ISSUE 20 | MARCH 2018
Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Ghosts Through the Mist • Review
Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Koivu • Review
Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Tempting the Light • Review
Wooden-Carlisle Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from My Beauty for Your Ashes • Review
R.F. Hurteau Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Antiquity’s Gate • Review
Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Running with a Sweet Talker • Review
Jessica Victoria Fisette Interview • Stay Connected • Excerpt from Fire and Ice • Review
Soul Mate Publishing Presents: The Soul Mate Tree Series
Issue 20 | March 2018
DAnger-Road closed Ahead JB Woods ~FINAL~
onthecover Cover Model & Bollywood Actor
Uncaged talks with Vikkas about being a cover model, complete with a gallery.
Cheryl Yeko Preview of Loving a Hero, releasing April 2, 2018
Gerri R. Gray
Stay Connected • Excerpt from The Amnesia Girl • Review
Meet the Uncaged Review Team
Marketing eCourse Special
2018 Special Promotion
4 5 90 100 104 108 112
Editor’s Desk Blog Roll Call Uncaged Reviews Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Jen’s Book Reviews
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Welcome to Issue 20, March 2018 - Uncaged Book Reviews! Our Feature Authors this month we welcome Laurie Olerich, Bonnie Gill, Jami Albright, Traci Wooden-Carlisle, Leah Grant, R.F. Hurteau and Jessica Victoria Fisette!
Special thanks to Jessica Fisette for jumping in for a feature when Uncaged had a sudden opening. FangFreakinTastic is also bringing us a feature with author Gerri Gray! We are coming to an end with our short story from JB Woods, Danger - Road Ahead Closed. Make sure you read the final installment! A very special treat this month with an interview and some very hot photos of the gorgeous cover model, Vikkas Bhardwaj! He’s graced over 600 book covers and climbing! From Historical to Paranormal, he can do it all. And did I mention he’s a very nice guy on top off all that? Whew - get out your fans.
Uncaged Feature Authors are now full through June 2018! We will be featuring several authors over the next few months that are attending the Wild Deadwood Reads convention in June! The Featured Authors that are promoted in Uncaged, is a FREE service to authors. The only requirements being that Uncaged has read at least one of the author’s books, (can be read right before the feature) and that I ask that the authors share the magazine with their networks. Read about that HERE. Uncaged is supported through advertising, both in the magazine, and on the site. Please see the Advertising tab on the site for more information on how you can advertise in the magazine and support the Uncaged mission to promote authors.
All inquiries: UncagedBooks@gmail.com or Cyrene@UncagedBooks.com So thank you and enjoy the March 2018 issue of Uncaged Book Reviews!
We have plenty of reviews for you to look over from Uncaged, Fang-Freakin-Tastic, Myra’s Horror Blog, Amy’s Bookshelf and Jen’s Reviews. Thanks to all the affiliates for the wonderful devotion to reading. The Uncaged website now has a video playlist of some of the tunes I listened to as I put together the magazine, be warned, I have eclectic tastes in music. :) And for March, I went country. Authors can now submit a Short Story, and in return, I’ll give space for either a full page ad, or a 1-page Sneak Peek of a book for an approved story. You can read more about that here.
Blog Roll Call Contributors, Advertising Swaps
Follow Uncaged on Facebook
Paranormal loverâ€™s rejoice. Uncaged review contributors.
A blog for horror fans. Uncaged review contributors.
A little bit of everything. Uncaged review contributors.
Help for authors and businesses.
If youâ€™d like your banner here, please email me at UncagedBooks@gmail.com Issue 20 | March 2018 |
If you’d like to join our team - please email Cyrene@UncagedBooks.com Jennifer Reading preferences are horror, crime & romance.
Reading preferences: will read most anything – top favorites are Urban Fantasy, Historical and Paranormal with a good splash of romance.
Specializing in Horror and Paranormal.
Paranormal, high fantasy, horror, dystopian, urban fantasy, scifi
Genre preferences – true crime, serial killer, torture, murder
Horror and paranormal romance are first choices, although will read most other genres.
Supernatural, paranormal, or fantasy are first choices, but will read most other genres.
Preferred genres are Dystopian/ Post Apocalyptic, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical & Mystery
I love paranormal romance, Scottish romance, historical romance, really any romance.
Everything from children’s book to the heavy literary tomes.
Soul Mate Publishi The Soul Ma CiCi Cordelia
CiCi Cordelia is the pen name for the writing team of BFFs Char Chaffin and Cheryl Yeko.
C.D. Hersh–Two hearts creating everlasting love stories..
Hidden strengths, adventurous hearts.
Tina is an award-winning and multi-published author in both fiction and non-fiction.
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The Legend of th
I am old, I my purpo To give those a treasu They who com touch my bark, Find the sou if they b When I call your prize If your heart and you do Do you yearn? Is your time Reach for me an I’m yours t For your trust Keep my se And I’ll gift to have a
ing Proudly Presents: ate Tree Series
he Soul Mate Tree
I am ancient, ose is clear e who are needy ure so dear. me to my roots, stroke my leaves ul of their lives but believe. and you listen will be great t remains open on’t hesitate. ? Be you lonely? e still at hand? nd I’ll give to you. to command. t, for your faith, ecrets untold t you forever, and to hold.
Erin S. Riley
Mac is a small-town country girl with a world-traveler’s soul.
Erin is the author of the Sons of Odin Series
Addie Jo Ryleigh
Maggie Mundy lives in Adelaide, Australia and is a member of Romance Writers of Australia.
Addie Jo Ryleigh writes historical regency romances that feature rakish heroes and strong feisty heroines.
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
L.D. Rose is a neurotic physician by day, crazed writer by night, and all around wannabe superhero.
Writing under Mikea Howard, we are actually Mindy Howard and Kelly Smith, sisters-in-law who share a love for romance.
April A. Luna
Cerian is currently settled in southwestern New Hampshire with her husband and four children.
April A. Luna (also writes as Michelle L. De La Garza) is an American freelance writer and poet.
paranormal | contemporary | christian contemporary
feature author For as long as she can remember, Laurie Olerich has been fascinated with all things paranormal. From the time she was a little girl, her vivid imagination led her on ghost hunting missions with her invisible friend. As an adult, Laurie has evolved that rich fantasy life into a love of travel and exploration that has sent her on expeditions from New England to Rome in search of old cemeteries and underground burial sites. Along with her studies of demonology and angelology, she uses inspiration from her travels to write action-packed urban fantasy and paranormal romance novels full of wickedly sexy characters and creepy places. An unhealthy love of hockey and a 20 year military career give her a penchant for strong men and big guns.
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Uncaged welcomes Laurie Olerich! Uncaged: Can you tell readers more about the Demons After Dark series? How many books are planned for the series? Demons After Dark is set in the Primani world, but the main characters are demons who’ve been exiled from Hell. The demons are nicknamed “Trinity” by Raphael’s original Primani, Killian. While the Primani characters make occasional appearances, they’re not the center of these new stories. In the DaD books, readers get to know Lucifer and Raphael even more intimately because they are working together to prevent a fanatic secret society from overthrowing Lucifer and taking over both Hell and the human plane. Poor Raphael is stuck managing Lucifer’s Trinity demons as they learn to survive as humans and struggle to juggle their new lives and the women who turn them upside down. By the way, I love, love, love hiding Easter eggs so there are fun little surprises scattered in the stories. Readers who’ve fallen in love with the Primani world will spot these treats. Note, these books are funny, somewhat dark, and much, much hotter than my Primani Series. I’m planning eight books in this series, but am open to more if it seems right. Uncaged: Your Primani series is the original series that the Demons series was born out of, is that series still ongoing and is there a set amount of books you have planned, or is it open-ended?
The Primani Series isn’t quite done yet. Each new book will be a standalone title so readers won’t have to go back and re-read the entire series. At this point, I have another novel planned and several novellas too. After that? I’m not sure. I adore the characters so much, but I’ve got several other projects that I’d like to work on. I have a contemporary romance spinoff I’d like to start and a paranormal buddy adventure I’ve already begun. And of course, I am pushing ahead with more Demons After Dark books in 2018 and 2019. Uncaged: Will you be attending any events in-person this year or any conventions? 2018 is a little more relaxed than some years have been. I’m signing at the Wild Deadwoods Reads convention in Deadwood, SD, in June and am signing at the Alamo City Comic Con here in San Antonio, TX, in October. I think these are my two big events. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them? Yes, I absolutely read them. Glowing reviews lift my spirits while critical reviews help me see where I can improve my writing. It’s always amusing to hear how some characters or scenes are perceived so differently from how I wrote them. I love that! Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I’m really excited to say that I’m finishing up “Der-
ick (Demons After Dark Book Four)” and plan to release it in April. Later in 2018, I’ll release “Hayden (Demons After Dark Book Five)” and another Primani Series novella. Possibly a fulllength novel but I’m not promising that just yet. It depends on how quickly I can write. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? A lot of my readers tell me they feel as if they’re in the story with the characters. They say it’s like being immersed in a movie. I love to hear that! That’s exactly the experience I hope for. BUT, BUT, BUT, the nicest thing anyone has ever said was pretty funny. One reader recently said, “Your mind is a very weird place. I love it.” Best compliment ever! Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? I love creating the world and the lore that goes with it. My stories are meant to be an escape for readers. What better way to forget your problems than to lose yourself in a world that may or may not exist alongside our distressing one? Each book builds on the lore and the backstory so it unfolds in real time as you read. I love giving my characters unique psychic abilities that give them an edge on the bad guys and in the bedroom too-telepathy, telekinesis, energy exchange, teleportIssue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | ing... Imagine the possibilities! My paranormal world includes Primani (immortal soldiers), psychics, angels, and demons (both good and bad). Oh, and just because this is PNR, there’s no reason to leave out the occasional kinky character, is there? These guys have needs too! Now, isn’t that more fun than cowboys and bikers? Wink, wink! My least favorite part is managing advertising and marketing strategies. Writing an awesome story isn’t enough. Authors have to become marketing savvy if they want to find readers to actually read their awesome stories. Managing ads and marketing campaigns in an ever-changing marketplace is exhausting and downright daunting some days. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? When I’m not writing, I putter in my yard, go for hikes with my dog, and explore new restaurants with my best girlfriends. My life is pretty quiet these days. I’m focused on getting healthy this year so I’m exercising and eating clean foods. I’d like to be able to travel more so getting my body in good condition is important. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? A book’s middle portion is the hardest part for me. It’s important not to fill it up with fluff. The center of a story has to keep the reader engaged; it has to propel a reader through the meat of the plot and still be exciting and necessary. It’s easy to inadvertently drag things out here so I always end up editing with a scalpel. The beginning is always the easiest! Once upon a time... comes easily to me. I’m not the fastest writer around so it usually takes me around four months to finish a book. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I love hearing from my fans via email, Facebook, Twitter...really, I just love to hear from people! Nothing brings a bigger rush of happiness than chatting about characters and their adventures. Please, please feel free to reach out to me anytime! The best way to get a quick response is by posting on my Facebook page. I usually check it throughout the day even when I’m working at my 14 | UncagedBooks.com
day job. If fans want to see what I’m up to, sign up for my newsletter. Also, I try to keep my Pinterest boards current with images pertaining to my works in progress and inspiration for books. I love the visual aspects of Pinterest!
Enjoy an excerpt from Koivu Koivu Laurie Olerich Paranormal Romance Team Lucifer? This Band of Brothers Will Steal Your Heart! Introducing the Demons after Dark series! It’s hot paranormal romance featuring unlikely alpha heroes who will make you laugh, cry, and swoon. Known as Trinity demons, this band of brothers was stripped of their powers and violently exiled from Hell. Forced to live as humans, they’re left with no power and no weapons while a secret society quietly plots Lucifer’s demise. For these big, bad demons, adjusting to life as a human is, well, harder than Hell! Former Hell’s Fury champion, Koivu, is desperate to return to Hell to reclaim his title and stolen life. As an extreme athlete, he had fame, glory, and more pleasure than he probably deserved. He was a freakin’ rock star! Being exiled in a broken human body is his worst nightmare. Stripped of his powers and unable to fight, he’s consumed by frustration, counting the seconds until he can go home. His future looks bleak until he meets a sexy, soft-hearted physical therapist who heals much more than his shoulder. Physical therapist Micki Glass knows something about damaged people. She’s been struggling to get over her ex for three long years when this crazy man crashes into her life. He’s crude and intense but irresistibly charming. With his feral eyes and sexy smile, Koivu takes her on a sensual joyride that makes her feel like a woman again. As their affair heats up, she craves him like oxygen until she discovers what he really is.
| LAURIE OLERICH | With more than her heart on the line, can she accept his past and love him for who he is now? The day of reckoning is looming closer and the sacrifices have begun. Can Koivu stop the murders, find the rest of the Trinity, and convince the woman he loves to give him another chance before it’s too late? Warning: This story contains intensely hot sex, an irresistibly-damaged hero, and a damsel with a steel backbone. Have a box of tissues handy. The author takes no responsibility for missed work or grouchiness from lack of sleep. Note: This title can be read as a stand-alone story, but for the full backstory, start with “Vanek.” Excerpt Sunday night dinners were a Glass family tradition. Micki’s mother had four kids and expected each of them to show her the respect she’d earned by coming for dinner after mass. Her parents were good, faithful Catholics. They absolutely did not miss mass—ever. Death and childbirth were the only legitimate excuses available. Micki was raised in the church, but to her mother’s shame fell short of being faithful. Her brothers—Danny, Marcus, and Brody—were just as lax, but got much less grief about it. Apparently women needed communion more than men. Ha! On Sundays, since she rarely went to mass and was the only female child, Micki was expected to show up early to help her mother in the kitchen. Sexist? Maybe. In her family, male and female roles were crystal clear and written in stone. Her father, and later her three brothers, did the manly work; they mowed the tiny lawn, repaired the ancient Toyota, and unplugged anything that was stopped up. Her father could fix anything that had the balls to break down in this house. He passed that love of problem solving on to his sons. Back in school, when other girls snickered about her parents old-fashioned values, Micki only smiled. She wouldn’t trade her parents for the world. She was comfortable with old-fashioned. Her mother always said that men should be men. Micki tended to agree. She wasn’t interested in academic, polished, or glamorous men. She liked strong, arrogant men who were a little rough around the edges. Most of the time, any-
way. “Hi, Mom!” Danny exploded into the gorgeous new kitchen and caught Micki around the neck in a strangely affectionate chokehold. “Hey, baby sister.” She dropped the mixing spoon and elbowed him in the gut. “Get off me, you moron! Can’t you see I’m working here? This potato salad’s not going to make itself.” “Daniel.” Their mother tsked him from her side of the cluttered marble island and chided firmly, “That’s no way to greet your sister. You have no manners?” Danny gave Micki a little shove and laughed, “She’s my sister, not the queen of England.” He talked a cocky game, but politely handed her spoon back and patted her on the head. “How’d your date go? I see you’re alive.” Their mom perked up at the word date. “You had a date? Oh, baby, I’m so happy for you! Tell me all about him! Is he Irish? Is he Catholic? What parish is he from?” All the important questions! Micki smacked Danny with the mayonnaise-covered spoon, hissing, “Thanks, jerk!” “Yeah, Micki, tell us about your date,” her youngest brother, Marcus, chimed in from the dining room doorway. “Joey says you left the bar with—” Her sharp gasp cut off his words. Was he a complete idiot? They had an unspoken agreement as siblings; no one shared their social adventures with their mother. Her disapproval was nearly a physical blow. None of them wanted to be on the receiving end. Marcus flushed a brilliant scarlet that clashed horribly with his carrot-colored hair. He cringed at the fiery glare in Micki’s eyes. Mom set down her carving knife, the brisket forgotten. Her eagle eyes darted between her three children, assessing guilt, assigning blame, probably counting off the expected Hail Mary’s in her mind. “What bar?” “Yeah, what bar?” This question came from the other side of the screen door. “Who’d you leave with, Micki?” Micki groaned inwardly and turned around with Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | her heart in her stomach. “What are you doing here, Jake?” Her brothers turned into a couple of guard dogs, heading straight to the backdoor with hands clenched into fists. “You have some nerve!” Danny snarled on his way through the door. “I’ll beat your f**king ass!” “Daniel!” Mom scolded. “It’s fine, Mom. Danny, back off!” Micki pushed past Danny to tow Jake to the other end of the plant-covered porch. “Are you nuts? My brothers are just waiting for an excuse to beat the hell out of you. Why would you come here?” His dark eyes glinted with a meanness that he usually reserved for opponents in the cage. His hands were clenched into fists at his side. He was clearly pissed off. Despite being in full view of the Callahan’s after church cookout crowd, he grabbed her by both arms and hauled her up against the side of the house. “You won’t see me, but you’re out f**king around with someone else?” “Yo, Micki! You okay?” Danny’s buddy, Jamie, hollered from his lawn chair next door. Three Callahan cousins turned to stare. One by one, they set their beers on the picnic table and got to their feet. Oh, great. Just what she needed. A Sunday afternoon brawl in her parents’ flower beds. God only knew the Callahans were always up for a good fight. Today wasn’t the day though. She wasn’t in the mood to disappoint her mother, so she affixed a plastic smile on her face and shouted back, “I’m fine, Jamie. No worries, ‘kay?” Jake managed a stiff smile and a nod in their direction. Jamie and his cousins watched them for another minute then went back to their grilling and beer drinking. “Have you lost your mind? Why are you being such a dick?” She’d never seen him like this. He was beyond simply mad. He was edgy, desperate, strung out like a caged lion. “You’re hurting me. Let go.” Instead of letting go, he crowded her closer to the wall, his breath hitting her in the face. The reek of stale cigarettes and beer made her eyes water. She wrinkled her face and tried to turn away. His 16 | UncagedBooks.com
fingers dug into her skin. “Who is he? Who are you f**king?” “None of your business! You’ve got everything you wanted back in Vegas. You made your choice three years ago. Get out of my life and go home. I don’t answer to you!” He bounced her head off of the wall, snarling dangerously, “Is it that guy who was at your house yesterday? I’ll f**king kill him!” Her vision was spotty; her ears ringing. She opened her mouth to shout for help when he smashed his mouth over hers, crushing her lips, drawing blood while she struggled to get free. Her knee connected with his balls; he punched her in the face. Twice. She must’ve screamed because suddenly all hell broke loose. Danny and Marcus barreled out of the kitchen. The Callahans sprinted into the yard. And the spots in her vision turned into one big sunburst that swallowed her up. The last thing she saw clearly was Koivu’s furious expression and a flash of black and white.
Uncaged Review To start with, I did read this as a standalone, I had not read the first 2 books in the series, and I didn’t feel lost at all. I think reading the first books will only enhance each other, as the characters are recurring in this series. This book was about Koivu and Micki – and it will grab and use every single emotion you have within its pages. Anger, grief, humor, love and some very hot sex scenes will have you laughing one minute, mad the next, and standing in front of a fan the next. This group of “brothers” are Trinity Demons, one of each of Lucifer’s origin families, exiled from Hell and trying to get back – even though it’s an impossible task. Finding all their brothers is priority as someone is torturing and killing them one by one. They’ll have to use all their skills to stop the murders in their human bodies. I loved all the characters. I even enjoyed the exchanges with Lucifer and his demons, and with Raphael – an archangel – his brother. Uniting the whole story is two broken people, Koivu – an ex champion fighter
| LAURIE OLERICH | from Hell, now exiled to a human body, and Micki – who’s had her heart ripped out and stomped on in the past. I had a very hard time putting this down, and yes, I did miss some sleep from this book, but book hangovers are well worth it with some books, and this one is one of those. Reviewed by Cyrene
Don’t miss these titles
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Bonnie Gill grew up in the suburbs right outside Chicago. As a child she loved making up ghost stories at night to scare her sisters and friends.
She writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy with a twist of humor. When she isnâ€™t writing you can find her on a haunted tour, volunteering at pet rescues, or digging around in her fairy garden waiting for fairies to show. She lives in Northern Illinois with her four rescue dogs and her ever patient boyfriend who laughs at all her goofy jokes. She loves to hear from her readers.
Uncaged welcomes Bonnie Gill! Uncaged: Is Tempting the Light, the first book in the L.A.M.P.S. Series, your debut novel? Can you tell readers more about the series? Tempting the Light is my first published novel. I wanted to write something very different from the paranormal books that are available. My L.A.M.P.S. series is about hunky secret agents who find true love while hunting dangerous Cryptids. My stories include romance, suspense, mystery, and plenty of laughs. Uncaged: How many books are you planning for this series and what inspired you to write in the Paranormal/Urban Fantasy genre?
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Right now, I have two books published and am finishing up the third. I have plenty more ideas for future books. My first book came about by an urban legend television show on the Jersey Devil. I knew I wanted my main character to be cursed, but needed to figure out how. So after brainstorming, I came up with a genie that pops out of a tampon box. Thereâ€™s also a scene that was
inspired by the movie Tommy Boy. I try to surprise my readers and venture out of the box. Reading is a way to escape from reality and paranormal is a great way to do it. There is so much drama going on in the world today, and I want to provide a way for readers to kick back and enjoy stories that will make them laugh. Uncaged: Are you planning on attending any conventions or in-person signings this year? I usually attend the Coastal Magic convention but couldn’t make it this year. I’m hoping to find some other conventions that are open. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them? I do read reviews. I’m always looking for a way to improve my writing and stories. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I’m finishing up my third book in the L.A.M.P.S. series,
titled Light Untamed. I’ll be sending it to my editor soon. I’m super excited about this book because it’s about two characters who seem to be everyone’s favorites. Pepper is a vegan and an animal rescuer, and Ottar is an Australian hunter who thinks Pepper placed a spell on him. I’m also revising an urban fantasy that I wrote a few years ago. I hope to have it out this year sometime. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? I think people who have said they couldn’t put my book down is one of the greatest compliments an author could receive. I’ve also had people say they laughed out loud during parts of my books. I feel overjoyed that I could entertain them with my stories. I’m honored and humbled that they spent their free time reading something that I wrote. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | My favorite part is when all the puzzle pieces of the story click in place. I write by the seat of my pants and sometimes I have no idea why I’m writing certain scenes. I think my subconscious takes over. Then while I’m writing the last quarter of the story the pieces start fitting together. I’m amazed sometimes at how the story works out. I usually have the ending all figured out before I start, but getting there is the hard part. I’ve tried plotting and it took me double the time to write the story. My least favorite part is marketing. I’m working on it though. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I have four dogs, and three of them are special needs. They take up a lot of my time. Two of them are puppymill breeder rescues. I’ve been working on rehabilitating them mentally and physically. It’s been a labor of love. Even playing with a toy is a great milestone for them. It seems like someone always needs to go to the vet or the groomers. As I’m writing this, the one without special needs is barking at me because she wants attention. I also like to ride the motorcycle with my boyfriend. We usually ride to forest preserves or try to find winding country roads. It’s peaceful and there’s nothing like feeling the sun on your face and wind in your hair. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? The hardest part is adding the emotions to my characters. I’m a closed off person, and don’t like to let my emotions out. So usually I write my first draft and then go back and add the emotions in. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I don’t really know my characters until I’m finished with the story. The easiest part is starting the book. I have an idea about the characters and situations before I begin. It takes me about six to eight months to finish a 22 | UncagedBooks.com
book. I’m getting faster though. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for reading my stories. You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or email me at email@example.com.
Enjoy an excerpt from Tempting the Light Tempting the Light Bonnie Gill Paranormal Bad luck magnet Abby Fitzpatrick gets fired, catches her boyfriend cheating with a mime, and is cursed by an evil genie who pops out of a tampon box. She’s bound and determined to remove the spell and, as fate would have it, the hottest guy she’s ever met is out to kill her. River Stone, a Cryptid hunter for Legends and Myths Police Squad (L.A.M.P.S.), poses as sheriff for Abby’s hometown of Haber Cove, New Jersey. He’s out to find and capture a man-eating gnome and bag the legendary Jersey Devil monster. Little does he realize, the woman who catches his heart is the same creature that he was sent to destroy. Excerpt Abby Fitzgerald didn’t expect a surprise birthday party when she got home today. She didn’t expect bold colored daisies or pretty wrapped gifts. But most of all she didn’t expect to find her live-in boyfriend Burt, engaged in a spooge-a-paloosa fest with a chick dressed as a mime. Her crazy old grandmother warned her she would be cursed on her twenty-fifth birthday, but who would have believed it?
| BONNIE GILL | Burt slapped his body up against the mime from behind in a vigorous frenzy on the sleigh styled queensized bed. The woman’s hands and painted white face pressed up against an invisible window with his arm wrapped around her waist to keep her vertical. Seeing Abby, her lips parted into an “O” breaking the sex-me-up red heart painted across them. She covered her mouth with her gloved hands. Abby stared in horror at Burt with his mouth open and eyes closed, savoring the sheer ecstasy of screwing the mime. Her heart shattered shooting pulmonary shrapnel up her throat. He never looked like that when they were together. “You’re freaking cheating on me?” Burt’s eyes popped open, before he leaped from the bed. “Son of a . . .” Abby dashed into the hallway bathroom, and rummaged in the crowded cabinet under the sink. “Where’s the damn Scrubbing Bubbles? Or better yet, the Borax?” She tossed a mildewed loofa and a half used bottle of honeysuckle hand lotion over her shoulder. They landed not far from Burt’s bare feet. “Abby, I’m sorry. I was going to wait until after your birthday to tell you.” He placed his hands on both sides of the bathroom door trim and leaned into the room. “What the hell are you doing?” “I’m trying to find something to scour the sick image of you and your mime girlfriend from my eyes. Better yet, I’ll get the melon ball scooper.” Unable to contain herself, she whipped a can of lemon scented shaving cream at his head. He ducked but the foaming missile bounced off his hair-sprayed-until-bullet-proof hair. His nostrils flared like an enraged bull. Too bad that was all he had in common with the animal. “You’re acting irrational. Stop it.” True. Right now she couldn’t even think straight. “Get away from me.” “It doesn’t have to be like this,” he said under his breath. She ignored his statement and shoved his skinny five-
foot-four-inch unclothed body aside and marched back into the bedroom. The mime perched on the edge of the bed with a sheet wrapped around her naked body. She held up both hands in a stop gesture and waved them back and forth. “Abby. Please settle down.” Burt trailed behind her. “Settle down? Do you know why I came home early?” “No.” He glanced at his watch then looked absolutely baffled. “Because I got fired today, Burt.” He tilted his head to the side and wrinkled his rather large forehead. “Oh. Well, how were you planning to help me pay the rent then?” She wished she had a gun to shoot the stupid out of him. “Get out of my house.” She jerked on the mime’s cover-up sheet. The mime pulled back. Abby yanked again but then let go, the mime did a backflip somersault off the bed. Her pasty white face popped up on the other side of the mattress like a demented rodent in a whack-a-mole game. “This is my apartment,” Burt raised his voice louder and pointed at the mime. “You don’t have to go anywhere.” The mime amplified her smile by pointing to the corners of her lips and twisting her fingers in her imaginary dimples, then she proceeded to skip and do a naked happy dance in circles around Abby. Abby gave her a little shove out of her way. “What the heck is her problem? Doesn’t she talk?” Burt shrugged. “I don’t know. She hasn’t said a word since we met. It’s one of her perks.” Abby slammed her fist into the side of her leg to keep from punching the detestable smart-ass smirk that spread across his face. Her fantasy of a blissful marriage and white picket fence shattered in one measly, heinous moment. “How long has this been going on? Wait, don’t Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | answer that. I don’t want to know.” She marched over to the closet, grabbed her blue duffle bag, and stuffed a few pairs of her size two jeans into it. She then looked down at his exposed mini-manly parts and raised a questioning brow. Burt’s eyes widened to a bug-eyed look and then he scattered to pull on a pair of whity-tighties. She stalked over to her dresser, pulled out different colored T-shirts, and a stack of clean underwear to shove in her bag. She hesitated for a moment. “The other day, I saw you in the jewelry store buying something. I—I thought you might.” Before she could finish, the mime flashed the back of her hand at Abby. A pink princess cut rock set in a platinum setting adorned the ring finger of her left hand. Burt sent a reprimanding scowl in the mime’s direction. “It just happened.” Her heart went numb first, before the shredding feeling of a weed-whacker tore through it. “Wonderful.” She stormed out of the room and into the kitchen, pulling worthless knick-knacks from their displayed posts and cramming them in her bag. A satisfied smile lifted her cheeks when she held up Burt’s prized Fifty States Commemorative Quarter collection for him to see. “You wouldn’t dare. Put that back.” He swiped at the coins but missed. “Yes, I would and I’m leaving you.” She jammed the cardboard display in the duffle, and swung her bag of belongings over her shoulder. “I hope you have many ugly clown babies.” She slammed the apartment door behind her. While trudging to her car the whooshing blood of each heart beat thumped like sonic booms in Abby’s ears. She tossed her bag into the trunk and marched over to Burt’s pathetic yellow Volkswagon Beetle. She pulled back her foot and gave it a hard kick in the tire. I wonder how many girlfriends he can cram into that thing at one time? She sat behind her steering wheel in silence. Too bad she couldn’t pull a do-over for the day. Her grandmother must have been psychic.
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Uncaged Review On the first day of her period, Abby becomes a Jersey Devil – literally, because of being cursed by an evil genie that popped out of a tampon box. Taking a woman’s mood swings during that time of the month to a whole new level. With her friend Pepper, they start searching for a way to break the curse. This is a fun book. Ms. Gill doesn’t stick with the normal Supernaturals that are so common in many of the books these days, and goes off the beaten path with her twists on the characters. The characters are easy to like, and even with all the humor, there’s romance and action, and a hilarious twist near the end that made me laugh out loud. Even the secondary characters are interesting. When River’s partner shows up, more hilarity ensues. And you think those little garden gnomes are cute in your garden? Think again… Reviewed by Cyrene
Pursuing the Light Bonnie Gill Paranormal L.A.M.P.S. hunter Leif Gunther grew up as an only child. He has a system for keeping order in his life while hunting Cryptids. He enjoys the solitude and quiet the job provides. Until a chatty redhead is assigned to assist him in his quest for the pack of Goochies terrorizing West Virginia and his systemized life gets turned upside down. Cleaning up after Cryptids is not Holly McClure’s favorite job. She’d rather be hunting like her four brothers. Her boss pairs her with the same man who stole her hunter spot. Now she has an opportunity to show she’s a better hunter. Not to mention she has to keep her fairy godmother, who just happens to be a Sheepsquatch, a secret from Leif.
| BONNIE GILL | Leif just has three rules. Keep quiet, stay out of my way, and don’t touch my stuff. Too bad Holly can’t help breaking them repeatedly. Drawn together by the chase, Leif and Holly find that if they work together they make a great hunting team and their passion grows as they pursue their prey.
Uncaged Review In this installment, we are following the adventures of hunter Leif, and a cleaner – Holly. Holly’s family are all hunters, her brothers and her father had been before. So all Holly wants is to pass the trials to become a hunter, and only one person is in her way, Leif. When Holly doesn’t pass the trials because of Leif, she is assigned as a cleaner – who cleans up the Cryptid messes from hunters. When she’s assigned as a cleaner to Leif near her family’s old property, things get to be a lot more interesting. This book just slams out of the gate and doesn’t slow down. And it’s not only action packed, it’s also a whole lot of fun. The Cryptids that they are chasing are Goochies, small fluff balls that may seem cute enough, but will tear anything in their path apart. And let’s not forget Tilly, Holly’s godmother who is a Sheepsquatch. Fun ensues all along the way, and I laughed out loud many times. Where Ms. Gill comes up with her supernatural characters is a place many don’t even think about, and they are some of most uncommon ones you read about, if at all in today’s books. The romance between Leif and Holly is earned – by both the characters and the reader. Fun, action, danger and romance. There is not much more you could ask for.… Reviewed by Cyrene
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feature author Jami Albright is a born and raised Texas girl and is the multiple award-winning author of The Brides on the Run series--a fun, sexy, snarky, laugh-outloud good time. If you don’t snort with laughter, then she hasn’t done her job. She is also a wife, mother, and an actress/comedian. She used to think she could sing until someone paid her to stop. She took their money and kept on singing. Jami loves her family, all things Outlander, and puppies make her stupid happy. She can be found on Sundays during football season watching her beloved Houston Texans and trying not to let them break her heart. Jami loves to hear from readers. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Uncaged welcomes Jami Albright! Uncaged:Your first book, Running from a Rock Star was your debut, and the follow-up, Running with a Sweet Talker is a bit darker – but just as much fun as the first one. Can you tell readers more about the Brides on the Run series? Is there a set amount of books planned for the series? The books in the Brides on the Run series tell stories of brides who find themselves in crazy situations whether by their own doing or someone else’s and how they attempt to get out of those situations. They always get worse before they get better. I have at least one more book planned, which I’m writing right now, Running to a Cowboy.
Uncaged: You have a wicked, sarcastic sense of humor in your writing, is that part of your own personality shining through? You are also a comedian, do you do stand-up at all? Yes, that is my sense of humor, for better or worse.
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LOL I actually did do stand-up for several years. I loved it, but it can be nerve wracking. I think it’s the prospect of crashing and burning that makes nailing it so much fun. Uncaged: You found Uncaged through reviews, do you still read all your reviews? What do you take away from reviews? I do. As a new author, it’s been great to see what resonates with readers and what doesn’t. I’m fortunate that I don’t have a lot of terrible reviews, but I can honestly say that I’ve learned something from each one of them. I’m not gonna lie and say that the bad ones don’t sting, because they do. But it’s all part of being an author. Especially when you write comedy because it’s so subjective. What one person thinks is funny someone else thinks is immature and stupid. Thanks to my friend, Julia Kent who also writes funny, I was prepared for that. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next?
I’m working on Running to a Cowboy, the third book in the Brides on the Run series. It’s about country music singer, Beau Callen and Charlie K, a Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana character who’s fallen from grace. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? The first romantic comedy book I ever read was Nobody’s Baby but Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. It was a very sad time in my life, and when I read her book I laughed like I hadn’t in years and I remember thinking that I wanted to be able to do that for someone else. So, when someone tells me that reading my books made them laugh in a way they hadn’t laughed in a long time. Or that they were have a horrible day and my books made them feel better. Nothing’s better than that. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | I love creating characters and taking them on the journey to love. All my characters have issues, so when I get to give them a HEA that makes my whole day. I don’t like having to look for stock images for my covers. LOL! It makes my head hurt, and all the man chest start to run together. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I know this sounds cliché, but I like to read. I was a reader before I was a writer, and I miss having time to curl up with a good book. I also love going to the movies by myself. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? Revisions are hard for me. I want my books to be the best they can be, so when I get to revisions I put a lot of pressure on myself, which usually results in at least one snotty cry. First drafts are easiest for me because I get to just tell the story. I don’t have to worry if it’s written perfectly. It’s me telling a story. I’m still working on my process, but right now it takes me five or six months to finish. (See the answer to the first part of this question.) Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? I can never thank fans enough for taking a chance on me. Because of them I get to do this amazing thing and I’m eternally grateful.
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Enjoy an excerpt from Running from a Sweet Talker Running with a Sweet Talker Jami Albright Contemporary Romance/ Humor She’s a take-no-prisoners fireball. He’s a sweet-talking charmer. It could be love...if they don’t kill each other first. Hotshot lawyer Luanne Price may not believe in happily ever after, but she’d do just about anything to earn her absentee father’s love. So when he waltzes back into her life with a plan for her to marry his business associate, she foolishly agrees. But on the wedding day, things go south. Fast. Luanne’s desperate to get away, even if that means hitching a cross-country ride with the infuriating Jack Avery. Jack needs to get Luanne out of his system. He’ll watch her tie the knot and forget about her. Once she’s married to another man, then she’ll be off-limits forever. Solid plan. Until he spots her army-crawling through the bushes to escape the Wedding of the Season. He knows he should let someone else deal with the runaway bride. But if there’s one thing Jack has never been able to do, it’s resist Luanne. Will their romance rev up on the open road, or will Jack and Luanne crash and burn? Excerpt Jack Avery stared at the scene before him while sucking on a cherry lollipop his godson Aiden had given him. His third-floor window gave him the perfect vantage point to observe the bride sprinting a serpentine
| JAMI ALBRIGHT | pattern across the lawn of the wedding venue. Luanne Price was beautiful, brilliant, and surprisingly agile in a banana-cream-pie dress as she leaped over a fallen log in her path. “What are you up to, tough girl?” Not his business. She’d already caused him enough distraction. Why he found a woman who gave him so much shit attractive, he’d never know. But something about her smart mouth lit him up like a Roman candle. This woman intrigued him. He couldn’t remember the last time that had happened. Lately, the beautiful and docile women he dated had begun to bore him to death. They paled in comparison to the feisty pixie who had just scurried behind the flower-covered altar. “What the hell?” Why did her every move fascinate him? Stupid, Jack. He was ten kinds of crazy to even contemplate getting involved with her for any reason. Thankfully, in a little more than an hour she’d be someone else’s problem. That was the reason he was here today. To see Luanne tie the knot. It would be tough to watch, but then it would be real, and she’d be off limits. He didn’t fool around with married women. Ever. His mama would come back from the grave and slap him into next week if he ever did. He leaned closer to the window of the suite and watched as she hiked up her dress and ran out of sight to avoid a couple of waiters. The glimpse of tan leg she gifted him with ignited images of all the things he’d never get to do with her. Another man would have that privilege. Jealousy tore at his insides. The irrational urge to beat his chest and bellow mine concerned him. Luanne wasn’t his. She barely gave him the time of day. And when they did converse, she bloodied him with her words. In spite of that, he fantasized about arguments
with her that ended with the two of them sweaty and naked. It was damned inconvenient…and dangerous, considering he’d probably end up dead after such an encounter. But what a way to go. Gavin Bain sauntered into the room. “Hey, man. Where’s my kid?” Jack’s friend was his number one client and the hottest thing in music right now. He looked every bit the badass rock star, even in a thousand-dollar suit and tie. Jack pulled the sucker from his mouth with a pop. “He’s out siphoning gas from cars in the parking lot.” “Good. The boy needs to learn life skills.” Gavin wasn’t fooling him for a second. He may seem casual about his toddler son, but nothing could be farther from the truth. That three-yearold, and Scarlett, Gavin’s wife, were his whole world. “He went down for a nap about thirty minutes ago.” Another flash of white caught Jack’s eye as Luanne threw herself against the trunk of a huge oak tree. She quickly poked her head out and then jerked it back like a CIA operative on a recon mission. Seriously, what was she doing? The answer came in a brain-scorching lightning strike. “Hot damn, she’s running,” he mumbled. “Jack?” “Huh? What?” He couldn’t tear his gaze from the runaway bride. Especially when she dropped to the ground and belly-crawled through the flower bushes. “I said I can stay with Aiden until the sitter gets here if you have something else to do.” Gavin’s brow wrinkled. “What’s so interesting out there?” “Yeah. Great. Gotta go.” He grabbed his suit jacket from the back of the sofa and barreled for the door. Gavin chuckled. “Okay. Don’t let me stop you.” He wouldn’t. He was on a mission He had a bride to catch. *** Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | The prick of twigs poking into Luanne Price’s arms as she shimmied on her belly through the azalea bushes was only a slight annoyance. What were a few scrapes compared to the gaping wound in her heart? She needed to put that away and concentrate on escape. A few more precious inches and she’d be at the parking lot and home free. Army-crawling through the shrubbery wasn’t how she’d pictured leaving her wedding, but desperate times and all. The thought of dear old Dad and his devil’s deal with her fiancé spurred her forward. If she could get to her car, she could run and not look back. Thank goodness she had put a hide-a-key under the back bumper, just in case. Ironic that fleeing her own wedding would be her just in case. Her manicured fingers clawed the soil as she pulled herself along the ground. A tiny twinge of guilt dogged her. This dress looked like a cake topper and wasn’t her style at all, but it had cost five thousand dollars, and she was ruining it in her escape. But guilt evaporated when she saw a break in the bushes. One last surge and she’d be free. Once clear of the greenery, she inspected the damage to the dress. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too much the worse for wear. She quickly forgot about her dress when the sound of the wedding quartet warming up reached her ears. Damn! It was time to move. She crouched low and used the other cars as cover as she duckwalked to her little red Corvette. But her elation at seeing her baby was short-lived when she noticed it was blocked in on all four sides. How would she get out of here? Walking wasn’t an option if for no other reason than Jimmy Choo did not make walking shoes. The rhinestone-encrusted beauties she wore were made to be admired, not for functionality. She peeked over the hood of her car to make sure she hadn’t been discovered. With every beat of her heart, her blood pressure ticked up another notch. At this rate, she’d be leaving here in an am32 | UncagedBooks.com
bulance. Calm the hell down, Luanne. Whistling and the masculine tap, tap, tap of shoes on asphalt caught her attention, and she dropped out of sight. Her butt hit the hard, warm pavement with a thud. The July Texas sun beat down on her bare shoulder as she huddled as close to the front tire of her car as possible. She prayed whoever it was would walk by without noticing her. The whistling and tapping stopped. “Luanne Price, fancy meeting you here.” She cursed the escape gods. Of all the people to see her in this humiliating state, Jack Avery was the absolute worse. Well, he wouldn’t rattle her. No matter how fine he looked in that black suit and gold tie that set off his whiskey eyes. Damn him and his McDreamy good looks. She smoothed her short hair from her sweaty face. “Hello, Jack.” “Car trouble?” He pushed back the sides of his jacket and slid his hands into the front pockets of his pants. “I noticed one of my tires was low when I got out of the car earlier. It’s been buggin’ me all morning, so I came to check on it.” She made a show of inspecting the tire. What the hell was she supposed to be looking for? The only thing she knew about cars was how to turn them on and how to drive fast. He leaned a hip against the driver’s door. “Yeah, I can see how that would consume your thoughts. Why let a pesky thing like a wedding get in the way of good car maintenance?” “Exactly.” His accessing stare unnerved her. She went back to inspecting the tire and tried to ignore him. “Well, it was good to see you, Jack.” Take the hint, Jack-ass, and go away. He didn’t.
| JAMI ALBRIGHT | Paper crinkled and a red lollipop appeared in front of her face. “Want one?” She pushed his hand aside. “No, thank you.” “Aiden gave me these damn things, and I can’t stop eating them.” Against her will and better judgment, she followed the motion of his tongue as he licked the sucker. “They’re nothing but pure sugar.” Lick. “Probably all kinds of bad for you. Lick. “But I’m addicted.” Lick. “I seem to be having trouble with impulse control lately.” He winked. “Know what I mean?” “Um…no.” Sweat beaded on her upper lip. She wiped it away with the back of her hand. “Tire looks fine. I guess I better get back inside, the wedding starts in a bit.” She gave him her best pageant smile. “Yeah.” He turned his face to the sun. “Beautiful day for a wedding.” He wouldn’t take the hint and leave. Or maybe he was calling her bluff. Well, two could play that game. “Yes, it is.” He straightened and buttoned his jacket. “May I escort you back inside?” “No. I’m going to sit a bit longer and enjoy the sunshine.” She waved him off with a flick of her hand. “You go on ahead and have a good time.” She smashed down the skirt of her dress that poofed around her face. The thing had enough volume to float a boat. “The sun is nice. I think I’ll stay and enjoy it with you.” He turned, rested his butt on the car and crossed his arms over his chest. Why wouldn’t he leave? She ventured a look in his direction and couldn’t help but appreciate the sight. The sexy dimple in his chin had probably been the undoing of many women—that and the devil’s glint in his mischievous expression. As much as it chapped her behind, she was no exception. She tried and failed to settle the butterflies whipping around in her stomach, but it was no use. Since the day she’d met his arrogant ass, she’d done everything she knew to get beyond her unhealthy at-
traction to him. He was the exact kind of man who could break her, and she didn’t touch those men with a ten-foot pole. As if her thoughts drew his gaze, their eyes locked. Her body ignored the siren going off in her head. Every part of her that should be ignoring him saluted and reported for duty. “You have a little something there.” He pointed toward her head. Her hand flew to her hair, and she patted her head. “Where?” “Here.” His fingers gently pulled a sprig of grass from behind her ear. A tremor ran down her neck when he lightly brushed her earlobe with his fingers. “Thanks,” she breathed. A sly smirk appeared on his face. “No problem.” Jerk. He knew he got to her, and it rankled. “I want to look my best for Doug.” She gave him a tightlipped smirk. “Uh-huh. Then you might want to wipe that smudge of tire grease from your upper lip.” He waggled his finger in her face. She slapped it away and wiped her mouth. “Go away, Jack.” “I think I’ll stay for the fireworks.” He popped the lollipop back into his mouth. “Fireworks? There aren’t going to be any fireworks.” Not that her father hadn’t tried. He grinned around the sucker. “Oh, I think there will be when everyone figures out the bride’s bolted.” “I’m not running.” She so totally was. “Please. I know a runner when I see one.” He surveyed the area around them. “It doesn’t look like you’re going to get very far, Thumbelina.” She hated it when he called her that. He only did it to annoy her. That was Jack in a nutshell—annoying. He could make the Pope cuss. “Don’t you worry about me, Jack Avery. I can take care of myself.” “I was going to offer you a ride, but I guess you don’t need my help.” He rapped his knuckles on the top of the car. “No need to hang around if there isn’t going to be a wedding. I’ve got places to go and people to see.” Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | “And women to objectify.” Petty, she knew, but still satisfying. His laughter filled the air. “See ya later, trouble.” He sauntered away, jingling his keys. Panic at seeing his retreating back knotted her muscles. She needed help, but not from him. If she’d learned anything from her father, it was that nothing was free. The last thing she wanted was to be indebted to Jack. Shouts from the house slammed into her like a missile. Her heart rate, which had ironically stabilized in Jack’s presence, hit the stratosphere. Doug and her father were yelling her name. Strike that. The last thing she wanted was to marry Doug Divan. Decision made. “Wait.” Jack pivoted to face her, still playing with his keys. The shit-eating grin he wore made surrender a bitter pill to swallow. But she gulped it down, along with her pride. There’d be plenty of time to get both back at his expense…later…when she was a hundred miles away. “I could use a ride.” He sauntered back to her. “Well now, Luanne. I don’t know if I’m inclined to help you anymore. You were pretty mean to me.” He had the nerve to pout. She hated him. But she also needed him. With will she didn’t know she possessed, she unclenched her teeth and beamed at him. “I’m sorry I was mean, Jack. Could you please get me the hell out of here?” He offered her his hand. “On one condition.” “What’s that?” “Tell me why you’re running.”
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Uncaged Review A couple months ago, I read the first book in this series, Running from a Rock Star – and was thrilled when Jami Albright released this second one. In the first one, we met Gavin the rock star and Scarlett and so much fun ensued – I was hoping the second book lived up to the hype of the first. And I was not disappointed. This time around, we meet Scarlett’s best friend – Luanne, a slam dunk lawyer, and Jack, Gavin’s manager. Even though the two of them know each other, Luanne has never wanted anything to do with Jack – thinking he’s just a player and not her type. But when Jack spies Luanne running and crawling through bushes, in her wedding gown – he can’t help himself, he’s off to be the knight in shining armor, uninvited of course. Hilarity ensues as Jack and Luanne go on a road trip, Luanne for trying to escape her father and Jack, to find out answers when his whole life has been a lie. Don’t get me wrong, there are serious issues going on, and the author handles it beautifully, but injects enough humor to keep the reader smiling and cheering this couple on. It is a worthy sequel and it can stand on its own without reading the first book, but these books are worth reading together – as you do run into Gavin and Scarlett again. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Cyrene
feature author Traci Wooden-Carlisle began writing poetry and short stories as soon as she was able to form words on paper. She used that as a way to create worlds, as well as, to communicate with God. A native of Los Angeles, California, she grew up attending United Methodist Church under the leadership of a pastor whose heart was for youth. Once she finished college at she found herself at a loss. She felt caught in the transition between childhood and adulthood. She surrounded herself with saints and volunteered her services as a graphic artist. Through the early-morning prayer, all night Friday prayer and 3-day shut-ins she started on her journey toward her most desired gift, an intimate relationship with God. Today, Mrs. Wooden-Carlisle lives in San Diego with her husband, David Carlisle. When she isn’t writing she teaches fitness classes and runs a jewelry and craft business.
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Uncaged welcomes Traci Wooden-Carlisle! Uncaged: Your Christian romance, My Beauty for Your Ashes is a book of hope, forgiveness and very inspirational. This book is in the Promises to Zion series and book two is available now. Can you tell us what inspired this series? Can you tell the readers more about the series and what do you hope they can take away from it? I was working as an Office Manger at the time I began My Beauty for Your Ashes. It was a job where many people look to me for help, paperwork, and answers easily and not so easily found. It began to consume most of my waking hours and I needed something more. I asked God to give me something for me and I began writing. I had no clue where the story was really going, just that I felt prompted. Once I got to know the characters I was touched by their strength and fragility as well as their stories that are still unfolding. This series, ultimately, is about receiving God’s healing, but in order for these characters to do so, they will need to forgive, which doesn’t mean to condone the offenses, but to give over the hurt, anger and pain to God in exchange for His peace, joy and life. I will admit that I did borrow from some of my life for this series, but I have never met anyone named Mason.
Uncaged: How many books are you planning for this series?
Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them?
Ha. I had planned (in my limited imagination) three books for this series, but even as I am halfway through with one, the next one comes into view. What I do know right now is that there will be a four and five.
I read all of the reviews for my books. I take note of what’s said, good and not so good. Somethings I know I can’t help but if it can help me express my stories better I give it serious consideration. Now, if it’s a good review I read it a few times and let it fortify me on the days I wonder if struggling to find the right word to express a character’s thoughts is worth it.
Uncaged: You also are part of the Chandler County series, which is a multi-author series, how did that series come about? I was asked by fellow author Stephany Tullis if I wanted to write for a small fictional town she co-created with PJ Fiala. I’d considered trying my hand at romantic suspense and I wanted to challenge myself completing two works last year. The group is special because the authors normally write different genres, but we are able to utilize the businesses, characters and events created in the stories of each author that participates. Uncaged: Are you planning on attending any conventions or in-person signings this year? I have a speaking engagement and signing on the 2nd Sunday in March and in June when I release My Garment of Praise for Your Spirit of Heaviness, the third book in the Promises to Zion Series.
Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I have a book titled Love’s Bittersweet Beginning being released for the First Street Church Kindle World on March 13th. It is the story of Meagan Rowe a registered nurse with a passion to help people on palliative care and Tony Cahill a football player whose grandmother is holding on to a secret that he will need Meagan to help him deal with. In June I will release My Garment of Praise for Your Spirit of Heaviness and December I will release my third book in the Chandler County Series Missing The Gift. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | That it touched their heart and the situations in the book made them think about their own from another angle. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? I truly feel like I co-write my books with God. I know we are used by God to touch others but when I write I get ministered to first. I’m generally curious about the publishing and marketing process but not enough to consistently research to find out what works and what doesn’t help get exposure. I just want to write. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I love to read just about anything that has romance in it and I enjoy making jewelry and swag.
Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? The beginning is always the easiest for me. It always starts with one thought. The middle is harder because I have to make sure the story continues to flow smoothly and I have to reign in my temptation to ramble. Depending on the length of the book it has taken anywhere between 3 months to 8 months from start to finish.
38 | UncagedBooks.com
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for reading my books and I hope you love the new ones coming soon. I appreciate your words of encouragement and constructive criticism.
Enjoy an excerpt from My Beauty for Your Ashes My Beauty for Your Ashes Traci Wooden-Carlisle Christian/Romance My Beauty For Your Ashes is the first book, of a Christian-fiction series, that leads you through the lives of four people striving towards different marks with unexpected connections. Though they hail from backgrounds that are worlds apart, it only takes one fateful accident to rearrange their priorities and set them on roads that intersect, forcing them to acknowledge the relationships they can’t do without. Elder Paige Morganson has worked hard to overcome the anger, hate, and abuse of her past; Mason Jenson is a self-made man who has been able to create his own fortune and build a home life with his wife and child void of God’s help…so he thinks,; Elder Brandon Tatum’s, new in town, has prided himself on not making a move until he’s heard God; Victoria Branchett has ruthlessly survived the death of her only daughter by fierce determination, but is the strength she has relied on enough to see her through a failing marriage and an ailing grandchild? This novel merges colorful characters facing one untimely circumstance after another, and mixes in a serious spin on how one views God, both inside and outside of His will. Of course, this is just the beginning. More people emerge from behind the scenes; some to help and others, to hurt. With everything
happening simultaneously, one would almost question if God is able to truly fix and heal everything, and the readers will see just how far each person’s faith (or lack thereof) will carry them. As they sift through the debris of past dreams and hopes left by the wayside, they are offered a lifeline and given an opportunity to receive God’s Beauty for their ashes. Excerpt “I never expected it to go on this long between the two of you. I thought for sure Mason would give in first, what with Vivian and I working on him. Who knew he was even more stubborn than you?” There was a sigh, like Rachael had finally gotten something heavy off of her chest. “You know, most women marry men that remind them of their fathers. I messed around and married one just like my mom.” Victoria knew the comment was meant to lighten the air. Rachael did that often to help discharge the tension in the atmosphere, but it stung nonetheless. “Rachael, I love you. I am proud of the strong, resourceful, and loving woman you have become. I am sorry too because I have missed you, but let’s not talk about Mason. We have so much more we can speak on.” Rachael conceded, not wanting to continue distressing her mother, but she did have one last thing to say. “I need you to hear me out, no matter how hard it is for you. Regardless of how you feel about Mason, please don’t take it out on Vivian. She loves you and she needs her grandmother in her life. When I go, she is going to need you even more. I need an affirmative answer from you. On this, I will not waiver.” “Baby please, don’t talk like this. I don’t like it one bit.” In fact, it was scaring the hell out of her. “Mom, I want an answer,” Rachael went on, as if she hadn’t heard anything her mom said. Victoria couldn’t catch her breath; it felt like she had been punched in the stomach. She worked hard to regain her composure. In what seemed like a haze she heard her daughter call her name, this time insistently. “Victoria, Mom, I need an answer.” “Yes. Honey, yes. I will always be there for her.”
| TRACI WOODEN-CARLISLE | “Wonderful. Thank you, Mom. Thank you. So, Dad’s coming back out tomorrow. Will you come with him?” “Oh yes, honey. Are you sure you want me to come?” “Yes.” They spoke for a little longer, and when Victoria heard Rachael yawn for the eighth time she told her she would see her the next day and talked her into hanging up the phone. With a knot in her stomach she packed quickly, rescheduled some meetings that were set for the next day, wrote out specific instructions three times, and on the fourth attempt gave up and decided to just call an emergency meeting with the immediate staff. By six the next morning, she was ready and waiting at the private airport with Richard, watching as a sudden and violent rainstorm delayed her flight. It rained consistently for four hours, not letting up until just before the afternoon. Seeing her agitation grow, her husband whispered in her ear just as they were leaving the small terminal, beginning to board the aircraft. “Well, at least you won’t have to water the roses when you get back.” She turned to him with a quick retort ready on her lips but was defused by the smile on his. “Oh, you almost got it that time. Thank you for trying though.” She touched her hand to the side of his cheek, a form of endearment. Once they arrived at the hospital, all thoughts of her hopeful reunion faded when they exited the elevator and came face to face with a sobbing Vivian. Richard bent down and tried fruitlessly to console the child. Victoria raced passed them to her daughter’s room where the doctor was talking to Mason over her daughter’s body, now covered by a sheet. She was too late. Her legs threatened to give away beneath her so she sat down in the chair just inside of the door. The sound of the chair scraping the floor caught Mason’s attention. He came towards her, arms reaching for her with the purpose to comfort. The slap resounded through the room. Victoria Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | watched as Mason’s head snapped to the side. When he straightened she came at him again, catching him across the other side of the face and throwing him off balance. Reaching out to stable himself, he caught hold of the bed Rachael’s body was laying on, pulling the sheet as he stumbled back. Victoria would have hit Mason again, but the sight of Rachael’s body momentarily paralyzed her. She watched as Mason righted himself again, and all she could think of was causing him as much harm as he had caused her daughter. Her daughter was dead. Her daughter was dead, and he killed her. He killed her with his inability to listen to anyone due to his selfish pride. “Rachael is dead” kept ringing in her ears until the volume drowned out every other thought or sound. She stood there, staring at the arm that had been uncovered. It was unfair. It was so damn unfair. The anger built up in her, quickly turning to rage. She charged at Mason with a sound coming from her, foreign to her ears. All she wanted to do was cause him bodily harm. She hit him with all of her force once, then twice. Why wasn’t he defending himself or hunching to protect himself like the coward he was? He wasn’t fit to even be in the same room as her daughter’s body. She couldn’t control it anymore. She hit him a third and fourth time before he went to one knee, and the doctor that had been standing in shock on the other side of the of the bed grabbed her from behind, holding her arms to her sides. She cried out in frustration, using whatever part of her that was free to reach Mason. She kicked at him, catching him in the shoulder once and the chest on the next try, but neither one of those blows was satisfying. They felt superficial, like she was slightly off target. She struggled to kick him in the face but was pulled out of reach by the interfering doctor. She screamed and cried out again, the anger and frustration causing tears to spill from her eyes. “No!” she screamed. “He killed her. That man killed my daughter! Don’t let him get away. He has to pay. He has to!” 40 | UncagedBooks.com
Two nurses came in to assist the doctor in holding her away from Mason. Then Richard was in front of her, holding her face in his hands so that he was the only thing in her line of sight. “Victoria!” He shouted, shaking her almost violently. He came into focus. His hair tossed, eyes red and wet. The energy drained from her body. She didn’t think she could hold herself up any longer. “Richard,” she whispered as if she were afraid to hear what she was about to say. “Our baby’s gone.” She felt his hands tighten on her face, but it wasn’t enough to keep him in focus. She sought the peace of the dark she was slipping into.
Uncaged Review I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I’m not a religious person in the least, and don’t doubt that this book is religious, it’s VERY religious, but it’s also more than that. Healing, forgiveness, love and hope are center stage and are what most people strive for in their life, whether religion plays a role or it doesn’t. In this setting, the promise and love of God will grace the lives of each character in unique ways. This is a nicely written and engaging book, but there are quite a few characters to keep track of, and the author jumps from chapter to chapter between them, so at times, I had to pause and let my brain play catch up from a couple chapters ago, for example, just as I was really engaging with the story, the story shifts to a different set of characters in the next chapter. It’s also a longer book by today’s standards, and some of it was a bit drawn out. All in all, this is a well written book, and even the non-religious readers can find something to relate to. This is a book that definitely ticks all the boxes in its genre. Reviewed by Cyrene
| TRACI WOODEN-CARLISLE |
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Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Interview with Cover Model & Bollywood Actor
Uncaged talks with
ikkas Bhardwaj has graced the covers of over six hundred novels, and even with the looks and body that can melt hearts all over the world, he’s as nice as they come and incredibly down to earth. Uncaged is priviledged to have him here this month. Uncaged: I know you’ve been a Bollywood actor and a model. How did you get started in book covers? Are you still acting too? Vikkas: Hello. I started about 2 years ago with a company and then I decided why not do my own stock photos as I can create more genres, I have photographer friends and I have model friends so thought of starting my own stock site which is www. vikkaszone.com Also it gives me the opportunity to be more creative and do whatever my heart desires
| VIKKAS BHARDWAJ | as to being controlled :) Uncaged: A lot of people probably think that modeling and acting is easy, but it’s not, is it? Can you tell us about a typical photo shoot? Vikkas: Modeling is like acting, you have to emote with differnt expressions depending on the genr and the theme the author or photographer wants, I do some homework if its a historical - how they stand posing and with expressions. I am a perfectionist so to say in my work. I like to do custom shoots
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| SPECIAL FEATURE | to the T. You can ask Barabara Devlin about her book cover I did where I played the pirate, perfectly executed and also many other shoots I have done. Typical day is firstly we get our make up done and then I speak to the models about emoting on camera and I tell them to have fun laugh if they feel so because sometimes lookng romantically they shy away - perhaps the new ones. I like to shoot with plus size models as well because I find them HOTT, CURVY & Absolutely stunning. Uncaged: The emotions you portray in your photos seems so genuine. How do you get ready emotionally for a photoshoot? Vikkas: I tell the girls to think of their boyfriends or past friends or someone they are close to and I ask they get the same emotions here with me for the next 3 hours and it works :)
you like to visit my stock site or just like to look at pics please visit www.vikkaszone.com Uncaged: Have you been recognized on the streets from being on book covers yet? Vikkas: Not on the streets but in the gym yes. I had few ladies who read books come up and actually ask “You are the guy on the book covers right?” I said yes. She replied with “I have your books.” :) It makes me feel good. I love attending conventions for that matter because I get to meet people from all over the world and have their view points on what they like. I love meeting fans from all over world :) Many thanks to Vikkas for sharing with us this month, he can count me in as a fan - hopefully I’ll end up at one of the conventions he’s at one day. Be sure to check out his gallery of stock images, there is something for everyone there, but be warned, you might want to make sure you have some time, because it’s easy to be there longer than you think looking at all the gorgeous photos. Make sure you let the authors know that you love their covers when you see this hot guy on the cover. ;)
Uncaged: I see that you’ve attended some book conventions in the past. Are you planning on attending any in 2018? Vikkas: I would love to :) If any opportunity comes my way I would love to attend. Uncaged: How many covers have you been on so far? From what you know right now, how many more are in the works and will release in 2018? Vikkas: Not too sure but I think around 600 or so, I have few coming soon in the next few months. If 48 | UncagedBooks.com
“In order to be an amazing supermodel, actor, or actress; you must have a kind, warm heart and the ability to reach people of all walks of life. Only then can you emote the true emotion’s that appeals to so many people. This advice stems from my personal experience dealing with models worldwide and being placed in the position to observe how the good become better, and better becomes the best.” ~Vikkas Bhardwaj
| VIKKAS BHARDWAJ |
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
ÂŠVikkas Bhardwaj www.vikkaszone.com
Cover adaptation by Winter Bayne www.winterbayne.com
Short story Danger - Road closed Ahead Final by JB. Woods
| SHORT STORY |
This short story has been brought to you over the past few months. This month is the finale, if you missed any installments, the magazine back copies are still available. Enjoy.
Danger - Road closed Ahead Final JB. Woods Hunter held the door while the man leaned forward to insert the keys. With a minimum of movement he altered his aim to the man’s forehead and squeezed the trigger. The depleted sound of the shot went unnoticed and taking care not to get blood on himself he eased the body upright and fastened the seat belt around it. With a quick glance around Hunter closed the door. The reassuring quiet click of the heavy Mercedes door was music to his ears. He went to his own car and drove it around to the front of the building in a sombre mood wondering if his victim had a family. — The drive to Helmstedt was made in silence as was their evening meal in a restaurant close to Checkpoint Alpha. A little after eight-o’-clock in his guise as Byewater, and following the usual rigorous vehicle check they crossed into the GDR and arrived in Berlin two hours later. In preference to using the agency ‘safe house’ which he considered probably the most unsafe house, Hunter booked into the hotel where he had stayed with Anna. The memory of her still lingered and with mixed emotions and much to Naomi’s distaste he insisted on a twin-bedded room. He unpacked swiftly and being partial to the local Berlin brew he left her to her own devices while he indulged in some light relief in the bar but not before he had made a quick phone call and also arranged with Reception to tell him if the room phone was 52 | UncagedBooks.com
being used. He retired after midnight and found her asleep with her hair fanned out on the pillow. He studied her for a full minute. ‘Beautiful but misguided,’ he thought. — Over breakfast he was told that there was a letter for him at Reception. He crossed the foyer and spied Bingen in conversation with a young woman. Picking up the envelope he rejoined Naomi and while she finished a second cup of coffee he tore it open and read the short note inside. Folding it he slipped it into his shirt pocket and confident that wherever she went she would be followed he told her a cock and bull story about going to Wavell Barracks and she was free to do her own thing. He joined Bingen outside and they climbed into a battered VW Beetle. ‘Where’re we going, Rudë?’ ‘Herr Venator, that’s a secret.’ He tapped the side of his nose. ‘Need to know.’ ‘Touché. Call me, Hunter.’ They laughed simultaneously and passed the time discussing the day’s news until they pulled up outside a disused warehouse. ‘Is that the Wall I can see down there, Rudë?’ ‘The very same, Hunter, but a much brighter affair than was the original. Our graffiti artists are every bit as good as your London variety.’ They went through a badly painted door and down some steps into a cellar where they came up to a strong-room metal door. Rudë punched in a code number and they passed through and into a long well lit tunnel. They had been walking for a few minutes when Hunter said, ‘Where does this lead to?’ ‘Under the wall, Hunter.’ They came to another security door and on the other side there was a bank of computers, recording equipment and telephone switchboards operated by a mixture of women belonging to the British Army and Air Force with a sprinkling of German civilians. ‘Rudë, I thought the Russians closed this tunnel in the fifties?’ ‘That was the CIA tunnel in the Altengleinicke District. The British Army dug this one after the Blake debacle and didn’t tell anyone until many years later.
| JB WOODS | We no longer tap into Military traffic but we do monitor all calls between East and West.’ ‘I see, and that’s how you’re able to tell me about James and Naomi?’ Rudë went to one of the girls and had a few words before returning with a slip of paper. ‘Hunter, this is the transcript of the conversation between her and James last night after you went out. He knows everything.’ Hunter studied it for a while. ‘Interesting. Do we know the address of this number?’ ‘Yes.’ Rudë led Hunter over to a wall map and pointed to a spot. ‘It’s a block of flats here. It’s not one of the known Stasi safe houses so it would appear to be some kind of permanent residence.’ ‘Are you suggesting he’s been living there for some time?’ ‘Since we were alerted to his possible defection a few months ago and we now know his alias we have back-tracked through our records and found that he has been using that address for some considerable time and calling the same number in the UK.’ Hunter scribbled a number on a piece of scrap paper. ‘Was it this one?’ Rudë nodded. ‘He’s been preparing for the day he would be found out but it’s unlike him to be so lax. It’s like he wants to get caught.’ ‘Surely that’s right Hunter, he would want to get caught by you and not the Stasi?’ ‘Only if he has a death wish. We kill traitors.’ ‘That does not explain Philby, Burgess and the others and what about the Fuchs debacle.’ ‘We’ve tightened up since then, Rudë. The punishment fits the crime now without the benefit of a Court case. Let’s get back to the present. Can I get into the East Zone from this tunnel?’ ‘No. We did think about it at one time but can you imagine the queue trying to come out. It was too much of a risk so things were done to divert attention away.’ ‘I see. In that case I’ll cross over tomorrow. Can we swap cars?’ ‘Err… I don’t see why not, but why?’ ‘In case anyone is watching me I want you to drive around in mine as much as possible. Make yourself visible.’ ‘And the woman?’
‘She comes with me. I haven’t made my mind up about her yet. Let’s go. We’ll change cars back at the hotel. Have you got double sided plates and a set of East Zone?’ ‘No doubles, but a set of GDR on the reverse.’ ‘That’ll have to do. I want your coat and hat. Can you recommend a good East Berliner Restaurant and Hotel?’ ‘I’ll leave the details with the car. Good luck.’ ~~~~~ 6
sing Hunter’s disguise of Byewater, the following evening they pulled up at Checkpoint Charlie. The GDR Border Guards queried the vehicle ownership but accepted Hunter’s explanation that it was a courtesy car while his was being repaired. Following Rudë’s directions he drove with exaggerated legality through the streets of East Berlin. It was a cloudy evening and he parked midway between street lights around the corner from the Lindeman Hotel and Restaurant. ‘Powder your nose, Naomi, I’ve a small job to do and give me your wedding ring.’ ‘What for?’ ‘You’ll find out later but if we’re staying overnight it’ll help with our alibi.’ Using his favourite misleading tactic he reversed the number plates and five minutes later they checked into the Hotel. Naomi protested when Hunter booked a twin room. As he picked up their Passports he winked at the receptionist and slipped him a twentymark note. Knowledgeable in the ways of the human psyche, he winked back conspiratorially when he gave Hunter the key. They dumped their overnight bags and twenty minutes later presented themselves at the Restaurant next door. Hunter flashed a twenty-mark note at the headwaiter and asked for a secluded table which they were given with more ceremony than he would have liked. Comfortably settled he had a whispered conversation with the waiter and explained that he was about to propose to Naomi and could they have a bottle of champagne. Moments later the wine-waiter showed him a bottle of Seckt from the FDR. Hunter raised an eyebrow, Issue 20 | March 2018 | 53
| SHORT STORY | said nothing, and nodded his approval. Throughout the meal Hunter made a great play of jollity and drank deeply and he was most vociferous when he made a display of putting the gold band on Naomi’s left hand which is traditional for engagement on the Continent. He ordered more wine and by the time they had finished the meal he was distinctly the worse for wear. Fumbling with his wallet he made a show of paying the bill and staggered a few times for effect. The head-waiter spoke to Naomi and urged her to persuade Hunter to return to the Hotel. She did so and while cursing antibiotics for his state of inebriation Hunter crudely jerked his fist and forearm a couple of times and shouted that he was fit for any nocturnal activities. When she had manhandled Hunter back to the hotel the Porter supported him as they ascended the stairs to their room. Throughout this display of stupor he was making a mental note of exits and he flopped onto his bed apparently asleep. Naomi thanked and tipped the Porter and casting a disapproving look at Hunter prepared for bed. She slid under the duvet and Hunter startled her as he suddenly stood up and crossed to her side. He opened his palm and offered her a tiny red pill. ‘Here, take this.’ The reality of Hunter’s game came to her. ‘What for. I’m taking none of your bloody pills.’ He picked up the glass of water from her bedside locker and said, ‘You do it the easy way or you can do it the hard way. You choose. It won’t harm you, I promise. You’ll have a good night’s sleep and I’ll be back before you wake up. Now take it before I get annoyed.’ ‘No!’ He put the glass down and before she realised what he was about he pushed her down on the bed, pinched her nose with one hand and forced her head back. He instantly popped the pill into her open mouth and reached for the glass and held it to her lips. Easing his hold on her nose he said, ‘Now drink.’ She choked and he allowed her to catch her breath before he put the glass to one side. ‘There, that was easy wasn’t it? You’ll have a bit of a hangover in the morning.’ 54 | UncagedBooks.com
As a precaution he yanked the phone wire from the wall and waited as she gave up the fight and went into a deep sleep. He retrieved a second false passport from a concealed compartment in the base of his bag, scooped up the car keys and the bag and switched off the light. He locked the room from outside and put the key on a ledge above the door and listened for a few moments before he made his way warily downstairs. At the bottom he turned towards the rear of the building away from Reception and following the convenient signs he found an isolated emergency exit. It was the push-bar type which he loathed but having no option he pushed down gently cringing at the squeak as the bolts rubbed against the guides. He waited and hearing no noise he eased himself out and closed the door behind him hoping that the night staff wouldn’t notice it wasn’t secured. A steady drizzle was falling and he pulled his collar up. Keeping close to the building he made his way to the side street where the car was parked and pausing just long enough to look left and right he made a dash across the road. Before he drove off he took the time to remove his jacket and retrieve the gun, holster and silencer from the hidden compartment above the glove-box and he enjoyed the feel of it as it fitted snugly under his right arm. The silencer he slipped into a concealed slit in the seam of his trousers before he put on Rudë’s coat and hat. It had taken too long and he cursed quietly. The streets were in a grid fashion he did two left turns which brought him back to the main road. It didn’t take him long to find out that car servicing and repair were not high on Rudë’s agenda. Peering through a smear of condensation and ridges of water left by worn wipers he proceeded cautiously. The headlights reflected on the poorly metalled roads which were cobbled in places as he gingerly followed the directions scrawled on a piece of old notepaper. Twenty minutes later he found the apartment blocks where James resided and he parked amongst the resident Trabbies and run down western bangers. Rudë’s negligent use of the carwash meant the VW fitted in perfectly. It was a little past eleven o’clock and he ruefully looked up at the number of lit apartments. Hunched up against the weather he trotted across to the middle
| JB WOODS | block where he checked his notes against the information board and cursing roundly the lack of maintenance of the lifts he made his way up the stairs to the third floor and along the gallery to the last one. With a sigh of satisfaction he noticed the lights were still on. Pausing outside he drew his gun and fitted the silencer before rapping gently on the knocker. As the door opened a crack he didn’t wait. He threw his weight against it and thrust his gun into the face of a startled middle-aged petite blonde. He raised his finger to his lips and urged her forward while he closed the door behind him. A voice called out in German. ‘Who is it, Irma?’ Hunter shook his head and wrenched the phone connection from the wall before he urged her towards the kitchen where the voice had come from. He thrust her through the door and followed her in. ‘What the…’ James stood up. ‘Oh! It’s you. Took you long enough, Hunter? Irma, dear, put the kettle on.’ Hunter kept his gun trained on James. ‘Turn round, Chas, and face the wall.’ ‘Easy, old boy. I’m not armed. I see you had the sense to carry a Makarov, Hunter. Nothing like experience to throw the scent off.’ ‘And I said—Turn Around!’ Recognizing Hunter’s tone James complied. Hunter took three steps across the room and patted him down before backing off. ‘Is there anywhere we can talk, Chas?’ ‘In the front room.’ As a double precaution Hunter yanked the phone extension from the wall and smashed the plug before he spoke to Irma in German. ‘Make that coffee but don’t come in until I tell you, understand?’ Wide eyed she nodded. ‘Lead the way, Chas, and don’t even blink.’ Hunter let James walk past him and then laid his gun against his neck as they traversed a short corridor and into the lounge. Hunter closed the door behind him and told James to sit. He picked an armchair by the fire and Hunter crossed the room and stood in a corner by an elderly model TV. ‘So, Hunter, what are you going to do now?’ ‘Who, me. I’m going to kill you of course like you destroyed my fiancée.’ ‘Oh… I see. You lost Anna. Unfortunate but nothing
to do with me? I must congratulate you on your escape by the way. How did you do it?’ ‘Never mind, but because of you she got killed.’ ‘Like I said, it wasn’t me.’ ‘Your hand was on the trigger the moment you bubbled us you cretin and why then?’ ‘That loophole had leaked traitors long enough, Hunter, and its discovery would give me credibility. You weren’t supposed to get away but when you did things changed.’ ‘Traitors, did I hear you say, traitors? You two faced hypocritical bastard. If I wasn’t under orders to take you back I’d kill you now.’ ‘I not going back, Hunter. Life in jail is too hard to contemplate.’ ‘And living in this squalid concrete box isn’t?’ ‘It’s freedom of sorts and I have GDR citizenship. I’ll miss the Firm’s pay naturally.’ He stood up. ‘Sit down, Chas, I haven’t finished.’ James ignored him and Hunter shouted, ‘Sit down or I’ll end it now, Chas!’ ‘You wouldn’t do that, Hunter. You couldn’t do it. I know you too well. You haven’t got it in you to shoot an old friend in cold blood.’ He arrogantly turned away and walked towards the door and didn’t hear the two muffled reports of the shots that killed him. Hunter grimaced, and said, ‘Times change you bastard, and that’s for Anna.’ He left the used cartridge cases where they fell, unscrewed the silencer and returned his gun to its holster before starting a search of the room. It was when he reached the third drawer in the sideboard he noticed for the first time a photograph in a silver frame. It was of James, Irma and what appeared to be a twin boy and a girl. ‘My God! James you bloody fool, why didn’t you say?’ He scooped up the picture and hurried through to the kitchen startling Irma who was staring blankly at the wall lost in her thoughts. Hunter placed the photo in front of her. ‘Tell me about the children.’ ‘That’s Kurt and Heidi our twins. They’re twelve.’ ‘Where are they, Irma, and why didn’t you say someIssue 20 | March 2018 | 55
| SHORT STORY | thing?’ ‘They’re in a State Boarding School. That’s why he did what he did. I have something for you.’ She pushed her chair back and crossed to a wall cupboard where she withdrew a package and a letter before returning and handing them to Hunter. ‘These are for you. He was dying you know.’ ‘What do you mean, Irma?’ ‘Read the letter. I think you’ll understand.’ The envelope was addressed to him. ‘Pour that coffee, Irma.’ He sat down, ripped it open and began to read. Five minutes later he put it down and with a shake of his head he said, ‘Why didn’t he just give himself up.’ ‘You were only half of his plan and when you escaped he never had a lever against them and as long as they had our children he couldn’t give himself up. From then on the only way he could make sure the children were free was for him to die in action. It was emotional blackmail by the Stasi. I always warned him about his smoking and when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer he was going to die anyway so he came up with this plan. Because he had citizenship I get a small pension and my children back.’ ‘I knew it was too easy. What happens to the children now?’ ‘They have no further use for them so they’ll send them home and I’ll have to scrape a living somehow. I’ll probably have to pay rent also.’ ‘Irma, this changes everything. Has he left you anything?’ ‘He withdrew all the money from his accounts on both sides of the curtain and gave it to me. It will tide me over for a while.’ ‘Okay, wait here while I nip to the car.’ He took a careful look out of the front door before hurrying to the car and retrieving his overnight bag and returned a couple of minutes later. Plonking the bag on the table he withdrew from the lining a foil wrapped strip and gave it to Irma. ‘There’s twenty gold sovereigns in there. They’ll help but be careful how you dispose of them. I’ll see what I can do from our end but I warn you the English Civil Service is not known for speed. Put those coins somewhere safe.’ Irma coiled the strip and buried the coins deep inside 56 | UncagedBooks.com
the flour bin. ‘They won’t look in there,’ she said. ‘I’ll move them later.’ ‘Good, now I have to act quickly as my plans have changed. If I’m to help you I have to get back in one piece. I’m going to tie you up loosely and you may be uncomfortable for a while but you must give me until ten in the morning before you raise the alarm. Do you understand?’ ‘Yes.’ While he was restraining her he asked, ‘Do you know about your step-daughter?’ ‘Yes.’ He finished securing her hands with a tea towel and began fastening her ankles to the chair legs while he was talking. ‘I can’t give you any details it would be too risky but she will be a great help but I have to get her home first.’ He used a handkerchief to gag her. ‘I’ve left that deliberately slack so that you can work it loose. Make sure it’s good and wet with saliva before you shout for help. That way it will really look like you’ve actually freed yourself, understand?’ She nodded. He had another quick look around and satisfied he turned out the lights and as he left he turned and said, ‘I’m sorry about everything. I only wish there was a better way. Oh, by the way, we only spoke German.’ He wondered how long she would hold out against intensive Stasi questioning as he silently closed the door and crept along the landing and down the stairs praying that VW technology was equal to the searching tendrils of Berlin drizzle. — He made good time on the return journey and twenty minutes later parked at the back of the Hotel. Cursing all things meteorological he refitted the Federal number plates before he wrapped the gun, silencer and holster in Rudë’s coat and dropped them in a nearby dumpster. With James’s package safely stowed in his bag he crossed the road and inched his way close to the wall of the Hotel and breathed a sigh of relief when he found that East German hotel night staff were just as negligent as others around the world. The fire exit was as he had left it. He could only partially bolt it without waking the
| JB WOODS | hotel and he hoped that it wouldn’t be immediately noticed when the morning staff returned. It was the witching hour and he hoped his surreptitious movements would not be heard. Retrieving the room key he let himself in. Naomi was curled in the foetal position hugging a pillow and he wondered who she was dreaming about. He threw his jacket over a chair and ignoring the welcoming duvet he sat on the bed and dozed fitfully until daybreak. A little after seven o’clock he shook Naomi awake. ‘Get off. Leave me alone.’ He shook her harder and gently slapped her face before resorting to emptying the glass of water over her. She spluttered awake. ‘Argh… Uugh… Oh, it’s you?’ He fetched a towel from the sink and threw it to her. ‘Wake up, girl, we have to move quickly and I have news for you.’ ‘Leave me alone, I said.’ ‘No! Come on, we have no time to lose. The balloon will go up shortly.’ He refreshed the glass of water and gave it to her. ‘Here, drink this. It’ll make you feel better. I’ll dress first and wait for you downstairs and if you don’t want to spend the next few years in jail—Hurry—and bring your bag with you.’ She joined him in the dining room half an hour later and moaning that the word hurry didn’t appear to be in her vocabulary he made her eat and drink something before they checked out. It was still raining and he ran to the car and drove it around to the front of the Hotel. They were later than planned but it was still a good time to cross the border although the wait in the queue was always an anxious time. While they were driving to Checkpoint Charlie he gave her the letter left by her father. ‘Here read that. It explains why your Dad committed what was in effect professional suicide.’ She sat quietly reading and when he glanced across he noticed an unchecked tear rolling down her cheek. As they approached the Checkpoint she said firmly, ‘Hunter, get me home. I have a job to do.’ ‘We both have work to do for Irma and the kids but first thing, lass. Forget Hunter, it’s Adam Byewater and we were engaged last night. Flash your ring and if we’re asked why we didn’t return last night our
celebrations lasted through the night. Got it?’ She leaned across, clutched his arm and rested her head on his shoulder. ‘Don’t get used to this, Hunter, or whatever your name is.’ They were next in line and Hunter lowered the driver’s window and in the distance he could hear klaxons and sirens blaring. ‘Dammit,’ he exclaimed. ‘What’s up, Hun… Adam?’ ‘Hear those sirens. Just hope they’re not going to where I think they are.’ Impatiently drumming on the steering wheel, he added, ‘We don’t have much time.’ The car in front must have raised some suspicions and the checks took longer than usual. Hunter tried not to show his nervousness. He didn’t want to alarm her or draw attention to himself. At last they were called forward. The guard by Hunter’s window took their Passports while another signalled him to open the bonnet. There was a pause before Hunter was asked to go to the office. Hunter had been expecting this and followed the Guard into the shack and leaned casually on a high desk while a further scrutiny was done on the Passports and a printed list by the officer in charge. It was a full minute before he approached Hunter. ‘Mr Byewater, why did you not return last night?’ Hunter smiled, nodded towards his car and said in broken German. ‘We got engaged last night.’ He winked. ‘We celebrated too long.’ ‘Where did you stay?’ ‘The Lindeman Hotel. It was part of the Restaurant.’ Hunter disguised his anguish when the Officer picked up the phone. He talked for awhile and appeared satisfied with Hunter’s explanation. ‘You have bad head this morning, Mr Byewater?’ Hunter nodded, ‘And some.’ ‘Okay, you have Jagermeister and then is okay. You can go now.’ Hunter smiled and said, ‘Thank you,’ and walked back to the car. He was about to climb in when the officer ran out and shouted, ‘Mr Byewater!’ Hunter ignored him and dropped into his seat, started the engine and then shuddered when the Officer leaned in and said, ‘Why you not answer, Mr Byewater? You are Mr Byewater?’ Issue 20 | March 2018 | 57
| SHORT STORY | ‘Oh… Argh… Yes. My headache and,’ he nodded towards Naomi, ‘I was in a hurry to finish what we started last night.’ ‘Don’t you think you should take your passports, Mr Byewater?’ Hunter patted his pockets and shook his head. ‘Silly me, I forgot them.’ He began to get out of the car when the Officer shoved them through the open window. Hunter shuddered inwardly as the screaming klaxons drew closer. ‘Mr Byewater. Be more careful.’ ‘Thank you, sir.’ As he closed the door he looked in the rear-view mirror in time to see two Vopo Skodas turn into the street with blue lights flashing and sirens wailing. Trying to appear composed Hunter nodded to the Officer and drove at what he hoped was an unhurried pace the hundred metres down to the US/UK Post. Forty metres short Hunter noticed hurried activity behind them. Guns were aimed in their direction. He flashed the headlights and prayed that the American MPs were alert. The barrier swung upwards. He banged the steering wheel with frustration. How long did it take to go from zero to sixty, until his celebratory—‘Yee-haa,’ startled Naomi as they accelerated to safety. — Brian Warren put down James’s letter and leaned back. ‘So, Hunter, he set it all up hoping we would be going after him? He took a chance on your escaping?’ ‘Now I think of it, Brian, we were able to suss the traps too easily. They were either too obvious or just that little bit too late. He set it up in such a way that had we been captured he could bargain with the authorities or if we escaped, as we did, we would eliminate him. Either way he hoped to free his children. He took a chance because after we crossed into Poland it was down to luck. What about his family?’ ‘After the media hype and political furore has died down I’ll have word with the Minister. We’re blaming them for killing one of our agents as the evidence suggests and they of course say we got rid of our own. As for helping his family, the package James left behind gave us much information about Stasi activities and should go a long way to help his case. Oh, 58 | UncagedBooks.com
while I remember. His daughter rang yesterday and said that Colonel James had agreed to send a monthly allowance to help his son’s family if we could arrange it. I’ve passed it onto the Paymaster.’ ‘Brian, is there any way we can get Irma and the kids out?’ ‘I think it would have to be done through Diplomatic channels, Hunter. James effectively closed the gate on the easy route.’ ‘Do what you can, Brian. I feel I owe him.’ ‘I’ll look into it. Now—about your next job...’
THE END For more George Barrington Hunter adventures read Book 1 - ‘George Barrington Hunter’ followed by Book 2 – ‘Below the Belt’ by JB. Woods
Authorâ€™s Amazon Page
Loving a Hero Loving a Hero
Cheryl Yeko Romantic Suspense Releases April 2, 2018 Pre-order Available JEALOUSY: Stan allowed emotional baggage from his childhood to ruin a relationship with Shelly. But when she finds herself in danger, she reaches out to him for protection. Given this second chance, he’s determined to win her back, while keeping her safe from a stalker. SECRETS: Growing up an orphan, Shelly spent her teenage years looking for love in all the wrong places. Pregnant at eighteen, she swore off men to raise her daughter. Years later, the one man she finally gave a chance to broke her heart. But when danger strikes, he’s the first person she turns to. TRUST: Can two people overcome their tragic pasts and find a future together? Stan sat next her, close enough his thigh pressed against hers. He stretched one long arm across the back of the couch, peering down at her with a bit of concern, a hint of anger, and a whole lot of desire swirling in his silvery gaze. “I— Um.” She took a deep breath and almost moaned with delight at the familiar scent of his musky cologne she’d always loved. He’s not for me, remember. With much effort, she managed to get her rioting emotions under control. 60 | UncagedBooks.com
sneakpeek He’d hurt her, and she shouldn’t forget that. “I’d like to hire you to find my stalker and make him stop.” “I’m not taking your money.” His expression turned deadly. “But I’ll sure as shit stop this guy.” Scooting back, she came up against the arm of the couch. Her eyes narrowed. She wasn’t a charity case. “I can pay you for your services, Stan.” There was a moment of silence as he studied her, and she fought the urge to squirm. He picked up a few strands of her hair and gently rubbed them between his finger and thumb. “You’re more than a client to me, Shelly. I care about you. And even though you dumped me, your safety matters.” Shelly opened her mouth to deny dumping him, because it sounded so bad, then pressed her lips together before saying anything. Because she had broken up with him. Totally his fault.
Cheryl Yeko is a multi-published, award-winning author, and lives in Wisconsin with her husband Patrick. She loves to read, play piano, and spend time with family and friends. She enjoys novels with fast-paced action and steamy romance, protective alpha men and strong heroines.
feature author I live on the Canadian Prairies with my husband and our two self-directed felines - Miss Fish and Little Red (aka The Red Machine). I am fluent in three languages, English, husband and cat. If it’s paranormal, count me in. I love a good ghost story and have a few of my own to tell. There is nothing sadder than an empty coffee cup. Battle scars from living a life are really beauty marks of understanding and growth. Love mustangs, sci fi, chocolate and thunder storms. Please welcome Leah Grant!
Stay Connected Leah Grant
Uncaged: You write under the pen names of Leah Grant and Anne Wentworth – can you tell readers more about the two personas and why you keep them separate and how they differ? Hello Cyrene - thank you for the opportunity to be a featured author. The Leah Grant pen name is for adult romance books and the Anne Wentworth pen name is for Young Adult, New Adult, Middle Grade and Science Fiction. Since I write multiple genres and for different age groups, it was an easy way to keep it separate.
Uncaged: I read Ghosts through the Mist and it was a standalone, but you also have been revising your Encircled By Gold series into the Viking Grave series. Can you tell readers why the transitions and revisions?
Well, first off, the muse has visited me and there is a second book after Ghosts Through The Mist, but not until later this year. (Don’t hold me to that) As for the transitions and revisions, now that I’m self-publishing, I feel much freer to write the way I want to and wanted to focus much more on the story and less on the heat.
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There is some spice, but more focus on feeling, emotion and journey. That is what stories are, journeys, and if the writing comes from the heart, the reader will want to travel along and find out what is in store. Uncaged: You live in Canada and love the outdoors. Does that influence and inspire your writing? You have a saying on your Goodreads page that says, “Don’t be afraid to step into the storm.” What does that mean to you? Yes, I love nature and have many ‘outdoor’ pets. We have a raven that has been visiting for the past six years, Scotty, and he’s a real pill. He showed up after we moved in and I fed him some bread. The next day he brought every relative he had...but it’s a blast. The Prairies have a tough winter, but there is always a trade-off, the thunder storms are show stoppers. Don’t be afraid to step into the storm - it means not to be afraid of living, to be alive in your own life. So many walk around numb, tasking, and over- busy. Life is full of experiences good and bad, and you need to live it. Battle scars are a thing of beauty, as are wrinkles and gray hair.
Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them? I do read them. I always appreciate an honest and thoughtful review. A writer isn’t always going to receive five stars, but a constructive review can help you understand what the reader took/saw from the story. I am always interested in what the reader got from my book, how they saw it, how they interpreted it. Sometimes I’ve been surprised at what a reviewer said about a book. It can help a writer grow. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? Currently I am revising Second Saga, Book 2 in the Viking Grave Series, and have started Abby’s Road, Book 2 in the YA series, Just Whisper My Name. Also the third book in the Double Helix Nebula series for Science Fiction. I write the sci fi to amuse myself and have been having a good laugh with the social/space opera. It should be an interesting year.
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| FEATURE AUTHOR | Uncaged:What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? That they felt as if they were with the main character and in the book, living the story. Uncaged: What are your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? I like the freedom of being an author, to get up every day and create. I love reading the story and being entertained by it. I dislike the power games and politics that are so prevalent in publishing, hence why I’m self-publishing and getting rights back. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? Being outside if it’s above zero. I love cooking and baking and trying new recipes. My husband and I work on projects together, both on the house and property. Television- love The Grand Tour, Colony, Dirk Gently, The 100, and The Expanse. We live in an old house with lots of ‘activity’, so it’s never boring here. I love a good ghost story, mustangs, coffee and watching the ravens clowning about. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? It isn’t like that for me, the book unfolds and I write it. The characters tell their story and it flows. I usually have 1-3 books I’m working on, so it can take time. I’ve been in the middle of writing a book when another pushes to the front and it takes over, so no rules here - just lots of coffee, lots and lots of coffee. Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thank you for reading. Visit me at Facebook or my websites. 64 | UncagedBooks.com
Enjoy an excerpt from Ghosts Through the Mist Ghosts Through the Mist Leah Grant Historical Romance/Viking Fate is cruel to those without a voice. I was born Solveig, but my family called me Dark Raven because I was different and they considered me cursed, treating me as a servant. When the new Jarl found out they’d kept raiding spoils, he banished them from our settlement. They had planned on sneaking off in the spring, but everything changed and Jarl Calder brought me into his house. I gave him my heart and thought he returned my feelings, but he had other ideas. Again I found I was a servant and Calder was to marry a Jarl’s daughter to unite the two powerful families. Galdi, another servant, said his new bride would make my life torture and I would have to find a way to leave. The opportunity came when the Jarl was negotiating with the Picts for new lands. Galdi said the king would like me because I was dark and different and she suggested he give me as the extra piece of silver to sweeten the deal. And so I was to sail off, my heart broken, to a new land with people I knew nothing of. But fate can turn the sea into a road and once you take a step, you won’t know where it ends unless you keep going. Prologue
The ghosts roam, their swords stained with blood-lust. Without hearts, they are fearless. Without warning, the head of the serpent appears, as if from the depths, drifting and silent as the mists of these lands. I didn’t have the fair hair of my kind. They called
| LEAH GRANT | me Dark Raven, the outsider, the cursed one. Hair as black as midnight, smaller than the women, my bones lighter, my build slender. My eyes weren’t the shades that ranged from icy and pale to the deep blues of the waters off our coast. They were strange, unnatural in their color. Galdi said the Pictish king would like me because I was dark and different, but her eyes told me another truth. A truth about my fate, about being cast aside like babies left to die because they’d been born wrong and didn’t fit into our ways. My family considered me a curse from the Gods, hence why they’d not shed one tear over the Jarl taking me. They’d left laughing, their load lighter from my absence, walking off to a new life. A new life, like the one I was sailing to. Although it hadn’t been their choice to leave, they decided where to go. It wasn’t my choice to leave, and I didn’t have a choice in where I was being sent. Fate is cruel to those without a voice. Chapter One (partial) Galdi said they were the blue people. Not seawater blue, but striking and frightening, their bodies painted with a dye they made from a plant. Galdi described it as a blue more rich than the wild flowers growing in the meadow, sharp and brilliant and unforgettable. They were the Picts, a people that painted elaborate designs onto their bodies and had been known to fight their enemies naked. All I could think was that if they did fight naked, they wouldn’t stand a chance against my people. We were Norse and our warriors wore leather and thick wool and carried heavy shields and axes. Vikings didn’t leave their bodies open and waiting to feed the tip of a sword. If these blue people did fight naked, why? Were they that good at battle that using clothing as protection didn’t matter to them? Were they so cunning their enemies stood little if any chance of victory? But my fate had been decided, with or without me, it didn’t matter to our Jarl, my keeper. I was the extra coin tossed into the chest to pay a Pictish king far across the waters. Payment for land that I would never walk on, never see. Jarl Calder didn’t see me as a person, but as a possession and his to give away. Our settlement was sizable and the Jarl had risen
quickly in our hierarchy of power. His family were ambitious, not stupid like mine. They’d groomed their only son to lead, waiting for a weak opportunity to present so they could make their move. Calder had been only twenty when he’d fought the former Jarl, defeating him. He’d challenged the older warrior the morning of the thing at the longhouse. The violence of that morning was permanently etched into my mind. It was my eighteenth year and I hadn’t wanted to attend the festivities that evening, but there’d been no choice. The new Jarl had insisted. When the shouting and accusations started, I tried to hide behind my parents. They would have none of it, pushing me to the front to face the scene unfolding around the fire. My brothers stood tall next to my parents, their blond hair and blue eyes in stark contrast to my darkness. I wished then that I’d been like them and not so different. Not the outcast I’d become, even in the inner circle of my family. Rumors of unfaithfulness swirled about our settlement, but my parents had denied it as fast as my father’s boot could crush a shell. If not unfaithfulness, then what was the explanation? What was she? Their whispers became the sharp tiny daggers slicing into my being. My mother, tired of the persistent questioning, had made up the answer herself. She’s a dark raven. An ill omen. We’ve been cursed by the Gods. ∞ You get to the end of a road by walking on it. I thought back to my first step onto that road, the step that started my journey. I was born Solveig, which meant from the house of strength, but I hadn’t been given any to fight with. Not from my family. My dark coloring had no explanation, but I came to understand my parents thought I was sent to punish them for their deceit. My parents began calling me Dark Raven and it stuck. The people of our settlement would stare with pity at my parents and brothers, as though they’d made some sacrifice by allowing me to live. My life went from being difficult to impossible. I was not welcomed into the homes of our neighbors. I was not allowed to attend when our Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | longships sailed off; for fear that I jinx their journey with my gaze. My life at home was no better than a slave’s. I worked harder and harder, hoping I would not be put out of our home. Far into the night my parents would speak to my brothers in low voices, but I heard. The hunted do not sleep. They spoke of keeping their plunder and laying the blame at my feet. It would be merciful for her. No longer did they speak my name, but referred to me as Dark Raven or her. No longer did my brothers call me sister or care about my welfare. I was to be the sacrifice for their dishonesty. My father and brothers had held back their take from the raids. They’d hidden silver and jewelry in a small cache they’d dug behind our home, believing the Jarl would never find out. We live by few rules, but the one that can never be broken is to withhold the spoils of raiding from the Jarl. But fate has her own ideas about how our roads turn and fork. The night of the thing became the edge of the land underneath the sea that drops off and the water gets deep. It was winter and I’d started to think about dying more than the living should. I was eighteen and tired and unwanted. At my age, most were married with a family, but thanks to my parents, no one would have me. Who would want to marry a bad omen? The darkness came early with the season and the cruel whip of the wind along the shoreline left me tasting salt and reminded me that harsher weather would soon be here. My arms were weighted down with driftwood for the hearth when I saw Calder watching. He didn’t try to hide it from me, but stared, openly, as someone who is secure in their position does. He strode with purpose, taking the wood from my arms. I didn’t breathe, simply stared, waiting to see what he would do next. I’d become used to people throwing rocks and insults. It was part of my day and there was nothing I could do about it. “Well Dark Raven, your fire will be strong and burn bright this night.” He made a surprised face and I didn’t know if I should dare to laugh. “If I recall, your name is Solveig. I’m Calder. May I 66 | UncagedBooks.com
carry this home for you?” As if I didn’t know his name. Calder had already proved himself as one of the most feared and talented warriors in our settlement. His family were respected and noble. They were everything my family wasn’t. I couldn’t find my voice, but nodded. Although his gesture was kind, I couldn’t have said no if I’d wanted to. Calder was above me and any disagreement would reflect onto my family. In the end, I’d be the one punished. It never ended any other way. We walked through the falling snow, the night closing in. My clothing was light and I was shivering, but something about being near Calder brought a strange peace to me. “Here, you’re frozen, take my cape.” He dumped the firewood, shrugging off his fur cape. Without waiting for my acknowledgment, Calder draped it around my shoulders. It was warm from the heat of his body and mine drank it in. I pulled it close around, wishing I could curl up inside its protection and wake from the dream of my life. The idea of being so warm and then to have it taken away again... His second gesture of kindness left me shaking. He interpreted my reaction as having been out for too long. Suddenly he reached, bringing me into his embrace, rubbing his hands all along my back to warm me. “What have they done to you?” He choked the words out. This was not the Calder they wrote into their songs. His hold tightened on my shoulders, and for a second I thought he was going to say something, but he didn’t. Instead he kissed me, but I didn’t kiss him back. I didn’t know anything about kissing or holding. “Open your mouth.” He smelled of leather and smoke and the sea. I opened my mouth, feeling his hand leave my shoulder to hold my hair. He broke the kiss to speak. “Raven. I want to call you Raven. Your hair is so dark and has sheen, like a raven’s feathers bathed in the sun.” He covered my mouth with his and I couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t want to. If anyone saw us, I’d be the one thrown to the wolves. For these fleeting moments under his touch, a flame lit deep inside my heart and the crisp edge of the wind teasing the strands of my hair made me feel alive. “Raven?” He brought me up slow, holding me firmly
| LEAH GRANT | in his arms until I stood. “You’ve never been kissed?” “No, I have not. I am sorry if I didn’t do what was expected.” I stepped back, bowing low to him. “It’s gone too far. I’m going to put a stop to it all.” Without another word, he bent, collecting the pieces of driftwood from the snow. I went to take them, but he shook his head. “Come. It’s late and there isn’t much holding me back from what I want to do.” We hadn’t got halfway up the walk when I took the cape off. If my parents saw me wearing Calder’s fur, they would assume I’d tricked or lied to him to get it. I jumped several times, trying to get it on his shoulders. He only wrinkled his nose, shaking his head at me. “If you’re that afraid, I’ll have to move a bit faster. Just keep quiet and let me talk. You won’t suffer any consequences, I promise.” Before the light of the torch hit our faces, Calder gave me one last kiss. It was different from earlier, this one tender and gentle. If my lips had arms of their own, they’d have reached for Calder’s mouth. He’d left me starving for him and I didn’t understand how. How could a man kiss me twice and leave my heart lost and afraid I’d never feel anything so beautiful again? He kicked at the door, keeping the wood firmly in his grasp. My father answered, bellowing out at me for not being able to carry the wood and open the door on my own. “Good evening, Felman. I’ve helped your daughter to carry the firewood back home.” Calder didn’t wait for an invite, but pushed through the door. He moved with confidence, dumping the wood by the hearth. I stood back, waiting for the wrath of the Gods to come down—on me. Calder didn’t stop there, but cut my father off from speaking. “You have such a beautiful daughter; I can’t understand why you’d send her to collect driftwood along the shore in the dark when you have two strong sons.” Again, Calder gave no time for recourse, but continued. “Felman, your name means living in the mountains, doesn’t it? Perhaps that will come true soon.” I skulked into the room, wishing I could lean back into a wall and become a part of it. Why was Calder baiting my father and leaving me in a position where only the worst could happen? He would have to leave and
once he did, I had no doubts I’d be put out into that snowy night to freeze. “I—” My father’s face bright red. “Are you coming to the thing tomorrow? I hope to see you there.” Calder nodded at my mother who looked as though she were about to give birth to a hot coal. Calder wasn’t someone they could afford to step wrong with. His family owned land and built longships. Calder was a skilled fighter and his family name, Leifsson, was linked to nobility and legend. If my parents crossed that line, they would find themselves at the end of a blade. “Thank you, Calder, for bringing...” My father paused, struggling to bring my name to mind. “For bringing Solveig home to us. I must heed your words and be more careful about her, but you really should have let her carry the wood. Your kindness is admirable, but I’m afraid our daughter isn’t normal. She was a curse from the Gods and we’ve been more than charitable by keeping her here with us. You can see from her coloring that she isn’t of our family. Many would have left her for the wolves.” “I don’t think she need go outside to find them.” Calder stared, his expression sour. “Outside?” My father missed the insult. “Come to the thing tomorrow. There is news and you won’t want to miss it.” Calder winked, and then strode off. The door closed and my heart sank. I stood against the wall, silent, waiting. “So, Solveig, what has your curse brought to us now?” My mother handed me a thinly woven shawl. It was old and coming apart, but I took it. She pointed. “Go to the barn and sleep there. Consider yourself lucky we allow this. If it wasn’t for Calder, you would be put out on this night.” She stared at me and the ice in her eyes cut through what was left of my heart. “You aren’t wanted. I wish you would never come back.” I kept my head down and didn’t speak. The door shut behind me and I ran for the barn. The building was in disrepair and the wind howled through the slats in the boards, but at least it was a place to be and not out in the wild. The irony was that there were no animals in our barn. My father had Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | sold them off at the end of the summer. I suspected they’d been planning on making a move in the spring and had only kept stores to last the winter. It wasn’t something a Viking would do. Inside the empty stall, the strong smell of decay only added to my misery. I hadn’t cried for months, but the tears came easy. The shawl did little to ease the touch of the winter on my skin, but I was grateful for it. Part of me wanted to run to Calder, but that was unthinkable. What if he turned me away? I didn’t know what would be more painful, freezing to death in the cruel winter or being rejected by Calder Leifsson? I shrunk down into a ball in the corner, knowing this might be my last night. I didn’t understand what I’d done to anger the Gods to give me such a life, but it must have been something terrible. I swallowed the tears and focused on what his lips felt like against mine. It was like floating in the ocean, the water holding me up and embracing me. Every summer, when my family went off to see the relatives for a couple of days, I’d sneak down to a small, hidden cove and walk in the ocean. Those times were filled with magic and wonder. Fish would swim by my legs as I waded along the shallows. I would find the most beautiful shells and hold them, taking in each detail as the sun warmed my tired body. Keeping those treasures was not possible as my family couldn’t find out that I’d spent time away from my chores. If this was to be my last night, then I would float in the sea and feel Calder’s lips on mine. If I were going to die, I would dream of being in his arms again while the frost devoured my flesh. The door flew open, slamming against the side of the building, making me jump. I plastered my body against the back of the stall, trying to see who stood there. A light was held high and then I saw him. Calder stood, peering into the darkness of the barn. “Raven? Are you here?” His rough whisper carried over the wind. “Here, in the stall. What are you doing back?” My heart thundered in my ears. I was frightened and relieved and confused. I was so happy to see 68 | UncagedBooks.com
someone other than a member of my family. I’d expected it to be my father, come to slit my throat. “I figured they’d do this to you. I brought a long fur cape, leggings, a wool tunic and boots. There’s bread and ale and some cheese. I can’t take you home with me, but I can keep you from freezing alone in the dark.” He set the light onto the edge of the stall rail. Its glow lit the space around, but didn’t cast too much light that might be seen from the house. “Your dress is wet. You need to take it off. I have a blanket roll for the ground.” He glanced about. “The smell in here isn’t good, but at least the floor is clean. Someone did a fine job sweeping it.” I was that someone. I’d had to clean the barn after my father had sold the animals. He wanted it ready for the spring and a possible sale of the house and land. Calder spread the roll out. “Stand on it and strip.” He didn’t move, or turn away, but caught my gaze with his own, holding me captive. “I’m...under this I don’t have...” I stammered. My dress was old and worn, but it was all I had. My mother refused to give me leggings, even in the winter. “Take it off,” he commanded softly. The shawl came first and I draped it over the rail. I had only two items to come off, the dress and the leather pieces tied around my feet for shoes. Feeling shy, I took off the shoes first, leaving them just off the roll. It was so thick and plush and soft that I didn’t want the leather pieces to soil it in any way. Next, my dress. The wool was tight from being wet and I had to work it up, to get it over my head. Suddenly, it lifted higher and I saw that he’d taken it from me. Calder draped it over the rail, spreading the material out. “This should help it dry some by morning.” My first reaction to his stare was to cover my breasts and mound with my hands. The cold closed in and I began to shake. He dropped the clothing he’d brought, stepping onto the roll. “Please take your hands away. I want to see you. I want you.” His touch was gentle as he moved my hand from my breasts. When Calder cupped my breast, I nearly stumbled back, but he caught me, bringing me to him. “I want you, Raven. I know it’s not what you
| LEAH GRANT | deserve and it’s cold, but when I’m inside you that will fall away.” He stripped, tossing each article of clothing aside. Need burned in his eyes as he reached, bringing me to him. His skin felt hot against mine and I didn’t want our contact to end. “I’ve wanted you for so long, Raven. I’ve burned for you so many nights. Tonight, I make you mine. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to take my place as the Jarl. In the evening, at the thing, I will change your fate. Don’t ask me how, just trust me. Will you do that?”
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Uncaged Review Would you move the oceans and sky for love? Would you lay down your life to protect the one you love? Vikings in the settlement are fair haired, and light of eyes. Solveig – born with hair as black as night and eyes the color of amber, was considered cursed by her family and the people, calling her Dark Raven. Thrust into the role as a slave in her family, the young Jarl Calder saves her from her own family and brings her to live with him in his home under his protection. But even as she loses her heart to Calder, she finds herself in the position of a servant, and when her heart is broken by the arranged marriage of the Jarl and a woman that can unite a powerful family with their own, Raven only wants her freedom. A servant in the Jarl’s home, Galdi, who has taken Raven under her wing, has a plan. Was the book perfect? No. But this book was hard for me to put down. Even though it’s set in Medieval times, it’s very relevant today. Within the Viking settlement, Raven didn’t have her own voice and couldn’t make her own choices. As she grows throughout the book, she becomes stronger and begins to believe she’s worthy of being loved. Even now at the end of the book, I’m still on the fence with Calder. But the Picts; Gest, Galdi and Domech did a good job making up for Calder’s shortcomings. A book recommended for those that like the Viking era, or want to get their feet wet with the Medieval world. Reviewed by Cyrene
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feature author Fed on a rich diet of sci-fi and fantasy from an early age, author R.F. Hurteau harbors a deep appreciation for both of these genres, whether it’s the written word or. Fueled by copious amounts of coffee and the desire to write approachable fiction with rich, relatable characters, she released her debut novel, Antiquity’s Gate: Sanctuary in November of 2017. The next book in the series, Antiquity’s Gate: Memoirs of the Forgotten, is slated for release in late spring. R.F. lives and writes in New England with her husband and five children. Before pursuing a full time writing career, she did freelance work writing copy and articles for websites, blogs, and emagazines.
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Uncaged welcomes R.F. Hurteau! Uncaged: How much planning and research did it take for Antiquity’s Gate: Sanctuary? To me this seemed like a large undertaking – how long did it take to write? Is this your debut novel? The characters of Antiquity’s Gate have lived in my head for a lot longer than the story itself. What began as a short story—a fast-paced, wild ride exploring a tiny moment in time—quickly outgrew that framework when I realized that there was so much more I wanted to tell. After that, a lot of time went into mapping out the different arcs to make certain that they would flow seamlessly through the whole series. I wanted my readers to be surprised—not me! Because of the setting and events of Antiquity’s Gate, I had to do a lot of research on aspects of geography, history, and scientific areas in which my knowledge was somewhat lacking. I didn’t want to risk ruining a wonderful story with a shoddy backdrop! But when I sat down to write, my main goal was to create a science fiction novel that was approachable for everyone. I wanted fans of any genre to find within its pages characters that were relatable, rich, and worth investing in. I hope that I’ve succeeded in that. Although I have written stories in the past, this is the first novel I have written as a full-time author. The initial draft only took two months to complete, but we all know that that’s only the beginning! From start to finish, the process of rewriting, editing, and going back and forth with beta readers took just as long…okay, longer… than just getting the idea down on paper to begin with.
Uncaged: How many books are you planning for this series and can you tell readers more about the series? The series is spread across six books. I have just recently started work on the third one, and am so excited for the world and characters to continue to grow. Together, the readers and I start our adventure at the edge of the world…and then we step off into the vast unknown! There are still so many secrets to reveal, and so many aspects to explore. Although it’s separated into six parts, Antiquity’s Gate is ultimately one continuous story. I think this approach has its pros and cons. You can’t really pick up one of the middle stories and have a firm grasp of what’s happening, because there are so many subtle allusions to what’s come before. But the anticipation from book to book is one of pleasurable pain, and the closure for the reader at the series’ end will be that much sweeter for having taken the journey with me! Uncaged: Are you planning on attending any conventions or in-person signings this year? When my second novel, Antiquity’s Gate: Memoirs of the Forgotten, is closer to release, I am really looking forward to attending events. Because I’m not certain of the timeline, however, I haven’t committed to anything at this time. I will say that it is in the final editing stages, and I certainly hope to be updating my blog soon to reflect any future planned events! Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them?
I really love reading my reviews. I set out to write a story that people can feel passionate about and invested in. If they are, then I’ve accomplished my goal. If they aren’t, I am excited to find out why. That kind of constructive feedback helps me grow as a writer, and reach out to a larger audience. I’m always excited to hear from a reader, because ultimately all I’ve ever wanted was to share my stories with others. Even if they disagree with me on something, the fact that they took the time to not only read it, but also critique it, is a huge honor. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? I believe that my foreseeable future will be devoted to this series. When finished, I have a vision for a set of prequels. There are aspects of Antiquity’s Gate that, right from the beginning, I’ve hinted at. History and lore that just doesn’t fit into this particular story arc. Characters whose lives and motivations might not be fully realized until I take the time to tell their stories, too. After that, I’m not sure what direction I will head in—but I guarantee I will continue writing! Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? Like a proud parent, I find myself happy whenever someone wants to talk about Antiquity’s Gate. However, one of the things that made me really happy was a comment from one of the beta readers I used. We began as internet strangers, but we ended as friends. She wrote, “I have loved science Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | fiction for a very long time (my dad introduced me to the genre), and I did not expect this story to be so original and fresh. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before.” It really felt amazing to have someone with absolutely no vested interest in my feelings or my book tell me something like that for the first time. Uncaged: What are your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? I think that the most exhilarating part of being an author is bringing something into existence that previously resided only in the dark recesses of my mind. I have always loved to read. Exploring the worlds within the pages of a book is thrilling. I am blessed to have the opportunity to potentially offer that experience to others. I also love the rich layers that can be woven into a story. Antiquity’s Gate has many subtle points that people may miss all together on a first read. But if they enjoy it enough to go back later, perhaps they’ll catch these “Easter Eggs,” adding even more enjoyment and understanding to the story. My least favorite part of being an author is the intense moment of second guessing that occurred when I finally felt that I had produced the best possible version of Antiquity’s Gate. Submitting the final product was an anxiety-inducing act, filled with worries. Was it really ready to share with the world? Would it ever be? But it didn’t take long to get over that dreadful moment. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? I have five young kids, so they keep me pretty busy when I’m not writing. I enjoy drinking copious amounts of coffee, trying new things, and hanging out with friends. My husband and I love doing projects together, too. At the moment, we’re building a home office for me in the basement. I’m particularly excited as I’ll be able to write in my slippers with access to unlimited coffee. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, 72 | UncagedBooks.com
how long does it take to finish a complete book? The hardest part for me is the beginning. It’s not that I don’t know what will happen. I certainly know how it will end! It’s just that sitting down and looking at a blank canvas, the possibilities and adventures ahead can seem completely overwhelming. However, once I’ve reached my third or fourth cup of coffee and finally found the courage to start, the words just start flowing. The easiest part is the dialogue. I love dialogue, and I can see my characters in my mind as they speak. Their expressions, actions, subtle body language. It feels so real to me that more often than not I end up needing to go back in and add description. The conversation gets away from me and I temporarily forget that the reader cannot see inside my head, no matter how convenient that might be! From start to finish, Antiquity’s Gate: Sanctuary took about five months to produce. I expect that the next installment will take just slightly longer, as I am now juggling promoting the first book, editing the second, and writing the third. However, I’m confident that those excited to continue the story won’t have to wait too long! Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? Thanks so much for taking a chance on a new author. Time is precious, books are many, and the fact that you’ve chosen to pick up Antiquity’s Gate is both humbling and thrilling for me. Please check out my blog at https://antiquitysgate.com, and/or follow me on Facebook (facebook.com/antiquitysgate) or Twitter (@rfhurteau). I’d love to hear from you!
Enjoy an excerpt from Antiquity’s Gate Antiquity’s Gate R.F. Hurteau SciFi/Post-Apocalyptic History would not remember Ripley Prior. At the edge of the world, the last stronghold of mankind holds silent vigil, a forgotten sentinel in the shadow of the Transantarctic mountains. It has stood for one hundred twenty-five years, while an increasingly dystopian hierarchy has formed bitter divides among its citizens. The Theran people who came through Antiquity’s Gate are hiding something. The tense relations between the last of Humanity and these mysterious outsiders threaten the fragile bonds that have been holding their community together. When the very rules enacted to safeguard survival bring heartache to the lives of two unlikely friends, it is up to them to find a way to escape from Sanctuary…but their actions may have devastating consequences. Excerpt They’d explored eight tunnels—or was it nine? —so far, keeping a meticulous record at Ripley’s insistence on a hand-drawn map. When D6 had been sealed off, the Tube had still needed to run beneath it. So instead of completely barricading D6, it was the side tunnels and shafts that had been blocked. The trouble was, all of the bulkheads were placed where the tunnels emerged from below ground, which meant they had to search each individual tunnel to be cer-tain it was a dead end. In addition to tracks, there were a number of mainte-nance shafts. These were too small to walk through, and Ripley and Felix had crawled for what seemed like ages, climbing ladders and exploring duct-work. The tunnels with tracks were easier, since they could walk, but they proved to be a horrible maze
| R.F. HURTEAU | of offshoots, small stations, and turna-bouts. They were both tired and sore, and they had a lot of tunnels left to search. “Maybe we should split up,” Ripley decided. “Yeah, we can cover more ground that way. We’ll meet back here in—” Felix glanced around, as if expecting to find a clock. “I don’t know. Just meet back here.” Ripley took a service tunnel to the right, and Felix moved off to the left to follow an unmarked passage up ahead. Ripley’s knees were practically screaming in protest by the time he crawled back into the main tunnel twenty minutes later. It had led to, unsurprisingly, another dead end. He straightened up, stretching, and heard a familiar, unwel-come voice behind him. “Well, well, well.” Ripley recognized it instantly, and he closed his eyes. He didn’t have time for this. Not now. “If it isn’t Ripley Prior, De-fender of Peace and Unity.” These last words came out dripping with sar-casm. Ripley turned to face the men behind him. “More like defender of tyrants and terrorists!” said one of the others. It was clear that this new speaker had been drinking. Tall and hulking, he wasn’t wearing a Security uniform. He stepped toward Ripley, but then stumbled a bit, as if he expected the floor to be a few inches lower than it actually was. He scowled at the ground accusingly, then up at Ripley. “You see a scrawny kid run by here, Elf-lover?” Ripley shook his head as he sized up the group. There were four of them. Last time, it had been only two. He knew he was in trouble. He might be able to outrun them, if he could take them by surprise. “Listen,” Ripley said, putting his hands up slowly, “I don’t want any trouble. I really need to be on my way.” “You hear that, boys?” This guy was clearly their leader. He stood tall, the shadow of a beard giving his face a gruff, unkempt appearance. “He needs to be on his way.” Suddenly, two rough hands grabbed Ripley’s wrists and yanked, twisting them behind his body. He cried out as his attacker wrenched his shoulders, forcing him to his knees. Ripley had been so focused on the group before him that he hadn’t noticed the fifth man in the shadows behind him. “You’re going to have to excuse us for holding Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | you up, Mr. Prior. You see, we wanted to have a little chat about the other night. Real convenient, running into you here. Nice, private place for a heart-to-heart, wouldn’t you agree?” One of the other men spoke up. “Uh, Denton, what about—” But Denton raised a hand and his companion fell silent. “I thought we’d come to…an understanding, you and I. But clearly, you have a short memory.” One of the men pounded his fist into an open palm, grinding it menacingly. Ripley tried hard to think of a witty retort, something that would make him sound a lot less scared than he actually was. Nothing came to mind. “You see, we didn’t like the way you butted in on our private conversa-tion. We thought you ought to learn a little bit about self-respect and mind-ing your own business.” “You were drunk, and you were being very rude to that woman.” “Nah, that’s where you’re wrong. We were drunk, but we weren’t being rude to no woman. We were telling a Halfsie to go back where she belonged. They’ve got no business in our market.” “There’re no rules against anyone going to the market—” “Of course, there ain’t any rules against it! Because the Elves get to make all the rules. They’re the ones that put us here to begin with, and they’ve been telling us to learn our place ever since.” “Even if that were true, so what? That doesn’t make it right to discrimi-nate.” “We ain’t discriminating. We hate all Halfsies equally. Humans should never have sunk so low as to make little mongrels with the likes of Elves.” He spat, a look of hatred twisting his already ugly features. “They put us here. First, they invaded our home. Now they treat us like second class citizens. And what? We’re expected to worship them for saving us? Nah. It ain’t right. We warned you. We told you no good would come from cavortin’ with the enemy. Then you have the nerve to go parading around with one, the very next day! Right in front of us, after we warned you. Yeah, we saw ya. And we ain’t pleased.” “Please,” Ripley said quietly. “He’s my best friend. He’d been there hun-dreds of times before. I wasn’t trying to—” The man’s fist connected with the side of Ripley’s face, knocking the words, and possibly a 74 | UncagedBooks.com
few teeth, from his open mouth. Ripley had been hit before, but never in the face. His eyes watered and bursts of light clouded his vi-sion. He needed to find a way out of this. The Tube would be here soon, and their presence would be noted, possibly reported. He spoke as calmly as he could. “You have to let me go. Just walk away.” “You mean like you should have walked away the other night? Nah. We asked you nicely.” The man kicked him in the stomach, hard, and Ripley felt some-thing crack. The air rushed out of his lungs, and he would have fallen if the other man hadn’t still been holding his arms behind him like a vice. “We said, ‘Get outta here. This ain’t none of your concern.’ I remember saying that, didn’t I, Percy?” The tall one nodded. “I remember, Denton.” Denton kicked Ripley again, and again. Then he knelt beside him, putting his face close to Ripley’s ear. “We told you, we don’t want their kind here anymore. We’ve tolerated it too long. Humans need to take back what’s ours, starting with our dis-trict.” Denton growled as Ripley gasped, still struggling for breath. “We’re gonna have to make an example of you. Maybe we’ll take it slow. Make you see why the only thing worse than a Halfsie is the people like you. Who forget what it means to be Human. Who’ve got no sense of justice.” Denton grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head up, glaring into Ripley’s eyes. “Nah. You ain’t going to change your mind. Oh well. One less Halfsie-loving turncoat.” Ripley had managed to catch his breath now. The pain where he’d been kicked was intense, but he managed a half smile. As his lips curved upward, a mingled stream of blood and saliva slipped from them and trailed down his chin. “You think you’re so tough. You’ve got your Human pride. As if you were there, when the Sequencing began. When it left children motherless and wiped out cities and devastated the entire planet.” Denton’s face was so close to his own that the man’s hot breath stung his eyes. “Where were you, when they discovered Antiquity’s Gate? Where were you when the Therans began to come through? Did you try to warn our ancestors? Did you shout ‘Hey, close it up! Send them back! They’re carrying a plague! You’re in danger!’?” Ripley’s mouth had begun to fill up with blood, and he spat. The metallic taste lingered as he kept speaking, getting more and more angry. “You weren’t there. None of us were. The Halfsies weren’t either.
| R.F. HURTEAU | They didn’t hurt you. They weren’t responsible. No one knew that things would end up like this. If they’d known…” His vision was still swimming, but he fought to fo-cus on Denton’s face. “If they’d known, they would have buried the damn thing. Left it beneath the ice forever, with its secrets, and its Elves, and its plagues.” Denton stood up, brushing dust from his pant leg. “Ah, but they didn’t, did they? Couldn’t leave well enough alone. Just had to know what it was, what it did. And now look at us. Teetering on the brink of extinction. Subject to the rule of the invaders who stole everything from us.” Ripley’s nod was weak, almost imperceptible. “Well I guess it was more Human-ity’s fault than the Elves, then, wasn’t it?” Denton’s rage was evident as he balled his fist and pulled it back, getting ready to hit Ripley again. Ripley closed his eyes, waiting for the blow, but it never came. When he opened them again, Denton was just sneering at him. “I’ve heard enough. Take him up the next maintenance hall and toss him in a garbage chute,” he said. “Maybe his beloved Halfsie friend will come looking for him and fall in, too.” “Actually,” came a voice from behind Ripley, “Ripley is the one prone to trip-ping. I have excellent balance.” The hands that had been holding Ripley in place loosened and fell away as the man behind him grunted and crumpled to the ground. Denton backed up a bit toward Percy and the rest of his thugs, eyeing Felix warily as he helped Ripley to his feet. Felix continued speaking. “Funny thing about Halfsies, really. We all tend to be light on our feet, like pureblood Elves. We have great vision, great hearing. But we don’t live nearly as long, which is a con for us, but maybe a pro for you, since you don’t seem terribly fond of Halfsies, do you?” He turned to Ripley, who was unsteady, and helped him to lean against the wall of the tunnel. “You okay, buddy? You’ve looked better.” Ripley coughed. “I’ll be fine.” “Oh,” said Felix, still watching Ripley but addressing Denton and his group now. “We’re also super strong, too. Which will make things easier.” He looked at Denton, turning to fix him with a cold gaze. “Because I’m going to kill you all.”
Uncaged Review “History would not remember Ripley Prior.” But I will. And I’m betting Felix and Willow will too. And that sets the stage of this SciFi. Very well written and it will hold you to its pages and keep you reading and engaged. The Humans, Elves, and Halfsies (human and elf hybrid) live within the Sanctuary – a city of connected domes that is self-sustaining with strict rations. The different species don’t live in harmony, the Humans and Halfsies are detested by the Elves, who are the controlling body of the Domes. The Humans and Halfsies believe they are the last of their kind, and the Sanctuary is their last hope to survive. But is that really true? The Sanctuary’s energy comes from the geothermal work stations beneath the domed city, pulling energy up from the Earth’s core. In the center of the domes is Antiquity’s Gate. A transportation gate (think Stargate) that travels to the alternate plane of Thera, the home world of the Elves. But the Elves are planning something, and a small group found out the plans and are out to save the rest of Sanctuary. What I like about this novel – is all the intricate details and how well it was all thought out. It was engaging with characters you care about and what happens to them. What I didn’t like, there was a lot of characters to keep track of – and it was long. The chapters are for the most part, broken into the subplots with the characters, so at times it would take a few chapters before you heard from some of the characters, so it would interrupt my engagement at times, thinking I would turn the page to find out what was going to happen, and I ran into a detour of the other characters. Even with my minor grievances, this is a very good SciFi. Even though gates for travel and domed cities after a catastrophic event are not original ideas, the author’s imagination and ingenuity makes it her own, and will leave us SciFi nerds wanting more. Reviewed by Cyrene
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feature author Jessica Victoria Fisette is the author of The Soul Reaper series, Fragments, and The Aldurian Chronicles. Her hobbies include discovering the benefits of natural medicine, wine tasting, and trying new recipes in the kitchen. She likes to unwind by typing out a scene or two in her latest obsession or indulging in a good book. Having been passionate about writing since she was a little girl, she is constantly coming up with new ideas for future stories and creating unique, strongwilled—albeit flawed—characters to overcome the difficult obstacles she places before them. Having spent all her life in rural Southeast Texas, she appreciates the tranquility of country living and hopes to implement such a love for nature into her beautiful, ever-so-curious little girl.
Uncaged welcomes Jessica Victoria Fisette Uncaged: Where did the inspiration come for The Aldurian Chronicles series? Can you tell readers what the series is about? The inspiration came from all the stories I read and movies I watched as a kid. I wanted to create my own, and when I actually decided to try when I was thirteen, the story sort of came to me. However, I couldn’t write it that well at the time and was afraid of getting a rejection letter from publishers. I figured I would wait until I was older and braver. Then, a few years ago I learned about self-publishing and the fear of rejection was no longer an issue. The Aldurian Chronicles is about a seventeen-yearold girl, Saphiris, who is thrust into a world of chaos and loss as she discovers her origins and hones her elemental abilities. The backstory is rich, and she’s surrounded by powerful immortals with many secrets to be revealed. Uncaged: How many books are you planning for this series?
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Originally, about fourteen. When I rewrote the synopses for the different books, I decided to merge a few and I managed to condense it down to about eight. Book one and two, Fire and Ice & Crimson Frost, are published and available for purchase. The third book Reigning Fire will be released sometime this year. But
that’s just for present day from Saph’s point of view. I’ve also begun writing the Origins part of the story, which will take place many centuries in the past and consist of quite a few short stories from various characters’ points of view. Uncaged: Beside this series, can you tell us more about your other books? The first book I published, The Vanquished, is part of The Soul Reaper series that I have every intention of returning to in the next couple of months and at least getting the second book in the trilogy, The Risen, released sometime this year. The Soul Reaper is a new-adult paranormal romance about grad-student Kendra Stephens who moves to a strange town in Massachusetts and meets a mysterious man with supernatural abilities and ties to a long-forgotten past. There’s a bit of horror, a lot of mystery, and strong fantasy elements, but this is primarily about a love that transcends time itself. I also have a short horror called Fragments that follows the life of a distressed mom and wife who starts hearing voices and seeing phantoms after a near-death experience. It touches base on soul fragmentation and I plan to expand it into a full-length novel one day. Uncaged: Are you planning on attending any in-person conventions or signings this year? Can you tell us more about Writers Unite?
None that I have planned, but I have been considering a few things. Writers Unite! is an amazing group for writers of all levels to help each other grow and to connect with like minds. It’s a group I’m more than happy to admit I help admin. We have a Facebook group, which is over 40,000 members strong, and a blog where the admins write helpful articles on the technique of writing and editing. We’ve partnered with a publishing company, Rhetoric Eskew, and are in the process of putting together an anthology containing short stories and poems from our members. I have submitted a short from The Aldurian Chronicles titled The Space Between the Stars: A Tale of Centuries Past revealing a few things I’ve merely hinted at in the novels. I currently have nine articles published to The SelfEditing Guide, with a new one published every week, that tackles the topics commonly unknown to a first-time writer. Since I know many writers cannot afford an editor, I write this series to, at the very least, teach indie authors what to look for when proofreading and how to polish their works into strong, vivid pieces that grab the reader’s attention. It’s my way of giving back to the indie community, since this group has taught me so much in the last few years. Our admin leader Deborah Ratliff also writes a series of articles called Writing Your First Novel, which covers many questions new members ask on a daily basis. This series has helped new writers Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | navigate their way through the process of getting that first novel underway. We also accept guest articles from Writers Unite! members, as long as they pertain to writing. So if you have something to contribute, feel free to join us and submit. Dr. Paul’s Family Talk Radio Program has given Writers Unite! a ton of exposure and we credit him for our large numbers. Paul Reeves is a fellow admin and has interviewed numerous Writers Unite! members. I will be appearing on his show sometime in the near future, and Deb usually appears once a month to discuss the group. Uncaged: Do you read your reviews? What do you take away from them? Getting reviews might be the most difficult part of being a writer. I love every review I receive, and though gaining each one felt like an act of labor, most of the ones I have are pretty passionate. If I can make a reader feel that much after reading my story, I have accomplished something. Many reviewers tell me how real the characters felt and how much they want to return to the pages. I know I’ve successfully brought the reader into my world when that happens. Uncaged: Can you tell us what you have coming up next? Reigning Fire (The Aldurian Chronicles Book Three) is at the halfway mark as we speak, with the ending written and much of the beginning. I released the cover a few days ago and a few ads have been designed in anticipation for its full release. Uncaged: What is one of the nicest things someone has said to you about your books? Someone once told me that Fire and Ice brought them out of a dark place and made them feel something when nothing else seemed to work. I experienced the same thing when writing it, so that really 78 | UncagedBooks.com
spoke to me and I knew his words were sincere. I think we write to share our pain and connect with others, so when someone finds healing in our words, we tend to take it to heart. Uncaged: What is your favorite parts about being an author? What have you found to be the least favorite? My favorite part about being an author is the fun I have conveying emotion to my readers. I love writing in deep point of view, so learning what not to say and finding new ways to show it is interesting and challenging. My least favorite part is how difficult it is to get exposure. Sometimes it seems easier to give up than keep spamming my friends and family with new book ads, but I know one day it will all pay off and that’s what matters. Uncaged: What do you like to do when you aren’t writing? When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing— and I’m designing covers, rendering scenes/characters, creating ads, etc. I don’t really let myself do much else at this point. I have goals and I know they won’t accomplish themselves. Uncaged: What is the hardest part of a book to write? What is the easiest? From start to finish, how long does it take to finish a complete book? The most difficult part is probably the action scenes. I watched a Russian martial artist on Youtube for hours for Alec’s moves in Fire and Ice. But his fighting style is different from Janz’s or Elyse’s. So I had to find new inspiration for Crimson Frost when it was time to show Janz training Saph. And in Reigning Fire there are even more scenes with Saph and Elyse that I have to work out. The easiest would be the emotional scenes. I just get in the character’s head and write what she feels. In the past few years, it’s taken me about a year to finish each book. In 2018, I intend to change that.
Uncaged: What would you like to say to fans, and where can they follow you? You can subscribe to my blog: www.jessicavictoriafisette.com Like my author page: www.facebook.com/jessicavictoriafisette Follow me on Instagram or Twitter @jvfisette And from those links you can find and join Writers Unite! if you’re interested in honing your skills as a writer.
Enjoy an excerpt from Fire and Ice Fire and Ice Jessica Victoria Fisette SciFi/Fantasy/YA Survival doesn’t come without sacrifice . . . It’s been months since the accident on Asher Creek bridge that nearly claimed Allie’s life. She hasn’t heard from her boyfriend Phoenix since the fire station went up in flames, and she’s no closer to finding the man who saved her from drowning that night. To make matters worse, she’s somehow lost the elemental abilities that connected her to Phoenix—something she once believed only they shared. Vivid, unrelenting dreams have kept her searching for answers. Phoenix is in danger— she knows it. But, now they’ve found her: familiar, official-looking men who act nothing like the federal agents they impersonate. To keep her family safe, Allie decides to leave the only home she’s known since she was two years old and search for Phoenix on her own. But, others have different plans for her. The man who saved her returns, and he isn’t alone.
| JESSICA VICTORIA FISETTE | A powerful, evil cult leader is after Allie, and she has no choice but to accept the protection of an unexpected ally who holds the answers to secrets from her past. Every step brings her dangerously close to finding Phoenix and discovering her real identity, but the truth is far worse than she ever could have imagined. Excerpt “The Acolytes must have figured out I planned to take the back roads through the small towns,” he said as the inconspicuous, older silver Corolla drove down a two-way paved street. “They’ve set up road blocks. My only advantage is that I can sense them. We’ll have to travel through the major cities. But, we’ll get there sooner.” That wasn’t his only advantage. I continued to stare out the window in silence, still trying to forget the nightmare in the woods. “I can read your mind, too. Remember?” His tone seemed annoyed. I glanced over. “Sorry.” I couldn’t silence the thoughts that floated through my head. I couldn’t stop thinking only a monster could be responsible for such a slaughter. I couldn’t stop seeing the electrocuted, frozen, and burned bodies over and over again. “You should have listened to me.” “Did you have to kill them?” He looked at me and furrowed his brows. “Are you serious?” His eyes narrowed. “You are.” “No.” I rubbed my temples. “I’m not sure why I asked that. Sorry. It’s just—did you have to be so cruel about it? A bullet would have worked just fine.” “So you would prefer I shoot them because it’s less messy? Mercy doesn’t instill fear in the hearts of your enemies. Clean and painless doesn’t discourage others from rising up and replacing the ones you defeated. It’s their mess to clean up, and they’ll think twice before being so bold again.” I looked up and stared at him. He faced the road as he drove, shoulders relaxed against the seat. His golden hair fell over his forehead and a hint of Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FEATURE AUTHOR | stubble freckled his golden-tanned skin. Even from the side, his piercing eyes were powerful, commanding attention without effort. I looked down at my wrists as more gruesome images flashed across my mind. Lucifer probably had similar features. My eyes darted to his clenched jaw and my cheeks flushed. “I’m sorry—” “No, you’re not.” His sharp tone made me flinch. “I know this is all hard for you to accept. You’ve lived a quiet life in a small town, never even considering having to make choices like this until recently. But, this is normal for me.” “So you keep reminding me.” I closed my eyes. I couldn’t take it any more. I glared at him. “What are you trying to say? That if you’d had your way, you and Janz would have taken me in at two years old and taught me to ‘protect’ myself—which you still haven’t explained any of that. That I wouldn’t have learned the horrible lesson about the value of human life? That I wouldn’t bat an eye at watching you electrocute a dozen men? That the smell and sight wouldn’t turn my stomach? Wow. Janz really did screw me over by letting me grow up in a loving family away from you.” “And, how was that working out for you?” He glared at me, his words cold and slow. “What’s your count, so far? Three? Four, if you count Janz. He still hasn’t made contact. Maybe you did kill him.” I stared back at him. My chest burned more than when the Acolyte had punched me in the stomach. “Maybe I did,” I whispered.
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Uncaged Review My introduction to this new series is a good one. This book never lets up, you are swept into a world that is original and quick paced - the pages flew by. As Allie/Saph begins to learn the truth of who she is, and the memories long forgotten, she grows before the reader’s eyes but never loses her humanity or her determination. There were times that someone needed to shake some sense into her as her rash actions never lead to a good outcome, but it’s easier to forgive because of her age and for the fact that the truth has been kept from her for so long. The author does a great job with the world and character building in this first book of a series. You are captured into her net and can almost feel like you are hovering in the world along with them. The book takes so many twists and turns, it keeps the reader on their toes – and a bit surprised. Great start to a series. Reviewed by Cyrene
Don’t miss book two, now available
Gerri R. Gray
| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR |
Born and raised in the Chicago area, Gerri R. Gray is a novelist, a poet with a dark soul, a cemetery photographer, and a lifelong aficionado of horror, dark humor, and camp. She blames her twisted sense of humor on a wayward adolescence influenced by the likes of Monty Python, Charles Addams, Frank Zappa, and John Waters. Her interest in writing started early on in life, and she began writing poetry, music, short stories, and plays while a teenager in the 1970s. Her first notable publication occurred in October of 1976 and was an interview the she and her cousin conducted with Ides of March singer/songwriter, Jim Peterik (who went on to find even greater success with the rock group, Survivor.) Her poetry has appeared in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including The Poet, Xenomorph, The Kindred Spirit, and Poetry Quarterly. In 1980 she founded a small publishing company called, Golden Isis Press, and did double duty as editor and publisher of Golden Isis Magazine until its discontinuation in the early 1990s. Writing under a pen name inspired by an H.P. Lovecraft novel, she began a successful career as an occult author in the late 1980s and, over the course of two decades, had over two-dozen books on various New Age subjects published by Citadel Press, Penguin, New Page Books and Adams Media. 82 | UncagedBooks.com
Gerri’s non-fiction article, “The House of Many Shadows”, appeared in Lynda Lee Macken’s book, Ghost Hunting the Mohawk Valley (Black Cat Press, 2012). It chronicled the paranormal activity and investigations which took place at the historic 19th century mansion in Upstate New York that the Grays currently live in, and out of which they operated a bed and breakfast themed after the 1960’s supernatural daytime drama, Dark Shadows. She has also contributed to Beautiful Tragedies (by Xtina Marie) and Demons, Devils & Denizens of Hell 2 (by P. Mattern). Both anthologies are published by HellBound Books Publishing. Gerri’s love of writing and her warped imagination fornicated and spawned a bizarre love child, which turned out to be her first novel: The Amnesia Girl (HellBound Books, 2017). Her collection of dark poetry and short horror stories, Gray Skies of Dismal Dreams, is scheduled for release in the spring of 2018. She is currently compiling and editing short stories for an all-women’s horror anthology, The Graveyard Girls, which will also be published in 2018. A second novel (even more bizarre than the first) is currently in the works
| GERRI R. GRAY |
Enjoy an excerpt from The Amnesia Girl The Amnesia Girl Gerri R. Gray Dark Humor Filled with copious amounts of black humor, Gerri R. Gray’s first published novel is an offbeat adventure story that could be described as One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Thelma and Louise. Flashback to 1974. Farika is a lovely young woman who wakes up one day to find herself a patient in a bizarre New York City psychiatric asylum. She has no idea who she is, and possesses no memories of where she came from nor how she got there. Fearing for her life after being attacked by a berserk girl with over one hundred personalities and a vicious nurse with sadistic intentions, the frightened amnesiac teams up with an audacious lesbian with a comically unbalanced mind, and together they attempt a daring escape. But little do they know that a long strange journey into an even more insane world filled with a multitude of perilous predicaments and off-kilter individuals are waiting for them on the outside. Farika’s weird reality crumbles when she finally discovers who, and what, she really is! Chapter One A Rude Awakening “Farika. What a beautiful name. I’ve never known anyone named Farika before. Do you believe in déjà vu?” asked a voice, which had the odd distinction of sounding familiar while at the same time unrecognizable. It paused for a brief moment, and then continued to ramble. “I read somewhere that our names define who we are, so I guess that makes you unusual. But unusual in a good way, I’m sure. If you read my psychiatric assessments and psychometric evaluations, you’ll find that I’m defined as a borderline personality disorder coupled with foreign accent syndrome, which is somewhat uncommon; but psychobabble is nothing but porn for shrinks. I consider myself to be
pretty normal, in an insane kind of way, but then, don’t all mental patients? My name is Mara Marhoe. Remember me? I’m your roomie.” Farika slowly opened her eyes and an unfamiliar world began to seep into her senses until a flood of disorientation permeated the totality of her quivering brain. Gripped by grogginess, she could make out the blurry outline of a heavyset woman sitting at the foot of her bed. Gradually the haziness cleared like fog burning away and she sat up and looked around at her bleak and unfamiliar surroundings. It appeared to be a hospital room containing two matching beds, two matching nightstands, and two matching chairs. On the wall next to her bed was a window that was covered by vertical metal bars that had long ago been painted white but were now discolored and paint-peeling. Cracks in several of the window’s twelve small panes distorted the rays of hazy morning sunlight that beamed in. She could see that the woman sitting on her bed was in her early twenties, short, and extremely plump. Her reddish-colored hair was cut in a short pixie style and she wore a pair of plastic-framed glasses that were held together at the front with what appeared to be a thin strip of white masking tape. She smiled at Farika and lit up a cigarette. “Did you know,” said Mara Marhoe, “that the name Farika means a ‘tranquil leader?’ You look pretty tranquil to me. Maybe it’s just the tranquilizers they give you here, who knows? Anyway, I looked you up in this big black book full of names and that’s how I know. Hey, speaking of books, have you ever read one called The Bell Jar? A woman who put her head in a gas oven wrote it. Have you ever put your head in a gas oven?” Farika’s racing heart began to thump violently within her chest like a frantic fist pounding against the inside of a coffin lid after a premature burial. A cold sweat dampened her forehead. A wave of panic shot through her body like a shockwave until a fiery ball of terror exploded like a bomb inside her mind, puncturing her thoughts with its jagged pieces of shrapnel. “Where am I?” Farika cried out as her eyes widened with intense fear and then darted around the room as if searching for a clue. “How did I get here? Is this some kind of hospital? Oh my god, who am I? Why can’t I remember anything?” Mara Marhoe took a deep drag on her cigarette Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | and then slowly let out the smoke. “This whole place is like a goddamn bell jar,” she said with an odd detachment. “Once it comes down over your head, you can’t get out. You’re trapped like a rat. Your air gets all used up, you can’t breathe, and finally you drop dead. But they aren’t going to make me stick my head in some frigging oven. No way! I’ll get those bastards first, all of them, and then broil their heads in the oven, with a shiny red apple in their grinning mouths; a poisoned apple, of course.” She cracked an impish grin, took another drag on her cigarette, and then yielded a fit of maniacal laughter that leapt from her mouth along with a chaotic puff of smoke. “Oh my god, you’re out of your mind!” Farika screamed as she threw back the covers and scrambled out of bed. “Stay away from me! You’re sick in the head! Don’t come near me!” The uncarpeted floor felt like a smooth sheet of ice against the bottom of Farika’s bare feet as she sprinted towards the door. “Help!” she cried out. “Somebody help me! This woman’s insane!” Mara Marhoe took another drag on her cigarette and sat with her eyes glued to the terrified girl; her laughter intensified until it was dripping with deviance. Farika flung open the door and found herself in a long corridor of muted green and gray, where drugged patients stumbled about in a strange zombie-like fashion; some mumbling to themselves, and some staring off into outer-space as if in a trance. She quickly made her way down the hallway, hoping to find a portal leading to freedom. However, to her dismay, all she found was one locked door after another. She spied an elderly gray-haired man sitting by himself, humming, in a wheelchair that was parked alongside a wall upon which hung an odd fingerpainting of smiling two-headed children dancing around a tree that bore a human face with a fanged mouth. As he hummed a tune that Farika did not recognize, he stared down at the floor, smiling. Help me, please,” Farika begged him. Her voice reverberated with desperation. “Tell me how I can get out of here. I don’t belong in this place. There’s been a mistake.” The old man’s humming immediately ceased and he slowly raised his head to make eye contact with Farika. Without warning, he jumped out of the wheelchair, his hands seized Farika’s breasts, 84 | UncagedBooks.com
and he yelled madly in an Irish brogue: “Tits are the Devil’s doorknockers!” Farika let out a loud scream. She quickly managed to free her bosoms from the old man’s discourteous grasp and then took off running. Within a matter of moments, a team of mental health technicians clad in sterile white uniforms apprehended her, pumped her full of sedatives, and returned her to her room, where she found Mara Marhoe sitting in the same location as before, smoking what was left of her cigarette. “Welcome home, Farika,” she said before inserting her butt into an empty Un-Cola can of shimmering green and lighting up a fresh cigarette. “How did you know my name?” asked Farika, her speech sounding slightly slurred as the full effects of the sedatives that had been forced into her began to take hold. She eyed Mara Marhoe with suspicion. Mara Marhoe blew a smoke-ring and then stabbed it with her middle finger. Her bloated belly gave off a loud rumbling sound, followed by a curious highpitched wail that sounded neither human nor animal. “You have to watch what you say in your sleep around here,” she said in an almost inaudible whisper. “The walls have ears… literally. And in case you haven’t already figured it out for yourself, the TVs here have eyes. Not everyone can see them, of course, but I can. They watch our every move.” Farika climbed out of bed and attempted to stand on her feet. Her legs felt as weak as her mind felt confused, and her body felt as though it were floating an inch or two above the floor. She slowly made her way across the room, nearly losing her balance at one point, while Mara Marhoe continued to sit on the bed and watch her every move like a gigantic, smoke-blowing hawk. At the other side of the room near the door leading to the hallway, she found a small lavatory consisting of just a toilet and a wall-mounted sink surmounted by an old chrome faucet with white porcelain handles. Attached to the wall above the sink was a mirror that showed an unfamiliar reflection - a young woman whose ivory facial features were framed by long tresses of raven-black hair. A pair of strange, dark-green eyes stared back at her from the glass as though wondering who she was. Her pale lips parted as if to speak, but no sound emerged. In her head she could hear a man’s voice. It was singing: Farika, child with an angel’s face, Farika, lost in time and in space,
| GERRI R. GRAY | Farika, my Farika... And then everything faded away to black. *** “A question that sometimes drives me hazy: Am I or are the others crazy?” asked a cheerful male voice. “That’s my favorite quote by Albert Einstein. Did you know that he married his cousin and that one of their sons was committed to a mental institution?” Farika opened her eyes. Standing next to her bed was a young mustachioed doctor in a white lab coat. She thought to herself how handsome he looked and for a fleeting moment fantasized that he was a knight in shining armor come to whisk her away to some romantic realm of happily-ever-after. Around his neck was a stethoscope and clutched in his hand was a clipboard. Farika glanced around the room in search of her rambling roommate but there was no sign of her. She gently rubbed her sleepy eyes and wondered if Mara Marhoe had simply been a figment of her imagination. “Good morning, Farika. I’m Doctor Scholl. And how are we feeling this morning?” the doctor asked. Farika sat up. “Where am I? What happened? Please tell me!” The doctor dragged a chair over to Farika’s bedside and sat down. “There’s no need to panic, young lady. You’re in Midtown Psychiatric Hospital.” “Psychiatric hospital?” Doctor Scholl nodded his head and offered an empathetic smile. “You appear to be suffering from retrograde amnesia. Let me explain to you what that is. The main feature of this disorder is the impaired ability to recall past events and previously familiar information.” “Amnesia? I don’t understand. How could something like that have happened to me?” asked Farika. “Was I hurt in a car accident or something?” “Amnesia can result from any number of things that damage the areas of the brain vital for memory processing,” explained the doctor. “When you were first brought in, we ran tests to determine if you might have suffered a stroke or a heart attack, as both of those can deprive the brain of an adequate supply of oxygen, resulting in memory loss. Happens all the time. We also checked for possible brain tumors and even carbon monoxide poisoning. The results all
came back negative.” Tears began to well up in Farika’s eyes. “I feel like I’m trapped in a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. Doctor, I’m so scared!” “Calm yourself,” said the doctor. “Everything is all right. I just need to ask you a few questions. Do you know what year this is?” “1974,” replied Farika. “I think.” “Yes, very good,” said the doctor. “And who is the President of the United States?” “Richard Milhous Nixon.” The doctor smiled. “Yes. You’re doing very well.” He then began firing off a round of important questions that left Farika feeling shaken and disconcerted. “Now, what is your last name? Where and when were you born? What is the name of the street you live on? Have you ever had mayonnaise and Kaopectate smeared all over the bottoms of your feet and licked off by a grown man dressed up as a baby?” Farika thought long and hard but her mind was blank. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t remember!” “Have you used drugs of any kind – prescription or recreational?” “I can’t remember,” replied Farika. A look of panic suddenly swept across her face. “Oh, my god! Could I be experiencing some kind of nightmarish drug trip? Maybe somebody slipped me some bad LSD! Maybe this place and all the weird people in it are simply one big freaky hallucination!” Doctor Scholl cracked a slight smile as if amused by Farika’s theory. “I can assure you that everything you perceive to be unreal is, in fact, quite real. And vice versa. Now, tell me, have you been experiencing any severe headaches or strange urges to trample a man while wearing purple crotchless fishnet pantyhose and red thigh-high boots with six-inch stiletto heels?” “No, I don’t think so,” replied Farika after pondering the question for about ten seconds. “But I have been experiencing these strange dream-like visions. They’re sort of like dreams, only they happen when I’m awake.” “Go on,” said the doctor, as he jotted something down on his clipboard. “Well, in these dreams, or whatever they are, I feel like I’m being pursued by someone or something and my life is in great danger. And then I Issue 20 | March 2018 |
| FANG-FREAKIN-TASTIC FEATURE AUTHOR | hear a man’s voice off in the distance somewhere and he’s singing my name over and over. I don’t know who this man is, but his voice is sweet and melodic and very comforting. He keeps singing and his voice grows louder and louder until my head starts to buzz and feel like it’s about to explode. Then the dream ends. I don’t know what any of it means.” Farika listened to the scribbling sound of the doctor’s pencil and thought to herself how odd her words just sounded. She was sure if she had heard the same words uttered from someone else’s lips she would have thought them mad as a hatter. She was suddenly overcome by a wave of anxiety and secretly feared that the doctor would think she was completely insane and commit her to some dungeon-like padded room in the psychiatric hospital for the rest of her life. “Very interesting,” said the doctor as he finished writing. He raised up the bottom half of the top sheet of paper attached to his clipboard and read something that was written on the sheet underneath it. He removed his eyeglasses and looked into Farika’s eyes. “According to your chart, you were physically examined by three of our resident doctors – Doctor Flushing, Doctor Farfle, and Doctor Fertuitus – and, according to their reports, you don’t appear to have suffered any head injuries. So, it’s quite possible that your amnesia is what we call dissociative, or psychogenic. It’s quite rare and typically stems from a great emotional shock or trauma. However, in most cases, the loss of personal memories and autobiographical information lasts only for a short period of time.” “I see,” said Farika, feeling somewhat relieved. “So, tell me, Doctor, for how long will my amnesia last? When can I expect to get my memory back?” “It’s impossible to say. Amnesia can be short term, or it can be permanent.” Doctor Scholl put his glasses back on and his gaze shifted down to Farika’s feet. “You have very provocative feet. What size shoe do you wear?” he asked. “I honestly can’t remember,” Farika answered, puzzled by the doctor’s question. “I’m guessing a seven or an eight, but I’d have to take off one of my shoes and look inside to find the actual size.” Doctor Scholl promptly instructed Farika to remove both of her shoes so he could inspect 86 | UncagedBooks.com
her feet. He then inquired if she was familiar with reflexology, and she shook her head to indicate that she wasn’t. “Reflexology is an ancient Oriental technique that utilizes pressure-point massage on the feet to promote healing in other parts of the body,” he explained as he began rubbing and pressing deeply on the sole of one of Farika’s bare feet with the tips of his thumbs and fingers. “Will this foot massage help me to regain my memory?” Farika asked. “We must explore all avenues of therapy,” the doctor wheezed as his finger movements grew more vigorous and the lenses of his glasses began to steam up. His breathing soon grew heavy and a small trickle of drool escaped from the corner of his mouth. His tongue darted across his lips in a lizard-like fashion. The reflexology treatment felt quite pleasurable to Farika and was beginning to relieve some of her pentup stress. She closed her eyes and allowed the back of her head to sink into the marshmallow softness of her pillow. All of a sudden she felt the weird sensation of something warm and wet and her eyelids flew open, providing her with the startling sight of the doctor suckling the big toe of her left foot. Farika let out a shriek and instinctively pulled her foot away from Doctor Scholl’s mouth; however, the demented doctor grabbed hold of it and continued to slurp, all the while moaning deliriously, in spite of the amnesiac’s protests. After coming up for air, he cried out: “You have the hallux of a goddess!” Just when Farika had convinced herself that her reflexology session couldn’t get any stranger, the door to her room flew open and a snaggletoothed Japanese man with a chonmage haircut like a samurai dashed in on all fours, barking wildly like an excited dog. Farika let out a gasp as he made a frenzied beeline to Doctor Scholl’s leg and proceeded to hump it in a furious manner. Looking rather annoyed, the doctor withdrew his mouth from Farika’s big toe and snapped: “Please control yourself, Mister Hiroshima! Can’t you see that I’m in the middle of a therapy session with a patient? How can I hope to plant her tender young feet firmly on the road to recovery with you interrupting us like this?” Doctor Scholl’s words were to no avail; the crazed patient merely barked in defiance and continued to hump his leg. Disgusted, the doctor shook his leg violently in a fruitless attempt to free it from the clutches of its sexually aroused assailant as he shouted out for
| GERRI R. GRAY | a nurse to come at once, adding, with a tone of urgency: “Mister Hiroshima is in heat again!” Within a matter of moments, a vinegar-faced nurse rushed into the room with her right hand firmly wrapped around the handle of an electric cattle prod. Her very presence seemed to strike fear in the heart of the mad humper, and he immediately released his grip on the doctor’s leg, cowered next to Farika’s bed, and let out a series of whimpers. The nurse quickly proceeded to place a leather dog collar with an attached leash around his neck and then led him, on all fours, out of the room. Before disappearing from view, she zapped his buttocks with the prod, which caused him to yelp out in pain, and then, with an evil grin on her face, she remarked: “If you insist on behaving like a dog, then you’ll be treated like a dog. Now heel, Mister Hiroshima!” Doctor Scholl looked down at his wristwatch. “I’m afraid that concludes our session for today, Farika. I hope I didn’t get off on the wrong foot with you. I will see you again the day after tomorrow. In the meantime I will arrange for a strong sedative.” “Thank you,” said Farika. “But I really don’t think I need a sedative.” “It’s not for you,” replied the doctor as he exited the room.
acts with the other characters is hilarious. Each character in this book has it’s own quirks and I couldn’t wait to see who would come along next. The Amnesia girl is crazy imaginative. It’s probably one of the most creative books I’ve ever read. The whole book is an adventure that keeps you guessing along the way. I wasn’t able to figure out the ending until the end, so that’s really good! I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a creative and laugh out loud read that will have people looking at you like you belong in the hospital with Farika if you read it around anyone.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: The Amnesia Girl is absolutely hilarious. I came across this author by accident in one of my groups and I’m so glad I did. This book is considered of the Bizarro genre and is filled with Dark Humor. I don’t think this book is necessarily for everyone, as different people have different senses of humor. Some people just won’t get it. I got it. I thought it was well written and I was laughing out loud through out the entire book. I was highlighting passages left and right and finally just gave up because I was highlighting practically everything. I appreciate Dark Humor quite a bit thanks to an extremely twisted sense of humor. Throughout the story we follow Farika, a girl suffering from amnesia who wakes up in a psychiatric hospital with no memories at all. The way she interIssue 20 | March 2018 |
Uncaged Reviews Down Solo
Earl Javorsky Suspense/Thriller The launch of a propulsive noir series with a paranormal spin. Things haven’t been going well for Charlie Miner. His work as a private investigator involves him with an endless roster of shady characters. His ex-wife is borderline crazy. And he hasn’t been getting to spend anywhere near enough time with his teenage daughter Mindy, the one person in his life who truly matters to him.
Uncaged Review: Right from the outset, the reader is introduced to the main character as a dead person. With this POV, you might assume that anything can happen, as this truly is uncharted territory. However, the author temporarily sets metaphysics aside and guides us through the mission that Charile Miner seeks to accomplish, namely solving his own murder. Principal and secondary characters are well presented and developed, and the storyline progresses quickly to keep the reader engaged to the very end. In the final chapter, the reader is still unsure what the outcome will be regarding Charlie’s state of being. The metaphysical questions return, then the reader must decide. All in all, a very well done suspense, drama, touch of paranormal story and mental exercise for a willing reader. Reviewed by Doug
Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations
90 | UncagedBooks.com
Bill’s General Store Myra Nour Fantasy The old general store was wellloved and iconic. After it is swept away by a tornado, the residents of the small town were devastated, none more than the elderly Bob. When a new store is built, it doesn’t take long for him to notice transformations every day. Changes that are reversing the newness back to the older version of the general store - old floor boards erupting through the tile and the chairs that used to sit near the front door mysteriously appearing. Note: This is based on a true event. My Uncle’s General Store was destroyed by a tornado. A paranormal story set in a small town in the South, highlighting the colloquialisms of the region. Uncaged Review: Bob makes the daily walk to the General Store to meet his friends, as he’s always done with his dog. His old, arthritic body hurts on most days, and since his wife died, he tries to keep moving. The old General Store was replaced by a new store on the same foundation as the store that was ripped away by a tornado, and it’s not the same. New-fangled technology has replaced the old, and the character of the store is lost. Suddenly, things start turning up that were in the old store. The crates near the front of the store, the chairs that seemed to be from the old store – but those were blown away in the tornado. Bob notices, but little by little the character is creeping back into the store, and Bob’s mood is improving by the day. A short story – so I won’t say more, but it’s a feelgood type of story and different from what I’ve read from the author in the past. The author keeps the characters and their mannerisms and way of speaking native to the area, and in these old stores all over, it’s almost easy to believe Reviewed by Cyrene
So I Might Be a Vampire Rodney V. Smith Fantasy/Humorous Nobody expects to get turned into a vampire, especially a guy like Bob. Everybody hopes that if they somehow get transformed into a vampire, they will instantly become some kind of superhero vampire out of the movies. Bad news guys: not gonna happen. More likely than not, you’re gonna be one of the poor clueless bastards hanging out on Thursday nights with Bob in his vampire support group.
Uncaged Review: Bob isn’t like your average vampire, he lives with his friend Claude and works in a sex store. He is learning how to be a vampire and even starts his own self-help group to get other new vampires to join. I thought this book to be a good read and what I think will be a good vampire series. As Bob is quite a funny vampire. I gave three stars as I felt the story took a while to move along. I felt the author was trying to make it just all the way funny and felt the plot line was repeating itself. I would however like to read the rest of the series to see how Bob and the author progress in the future. Reviewed by Jennifer
Uncaged Ratings: Adult
Adult situations, drug use, language
Living with the Torture Killer Skye Andrews Crime/Serial Killer For twenty years Terry Walker killed his victims using various torture methods. Once night Phillipa McDonald was kidnapped and kept as a prisoner of this sadistic serial killer. This is a look at her side of the story. Book 2 of I am Terry Walker series
Uncaged Review: This short story follows the book, I Am Terry Walker – which is a book about a serial killer and how he finds and tortures his victims. Saying I liked that book is a stretch, because it was a no-holds barred, no-holding-anythingback including all the gory details, but it was well written and earned the 5 Stars I gave it, although it won’t be for everyone. To be fair, readers should take that book on before reading this one, as this is a count of the woman that Terry kidnapped and who lived and loved the killer for over 18 years. Like the previous book, it’s still in a diary-type format, detailing the time Phillipa spends with Terry – knowing he is killing, but believing at first he will kill her if she leaves, but later believing she is helping him not kill as often later on. This book is not as bloody, and it’s much easier to handle, but it also lacks some true emotional ties between the character and the reader. At first I symphathized with Phillipa’s kidnapping, but later on I felt a bit detached even though it was clearly a case of Stockholm Syndrome to the extreme. Seeing how someone goes from one kind of fear to another was believable and worth a look, but reading the first one would be the best bet. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Uncaged Reviews Bob and the Polka-Dot Highway R. Murphy Contemporary Romance Poor Roz! Once again stuck on the horns of a dilemma. Does she accept the offer for a great job that’s hundreds of miles from Crooked Lake? Or does she choose David, the great guy who grows grapes half a mile from her house? And either way—assuming our crabby woman-of-a-certain-age manages to make a decision—what about her ghost, Bob? Uncaged Review: The third book in the series featuring Roz and a ghost called Bob who loves to drink. I hadn’t read any of the pervious books before, so I was going into this unknowingly. The author does give the readers a brief summary of the other two books, but I still found myself unable to get a grip on what she mentioned. I found the storyline with Roz and Bob straight forward to understand. The only thing I didn’t like is the author makes the lead character Roz question what happened to one of Bob’s friends/ Ghosts then it’s never mentioned again. Overall I think three stars for this book as the story was kind of entertaining with the relationship with Roz and Bob, but lack of follow up on one of the characters and my lack of understanding of the summary brings it back to three stars. I wouldn’t think this book will be the end of Bob or Roz. No doubt they will make a new appearance sometime soon. I look forward to hearing from them soon. Reviewed by Jennifer
Uncaged Ratings: Adult No major warnings
92 | UncagedBooks.com
The Unlikeable Demon Hunter: Crave Deborah Wilde Urban Fantasy What doesn’t kill you ... seriously messes with your love life. Nava is happily settling into her new relationship and life is all giddy joy and stolen kisses. Except when it’s assassins. Talk about a mood killer. She and Rohan are tracking the unlikely partnership between the Brotherhood and a witch who can bind demons, but every new piece of the puzzle is leaving them with more questions than answers. And someone doesn’t appreciate them getting close to the truth. Go figure. Uncaged Review: The Nava Katz series has easily become one of my favorites. This is an urban fantasy series that has it all, great dialog, characters that you learn more and more about with each book and action sequences that keep you on the edge of your seat. Anytime I finish one book, I’m impatiently awaiting the next installment. It’s almost gotten to the point of being redundant in the praise I give this series, and Crave is no exception. Nava and Rohan have their hands full in this edition, trying to find a witch that is binding demons and a new drug on the streets. But they will also run into old enemies along the way, just to up the ante. Nava and Rohan have some nice downtime moments too, to let you catch your breath, but this time, it could tear them apart. Witty, snarky, sarcastic Nava is in perfect form, and Rohan is the best foil for her. The author proves that you can keep characters together throughout the whole book, and for the book to still hit it out of the park, unlike so many authors that break the characters up consistently, and still hold the tension. Highly recommended urban fantasy. Reviewed by Cyrene
Earl of Wainthorpe Collette Cameron Historical Regency
Could you ever love the unrepentant rake who won you in a wager? He didn’t gamble on losing his heart when he won her at the gaming tables. Pierce, the Earl of Wainthorpe has finally thwarted his worst enemy. Except he can’t revel in his victory after winning his foe’s ward in a winner-takesall wager. If Pierce refuses to assume Bianca Salisbury’s guardianship, the fiery-haired beauty with a matching temper may very well find herself sold to the highest bidder.
Uncaged Review: So we open this story right at a card table and a very tense stand-off with Pierce and Lord Fairfax, the latter gambling his home and his cousin’s guardianship in the game. Fairfax’s cousin, Bianca, is mortified that he’s gambling her away, along with the home. I’m always look forward to reading and reviewing one of Ms. Cameron’s books, I’m always assured she will deliver a wonderful escape that will hold me captive for at least a full afternoon, and this book did not disappoint. This time around, I fell for Pierce within a few pages, and his sisters are a hoot. It took me a tad longer to warm up to Bianca, but when she finally got over her stubborn attitude, she was easy to like and her strength and determination to keep her reputation in tact was admirable, even if it was misdirected at times. The attraction between the two of them simmers under the surface and is fun to watch develop. An entertaining read from start to finish. Reviewed by Cyrene
Dyan Chick Urban Fantasy Morgan Drake has spent her entire life in the shadows. A rampaging dragon is about to change all of that forever. Morgan Drake wants as little to do with the magical community as possible. That’s why she gave up her official Mage roots to work for a Vampire crime lord. She has to make a living though, so she helps her boss uncover valuable magical objects. If she had any other skills, she’d leave the magical community forever and live in the human world, but her fate seems to be straddling both sides.
Uncaged Review: Magic Born is a fast paced urban fantasy that hits the ground running – I was yanked into the story within a few pages and the story never let up. Morgan is a mage, who travels between the magical realm and the human one, smuggling magical objects to sell for a living. Her main boss, and mentor, is a powerful crime lord and centuries old vampire – Jimmy. When Morgan brings him a cursed statue she found at an estate sale, she is well rewarded – and since it’s her birthday, Jimmy tells her to go out on the town on him, and show around his newest employee, and young vamp, Alec. Things take a turn while Morgan and Alec are at the club, a dragon is loose and burning the city. When she finds out that Jimmy is dead, and she’s set up, she has 48 hours to clear her name. There are plenty of twists and turns and betrayals – and the author keeps you second guessing yourself and the characters on every other page. The banter, the characters and the action sequences are well paced and keeps the reader engaged. I read this in one sitting, and am looking forward to book two that is coming out in April. Even though this tied up the story arc that was running, it did leave you hanging a bit on others at the end. Reviewed by Cyrene
Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Uncaged Reviews Freaky Franky
Enchanting the Duke of Demoon Jenn Langston Historical Regency
Miss Carolyn Ashford wants one thing from marriage: love. After spending one informative season in London, she discovers the rarity of the emotion. Resigning herself to a life of spinsterhood, she leans on her brother’s charity. When she stumbles upon a secret garden on the Duke of Demoon’s property, she sets to restore it. As the garden comes to life, so does her spirit, as though she’s finally found her place. Uncaged Review: If the rumors are to be believed about Edmund that he has indeed caught his father’s temper and is mad then I pity any unfortunate soul to cross his path. After a brief conversation with a stranger at one of his gardens, Edmund finds himself intrigued with the beautiful woman. Carolyn has caught his eye in a perfect story of love, tragedy, and betrayal. This conclusion to the Touched by Fire series which can also be read as a standalone novel. I really enjoyed this book and I’m sad that the series is finished now. That being said I’m now a fan of this author and can’t wait to see what she comes out with next. Reviewed by Jennifer
William Blackwell Horror When an enigmatic town doctor saves the life of Anisa Worthington’s dying son, she abandons Christianity in favor of devotion to the cult of Santa Muerte or Saint Death. Some believe the mysterious skeleton saint will protect their loved ones, help in matters of the heart, and provide abundant happiness, health, wealth, and justice. But others, including the Catholic Church, call the cult blasphemous, evil, and satanic. Anisa introduces Santa Muerte to her friend Helen Randon, and soon one of Helen’s enemies is brutally murdered. Residents of Montague, a peaceful little town in Prince Edward Island, begin plotting to rid the Bible belt of apostates.
Uncaged Review: I have never heard of saint death before reading this book. To die for the story was brilliant but not my shot of Bacardi. I got a little lost here and there with the emergence of different characters as they didn’t seem relevant at the time but eventually their connection was explained. Reviewed by Skye
Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence
Uncaged Ratings: Adult Adult situations, sex
94 | UncagedBooks.com
The Thirteenth Knight Tricia Andersen YA Fantasy
Will becoming a knight bring Miranda back to Thatcher – or will dark magic and the King himself keep them apart? Life is simple in the village when Thatcher and Miranda realize that their lifelong friendship has turned to love. Their world is turned upside down when Miranda’s true identity is revealed – she is the niece of the kingdom and the next heir to the throne. She is swept away to the palace giving Thatcher the only solution available to him. He will become one of the King’s knights and therefore worthy of Miranda’s hand. Uncaged Review: A fast paced, shorter novella that easily pulls you into the story. Miranda is raised in a village, with the simple life along with Thatcher – a farmer’s son. Together they grow up, and in time, fall in love. When it’s revealed that Miranda is not just a villager’s daughter, but in fact royalty, she is swept back to the castle by her Uncle, the King – who will find her a suitable husband. Thatcher vows to find her by becoming a Knight. But the castle is taken over by dark magic and only time will tell if they can break the spell to save the kingdom and Miranda. A story of love, betrayal and secrets – this is a quick read and entertaining. I would have rather seen a bit more meat to the book, as I never really connected with Miranda or Thatcher, there really wasn’t much time to do it, and I never got a sense of what they looked like in my mind. On the plus side, there is very little fat in the book, and it kept its pace well. Reviewed by Cyrene
Katherine McIntyre Paranormal/Shifters Sierra Kanoska fought hard for her position as wolf alpha of the Red Rock pack, and intruders in her territory receive the full brunt of what her claws, fangs, and smarts can accomplish. So when Dax Williams, de facto alpha of the Silver Springs pack, pays an unwelcome visit, Sierra’s ready to toss him out. However, the man’s in a tough spot. The pack elders sabotaged his fight for alpha against his brother, driving him from his lands. Sierra hates underhanded moves like that, so she agrees on an alliance.
Uncaged Review: If you are strung out on shifter series, or paranormal, this one pushes back, and it will reaffirm your love for the furry characters that have saturated the market in the past few years. The author kicks this one into high gear and challenges the norm with a wolf alpha and a woman at that. But Sierra is a wolf alpha of her pack that is easy to back, and you never feel like she’s just a domineering bitch, but someone who is fair, smart and deserving of her place. Many times when an author writes an alpha woman, they tend to overextend and turn them too hard-nosed in the process. I never felt that with Sierra. Dax is a mountain lion alpha whose territory borders on the wolves, comes into Sierra’s territory to form an alliance. But they’ll have to resist the call of the mating bond that emerges between the two of them if Dax wants to get his pack away from his evil, cheating brother who chased him out. This book was hard for me to put down when real life decided to rear its ugly head. Never slowing down – this book tosses you headfirst into the storyline and there is never a dull moment. Dax becomes the perfect foil for Sierra, and if you love the shifter books but feel burned out on them, this one may change your mind. Reviewed by Cyrene
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Uncaged Reviews Capture
Various Paranormal Anthology ~ Can a human capture a heart of a creature of the dark? ~ Presented by the award-winning anthology publisher, Enchanted Anthologies. Capture, book one, brings together five dark, paranormal romance stories just in time for Valentines Day.
Uncaged Review: These stories all fall under the romance between a human and a paranormal being, in this book you’ll see a warlock, werewolves, a vampire and even mermaids. I enjoyed all the stories, although a couple felt incomplete, like they were an excerpt from a full novel – and it took a while to sink in. Two stories stood out for me. Darkest Depths by Yolanda Allard was the most original story, with a hunter who kills mermaids and mermen after they slaughtered her parents. Don’t go thinking these are the sweet Disney princesses – these mermaids are monsters. I like the pace and the originality of the story and it had a couple nice surprises. The second story that I liked, especially the ending, was The Game by Rena Marin. A werewolf tale that really held no surprises until the end, the author ended it in a surprising way. All in all the stories were entertaining, and even though I would have liked to see a bit more meat to them, I enjoyed the stories. Reviewed by Cyrene
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From Ice Wagon to Clubhouse Viola Russell Historical Romance/Irish
At fifteen years old, Jude Mooney is driving an ice wagon to help his struggling Irish immigrant family. An obedient son and devoted brother, he willingly works in the sweltering New Orleans heat along with his friend, Pete Saluto, to help his pious and respectable parents. When his older brother’s suicide leaves the family nearly destitute and shame-ridden, Jude seeks employment in the infamous Storyville of old New Orleans, becoming the confidante of the many characters who populated Emma Johnson’s establishment. Uncaged Review: This book starts in 1914 and ends in 1932 covering the life of Jude Mooney from age 15 to age 33. It follows him from WWI through Prohibition. It starts with him and his best friend, Pete, working on a horse drawn ice cart delivering ice to earn money through the time when they have enough money to open their own restaurant and club when prohibition ends. During the book, Jude goes from living in poverty when his father is injured on the job and can barely work to where he owns race horses and frequents the clubhouse at the racetrack. He and Pete remain friends throughout the book. Their lives intertwine at the beginning, separate and come back together toward the end of WWI. It wasn’t until Jude’s brother James commits suicide to keep from being sent to jail for embezzling money from the bank where he was working. It sends Jude on a path where he attempts to help his family by working in the famed Storyville, the red-light district of New Orleans in the early 1900s. When his father finds out about Jude and Pete working for a brothel, Jude ends up arguing with his father and leaves, believing it was best for him and his father. He fancies himself in love with Maureen, a redhaired prostitute at the house where he is working. When he is discovered by her daughter in bed, he re-evaluates his life there and decides he needs to leave the area
and goes to Ireland, not intending to meet up with his family who are still there but after being caught by his friend sleeping with the sister, he leaves and joins his uncle. When he kills the owner to the bar where he was working, he joins the English army and fights in WWI. When he returns to Ireland after being wounded, he marries Maeve, the sister of his friend. They become involved in the Irish rebellion and end up having to leave with their two sons to return to America. Things don’t get a whole lot better upon their return. Jude’s sister had a child out of wedlock, Pete loses an arm in the war and jobs are scarce. When Prohibition starts, Jude, out of desperation, ends up working for the local Mafia boss training horses and running a bootleg operation and speakeasy. It enables him to move to the clubhouse in the end, but along the way, his wife dies and his boys have to leave the country for killing an informant. Jude ends up marrying Nieve, the child of the prostitute he had been with in Storyville. As you can see, at lost happens and this is just glossing over much of the story. The book was well written with characters you can see and relate to, be it good or bad. There are times you can feel the pain he was feeling due to circumstances out of his control. My problem was the ending. I get to the last page and mentally said, “Hold on. There’s go to be more!” It leaves you wanting to know if Jude and Nieve end up staying together and if the baby is really his. Do the twins come home? Does Jude go the straight and narrow as he planned at the end of Prohibition or does he continue to work for the Mafia for the money to keep his wife happy? Does his wife settle down and become a well to do society dame or does she do things for excitement and get herself and Jude in trouble? Does Jude end his life financially secure or does his past come back to haunt him and he loses it all? I feel like there should be another book with the second part of his life. If there is, I’d definitely read it.Reviewed by Barbara
Andi Lawrencovna Dark Fantasy
Once upon a time, or so the story goes, there was a prince who threw a ball to find a wife. He was a young prince, by his peoples’ standards, and though he had no wish for a bride, he was honor bound to make the attempt to find one. Of course, Prince Kit knew that it was not just honor that bound him to the duty. Prophesied or cursed, who could say, but since he was a babe assassins and soldiers had come for him in the dead of night, in the middle of court, amidst the steps of a waltz, to end his life and with it end the lives of his people, the land he was meant to rule. Uncaged Review: I’m not into love stories usually but the strong female character was a nice change. If Cinderella was an assassin who belonged to a guild of darkness I’m sure she would be just as kick ass. A nice twist on a well known story. Reviewed by Skye
Uncaged Ratings: Adult Violence
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Uncaged Reviews Gone for You
Jayne Frost Contemporary Rockstar Romance Leave ‘em smiling when you go, but always go. I know the rules: no relationships. No complications. Leave ‘em smiling when you go, but always go. It’s a song I know as well as any I play onstage. Until her... Lily Tennison. The girl has “complication” written all over her beautiful face. But still, I want to know her. Sure, I’m breaking the rules. But what harm could it do? It’s not like anyone ever fell in love in four days, right?
Uncaged Review: After I read the first book from Jayne Frost last month, I had to go back into the beginning of this fantastic series – even though they both read fine as a standalone, the base of the series is about the same group of characters, so they enhance each other well. This time the story revolves around Cameron and Lily. When the band learns of their manager’s underhanded dealings, they turn to Cam’s brother Chase, to get them out of a bind. They get booked into a new resort – away from all the media. Cam takes a quick liking to Lily, the person in charge of their comfort at the resort. Most of this story is only about a week long, with a short epilogue in the back. The romance is fast – but Cam is known as the one night stand guy, can Lily change his mind? I’ll definitely be reading this whole series, it only leaves you wanting more. Reviewed by Cyrene
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Patricia Hudson Contemporary Western Romance It’s easy to fall in love. Holding on to it is the tricky part. Sometimes love seems forever. But from one lie, one hideous deceptive act, it can shatter into a million pieces. Meet Lane Benchley. She knows all about holding on, or in her case, the futility of it. Six years ago she lost her best friend, Caroline Stanton, and her forever love, Blake Stanton, in one unimaginable swoop.
Uncaged Review: This book is marketed as a contemporary romance, and it is that, but this is definitely more of a western romance and it could be missing out on an audience of that genre by not being in that category. The author does a nice job with the characters and the world she’s built, and in this story, you actually get two full romance stories running together. Lane left home to move to Chicago, after her heart was broken by Blake. She returns home when her father takes a fall breaking his arm and leg, so she can help out with their ranch. Running into Blake is inevitable, and the sparks fly. Caroline, Blake’s sister, and former best friend of Lane’s, gets back together with Lane and they are able to put the past behind them and become the friend’s they always were. But Blake won’t be ignored – but there is more going on with Blake’s manipulating mother. A pretty good read that keeps a nice pace and even though I wanted to shake Lane a few times, she eventually got to where she needed to be. Reviewed by Cyrene
Sin with Me
J.A. Huss & Jonathan McClain Contemporary Erotica/Suspense Releases March 6
Sin with Me is the first book in a four-book contemporary romance series by New York Times bestselling author, JA Huss, and veteran actor and writer, Johnathan McClain. Each full-length novel will release three weeks apart starting on March 6, 2018. *** Two broken people in a city fueled by sin. Maddie Clayton isn’t looking to be saved. She knows the only person you can count on is yourself. Her moral compass might not point true North these days—but at least she’s still standing. The Military taught Tyler Bell about loyalty. Being there for your brothers is the only thing that matters—but when it mattered most, he wasn’t.
for themselves. But if you aren’t grabbed right away, be aware that you probably will be. When the two of them meet, there are explosive scenes, in the beginning it’s the sex – and later, it’s so much more and will reveal quite a bombshell. The book is written in first person, and jumps between Maddie and Tyler from chapter to chapter. The story will dig deeper into their lives, and you’ll start seeing what makes them the way they are, you’ll get to see them beyond who they appear on the surface. The dialog is dead on, and there is a distinct difference between Maddie’s voice and Tyler’s, could be thanks to the two writers of the book. Be warned, there are a lot of hot sex scenes, a ton of cursing, drinking and some minor drug use. When this book hit me, it grabbed a hold of me and didn’t let go. Nice to know for the rest of the series, the authors are releasing one book every three weeks – makes the cliffhanger easier to swallow. Reviewed by Cyrene
She’s got a ticket straight to Hell. He’s already been there and back. She needs to win. He just needs to stop fighting. Some sins scar your soul so deeply, you’ll never be the same.
Uncaged Ratings: Adult Sex, language
Uncaged Review: I’ll be honest, when I first started reading this, I thought for sure I’d be trudging my way through this book. I was very happy and surprised to find this wasn’t the case at all. Two very broken people, each taking a dark path of self-destruction – Maddie turning to stripping and lap dances to make ends meet, which they usually don’t, and Tyler – an ex-military man who is so damaged he loses track of his days and what he’s done in an alcoholic haze. It’s very hard to watch the two of them making excuses
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews House of Allure L. Marshall James SciFi/Cyberpunk In the future, personal computers are integrated into the bodies of most first-world citizens, sex-bots are the norm, and brothels are as common as restaurants. In this world, Tad Barlow is an introverted virgin in search of a genuine sexual experience, and Symphony Rains is a long-term brothel girl desperate to remain relevant in the profession she believes in.
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Normally, I can’t stand anything too science-y. I’m not good with technology, and the science of things just bores me half to death. Or it confuses me. One of the two happens almost every time. House of Allure is one of the only science/technology type of books I didn’t completely lose interest in within the first 2 minutes of reading. Set in the future, which is also something I normally avoid reading about, there are a lot of things we don’t have now (or do we?). People are their own computers. I don’t know how to explain it, but people can buy upgrades to make themselves better in different ways. There are brothels everywhere and people even have and use sex bots. It’s very hard for me to explain anything about this story because I know I won’t get it right. So essentially, it’s well written and unusual. James does a great job of breaking things down to a level that even I can understand and find interesting. The characters are likeable while also being individuals. The most basic of human traits are still found among these futuristic citizens. Greed,
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jealousy, self-doubt etc are all there. It shows that though things may change drastically in the future, at the core of things, people are still screwing things up just like they always have. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot. I would recommend it to anyone who likes easily understood technologically advanced, futuristic stories that have some interesting twists and turns. There’s just enough gore to make my black little heart happy, which is a total bonus in my opinion.
Floyd & Mikki’s Zombie Destroyers Joseph Tatner Horror Comedy The third book in the hilarious “Floyd & Mikki: Zombie Hunters” trilogy. Packed with humor, horror, action and adventure. Old friends are reunited and new enemies emerge, as Floyd and Mikki seek out several secret government facilities for valuable data, hoping to eradicate the zombie infestation forever. Of course, these facilities have their own zombie problems, including a failed experiment that led to a monstrous genetic mutation. With the full support of what’s left of the American government, Floyd and Mikki are outfitted with the best available military armor and equipment, but will it be enough?
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: There are so many great elements to this book; I hardly know where to start! Let me start by saying how quickly and completely I fell in love with not only the characters, but the story as well. It was fast paced, full of action and explosions and had a tone to it that was just different from many other zombie books out there today. I try not to rehash the blurb in my reviews, but I think it’s necessary here to get an idea of what’s going on. Floyd is a loner. Surviving on his own in his apocalypse rigged truck he has managed to avoid getting himself killed or turned into a zombie. One night, he meets a football helmet-wearing survivor named Mikki, who, like him, has managed to survive by being cautions and learning how to adapt. Mikki has used textbooks and a mostly inaccurate and battered copy of a zombie apocalypse survival guide, in which she’s made plenty of her own notes to help guide her through these dangerous times. Neither is used to having company and they have both seen the horrors of being too trusting in this world. Mikki had a hard life growing up and she has grown into one strong, gun toting, ass kicking, and explosion loving kind of girl. Though I can’t recall if her age is mentioned, I believe she generally avoids the question and she seems a bit immature at times and it’s implied that she’s younger than she appears. She has a hard edge to her because of her pre-apocalypse history, but she also exudes an air of sexiness that can’t be denied. Mikki is quite intelligent and creative as well, though due to the stupidity of the nature of most men, all they see is a pretty face. Floyd and Mikki decide to stick together, at least for a little while, and their story is nothing short of amazing.
any decent man, which makes him, as a character, easy to believe in. He could be my dad, my husband, or a hundred other men I know. At the same time, he isn’t ordinary. I love Mikki. She is probably one of my all time favorite literary characters, female or male. She’s headstrong, sexy, smart, yet very sweet in her own way. She puts on a threatening face, and don’t get me wrong, she’s a serious fighter, but inside she just wants someone to love her. I think it’s easy to relate to her as a woman because we never want to be seen as weak just because we are female, so many of us have to try harder to be taken seriously. Her sense of humor had me laughing aloud. Just the way she interacts with Floyd made me want them to be together. Whether as friends or as more, I didn’t care as long as they were together. Overall their story and the book overall really draws you in and makes you want to continue reading. All of the characters, including the zombies are believable; well, at least as believable as a zombie can be. This isn’t just a zombie survival story, the author is really able to bring life into this book and make you see that even at the end of civilization there are still good people out there.
Floyd seems like an everyman. He has good values, he’s smart, and is mechanically inclined. He could be
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Fang-Freakin-Tastic Reviews Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter C.A. Verstraete Horror Every family has its secrets… One hot August morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden picked up an axe and murdered her father and stepmother. Newspapers claim she did it for the oldest of reasons: family conflicts, jealousy and greed. But what if her parents were already dead? What if Lizzie slaughtered them because they’d become zombies? Thrust into a horrific world where the walking dead are part of a shocking conspiracy to infect not only Fall River, Massachusetts, but also the world beyond, Lizzie battles to protect her sister, Emma, and her hometown from nightmarish ghouls and the evil forces controlling them. Fang-Freakin-Tastic Review: Lizzie Borden Zombie Hunter, by C.A. Verstraete, is a fun and fast-paced story. I very much enjoyed the different perspective of the circumstances around the murder of Lizzie’s parents. The author does a good job of giving the reader historical horror fiction without ruining the original story or creating an entirely false world. This would potentially take away a bit of the believability of the story and ability for some readers to relate to the Borden sisters as real people who experienced at least some of what was included in the book, not just as purely fictional characters. It does seem as though there is always someone
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telling Lizzie to “watch out!” or some other version of the phrase. Having said that, I don’t see how she would/could have survived for very long against zombies. I’m also surprised her sister Emma didn’t get eaten right off the bat with how often she was right in the middle of things, obviously not versed in much self-defense ability. In all honesty, the sisters seemed somewhat weird to me. I’m not sure what it was about them, but something felt like it was missing. It also did seem a bit unrealistic that the citizens of Fall River wouldn’t notice the zombies suddenly popping up and being fought and killed in the middle of the streets of the town. I also feel like the situation with John was very abrupt and not thoroughly explained. It is vaguely touched on, but I didn’t feel as though there was enough closure to that bit of the story. I enjoyed the addition of Pierre and his abilities. I feel he brought a sense of masculinity to the story that may have been absent without his addition because there are very few male characters (living ones, anyway) in this book. Despite my above complaints, I did enjoy this book. I’ve always loved (is that the appropriate word?) the story of Lizzie Borden, so I was excited to read this version. Since I am a huge zombie fan (no, I don’t like The Walking Dead, I think it’s boring), combining my interest in both zombies and the Borden murders was something that created an optimism in me that I hadn’t seen in a while. I wasn’t disappointed and in a world with an overabundance of mediocre zombie books, that was a relief! I recommend this book to anyone looking for a cool twist on an old mystery.
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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews
Warm Dark Places are Best Mike Duke Horror Shorts Carl and Jessica are emotionally stretched thin, down on their financial luck and stuck moving into a really nasty apartment complex after Jessica gets laid off and Carl is already on a fixed disability payment. From day one they see lots of roaches in the hallways but nothing in their own apartment. Hoping their luck will hold, they have no idea just what kind of hell is coming their way or what hideous secrets their apartment, in particular, holds. Buckle up. Carl and Jessica are in for a nasty ride and so are you. Myra’s Review: A creepy little tale! I liked Jessica and Carl. They are a loving couple who have fallen on hard times. The description of the neighborhood and apartment building made me think, “I wouldn’t want to live there”. The couple notice roaches running everywhere as they move their boxes in, but none in their apartment. The young lovers considered this their first bit of good luck in a while, but wondered why? I did too. It didn’t take long for a different kind of insect to make its appearance in their life, making it hell and extremely disgusting. Things got so bad I 104 | UncagedBooks.com
began to wonder if Carl and Jessica would make it out alive. I’m glad they did survive. The manner in which Carl decided to punish the land lord for ignoring their plight and not sending an exterminator was chilling. A good story for a quick read and if you don’t have a bug phobia.
The Mummy Anne Rice Horror Ramses the Great has awakened in Edwardian London. Having drunk the elixir of life, he is now Ramses the Damned, doomed forever to wander the earth, desperate to quell hungers that can never be satisfied. Although he pursues voluptuous aristocrat Julie Stratford, the woman for whom he desperately longs is Cleopatra. And his intense longing for her, undiminished over the centuries, will force him to commit an act that will place everyone around him in the gravest danger....
ing the Cairo museum, Ramses finds the remains of Cleopatra, his ancient beloved. She was the reason he requested the priests put him into a dark sleep so not to be in torment daily after Cleopatra committed suicide. Alas, the creature Ramses awakened is not fully his love. She is quite insane and weaves through the story murdering innocent people without thought or remorse. By the end of the story, Cleopatra had recovered most of her mind, but is it too late; for Ramses has decided she must be put in eternal sleep? A lush tale taking place in the early 20th century, with vivid descriptions of the era, the customs, period clothes, and especially of the British pursuit of discovering Egyptian antiquities. Highly recommended for those who love the mix of horror and romance, definitely Anne Rice fans.
Myra’s Review: A seductive tale rich with descriptive language as only the talented Anne Rice can deliver. The mummy Ramses observes a murder while in a dream-state inside his open coffin. Archeologist Lawrence discovered Ramses’ tomb and was making notes when his nephew Henry poisons his coffee. When the mummy’s body is brought to England and ensconced in Lawrence’s home, Julie, his daughter goes through her father’s writings. When the mummy sees Henry attempting to poison Julie too, he awakens in order to save her Ramses is too weak to kill Henry, who escapes, but Julie is in shock. Nonetheless, she follows the crawling mummy as it reaches for sunlight and then begins to change. She is both frightened and intrigued by the handsome man who emerges when the sun brings him to full life. Ramses was captivated by Julie as he observed her and is attracted to the beautiful, gentle young woman. Their relationship is developing and Julie is thrilled to show Ramses the modern world. But while visit-
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Myra’s Horror Blog Reviews Zombie Fallout 2 Mark Tufo Horror The Talbots are evacuating their home amidst a zombie apocalypse. Mankind is on the edge of extinction as a new dominant, mindless opponent scours the landscape in search of food, which just so happens to be noninfected humans. This book follows the journey of Michael Talbot; his wife Tracy; and their three kids, Nicole, Justin, and Travis. Accompanying them are Brendon, Nicole’s fiancé and former Wal-Mart door greeter, and Tommy, who may be more than he seems. Together they struggle against a ruthless, relentless enemy that has singled them out above all others. The Talbots have escaped Little Turtle, but to what end? For, on the run, they find themselves encountering a far vaster evil than the one that has already beset them. As they travel across the war-torn countryside they soon learn that there are more than just zombies to be fearful of: With law and order a long-distant memory, some humans have decided to take any and all matters into their own hands. Can the Talbots come through unscathed, or will they suffer the fate of so many countless millions before them? It’s not just brains versus brain-eaters anymore. And the stakes may be higher than merely life and death, with eternal souls on the line.
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Myra’s Review: We pick up with Mike Talbot and his family riding with Alex, who rescued them at the end of book one, via a big rig. Taking shelter in a Sheriff’s office along their route, the survivors are surrounded and almost wiped out by a horde of zombies. Mike’s thinking outside the box saves them. But he realizes Eliza, the leader of the undead, is still intent on killing them. He knew she had to direct the horde, because they were too coordinated in their attacks. Mike is deeply troubled by his son Justin’s connection to Eliza. His humanity seems to be slipping away more each day; courtesy of being scratched by a zombie. The group has more fights and near escapes as they make their way to Tracy’s mom. When they finally arrive at Carol’s house, they are shocked to find she is still alive. Carol is a tough older woman who has worked hard all her life on the farm; she won’t go down easily. The front of her farmhouse is piled in places with Carol’s undead kills, and she devised a clever method to alert her to their presence. Talbot hopes they can stay at the farm. It is a welcome haven, with food, shelter, running water and even electricity (a generator is invaluable in an apocalypse). But then in one of his moments of being old Justin, his son shares the zombies are on their way. Mike comes up with a brilliant plan, but one that leaves them little chance of survival. He, BT and Jen (insistent volunteers), stay in the house to execute Talbot’s plan. Though their defense goes well enough, and many undead are slaughtered, there thousands left surrounding them. As they make a last stand, rescue comes from an unexpected source. As great a read as the 1st in the series. I could have done with less scenes of Mike and Henry his dog farting. If you love humor mixed with horror as I do, don’t miss this series.
Vampirus Jack Hamlyn Horror Vampirus. It took them one by one by one. A virulent plague straight out of the Middle Ages, it put millions into their graves but they did not stay there. When the sun goes down, they rise to feed on the blood of the living and spread the terrible pandemic. As the thirsty dead fill the streets, one man will exterminate them. They took his daughter, then his wife. Night belongs to them, but the days are his. He will destroy them. One by one by one.
the vampires as he hunts them down. I don’t want to give away too much, but Luke acquires psychic powers that will aid him in fighting the vampires better. I was glad he found Stephi, who he’d had a crush on in high school. Their pairing helped heal his loneliness a bit, and gave him a strong partner in the fight. Shades of Salem’s Lot and Last Man on Earth made this a very enjoyable read, since I love both these novels. But the author presents his own unique perspective on the vampire apocalypse. Highly recommended for Jack Hamlyn fans and readers who love dark vampire stories.
Myra’s Review: Luke was an average man when the bug started, quickly becoming a plague. As the death toll mounts, survivors began to barricade themselves in their homes due to some wild stories circulating. Stories that the dead were coming back. Luke’s small town swiftly becomes a virtual graveyard. Some people fled, but where could they go when the virus was everywhere? Many houses looked vacant, and Luke rarely saw people out and about. The National Guard is collecting the dead each day, burning their remains in a large pit. Unfortunately, Luke’s wife and young daughter have been sick for a while, but he tends to them with loving care. When they die, he can’t stand the idea of them being burned in a communal pyre, so he entombs them in a mortuary. As conditions escalate, Luke refuses to believe what he senses – that vampires are taking over his town. Deciding to face his fear and dispel the madness in his thoughts, he goes back to the mortuary. His wife and daughter are gone, only their shrouds remain. Abruptly, Luke is surrounded by ghostly figures in the cemetery; many he knew who died from the plague. He must decide to fight or succumb to the evil around him. I’m glad he chose to fight, taking new death to Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews Oysters & Pearls Mitzi Szereto Erotic Shorts Acclaimed author Mitzi Szereto explores the many complexities of desire, love and lust in this rich and varied “best of” collection of erotically charged short stories.
Amy’s Review: A grand, terrifying collection of brilliance The stories range from a great many genres, but it’s a perfect mix in this collection. I liked each story, and the range of topics were wonderfully erotic and gothic. I particularly liked “The Dracula Club”, and it was intense and thrilling, and wonderfully written. Szereto writes so well and has a unique writing style, and she can tell a multitude of stories. This is a collection you’ll want to keep on your shelf. I know I will.
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The Night Shadow Chéri Vausé Mystery/Suspense The first four years of the 1960s have been filled with tragedy and violence for Esther Charlemagne; divorce from her abusive, alcoholic husband, the death of her thirteen year-old son, the assassination of President Kennedy, and her battle with breast cancer. None of these events, however, have prepared her for the investigation of her life, into the circumstantial death of a talented young ballet dancer, killed in a mysterious fire. Teamed with her former partner on the New York City Police, Aiden “Mac” McManus, the case will be the first that their fledgling private investigation firm will take on, engaging all the skills learned while detectives on the elite homicide squad of the NYPD. Amid the deception and danger, Esther and Mac are thrown together and forced to face their own demons and their long-buried feelings for each other. Amy’s Review: Absolutely memorable! This is a story any reader won’t soon forget. The writing is wonderfully compelling, forcing the reader to read the next word, the next sentence, the next page. It takes the reader back in time to the 60s, where life was anything but simple, especially since the country is still reeling from the death of President Kennedy. Esther is a strong, formidable character, enduring a lot in her life, and suddenly, she’s back working investigations with her former partner. The backstory of both partners and the era lends to the storytelling, and it is filled with twists and unpredictable events. Hold on to this one, you just may want to read it again.
Sparks: Welcome to the Madhouse Dan Cummings Fantasy/Superheroes Dave Reynolds has grown jaded with his life, locked in a dead end janitorial job at the Ravenswood Institute for Mental Health, he quietly yearns for some excitement to stir up his mundane existence. That is until he learns that far below the hospital’s grounds lies the Madhouse, the regional headquarters of the Frontline Unified Battalion of Arcane Resistance (FUBAR), a clandestine government agency tasked with combating supernatural evil. If that wasn’t enough of a surprise, he also learns that he is a Spark, an individual with latent gifts, carrying the residual energy of a nigh extinct race of universal protectors. Amy’s Review: Stunningly super-hero-ish First, this story is action packed and wonderfully written. Who doesn’t love a good super hero story? There were a few things that I liked about the story. First, FUBAR and it’s the acronym that brings a chuckle even though in the story, it means something else. Or does it? Anyway, it’s a fast read, or it seems that way because this reader was anxiously reading every word, wondering what was gonna happen next. The characters had a depth and weren’t typical carbon copy comic book characters, there were dimensions that came alive off the pages of the story. Well written, and a great story. I look forward to reading more of Cummings work.
Who Killed Marcia Maynard? Alma H. Bond Mystery Dr. Marcia Maynard, famous child psychoanalyst and infant researcher, was murdered in her bed at the El Dorado Apartment House in Manhattan by an unknown killer. Psychoanalyst Mary Wells helps solve the mystery with her astute analytical and psychological skills. In conjunction with her lover Detective John Franklin, they are an almost unstoppable team.
Amy’s Review: Mysterious and filled with twists This story hits home for the characters, Franklin and Wells, as they must solve a murder of someone they know. It’s a great premise of the story, and shows not just the investigation, but the emotions involved. Filled with twists and turns, it brings the story to life. Bond writes a great mystery, bringing experience into it, making it have several layers of plots and depths of characters. I enjoy her work, and maybe there will be more in this series to come. I’ve come to enjoy the investigative relationship of Franklin and Wells, along with their personal one.
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews WWWWW Catman Children’s/Fantasy Has a teenager’s boring suburban life been lost in a world of day-dreams or has he entered a world of dreams that has lost suburbia? Thomas and Ciro live in a half-way-house between life and an eternity. Both can’t move on to the after-life leaving their connection with the real world because they have either left too much behind or have too many regrets. Somehow, they are intrinsically linked to John, a quirky glockenspiel playing Red Hot Chili Pepper fanatic, who is in constant trouble in and out of school. Amy’s Review: Intense and imaginative It starts out pretty heavy, but it is worth continuing and reading this imaginative and creative story told by Catman. The characters interact well together, and Catman brings the reader right into his mind. His words swish through the mind and creates a grand visual affect. The title may throw you, but it all makes sense. A great journey from beginning to end.
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Vice City S.A. Stovall Crime Noir After twenty years as an enforcer for the Vice family mob, Nicholas Pierce shouldn’t bat an eye at seeing a guy get worked over and tossed in the river. But there’s something about the suspected police mole, Miles, that has Pierce second-guessing himself. The kid is just trying to look out for his brother any way he knows how, and the altruistic motive sparks an uncharacteristic act of mercy that involves Pierce taking Miles under his wing. Amy’s Review: heart pounding and sexy! First, I loved the premise of this story, a gay romance right smack in the middle of the mobster life. It’s raw and gritty and absolutely thrilling. It grabs the reader from the beginning, and it’s a total package of murder and mayhem. There is something about Pierce and Miles, and it is not just an undeniable chemistry. Stovall pens a great and dynamic story. I personally like the inner monologues that help give an insight into the character. Things are not what they seem, but this story will keep you turning the pages.
Battered & Bruised but not Broken Piper Kay & T.L. Travis Gay Fiction Battered & bruised, but not broken is an erotic, male/male, gay romance novel. It’s the culmination of two lost souls finding what they didn’t know they were looking for. Hunter is an ex-con, always in the wrong place at the worst times which is how he landed in prison. He’s looking to start anew when in walks Elliott. Amy’s Review: Deep, deep chemistry This book does have a high heat factor, and it also tells a great story. Two pluses in my opinion. I love a good, and I mean good MM romance, and this story works. Especially when opposites attract, and these two could not be more opposite. It was well written as Hunter and Elliot have their first encounter. Something changes in both of them, and it continues on. There is growth within the characters and the relationship. A great chemistry, one where you just want them to get together. I think an added plus is there are two authors for this story, and it takes a lot of talent to combine writing styles in order to make a story work, and be seamless, and this was.
Inremarkable Geoff Habiger & Coy Kissee Paranormal Suspense “Yesterday morning my life was great; I had a new job and a beautiful girlfriend. Then I end up in the middle of a gunfight, my girlfriend dies, and I find out that not just one, but two of the biggest gangsters in Chicago are both after me to steal the same thing for them from the Feds. What the hell is happening to me?” Amy’s Review: Intensely Vampiric I love a good vampire story and it has to be well written and not hokey, and this story was one of the better ones that I have read. This story takes the reader back to 1920s Chicago, and it’s full of gangsters, mayhem, and what else, vampires. I enjoyed this story, really liking Saul and his connection to the elusive Moira. Great story.
Issue 20 | March 2018 |
Jen’s Book Reviews Viking Thunder Emmanuelle de Maupassant Historical/Medieval ‘We all struggle. We all desire.’ Held captive by Viking leader Eirik, Elswyth succumbs to his forceful seduction. She finds the satisfaction she has always craved, but can she ever be more than his plaything? Where does her true happiness lie and, if Elswyth returns with the Northmen to their distant lands, what dark secrets await? Jen’s Review: Elswyth has her village ransacked by Vikings. One Viking more than the others catches her eye, which leads her to a journey of sexual discovery. This was a good story the only thing I didn’t like was the mention of rape throughout the story at some points - which is why I’m going to be honest and give this three stars. But I do really want to see what happens to Elswyth and her Viking as the story finishes in a cliffhanger. I would like to read the follow up to this book when it’s out.
Huntress Moon Alexandra Sokoloff Suspense/Crime FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t
believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of “accidents” and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial. Jen’s Review: I went into the mindset of thinking I would know what this book was like straight away but was very wrong in my judgement. This book is very dramatic and different to any other crime book I’ve ever read. It follows a FBI Agent going on a hunt across three states to hunt down a female killer who showed up during a crime scene where one of the other Agents was killed. The book keeps you guessing all the way through and just to leave you wanting more after it gets you hooked. It ends in a cliffhanger. Good thing book two is already out. This is shaping up to be my favorite new crime series.
The Dark Rebel Motorcycle Club Trilogy Abby Weeks New Adult/Military These books follow the full story of Rose Meadows. They are drawn from experiences in the author’s own life and reveal a heartbreaking and painful story of abuse, degradation and humiliation. While the trilogy as a whole ends happily, terrible things happen to Rose in these pages. You’ve been warned!
Visit Jen on Goodreads 112 | UncagedBooks.com
Jen’s Review: Rose befriends one of her fathers old motorcycle club buddies thinking this will help keep her memories of her father alive. Unfortunately through this friend she is kidnapped and forced into a life as a sex slave and stripper at a seedy bar. This three book boxset features Rose and her journey throughout this experience. It’s quite a dark and really graphic read at some points in the books which might leave the reader feeling a little uneasy as it did me. I gave some praise to the author who does explain that this book has trigger warnings. But to try and carry on reading I did read the whole boxset through to the end. It was a okay read it doesn’t put me off this author I would try another of their books if it was a completely different storyline. Given the dark topics in these books I give it three stars.
The Bedtime Killer Loren Molloy Horror A peeping-tom gets bored with looking at his lovers from afar and decides to take their relationships to the next level even if it kills them. Jen’s Review: A whole new different style of writing from this author. We dive into The bedroom Killer Horace who is a peeping Tom. As Horace peeps into you’re bedroom no ladies are safe. I enjoyed this book learning of Horace and his disturbing ways. Was a real eye opener for me. I thank The author for providing information at the end of this book on how to keep safe from peeping Tom’s. Such a great read.
Beyond the Veil of Whispered Dreams Jolanthe Aleksander Fantasy Things are not always simple or what they seem. Daria McClaren is content. She has her dance school, her cousin Celine and the man of her dreams. Literally. Iauron is uneasy. As the High King of the Fae, his chosen Queen Verisiel is calling to him, but he cannot find her. The court insists that she has crossed over. He is not so sure that is the case. He has searched every realm looking. Every realm, but the human one. The race is on. Beyond the veil lie truths waiting to be revealed. Which one will have the courage to look? Will they be in time? Jen’s Review: I remain unsure if I liked this book or hated it. Daria owns a dance school she meets a hot guy while helping out in her cousins design business. The guy is holding some dark secrets about who he is and why he is there. The story line itself was fine, it was Daria and this mans sexual activity that was boring. I’m all for some hot love but this took up half the book leaving hardly any room for more plot. I remain undecided to read book 2 I hope there will be more storytelling in this one. This is why I decided to award only three stars.
Visit Jen on Goodreads Issue 20 | March 2018 |
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Featuring authors: Laurie Oldrich, Bonnie Gill, Jami Albright, Traci Wooden-Carlisle, Leah Grant, R.F. Hurteau, Jessica Victoria Fisette and...
Published on Feb 28, 2018
Featuring authors: Laurie Oldrich, Bonnie Gill, Jami Albright, Traci Wooden-Carlisle, Leah Grant, R.F. Hurteau, Jessica Victoria Fisette and...