Tag Archives: mystery conferences

Killer Nashville

I’d been to two conferences this year and wasn’t about to attend another. Then this happened. Since I last attended, Killer Nashville has moved from Nashville proper to a hotel in an industrial park in nearby Franklin. No pedal pubs hooting by on the street! No sneaking out to hear music! I also found this new hotel/motel disconcerting with elevators where you’re on display like a bug. No fluffing your hair or wriggling in your dress to prepare for a grand entrance.

Don’t look down!

Even though the outside temperatures weren’t bad for the end of August, the conference rooms were cold enough to chill wine. Fortunately, when packing, I had heeded my friend Mary Feliz’s sage comment that there’s only one temperature at conferences. Hotel temperature. Still, I could have used warmer clothes!

Enough whining. I finally met face-to-face two authors I’ve worked with and known for years, Paula Benson and Maggie Toussaint. Because of them and the Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter, I immediately found my tribe.

The Guppies table at Friday lunch. Out-going president Debra Goldstein was there, as well as three Silver Falchion winners: Maggie Toussaint (front left), who won in Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror; Carmen Amato (out of frame), who won in Short Stories; and Bradley Harper, who won for Mystery. Of course, the table also included moi, a Claymore finalist, and the young woman in red who solved KN’s staged crime scene.

Bradley Harper, the gentleman at our table, not only won the Silver Falchion for best mystery, but also co-hosted my favorite panel, How Autopsies Really Work. The presentation was full of grist such as surgeons often sign bullets they remove (as part of the chain of custody). In Germany, Medical Examiners don’t use the Y incision but rather a straight line because there are no open casket funerals in Germany.  

A highlight at Killer Nashville is the staged crime scene. Attendees get to act as CSI and try to solve what happened. I didn’t win, but the killer was in my top two suspects. 🙂

The crime scene covered the entire hotel suite and was quite complex. To grasp the crime, one also had to listen to many taped interviews.

Because this was my second time as a Claymore finalist and my second time at the conference, Clay Stafford, the founder, assigned me plenty to do: three panels, many signing slots, and a position as presenter at the Awards Banquet. But the stars of Killer Nashville were, of course, Joyce Carol Oates, Alexandra Ivy, and David Morrell. If you’ve never seen Joyce Carol Oates, she’s a wren-like woman with a great deal of self-possession. Because I was the first presenter, I was able to sit in Clay Stafford’s banquet chair for a bit and rub shoulders with greatness, the three stars all lined up at my side. But my favorite star experience happened during one of my many forays outside to warm up and to breathe some real air. On the weekend, the industrial park was completely deserted. I was the single sole walking about. That is, until Joyce Carol Oates came walking toward me. I figured she was out there for some peace, so we passed wordlessly. It was enough to catch her fleeting aura.  

How about you? Have you ever had occasion to attend a conference? Which are your favorites and why? Any Joyce Carol Oates experiences?

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation. Still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching English, Vinnie is retired. In addition to writing, she plays keyboards with ukulele bands in Santa Cruz, California, where she lives with her husband and the requisite cat. She’s the author of the Carol Sabala Mystery series, and LOSTART STREET, a cross-genre novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies, with four publications this year. Her latest is a caper story in the Sisters in Crime Guppies’ anthology, Fishy Business. Who are the Guppies? We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun. Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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Honolulu Havoc: The Pros and Cons of a Conference in Paradise

Left Coast Crime 2017 convened in Hawaii. The allure is almost too obvious to mention. There’s—well—the setting, the elaborate Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki. Warm weather, sunsets on the beach, Diamond Head in the distance.

Beach in front of hotel.

Beach in front of hotel.

For many attendees the conference was a great excuse to escape a March roaring in like a lion. Almost every participant I talked to had extended his/her stay. Sisters in Crime Guppy President, Jim Jackson, and his wife, Jan Rubens, planned a month in Hawaii! Even Danny and I, who hale from temperate Santa Cruz, stayed a week. A conference in a vacation destination clearly entices writers to take a break.

The Hawaiian flavor permeated the conference from the POG (pineapple, orange, guava) juice served in the hospitality suite to the braided leis given to each award nominee at the reception—held outside on the Great Lawn. Toastmaster Laurie King literally let her hair down, releasing her famous bun into a cascade of silver. As we strolled around in our muumuus and shorts, Ghost of Honor, Earl Derr Biggers, and his creation Charlie Chan, haunted the setting. The first panel I attended, Real-Life Experience: Authors Tell All opened with free mimosas. Now there’s a ploy to get people to talk.


As usual, the conference gave me an opportunity to see writing buddies from other parts of the country and to meet and read authors new to me, like Maia Chance who participated on the Eye to Eye With the P.I. panel with me. I am thoroughly enjoying the first book in her series, Come Hell or Highball. Our panel was moderated by my crime writing idol, Allen Eskens! As moderator, he read a book from each panelist. He liked  Black Beans & Venom enough to give me this blurb, “It is the mark of true talent for a writer to be able to deliver her readers completely and believably to another world, and in Black Beans and Venom Vinnie Hansen has done just that. Set in the vibrant and gritty back streets of Cuba, this cat-and-mouse hunt for a missing woman is full of intrigue, suspense and authenticity.I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.” That alone was worth the price of admission.

Me with Allen Eskens. Check out his thrillers. The first is The Life We Bury.

Me with Allen Eskens. Check out his thrillers. The first is The Life We Bury.

So what could possibly be wrong?

It’s difficult to organize a conference in a place where one poached egg costs $4.25! Compare the room-rate of $209-$249 a night to that for next year’s LCC in Reno–$82. And the room-rate in Honolulu didn’t even include room Wi-Fi or parking, both part of the package in Reno.

The time and expense of getting to Hawaii and staying in Hawaii clearly lowered attendance. Quite a few authors appeared on three different panels, good for them perhaps, but not as stimulating for the audience. And maybe its just my guilty conscience speaking, but I feel tourist distractions pulled attendees away from conference events. Usually the Liar’s Panel, a perennial favorite, packs the room. Not so this year, in spite of a stellar line-up–Rhys Bowen, Donna Andrews, Lee Goldberg, Parnell Hall, Catriona McPherson.

Finally, Honolulu isn’t my idea of paradise. It’s a bustling city, thick with tourists. Danny and I took a morning off to follow the ant trail of people up Diamond Head. I’m glad we did it, but wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

View from Diamond Head through edge of pillbox.

View from Diamond Head through edge of pillbox.

The Sunset Pillbox Trail on the North Shore, where we spent our first few days on the island, was much more satisfying. On that hike, we encountered only a few locals, the vistas were just as spectacular, and the brightly graffitied pillboxes were more interesting than the structures atop Diamond Head.

Pillbox on North Shore.

Pillbox on North Shore.


I have no regrets about attending Left Coast Crime 2017, but look forward to the more economical Left Coast Crime 2018. If I win enough at blackjack, it may not cost me a thing. 🙂



What’s the best or worst conference you’ve attended conferences? What made the conference that way? 


Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her Carol Sabala mystery series is set in Santa Cruz, California.

Her forthcoming book, Lostart Street, is a stand-alone novel of mystery, manslaughter and moonbeams.

Here’s a sneak peak at the cover:


We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )