Mystery Writers Weekend Retreat

Laurel Bradley, Jessie Chandler, Eunice Loecher and Patricia Skalka

September 7-9, 2018 (Two and Half Teaching Days)

Mystery writing is a large field with a wide range of genres. Cozies, thrillers, historical, traditional, literary and noir are all mysteries. Participants will likely represent several different genres. All writers are welcome to the weekend retreat in this peaceful, northern Wisconsin resort setting. Whether you are new to writing or poised to publish, there are classes for you. Our instructors are experienced in traditional publishing, self-publishing and a combination of the two.

Retreat classes cover a wide range of topics; however, the weekend is not all about writing. Time is set aside to socialize with other like-minded people during Saturday’s fun BYO lunch pontoon ride on beautiful White Sand Lake. Saturday night we will car pool to a well-known area restaurant for a relaxing dinner which provides a chance to build camaraderie with new friends.

With all there is to do at Dillman’s Bay Resort, there are many activities to occupy your non-writing friends and family, too. Enjoy the resort with complimentary amenities such as: canoes, kayaks, bikes, tennis, and walk the grounds of this historic resort.



This is a Studio Only Workshop.
Something for All Levels.

Weekend Retreat Fees

WORKSHOP FEE: $195 plus tax per person

Minimum of 12 students. Workshop fee includes:

  • Four working sessions: one Friday night, two Saturday and one Sunday morning
  • Friday night welcome dessert reception
    Dinner is on your own: meals are not available at Dillman's Bay Resort
  • Saturday Noon pontoon boat ride

ROOM FEE: $144 plus tax per person

  • Room fee is for Friday and Saturday night accommodations, based on double occupancy.
  • Single supplement available at an additional fee.
  • Locals are welcome to attend, and do not pay the room fee.


Thirty minute, face-to-face meetings that offer encouraging advice and constructive criticism that is honest, educational and leaves the fledgling author with specific things to correct and knowledge of how to correct the manuscript. Two weeks prior to the weekend, submit the first 15 pages of your manuscript to the author of your choice and schedule an appointment to receive advice on how to improve your writing. In addition to the personal consultation you will receive a one-page written review of your work. $50 per critique, payment is due the author directly at the time of your critique. Pre-registration required.


Weekend Itinerary


  • 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Check in Dillman’s Bay Resort
  • 6:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Welcome Dessert Reception in the Studio
  • 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. – SESSION 1 – Presenter Panel
    Instructors/authors will describe their journey to publication and field your questions about mystery writing and publishing, such as, “How can I become a better writer?” Breakout groups after panel offer a chance for you to share your writing journey and listen to others.
  • Dinner on own


  • Breakfast on Own
  • 9:00 a.m. - Noon – SESSION 2 – Students Select One Option
    • OPTION A - Novice Level (Studio 2)
      I have This Great Idea, But What Do I Do With It Now?
      Instructor: Jessie Chandler
      Do you have ideas for an awesome mystery flying around your head? Maybe you’re caught up in the “what if” of a potential killer plot. Perhaps one of mystery’s many sub-genres have you by the throat and won’t let go. Will you use an amateur sleuth or a cop or someone else within the legal system as your protagonist? First, second, or third person? Are you a Fly-By-The-Seat-Of-Your-Pants writer or an Outliner? In this session we’ll talk about the differences between genres, explore different writing styles, and play with some ideas of how to make time to actually get your novel out of your head and into the real world.

    • OPTION B - Intermediate Level (Studio 1)
      Manuscript written or partially complete but not sure of the next steps?
      Instructor: Patricia Skalka
      What a thrill and a relief to finish that first draft! But wait there’s more to do. In this craft session, Patricia will cover the important next steps needed to move your mystery from draft (or partially completed draft) to polished manuscript.  Session includes practical, hands-on advice about editing and revising your work and discussion about publishing options.

  • Noon - 1:00 p.m. – Lunch on Own. All accommodations have cooking facilities.
  • Noon - 12:45 p.m. – Optional Pontoon Ride on White Sand Lake 
  • 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. – SESSION 3 – Students Select One Option

    • OPTION A - Novice and Intermediate Levels (Studio 1)
      Effective Dialogue
      Instructor: Eunice Loecher
      First and foremost I would like the students, prior to taking my class to offer suggestions of what they would like to learn. Point of View is an important topic. I'm currently working on my first mystery play for Tommy O's next summer season. The difference between writing mystery fiction and theater dialog might be of interest. Sentence structure to get the most punch from your character's words is vital, as is emotion in dialog. I will be referencing Dwight Swain during our class.

    • OPTION B - Novice and Intermediate Levels (Studio 2)
      Character Development
      Instructor: Laurel Bradley
      Do you take your characters to lunch? Walk in their skin? How your readers relate to your characters depends a great deal on how well you know them. We’ll take a look at the common mistakes in characterization and how to turn flat characters into 3-dimensional ones. Bring a sample of your writing introducing your hero or villain to work on in class

  • 5:00 p.m. Optional Dine-Around Dinner to Norwood Pines Restaurant
    Depart from Lodge Lobby
    Additional $22 (+tax/tip) per person, payment due at restaurant.


  • Breakfast on Own
  • 9:00 a.m. Check out of accommodations
  • 9:00 a.m. - Noon – SESSION 4 – Students Select One Option
    • OPTION A - Novice Level (Studio 1)
      Plotting Trouble - The Meat and Potatoes of the Mystery Novel
      Instructor: Jessie Chandler
      Now that you have your novel idea nailed down, what comes next? Plotting can be an intimidating concept, but it doesn’t have to be. In this session we’ll go deeper into various styles of writing (Pantsers, Outliners, Hybrid writers) and how they contribute to the plotting of a mystery novel. What is the typical flow of a mystery? A thriller? We’ll hit on red herrings, twists, high points, the dreaded lagging middle of the manuscript, and share practical advice about how to deal with the meat and potatoes of mystery writing.

    • OPTION B - Intermediate Level (Studio 2)
      Writing a Successful Mystery Series
      Instructor: Patricia Skalka
      Planning a mystery series? Often the first book is the easiest to write. You love your characters and plot and your readers will, too. Unfortunately, not every good mystery lends itself to a series. In this craft session, we’ll look at the kinds of protagonists, settings, tone, themes, and scope that can carry the weight of three, four, or even more books. We’ll also consider the challenges you face when you move past the first book. These include: how to handle backstory; if and when to introduce new characters; how to deal with the passage of time. In all, we’ll discuss the nine basic issues that writers should consider when they write the first book in a mystery series as well as those that will come up with subsequent books.
  • Noon - 1:00 p.m. – Lunch on Own
  • Depart



Instructor Biographies

Laurel Bradley

Laurel Bradley

Laurel Bradley was raised in New Brighton, Minnesota. Prior to becoming published, she taught high school English. She began writing romance and served as president in Wisconsin Romance Writer of America before switching to suspense. She speaks on writing to groups around Wisconsin, was a frequent Write Touch contributor, is 2008 Fore Word Magazine’s Book of the Year Winner and has judged writing contests for 10+ years. Laurel is known for her encouraging advice that is honest, educational and leaves the fledgling author with specific things to correct and knowledge of how to correct the manuscript. Laurel lives near Antigo, Wisconsin.


Jessie Chandler

Jessie Chandler is the author of one standalone mystery and five award-winning installments in the Shay O’Hanlon Caper Series published by Midnight Ink and Bella Books. Her mystery short stories have been featured in the anthologies Cooked to Death, The Law Game, Lesbians on the Loose: Crime Writers on the Lam,Happily Every After, Conference Call, Women in Sports, Writes of Spring, Women in Uniform, and Why Did Santa Leave a Body.

Eunice Loecher

Eunice Loecher enjoys living in a small Wisconsin Northwood’s town, south of Lake Superior. This setting inspired her Arbor Vale mystery series, featuring the two “Z’s” Zita Stillman, amateur sleuth, and her sidekick the flamboyant Zinnia Blossom Winwood. Writing for over twenty years, Eunice was a finalist in the prestigious Wisconsin Regional Writers Award, The Jade Ring. Eunice also had stories included in three editions of the “God Allows U-Turns” series, the Christian version of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Then Eunice switched from non-fiction to fiction and began by writing two romantic suspense novels. She now writes cozy mystery as her true calling. A Widow’s Might is the first of the six book Arbor Vale Mystery series; followed by Woman at the Well, The Subtle Serpent, The Root of All Evil, Sin Lieth at the Door, and Deceitful Charm.

Patricia Skalka

Patricia Skalka

Patricia Skalka is the author of the Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries: Death Stalks Door County, Death at Gills Rock, and Death in Cold Water, winner of the Edna Ferber Fiction Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. Death Rides the Ferry, the fourth volume, was released this past spring. “A first rate series” says Kirkus. Skalka turned to fiction following a successful career in nonfiction. Her many credits include Staff Writer for the Reader’s Digest, book reviewer, and writing instructor. She is a member of The Authors Guild of America, Mystery Writers of America, Wisconsin Writers Association, and Society of Midland Authors. Skalka lives in Chicago and Door County WI.


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