Killer Nashville Conference: Murder for Hire

I have written several times on this blog how much I love attending writing conferences. I was disappointed that I could not get to Killer Nashville this year. It’s one of those conferences that I have been hoping to go to for some time. For one, I went to school in Nashville, and would love to visit my Alma Mater. But I have also heard wonderful things about Killer Nashville over the years. I was delighted when C. Hope Clark agreed to do a guest blog about Killer Nashville here on Not Even Joking. Here it is:

Nobody loves the topic of murder better than cops, agents, psychologists, morticians, and authors, and at the Killer Nashville Conference, you find them all. On panels, in classes, and through demonstrations, you find people talking the pros and cons of how to tell crime stories in the most intriguing ways. There in Nashville, authors listen to war stories of agents, lawyers, and authors who’ve gone before them, and learn how to paint crime in its most commercially appealing and mentally incapacitating light.

This was my third Killer Nashville, and it will not be my last. Where else can a mystery author find such crazy people talking about decaying flesh, bullet caliber, poison flavors, mental ailments, and how to hide bodies? But that’s what CEO Clay Stafford wanted when he created Killer Nashville ten years ago: a place for crime fiction authors to feel at home.

Each year, he compiles the greatest list of celebrity crime writers, law enforcement and experts to help authors be the best they can be. This year, the tenth, was an exceptionally great effort. The guests of honor were:

  • John Gilstrap (NYT Bestselling Author of Against All Enemies, End Game, High Treason and more as well as Hollywood screenplay writer adapting the works of Nelson DeMille and Thomas Harris);
  • M. William Phelps (NYT Bestselling Author of 30 books and producer for television’s Investigation Discovery series Dark Minds and expert consultant for Deadly Women and Snapped); and
  • Robert K. Tanenbaum (NYT Bestselling Author of thirty nonfiction and fiction crime books, Assistant District Attorney in New York County where he ran the Homicide Bureau, and Deputy Chief Counsel for the Congressional committee investigating the JF Kennedy and Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. murders)

Jaw-dropping wisdom from these guys! Authors clamored like children after an ice cream truck to hear these men speak on how they paved their careers, how real serial killers work, how the criminal system does and doesn’t work, how to research murder and fit it into a work in progress. Heady stuff.

C. Hope Clark (middle) with fellow panelists. Photo courtesy of C. Hope Clark.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Not only did I present on a panel about how to make short fiction and nonfiction work for income and platform in between the publication of books, but I served on a panel about inserting twists in fiction, and moderated a mortician’s class where time flew by as the Q&A took over as the gentleman explained skin slippage, embalming, decay, bullet holes, and butting heads with medical examiners.


Photo courtesy of C. Hope Clark.

My husband, a retired federal criminal investigator, taught about non-traditional law enforcement and the cases and agencies writers don’t hear about as well as arrests he’s made and how the federal system really works. He served on a panel with other law enforcement, always a perk of this conference where Clay Stafford, wants authors to learn from the real deal.

The conference always offers unusual interim entertainment like live music, Samurai sword training, evening drink soirees, and private classes with the big names. There’s a crime scene to investigate, with the winner receiving free admission to next year’s conference. This year, the tenth anniversary of the conference, Clay Stafford introduced the BookCon for the general public, where anyone can walk in off the street and meet authors and have books signed. But the highlight that wove throughout the entire four days, was the release of Killer Nashville Noir: Cold-Blooded, a 16-story mystery anthology from Killer Nashville alumni. He carefully requested stories from the likes of Steven James, Jeffrey Deaver, Anne Perry, Donald Bain, Robert Dugoni, and Heywood Gould – big names in the industry. Then he added stories from conference alumni who are journeymen in the midst of creating their own names, like: Catriona McPherson, Eyre Price, Jaden Terrell, Maggie Toussaint, and myself. A remarkable collection that had the entire conference abuzz with everyone running around trying to find as many signatures for their copy as they could.

C. Hope Clark accepting her award. Photo courtesy of C. Hope Clark.

But as always, the conference culminated in a huge banquet with a live band, the guests of honor at the front, and the announcements of the Dupin, Claymore and Silver Falchion Awards. Remarkable competition for awards that are fast becoming known in the industry. And like a few other authors there, the highlight of Killer Nashville was walking up when my name was called to accept my award. The third in my Carolina Slade Mysteries, Palmetto Poison, won a category in the Silver Falchion Awards.

There are conferences of classes and famous speakers, then there are experiences like Killer Nashville. You network more easily at this event, and your knowledge explodes with so many resources at your disposal. These aren’t typical how-to-write or how-to-promote classes. These are how-to-be-real classes. A highly recommended event for the mystery, suspense or thriller author. And if you go, without a doubt, I’ll see you there.

Killer Nashville has hands on classes! Photo courtesy of C. Hope Clark.


C. Hope Clark is author of the award-winning Caroline Slade Mysteries and The Edisto Island Mysteries. Her newest release is EDISTO JINK, the second in the Edisto series. Hope speaks nationally at conferences, workshops, libraries and book clubs, and is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Southeastern Writers, and MENSA. In her spare time, she manages, a resource for serious writers chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 15 years. She lives on the banks of Lake Murray, with her husband, chickens and dachshunds, creating her stories when she isn’t strolling Edisto Beach scheming a plot. /

EDISTO JINX by C. Hope Clark

Is it a flesh and blood killer—or restless spirits?

According to the island psychic, beautiful Edisto Beach becomes a hotbed of troublemaking spirits every August. But when a visitor dies mysteriously during a beachhouse party, former big-city detective Callie Morgan and Edisto Beach police chief Mike Seabrook hunt for motives and suspects among the living. With tourists filling the beaches and local business owners anxious to squelch rumors of a murderer on the loose, Callie will need all the help she can get—especially once the killer’s attention turns toward her.

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