The Magazine of the Bethlehem Writers Group
No. 45, September/October 2016

Announcing Big Changes at Bethlehem Writers Roundtable

Beginning in 2017:

Bethlehem Writers Roundtable will pay for published stories
$20 for Featured Author
$10 for &More stories
$5 for poems

and

Bethlehem Writers Roundtable will become a quarterly publication

See our Submissions&Contacts page for more information

Editor's Note:
 
Carol L. Wright
Editor

We at Bethlehem Writers Roundtable are excited to announce some big changes. Beginning in 2017, we will become a quarterly publication, but more importantly, we will begin to pay our authors for the stories we publish. We all know that writers and other creative artists often have to give their work away in order for it to be seen, but we have never liked offering authors only a chance to publish without any monetary compensation. We are finally in a position to correct that. While we cannot offer authors anything close to what the hours of work on a really good short story or poem should justly receive, we are happy to begin to offer $20 for featured stories and $10 for each &More story and $5 for each poem we publish. By doing so, we hope to do our small part to help artists' work become valued monetarily, and not just aesthetically.

Our theme for this issue is Bad Ideas, and we received so many submissions--including from BWG members--that it appears authors were inspired by it. What is it about that theme that struck such a chord with writers? Could it be that bad ideas are often at the heart of a story? Bad ideas lead to bad choices and bad choices lead to--CONFLICT

Without conflict, our stories go nowhere. Certainly, there are many wonderful writers who compose the literary equivalent of a still life--a snippet, a scene, or a mood that is a window into a moment. But, for our purposes, we don't consider that a story. 

So what is a story? Roundtable editor Jerome W. McFadden encapsulates our definition on our submissions page thusly: A character (or characters) that we care for (or hate) in a conflict (plot) that leads to a plausible resolution that has an emotional effect on the character and on the readers. 

One of the tasks we writers sometimes pose for ourselves is to write flash fiction: a very short story. Supposedly, the shortest story ever written, sometimes attributed to Hemingway, was six words: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. If you saw it on Craig's List, would you believe you had read a story? While it raises questions, we do not know why the shoes were never used. Was the baby already too big for newborn clothing at birth? Or was an anticipated baby stillborn? Or was it never able to walk?  Or was it kidnapped from the hospital, never to be seen again? Or did someone buy the shoes to use on a doll, and they were too big? Or to use in a still life photograph? We'll never know which of myriad possibilities the author had in mind because the six-word "story" doesn't tell us anything more. It's a great hook, but it's not a story.

One of our members recently published her memoir on building her house while rebuilding her life. (From Scratch by Sally Paradysz) As she brought her first chapters to the critique group, she did not see the conflict in her story. She and her partner agreed on everything they chose for the house and got along smoothly throughout. But as the work developed, she found conflict everywhere, from finding a builder willing to work with two women who wanted to do much of the work themselves to ducking the building inspector after moving in before they had an occupancy permit. But the biggest conflict was within Sal--putting herself back together after a lengthy, emotionally abusive marriage. Because of these conflicts, her memoir is a compelling and moving story.

Conflict is a catalyst for action, and through action we accomplish character growth--both in our stories, and in our real lives. And, as is often quoted, we learn more from our failures than our successes. And what causes our character-building failures? 

Bad ideas. 

In this issue:
Our featured author is our own Jerome W. McFadden with a story inspired by his world travels and his deep well of understanding human foibles and their consequences. Our interview subject is Paul Weidknecht who is not only a talented writer and fly fisherman, but a nascent publisher with his new book, Native to This Stream: Brief Writings About Fly-Fishing & the Great OutdoorsOn our &More page, we have stories from varied  and talented authors: Joseph Sloan, Diana Sinovic, Kidd Wadsworth, Nancy Christie, and Elias Keller. And, as always, we have Betty's Tips from around the web. We hope you enjoy it--and maybe come away with a few bad ideas of your own.





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Our Mission is to encourage the art of writing and to present the work of established and emerging writers. Feel free to post your comments on the Featured Story by using Submissions/Contact form at the tab above.

Our Featured Author                           
https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?text=Jerome+McFadden+is+the+Featured+author+on+Bethlehem+Writers+Roundtable+at%3A&url=http%3A%2F%2Fbit.ly%2FuvQALJ&via=bethlehemwriter+%23TheBWG+%23amwriting

Jerome W. McFaddens stories have appeared in various magazines and e-zines, such as Flash Fiction Offensive, Over My Dead Body, Eclectic Flash Fiction, Fiction On The Web, and BWG Writers Roundtable. He received a Bullet Award for the best crime fiction to appear on the web in June, 2011. Two of his short stories have been read on stage by the Liar’s League London and Liar’s League Hong Kong. His stories have also appeared in various anthologies, including Hard Boiled Crime Scene, Deep Dark Woods, Once Around the Sun, A Christmas Sampler, Let It Snow, A Readable Feast, One Star Review of the Afterlife, and Write Here, Write Now. He is now working on a Middle Grade novel.


Night of The Longhouse

Jerome W. McFadden


Richard Turnball looked like a pale whale sprawled across the pool lounge chair. He stirred now and then, in spite of himself, to sip on a fruity purple drink that sported a silly ass umbrella toothpick and to puff on a stale cigar. The South China Sea sparkled in the distance, the late morning sun playing across endless variations of aquamarine and turquoise blue. The rolling hills behind the resort sported a thousand shades of green foliage. He was truly one with nature, at this moment - in his own smug, self satisfied way.

His center of attention, of course, was fixed on the handful of attractive women splashing in and out of the swimming pool, modestly hiding their female assets in string bikinis and wet thongs. He thought about pulling his t-shirt back on to protect his smooth, protruding belly from the imposing tropical sun but he was too relaxed to make the effort.

Rachel would be back soon. She had announced over breakfast that they would go into Kuching this afternoon to see the Grand Bazaar, where she would spend hours shopping for woven baskets, multi-colored sarongs, and cheap sandals carved from worn out tire treads. This tedium would be magnified by her manic need to “bargain” with the natives (“They expect it, you know. It’s how they do business.”) Turnball would keep his silence, but inwardly sigh, if you calculate the exchange rate, you’re arguing over twenty-five freaking cents. Give the woman the goddamned quarter and move on for God’s sake.

Immediately after breakfast this morning, she had rushed off to tour the Sarawak Cultural Village, a collection of “authentic” huts and houses that represented the ethnic lifestyles of the semi-naked tribes that used to haunt the local jungles. Turnball had begged off, citing Borneo Belly. This was their first “long weekend” together, a short hop from super modern Singapore to the bush of East Malaysia. He had anticipated a long weekend in bed. She apparently saw it as a weekend adventure for an Indiannette Jones. He would put up with it, assuming that even jungle explorers came back to bed now and then.

“Rich, honey, get dressed. I’ve booked us a tour.”

He swiveled around, startled. He did not expect her back this soon. “Uh,gee, Rach, I don’t feel that good yet. Why don’t you go and I’ll wait for you here.”

“It’s an overnighter, Rich. Up to an Iban long house on the liSkrang River. We leave in an hour and come back tomorrow afternoon.”

“An Iban long house?”

“I’ll tell you all about it, but you need to go get dressed. Real quick.”

Turnball heard the splash behind him of one of the scantily clad females diving into the pool. “What about the hotel? We booked the room for the whole weekend.”

Rach smiled to show that she was way ahead of him. “They’re Okay with it. They’ll hold our luggage until we come back, then put us in a different room. No big deal. They do it all the time.”

His first reaction was to whine about it but decided to give in. Whatever an Iban longhouse was, it couldn’t be too bad if the resort was tied into it.

A small van waited in front of the hotel, RIVER SAFARIS stenciled on the side. They were alone, except for the driver and a guide. The driver wore a black t-shirt, jeans, and dark sunglasses. He didn’t smile when they climbed into the van. The guide wore a safari shirt with matching slacks and an oily smile. He introduced himself as Ali, and the driver as Hamid. As they shook their hands, Turnball discovered Ali had two thumbs on his right hand. Or a thumb with a hanging appendage. He tried not to look down or to show any shock, but it was upsetting. He waited until Ali turned away before wiping his hand against his slacks.

“There are only two of us?” Rachel asked.

Ali bobbed his head. “Yes, yes. It is not peak season, so you are very fortunate to be on your very own.”

Once inside, Rachel leaned over the front seat to say, “Hamid, thank you for driving us.” Hamid grunted without turning to acknowledge her.

“Hamid dos not speak English,” Ali said, “but he says you are very welcome.”

Great freaking start, Turnball thought. He glanced at the brochure on the seat beside him. This would be a two and half hour drive (two and half hours?) followed by a one hour boat ride up the river to where twenty families lived together in a long house made of wood and bamboo, with a thatched roof. Great freaking finish, too.

Rachel continued to chat with Ali as they rolled down the highway. Turnball slouched back into full boredom. It quickly became apparent that once you have seen one rubber plantation, you’ve seen them all: Endless miles of trees, all the same height, the same crown of palms, in straight anal rows, skirted by dirt paths pounded out by the tappers and sappers. The only alleviation were the rice paddies, all pancake flat between berms, rows of palm trees in the far distance. Rachel and Ali eventually (thank God!) ran out of things to talk about. Ali slumped against the front seat for a nap.

Rachel smiled at Turnball, “It’s all so beautiful, isn’t it?”

Turnball gave an imitation Hamid grunt and pretended to nap, too.

“You’re not enjoying this?”

Turnball made an effort to change the subject. He shook his right hand, nodding towards Ali. “Why doesn’t he have it removed?” he whispered. “No big deal. An outpatient routine. I could do it myself if I had an axe. Or a machete. A quick whack. A little antiseptic and a bandaid. Done.”

“Ssh, He’ll hear you,” Rachel said, horrified.

Turnball laughed, “Guy could be a hell of a hitch hiker. A twofer. Double your chances. Might cause an accident with cars piling up behind each other to stop for him.”

Rachel turned away without comment.

The rest of the trip passed in somnolent, irritated silence, until Ali directed Hamid to pull over for refreshments and toilet break at a roadside shantytown that consisted of several crumbling huts with corrugated tin roofs.The restaurant looked like a pool cabana: Four posts supporting a thatched roof over a handful of plastic tables and chairs around a small bar. Signs touted Pepsi and Tiger Beer. The Pepsi was flat and the beer warm. Suffocating heat and humidity radiated off the dirt floor. Turnball and his beer sweated together.

Rachel came back from the toilet, her usual cheerful self, to order another Pepsi. Turnball took his turn, only to discover the “toilet” was a porcelain slab with footpads surrounding a small hole. He couldn’t remember the last time he squatted for anything and he had never in his life sustained a squat with his pants around his ankles. It was like shitting in a sauna.

He became really pissed when he discovered the lack of toilet paper. There was only a low faucet, dribbling water. The long house had better be better than this, he thought to himself as he slammed the toilet door on the way out.

“You Okay?” Rachel asked.

“Just swell.”

Rachel, Ali, and Hamid were eating a brown glop called Mee Goreng. The smell made Turnball gag. His first thought was to rush back to the toilet to vomit, but that was more repulsive than the Mee Goreng, so he sucked on his warm beer and ignored all entreaties to try the food.

Back on the road, Ali became animated. “We are close now, so you should read these,” handing over brochures entitled PRECAUTIONS GOING TO AND AT THE LONG HOUSE. Turnball scanned the table of contents. His eyes locked on the sub-headings of VIPER TOURNIQUETS, PYTHON KILLINGS, MEETING WITH CROCODILES, VENOMOUS SPIDERS.

“You’re kidding, right?”

“All nonsense,” Ali said. “Liability precautions, you know? Lawyers? They told the tour owners to distribute these as a precaution. It’s nothing, really. Mehdi, the guide who will take you upriver, will take good care of you. Never mind.”

“You’re not going upriver with us?”

“No. No. I’m a city boy. Hamid, too. We don’t like this country stuff. But we’ll be back tomorrow evening, to take you back to Kuching. You’re going to have great fun.”

Rachel was avidly reading the brochure from front to back. At least one of us will know what to do when some venomous viper sucking spider attacks us, he thought cynically.

Several long, narrow, boats were beached on the pebbly shore, with a group of men standing around talking and smoking, dressed in t-shirts, jeans, and baseball caps.

One of the men pasted on a smile and hurried forward as the van bumped towards the landing. His smile grew wider when Rachel stepped out of the van. “Hello, I’m Mehdi.

Welcome. Very nice to be seeing you.”

Huge outboard engines were attached to the sterns of the metal canoes. Mehdi shouted to the other men who immediately manhandled one of the boats into the shallow water. Mehdi motioned for Rachel and Turnball to follow, wadding up to their knees to the side of canoe. Rachel stepped lightly over the gunwale to settle. Turnball followed, awkwardly, nearly tipping the canoe, but Mehdi caught him to guide him in, then settled in behind them, the driver behind him.

The remaining men gave an immense shove and the canoe floated into the river, while the man in the back pulled over and over on the rope attached to the oversized Mercury outboard. Ali and Hamid stood beside the van, shouting, “See you. See you.” Or at least Ali shouted and waved. Hamid stood with his arms crossed, staring at them.

Rachel waved back, “See you tomorrow evening.” Turnball gripped both sides of the boat and stared straight ahead, reassured when he heard the Mercury outboard roar to life.

The canoe shot forward as the outboard’s propellers bit into the deep channel. The breeze was refreshing and Turnball relaxed for the first time since leaving the resort, although he had to be careful not to shift around too much, causing the boat to roll with his weight.

After a while, even with the breeze, the sun began to bake. He noted the thick shade that covered both banks and yelled back at Mehdi “Can’t we ride in the shade?”

Mehdi couldn’t hear him over the outboard but Rachel passed the message along. Mehdi said something and laughed. Rachel grinned and shouted over the noise, ”Mehdi says that is no good. Sometimes the snakes fall out of the trees into the boats. He also says you should not drag your hand in the water. There are sometimes bad things in the water.”

Turnball said, “Shit,” jerking his hand out of the water. It took forty minutes to arrive at the long house landing. Another collection of canoes with oversized outboards were waiting on that beach, with more men sitting around talking and smoking. A handful of naked children splashed in the shallows and waved to them. The driver killed the motor as several men waded out to pull the canoe to the shore. Mehdi was quickly out of the boat, shouting, “Come. Come.”

Rachel slipped over the side and into the water. Turnball started but again tipped the boat. Two men grabbed him by the armpits to save him from a face flop into the river. No one laughed but he suspected they were snickering behind his back.

Mehdi had Rachel by the arm, leading her to the grass beyond the beach. Turnball heard, smelled, and then spotted a pigpen, while chickens grubbed in the dirt in front of him. The clearing was dominated by an immense hovel with a corrugated tin roof, built on stilts. “Your time is good,” Mehdi said. “We have time to talk, then some dances, maybe some shopping, and then supper.”

Shopping? Dances?

A huge log notched with footholds substituted as a ladder led up the veranda, which appeared to be an endless front porch, the length of two football fields. A crowd of people, mostly women and children, milled around in small groups, gossiping, sewing, cooking, and napping on the porch floor. No one paid any attention to them. Mehdi led them to a large straw mat, chasing away a gaggle of children. “Wait here. I will find the Chief to welcome you. He will be pleased to talk to you.”

“I thought they were expecting us,” Turnball said.

“But they didn’t know exactly when we would get here,” Rachel replied.

They surveyed the veranda: a blend of Main Street and front porch for twenty or more families that lived in the rooms that opened onto the deck. The only “primitives” Turnball saw were a few scraggly toothed, bare chested old women in sarongs. The younger women wore flowered print ankle length dresses that were fashionable in Kansas in the 1940’s.

“Do you see that?” Rachel said, looking up towards the rafters.

“What?” Turball said, looking up for bats or snakes or spiders or something else equally menacing. but only spotted a signed poster of Miss Iowa 2007. Now that was a woman!

“In the rafters. The bones and little heads.”

“Bones and little heads?”

“These people were headhunters not that long ago.”

Turnball squinted harder. “Headhunters?”

“Fierce warriors. Manhood and leadership were equated with the number of heads that a man could collect. They told us all about it at the Cultural Village.”

Turnball finally saw the shrunken heads hidden in the upper notches of the ceiling. “Those are real?”

“This is so cool,” Rachel said, just as the Mehdi came back with the Chief and a second man. Both of them looked a thousand years old. with leathery, wrinkled, skin and stiff knees. Mehdi squatted beside Rachel. “This is the Chief, the tuai rumah, and the Shaman. They are pleased to meet you. They do not speak English. I will translate.”

“We are honored to meet them,” Rachel said.

“Shaman?” Turnball said. “Like Medicine Man?”

Mehdi nodded. “More or less.”

“Do you do voodoo tricks? Or fly around like Harry Potter?” Turnball asked, waving his hands in the air as if conjuring up a magic spell and adding “Woooooo!”

“Richard!”

“I understand,” Mehdi said. “A joke.” He spoke to the two men. They laughed politely.

“Is there anything else you would like to ask them?”

The only other thing Turnball could think of was why the freaking hell do you live here? But Rachel jumped in with a slew of questions about the long house, the living arrangements, and the school for the children, causing an endless back-and- forth in two languages that would put a dedicated missionary to sleep.

Turnball gazed around, noting television sets flickering in some of the rooms, and heard Lady Gaga on someone’s cassette player. Most of the kids wore shorts and t-shirts, but all were barefooted. The Chief and shaman wore short sleeved plaid shirts and jeans. All they’re missing are plastic pocket protectors, Turnball thought.

Flies buzzed everywhere, causing their little group to continually flick their hands across their faces. Scruffy looking dogs wandered across the straw mat and out the other side. “We need some refreshment,” Mehdi said, clicking his fingers at someone. A teenage girl instantly appeared with a tray of porcelain pots and plastic cups. “This is Tuak,” Mehdi said, “rice wine."

Turnball laughed, “Rice wine? How do you order that in a restaurant? ‘Today we have a fine white rice or, if you prefer, a tasty brown wild rice with a faint hint of water buffalo and bare feet.’” The others looked at each other, not having a clue what he was talking about. Rachel stared at him in smoldering rage. But the wine was good. Chilled. Sweet. It went down fast. Turnball had another. And another. The Chief want away. They probably told him why but Turnball was no longer paying attention. The rice wine was doing a number on him. The Chief returned, dressed in braided vest and fringed skirt of palm leaves, with a headdress of long feathers. He carried a shield and a machete. Somebody banged on a gong and the Chief started slapping the machete against the shield and making jerky dance steps.

Turnball cackled, “You’re freaking ferocious, old man! My head’s shrinking just looking at you!”

“Shut up, Richard,” Rachel snarled.

Turnball filled his own cup one more time. The Chief danced away, as gracefully as a stiff-in- the-knees 80 year old can dance. “Good stuff!” Turball shouted. ”You can dance with my stars anytime.”

The teenage girl came returned, wearing a knee length straw dress covered with braided decorations and random sequins, wearing another feather headdress. Again with the gong. She flicked her hands and twitched her hips and swirled to the music.

Nice butt, Turnball noted, and probably other good things hidden under that ethnic nun outfit. He took another shot of wine.

Things became jumbled. He remembered Mehdi helping him outside to pee in the bushes. Somebody brought bowls of roasted chicken and sticky rice. They ate with their hands. He peed again, and when he came back several women were squatting in front of Rachel offering her reed baskets and wooden bracelets and sandals. Mehdi had disappeared, but left behind the pot of wine. Great guy, Turnball said to himself, really great guy.

“Are you interested in these?” Rachel asked.

“Wha?”

A blow pipe with darts. A machete. An imitation shrunken head carved from a small wooden block. Turnball took the blow pipe and started spitting darts at the wall. They hit with satisfying plunks.

Then he woke up, surprised. The veranda was deserted. He started to get to his feet but a hand on his shoulder pushed him back down. Mehdi. “Here is a blanket. You should sleep here.”

“Where’s Rach?”

“Women guests sleep with one of the families.”

“Tha-That’s not fair.”

“It is our way.”

Turnball grunted and stood, saying, “Well, screw that.” He walked along the veranda yelling “Rach! Where are you?”

No response, which made him angrier. This was supposed to be their weekend together. Not a goddamn slumber party with a bunch of jungle sisters.

Mehdi lead him back to the straw mat. He suddenly had a headache. And was tired. Mehdi handed him a pillow.

He woke to the sound of music. The veranda was deserted. Out in the yard there was a group of teenagers around a small bonfire, smoking and talking softly, laughing among themselves. Turnball pulled himself up and walked out to join them.

He recognized the girl that had danced for them. A white t-shirt and tight jeans proved that she had been hiding things under that native dress.

The group broke up as he approached. But the teenage girl remained, waiting for him. He gave her his best smile. If you’re not near the one you love, love the one you’re near, he told himself. He pulled out some dollars, just in case that was the way things were done out here.

* * *

They woke Rachel with a fuss. “Missy, Missy, your man gone.” Early morning sunlight came through the windows slats. “Gone?” Rachel asked in confusion, still half asleep. “What do you mean, ‘gone?”

“Last night, he leave house to pee-pee. No come back.”

Rachel slowly sat up, her back sore from sleeping on the hard floor. “I don’t understand.”

Mehdi knelt in front of her, “It seems Richard got up in the middle of the night to pee outside the compound. In the jungle. He seems to be lost.”

“Jungle bad place,” said the woman who had been jabbering at her.

Rachel stood up. “W-What can I do?”

Mehdi smiled to reassure her. “Wait here. We are looking everywhere. You should not go into the jungle. We are asking the authorities for their help. Have breakfast with the women and stay here.”

She stayed. But nothing happened. Mehdi appeared around noon and told her that she should go back with the canoe. Ali would be at the landing waiting for her.

There was nothing she could do, and she would be better off back at the resort. Rachel protested but finally understood no one wanted her here, as if she was getting in the way.

She went back to the resort and waited. For a week. But she had to go back to her job. Ali came to say goodbye, accompanied by a policeman who apologized and said there was no new news but they would contact her when they had something to report. He took the details of Turnball’s employer in Singapore and family in the USA and her contact numbers in Singapore.

There was no further news. As if Richard was forgotten. He had walked into the jungle, probably still intoxicated, and disappeared from the face of the earth.

Then one day, Rachel’s secretary brought a small box into her office. “A messenger just left this for you.”

Rachel took the box. There was no writing on it, no mailing address, no return address. “Are you sure this is for me? Who brought it in? UPS? DHL? The Post Office?”

The secretary shrugged, “Just a boy wearing a motorcycle helmet. He said it was for you, then left.”

Rachel tore off the brown wrapping paper. She used a metal letter opener to pry open the wooden lid. Rachel recognized Richard’s face, even though it had a dark brown tinge. It was shrunken to the size of a small grapefruit, with stitching through the eyes and mouth, the perfect artifact of a forgotten craft.

Rachel fainted.

The Top Ten . . . Writing Gurus:

Jerome W. McFadden

I often get the impression that there are more people teaching writing than there are people actually writing. Blogs, books, conferences, seminars, workshops, camps and retreats, etc. There is obviously money to be made teaching others how to write, and I have spent more than a few bucks chasing after writing gurus, both false and true. The following are the ones I currently follow, for what that is worth. Note: I am listing them in alphabetical order (except for the last two), as it would be unfair to rank them as each brings different insights to the writing struggle.

Note 2: All of these folks have their own blog and website dedicated to writing.

1. James Scott Bell - Jim is a popular and frequent speaker at major writing conferences. His presentations are low key and entertaining, and he goes out of his way to be approachable when not speaking. He has published four books on writing - Plot & Structure, Revision & Self Editing, The Art of War for Writers, and Conflict & Suspense. He is among the crowd of lawyers who have turned from law to writing. He has a long string of best selling thrillers and mysteries, with a myriad of awards to back them up.

2. William Bernhardt - Again, another attorney turned writer (Maybe being a lawyer is boring?). He, too, is a popular conference and seminar speaker, and also goes out of his way to work and talk with attendees. Bill currently has a series of 7 books on the different aspects of writing, including Plot, Creating Character, Story Structure, Dialogue, Style, and Editing. His own fiction specialty is courtroom drama (big surprise?), and mysteries. His Red Sneaker Writer blog has a fanatical following.

3. Tim Grahl - Tim’s efforts focus on helping authors and writers create their platform, to sell more books, and to connect with their readers. He does this through his consulting company and his two books - Your First 1000 Copies, and Book Launch Blueprint. He issues frequent podcasts on book marketing, building the platform, and book launches.

4. Steven James - Steven has written more than 30 books, including several mystery series, inspirational nonfiction books, prayer collections, a YA series, and a book series on creative storytelling. His classic on fiction writing is Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules.

5. D.P. Lyle, M.D. D.P is a practicing cardiologist in California who somehow finds time to write novels, as well as teach the world more than it may want to know about forensics. He has seven thrillers/mysteries. His non-fiction forensic books include Forensics for Dummies, Forensics, A Guide for Writers, Forensic Science, Murder & Mayhem, and Forensics And Fiction. In his spare time he consults for TV and movies, such as Law & Order, CSI-Miami, House, Cold Case, Royal Pains, among others. Oh yeah, he also consults directly with writers. teaches at conferences, and runs a blog.

6. Gabriela Pereira - Garbriela is a recent addition to the conference scene, originally focusing on how to write Middle Grade novels, but now on the basic structures of writing. She is an energetic, engaging, teacher who goes out of her way to work with listeners between sessions. Her major tome, DIY MFA just launched in July, to great reviews. The book emphasizes the basics of writing, what writers should be reading, and building your own writing community. Attending her lecture and spending an hour with her afterwards kick-started my efforts on my own MG novel.

7. Steven Pressfield - Steven’s life story sounds like a novel about a young man struggling to become a writer. His day jobs included being a U.S. Marine, an ad man, a school teacher, a tractor-trailer driver, bartender, oilfield roustabout, mental hospital attendant, fruit-picker, and screen writer. He hit the big time in 1995 with his novel The Legend of Bagger Vance,which became a major film. He has since written 18 books, including novels and non-fiction. His manuals include The War of Art, Do the Work, The Warrior Ethos, Turning Pro. His newest book also just appeared in July, No One Wants to Read Your SH*T - a must read for any writer!

8. Phil Sexton - Phil is an insider’s insider in the publishing world. He has worked in the book world for more than 20 years. This includes managing several indie bookstores, major positions in the magazine business, and at publishing houses. He is currently the Publisher at Writer’s Digest. He is the author of A Picture Is Worth a 1,000 Words and Legends of Literature. His talks at conferences and seminars, as well as his blogs, focus directly on the mechanics of marketing your books and outlining the inside truths of the publishing world. If you have a chance to listen to him, or read his blogs - Do it!

9. My Critique Group - Often times I do not agree with what they say about my writing, until I get home and think about if for a day or two, then say to myself, “OMG, they’re right.” The group has a wide spectrum of personalities who write different genres, which gives interesting insights that might not happen if we were all devoted to the same category of writing. The trick is to listen, to really listen, to what your group is saying about your writing, and about the writing of others. If you are attending a group to just receive praise for your writing, you would be better off staying home to read your stories to your friends and family.

10. My Butt in the Chair - If you don’t have it in on paper (or computer screen), you haven’t written it yet. If you haven’t rewritten it, you have written it yet. If you haven’t rewritten the rewrite, you haven’t written it yet. You learn to write by writing, and then rewriting over and over. Nobody said it was going to be easy.