The Magazine of the Bethlehem Writers Group
Issue No. 52, Spring, 2018

Watch for the announcement of the winners of the 
in our next issue.

The 2019 competition, on the theme "Animal Stories" will open on January 1, 2019
See the SHORT STORY AWARD tab above for more information.

Editor's Note
Bernadette De Courcey,

Welcome to our Spring issue. Our ezine is entering its eighth year of publishing short stories, poems, interviews, and the ever so popular “Betty’s Tips.” We receive many submissions from the public and welcome every author to submit their work to us for consideration for publication. Sharing your work can be a rewarding and inspiring experience. Which leads me to the topic of online platforms that exist solely for blossoming authors. 

These sites allow authors to upload their writing for others to read and critique. Website’s like is a forum that authors can join for free. The deal is that you can upload a short story or part of your novel, there is a word limit, to the site, and then other members will read your work and give you feedback on it. Once you are signed in you must also read and critique other people’s submissions. Your work is then rated and can, if popular, move to the number one spot on the platform. Some authors have actually received a book deal and have been successfully published after using this platform. There are other sites similar to this like Booksie, Wattpad, and Prose, which is for poetry and prose.

These types of platforms are especially helpful if you are not a member of a writing group and need to get a feel for what your strengths and weaknesses are. They can also help you see how you compare with other authors. If nothing else it can be a fun social experience sharing tips with other writers who are on a similar journey. Millions of authors are currently enrolled and actively using these sites. Check them out and see if they appeal to you.

The other topic I want to mention is that of “writer in residence.” Many colleges and libraries have a position that is funded to pay a salary to a writer who applies and is accepted for a contract as a “writer in residence.” Their duties then are to lecture students and the public on aspects of creative writing, while also having time (and money) to work on their own writing. Some colleges like Penn State have advertised resident lecture positions for one semester in English poetry and literature for authors who have not yet been published. How wonderful to get paid for doing exactly what you love to do.

All you have to do is a Google search to find out about other opportunities in your area. It is also fun to go to local talks given by a writer in residence. We at the Roundtable look forward to a new and exciting year for all of our followers and members, and we hope that you enjoy reading this issue.

In this issue we have an inventive story from Christopher D. Ochs about different perceptions--and the consequences of seeing things differently. From Diane Sismour, we have a featured poem. Clay Stafford, founder of the Killer Nashville International Writers Conference joins us for an interview, and four authors have offered their divergent views of a "Topsy-Turvy" world.  As always, we have Betty Wryte-Goode's tips from around the Web. We hope you enjoy these offerings. 

Our Featured Author

Christopher D. Ochs' 
foray into writing began with his self-published epic fantasy "Pindlebryth of Lenland: The Five Artifacts," recommended by US Review of Books. Several of his short stories have been published in the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group and Bethlehem Writers Group anthologies and websites. His latest work is a collection of mirthful macabre short stories, "If I Can't Sleep, You Can't Sleep."

If all that weren't enough to keep him busy, C.D.Ochs is active in several groups spanning writing and storytelling, and anime fandom ("Voice of OTAKON").

He has too many interests outside of writing for his own damn good. With previous careers in physics, mathematics, electrical engineering and software, and his incessant dabblings as a CGI animator, classical organist, voice talent on radio and DVD and anime conventions, it's a wonder he can remember to pay the dog and feed his bills. Wait, what? You can learn more about him or contact him through:; or

Off-Color Language

Christopher D. Ochs

Try as she might, Sarah could not ignore the earth-toned rays that beamed out of the balding psychiatrist's mouth whenever he spoke.

"You've made wonderful progress," said Dr. Baker. "So much so, I thought we would try something different for today's session." He donned his tweed jacket, folding his spectacles into its breast pocket. Opening the office door, he led Sarah into the reception area.

"Doctor, this is Jane, my friend from work," Sarah said, indicating the woman with an auburn ponytail who was chatting up the receptionist. Sarah envied how everyone was oblivious to the orange clouds that spilled out between Jane's lips with every syllable.

"Pleased," the doctor said through a placid cinnamon smile while shaking Jane's hand. "Will you be waiting to take Sarah home once we're finished?"

"Oh no, I just dropped her off. I rode up with her in case she got elevator sick." Orange bubbles accompanied Jane's nervous chuckles. She glanced at her wristwatch and grimaced. "Oops, I really should be going – I'm late for work. Thomas was detained, so I jumped in to help. He'll take Sarah home when you're finished."

Sarah tilted her head with a raised eyebrow when the air around Jane pulsed a brief vibrant red.

"Thomas . . .?" Dr. Baker mused absently. Tea-colored overtones tumbled out of his mouth like felt balloons.

"Y'know-w-w – Thomas," Jane giggled, her voice again transforming to a deep carmine. "Sarah's fiancé?"

"Of course. Silly of me." Dr. Baker touched his fingers to his forehead in the form of a half-hearted apology.

Sarah blinked in confusion. That shade of red seemed familiar; she should know what it meant.

Jane gave Sarah a cursory hug and dashed away. Sarah watched her friend – and her string of orange "bye-byes" – as she slipped through the closing elevator doors.

"Oh, dear, we should have ridden down with her," fussed Dr. Baker, his beige tones vibrating a shade darker. "That contraption will take forever to return. Would you mind taking the stairs to the courtyard?"

"Not at all, doctor," Sarah said with a relieved grin. "That ochre and mauve elevator music sets my stomach on edge."

She padded down the stairs as quietly as she could manage, but the doctor's footfalls resonated against the painted mason brick walls in flashes of putrid mustard. Perhaps the Muzak wouldn't have been that bad, after all.

Outside, the spring air was delicious. Sarah closed her eyes and drank in the riot of floral scents mixed with the balm of freshly turned earth. Opening her eyes, she scanned the full acre courtyard nestled within the office complex.

Though some people might consider the ring of three-story walls imposing, Sarah found the Art Deco-inspired architecture somewhat amusing. The only part of the buildings that gave her discomfort was the metallic jangling that rang out wherever sunlight struck glass and steel along the west wall.

It reminded her of the sound her engagement ring often made. She held up her hand and considered the glittering diamond. It tinkled like a wind chime of silver, though behind its usual delicate jingling there murmured a new discordant undertone.

The pair remained silent until they reached the main concourse encircling the inner courtyard. The immaculate cobblestone path was bordered with displays of flowers and shrubs.

"Can you tell me what you see and hear, Sarah?"

"The tulips are laughing," she said with a shrug of her shoulders.

"A good start. Can you be more specific? What sounds are associated with specific colors, and vice versa? Say whatever comes to mind."

"Only the pink ones laugh." A whisper of a frown infringed on Sarah's smile. "The yellow ones hum a wandering tune, but nothing I recognize. The purple orchids emit a melancholy lament, and the zinnias are positively weeping." She flashed a timid smile at the doctor. "But your voice is the same soft shades of brown it's always been."

"Well, that's reassuring," he said between chuckles.

Rounding the corner, they startled a pair of blue jays battling over territorial rights around a bird feeder. Sarah giggled before explaining, "They're screaming bursts of lavender at each other. Their blue crests blare out like a small fire alarm and a tiny Model-T horn."

"Very good," he said, taking his own deep breath of refreshing spring air. "Any experiences that might be troubling you?"

"Not particularly, though the sunlight on the windows is irritating. It echoes like breaking glass goblets." Sarah glanced again at her ring. In the shade of the eastern wall, it remained dark and silent.

She came to a stop, considering a small blackberry bush in a hurry to blossom. "Now that you mention it, I noticed something unusual with Jane. Normally, her voice is orange. Depending on her mood it's anywhere from a pasty shade like yams, to a neon so vivid I can scarcely stand to look at her. But there were moments today when she went red."

Dr. Baker paused, dangling the lenses of his glasses in front of his eyes, while he examined a caterpillar munching on a teaberry leaf. "Any idea why?"

"It happened every time she mentioned my fiancé, Thomas. But whenever you said his name, I saw no difference, no flash of red." She regarded the doctor with an expectant stare.

Dr. Baker shrugged his shoulders and complied with the unspoken request. "Thomas, Thomas," he uttered, as though he were testing a microphone. "How was that?"

"Same as always. Smooth as latte."

"Hmm, that is curious. What do you think that means?"

"I have no idea."

Dr. Baker tucked his glasses back into his pocket and invited Sarah to proceed along the walkway. "Shall we return to my office? I don't know about you, but there's still too much of a nip in the air for my creaky joints."

Sarah felt Dr. Baker's eyes on her as they rode up in the elevator. A moment of concern flashed across his face when she pressed her palm against her stomach.

"I don't know what's worse, doctor – hearing a sappy thousand-violin version of music that was 'cool' when I was a teenager, or being surrounded by its nauseating shade of chartreuse."

Back in the safety of Dr. Baker's armchair, Sarah's queasiness abated.

"At the risk of repeating myself, Sarah, you've made remarkable progress. Think back to how you were in the hospital, when you emerged from your coma."

Sarah's cheeks flushed, and her ears itched with warmth. She often reacted that way when people spoke about her, even in clinical situations.

"It was new and terrifying. I thought I had gone insane." A fevered shiver raced through her body. "Waking up in that sterile hospital room, every shade of white screaming bloody murder at me. The beeps of the monitors exploding like fireworks. The nurses' and doctors' gentle reassurances threatened to drown me in oceans of cobalt blue." She trembled again with the memory of that horrific day.

Dr. Baker reached over and squeezed her hand. "You were comatose long after your doctors cured the underlying cause. They feared irreparable brain damage. But your fiancé was by your bedside for those three months – along with your friend, I believe. They spoke to you, read to you. I even overheard Thomas sing to you once or twice. They never gave up hope. And it was Thomas who alerted us to your first signs of recovery."

Sarah ducked her head as her cheeks and ears burned. "Yes, he takes good care of me," she said, letting out a weary sigh. She debated with herself whether to add "but sometimes he's so distant, like he's afraid to talk." Her engagement ring tugged once more at her eyes. The glitters that used to chime so loudly were muted, overshadowed by a pained moan somewhere in the heart of the stone.

"I just wish someone had an explanation why I woke up with this synesthesia."

"The brain is a strange and wondrous organ, Sarah. Given your present state, we can surmise that your brain not only healed itself, but additionally rewired the damage. And you woke up with . . ." A deep walnut tinted harrumph escaped his lips while he chose his words. ". . . these new abilities. These gifts, if you will."

"Gifts?" Sarah shook her head. "When was any gift this difficult?"

"I'm not diminishing your struggle, by any means." He released Sarah's hand. "In fact, quite the opposite. But it is my hope that you can grow to draw inspiration and strength from it."

Sarah gaped at Dr. Baker, her forehead creased with incredulity.

"There have been famous cases of synesthesia documented over the years." Dr. Baker settled deep in his chair and steepled his fingers. "Franz Liszt saw his music in terms of color; Duke Ellington experienced musical instruments' sounds as textures; like you, Nabokov had multiple senses commingled – he interpreted words as colors, and observed numbers floating about people's heads."

"That's all very interesting, doctor, but I don't–"

"The point I'm trying to make, Sarah, is that those notable people didn't permit themselves to be victimized by their condition. On the contrary, they used it to enhance their talents. I think, with practice, you can use this new ability to your advantage as well."

Sarah chewed on her lower lip.

"Or consider it this way," Dr. Baker offered with a rub of his chin. "Think of your synesthesia as a means to observe things you never could before – perhaps to understand people better. Imagine how helpful that might be."

The intercom on Dr. Baker's desk chimed with a happy violet tone.

"Goodness, that was fast. But I think we had a productive session, nonetheless. Will you give my suggestion some thought, Sarah?" The doctor leaned forward with a reassuring smile, and the inviting warmth of his dark mulch words undulated about him. "Look for new inspirations – fresh applications for your newfound talents."

"I'll be happy enough when I can get my driver's license reinstated."

Dr. Baker chuckled with embarrassed sympathy. "One step at a time, Sarah. We'll pick up where we left off at your next session."

Thomas was waiting for Sarah in the reception area. His black hair buzzed like a beehive in the ambient light. "Hello, dear," he greeted her with a vibrant green, and pecked her on the cheek. "How did it go today?"

"All right, I guess," she said with a noncommittal shrug. "Though I am feeling a little tired."

"Jane told me you might be a little out of sorts," remarked Thomas, flashing a troubling shade of carmine.

Sarah froze mid-step. "What . . . what did you say?"

He pushed the elevator button, and the door opened without hesitation. Sickly mauve vapors poured out of the overhead speakers and through the sliding doors. "Oh, good. It's still here."

Thomas guided her inside, and pressed the button for the ground floor. As the doors closed, Sarah repeated her question.

"Jane told me you felt a little queasy," he said, not meeting her eyes. The entire elevator car pulsed beet red at the mention of her friend's name.

Sarah glanced at her engagement ring. The sparkles stabbed her eyes like screaming daggers in the fluorescent light. Its moan had increased to a menacing growl.

Unbidden echoes of Dr. Baker's chocolate voice whispered to her. "Understand people better." Her heart sank with a sick quiver.

Thomas thumped the butt of his palm against his forehead. "Oh, that's right – I'm sorry, Sarah. I forgot Muzak has that effect on you now." But Sarah hardly noticed, her mind preoccupied with the hidden messages that were before her all this time.

They were halfway to the car when Sarah halted in the middle of the parking lot.

"Thomas," she said, waiting for him to turn back to her. "I've put you through so much – both of you. You and Jane have been an enormous help during my recovery. But I need to know something." She tried to relax her shoulders. They wouldn't budge, as if they were preparing for an onslaught. Scarcely louder than a whisper, she asked, "Tell me that you still love me?"

Thomas embraced her, closing out the chill air of early spring. "Oh, Sarah, you know I do," he breathed.

Green – still his sturdy, stalwart green.

She edged herself away and asked again. Her eyes focused on his mouth. "No," she said flatly, "I need you to say it."

"I love you, Sarah." A whisper of guilt slipped past the confusion in his eyes and the crimp in his smile. There wasn't a single hint of carmine in his viridian words.

"I see." Sarah fought the plaintive sob that threatened to accompany her words. The arguing pair of blue jays fluttered past, still in their whirlwind of lavender car horns and fire alarms. Thomas stood still for what seemed an eternity of silence.

"How long . . ." Sarah stumbled. "When did you fall in love with Jane?"

Thomas spluttered in disbelief. "What? Don't be silly, Sarah. I–"

"Thomas, I know." She waved her fingers in front of her eyes. "I know."

She started to sob, but a strange relief transformed it mid-breath into a chuckle. "It's almost like lipstick on your collar, when you say her name. And when she says your name."

"Oh, God," he said in a pale green resembling over-boiled peas. Thomas' smile left him, and his head sank between shoulders bent heavy-laden. "You're right. But we didn't . . . we didn't mean to. We grew close while we sat with you in the hospital. After two months, we feared you wouldn't come back." He rubbed his forehead as he stared at the asphalt. "Before we knew it . . . Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do was hurt you, Sarah. But . . ."

Puffs of yellow struggling to turn red poked through his green aura. It was his turn to shake his head after a chasm of silence. Eventually he looked up, meeting her eyes. "So what do we do now? Will you be all right?"

"Don't feel sorry for me, Thomas. Strangely enough, I don't." Sarah stared into the azure sky, listening to cumulus clouds sing in cheery harmony. "If anything, I worry for you and Jane."

She curled Thomas' hand around the engagement ring, the dying embers of its sparkles whimpering into nothingness. "You and Jane believe you love each other now, and that's wonderful. But things may change, just as they did between us . . . only it will come without warning."

Stepping back, Sarah fixed him with a sad stare of certainty. "But one day, if I'm lucky enough to find my special someone, he'll say 'I love you.'

"And I'll know it's true, because I'll see it."

The Top Ten . . .   Music Synthesizers

Christopher D. Ochs

As a writer I express my creativity through the computer keyboard. My first love was creating
music through the 32, 61, and 88 keys of various music keyboards. Though I cut my musical
teeth on the piano, I enjoy tickling most any flavor of the ivories -- harpsichord, electric piano, clavinet, etc., but most notably classical and theater organ.
However, there shall always be a special place in my ear, hands and heart for the synthesizer.
These are my favorite electronic instruments in which I have dabbled.

1. Theremin - Though not a keyboard, it was my first exposure to the world of electronic music
(through movies). Eclectic in its reach, it pervades popular art forms as diverse as Bernard
Herrman's score in "The Day The Earth Stood Still" and countless other sci-fi and horror flicks, to
the Beach Boys "Good Vibrations"; simple in construction, its two antennae that control
volume and pitch are fiendishly difficult to master. My favorite recording is "Claire De Lune" performed by Clara Rockmore.

2. ARP Odyssey - My first hands-on synth! Oh, how I loved this gadget. It was my gateway drug
to more enticing and complex doomsday machines!

3. Mellotron – This seminal instrument, first made popular by King Crimson, has a special place in Rube Goldberg Heaven. Sounds were created by playing loops of recording tape at varying speeds, though modern versions now use digital memory to store audio samples.

4. Moog System 55 - Sounds from this magnificent beast are crafted by plugging cords from any module output to (almost) any input. Lots of them. The more complex the texture, the hairier the rats nest of wires. I would spend three hours capturing a single sound in Moravian
College's synth lab. And love every minute of it!
I first heard this synth in Wendy Carlos' album "Switched On Bach." Her renditions of
"Sinfonia from Cantata No. 29" and "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3" are astounding, especially when you consider that synths of that day only produced one note at a time!

5. MiniMoog - The utilitarian baby brother in the Moog family of instruments. Rather than ask, "Which rock groups used this?" the more appropriate question should be, "Who didn't?"

6. Prophet 600 - An early polyphonic (up to 6 notes simultaneously) synth. A real workhorse and incredibly versatile, despite having no patchcords. A worthy competitor to pit against the MiniMoog.

7. Prophet 2000 - In addition to its basic function as a sampler synthesizer, it was one of the first machines to include pressure sensitive keys, which increase volume with force (just like a
piano), and aftertouch (where the sound changes by how you hold the key).

8. RMI Harmonic Synthesizer - Allen Organ's toe-in-the-water into the synthesizer world. It was unique in that the user crafted the actual waveform, shaped by a linear array of slidepots.

9. Voce V3 - A synth with a single purpose in life -- emulate the bluesy Hammond B3 organ,
including their gah-roo-vy Leslie rotating speakers. It is so accurate, it is spooky.

10. Yamaha TX81Z - One of Yamaha's FM Synthesis family. A tough one on which to manipulate the sound canvas, it fortunately has a wide encyclopedia of presets that satisfies most any need. I particularly like the growly and gritty "Box Cello" setting.

Now, if anyone has access to a Synclavier II or an ARP 2600 with which I may putter around,
drop me a line!

is now closed.

Watch for the annoucement of our winners in our next issue.

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