Welcome to the Killer Nashville Blog!

Welcome to the Killer Nashville Blog, a meeting place for those who love mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and other crime literature. If you have ever attended, presented at, or volunteered for the Killer Nashville Writers’ Conference, or if you are just a reader or writer of any of the mystery/thriller/suspense writing genres, come join us for a Killer Conversation.

For more information on Killer Nashville: A Conference for Thriller, Suspense, Mystery Writers & Literature Lovers visit our website at http://www.killernashville.com.

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Killer Nashville’s Featured Books / Thursday, February 27, 2014 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

DEATH CANYON by David Riley Bertsch
KILLER’S ISLAND by Anna Jansson
THE LAST TIME I DIED by Joe Nelms

Killer Nashville Featured Books

Dear Murderous Reader –

This week my reading was all over the place. I went from a mystery-western, to a Swedish version of a deranged killer on Martha’s Vineyard, to a whacked-out mental trip inside the head of a man falling apart in New York City. For my ADD brain, nothing could have made me happier, especially knowing two of these authors are debut.

Death Canyon by David Riley BertschDEATH CANYON by David Riley Bertsch

Debut author. Great new mystery/thriller. This book is the start of a series; but this story is so good, I’m not sure how Bertsch is going to top it using this scenario and these characters following this much fictional destruction.

The beginning gets my attention: earthquakes in Wyoming, men getting rid of the body of a friend of theirs in a watery gorge, and a group of half-naked Native Americans participating in a “relations” dance, which to this reviewer of Irish decent, looks a lot like the Celtic rituals of old.

Death Canyon is much better than the initial generic blurbs offered. This is an intertwined story of species’ rage and greed – both human and nonhuman. I really didn’t see in advance where this story was going (didn’t see it coming until page 157), which made it fun. This isn’t a story about fly-fishing and murder set in Jackson Hole; this is a story of avarice to the point of annihilating the human race, the propulsion to the end of the world as we know it. What starts small blows up to world-ending proportions. The backstory plays out with perfect pacing; not too much at the beginning, and then only peppered nicely when the explanation is needed. And add all the crazy and unexpected elements: Rocky Mountain wildlife, ex-lawyer, politics and corruption, Mafia thugs, real earthquakes in Wyoming (what’s up with that?).

In the beginning, Bertsch thanks his wife and family for giving him the courage to write this book. I thank them, too. There is a long career ahead for this new writer. Someday, I would like to take a little trip to Jackson, Wyoming and do a little fly-fishing with Bertsch. When the ground starts shaking, he would be a good one to have nearby.

Killer's Island by Anna JanssonKILLER’S ISLAND by Anna Jansson

I’m a fan of the differing perspectives in foreign novels (yes, my fellow Americans, there is a world outside the U.S.) and I’m a particular champion of the dark world of Swedish mystery writers. Killer’s Island is the action-packed seventh Detective Inspector Marian Wern book and the second of Anna Jansson’s – I think – translated into English, this one skillfully retold by Enar Henning Koch. I wish I spoke Swedish because – after reading this book – I’d love to read the rest in the chronology and also view the Swedish TV series based upon the character of Wern.

The story starts with a decapitated young nurse dressed in bridal clothes (hopefully not from Jansson’s part-time life as a nurse herself). Killer’s Island is part mystery and part scientific thriller. The supertech villain does a tremendous job playing cat-and-mouse with the police and Wern. What drew me in were my feelings for the victim. This is one of those books where, if you can figure out the motive, you can possibly figure out the killer. All deaths in this novel are taking place on an island – I love confined places stories.

What I got from this book: I have a new author to explore. With over 2 million copies of Anna Jansson’s books in print in over fifteen countries, I can only read two of them! We definitely need more translators and more publishers like Stockholm Text to get onboard sharing works such as this around the world.

The Last Time I Died by Joe NelmsTHE LAST TIME I DIED by Joe Nelms

Okay, this one made me pause. Highly different from my normal fare. At first, I wasn’t fond of the novel, but I couldn’t stop reading. That’s crazy. The reason is because the writing is just too darn good. Then after I got sucked into this character’s mad descent, the character was so complexly written that I couldn’t give the guy up. You’ve got to read this book! The last book I read that did this to me was Fight Club. I read that book once, but when the movie came out (starring a young Brad Pitt), I saw it (literally) six times at the 99-cent movie theater. This novel had the same effect on me. It’s a story I don’t think I would ever be able to write and it amazes me authors such as Nelms can turn out a world such as this.

This is a first-person novel of a man looking back at his unraveling life while his present life falls apart. The psychological first person format helps the reader view it from the main character’s perspective, even the fantasy of his detached self, where I began to wonder – and this is what the book is about – what is real and what is not? Sometimes I think the guy is going out-of-body for a detached third-person, which is freaky unto itself. It’s a dark book filled with caverns of repressed memories. The main character is a man focused on the negative who clearly sees the negative in others and acerbically – even laugh out loud – describes them. Reading this book is like watching a slow death. I can only imagine how tired Nelms was at the end of each day as he worked on this novel. For character studies, you don’t beat this one. It brings new meaning to the old phrase, How do I make you love me? As I read, I kept hearing Elton’s Blue Moves album in the background. You know, citing this character and in my own armchair-psychologist’s opinion, sometimes forgetfulness can be a good thing; I’m convinced that it is not always best – and I’m sure health professionals would disagree – to go digging in old tired mental graves. Obviously, this is a thrilling story that interested Nelms and one that he cathartically needed to write, definitely one you need to read, and a new author whose next book you should eagerly await.

Well, this should give you a few eclectic titles to read over the next few days. Get in touch with these authors, learn about them, and tell them you would like to see them at this year’s Killer Nashville.

And remember, if you buy your books through the links on Killer Nashville, you’ll still get the great Amazon discount prices, but – better yet – a portion of the proceeds goes towards the educational events sponsored by the good volunteers at Killer Nashville. So support Killer Nashville while you’re supporting our featured authors!

Until next time, read like someone is burning the books!

Clay Stafford
- Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (www.ClayStafford.com) and founder of Killer Nashville (www.KillerNashville.com).  As a writer himself, he has over 1.5 million copies of his own books in print in over 14 languages.  Stafford’s latest projects are the feature documentary “One of the Miracles” (www.OneOfTheMiracles.com) and the music CD “XO” (www.JefferyDeaverXOMusic.com). A champion of writers, Publishers Weekly has identified Stafford as playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers” throughout “the nation’s book culture.”  (PW 6/10/13)


Buy the book from the Killer Nashville Bookstore and help support a new generation of writers and readers.

Visit our bookstore for other similar books.

If you want to make your own comments on this selection, we would love to hear from you. Join our Facebook Killer Nashville group page or our blog and join in the discussion.

Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!

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Killing Your Protagonist – Or At Least Trying To / Author Vic DiGenti (aka Parker Francis)

What makes us keep turning the pages? The same thing that makes us watch a train wreck. Award-winning author Vic DiGenti shares with us how he beats up his protagonists and how, if they didn’t have to appear in the next book, he would probably just go ahead and kill them. 

Try some of Vic DiGenti’s techniques in your own writing and see if you can’t create some extra page-turning heat.

Until next week, Happy Writing!

Clay Stafford
Founder of Killer Nashville


Vic DiGenti (aka Parker Francis)

Vic DiGenti (aka Parker Francis)

Recently I’ve started looking at people differently. Perhaps it’s because I’ve watched one too many cable news programs spouting doom and gloom. Or maybe programs like Criminal Minds and CSI, with their growing body counts and close-ups of autopsies, have desensitized me. But as I look at people I imagine clever ways to send them on their way—permanently. That’s right, dead, gone, deceased, demised, passed on, expired, pushing up daisies, an ex-live body (with apologies to John Cleese in the hilarious “Dead Parrot” episode of The Monty Python Show).

Wait, before you rush to call the authorities, or send me your do-it-yourself home lobotomy kit, let me reassure you I haven’t gone postal. Life is still good down here on the farm, and I’m enjoying my retirement even more since I won the lottery, but now that I’m writing mysteries, I have to find ways to dispatch my victims in surprising ways to satisfy my readers’ blood lust. So you see I have an excuse for my new perspective on people.

My decision to write my award-winning Matanzas Bay came because I’ve always been a reader of mysteries and thrillers. My wife might tell you that it’s because I live in a fantasyland where I picture myself as the hero of my stories. There’s some truth to that, but it makes more sense now that my hero is a real human being rather than a cat (the hero in my Windrusher series). Unlike authors who tell you to write what you know, I believe in writing what you love to read. My bookshelves are crammed with the works of my favorite authors: Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, Lee Child, Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane, John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, and other masters of the craft.

These guys make being a hero a hard business. So how do you write these guys? One of the first bits of advice I heard was to chase your hero up a tree, then throw rocks at him. In other words, as writers we should make it supremely difficult for our protagonists to reach their goals by placing as many obstacles in their path as we can. Our job as writers, as sci-fi author Ben Bova once said, is to be a troublemaker. Since my Quint Mitchell Mystery series is more hard-boiled than soft, I had to fit my sleuth and the story into the conventions of that genre of mystery. For instance, many hard-boiled detective yarns are told in first person, putting us squarely into the head of the protagonist. We also know that bad things are going to happen, at least one murder and other crimes. The sleuth is going to make it his mission to find the villain, chasing down clues, banging into dead ends, and charging up blind alleys before justice prevails. And readers of hard-boiled mysteries not only expect to see the violence unfold on the page, they’d be disappointed if it didn’t. So, using this framework as the world, how do you make your protagonist sweat in it?

We can do this in a lot of ways, but I particularly like what Donald Maas wrote in his book, Writing the Breakout Novel.

Ask yourself who is the one ally your protagonist cannot afford to lose. Kill that character. What is your protagonist’s greatest physical asset? Take it away. What is the one article of faith that for your protagonist is sacred? Undermine it. How much time does your protagonist have to solve the main problem? Shorten it.

"Bring Down The Furies" by Parker Francis

“Bring Down The Furies” by Parker Francis

By squeezing your hero, the reader will stay hooked to see how the protagonist is able to navigate all the roadblocks you’ve erected.

Here are a few ways to make your protagonist uncomfortable. You see them in many mysteries, including Matanzas Bay and its sequel, Bring Down the Furies.

  • Major discomfort. The more aches and pains your hero suffers, and the more obstacles he has to overcome, the more heroic he’ll seem if he is able to fight his way through it all and emerge victorious and semi-healthy. In Matanzas Bay, poor Quint suffers a nasty beating that sends him to the hospital with a concussion, and he’s nearly devoured by alligators. But he overcomes it because, well, because he’s the hero and he’s going to be in the next book and the alligators aren’t.
  • Plague him with constant mishaps. His car breaks down. He loses his cell phone. His mother-in-law hates him. He’s fired from a big case. That’s a good start. Then loose the inner demons. Is he an alcoholic? Send him into bars to find a suspect. Hates snakes like Indiana Jones? Then toss him into a den of serpents. My protagonist has a trunk load of guilt, living with the knowledge he was responsible for his brother’s murder many years before. That guilt and its implications weigh on him throughout Matanzas Bay. Be sure your hero learns from each experience and grows stronger and more determined. And keep raising the stakes so he has less time to solve the case before the wrong man is convicted, or has to find a kidnapped loved one before they’re killed, or the villain threatens to blow up a bus filled with people if his demands aren’t met within 24 hours, just as examples.

That’s the academic overview, but writing is about making it personal. And that takes me back to my people watching. When it’s time to dispatch another victim, it helps if I can visualize someone I wouldn’t mind taking the place of a dead parrot, figuratively speaking, of course.

Perhaps an old boss?

A former spouse?

Hmm, come a little closer.

Let me have a good look at you.


Florida writer Vic DiGenti began his writing career as the author of the award-winning WINDRUSHER series, three adventure/fantasy novels featuring a feline protagonist. Writing as Parker Francis, Vic leaped into the hard-boiled mystery genre with his first Quint Mitchell Mystery, MATANZAS BAY, which was selected as a Book of the Year in the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary Awards competition. His second book, BRING DOWN THE FURIES, took the Gold Medal in the Mystery/Thriller category in last year’s President’s Award competition (Florida Authors & Publishers Association). Vic is now working on the third Quint Mitchell Mystery, HURRICANE ISLAND. Visit him at www.parkerfrancis.com.


(To be a part of the Killer Nashville Guest Blog, send a query to contact@killernashville.com. We’d love to hear from you.)

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Time Management for Writers / Writer Chloe Winston

How do I find the time to write? It’s a common concern for busy people. Travel writer Chloe Winston, through her own trial and error, has found a way to make it work. She shares her techniques with you. Here’s how you can find time to write that novel, nonfiction book, poem, travel article…anything!

Happy Reading!

(And Happy Writing – using Chloe’s excellent advice).

Clay Stafford
Founder of Killer Nashville


Chloe Winston

Chloe Winston

Eons ago, when I was in high school, I bought a copy of Writers’ Digest, when it was a magazine about 5” x 7”. Encouraged to send an article to some magazine (time fogs memory), I took my pencil and yellow lined school notepad and wrote a story I sent to a romance magazine. (We’re talking real “yellow journalism” here!) Of course, I never heard from the magazine. My next excuse for not writing was that I “couldn’t find a good spot in which to write.” Then the author of Please Don’t Eat the Daisies confessed that she wrote sitting in the car after her family went to bed and before they got up. That took care of that excuse. And she didn’t even have a computer! (But she did have a book . . . and later a movie!)

But we continue to find reasons and excuses to postpone applying seat to chair…or car seat, if you prefer. This brings to mind the two most hated words in the English language for writers: time management. We all have the same 24-hour day and we all struggle with how to manage that time. There are tricks to reaching that goal. Let’s explore some.

“Time” calls for decision-making. Do you really want to write, be a writer? I heard, “yes.” So first get the family on board, then (and this is hard) look at your surroundings. What keeps us from writing? Dishes to do, clothes to iron, house to clean, checks to write. Consider paper plates during writing time, wash and wear clothes, paying a teenager to clean the house twice a month, and setting aside one hour a week or month to pay your bills. (Efficiency experts advise such bill-paying habits.) Maybe even rearrange your house to eliminate distractions. Have a garage sale to open up an area in which you can write. Donate excess stuff to a thrift shop. Now you are lean and mean. Now there are no more excuses.

Time to write also means considering how you organize your day around your writing. If I simply show up by sitting down at the computer, it’s amazing how much I can get done. Before you quit writing at night, leave your hero somewhere, doing something, with someone else keeping him from doing it or putting him in danger as he does it. This teases your reader into continuing to read. And it teases you to continue writing the next day. Your new chapter picks him up where you left off the night before.

1489-1013-A1529You have that wonderful jazzy computer, and you have great ideas. Here’s something I forget to do: take time to lay out some rough idea of where you want the book, or article, or poem to go. (It sounds boring, uncreative…and changes as you go along, but it will save you more time/hair-pulling/discouragement down the line. This took me a long time to learn.)

Now with the family and house onboard, when have you found you write the best? Early morning? Late at night? I find that when I turn out the light and my head hits the pillow, I think of all sorts of things I want to add to my work. DO NOT believe that you’ll remember those amazing sentences in the morning. Get up, yes, right now, and scrawl the sentences on paper you have handy. (I buy lots of pens when stores have back-to-school-sales, enough pens that they are all over every level space in my office area and house. I also buy bright folders, catchy binders, and yellow tablets at the same time.)

Now there are no excuses for not keeping stuff in the right spot. This is important. It also took me a long time to learn. It means you can find your work-in-progress novel about Peru in the binder with the gypsy dancing on its cover or the short story is in the pastoral scene folder– without plowing through fifteen or twenty stacks of stuff in your writing area. Time saved for the #1 objective: writing.

If you live alone, all this is easy; if there’s a family involved, some negotiations have to take place. You’ve heard of the author who told her children that unless they were bleeding profusely, they couldn’t interrupt her while she’s writing. She’s on the right track to effective time management and family cooperation!

Finally, and most vital of all, commit a certain amount of time each day to your writing. Two hours out of 24 isn’t too much to ask, is it? Three’s even better, and when you’re on a roll, time means nothing. Maybe consider keeping two days a week open for your family or for yourself; pretend you’re working at a job downtown…five days is a usual work week. Try that. You’ll find your writing will sneak in; let it, then go on and enjoy your own time.


Travel writer and cruise destination lecturer (31 cruises), Chloe Ryan Winston continues to hone her writing skills in a hut on a hill in Northern California.


(To be a part of the Killer Nashville Guest Blog, send a query to contact@killernashville.com. We’d love to hear from you.)

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Killer Nashville’s Featured Books / Friday, February 14, 2014 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

wine-and-roses-1013tm-pic-1695DEATH NELL by Mary Grace Murphy
FRAME-UP by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
LOVE IS MURDER by Sandra Brown
MEGAN’S MARK by Lora Leigh
MOTIVE FOR MURDER by Carol J. Post
SCORCHED by Laura Griffin
THE SEARCH by Nora Roberts
SILENCE by Debra Webb
SWEET SURRENDER by Maya Banks
TELL ME by Lisa Jackson

Dear Murderous Reader –

Valentine’s Day is here. What better way to celebrate love than with murder and suspense? Here’s my pick of 10 books that should send your suspense juices flowing. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order along with my quip cuff notes.

If you don’t have someone beside you this Valentine’s Day, why not curl up with a few great books. And – if you do have someone beside you, be sure he or she is who you think they really are.

DEATH NELL by Mary Grace Murphy
Can food bring two people together? Sure, over a dish of cold murder. Making your heart glow, this is maturity at its finest. Loved this first book from indie author Mary Grace Murphy. Like her character Sam, I don’t think she knows I’m writing about her. Hopefully, she’ll take it well.

FRAME-UP by Jill Elizabeth Nelson
From snowstorm to the frying pan, nothing like being saved and then becoming a murder suspect. Good thing she has a great man by her side to rev up her tingles.

LOVE IS MURDER by Sandra Brown
From International Thriller Writers, a short story anthology from authors such as Lee Child, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Heather Graham, Allison Brennan, and more. These will pull at your heart: bodyguards, vigilantes, stalkers, serial killers, men and women both in jeopardy, cops, thieves, P.I.s, and killers all in the midst of romance, love, or downright lust.

MEGAN’S MARK by Lora Leigh
For those who really want to go out there, this is a world where altered Breeds and the humans who created them cross the boundaries of desire. Murders and passion go hand in hand and Cupid gets on the run. Read this one in private.

MOTIVE FOR MURDER by Carol J. Post
“Motive for Murder” gives you some love-inspired suspense. Nothing like a death to make the heart grow fonder between two people who want to “keep it professional,” but sometimes principles get in the way of the heart.

SCORCHED by Laura Griffin
Is the relationship over? You know it’s not. But they don’t know it yet. Love in the midst of an international mystery, what could get your heart beating faster?

THE SEARCH by Nora Roberts
A canine search and rescue volunteer who finds love in the Pacific Northwest wilderness. Be wary of the puppy eyes. This is Nora Roberts doing what she does best: being Nora Roberts.

SILENCE by Debra Webb
Time off? Nope. Special Agent Jess Harris is about to be reunited with a love from the past. It’s anything but a relaxing break and stickier than Valentine’s candy.

SWEET SURRENDER by Maya Banks
Nothing like a cop getting close to his suspect. She’s everything a man could want. Maybe more than he can handle. This should leave the bathroom mirrors steamy.

TELL ME by Lisa Jackson
If you’re soapin’ for a crime-solving woman also looking for her heart, from Killer Nashville’s upcoming 2014 Guest of Honor, here’s a story where you don’t know who to trust. Scenes like those in the shower are a bit much for me, but my wife tells me that these are the things Valentine’s dreams are made of.

This should give you something to read for the next few days. Get in touch with these authors, learn about them, check out their other series, and buy their books. And tell them you would like to see them at this year’s Killer Nashville.

Until next time, read like someone is burning the books!

Clay Stafford
- Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (www.ClayStafford.com) and founder of Killer Nashville (www.KillerNashville.com).  As a writer himself, he has over 1.5 million copies of his own books in print in over 14 languages.  Stafford’s latest projects are the feature documentary “One of the Miracles” (www.OneOfTheMiracles.com) and the music CD “XO” (www.JefferyDeaverXOMusic.com). A champion of writers, Publishers Weekly has identified Stafford as playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers” throughout “the nation’s book culture.”  (PW 6/10/13)


Buy the book from the Killer Nashville Bookstore and help support a new generation of writers and readers.

Visit our bookstore for other similar books.

If you want to make your own comments on this selection, we would love to hear from you. Join our Facebook Killer Nashville group page or our blog and join in the discussion.

Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!

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Killer Nashville’s Featured Books / Monday, February 10, 2014 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Beewitched by Hannah Reed
Books, Cooks, and Crooks by Lucy Arlington
Days of Wine and Roquefort by Avery Aames

 

Killer Nashville Featured BooksThree must reads from Berkley Prime Crime’s lineup. Part 1 of 3.

Dear Murderous Reader –

It doesn’t get any better than Berkley Prime Crime.  I follow their serials like the Victorians followed Dickens.  Berkley’s February list is out and I made my own list of what had to be my “must reads.”  The ones I picked didn’t disappoint.  Here are my three of my nine Toppers in my Part 1 of 3 coverage.  You’ve got a whole month of February. And remember, if you buy your books through the links on Killer Nashville, you’ll still get the great Amazon discount prices, but – better yet – a portion of the proceeds goes towards the educational events sponsored by the good volunteers at Killer Nashville.  So support Killer Nashville while you’re supporting our featured authors!  Let’s get cracking!

BEEWITCHED by Hannah Reed

Dead witches in a corn maze.  What could be finer?  Written by author Deb Baker under her “Hannah Reed” moniker, this is Book 5 in a series about a quaint town and a beekeeping business set in Moraine, Wisconsin. In this installment, a self-proclaimed witch moves into town followed by a whole coven in which one witch ends up dead in a cornfield.  I rarely find my name in books so when I find a series where the main character’s womanizing ex-husband’s name is Clay, it always jolts me to attention and makes me want to follow to find where he pops back up again.  (I’m nothing like him.  Seriously.)  Beewitched is a cozy delight. I love the town of Moraine (probably named after Kettle Moraine).  I love the small town feel and the Wisconsin references.

BOOKS, COOKS, AND CROOKS by Lucy Arlington

Down in Inspiration Valley, North Carolina – don’t you just love the name? – the kitchen blows up and the mystery hits the fan.  The problem is not finding the killer, but eliminating everyone who would like to see the deceased dead.  Ellery Adams and Sylvia May are the writing team behind “Lucy Arlington” and, boy, do they work well together.  Distance is no barrier for this creative team: Adams lives in Virginia and May lives in Bermuda.  (I’d love to have a collaborative partner somewhere in the Caribbean; would love to get a tax write-off on that get-together.)  “Books, Cooks, and Crooks” is the third book in their series.  In this episode, Inspiration Valley is having their annual Taste of the Town Festival.  Lila Wilkins is a literary agent in town (the Novel Idea Literary Agency) and sleuth, who happens to be helping to put this event together.  She’s probably not the first agent to think she has a killer client.  (I know my agent thinks that about me…yeah, right.)  Anyway, living in an idyllic little town myself, I can relate completely to these annual town gatherings.  If you like a book about crazy agents…well, I won’t go there.  Arlington writes clever mysteries with characters I can completely understand.  It’s always a pleasure spending an evening in Inspiration Valley.

DAYS OF WINE AND ROQUEFORT by Avery Aames

Murder, like Roquefort, stinks.  I love it.  Moving westwardly, we go to the fictional town of Providence, Ohio for the Agatha Award-winning Cheese Shop Mysteries.  In this series, you have people who eat cheese and drink wine.  For a guy (me) who thinks wine is for drinking, not sniffing, and can’t taste the difference between a $6 bottle and a $600 dollar bottle, this series is a trip with characters I can definitely be amused by.  In this third installment, a guest arrives at the house of cheeky cheese shop owner Charlotte Bessette and then drops dead.  Written by multi-faceted author Daryl Wood Gerber under the pseudonym of Avery Aames, the delightful plotting of this series and the equally gratifying town of Providence, make this an incredibly fun series to read.  We all have such relatives.

This should give you something to read for the next few days.  Get in touch with these authors, learn about them, check out their other series, and buy their books.  And tell them you would like to see them at this year’s Killer Nashville.

Until next time, read like someone is burning the books!

Clay Stafford
- Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker (www.ClayStafford.com) and founder of Killer Nashville (www.KillerNashville.com).  As a writer himself, he has over 1.5 million copies of his own books in print in over 14 languages.  Stafford’s latest projects are the feature documentary “One of the Miracles” (www.OneOfTheMiracles.com) and the music CD “XO” (www.JefferyDeaverXOMusic.com). A champion of writers, Publishers Weekly has identified Stafford as playing “an essential role in defining which books become bestsellers” throughout “the nation’s book culture.”  (PW 6/10/13)


Buy the book from the Killer Nashville Bookstore and help support a new generation of writers and readers.

Visit our bookstore for other similar books.

If you want to make your own comments on this selection, we would love to hear from you. Join our Facebook Killer Nashville group page or our blog and join in the discussion.

Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!

Posted in Recommended Books of the Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Outline or No Outline? / Author Rick Reed

Outline or no outline? That is the question. Sometimes it’s great to hear how other successful writers do it. Author Rick Reed, after writing several acclaimed books, has found his groove. Here’s his take on how he plots.

Happy Reading!

Clay Stafford
Founder of Killer Nashville


Author Rick Reed

Author Rick Reed

I’ve been asked this question many times. “Do you write from an outline? How do you get your ideas and keep them straight while writing a full length novel?”

The answer I gave in the past is, “I don’t start with an outline. I start with a title (an idea) and then let the characters develop the story.”

But today I realized that’s only partially true.

Imagine a book as a lump of clay. (And please don’t think I’m comparing myself to an artist.) The definition of sculpting is to create by removing material in order for the shape that is hidden inside to be revealed.

With that in mind, imagine a title such as “Murder in Mind.” What images does that create? What feelings does it bring out? For every one of you it’s different, but will have subtle similarities. For one of you the story would be about a serial killer that fantasizes his murders and tries to make them fit the fantasy. For another of you it might be a nightmare, or the unconscious world of a coma patient.

"Final Justice" by Rick Reed

“Final Justice” by Rick Reed

Probably most of you work the other way around. You have an idea in mind, and then come up with a title. Either way, the title almost always changes to fit the story.

My books, The Cruelest Cut, The Coldest Fear, and Final Justice, all started with a title that stuck in my mind. It was my lump of clay. And like any sculptor or potter will tell you, eventually, the clay begins to take over, and the artist is merely the hands and chisel (or laptop) that tells the story. Inside my lump, I saw a number of possible directions for the story, and each one would lead to the characters. Then the characters would take over.

Each character has a different idea how they talk, what they will or won’t do, how a scene turns out, who they interact with. I never know the end until the end because it “ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.” There is no better feeling in the world for an author than writing those two words…THE END.

Like any writer or artist or athlete, etc., each book is a different experience and you learn from all of them. I’d like to think that I’ve grown as a writer and I can look back at my old books and see where I would have done them differently. But the difference is the beauty of a book. Not everyone will like what you’ve written. Not everyone appreciates a painting or sculpture or song or music, but that doesn’t make it bad. (Like I used to tell my college students, “Not everyone likes asparagus.”)

So I say, “Go forth. Find your lump of clay. Create. Believe.”

THE END


Rick Reed was a detective with the Evansville Police Department in Indiana for almost 20 years. He was involved in law enforcement in some capacity for over 30 years.

His acclaimed book, BLOOD TRAIL, is the true account of one of the homicides he investigated in 2000 that unearthed a serial killer with fourteen victims.

He is also the author of the Detective Jack Murphy thrillers, THE CRUELEST CUT, THE COLDEST FEAR, and FINAL JUSTICE. His next thriller, MURPHY’S LAW, will be released in summer 2014. Check out his website for current projects and tour schedule.

http://www.rickreedbooks.com


(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/).  To be a part of this series, contact Beth at beth@killernashville.com.)

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An Interview with Author Baron R. Birtcher / Killer Nashville Success Story

Baron R. Birtcher

Baron R. Birtcher

Killer Nashville is pleased to present an interview with author Baron R. Birtcher, whose novel Rain Dogs was acquired by The Permanent Press after being named a Killer Nashville Claymore Award finalist.

KN: Baron, welcome, and thank you for joining us today. Let’s start with the basics, okay? When did you know you wanted to be a novelist?

BB: I read my first Hardy Boys mystery when I was nine.  I think I was completely hooked by the time I finished the book. I read voraciously from that time on – mostly mysteries and procedurals – and I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing when the first opportunity presented itself. That finally happened when I moved to Hawaii in 1996. My first hardboiled mystery, Roadhouse Blues, was published in 2000. One of the greatest thrills of my life. I’ve been writing ever since.

KN: How did you go about pursuing that goal?

BB: I had a story in my head that wouldn’t go away. It had been rattling around in there for several years. I finally wrote an outline for it and launched in to writing it once I knew I had a block of uninterrupted time available to give it a shot. It took me about six months to finish the first draft. Ignorance was bliss, I must admit, though. I had not read any “How to Write a Novel” or “How to Get Published” books beforehand, and simply sat myself down and wrote my story.

I was unbelievably fortunate to garner an agent after having sent out about 30 or 40 queries (and receiving the obligatory 29 – 39 rejections). My agent got me signed to a two book deal with a small press and off I went. In heaven, right? It was only after finishing my second manuscript, Ruby Tuesday, that I read any of those “How To” books. Man, am I glad I didn’t read them before I started my first book! They scared the hell out of me, and probably would have put a bunch of negative information into my head the whole time I was writing…But that’s probably just me.

KN:  Your newest book is called Rain Dogs. Can you tell us a little bit about it?  What inspired it?

BB: Rain Dogs began as a character study. I like to write vignettes for the significant characters in my books in order to understand who they are, how they speak, and what goes on inside their heads.

I don’t do them like a biography, but rather, like a short story that reveals who they are. In the case of Rain Dogs, I had a character that first appeared in my third novel, Angels Fall. He was a relatively minor character, but he really fascinated me. So I began writing a story about him. As it happened, it turned into a short story which I (for reasons unknown) put up on my website. Within a couple of days, I had received an amazing amount of feedback about the story and the character. People wanted to know what happened next. Just for fun, I wrote another, and finally a third installment of the story that featured a character known only as “Snyder.” Again, a bunch of positive feedback. But by that time, I was completely enamored with the guy, so I wrote an entire book about him. It’s a “prequel” of sorts that is Snyder’s origin story. The book I’m just finishing now will have Snyder in it, as well.

"Rain Dogs" by Baron R. Birtcher

“Rain Dogs” by Baron R. Birtcher

KN: With several books under your belt now, you must have a pretty good idea of what works for you. What’s your writing process?

BB: Once I settle in on a story, I like to treat it like a full-time job. In that sense, I allocate anywhere from 5 – 7 hours a day to write, five or six days per week until it’s finished. I never begin the writing process unless I know I can get to the finish line without any major time interruptions. For me, that really botches up the narrative flow, and makes it twice as hard as it should be. That’s probably just a personal quirk. I’ve tried doing full outlines, and I’ve tried it doing almost zero outline. Both processes work, but it turns out that the way that works best for me is to know the beginning and the end. If I start that way, I can allow the middle part of the story to tell itself and develop organically. It allows the characters a little freedom to run amok.

KN: How would you say your background in the music industry influences or informs your books (or does it)?

BB: I spent a number of years as a professional guitarist/singer/songwriter before realizing that I was probably better off in the “business” end of music. I am now a partner in a firm that manages performers, which is an absolute blast. It keeps me active in the studio, as well as on the road, and keeps my ears tuned to new artists. The similarities (or at least, the useful tools) between writing and music are numerous in my opinion. For instance, a good album (I’m dating myself here with that word) and a good book share similar qualities: The rhythm, melody, and lyrics must act together to create a workable whole. You can have a wonderful melody with clunky lyrics and the song is spoiled. The reverse is also true. And the largest component is that elusive “tone” element, that the body of a book’s narrative must use language (vocabulary) that is suitable and consistent with the story and setting. Words matter. They always have. It’s what I love about the truly great writers – of both music and books.

KN: What do you hope readers will gain from reading your books?

BB: An entertaining time spent with characters that you genuinely care about. And with any luck, a book that reads like a favorite album: where the words, music and instrumentation all pull together to create that whole that is better than the sum of its parts.

KN: What’s next?

BB: The next book is the fourth installment of the hardboiled Mike Travis series (set in Hawaii, as usual). As I mentioned before, this one will feature Snyder rather prominently, as well. The one after that will be another stand-alone.

KN: How has Killer Nashville helped you? (You knew that one was coming!)

BB: Participating in Killer Nashville, and – more specifically - having the honor of being a Killer Nashville Claymore Award finalist led me to my current publisher, Permanent Press. Without KN and without the Claymore Award, I sincerely don’t know if that would have happened. In my opinion, Killer Nashville is one of the best – if not The Best – Writers’ Conference in the country for aspiring writers. Readers, too, obviously. Great programs, terrific people, and a wonderful city!

KN: Any advice for aspiring authors?

BB: A couple of things:

  1. Finish the thing. Sit your a** down and write it. No excuses. Start it, then finish it.
  2. Write like there’s nobody looking. Write the way that comes from your heart. Write the way you sing when you’re in the shower; or the way that you dance when you’re all by yourself.
  3. Don’t worry about “genre” or “the reader” or “marketability.” That stuff will sort itself out if the writing is sincere and the story is solid.
  4. Oh, yeah, one more thing: Read your dialogue out loud. What looks good on the page sometimes sounds pretty lame when it’s spoken aloud.

KN: Is there anything you’d like to discuss that I haven’t covered? If so, now’s your chance!

BB: I can be reached at www.BaronRBirtcher.com. Can’t think of anything else. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of rambling on…


Baron R. Birtcher’s first two hardboiled mystery novels, Roadhouse Blues and Ruby Tuesday were Los Angeles Times and IMBA Best-Sellers. His third, Angels Fall, was nominated for the 2009 Left Coast Crime award (the “Lefty”) for Best Law Enforcement/ Police Procedural novel of the year. His latest, and first stand-alone, Rain Dogs, has received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly, and was a finalist for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award. Baron has had the privilege of serving as a judge for the Edgar Awards, as well as the Shamus and Claymore Awards (though not in the same year in which he competed). He currently resides in Kona, Hawaii and Portland, Oregon with his wife, Christina.  He can be reached on the web at www.BaronRBirtcher.com.


(The Killer Nashville Guest Blog is coordinated by KN Executive Director Beth Terrell (http://www.elizabethterrell.com/).  To be a part of this series, contact Beth at beth@killernashville.com.)

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