Tag Archive for: Toni L.P. Kelner

Mystery in the Midlands ONLINE and FREE!!!! Saturday, July 25, 2020

by Paula Gail Benson

For the last two years, the Palmetto Chapter of Sisters in Crime and the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America have sponsored a mid-summer conference for readers and writers in “famously hot” Columbia, S.C. While we had to cancel our in person gathering due to Covid 19, our third venture as an online conference, to be held on Saturday, July 25, 2020, looks to be a charm with a terrifically HOT lineup and a program offered free of charge (thanks to Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America for generous support). Anyone can attend. You don’t have to be a member of Sisters in Crime or Mystery Writers of America to join in the fun!

All you have to do is register at this link, then click through to the Crowdcast link to save your spot.

Here’s the link again:

Today, Monday, July 20, 2020, is the last day to register! You don’t want to miss this fabulous program hosted by Dana Kaye with books available through Jill Hendrix’s Fiction Addiction Bookstore in Greenville, S.C.

Here’s the schedule for Mystery in the Midlands, on Saturday, July 25, 2020:

10:00 am to 10:15 am EST   Welcome
Kaye (moderator), Debra Goldstein (SEMWA), and Paula Gail Benson (Palmetto
Chapter SinC)

10:30 am to 11:15 am EST   Slip into Some Shorts
Dana Kaye (moderator) – John Floyd, Tara Laskowski, and Art Taylor
11:30 am to 12:00 pm EST  Mystery Writers Are Always Hot! Keynote
12:15 pm to 1:00 pm EST       Spectres
Rather Than Heat Mirages
Kaye (moderator) – Alexia Gordon, Toni L.P. Kelner, and Gigi Pandian
1:15 pm to 2:00 pm EST      Pages Burning Their Way to the Screen
Kaye (moderator) – Dana Cameron, Jeffrey Deaver, and Charlaine Harris
2:15 pm to 2:30 pm EST      Everybody in the Pool!

Dana Kaye
(moderator), Debra Goldstein (SEMWA), and Paula Gail Benson (Palmetto Chapter

Here’s some information about our fabulous authors:

Charlaine Harris is a true
daughter of the South. She was born in Mississippi and has lived in Tennessee,
South Carolina, Arkansas, and Texas. After years of dabbling with poetry,
plays, and essays, her career as a novelist began when her husband invited her
to write full time. Her first book, Sweet
and Deadly,
appeared in 1981. When Charlaine’s career as a mystery writer
began to falter, she decided to write a cross-genre book that would appeal to
fans of mystery, science fiction, romance, and suspense. She could not have
anticipated the huge surge of reader interest in the adventures of a barmaid in
Louisiana, or the fact that Alan Ball would come knocking at her door. Since
then, Charlaine’s novels have been adapted for several other television series,
with two in development now. Charlaine is a voracious reader. She has one
husband, three children, two grandchilden, and two rescue dogs. She leads a
busy life.
John M. Floyd’s short
fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen
Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, The Saturday Evening Post
, and many
other publications. Three of his stories have been selected for the
annual Best American Mystery Stories anthology (the 2015,
2018, and 2020 editions) and another was recently optioned for film. A former
Air Force captain and IBM systems engineer, John is also an Edgar nominee, a four-time
Derringer Award winner, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a recipient of the
Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award for lifetime achievement, and
the author of eight books. He and his wife Carolyn live in Mississippi.
Tara Laskowski’s debut
novel, One Night Gone, won the 2019 Agatha Award for Best First
Novel and was a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark, Anthony, Macavity, and
Lefty Awards. It was hailed by Tana French as “a subtly but relentlessly
unsettling novel.” Tara is also the author of two short story
collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders,
which The Guardian named a best book of 2017. She has had
stories published in Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery
 Mystery Magazines and has won both an Agatha Award and a Thriller
Award for her short fiction. She was a longtime editor of the flash fiction
journal SmokeLong Quarterly. Tara earned a BA in English from
Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and lives in
Northern Virginia with her husband, writer Art Taylor, and their son, Dashiell.
Art Taylor is
the author of the story collection The Boy Detective & The Summer
of ’74 and Other Tales of Suspense 
and of the novel in stories On
the Road with Del & Louise, 
winner of the Agatha Award for Best
First NovelHe won the 2019 Edgar Award for Best Short Story for
“English 398: Fiction Workshop,” originally published in Ellery
Queen’s Mystery Magazine
, and he has won three additional Agatha Awards,
an Anthony Award, three Macavity Awards, and three consecutive Derringer Awards
for his short fiction. He is an associate professor of English at George Mason
Virginia native, physician by training, author by passion, Alexia Gordon writes the award-winning
Gethsemane Brown Mysteries, with Book 5, Execution in E, being released March
24, 2020. She is a member of MWA, SinC, ITW, and CWoC; blogs at
Missdemeanors.com and with the Femmes Fatales
(femmesfatales.typepad.com/my_weblog/); and hosts the podcast, The Cozy Corner
with Alexia Gordon. Find her on social media (Facebook: AlexiaGordon.writer,
Twitter: @AlexiaGordon, Instagram: DrLex1995) and visit her website (
www.alexiagordon.net) to sign up for her
Toni L.P. Kelner/Leigh
is two authors in one. As Leigh Perry, she
writes the Family Skeleton Mysteries. The sixth, The Skeleton Stuffs a
, was released in Fall 2019. As Toni L.P. Kelner, she wrote eight novels in the Laura Fleming
mystery series and three “Where Are They Now?” mysteries. Kelner also co-edited seven urban fantasy
anthologies with New Your Times best-seller Charlaine
Harris. Under both names she writes short fiction, including recent
publications in 
Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and a forthcoming story in Shattering Glass. Kelner has won the Agatha
Award and an RT BookClub Lifetime Achievement Award and has been nominated
multiple times for the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Derringer.

Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and Agatha
Award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and accidental
almost-vegan. The child of anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip
of India, she spent her childhood traveling around the world on their research
trips, and now lives in California with her husband and a gargoyle who watches
over the garden. Gigi writes the
Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and
locked-room mystery short stories.
Dana Cameron writes
across many genres, but especially crime and speculative fiction. Her work,
inspired by her career in archaeology, has won multiple Anthony, Agatha, and
Macavity Awards, and has been nominated for the Edgar Award. Dana’s Emma
Fielding archaeology mysteries were optioned by Muse Entertainment; the third
movie, based on More Bitter Than Death,
will premier on the Hallmark Movie & Mystery Channel in January, 2019. When
she’s not traveling or visiting museums, she’s usually yelling at the TV about
historical inaccuracies.

A former journalist, folksinger and attorney, Jeffery Deaver is an international
number-one bestselling author. His novels have appeared on bestseller lists
around the world, including the New York Times, the Times
of London
, Italy’s Corriere della Sera, the Sydney
Morning Herald
 and the Los Angeles Times. His books are
sold in 150 countries and have been translated into over twenty-five languages.
He has sold 50 million books worldwide. The author of over thirty-five novels,
three collections of short stories and a nonfiction law book, and a lyricist of
a country-western album, he’s received or been shortlisted for dozens of
awards around the world. His book 
A Maiden’s Grave was
made into an HBO movie, his novel 
The Bone Collector was
a feature release from Universal Pictures, and in 2019, NBC picked up a series
called “Lincoln,” based on his books. Lifetime aired an adaptation of his 
The Devil’s Teardrop.

We hope that you’ll all join us for Mystery in the Midlands, Saturday, July 25, 2020!


Where Will Those Ruby Slippers Lead Us?

by Paula
Gail Benson


Toni L.P. Kelner and Dr. Stephen P. Kelner, Jr.
read books about and spent time in a number of writing classes where story structure and character
motivations were explained by using examples from The Wizard of Oz. One example would be Debra Dixon’s excellent
text, GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

past weekend, at a terrific workshop about The Psychology of Writing, organized
by the Atlanta Chapter of Sisters in Crime, with Debra H. Goldstein as event coordinator,
I heard another analogy to Oz’s characters presented by Dr. Stephen P. Kelner,
Jr., husband of author Toni L. P. Kelner (the Laura Fleming and Where Are They Now? series and numerous short stories),
who also writes as Leigh Perry (the Family Skeleton series).

I have to express my admiration for Toni allowing her husband to analyze her reasons
for writing before an audience. I thought it was incredibly brave. When I
mentioned it to her, she brushed it off, saying she was used to it. Still, the
honesty with which she and Stephen approached the subject made it truly
informative for the listeners.

I think Stephen’s evaluations and theories, explained in greater detail in his
book, Motivate Your Writing!: Using
Motivational Psychology to Energize Your Writing Life
, are very insightful.
They certainly helped me to better understand my own writing motivations and characters.

suggested that there are three basic motivators:


affiliation, and


said these motivators described the goals of the characters we see in The Wizard of Oz and in the Harry Potter

The achiever wants to accomplish a
great deal. This person will do all he or she can to increase production. Like
the Scarecrow and Hermione, they are depended upon for intellect and direction.
What sometimes makes them less effective is their aim for perfection or their
need to micro-manage.

The affiliator is interested in establishing
and building relationships. Like the Tin Man and Ron, they want to be liked.
Sometimes, they can be too anxious about gaining friends or hurting feelings.

The influencer wants to leave a
legacy. This person asks, “Who will remember me?” Like the Lion and Harry,
influencers may be competitive. They may push others aside in order to be
noticed and get ahead.

Photo from etsy.com
in his studies, Stephen found that although achievement is part of writers’
goals, for most, including Toni, the primary motivator is to influence, to be
remembered. When influence is the focus, a writer needs to find a way to
measure what has been accomplished. Otherwise, the writer may get lost in being
part of a writing community rather than actually producing work. After all, it’s
wonderful to go to conferences and discuss craft with others, but that takes
time away from producing stories.

Photo from the Harry Potter movies
Toni, the answer became setting a manageable number of weekly words. She began by aiming for 600 words a day, writing 4 days, for a total of
2,400 per week and approximately 65,000 words per year (at that time the size
of most mystery novels). Once she was able to reach and maintain that goal, she increased
it to 800 words per day.

Toni and Stephen cautioned against selecting a ridiculously high goal, which would
just set a person up for failure. Also, realize that life does not always
proceed at an even pace. There may be times when, due to other obligations, a
writing goal cannot be accomplished. Be forgiving, but get back on track
and, Toni encouraged, always do your best to meet deadlines.

workshop was a terrific success and I commend everyone who was involved with it.

looking forward to reading Stephen’s Motivate
Your Writing!
and Toni’s latest as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Paints a Picture. (Her next, The Skeleton Makes a Friend, is available for pre-order and will be
released November 6, 2018). For more about the workshop, please check out my
post tomorrow on the Writers Who Kill blog.

Meanwhile, keep on
following that Yellow Brick Road!

Why I Don’t Outline

Toni L.P. Kelner never knows how her days will end up–maybe it’s because she is writing in several directions at once. In mysteries, Who Killed the Pinup Queen?, the second in her “Where are they now?” series, is just out. In urban fantasy, she edits anthologies with Charlaine Harris. Death’s Excellent Vacation is due out in August. In short stories, she has her first noir story coming out in March in Carolyn Haine’s anthology Delta Blues and a paranormal courtroom drama in the MWA anthology Crimes by Moonlight. Kelner has won the Agatha Award and a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, and has been nominated for two other Agathas, four Anthonys, and two Macavitys. She lives north of Boston with author/husband Stephen Kelner, two daughters, and two guinea pigs.

People often ask me if I outline my novels. I do if the editor requires it, but I may as well not bother. I’m not good with advance planning.

Even in real life, my days rarely end up as expected. The day I thought I’d finish a short story turns out to be the day I have to nurse a sick daughter. The week I meant to knock out the first few chapters of a novel, my other daughter had half days because of mid-terms. The interview scheduled for a time when my husband could get the girls to their clubs? He went to Australia.

Is it any surprise that my books rarely end up as planned?

Here’s a synopsis of Who Killed the Pinup Queen?, my second “Where are they now?” mystery:

Freelance entertainment reporter Tilda Harper has never had it so good. She’s become the darling of every formerly famous star in the country hoping to become famous again. The editors know it, too, so the assignments arrive daily. The checks are rolling in–she’s even shopping for a condo.

And she’s never been so bored in her life.

If she’d wanted to be an industry shill, she’d have become a publicist. Still, as a freelancer, it’s hard to pass up money, especially when it means getting rid of her latest roommate. If that means writing puff pieces about the former cast members of “The Ranchers,” a long-running Western that was even cheesier than “Bonanza,” how can she complain?

It’s while researching something that really interests her–a piece about pinup gals of the fifties–that she finally gets a whiff of a real story. It turns out that squeaky-clean Ranch gal Paige Henrickson started out posing for girly pictures. At first Henrickson begs Tilda not to reveal her secret, but when Tilda points out how much money there is to be made selling pictures and memorabilia, Henrickson embraces the idea, and Tilda writes “Breast of the West.”

Then Henrickson is found dead, and Tilda is determined to round up the killer.

Suspects include the man trying to open a dude ranch modeled on the fictional one from “The Ranchers;” Henrickson’s family, who hated the idea of her becoming notorious; former cast members, and a frighteningly devoted fan.

Whoever it is, he’s gunning for Tilda next, and he wants her dead, not alive.

Sounds pretty exciting, but it has nearly nothing to do with the book I actually wrote. And I can’t blame a kid or my husband for the changes.

First to go was the condo hunt. I decided that one successful story—the one I from in the previous book in the series—was not enough to make Tilda sought after. And without her being in demand, I couldn’t use the stuff about her being bored. Instead, I inserted a subplot about Tilda being offered a fulltime job.

I still wanted to write about pinup queens and TV cowboys, but I came up with a different fictional show that Tilda liked. (I don’t remember why I switched from “The Rangers” to “Cowtown,” but there must have been some reason.) The pinup queen story split off, and my murdered pinup had nothing to do with the cowboys.

Having Tilda trying to convince a pinup queen to go public slowed the pacing to a crawl. So I put the initial meeting with the pinup in as back story, introduced her briefly, then killed her off right away.

And that list of suspects? I lost interest in most of them. The family? Too obvious. I kept a niece, but the rest got relegated to a page. The guy starting the dude ranch? Other cast members? Now that the pinup queen was separate from the cowboys, that didn’t make sense. The freaky fan? Too easy. Time for a new set of suspects. I changed the murderer, too, more than once.

The fact is, it doesn’t matter if I outline ahead of time or not. The book never looks like I expected it to look. I like it that way—I never get bored.

Come to think of it, I think I meant this blog to be about guinea pigs.

Toni L.P. Kelner