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

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

#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

#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

#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

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

#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.

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

#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

“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