Aphra Behn with a new look

After much too long, I’ve finally updated my Aphra Behn site again. Many other web pages to follow …


Events in May

This is going to be a busy month for me. Next week it’s off to Madrid for the next Villa Diodati workshop.

Two days after I get back from Madrid, I’m heading north to Braunschweig for a reading in German and English organized by Writers Ink. I will also be teaching a writing workshop there for members.

After the Braunschweig gig, I will continue on to Leipzig, where I have another reading, this time organized by the “Freundeskreis Science Fiction Leipzig” (FKSL). Maybe after all that, I’ll get a little more writing done again.

Writing a synopsis (again)

Here I am, writing another synopsis, probably the most despised of all writerly tasks. And I’m not even finished with the first draft of Fragments of Legend yet! So why am I doing this to myself?

1) I’m trying to learn how to use the synopsis as a tool for finding holes in my plot

2) The next Villa Diodati workshop is coming up, and I can get some valuable feedback from my fellow expat writers

Anyway, while I’m at it, I thought I would put together some tips I found useful, both to share with others and for myself, so that I would have them all in one place.

– Give your synopsis a hook, a reason to keep reading. If you can’t come up with one, then maybe your novel still needs one too. This is what I came up with as my hook:

“What if the most famous epic of medieval German literature, the Nibelungenlied, had been written by a woman? Kyra Silberburg, an American book conservator in Germany, discovers evidence in the backing of an old herbal that could mean precisely that.”

Ok, so it’s a literary mystery, not a Big Idea plot in which the goal is to save the world. But I like literary mysteries, and I like stories that challenge received notions of gender, and this beginning would promise a reader like me precisely that.

– Leave out the sub-plots

This is going to be a bit difficult with the synopsis of this book, since it plays out on three different levels: the modern level in which Kyra discovers the manuscript fragments; the medieval level telling the story of the woman who wrote her own version of the Nibelungen legend; and the mythic level of the events surrounding the downfall of the Nibelung Burgundians.

But since I’m mostly writing this for myself right now, I don’t have to worry about that yet.

– Don’t include every step along the way to the resolution, only the major turning points

This is turning out to be very useful for me as a writing tool. When I started doing this for the modern level of Fragments of Legend, I soon recognized a number of logic gaps on the one hand and unnecessary scenes on the other. Hopefully now that the important turning points are clearer to me, I won’t have to write as many questions to myself in my manuscript. Maybe I will even be less likely to get stuck on a regular basis!

Some useful links:

How to Write a Synopsis

5 Steps to Writing a Synopsis:

A page with links to a lot of links to different articles about writing the synopsis:

Green, Green, Green …

This might not be writing news, but I can’t resist. The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in southern Germany (next to Bavaria) where I live, staunchly conservative and with a Christian-Democratic (CDU) government for the last 58 years, has just voted in the first coalition in Germany that will be headed by the Green party.

This definitely counts as at least a mini-revolution, on a democratic basis. As an aside, voter participation was up in the double digits, and most of it went to the Greens.

I am stunned and amazed and very, very happy.

Italian review of my novel

I got a very nice review today of the Italian translation of Yseult, La Fiamma e l’Arpa:


My command of Italian doesn’t go much beyond ordering a meal in a restaurant, but Google translate did a good enough job on the review that it’s at least somewhat understandable. I got a big kick out of this passage:

The book is so rich that it is impossible to recount every nuance, every emotion transmitted, each author’s choice to depart from tradition or to the material, even manipulating them to the economy … It tells the story of the war with rawness and realism, love with feeling and sensuality, magic and fascination with natural …

The last sentence got pretty mangled: “Racconta la guerra con crudezza e realismo, l’amore con sentimento e sensualità, la magia con naturalezza e fascinazione…” At least I can decipher it myself. 🙂

“Dragons and Princes and Witches, Oh My!”

That’s the name of the first collection of short stories I’ve put up on Smashwords.

Still battling with the formatting a lot. The Smashwords style guide suggests using 3-4 hard returns rather than page breaks, but I don’t care for the way that makes stories run together. So I’m uploading a new version of the collection in which I added page breaks to the header info. We’ll see if that’s any better. I’m also having problems with em-dashes getting swallowed.

Once I have a better handle on the formatting, I’ll upload some of these initial experiments for the Kindle too.

“Dragon Time” as best-“seller”

Giving away “Dragon Time” for free with a coupon during the Smashwords “Read an Ebook Week” has been quite successful — just not monetarily. It is now listed on page three of the current bestellers. (!)

Now if I can only get my collection up in time to profit from this …

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