Guest Author D L Finn: In The Tree’s Shadow

Hey, Readers. It’s always a pleasure to host other authors and today’s guest is my friend, D. L. Finn. Denise writes fiction and poetry and is also a contributing author for Story Empire. She has a new release and is here to talk about it today. Please welcome Denise!

Thank you for having me visit, Joan, to talk about my latest story collection, In the Tree’s Shadow.

Today I’m talking about a story close to my heart, The Dolphin. I originally wrote it for the much-missed and loved Suzanne Burke’s ‘Fiction in A Flash Challenge!’ The image was a beautiful photo of a dolphin jumping up in joy. So, with my name being dlfinn—or dolphin—I had to write a short. I was surprised by where it took me.

My older grandchildren, now teenagers, would spend the night, and we’d always make some popcorn and watch a movie together. For a while, their favorite was Mona, and the conversation turned to the grandma passing in the movie. Like the grandma who returned as a string ray, I assured them I would return as a dolphin. They liked that I’d still be around in a unique form. So, the story was written for them.

I hope that Suzanne has found her joy, and may the rest of us find ours— when we travel to the other side.


A collection of short stories where dreams and nightmares coexist.

Nestled inside these pages, you’ll meet a couple in their golden years who take a trip with an unexpected detour, a boy desperate to give his brother the Christmas gift he asked for, a girl with a small glass dragon who is at the mercy of her cruel uncles, and a young mother who has a recurring dream about murder. You’ll be introduced to worlds where people get second chances and monsters might be allowed their desires while angels and dragons try to help. Happy endings occur, but perspective can blur the line between good and evil in these twenty-seven tales. Since the stories vary between 99 and 12,000 words, whether you have only five minutes or an entire evening to settle into reading, there is something that will suit your time and taste.


The cool winter sun reflected off the blue ocean, making my eyes water. I blinked hard to clear my vision as I dove back in. Why did my children and grandchildren huddle on the white, sandy beach? Didn’t they want to swim with me? My oldest grandson, Peter, walked to the water’s edge. He tossed a lei of pink plumeria into the waves. Those flowers reminded me of the beautiful day Bob and I renewed our vows for our fiftieth wedding anniversary on a stunning Hawaiian beach.

I jumped high into the air and called out, “Where did you get the flowers, Peter?”

An enormous wave crashed against the rocks, drowning out my words.

Peter stood with his arms folded over a black shirt and the dolphin tie I’d bought him when he graduated from college last year. The incoming waves soaked the bottom of his black pants.

I shook my head and tried again. “The water’s great! Join me!”

Louder breaking waves masked my words, leaving only a whistle.

A small pod of dolphins approached and swam urgently around me.

“What’s wrong? Are you protecting me?” I scanned the area, but there were no sharks or other dangers.

A lone dolphin seemed to be watching me. A familiar chill ran through me as another gently brushed against my legs. I dove underwater to get a better look.



I have a signed poster next to my computer from Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart.

I live with four cats. Our feral has his own room and is the only cat to go outside.


D. L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 she relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to Nevada City, in the Sierra foothills. She immersed herself in reading all types of books but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations include children’s books, adult fiction, a unique autobiography, and poetry. She continues on her adventure with an open invitation to all readers to join her.

D.L. Finn Links:






D.L. Finn blog

Amazon Page

Doesn’t this sound exciting? Be sure to hop over to Amazon and grab your copy!

Guest Author Gwen Plano ~ Redemption: A Father’s Fatal Decision

Hey, Readers. It’s my pleasure to host Gwen Plano today. She is a friend and fellow Story Empire colleague. She writes fiction and poetry and is here to talk about her latest release, Redemption A Father’s Fatal Decision. Please welcome Gwen.

Thank you, Joan, for inviting me to your site today. It’s a pleasure to visit your readers and share a bit about my new release.

Redemption, A Father’s Fatal Decision is a mystery thriller that takes place in the Southeast corner of New York state, in the towns of New Rochelle and Cortlandt. The characters occasionally travel to Old Lyme, Connecticut, but for the most part, the drama is in New York. Having spent about twenty years in and around that area, it was exciting to visit as a writer.

The book tackles themes of forgiveness, redemption, and absolution through suspense. We accompany the son and daughter of the deceased as they try to uncover the reason for their father’s murder. What they discover prompts them to ask if they even knew him.

Sometimes complicated situations help us see our own challenges in a different light. That is my hope for this book. Most of us won’t experience threats like those of my characters, but pain is universal, as is joy. Seeing either in the extreme helps us recognize our own—and severe or elated, those emotions are impactful.  

In the excerpt below, Lisa and Trace Holmes meet with the New Rochelle police captain. His team had searched a secluded cabin owned by their father and found both damming information and important documents for his two adult children. The captain presents a deed to a property in Connecticut.


“Take a look at this and read the note. There’s a key taped to the paper.” The captain pulls the deed from a file and hands it to Trace.

Their brows furrow while they read:

Trace and Lisa, your mother loves this area of Connecticut. She dreamed of having a cottage of her own. Please, take care of her when I’m gone.

Trace covers his face with his hands and fights tears. “I’ve hated him for so long.”

Lisa rubs his back and wipes away tears.

The captain waits a few minutes before continuing. Once they compose themselves, he tells them a story. “A while back, a preacher talked to me about redemption. He said it’s like clearing debt. Action or actions a person takes to free himself from a burden. Sound familiar? I believe your father tried to redeem himself by taking actions he thought would clear his debt. I suspect that intention lies behind his final act of refusing to hand over the crown jewel. In his mind, it was payment.”

Trace’s lips tighten, and he thinks about what the captain has shared. “So, the jewel and money absolve him of thirty-five years of abuse?”

“No.” Davis shakes his head. “But, in his mind, he saw it as payment. Absolution is another matter entirely. That’s God’s work, not mine or yours. I’m not a preacher type, but I’ve lived long enough to put pieces of a puzzle together. I conclude that forgiveness is our responsibility, and I’ve arrived at my own definition, which I’d like to share with you.”


Family secrets can be deadly. When Lisa Holmes visits her parents one fateful Saturday morning, she hugs her father and walks to her childhood bedroom. The doorbell rings. Her father opens the door, and one minute later, he lies dead on the floor—three bullets to the chest.

The Holmes family lives on a quiet street, but no one really knows Eric Holmes. He travels for business and comes home a few days each month. Unbeknown to all, Eric has multiple lives.

In this fast-paced psychological thriller, Lisa and her brother, Trace, embark on a quest to solve the mystery involving the murder of their father. The journey takes them into a secret world where nothing is as it seems. As the puzzle pieces begin to coalesce, they discover the meaning of Redemption.

About Gwen

Connect With Gwen



Story Empire



Amazon Author Page



Barnes and Noble

Other Books by Gwen

Guest Author Priscilla Bettis – Vampire of the Midnight Sun

Hey, everyone! Happy Wednesday. Today, I’m delighted to have as my guest author Priscilla Bettis. She has a brand new release, Vampire of the Midnight Sun that she’s going to talk about. Priscilla is the author of several horror stories. I’ll have to say after reading her novella The Hay Bale, I’ll never look at a bale of hay without thinking of the story! By the way, if you’ve never read any of her one-line book reviews, you should. She does an amazing job at summing up a story with so few words.

Now, I’ll step aside and let Priscilla tell you about her latest release.

Hello, Joan! Thanks for hosting me on your blog today. I’m excited to announce my latest work, Vampire of the Midnight Sun, a short story duology.

The titular short story is set in Alaska where I grew up. I took real-life experiences and turned them into a story about two men stranded in the Alaskan wilderness. Haha, I don’t mean I’ve encountered a vampire in the Alaskan wilderness, but I have encountered grizzlies, miles of endless tundra, and water so cold it’s like an electrical shock when you touch it. Plus, the description of the main character’s hypothermia is much like what I experienced. Ironically, I didn’t experience hypothermia in Alaska. I experienced it after a springtime swim in a lake in Virginia. (Fortunately, a couple of EMTs spotted me, and I got treatment right away.) Despite the bleak circumstances, “Vampire of the Midnight Sun” has humorous elements, so it was fun to write.

The second short story is “The Fire Witch and The Cowboy.” It’s set in the Northern Plains of Texas where I now live. Again, I took a real-life experience and turned it into a story. Sadly, a wildfire marched through our small town in the spring of 2022. To hear a fire growl through someone’s home or to see a venerable oak succumb to towering, red flames was heartbreaking. But the scariest to me was when a line of low flames inched across the grazing fields. It was silent and broad as the eye could see, like the leading edge of an inevitably rising tide with sand before it, and water behind it. Living grass before it, black earth behind it. Our little town was featured in social media posts asking for prayers, and there were faith-based placards planted in the charred dirt along the roads. So I worked Biblical allusions into the story for an extra layer of meaning. It was a satisfying story to write.

Vampire of the Midnight Sun is available now. I hope readers give it a try.

Purchase Link  


A vampire in Alaska.

In ‘Vampire of the Midnight Sun,’ Frasier and his best friend, Billy, are stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a rafting accident: grizzlies, arctic water, frozen nights, soggy tundra, no food, no matches, no civilization. And no one is coming to rescue them.

Plus Billy is convinced he’s a vampire. It’s a five-day hike to civilization. Billy claims he can only go three days without human blood.

Will the men survive the harsh Alaskan elements? If so, can Frasier survive Billy’s vampiric delusions, or will Frasier have to take his best friend’s life in order to save his own?

A showdown between an Old West cowboy and a fire witch.

In ‘The Fire Witch and the Cowboy,’ Henderson is the yellow-bellied coward of Dusty Bend, Texas. His wife is ashamed of him. Kids tease him. And he’s terrified of fire.

But when a wildfire threatens Dusty Bend, it is Henderson who brokers a deal between the townsfolk and the wealthy but formidable Widow Vandermeer, to use her resources in order to fight the fire.

“There will be sacrifices,” she says. If the widow learns Henderson’s decades-old secret, he might be the sacrifice.

Will Henderson grab his wife and run, leaving town while he can? Or will he stay and risk falling into Widow Vandermeer’s clutches?

Meanwhile, the wildfire grows closer…

About Priscilla:

Priscilla Bettis read her first horror story, The Exorcist, when she was a little kid. She snuck the book from her parents’ den. The Exorcist scared Priscilla silly, and she was hooked on the power of the horror genre from that moment on.

Priscilla is an excellent swimmer, which is good because vampires are terrible swimmers.

Priscilla shares a home in the Northern Plains of Texas with her two-legged and four-legged family members.

Connect with Priscilla:

Priscilla’s Amazon page

Priscilla on Twitter

Priscilla’s blog

Wow! Sounds like Priscilla has another winner on her hands. I look forward to delving into the pages of this one.

Guest Author John Howell – The Last Drive

Hey, Readers! Today I welcome back a very special guest, John Howell. John is a friend and fellow contributor at Story Empire and he has a new release. The Last Drive is the sequel to his novel, Eternal Road The Final Stop. I looked forward to this book for a while. My review follows.

Welcome, John, and take it away!

I am so pleased to be with you today, Joan. Thank you for helping spread the word about The Last Drive. Each month on your blog you feature fascinating stories of the unsolved or unexplained. There are always well received by your readers and most of them can cause the hair on my neck to rise. This book is not that kind of horror story. Although when you have an antagonist who bills himself as the Prince of Darkness one could get that idea. The truth is Lucifer is a rather ordinary character until he decides to let out his menacing and crass side.

Here is the blurb and then we can get to a short excerpt from the book.


In the sequel to Eternal Road – The final stop, Sam and James are reunited to look for two souls, Ryan and Eddie. Ryan was killed in Afghanistan, trying to avoid a schoolyard with his crippled plane. Eddie Rickenbacker, Ryan’s hero, is to guide Ryan to his Eternal Home, and now both are missing.

The higher-ups believe that there has been some interference in Ryan and Eddie’s journey by Lucifer, so Sam and James have the task of finding Ryan and Eddie to get them back on the road despite the evil interference. Unfortunately, the machinations designed to prevent Ryan and Eddy from completing their journey takes the pair to horrifying testing grounds. The places visited represent the best work of the Devil. They are the trenches of World War I in France, gladiators at the Roman Coliseum, the sinking Titanic in 1912, Hiroshima 45 minutes before the bomb, and the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943.

This book is for you if you like plenty of action, strong characters, time travel, and a touch of spiritual and historical fiction. So, join Sam and James as they try to find the missing souls while staying one step ahead of the Prince of Darkness, who is determined to destroy all that is good.


The explanation seems to satisfy the sentry, and he calls to them, “Continue toward the trench.”

They stay low and, finally, reach the edge. The sentry guides them to a place to enter and touches his helmet. “Do you mind showing me your papers?”

Sam pokes James and takes the lead. “The krauts took everything we had.”

“You’re a woman.”

“Yes, a nurse.”

The sentry lowers his rifle. “I’m sorry. Of course, they would take your papers, and there are a lot of nurses on the front.” He looks at James. “Your patch tells me you’re part of the third Infantry Division.”

Janes snaps to attention. “Yes, we are.”

“I have an old friend in the third. Maybe you know him?”

James stands at ease. “Who?”

“Ralph Beeker.”

James rubs his chin. “Hmmm. I don’t believe I ever met him.”

“That’s too bad. He’s a hell of a guy. You two look as if you could use some breakfast.”

James smiles. “That would be swell.”

“Okay, then. Follow me.” The sentry leads Sam and James to a sandbagged dugout toward the rear of the trench. Sandbags make up the roof as well. The sentry says, “Duck your heads. The entrance is low.”

Once inside, the dim light makes looking around less than productive. “Your eyes will get used to the light in here. This is our mess hall. Just go up to that table on the side wall and help yourselves. I have to get back to my post. The name is Fredrich—not to be confused with those guys over there.” Fredrich snickers at his joke and walks away.

James wipes his face. “Let’s get some coffee. My nerves are about shot.”

Sam can’t help but laugh.

Buy Links

The Last Drive is available in paper and Kindle editions on Amazon. Here are the universal links. The Kindle edition is on sale for 99¢ through mid-February.



Author Bio

John is an award-winning author who after an extensive business career began writing full time in 2012. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. He has written Six other books that are on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

John lives in Lakeway, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

Author links

Blog Fiction Favorites,

Facebook –

Twitter –

Goodreads –

Amazon Author’s page –

BookBub –

Eternal Road Buy links

Kindle Universal link

Paper universal link

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Having read and enjoyed Eternal Road a couple of years ago, I looked forward to the sequel. And I liked The Last Drive even better than the first book.

James and Sam are back and this time they are assigned to guide Air Force Pilot Ryan Sanders to his eternal home. Ryan’s escort, and his idol, is none other than the legendary World War I pilot, Eddie Rickenbacker.

At first, James and Sam have trouble locating the pair. Their journey, yes in the 1956 Oldsmobile, takes them to the first Super Bowl, then into France during World War I. When they finally catch up with the pair, it’s a struggle against evil as Lucifer is determined to have Ryan’s soul.

The four characters travel through time—past, present, and future—and into places such as Gettysburg, aboard the Titanic, into Hiroshima, ancient Rome, the California Gold Rush, and Auschwitz.

Howell does his research. Not only did I enjoy the historic elements of the story, I learned a few things. The scenes aboard the Titanic were especially touching.

There are some disturbing scenes to read as Lucifer shows his true colors. But in the end, good triumphs over evil. The book is a mix of history, suspense, and paranormal, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys those genres.

Guest Author Harmony Kent: Sorrowful Soul

Hey, everyone! Happy first day of December. What better way to begin a new month than to have a guest author? Today, I’m delighted to welcome back my friend Harmony Kent. She is a multi-genre author and poet. She’s also a fellow contributor at Story Empire.

She is here today to talk about her newest book of poetry. Take it away, Harmony!

Hi, Joan. Thanks so much for hosting me today. It’s always wonderful to visit with you.

Here’s a little bit I’d love to share about my latest book of poetry, Sorrowful Soul.  Full of freestyle poems, which provide company and compassion through the devastating journey of grief and loss and onward, this heartfelt collection shows us we do not travel this lonely road alone.

Since Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s excellent book on the stages of grief, we now have an established set of seven stages of the grieving process. Although these stages are non-linear and can be revisited at any time, it’s helpful to have a rough idea of what we might expect during this difficult period of transition. The fourth stage is commonly known as Anger and Bargaining.

Here’s an extract from the opening lines to a poem about anger …

From Part 4: Anger & Bargaining

(Extract From Desperate)

I want to kick

Lash out

Hurt and maim

But all my fury

Only rebounds

On my pummelled

Torn and bloodied fists

Opens septic wounds

Have you ever found yourself trapped within a cycle of anger over an unexpected change or loss? Chat with me in the comments. I hope you enjoyed this poetic excerpt and would love to know what you think. Thanks for reading 😊


About the Book: 

If we’re lucky, we meet twilight at the front door and old age creeps in on the night breeze

Even if we make it to our twilight years, the more we age, the more loss we must endure as part of the cycle of life. Many of these poems lament death, but they also relate to broken relationships, severed friendships, and the loss of youth. This book of grief poetry is as much about saying goodbye and working through loss as it is about death and love split asunder. 

This heartfelt collection provides company and compassion through the devastating journey of loss and shows us we do not travel this lonely road alone. Within these pages we share shock, numbness and denial, catapult into anger, bargaining, depression, loneliness, and guilt, and—eventually—make the seismic shift into testing the possibility of a new normal and finding acceptance. 

Universal Sales Link:

About Harmony

Harmony Kent spent 13 years in a Zen Buddhist monastery, where she faced her demons and overcame devastating low self-esteem and found freedom. After a life-changing injury, Harmony returned to the world at the tender age of 40, and her life as a writer began.

Harmony is an award-winning multi-genre author, and her publications include:

The Battle for Brisingamen (Fantasy Fiction) AIA approved

The Glade (Mystery/Thriller) AIA Approved/BRAG Medallion Honouree/New Apple Literary Awards Official Selection Honours 2015

Polish Your Prose: Essential Editing Tips for Authors (Writing/Editing) New Apple Literary Awards Top Medallist Honours 2015

Finding Katie (Women’s Fiction)

Slices of Soul (Soul Poetry Series: Book 1)

Life and Soul (Soul Poetry Series: Book 2)

Sorrowful Soul (Soul Poetry Series: Book 3)

Interludes (Erotic Short Stories)

Interludes 2 (Erotic Short Stories)

Moments (Short Stories and Poetry)

Jewel in the Mud (Zen Musings)

Polish Your Prose (How to Self-Edit)

Creative Solutions (Creative Writing Inspiration)

Backstage (Erotic Romance and Thriller)

FALLOUT (Post-Apocalyptic Dystopia) BRAG Medallion Honouree

The Vanished Boy (Psychological Thriller)

As well as being an avid reader and writer, Harmony also offers reviews and supports her fellow authors. Harmony is always on the lookout for talent and excellence, and will freely promote any authors or books who she feels have these attributes.

Harmony’s Website

twitter: @harmony_kent

Goodreads: Harmony Kent

BookBub: Harmony Kent

Story Empire (co-authored blog): Harmony Kent

Harmony’s Amazon Author Page: