Sunday, January 23, 2011

Killer Nashville 2011 Mystery Guest of Honor

Killer Nashville is proud to present our 2011 Mystery Guest of Honor, Donald Bain.

Donald Bain is the author or ghost/author of more than 100 books in many different genres, many of them bestsellers. His autobiography, Murder HE Wrote: A Successful Writer's Life, published by Purdue University Press, is available everywhere.

He currently writes a series of 37 original novels (hard and softcover) based upon the television series, Murder, She Wrote. They're published by Obsidian, a new imprint from Penguin (NAL/Dutton), and are written “in collaboration" with TV's most famous mystery writer, Jessica Fletcher of "Murder, She Wrote," who exists only as a fictitious character. He has also written crime novels under the pseudonyms Nick Vasile (Sado Cop & A Member of the Family) & Mike Lundy (Raven & Baby Farm).

Earlier in his career, Donald was a writer/director and he created films for many clients and wrote and produced two daily radio series. He also wrote two nationally syndicated series, one of which he hosted. A public relations executive for McCann-Erickson and American Airlines, Donald also was a consultant to Pan Am for which two projects earned Silver Anvil awards from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). In 1985, with his wife, he co-founded Hyphenates, Ltd., which provides editorial services to a wide variety of companies.

Donald is a graduate of Purdue University and received its highest award for his work in educational radio and television. (He was designated a Purdue "Distinguished Alumni" in 2003.) He went on to work professionally in broadcasting in Texas and Indiana, and co-hosted more than 200 shows in New York.

Donald has worked for over 40 years as a professional jazz musician and has taught at the college level. He has written myriad magazine articles on many diverse subjects.

He is a member of Sigma Delta Chi, the Writer's Guild of America, the Authors Guild, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the Mystery Writers of America. In 2006 he was designated "Grand Master" by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers (IAMTW).

Don Bain is married to Renée Paley-Bain, also a writer, and who collaborates with him on the Murder, She Wrote series. He has two grown daughters (Laurie, a fine writer and editor; and Pamela, the professor in the family) and four grandsons.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Claymore Award Now Open For Submissions

Dear Killer Nashville Friends,

It's time to take a brief break from our interviews and give a Killer Nashville News Update instead. We'll be back with a new interview and discussion question next Monday.

First, our new venue will be the beautiful Hutton Hotel in downtown Nashville. The Hutton Hotel staff is thrilled to be hosting Killer Nashville, and they're giving us a fantastic rate--only $111 dollars a night with all kinds of perks--including free wifi for all conference attendees who stay at the hotel.

Second, Killer Nashville is now open for Claymore Award submissions. In four easy steps, you could win Killer Nashville's prestigious Claymore Award and a possible publishing contract from Five Star Press.

This is the 3rd year for the Killer Nashville's Claymore Award and already several previous Claymore participants have received publishing contracts and other authors are in negotiations with Five Star and others as a result of Killer Nashville's ongoing all-volunteer efforts to help new authors.


The winner will receive consideration for publication by partnering publisher Five Star/Tekno Books. Please see the complete list of prizes below. At their discretion, Five Star may also consider any of the other entrants for publication.

KILLER NASHVILLE'S CLAYMORE AWARD WINNER - $500 worth of prizes, plus a possible publishing contract, plus a possible agent

• All Finalist prizes, plus the following:

• The coveted Killer Nashville Claymore Award

• $250 worth of downloads or tuition from Killer Nashville 2011 - your choice (a $250 value)

• The right to use the "Killer Nashville Claymore Winner" logo on your website, publicity materials, and published book (if applicable)

TOP 3 FINALISTS - $300 worth of prizes, plus a possible publishing contract, plus a possible agent

• All Top 10 Finalist prizes, plus the following:

• Free admission to Killer Nashville 2011 (a $170 value)

• Free admission to Killer Nashville 2011 Award Dinner (an $80 value)

TOP 10 FINALISTS - $50 worth of prizes, plus a possible publishing contract, plus a possible agent

• A possible publishing contract

• $50 worth of downloads or tuition from Killer Nashville 2011 - your choice (a $50 value)

• Introduction to Killer Nashville approved agents and editors

• The right to use the "Killer Nashville Claymore Finalist" logo on your website, publicity materials, and published book (if applicable)

*If a Claymore finalist has already purchased admission to Killer Nashville or to the Awards Dinner, cost of winning items will be reimbursed based on winning level, if desired.

Please remember that the conference is limited to 500 attendees in 2011.


An author does NOT have to meet publication guidelines of Five Star in order to win the Killer Nashville Claymore Award.


Judges will consider any subgenre of mystery or thriller, including political thriller, cozy, hard-boiled/private eye, police procedurals, suspense, romantic suspense, historical mystery, and paranormal mystery.


Although the Killer Nashville Claymore Award would be most helpful to unpublished writers, published authors who are “between publishers” and would like to create buzz about their new works would also benefit, as would published authors seeking award accolades. For authors who already have a publisher, you do not have to be published by Five Star if you win.


Judges are authors and qualified readers who have volunteered their time to Killer Nashville to help new, upcoming authors.


Not only does the winner receive Killer Nashville’s prestigious Claymore Award, but Five Star can offer publishing contracts to any Killer Nashville Claymore Award finalist. Not just the winner. Killer Nashville is the facilitator and not involved at all in the publishing or the offering of publishing contracts. If offered a contract by Five Star Teckno, the author is encouraged to procure their own agent or representative to broker the deal. If the author does not have an agent, Killer Nashville can give a list of recommendations. By winning, you also do NOT have to accept the publishing contract from Five Star, if offered, but you still win the award and can add the Killer Nashville Claymore to your other award credits. Publishers love it when manuscripts have won awards.


Five Star, an imprint of Gale, part of Cengage Learning, began the Five Star Mystery line in November of 1998. Since then, Five Star has earned many starred reviews, as well as Edgar Award and Anthony Award nominations. Many Five Star titles have been listed on regional bestseller lists.


Killer Nashville was founded in 2006 by writer/filmmaker Clay Stafford with the purpose of providing a networking and educational forum for those in the publishing industry and for helping writers and readers to connect. Numerous authors have found publication and a new fan base through the all-volunteer effort of the Killer Nashville organization. Over the years, grant money has been given to Killer Nashville from Clay Stafford and American Blackguard Entertainment principally, as well as Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and others, as well as numerous author sponsors.


Submissions must be received no later than May 20, 2011 to be considered for the 2011 competition and will be evaluated through a blind judging process to ensure fairness. Entry fees are charged to help defray the individual cost of copying and mailing each manuscript to the volunteer judges.

Please note that the judging process is highly subjective, dictated by the personal interests of each reader (which is why each manuscript is read by different readers and rated by several rather than relying on one reader) and the large number of quality entries vying for the top honors. Though we are unable to provide specific feedback on each individual manuscript, please do not hesitate to contact us with any general questions regarding the selection process.

The winner will be announced at Killer Nashville 2011, held on August 26-28 at the Hutton Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The author need not be present to win and is under no obligation to accept a publishing contract should he/she be offered one by Five Star. Winner will be determined at the sole discretion of editors of Five Star from the top ten submissions as chosen by Killer Nashville judges in a blind submission process. All decisions are final.

Read all the rules here. (


We look forward to adding you to the Killer Nashville success stories!


Clay Stafford, Founder, Killer Nashville

Beth Terrell, Executive Director, Killer Nashville

Tracy Bunch, Office Manager, Killer Nashville


1. Prepare the manuscript of your unpublished thriller, suspense, or mystery manuscript

2. Fill out the registration form and a check for $35 to help defray copying and mailing costs of your manuscript to judges (judges are volunteers and are not compensated)

3. Mail payment and registration form with the first 50 pages of your manuscript to the Killer Nashville Claymore Award, and

4. You could win!


For more information regarding Killer Nashville’s Claymore Award:

For more information of Killer Nashville Awards:

To learn more about Killer Nashville:

To contact us with questions:

To register for Killer Nashville 2011:

Our Killer Nashville Blog:

Killer Nashville

P.O. Box 680686

Franklin, TN 37068-0686

United States


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Interview with Author Jim Daher

This week's Killer Nashville interview is with author Jim Daher, whose thrillers/mysteries RIGHTEOUS KILL and BLOOD MONEY feature FBI agent Sarah James. Sarah is a savvy, tough cookie who believes “the end justifies the means” when she’s tracking down a criminal--and Sarah always gets her man or woman.

A graduate of Southern Polytechnic Institute and the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Jim began writing after enjoying a successful career as a hospital administrator and multi-health care facility executive. He lives on St Simons Island, Georgia with his wife. You can learn more at his website:

KN: Hi, Jim. Welcome to A Killer Conversation. Let's start off with a quote. Do you have a favorite quote about writing or crime writing in particular?

JD: I can't remember who said it but "Do your research, make it real and entertain your reader!"

KN: Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to be a writer?

JD: My mother and father read to me and my brothers and sister when we were small so I have always enjoyed a good story. However, as I grew older and started a career in healthcare I stopped reading for pleasure and concentrated on business periodicals, health care regulations, etc. But, the last 10-15 years I was in healthcare I was responsible for groups of hospitals and traveled extensively, spending a lot of time on airplanes and in hotels. I began reading again and was attracted to mysteries & thrillers.

As time went by I told myself that if I ever had the time I would "try" to write. After semi-retiring I had the time but initially started playing golf-for the first time. It looked easy on television and I knew I'd pick it up quickly-HA, was I in for a surprise! Realizing I wasn't going on the PGA tour and most importantly, couldn't afford to continue losing golf balls, I decided to begin writing. I wasn't much better at it than golf but I all I was losing was time and I enjoyed attending conferences (Thriller Fest, Sleuth Fest, Killer Nashville, etc) to learn the INS & outs of writing and getting published.

KN: What drew you to the mystery/suspense genre?

JD: The element of surprise, the suspense and the pace of the stories are the main attractions.

KN: Any favorite authors in the genre?

JD: Robert Parker, Stuart Wood, Daniel Silva, Lisa Scottoline, James Patterson, Vince Flynn and Harlan Coben are among my favorites.

KN: We share some of the same favorites. Your first novel, RIGHTEOUS KILL, features FBI agent Sarah James (formerly Johnson). Can you tell us a bit about RIGHTEOUS KILL and how you came up with the idea for the novel?

JD: I read a news paper story about the victim of an attempted abduction and it reminded me of a couple of victims of rape that I was aware of. I went through some what if scenarios and came up with the idea for the story. I initially dropped the idea for fear of not being able to "get into the head" of a female. But one night I woke up and knew I had to tell the story. I spent the next 36 hours outlining the story, developing key characters and preparing my self for Sarah's journey.

KN: What made you decide on a female protagonist?

JD: The story I was developing demanded it.

KN: What were the challenges of writing a character of the opposite sex, and how did you overcome them? What steps did you take to ensure that Sarah comes across as authentically female?

JD: A portion of my health care career was in the Psychiatric industry and to better understand what hospital employees and physicians did, I attended group sessions, as an observer. Fortunately or unfortunately, there were some rape victims and rapists (unrelated cases/situations) in those sessions and I heard their stories first hand. This gave me insight into Sarah the individual dealing with what had happened to her. I want to clarify that Sarah and what happened to her in Righteous Kill is purely fictional and is not based on any specific case or situation from my health care days. Other aspects of the female psych I picked up by talking to young ladies at the gym/fitness center to gain insight into "today's female". I asked questions such as: What do you think when you see a good looking guy? Do you talk with your best friend about sex, dating, your husband, martial problems, etc...?

KN: Your second novel, a sequel to RIGHTEOUS KILL was recently released. What can you tell us about it?

JD: A killer targets Sarah's groom at their wedding. She wants justice and revenge and begins tracking the killer. Along the way she encounters ex-cons, the mafia, and other roadblocks until she corners the killer.

KN: Sounds like fans of the first book have some exciting time ahead! What are some of the challenges and rewards of writing a series?

JD: Challenges are making the time to write, creating a good, entertaining story, the editing process, the search for a publisher, setting up signings, making it all fit together on a timely basis. Rewards are the finished product, the signings and the sense of accomplishment.

KN: What kind of research do you do?

JD: A lot-I talk with FTA, Customs, ICE, FBI, local cops and other law enforcement officials to attempt to get their views on crime, the arrest process, the chain of command within their specific organizations and as I said I talk to people to get their reactions to significant issues within my story or plot. It's great having the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick (15-30 minutes away). I hang out at "Willy's Weiner Wagon" which has been in business for over forty years and is a local lunch hangout for individuals attending training at FLETC.

KN: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

JD: I wake up early, walk my dog, go to the gym then come home clean up and begin writing. I try to put in 4-6 hours a day writing and editing.

KN: How do you market your books?

JD: I have an initial Launch Party and have been fortunate enough to get the local paper to attend and do a story on the party and the book itself. Then I travel to, set up and attend signings at book stores in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and California.

KN: What's the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

JD: The thrill of writing-seeing the story and characters develop and holding the finished product in my hand is overwhelming.

KN: And the most difficult?

JD: The time consumption of the process to find a legitimate editor, agent and publisher combined with the humiliation of mass rejections.

KN: What's the best compliment you've ever received about your books?

JD: "I starting you book at 4:30 pm and could not put it down." "I stayed up all night reading it and finished at 5 am."

KN: What are your long-term writing goals? And what's next?

JD: As most writers, I want to be on the "best seller list".

KN: Any advice for unpublished writers?

JD: Put in the time, attend conferences, learn, learn, learn and be prepared for the rejections-develop a thick skin!

KN: What would you like people to take away from your books?

JD: A thirst or hunger for the next "Jim Daher novel".

KN: Anything else you'd like us to know about you or your writing?

JD: Im following my own advice. I put in the time. I've got a good editor and I continually learn new marketing techniques.

KN: Final question: what’s our discussion topic for the week?

JD: How do you build a believable character? How do you create an antagonist a reader can identify with & hate?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Interview with Author Margaret Fenton

Welcome to A Killer Conversation, the official Killer Nashville blog.

In 2011, we're planning a weekly interview with a Killer Nashville author or expert. At the end of each interview, the interviewee will give us a discussion topic to talk about throughout the week. We hope you'll join in the discussion and help us make this blog into a lively, active community.

This week's Killer Conversation interview is with Margaret Fenton.
Margaret is an LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) who spent ten years as a child and family therapist before taking a break to focus on her writing. Hence, her mysteries tend to reflect her interest in social causes and mental health, especially where kids are concerned. Her first book is Little Lamb Lost, published in June 2009 by Oceanview Publishing. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, a software developer. She is the planning coordinator of Murder in the Magic City, a one-day, one-track annual mystery fan conference in Homewood, Alabama. She is President of the Birmingham Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of the Mystery Writers of America. Her website is

KN: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you come to be a writer?

MF: I started out as a social worker, and I’m still an LCSW, although I’m not working in the field right now. I did in-home family therapy for the child welfare department in Birmingham for a number of years. I was housed in the child welfare building, so that provided a lot of inspiration for Claire, and for the mystery series. As for how I started writing, well, I started very late. I was a mystery fan first. An enthusiastic one at that. Someone at a local bookstore told me about the local Sisters in Crime chapter and I joined. That’s how I met Anne George, and we got to be friends. One day, we were on our way to a meeting and I was babbling on about what mystery I’d been reading, and Anne said she didn’t understand why I didn’t try to write one, if I loved them so much? I didn’t have a good answer, so I decided to try. It took a long time, but Little Lamb Lost is finally here.

KN: Your first published book, Little Lamb Lost came out in 2009. How does it feel to be a published author?

MF: Amazing. Great. Terrifying. Weird. All at the same time. I’m very proud of Little Lamb Lost, and every time I see it on a shelf, I’m like, really? I wrote a book? It seems a little surreal. But wonderful. A dream come true, literally. I love to write and have found my true passion, but the business end of this career is a little scary. Like every author, I’m worried about sales and promotion.

KN: What can you tell us about the book? Is it a standalone or the first of a series?

MF: The Claire Conover books are a series, with the same characters. We’ll see how they grow, and how relationships develop. That, to me, is the best thing about a mystery series. In Little Lamb Lost we meet Claire, a child welfare social worker, and her worst nightmare happens when one of her small clients dies of a drug overdose. Claire was the person responsible for placing the child back in the home with his mother, who is accused of the murder. So everything for Claire, career-wise, is at risk.

KN: What characteristics do you and your protagonist share? In what ways are you very different?

MF: Claire and I both share a love for social work. Our value systems are very similar. We want people to be successful and happy. And children to be safe. But Claire works harder than I ever did, for sure! She has a little more passion for justice, too.

KN: What led you to the mystery genre? Why do you find it satisfying?

MF: When I was in early elementary school, my mother was a travel agent in the local mall. Her agency was directly across the corridor from a bookstore, and every week she would buy me a new mystery. Like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Trixie Belden (my favorite). I just loved them. Then as I got older, I would pick up my dad’s old Agatha Christie paperbacks off the shelf and read those. Then Dick Francis and Rex Stout, then Sue Grafton and on and on and on…I can’t remember not loving them. I love strong characters, and they feel like friends. I love the idea of solving a puzzle, and the sense of justice at the end of a good book, too.

KN: Was it a long road to publication? How did you get your first contract?

MF: Seven years, so yeah, a long road. Lots of rejections along the way. I got my contract at a wonderful conference for writers and fans called Killer Nashville. My friend Don Bruns introduced me to his editor, and I pitched the book to her. Two months later I had a contract. It was great.

KN: What is the most challenging part of being a new kid on the block in the current economy?

MF: Sometimes it seems like everybody and their mother has published a book! There’s a lot of competition out there. It’s hard to get noticed. I just promote the book every chance I get. At conferences, especially.

KN: Of all your marketing efforts, which have been the most successful?

MF: I think, today, you have to have a strong online presence. I have a website, and I guest blog whenever I can. So many people now get so much information from the web. I participate in a fabulous listserv, DorothyL, for mystery fans and writers. I go to every conference I can. Good reviews help, too. I have the most marvelous publicist in the world, and she’s been amazing at getting the book out there. That’s really a big key.

KN: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

MF: I want them to love Claire and care about what happens to her. I want them to come away with a better understanding of child welfare social work, and what challenges are facing our social workers and our nation’s children.

KN: What is the best thing about your publisher?

MF: I can’t gush enough about how wonderful Oceanview has been. They are the best. They bend over backwards and sideways and every other direction to make you feel welcome and to help you be successful. They are so supportive.

KN: You organize the Murder in the Magic City conference. Does your experience in organizing a conference affect your perceptions when you attend a conference, and if so, how?

MF: Murder in the Magic City is a fan-based conference. We’ve done it for nine years now. Our next one is February 5, 2011. It’s a lot of fun. Meeting mystery authors really helped me to learn a lot when I was trying to get published, just about the business in general. Mystery writers are the most amazing group. We really support each other. I’ve found very little competition or pettiness out there. Everybody is helpful and wants you to succeed. It’s a great reason to go to any mystery conference.

KN: Any words of wisdom for aspiring writers?

MF: Hang in there. I know it’s hard. Join a critique group, a good one that will give you honest and real feedback. Make sure you have done all you can to write the best book you can, then hang in there. Don’t give up.

KN: How about for fans of the genre in general (and your book in particular)?

MF: I hope to meet a lot of people along this journey. I’m anxious to introduce them to Claire and hear their thoughts on her adventures. It’s going to be a lot of fun!

KN: If you could have one wish related to your writing career, what would it be?

MF: I hope people will love Claire and all the characters in her life. I think that’s the secret to a long, successful career.

KN: Anything else you’d like to add or address that we haven’t covered?

MF: I think that’s it.

KN: Thanks for joining us, Margaret. One last thing. What’s our discussion topic for the week?

MF: I just finished a book, and I don't want to mention any dragon tattoos or anything, but it had a TON of my pet peeves in it. Gratuitous violence is a big one. And characters who avoid the authorities to the point where it's just ridiculous and unrealistic. So here's the discussion question: What are your worst pet peeves in a book? Things that authors have done really wrong, in your opinion?

KN: Great question, Margaret. Okay, everyone. Time to discuss!