story makes it so easy to picture in my head. It’s terrifying and beautiful at the same time. You can feel the emotions of the characters, the stress of each situation, the discomfort of the... other stuff. I love that it’s a hefty story. It’s not excessively long or filled with unnecessary filler, but every word necessary and counts for something. I really can’t say a bad thing about this book.

Throwing Shade Deborah Wilde Humorous Fantasy She’s ditching her shapewear, owning her hormones, and letting her magic fly free. Underestimate her. That’ll be fun. It’s official. Miriam Feldman is killing it in the midlife crisis department. She’s mastered boredom, aced invisibility, and graduated Summa Cum Laude in smiling and playing nice in her post-divorce life. But when a drink with a “good guy” goes sideways, Miriam snaps, and in a cold dark rage unleashes a rare and powerful shadow magic.

Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: I’ve been reading a lot more books with “midlife” in the titles lately. It really is nice to see authors remembering that some of us older chickies also like to see ourselves in books, so that’s fun. I’m not saying the younger main characters are bad, but they’re inexperienced at life and have a different view of the world than older characters. They’re not as realistic in that aspect.

Why make things harder than they already are? I’m really interested to see where things go with Laurent. He’s so guarded, and I want to know more about him. I don’t think I’ve read many books involving a dybbuk but I’m really digging the way things work in this world. There are other supernatural elements in this book that I don’t have tons of experience with, but I’m excited to learn more about them. There is also quite a bit of Jewish lore in this book, as well as Yiddish, so that’s fun for me. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. I’m excited to see where everything is going and just what kind of trouble Miri will get herself into next.

I like main characters who have life experience and real-life bodies. We aren’t all 21, fit, and naïve as we were at that age. It’s nice to see a character I can relate to. It helps the connection I feel with the characters. I like that Miri is confident in herself. Sure, she has her personal doubts, but we all do. I love her sense of humor, so she’s easy to like. Yes, she’s stubborn, but not in the same way many main characters are. She’s not as foolish in her stubbornness. She’s still a bit foolish, just not as much lol. I can also appreciate the relationship she has with her ex-husband. Speaking from personal experience, having a good relationship with the person you are co-parenting with can make a world of difference.

Issue 60 | July/August 2021 |


Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Land of Allusions Andrew Davie Memoir Land of Allusions follows Andrew Davie as he negotiates life’s various pitfalls while making pop culture references. Whether he’s comparing his online dating experiences to Seinfeld’s George Costanza, discussing how the film Platoon is the perfect analogy for teaching, or finding solace within the pages of the books of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron during ruptured brain aneurysm recovery. Amy’s Review: An interesting memoir Davie pens an interesting memoir in Land of Allusions. I haven’t read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. As the subtitle alludes to, the memoir is about “online dating, jobs, managing obsessive-compulsive disorder, surviving a ruptured brain aneurysm.” What I liked best about this memoir was that it was real, humorous in some ways, emotional in other ways. Davie has a way of telling his story, with his thoughts out on the page, and I liked how he used imagery and other allusions. (If you’re not a literary expert, you should know that an allusion is an expression designed to call something to mind without mentioning it explicitly). The story delves into Davie’s mind, and experiences all from his perspective and thoughts about each situation. It’s a grand story to read. It makes you think, and also see how Davie truly appreciates his life.

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Complicit Amy Rivers Psychological Thriller A tangled web of deception and duplicity where predators are shielded by respectability and no one is safe Kate Medina had been working as a forensic psychologist and loving every minute until a violent attack left her shaken to the core Amy’s Review: Magnificent read!!! Rivers pens a magnetic story in Complicit. I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. Think about what complicit refers to, such as collusion, connivance, conspiracy. Yes, it’s also something that people who know about it, just deny or allow something that shouldn’t happen, happen. Rivers is a wonderful storyteller, and this book was something that I just couldn’t put down. The characters were intense and very realistic. This author brings the story to life. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). It is a very well-written story, and I enjoyed it. A definite attention grabber, so much I couldn’t put it down. Kate and Tilly are both strong women, and both have endured pain and tragedy. Sometimes they don’t just not realize how strong they are themselves, but how strong each other is. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next. This author’s characters develop and interacts well with the other characters. This author has a great imagination and I’m glad it’s being shared with stories.

Voltaire’s Garden Isobel Blackthorn Memoir Voltaire’s Garden is a memoir of creating a sustainable lifestyle, back-to-earth style, on a fifteenacre cattle paddock in an idyllic pocket of southeast Australia, made famous by the bushfires of New Year’s Eve 2019. Amy’s Review: An amazing journey Voltaire’s Garden by Isobel Blackthorn is a remarkable story. I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. Blackthorn brings the reader on a journey through her memoir not just about her land, but the landscape of Australia. It’s a life-changing adventure, with ups and downs, triumphs, and some emotionally humorous or heartfelt times. Blackthorn shows through her writing her connection in the book, and how it is not just about beauty, but the beauty she finds. Voltaire’s Garden shows the story, but also gives the reader the feel of the entire journey, as its descriptions come to life. A life that Blackthorn has lived. This read is more than just words on a page. Such an inspiring story.

Sad Sally Salad Chris Roy YA Fiction Short Sally learned to talk to animals as a little girl, and her daddy didn’t like it. Raised by an old hippie woman on the beaches of Baja, California, Sally was taught to use her sensitivity of animals to bring people back to the Mother. Amy’s Review: Incredible story Roy pens an incredible story in Sad Sally Salad. I haven’t read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. I felt for Sally. The story follows Sally, who can talk to animals and hear them in return. Unfortunately, she had to keep some things to herself. It was an emotional story, and shows the true meaning of life, that Sally had to learn at a young age. Sally was definitely ahead of her age in wisdom. I really enjoyed reading this story. I believe that this story should be read by most anyone. It’s a story of time and age, but also how Sally became herself, true to herself, and what she believed in. A magnificently written story, much more than just words on a page. As Sally said, “As one being, we are all seeing.”

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Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Purge-The Story Luigi Enrico Pietra d’Oro Religious Fiction 700 hundred years ago, Dante, in his epic poem The Divine Comedy, told a story about the soul’s journey after death, based on the Christian concepts of sin and punishment of his time. Because of the power of the story, many people still consciously or unconsciously buy into his story. Time for a rewrite Amy’s Review: Remarkable Epic Poem Purge-The Story is just a remarkable epic poem, and it’s derived from the inspiration from Dante’s Inferno. This is the second book in the Devine Comedy. I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it. Not many authors write epic poetry anymore. This story is intense, raw, blunt and incredibly inspirational. This volume reflects more on human beliefs and faith, and the introspect of redemption. Purgatory may be a Hell on earth, created by its own humanity. To quote what starts the story, “To pieces, sliced to shreds. A flood Of grief burst my heart caused by My belief in separate lives. A bud Of renewal bloomed, a fragrant scent, Fresh, new. It felt like cheating, Getting away with it. My descent Into torment could never be equal payment, Never eradicate the pain I caused. Is irreparable grief a sacrament...” This author has a great imagination and I’m glad it’s being shared with stories.

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The Jackdaw and the Doll John Biscello & Izumi Yokoyama Arts & Photography


K. leads a double life. Timid office clerk by day, storyteller by night. But not just any storyteller. Transforming into a jackdaw, K. takes secret night-flights around the city, collecting moments of inspi-

Amy’s Review: Absolutely Beautiful and Amazing Biscello’s story and magnificent artwork (done by the illustrator Izumi Yokoyama) in this book, The Jackdaw and the Doll, is absolutely amazing. This book was a very unique book, and I had never seen something so lovely and beautiful. K is an interesting character, as he is timid by day, but transforms into a jackdaw. He’s this endearing storyteller, on the mission to gain inspiration. It’s listed as a fable, and I find it so much more. This is literally a work of art, and I think I looked at the artwork more than I read the story, but each word was savored. Very inspiring as well. This book deserves a second read! (and maybe more). Magnificent story, kept this reader turning the pages. An inspiring story. The title drew me in, but the story made me stay. I thank the author whose imagination is painted on the pages.

Only in New York Volume 2 M.G. Crisci Non-fiction Shorts Among these 37 unforgettable short stories, you will learn how a school’s Mascot Ram was accidentially murdered and Why Chiquita Bananas CEO jumped out a 44th Floor window on Park Avenue, .

Amy’s Review: An amazing collection of New York City Stories Crisci pens an amazing collection of the five boroughs that no one really knew about in ONLY IN NEW YORK, Volume 2: Real Stories that Celebrate New York’s Unique DNA. I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it, and I can say that this is something unique, and I bet this author has New York DNA in him as well. I am from upstate New York, and was so interested to read the entertaining, historical, tragic and triumphant stories. After reading each story, I had to take a breath. They were very powerful and intriguing, and I learned from each and every one of them. I really need to read the first volume of his New York City Stories. One of my favorites, though, was number 25, “Dali’s Mistress on 52nd street.” And the best part of all of the stories, is that they’re in the author’s point of view, his experiences, his being part of his city’s legacy, and to share it with others.

Faux Friends AJ McCarthy Mystery Chantal Pouliot, of the Quebec police force, is relegated to mind-numbing desk duty because of a case that went wrong six months earlier. A break comes her way in the form of a whitecollar cyber-crime case, something she hopes will help restore her status as an undercover detective. The downside is having to collaborate with an RCMP team that will join her in Quebec City. Amy’s Review: Intriguing read McCarthy pens an intriguing suspenseful story in Faux Friends. I have read work from this author before, and I really enjoyed it, but I think this one has become my favorite. The characters were real and very complex, with different levels, especially Chantal. The backstory of Chantal aids in how she reacts and acts to her current situation, as well as what will happen very soon. She thought her life would be mundane forever, but something gains her attention, and that’s all I say for now. I don’t give away spoilers. What an amazing story to read, so much that I savored every word, and often reread pages before flipping to the next. The thrills and intrigue is written clearly and the characterizations are engrossing. Love this story. The author’s technique of raw, magnetic characters and great plotlines is a gift. It’s a great story to follow and try to figure out what will happen next.

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