Friday, August 31, 2018

Con Report on Killer Nashville

I’ve been to some great conferences for mystery/crime writers and fans: notably our local, beloved Crime Bake (which I’ve compared to Brigadoon), and the always wonderful Bouchercon. Add Killer Nashville to the list of cons that should not be missed. This recent one was so well run, with quality programming, top-notch Guests of Honor, terrific facilities, and the nicest people anywhere. The generosity and support evidenced by attendees was such a great experience. There were lots of fellow members of the Mystery Writers of America and the Sisters in Crime.

Hadn’t planned on going (funds being nonexistent), but they awarded me a free registration scholarship given in the name of Jimmy Loftin by his loving and generous family.

Tough call for me when finances are a strain, but what’s more debt, after all? So I hit the road (or airplane) to Nashville, and discovered another magical kingdom. Heck, I even befriended a unicorn! It was none other than Guest of Honor J.A. (Joe) Konrath, who never goes to these events anymore, so sighting him was as rare as encountering a unicorn. 

It is said that one is always disappointed to meet one’s heroes, but it was not true in this case. I always wanted to thank Joe in person, because he blogged about becoming a successful Indie writer back when it was thought of as writing career suicide. His hugely influential blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, detailed his struggle, his path, and showed how other writers could, for the first time, have control over their career. He posted data, including numbers of sales and income figures, which wasn’t done back then. He was totally transparent, and took a lot of heat for his honesty. But some of us listened, and made informed choices.

A few years ago, he also offered an opportunity to guest post on that popular blog by donating to Tess Gerritsen’s charity. Talk about win-win! So I did a share with writer Vlad Vaslyn, and we were proud posters of Giving Our Way to Success. Prophetic, huh?

Not only was Joe gracious and friendly to everybody (including this starry-eyed fan), he was open and overwhelmingly generous- for example, he gave away 500 print books (among other things) at the con. His interview and panels were great. He invited fellow self-pub successes Christopher and Katherine Greyson onto his talk on self-pub marketing, and they rocked it. 

Considering the duo have turned Chris’s books into a multi-million-dollar business, Joe figured they knew what they were talking about. And they did! They deserve their success, too, for they’re warm and wonderful people. Be sure to check out the award-winning book Chris was flogging, The Girl Who Lived.

The few days were a whirlwind of meeting new people, sharing information, tips, ideas, and books. It started the first day, when I had lunch at the hotel restaurant/pub. Saw my first pair of cowboy boots, and heard “y’all.” Wasn’t in Boston anymore! That was my encounter with the irrepressible Linda Sands:
and friend Karin Patrice Husty, a mixed-media artist. We got to chatting, and Elizabeth Kuehne joined in, and thus was formed the nucleus of our con crew. We were later joined by 
more crazy characters, and boy, what a nice bunch of people! 
L to R: Mike Pettit, Cheryl Castela, Daniel Dark, Elizabeth Kuehne

L to R: Mike Faricy. Elizabeth, Gorman Reilly

(changeup!) R to L: Carmen Amato and Cathy Perkins

We even had Canadian visitors, like so-nice author A.J. McCarthy and hubby-- and even a fellow Maineiac from my old neck of the woods, Guy Cote.

Friday morning (after talking until 3 the night before) was my panel on Action/Adventure, and moderator Mike Pettit, my new adopted dad, had a plan. When we started, panelist Kathryn Lane gave a blood-curdling scream, 

and Charles Kowalski and I fought our way up the aisle, while arguing about Tom Cruise as the too-short Jack Reacher. We then calmly took our seats, and I asked the nervous audience if their blood was pumping yet. They responded with vigorous assent, and I said “THAT’S Action/Adventure!” And we launched into a great discussion.
L to R:  Mike Pettit (moderator), Phil Ribera, Stacy Allen, Kathryn Lane, Charles Kowalski, Margaret Mizushima

Learned so much in just a short time. And added some value along the way, passing along good tips I’ve picked up. Saturday night came all too quickly, and with it the awards banquet. I’d been asked for a short speech of thanks, and what writing means to me. I spoke of my appreciation for Clay Stafford, the organizer, the working staff (thanks, Liz!), and the family of Jimmy Loftin. I thanked an old writing teacher- Stephen King, you may have heard of him. And I thanked Joe Konrath for his inspiration and information, for all the good he has done for Indie writers. Doncha know he rushed the stage to give me a bear hug and whisper words of encouragement. I got a little stunned and teary, but finished strong, and left while walking on a cloud of air.

Did rather well for a guy who only knew two attendees when he got there. One is Cheryl Hollon, on the right here doing her panel with Susan Crawford and Christopher Greyson again.

I’ve got a raft of new stories, which I can share over beverages. Warned them that I’d go home and tell my Yankee buds how great the conference was, so they’d soon have a northern invasion. Highly recommended for any writer who wants to up their game and make new connections while learning a great deal. They gave great encouragement, too, using the motto of Galaxy Quest good for any writer: Never give up. Never surrender!

I’m linking to many writers here, and you’re definitely going to want to check out their work. Lots of legacy/traditionally-published authors, along with a fair number of self-pub millionaires. Yeah, you read that right. Apparently there’s money to be made in this biz if you do it right. 

The conference is not just for writers, but also for those who provide services. Here's Adam Woods of PublishDrive, a company that helps writers distribute their work. He got a public, glowing recommendation from Joe Konrath, pretty much the gold standard for a service.

 And here's talented (and super-nice) literary agent Claire Harris, with Daniel Dark lurking, as always.

 Cathy Perkins, who won a Claymore Award at the event for her work.

Caught in the Act (L to R): Unidentified, Carmen Amato, Mike Faricy

The legendary Otto Penzler, of the Mysterious Bookshop

Phil Ribera, Cathy, and Mike

Charles and Cheryl

Da crew! In the back R, with white hair and beard, is Charley Pearson, who let me fondle his Sliver Falchion Award medal from last year.

Joe hangs with da crew!

My two favorite, very inspirational guys from the con: one gave me free beer, bourbon, and advice, and one bought dinner. Both told great stories!

Other great people I didn't get shots of, but who helped make it a magical time: Ross Cavins, Beth Terrell, Bryan Robinson, Christine Wevik, Diane Sismour, Helen Bellamy, Todd Allen, Mary Adams-Belk, Jason Fort, Nancy Roe, Ross Carley
Thanks to those who made me feel welcome, and who stopped to chat and share.
Hope to see a lot of you next year!


  1. Hey, if the writer gig doesn't work out, you have a career in candid photgraphy! Seriously, nice write up of a great weekend and it was great to meet you at the conference. FYI, the "unidentified" with me and Mike Faricy is Ross Carley.

  2. Well done, Dale. Good lord, some days I have trouble just remembering my own name let alone everyone else...