The Terror of The Terror








Have you ever experienced a story, be it a television show or series, a movie or novel that gets inside your head and just won’t let go even after you have finished the original story? Well The Terror did that for me. The Terror is a 2007 novel by Dan Simmons and a 2018 television series on AMC.

Warning: If you have not seen series or read the book, there are spoilers below.

Why did this story grab me? The Terror combines history with mystery/suspense with the supernatural and believe it or not with toxicology! It’s my perfect story!

In the early 19th century the search for the Northwest Passage, a sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific was the equivalent of the mid-20th century quest to put a man on the moon. The prevailing theory at the time was that the Arctic would be relatively ice-free during the summer months. A sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, through northern Canada, would quickly become a trade route from Europe to Asia. The leader of this exploratory quest – the premier sea power of the 19th century – the British Royal Navy.

On this particular expedition, two ships were outfitted, the HMS Terror, a retrofitted bomb vessel built in 1813. She participated in several battles in the War of 1812, including the Battle of Baltimore with the bombardment of Fort McHenry. “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there”
The “rockets” and “bombs” came from British naval bomb vessels that included HMS Terror. HMS Erebus was also a bomb vessel constructed by the Royal Navy in 1826. The vessel was named after the dark region in Hades of Greek mythology, called Erebus.

Several early 19th century attempts by the British navy to find and traverse the Northwest Passage had failed when in 1845; Captain John Franklin led a British Royal Navy expedition consisting of the HMS Erebus (his flag ship) and HMS Terror (captained by Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier), the expedition’s second-in-command.

The Franklin Expedition left England in 1845 with sufficient provisions to last for 3 years (5 with rationing). Both vessels had been retrofitted with extra timbers and iron plating to the fore and aft hull to withstand the pressures of the ice; along with a 40 horsepower steam engine.

The novel and AMC series have both added a very scary supernatural aspect to the story, but the story of HMS Terror and HMS Erebus is plenty scary enough.

Captains Franklin and Crozier both were experienced Arctic and Antarctica sea captains. Crozier appears to have been the more experienced and better of the two; unfortunately Franklin was the leader of the expedition.

The expedition left England on 19 May 1845 and was last seen entering Baffin Bay, located between Baffin Island and the southwest coast of Greenland. By September 1846, the two ships became trapped in ice off Canada’s King William Island and never moved again. Or did they?

The British Admiralty was not initially concerned, thinking the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus had enough food and supplies for three years. The Admiralty did eventually launch a rescue mission in 1848 and offer a 20,000 British Pounds reward for finding the Franklin Expedition. Rescue missions went on for 33 years.

But by 1848, when the first rescue expedition was launched, it was too late. Franklin died in June 1847 and 23 other men had died before 1848. Communications that the Captains left in Cairns describing their situation were later found. The rest of the crew under Captain Crozier stayed on the boats, alive for two full winters and eventually abandoned the boats in 1848 and attempted to walk toward an outpost. During these two winters at times the temperature dropped to -100 degrees F and the ice up to 15 feet thick! Try to imagine those conditions on two sailing ships of the early 19th century for three years!





They all died during the trek. Or did they?

Next blog, I will talk about what we know and about what could have happened and how toxicology comes into the story.

For Further Reading:

  1. The Terror by Dan Simmons – 2007
  2. Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie by John Geiger – 2017
  3. Captain Francis Crozier: Last Man Standing? by Michael Smith – 2006
  4. Sir John Franklin’s Erebus and Terror Expedition: Lost and Found by Gillian Hutchinson – 2017
Posted in Author Bill Powers, Bill Powers, Book, Suspense/Thriller Novel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What Is Strauss-Howe Generational Theory?

Strauss-Howe Generational Theory is another esoteric concept that I stumbled across while doing research for a storyline. It’s a little complicated, so stick with me.

The theory was created by authors William Strauss and Neil Howe and refers to what they describe as a recurring generational cycle in American history. In their 1997 book, The Fourth Turning, the authors expanded the theory to focus on a fourfold cycle of generational types and recurring mood eras in American history. The theory was developed to describe the history of the United States, the 13 colonies and their British antecedents, but has since been expanded to generational trends elsewhere in the world and identified similar cycles in other developed countries.

With that said – it is a theory. Take what you want from it.

Historical cycles, according to Strauss-Howe, consist of four turnings that repeat for each cycle. Each cycle has thematically similar turnings, which they typify as:

  • The High (which follows the crisis that ended the previous cycle). Strong institutions and social collectivism, and weak individualism typify this period.
  • The Awakening. This period is typified by increasing personal and spiritual autonomy of people. During this period social institutions may be attacked, impeding public progress.
  • The Unraveling. Weak institutions that are distrusted typify this period. During this period, individualism is strong and flourishing.
  • The Crisis. This is an era of societal destruction, e.g. through war, where institutional life is destroyed. However, as this period ends, institutions will be rebuilt. Society will rediscover the benefits of being part of a collective, and community purpose will take precedence again.

A single historical cycle of “four turnings” is believed to take roughly 80-90 years. Strauss-Howe define this period as a “Saeculum”, which is a Latin word translated into English as “century”, but which originally meant “the span of a long human life”.

If you look at the definition of “Saeculum”, it is defined as a length of time roughly equal to the potential lifetime of a person or the equivalent of the complete renewal of human population or the span of living human memory. Originally it meant the period of time from the moment that something happened (for example war) until the point in time that all people who had lived at the first moment had died. At that point a new saeculum would begin. A saeculum is not normally used for a fixed amount of time, in common usage it stands for about 90 years. It can be divided into four “seasons” of approximately 22 years each; these seasons represent youth, rising adulthood, midlife, and old age.



The following table shows the last Four Saeculum and the Turnings for the last two:

Generation (years) Type Birth Years Formative Era


Revolutionary Saeculum (90)  1701-1791
Civil War Saeculum (67)  1792-1859
Great Power Saeculum (85)  1860-1942


Missionary Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1860-1882 (22) High: Reconstruction/Gilded Age
Lost Generation Nomad (Reactive) 1883-1900 (17) Awakening: Missionary Awakening
GI Generation Hero (Civic) 1901-1924 (23) Unraveling: World War I Prohibition
Silent Generation Artist (Adaptive) 1925-1942 (17) Crisis: Great Depression/World War II
Millennial Saeculum (69+) Now
Baby Boom Generation Prophet (Idealist) 1943-1960 (17) High: Superpower America
Generation X Nomad (Reactive) 1961-1981 (20) Awakening: Consciousness Revolution
Millennial Generation Hero (Civic) 1982-2004 (22) Unraveling: Culture Wars, Postmodernism
Homeland Generation Artist (Adaptive) 2005-present Crisis: Great Recession, War on Terror


According to Strauss-Howe, America is now in a Crisis Cycle, where institutions will be destroyed and rebuilt. Sound familiar?

I find Strauss-Howe fascinating and will give you a list for further reading if you choose. But why was I interested?

What if certain aspects of a significant historical event of the mid 20th century occurred very differently than that historically portrayed? We are nearing the end of the Saeculum after which historical memory will began to die. That “what if”, is part of a storyline and began my fascination with Saeculum and Strauss-Howe Generational Theory.


  • Howe, Neil; Strauss, William (1997). The Fourth Turning: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. New York: Broadway Books.
  • Howe, Neil; Strauss, William (1991). Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069. New York: William Morrow & Company.
  • Howe, Neil; Strauss, William (2000). Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
Posted in Author Bill Powers, Bill Powers, Psychology | Leave a comment

What Is Ericksonian Hypnosis?

Under conditions of traditional hypnosis, the client is fully aware that they are being hypnotized. You have all see the movie or television scene where the powerful, authoritative hypnotist implants suggestions in his subject, along the lines of “you are getting sleepy, your eyelids are getting heavier and heavier. You will stop smoking…”.  Traditional hypnosis is authoritative, direct and forceful.

But there is another method of hypnosis; an indirect method that is named after Dr. Milton Erickson, a prominent 20th century American psychiatrist and psychologist who is widely regarded as the “father of hypnotherapy”. Ericksonian hypnotherapy uses more of what is called indirect suggestions. Indirect suggestions are much harder to resist because they are often not even recognized as suggestions by the conscious mind, since they can disguise themselves as stories, metaphors or symbols.

The Ericksonian Hypnosis model focuses on three aspects:

  1. 1.Rapport – Building an empathetic connection with the client. In addition to verbal communication, this may include “mirroring” the subject’s body language (not mimicking, which could be off-putting.
  2. 2.Overloading conscious attention – By distracting the conscious mind with vagueness and ambiguity, one is able to open the unconscious to change. Erickson developed very specific techniques that he called “the confusion technique*” and the “handshake induction**”.
  3. 3.Indirect Communication – Subjects can only meet a direct order in two ways; with acceptance or dismissal (the latter being more likely). Indirect suggestion, being more subtle and elusive, can be a more productive way to invoke change.


* Confusion Technique – A confused person has their conscious mind busy and occupied or distracted, and therefore more open to unconscious learning. A confused state is actually a trance in itself and confused people are more susceptible to going into a trance state. Confusion may be created by ambiguous words, complex or endless sentences, pattern interruptions, etc.

** Handshake Induction – One of Erickson’s most famous hypnosis techniques is the handshake induction. Erickson demonstrated that it was a subtle way to change the subject’s accepted behavior. When someone performs a handshake you may have never realized it’s a trance. It is the most widespread social norm in the world to shake hands at the beginning of a meeting; we don’t even think about it. By interrupting this subconscious process, Erickson was able to open the mind for suggestion. This is a classic example of “pattern interruption.”

Erickson’s handshake technique is well documented in his books and by those that have met him. He began with a strong, normal shake to begin the induction. Then he would interrupt the process by loosening the strength of the grip and brushing specific fingers against the subject’s hand. It’s quite complicated to learn, but a powerful induction.

Why did I learn about Ericksonian Hypnosis? In my last novel, “The Torch is Passed”, Deirdre Southington is a forensic psychologist who works for the National Security Agency. She uses Ericksonian hypnosis to get another character to admit to their involvement in a crime. Deirdre does this by having several conversations with the other character over several encounters and implanting indirect suggestions.

I stumbled across Ericksonian hypnosis while doing research for The Torch is Passed and found it fascinating. Look into it. Learn it if you dare…

Posted in Author Bill Powers, Bill Powers, Medical Mystery, Psychology | Leave a comment

Dark, Malevolent Personality Traits

Let’s hope that you don’t know any of these “dark” types, unless you are a mystery/thriller author, in which case you need to get to know them intimately. You will need them to create fascinating, interesting antagonist – bad guys (“guy” being gender neutral in this case). The type of bad guys that you love to hate! You can’t look away from what they are doing.

Dark or malevolent personality refers to those with less empathic or more negative personalities perhaps even sociopathic behaviors.

The Dark Triad is made up of three negative traits, i.e., narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy.

  • Narcissists have exaggerated self-esteem. Everyone has self-esteem, but narcissists have more than needed. They tend to be “grandiose self-promoters who crave attention.”
  • Machiavellian personalities are extremely manipulative, but usually are not psychopathic, but some can be narcissistic. These tend to be “master manipulators”. Bernie Madoff, the confessed operator of the largest Ponzi scheme in world history, and the largest financial fraud in U.S. history, is a text book example of a Machiavellian.
  • Psychopaths display harmful behaviors towards others because they have distinct brain differences. Several studies show that a psychopath’s brain may show damage to the frontal lobe, which regulates a person’s ethics. Psychopaths are the most malevolent of this group. They show little concern for who gets hurt as they seek thrills. Their impulsiveness makes them less adept at white collar crime like Madoff, and more inclined towards violence – think Charles Manson and Whitey Bulger.

But there are numerous classifications of malevolent personalities.

  • Sociopaths are products of their environment. Perhaps they have gone through some kind of trauma and their sociopathic behavior serves as a coping mechanism.
  • Sadists display an enjoyment of inflicting cruelty on others.
  • Cynics have a jaded view of the world and tend to put down attempts at progress.


Now how to you create a realistic, believable bad guy? I like to create a villain that the reader will still care about what happens to them. Even if the antagonist is odious, they are still human. You will need to allow their human side to show.

  • Do a backstory on your antagonist. Allow their past to explain what motivates them. Very few people are evil just for the sake of being evil. Do they have a family? In real life many do.
  • Find a sympathy factor. If you can make the reader feel this, they will be hooked on finding out what happens to the antagonist. Make the character multi-dimensional.
  • Justify the bad guy’s position. Show his thinking. No matter how bad he or she seems to you, the bad guy thinks they are in the right. Let that thinking come out. You want the reader to be slightly conflicted about the antagonist.
  • In a mystery/thriller, you will likely want your villain to be a realistic and believable, yet darkly motivated character vs some sort of “super-villain”.
  • Dark personalities are not favorable, yet in real life these people often attract partners. Why do people with malevolent personalities seem to attract partners so easily? Studies suggest that dark personality traits are attractive because they are unconventional. A rebellious man or an impulsive, mysterious woman may seem sexy.

Keep all these malevolent, dark traits in mind when creating your antagonists – make them dark, yet alluring. You’ll get your reader hooked.

Posted in Author Bill Powers, Bill Powers, Literary Links, Medical Mystery, Psychology | Leave a comment

Character Building: Psychopath vs Sociopath

In recent decades, storytellers through movies, novels and television have put two seemingly sexy and fascinating pop psychology terms into our popular vocabulary – psychopath and sociopath. Both of these are non-clinical or pop psychology terms for antisocial personality disorders. They are not well defined and can be confusing, however there are some similarities as well as differences between these two personality types.

Both of these antisocial types, the psychopath and sociopath, make for first-rate antagonists and villains in our stories. After all, we are talking about people with no feelings of guilt, regret, shame or remorse. They can do anything and feel nothing. They can be very dark and malevolent. They can go places and do things that most of us only dare dream of.

Both psychopathy and sociopathy are antisocial personality disorders and both are the result of an interaction between genetic predisposition and environmental factors. Psychopath tends to be used when the underlying cause is more hereditary. Sociopath is the term used when the antisocial behavior is a result of a brain injury or belief system or upbringing, i.e., environmental. Thus researchers generally believe that psychopaths tend to be born, while sociopaths tend to be created by their environment.

Both sociopaths and psychopaths demonstrate a pervasive pattern of disregard for the safety and rights of others. Deceit and manipulation are common features to both personality types and neither is necessarily violent, although both can be.

Psychopaths, in general have a hard time forming real emotional attachments with others. Instead, they may form artificial, shallow relationships that lend themselves to manipulation that will benefit the psychopath. People may be viewed as pawns to be used to reach their goals and they rarely feel guilt or remorse for their behaviors, even if others are hurt. Examples of psychopaths in pop culture – Dexter and Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Sociopaths may tend to be more impulsive and erratic in their behavior than their calculating psychopath counterparts. The sociopath tends to be less organized and less able to form attachments to others. If they do engage in criminal behavior, they do so in an impulsive and unplanned manner with little regard for the risks or consequences of their actions. Examples of sociopaths in pop culture – the Joker in The Dark Knight and Alex Delarge in A Clockwork Orange.

Who is More Dangerous?

While both psychopaths and sociopaths can present risks to society, I would say, the psychopath is the more dangerous of the two because they are more manipulative and able appear normal, while experiencing little guilt for their actions. In other words, they can hide in plain sight. A psychopath also has a greater ability to dissociate from their actions, i.e., they have little emotional involvement to any pain or destruction they may cause to others. Many famous serial killers have been psychopaths.

But we should keep in mind that not all people that we consider to be a psychopath or sociopath are violent.

Here is a cheat sheet if you are building a character:






  • Tend to be male
  • Tend to be male
  • ~1% of general population
  • ~3% of general population
  • Lack empathy
  • Lack empathy
  • Can demonstrate disregard to social rules and behavior standards; fail to feel remorse or guilt; can be violent
  • Can demonstrate disregard to social rules and behavior standards; fail to feel remorse or guilt; can be violent
  • Origin of illness is innate condition. Studies on twins reared apart indicate condition is 60% heritable. They are simply “that way”
  • Origin of illness is likely due to environment and upbringing.
  • Likely to be educated and have a good career
  • Likely to be uneducated and unable to keep a steady job
  • Controlled behavior
  • Erratic behavior – rage and anger
  • Highly manipulative
  • Impulsive, spontaneous
  • Unable to form personal attachments
  • May form attachment to a particular individual or group
  • Takes calculated risks. Minimizes evidence
  • Crimes are typically spontaneous, hence tendency to leave clues and evidence.



Psychopath and sociopath are different cultural labels applied to the diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. If you are building a character, it can be helpful to have an understanding of these two conditions.



    1. Differences Between a Psychopath vs Sociopath; John M Grohol, Psy.D.
    2. Psychopath vs Sociopath: What’s the Difference?; Natasha Tracy
    3. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition
  1. Stop Calling Sherlock A Sociopath! Thanks, a Psychologist; Maria Konnikova
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Synesthesia – A Superpower or a Curse

  • Synesthesia – The production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body
  • Synesthete – Individuals who exhibit Synesthesia capabilities
  • Mirror-Touch Synesthesia – A condition that causes individuals to experience the same sensation (such as touch) that another person feels.
  • Empathic Ability – exaggerated ability to understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions
  • Debilitating effect – Constant bombardment of other people’s feelings


Synesthesia is thought to be an extreme neurological condition that could be present in most of us in whom stimulation of one sense (such as sight, smell) can lead to an experience in a second sense.

Example – Growing up one of my jobs was to mow our lawn at home – it was ~ 5 acres and to mow the lawn at my Dad’s school, it was ~ 20 acres and I’m allergic to grass. I hate mowing the lawn, but I love the smell of fresh cut grass. A few months ago, I was reading something and it triggered an olfactory response. For a couple of seconds, I felt like I was standing in the middle of a field of fresh cut grass. I didn’t remember the smell of fresh cut grass; I actually smelled fresh cut grass even though I was sitting inside my house. That was a synesthetic response – my sense of sight (seeing a series of words) triggered my sense of smell (the smell of fresh cut grass).

Synesthesia was first described medically in the early 19th century, but in the early 20th century fell out of favor because it couldn’t be accurately studied. But in the late 20th century it began to be seriously studied again by psychologist.

It’s possible that most people have some capabilities related to Synesthesia, but because it’s considered weird or odd, it may be suppressed. Some think that up to 4% of the population have true synesthetic capabilities.

There are several different types of Synesthesia:

  1. Color Synesthesia – This is the most common form of Synesthesia, where letters or numbers are perceived as a color. For example when a person with Color Synesthesia hears or sees the number 5 or the letter A, they may perceive it as the color Red and so on.
  2. Chromesthesia – This is the association of sounds with colors. For some, everyday sounds such as a door opening, car horn or people talking can trigger seeing colors. For some, musical notes may trigger seeing colors. Many musicians are thought to have a form of Synesthesia.
  3. Number Synesthesia – where numbers appear in 3-dimensional space. Here, the number 1980 may appear further away than 1990.
  4. LexicalGustatory Synesthesia – This is one of the more rare forms of Synesthesia in which spoken or written words can cause individuals to experience a taste or smell.
  5. MirrorTouch Synesthesia – Another rare form of Synesthesia where individuals feel the same sensation that another person feels (such as touch). So if a synesthete saw someone being touched on their shoulder, the synesthete would also feel a tap on their shoulder. It’s considered a state of heightened Empathic ability.


It’s not clear how it occurs, but one theory is that regions of the brain that are dedicated to specialized functions may increase cross talk between regions. In some, Synesthesia can be debilitating, because it presents as a constant bombardment of sensations.

Mirror-Touch Synesthesia:

I found this type of Synesthesia to be most fascinating and came across a recent article about a doctor named Joel Salinas, a neurologist at Harvard, who has Mirror-Touch Synesthesia.

  • When he thumps a patients’ left knee with a reflex hammer, he feels it as a tap on his left leg – not a thought of what it would feel like, but an actual physical sensation.
  • If he sees someone slapped across the cheek, he feels a hint of the slap against his own cheek.
  • Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, or what is often called the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes. Well, Mirror-Touch Synesthesia is considered a heightened empathic ability.
  • Mirror-Touch Synesthesia is thought to occur in 1 – 2% of the general population and can be debilitating.
  • There is a constant intrusion – a bombardment of other people’s experiences. There are reports of people with Mirror-Touch who have seen a person being punched and passed out or just watching television becomes a sensory over-load. Some become shut-ins.
  • It can be a painful existence.
  • When Dr. Salinas performs a spinal tap on a patient, he can feel the needle going into his own lower back.
  • Salinas also has color-synesthesia – he sees letters and numbers in colors. And he associates those colors with personality traits and feelings. For example a person may “feel like a 5, which he sees as Red and associates with a strong personality” or a people he sees as 4s and 7s he sees as blue and soothing.
  • While other forms of Synesthesia have been studied for many years, Mirror-Touch Synesthesia has only been studied for about 10-15 years.
  • It’s also been observed that people with Mirror-Touch Synesthesia are better at recognizing facial emotions in other people – they are better at reading other people. They seem to be actual Empaths. They can actually share another person’s experiences and emotions.
  • And if that’s not enough, Dr. Salinas finds that his form of Synesthesia extends to inanimate objects – when he looks at a light pole, he might feel his body stretching and elongating.
  • Dr. Salinas has learned how to manage and control his Mirror-Touch Synesthesia; otherwise, it would overwhelm him.
  • No one really knows why some people have Synesthesia. In Dr. Salinas’ case, he did have a benign brain tumor removed when he was 22 and he and others wonder if this may have caused his brain to develop differently from others. But he is clear on one thing – he feels very strongly that his Mirror-Touch Synesthesia, because it makes him more empathetic, makes him a better doctor.


So that is a little peek into the world of Synesthesia. It sounds like science fiction, but is real. It fascinates me as both a scientist and a writer and I have decided to create a minor character in my next book who has Mirror-Touch Synesthesia.

Posted in Author Bill Powers, Bill Powers, Medical Mystery, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Introvert’s Guide to Writers’ Conferences

A significant percentage of us who write for a living are introverts. Unfortunately, extroverts, who think they rule the universe, consider being an introvert the equivalent of having a third arm growing out of your forehead. It’s not. Introversion simply means, “preferring lower-stimulation environments”, but unfortunately is often interpreted as being antisocial. Again, it’s not.

Introversion is confused with shyness. Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.

Many of our societal institutions, e.g., schools, businesses and yes, writers’ conferences, are designed mostly for extroverts and their need for constant stimulation.

So, what to do if you’re a writer and want to attend a conference – how can you get the most out of it?

  1. Yes, You Should Attend.

It may mean temporarily moving out of your comfort zone, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s only temporary and the benefits can be well worth it. As an introvert, you may have to manage it differently. You may have to plan a bit more than most. Each day, plan to do at least one thing that requires stretching yourself, such as requesting an appointment with an agent or editor.

  1. Stop Apologizing.

Before you event arrive at the conference, just in general – stop apologizing. There is nothing wrong with you. If someone else doesn’t “get you” because you’re an introvert – that’s their problem. Set goals for yourself. They will help you push yourself when you start to get tired

  1. Take Advantage of Social Media & Volunteer

Most conferences use hashtags on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) before the sessions start to get folks talking – take advantage of that.

Also, most conferences are looking for volunteers to help. This is a great way of forcing yourself to interact with others and immerse in the conference.

  1. Carve Out ‘Me-Time’

You introverts out there know what I mean. We have to have our ‘me-time’! I attended a week long professional training meeting once, where we broke up into teams of 5 people. Out teams were together each day from 8:00 am to midnight. After dinner each day, our team would continue to work on our project. Wednesday evening was a ‘free’ period and we could do as we pleased. Some folks went out as groups. I locked up in my hotel room, ordered room service and luxuriated in my ‘me-time’.

Whether it’s quiet time in your hotel room, a half-hour in the hotel gym or a walk outside, make self-care a priority in your schedule. Manage yours at the writers’ conference; you’ll enjoy it better.

  1. Ask Questions.

In conference sessions, it’s a good way to get confortable. If you’re talking to someone and the conversation seems to hit a lull, ask a question. It can be any question.

People love to talk about themselves – their jobs, their writing projects, their kids, have they been to this or other conferences – you get the picture. Then you can sit back and listen.

Here’s a little trick: Rather than try to talk over the loudmouths (which probably won’t work), hold your hand or finger in the air as you speak, so you aren’t interrupted, and speak softly. This forces everyone to lean into you to hear, which lends authority to what you have to say.


So, all you writer-introverts out there thinking of attending a writers’ conference – do it! You can enjoy it, learn a lot and may even make new friends – and still be an introvert.

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Indie Author’s Writers’ Conferences and Resources

There are hundreds of writers’ conferences each year, each with a different point of view. But what if you’re an Independent Author? It may be harder to find a conference with a specific Indie Author POV. I find that even though Indie Authors are rapidly growing in numbers, most writers’ conferences still focus primarily on the traditional “agent-publisher” business model of writing.

In late 2017, I came across a writers’ conference that had a specific focus targeted towards Indie Authors. The conference was sponsored by Bookbaby, which is full-service publishing company that provides a wide range of services to Indie Authors that include editing, cover design, ebook and print book formatting, promotion and more. {Full disclosure: I use Bookbaby to publish and sell my books, but this article is not to be considered an endorsement.}

In November 2017 Bookbaby kicked off the first of what they hope to be an annual Indie Authors’ conference in Philadelphia. A team of successful self-published authors and industry leaders conducted over 20 workshops, presentations, and panels focused on publishing and marketing books as an independent author. There were over 400 attendees.

We heard talks on how to research your target audience. There were talks on the use of new technology for authors, for example manuscript-editing software such as Autocrit or Grammerly. There were several talks on the business-side of Indie Authorship, which most traditional conferences skip over. Some speakers focused on how to maximize tools such as Goodreads and Amazon Kindle or how to identify target readers and use of social media.

My key take-aways from the Bookbaby Independent Authors Conference:

  • As an Indie Author – it’s all on you. The writing, the editing, the research, the formatting, the publishing, the marketing, the selling – everything!
  • You can’t do it all yourself. Focus on what you do well (hopefully at least the writing) and find ways to get help with other parts of the job. You can barter for services, find low cost services, hire contractors, etc.
  • At a conference that focuses on Indie Authors, you will be able to network with other authors and also venders who can provide assistance in developing your product – your book!
  • The most important take away for me – to be successful as an Indie Author, you have to make your book look like, feel like and read like it came out of a traditional publishing outfit. In other words, it has to look professional.
  • You’re the boss! There is no gatekeeper. You have the key to the Gate!
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How To Get The Most Out Of Writers Conferences


Are you considering attending a writer’s conference? Overwhelmed with how to choose? If you are a novice, take your time to do some research about what you want to achieve. Conferences or workshops can be a great way to help you throughout your writing career, whether you are a beginner or have several books under your belt; there is something out there for you. Because there is always something you can learn.

  1. 1.Set a budget and stick to it. You should budget for all your author-related activities. Your writing is your business – treat it like one. Never spend money you do not have.
  2. 2.Identify your goals. What do you want to achieve by attending a writers conference? Talk to other authors. Read about what different conferences offer. Do you want to focus on the craft of writing, pitching to agents or editors or the business side of writing? Do you want to actually write and get feedback? In that case, a writing retreat may be what you need.
  3. 3.Local vs national or international: If your travel funds are limited, always look local. Chances are some organization will sponsor a conference in or near your state. Consider just attending part of a conference. Many conferences breakup into modules. Think about only attending a portion most relevant for you.
  4. 4.Resources: Writer’s Digest (magazine & website ); Publishers Weekly  writers groups, other authors and of course, Google.
  5. 5.Genre Specific vs General: Do you write thrillers, romance, mystery, science fiction? There are genre-specific conferences available. I write thrillers and find ThrillerFest sponsored by the International  Thriller Writers to be an incredible conference. Some of the top thriller writers in the world teach sessions and are very approachable and helpful to new authors.

To help you get started, here is a good listing of 30 Writers’ Conferences that you can take a look at  I have attended two, ThrillerFest and Writer’s Digest Conference – both I can highly recommend, however they are very different in focus.

There are a wide variety of writers’ conferences out there. Do your research and choose wisely. There are hundreds of writing conferences each year. Use Google to research your interest and look for testimonials from writers who have attended. Conferences are a great opportunity for you to learn, get critiques, meet professionals and make writer-friends. It can be a way to take your writing to the next level. Good Luck!

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The Winter Palace- St. Petersburg

The Viking Ingvar arrives at its final port early the morning of October 19th and we awaken in St. Petersburg. It’s not quite as cold as it was in Moscow, maybe 45° F, but there is something we have seen very little of in Russia – sunshine! It’s a lovely day, and it’s going to be a long one as well.

We had opted for a “Behind Closed Doors” tour of the Hermitage museum, which is housed in the Tsar’s former Winter Palace. It was a long day – the tour lasting 8 hours. Our guide informed us that if one were to spend one minute in front of each item in the Hermitage, it would take 11 years to complete your visit! But if you ever find yourself in St. Petersburg, go for it!


One of the many gilded staircases inside the main building of the Hermitage.






My daughter and me standing in front of the main building, keep in mind that this was once a palace – a home for the Tsar’s family!





After touring the main building that is open to all the public, we walk across the courtyard to the annex/archive and are shown into numerous vaults to see items that are not on regular display; such as dozens of royal carriages that were used during coronations, gifts that were given to Catherine The Great that she had put into storage, clothing, weapons and more.


We were exhausted by the end of the day, but there was more. That evening we had arranged to attend the ballet in St. Petersburg, a performance of Swan Lake at a small private theatre inside the Hermitage (formerly a private theatre for the Tsar’s family). Note the double-headed eagle on the Russian great seal on the curtain – so it could protect Russia from it’s enemies coming from both the east and west.



Two nights later, we went to see another ballet – La Sylphide at the Mariinsky Theatre.

A great experience, but there’s more – the last couple of days were even better!

Posted in Author Bill Powers, Bill Powers, History, Russia, St. Petersburg, Uncategorized | Leave a comment