A Slice of Orange


Featured Author: Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC

January 1, 2022 by in category Apples & Oranges by Marianne H. Donley, Contests, Featured Author of the Month tagged as , , , , , ,

About Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC

The Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC (BWG), is a community of mutually supportive fiction and nonfiction authors based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The members are as different from each other as their stories. BWG also publishes quality fiction through their online literary journal, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, and their award-winning  A Sweet, Funny, and Strange Anthology series.

Each anthology has an overall theme—broadly interpreted—but includes a variety of genres. All but the first anthology include stories from the winner(s) of The Bethlehem Writers Short Story Award.

Their first anthology, A Christmas Sampler: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Holiday Tales (2009), won two Next Generation Indie Book Awards: Best Anthology and Best Short Fiction.

Fur, Feathers, and Scales: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Animal Tales is the latest in A Sweet, Funny, and Strange Anthology. BWG is proud to report this title also won two Next Generation Indie Book Awards: Best e-Book and Best Cover Design (Fiction).

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About Fur, Feathers and Scales

The award-winning “Sweet, Funny, and Strange” series of anthologies from the Bethlehem Writers Group, continues with this collection of twenty-five tales about real, legendary, or imaginary animals. From snakes to ducks to unicorns, there are tales here to match any mood, provide a chuckle, or warm a heart.

Among our tales, Peter Barbour recounts a legend in “Why Bats Live in Caves,” Jerome W. McFadden asks the question of what animal to choose to be in “Recycled,” A. E. Decker shares an appreciation of cephalopods in “Tipping Point,” Ralph Hieb imagines an unconventional pet in “Buttons,” and Diane Sismour, in “Critter,” reveals that mules are not the only equines that can have a stubborn streak.

In addition, we are happy to present the winning stories from the 20 I 9 and 2020 Bethlehem Writers Roundtable Short Story Awards. Angela Albertson, our 20I9 winner, shares her heartfelt “Oranges and Roses,” and our 2020 winner, Brett Wolff, gives us a good laugh in “Hubbard Has a Fancy Bra.”

This eclectic assemblage of stories includes terrific tales from beloved BWG authors including Courtney Annicchiarico, Jeff Baird, Jodi Bogert, Marianne H. Donley, DT Krippene, Emily P. W. Murphy, Christopher D. Ochs, Dianna Sinovic, Kidd Wads­worth, Paul Weidknecht, Carol L. Wright, and Will Wright.

So cuddle up with your favorite pet-real or imaginary. No matter. You’ll find just the right story to share.

Next up for BWG

A bird on a tree branch

BWG is working on their Seventh anthology, An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue.

In connection with this anthology, they are hosting The Bethlehem Writers 2022 Short Story Award

The 2022 Short Story Award will open on January 1, 2022. The theme will be An Element of Mystery (broadly interpreted).

BWG is seeking never-published short stories of 2,000 words or fewer.  First Place will receive $250 and publication in their upcoming anthology: An Element of Mystery: Sweet, Funny, and Strange Tales of Intrigue or in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.

The final judge of the 2022 Short Story Award is New York Times best-selling author Kate Carlisle

Books from Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC

Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC

The Bethlehem Writers Group, LLC (BWG), founded in 2006, is a community of mutually supportive, fiction and nonfiction authors based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The members are as different from each other as their stories, spanning a range of genres including: children’s, fantasy, humor, inspiration, literary, memoir, mystery, paranormal, romance, science fiction, women’s fiction, and young adult.

See the schedule of meetings and events here.

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Shift Change

December 30, 2021 by in category Quill and Moss by Dianna Sinovic
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Bethany opened the milk jug to douse her morning cereal and almost gagged. “Sour already?” She’d just bought the jug three days before. She poured the liquid down the sink, rinsed the plastic container and placed it in the recycling bin. 

Now what? She couldn’t eat her frosted o’s dry. With a frown, she pulled the orange juice from the fridge and tipped the carton over the oats. That would have to do. She was already running late.

She sighed, realizing she’d have to drink her coffee black. Damn the grocery for not pulling expired product from the dairy case.

Opening the fridge once more to put the orange juice back, she stopped. The milk jug was on the top shelf again, just as if she hadn’t yet touched it. What the heck? And the eggs were leaking from their carton. When she opened the lid, she saw that eight out of the dozen had cracked.

Bethany shook her head as though to clear it. If this was a dream, it was remarkably vivid.

The clock in the kitchen read ten forty-five, and she blinked in puzzlement. How had two hours passed since she walked into the room to make herself breakfast? And if it was now two hours later than she thought, that meant she was very late for work. Mr. Davidson needed the last quarter’s numbers for his meeting with the board—exactly thirty minutes ago. She’d promised to have them on his desk when he walked in at nine thirty. 

She shivered, picturing his grimace when he realized her report was missing. Her day would last well into the evening, as she tried to make amends.

Thumbing through her phone’s contacts, she looked in vain for Davidson’s number to text him her apologies. But although she ran through the list several times, it wasn’t there.

She dumped the cereal in the trash, unplugged the coffee maker, and grabbed a power bar. She would clean up the eggs later. There was a Starbucks on the way to the office. If the line wasn’t long, she might only be fifty minutes late to work.

At the school crossing several blocks from her apartment, Bethany groaned. Her lateness put her at the busiest time for the kindergarten start. A crossing guard held up traffic as the minutes ticked by, and Bethany’s blood pressure hit boiling.

“Just let me get to work!” she shouted to the world. 

When the vehicles could finally move forward, Bethany honked at the driver ahead of her to hurry his pace. She turned the corner at Larch to reach the Starbucks and braked. The street looked different. Much different. Instead of a row of small retail businesses, the block was one large building, three stories high, with a shiny blue brick facade. 

Maybe the Starbucks was on another street. She tried to remember, turning left, then right, on a meandering route in search of coffee. No Starbucks. No buildings that looked familiar. And, in fact, where was her office? When she reached Main and Oak, the correct intersection, the four corners held a gas station, a fast food restaurant, an empty lot, and a lawyer’s office. 

Now completely confused, she pulled into the gas station and parked. She was thirty-one years old. This can’t be dementia

Bethany walked into the small convenience store that was part of the gas station. When she asked for directions to Tanner Industries, the cashier gave her a blank look.

“I’ve never heard of it,” he said.

“But …” Bethany started. It should be right here, she almost said. Instead, she muttered to him, “I must have the address wrong.” 

Back in her car, Bethany tried to come up with an explanation that made sense. She couldn’t go to the police—there had been no crime committed other than robbing her of her reality. She could go back home, assuming her home was still there. Or maybe to the ER, and tell them that something was wrong with her brain.

Her phone buzzed, making her jump. It was Mr. Davidson.

“Is everything okay?” he asked. “We were expecting you by now.”

Bethany ran through several responses, but they all seemed inadequate. “I’m so sorry, I’ve overslept,” she lied. “I’m on my way.” Another lie, more or less.

Her boss was quiet for a moment. “We’ll talk when you get here.”

With her head beginning to throb from the absurdity of her situation, Bethany started up her car and pulled out of the gas station. Where to? Back home to the sour milk and cracked eggs? Down the road to search for an office that seemed to have moved?

The ramp to the interstate was three blocks down. It beckoned to her. She again pictured Mr. Davidson’s face, his eyes narrowed at her, his mouth turned down. Truthfully, she’d never liked him—or the job.

Bethany flicked on her turn signal and slid onto the onramp. A new reality required a new approach to life. Somewhere out there, she might find the answer.

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On This Fourth Day of Christmas…

December 28, 2021 by in category Quarter Days by Alina K. Field tagged as , ,

I’m reprising a post from a Christmas past. Some of you know that my husband of thirty-nine years passed away several weeks ago. I’ve been preoccupied with honoring his life and grieving, so I’m sharing this earlier Quarter Days blog. Enjoy!

The Grand Holiday

In past posts, I talked about the English Quarter Days of Midsummer’s Day and Michaelmas.

Father Christmas with the Yule Log, 1848

To refresh your memory, Quarter Days were the four days during the year when rents were paid, servants hired, and contracts commenced. The last Quarter Day of the calendar year was the grand holiday of Christmas. Though the Quarter Day was December 25th, Christmas celebrations went on for twelve days.

Kissing under the Mistletoe

Christmas Romance

We romance authors flood the lists every year with Christmas novellas, and not just the contemporary lists. Christmas Regency romances abound and sell well. But how to get the details right for our hero and heroine? How did the Christmas celebrations aid or interfere with a Regency hero’s wooing? How did they celebrate Christmas?

Before the Regency

As I pointed out in an earlier post, Christmas falls around the time of the winter solstice. The pagan festivities of the season were Bacchanalian revels of feasting and drinking and other “wicked” practices. To encourage some order, the early Christian church designated December 25th as a religious holiday.

So, people went to church…and then they feasted, drank, etc.

Under the Puritan rule that resulted from the 17th century English Civil War, the observance of Christmas was banned. The Lord High Protector of England, Oliver Cromwell, and his Puritan cohorts decided that English people needed to be protected from carnal delights of holiday celebrations. Christmas became a regular workday. Anyone celebrating could be subject to penalty.

The Puritans carried this attitude across the Pond. Christmas was illegal in their American colonies also.

With the restoration to the throne of Charles II (a man greatly given to Bacchanalian revels), Christmas was also restored in the English calendar of holidays.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Christmas as we know it was documented by Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol. In the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim, Dickens brought to life the quintessential picture of a Victorian Christmas.

But if you’re writing a Regency-set Christmas romance, don’t pull out your copy of Dickens and copy his story world. To quote a post I wrote a couple of years ago:

Decorating with evergreen boughs and mistletoe (and kissing under the mistletoe!), wassailing, acting out pantomimes, and singing carols, were part of the Regency holiday celebration…Christmas trees and Santa Claus did not become popular until Victorian times.

Click on the link to read the rest of that post.

A Visit from St. Nicholas

Or, the title most of us know it by, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, was written by an American, Clement Clarke Moore, in 1823. Dutch and German holiday traditions influenced the celebration of Christmas earlier in America than in England. Prince Albert, Victoria’s German prince, is credited with popularizing the Christmas tree in England.

Pictures worth a thousand words

Dickens brought us A Christmas Carol in 1843, but check out this series of illustrations by cartoonist George Cruikshanks. Even before Scrooge made his appearance, the early Victorians were holding over-the-top celebrations of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

No matter what holiday you celebrate, I wish you all the best in this season of holidays! Hold your loved ones close, and treasure every moment!

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In the Mist by Neetu

December 26, 2021 by in category Poet's Day by Neetu Malik tagged as , , , ,

In the Mist

mist fills the night—
there are no ghosts, just my self
and me in mellow light

I pause only to listen
to rustling in the trees, where
secrets like my own
might be guarded mystery

it’s not for me to know what
theirs might be,
but a comfort to feel
a kindred familiarity

© Neetu Malik

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When Being Different Makes a Difference by Veronica Jorge

December 22, 2021 by in category Write From the Heart by Veronica Jorge
Santa and Rudolph taking a selfie

We all know the story and the song about Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Ridiculed for his red shiny nose. Ostracized because he was different. When it really mattered, that difference made all the difference in the world. Here’s my poem to encourage and celebrate unique, out of the ordinary individuals. Your special self just may be what saves the day.

To All the Rudolphs Out There

by Veronica Jorge

They call me Rudy.

I’m Santa’s buddy.

I’ve got a red pug nose everyone thinks is funny.

When Santa takes flight, I light up the night.

I’m fast. I’m swift. I help Santa give out gifts.

No one laughs anymore at my bright red nose.

So be who you are from your head to your toes.

Let your light shine through.

Be proud of special you.

Be like me, unique.

You’re a star on two feet.

See you next time on January 22, 2022.

Happy New Year!

Veronica Jorge

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