Friday, August 31, 2012


This new feature at the Oak Tree Press blog is a hit! Not only are our authors letting everyone know what they're doing on the social media front, but they point the way for savvy authors to do their own promotion. Here's what our authors were up to this week:

 Over at his blog, JOHN BRANTINGHAM, author of the soon to be published “Mann of War” interviews the mystery master, Lawrence Block as well as the president of the Rex Stout fan club. In addition, he published an article on the importance of poetry that's accessible and not too academic on two blogsites:

SALLY CARPENTER, author of “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper” is interviewed over at Pat Gligor's blog. 

LORNA COLLINS, author of “Ghost Writer,” writes about sleep deprivation and asks for healthy remedies. I gave her mine.

I'm so proud of our Wild Oaks authors who jumped on the chance to promote their titles over at TBR (which stands for To Be Read):
CAROL CRIGGER author of “Three Seconds to Thunder” and “Two Feet Below.”
JASON HUNT author of “A Midsummer Night's Gunfight.”
BONNIE KELLY author of “Blessing, Bullets and Bad Men.”
JOHN LINDERMUTH, author of Pennsylvania mystery “Fallen From Grace.”

This site has a blurb fest coming up for authors of suspense and all genres in September, paranormal and Halloween themed in October (natch). TBR also does interviews. 

What does DOUG DANIELSON'S mystery “Shore Loser” have to do with America's Cup sailing competition? He explains on his blog. 

LESLEY DIEHL, author of “Dumpster Dying” is interviewed by Cate Masters. Lesley's giving away a copy of “Poisoned Pairings.” There are empty slots in November and December for interviews. I grabbed December 10th. Lesley hosts author Pat Gligor in a discussion as to why readers find serial killers so fascinating.

WILLIAM DOONAN discusses his novel “American Caliphate” over at Romancing the Heart. I see there are two interview slots still open at the end of December. Doonan was also interviewed at John Brantingham's blog: He has also posted a poem, “Bye Bye Summer,” over at Novel Spaces.

JACK EVERETT and DAVID COLE from across the pond have a visually interesting website up. They blog about their historical novel, “The Back of Beyond” as well at the Medieval world.

SUNNY FRAZIER, author of “Fools Rush In,” and “Where Angels Fear,” is in good company with Alafair Burke (James Lee's daughter), Camille Minichino, Doug Lyle and Chris Grabenstein describing the weirdest job they ever had. Scroll down and add your weird occupation to the comments.

Sunny's post announcing the new Oak Tree Press Friday Round-Up was a featured blog over at Book Town.

JOHN LINDERMUTH, author of Pennsylvania mystery “Fallen From Grace,” has an interview over at Billie Williams' site. Billie also offers two freebie books on writing at the site.

RADINE TREES NEHRING, author of Ozark mystery “A Fair To Die For,” also blogs at Romancing the Heart.

SUSAN VONDRAK, author of “No Evidence of a Crime,” and “The Evidence is Clear,” was interviewed by the University of Illinois newspaper. Susan is a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Point-of-view seems to be the hardest concept or a new writer to grasp. It's also what causes the most trouble for writers.

When I was a Writer's Digest School instructor and leader of two local writing groups, I saw the problem with POV constantly. Sometimes when reading a published book, I'm jarred out of the fictional world by a startling change of viewpoint and this has happened to me a lot lately, making me decide to address this subject again.

Many mysteries are written in first person. With first person it's almost impossible to get into trouble with POV, however, I have seen it happen. You can’t withhold information the first person knows–you can make it seem unimportant. In first person, the hero or heroine must be present in every scene.

When writing in third person, you most likely will begin your story from the POV of the protagonist–the hero or heroine of your story. You want the reader to know right away who to identify with, who they are going to root for throughout the story.

Often, even though you are writing in third person, you may choose to remain in your hero or heroine's POV throughout the story. As the writer, it's as if you are that person and are telling the story through them. You want the reader to see the story unfold through the POV character's eyes; to experience everything that happens through this person.

In essence, the narrative is the thoughts and experiences of the POV character. Even though the story most likely will be told in past tense, it is an "on-scene, happening now" past tense.   

Remember, that because the narrative is the thoughts and experiences of the POV character, it really isn’t necessary to say he or she thought or put the thoughts into italics. When doing this though, the whole scene needs to remain in that main character’s point of view.

Be careful about how you give the first or close third person hero or heroine’s description. Do not use looking in the mirror as a way to do it.

While in the heroine or hero's POV, remember he/she can't know what another person is thinking. In other words, don't jump inside another character's head. He/she can guess what someone is thinking by how they look, but you, the writer, must tell us, the reader, that's what the hero/heroine is doing.

What if you want to tell part of the story from another character's POV? Mary Higgins Clark tells her stories from various viewpoints. However, she never switches the POV in mid-scene. In fact, she usually begins a new chapter when she changes viewpoint.

It is possible to change POV in a scene, but you must let the reader know what's happening. This can be done with a smooth transition sentence that clearly lets the reader know the scene is now being seen through someone else's eyes. This is done far more often in romance novels than mysteries. I must warn you, this is difficult to do well.

An easier and more effective way to let the reader know something different is going to happen is to use a space break when you plan to make the POV switch. Identify the new POV character immediately.

Another problem writers have with Point-of-View is having the POV characters make comments about themselves in the narrative. Remember, the narrative is essentially the POV character's thoughts. Unless the POV character is narcissistic, writing that her legs are curvaceous, or mentioning the glint of golden highlights in her lustrous mane is not the most effective way to include her description. If you said something about how she liked the way her new shampoo brought out the golden highlights in her hair, or she was pleased with the way her legs looked in her new boots that might work. The same goes for a male POV character, find some way to describe him that doesn’t make the reader think he’s obsessed with his looks. Study the way your favorite writer includes bits of the hero or heroine's description.
This is where your writing skills come into play, how to describe your main character in a subtle and natural manner–and still remain in the character's POV.

Remember to use all your character's senses when describing what she or he sees, hears, smells, tastes, and feels, both touch and emotions. Imagine what is happening as if it were you, describe what is going on through your character.

Stay in your POV character's head. Don't interrupt what is going on by putting in what I call "author asides." This is giving information in a manner that no longer sounds like your character.

Let your POV character learn things in a normal manner–or if she already knows something you want the reader to know, let her think about or remember about this piece of information.

There are whole books written on Point-of-View and various ways of using it. What I hope I've done here is given you a simple guide to the efficient use of POV in your writing.

Marilyn Meredith serves on the board of PSWA, is also  member of MWA and Epic, and is a founder member of the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is the author of the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series and the Rocky Bluff P.D.series, and other mysteries. To learn more about her work visit her website:


Tuesday, August 28, 2012


How many of you have produced brochures for their books and are they effective?  I thinking of producing a brochure or actually two: one for my Oak Tree Books and one for the Blurb books I've self-published. It seems like a simple process. I've already produced a catalogue, but that is too expensive to give out to just anyone. May online companies have software that is fairly easy to use.  So I thought a brochure might do the trick; that is, provide potential buyers with a list and brief description of my books and where to order them.  Any thoughts or advice? Beryl

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Where do you Write? 

Marti Colvin aka IC Enger

I used to be able to write from anywhere. I would take my little netbook with me to the lake, on the couch at eleven o’clock at night, in the waiting room, and knock out a chapter or two. Then I set up a comfortable place to write in my TV room with all of the materials I could possibly want to use, and guess what happened? My brain has decided it likes it there, and only there, and does not want to engage anywhere else for creative composing.

I discovered this recently on a trip to the Police Writer’s Conference in Las Vegas, followed by a leisurely trip home via the Oregon coast. I faithfully took along my laptop, filled with the intention of getting some quality writing done on the trip. Each time I unzipped the case and powered up the computer I found my time spent on Facebook, e-mail and surfing. Inspiration in measurable amounts refused to visit the hotel rooms.

Las Vegas, so full of glittering distraction and all day conference sessions could be excused. There was also, ahem, a small matter of my wedding to plan and attend. A bit of a distraction in itself. Still though, you’d think I could get a few quality paragraphs written.

The trip along the Oregon coast offered many leisurely hours and a perfectly inspiring location to cozy down and write. I came home with beach shells, rocks, pieces of driftwood, way too much caramel corn under the belt, and not a chapter – again.
Once I got home and sat down at my special writing place, all was well again. Inspiration flowed like molasses and the chapters are marching forward once again. This all made me wonder – does place equal muse? Do you have a special place where writing seems to come easily, or can you indeed write from anywhere?
I have a long desk at home, with everything I need within easy reach, complete with a view of green bushes and patio that seem to get my creative juices flowing.
I also have a handy bookcase with my favorite how-to books (“STORY” by Robert McKee is my Bible), toys and muse within reach. All of my research is in a couple of file drawers just a few feet from my chair.
I’m afraid I have set up my space so perfectly for me that I have conditioned my brain to engage only while I am physically sitting there. Maybe if it were a little less comfortable and convenient I could break the hold it has on me. Next book. This one I actually want to finish, so I won’t be changing what works right now. Do you have a similar experience to share?
IC Enger ....  aka Marti Colvin

>>  Blue Ice is now available from Amazon in e-format! <<


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Marketing and Social Networking

Authors might think that marketing books using the social network is different from marketing in other media. Reading an article in the latest Digital Photo Pro magazine, I realize that marketing strategies for selling photographs by professional photographers are similar for marketing our books.

The article points out that "having a lot of followers  (of your blog, Facebook Page, etc.) with no clear idea of what to do with them will help you very little" and that there are three important strategies in using social networking: l. "Rather than looking for short term gains", think of the long haul to increase website traffic or followers for your Facebook page. 2. Build a community for  your blog or Facebook page or other sites through interaction with your fans to develop a loyal following. 3. Share interesting information from other sources and start a dialogue.  Basically, your page or blog should not be "all about you" but should be a balance between describing who you are and engaging others in interesting topics and content.

I found this article helpful as I ponder the use of social media and blogging sites in my marketing strategies for my own children's books. What do you think? Beryl

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sunny's Friday Roundup!!

Hi, Everyone!
This is a new feature to showcase each week what Oak Tree Press authors are doing on the Web and in all aspects of social media. By following the links to articles, not only can you keep up with our authors but you can also extend your own media presence by contacting site owners and asking for your own chance to shine. Please let your contacts, whether they be readers or writers, know how Oak Tree Press and our authors are sharing their knowledge and expertise with the world. 

MARK BOUTON, author of “The Sacrifice,” has just received a review from Fresh Fiction. It's available at Are your books listed at this awesome site?

JOHN BRANTINGHAM, a creative writing teacher at Mt. San Antonio College in Pomona, CA, and author of the soon to be published thriller “Mann of War,” has posted these articles:





Note: Morgan loves to put your achievements in the newsletter. Send them in by the 5th of the month.

New Orleans author HOLLI CASTILLO, author of  “Gumbo Justice” and “Jambalaya Justice” blogs at The Red Room about why writers should give away free books

SUNNY FRAZIER, author of “Fools Rush In,” and “Where Angels Fear,” also has an article in Morgan St. James' ezine titled A SHORT HISTORY OF PUBLISHING.

Over at Kings River Life, Sunny also has an article BOGGED DOWN WITH BLOGS

And, at she has an article on marketing: WHAT DO YOU BRING TO THE TABLE?

WENDY GAGER says Janet Glaser is open to authors blurbing their books. Read Wendy's blurb on her Mitch Malone series:

CHRIS KULLSTROEM, author of DEADLY ROLES, a collection of interactive mystery games, did a podcast interview for The Big Scary Show to be broadcast on October 26, just in time for Halloween.  

JOHN LINDERMUTH, author of Pennsylvania mystery “Fallen From Grace,” talks about CRIME AT SEA AND ON FOREIGN SOIL over at the Quiet Fury Books site:

RADINE TREES NEHRING, author of Ozark mystery “A Fair To Die For,” checks into what weather has to do with our stories on THE WEATHER AND OTHER SUBJECTS. (Special note: Calling all Charlotte Macleod fans: see what the Professor Peter Shandy series has to do with the weather and this blog, and sample a bit of the Macleod humor.)

HELEN OSTERMAN gave an interview all about her character, Emma Winberry at Written Dreams:

Prolific author MARILYN MEREDITH talks about things that happened in childhood that could be used in mysteries at Make Mine Mystery

As part of the Stiletto Gang, she blogs about WHY I RETIRED AS THE CAMPING QUEEN:

And, on her own blog she talks about the characters in her books “Angel Lost,” “No Bells” and the characters in her Rocky Bluff PD series.

It's good to be busy....See you next Friday!!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Blog Book Feature -- CLOSE UP by Kit Slone

If you missed Kit's latest, here's a chance to pick it up for the bargain price of $8--complete! Just click on the BUY NOW button, and the ordering wheels will be in motion. If you click the image, you'll be zipped over to our online bookstore--still great prices, but they don't beat out the BARGAIN BOOK FEATURE price!

CLOSE UP is Kit Sloane's latest chapter in the the MARGOT & MAX MYSTERIES series...the one that gives us a peek at the escapades of that Hollywood power couple...Max, the movie mogul and Margot, tinsel town's most sought-after film editor.

Here's a blurb on the story: Margot and Max know how to cope with the murderous egos, high flying aspirations, and obsessive dreams of moviedom’s biggest and most revered stars.

They understand that, for some, Hollywood is a takeout heaven—send out for what you want and it will quickly be delivered. But what happens when what is coveted doesn’t grow on trees?

In CLOSE-UP, our daring hero and heroine witness greedy players scheming to cultivate their own needs and desires—fabricating fame, fortune, and unfaithful friends.

CLOSE UP is the ninth in the series, but no worries! Each title stands won't be disadvantaged if you are hopping in here, although you just might be tempted to go back to the beginning and read them all.

The Margot & Max covers have a story of their own...each one is an original illustration, crafted to suit the story by Kit's daughter, Annie Sperling who is herself, a movie business pro. 

A graduate in Art History from Mills College, Oakland, California, Kit has published short stories and many articles on the art of writing and the writing business. She served as first fiction editor for Futures Mysterious Anthology Magazine. She especially enjoys lecturing about the writing world and mentoring new writers. She is a long time member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Mystery Women of the UK and was named one of Mills College’s Literary Women for 2007. Kit and her professor husband live on a small hilltop horse ranch in Northern California's sublime wine country. 

Learn more about Kit and her novels at

Billie Johnson

Monday, August 20, 2012


I don't THINK so! Plus, Pat Gligor had me spill about the next book in the Christy Bristol Astrology series that seems to be taking forever to finish.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Can writers learn anything from scientists?

                                                By J. L. Greger
Editors of scientific journals require scientists to submit a full disclosure of their biases when they submit a manuscript for review. Then they charge scientists (or at least agencies funding the research) for space for their publications. Accordingly, the disclosures are brief.

Here’s mine: My novel Coming Flu (published in by Oak Tree Press in July 2012) is a medical thriller; it is also an example of a new sub-genre: science in fiction or Lab Lit. I am a biologist.

Besides keeping their disclosures brief, what can writers learn from scientists? Maybe a little bit about creating a public image.

Is the image of a profession important?
Most writers would agree with Oscar Wilde. “There is only thing worse in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about” (The Picture of Dorian Gray).

Most scientists probably would not. They have seen the effect of free publicity for scientists in books and movies, like Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dr. Strangelove. Most Americans would characterize scientists as aging, unathletic, males with anti-social tendencies. Boys and men, who are fans of comic strips, have a different view of scientists because Batman, Iron Man, and the Avengers are all scientists and engineers. They think of scientists as handsome male superheroes. Although several of my male colleagues like the latter image, it’s equally false.

At this point you’re thinking, why would scientists care about their image? They know a good image is essential to gain the support of the electorate and policy makers for continued funding of scientific research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), and Department of Energy (DOE). They also know their past image has hindered recruitment of bight students, especially women and minorities, to careers in science.

Have scientists tried to improve their image?
Scientific organizations have held thousands of symposiums, museum exhibits, and news briefings to increase appreciation of science by the press, public, and Congress. Government agencies have spent millions to recruit the brightest students (especially women and minorities who generally have not pursued careers in science). For example, NSF will spend $829 million in 2012 on education; most of this will be used to support fellowships and assistantships for graduate students and post doctoral trainees at universities. Similarly NIH will invest large amounts in the graduate and post-graduate training of scientists and physicians in 2012, but will spend $24 million to promote science education for the public, particularly school children.

Depending on your politics, you may think these are examples of “too little too late” or outlandish uses of funds needed elsewhere.

Have these efforts paid off?
The University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center has surveyed 800 to 3,000 Americans annually since 1973. They noted no consistent change in Americans’ opinions about scientists; 35 to 45% of those surveyed expressed confidence in scientists. During the same period of time, confidence in educators fell from 37% to 26%, in physicians fell from 54% to 41%, and in Congress dropped from 23% to 10%.

Do these survey results reflect the lobbying efforts of scientific agencies? I’d say it’s impossible to assess.

But the producers of Contagion contacted scientific agencies for advice before and during filming to increase the accuracy of the science portrayed in the film. The film cost $60 million to produce and grossed $130 million in theaters. Now three popular TV series - CSI, Bones, and NCIS - are projecting positive images for scientists. All three have attractive men and women, who care about others, playing scientists. Granted Abby Sciuto of NCIS wears weird clothing, but she is appealing to youth.

The number of women majoring in science has increased. A few students in biology have admitted that TV shows influenced their career choices. Carl Djerassi, the inventor of the modern birth control pill, now writes novels and plays to increase interest in the “culture” of scientists. There is a website devoted to science in fiction called

Why should you as a writer be interested?
Scientific discoveries and controversies offer great ideas for novels, plays, and short stories. Tidbits of science, especially if you add the right criminal twist, can add a sense of excitement to your writing. For example, you could have a physician “rushing” to declare patients brain dead so he can sell their organs to those needing transplants. Or in a book for youth, you could have a theme park executive having a clone of a wooly mammoth made. Think of the problems of feeding and containing a 13-ton animal; most Asian elephants weigh only 5 to 6 tons.

Scientists, like police, are sometimes willing to share information with authors. Agencies like NIH, have put “non-scientist friendly” descriptions of cutting-edge science on the web. Start with Many universities publish e-zines, press release, and brochures, which are great sources of information on innovative science. They’re also often written in a catchy manner that may spark your imagination.

Finally, learn from the scientists. The effects of bad publicity can linger for a long time.

About Coming Flu 
A new flu strain – the Philippine flu – kills more than two hundred in less than a week in the small walled community nestled by the Rio Grande River. The rest face a bleak future under quarantine. One of the residents Sara Almquist, a medical epidemiologist, pries into every aspect of her neighbors’ lives looking for clues on how to stop the spread of the flu. She identifies promising clues - maybe too many!

For more information, see

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Promotion Is Hard Work!

One of my more frustrating journeys into the world of book marketing concerns my own promtional efforts as a new author.  From what I gather, it takes money to make money...but what if you're like me, and don't have a lot of money to spend?  I receive countless emails from promotional companies who would love to work with me...for a fee, of course!!  This can be from $900 per month, or a package deal for only $3500!  I've taken some tips from the Oak Tree Press Handbook, but if anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear from you!  I do try to keep up with the blog circuit, and I've been lucky to be featured on other author and book industry blogs, but I'd like to hear about other ways to promote my work...and do so for free or for very little money.  Please feel free to contact me at, and check out my website at  I always enjoy interfacing with other authors, especially my colleagues at Oak Tree Press.   
-- Debra McReynolds, writing as Marva Dale
author of "Death of a Flapper"

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How do You Get Your Stories?

"How do You Get Your Stories?"

Many people ask that question. Here are a couple of answers.

The idea for my latest book, Ghost Writer, published this summer by Oak Tree Press to launch their new Mystic Oaks line, came on a ride home from work. Larry and I were carpooling at the time and used our commute to plot our work. As we slogged along in rush hour traffic, we heard an announcement that the film, Ghost Writer, was about to open.

In my mind, the question arose: What if the ghost was a writer? By the time we got home, the basic outline of the story was in my mind. And once I found the characters to go with it, they insisted on being immortalized.

Our first mystery started at the Maui Writers' conference. We attended following the publication of our first book, a memoir entitled 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park. We had a great time meeting other authors and swapping stories.

About the second day of the conference, we attended a workshop about what to do after you publish your first book. The first question the presenter asked was, "Now that you're published, what's your next book?"

At the time I was working on the Great American Romance Novel, still unfinished. (I'll get back to it someday. Probably.) Larry, on the other hand, had no new project.

Later in the same session, an announcement was made that the poet had fallen on the stairs and had been taken to the hospital. He would be okay, but his classes were cancelled. And Larry thought: What if the poet's body was mysteriously found on the stairs at a writers' conference, and there lots of authors with motive and opportunity pointing fingers at each other?

The next morning, we ran into a guy we'd seen around checking credentials. Since it was our anniversary, we were dressed nicely wearing leis. He commented on how nice we looked, and we stopped to chat for about ten minutes. As we walked away, I said to Larry, "We have to write that guy." He became the inspiration for AgapĂ© Jones, the protagonist of Murder… They Wrote and Murder in Paradise. (And 'that guy' has since become a good friend.)

Did you notice any commonality in the two stories? They started with the question, "What if?" That is how we usually get ideas. Once the seed is planted, it takes root and nothing short of writing it will make it go away.

For my fellow writers, how do you get your ideas? For readers, what are the most intriguing plot-lines?

Lorna Collins was raised in Alhambra, California and attended California State University at Los Angeles where she majored in English.
Between 1998 and 2001, she worked in Osaka, Japan on the Universal Studios theme park with her husband, Larry. Their memoir of that experience, 31 Months in Japan: The Building of a Theme Park, was published in 2005 and was a finalist for the 2006 nonfiction EPPIE award and named as one of Rebeccas Reads best nonfiction books of 2005.
They have written two mysteries together: Murder… They Wrote, published in 2009, and Murder in Paradise, published in 2010. The latter was a finalist for the 2012 EPIC eBook Award. They are currently working on at least two more in this series.
Along with authors Sherry Derr-Wille, Luanna Rugh, and Christie Shary, Lorna wrote several romance anthologies: Snowflake Secrets, finalist for the Dream Realm and Eric Hoffer Awards, published in 2008, Seasons of Love in 2009, and Directions of Love in 2010. Directions of Love received the EPIC eBook Award for best romance anthology of 2011. The group added debut author, Cheryl Gardarian for An Aspen Grove Christmas, published in December of 2010. The group is currently working on three more anthologies.
Ghost Writer is Lorna’s first solo effort, and her favorite book so far.
Today she and Larry are retired and reside in Dana Point, California.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Sunny here. Never have I been so thoroughly and accurately quoted as by Carolyn Barbe. She made me sound uber-intelligent in her report on my speech to the Tulare/Kings Writers titled "Publishing: Past, Present and Future."


 I believe that all writing is to some extent autobiographical. Whether you're writing mystery, or romance, or science fiction, or western fiction, or mainstream, you're drawing on your own experience in some clear or subtle way. And at some point, I think it's wise for an author to pause in his or her creative career and write a memoir. It doesn't have to be totally factual, but it should tell honest stories to honor the experience of living a life. The story or book may not be published, or even publishable, but it's still worth doing. It's a way of keeping track of life's inventory.

Why tell stories based on our experiences? Because that’s what we know, of course. And the more we remember about our past, the more we understand ourselves. Where do the stories of our lives come from? Historical records, old letters, diaries, and journals? Old photographs? An attic full of souvenirs? Memories, both happy and sad? All of the above, perhaps, but also the legends and lore passed down through generations. And don’t forget family gossip, which may not always be true but is always important.

Why should we write these stories down? First of all, for the fun of it. It’s a thrill to craft a good story. But also, we do it as a gift: to the future, to our children, to our friends, maybe even to a larger audience of people who want to know what life during our lifetime was like, as experienced first-hand. Writing life stories is a chance to be generous and self-indulgent at the same time. And again, an important reason to write stories from our lives is to better understand ourselves.

Here  are a few tips to make the stories you write interesting, entertaining, and important.

1. Let the reader know what was going on in the world when the story happened. That way the reader will have some historical reference to latch onto. “In the summer of 1969, when a new generation gathered at Woodstock and a human being planted his foot on the moon for the first time, I realized that there would be no limits to what I could do with my life...”

2. Tell your reader how old you were, or where you were in your social development, so the reader can identify similar rites of passage in her or his own life. “My high school senior prom was a disaster, but breaking up with that person was probably the luckiest...”

3. And where were you in your spiritual development? Not a matter of world history or age, but of some change in your world view. “I leaned a lot from my time in the Vietnam war. The bad news is what I learned about war. The good news is what I learned about friendship...."

4. Write of change. Change is what happens in every good story.

5. Write of choices. Choices are often what bring those changes about.

6. Write of consequence. By that I mean write of things that matter. Get into the part of the story that people care about: love, joy, grief, regret, reward. Celebrate the light, but don’t be afraid of the dark.

7. Be kind. Yes, you can write about people who mistreated you, but treat them as people, not as cartoon characters.

8. Tell the truth, even if you have to lie to do it. Nobody can remember every tiny detail of what happened, but out of every story grows a message of choice and change, and that message must be honest. From your heart.

9. Write a story that’s fun to read. Give it a strong beginning, make it build with suspense to a satisfying climax, and leave your reader with the pleasure of having been entertained.

10. Have fun with your writing.

Enough said. Lesson ten is not optional.