Author Archive

Sweet Success for Mike Torreano

Hats off to Mike Torreano! His fourth western mystery, WHITE SANDS GOLD, releases September 5th from The Wild Rose Press. WHITE SANDS GOLD is a twisting tale of legend, betrayal, romance, and fidelity, set in New Mexico Territory in 1890. Come meet a flawed, focused, and flinty cast of characters caught in the swirl of an enormous hidden cache of gold bars. And what about that timeless religious relic that sits nearby?

White Sands Gold, by-Mike Torreano


New Mexico Territory, 1890

In a hidden cavern, a fortune in gold bars sits alongside an ancient relic.

To find her treasure-hunting brother, Lottie Durham enlists the help of an easygoing lawman. When a mysterious woman known only as Ma asks her to join the relic’s guardians, Lottie’s world spins. Why her, and should she take on this solemn obligation?

Twill, leader of the secretive guardians, has sworn a vow to protect the centuries-old religious relic. Regrets bedevil him and his dedication to his oath is repeatedly tested. If he breaks his promise, he’ll fail Ma, the one person he’s never wanted to let down.

Will a looming raid by a band of determined killers be the end of the guardians, the gold, and the relic? Purchase a copy through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or The Wild Rose Press.


Mike Torreano, Headshot

Mike Torreano read his first Zane Grey novel in fifth grade and was hooked on the Old West. His debut western mystery, THE RECKONING, was released in 2016 by The Wild Rose Press. The sequel, THE RENEWAL, was released in 2018, and a stand-alone western, A SCORE TO SETTLE, came out in 2020. WHITE SANDS GOLD is his latest western mystery, and will release September 2022. Visit Mike at and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Bookbub, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, former teacher, and compulsive dawn greeter. Her many books include DEL TORO MOON (middle grade fantasy series) and ON A GOOD HORSE (middle grade contemporary). She is the recipient of the Colorado Book Award, the High Plains Book Award, the Will Rogers Medallion Award, the IPPY Silver Award, and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Silver Award. A native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby can be found wrangling words. Visit the author at and follow her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Goodreads.

Want to Write a Children’s Book?

By: Trista Baughman

So, you want to write a children’s book? Easy-peasy, right?

It can be easy, but it isn’t always. A lot of work goes into writing even a short book. I don’t say this to discourage you. The hard work is worth it. I have written fun rhyming books in a few minutes and picture books that took a few months. I am working on a chapter book I started years ago. Life happens.

Approaches to Writing

Before starting on a project, let’s learn a little about the different approaches to writing.

Pantser, Plotter or Plantser: You can take the pantser approach (butt in your chair and write as your muse guides you with little to no planning) or the plotter approach (make outlines, character sketches, etc., for your story, then connect the dots). Or my favorite, the planster approach (a combination of the other two.) Sometimes an idea springs to mind and I write the story all at once. Sometimes I make a brief outline before letting my creative juices flow. Other times, I plan out every detail before writing the first word. It just depends on my mood.

Tidbits to Keep in Mind

Here are some helpful tidbits to keep in mind, whichever approach you choose.

Start with an idea.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. How will I begin my story? (You want to reel the reader in.)
  1. What will happen in the middle? (This is the climactic part that keeps the reader going.)
  1. How will it end? (This is the resolution, a satisfying ending that solves (most of) the problems. No cliffhangers, please.)
  1. What will the theme be?

You don’t have to answer in great detail; flesh these out later.

You may already have an idea. If you don’t, it’s no biggie. Book idea generators are a thing. (Who knew?)

If that doesn’t work, think about books from your childhood that you liked or disliked. How could you use those?

You can browse the public domain to take and tweak (Public Domain Books – List of Public Domain Books (

Tidbits Specific to Children’s Books

Rhyme and repetition.  Will your story be told in poetry or prose?  Rhyme can help children to experience rhythm in language and teach them essential skills in reading. Repetition can help make a book more memorable.

Do a bit of research. Visit your local library or bookstore and browse through your competition. Google and Good Reads can help you discover some of the best sellers in your genre, check out some of the lesser-known books and authors, too. You don’t want to copy these (that would be plagiarism). 😉 But it’s important to know your market.

Think like a child. You are writing books for kids, so you need to think like one. Consider problems kids face, things they find humorous, comforting, or scary. What personal experiences could you draw from?

Know your audience. Your audience is kids. But what age group? Knowing will help you choose your vocabulary and content for your book. It will determine the word count and type of book (e.g. picture book, early reader, chapter book, middle-grade book, young adult novel).

Know your purpose. Why are you writing this particular children’s book?  Are you writing to entertain or to convey an important message? Knowing can keep you going and help determine if your book has the effect you desire once you’ve completed your first draft.

Choose a voice. This is where you will think about your narrator and POV. Who is telling your story? Which point of view will work best?  Make sure you stick to whichever POV you choose. Will you tell your story in the past or present tense?

Know your characters. You want your characters to go through a bit of change in your story, but your character will have their distinct behaviors and dialect that set them apart. Your readers will notice if your character does or says something uncharacteristic.

The Writing Part

Begin your story “in medias res”.  Start where the action is; grab your readers’ attention. Younger kids won’t care for genealogy or ten-paragraph description of the setting or character appearance.

Motivate your characters– your MC (main character) needs a clear goal. Give them a goal they want more than anything else in the world.

Conflict– No conflict = no story. Conflict keeps MC from their goal. Have two or three minor additional conflicts for your character to overcome.

Setting– Start with places that are familiar to children. These areas won’t need as much detail, allowing more focus on plot.

Plot– Your plot consists of the significant events in your story with important consequences. It’s what your characters do, think, feel, or say that affects what comes next.

Dialogue– You want your dialogue to sound natural and help progress the story. Your characters will speak differently depending on their personalities and geographical origin. Remember to identify your speakers, especially when more than two converse.

Show, Don’t tell.  You’ve heard this your whole writing life. Show action rather than stating something has happened. Scenes should advance the plot and establish your characters. Keep passive voice to a minimum.

Denouement– the closing scenes of your story. They will tie up most loose ends and fulfill your promises to your readers. If you plan to have a sequel or series, leave a few ends untied so your readers can wonder what’s next.

Ready, Set, WRITE!

Revise. Rewrite. Edit. Repeat. Congratulations on finishing your book! Now the work begins. You will want to read several times, looking for different things each time.

  • Read through your story for content. Look for plot holes, inconsistencies, typos, that sort of thing. Is your plot and manuscript length appropriate for the age group? Has your main character grown throughout the story? Are your characters and setting consistent?
  • Next, omit unnecessary words. Concise, clear sentences are the way to go.
  • Now, focus on punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Bring out your thesaurus, dictionary, and style manual.
  • Utilize beta readers to give you feedback. Read your story to a kid. They are your audience; take notes of their reactions.
  • Do a final read-through to see if you’ve missed anything. At this point, you’re likely sick to death of reading your own story. Hang in there.
  • When your story is complete, you’ll want to find an illustrator or illustrate it yourself.

Publish Your Book

If you choose to self-publish, Amazon and Barnes & Noble Press are both worth your research. Keep in mind along with self-publishing usually comes self-formatting and self-marketing.

If you choose traditional publishing, Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market has you covered with lists of Children’s book agents, illustrators, publishers, and more. Also, check out the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), a great resource and networking system for children’s writers, etc.

Keep all this in mind and you’ll be off to a great start on getting your children’s book out there. I’ve attempted to give some insight into the process of writing a children’s book as well as some helpful tips, but I couldn’t fit everything into a single blog post. Luckily, there are tons of great books and courses on the subject, which I encourage you to pursue. I’ll include a short list of helpful books that I’ve used throughout the process.  Happy writing!


Helpful Books:

  1. The Everything Guide to Writing Children’s Books
  2. Writing Children’s Books for Dummies
  3. By Cunning and Craft
  4. Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market 33rd Edition
  5. Self-Publishing with Amazon Ads: The Author’s Guide to Lower Costs, Higher Royalties, and Greater Peace of Mind
  6. Social Media Marketing for Dummies


Trista Herring Baughman

Trista Herring Baughman is a proud military wife and a homeschool mama.  She isthe author of The Magic Telescope. Her second book, Zombiesaurs, will be available soon at Barnes & Noble Press. You can find out more about her books on her website, or catch up to Trista on Facebook.

Sweet Success for Carly Stevens

A rousing cheer for Carly Stevens on the release of her latest book, LAERTES: A HAMLET RETELLING. After more than ten years of wanting to write this book, Carly is finally releasing this dark academia retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet set in the 1920’s. Rather than following Hamlet himself, the story follows his friend (and eventual enemy) Laertes in his last year at university in Paris. It’s a story of found family, ghosts, books, and murder, filled with Shakespearean easter eggs.

Laertes Cover, by: Carly Stevens


Set in 1920s Europe, this poignant dark academia novel sheds new light on Shakespeare’s masterpiece, finally allowing Laertes to tell his side of the story.

Laertes Belleforest lives two lives: a wild, passionate one with his best friends studying Classics in Paris, and a stifling existence in the Danish court where the mercurial prince Hamlet constantly overshadows him. Now in his last year at university, Laertes must decide the kind of man he will become. But who is he, apart from the huge personalities that surround him and the secret guilt that haunts him?

When tragedy rocks Denmark, Laertes’ questions are forced into focus. Like a Greek play, his story hurtles through love and wine, ghosts and revenge, toward inevitable catastrophe. Perfect for fans of IF WE WERE VILLAINS. Purchase a copy through Books2Read, Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

Carly Stevens - Headshot


Carly Stevens lives in Colorado Springs, where she has taught high school English (and Hamlet!) for over ten years. Writing LAERTES is the fulfilment of a long-time dream. She also writes immersive YA fantasy novels set in the dark but beautiful world of the Tanyuin Academy. Visit Carly at and follow her on YouTube and Instagram.

Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, former teacher, and compulsive dawn greeter. Her many books include DEL TORO MOON (middle grade fantasy series) and ON A GOOD HORSE (middle grade contemporary). She is the recipient of the Colorado Book Award, the High Plains Book Award, the Will Rogers Medallion Award, the IPPY Silver Award, and the Moonbeam Children’s Book Silver Award. A native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. When not dodging death by Colorado, Darby can be found wrangling words. Visit the author at and follow her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Goodreads.

Tone Down the Drama – Please!

By: Donna Schlachter

Last month we talked about not having too much harmony in our story, and I shared ways to make sure the harmony we do have isn’t boring. Also, I shared about making sure the characters, the storyline, the plot, and the theme need to align so nothing and nobody is out of place. Readers sense that, even if they don’t know exactly what the problem is.

This month we’ll talk about having too much conflict, or tension, and not enough harmony, or downtime. Readers need a break once in a while. And we should give it to them. Not long enough for them to lose interest, yawn, and turn out the light, of course. Just enough to let them think we’re finally going to give the character a break.

Amp it Up!

And then we amp it up again.

But this isn’t about story arc, black moments, or crises. Or is it?

Every element of our story should play into and work on the story arc, the character’s journey, and all the elements of a good book. But too much of a good thing can detract from the reader’s enjoyment of the story, leading to confusion and a desire to never read another of our books.

Conflict, as we know, is at the heart of every story. Even a simple romance needs conflict to keep the love interests apart until the end of the book.

That said, depending on which theory you subscribe to, there are five or six kinds of story conflict possible in any book. I’ll list the six below:

  • Person against person – the most common type of conflict; can be relational, romantic, emotional, theological, issue-related, political, or a host of other options. Both persons should be strong enough to overcome the other, with the hero/heroine possessing some trait that helps them win in the end.
  • Person against nature – often the character is on their own and has to find a way to overcome the situation; if in a group, the sum total of the character’s skills should be able to overcome the natural force, so long as they work together.
  • Person against self – could be a fear, an addiction, a difficult past, or a tendency to choose wrong relationships. There must be a desire to overcome their situation, and often a mentor or romantic interest comes alongside to help in the journey.
  • Person vs society – the hero/heroine comes to the aid of a victim of a real or perceived injustice
  • Person vs technology – we often see this in science-based fiction or world-building fiction; can be real (existing) technology, or futuristic; steam punk is often found in this conflict
  • Person vs supernatural – can include imagined supernatural such as shape-shifters, or it could include ghosts, demons, gods, goddesses, aliens, and the like.

Chicken Wings

I know there are some of you saying, “But I hate conflict, and I don’t like to write it.” I get it. When I think of conflict, I envision prima donas, shouting matches, snippy comebacks, and the like. Seinfeld on steroid.

However, conflict in books doesn’t have to be like that. You can write about conflict between characters while staying true to your character, which is actually very important.

I’ll use an example. We recently went to Lambert’s Café in Sikeston, Missouri. I wanted fried chicken wings, so I asked the server what constituted a heaping platter, as the menu advertised. She said four wings. I said that wasn’t a heaping platter where I come from (thinking ten or twelve wings. I was hungry.) She said she figured I’d be full because of the two sides and the pass arounds. I said I’d be the judge of that, thinking she was trying to fill me up with non-chicken wing things. Well, when the plate came, it had four wings not much smaller than my hand in length. Four full wings, eight pieces. And yes, I took home food that night.

All that to say, there’s chicken wings – which I discovered when I went to a buffet a few days later, and they were obviously substituting sparrow’s wings for chicken wings – and there’s Chicken Wings. Conflict doesn’t have to be a knock-em-down-drag-it-out fight. Conflict isn’t always a fight to the death. Sometimes, you can simply foreshadow that something bad might happen.

Or, you can have a character be really indecisive about a direction they need to take. That creates conflict for the reader as they worry through the choices along with the character. How they deal with this says something about them.

You can use setting (as in people vs. nature) to create tension by placing your character in a dangerous situation, and how they work out of that pickle helps them grow as a person.

End a scene or chapter with a question. That creates tension for your reader and your character. This keeps the reader reading and the character moving forward. If your main character isn’t motivated to solve a problem, you’re going to have a difficult time writing a book about nothing.

Not Too Much Conflict

BUT – and there’s always one, isn’t there?—too much conflict will keep your character reacting instead of responding. Too much conflict will wear down your readers because they never get a chance to sit back and draw a breath, which, as we know, is the perfect place to then put them in more peril. Too much conflict makes the story something it isn’t, perhaps. Yes, thrillers and high concept books have lots of action, but it isn’t always conflict. It might lead to the next tense scene, and readers of these books expect that, but even those stories have moments where the characters settle down, have a meal, reminisce, or make a plan for the next big thing.

For example, while a shootout between the sheriff and the outlaws makes for good conflict, readers don’t want to stick in that scene for the entire book. Something must happen that leads the characters and the story on their arcs to the ultimate conclusion.

There is a difference between internal and external conflict, and each type impacts the main character(s) in different ways. We don’t only want our characters to grow in their skills, we want to see them grow as people. For the scoffer to find something to believe in. For the deadbeat to finally find a cause. For the sceptic to understand the meaning of whatever they’re seeking. For the cynic to find true love. For the loner to find family.

When it comes to internal and external conflict, remember that internal conflict changes the person, while external conflict changes the story world. We need both in our stories, because if there is only internal conflict, you’re making it emotionally harder for the character to resolve the story arc. Don’t focus on the internal conflict except as to how it keeps the character from overcoming the external conflict and achieving the external goal.

Next month, we’ll talk more about character arc and character change, particularly as it relates to Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

6 Story Conflicts Possible in Your Book
Writing Conflict in Stories When You Hate Conflict

Donna Schlachter, Headshot

A hybrid author, Donna Schlachter writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both. She humbly admits she doesn’t always get the number of characters perfect, so she often spends a lot of time re-writing.

Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!

Sweet Success for John Spencer

By: Darby Karchut

Congratulations to John Spencer on the recent release of his non-fiction book, CONNECTED SOLDIERS: LIFE, LEADERSHIP, AND SOCIAL CONNECTIONS IN MODERN WAR (Potomac Books, July 2022). This soldier’s memoir is packed full of lessons and stories of leading and living in a world of constant virtual connections and social media.

Connected Soldiers, By: John Spencer


John Spencer was a new second lieutenant in 2003 when he parachuted into Iraq leading a platoon of infantry soldiers into battle. During that combat tour, he learned how important unit cohesion was to surviving war, both physically and mentally. He observed that this cohesion developed as the soldiers experienced the horrors of combat as a group, spending their downtime together and processing their shared experiences.

When Spencer returned to Iraq later to take command of a troubled company, he found his lessons on building unit cohesion were no longer applicable. Rather than bonding as a group, soldiers now spend their downtime separately, online communicating with family back home. Spencer began to see the internet as a threat to unit cohesion, but when he returned home and his wife was deployed, the internet connected him and his children to his wife daily. Purchase a copy via Amazon, Potomac Books, or the author’s website.

John Spencer, Headshot


John Spencer is an award-winning scholar, professor, and twenty-five-year combat veteran. Considered the world’s leading expert on many military topics, he served as an advisor to the top four-star general and other senior leaders in the U.S. Army as part of research groups from the Pentagon to the United States Military Academy. Spencer currently serves as the Chair of Urban Warfare Studies at the Modern War Institute at West Point. He served as an infantry soldier, Spencer held ranks from Private to Sergeant First Class and Lieutenant to Major. He lives in Colorado Springs. Visit the author at and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Consistency vs. Routine

By: Bowen Gillings

Routines are death. When I was in the Army, I learned routines are literally death. It’s called operational security (OPSEC). Having a routine, a regular schedule to daily operations, let the enemy know your wheres and whens, and before you knew it, kablooey! Having a routine in daily life can make your creativity and productivity go kablooey. Consistency, on the other hand, is what publishers demand, readers want, and writers need.

Allow me to clarify the terms. Routine is patterned behavior. It’s the realm of day planners and iPhone Reminders. It’s multi-colored calendar entries that follow the same Roy G. Biv arrangement week-in and week-out. Consistency is meeting deadlines. Consistency is regular, high-quality production on time and on target. Consistency is the goal. Routine is the crutch.

Routine is patterns. Consistency is production.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “My routine is how I consistently produce.” Many can’t imagine finishing a manuscript without the structure of routine to lean on. You guard your daily writing time like Cerberus at the gates of Hades. You find comfort in knowing what the morning will bring or solace in seeing your word count at the day’s end. Routine works for you. It’s comfy and nice and would never hurt you the way Cindy did in high school. I gave you my heart, Cindy!

So, what happens when your routine gets violated? How do you feel when you don’t get the day’s writing (or anything else in the routine) done? Do you beat yourself up? Chastise yourself for “not making writing the priority?” How do you cope and correct? And where do new experiences fit into your routine?

Say you need to learn something new before your character can do it in your story. I don’t know, skydiving perhaps. Where do you fit that into your routine? My bet is that you add skydiving lessons to your iPhone calendar in the color designated for research then mentally flagellate yourself for how it messes with your routine.

I challenge you to ease off your routine fetish and focus on consistency. Consistency is bigger, broader, and allows more wiggle room for life to go freestyle.

Say you want to produce a book per year. You do your research. You pick a release date (give or take a week). That gives you a rough idea about cover reveals and pre-orders and promotions. You know your genre and the word count you’re shooting for.

And so, you write.

You write mornings. You write when everyone’s in bed. You write at coffee shops. You dictate while driving. You write. You edit. You meet your deadlines. You get your book out when you planned.

Along the way you hiked three fourteeners, drove cross-country with a high-school friend, enrolled in a new martial arts school, and learned to play the ukulele alongside your spouse. You also got your kid to the ER when they woke up at two-thirty with a massive bloody nose, you replaced the bathroom flooring after the toilet went tango-uniform, and you dropped everything for a month when your grandparent died.

And you never regretted violating a routine.

Consistency equals freedom.

Freeing oneself from the handcuffs of routine and embracing the true goal of consistency is the path to creative freedom (damn, that sounded evangelical). Like routine, consistency takes discipline and commitment. Unlike routine, consistency gives you the freedom to live without checking the planner first.

Consistency is a life spent open to possibilities while keeping eyes on the prize. It’s okay with stretches of no writing. It embraces those days when five thousand words get added to the work in progress as well as the days when a friend invites you to coffee and you’re only three paragraphs in. Consistency is a mindset of “I will write” versus routine’s rigid dogma of “I must write right now.”

Focusing on consistent production (big picture) provides for a healthier writing life. Routines stagnate or worse, trap you in their familiar, comfortable clutches. Break the shackles of routine. Free yourself from your patterned behavior before your writing life goes kablooey.

Bowen Gillings holding Fresh Starts

A Night to Remember, by: Bowen Gillings

Bowen Gillings is an award-winning author featured in PPW’s first anthology, Fresh Starts, Allegory e-zine, and the Stories Live!, Voices and Views, and Rocky Mountain Writers podcasts. He is an active member and former president of Pikes Peak Writers and a member of both Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and The League of Utah Writers. Bowen loves travel, cooking, martial-arts, and a fine adult beverage. He lives in Colorado with his wife and daughter. Learn more about him and his fun, quirky writing at and be sure to follow the author on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Sweet Success for Sandi Hoover and Jim Tritten

By: Darby Karchut

Hats off to Sandi Hoover and Jim Tritten! This dynamic team of writers won 2nd place in the National Federation of Press Women Communications (NFPW) Contest in the category of novellas. The award was for the eBook version of LOVE AND LIES: CALL ME EVE (2021 from RhetAskew Publishing). The book was republished in June 2022 by Red Penguin Books in both paperback and Kindle formats. The re-publication contains a new cover, reformatted text, and some slight modifications to the text.


Love and Lies: Call me Eve

She sipped her well-chilled, dry martini, taking extra time before answering. “What . . . how much do I tell him? Just want a distraction. Something to fill an evening.”
Eve was sipping a Fiji Moonrise, the house specialty at Fiji’s Natewa Bay Resort’s water’s edge bar, when an unfamiliar baritone asked, “May I buy you a refill? The evening is far too pleasant to spend alone.” Mark Adams proves to be an irresistible diversion during Eve’s trip home from a conference. But when playtime’s up and planes are departing, Eve doesn’t play fair.
Upon her return, Eve receives an unexpected life-changing event and regrets having lied. Mark is faced with a wounded heart and a nearly insurmountable challenge. Join an exciting adventure where true feelings are the catalyst to propel two star-crossed lovers to find each other … again. Copies may be purchased through Amazon.


Tritten/Hoover headshot

Sandi Hoover and Jim Tritten are an award-winning writing team from New Mexico. Follow Sandi on Facebook and visit her author Amazon page, and on Goodreads. Visit Jim’s author Amazon page as well as follow him on Facebook and Goodreads.



Darby Karchut

Sweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Avoiding Conference Burnout

By Catherine Dilts

If you’ve just attended your first writers conference, you may still be walking on a cloud. You’re inspired and motivated. If you did things right, you’re also a little overwhelmed and exhausted, yet eager to attend again next year.

But if this was your tenth, or you’re attending several conferences a year, the whole experience may be turning a little sour for you.

I had attended PPWC off and on for nearly twenty years. Once I became published, other authors insisted participating in conferences was essential. You had to keep your name out there. Visibility, baby. Be seen.

So I signed up for another in-state conference, Colorado Gold. Because I write mystery, I went to Malice Domestic, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, and Killer Nashville. Each was different, drawing either hundreds or thousands of attendees, with emphasis on craft and business, or geared toward fans.

You’ve got to work that conference. Schmooze. Mingle. You know – those things introverts just love to do. Not. So I tried. I got on panels, as a participant or moderator. I signed books. I networked in my own feeble, socially awkward way. And I left conferences drained.

My problem was allowing other peoples’ goals to be my own. You can avoid burn out with advanced planning. Before registering, consider what you hope to gain from the experience.

Goals that may disappoint:

  • Land a contract with a dream agent or publishing house. Sure, it has been done. You should definitely try. None of my “send it” conquests came to fruition, although they did motivate me to continue writing. Pinning the entire point of attending on making a sale may cause you to miss out on learning experiences that will result in future publication.
  • Who wouldn’t want to be fawned over by a public who recognizes your genius? One PPWC, I saw a nearly empty table at dinner. I hurried over, glad to have snagged a seat near the podium. The lone occupant was one of the best-seller keynote speakers. A few other people joined us before the evening program began, but that was a good lesson that even big names can be overlooked at conferences. Another time, I repeated this tactic and sat next to a local author who had made a big sale to a major publisher, only to be virtually ignored by peers at the conference. This author was incredibly grateful I sat at that table, to spare the embarrassment of sitting alone.
  • Sell books. At conferences, everyone is pushing their books. The reality is that few people sell enough books to pay their bar tab, much less their conference attendance. At big conferences, publishers may be giving away books. Bags of free books may cause attendees to question shelling out bucks for your books.

Running yourself ragged promoting yourself can suck the enjoyment right out of a conference. Yes, conferences are a business opportunity. But I can guarantee you’ll get a case of burn out if you don’t have some fun.

Increasingly post-conference, I felt my time would have been better spent actually working on a novel or short story. When I volunteered behind the scenes, appeared on panels, and moderated talks, I spent a ton of time in preparation. It felt too much like work.

Then COVID hit. Conferences abruptly cancelled due to the pandemic. I discovered something about myself during the lockdowns. I am an extreme introvert. While other folks were in a state of panic and depression being socially isolated, I was deliriously happy. For a while.

I still believe conferences are personally and professional beneficial. I plan to jump back in. Before I go, I want to know I won’t leave feeling I wasted my time. I’ll have specific goals.

Goals to avoid conference burn-out:

  • Know your purpose. Why are you attending this particular conference? Proximity to home? Workshops on topics of interest? Is it specific to your genre? Your writing buddies are going? It’s okay if your main purpose is social. Writing is a solitary endeavor. A weekend surrounded by creative people can be invigorating.
  • Set achievable professional goals. Everyone wants to be the next amazing conference success story. Hopefully that happens for you. Until that golden moment though, how about achieving a “send me” from an agent? Learn something about the art and craft of writing that breaks your writer’s block? Receive news about the current state of publishing from actual publishers?
  • Research people in advance. You might run into them in an elevator. Know who the keynote speakers are. Who is teaching the class you’re most interested in attending? Are there agents or editors you want to meet? Put this info in your pre-conference notes. Don’t reach the last hour of the last day in the realization that you failed to meet someone important to you.
  • One of the best ways to network is to help out behind the scenes. Shuttle speakers from the airport. Moderate a panel. Clerk in the conference bookstore. Attend pre-conference planning meetings. But don’t overcommit. Know your time and energy limits.
  • Make it matter. You spent your valuable time and money to attend. Post-conference, review your notes. Follow up on advice or new knowledge gained. Make those contacts, join that critique group, apply new wisdom to your work-in-progress.

I’ve talked it over with my old conference running buddies. We are all in for a return visit to PPWC 2023. You’ll probably find us at the lounge, reminiscing about conferences past.

Conferences mentioned in article:

Multi-genre Conferences- 

Mystery Writers Conferences-


Catherine Dilts headshotCATHERINE DILTS prefers writing cozy mysteries and short stories surrounded by flowers on her sunny deck, but any day – and anywhere – spent writing is a good day. Author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, and the stand-alone Survive Or Die with Encircle Publications, Catherine also writes for Annie’s Publishing, contributing three books for the Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library and two for the new Annie’s Museum of Mysteries series. Her short story HazMat Holiday appears in the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine January/February 2022 issue.


Sweet Success for Jeanette Minniti

By: Darby Karchut

Congratulations to Jeanette Minniti! Her debut novel, THE ONLY WAY HOME (2021 from Penning Press) recently won the 1st Place Award in Historical Fiction from the Colorado Authors League.


The Only Way Home, By: Jeanette Minniti

Desperate times. Danger on the rails. A journey to save a family.

It is 1933 inside a sweltering courtroom in Macon, Georgia. Fifteen-year-old Robert sits on a bench awaiting sentencing after being picked up for vagrancy and spending a night in jail. He left his home in Illinois with a neighborhood friend to ride the rails and find work to help their families. The friend turned back, too afraid to face the perils ahead. But going back empty-handed isn’t an option for Robert. THE ONLY WAY HOME is the story of one boy’s determination to survive loss and hardship to help his family and how fate and a violin touch the course of his life. Purchase your copy from Amazon, Kobo, IndieBound, and through IngramSparks.


Jeanette Minniti

Jeanette Minniti is an author living in Colorado. She received an MA in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations from the University of Colorado, Boulder. She and her husband enjoy all that Colorado offers, including hiking and biking. Visit Jeanette at and follow her on Facebook.





Darby KarchutSweet Success is coordinated by Darby Karchut who is an award-winning author, dreamer, and compulsive dawn greeter. A proud native of New Mexico, she now lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, where she runs in blizzards and bikes in lightning storms. Click here to submit your Sweet Success Story.

Harmony and Conflict – Different Sides of the Same Coin

By Donna Schlachter

Boy finds girl.
Boy falls in love with girl.
Boy marries girl.
The end.


Anybody who’s ever told a joke knows that to keep the listener or reader interested, there has to be a problem, a question, or a problem raised so that the twist/conclusion/punch line offers a solution. In a joke, there is usually an unexpected outcome, which is what makes that short story version humorous. In a novel, while the reader wants a good ending, or at least one that’s unexpected given the circumstances, there has to be something that keeps the boy from getting the girl the first time. Or the second. Or even the third.

Harmony is what happens when we get our happily-ever-after (and yes, HEAs are not limited to romance stories. Readers want an HEA or at least the promise of one in every story where a romance exists. Unless, of course, your story is literary fiction or a tragedy.)

Conflict is what keeps the reader reading and the listener listening. Conflict doesn’t have to appear as bickering or even out-and-out street brawling. Conflict happens when one of the main characters isn’t getting what they want—or what they think they want.

Introduce Conflict and Harmony

We can introduce conflict and harmony into our stories in various ways. Here are a few:

  • Through spoken dialogue, where each character expresses their wants and desires which should be contrary to what the other person wants. Think back to your last discussion with your spouse or friend about where you wanted to eat that night. One wants Indian, the other wants pasta. Conflict. Harmony appears when you reach a compromise: a buffet. Or a salad bar.
  • Through internal dialogue, where you show us what the characters are thinking. The best conflict comes when their spoken dialogue and internal thoughts are contrary to each other. For example, if you say you want to eat pizza, but the other person says curry, you might say, “Okay. Curry is fine with me.” You always get your way. But I’m tired of fighting about it.
  • Through narrative, you can use the setting or surroundings to impact your point of view character. For example, ‘It was a dark and dreary night” could be perfect for a scene where your character planned to go for a walk, and now can’t because the weather isn’t cooperating. Downpouring rain could prevent your hero from rescuing your heroine, building conflict in himself. And in her, when she wonders why he won’t brave a few raindrops to save her. A bright sunny day could build conflict in a character whose mother is being buried today. Or harmony in a woman whose abusive husband is being buried today.
  • Through occupations or skill sets, you can have characters who solve problems (create harmony) using what they know. For example, if your hero is a race car driver, he could get the heroine away from bad guys by outdriving them. And if your heroine is a doctor, she could fix up the hero when he gets shot. But if your story is about finding lost gold in a hidden mine, none of their skills would help out. Which could create conflict. So then they invite somebody else in to help, who turns out to be a bad guy who shoots the hero and leaves them for dead. Now their skills can come in handy again. So you went from harmony to conflict to harmony again.

Don’t get me wrong—harmony and conflict belong in the same story—even in the same scene. You might even treat a scene like a mini-story – harmony (current world) to conflict (inciting incident) to new harmony (resolution). However, while you don’t want to write every scene like that, these mini-breaks from the conflict are a place where readers will exhale, relax, and continue reading. That’s a great place to slap them in the face again with another problem, question, or serious choice to be made.

Readers want to be satisfied with the ending, yet surprised. Like a punchline in a joke, they like to look at the world differently because of your story. Keep them reading by employing some of these harmony and conflict techniques, and they’ll come back for more.


Conflict is the Driving Force of a Good Story

Character and Background: Harmony and Conflict

Donna Schlachter, Headshot

About Donna:

A hybrid author, Donna writes squeaky clean historical and contemporary suspense. She has been published more than 50 times in books; is a member of several writers groups; facilitates a critique group; teaches writing classes; ghostwrites; edits; and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, traveling extensively for both. Stay connected so you learn about new releases, preorders, and presales, as well as check out featured authors, book reviews, and a little corner of peace. Plus: Receive a free ebook simply for signing up for our free newsletter!
Check out previous blog posts at and
Books: Amazon: