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A MAN ON THE PIER: A Short Story Dream Challenge. #writingcommunity #shortstory #shortstorychallenge #indieauthor

Here’s my first short story of the year. This one came from a vivid dream during our power outage a few weeks ago. Although it wasn’t from a word and then chosen image like my past challenges, the dream gave me lots of pictures to work from about an old man, a cage of dead fish, and a pier. So, in that way, it offered me a new dream challenge.

I’m not sure if this story is done with me yet. We will see.

I’ve been adding my short stories posted here into my upcoming short story collection that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years. Not sure if they will all make the cut or not.

A MAN ON THE PIER

On a wooden pier that ended over the ocean, a man carried a thin, long cage full of dead fish. The familiar tall and lean person was dressed in brown cloth pants and a blue shirt with brass buttons. His stringy gray hair was tied back with a slice of tanned leather, and his brown boots were scuffed and worn. The man known as Captain Randall set his contraption across from where I sat on the newly painted white bench.

Maybe nothing would have happened that day if it hadn’t been for someone out jogging.

The jogger in gray sweats and a shiny blue fitted shirt skidded to a stop in front of Captain Randall. Before I could warn him, he spoke, “Hi, I’m Bob. New to the area. What’s that for?”

Captain Randall smiled, exposing a mouthful of rotten teeth as he skillfully sliced open the rotting fish. “Come see. Follow me.” He gripped the cage and jumped into the icy waters.

I leaped up to stop him, but Bob followed Captain Randall into the water with no hesitation.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Bob called out as he swam faster.

I froze at the edge of safety and watched both men swim away from the pier. My heart raced like I was doing laps at the high school pool. That was where I spent most of my free time on the swim team and had been the team captain in my senior year. Right now I didn’t want to cross the finish line but longed to be in that water, too. It took every ounce of my willpower not to jump in.

Then the long cage opened, and all the dead fish floated to the top of the water with their blood seeping out of them. Captain Randall calmly swam back to the pier.

Bob looked around with his mouth hanging open. I knew what was about to happen. I’d seen it all before in my dream and heard the stories told around campfires. There was nothing I could do.

Captain Randall spun around when he got to the pier at the same moment realization flowed over Bob’s face. Black fins appeared on both sides of Bob.

“Help me!” Bob’s hands waved frantically in the air.

Captain Randall calmly climbed out of the ocean. There was no helping Bob as he disappeared under the blood-red sea in one giant tug.

Captain Randall nodded to me. “Guess they are biting today.”

I gulped down any response. I didn’t want to end up in the ocean too.

With a slight smile, he walked off humming a tune that I swear was from that shark movie. I watched the water become inflamed with death.

My dream came back to me. “Never, never speak to him. He’s cursed, Sasha.” A beautiful woman with long black hair and a fish’s body for legs had warned me. “Stay out of the water, no matter what you see. Then I will come to you when there is a victim.”

Too bad no one told Bob that the ghost of Captain Randall fed the sharks every day at the same time. If you were foolish enough to speak to him, and he answered you—your fate was sealed. The frenzy only continued for a few minutes.

I wasn’t really surprised when the mermaid from my dream swam up to the pier when the waters cleared to their crystal blue beauty.

“That’s the evil we battle, Sasha. It didn’t recognize you. I am pleased. Now go back to your land home until you are needed.”

“You battle evil? Why would it recognize me?” I dropped my pink glitter backpack that landed on the dry wood with a hollow thunk.

“When it is time, I will come for you. Go back.” Then she disappeared.

That was three years ago. I moved to the city, and never returned to that pier or the ocean. Thankfully, there had been no more dreams. The only water I ever got into was full of chlorine. But that all changed last night when that dream returned, calling me to the sea. Foolishly, I went to do my morning laps in the pool at my apartment building. It was early, and the pool was usually empty, so I set my white towel down on a blue lounge. I stood on the edge, ready to dive when I saw the mermaid there. She waved, and I ran.

No one can make me go back to the sea again. I just won’t. Even when I ran past Captain Randall carrying his fish in the middle of my apartment lobby. I convinced myself it had nothing to do with me. I threw clothes into my new green suitcase and left the shabbily furnished studio apartment and server job behind.

A year later, I’m still running, but my dreams beckon me every night to come back. I won’t be fooled or tricked into those waters. Nope, not me. I learned you can only trust yourself growing up in the foster care system, and that included mermaids. With no place to go, I moved to the desert. The dreams might come, but let those water people try to find me there. Just let them.


NOTE: This month got away from me for many reasons. My Monthly Newsletter will go out later tonight or tomorrow.

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2021 Book Challenge! #readingchallenge #goodreadchallenge #booksread #writingcommunity #whattoread

Here are almost all of the books I read in the Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge. There were a couple I couldn’t find on Goodreads and I forgot to go back and add them in later. Of course, time passed and now I can’t remember which books I couldn’t find.

 

 I was happy to hit 100 again and I reviewed all of them, except Stephen King’s book. I usually only review indie books.

 

The very best of the books I read, I showcase in “Books That Change Me.” 

I’m going for 75 books again in 2022. I’m four into that.

Here are the books that made 2021 a much better year.

Note

Two covers aren’t showing up. They are: “Out of Poland” by Rox Burkey and Charles Breakfield, and “Ella: A Romantic novella” by Marlena Smith.

Embrace your inner child by reading a good book and leave the gift of a review after. D. L. Finn

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Writing Challenge—The TBR Pile. @Dwallacepeach #thewritingcommunity #poetrycommunity #writerchallenge #poetry #haibun

Here is Diana Wallace Peach’s Writing Challenge—The TBR Pile. It can be a story or poem. I decided to go with a haibun format. That is the combination of prose paragraph ending with a haiku, or in this case a senyru.

MAGIC PAGES

The magical gift sits next to my bed. Dressed in black leather, it holds the ideas of generations. I gently open the promise of endless entertainment in the two hundred and thirty pages. I can barely contain my joy with so many words that offer knowledge, insight, thrills, adventure, heartbreak, or laughter. It may take more than one lifetime to explore. Yet, it’s never full and always welcomes new editions onto its electronic shelves—even the bad ones. It is my paradise.

add to my kindle

with the best of intentions…

to read every word

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#TankaTuesday #PoetryChallenge No. 256. #haiku #nature #poetrycommunity #writingcommunity #poetry

Here’s Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge #256. This week is a Specific Form—haiku. I’m using pictures from our recent storm as inspiration, and the haiku is a 3/5/3 format.

the sun opens
winter’s icy gift…
renewal

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January Book Reviews! @Lizzie_Chantree @PatFurstenberg @JacqBiggar @teagangeneviene #writingcommunity #whattoread #whatyoushouldbereading #bookreviews

Dead of Winter: Journey 12, Goddesses

by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

“Goddesses” is an exciting journey. I love the introduction of the Goddesses at this point of the story. This adds in the light, or glow, in the darkness, but it’s not to say it’s all illumination either. I loved being in the moment with Emlyn on the rooftop and the landscape flowing out before her where she could see the veil’s breach. All the characters seem to be where they’re needed now, and I’m eagerly awaiting to see what comes from this impending battle. Another great installment!


A Magical Christmas: A Gambling Hearts Short Story 

by Jacquie Biggar

Madeline haunts the place where she used to be so happy. A little girl, Pippa, goes missing. This woman from the past may be the only thing to find and help this child. I haven’t read any of the Gambling Hearts series, but I will after reading this charming short story. I want to know more about this clan, especially the frantic family searching for Pippa. This was a sweet holiday mixture of the past and present that I thoroughly enjoyed reading!


Transylvania’s History A to Z: 100 Word Stories

by Patricia Furstenberg

“Transylvania’s History A to Z” was a fun way to learn the history of Transylvania, Romania. There were 100-word fictional stories to showcase a certain period, along with a more detailed follow-up and picture. This brought the past to life for me in an interesting way, and I could easily imagine life from the story in a limited word format. The Paleolithic Period, Saxons, Vlad lll, or WWl were some of the time frames covered. I don’t have a favorite because I enjoyed learning about all of it. This also includes where some Transylvanian words came from—which I appreciated. This is a quick read that captured my attention. I can easily recommend it to anyone interested in history.


The woman who felt invisible

by Lizzie Chantree

“The woman who felt invisible” was a fun read with a few surprising twists. Olivia was barely making ends meet working as a stationary supervisor and dog sitter. She is leading an uneventful life, but it isn’t as it seems. Olivia is suspected of being a criminal by a handsome police officer, while her best friend Darius wants more than friendship. Being lonely, she makes a new friend and comes out of her self-imposed shell. I like all the relationships Olivia develops, but it’s the undercurrent that’s woven into the story that makes it so interesting. The plot kept me guessing until the end when all was revealed, but it also left me with a few questions to ponder. I enjoyed getting to know Olivia. This is a fast-paced read with several secrets mixed in and I loved how the main character found her strength.


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Embrace your inner child in 2022 by reading a great book! D. L. Finn

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#TankaTuesday Weekly Poetry Challenge No. 255: #Tastetherainbow #tanka #poetry #writingcommunity #poetrycommunity #poetrychallenge

Here is Colleen Chesebro’s #TankaTuesday Weekly Poetry Challenge No. 255: #Tastetherainbow. We pick the color to use and poetry form.

I went with a poem I wrote during our six-day power and phone outage. I was surrounded by four feet of snow, so white is the color of my poem, even though I don’t directly mention the color. Tanka 5/7/5/7/7 is the format.

NOTE: We are lucky to have gotten our phones, internet, and power back so quickly. There are still many who are heading into day nine without— and some without access to heat. There was a lot of damage below us and we are praying things get back to normal soon for them. Like our firefighters, those who go out in these icy conditions to restore our power and communications are our heroes too!

These are the moments when the magical goodness in humanity steps up to help fellow neighbors.

snow fairies rejoice

when mother nature provides

winter wonderland

they can fly amongst the flakes

capturing special magic

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Books That Changed Me—2021 Winter Edition! @JanSikes3 @JoanHallWrites @JacqBiggar @Sandra_Cox #writingcommunity #mustreads #fivestarbooks

snowy driveway
Our shed on a snowy day ten years ago.

Winter has arrived with the shortest day of the year. The icy air permeates the walls, and there is nothing quite like cuddling under a blanket to read during the long nights. The busy holidays are here, but I still carve out that time to lose myself in a wonderful story.

It’s always hard to pick three or four books from the many I read and enjoy, but these stories have left me changed after reading them. They introduced me to a new world, and I fell in love with the characters. I want to visit some of these places. They are books you can’t put down, and so good you forget you are reading. They put you right into the story.

Here are my choices this time around. I’m sharing the blurb and my review that has been on my blog before but is worth showing again. These are books to curl up by a warm fire and sip hot chocolate or mulled wine.

BLURB

New husband, new house, new town… and a new mystery to solve.

Tami Montgomery thought her police chief husband was going to be the only investigator in the family when she gave up her journalism career and moved with him to Madeira, New Mexico.

But after the historical society asks her to write stories for a book celebrating the town’s one-hundred fiftieth year, she becomes embroiled in a new mystery. If she can’t solve this one, she could lose everything. Her research uncovers a spate of untimely deaths of local law enforcement officials. Further digging reveals a common link—they all lived in the house she and Jason now share.

Tami isn’t a superstitious person, but the circumstances are too similar for coincidence. Then she unearths an even more disturbing pattern. And if history repeats itself, Jason will be the next to die.

My Review

I read the prequel to this story, “House of Sorrow,” and loved that, so I was eager to read the first book in the Legends of Madeira Series. Jason and Tami Montgomery left Driscoll Lake for Jason’s new job as the town’s police chief in Madeira, New Mexico. They buy the house that was in the prequel and quickly settled into the small, mostly welcoming town. It was nice to see characters from the Driscoll Lake series, but unnecessary to have read those books to appreciate this story. I enjoyed Jason’s growth and how he approached his new job. Tami immediately made friends and got involved in the town’s historical society that was doing a book on the town’s history.

Tami, who had been a journalist, jumped right into her part of researching past police chiefs. She soon found herself looking for more answers as she dug deeper into the murder mystery of two of these chiefs. I loved the characters, and Madeira was a place I’d like to visit. Many subplots were woven in that added an extra depth to the story. Tami was a favorite character, as was the neighborhood’s stray cat, Oscar. There was a mystery to be solved, and it appeared Jason was in danger. I had a few guesses and changed my mind more than once, but finally, by the end. I realized who it was, but not why. I love the use of legends, history, and psychic abilities mixed in with well-rounded characters and a mystery that goes back over one hundred years. This is a nicely paced read that I can highly recommend.

LINK


BLURB

Will a Christmas wish bring two lonely hearts together and give a little girl the family she’s always wanted?

Single parent, Grace Donovan arrives in the small town of Emerson with the hope a trial program at the local cancer clinic will be the answer to prolonging her young daughter’s life. She doesn’t expect to fall for her handsome boss.
As principal of Emerson Elementary, Kyle Roberts is aware of the students’ medical issues and his heart goes out to little Cassie Donovan and her mother. When he learns Grace needs a job, he fabricates a childcare program, and is pleasantly surprised by its success. Now, if only he could help Cassie’s recovery and get Grace to give him a chance before she learns of his duplicity.
Cassie Donovan barely remembers the father who died when she was just a toddler, but she does know her mother is sad. Even though Cassie wants a puppy more than anything, she gives up her wish to ask for a daddy from Santa Claus, that way if she gets sick again, Mommy won’t be alone.

This Christmas, two families are brought together by a Christmas wish and a child’s need for a miracle.

My Review

“Love Me” is a wonderful holiday read about a mother and her daughter fighting cancer. Grace and Cassie move to a new town to try an experimental treatment, and luckily an anonymous donor covers the expenses. Grace finds a job at Cassie’s school while Cassie finds a new best friend. I love how the story is told from both the mother and daughter’s POV. Cassie wants a puppy for Christmas, but she decides her mother needs a companion if something happens to her. It’s a story that tugged on my heart, thinking about a little girl battling for her life when she should be playing and having fun. Her strength and caring shine throughout the story as a powerful symbol of love, and the mother, having lived through so much loss and heartache, keeps going for her daughter. I could feel the emotion behind Cassie because her character is based on an amazing young girl on social media who is fighting this battle. This was a heartwarming romantic story that didn’t back down from the reality of childhood leukemia. I highly recommend this!

LINK


BLURB

A modern day, shapeshifting sheriff.
He’s the sheriff of a sparsely populated county in Montana. His blood brother and childhood best friend is Chief of Police on the Blackfoot Reservation, but they no longer speak. His deputy is a southern transplant with the body of a high-priced call girl, a voice of honey and mouth of a trucker. And if that’s not enough, he’s got a secret that would stun those that know him best. Other than that, it’s business as usual for Sheriff Mateo Grey.

My Review

“Mateo’s Law” is an exciting paranormal, western romance that I read in two sittings. It is set in a small town in Montana, where Blair moved to join the force as a deputy. She is in a long-distance relationship but is attracted to the sheriff, Mateo. When something attacks a town resident, they investigate it together, but Blair is unaware of Mateo’s secret of being a shapeshifter. I love it when Mateo is in his alternative form, and I felt his freedom. The scenery is lush and the town a place I’d want to call home. Blair and Mateo have great chemistry, conversations, and working relationship. I was definitely rooting for Blair and Mateo and hope more stories are coming with these characters. If you love a paranormal page-turning romance, you won’t want to miss this!

LINK


Mountain Laurel Christmas

by Jan Sikes

BLURB

Orphaned, his family torn apart by tragedy, Cole Knight has come a long way from a ramshackle miner’s cabin on the side of the Cumberland Mountain.
Daring to follow an impossible dream, he’s made it big in the music business. Now, he’s a country music sensation with a huge house, fancy cars, plenty of willing women, money, and adoring fans. He should be on top of the world. Instead, he’s drowning in a swirling pool of self-contempt and relentless guilt.

It’s easier to lose himself in a bottle than face the hard truth…he hasn’t delivered on a promise he made to his father.

It’s almost Christmas, and the sting of failure drives him back to that tiny cabin in the mountains. But has he waited too late to put the shattered pieces back together—to find himself and restore a lost family?

My Review

“Mountain Laurel Christmas” is a perfect holiday read. Cole Knight has gone from having everything taken from him as a child to becoming a huge country star who has everything. Yet, the emptiness from when he was a young boy can’t be filled with money, fame, or drinking. One night, Cole is overwhelmed and ends up at the place where he grew up. It’s here he searches for what’s missing and begins his journey to healing. The detail to the setting and music brought the story deeper, making me feel like a friend was sharing their story with me. Although a quick read, it is a reminder of what is important, especially during the holiday season. I highly recommend this heart-warming story that can be enjoyed any time of the year.

LINK


This is my final blog of the year. Happy Holidays!

 

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December Book Reviews Part 3! @Virgilante @teagangeneviene @JacqBiggar @YvetteMCalleiro @1rburkey @pursoot #bookreviews #whattoread #mustread #writingcommunity

Wreck of the Lanternfish

(The Lanternfish #3)

by C.S. Boyack

“Wreck of the Lanternfish” is the final book of the Lanternfish Series. Although I was sad to see this thrilling story come to an end, I loved seeing James Cuttler take one more journey to the sea. He risks everything to step back into the war that his friends are still fighting. The battles are shown through different perspectives, including Serang. My favorite characters, the root monsters, were back. Their “I I I I” always made me smile. This story not only touches on pulling communities apart, but how to put them back together. Battles on land and sea showcase how clever leaders can outwit their foe. This is a world and characters that I won’t forget anytime soon. Lanternfish is a series I can highly recommend, especially if you love exciting stories with pirates, love, greed, and great characters. But start from the beginning and don’t miss the companion book. You won’t want to miss any part of this exciting tale!


Dead of Winter: Journey 11, The Sumelazon Escarpment

by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

Emlyn’s journey continues as she learns and grows, and there are Gethin’s experiences mixed in. I loved the direction that was taken on all the fronts of “The Sumelazon Escarpment.” It was nice to catch my breath and get to immerse into the city and story, especially through Emlyn’s eyes. I liked how well the plot and cover tied together, and the women had a moment to enjoy a bit of fashion. Even though there were some nice interactions, there is still that under-matched fight looming. Another good journey and I can’t wait to see where it takes us next. I can highly recommend this read but start this exciting tale from the beginning.


Love, Me: A Christmas Wish Novel

by Jacquie Biggar

“Love Me” is a wonderful holiday read about a mother and her daughter fighting cancer. Grace and Cassie move to a new town to try an experimental treatment, and luckily an anonymous donor covers the expenses. Grace finds a job at Cassie’s school while Cassie finds a new best friend. I love how the story is told from both the mother and daughter’s POV. Cassie wants a puppy for Christmas, but she decides her mother needs a companion if something happens to her. It’s a story that tugged on my heart, thinking about a little girl battling for her life when she should be playing and having fun. Her strength and caring shine throughout the story as a powerful symbol of love, and the mother, having lived through so much loss and heartache, keeps going for her daughter. I could feel the emotion behind Cassie because her character is based on an amazing young girl on social media who is fighting this battle. This was a heartwarming romantic story that didn’t back down from the reality of childhood leukemia. I highly recommend this!


HYPE

by Yvette M. Calleiro

“HYPE” is a YA story centered on Cici’s life at home and school. She is a popular co-captain of the cheering squad, and her boyfriend is the quarterback on the football team. Everything is perfect in her world, except her dislike of her co-captain, Nicole. But everything changes when her mother remarries, and she gets not only a stepdad but a new stepsister that everyone avoids at school. Cici’s POV is direct and takes the reader into her world. She can be shallow but has her world figured out until she doesn’t. Halfway through the story, there is a betrayal and horrible event that is painful to read, and my heart went out to Cici. Although Cici is a strong character that I was rooting for, I loved her stepsister Gaby/Grub’s complexity. How Cici’s relationships grow and change is skillfully reflected in what is happening in her life. This is a good read for not only YA readers but adults too. I highly recommend it.


Hot Chocolate

by Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey

“Hot Chocolate” is a sweet short story about a family and their holiday traditions. Jacob, Petra, and their son JW are a family I enjoyed getting to know. The parents have a tradition of surprising each other with their Christmas gifts and teasing how much they will like their present. I love the surprise at the end and the love this family shared. This is a wonderful holiday read!


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!


Our writing community lost a brilliant writer and amazing human being a few weeks ago, Suzanne Burke. She had a wonderful sense of humor, a kind heart, and a great outlook on life. I found out about her passing during my vacation.


So, I offered a red hibiscus flower to the Pacific Ocean in her honor. I like to think it’s floating among the spinner dolphins, and she’s looking down at this with a huge smile.

In memory of Suzanne, check out her Amazon page here. Her memoir, Empty Chairs,  is a read you will never forget.


NOTE: This will be my last formal Sunday post of the year and my Monthly Newsletter was sent out today to your email if you are subscribed.  Tomorrow watch for Books That Changed Me Winter Edition.

After that, I’ll be taking some time off to be with family and enjoy the holidays.

The only exception to my time off is I have a post over on Story Empire on December 27th.

Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays! May 2022 be the happy year we are all searching for 🙂

Embrace that inner child by reading a good book and enjoying your blessings! D. L. Finn

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My Vacation and a Special December Book Review Part 2! @LBroday @dk_deters #writingcommunity #whattoread #mustread #holidayreading #authorvaction

Sunset in Kauai

Hi! Because of the holidays, I’m doing a special vacation blog, along with the books I read below.

Before we even left, there were septic problems to deal with. So, we had someone come out, and it wasn’t good news. But they’d fix it while we were away. All our COVID tests were finally in hand and uploaded to the Hawaiian site. Right after we dropped off my husband’s pickup at the body shop for repairs, we were off. He hit a deer a couple of weeks before. In fact, two other cars behind him hit the same deer we were told by insurance.

Finally, we got settled into our hotel by the airport, where the plumbing was working fine 🙂 Flying over had a couple of bumps along the way. It’s never good when you have the captain come on, and there isn’t that reassuring tone you’d hoped to hear in his voice explaining how normal air turbulences were as the plane veered off to the right.

Still, after transferring at Honolulu, we headed off to Kauai, where I saw a pod of whales from my plane window as we descended to land. Stocking up on food, we settled into our room quickly. The view was spectacular, and I took my plan to relax seriously. I read on the lanai and wrote poetry while my husband, daughter, and son-in-law swam.

Swimming in the rain

Beautiful flower

A day at the beach

We saw many turtles, including one sunning on the beach. Our whale watching/fishing tour was canceled because of choppy conditions, which meant more time to relax—enjoy sunsets, watch the soothing waves hit the shore and observe the parrots settling in every night in the palm trees.

Sunning Sea Turtle

Little Grand Canyon

A Kauai Rooster.

The only blip in our stay was the big storm. It didn’t hit our island as hard as the rest, where they were in a state of emergency and flooding. I couldn’t read on our lanai as the rain was coming sideways at me during the worst of the storm. Everyone else swam in this pouring rain, and I continued to read inside.

Visiting the north side of the island on my husband’s birthday.

Walking by the beach

Sea Turtle peeking at me

Our time went by quickly, as all vacations do. Although we didn’t do as much as normal because of my hip/foot issues, which makes it hard to walk a lot, it turns out doing less was just what was needed by all.

On the last morning, as I sipped my tea on the lanai, a whale jumped up as if to say until next time.

Feral cats we fed nightly at the hotel

The hotel we stayed at after they put up the holiday decorations

Back home, with a now repaired septic system, the truck is still in the shop, and we have a big storm looming over us. Although, I have everything I need and memories to carry me into the new year.

I’ll be sharing my vacation poetry in a later post.

Here are the books I read by the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

Christmas Once Again

by D.K. Deters

Madison has lost her fiancé, is broke, and is on the verge of losing her job when she gets a call from a man who wants his grandmother’s painting back. She is immediately attracted to his voice and wants to help him. This all falls in the middle of a massive snowstorm right before Christmas. This is a romantic time travel story layered with mystery. What is so special about that painting? I like how everything is tied together as Madison attempts to do a good deed. “Christmas Once Again” is a fun short story to read by the fire during the busy holiday season.


A Cowboy Christmas Legend (Lone Star Legends #2)

by Linda Broday

Sam Legend ll moved away from the world after losing his wife. While he was sleeping, a woman snuck in and held a knife to his throat. Once the misunderstanding is resolved, they are thrown together to help a family. I love the chemistry between Sam and Cheyenne, but I also love the other relationships around them. There is humor, a budding romance, a missing person, and justice to be served. Both Sam and Cheyenne have pasts to overcome, but they now have others who depend on them. Cheyenne’s history unravels slowly, and I appreciated her stance on the treatment of Apache children. These are well-developed characters that drew me into their lives. Christmas was quickly approaching, and there were people to save, criminals who needed to be arrested, and a ranch to run. I read and loved the first book in this series, but it’s unnecessary to read it before reading this because the back story was weaved in nicely. If you like historical western romance, this is a must-read!


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Embrace your inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

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December Book Reviews Part 1! @JanSikes3 @stacitroilo @JacqBiggar @Mark_Venturini @TPolen6 @Virgilante @MaeClair1 @harmony_kent @JoanHallWrites @PCZick @IreneAprile #whattoread #indieauthor #writingcommunity #mustread

Mountain Laurel Christmas

by Jan Sikes

“Mountain Laurel Christmas” is a perfect holiday read. Cole Knight has gone from having everything taken from him as a child to becoming a huge country star who has everything. Yet, the emptiness from when he was a young boy can’t be filled with money, fame, or drinking. One night, Cole is overwhelmed and ends up at the place where he grew up. It’s here he searches for what’s missing and begins his journey to healing. The detail to the setting and music brought the story deeper, making me feel like a friend was sharing their story with me. Although a quick read, it is a reminder of what is important, especially during the holiday season. I highly recommend this heart-warming story that can be enjoyed any time of the year.


Quantum Wanderlust

By Staci Troilo, Michele Jones, Joan Hall, Grace L. Reilly/ E. J. Lane, Mae Clair, P.C. Zick, Teri Polen, Irene Aprile, Harmony Kent, C.S. Boyack, Mark Venturini, Leigh Ann Beckett, and David MacPherson.

I was excited to see several of my favorite authors in this collection of time travel short stories. They didn’t disappoint, and I loved how each of them came up with a different idea to explore within the subject. What I like about anthologies is I’m introduced to writers that are new to me. “Quantum Wanderlust” offered some new authors I would enjoy reading again! This is a fun read that takes us to places beyond our daily lives.


My Baby Wrote Me A Letter

by Jacquie Biggar

“My Baby Wrote Me A Letter” is a quick read but layered with the emotions of Grace and her family. Grace is at the end of her pregnancy with her husband away on a mission, and she finds a letter tucked away in a family desk by a mother who she believed abandoned her family. Grace is a strong character who must face her past as her future is arriving. I love the relationship between the father and brothers and how the letter isn’t read all at once—they digest each bit of information before moving on. This is a short story I highly recommend!


No Such Luck

by Staci Troilo

When things get bad for Piper, she heads home. It’s here she runs into not only her best friend from high school, Jack but her crush, Tommy. Piper is a character who is likable even in her not-so-stellar moments. She maneuvers through what is real and the musings of a teenage girl. This is a quick read that I devoured in one sitting to see if she got her happily ever after. “No Such Luck” is a sweet novella that emphasizes what and who is important. A fantastic beginning to the new Keystone Couples Series that I can easily recommend.


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Embrace that inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

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New Release! “Wreck of the Lanterfish” by C. S. Boyack @Virgilante #newrelease #whattoread #writingcommunity #mustread

I’m thrilled to welcome fellow Story Empire Author, C. S. Boyack here today to celebrate the release of Wreck of Lanternfish. I’ve been looking forward to the final book in this series and here’s my review.

Thanks so much for lending me your space today. Spreading the word about a new book is so important. Today is all about concluding my Lanternfish trilogy with ‘Wreck of the Lanternfish.’

Somehow, I wound up with a theme behind these stories. I tried not to make it obvious, but fatherhood became something I kept going back to. It all started with James being forced into trying to start a war with the neighboring country.

Turns out James’s father was a somewhat shady character who did similar things. The only reference James had were stories his father told him as he grew up. Early on, he was forced to rely upon his father’s advice.

Dan is James’s best friend, and later brother-in-law. His father is still alive, and lends his own teachings here and there. It seems simple enough, but there’s more to it.

The two of them rescued a slave who turns out to be a witch doctor. Mal fills a fatherhood role for James as he turns to piracy to save the woman he loves. In that event, they rescue Mal’s own son as a bonus.

The crew gets saddled with a boy they call Mule. This involves retrieval of a magical item, but the price is taking the boy with them. James becomes his adopted father, and does the best he can for Mule.

Serang has her own daddy issues. She grew up without a father, but there were male tutors at the monastery. If you dive into her supporting story, there is one monk that serves as much as a father as he does her master.

Even such supporting characters as Don Velasco have a history with their fathers that shaped who they are today.

I never set out to do this, but I’m pleased with it. Fantasy/Adventures aren’t known for deeper themes, and I claim dumb luck. Luck doesn’t get enough credit sometimes.

Hoist the colors and wheel out the guns one more time. It’s time to bring this trilogy to a conclusion.

Wreck of the Lanternfish purchase link 

Trilogy link

Blurb:

James Cuttler created a peaceful spot for he and his wife to settle down. Far from the war that ravages their homeland, far from the reputation he earned as the notorious pirate Captain Bloodwater, and far from responsibility.

A royal Prelonian houseguest is a constant reminder of what’s at stake half a world away, of the friends he put ashore to fight the war. He lives in a dream world that’s temporary, at best. It’s only a matter of time before his guest is identified and the black assassins come for her.

He mortgages his precious vineyard to pay for repairs to his ship. If nothing else, Lanternfish will be one of the most powerful ships in the war, if he’s not already too late.

James will have to merge the skills of commander and con man into something new to make this work. He’ll need to avoid those on his own side who would hang him for piracy.

Serang is half a world away, leading her army of mercenary swordsmen toward the Fulminites. Mistrusted by both sides of the war, she appears as a third combatant on the battlefield. She may eliminate the mysterious order, only to succumb to the demons of her own tragic past.

Strap on your swords and hoist the colors one more time as the thrilling Lanternfish Trilogy comes to an end.

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New Release! “Mountain Laurel Christmas” by Jan Sikes @JanSikes3 #christmasstory #novelette #redemption #holidayread #newrelease #writingcommunity

I’m excited to have fellow Story Empire Author, Jan Sikes here to talk about her wonderful holiday story, Mountain Laurel Christmas! Here’s my review.

Thank you, Denise, for having me as your guest today.

In my new Christmas story, the mountain laurel is a focal point in more than one scene.

While mountain laurel is technically a shrub, the plants are known to grow up to 30 feet tall in the southern Appalachians, with thick, tree-like trunks. Preferring rocky, moist soil and partial shade, mountain laurel is often found on the slopes of hills and mountains. In many places, the branches of multiple plants intertwine and form “tunnels,” which are shaded year-round by the plants’ glossy, evergreen foliage.

Courtesy of Pixabay

The blossoms are fragrant, and some compare the scent to grape Kool-Aid, soda, or gum, but the fragrance is deeper, richer, and more floral than the artificial aroma of processed food.

Here is an excerpt from Mountain Laurel Christmas:

Next to the porch, the mountain laurel tree Papa planted for Mama’s birthday one year has grown tall.

My nose twitches, and I can almost smell the sweet, tantalizing fragrance that comes from its blooms in the springtime. Even in the dead of winter, it still retains its lustrous green leaves that sparkle with a light dusting of snow in the moonlight. Mama would hang Christmas decorations on it each year.

Seems as if it’s the only thing still living on this mountain.

***

A little later in the story, the laurel inspires the beginning of a new song:

Memories of the fragrant blooming laurel tree in front of the cabin surface. How Mama’s eyes shone the day Papa planted it.

I grab a brown paper sack and scribble the beginning of a new song on the back.

She is like a Mountain Laurel.

A breath of pure fresh air.

Her hair the scent of floral.

Her eyes so bright and fair…

***

Mountain laurel is an unusual plant. While they are fragrant and beautiful, every part of the plant is poisonous to humans if ingested. It is said that even the honey bees make from its pollen is toxic to humans.

The symbolism in the story is how my character had let life poison him internally while appearing beautiful externally.

Have you ever lived where mountain laurel grows wild?

 Mountain Laurel Christmas Blurb:

Orphaned, his family torn apart by tragedy, Cole Knight has come a long way from a ramshackle miner’s cabin on the side of the Cumberland Mountain.

Daring to follow an impossible dream, he’s made it big in the music business. Now, he’s a country music sensation with a huge house, fancy cars, plenty of willing women, money, and adoring fans. He should be on top of the world. Instead, he’s drowning in a swirling pool of self-contempt and relentless guilt.

It’s easier to lose himself in a bottle than face the hard truth…he hasn’t delivered on a promise he made to his father.

It’s almost Christmas, and the sting of failure drives him back to that tiny cabin in the mountains. But has he waited too late to put the shattered pieces back together—to find himself and restore a lost family?

PURCHASE LINK:

https://www.amazon.com/Mountain-Laurel-Christmas-Jan-Sikes-ebook/dp/B09KJYMVT9/

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A Holiday Short Story, THE BIKE. #writingcommunity #whattoread #holidaystory

I was wondering if I’d get a chance to write a holiday short story this year. A few weeks ago I woke up after dreaming this story and immediately wrote it down before I forgot it. So, here it is at 2100 words.

THE BIKE

Twelve-year-old Billy had started the day full of hope. He took the number three bus to downtown Laceyville. Barely a dot on a map, but it was where you went if you needed something. Mom was doing her last shift at the small diner down the road. Little Joey stayed with old Mrs. Trumbolt, who always had a never-ending sugar cookie and milk supply. On special occasions, she’d add some chocolate chips to the cookies.

Billy sat in the middle of the bus that only had two other passengers. Everyone minded their own business, so he enjoyed the holiday decorations out the scratched-up window. Almost every house had a tree in the front window covered in silver tinsel and colored lights. The bus jolted to a stop right in front of Harvey’s Department Store. Billy tightly clutched his old dingy sock full of change and dollar bills and followed the sour older man, who smelt of horse manure and sour milk, to the side door of the bus. The round-faced man eyed him like Billy was going to knock him down or push the man out of his way.

The glowing store covered in red and green holiday decorations was full of last-minute shoppers. His mom had brought him and his little brother here to take in the holiday cheer and visit Santa a few weeks ago. He knew Santa was just hired help in a red suit, but Joey still believed in all that magic. Billy wisely asked for new clothes and would be lucky to get that, but Joey requested a new red bike.

His mom’s eyes had filled with tears that she quickly wiped away after looking at the bike’s price tag. He knew twenty-five dollars was more than she could afford. She didn’t make that much working at the old diner, where tips were meager. At least they’d get some chocolate candies in their stocking and a warm thrift store coat.

Billy held in his sock the earnings from mowing lawns, cleaning garages, and yards over the last few months. His mom always encouraged him to take the money and open a savings account but he had been halfway to getting the stingray bike all his friends had. Not that it mattered now because Billy was the man of the house after his father died 11 months ago. He would use this money to get his little brother what he asked from Santa for Christmas and have enough left over to get Mom something nice just like his dad used to do. He could always earn enough to get what he wanted by next summer and then open that account.

Billy dodged a large woman whose arms were filled with toy trucks and dolls. Lucky kids. He headed to where the bikes were, but the red one was gone, and in its place was a blue model that was ten dollars more dollars than he had.

“Look out, kid.” The lady pushed by him. “I’ll take that bike too,” she told the smiling saleswoman, who was dressed as Mrs. Claus.

“You are very lucky! That’s our last bike.”

Billy stood in line and inquired about the display bike.

Mrs. Claus patted his head. “That has a dent on it, son. We need to fix it in Santa’s workshop before it can be sold.”

Billy shook his head. “A dent is okay. I have twenty-five dollars for it.”

The woman reached around him and grabbed a scarf from a lady holding a screaming baby. “Sorry, that’s against store policy. It would make the store look bad to sell damaged inventory. Buy something else, I have customers to wait on.”

Billy sighed loudly. Joey would be so disappointed. Still, he was determined to add a few gifts under the decorated fig tree. A turquoise scarf and gloves set that had a peacock feather design was perfect for his mom, along with pink slippers, and a cheesy romance novel. He found a firetruck, football, and new Christmas PJs and slippers for his brother. The family always used to wear matching PJs on Christmas Eve way back when life was normal, and cancer didn’t take away all its joy.

Holding his purchases, he added a package of sweet tarts. That left him with just enough change to ride the bus home. When he stepped on the number three bus, he found the change gone and a hole in his pocket.

“No money, no ride.” The man with red hair had not been gifted with the Christmas spirit.

Billy bowed his head and retreated in embarrassment from the bus where no goodwill existed.

He retraced his path to the locked store door. A young man with braces and a red Santa Hat took the dented bike out of the window display while ignoring Billy’s frantic pounding on the glass entry.

With a loud sigh, Billy stomped away. “Guess I’m walking home.”

He took the shortcut that passed the back of the store. The person who had disregarded him brought the bike out the back door. The employee tugged on the knob of the door that said do not enter.

“Great, it’s locked!” The employee dropped the bike on the ground and stomped back into the store.

The dim lights illuminated the red bike like it was on display. Billy pushed his bags full of gifts on his shoulders and did something he’d never done before. He stole the bike.

He was almost out of the dark lot when he heard. “Stop, thief!”

Billy’s stomach felt heavy, but he thought of his brother’s face on Christmas morning. His long legs kept pedaling on the small bike. Although he was a criminal now, he tried a deal he thought God might accept. “Please forgive me. If you let me keep it for Joey, I’ll promise to pay the store back more than they were charging.”

Turning onto the main road, he weaved in and out of traffic. The icy wind pounded his face, and the thin coat offered no protection from the approaching winter storm. He almost had himself convinced what he had done was okay until guilt crashed down on him.

“Sorry, Joey. This isn’t right.”

Billy spun the bike around in the intersection, right as a bus barreled around the corner with its horn blaring. Directly before everything went black, he saw a beautiful angel with long ebony hair and green wings standing over him.

That was the last thing he remembered until he smelt garlic and bread. He carefully opened his eyes, expecting to see that angel again, but instead, there was a kind-faced man at his side.

Billy blurted out his story while the man gently shook his head and rubbed his chin but withheld comment.

Billy finished with. “I’ve got to get the bike back to them, Sir. It doesn’t belong to me.”

The man smiled. “That bike is a bit dinged up now, but it’s yours.”

Billy wondered if he was dreaming. “It’s what?”

“My friend, Officer Doyle told me you took it. I figured you had your reasons, so I offered to pay for it. The store manager gladly accepted. Although, you aren’t allowed in the store anymore unless an adult accompanies you.” His smile was as gentle as his eyes.

Billy’s eyes widened. “Why would you do that, mister?”

The man, who had to be as old as his mom, patted his arm softly. “Everyone deserves a second chance, and a young man like yourself should be with his family on Christmas Eve, not in jail. And please call me Mr. Jones.”

“My name is Billy, Mr. Jones. But I spent all my money on these presents that are probably ruined.” Billy pointed to the two bags on the table next to the red bench he was lying on.

Mr. Jones had crinkles around his eyes just like his dad had when he grinned. “Your gifts are fine, not even a scratch on the firetruck.

Billy held back tears. “How can I pay you back?”

“Well, Billy. I could use help around here on Saturdays and maybe sometimes after school. You could work off your bike. If everything goes well, I’ll hire you permanently.”

“Really! Gee, that would be great!” Billy sat up and winced as his head throbbed more. He was sore, but everything else worked on him.

Mr. Jones pointed to his head. “That bump on your head is going to hurt you for a while, but the doctor said you’d be just fine.”

Billy looked around. “A doctor was here?”

“Yes, picking up a pizza to take home. Very lucky he was here, so you don’t have to go to the hospital.”

“Very lucky. Thank you.”

“You are very welcome. Now get up slowly and gather your things. I’ll take you and that bike home.”

Billy stood up on a sticky red tile floor. “You don’t have to do more, Mr. Jones. I can ride my bike home, and you can be with your family.”

A sad look crossed over the man’s face. “I lost my wife last year in a car accident. We were never blessed with kids, so it would be a favor to me if you allowed me this holiday cheer of being able to return you to your family.”

“Sorry, Mr. Jones. My dad died too.” Billy inspected the man. He wasn’t horrible looking and a widower, too, maybe…

They pulled in front of his house, where his mom was talking to a police officer.

Billy stepped out of the truck with a loud gulp. “You should meet my mom, Mr. Jones. I know she’d like to thank you for all your help.”

“I…”

“Billy!” His mom engulfed Billy in a tight hug. “Are you okay? What were you thinking? You are grounded for two weeks….” She stopped when Mr. Jones walked up next to them. “Officer Doyle told me what you did for him, Mr.….”

“Jones, but call me Mike. It was my pleasure to help.” His new friend’s brown eyes twinkled, and Mom’s cheeks took on an odd shade of pink.

“My name is Maria. Nice to meet you, Mike.” She held out her hand, which Mr. Jones engulfed in his large hands. The handshake seemed to go on for a while.

“Nice to meet you, Maria. You raised him well. He was going to make things right after doing something so stupid. With your permission, he’s agreed to help at my restaurant to pay off his debt. Although the road wasn’t as kind, the bus missed him. He was a very lucky young man.”

“We were very lucky tonight, thank you. And of course, you have my permission. I just made a fresh pot of coffee. Would you like a cup?” Mom smoothed her wavy dark brown shoulder-length hair and smiled.

Mr. Jones finally let go of his mom’s hand as Officer Doyle walked by and waved. “Don’t do that again, young man. You won’t get so lucky next time with Mr. Jones being around to help you. Merry Christmas.”

“I won’t, Sir. Merry Christmas.” Billy confirmed.

Officer Doyle shook his head and winked at Mr. Jones before getting into his car.

“Good advice, Billy. I don’t want to impose on your family celebration, Maria. Maybe another…”

Billy interrupted him before he could decline, much to his mom’s obvious horror. “Mr. Jones will be alone tonight. Can’t we invite him to our Christmas Eve dinner?”

His mom’s face relaxed. “It would be an honor if you joined us. Our way of paying back your kindness.”

Joey raced out of Mrs. Trumbold’s house and threw himself into Billy’s aching arms. Mr. Jones retrieved the blanket-wrapped bike and followed Mom into the garage.

That dent and scratches went unnoticed Christmas morning, and the day turned out to be a good Christmas even though Dad was missed. Mr. Jones stayed for dinner and many more dinners after that.

Money worries were a thing of the past when Mom took over the paperwork in Mr. Jones’s busy restaurant. It took them a few years, but Mr. Jones became a part of the family.

Mom cut back from working full-time to part-time after she announced she was expecting a baby who was due on Christmas Day. The baby arrived on the night when miracles happened, Christmas Eve. Billy knew no one would believe him, but there was the same beautiful angel standing next to his baby sister’s crib that he’d seen the night the bus narrowly missed him. The angel smiled and waved at him, then disappeared.


NOTE: There will be no blog on December 5th, I’ll be on vacation. I’ll be quiet that week on social media and visiting blogs, although I might post a picture or two on Instagram. I’ll be back on December 12th with book reviews.

Embrace your inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

 

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November Book Reviews, Part 3! @stacitroilo @teagangeneviene #writingcommunity #bookreviews #whattoread #mustreads

Type and Cross (Cathedral Lake #1)

by Staci Troilo

“Type and Cross” is a well-told family drama. Dr. Royce Keller finds a loved one as a patient in his ER. It tore my heart out reading what happened next. Then what follows is because of a secret that was held on to for eighteen years. How Royce’s family dealt with what followed that moment in the ER was heartbreaking and hopeful as it forced the family to grow and learn. I appreciated seeing the world through both Royce and his wife, Vanessa, eyes, and how they began to take some responsibility for not only their past mistakes but their current ones. This book kept me up late at night, and I would make time to read it throughout the day — it was that compelling of a read. When one issue seems to be solved, another is poured upon this family. Meeting the grandparents gave insight into where some of this dysfunction came from. Plus, there is a mystery weaved into the story with a surprising outcome. Every baby step forward, I cheered this family on, and other times I was sad with them. A story I can easily recommend, and I can’t wait to read more in this series.


Footprints in the Snow

By Staci Troilo

This quick read explains why Ben used to love Christmas, but this year he is alone. I was immediately curious why and what his mistake was. This story is full of emotion that pulled me right in. I wanted to know more. So, I jumped right into the first book of the Cathedral Series right after I finished this. “Footprints in the Snow” can be a stand-alone read or read as part of the series. There is some information in this story that you don’t know going into the first Cathedral book, “Type and Cross.” I didn’t mind knowing, but if you like to be surprised, then read this after “Type and Cross.” A short story I recommend.


Dead of Winter: Journey 10, Pergesca 

by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

“Pergesca” continues the journey with Emlyn. She is growing into a powerful young woman that is finally learning to trust herself after being raised not to be heard. She runs into challenges to conquer, and sometimes help comes from unexpected places. A lot went on in this journey, and I don’t want to give anything away, but a certain character’s death was hard-hitting to not only read but for Emlyn. I felt it was necessary for the story, though. I love Zasha, Emlyn, and Osabide as the three and how they work with each other. The place, Pergesca, offers more questions to be answered after some things are resolved. I’m eager to see what happens to Emlyn and her friends, as things seem to come to a critical point. As the story stands now, it’s hard to tell who to trust. A fantastic read, but I recommend you read this journey from the beginning, so you don’t miss out on anything.


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Note: If you are subscribed to my newsletter it went out early. Next week I’m sharing my holiday short story, “The Bike.” It came from a vivid dream I had.

Embrace that inner child by reading a good book! Happy Thanksgiving to all those who celebrate it in the US. D. L. Finn

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Welcome to Day 7 of The HYPE Blog Tour @YvetteMCalleiro #HYPE #NewRelease #BookPromo #YAFiction #writingcommunity

I’m thrilled to welcome fellow author, Yvette Calliero, here today to celebrate her latest release, HYPE. Here is my review: LINK

 

GIVEAWAY:  3 e-book copies of HYPELeave a comment below for your chance to win!

Creative Writing

I wrote my first poem when I was twelve years old. I don’t remember what it was, but I know I felt proud of it because it was my own creation. My English teacher, Mrs. Hoffman, loved to give us time to explore our imagination through writing. Recently, she sent me this gem that she found one day.

One of her assignments was to use affixes and root words to create an imaginary animal. We had to draw the animal and decorate it using art supplies and other materials., and then we had to write a story about it. I don’t remember the story, but I do remember my animal had three legs, a hippo’s body, and a horse’s head (or maybe its tail). I don’t remember the other parts. What I remember from the name was tripodequihippo… I loved that activity!

Writing has always been a form of therapy for me. It has always helped me get my thoughts and emotions out of my head. So, when I began writing Hype, I knew I wanted to incorporate creative writing as one of Cici’s classes as well as an outlet for Gaby, one of her antagonists. The class plays an important role in their relationship.

One of the activities I incorporated into the story is called a RAFT. It stands for Role of the author, Audience, Format, and Topic. For several years as a high school teacher, I challenged my students to write a RAFT about the Holocaust. They had to take on the role of something other than the humans at the camp. The audience was other people. The format was a poem, and the topic was the atrocities that took place at the concentration camps.

My struggling learners wrote the most incredible poems. Some of the roles they chose were discarded glasses, rats who lived in the camps, the clubs used to beat them, the barbed wire, and the stale bread. There was no doubt those students truly grasped the horrors that took place during the Holocaust.

For Hype, I chose a bit of a more festive RAFT, but one’s perspective of a holiday doesn’t always turn out the way others might expect. Here is an excerpt from the story:

School is a blur for the next few weeks as the holiday break gets closer and closer. My creative writing teacher gives us an assignment to pretend to be an inanimate object that symbolizes the holidays and write a piece from its point of view. Mr. Garnett loves inanimate objects coming to life, and we tend to write crazy stories to humor him.

I decide to write from the viewpoint of wrapping paper as it wraps its arms around new treasures. I build the excitement up toward the moment when a bubbly, little kid removes the paper from the gift and squeals with glee. Of course, my wrapping paper is delighted to provide such wonder and anticipation for the toy, but she also wishes she, too, got to stick around and play with the kid. It’s cute. It’s humorous, but it’s nothing out of this world.

When it comes time to share, Mr. Garnett makes the mistake of calling on Grub. The whole class quietly moans. We all know Mr. Garnett doesn’t like anyone to be ridiculed in class and believes in having an environment in which everyone feels comfortable enough to share, but to call on Grub? Really. I mean, it’d make perfect sense to have called on her when we were writing a Halloween piece, but Grub and Christmas don’t mesh.

Mr. Garnett glares at us, and we shut up and prepare ourselves for her piece because one of his other rules is everyone shares. Grub comes up to the front, takes the podium, and begins. I half-expect her to complain and ask for someone else to go before her since it was close to the end of class, but I guess she finds some horrible pleasure in torturing us.

“I wrote about a Christmas candle,” she starts, takes a deep breath (for dramatic emphasis, I’m sure), and continues. “For years, I was the beautiful centerpiece, the home’s elegant, most prized decoration. I was bright and cheery, tall and elegant. Everyone always stopped to admire my beauty, to comment on how special I was. Until one day…”

Again, she pauses and stares at her paper. I roll my eyes, thinking not for the first time, that she really should have joined the Drama Club.

“Go on,” Mr. Garnett encourages her.

She looks up at him and then back at her paper.

“Until one day, someone thought it would be a great idea to light a match and see how well I could withstand the heat. I could smell the rancid sulfur as the matchstick caught fire. It was then I discovered what true fear felt like. The sensation of the intense heat violating my wick was too much to endure. I screamed and crackled at the fire’s invasion.

“I cried tears of wax as the blaze melted my beauty away. I wished there was some way to stop it, to keep it from taking away all that was pure and perfect about me. I wanted someone, anyone, to blow out the flame, to save what was left of my beauty, but no one could hear me. No one was even paying attention to my withering loveliness.

“I cried and cried until there was no wax left to cry with, and when all my beauty was gone, the flame finally burned out and I was discarded. No longer did anyone admire me. No longer did anyone care. I was alone, abandoned, dead.”

The whole class sits silently, stunned. Mr. Garnett starts clapping while we sit there shocked. One kid from behind me says, “There wasn’t anything holiday-ish about it.”

“I disagree,” Mr. Garnett says. “It completely held to the assignment’s directions. It was very compelling.”

Someone else whispers loudly, “Her name should be changed from Grub to Grinch.”

I now sponsor a poetry club called Writer’s Ink. My poets write both written and spoken word poems and enter contests and competitions. I am always amazed at the ideas and images they create with their words. It’s an opportunity for them to speak their truths, to be seen and heard, and to be accepted. I hope readers of this book will enjoy the activities shared, and if you want to try your hand at a RAFT, I’d love for you to share it with me. 😊

BLURB

Cici’s junior year in high school is going to be the best year ever. Popular co-captain of the varsity cheerleading team, she’s dating the starting quarterback. Even her jealous co-captain’s attempts to steal her boyfriend can’t curb her enthusiasm.

When her mom moves in with her fiancé, a handsome, wealthy man, only one small detail threatens Cici’s perfect life. The school’s social pariah is about to become her stepsister, and Cici wants nothing to do with her.

Everything changes when someone Cici cares about throws her life into a tailspin, and the one person Cici couldn’t stand becomes her only ally.

Warning: This story contains scenes of sexual assault.

Available on Amazon and Smashwords

Author Bio

Yvette M. Calleiro is a heavily addicted reader of both young adult and adult novels. She spends most of her time pseudo-living in paranormal worlds with her fictional friends (and boyfriends). When she’s living among real people, Yvette M. Calleiro is a middle school Reading and Language Arts teacher. She’s been sharing her love of literature with her students for over twenty years. Besides writing about the various characters that whisper (and sometimes scream) in her head, she enjoys traveling, watching movies, spending quality time with family and friends, and enjoying the beauty of the ocean.

Yvette lives in Miami, Florida, with her incredible son who has embraced her love for paranormal and adventurous stories. She also shares her space with an assortment of crazy saltwater animals in her 300-gallon tank.

Amazon Links

HYPE

The One Discovered (Chronicles of the Diasodz, Book 1)

The One Enlightened (Chronicles of the Diasodz, Book 2)

The One Betrayed (Chronicles of the Diasodz, Book 3)

The One Revealed (Chronicles of the Diasodz, Book 4)

The One Awakened (Chronicles of the Diasodz, Book 5)

The One Chosen – A Diasodz Short Story

Breathless – A Short Story

Amazon Author Page

Social Media Links

Author Blog

Twitter

Facebook 

Goodreads

To follow along with the rest of this tour, please visit Yvette M Calleiro’s  tour page.

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November Book Reviews Part 2! @TPolen6 @WriterMSmith @JacqBiggar #writingcommunity #whattoread #mustread #yourbooklist #bookreviews

Sarah

by Teri Polen

“Sarah” is a YA horror story centered on a seventeen-year-old boy, Cain, his friends, and his family. Cain, his mother, and his sister moved into a new house, and things started to happen. Doors open that shouldn’t be, and there are cold spots that Cain and his best friend, Finn, try to understand. I loved the best friend relationship between Cain and Finn and their life outside the haunted house. Cain’s girlfriend explores how patient he can be and how self-centered some people are. Cain’s little sister is sweet, and I love how he cares for her and his mother. Although, it is the ghost of Sarah that grows and changes the most in the story. It caught my attention, as she didn’t hesitate to show how she suffered. Watching a victim’s rage play out makes this a chilling read, while Cain and Finn try to solve the mystery. I enjoyed seeing the nod to the show “Supernatural” and thought about the show before it was even mentioned. A fast read that kept me guessing what the ghost, Cain, and his friends would do next.


Ella: A Romantic Novella

by Marlena Smith

Ella is the sweet story of a woman who’s just trying to get home after a terrible week. Her car breaks down at a small-town gas station, and a town local befriends her. She finds not only a place to stay but a welcoming town. I enjoy watching Hallmark movies, especially Christmas ones. They not only relax me but offer hope in the happily ever after. This story had the same feel, and I could see this town and people become a full-length book. I wanted to get to know them all better. A quick read that I enjoyed.


Secrets, Lies & Alibis

by Jacquie Biggar

I have finally caught up on the Wounded Heart Series. Book eight starts with what happened to Adam and Amanda. They are split up. Amanda has a new job and Adam a new partner, but what Adam doesn’t know is she is pregnant. When something happens that puts others in danger, Amanda must face Adam again. Amanda’s part has a lot of tension and second-guessing, while Adam attempts to break through that while investigating a person from his past. I like the introduction of Brianne, Adam’s attractive partner, and how she added to the mix. Cameron, Frank’s brother, started to open up about what happened to him years ago. While one door seems to shut by the end of the story, there are new possibilities that have opened where past and present situations spiral around the characters. This was a fast read, and I can’t wait for book nine to come out. Wounded Hearts is a series I highly recommend.


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Embrace that inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

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#TankaTuesday Weekly #Poetry Challenge No. 251, #SynonymsOnly or #TasteTheRainbow@ColleenChesebro #writingcommunity #poetrycommunity #cinquain #butterflycinquain #poetrychallenge

Here is this Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge #251. This week we were given the option to do a synonyms only poem or taste the rainbow. I went with the latter which is a butterfly cinquain (2/4/6/8/2/8/6/4/2) that brings colors into it.

Taking our dog out for her morning nature visit, I saw the sky reflected on my car’s back window. I immediately thought of the Allegory of the Cave and how we only see shadows, not life’s beauty, until we step outside our limited experience—or the cave. With those thoughts in mind, I came up with this.

blue skies

a reflection

Under silver raindrops

illusion on my car’s window

Nature

blissfully surrounds the moment

awakens my gray soul

vivid lushness

heals me

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November Book Reviews Part 1! @MaeClair1 @ColleenChesebro @JacqBiggar #writingcommunity #whattoread #mustread #indieauthor #readinglist

Things Old and Forgotten

by Mae Clair

This is a wonderful collection of short stories, each with a unique flavor. The descriptions and images pulled me into each tale’s world. Although I enjoyed all the stories, many stood out including, “Robin of Sherwood,” “Miss Lilly Makes a Wish,” and “Father’s Day.” I loved the twist of a post-apocalyptic Robin Hood and saw all the favorite characters in a new yet familiar role. When Miss Lilly finds a lamp with a genie in it, it’s so much fun. I didn’t expect that ending or how she handled things. Then, in Father’s Day, there was a lot of raw emotion, along with a scenario that completely surprised me. These short stories were hard to stop reading. I had planned on going through the book at a leisurely pace, but found I needed to read just one more story. I highly recommend “Things Old and Forgotten.”


Word Weaving #1: A Word Craft Journal of Syllabic Verse

by Colleen M. Chesebro (Author), Jules Paige (Editor)

Word Weaving is a journal created by Colleen M. Chesebro and Jules Paige with chosen contributions from many poets who submitted their poetry. There is a wide variety of formats used within Japanese and American syllabic poetry. The theme of the book was autumn moons, and the poems were grouped together by type. I found once I started reading, I couldn’t put the book down. It’s an amazing array of talent, so I couldn’t pick or share my favorite lines because there were just too many to choose from. If you love poetry, I highly recommend this collection. I plan to add the paperback to my bookshelf so I can enjoy reading it again.


The SEAL’s Temptation(Wounded Hearts #7)

by Jacquie Biggar

Maggie’s story continues as she recovers from PTSD at Frank’s ranch with her ex-partner, boss, an ex-seal, and wife. There is the budding relationship between Frank and Maggie and the past bond with her partner, Adam, which I enjoyed, along with the missing cows. Then, a man living near the ranch who was recently released from prison added excitement to the story, along with familiar characters from previous books who dealt with their issues back in Tidal Falls. I loved the story, had more than one perspective, and how well it all blended. The characters are well-rounded, and the setting made me feel like I was there with them at the ranch. Although I have gotten attached to all the characters, Maggie has become my favorite. I can’t wait to read Wounded Hearts #8 and see what happens next. I highly recommend this book and the series.


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Embrace that inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

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New Release! “No Such Luck” by Staci Troilo— A Book Review. @stacitroilo #bookrelease #bookreview #mustread #whattoread #writingcommunity

Amazing fellow Story Empire Author and wonderful human being, Staci Troilo, just released a new romantic novella, “No Such Luck.” She’s making the rounds on her release tour so don’t miss out on that! I know I’ll be following along 🙂

Today, I decided to give “No Such Luck” its own special review day in honor of its release. You will see this review again in December on my regular book review post too!

BLURB

Seeds of luck usually wither. The rare one grows and blooms.

Piper Seidel has one thing going for her—a red carnation given to her by Tommy Burnett in the tenth grade. It might have dried over the years, but it’s still her good luck charm. Losing it sets her life in a downward spiral, forcing her to return to her hometown where she comes face to face with her high school crush.

The years have been kind to Tommy, who looks better than ever. Unfortunately, Piper is at her worst, continually embarrassing herself whenever he’s around. The only plus? Her long-time friend, Jack Rhodes, still lives in town. Since she last saw him, his legs have grown longer, his biceps thicker, and his shoulders broader. He was always the brother she never had, but now she can’t help noticing him in an unsisterly way. Jack is every bit as caring as he’s ever been—until her bad luck drives him away, maybe forever.

Piper needs a new good luck charm, and fast, before she loses her final chance at happiness.


 MY REVIEW

No Such Luck

by Staci Troilo

When things get bad for Piper, she heads home. It’s here she runs into not only her best friend from high school, Jack but her crush, Tommy. Piper is a character who is likable even in her not-so-stellar moments. She maneuvers through what is real and the musings of a teenage girl. This is a quick read that I devoured in one sitting to see if she got her happily ever after. “No Such Luck” is a sweet novella that emphasizes what and who is important. A fantastic beginning to the new Keystone Couples Series that I can easily recommend.

AMAZON PURCHASE LINK US

AMAZON PURCHASE LINK UK

Embrace that inner child by reading a good story—like “No Such Luck!” D. L. Finn

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#TankaTuesday Weekly Poetry Challenge: #Poet’s choice! @ColleenChesebro #writingcommunity #poetrycommunity #poetry #haiga #poetrychallenge

Here is this week’s Colleen Chesebro Weekly Tanka Poetry Challenge Poet’s Choice.

I spent some time a few days ago putting pictures and haikus together for my yearly calendar. So, I was still in the mode of this combination or a haiga poem and went with it.

trees cloaked in secrets misty mountain enchantment consumes your desires

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Short Story Personal Challenge #5 Effervescent #writingcommunity #shortstory #challenge #writingchallenge

Happy Halloween. Today I’m doing my Personal Short Story Writing Challenge. The word was provided by my son, effervescent.

Here is the image that came up for it and the story that follows.

Courtesy of Canva

Effervescent Potion

The round man in the white lab coat dropped the blue pill into the glass beaker. It immediately burst in a rush of bubbles racing to the top of the water. The man dabbed the sweat off his forehead and offered a tentative smile. “It works as soon as it hits the liquid, Sir.”

A deep scowl crossed over the taller man’s thin face. “I can see that, Arnold, and I prefer Sir Charles. Will it do what I want it to?”

Arnold gulped loudly as the water turned a bloody red and boiled with no heat source. Its froth spilled over the beaker like a volcano exploding. “Yes, Sir Charles. The test is going exactly as planned. We will test it in its chocolate form tomorrow. Its reaction will happen in the mouth and stomach, but we are fully confident that will be a success.”

Sir Charles’ thick black eyebrows hovered heavily over the bloodshot eyes that held the definition of madness. “Good, good. I need it to be perfect for Halloween. You understand?”

“Of course, Sir Charles. If the chocolate performs well tomorrow, then there are only a few more tests left.”

“On the rats, I assume?” His black-clothed body sunk into the shadows, but the high ceiling clinical lighting shone directly on his displeased face.

Arnold tugged at his itchy white collar. “Well, we haven’t tried it on a human yet, because of the….”

Sir Charles slammed his fist on the white Formica counter, almost tipping over the roaring concoction. “That’s what this potion it’s meant for. I can’t believe I have to think of everything. You will be brought some healthy young specimens from the holding area.”

Arnold covered his mouth as bile forced its way up. He pushed it back down, along with his anger. “It might kill the children if the formula isn’t right.”

“Then kill them but get it right.” The words were spoken with no emotion.

Arnold gulped, wiped away more sweat, but didn’t respond.

“Arnold, have you found something to alter your mind?” Sir Charles paused.

Arnold quickly shook his head vigorously in denial. He knew the rules. No drinking or taking mind-numbing relief. It would not only take him off the project but cost him and his partner their lives. “No, Sir Charles.”

Sir Charles seemed satisfied, and he continued. “Why do you think I bought a major candy company and spent a small fortune on this lab?”

“For us to do experiments.” Arnold looked at his colleagues for support, but they were in the same position as him—forced help.

Sir Charles put his hands on his hips. “Right, and you are being allowed to continue your pathetic existence. And what do I want these chocolates for?”

Arnold felt like a kid in grammar school answering the demanding teacher. “Halloween.”

The man sighed loudly. “Sometimes, I think you were dropped on your head as a baby. Humans, yourself included, have always ruined my best ideas. The zombies that come from your experiment will keep the world busy, then I slip in and take control over everything, understand?”

“Yes, Sir Charles, but no one has stopped you from doing what you want for centuries.” The words escaped before he could stop them. Arnold heard a gasp come from behind him.

Sir Charles folded his lanky arms and bent down to be eye level with Arnold. His breath reminded him of a slaughterhouse, which he was. “They stopped my dear mother when they hammered a stake into her heart. I’ll never forget her screams or my rage. It’s been simmering inside since that day. Luckily, after I was exiled into the forest, the real monster took pity on me and gave me immortally— like I might do for you if you please me.”

Arnold held his hands up and briefly dipped his head. “I’m sorry, Sir Charles. I meant no disrespect. I only meant you are so powerful already. Everyone fears you.”

Sir Charles patted Arnold on the head, stood straight, and adjusted his black hat. “It took decades to gain that respect in my community. When it was time, I took revenge on that entire town that punished an innocent woman. That’s never been enough, though. No Arnold, not at all. Humans haven’t changed over the centuries. They still live and act in fear, so I waited and watched. Now your kind has the technology to give me what I’ve been imagining or an effervescent potion that makes humans into a compliant sleepwalkers or zombie-like. Whoever doesn’t eat the chocolate, my creatures will take care of them.”

“Aren’t you killing your food supply?” From being underground for the last few years, Arnold’s pale complexion took on a shade of green as it reflected off the camera mirror that watched every move they made.

“My creatures will never deny their blood to me, but I admit I like the chase, so leaving some to hunt will be nice. No one can challenge me, though, got that?”

“Yes, Sir Charles.”

A smirk filled the sharpness of his youthful face. “Great. Now, I’ll bring you your test subjects.”

Arnold nodded and turned back to his work. He’d had his own formula ready for a long time, and even boldly shared it here today in place of what it was supposed to be. This liquid changed the cells in all the studies and the last one the rats had survived. He offered his lab partner a weak smile, but Patty turned her tear-stained face away from him and the all-seeing mirror. At least she had her husband and three children to share her nights in their private cell. He had the same privilege with his partner and cat, most were crammed together in small spaces and usually not with family members.

The image of all the tears shed because of this monster made Arnold push aside his years of training and make a rare rash decision. “I’m done with this. I know our formula will work.”

Patty froze as realization crossed her face. “That could fry your brain or worse! Think of David!”

Arnold brought the bubbling concoction to his lips and felt a power he hadn’t felt since he was tricked into this nightmare. He smiled.“It won’t, Patty.”

“Please wait…”

He didn’t listen as he dipped his finger and stirred the potion. The liquid had cooled, and the bubbles had returned. Patty gasped loudly as he gulped it down. Finished he tossed the beaker into the trashcan and burped loudly as the bubbles danced in his stomach.

Patty and the others backed away from him right as Sir Charles entered the lab tugging two terrified little boys behind him. “You poor pathetic fool. Well, you will be the lab rat now, Arnold.”

Arnold’s blood rushed the potion to all parts of his body. He knew what came next and steeled himself for it. As he collapsed onto the ground, withering like a thirsty flower under a hot summer sun, everything went black, but only for a second, then the light seemed to come from his pores. He jumped up and grinned.

“It appears your junk doesn’t work, Arnold. Either you get it right within 24 hours, or you, David, and that horrible cat die. Put these things in a cage, so they don’t run away and cause a mess.” He pushed the crying children toward Patty.

Arnold felt a new strength and power like that of a cartoon superhero. It took three years to create, but he was a perfect monster-killer. Arnold and Patty had secretly stimulated the part of the brain that was untapped by humanity so far. He stepped in front of Sir Charles with a huge grin while Patty comforted the little boys.

“Don’t come any closer, Arnold. I’m only going to warn you once.” Sir Charles’s bravado seemed a little deflated as Arnold reached out to the pale bloodsucker and pushed him.

Before Sir Charles could respond, Arnold broke their tormentor’s neck and then easily ripped his head off which he carelessly tossed aside. As the bloodless head rolled away, Arnold swore it asked why. No matter what they had been told over the last three years in captivity, he learned all he needed from that vile creature’s final thoughts. Everything had been a lie, including rewarding them with eternal life. They were less than a herd of cows to him and his death by them was a huge shame to that creature.

The images Arnold saw from the monster were so clear. He’d seen a woman burning in bright orange flames. That had to be Sir Charles’s mother. There were many terrified faces as they took their last breath all jumbled together, but the last lucid thought was a picture of flames that consumed everything. Arnold shook his head that had to be from when he took down an entire village in his revenge for his mother. That young man had become what the villager’s first claimed his mother was—a deranged monster.

Following a round of congratulations and releasing all the people, Arnold led the way to freedom. He ripped open the steel door to release the group of 231 people from their confinement. They slowly made their way through the tunnel to the surface. Here, the door opened easily, into a nightmare. The landscape was charred and bare. There was nothing for miles. His newly gained powers reached out and found nothing alive, except for what survived in the ocean.

What had been their prison with a crazy vampire had saved them from themselves. Humanity had finally crossed the line and started a war that killed everyone but them and the animals still below that were used for experiments or food. It wasn’t getting revenge for his mother’s death that had been Sir Charles’ last thought, but the demise of the world. The vampire wanted control of those he already held hostage to create the world in his distorted image.

Tears flowed as he held David, and the ground released its sulfuric effervescent reminder of what fear and hate can produce. This small group had become the survivors of the new Noah’s Ark. It would be up to them to start over. Arnold hoped this time they would do it right.


I will be participating in the NaNoWriMo this year. I will not be writing a story but editing the first book I wrote during this event. So, I will still do my regular posts, but won’t be around as much as usual. To those who are doing it, good luck! Happy November 🙂

Embrace your inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

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Cover reveal for “Sleigh Bell Tower: Murder at the Holiday Gala” by James J. Cudney! @jamescudney4 #newbook #coverreveal #preorder #writingcommunity #indieauthor

Hi! I’m excited to share James J. Cudney’s cover reveal and pre-order link for “Sleigh Bell Tower: Murder at the Campus Holiday Gala.” Looks like a great holiday read and I’m looking forward to reading it.

BLURB:

When Bell Towers decides to build their newest boutique hotel in Wharton County, Braxton establishes a hospitality program as part of their university expansion. Despite the Ingram and Lynch family ties to prominent citizens, a dispute over the proposed landsite pits citizens against each other. One takes matters into their own hands and slays the hotel magnate during the campus holiday party. As the list of suspects increases, long-lost family members are anxious to keep their secrets from being revealed, complicating Sheriff Montague’s ability to determine the murderer’s true motive. Even Kellan’s forced to cast doubt on his friends and colleagues when it becomes obvious someone he knows committed the ultimate crime. April and Kellan are also celebrating their first Christmas and Hanukkah together, exchanging gifts based on the classic Twelve Days of Christmas song. While they trim the tree, light the menorah, and experience all the traditional holiday festivities with the kids, Nana D delivers her sarcastic brand of humor and endlessly tortures the town. Among Eleanor’s surprise news, Augie’s new girlfriend, and Myriam’s hilarious demands, Kellan’s dealing with unexpected holiday drama. The poor guy simply wants to spend the merry season with his family before he’s forced to trek to Scotland to fulfill his promise to the late Constance Garibaldi. What kind of quest has the psychic sent him on now?

PRE-ORDER LINK AMAZON

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#TANKATUESDAY Weekly #POETRY CHALLENGE NO. 249, #THEMEPROMPT #kindness @ColleenChesebro #writingcommunity #poems #poetrychallenge #tanka

Here is Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday Weekly Poetry Challenge #249. This week is a theme poem. Kindness was provided by fellow Story Empire Author, Harmony Kent.

I went with a tanka 5/7/5/7/7 and added to a picture of a local waterfall.

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Personal Short Story Challenge #4! #faith #revenge #murder #writingcommunity #challenge #writingchallenge

Here is my Short Story Word Challenge #4. This word was provided by my eldest daughter, faith. This image came up for the word, and then the story followed.

woman raising arms to the sun

FAITH

Nessie stood on the mountaintop. Her arms extended in gratitude to where she believed heaven existed. Only her faith brought her to this moment. If she hadn’t believed in the possibility of survival, she would still be tied up in that dark, musky room at the mercy of a madman. Nessie shuddered, thinking of those dire moments in her young life.

“I’m free!” Nessie shouted and twirled around, offering up her thankfulness.

Her voice echoed through the rocky canyons. There would be no response to her glee, as this was a journey she made alone. It was her time to shine and celebrate her strength.

Nessie settled down and meditated on the beauty. She bowed her head in thanks when she was done. Opening her backpack, she removed the turkey and avocado sandwich.

“Thanks, Mom. This is the best sandwich yet!” She smacked her lips together loudly.

Soon her meal concluded, and the pack became a backrest to watch the sun push the day away with its brilliant purple, pink, and red finale.

“Goodnight, sun, tomorrow you will rise again as I did.” Nessie shook her head and stood up. “Everyone thought I was crazy to come up here by myself, where it all happened. They don’t understand. I promised I would see the sunrise over this mountain if I survived. I prayed on that, and here I am honoring those words.”

Nessie unwound her sleeping bag in a spot that looked like it was made to sleep on. As the air chilled and the stars came out, she yanked on her coat and hat. Stargazing was her favorite thing to do as a child. Here she felt a part of the universe on the cliff where the man killed her fiancé, Steve, and held her hostage. The place where she had declared she would get married someday. It’s always been her favorite spot.

“No, that man didn’t ruin this beauty for me. He couldn’t.”

What that man didn’t know was this place was magical, and Steve hadn’t believed in it as she did. The push from the cliff had snapped Steve’s neck, but didn’t end his journey. His spirit stuck around long enough to help her after that insane man beat and locked her up. She knew Steve would come to her in that darkness. He’s held and comforted her. If not for Steve, she never would have seen the dropped key in the darkness.

“Thank you, Steve.”

The rest was her, though. Once she got out of her prison, she had to get past her tormentor.

Every step had pained her. That man had painfully amused himself with every part of her, but nothing had been broken, so she had done what she needed.

“I’m so grateful everyone thinks I got hurt trying to get to Steve. It’s for the best, though, especially for my dear parents. They will never have to suffer or know what I endured. Plus, I made sure it would never happen again.”

Nessie smiled and closed her eyes in the sleep of peace. She slept soundly until her phone alarm woke her up. Then she quietly ate her granola bar and drank water as the sun rose from the horizon. The sun’s beams weaved into the chilled mountain air and offered her the beautiful rays of light that painted a new day. She took picture after picture to remember this glorious moment. The battery was almost dead, so she shut her phone off.

After her morning duties, she packed up and offered a final bow to the beautiful landscape. Standing on the edge of her new life, she released Steve’s ashes over the precipice.

Then she headed back down the hill. When she entered the darkness of the tree canopy, she found the hidden path to a small log cabin. It was so off the beaten path no one even realized it was here, except her.

“Hi honey, I’m home.” She called out, smiling.

The place was cold. So, she warmed up the red plaid décor, with deer heads mounted on the walls, with a nice roaring fire.

She gathered food, a blanket, and opened the trap door under the bear rug by the hearth. Clicking on the flashlight that she tucked under her arm in her free hand where she grasped Steve’s unused handgun.

She shone the narrow beam of light on a man huddled in the corner between the toilet and sink. He was crying.

In a whiny voice, he held his hands together in prayer form. “Please help me. I’m dying.”

His act didn’t move her. “Not yet. Here are some supplies. Make them last a while. It’s hard to say when or if I can get back here again with the snow coming.”

He put his bearded face into his grimy hands. “I’m sorry I hurt you and your friend. I promise I’ll never do it again.”

Nessie smiled. “Oh, I know you won’t because you aren’t leaving this room.”

He looked up. His watery blue eyes still held that hardness she had seen when he hurt her. “I’ve never done that before. I was just drunk.”

She set the basket down out of his reach. “Good try, Larry. I found the graveyard out back and holes for Steve and me. We weren’t your first.”

“Please, just turn me in.” He eyed the basket, and a bit of drool ran down his chin.

She shone the light on his goodies. “I think this fits the crimes. Plus, it gives you some time to think about what you did. Maybe you’ll ask for that forgiveness you so desperately need. I’m doing you a favor in the long run.”

“You’re crazy.” His voice took on a hardness that indicated he didn’t want redemption.

Nessie sighed loudly and kicked the basket within his reach. “Maybe I am now, thanks to you. The love of my life that you took from me had brought me to this mountain to ask me to marry him. I have the ring right here next to my heart to remind me of my love and faith. It saved me. What will save you?”

“Please. You aren’t like me.” The chains rattled, but he had made no progress trying to pull them from the wall. She knew how well he’d installed them.

“No, I am not. I am doing good for this world right now. You’d better make your peace for all your sins.”

Nessie shut the trapdoor and locked it. Relief overwhelmed her as she sank into a dusty red chair. That night two weeks ago, she unlocked those chains with a dropped key. She prepared herself to fight him but had found the house empty, except for a tranquilizer gun the smug man left lying around. Still, she didn’t run. She waited for him to return. Unfortunately, he tried to fight her, so she shot him. After she dragged the sedated body to his prison, she used the same chains that had been on her and left him where he’d put so many before. She put a box of granola bars, raisins, and nuts by his unconscious body in that dark hole.

Her pain had been forgotten as she searched the house and surroundings. There were so many graves marked with numbers. Two empty holes that must have been meant for her and Steve. They would have been numbers 16 and 17. That’s when Steve appeared to her for the last time.

“I will always love you, Nessie. Would you do one more thing for me?” She nodded, so he continued. “Make sure he gets what he deserves, sweetheart.”

“I promise. I love you too and will miss you.”

Then he waved and faded away without another word. She had made the painful trek back down the mountain and decided not to tell anyone what really happened to her and Steve. Someday she’d alert the authorities anonymously so that those other families could find some closure, but she needed to find hers.

This time she was so much stronger inside this cabin and knew she needed to get rid of any evidence she’d been here. There were some gloves in his cleaning supplies and she scrubbed the cabin to her satisfaction. She removed her gloves and tucked them into her pocket.

“Good luck Larry. If you are meant to live, you will. If not, you have some things to pay for.”

She hoped he would be thankful for her kindness in leaving him supplies, but she doubted it. Someone like him wouldn’t recognize empathy because he never showed it to her with that belt. Then came the trip down the mountain again, leaving her greatest love and fear behind, but filled with the faith of the life she had yet to live.

NOTE: We are getting some much needed rain. Unfortunately, it’s coming all at once, but we are safe where we are. The storm is living up to its hype. Lots of power outages and only a matter of time for us. I will be responding when I can. Xo

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#TANKATUESDAY Weekly #POETRY CHALLENGE NO. 248, #PHOTOPROMP @ColleenChesebro #writingcommunity #poetrycommunity #haiku #poetrychallenge

Here is this week’s Colleen Chesebro Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge #248. It’s a Photo Prompt, and the picture was provided by Sangeetha, from MindFills .

I love photo or image challenges for writing poems and short stories. This one immediately spoke to me and became a haiku 5/7/5.

Tilini – The Himalaya, 2021 photo credit – sangeetha

life strips away leaves

leaving imagination

where happiness blooms

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October Book Review Part 3! @Dwallacepeach @stacitroilo @jlbryanbooks #writingcommunity #bookreviews #whattoread #mustreads

Socerer's Garden Book Cover

The Sorcerer’s Garden

by D. Wallace Peach

Madlyn loses her job, but quickly finds one where she reads to a young man, Cody, who is in a vegetative state after an accident. After running out of things to read to him, she finds a fantasy book he’d been working on and starts reading that. This is where reality and fantasy blur. I could relate to Madlyn and her confusion with what was happening, plus all the strange hints the grandma threw at her. Both beautiful and dark settings, along with poetic images, drew me deep into this story. I loved Madlyn’s developing relationship with not only Cody but his brother Dustin. My favorite parts were when the book was being read. Greed, evil, and power crossed both worlds and mirrored many current issues. This was a clever intertwining of fantasy within reality that took Madlyn, and others, on a journey that came out in a place that made sense. A fantasy story that I can easily recommend. Five-Stars!


Valuable Treasures

by Staci Troilo

Having read and loved the Medici Protectorate Series, I was thrilled to see there was a short story prequel to it. Ottavio and a very pregnant Anita are trying to find the American Dream in the Colorado mountains. Ottavio puts in long hours with little to show for it. One day he comes home with an unexpected find right as Anita goes into labor. They hope to be able to use this to go back to Italy, but things quickly change. This is beautifully written, and I could feel the hardship they had endured, including down to the detail of their poor diet. What happens next is heartbreaking, but then comes a relief to see a familiar group. This can be a standalone read, but I highly recommend the following books in the Medici Protectorate Series. Five-Stars!


Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper

(Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper #1)

by J.L. Bryan

Ellie professionally removes unwanted ghosts from buildings. She’s teamed up with a newbie partner, Stacey, on a new case. A ghost haunts a family trying to renovate an older house and make it into a Bed and Breakfast. There is a lot of detail that goes into ghost hunting and the ghost makes an appearance quickly in the story. What seems like a normal haunting has many more layers to it. The in-house investigation was scary, but I felt my heart race when they visited an old asylum. I would have been terrified to have been with them. I like the relationship that develops between Ellie and Stacey as we slowly get to know them. This haunted house held my attention and had an unexpected twist. A good start to a ghost series with a likable main character. This is for anyone who enjoys a ghost story with ghost trappers involved. Four-Stars.


For the next two weeks, I will be doing my personal short story challenge with new words, faith & effervescent—and their images.


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Read a great book and embrace your inner child! D. L. Finn

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“A Day on the Lake” A Horror Short Story Challenge on Vocal! #WritingCommunity #shortstory #challenge #horror #halloweenstory

I did my first short story fictional challenge over on Vocal. It was a Horror Fiction Challenge set by a body of water. How could I pass that up?

Here’s what I came up with. If you like it, please give it a heart and share if you can.

LINK

 

 

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New Release! “Things Old and Forgotten” by Mae Clair. @MaeClair1 #writingcommunity #newrelease #shortstories #magicrealism #fantasy #speculative #mildhorror #indieauthor

I’m thrilled to have fellow Story Empire Author, Mae Clair, here to tell us about her new book. I already read it and loved it! Here’s my review.

Hi, Denise. Thanks for hosting me today and allowing me to share my newest release with your readers. Things Old and Forgotten is a collection of short fiction that includes stories in several genres—magical realism, fantasy, speculative, even two that touch on mild horror.

When I’m writing, I often visualize in colors. My father was an artist, and although he would not consider white a color (technically, it’s a shade) it has long mesmerized me. It speaks to the ethereal, visionary, and the otherworldly. The color white floats—a wisp of the insubstantial we can never quite touch, like an echo weaving future and past.

I had all those elements in mind when I wrote Desert White which—among other strangeness—includes a white dog. When I was eight years old, I wrote my first short story, The Night Dog, about a spectral canine. It took me decades to pen another about a white canine. Below is a short excerpt taken from the beginning of Desert White.

EXCERPT:

“His name is White.” The gravelly tone of the old man’s voice matched his lined and weather-beaten skin.

“It’s fitting.” Micah eyed the dog from his seat at the kitchen table. If not for the German shepherd’s dark eyes, he would have thought the animal was an albino. White had sniffed around his mutilated wrists in the desert, nudging him with a cold nose. Now, curled up on the floor of Floyd Henley’s trailer, the canine didn’t seem the ghostly presence it had under a pale moon. Even so, he wished it wouldn’t lie so close. Large dogs made him nervous.

The shepherd was the last of his worries.

Earlier, he’d caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror above Floyd’s bathroom sink while the old man fussed over his wounds. When he’d driven into the desert that evening, his hair had been ink-black. Now, it was the same spectral white as Floyd’s dog.

I must be dreaming—still.

“Drink this.” Floyd thrust a cup of foul-smelling liquid into his hands. The concoction looked like yellow mud threaded with licorice.

“What is it?”

“Healthy. That’s all you need to know.” Floyd hobbled a short distance away, pausing by the rear door to snatch a plaid jacket from a peg. When he returned, he dropped the frayed garment over Micah’s shoulders. It reeked of must and stale pipe tobacco, but the fabric was warm.

Grateful, he gathered it close. He hadn’t been able to stop shivering since his brush with death. “Thanks.”

Floyd nodded to the cup in his hands. “Drink.”

He forced down a mouthful of the tonic. Tasted bitterness in steeped tea leaves, caraway, and something citrusy. “What were you doing in the desert?”

“I could ask you the same, but no need.” Floyd busied himself filling a basin with water. A crisp yellow towel hung from his shoulder. “We both know what drew you there.”

Shame heated Micah’s face. Tightening his hand around his cup, he studied the dried blood beneath his fingernails. The ugly rust-colored blots on his jeans.

I should have bled to death. Would have, if not for the old man and his dog.

He forced another swallow of the abominable brew, taking perverse pleasure in the way it curdled his gut. At least he was alive to feel the acid.

Floyd drew a chair close then set his basin on the linoleum-topped table. Pale green with chrome edges, the surface had a repetitive design that reminded Micah of boomerangs. How long would it take to count all those angled wedges flying into infinity? Long enough for the blood to drain from his body after slicing his wrists?

The old man had already lined up fresh bandages and gauze pads, well stocked for a recluse who lived in the middle of nowhere. Maybe he had no choice, holed up in the run-down trailer like a hermit. As far as Micah could tell, there wasn’t another soul for miles. Damn fortuitous he and the dog had been there.


BOOK BLURB:

A man keeping King Arthur’s dream of Camelot alive.
A Robin Hood battling in a drastically different Sherwood.
A young man facing eternity in the desert.
A genteel southern lady besting a powerful order of genies.
A woman meeting her father decades after his death.

These are but a few of the intriguing tales waiting to be discovered in Things Old and Forgotten. Prepare to be transported to realms of folklore and legend, where magic and wonder linger around every corner, and fantastic possibilities are limited only by imagination.


Thanks again for hosting me today, Denise. In honor of my love for autumn—a fantastic time to curl up with a book—Things Old and Forgotten will be on sale for .99c through October 31st.

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

Amazon| BookBub| Newsletter Sign-Up
Website | Blog| Twitter| Goodreads| All Social Media

 

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#TankaTuesday Weekly #Poetry Challenge No. 247, #SynonymsOnly. @ColleenChesebro #poems #challenge #tanka #poetrychallenge #poetrycommunity #writingcommunity

Hi! Today I’m doing Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge #247. This week is Synonmyns Only and the words, Twilight & Hue were chosen by Willow Willers.

I came up with a Tanka poem and found this picture to accompany it.

landscape tinted red

under the heavy sunset

as darkness descends

luminescent moon rises

offering magical hope

Featured

October Book Reviews Part 2! @teagangeneviene @Virgilante @JacqBiggar #writingcommunity #whattoread #bookreviews #indieauthors #goodreading

cover for The Yak Guy Project

Dead of Winter: Journey 9, Doors of Attunement

by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

Journey 9 takes Emlyn, Osabide, and Fotia/Zasha into a new place called the Other Realm. They hope to restore Zasha in this strange place. Here, they find three doors and have to pick the right one. I love how Emlyn is starting to trust herself more, which includes her intuition. The setting and surroundings are a vital part of this story, along with the beings they run into. While the trio explores, an army is massing — which hints at what is coming. I can’t wait for the next installment. Five-Stars!


The Yak Guy Project

by C.S. Boyack

“The Yak Guy Project” takes Ted on a spiritual journey in a strange world. Ted wakes up, not knowing what happened to him. A talking Yak becomes Ted’s guide as he learns his selfish ways of the past won’t work where he is. Ted was a character that I rooted for, but he also frustrated me with some of his decisions. I could see The Fool’s Journey from the Tarot in Ted like the author had compared him to. This story had me not only invested in whether Ted could learn and grow, but the world he found himself in captivated me. It was a place where technology had gone wrong many years before, and they were back to living on the land. There were many well-placed layers with life lessons, humor, war, and relationships that made this a read that I couldn’t put down. Five-Stars!


Maggie’s Revenge (Wounded Hearts #6)

by Jacquie Biggar

I have read and enjoyed the first five books of the Wounded Hearts series, but I’ve been eager since book two to find out what happened to Maggie. She has been undercover for the DEA but then was put into horrible conditions with the other women sold into sex trafficking by cartel leader, Chenglei. Back home, her partner, Adam, hadn’t given up hope of finding her. Adam joins forces with his boss, Amanda, and Ex-Seal Frank in that search. Maggie is an amazing character. She is strong, funny, determined, and caring. I like her interactions with the other women and how she can take care of them and herself. I could feel the heat of the desert or the blinding rays of the sun in the richly written settings. This is my favorite of the series so far and one that I kept reading just one more chapter until I was done. I can’t wait to continue to “The Seal’s Temptation” to see what happens next! I highly recommend “Maggie’s Revenge” and the entire series. Five-Stars!


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!


Oops, I spoke too soon, sorry! Next week will be October Book Reviews Part #3, and then two Personal Short Story Challenges will follow.


Even when the power is out, you can read a great book and embrace your inner child! D. L. Finn

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#TankaTuesday Weekly #Poetry #Challenge #246 @ColleenChesebro #haiga #haiku #poem #writingcommunity #poetrychallenge

Here’s Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge #246. This week it is the poet’s choice.

I went with a picture I took while waiting to pick up my husband after a surgical procedure. I couldn’t be inside with him due to COVID, so part of the time I sat in the hospital parking complex. Here’s where I saw a dolphin-shaped cloud. I immediately knew that meant he’d be okay, and he was. I wrote some poetry that day too and added one to the picture which makes this a Haiga Poem.

 

dolphin in the clouds swimming in heavenly skies washing love ashore

Featured

New Release! “Word Weaving #1: A Word Craft Journal of Syllabic Verse” @word_weaving @ColleenChesebro #poetry #poetrycollection #haiku #tanka #haibun #cinquain #mustread #newrelease #poems

BLURB

Word Weaving is a yearly poetry journal, and for our first issue, we bring you poetry crafted from a broad mix of new and established voices across the spectrum of Japanese and American syllabic poetry forms. Enjoy this collection of poems that celebrate the Moons of Autumn.

Contributing Poets:

Annette Rochelle Aben, Mona Bedi, Nancy Brady, Colleen M. Chesebro, Goutam Dutta, Bill Engleson, Elizabeth F., Andreea Finichiu, D.L. Finn, Jeff Flesch, Ken Gierke, Franci Hoffman, Thom Kerr, Sujata Khanna, Ruth Klein, Jules Paige, D. Wallace Peach, Gwen M. Plano, M. J. Mallon, R.V. Mitchell, Elaine Patricia Morris, Lisa Smith Nelson, Pat Raffington, Susmita Ramani, Kerfe Roig, Aishwarya Saby, Akhila Siva, Merril D. Smith, Willow Willers, and Cheryl Wood.


I’m honored to be included in this amazing book! Colleen encouraged the poets to share their poems that were in this beautiful Word Weaving collection.  So here they are mine, and my hope is they inspire you to not only write some poetry but pick up a copy of the book and enjoy some phenomenal syllabic poetry! Thanks, Colleen and Jules 🙂
Watch for my review here in November Book Reviews
PURCHASE LINK

(This was one of the three favorites!)

MOON’S MAGIC

A lone black cat sits on the edge of our world, under the harvest moon. Her green eyes reflect the celestial beams, and her fur absorbs the stars. She rubs against the night’s promise, and its magic fills her soul.

our perceived shackles

released in nature’s healing

under the moonbeams


HARVEST MOON

full moon

autumn’s forest

fairies celebration

of a season full of magic

joyful

all the woodland creatures join them

dancing under the stars

before the snow

arrives.


blood red trees

autumn’s forest glows

hunter moon

Featured

October Book Reviews Part 1! @YouAreTheExpert @JacqBiggar @CathleenTowns #writingcommunity #bookreviews #whattoread #indieauthors #mustread #goodbooks

Son of BOOKU: more halloween haiku

by Annette Rochelle Aben

I’m a huge fan of Halloween and couldn’t pass up a book of Halloween haikus and pictures. Ms. Aben goes into the background of Halloween decorations and her sibling’s part in that. It’s pictures of the displays that are used to inspire the poetry. The poems were clever and had me laughing. Here’s one of them that was paired with a haunting decoration: “I met this vampire/said he hadn’t had a bite/offered him a stake.” This is a quick read to be slowly enjoyed. Reading this book got me into the Halloween mood. If you love poetry and Halloween, this collection is for you.


Summer Lovin’(Wounded Hearts #5)

by Jacquie Biggar

“Summer Lovin” is set in Tidal Falls like the four previous books in the series. Rebecca had a crush on Mitch back in high school. They ran into each other in Las Vegas and ended up married. Rebecca leaves the next morning, and they didn’t stay together. Five years later, they are still married and run into each other again in Tidal Falls. I love how she fights her obvious feelings for him and how Mitch is still there when she needs him. It’s great to see all the wonderful couples from past books and the interest they take in this couple. Although, it’s the side story that captures my heart of a young boy Rebecca runs into at the school she works. His story, and Rebecca’s concern, made this a fantastic read I didn’t want to put down. Another great addition to the Wounded Hearts series, and I can’t wait to move on to the next book!


Dragon Hoard and Other Tales of Faerie

by Cathleen Townsend

I started reading this with the plan to read one story before going to sleep, but I ended up reading the entire book instead. I don’t regret the missed slumber. A fantastic collection of short stories that offer a twist on classic stories or a modern take on the classics. I loved them all, but a few favorites were “Dragon Hoard,” “Teenage Driver,” and “Gargoyle.” Some tugged at my heart, others had me laughing, but all made the characters feel real in a fantasy world. A well-written collection that I can highly recommend!


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

NOTE: You might notice a repeat review here today. That’s because these are my regular reviews, and Books That Changed Me is a special blog where books get showcased.

Read a great book this fall and embrace your inner child! D. L. Finn

 

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#TANKATUESDAY Weekly #POETRY CHALLENGE NO. 245, #THEMEPROMPT @ColleenChesebro #tanka #poems #challenge #poetrychallenge #writingcommunity

Here’s Colleen Chesebro Tanka Tuesday Poetry Challenge # 245. It’s a Theme Prompt and Eugi (Franci Hoffman) picked the theme, The Harvest Moon.

I went with tanka poem 5/7/5/7/7.

glowing harvest moon

reflects in offered crystals

they light up the night

a moment of pure magic

where grateful souls emerge healed

Featured

Stop by and say hi! Vocal Challenge, “That Moment.” #writingcommunity #indieauthor #challenge #writingchallenge

Hi! I’ve been inspired by stories written by Staci Troilo, Harmony Kent, and John Howell over on Vocal. So, I decided to give a challenge a try. Here is the challenge I did as described on site: “Coming of Age. Share a story about the time or event in your life that changed everything.”

So I took the theme and wrote a singular event that gave me a new perspective on life. It may be a heavy read, but it gave me the faith and strength to be the person and writer I am today.

If you like it, I’d appreciate a heart 🙂 Here’s the link:

LINK

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September Book Reviews Part 4! @bakeandwrite @1rburkey @EnigmaSeries @KIngallsAuthor @wandalu64 #bookreviews #writingcommunity #whattoread #indieauthors

Behind Closed Doors

By Robbie Cheadle

“Behind Closed Doors” is a unique assortment of symbolic, free and rhyming verse that creatively show us what is hidden behind one of those closed doors. Plus, I loved seeing some of the beautiful fondant cake art. Some poems moved me while others had me thinking, but all touched on an emotion. The tankas may have been my favorites, but I enjoyed them all. Here are a few favorite lines. “as she danced, unfettered/in her own, glittering world/The stars gave her hope/allowed her to soar….” “Desperately, she peers through the dimness. An assorted array of items drift past her….” “Gratefully she sinks/Into sleep’s loving embrace/Thoughts gently unfurl/Reorganising themselves/Answer revealed in sweet dreams,” and “The crimson rose/Stands tall and alone/A stately queen….” A great glimpse into current events through a poetic eye. This is a poetry collection I recommend.


Out Of Poland

by Rox Burkey  & Charles Breakfield

“Out of Poland” is a fast-paced short story set in 1939 during the fall of Poland. The story paralleled with the confusion of the invasion as three young men were tasked to obtain something called “Baby” from the Germans. Although there wasn’t a chance to learn about all the characters, there was a chilling insight into this moment in history. I couldn’t put this story down, and my heart was racing at the end. I knew what would happen to the country, yet I couldn’t help but root for their success. This is a great short story for history buffs and those who like to root for the heroes.


 

Learning About Autism: One Mother’s Journey of Discovery and Love: A Charter School, Teaching Methods, & Resources 

by Karen Ingalls

“Learning about Autism” is not only a great resource of information but inspiring. Carol and Allen Tucker are almost empty nesters after raising their two children. They decide to adopt a special needs child into their family, Justin, who is dealing with cerebral palsy and autism. Later, they add Joshua, who has down syndrome. The book details how they loved and helped these boys and covered Carol’s path to opening her school for autism. I learned a lot reading this and came away with more understanding of the challenges and gifts raising and advocating for these boys. There is plenty of help and knowledge, but there is also an amazing example of love. This is a great book that I recommend for those looking for advice and those who want to be inspired and understand.


Hayley the Halloween Cat and the Search for Bitty the Bat

by Wanda Luthman, Author, and Mara Reitsma, Illustrations

In our house, we love all things Halloween. So, when it was time to buy my soon-to-be five-year-old granddaughter a book, I had to get this one. Hayley, the black kitten, is searching for her friend, Bitty, the bat. It’s a few hours before Halloween Evening, and she can’t find him anywhere. There are adorable illustrations that were colorful and brought Halloween to life without making it scary. The rhyming added a pleasant flow and made it fun to read aloud. The story shows a great friendship and a nice surprise. As I always do, I read and review “Hayley the Halloween Cat” before wrapping it up. I know I’m going to enjoy reading this with my granddaughter many times over.


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

NOTE: You’ve seen my weekly poetry challenges from Colleen Chesebro here. Well, Colleen and Jules are putting out a book on 10-1-21, Word Weaving #1: A Word Craft Journal of Syllabic Verse. It has a lot of poets who contributed; myself included. I picked up my pre-order. If you like poetry, I have a feeling this will be a must-read.

Here’s the LINK

Read a great book and embrace your inner child! D. L. Finn

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Books That Changed Me—2021 Fall Edition! @Dwallacepeach @CathleenTowns @gmplano #writingcommunity #indieauthors #goodreads #whattoread #fantasy #shortstories #thriller

Maple Tree in fall

Fall has finally arrived! It’s my favorite time of year when the leaves turn the landscape into a sunset, the night is cooler, and there is the hope of some much-needed rain. Halloween is right around the corner and it is time for all things pumpkin, while the Magical Trail gets a visit from some friendly ghosts and goblins. It is also the perfect time of year to read. Here are three books that have changed my outlook on life in their own special way.

Cover to The Ferryman and the Sea Witch

The Ferryman and the Sea Witch

by D. Wallace Peach

BLURB

The merrow rule the sea. Slender creatures, fair of face, with silver scales and the graceful tails of angelfish. Caught in a Brid Clarion net, the daughter of the sea witch perishes in the sunlit air. Her fingers dangle above the swells.

The queen of the sea bares her sharp teeth and, in a fury of wind and waves, cleanses the brine of ships and men. But she spares a boy for his single act of kindness. Callum becomes the Ferryman, and until Brid Clarion pays its debt with royal blood, only his sails may cross the Deep.

Two warring nations, separated by the merrow’s trench, trade infant hostages in a commitment to peace. Now, the time has come for the heirs to return home. The Ferryman alone can undertake the exchange.

Yet, animosities are far from assuaged. While Brid Clarion’s islands bask in prosperity, Haf Killick, a floating city of derelict ships, rots and rusts and sinks into the reefs. Its ruler has other designs.

And the sea witch crafts dark bargains with all sides.

Callum is caught in the breach, with a long-held bargain of his own which, once discovered, will shatter this life.

MY REVIEW

I’ve been looking forward to reading The Ferryman and the Sea Witch because I love all things ocean and fantasy—and was not disappointed. When he was a young boy, Callum tried to save the sea merrow queen’s daughter tangled in fish netting. The crew paid for standing by, but Callum was offered a deal to never set foot on land and become the Ferryman. He was the only one allowed to cross the sea, if a human sacrifice was offered each crossing. So, Callum transported goods between two warring cities. Then comes the time for him to deliver more than goods. Secrets are revealed that change everything. I love how skillfully Ms. Peach weaves in the details and scenery. It makes a fantasy world seem very real. The characters were flawed and well-rounded, and I rooted for several outcomes and relationships. Beautifully written with dark undertones made this a story I didn’t want to put down. This is a book I highly recommend!


Dragon Hoard and Other Tales of Faerie

by Cathleen Townsend

BLURB

Explore twelve tales of Faerie, and discover its paradox–both close and inaccessible–peopled with heroes, rogues, and ciphers.

•A modern dragon who desires more than mere gold,
•A troll who longs for the kiss of sunlight on his skin,
•A teenage driver who discovers her driving test is going to be far more difficult than anyone expected,
•A gargoyle who yearns to safeguard not only a church but a young girl as well,
•And a woman who bargains for Faerie help—only to be confronted with a cost that is more than she can bear to pay.

Come join them.

MY REVIEW

I started reading this with the plan to read one story before going to sleep, but I ended up reading the entire book instead. I don’t regret the missed slumber. A fantastic collection of short stories that offer a twist on classic stories or a modern take on the classics. I loved them all, but a few favorites were “Dragon Hoard,” “Teenage Driver,” and “Gargoyle.” Some tugged at my heart, others had me laughing, but all made the characters feel real in a fantasy world. A well-written collection that I can highly recommend!


The Culmination: a new beginning

by Gwen M. Plano

BLURB

The Culmination, a new beginning is the third book in The Contract thriller series. After an assassination attempt on an Air Force base in northern California, tensions mount. Heads of state meet to craft a denuclearization agreement. The meetings between these nuclear powers take a murderous turn. A nefarious conspiracy re-emerges and leads the characters into the heart of the Middle East, where they encounter the unexpected and find a reason for hope.

MY REVIEW

“The Culmination” is the third book in the Contract Series. I loved all the books, but this one topped them. It touched me on a level of reality and fear, bringing the idea of hope in our current cold social climate. It starts after the second book and an assassination attempt. There is a group determined to cause mayhem and stop anyone in their way, including heads of state. There’s not only exciting action but developing relationships and political intrigue. I found a lot of what was going on in the story relevant for current times. Where Ms. Plano took this story is a place where I could imagine the right things being done in the middle of chaos. I loved the American Vice President with her logic and heart. Beautifully written and thought-provoking with scenarios all too familiar, some heartbreaking, and some tender. This book not only scared me but offered an optimistic option at the same time. I highly recommend it and the whole series.


Read a book, it can change your life! Happy Autumn 🙂 D. L. Finn

 

 

Featured

#TANKATUESDAY Weekly #POETRY CHALLENGE NO. 244 #EKPHRASTIC #PHOTOPROMPT @ColleenChesebro #Tanka #Poem #writingcommunity #poetrycommunity #indieauthors

Here is Colleen Chesebro’s TANKA TUESDAY Weekly POETRY CHALLENGE NO. 244.  It’s an Ekphrastic photo prompt with the image  chosen by Merril. D . Smith.

I went with a tanka format 5/7/5/7/7.

black and white print with distorted houses and a skelton sitting on the porch
Image Credit: https://libwww.freelibrary.org/digital/item/66272

humanity stripped
world tilted and distorted
exposed to the pain
haunted by heavy mistakes
I live in my misery

If you enjoy the weekly poetry challenges from Colleen Chesebro, then you don’t want to miss pre-ordering Word Weaving #1: A Word Craft Journal of Syllabic Verse. It has a lot of poets who contributed; myself included. I picked up my copy! I have a feeling this will be a must-read for poetry lovers.

Here’s the Amazon LINK

Featured

September Book Reviews Part 3! @AnnikaPerry68 @StephenGeez @teagangeneviene #WritingCommunity #BookReviews #WhatToRead

 

Oskar’s Quest

by Annika Perry Author, and Gabrielle Vickery, Illustrator

I purchased “Oskar’s Quest” as a gift for my youngest granddaughter’s upcoming birthday and wanted to read and review it before wrapping it up. It is a charming story about a young bird, Oskar, who fearfully veers off from his group of birds hunting for dragons. He finds a sad little island where a cloud has taken the songbird. I love how the little bird finds his courage in a search for the songbird. This story teaches not only to push past fears but to understand each other. The illustrations are colorful and bring the story to life. I enjoyed this tale and can’t wait to share it with my granddaughter soon!


Comes This Time To Float: 19 Short Stories by Stephen Geez

by Stephen Geez

“Comes This Time to Float” is an impressive collection of short stories that cover many genres. I enjoyed all of them, but “Vapor Girl,” “Comes Time to Float,” and “Age Eater” were some of the very favorites that I know will stick with me for a while. Each fictional piece had a common thread of attention to detail and emotions that drew me in. Before each story, Mr. Geez shared why he wrote or the history behind each one, which was fun to know. There was also an accompanying picture that added to my reading pleasure. There’s a lot of heart inside the 19 short tales, which I really felt in “Veneer,” but humor, intriguing insight, and variety were also woven in. It’s a wonderful read where each piece offers something different. A well-written collection that I can easily recommend.


Dead of Winter: Journey 8, The Lost Library

by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

I was excited to explore the Lost Library with the characters. It’s a place I’d definitely go, even with all the other stuff going on around, and in it. There was some insight into the Deae Matres and a glimpse into what Arawn was doing. Then comes a leap of faith to save not only a friend but the world. I thought I had some characters figured out but found I might be wrong. This one was fast-paced and full of new things to ponder. I can’t wait for Journey 9 to see where this all goes. I highly recommend the Dead of Winter Series, but make sure you’ve read the other journeys before reading this one!


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Happy Birthday, Jeffry!

Newsletter goes out tomorrow 🙂

Watch for “Books That Changed Me—Fall Edition” on September 22nd!

Embrace that sweet inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

Featured

September Book Reviews Part 2! @JacqBiggar @Marjorie_Mallon #writingcommunity #whattoread #mustread #indieauthors #bookreviews

 

Bloodstone (The Curse of Time, #1)

by M.J. Mallon

“Bloodstone” is a paranormal YA story that centers on 15-year-old Amelina. Her family life drastically changed after her father disappeared and then returned home a different man. Her once happy household was gone. When she gets an invitation to a mysterious place, she goes down a forbidden path by the river. Here she meets Ryder, who completely mesmerizes her after saving her from a robbery attempt. There were many great secondary characters, including her band members and cat, Shadow, but I think my favorite was Esme or the girl who lived in the mirror. There was a lot of depth in Esme, and the subject of self-harm was dealt with well. I’m a fan of rocks/crystals, so their importance in the story was a plus. The magic and darkness weaved into the plot of finding the truth contrasted with Amelina’s constant conflict. The poetry before each chapter was a nice addition, and I enjoyed the descriptive passages. The ending answered some questions, but not all. I look forward to reading the next book in this series to see what happens next. If you like a paranormal story told from a teen’s perspective who is not only finding herself but discovering her unique abilities, this is for you.


Twilight’s Encore (Wounded Hearts #3)

by Jacquie Biggar

I have enjoyed the first two books of Wounded Hearts, so I was happy to see them back in Tidal Falls planning a wedding. Katy left town ten years ago with her mother and leaving Ty broken-hearted. She is a doctor now, coming back to supervise her wedding plans to another man. The old theater is being redone for her nuptials, and the man doing it is Ty. Sparks immediately fly between Katy and Ty while someone is trying to disrupt the renovation of the old building. A secret surprised me, and there was a person with negative intentions toward Katy. Since this is set in basically the same time frame as book two, there is no update on what happened to Maggie, which didn’t take away from this story. Twilight’s Encore can easily be read without reading the first two books, but it’s better to have the background on the secondary characters. I’m eager to start the next book to see what happens next in this great series!


The Rebel’s Redemption (Wounded Hearts #2)

by Jacquie Biggar

I read and enjoyed the first book, “Tidal Falls,” where Annie and Jared caught my attention as secondary characters. Jared finally comes home for good after making some mistakes since leaving the SEALS. He reconnects with his mother and runs into his ex-best friend, Annie, or the woman he had a one-night stand with before leaving to join the service the next day. Jared had made many missteps in his past, but seeing Annie and her son brought back old feelings and guilt. But this reunion doesn’t go smoothly. His past is chasing him, putting those he loves in danger. There was a side plot with Maggie, a DEA agent, who was also introduced to in the first book. This part had me on the edge of my seat with the dangerous situation she was in. Not only is there a romance trying to rekindle between Annie and Jared with someone wanting revenge, but Maggie is trying to survive. This page-turner left one question answered, and another that needs to be explored in future books. If you like a good romantic thriller, this is for you!


NOTE: I’ve been quiet the past few days and haven’t been able to visit blogs or do my usual social media. My husband had a planned-rescheduled surgery Thursday and we were only given a few days’ notice. He’s doing well, but my attention and energy has been on his procedure and recovery. He has this week off to recoup and then things should go back to “normal.” Hugs xo

I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Embrace that sweet inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

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September Book Reviews Part 1! @sgc58 @WordDreams #WritingCommunity #BookReviews #WhatToRead

Laws of Nature Book CoverLife is Like a Mosaic by Sally Cronin Book Cover

Life is like a Mosaic: Random fragments in harmony

by Sally Cronin

“Life is like a Mosaic” is a book of poetry that offers images to add to the journey. I have always loved the mixture of pictures and words, and this collection is a delightful blend of that. I like how honest and insightful the poems are with various subjects that take daily life into a deeper realm. Here are a few of my favorite lines: “defies monochrome hues/with a splash of colour/softening their/harshness,” “Clarity as the memories cascade/tumbling down the precipice of time/as if the floodgates have opened,” “The moon/hangs in the sky/lighting the earth at night,” “Sit/serene/with wise thought/and let them drift,” “Nature’s young frolic in the sun/under blossom topped tree/celebrating/new life,” and “Washed up/are words that haunt.” A thoughtful collection that I can highly recommend for poetry lovers.


Laws of Nature (Dawn of Humanity Book 2)

by Jacqui Murray

I loved the first book of “Dawn of Humanity” and had been eager to read this story. This engaging read followed two groups, split apart in the last book, trying to find each other. The most interesting was the character following these two groups and the one who joined up with him. When reading, I was completely drawn into the story down to saying “ick” when they ate their raw meat or sucked the marrow out of a bone. The attention to detail and amount of research is amazing, including how they communicated, groomed, interacted, and traveled. Lucy’s group shows an inclusion that is inspiring and relevant, especially in modern times. I appreciated a strong female character who applied logic to dangerous situations. I can’t wait for the next book and highly recommend “Laws of Nature!”


Born in a Treacherous time (Dawn of Humanity)

by Jacqui Murray

I have read and loved the Crossroad Series by Ms. Murray and have been eager to read this series. When the second book came out, I rushed to get started. Lucy and her journey immediately pulled me in. After leaving her first group, she finds a home and a new pair mate. Within this group, there is jealousy and distrust, but the most important thing is their survival. The amount of research and thought that went into this story amazed me. I could easily imagine how it was to live in their prehistorical times. I’m very glad that we found a way to control fire and cook our food. Their eating habits and being scavengers were so detailed and well-written that they made me shudder as they tore into their meal. Although everyone didn’t appreciate Lucy, her strength kept her and those around her going. As the group shifts and changes, so does the world around them. I dove right into the second book when I finished this one. I highly recommend this!


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Embrace that sweet inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

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Short Story Personal Challenge #3! The Playdate. #writingcommunity #shortstory #challenge #indieauthor

Here’s my third short story challenge coming in at just a touch over 1000 words. My husband came up with this week’s word, ruthless. This image caught my attention.

I discarded the first ending because it felt too expected. This one worked for me 🙂

THE PLAYDATE

I forced a smile and turned away from the picture. I swore the yellow eyes were still watching me. I nervously stuffed a cucumber sandwich into my dry mouth. Big mistake. It caught in my throat and then burned. I could taste the hot peppers as I coughed. I was positive I was going to die.

“Are you okay, Sandy?” Jessie’s clear blue eyes showed concern as she handed me a glass of water.

“Yes, I just swallowed wrong.”

Bobbie clung to my arm while Freddie sat on the couch with the same terrifying expression as the picture. This playdate was taking a dark turn.

“Freddie, why don’t you show Bobbie your room.”

Freddie smiled. “Sure, I can show him my new ax.”

I cleared my throat. “Ax?”

“He asked for it for his birthday, but it’s been put away. He knows we don’t play with weapons when we have guests. Right, honey?”

Freddie let out a loud sigh. “Yes, Mommy. No real weapons on playdates. I remember. But can we show him later?”

Jessie winked at me. “Maybe later.”

I gently detached myself from Bobbie’s tightened grasp. “Maybe we should go with them.”

“We’d just be in the way.” She waved. “You two be good.”

Bobby followed Freddie down the hall like he was on death row and making that last walk to his end. I was with him. The house was decorated like a haunted house, and the windows had dark drapes keeping the light and world out. What wasn’t black was gray and the pictures… I shuddered. These were things of nightmares, including the so-called school picture of Freddie.

I sipped my water, trying to think of something to compliment in her house, but I drew a blank. “It’s so kind of you to have us over. You didn’t need to go to all this trouble with these sandwiches.”

Jessie offered another one. “Please, help yourself.”

“I didn’t know we’d be eating. We just ate lunch, and I’m stuffed.” I patted my stomach.

“I forgot to say something. My fault. Can I get you more water?”

I set my empty glass down. “No, I’m fine, thank you. So, are you an artist?”

Jessie set down the platter of her little cucumber sandwiches. Her face lit up like a flashlight, pointing right into my eyes. “I am! I did all those photos and would love to make it into a business someday.”

“Your own business, what a great idea.” I stood up and walked over to a wall that was covered with Freddie. All had the same theme of him holding an ax. “So, you take the pictures and then add in the effects?”

“Oh, I never Photoshop a picture.”

I held a frown behind my plastic smile. “You certainly have a way of capturing the shot.”

Jessie clasped her hands together and squeezed next to me. “Thank you. Would you like to see my studio?”

I glanced at the old grandfather clock. Only fifteen minutes had passed since we had arrived. “Sure, I’d love to see it, but maybe we should check on the boys first.”

“I say when it’s quiet, you leave them alone, right?”

Against my better judgment, I nodded. She led me down a dark hall into a lightless room and flipped on a light.

I gasped.

“I know, isn’t it wonderful! I’ve got it just the way I wanted it.”

“Wonderful,” I mumbled, taking in the horror.

The walls and ceiling were black, and two round lights were on a stand looking much like angry headlights waiting to shine their light on their victim. A rounded black chair was pushed against the gloom, while off to the side was an assortment of black clothes and props that included hands, legs, guns, knives, axes, and a guillotine. The farthest wall had metal shackles. A powerful scent of copper hit my nose as pain tore through my gut. I needed to get Bobbie out of this madhouse.

Jessie smiled and put a hand on my shoulder. “That will pass soon.”

The room spun as I sunk to the floor. “What are you talking about?”

“Your human-ness, silly. What I put in your water is returning to your beautiful form. I tried to make it easier by showing you the picture of Freddie.”

My muscles spasmed like a seizure, and suddenly the room was too bright. I closed my eyes.

“I’ll get the light. I know how bright the earth is for us. You’ll stay here until the ship arrives. That way, you don’t have to wear all that makeup, contacts, and worry about the sun damage.”

When the spasms stopped, it all came flooding back to me. I volunteered for this. I secured a relationship and then married a top-ranked government employee. In my deepest sleep, they were able to extract the important secrets I had obtained. Bobbie wasn’t supposed to happen, of course, and the poor thing will have to live with the shame of being part human. I reached up and stroked my leathery face. I was back.

“Feeling better?” Jessie wiped off the rest of her makeup. The beautiful deep red around her yellow eyes and almost transparent white skin was a relief to see.

“Yes, much. Is Bobbie…” I couldn’t find the words to ask.

Jessie smiled. “He looks like us, thankfully. Although we had to give the poor baby the human drug immediately after birth and adjust some memories. Nothing can pierce his skin now that his beauty has been restored too—like those old axes.”

I grinned. “Thank you, Jessie. When does it start?”

“In a week. We are gathering our spies now and have all the information we need to simplify it. This planet will make a great second home once humans have been rendered docile for our food supply. Thanks to you, we found the perfect virus that won’t affect us. Our alliance appreciates your service.”

I stood up, slowly finding my balance again. “Thank you it was an honor. I’m glad you could continue your artwork; the humans must have made great subjects.”

She brightly smiled. Her pointed teeth shone like stars. “Yes. Their surprised look when they realized what was about to happen was the best. Let’s go to the boys and have a nice snack. Too bad no one will get their mail today.”

I laughed and swayed my tail. “Great! I’m hungry.”

It was good to feel myself again, and I couldn’t wait to get back home. Bobbie had a new world to explore where beautiful darkness ruled.


Next week is back to book reviews that will go through September! This was fun, and I hope you enjoyed it. I might try this again in the future.

Embrace your inner child, D. L. Finn!

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#TANKATUESDAY WEEKLY #POETRY CHALLENGE NO. 240, #THEMEPROMPT #haiku #haiga #writingcommunity #indieauthors #poems #nature

Here’s Colleen Chesbro’s Tanka Tuesday Weekly Poetry Challenge #240. It is a theme prompt that was provided by Vashti Quiroz-Vega, Lullaby.

I took a picture of my visit to the redwoods this summer and added a haiku 5/7/5 which makes this a haiga.

picture of redwood forest and a poem. the forest's sweet song caresses my weary soul with healing beauty.

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Short Story Challenge 2! THE BONSAI @WritingCommunity #shortstory #personalchallenge #indieauthor

Here is this week’s personal short story challenge. It’s only a few words over my 1000 target. The word Bonsai was chosen by my daughter, Danielle. I searched using that words and picked this picture.

THE BONSAI

The fog slowly crept in and covered the landscape in a dull gray. The distant lighthouse’s mournful warned the ships of land. The gentle sway of the ocean had always been my meditation, but today the sound grated on my nerves.

I turned my attention to the bonsai that Henry had named Blossom. It had been a wedding gift from Henry’s parents. Blossom had stood at the edge of the cliff for more than forty years. Here is where I scattered Henry’s ashes last week. Sitting on the bench made out of driftwood that he had made right after retiring three years ago didn’t bring me the closure I desired.

Our golden years were cut short by aggressive cancer. I was left with an empty ocean view house and Blossom. She was the closest thing to kids since I could only miscarry babies, not have them. After losing four, we couldn’t bear any more loss. We let that dream go. We became each other’s everything, and now I was lost without his easy smile or quick wit.

Dr. Denny’s declaration rang hollow this morning. “You’re in perfect health, Mrs. Duffy. You’ll live to be 100 years old.”

I had smiled, but inside I almost wished it had been bad news. How could I live for thirty more years without the one person who made life worth living?

A sudden chill ran through me, and I pulled my knitted cap down over my ears and zipped up my coat higher.

“I should have brought my scarf today, Henry.”

A lone seagull dove past me, screeching toward the open water. The cold filled me, and I stood up. “Henry?”

I scanned the area. Nothing. I shook my head as a gust of wind tore the hat off my head.

“Hey!” I chased the blue hat as it headed for the cliff. “Come back here!”

My foot slipped on a rock, and I started sliding toward the edge. My only hope was grabbing Blossom. I had one chance, or I’d be painfully joining Henry. My hand reached and missed the tree, and my foot was off the cliff. Everything moved in slow motion as I prayed for a miracle.

What happened next, I’ve never shared with anyone. Blossom bent toward me, and I swear her branches were reaching for me like hands, right as a huge blast of wind blew in from the ocean. A branch wrapped around me as I collided with Blossom’s trunk. I hugged the tree as tears ran down my face.

Carefully, I moved my fingers and then the rest of my body. Nothing felt broken, just bruised. I lay there for a moment taking long, deep breaths to calm my racing heart.

“That was a close one, Henry.”

Black tennis shoes were suddenly next to Blossom.

“I wish I could help you up, Darcie.” came the familiar voice.

I sat up so quickly I hit my head on the bottom branch.

“Careful, sweetheart.”

I rubbed my head where a bump was already forming. “I either have brain damage, or I’m dead.”

The loud laughter that I so loved drowned out the ocean. “Neither.”

I moved a branch and saw the man I loved in his 30s. “But you’re dead. How can I see you?”

He shook his head. His brown curl that I had loved to play with bounced around his ear. “In my panic to stop you from going over the cliff, I was able to communicate with Blossom. She offered her life to the wind to save you.”

Using the tree that had split in two, I pulled myself to standing where I was eye to eye with Henry. It was unnerving I could see through those beautiful eyes. “Blossom?”

“Yes. I had no idea that was possible, but I’m grateful to her. I wish it could have been me to save you, but I didn’t know how. She did. Wise tree.”

I shook my head. “I don’t understand. How can you bargain with the wind?”

Henry gestured to the landscape. “The wind and the world are alive where I am. Anything is possible. Blossom is with me, using the last of her strength to help me talk to you.”

“I’m so confused. Our tree is a spirit? Can I see her?”

“Yes, a spirit, but is too weak right now to appear to you. She wants you to know she’s eager to play with our children.”

I caught my breath.“Our children are there?”

He held out his arms. “Of course, they have always stayed close to us.”

“This is crazy.”

His face softened, and he reached out. All I could feel was the cold, not his warm touch. “As much as I want you here with me, I know you still have so much good left to do. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

He started to fade. “Blossom says you’ll soon find what you are meant to do next and plant another bonsai next to her. Its soul will watch over you. Bye, sweetheart.”

“You can’t leave.”

“I can’t stay. Be happy.”

“Wait!”

Then he was gone. I dragged myself to the bench, collapsed onto it, and let the tears flow. The winds kicked up, finishing the destruction of the bonsai. I slowly made my way back to the house. As I climbed the stairs, a small furry black kitten was crying by the red door. I scooped it up.

As soon as the kitten was settled in a warm box, I went back to look for the mother and the rest of the kittens. I never found them. This was what Henry was talking about—my love of animals. I always wanted to have them and take care of injured ones but Henry’s severe allergies had prevented that.

Now I could volunteer at our local wildlife rehabilitation center or foster unwanted pets. First, though, I had a little guy to take care of who had a home with me. He was purring contently in his warm blanket after gobbling down some tuna. Maybe I would start an animal sanctuary. There were so many possibilities, thanks to Blossom’s sacrifice and Henry’s love. I wouldn’t let them down!


NOTE: Next week will be my last short story challenge for a few weeks. I have book reviews to offer instead. The word I will be working with is ruthless provided by my hubby.

I’m visiting with Rox Burkey. Stop by and say hi!      LINK

Embrace your inner child by hugging a tree! D. L. Finn

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#TANKATUESDAY WEEKLY #POETRY #CHALLENGE NO. 239 @ColleenChesebro #writingcommunity #EKPHRASTIC #PHOTOPROMPT

Here is Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday Weekly Poetry Challenge # 239, Ekphrastic, Photo Prompt. The image was chosen by fellow poet, Cheryl.

I went with the tanka: 5/7/5/7/7.

meteor shower

wisdom streaks silver
across the inky canvas
we seek its knowledge
but worship indifference
a missed opportunity

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Short Story! My personal challenge. #writingcommunity #shortstories #indieauthors #theboy #challenge #writing

This week I decided to do something different and challenge myself. So, I searched pictures on Canva using the word scary. This image intrigued me. Then, I wrote a short story to go along with it. My goal was to keep it under 1000 words. I only went over by a couple of words 🙂

When I first wrote this, I didn’t like it and wasn’t going to use it. The next day I went back and started reworking it and got this version.boy in hood walking down foggy lane.

THE BOY

Bella snapped the picture right before the boy disappeared. Although she’d been the only one to see him, now there was proof.

For the last two weeks, she’d seen the boy in the same place, right after the school bus dropped her off by their private road. He wore jeans, a grey hoody, carried a black backpack, and never looked back or spoke. Then he would vanish into a heavy mist of fog.

She couldn’t wait to show her mother the photo.

Mother was sitting on the porch in the old wooden rocking chair, sipping her iced tea. The hair went up on Bella’s arms when Mother’s bloodshot eyes fixed on her. “Why do you have my camera?” Her words slurred together like they were in a wind tunnel, but the leaves on the trees were still.

“I borrowed it to get a picture of the boy. I got it. Look, Mother!” She held the camera up, hoping she was wrong about Mother’s condition. The last three years had been peaceful ones since Mother remained sober and took her meds.

Mother slammed the drink down hard, shattering the glass. “Liar! There’s no boy out there, and stop calling me Mother. You know I hate that word.”

Bella sighed when blood dripped from her mother’s hand. That scary woman had returned. “Sorry, Stella. You’re hurt. Where’s Dad?” She scanned the area, hoping he had come home early.

“Gone. He got tired of raising another man’s brat. I wish I’d never had you thirteen years ago.” Stella sank into her chair and started weeping. Tears mixed with her blood into a tie-dye swirl of insanity.

“He is my dad, and he wouldn’t leave without me!” Bella’s jaw clenched in a painful spasm that she gingerly rubbed.

Stella’s sorrow turned into a cruel smirk. “I had plenty of boyfriends in my day. I was very popular. When I got pregnant, your love-crazy dad offered to marry me. For a while, I thought I loved him back, but I was wrong. He left both of us. Good riddance, I say. Now, go do your homework or whatever it is you do and leave me alone.”

Bella wrapped her coat tightly around her slim body. The red trees brought the colder days and the hope of the holidays. There was none of that at this moment as she tucked the camera into her backpack while Stella stumbled into the house.

The last time Stella was here, she tried to run over Bella in their driveway. Dad had given her an ultimatum; get help, or they were leaving. After a year of full-time treatment, Stella was gone, and Mother came home. Although Mother lacked warmth, things had been okay until now.

The high-pitched vibration of more breaking glass came from inside the old gray house, which hurt Bella’s soul. She turned away from the place where second chances had seemed possible and walked back down the tree-lined driveway.

When she got to the road, the boy was there again. Instead of going to town, she raced toward him. There was an overpowering, musky smell, like the cologne her father wore.

“Please talk to me. My mother is sick and needs help.”

For the first time, he stopped but didn’t turn around. “She killed me, you know.”

“What?” Bella reached out to him, but he stayed out of her grasp.

“Run!” the boy screamed and disappeared.

She heard their van start. Its wheels squealed down the driveway. Bella did what the boy told her—she ran.

“Time to join Daddy!” Stella screamed.

Bella veered off the road, hoping to make it to the forest and away from her crazed mother, when an excruciating pain shot through her body. Then nothing.

When she opened her heavy eyes, her father was kneeling next to her. “You’re safe now, my little Bella. I’m sorry, I wasn’t there to protect you.”

Bella sat up, feeling no pain. “She’s drinking again.”

“I know, and it’s obvious she stopped the meds and therapy. I can’t believe I missed Stella’s return.” He buried his face in his hands.

“It’s okay, Dad.” Bella patted her dad’s arm.

The boy stood behind her father. His hood was down, and he appeared to be about ten years old, with the most beautiful green eyes, messy brown hair, and a huge grin. She smiled and waved. He returned her gesture.

“Can you see the boy, Dad?”

He gathered Bella into his arms and held her like he used to do when she was a child. “Yes. His name is Jake.”

“Jake? You told me to run. Thank you.”

Jake’s smile faded, and a shadow crossed his face. “I failed you.”

“How?” Bella frowned and met her father’s brown eyes. He nodded toward the old cedar tree and flashing red lights. Their van had plowed into the tree, and her mother was being loaded onto a gurney. “Is she alive?”

“Yes. Her body will recover, but I’m not sure about her mind. I’m going to set you down now if that’s okay?”

“Sure, Dad. I feel fine.”

Tears ran down Jake’s face, and he put his hood back up. After a loud sniffle, he said. “Bella deserved to live, not that woman.”

“I…” Bella stopped when her father pointed to the wreck. There was a familiar person between the car and the tree. “I’m dead?”

“Yes, sweetheart. We both are, but I think you’ll like it where we are going. Right, Jake?”

Jake wiped his tears away. “Yes. It looks amazing, but I stayed here hoping to stop her from doing this again. It wasn’t a deer your mom hit two weeks ago, and she buried me over there.” He pointed to a grove of trees next to the accident. “I was running away from one drunk mom and got killed by another. I hope they find my body someday. Even my mom deserves to know what happened.”

Dad grabbed Bella’s hand. “Time for all of us to go.”

Jake scooped up her other hand, and they started walking. Soon, the world they left behind was forgotten as peace and love filled their souls. They entered a golden light where three beautiful angels waited for them. Their journey had just begun.


I will be doing this again next week. My daughter provided the word, bonsai for the picture.

The Newsletter will be coming out at the end of this week. Watch for it if you are subscribed!

Embrace your inner child by reading a good book! D. L. Finn

 

 

 

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#TANKA TUESDAY WEEKLY #POETRY CHALLENGE NO. 238, #SYNONYMSONLY @ColleenChesebro #cinquain #butterflycinquain #poem #achase

Here is Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday Weekly Poetry Challenge #238, Synonyms Only. The two words to work from were: Sanctuary & Follow.

I first came up with the line “collapsing onto the altar.” So, I decided this fit nicely into a Butterfly Cinquain 2/4/6/8/2/8/6/4/2. The picture was chosen for the dark mood.

HUNTED

I ran

bare feet bleeding

beaded white dress ragged

collapsing onto the altar

voices

Their cruel chase would continue

No longer my wedding

everyone dead

I ran

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August Book Reviews Part 2! @teagangeneviene @pamelawight @RobertaEaton17 #ASMSG #WritingCommunity #bookreviews #mustread #indieauthors

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Ghost and His Gold

by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Michelle and Tom moved into a house that had once been the home of a Boer family. During their housewarming party, they played with a Ouija board and innocently opened the door to the past. From that night forward, three ghosts stayed and changed their lives, sometimes in terrifying ways. There was now a soldier from each side and one soldier’s daughter, Estelle, sharing the house with the couple. The past was my favorite part of the story, and Estelle’s narrative was riveting and heartbreaking. The storyline leads to why the ghosts wanted to be heard. This is a fantastic historical fiction with so much incredible detail mixed in with the current timeline where the past can be resolved. I learned a lot about South African history and applauded the author for how realistically the war was presented. If you love historical fiction mixed with a modern paranormal timeline, you will enjoy this read.


Flashes of Life: True Tales of the Extraordinary Ordinary

by Pamela Wight

“Flashes of Life” is a charming collection of real-life tales. Ms. Wight shares micro-stories that are broken into eight sections and come from all stages of her life. Each one is a quick read that touches on everyday life. I could relate to each story. I found myself shaking my head in agreement with some of these tales, and a couple had me laughing out loud. I appreciated the gratitude weaved in, and it left me pondering on my blessings. The well-crafted writing brought me into Ms. Wight’s world, and I felt like I was sitting next to her on the beach, talking about life. A fantastic glimpse into the world of a daughter, mother, wife, friend, and grandmother. I highly recommend reading about these extraordinary ordinary tales!


Dead of Winter: Journey 7, Revenant Pass

by Teagan Riordain Geneviene

Journey 7 begins with a prologue that is pivotal to “Revenant Pass.” It not only explained what happened, but what is possible. I love how the reader gets to view the world through the evil eyes of Arawn for a bit. It offered an insight as to what the Deae Matres are dealing with. The group is still trapped in Realm of the Dead, and Emlyn is drawn to explore. This dark world is described beautifully in its chilling drabness. The group’s will to survive captures my attention while I’m rooting for them. I can’t wait to see where the next installment goes, and I’m enjoying my journey!


I only post my 4 & 5-star reviews. If I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it. It doesn’t feel right leaving a review in that case, but I have been known to email the author:) Life is too short not to enjoy every book you read!

Embrace that sweet inner child by reading a good book this summer! D. L. Finn