Writing Advice from "Franzen, King, Hosseini, and More"

How to Write: A Year in Advice from Franzen, King, Hosseini, and More

Photo from The Atlantic


I've been saving the link to this article since December, because I wanted to be sure to share it with you (in case you missed it). I've been eager to get back to the blog, and what better way to do it than with a bang.

Joe Fassler of The Atlantic has provided a wonderful service to writers by gaining access to a magnificent gaggle of fine authors. Through his interviews with these generous folks, he collected their invaluable advice in the following article. Like I said, it's worth saving.

Of his collection of interviews, Joe Fassler says:

"Taken together, these conversations were like attending an MFA program—I learned that much. Here are the best short pieces of writing advice I heard from writers in 2013, a whole year’s worth of wisdom."



Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

The Haunted Mansion Project Interview

Angel and Fran Survive the Skeery


Have a peek at my interview with the marvelous and talented, Loren Rhoads.

We survived The Haunted Mansion Retreat together, along with a bunch of other intrepid writers and artists. Loren digs deep and makes me share the skeery.

Visit Morbid Is As Morbid Does for the Interview:


Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel


My dear friend (and brother from another mother), Bourn Archer, is doing something spectacular. He is creating TREASURES!

When the corporate world decided to eat up all the small businesses where his restaurant has been for over a decade, he decided it was an opportunity. Bourn took a sharp turn on the highway of life to follow his passion--Music!

Not only is he the lead singer for the great band, Locomotive Breath, he is opening a concert and rehearsal venue so he can be immersed in his passion while serving the incredible music and art community of Santa Cruz.

His new venue is called TREASURES!

This space is incredible! Bourn, Rhan Wilson, and Rick Zeek are hard at work renovating the space. The estimated unveiling of Treasures is sometime in August 2013.

They're Baaaack...The Cyberman!

BBC America - Neil Gaiman's Cyberman

They're Back


From I09:

"This Saturday, renowned author Neil Gaiman returns to Doctor Who, with a brand new mission: make the Cyberman actually terrifying again. "
How Neil Gaiman did away with the "clanky clanky steampunk" Cybermen

This Saturday, renowned author "Neil Gaiman returns to Doctor Who, with a brand new mission: make the Cyberman actually terrifying again. We talked to Gaiman, along with some other reporters, and he explained how he became the new Cyber-controller.

"Spoilers ahead --http://bit.ly/ZSdD5x"

I'll be watching...and squeeee-ing the whole time!

Wicked Yours,
Fran Friel

ASM Blog Horde Interview with Daine Severson

Blog Horde Interview Logo
Welcome to the Amazing Stories BLOG HORDE INTERVIEWS!
The ASM Blog Horde is a diverse and wonderful species. I have the privilege of talking with all of them, and I get to share those chats with you. In this long-running series, you will have the opportunity to peek inside the minds of the ASM bloggers to to see just what makes them tick.
I hope you enjoy the series as much as I have enjoyed preparing it for you. Please feel free to ask questions, or just let the Horde know you've stopped by for a visit.
Bloggers live for comments, so keep 'em alive!  

Tonight's Featured ASM Blogger:IMG_0372
DIANE SEVERSON is a professional singer and vocal teacher. She specializes in "Early Music," and freelances mostly in Medieval and Baroque music. She is also a wife and a mother, a podcaster, a narrator and blogger.
After finishing her Bachelors of Music Degree in Vocal Performance in Madison, Wisconsin, Diane moved to Germany where she lived for twenty years. She recently relocated to Paris with her family—an Italian husband, and their 3-year old linguist son.

Fran Friel for Amazing Stories: Welcome to the ASM Blog Horde Interview Series, Diane. I’m thrilled to be here with you. So, let's start with how you became interested in blogging for Amazing Stories Magazine.
DS: I saw Steve Davidson’s post calling for bloggers for Amazing Stories over on the StarShipSofa Facebook Page. Since I’ve been Science Fiction poetry’s self-appointed spokesperson for a while now, I thought blogging for ASM would be a perfect opportunity to expand that to a wider audience.

ASN: As you well know, Amazing Stories Magazine has quite a wide variety of blogging categories. In which categories will we find your blogs?
DS: I blog about Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction poetry. My main focus will be to review SF poetry – chapbooks, collections, anthologies, online poetry zines and the like. I plan to throw in the odd interview with a prominent or favorite SF poet every once in a while.

ASM: Diane, who are your favorite authors, and what keeps you coming back to their work? Any book recommendations for us?
Diane Severson ASM Interview 4DS: My favorite author within or outside of the genre is Ursula K. LeGuin. I haven’t read all of her work, not by a long stretch, but I’m trying to space it out, so I don’t run out of things to look forward to, if you know what I mean.
My favorite novels by UKL are The Left Hand of Darkness (SF), The Other Wind (part of the fantasy, Earthsea Cycle) and The Lathe of Heaven. Her short stories are also incredibly powerful, but there are too many which have affected me to name here. Long before I discovered SF poetry, I fell in love with UKL’s style. It’s slow and melodic and beautiful, just like poetry. I think that might be just what turns some people off of her work.

ASM: That’s a juicy list for sure, Diane. I would happily get lost in your bookshelves. Now, how about new or lesser-known authors? Is there anyone you would suggest to our readers?
DS: I’ve been introduced to so many authors through podcasts, specifically StarShipSofa and PodCastle, that I’m losing track of who is well known and who is not. However, I feel fairly confident that Lawrence SantoroMatthew Sanborn Smith and Grant Stone might not be household names.

ASM: Discovering new talent is like finding buried treasure, so thanks for the recommendations. What are you reading now, and how is it so far?   
Wickedly Yours,

An Amazing Stories Interview with C.E. Martin

Blog Horde Interview Logo
Welcome to the Amazing Stories BLOG HORDE INTERVIEWS!
The ASM Blog Horde is a diverse and wonderful species. I have the privilege of talking with all of them, and I get to share those chats with you. In this long-running series, you will have the opportunity to peek inside the minds of the ASM bloggers to to see just what makes them tick.
I hope you enjoy the series as much as I have enjoyed preparing it for you. Please feel free to ask questions, or just let the Horde know you've stopped by for a visit.
Bloggers live for comments, so keep 'em alive!  

Tonight's featured ASM Blogger:Martin Interview Author Pic
C.E. MARTIN left the Midwest in 1990, after joining the USAF. After serving two years in Germany and then two more in California, he returned to Indiana, settled down, got married and is now the proud father of two girls.
Toiling by day as a civil servant, C.E. enjoys the classic pulp novels and B Movies in his spare time.
When not writing, C.E. can be found lurking around the Internet, as @Troglodad or even on Xbox Live—when his kids let him have the TV.

 FF: So, Chuck, please tell us how you became interested in blogging for Amazing Stories Magazine.

CEM: I've been blogging for about six years now, and in 2012 started up in the Indie Author biz and saw a post at a writer's forum asking for bloggers.

FF: As you know, Amazing Stories Magazine has a huge variety of blogging categories. In what categories can we find your blogs at ASM, and what is your special interest in those topics?

CEM: Well, I try and write about SF/F from a family, fatherly angle. It seems like a lot of SF/F has gotten very mature in the 21st Century. A lot of great stuff my kids cant see until they're older. Much older. But, because they're kids, they've missed out on a lot of classic stuff from before their time. I hope to share my education of my kids in Classic SF/F with other parents out there.

FF: Can you tell us a little bit about your previous work in the publishing or genre industry?

CEM: I'm an Indie Author- I have three novels out now on Kindle, Nook, etc. I'm planning about five more this year. Hopefully, they'll come out of the shadows and into the spotlight and I'll be able to consider myself a professional writer.
My first professional writing gig was in 2007- I landed a freelance bit with a local newspaper doing opinion pieces. Alas, they went under shortly thereafter (totally not my fault) and I only made enough money to buy my kids an Xbox. I then was recruited by the paper's former editor to do opinion pieces for a regional blog, mythoughtworld.com, which had a decidedly political bent. I also blogged for myself, under the pseudonym, Troglodad. But like Sasquatch, my work there remains elusive to the Internet at large.
I was big into amateur filmmaking in the 1980s. If back then we had YouTube and all the fancy editing and HD stuff the kids have now, I'd be as famous as Freddie Wong or Zack Finfrock of Wayside Creations. Instead, my work often remained unfinished or in the form of cool VHS doorstops.

FF: Chuck, how might you categorize the type of blog you enjoy writing?  

CEM: Well, I enjoyed my sarcastic, right-leaning political digs as Troglodad, but it (politics) started getting a little too nasty and personal a few years ago. Today I enjoy talking about what's good in SF/F for kids. If I had my dream blogging gig it would be reviewing movies with an honest everyman's approach. As long as I got free tickets to them, that is. And popcorn. Gotta have popcorn.

Martin Interview Xanth picFF: One of the things I love about Amazing Stories Magazine is that they’re focusing on multiple genres—Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Do you have a favorite?

CEM: Tough question. I prefer reading Science Fiction. I prefer watching schlocky "horror" B Movies. Fantasy can be okay—I'm a big fan of Piers Anthony's Xanth series. I guess over all, I like them all equally.
I actually enjoy Monsters more than all around horror. I like the cheesy ones and the well done ones. I think it's because I prefer to see non-humans get killed in movies. I feel zero guilt cheering when Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward trick a graboid into diving off a cliff. Watching people kill people, even bastards that deserve it...well, that just isn't cool.
I greatly enjoy the sciency aspects of Science Fiction, but I find that as I get older, my nitpicking skills have increased and I find most SF/F to be implausible and that kind of ruins it for me.

FF: My husband says the same thing. I guess that’s one of the dangers of getting older. It’s harder to forgive those messy details. How about your favorite authors? Who do you read and what keeps you coming back to their work?Martin Interview End of World pic
CEM: My all time favorite author would have to Warren Murphy. Lester Dent, ERB, and Robert E Howard would all tie for second place. I say this based on the enjoyment factor—how much I enjoyed reading all of their works. Warren Murphy, and his late writing partner, Richard Sapir, wrote the best series ever, The Destroyer, and it never disappointed. (Well, there was the one time, but that was a ghostwriter). The series also had some closely supervised ghost writers that were fantastic, like Jim Mullaney and Will Murray. But what really sets the books apart from others is the combination of humor, tension and just all around fantastic ass-whoopery.
The latest Destroyer novel, #150, The End of the World, is out and is just like reading the series in the 80s. Incredible.
There's a new Destroyer spin off series, Legacy, written by Warren Murphy and Gerald Welch. It is SO good. First book is Forgotten Son. Five Stars, people. Read it!

FF: Great recommendations, Chuck. You had me at “fantastic ass-whoopery.” How about new authors? Have you read any new or lesser-known authors you’d like to bring to our attention? ... http://wp.me/p2T3WE-2YM

If you've enjoyed reading CE Martin's interview, please go to my blog at Amazing Stories to read the second half: http://wp.me/p2T3WE-2YM

Thank you so much for reading, folks! Please come back next week for another featured Amazing Stories Blog Horde Interview.
We'll keep the light on for you!
Wickedly Yours,

Your Brain on Storytelling: BOOM!

wikipedia.org Edmund Dulac The Mermaid The Prince.
Story Horder
As a child, I was a story horder. I couldn't get enough of them. I was very fortunate to have parents who read to me, and looking back, they were saints in this regard. I was voracious. I always wanted more, and I wanted my favorites again and again.

The original story of The Little Mermaid and its illustrations enthralled me. I can still feel the excitement and the magic of reading that story. I'd get lost in it. What a gift my parents gave me by reading to me, but I must have driven them mad.

I was the same with music. I became obsessed with songs. I needed to hear them over and over again, so that I could memorize them--somehow making them a part of me. "How Much Is That Doggie In the Window?" was one of my early obsessions. We would sing the song inserting the names of every family member I could think of in place of "that doggie." It was no doubt a bedtime stalling technique, but it was also delightful. I recall a lot of giggling, thinking of my family members in the pet store window.

I suspect my parents were relieved when I finally learned to read and learn my own songs, but it was short lived. They then had to endure my reading and singing to them endlessly.

Wired for Stories
It turns out that my parents gave me a bigger gift than I thought. According to the article, "What Listening to Stories Does to Our Brains," we are actually wired for stories. Telling them and and listening to them lights up our brains in powerful ways.

Researchers in Spain say that, "Not only are the language processing parts in our brain activated, but any other area in our brain, that we would use when experiencing the events of the story are too." In addition, the brain of the person listening and the brain of the person sharing a story can become synchronized in the process of storytelling. You can imagine the ramifications of these brain responses, and likely one of the reasons we fall in love with comics, musicians, actors and writers--they're storytellers lighting up our brains and helping us feel what they are describing far more deeply than we realize.

In Practice

There are real world applications for this knowledge, and the article suggests a few:

--To bring others on board with your idea, tell them a story (Writers - Think synopsis and project pitiches!).

"According to Uri Hasson from Princeton, a story is the only way to activate parts in the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.
The next time you struggle with getting people on board with your projects and ideas, simply tell them a story, where the outcome is that doing what you had in mind, is the best thing to do. According to Princeton researcher Hasson, storytelling is the only way to plant ideas into other people’s minds."

--Create greater impact and credibility (Bloggers!).

"...ask for quotes from the top folks in the industry or simply find great passages they [have] written online. It’s a great way to add credibility and at the same time, tell a story."

--Simple is better.

"Using simple language as well as a low complexity is the best way to activate the brain regions that make us truly relate to the situation and happenings in the story."

Some good advice, don't you think? When I consider these suggestions, it makes me think why the phenomenon of LOL Cats and the like on the Internet are so successful. These little vignettes are engaging our brains with a visual story, using simple words to invite us into a common experience with which we can identify. Add a little humor and we're hooked!

It may also be why story podcasts like Lightspeed, and radio shows like This American Life and Snap Judgement are more popular as they become so easy to access online. They're the modern day version of sitting around the old RCA radio listening to The Lone Ranger and The Shadow. Mostly what I come away with in this article, is to be engaging as a storyteller--to unabashedly share my enthusiasm of the story with my readers. I want for them, the excitement and joy that a great story brought to me as a child and still brings to me to this day.

Happy Stories to you, my friends!

Yours Always,

Fran Friel

Note: Thank you to Ginger Hamilton Caudill for the link to the original article; The Shadow cover borrowed from: booksteveslibrary.blogspot.com 

"...On Behalf Of One's Obsessions"

‎"The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one's obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all." --John Updike

Wishing you all a very Merry Little Christmas!

Yours Most Sincerely,

In Times of Disaster

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” - Mr. Rogers

Wild Life in Santa Cruz

Photo by Fran Friel 2012
With so much of the country struggling with flooding, snow, frigid temps, and disaster clean-up after epic Hurricane Sandy, I thought I'd just offer a simple little glimpse of beauty.  This gorgeous orchid is just one of many I had the pleasure of viewing this past weekend at the Santa Cruz Orchid Society show.

I was dazzled and inspired.  To me she looks like an exotic beast ready to come alive and fly around the room, swooping and diving.  Hide your children!

 I hope you've enjoyed this solitary beauty as much as I have.

Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

Super-Duper LOOPER

Yes, it's as simple as that--Go see Looper.  The only reason not to go to see this film, is if you're hyper-sensitive to violence.  Otherwise, the violence isn't worse than you'll see on most television police series.  There's also a little nudity, but it's brief.

Anyway, with all the caveats out of the way, Looper really is an excellent science fiction film with a great cast, but mostly, it's an excellent story.  The foundation of the story is based on time travel and the altering of reality [I'm not telling you more--1) because I'm a lazy reviewer, and 2), because it will spoil the story you, and I hate when that happens], but the characters are deliciously complex and faithfully drawn, the story threads are all artfully tied together (in a time travel tale, that's saying something!).  Basically, this is just excellent storytelling, directing, and acting.  I'm telling you, kids, Looper is worth the price of admission--one of my favorite films of the year!


Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

PS - Let me know if you enjoyed the film!  What did you think of the kid's acting (Pierce Gagnon)?  Amazing, right?  If you didn't, I might have to send out the compliance squad...but that's another blog. ;-)

"Spidery Black Objects On Mars"

Yahoo's news headline reads, "Spidery black objects on Mars surface raise speculation."  Hmm...my thought is that might just be the understatement of the year, especially considering "they appear when the surface of Mars begins to warm, showing up in the same location most of the time. And then when the Martian winter approaches, they disappear with the same precise regularity."  Heck, I'm having flashbacks of Dune's Sandworms, aren't you?  All that said, for me, this information is a treasure trove of story fodder.  Maybe Mr. Herbert was doing more than storytelling.  

Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

Remainder of the Day

Our Walking Shoes
It's the last day for our motely crew at the Haunted Mansion Writers' Retreat 2012.  We're reluctantly packing up and putting on our walking shoes, getting ready to head back home.  It's been an exciting weekend, but most importantly, it's been a weekend full of friendship and creativity.

The ghosties were an eventful addition to our activities, but this was truly a writers' retreat with abundant inspiration at every turn, especially the opportunity to be surrounded by other working writers.  It's really fantastic to have company for a change!

A few of us still remain in the salon, soaking up the ambiance and the camaraderie.  Our fearless leader, Rain Graves, continues the rally the troops and entertain us with excellent stories and her amazing energy.  Thank you, Rain, for an awesome weekend!

Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

PS - Thank you, Sephora Giron, for the colorful walking shoes/socks inspiration.

Darklings in the Hall

Dark Portrait
I know this photo is dark, but maybe it's better that way.  Maybe, in fact, it's better that it's hard to make out their faces.  Although the portrait is beautiful, it has a very sad tone to it.

Not surprising, this portrait hangs in the hall between rooms at the Haunted Mansion where some serious ghost activity has been experienced.  As I write this, the marvelous paranormal investigators, the Ghost Girls, are busy recording and analyzing data collected in this area of the Mansion.  They've already shared recordings of previous investigations at this location, and some of what they shared was chilling.

It will be "interesting" to see what they discover while we're all here rustling up the ghosties with our stories and wanderings around the house.

We'll keep you posted...if we live to tell the tale!

Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

Chicken, Chicken!


Yup, I'm a chicken.  I admit it.  I proved it last night by moving from the dreaded third floor of the Haunted Mansion back down to the second floor.  Actually, it was a move from being ALONE up there is scaryville to rooming with a kind and heavy sleeping friend who wasn't disturbed by my snoring.  Thank you, Rena!

Further mocking my chickenly ways, the rooster in the coop beneath our room cockadoodle-dooed at me this morning when I went out on the balcony.

Yeah, pal, I got it.  I'm a chicken...but not as pretty as you.

Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel

Note:  The lovely chicken photo is from http://www.avianmedicalcenter.net/Portals/0/chicken.png. Many thanks!

Like Day and Night

 Day and Night

By day the Mansion is inviting, delightful even.  The grounds are lovely, including the abandoned pond.  We've gathered, done the tour, found our rooms, and had a truly scrumptious dinner.  All seems peaceful, lighthearted.

But I'm a newbie, and it's hard to ignore the stories from the previous Haunted Mansion Retreats.  Spirits haven't been shy here in the past, and they're likely not going to be shy tonight.  I suspect this weekend will make "believers" of us all.

Not surprisingly, the group is huddled together in the lounge, chatting happily, drinking, blogging, and seemingly avoiding going off on their on.

I've taken a room on the infamous third floor as a public service to my planned roommate--I'm sparing her from my snoring.  I may regret this.

Who will be the first to head off to bed?  Or will we avoid bedtime all together and entertain each other gathered together in the lounge until the sun comes up?

Wish us luck!

Wickedly Yours,
Fran Friel