Posts Tagged ‘Kim Krisco’

Building Reader Loyalty

By: Kim Krisco

Like most writers, I have honed my writing skills by reading countless books, attending workshops, and joining writer’s groups – all with one goal: to get published. Then it happened, a London publisher accepted one of my novels. It wasn’t long after I popped a celebratory champagne cork that I recognized that I now had a different goal – one I should have had from the start . . . writing stories that keep readers coming back for more. These two goals are similar, differing primarily regarding where to put your emphasis and attention as you write.

Three Attributes to Garner Reader Loyalty

I hoped that there was one book or workshop that addressed reader loyalty. And while I found that many offerings touched on reader loyalty, no single article, book, or workshop focused on this topic. However, pieced together some of the best advice and condensed it to three attributes that garner reader loyalty:

  • Enriching subplots,
  • characters that readers relate to and
  • employing highly relevant themes.

As we explore these you will likely discover that you currently employ some or all of these in your stories. Congratulations! Now . . . if you can infuse your stories with all three attributes consciously and intentionally, your storytelling will become even more masterful.

Enriching Subplots

A subplot is a side story that runs parallel to the main plot, and it often involves a secondary character who plays a minor role in the main story. Subplots not only add richness and nuance to your tale but become a device for sharing background about your main protagonist that might otherwise come off as clumsy and contrived if you did it within the main story. In the Harry Potter anthology, a ripe example is Harry’s aunt and uncle, who believe Harry’s powers are evil. They enrich the “good versus evil” battle that is the central theme and reveal important character traits in Harry that come into play later in the story.

My primary protagonist, Tessa Wiggins, has reoccurring subplots that follow her through my novels: crushing guilt for having abandoned her little sister in an orphan asylum, an on-again/off-again love affair with Clark Button, and an ever-present belief she is ‘never good enough.’ Each story also introduces a new, unique subplot. For example, in The Magnificent Madness of Tessa Wiggins, she struggles to find ways to repay the kindness of her childhood friend Sherlock Holmes. Of course, even the best subplot won’t be enough if you don’t have a protagonist that readers learn to love.

Characters With Which Readers Identify

One of the reasons we follow a particular author is that we become invested in one specific character – usually the primary protagonist. Think Mildred Wirt Benson’s Nancy Drew, or Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (the most popular fictional character of all time). People tend to follow characters rather than authors, so how do you write characters that readers will invest in?

The formula, while logical, is multifaceted. People identify with characters who are likeable, are in jeopardy, flawed, vulnerable, courageous, and (here’s a big one) get in touch with their own power. The first five attributes are familiar, but the last is often glossed over or simply chalked up to “agency.” But characters who are or get in touch with their own power is more significant.

To oversimply, the act of claiming personal power requires overcoming character defects such as crippling low self-esteem, overpowering ego, crushing fear(s), etc. While readers do not necessarily possess these character defects in the extreme, everyone is familiar with them to some degree because it shows up in negative self-talk. This internal battle within your protagonist is, in some ways, the actual conflict that takes place within a story. The proof that your hero has won this battle comes in the climax when they risk it all to achieve the goal motivating their actions from the start.

All these characteristics come together for me in my protagonist Tessa Wiggins, a turn of the twentieth-century Irish lass who grew up in the impoverished, crime-ridden borough of Spitalfields in London’s East Side. With that beginning, it is easy for me to create sympathy for Tessa, who struggles against all odds to become a hero with which everyone can identify.

The final attribute needed to gain reader loyalty, if mentioned at all, is usually done as an aside; but I believe it may be most important.

Highly Relevant Themes

Great authors had great themes that resonated with the times they wrote. Charles Dickens’ themes were the misery of the proletarian classes and the exploitation of child labor coming into the public’s consciousness during the industrial revolution. Jane Austen’s works revolved around the theme of self-improvement through courageous self-examination and education. Her novels were written when women were beginning to stand up to the patriarchy that had been smothering them for centuries.

Let me propose that relevant and timely themes woven within the core story are one of the primary things that engages and maintains loyal readers. Like the ones noted above, the themes were relevant in their time, but may or may not resonate with today’s readers. My chosen themes are gender equality (particularly women’s rights) and environmental sustainability. I hope we can agree that these are relevant today.

The wonderful thing is that consciously and intentionally employing relevant themes help shape your story in new and surprising ways. For example, my commitment to building my stories around women’s rights and environmental sustainability led me to research Celtic history because the Celts enjoyed a harmony between the roles and rights or men and women that is not based upon the superiority of one sex over another. In the world of the Celts, women were warriors, poets, and even Druids — the latter being more powerful than any monarch. While I might have written stories set in the time of the Celts, it was more impactful to bring the Celtic ethics and beliefs into a more modern era to draw a sharper contrast. I picked the post-WWI period because women’s suffrage was taking root then.

My last three novels: Irregular Lives, The Celtic Phoenix, and The Magnificent Madness of Tessa Wiggins, roll out chronologically as Tessa grows from a London street urchin into a powerful Celtic woman and Druid priestess. Within these three stories, readers are introduced to the Celtic ethos, and through magical realism, readers meet a diverse cadre of formidable women. Not all of them are good or perfect, but all are powerful in their own way. I hope that the next century will be one in which men and women no longer need to indulge in an unwholesome gender rivalry that has undermined all of us for centuries.

In conclusion, nothing offered here is meant to discount the importance of a great story or well-crafted prose, but rather point toward the kind of fiction that keeps readers coming back for more: enriching subplots, characters that readers relate to, and highly relevant themes. Keeping all those literary balls in the air is what makes writing so challenging and rewarding.

Kim Krisco

Kim Krisco is the author of four novels: Sherlock Holmes—The Golden YearsIrregular Lives: The Untold Story of Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars, and The Celtic Phoenix— published by MX Publishing in London.  His latest release, The Magnificent Madness of Tessa Wiggins, features a formidable 1920’s Irish lass from the London slums who strives to become a Druid priestess.

Prior to writing full-time, Kim served as a consultant, trainer, and coach for business and non-profit organizations and their leaders.  You can find out more about Kim and his books on his website.

He and his wife, Sararose Ferguson, live in the Rocky Mountains in tiny homes that they built themselves on the North Fork of the Purgatory River.  Kim likes to say that “living on the Purgatory River may not be heaven, but it’s a writer’s paradise.”

Sweet Success for Kim Krisco

Congratulations to Kim Krisco! His fourth novel finally broke the “hardcover barrier.” THE MAGNIFICENT MADNESS OF TESSA WIGGINS will debut in hardcover, paperback, Kindle and Audible this fall (October 2021 from MX Publishing-London). His publisher is celebrating the launch with a limited collector’s hardcover edition trilogy (only 100 copies) of his newest novel and the two before that introduced Tessa Wiggins to the world.


1920 – Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales: Tessa Wiggins’s “madness” is provoked by the adopted spirit of a two-thousand-year-old Druid priestess mentoring her to be the servant of The Earth Mother. When Tessa defies treatment, her lover asks a childhood friend, Sherlock Holmes, to intervene. But despite everyone’s best intentions, Tessa finds herself in Hellingford Asylum, where she is driven toward her final breaking point on All-Halloween. Purchase a copy through AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository, and MX Publishing.

Kris Krisco


Kim Krisco is the author of three previous novels that followed in the footsteps of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. More recently, he introduced a female protagonist in THE MAGNIFICENT MADNESS OF TESSA WIGGINS (coming Fall 2021). His attention to detail, which includes on-location research, adds a welcome richness to the tales. And his fascination with ancient Celtic culture brings a mythic dimension as well. Visit the author at and at his blog and follow him on Facebook.

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.

Post-Conference Check In

This week we have two articles that take a look at Post-Conference. The first is from Kim Krisco who shares his thoughts on his first conference experience, and the second, by Margena Holmes, explores what’s next. We hope you enjoy this double hitter.

PPWC2021 – What an Experience!

By: Kim Krisco

Caught up in the volunteer spirit that seems to permeate Pikes Peak Writers, I volunteered to write a post-conference retrospective for Writing from the Peak. Given the heap of notes, handouts, and slide downloads piled on my desk, the most obvious topic would seem to be how to organize all the information and teachings I received in the two and one-half days. To be honest, my notetaking became less prolific when I fully realized that all the sessions are recorded, and I would be able to review the presentations I attended and learn from those I was unable to attend for the next thirty days. A perk from this year’s conference that, for me, escalated its value 10X.

PPWC 2021 was my very first conference. What could I possibly offer? A promising topic didn’t take form until I asked myself the questions that everyone asked:  What have I come away with? What is the most valuable takeaway? What difference has PPWC 2021 made in my writing life?

Like many of you, I was registered for the 2020 conference and was deeply disappointed when it was canceled. However, I did not fully realize what I missed until this year. It wasn’t only bountiful presentations and workshops, but rather something more important — qualities that necessarily inhabit every writer’s mind, heart, and spirit. PPWC 2021 gave me three exceptional gifts:

  • Greater humility
  • Recommitment to the writing craft
  • A deep appreciation for the Pikes Peak Writers community

Over the years, I have made steady progress honing my writing skills, and my efforts have borne some fruit. But if I am to continue growing and improving, I must fully embrace a student mindset. Absorbing the knowledge and insights of the presenters and noting the marvelous accomplishments of these teachers put me squarely in the classroom. I’m grateful for this because one of the most wonderful things about pursuing a writing career is that the quest is never-ending. We never get there. We can always be better writers. So, notebook out, pen in hand, I come away ready to learn. Nay, “ready” is too ordinary a word, for a greater energy is motivating me.

Being a PPW newbie, I hung out in Zeb’s Lounge before each conference day began, virtually tiptoed into several of the accompanying breakout rooms, attended the volunteer award ceremony, and was at the main stage when the flash fiction contest results was presented. As my well-intentioned voyeurism unfolded, I became aware of a warm and wonderful feeling gestating within. Vague at first, it soon blossomed into a beautiful awareness and appreciation for the relationships I saw manifested among the various members. This lustrous warmth burst through my cold blue zoom screen and touched my heart. This is where some of you might say, “Dah,” because it’s not news to you. Yet, I wonder if you appreciate just how precious it is. This loving and supporting community may well be the most remarkable “benefit” the association offers. What is more, this kind of community does not magically emerge from bylaws, meetings, or educational events. It must be consciously and intentionally woven into every engagement and experience, engendered in each communication, placed at the center of each decision, and developed and nurtured over many years. What a gift this is to all of us. But that’s not all. I came away with one more priceless takeaway.

During each workshop presentation, at some point, I scanned the faces of the participants, whether they be still pics, avatars, or live video shots. I also browsed the ongoing chats — the comments, reactions, and greetings flowing from the participants during each session. Maybe I was searching for a familiar face or just curious. Indeed, the avatars were interesting and amusing, and many of the comments as well. But as the workshop continued, some of the faces became more familiar. In Zeb’s Lounge and during Q & A sessions, these photos and avatars became flesh and blood. Suddenly something stirred in me that made me smile and nod like a bobblehead figurine on the dashboard. I was aware that my chest was puffing up just a little. What was it? Then, during Saturday’s keynote address by Mary Robinette Kowal, it hit me. I was experiencing the most powerful force on earth, human commitment. Every person presenting, conference team member moderating, and every participant attending the conference was motivated by a shared commitment to be the best writer they could be. And indeed, I could feel my own commitment growing more vibrant.

A deep abiding commitment is necessary for any endeavor or accomplishment, but especially so for writers because it is a solitary, and at times even lonely, endeavor. Commitment is the psychic soil from which sprout persistence, patience, power, and perseverance. That’s a marvelous gift to take away.

Thank you, PPWC 2021.

The Conference Is Over—Now What?

By Margena Holmes

This year’s conference was just a little bit different than previous years. Because of COVID-19, the Pikes Peak Writers Conference took place via Zoom meetings (like everything else this past year!), but the workshops were still as great as ever, and I know I came away with a lot more knowledge and information than I did going in.

Now, the conference is over, and the high you were on all weekend is slowly fading away as you resume the daily grind. What do you do now?


If you made pitches and the editors have invited you to send more, make sure you follow-up with them. Don’t wait (unless they’ve told you to)—you want your work to be fresh in their minds, and you’ll have that excitement of the invitation still with you.

Send them a thank you note after the meeting with them, whether they’ve asked to see more or not. They gave their time to you, and if you ever pitch to them again, they may remember you for your courtesy.

Follow-up with any other authors you met, too. You may find that you have a lot more in common than just what you write, and you can be each other’s cheerleader. Many friendships have been started at conferences.

Get Organized

If you took notes (actually, there is no “if” about it), organize them in a way you will use them. If you took notes on a laptop, make sure you clearly mark what they are with the conference name and dates, especially if you go to more than one a year. What the workshop’s subject was and who the presenter was is also helpful.

I’m old-school and take notes in a notebook. I then type them up, print them, and put them in a three-ring binder, so I have them at hand if I need to look up something. I also organize any hand-outs the same way.

Put The Info To Use

I don’t know about you, but after the conference, I am more motivated than ever to write. As I’m listening to each presenter, I get ideas on what to do with my work-in-progress and I’ll jot down my ideas in my notes. Let that excitement and motivation drive you to do what you need to do to make your WIP better, or get started on that very first project. No matter what stage you’re in, make your enthusiasm work in your favor, while everything is fresh in your mind.

If you enjoyed the conference, sign up for the next one! You may get an attendee’s discount if you register right away, and you’ll be set for next year.

I missed the interaction at meals and in the hallways with other conferees this year, but I know next year we’ll be together again and we can give out hugs and smiles that we missed this year. Happy writing!

KIM KRISCO is the author of three Sherlock Holmes novels — The Celtic Phoenix is his most recent release.
Before writing fiction full-time, Kim served as a consultant, trainer, and coach for business and non-profit organizations and published three non-fiction books to support this enterprise.
He and his wife Sararose Ferguson live in south-central Colorado (USA) in a tiny home that they built themselves on the North Fork of the Purgatory River.  You can learn more at:


photo of margin holmes

Margena Adams Holmes has been writing ever since she can remember, writing her first poem in 1st grade. At her day job, when she’s not kicking young kids out of R-rated movies, she’s sweeping up spilled popcorn from the hallways and aisles (she’s not your mother, though, so please take your trash out). Her days off consist of writing science fiction, short stories, and more movie theater shenanigans. Reading is a close second to writing, and she normally has her nose buried in a book. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: