Wednesday, May 20, 2015


I needn't embellish Jaden (Beth) Terrill's blog as it’s so solid and comprehensive that it speaks for itself. But what it does do—which no other blog before has done—is take you into the world of mysteries and mystery conferences, which is particularly timely since half of our 16 annual titles are usually mysteries and the writers we've published have won far more awards, percentage wise, than whose of any corporate publisher, with Beth’s Racing the Devil herself being a finalist for the 2013 Shamus Award. Her fourth mystery with us, A Taste of Blood and Ashes will be published in 2016. You can contact Beth at

“When people ask me about the best thing I've done for my writing career, I have to say the first thing is actually finishing and submitting the first book in my series. But the second best thing was volunteering with the Killer Nashville Thriller, Mystery, and Crime Literature Conference founded by Clay Stafford. I met my agent, Jill Marr, there, which led to being published by Marty and Judy Shepard of The Permanent Press, which in turn led to a Shamus Award nomination and two more Jared McKean novels. I've made more industry contacts than an introverted writer like myself could ever hope to meet, and I've been blessed to be a part of something bigger than myself, something that helps other writers and which, even if I never made a single book sale as a result, is something I will always be glad I've done.

“I first met Clay in 2006 at a one-day workshop I was helping host for the Southeastern Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. He was teaching a session on how to turn your novel into a screenplay. I was arranging freebies on the book table and helping move chairs. He told me about Killer Nashville, which he was launching just a few weeks later, and said he could use someone like me. I liked him, I liked his vision, and I ended up speaking on a panel and helping with registration.

“Nice conference. Small, homey, but content-heavy, with knowledgeable speakers on a variety of interesting subjects.

“About six months later, I got a call from Clay. “I have the perfect job for you,” he said. “I need someone to monitor all the conference rooms, make sure everybody there has paid, and if they haven’t, make them either pay or leave.”

“I said, ‘You don’t want me in that job. You’ll have homeless people sleeping in the halls and drinking all your coffee.’

“Okay, I have another job. It’s handling people’s payments for—”

“Oh, no!” I said. “I don’t handle other people’s money.

“There was a long silence. Finally, he asked, “What can you do?”

“We settled on volunteer coordinator, then executive director, and—a few years later—special programs coordinator. For months on end, we’d email back and forth, then talk on the phone until the wee hours of the morning, planning, brainstorming, always looking for ways to make the conference better. We went from one agent to an agent and an editor to three, then to five, and this year to eight. We went from speed-dating-style pitches to round tables, from three tracks to five. We started the Claymore award for unpublished authors and the Silver Falchion for published works. We opened a forensic track, and Clay enlisted Dan Royse and Mike Breedlove, two friends from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, to create a mock crime scene like the ones they use to train their agents.

“It was exhausting at times, even overwhelming, but the man had a vision, and I felt honored to help him make it happen. “Killer Nashville is a family,” he’d say. “A community. A place for writers, agents, publishers, and readers to come together and help each other.” His goal was to help aspiring writers become published writers, published writers to become better and more successful writers, and readers to discover new authors to love.

“This past February, with the help of several interns and a new Vice President of Operations, Pulitzer Prize winner Maria Giordano, Clay launched the Killer Nashville E-Magazine (with a monthly column from yours truly). An anthology is also in the works, and this year’s conference, held over Halloween weekend, will also feature a book fair open to the public. “That’s the prong we needed to shore up,” he said. “We’re doing a lot for the writers and the publishing community, but we need to bring in more readers. Without them, there is no publishing community.”

“People ask me sometimes what I get out of my relationship with Killer Nashville. It’s certainly not the pay. There is none. But from Killer Nashville, Sisters in Crime, and Mystery Writers of America to a blog ( that features fellow authors, volunteerism has been a rewarding way to raise my visibility as an author. Promotion through service, I call it, and I’d recommend it for any writer who’d like to build name recognition while creating something meaningful in the process.”

NEXT UP: A blog by another mystery writer, Howard Owen, who won the 2012 Hammett Prize for



  1. "Promotion through service" sounds a great concept, and you model it beautifully. Great blogpost.

    Can't wait for the next book!

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