Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose: “Crafting the Series”

Elaine IsaacAuthor and Odyssey graduate E. C. Ambrose will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes The Dark Apostle historical fantasy series about medieval surgery, which began with Elisha Barber (DAW, 2013), continuing with Elisha Magus, Elisha Rex, Elisha Mancer, and the final volume, Elisha Daemon (forthcoming February 6, 2018). As Elaine Isaak, she is also the author of The Singer’s Crown and its sequels. Her writing how-to articles have appeared in The Writer magazine and online. A three-time instructor at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, she has led workshops across the country on topics like “Crafting Character from the Inside Out” and “10 Mistakes I’ve Made in my Writing Career so That You Don’t Have To.” Elaine dropped out of art school to found her own business. A former professional costumer and soft sculpture creator, Elaine now works as a part-time adventure guide. She blogs about the intersections between fantasy and history at ecambrose.wordpress.com and can also be found at facebook.com/e.c.ambroseauthor or on Twitter at @ecambrose. Under any name, you still do NOT want to be her hero. Learn more at www.TheDarkApostle.com.


In February of 2018, Elisha Daemon, the fifth volume of my Dark Apostle series, will hit the bookstores, thereby achieving something that many fantasy series never do: ending. I look upon that day with both excitement for the fulfilment of my plans and trepidation because I can no longer say quite what will happen next. The characters I’ve been living with for ten years now will be left behind. It’s like breaking off a longstanding relationship. “It’s not you, Elisha, it’s me—I have to move on.” But it will also be the moment I can reveal the ending I’ve been working toward for so long.

Continue reading “Graduate & Guest Lecturer E.C. Ambrose: “Crafting the Series””

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“Teacher’s Corner: Five Reasons I Recommend Odyssey Online Classes” by Barbara Ashford

barbara ashfordAward-winning novelist Barbara Ashford  will be teaching the upcoming Odyssey Online class, One Brick at a Time: Crafting Compelling ScenesShe has been praised by reviewers and readers alike for her compelling characters, heartfelt storytelling, and powerful scenes.

Barbara’s first published series was the dark fantasy trilogy Trickster’s Game (written as Barbara Campbell). Published by DAW Books, Trickster’s Game was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society’s 2010 Fantasy Award for adult literature.

Barbara’s background as a professional actress, lyricist, and librettist has helped her delve deeply into character and explore the complexities of human nature on the stage as well as on the page. Her musical adaptation of Far from the Madding Crowd has been optioned for Broadway. 

She drew on her musical theatre roots for her second series, the award-winning Spellcast and its sequel Spellcrossed, set in a magical summer stock theatre. In 2014, DAW Books released the two novels in an omnibus edition: Spells at the Crossroads.

A graduate of the Odyssey workshop, Barbara has taught five previous online courses for Odyssey and has served on the staff of the Odyssey Critique Service for more than ten years. You can visit her dual selves at barbara-campbell.com and barbara-ashford.com.


Online classes. There are lots of them out there. You read the promos. Consider the content.  And agonize over whether to plunk down your hard-earned money. How do you know if that investment will pay off?

I can’t compare and contrast every online class available. But having taught five classes for Odyssey (with a sixth beginning this January), I can speak to the quality of its program.

Okay, I’m prejudiced. I attended the Odyssey Workshop in 2000. And several of the workshops for Odyssey graduates after that. Without them, I never could have developed my vague story idea into a novel—or wrestled my hopelessly wandering first draft into a novel that would sell.

As a student and a teacher who has learned a lot from Odyssey, here are the key reasons I think Odyssey’s online classes stand out:

1) The Philosophy

Odyssey isn’t about telling you how to write or giving you formulas to follow. In my classes, I like to offer insights from various writers because one approach may resonate with you more than another. And I prefer to talk about concepts that have worked for many writers rather than Rules You Must Obey. We all have different approaches to writing. My job is to offer support, guidance, and suggestions to help you create a compelling story and move forward on your writing journey.

2) The Mix

I’ve taught writers from all over the world. Senior citizens and college students. Short story writers and novelists. Writers of fantasy, science fiction, horror, historical fiction, contemporary thrillers, and romance. Writers for adult audiences, young adults, and middle grade readers. Some already have publication credits while others are looking to crack the pro market, but all go through a rigorous application process (which includes submitting a writing sample) to ensure that they’re equipped to handle the work required. Developing a supportive environment is a must for me. So I was especially pleased to see this quote on a student evaluation: “The other students were all great. No workshop trolls.”

3) The Work

If you expect to attend a live, online lecture for 90 minutes and then sit at home until the next class, don’t apply for Odyssey! Plan on devoting a minimum of five hours a week to the homework assignments and critiques. The assignments give you a chance to apply the concepts discussed in class to your own project. Each of your submissions will be critiqued by 3-4 of your classmates as well as your teacher. I like to mix up the critique groups each week so students can get feedback from others working in the same genre and/or writing for the same target audience.

4) The Discussion Group

Often, it’s only when you try applying new concepts to your story that questions arise. The online discussion group gives you a chance to ask those questions, for teacher and students to dig deeper into the topics discussed in class, and to share approaches to overcome challenges.

5) The Fellowship of the Web

Odyssey isn’t just a class. It’s a community you’ll join once the class is over. The Odyssey Salon offers live chat sessions on various writing topics. The online discussion group is a place to ask questions, report progress, and share struggles, market information, and insights. The online critique group allows you to have your manuscripts critiqued by other members. You can also submit your manuscript to the Odyssey Critique Service where one of the published writers (like me) will offer in-depth feedback about all aspects of your short story or novel—world building and characters, plot and scene structure, dialogue, theme, and pacing.

6) The Repeat Business

I know, I know…I said I’d give you five reasons, but here’s another: every year, I discover that at least a third of my students have already taken one or more online classes from Odyssey. I’ve had the opportunity to work with some of my students multiple times. (It’s great to revisit their projects and see their progress or discover what new project they’ve started working on.) To me, that speaks volumes about the dedication of these writers to their craft and their positive experience with Odyssey’s online classes.


OdboatThe professional-level Odyssey Writing Workshop is dedicated to helping writers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror grow in the craft of writing through winter online classes and a six-week summer workshop in New Hampshire. There is nothing like Odyssey—exceptional writing classes, critiques, and community encourages you to move outside your comfort zone and build new skills.

Apply by December 7 through 15 for the online classes. This year’s topics are Compelling Scenes, Meaning and Resonance Through Subtext, and Short Stories With That Crucial Spark.

Apply by April 7, 2018 for the summer in-person workshop.

Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate J. A. White

J. A. White (or just Jerry, when he’s not being fancy) will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Jerry attended Odyssey in 1996, its very first year. He is the author of the middle-grade fantasy series The Thickety, including A Path Begins (Winner of the Children’s Choice Debut Author Award, Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014), The Whispering Trees (Booklist Top 10 SF/Fantasy/Horror for Youth 2015), as well as two more sequels. He has also published a book of essays about the Japanese filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Jerry lives and teaches in New Jersey. Learn more about Jerry and his work jawhitebooks.com.


You write scripts for Escape Goat Pictures, a company that makes book trailers, commercials, and short films. How has writing for visual media changed how you write novels?

When you write screenplays, you have to strip story to its barest form. There isn’t room for any fat whatsoever. I think that has made the transition to writing children’s novels pretty easy for me. I’ve had a lot of practice communicating information in as concise a way as possible. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate J. A. White”

Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate E.C. Ambrose

Elaine IsaacAuthor and Odyssey graduate E. C. Ambrose will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She writes The Dark Apostle historical fantasy series about medieval surgery, which began with Elisha Barber (DAW, 2013), continuing with Elisha Magus, Elisha Rex, Elisha Mancer, and the final volume, Elisha Demon (forthcoming in 2018). As Elaine Isaak, she is also the author of The Singer’s Crown and its sequels. Her writing how-to articles have appeared in The Writer magazine and online. A three-time instructor at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, she has led workshops across the country on topics like “Crafting Character from the Inside Out” and “10 Mistakes I’ve Made in my Writing Career so That You Don’t Have To.” Elaine dropped out of art school to found her own business. A former professional costumer and soft sculpture creator, Elaine now works as a part-time adventure guide. She blogs about the intersections between fantasy and history at ecambrose.wordpress.com and can also be found at facebook.com/e.c.ambroseauthor or on Twitter at @ecambrose. Under any name, you still do NOT want to be her hero. Learn more at www.TheDarkApostle.com.


Once you started writing seriously, how long did it take you to sell your first piece? What were you doing wrong in your writing in those early days?

Well, first I have to figure out when I started writing seriously. I’ve wanted to be a writer for a very long time (I have stories I wrote when I was in the first grade). As for serious, let’s say it was the summer of my sophomore year of high school when I went away to writing camp and returned with new determination. I sold a couple of those juvenile pieces, but my first decent sale was after college. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer & Graduate E.C. Ambrose”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Gemma Files

gemma-filesFormer film critic, teacher, and screenwriter turned award-winning horror author Gemma Files will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey workshop. Her most recent book, Experimental Film (ChiZine Publications), won both y 2015 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel and the 2016 Sunburst Award for Best Adult Novel. Her other works include the Weird Western Hexslinger series (A Book of Tongues, A Rope of Thorns and A Tree of Bones), a dark fantasy story-cycle (We Will All Go Down Together: Stories of the Five-Family Coven), two short fiction collections (Kissing Carrion and The Worm in Every Heart), and two chapbooks of speculative poetry, along with over eighty short stories, novellas, and novelettes. Five of her stories were adapted into episodes of the dark erotica anthology series The Hunger (1997-1999 on Showtime, produced by Tony and Ridley Scott), two by herself.


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?

Don’t censor yourself—all writing is useful writing, even if you don’t think it is at the time. Basically, it’s far easier to fix bad writing than it is to generate writing from the ground up, however good, especially under pressure. My own process tends to start with notes that slowly grow into sections of prose, develop a spine and blend together like fungus. I write maybe three unnecessary words for each necessary one, but unless you do your due diligence, you won’t have anything to cut down to. Letting go of the impulse to edit before you can proceed is the single most important lesson I’ve learned as a professional writer. Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Gemma Files”

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”