December Book Reviews @dlfinnauthor @jacqbiggar @1rburkey

Hey, everyone. Last year I read over sixty books, something I haven’t done in a while. I wrote and posted reviews for the majority of them.

This year, I’m doing things a bit differently. Rather than posting individual reviews (except in some cases), I plan to write a monthly review post. Also, I’m only posting four-star and five-star reviews.

Since I took a blogging break at the end of December, this post is for books I read that month.

Autumn Paths

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Autumn Paths is a collection of nine short stories. The majority of them come from Canadian authors. The stories are different genres, but each has a common theme—life’s pathways.

As with most collections, there are some stories that stood out to me above others. Chuck Bowie’s Footfall had an enjoyable and somewhat surprising twist at the end. I also enjoyed The Booksellers Secret Octavo by Angela Wren. The Maze by Monique Thébeau touches on a situation that is unfortunately all too common.

Each story is short enough to read during lunch break or for a quick read before turning in for the night.

A Long Walk Home

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Kenzie is a young woman who feels alone and betrayed on Christmas Eve. She’d lost her parents in a house fire two years earlier, was dumped by her fiancé who ended up engaged to her best friend, Joy. With all the festivities of the season, all Kenzie wants to do is go home and hibernate until Christmas is past.

But when she runs into Joy, her anger turns into much more. Kenzie goes to a nearby park and decides to end it all. Enter Thomas, an angel who has been watching her every move. Desperate to save her, Thomas gets Kenzie’s attention with an abandoned cat and her kittens. Kenzie’s life changes for the better that night.

This story has a bit of sadness, a touch of magic, and a big lesson on forgiveness. If you like a feel-good Christmas read, I recommend this short novelette.

Hot Chocolate

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Continuing with the Christmas theme, my next review is a short story written by Rox Burkey and Charles Breakfield.

Hot Chocolate is a Christmas story that’s centered around family. The main characters, Jacob and Petra, come from different cultures so there is a blend of both in their holiday celebrations. They also have a tradition of surprising one another with a unique Christmas gift.

This short story is a delightful, heart-warming read with a surprise ending. Perfect for the holidays.

Love, Me

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Love, Me is a heartwarming romantic story set at Christmas time. But the thing that drew me to the book was the fact the lead character’s daughter has leukemia. As the wife of a two-time, twenty-eight-year cancer survivor, I can relate to a family member’s plight as they watch their loved ones battle this dreadful disease.

Knowing the child had cancer, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. Would I shed a lot of tears? Would it rekindle memories that are still painful? No, the book was quite the opposite. From Grace’s unconditional love toward her daughter, to Cassie’s selfless letter to Santa, to Kyle’s love and generosity, Love, Me stirred up feelings of warmth and hope—something we need more of today.

While there is a feel-good message, the author also calls attention to childhood cancer awareness. The book is easily read in a couple of hours, and I recommend it for any time of year.

Halloween Reads #WIPWednesday

Hey, everyone. WIP Wednesday means one of two things. Most of the time I write about a work in progress, but other times it’s a work in publication. Today’s post is about the latter. So, here we go…

For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, you know I’m fascinated with full moons. Bet you couldn’t guess that by the blog header photo. Anyhow, Halloween is almost upon us. And this year we have a special treat for that day – a full moon. Not only that, it’s the second full moon of October, which makes it a blue moon. Those happen roughly every 2.5 years, hence the term, “Once in a Blue Moon.”

My first short story, The Blue Moon Murders was featured in an anthology collection, Unshod. It’s based on a legend that when a family member dies on a blue moon, three more will follow. You might guess there are multiple murders in this story. If you’d like to read, Unshod is free. It’s a western-themed book, but it’s not your typical western. Some stories are modern-day, others are historic. A little something for everyone.


An anthology of traditional and contemporary western short stories where the characters are lain bare.

  • Feel the pain of a young Japanese girl who comes home from an internment camp after World War II and learns it’s easier to go with the flow than to fight the current.
  • Struggle with an expectant mother on the cold winter prairie while she waits for her husband to come home from a hunting trip.
  • Journey with a young woman to the Four Corners as she tries to connect with her Navajo ancestors.
  • Try not to believe in the superstition of the blue moon—if one dies, three more will follow.
  • Know that one way or another, life will change inalterably that day.
  • Walk in the footsteps of an old cowpoke who thought he made the deal of a lifetime.
  • Suffer the torments of a young lady who wants desperately to marry but seems destined never to wed.
  • Walk the wild western paths and run from unimaginable dangers.
  • Choose between an unhappy life of luxury or a happy life of simplicity.

Nine female authors pen western tales that you’ll want to retell around a campfire. These aren’t your granddaddy’s westerns. They’re the next generation’s, and they’re darn good.

Click here to get your free copy.

Macabre Sanctuary is another collection of stories by several talented authors. You might guess with a title like that there are thrills, chills, and things that go bump in the night. My story is titled The Keepers House. Is it a ghost that inhabits a haunted island? Why is he interested in the lighthouse keeper’s home?


Thrills. Chills. Shadows and superstitions. Things that go bump in the night. Macabre Sanctuary boasts suspenseful fiction designed to elicit goosebumps and raise heart rates.

  • Learn the lore of a haunted island.
  • Grapple with the undead while robbing graves Halloween night.
  • Endure a hazing ritual unlike any other.
  • Deal with a demon at an All Souls’ Day celebration.
  • See what happens when you court death in the wild.
  • Battle zombies and cannibals in a quest to stay alive.
  • Travel back in time to witness the birth of true evil.
  • Fear prophetic nightmares made manifest.
  • Come to terms with new ethereal realities.
  • Befriend a feline to extend earthly life.

This collection from ten talented authors offers ghosts and demons, spirits and zombies, cannibals and killers… even a ferocious animal. Historical and contemporary tales of violence and fright keep readers on the edges of their seats. There’s something for everyone who loves spine-tingling, bone-chilling, blood-curdling stories.

Macabre Sanctuary is also free. Get your copy here.

If you’re into time travel stories, check out Quantum Wanderlust. In this collection, some authors take you into the future, while others travel back to the past. My story Goldwings is about a Navy Aviator that travels back to 1943—during World War II.


What if you had all the time in the world?

Thirteen authors answer that question with short stories about time travel. Go back in time to right a wrong, forward to see the future. No jump is too large, no method unfeasible, no lesson beyond learning.

  • Visit the past to learn a family secret.
  • See the formation of a future dictatorship.
  • Assume responsibility for weaving the fabric of time.
  • Travel back in time to WWII.
  • Use a family heirloom to solve problems.
  • Wear an inheritance to visit ancestors.
  • Leave a dystopian future for the hope of something better.
  • Make history come true in an unexpected way.
  • Fight evil fairies to protect a chosen angel.
  • Live with the childhood memory of visitors until the day they arrive.
  • Seek medical help for a memory issue and get way more than bargained for.
  • Discover that with great power comes great responsibility.
  • Uncover the secrets of a pharaoh’s tomb and curse.

Do the characters observe or interact? Is the outcome better or worse than the original timeline? Read these stories to learn how far they go, how they get there, and what happens when they return.

The scope is virtually limitless, definitely timeless.

Like the other stories, Quantum Wanderlust is free. You can get a copy by clicking this link.

Speaking of blue moons, there is a lunar event that’s even rarer. Every nineteen years or so, the month of February has no full moon. It last happened in 2018. Bet you can’t guess that I’m writing a story with that in mind? Cold Dark Night is the first book of my upcoming Legends of Madeira series. The planned release date is February 2021.

Murder They Wrote ~ An Anthology

Hey, everyone! This month is shaping up to be a busy one for guests! Today, I welcome back none other than the very talented Mae Clair. Her story is included in an anthology of murder mysteries and she’s here to talk about it.

Please welcome her.

Thanks for hosting me today, Joan. I’m excited to be here sharing news of an anthology in which I have a short story.  Murder They Wrote brings together seven authors writing in various sub-genres of whodunits.

You can see the variety by the blurb:

Murder comes in 7 different genres. By 7 different authors.

Are you a fan of courtroom drama? In the anthology’s first story, Abraham Lincoln defends a friend’s son against a charge of murder.

For lovers of speculative fiction, Jason Fogg dissolves into mist to sneak through open windows and snoop for clues.

How about a cozy? Jazzi, Jerod, and Ansel discover a dead body while renovating a kitchen, dining room, and half bath.

Have a craving for a Regency? Lord Peregrine and his wife, Elizabeth, use their sharp minds and quick wit to solve a murder at a garden party.

Need a bit of literary fiction? A young, lonely widow must deal with the theft of a valuable butterfly collection.

And what about a little psychological horror? Twin sisters discover that their attic is haunted by not one, but two ghosts.

Last, but never least, the anthology concludes with a historical mystery. A young, newly married knight is accused of murdering his obnoxious host at a holiday gathering in his castle.

I’ve got the last story in this anthology, which is a straight murder mystery without the supernatural elements or inclusion of legends and cryptids for which I’m known. If that surprises you, it might also surprise you to learn there was a time in my life when I devoured anything of Medieval origin. I have a large collection of books related to Arthurian Legend,  Robin Hood, Tristan and Iseult, and Taliesin. I also passionately gobbled up movies and shows set during the time period, and I wrote a lot of short fiction­—mostly novellas—focused on knights, castles, and rivalries.

So, when my friend, Judi Lynn, invited me to I participate in a murder mystery anthology, I dusted off an old novella I’d always loved but had never found a home for. A Winter Reckoning needed to be trimmed and polished, but the fit seemed ideal. I am so glad to have found a home for my hot-tempered knight, Richard Essex, and the scheming nobles he’s forced to rub elbows with at a holiday gathering. Did I mention there’s a body, plenty of suspects, and a killer to identify?

I hope you’ll join in the sleuthing!

Murder They Wrote offers a variety of clever tales in which there are clues to be found, red herrings to avoid, and villains to unmask. And because each short story is a complete mystery, you can engage your detective skills a little at a time, or all at once as your mood dictates.


Connect with Mae Clair at BOOKBUB and the following haunts:

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

The Keeper’s House #WIPWednesday

Hey, everyone. Time for another WIP Wednesday. A couple of weeks ago, I posted about Macabre Sanctuary, an anthology published by AIW Press. I wrote The Keeper’s House for inclusion in that collection. Today, I’ll tell you the story behind the story.

Rain fell steadily on an April night in Deep East Texas. We’d had a long, but pleasant day with our friends, whom I’ll call Bill and Diane. We visited with Bill’s aunt and uncle and were on our way home.

My husband John and I sat in the backseat. It was late—around eleven, but I was wide awake.

Houses were scattered along the rural highway. After a while, we passed a driveway with a row of mailboxes near the road. A man stood beside them. Given the weather, it was no surprise he wore a raincoat. What was unusual was the fact he had a wooden leg.

I recalled a wooden-legged man who lived in my hometown when I was a child. Seeing this man at the mailboxes seemed strange. It was the 1990s and technology had advanced to where prosthetic limbs were more sophisticated.

It took a while for me to gather my thoughts, but after a couple of minutes, I asked the others, “Did anyone see that man with the wooden leg?”

“I didn’t.” John was quick to reply.

“Me either,” said Diane.

Bill spoke up. “Yes. He was standing by a row of mailboxes wearing a raincoat.”

John and Diane scoffed at us and hinted that we might have had a bit too much of Uncle Buster’s homemade wine. (I swear I didn’t drink any.) I made no mention of the mailboxes or raincoat, so Bill’s reply confirmed I wasn’t hallucinating.

The Keeper’s House has a character with a wooden leg. But is he a real person or a ghost?


Andrew Tuttle, March 1, 1821 – October 29, 1870

Lucretia Haslet Tuttle, July 8, 1846 – October 18, 1870

“Guess you know a lot about this place.” Lauren pointed toward Andrew Tuttle’s grave. “Was he the first lighthouse keeper?”

“Yes. An ancestor of mine. Lucretia was his wife.”

“What happened to them? They died so close together.”

“She died in childbirth. The story goes that Andrew’s grief was so great, he neglected his duties. Every night he’d walk to the cliff beside the lighthouse. One night he threw himself over.”

A bit of trivia. The character name Tuttle came from an early episode of the television series MASH. Hawkeye had an imaginary friend named Tuttle.

I join with nine other authors in this collection of thrills, chills, and superstitions.

You can get a copy free by clicking this universal link. Why not grab one, then sit back and enjoy? But beware of things that go bump in the night.

The Blue Moon Murders #WIPWednesday

Story ideas sometimes come in the most unusual ways and often at the strangest times. On a late July afternoon in 2015, I was driving home from work. I remembered a blue moon would occur that month.

A blue moon happens when there is more than one full moon in a calendar month. (Some definitions support the idea that a blue moon is the fourth full moon of a season.)

In case you don’t already know, I’m fascinated by full moons. My creative mind began churning. I imagined a young woman, Erin, whose next-door neighbor, Russell, was a Native American artist who specialized in making pottery.

Someone is murdered on the night of a blue moon, Russell is falsely accused, and the Erin sets about trying to prove his innocence. Throw in an attractive male to help in the quest (and in whom Erin has a romantic interest) a faithful dog, and you have the makings of a romantic suspense story.

Fast forward to the spring of 2016 when I had the opportunity to take part in an anthology of westerns. The only prerequisite was the story had to take place in the American West. I knew it was a perfect opportunity for my idea.

I thought, “What if a series of murders occurred? Each happened on the night of a blue moon.” When I began to research, I came upon a legend related to the rare lunar event.

“When one family member dies, three more will follow.”


Time running out. Blood will be spilled.

“The blood moon. He isn’t going to wait until the next blue moon.”


Erin parked near the road and turned off her headlights. Got out of the car and closed the door quietly. She walked softly toward the house and tried to stay in the shadows. The moon was now in full eclipse and looked blood red. An eerie silence surrounded her. More than once, she looked over her shoulder and wanted to run back to the car, but there was no turning back. Kate’s life was in danger.

The Blue Moon Murders is a part of the anthology Unshod published by AIW Press. Nine female authors took part in this collection and best of all it’s free! You can download a copy by clicking this link.

Oh, and beware. The next blue moon is on October 31, 2020. Halloween, a full moon, and a blue one to boot? The possibilities are endless!