He put the cord over my head. It scratched against my neck, heavier than I expected. My heart was beating too fast. The noise buffeted me, my vision a blur . . . 

Nope, I wasn’t strangled, but won the Silver Falchion award for THE ARTIST/EL ARTISTA in the Short Story Collection/Anthology at the Killer Nashville mystery writer conference.  Competition included a story by R. L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series. 

Novelist Joyce Carol Oates, who received a lifetime achievement award, and David Morrell, creator of Rambo, were both in the audience.

Carmen with award


As thrilling as winning an award is, the real reason for attending the Killer Nashville conference is the ability to network with other authors. I like Killer Nashville because it is a relatively small setting, as writing conferences go, and there is time to have sidebar conversations–although never enough! 

Related post: Lessons from Killer Nashville 2018

killer nashville

With Mike Faricy, author of the Dev Haskell series

Amato and Baron Birtcher

With Baron Birtcher, who won 3 awards including Best Overall Novel for “Fistful of Rain”

Killer Nashville

R.G. Belsky, Carmen Amato, and conference founder Clay Stafford

Souvenirs for all

Killer Nashville is also a good place to get a dose of inspiration. Panel presentations are specific to the mystery and thriller genre. Conflict, characters, setting, red herrings. Finding out how other authors twist their plots or plan their characters is like a dose of new insights and fresh ideas.

It’s the proverbial shot in the arm.

My solo presentation “Inside the CIA” was delivered to a standing-room-only audience. Everyone stayed, despite the wonky projector that muddied my slideshow. I’ll be replaying it in a webinar for the Atlanta chapter of Sisters in Crime. You can sign up for the webinar here: https://www.meetup.com/Sisters-in-Crime-Atlanta-Chapter/events/264524525/

Andrea Amherst, who came all the way from Vienna, Austria (!) for the conference, joined me in leading a workshop on “How to Make Your Website Work for You.” We used this PDF checklist, which you can download here: http://carmenamato.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Killer-Nashville-website-checklist.pdf

Observations and a suggestion

Last year, I came away from Killer Nashville with the feeling that a storm between trad and indie publishing had brewed under the surface, led by indie publishing champion Joe Konrath. He did not attend the 2019 conference, so the buzz was quieter, albeit still there.

Most of the authors still working on their first novel want a trad deal rather than “being forced” to strike out into the wilds of indie publishing. Yet almost all the authors I spoke to who were traditionally published had a nightmare story of publishers closing, editors bailing on them, contracts left in limbo, etc. Indie authors were making a decent income and liked the sense of control.

I expect this will continue to be an ongoing debate.

This year, I ran into more would-be authors who were still in various stages of completing a novel and wondering how to get it published. All seemed to be looking for a mentor. Beyond the actual writing process, they were looking for someone who could explain the publishing industry and how to market books. Maybe next year’s Killer Nashville could have a mentor program.


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Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.


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