Thursday, April 16, 2020

Diane Byington - Strong Women, Hard Times, Happy Endings

Dunedin writer Diane Byington wrote her first novel when she was ten years old. It was an assignment for her English class, and the event that started her on the road to writing. That path eventually culminated in two award-winning novels exploring women rising to challenges that result in personal epiphany and emotional growth.
Byington moved to Florida with her family when she was 15. “I love the state,” she says. “I love being by the beach, and I love the people here and how they’re mostly laid-back and often a little quirky.” After graduating from Brandon High School, she attended the University of Florida and Florida State University where she earned a Masters degree and a Ph.D.  Her career included jobs as a college professor, psychotherapist, executive coach, and social worker. It wasn’t until after she retired that she made the decision to pursue writing full time. “It’s a bucket-list thing for me,” she says, “and I’m grateful every day that I have the time to devote to it.”

Byington’s first book was released in 2018. Who She Is, set in a fictional Florida town in 1968, tells the story of Faye Smith, a girl with epilepsy who decides she wants to run in the Boston Marathon. Despite the physical challenges and the fact that women runners weren’t eligible, Faye decides to do it anyway. When she begins to have disturbing flashbacks about an earlier life, her parents try to dismiss them as epilepsy-related, but Faye becomes determined to discover the secret that her parents are trying to hide. Who She Is was awarded a Royal Palm Literary Award from the Florida Writers Association and a Florida Fiction award from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Byington’s most recent release, If She Had Stayed, is an intriguing blend of women’s fiction, thriller and sci-fi, with a bit of history thrown in for good measure This time-travel tale centers around the discovery of an old diary written by Nikola Tesla that contains the plans for a time machine. Kaley Kline, the protagonist, decides to secretly build the machine in the hope that she will be able to travel back in time and undo a decision she has regretted. What she sees as the possibility of a second chance soon has her running for her life. 

The most challenging part of writing the book was figuring out how time travel would work. “The rules for time travel can be anything, but they must be consistent, and the mechanism for traveling must be at least a little bit believable,” Byington explains. “That was tough, especially since my character meets herself when she goes back in time, and the older self and younger self are both in the same mind. Getting that right nearly drove me crazy!”

Byington got the idea for If She Had Stayed after contemplating some of her past decisions. “I was thinking about some things I regret about my earlier life and wished I could go back and change them,” she recalls. “I wondered what my current life would be like if I had that opportunity. Ergo, Kaley Kline was born!” While Byington’s personal life was the inspiration for the character, she denies that Kaley is based on her or anyone she knows. “She has far more courage than I would ever have,” Byington admits. But what Byington likes best about the book is how the character evolves. “I like the lessons Kaley learns during the course of the book and how different she is at the end than she was at the beginning,” she says. “It’s very satisfying to see that she has learned and grown through the book.”

Byington is currently at work on a third novel, tentatively titled Grounded. The story centers around an astronaut who is grounded due to injuries sustained in a terrible accident. Unwilling to accept that she will never go into space, she makes some questionable decisions that put her life in danger. Byington hopes her books will help people deal with regrets. “I’d like readers to take away an acceptance that the things they regret have made them the people they are today,” she says,  “so they can move forward instead of always looking backwards.”

For more information, visit the author's website at

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A Friend in Need

Hello everyone,

I hope this finds all of you safe and well. I am writing to let you know that a true friend of writers needs your help.

Many of you know PatZi Gil, the host of the wonderful radio program, "Joy on Paper." Several of you have been guests on her program, as have I, and know what a tireless cheerleader PatZi has been for writers and book lovers everywhere. This year, "Joy on Paper" celebrated its 5th anniversary. The program was growing and becoming the go-to program for new book releases. Plans were in place to launch a marketing campaign for a national market.  All was well.

And then came COVID-19.

Now, Patzi finds herself struggling to keep local sponsors and meet the radio station's fixed fees. She doesn't qualify for any government assistance, and if "Joy on Paper" is pulled, it will be almost impossible to get it back on the air. That would be a great loss.

In order to prevent this from happening, a PayPal Pool has been established to raise money to help keep the program afloat until this crisis is over and we can all resume our normal lives. I'm asking everyone, especially those of you who have been guests on "Joy on Paper," to contribute. Any amount will be greatly appreciated.

Please help PatZi continue to stay on the air and bring listeners inspiring interviews and recommendations for books that will bring joy to their lives.  She has always been there to support writers (and readers), and now we have a chance to pay it forward.

Here's the link to the PayPal Pool :

Thanks, and stay well.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Writing Your Views - A Guest Post by Sandy Mason

Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Sandy Mason. Mason has combined his love of sailing Florida's scenic west coast with the thrill and excitement of an intriguing mystery in his Johnny Donohue Adventures series. Mason was our featured writer on December 1, 2019.

Writing is a great way to get things off of your mind. If you hold a certain view about something – be it a political, religious or social issue, you can deal with it through writing. Just create a character who espouses your view. Take control of the issue and watch your character run with the ball. You can create harmony, chaos or indifference through the voice of your characters.

After a while, these characters become almost real to you. When you start talking to them, you’ll know you’re involved. When they start to talk back to you then you’ll know you’re in too deep. Character development is like making new friends or in some cases new enemies. Writing lets you experience the best and the worst of humanity. When done well, it will transport you to a different time and place and put you in situations that you never expected.

To that end, I have created the character of Johnny Donohue. Johnny describes himself as a drop-out from big technology companies. He grew up in Westhampton Beach, Long Island, the child of two wonderful parents. It was here, the place of his childhood, that he grew up and found his love of the water and developed his skills as a boater. It was the perfect environment for his formative years. 

Donohue had his first job digging clams in Eastern Long Island. While lots of kids in the neighborhood worked in restaurants for a minimal wage, Johnny could make ten times that with a twenty-foot work boat. He paid his way through college by digging clams. As the years went by, that experience stayed with him and helped his character to become independent and strong.

Time has a way of changing us, whether we like it or not. A few years after college, his brother got him a job as a software salesman in New York City. So, he moved out of Long Island and headed for the concrete of New York City. After a few mediocre years and painful marriage, he left that behind him, moved to a marina on the West Central Florida, and never looked back … well maybe once or twice. 

Life at the marina was filled with interesting characters. Interesting characters require interesting stories. After a short time, Johnny Donohue became more and more involved in crime-fighting. Johnny, along with his best-friend and ex-cop, Lonnie Turner, solves some baffling crimes including murder. The quiet time on his trawler is interrupted by crime-solving escapades that keep Donohue moving all across Florida, Cuba and the Caribbean Islands. Home base was in a full-service marina on the beautiful Manatee River in Bradenton – a small city in the vicinity of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

I have always been interested in American history and have woven events surrounding the wars of this nation throughout my stories. In Man Overboard, Johnny finds a Korean War Citation - long lost and hidden away in his parent’s attic. It was meant for his father.

Shoreline found the authorities looking into the death of a minor league ballplayer. Things were not going well for the local police. So, they sought help from Johnny and Lonnie. Following a series of dead leads and a lack of evidence, the murder seemed destined for the round file. Johnny manages to do some digging on his own and as a result, uncovers links to the murder that led back to the Vietnam War.

Silver Voyage chronicles the search for a hidden treasure that was buried somewhere by British mathematician Alan Turing. Turing saved the world several more years of wartime agony by cracking the Enigma Machine code used by the Nazis submarine commanders. Turing was a genius but eccentric enough to hide away his fortune from the Nazis only to lose it to himself in the havoc of World War II. Or is it still around?

As a student in high school, I vividly recall the Cuban Missile Crisis. When I was young, Jack Kennedy was president. On inaugural day I watched him bring those words – “Ask not what your country can do for you …” It was an exciting time. Then, there was Jackie – the First Lady. When I was a child, Mamie Eisenhower was the First Lady. Need I say more? 
My interest in that period led to my novel Cuban Exile. It showed how Cuba was ruled by a dictator hostile to the United States, and the absence of first amendment rights.
Johnny Donohue’s love life had its ups and downs throughout the entire series but lately, his beautiful Bahamian girlfriend, Carmen, who loves to sail with him, has made up her mind to stay. At least that’s the way it is today. Carmen loves her life on the water and works with Johnny to uncover thieves who were embezzling money from environmental projects funded by the government.

The Florida lifestyle is in danger of becoming extinct if nothing is done to stop the advances of red tide. In Killer Tide, Carmen and Johnny do some tap dancing around the Constitution to gain the evidence needed to put the bad guys away.

I think about Johnny often and wonder where he will take me next.

For more information, visit Mason's Amazon Author Page at