Interview: Guest Lecturer Alexander Jablokov

jablokovAuthor Alexander Jablokov, who will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey workshop, writes science fiction for readers who won’t give up literate writing or vivid characters to get the thrills they demand. He is a natural transition for non-SF readers interested in taking a stroll with a dangerous AI or a neurosurgeon/jazz musician turned detective, while still giving hardcore SF fans speculative flash, incomprehensible aliens, and kitchen appliances with insect wing cases. From his well-regarded first novel, Carve the Sky, an interplanetary espionage novel set in a culturally complex 25th century, through the obscenely articulate dolphins with military modifications of a Deeper Sea, the hardboiled post-cyberpunk of Nimbus, the subterranean Martian repression of River of Dust, and the perverse space opera of Deepdrive, his last book was Brain Thief, a contemporary high-tech thriller with a class clown attitude. He has recently written a YA alternate universe adventure novel.

His day job is as a marketing manager. He does his writing during the mornings, and on weekends. It took him several years to figure out how to get any writing done at all, particularly since he hates getting up early and hates working on weekends, but has somehow managed it. Visit www.ajablokov.com to learn more about the author and his books.


On your blog you say that, “writing is rewriting.” How do you maintain excitement for that original idea as you work through various drafts?

Sometimes I don’t and have to let it rest for a while. But I consider the first draft as something akin to ore. Smelting and refinement are the next steps. Now, that’s just me—my initial drafts are tangled, full of blind alleys, notes to myself, and repeated sentences where I try to get something right. I’ve learned that attempting to revise while I write stops me dead. That kind of revision can be like cleaning your desk or doing your laundry—a useful task that has wandered into the wrong place. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Alexander Jablokov”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 2 of 2)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPublishing veteran Michael J. Sullivan will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is the author of 29 novels and uses a wide range of publishing options, including self-publishing, small-press, big-five, Kickstarter, print-only, foreign translations, and audio. He’s sold more than 850,000 books, been translated into 15 foreign languages, and appeared on more than 150 “best of” or “most anticipated” lists, including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads, and Audible.com. His most recent novel, Age of Myth, hit #2 on the Washington Post Best Seller’s List for hardcovers. Because of his wide range of publishing experience, Michael has taught several courses with Writer’s Digest and been a guest speaker at multiple fantasy conventions, as well as BookExpo America (the largest publishing tradeshow in the world). He’s currently working on his fourth Riyria Chronicles novel. The second book in his Legends of the First Empire series, Age of Swords, will be released by Del Rey in the summer of 2017.


Part 1 of this interview, posted last Sunday, is available here.

How many stages does your work go through before you send it off to a publisher? How much of your time is spent writing the first draft, and how much time is spent in revision? What sort of revisions do you do?

Part of the problem in discussing the writing process is there are so many terms that mean different things to different people. For instance, I don’t re-write (which to me means starting the book over once you know where it ends up), but I do make a lot of changes through editing. There are some books where what was once on page one moved back to page fifty, and I cut some openings altogether. Is that re-writing or editing? For me, I consider that work editing, even though it may require rewriting parts of the book.

Okay, the process is rather long but here goes: Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 2 of 2)”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 1 of 2)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPublishing veteran Michael J. Sullivan will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He is the author of 29 novels and uses a wide range of publishing options, including self-publishing, small-press, big-five, Kickstarter, print-only, foreign translations, and audio. He’s sold more than 850,000 books, been translated into 15 foreign languages, and appeared on more than 150 “best of” or “most anticipated” lists, including those compiled by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Goodreads, and Audible.com. His most recent novel, Age of Myth, hit #2 on the Washington Post Best Seller’s List for hardcovers. Because of his wide range of publishing experience, Michael has taught several courses with Writer’s Digest and been a guest speaker at multiple fantasy conventions, as well as BookExpo America (the largest publishing tradeshow in the world). He’s currently working on his fourth Riyria Chronicles novel. The second book in his Legends of the First Empire series, Age of Swords, will be released by Del Rey in the summer of 2017.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

There’s so much advice to give!! Hopefully, we can get into this more during the workshop, but I’m going to narrow my focus to two equally important pieces of advice…and they go hand in hand. The first relates to developing your craft, which doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years (or decades) to find your voice and get your writing skills up to a ready-for-prime-time level. Art, all art, takes time and practice, so this isn’t a sprint but a marathon. Stephen King says you should treat your first 1,000,000 words as practice, and Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours working at a task to get proficient. I think these numbers are about right. For me, I wrote for a decade and created 13 novels (most of which were utter trash), but they taught me a great deal. So my advice is to prepare yourself for a long haul, and never stop focusing on continued improvement. Persistence is the most important trait of the “writing business,” and the only way to guarantee failure is to stop trying. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Michael J. Sullivan (Part 1 of 2)”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Mark Gottlieb

20121130-trident-mark_153_grey_highres-agentMark Gottlieb is a literary agent with Trident Media Group who will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. He attended Emerson College and was President of its Publishing Club, establishing the Wilde Press. After graduating with a degree in writing, literature and publishing, he began his career with Penguin’s Vice President. Mark’s first position at Publishers Marketplace’s #1-ranked literary agency, Trident Media Group, was in foreign rights. Mark was Executive Assistant to Trident’s chairman and ran the Audio Department. Mark is currently working with his own client list, helping to manage and grow author careers with the unique resources available to Trident. He has ranked #1 among Literary Agents on publishersmarketplace.com in Overall Deals and other categories.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

The most important advice I can give to writers just starting out is to learn and grow from constructive criticism and rejection, rather than being discouraged by that feedback. It is not an editor or literary agent saying the author’s writing is not good—we’re saying the writing is not good enough, at least not yet. So, hang in there… Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Mark Gottlieb”

Graduate Essay: Author David H. Hendrickson, “Blending Genre and Experience,” Part 2

dave-hendricksonAuthor David H. Hendrickson is a 2006 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. His first novel, Cracking the Ice, was praised by Booklist as “a gripping account of a courageous young man rising above evil.” He has since published four more novels, including most recently, No Defense and Offside.

His award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, most recently Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Fiction River anthology series. His titles have populated multiple Kindle bestseller lists.

Hendrickson has published well over one thousand works of nonfiction ranging from sports journalism to humor and essays. He’s been honored with the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award and the Murray Kramer Scarlet Quill Award.

For more information about his writing, visit him online at http://www.hendricksonwriter.com where you can sign up for his mailing list and be notified of new releases.


This is Part Two of an essay; Part One was published last Sunday, and you can read it here.

Ten years ago, I’d never read a single romance, much less considered writing one. Not to put too fine a point on it, but romances were… for women.

Once again, though, workshops by Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith opened my eyes to wider horizons. As part of assigned reading for one of them, I read my first romance, a novel by Nora Roberts. I found I enjoyed it more than its counterparts in the thriller genre by James Patterson and Clive Cussler. The experience showed me that I read primarily for the characters, not the plot and action, and romance is all about the characters.

So every now and then I tossed in a romance novel into my reading (ignoring the curious looks I got when friends in the fitness center spied the bare-chested hunk on my book’s cover). But I didn’t give it any more thought until another Kris Rusch-assigned reading list included a hockey romance novella.

A hockey romance.

It was close to love at first sight. Hockey romances! Who’d-a thunk it?

The novella was pretty good and I enjoyed it, but there was one detail that wasn’t quite right to my finely trained eye. That got me thinking. Why not me?

I figured I’d write a short story around 10,000 words, put it up electronically, and see what happened. I imagined a female sportswriter who’d never, ever cross the line into dating a player she covered, only to find that an old flame from college had been traded to her team. An old flame that she still burned for. While I was at it, I figured I’d use my own experience and that of my colleagues to provide an inside look at the world of a sportswriter.

body-check-cover-webWhat I had thought would be 10,000 words, however, became 20,000 and then 40,000 words, with no end in sight. The final manuscript for Body Check weighed in at over 120,000 words. Off by only 110,000. That was, of course, far, far too long for a contemporary romance. Almost twice the ideal size. Almost certainly, any New York editor who even considered it would require major surgery.

Fortunately, with the wonderful advent of indie publishing, I could release the book as I envisioned it. The manuscript went out to my first readers, then after incorporating their feedback, to the professional editor I hired, and…

Body Check sold like crazy.

All because, once again, I had looked outside my comfort zone—my newly expanded comfort zone, this time—and I’d taken a chance.
                                                                       * * *
My second YA title, Offside, which was adopted by Lynn English High School for its entire school to read this summer, looks at the same era as Cracking the Ice, but from the eyes of a naïve young, white boy whose family moves from rural Maine to the terrifying “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin.”

I had wanted to look at some of the same racial issues as Cracking the Ice, only from the flip side in terms of race, and wound up including a surprising number of my own personal experiences growing up in Lynn. This time, I stayed away from hockey; my protagonist, “Rabbit” Labelle, is a football fanatic with some baseball thrown in for seasoning. Why? I’m not sure, it just felt right.

My latest novel, No Defense, returned to the hockey romance no-defense-cover-webgenre, but in a surprising setting. I’d taken the trip of a lifetime to Tanzania and couldn’t help but write about the wonders of the Serengeti. So I took a goalie escaping to Africa after giving up the worst goal imaginable in overtime of the Stanley Cup Championship Game 7.
                                                                      * * *
I suppose in some ways, I’ve followed that loathsome advice “write what you know” more often than I’d care to admit. I know hockey, I know what it’s like to move to “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin,” and I now know the Serengeti.

But I don’t know what it was like to be a black teenager in the sixties, much less one leaving home for prep school. I don’t know what it’s like to be a female journalist. Or a professional hockey player. Those required research, interviews, and imagination.

So no, I didn’t just write what I knew.

I wrote what I was passionate about. Hockey. That wonderful African safari. The Civil Rights era. And in a love-hate sort of way, my tumultuous, sometimes violent years in “Lynn, Lynn, City of Sin.” And I wrote in genres I enjoy.

My advice is this: give yourself the freedom to explore new genres and new avenues of your imagination. Don’t limit yourself to autobiographically “write what you know.” You might find yourself slowly cannibalizing your life experiences, as I have done at times, but it’ll be the natural result of your storytelling, not some paint-by-numbers autobiography masquerading as fiction.

You’ll have the most fun writing—and your readers will have the most fun reading your work—when you do one thing above all.

Follow your passion.

Graduate Essay: Author David H. Hendrickson, “Blending Genre and Experience,” Part 1

dave-hendricksonAuthor David H. Hendrickson is a 2006 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. His first novel, Cracking the Ice, was praised by Booklist as “a gripping account of a courageous young man rising above evil.” He has since published four more novels, including most recently, No Defense and Offside.

His award-winning short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, most recently Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and the Fiction River anthology series. His titles have populated multiple Kindle bestseller lists. 

Hendrickson has published well over one thousand works of nonfiction ranging from sports journalism to humor and essays. He’s been honored with the Joe Concannon Hockey East Media Award and the Murray Kramer Scarlet Quill Award.

For more information about his writing, visit him online at http://www.hendricksonwriter.com where you can sign up for his mailing list and be notified of new releases.


Do you always write within your comfort zone? How widely do your stories vary?

So many writers constrain themselves within a narrow area of interest, creating stories that seem not only similar to each other but similar to other stories within that sub-genre. Sometimes breaking free of that ‘comfort zone’ and realizing you are a person with many interests and many different types of stories to tell can bring new energy and originality into your work.

I didn’t used to think so. I used to cling to my comfort zone. But I learned better, and perhaps my experience can help you. Let me start at the beginning.

Write what you know.

That’s what some long-forgotten book told me to do shortly after, at the age of twenty, I read my first Harlan Ellison short story and said, “Ohmigod, that’s what I want to do!”

I was horrified at the book’s advice. Write what I know? I didn’t know anything. Oh, I’d been captain of the math team and chess team in high school, and as an MIT student, I was learning a lot about computers. But I sure didn’t want to write about any of that. All that was software career stuff. I didn’t want to read fiction about math and computers, and I sure didn’t want to write about it.
Continue reading “Graduate Essay: Author David H. Hendrickson, “Blending Genre and Experience,” Part 1″

Interview: Odyssey Online Graduate and Author Jenise Aminoff

jenise-headshotDianna Sanchez is the not-so-secret identity of Jenise Aminoff, whose superpower is cooking with small children. She is an MIT alumna, graduate of the 1995 Clarion Workshop and Odyssey Online, active member of SCBWI, and a former editor of New Myths magazine (www.newmyths.com).

Aside from 18 years as a technical and science writer, she has taught science in Boston Public Schools, developed curricula for STEM education, and taught Preschool Chef, a cooking class for children ages 3-5. A Latina geek originally from Albuquerque, NM, she now resides near Boston, MA with her wonderfully geeky husband and two daughters.

Her debut novel is A WITCH’S KITCHEN, forthcoming from Dreaming Robot Press in September 2016.


Congratulations on the sale of your first novel, A Witch’s Kitchen, coming out from Dreaming Robot Press on September 25, 2016! How many stages did your novel go through before you sent it to the publisher? How much of your time was spent writing the first draft, and how much was spent in revising? What sort of revisions did you do on the novel?

Thanks! All told, A Witch’s Kitchen took me two years, three months to complete. I started it just before Thanksgiving 2013 and completed the first draft on March 25, 2014. Luckily, I had signed up for Odyssey Online’s Powerful Dialogue in Fantastic Fiction, intending to use it for a completely different project, so that helped a great deal. Even so, I knew it was nowhere near ready to send out. Continue reading “Interview: Odyssey Online Graduate and Author Jenise Aminoff”