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September 13, 2023 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , , ,

Okay, I know it isn’t officially Autumn until September 22, but the kids are back in school, pumpkin spice everything is available again, and I have even seen a few trees with leaves that are starting to turn. Close enough for me.

Fall is my favorite season of the year. I don’t much enjoy the heat of summer, so the cooler days and sometimes almost-nippy nights fill me with anticipation.

From now until the end of the year, there is one happy event after another: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, and several family birthdays. These holidays and their traditions mark the passage of our annual orbit of the sun. Before I know it, that “holiday feeling” inspires me to start singing It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. (Why did that allergy medicine have to use that as their advertising jingle?) No matter. For me it is the most wonderful time of the year.

Along with the change of seasons comes a spate of vendor fairs where I, along with some of my writing colleagues from the Bethlehem Writers Group, go to market our themed Sweet, Funny, and Strange® anthologies (including our award-winning first anthology: A Christmas Sampler: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Holiday Tales, and our award winning second anthology: Once Around the Sun: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales for All Seasons.) Meeting and talking with shoppers as they go from table to table picking up gifts for loved ones (while tasting traditional baked goods and beverages) adds to the fun of the season.

We even have some exciting news to share about our most recent title, An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue. It was named a finalist for two international book awards: the Next Generation Indie Book Award and the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award. We’re honored by the recognition and pleased to put these medals on our book cover.

I also have a new novelette to peddle this fall. It’s entitled Apple, Table, Penny . . . Murder and tells of recently widowed Suzy Kemp who decides to downsize to an independent-living apartment in a retirement community. But when she goes in for her final health screening, she becomes confused and is abruptly confined to a memory care unit . . . with no way out. What’s worse, she suspects the late-night departure of another resident has a sinister cause. No one takes her suspicions seriously, so she’s determined to investigate on her own, to uncover what happened to her neighbor and to prove she hasn’t lost her mind. (And it’s set around Thanksgiving!) It’s available at online retailers, for order through brick-and-mortar stores, and, of course, at our vendor fairs.

Another of our members, Emily P. W. Murphy, has also recently published a delightful children’s book about being true to yourself. It’s entitled The Princess of Booray and is available anywhere you can find Apple, Table, Penny . . . Murder.

One more thing I look forward to this fall is that in November, for the first time, my BWG colleague Marianne H. Donley and I will be teaching a class on “Writing a Holiday Story” through the Aged to Perfection Chapter of Romance Writers of America. We look forward to sharing the fun of writing stories about a variety of holidays in different genres.

Meanwhile, we’re preparing to start Bethlehem Writers Group’s annual Short Story Award competition at the beginning of 2024. And this year’s theme? Serendipitously, it’s Holiday Stories! We’re looking for stories of 2000 words or fewer that incorporate any holiday from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, inclusive. The holiday must be an important element of the story. The winner will receive $250 plus the publication in either our upcoming anthology, Season’s Readings: More Sweet, Funny, and Strange Holiday Tales, or in our literary journal, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Second and third place winners receive $100 or $50 respectively and an offer of publication in Roundtable. The competition opens on January 1 and runs through March 31. Check the Roundtable website for more information. We’re really looking forward to reading all those holiday-inspired stories.

Also, I’m writing my own holiday story for the anthology and wondering how long it will be before we see those first few snowflakes flutter to the ground. Anticipation? It’s the best thing about this season.

I hope you, too, anticipate a very pleasant Fall and holiday season.

Other Books from BWG

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My Father’s Eyes

August 13, 2023 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group
The following poem commemorates my emotions at the death of my beloved father and the fact that at the time of his death, he thought of others as he did all throughout his life. My father was an organ donor and fittingly donated his corneas so someone could see through my father’s eyes.

I love and miss you Dad, enjoy a little light reading.
Jeff Baird

My Father’s Eyes

From long ago, memories fill my mind:
I would watch and learn.
Sometimes it was hard to follow in his footsteps:
He demanded a lot from himself and from me.
Sometimes I would not understand:
At the time I didn’t know My Father’s Eyes.

Slowly I grew and became a man:
Many times, I would become hesitant and frightened.
Something always kept me going:
He was so good at providing for me.
I didn’t realize my safety net was always there:
Slowly but surely, My Father’s Eyes opened.

I cheered, I failed:
I laughed, I cried.
But always in the background I could hear:
That’s ok # 1 son of mine.
My Father’s Eyes opened wide.

My eyes cry often these days:
As I look back and remember.
With fondness and love:
With sadness and sorrow.
But it’s become clear:
These are my Father’s Eyes. 

Through the grief that weighs me down:
And the sorrow that clouds my mind.
A light appears: My job is clear.
My son,
My Daughter,
My life, 
My Father’s Eyes,
Are one and the same.

Some of Jeff’s Stories

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Finalist in the 2023 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

June 13, 2023 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , ,

Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC is thrilled to announce An Element of Mystery, Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue is a finalist in the 2023 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

About the An Element of Mystery

An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of intrigue is the latest in Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC award-winning series of Sweet, Funny, and Strange® anthologies. From classic whodunnits to tales of the unexplained, each of the twenty-three stories has an element of mystery that will keep you guessing and wanting to read just one more story.

We’re thrilled to have old friends, but new members of BWG, join us this year. Award-winning author Debra H. Goldstein favors us with a mystery set among volunteers at a synagogue entitled “Death in the Hand of the Tongue,” while “Sense Memory,” by the multi-talented Paula Gail Benson, brings a delightful mix of mystery and the paranormal that helps a young couple find their way to each other.

In addition, we are happy to bring you the winning stories from two of our annual Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Award competitions: “Good Cop/Bad Cop” by Trey Dowell (2021 winner) and “The Tabac Man” by Eleanor Ingbretson (2022 winner).

You’ll also find stories from your favorite BWG authors, including Courtney Annicchiarico, Jeff Baird, Peter J Barbour, A. E. Decker, Marianne H. Donley, Ralph Hieb, DT Krippene, Jerry McFadden, Emily P. W. Murphy, Christopher D. Ochs, Dianna Sinovic, Kidd Wadsworth, Paul Weidknecht, and Carol L. Wright.

So get ready to be mystified . . . or intrigued!

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More Award-Winning Books from BWG

Next Generation Indie Book Awards

The Next Generation Indie Book Awards is the largest International awards program for indie authors and independent publishers. In its seventeenth year of operation, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards was established to recognize and honor the most exceptional independently published books in 80+ different categories, for the year, and is presented by Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group  in cooperation with Marilyn Allen of Allen Literary Agency (formerly the Allen O’Shea Literary Agency).

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How NOT to Write in Twelve Hard Steps*

May 13, 2023 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley tagged as , , , ,

All the members of Bethlehem Writers Group are fast at work on the 2023 Bethlehem Writer Roundtable Short Story Award. (Winners will be announced soon.) So we’re rerunning a column from 2017 on How Not to Write in Twelve Hard Steps. We hope you enjoy it.

This was going to be a blog about how to write with a day job.

Not Writing | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of OrangeUnfortunately, writing with a day job is incredibly easy. You simply keep writing material with you at all time. Paper and pencil work as well as an iPad. Then when you find a block of time  (like I usually have to wait for that student who never shows up for a scheduled appointment or arriving hours early for my appointment because the 60 freeway is completely and inexplicably free from traffic) you write. After dishes are done and the family is watching reruns on TV, you write. When you awaken hours before the rest of the world, you write. I imagined my whole blog would be one word long:


That would be the world’s shortest blog. In addition, I suspected I would be preaching to the choir. People who write and have day jobs know this. Who else would care? Maybe, I should blog about something else. But what?

Inspiration struck while I wandered the local bookstore and sipping my venti café mocha I noticed a whole wall of thick serious books on how to write everything from baby picture books to novels to true-crime police procedurals. Stuck in the middle of all this writing information were two thin books on How NOT to Write.

Heck, not even Nora can want to write all day every day. I would have thought there would be a bit more information on how not to write. Constant writing must be some type of mental illness or at the very least a nasty bad habit. Surely, there must be tons of books on breaking such a habit. I looked. There wasn’t. Just two tiny little books all alone in the vast sea of heavy writing advice.

Clearly, not writing was a topic few writers were comfortable discussing. I’m pretty brave. I can handle controversy. I’ll write a blog on how not to write. I could come up with a set of rules. Break new ground. Give out sage advice.

So here it is:

How Not to Write in Twelve Hard Steps. *

Not Writing with coffee | Marianne H. Donley | A Slice of Orange1. Pay attention, this is important. Not writing is the hardest work you will ever do. It is not for the faint of heart. Not writing takes planning, dedication, and a tenacity that many writers lack. Don’t try it unless you have the necessary backbone.

2. To not write you must get up early in the morning. The perfect time is 4:30 A.M. but for you sleepy heads 5:00 A.M. will work as well. If you sleep until 8, half the day is gone and you may as well just waste the rest by writing.

3. To not write you must have a full pot of coffee. Dedicated non-writers program their coffee pots so they can start their day with a fresh cup as soon as they leap out of bed. I suspect that tea drinkers can’t help themselves and start writing as soon as the tea bag hits the trash can, so if you really want to not write break your tea drinking habit immediately.

4. To not write you must have an outfit. You can write in your PJs and no one will care. Not writing takes more style, especially if you want to avoid pointed questions about your mental health. Your outfit can’t just be jeans and a tee-shirt unless of course, you’re male. Females must have a complete, color-coordinated outfit with jewelry, makeup, and styled hair. For women, I strongly advise pantyhose and two-inch heels as well. For men, not shaving is NOT an option.

5. To not write you must have a clean office or not-writing space. If your space is messy and cluttered, then you must take the time to make it tidy. Organizing it would be even better. I recommend categorizing all the bookshelves in your house by subject and author. Should you use the kitchen as your office, alphabetizing your spice rack while you’re at it is always an excellent idea. It wouldn’t hurt to get some of those cute little bins for all your rubber bands and paper clips. You should also consider sharpening all your pencils and testing all your pens to see if they still work. However, cleaning the bathroom or doing laundry is a bit excessive. Should you find yourself contemplating such work, just give up and write. Let’s face it if you’re going to work that hard you may as well get some recognition for it. Completing your manuscript and sending it out will, at the very least, get you an RWA Pro pin and a round of applause at the next chapter meeting. Only your mother will notice whether or not you clean the bathroom.

6. To not write you must play computer solitaire until you win. None of that two-game only nonsense; this takes a real commitment. You must win. Four Suit Spider Solitaire is an excellent choice for those truly dedicated to not writing. Less adventuresome types can try the Two Suit version or Free Cell. However, should you select One Suit Spider and not win in 30 seconds or less, well, just don’t tell me. I firmly believe everyone I know is smart enough to get an advanced degree in rocket science if only they had the time. Shattering my world view like that is just plain cruel.

7. To not write you must build into your schedule time for physical exercise. As I mentioned above, not writing is hard work. Drinking coffee, while playing Free Cell, in your spanking clean office, and keeping your outfit stylish is quite emotionally draining. If you are not careful you could actually get bored and open up your WIP. Your whole day of not writing will be shot to heck. Walking around the block, especially if you live on a steep hill should help.

8. To not write, I must caution you, taking two dogs for a walk as your scheduled physical activity will invariably set you right back on the writing path. How you may ask? Two dogs are not going to agree on speed, direction, or when to leave odorous land mines for you to pick up. This lack of coordination on their part will provide comic relief at your expense for your neighbors. If one of them says something like, “Martha, ya got to come see this” while you, of course, are in the middle of the street, tangled up in dog leashes attached to a white dog going North and a black dog going South, juggling three baggies of land mines, a pouch of special doggie treats, the training clicker that supposed to help train the dogs, but actually makes the black dog cry and the white dog sit until he gets to eat all the treats. Well, can plotting this neighbor’s death be far behind? If he’s going to die, you’re going to have to think of a better reason then laughing at you to kill him. Then you’re going to need several characters who also want him dead for equally good reasons, and finally, the proper sleuth and her love interest will just pop right into your head. The next thing you know a whole series will be in the planning stages and you won’t be able to not write for months.

9. To not write you must have a not writing buddy or sponsor. This buddy is someone you can call any time of the day or night whenever that uncontrollable urge to break out Chapter Four and fix it threatens. Your mother or sisters cannot be your not writing buddy. This is considered cheating as it is much too easy to get them chatting and waste valuable not writing time. No, your buddy must be trustworthy and kind and also dedicated to not writing. She must intuitively know when not to ask how you worked out that problem you accidentally but cleverly wrote into Chapter Eight. She should NEVER tell you she’s finished her WIP. She should always know when to invite you to Starbucks for venti mochas or to Nordstrom’s for a good day of shoe shopping. Shoe shopping is, by the way, the only shopping for which you can indulge without guilt.

10. All not writing writers should know that guilt free shoe shopping is a rule. I think it was left over from the Regan administration. Subversive media types, probably male, tried to kill this rule with cruel stories featuring Imelda Marcos and her shoe closet. (Can you imagine the press if she has attended a public event wearing pre-worn shoes? The press coverage would have rivaled the media frenzy surrounding a certain female prosecutor and her new hair cut.) More sensible wisdom prevailed and shoes are officially guilt free. I must point out that as a corollary to this rule, any other type of shopping is not only riddled with real stomach turning guilt, and it requires an actual paycheck. This will naturally require you finish that book, not a good situation for your not writing goals.

11. To not write you should avoid the Internet like the plague, especially emails. Some people think the Internet is the perfect not writing tool. They are sadly mistaken. Consider, if you will, the simple task of checking your emails. You are going to get them from your weak-willed friends who are writing. Those people are unfortunately smart. Good writing ideas follow them around like ants at a picnic and they SHARE. Read one email and you’re going to get enough ideas to keep you writing for the rest of your natural life and that of your youngest child’s. You’ll have to make a pack with the devil just to finish. Really, do you want to risk your immortal soul just for email? And if that wasn’t bad enough, they’ll answer your emails by says, “Gee that idea would make a great (pick one) book, novel, short story, article, online class, workshop.”

12. To not write you should also drop out of all your critiques groups. (See above for the primary reason.) Secondary reason: Every conversation will start with, “So how’s the writing?” You’ll feel guilty. You’ll write. That clever accident in Chapter Eight, they’ll not only fix it, they’ll give you enough material for three sequels, two novellas, and cookbook. You’ll feel guilty. You’ll write.

*This was originally titled Twelve Easy Steps, but someone recently complained that I say everything is easy. She pointed out that if I would just say things were hard she would feel heaps better when she figured out how the heck to do it. When I tell her it’s easy, she gets no sense of accomplishment. Heaven knows I want people to have a real sense of accomplishment when not writing.



Marianne H. Donley makes her home in Pennyslvania with her husband and son. She is a member of Bethlehem Writers Group and Sisters in Crime. When Marianne is NOT not writing, she might be writing short stories, funny romances or quirky murder mysteries, but this could be a rumor. 

Books from Bethlehem Writers Group

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The 2023 Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Award—Deadline April 30th

April 13, 2023 by in category Contests, From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group, Writing Contest tagged as , , ,

The 2023 Short Story Award competition deadline has been extended through April 30th!

You still have time to polish that short (2000 words or fewer) holiday story for a chance to win cash and publication in our next “Sweet, Funny, and Strange” anthology, SEASONS READING!

For BWG’s purpose, a holiday story is one that involves any holiday between US Thanksgiving and News Year’s Day, inclusive).

So get that short story ready to enter.

Winners will receive:

First Place:
$250 and publication in our upcoming anthology: Season’s Readings: More Sweet, Funny, and Strange Holiday Tales

Second Place:
$100 and publication in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable

Third Place:
$50 and publication in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable

Click here for submission rules

The 2023 Guest Judge is renowned Short Story Writer and Editor Barb Goffman. You can read an interview with her here.

Other Books Published by BWG

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