Sorry for the absence last week but I didn’t get a chance to post-date a blog and I wasn’t around the apartment house because I was off to Tennessee!
Kat, a writer friend from Des Moines, and I took off early morning on August 23 for our fourth Killer Nashville writers’ conference. During our travels, we encountered many of the same things wev’e faced during previous years: road construction, a little rain, long interstate highway boredom, wrong turns in the metropolis, and, of course, a great conference. Oh, and I can’t forget the annual rest stop in Metropolis, Illinois to show how I’d look as the famous superhero.
KN is for readers and writers. It’s a place to meet agents and editors, fellow authors, some cool guest speakers, and to learn everything about writing, from how to create memorable characters to marketing your published book.
This was the second year the conference was held at the downtown Hutton Hotel. Kat and I spent each night, however, at the Wyndham Resort, which is spitting distance from Opryland. Niiiice place to stay, but I wouldn’t want to pay the prices. Luckily, this year, I had a friend who allowed us to use his rewards points.
Kat and I ate a quick dinner before heading to the Hutton, but took a wrong turn and ended up in heavy traffic all going to the Titans pre-season game. Then we ended up on the wrong end of downtown where, unfortunately, I couldn’t enjoy the cenery of part of what makes Music City famous (the nightclubs, outdoor singers, etc.) because I was too busy trying not to run over anybody. Finally, we made it to the hotel.
Thursday night offered attendees several choices. Mystery Bingo winners received a choice of free books. (I won twice.) Screenwriter Heywood Gould showed his movie, Fort Apache: The Bronx. And they had a wine tasting session.
On the way back to the resort, we took another wrong exit and wound up getting a great view of the airport.
Friday morning started with breakfast at Bob Evans.
The opening seminar was delivered by Dr. Bill Bass, creator of “The Body Farm.” He discussed the investigation of an illegal fireworks operation that literally blew up. Forty minutes looking at slides of dead bodies and nobody reacted, but everybody broke down at the slide of a rabbit who had died from the blast’s concussion.
There were so many wonderful seminars to mention every one, so I’ll just highlight those I attended. After Bass, I took copious notes on Branding discussed by author Jennie Bentley. It was the best discussion of this topic I’ve ever come across.
Kat needed to make copies of her story to offer to a critique group so we hit the Fed Ex copy center and a Taco Bell during the lunch hour. The fast food was fine, but the restaurant needed a better balance between syrup and carbination in the soda.
After lunch was a discussion from an FBI agent on the agency’s role after 9/11.
This was followed by author Alma Katsu, a former CIA and NSA employee talking about the nation’s intelligence network. The final panel of the day featured authors discussing marketing and promotion ideas.
I have to thank Tracy Bunch and one of the hotel’s staff members for going the extra mile to make sure my books arrived Friday afternoon. They look gooood. (I’m referring to the books.)
Sisters in Crime held a get-together in the afternoon, but Kat and I were hungry for catfish so it was dinner at Cock of the Walk restaurant where the wait staff all wore black cowboy hats. Excellent food.
Back at the resort, we were ready to settle in for the evening but…oops! Kat discovered that she was missing her jump drive and we deduced she had left it at Fed Ex. Sooo, back downtown, where, of course we took the same wrong turn as we had the previous night and once again, toured downtown. Broadway and neighboring streets were teeming with people enjoying music and celebration. After half an hour of getting nowhere, we finally found the copy place and picked up the drive. She was relived and I treated her to ice cream at the shoppe next door. It was called the Pink Berry. The weird lighting and the, uh, particular clientele, made for a surreal experience.
Of course, you can’t go down south without hitting up a Waffle House for a good old fashioned breakfast. Saturday morning, I sat on my one panel with six other authors. I enjoyed the selections read and the short Q&A, but I thought there were too many people on the panel. Seven authors reading took up almost the entire time and not much was left for audience questions.
Sitting and chatting with another author afterward, I missed the session with Heywood Gould. Before lunch I watched a violent and heart wrenching video of a crazy man who drove his car through a convenience store window, then proceeded to beat up his girlfriend while his kid watched and bawled during the attack. The session led by a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent talked about staying vigilant.
Kat wanted Arby’s for lunch but I talked her into Chinese. Big mistake. I’ve never seen a buffet where the ice cream was the best part of the meal. I didn’t recognize ninety percent of the stuff they called food. We should have gone with roast beef.
The afternoon featured authors C.J. Box and Peter Straub. I also got to meet Robert Pobi, whose book I reviewed for this last Monday’s Braytonsbookbuzz review. After I introduced myself and told him I had written his excellent review for Suspense Magazine, he actually hugged me. Pobi is a personable, very friendly man and he was very pleased someone actually read his book, let alone enjoyed it. Plus, he offered to send me the ARC on the next book.
Another person I have befriended over the years is Amy Drescher, one of the coolest private eyes in the biz. I attended a panel of hers a few years ago and was very impressed. She was in and out of the conference in between cases but I signed a book for her.
I also chatted with fellow Posse member Paula Petty and we both would have enjoyed more of the Posse could have attended.
The final session on Saturday consisted of Box, Straub, Gould, Jeffrey Deaver, (who performed with his band later Saturday night), and two other guests. They discussed the future of writing.
Kat and I didn’t attend the Mystery Writers of America party or the banquet with the authors because I had promised to call a distant relative who lived in Clarksville. He drove down and we ate at the Rainforest Cafe in the Opry Mills Mall.Somehow over the constant barrage of noise from the themed restaurant, we enjoyed his stories about his years when he was dean of a college on the island of Palau.
On the the last day of the conference we breakfasted at Shoney’s.
Sunday’s sessions featured Will Lavender speaking for 90 minutes on Plotting the Puzzling Thriller; a group of authors gave ideas on book signing events; and a former EMT from the Nashville FD showed us all the wonderful household products with which we can kill each other.
I collected my books and bookmarks and Kat and I were off to see…
The Parthenon, with a four story Athena as the main attraction.
A quick meal at Arby’s and another tour of downtown trying to find the library which was supposed to feature giant books at one of the entrances. Not very impressive.
An apology to my relative who invited us to stop by for dinner and we headed the car for Iowa. More road construction and rain in St. Louis (just like last year). A final wrong turn put us into Iowa city rather than Oskaloosa and I finally arrived home at 2:30 Monday morning.
All in all, another grand adventure. We saw more of Nashville than expected but met a whole bunch of wonderful people. Thanks to Clay Stafford and Beth Terrell for another successful and worthwhile conference.
I look forward to next year.