Laura Oles

Entering a writing competition takes a certain amount of confidence.

I didn’t have it.

It took a long time to work up the courage to enter DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN in the Killer Nashville Claymore competition. This manuscript had been my secret project for a few years, and I had only shared it with my critique group. I invested substantial effort editing, tightening and polishing pages, but I didn’t know if it was ready. I didn’t feel ready. Still, something told me I’d regret it if I didn’t try. I decided that it would be enough of an accomplishment to say I had entered.

So, I held my breath, uploaded my entry, and told myself I had at least given it a shot.

When I received the email from Clay Stafford informing me that my manuscript had been chosen as a Claymore finalist, I had to read it several times before it sank in. There was screaming involved. I’m sure my neighbors thought there was something wrong with me.

It was a very good day.

I attended the Killer Nashville conference and enjoyed a whirlwind weekend. The event was filled with conversations ranging from craft to marketing, from cozy to noir, and I left with several new friendships and the promises to keep in touch. I have several relationships from Killer Nashville that continue to this day.

DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN found a home with Red Adept Publishing. I couldn’t have asked for a better publisher to bring my cast of characters to final form. I’ve been told I will never forget my first publication day, and I believe that’s true. It was a dream that had been many years in the making, and I embraced every minute. I stretched the day as long as I could.

DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN was just named an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel, and the thrill of that honor can’t be overstated. The mystery community has proven to be such a supportive and inspiring one. To be included with so many talented storytellers is a remarkable thing.

Being chosen as a Claymore finalist gave me the confidence to push forward with my novel. It has also given me the distinction of being known as a finalist, something I am proud to include in my author credentials. For anyone who is on the fence about entering, I encourage you to go forward. See what happens.

How will you know unless you try?


Laura Oles is a photo industry journalist who spent twenty years covering tech and trends before turning to crime fiction. She served as a columnist for numerous photography magazines and publications.  

Laura’s short stories have appeared in several anthologies, including MURDER ON WHEELS, which won the Silver Falchion Award in 2016. Her debut mystery, DAUGHTERS OF BAD MEN, is a Claymore Award Finalist and an Agatha nominee for Best First Novel. She is also a Writers’ League of Texas Award