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You’re Invited

February 16, 2015
Photo Credit: Tomás Fano via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Tomás Fano via Compfight cc

We’ve moved, and we invite you to come along with us.

Blog posts now appear on the main Florida Writers Association website.

Visit us at and sign up for updates  and continue to enjoy all our great writing prompts and articles about writing and the writing life delivered to your email inbox.

Don’t miss out! C’mon along!


The Ultimate Way to Spend Valentine’s Day

February 8, 2015

By Shannon Bell

Bell, ShannonAs writers, we spend our free time in front of the computer, furiously typing away on our next big story. Or we stare into oblivion trying to get our characters to speak to us. Isn’t it about time we take a break from all of this? Florida Writers Association has the ultimate way for you to spend Valentine’s Day.

On Saturday, February 14, there is the second annual “Day at the Bay” conference. This is going to be just how you want to spend Cupid’s holiday because there is a track on romance writing. If that’s too mushy for you, there’s also a track on fighting, where there will be talk about gun fighting, hand-to-hand combat, and much more.

As every good infomercial goes, “But wait, there’s more!” There’s a promotion going on right now where there’s the chance to get Friday night’s room at the Hilton Tampa Westshore for half off. This allows you to have a romantic prequel to Valentine’s Day and arrive for the mini conference well rested.

Once the conference is over, you can then take your valentine to Hemingway’s within the hotel or visit one of the countless romantic restaurants around the International Plaza and Westshore area of Tampa.

Did you know that even Hemingway himself gave the gold seal of approval on the conference? This means that it’s absolutely worth exploring!

Here are the details:

February 14, 2015. Registration begins at 8:30 am and final raffle drawings are pulled at 4:30 pm.

Held at Hilton Tampa Westshore, 2225 North Lois Avenue, Tampa, FL 33607

Check out the faculty and register  today. The shopping cart (the most convenient way to register) closes Thursday evening, but registrations will still be taken at the door.

Once you’ve booked your mini conference, send a copy to to take advantage of the half off hotel deal, but hurry, there are only a few spots for this!

How do you write a book?

February 6, 2015

By CP Bialois

CP Author PhotoHello everyone!

As authors, we get asked all sorts of questions ranging from, “Where do you get your ideas?” to the ever popular, “What do you really do?” Those are questions I’m ready for as well as a boatload of others, but then a friend threw me a cure ball. He asked, “How do you write books?”

Sounds simple, right? I think it’s only fair to say I blanked for a minute. I’d like to think it was due to the question being something I’m not used to, but the truth is, I was caught in a paradox of sorts (Yes, I watch a lot of Doctor Who).

I had the urge to respond with a question of my own concerning if he wanted to know how to write or how to write length. I managed to stop myself before I went into a complex and possibly roundabout answer and said, “I have stories to tell. So I listen to my muse.”

Lo and behold, he meant how do I write for length. I was as honest as I could be. I told him, I don’t know, it just happened.”

Yep, that’s my highly intelligent answer. The funny thing is that after writing as many books as I have, I still have no set answer except to describe what works for me.

You see, I could always tell the same story as a Stephen King or John Grisham, but in thirty pages instead of hundreds and, obviously, without the same amount of depth and story. I’d write the basics and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how they and so many others could crank out something longer than an afternoon nap’s worth of story.

Even in school, I’d write a simple one line answer for a question instead of the long, drawn out response the teachers wanted. I never saw the need to embellish of let it grow and it resulted in me having a lot of my answers marked wrong.

I know it’s different for each of us, but I like to explain the first step isn’t being afraid of a big story. I know it’s hard, but allowing the weight of it to overwhelm us when starting out is crippling. At least, it was for me.

The first time I sat down to write my fantasy novel, I thought it was going to be a simple thirty page story of a group journeying into the den of a dragon to steal some gold. It was simple, direct, and clichéd out the whazzo. It was also never meant for anything but a fun story to share with my friends.

Then, just like that, the dam broke.

Suddenly, I didn’t have any barriers holding me back and the characters took over. It was great feeling as though I were a conduit for others to tell their stories, but even better, I took the first step to something bigger and more fun than I ever expected.

That was also the first time I experienced the fear of not being able to control the monster I was creating. It happened several times before when the stories would go off on a hundred different directions like a loose thread being pulled and unraveling a shirt or tapestry.

For me, it was a simple act of refusing to let this story get loose like the others. Whether through my will or my muse’s good graces (That’s a debate for another time. Lol), I managed to hold onto the threads and keep them in place to form the story.

I’ve heard of different ways to do it like using an outline and staying to the main idea of the story instead of having side stories, but each time I tried those I either wrote it shorter (Keeping with the outline line by line. I swear, I have OCD or some other affliction that makes me follow directions literally) or refusing to allow the side trips which also shortened the story and seemed to steal its soul and feel for me.

So, I practice what I preach and use what works best for me. So far so good ::knocks on wood::.

How do you answer that question? What type of tricks do you use to keep your stories under control?

Exercise Wednesday: Hello darkness my old friend

February 4, 2015

Imagine, if you will, darkness.

Not the typical darkness of nighttime in your bedroom, where the light still invades through the blinds, leaving a series of parallelograms across the floor and the bed. Not a darkness where the clock tells you it’s 3:02 and if you want to get more than a tiny bit of sleep, you’d better get to it.

I’m talking about a darkness that’s so complete it almost becomes a physical form. A darkness you feel like you’re swimming in, that presses down against you from every direction and makes you feel like you can’t breathe from the pressure, even though nothing’s touching you.

What’s it like to be in such darkness? You can’t see anything, though your eyes might try to convince you otherwise. You may have to feel your way across a floor–maybe a flat, even floor, or maybe a more precarious floor–one that could drop away at any instance.

What do you smell? What do you hear?

Do you extend your hands in front of you as you walk zombie-like, shuffling stiff-legged?

What do you feel? Is your heart beating faster? Are you sweating? Can you smell the stench of your own fear?

Or is the darkness a useful cover for you to get something done that shouldn’t be seen?

And what is that noise you hear?

Today’s exercise isn’t to make anything happen. It’s to just write of the experience. Make your reader feel the darkness as its own character.

Time limit: 20 minutes

Front Matter Matters

February 2, 2015
open book

Photo Credit: Jo Naylor via Compfight cc

In publishing lingo, a book usually contains three major sections: front matter (also called preliminary matter or “prelims” for short), the text, and back matter (or end matter).   There are long-standing conventions for content, sequence, and numbering within each section.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), now in its 16th edition, is the industry source of authority for matters of manuscript preparation and book anatomy.  CMOS provides a level of detail I won’t even try to match in a single blog post.

For example, go to CMOS to find out  what a half title page is and where in the front matter it should appear. What information should appear on the copyright page? Why are some pages numbered with lower case roman numerals and others numbered with arabic and some don’t show numbers at all? Be sure to refer to CMOS if you’re a self-publisher and didn’t realize you need to know the answers to such questions.

The foreword, preface, and introduction are three components of front matter, and contrary to what many writers appear to believe, these are not interchangeable terms. Each has a specific function within a book.


A foreword is a short piece written by someone other than the author of the book. It is usually provided by an expert in a field directly related to the book’s content—someone whose status will lend credibility to the book.

The author of the foreword addresses their connection to the book’s subject matter and author, explains the importance of the book’s content, and tells the reader why the author is the best person to write the book.


A preface is written by the author of the book and establishes credibility.

In 2 to 3 pages, your preface should explain who you are and indicate your experience with the subject matter. You might write about your research for the book or what you learned and how you changed during the process of writing it. Explain how the book came into being and why.


The introduction,  written by the book’s author, sets the stage for readers by describing the book’s content.

The introduction explains what to expect in upcoming chapters and how the book is organized and gives any other information that will help the reader understand the text. For example, it might explain that features (such as exercises) appear at the end of each chapter or include suggestions about how to read the book if there is a special structure.

The introduction is an opportunity to grab readers and pique their curiosity about what will be revealed when they continue reading.

Learn and employ the conventions of front matter, and you will impress publishers with your professionalism when you submit your manuscript and as you communicate with your editor during the publishing process.

It is even more important for self-publishers to understand standards for book design. While it’s great to do it yourself, you want to achieve a result that meets professional standards. As always, break the rules if you want to, but do it purposefully and consciously, not out of ignorance.

Mary Ann de StefanoMary Ann de Stefano is the editor of The Florida Writer (the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association) and MAD’s Monday Muse. She is also a writer, editor, and organizer of writing workshops with 30+ years experience in publishing and writing consulting. Besides working one-to-one with writers who are developing books, she designs author websites. Mary Ann does business at MAD about Words, named as a play on her initials and love for writing.

I’ve Never Been in a Fight, So What Do I Write?

January 30, 2015

By Shannon Bell

Bell, ShannonLet’s be realistic. How many of us have really ever gotten into a fight before? I mean a head, honest-to-goodness, to-the-death fight? Probably not many. This means that, as writers, we don’t have a lot of firsthand information to go on. Sure, we can watch movies to see hand-to-hand combat and how a Hollywood actor handles a gun. But that isn’t real life.

On February 14, FWA is hosting the second annual “A Day at the Bay” Mini Conference at the Hilton Tampa Westshore. One of two tracks will be dedicated to Writing about Fighting. Three experts will present workshops on hand-to-hand combat, the use of guns, as well as other weapons, and disseminating a crime scene.

“Everyone needs to know how to handle a gun,” says Jon Bell, one of the day’s presenters and a Master Sergeant with the United States Air Force. “I have read too many books that describe gun use all wrong and it takes me out of the story.”

You don’t want your writing to be inaccurate. Even if there’s only one fight scene or one scene where a gun is drawn, accuracy is critical.

This Valentine’s Day, attend the workshop that can change the way you write fight scenes. Your work can become more believable and this will hook readers faster.

Holding A Stopwatch

The workshop is $79 for FWA members and $99 for non-members. Registration begins at 8:30 am and the last raffle drawing is at 4:30 pm. Since its Valentine’s Day, there are also some incredible restaurants in the neighboring area where you can take your valentine to bring in some romance to tone down all of the fighting you have been learning about.

Sign up for the workshop today while space is still available! More details can be found at

P.S The other track of the day is Romance. Perfect, don’t you think?

The Lonely Road: Why Writers Need Encouragement

January 29, 2015

I couldn’t agree more with this post. It is so important to connect with like-minded writers to help each other when the words are struggling to come, when we fel frustrated about book sales, or just ned some promotional support. We also can help keep each other accountable. Reach out to a fellow writer today and see how you can help.

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