Killer Nashville packed with informative panels, best-selling authors

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by G. Robert Frazier

This weekend’s Killer Nashville writer’s conference, which actually gets underway Thursday, promises four days of education, networking, and fun for mystery and thriller writers.

Now that I’ve decided to attend (and catch the Austin Film Fest next year), I’m faced with another set of choices. Like many conferences, the event features a number of panels running concurrently with one another, which means I will have to pick and choose which ones to attend and which ones to skip.

Not exactly an easy task, I might add.

But, after much thought and consternation, here’s what I’ve come up with (my panel picks will be highlighted in bold type):


1-5 p.m.: Get A Literary Agent with Sheree Bykofsky, literary agent and best-selling author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published


8:30 a.m.: Opening remarks by Killer Nashville founder Clay Stafford

8:40 p.m.: Opening Session:  CRIME PAYS: Books, Television & Film—The Explosion of the (Serial) ‘Killer’ Genre with author W. William Phelps

9:35 a.m.: Killer Nashville’s Dupin Detective Award Instructions; crime scene opens at 10 a.m. (For those unfamiliar with the conference, each year they stage a mock crime scene and provide clues for attendees to solve. The winner gets free admission to the following year’s event.)

10 a.m.:

  • Storyboarding Your Novel with author Stacy Allen
  • Using Short Stories And Articles to Promote Your Novel with panelists Daco Auffenorde, Debra Goldstein, C. Hope Clark, Michael Guillebeau and Robert Mangeot
  • What’s Your Genre? With panelists Jenna Bennett, Terry Odell, K.C. Tansley, Kourtney Heintz, Maggie Toussaint and moderator Rae James
  • Debut Novelists with panelist, Janet Finsilver, Amy Ray, Linda Thorne and moderator Kay Elam
  • Ask An Attorney with panelists Douglas Jones, Robert Rotstein, Michael Rubin and moderator Paula Benson
  • Rape, Hidden Victims, and Bill Cosby with presenter Brent Warberg, FBI special agent (ret.)/counselor for sex offenders

12:30 p.m.: (this one’s a toss-up)

  • Pacing Your Novel with panelists David Bell, Kathleen Cosgrove, Don Helin, Sharon Marchisello and panel leader Ken Vanderpool
  • The Do-It-Yourself Publicist with panelists Kay Kendall, Debi King McMartin, Julie Schoerke, Jerri Ledford and Anne Marie Stoddard
  • Writing Speculative Fiction: SF, Paranormal, Horror, Steampunk, Alternate Reality, or Fantasy with panelists Ross Cavins, John Edward Mullen, Nikki Nelson-Hicks, Angela Trumbo and Chrysler Szarlan
  • Women of Mystery: Female Sleuths with panelists Carolyn McSparren, Julia McDermott, Maria Hudgins, Timothy Williams and Erica Wright
  • Ask A Psychologist with panelists Dr. Shirley Garrett, Kimberly Hall, Dr. Donald Madison Hall, Dr. Robert Jacobs, and moderator Phillip Cioffari
  • Why People Kill and Why They Don’t with retired homicide detective Rick Reed

1:45 p.m.: (another toss-up)

  • Using Macro and Micro-Settings to Reveal Character, Drive Plot, and Create Atmosphere with panelists C. David Connor, Annette Dashofy, Jackie Flaum, Blake Fontenay, and Chris Knopf
  • Getting It All Done: Time Management for Writers with panelists Ray Anderson, Lynn Cahoon, John DeDakis, Jonni Rich, Linda Sands
  • Real-Life Crime Coverage vs. Writing Mystery Fiction with panelists Richard Belsky, Debra Gaskill, Rich Zahradnik and Baron Birtcher
  • Men of Mystery: Male Sleuths with panelists Peter H. Green, Bryan Robinson, Rick Reed, Ray Wenck and Tom Wood
  • Ask A Mortician with Steve Spann, professor of mortuary science and president of John A. Gupton College
  • Anatomy of Violence: Officer Involved Shootings with 31-year law enforcement veteran David Putnam

3 p.m.:

  • Double-Duty Dialogue: How to Write Dialogue That’s More Than Just Talk with panelists Earl G. Fisher, Linda Fisher, Rae James, Joseph Terrell and Paula Benson
  • How to Launch a Book with panelists Stacy Allen, Claire Applewhite, Darryl Bollinger, Ray Peden, Nancy Sartor and Maryglenn McCombs
  • How to Write A Thriller with authors David Bell, L. Sydney Fisher, Steven Jackson, Patrick Kendrick, David Putnam
  • Murder, Mystery & Mayhem: It’s All About Sex with presenter Susan Smily
  • Ask a Federal Criminal Investigator with retired federal criminal investigator Gary Clark
  • Civil War Spycraft with author and Civil War expert Linda Lee Peterson

4:30 p.m.:

  • Sisters in Crime Reception and interview with Nashville true crime author Phyllis Gobbell


8 a.m.:

  • How to Write Effective Scenes with author/filmmaker Philip Cioffari
  • Podcasting for Promotion: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them with Library Police podcasters Josh Mauthe, Dietrich Stogner and Rachel Stiles
  • Writing Romantic Suspense with panelists Claire Applewhite, D.D. Ayres, Marilyn A. Johnston (C.J. Peterson), Maris Soule and Nancy Sartor
  • Sherlock Holmes: New Visions of an Old Favorite with panelists Nikki Nelson-Hicks, Stephanie Osborn and Robert Mangeot
  • Ask A Law Enforcement Professional with panelists Bill Brown, Gary Clark, William Pelarenos, David Putnam, Connie Dial
  • Forensic Services for Human ID: How dental records, fingerprints and DNA aid in the identification of missing and unidentified persons with Todd Matthews of the National Missing & Unidentified Persons System (NamUs)

9:15 a.m.:

  • Show Don’t Tell: Here’s How to Do It with panelists Allen Eskens, Parker Francis (Vic DiGenti), Linda Sasscer Hill, Charles Salzberg, Kay Kendall
  • Use Social Media and Blogging to Build Your Book Sales with Erik Deckers
  • Writing the Cozy Mystery with panelists Lynn Cahoon, Caroline Fardig, Nancy Coco (Nancy J. Parra), Martha Reed, Tracy Whiting and Kay Elam
  • Secrets to a Successful Fiction Series with panelists Jenna Bennett, Maggie Toussaint and Diane Kelly
  • Ask A Doctor: Medical Crime and Mistakes with panelists Dr. Richard Cartmel, Dr. Maitland DeLand, Dr. Ronald B. O’Gorman and moderator Dietrich Stogner
  • An Overview of Homicide Investigations with retired homicide detective Sgt. Derek Pacifico

10:30 a.m.: Interview with Guest of Honor Robert K. Tanenbaum

12:45 p.m.: Interview with Guest of Honor M. William Phelps

1:55 p.m.: Solving the Killer Nashville Dupin Detective Award Crime Scene

3:10 p.m.: Presentation by Guest of Honor John Gilstrap: “Dare to Dream”

4:20 p.m.: Breakout Session: 15 Steps from Idea to Novel with author John DeDakis

5:30 p.m.: Mystery Writers of America Party

6:30 p.m.: Killer Nashville Anthology Launch Party with C. Hope Clark: “The Magic of the Trick Ending”


8:30 a.m.:

  • The Subtle Art of Suspense with author Craig Faris
  • Myths of Self-Publishing with authors Dan Hawkins, Kristina Blank Makansi, Susan Smily, Jenna Bennett
  • Writing Young Adult Fiction with panelists Laura Lascarso, Leah Price and Helen Chapman
  • The Dark Side: Noir and Hardboiled Fiction with panelists Baron Birtcher, Mark Nielson, Chris Knopf, Linda Sands and David Burnsworth
  • Ask A Weapons Expert with Brian Hicks, USMC sniper instructor (ret.)
  • Media Relations and Social Media in Law Enforcement with Ruth Corley, public information/media relations at the Bay County Sheriff’s Office

9:45 a.m.: (it’s a toss-up)

  • Quirks, Flaws and Redeeming Qualities: How to Create Realistic, Well-Rounded Characters with panelists S.L. Ellis, Rev. Bob Fry, Tina Murray, Jessie Powell and Michael Guillebeau
  • Self-Publishing: Covers, Formatting and Overall Product Creation Concerns with panelists Jenna Bennett, Debra Gaskill, Susan Smily and Ray Peden
  • Writing (and Researching) the Historical Novel with panelists Dana Chamblee Carpenter, Anne Cleeland, Fedora Amis, Reavis Wortham and Stacy Allen
  • The Explosion of Fan Fiction with panelists Megan Hines, Genia Shipman, Stephanie Osborn and Terry Odell
  • Ask A Writer with panelists John F. Boyle, Solange Richie, Tracy Whiting, Susan Smily, Irving Munro and Joseph Terrell
  • Get It Right: Depicting Drug and Alcohol Use in Fiction with presenter Greg Elam, toxicologist

11 a.m.:

  • Spinning Straw Into Gold: Revision and Editing with panelists Kathleen Cosgrove, Dan Hawkins, Lyn Lawrence, Sara Williams, Christina Wilburn
  • Self Publishing Timeline: What to Do When with panelists Jenna Bennett, Rob Fasone, Ray Peden, Susan Smily, Jerri Ledford
  • How to Write Short: Crafting Short Stories and Flash Fiction with panelists Ray Anderson, Kay Elam, Robert Mangeot, Carolyn McSparren, Debra Goldstein
  • Teaching Suspense Writing to Kids with presenter Kimberly Dana
  • Ask A Small-Press Publisher with panelists Chris Knopf, Scott Anderson, Kristina Blank Makansi, Steven Womack
  • Detection Canines with narcotics canine trainer and handler Kathleen Donnelly

1 p.m.: Breakout Session: Agents & Editors: What Makes A Book We Can’t Resist? With panelists Jennifer Johnson-Blalock, Sheree Bykofsky, Deni Dietz, Cate Hart, Elizabeth Poteet, Alec Shane and Jaden Terrell

In between events there will be time for networking, browsing the book store and all-day book convention on Saturday, and maybe even lunch. Online registration for the conference ends today but you can still register at the door beginning Thursday. The conference takes place at the Omni Hotel in downtown Nashville. For more information visit


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