FWA Conference: The Gathering of the Tribe

The gathering of the Florida Writers Association in Altamonte Springs this year meant long days, catching up with friends, and receiving an award for my third book. This year’s theme was Writers at Work.

Funny that most of us took off work to attend. I wasn’t teaching this year, so I got to wander and relax.


Kudos to Carol J. Post for all the workshops and interviews she conducted. How busy was she? Her shadow had trouble keeping up.

Carol J. Post leading a workshop.

The workshops ran the gamut of all stages of writing and marketing. People huddled in animated clusters in the lobby, the bar, and the ballrooms to talk about writing. The youth segment of the conference was the largest in FWA history. Panel discussions presented trending industry news and experiences.

The special guest speakers were Delilah S. Dawson (Florida Writer of the Year), Sherrilyn Kenyon (National Guest of Honor), and Jonathan Maberry (National Guest of Honor). Each spoke with candor and enthusiasm about the writer’s journey from avid reader to prolific writer.


A few highlights for me were meeting amazing people like award-winning author Micki Browning. Thank you, Micki, for not entering the contest this year in my category. Thank you also for signing a copy of Beached. She taught a workshop on conducting underwater investigations. With two decades of law enforcement experience, diver and Retired Division Commander, Micki knows the coolest stuff!

finalist badge

Nina Love, Donna Kelly, Carol J. Post and I enjoy the Royal Palm Literary Awards dinner.

So after long, fun days and nights of workshops and networking, we gathered in the ballroom for dinner and the Royal Palm Literary Awards Ceremony. Dinner was delicious.

Dessert by the chef at the Hilton Orlando/Altamonte Springs.

The dessert was a masterpiece! I ate the chocolate typewriter and white chocolate paper. The chef at the Hilton Orlando/Altamonte Springs always surprises us with something special.

Dr. Paul Linzey teaches at Southeastern University and he won Gold at the Royal Palm Literary Awards.

A special shout out to Dr. Paul Linzey who won Gold in the category of unpublished autobiography or memoir for Safest Place in Iraq.

Cheers to Aimee Hill who won Gold for River of Gray and Chet Meisner who won silver for D.I.T.T.O. in the category of unpublished thriller or suspense. I took home the bronze for West of Famous.

West of Famous in the Compass Crimes

And now, back to work. The East book is not going to write itself. So here I go on a writing marathon with thousands of other writers to participate in writing 50,000 words in November. This challenge is known as the National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo is calling!

FWA Conference 2016

The Florida Writers Association Conference dominated the Altamonte Springs Hilton from October 20 to 23. As a first-timer, new FWA member, I enjoyed the event with equal parts wonder and nervousness. Wonder, because the workshops and panel discussions featured top-notch experts. Nervousness, because one of my books was a finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards. The theme of the conference–Carpe Diem, conquer the world one book at a time!


  • Attorney Anne Dalton tackled the topics of Fair Use and Copyright. Her presentation of these complex issues clarified the perils and pitfalls in terms non-lawyers can understand.
  • Erik Deckers shared marketing branding secrets that work. How many authors have mastered marketing? Not me. So I greatly appreciated advice from someone who has co-authored four books on social media marketing. Deckers also presented a fabulous workshop on humor writing.
  • Keith Ogorek of Author Solutions detailed the need for great stories in Hollywood and how to promote a book to producers and directors. He explained how movie deals work.
  • Keynote Speaker John Gilstrap delivered a funny and encouraging speech on the roller-coaster life of becoming a bestselling author.
  • A panel of authors, led by Chris Hamilton, conducted two hilarious and helpful Gong Show Pitchfest sessions. Brave writers took turns pitching their story concepts to the panel of experts. After the panel gonged the pitch twice, the writer was supposed to stop. The panel members then took turns to give constructive critiques of the pitch.

The forward-thinking FWA provided a spiral-bound detailed conference schedule, a small spiral-bound notebook, and–best of all–a spiral-bound copy of the workshop handouts. Seriously, I am grateful for the handouts because I don’t take shorthand and having the handouts makes it easier to pay attention to the presentation instead of trying to scribble faster. How many of us have come back from a conference with incomplete or illegible notes? Well, done, FWA. Well done.


North of the Killing Hand wins second place in 2016 RPLAOn Saturday night, the conference attendees, staff, and families of the finalists gathered in the Crystal ballroom for a steak dinner and for the presentation of awards in twenty-six genre categories. A separate youth awards ceremony  with fifteen genre categories had been held at lunch. The young writers ranged from 9 to 17 years old.

My friend Author Carol J. Post won second place in the published novella category. Her work has also finaled in the prestigious Golden Heart and RITAs. (I was especially thrilled that her work was in a different category from mine. She has published soooo many books more than I have…) The very last category winners announced were Women’s Fiction. My book North of the Killing Hand won second place in unpublished Women’s Fiction. It was published in ebook and paperback October 16. For a complete list of winners see the Royal Palm Literary Award Winner List.


During the conference, authors had their works for sale in the Capital ballrooms. Volunteers manned the store and handled sales and bookkeeping. Authors held scheduled book signings in the bookstore. A portion of all proceeds was donated to the nonprofit Florida Writers Foundation which partners with literacy programs for adults and children. In addition, two 50/50 raffles and a silent auction also raised money for the foundation. Last year the raffle and silent auction raised $1,500.


Edible chocolate framed logo and chocolate cake!

The Hilton Orlando/Altamonte Springs hosted and sponsored the conference. They fed us far beyond the expected with buffets and snacks to keep us going through the event-packed days and nights. The service was amazing. On the night of the awards banquet, the chef prepared a special desert. Each luscious piece of chocolate cake came with an edible chocolate frame surrounding the FWA logo crafted onto white chocolate. At first I thought it was too pretty to eat, then I decided to preserve it by taking a photo. Then I ate it.

Other sponsors included: OnLineBinding.com, Black Oyster Publishing, EDIT911, ROY’L GRAFIX, and Author Solutions.


As an incentive to fill out evaluation forms on the workshops, FWA gave out a door prize ticket for each workshop evaluation turned in. They gave out four tickets to those who obtained a signature from the sponsors. The door prizes ranged from an FWA water bottle to paid conference tuition for 2017. Themed baskets of goodies, books, discounts on professional services, and a giant chocolate bar door prize entertained and delighted the attendees.


Donna Kelly, Carol Post, me, and Veronica Berry pose for a photo.

Of course, a great joy of writer’s conferences is meeting old friends and new. Writing tends to be such an isolated task. When we crawl out of our writing caves into daylight, we tend to celebrate life and friendship and encourage one another. We talk and talk, eat, and drink. Swap stories. Stay up too late. Rise early and repeat.


While many writers conferences offer agent pitch sessions, FWA offers one-on-one interviews with experts in marketing, humor, genealogical research, editing, audio books, collaboration, children’s fiction, forensics, and many other topics. I’ve been to other conferences in which agent pitch session last five minutes. Think speed dating with timers and volunteers to herd you in and out. FWA conducts the one-on-one sessions to be useful and less stressful for all.

My FWA conference experience convinced me to participate again in 2017.



North of the Killing Hand is a Finalist!

North of the Killing Hand is a 2016 finalist!

North of the Killing Hand is a 2016 finalist!

North of the Killing Hand is a finalist in the Royal Palm Literary Awards! The second book in the Compass Crimes Series will be released in eBook and trade paperback in October. If you want to read the first chapter, click here: North of the Killing Hand. My deepest thanks to the readers and reviewers who have helped make South of Justice a success.

Many characters in South of Justice also appear in North of the Killing Hand. This second book focuses on how Nefi Jenkins first meets Ruis, Vincent, and Blake. Both stories center on deadly crimes and how these crimes affect the people involved, both the victims and the perpetrators. Both stories feature strong female protagonists.

Goodreads Giveaway

For readers who are on Goodreads, there will be a giveaway of signed trade paperback copies North of the Killing Hand coming up. Goodreads readers are known for giving reviews and as a new author, I appreciate word-of-mouth recommendations of my books. If you would like to be notified ahead of time, sign up to Subscribe to Book News on the home page of my website. I will also be asking for your help in choosing the best cover art to suit the story, because readers understand the power of a great cover.

Thank you for your support! I’m going to go dance for joy around the house before handsome gets home. Good day, and God bless you.