Coming to a library near you? The Joy of Holds + Recommendations for eBooks

The very first library to get a copy of TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS. Thank you Florham Park Public Library!

Today–all my friends who love libraries–I’m going to tell you a secret that will make you very happy.

HOLDS

If you are a library regular, you probably know you can put a “hold” on an exciting new book. You can do the same thing with ebooks.

After the ebook you requested is returned, it can be automatically be checked out to you. (Unless you have too many books checked out–then you have to return something first. So if you normally have too many books checked out, don’t take the automatic check out option.)

Screen shot of "Place a Hold" button next to Megan Whalen Turner's THE THIEF in Overdrive.
6 months wait time for Megan Whalen Turner’s THE THIEF. It’s worth it. (Not middle grade.)

In the days of paper lists, a dear friend always asked to be added to the list for whatever book everyone was waiting for. Now that’s using your library!

BTW, don’t you LOVE getting those library emails that a book is waiting for you? A major holiday!

But wait, there’s more. . . .TA DA!!!!!

RECOMMENDATIONS

You can recommend ebooks the library doesn’t own yet. This is perfect for that wonderful book on Twitter that you’ll forget the title before you can buy a copy.

How to recommend an ebook from your computer:
1. Brute force method: Login to your local libary online. Find Overdrive. Type the title into Overdrive’s search box. If the library doesn’t own it, you can click on the red or orange “Recommend”. (See below for an example ;)) Your favorite authors will thank you forever!!

2. Elegant-if-it-works method: Click on the image below to go to the Overdrive site. “Find your Library” and if they don’t have the book, you can click on “show me books my library doesn’t own”. Then Overdrive should offer you the book with a “Recommend” button.

screenshot of Trouble With Parsnips bookcover and Recommend button and Read a Sample button
If your local library doesn’t have my book, you can recommend it on Overdrive with one click. Thanks for the boost! Of course this works for Megan Whalen Turner’s newest too. 🙂

 

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Reviews for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS

TADA!!! The very first STUDENT review from an amazing student in Japan:

Review of Trouble With Parsnips framed with colorful parsnips
My very first review from a student!!! SO exciting!! I’m so touched and grateful that she took the time to read and think about and write about the book.
Recent reviews on GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, and other stores:

Thank YOU SO MUCH to all of the reviewers! After all my time in the “drafting cave” and the “revision cave,” it’s a treat to hear your reactions to the finished story.

If you’ve posted a review, please let me know here. I’d love to see it!

Reviews give stories wings–they really do!

*They also keep them from going invisible.*

Thanks to the trouble you took to write and post your reviews, TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS is on its way to find readers who are looking for just this kind of story.

The people of the Seven Kingdoms curtsy and bow to you!! Hip, Hip, Hooray! (Except Queen Ash, but then, she never thanks anybody.)

May you always have a good book, a snack, and time to enjoy them both!

5 star review from Amazon.co.uk
From Amazon.co.uk

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share a new book recommendation for readers ages 9 to 12, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Want more emotion in your fiction and less drama pinning down the draft?

If you are a fiction writer and haven’t ever used Angela Ackerman’s and Becca Puglisi’s writing thesauri, you might be really missing out.

You know that feeling of holding two things in your head at the same time? These books are serious headache prevention. (Trust me, I’m an epidemiologist. 🙂

I’ve written about the thesauri before:

The Reverse Backstory Tool Brings Your Characters to Life

Write Believable Heroes, Villains, and Emotions with The Positive/Negative Trait Thesauri and The Emotion Thesaurus

A Mini-M.F.A. in the Psychology of Character

Are you feeling it? Emotional Connection in Fiction Part 1

Tools: Emotional Connection in Fiction Part 2

And now there’s a new edition of the book that started them all!

(YES! Just in time for drafting my next book! Hoorah!!!!)

It might seem strange to not tell one’s readers what book you’re planning to release…unless you happen to write books on Show, Don’t Tell like Angela and Becca do! They couldn’t resist the opportunity to show, not tell, by waiting for the cover reveal. They even created a *REDACTED* cover for it, which you might have seen floating around.

We’re revealing the cover at long last!

*drum roll*

book cover for the second edition of The Emotion Thesaurus
The new and improved edition of The Emotion Thesaurus is coming in February 2019!

The next book in the descriptive thesaurus series is The Emotion Thesaurus Second Edition!

It’s been 7 years since the original Emotion Thesaurus hit the shelves. Many writers have credited this unusual book  with transforming their writing. This guide is packed with helpful lists of body language, thoughts, and visceral sensations for 75 different emotions, which makes it easier for writers to convey what characters feel.

Since 2012, many have asked the authors if they would add more emotions, so that’s what Angela & Becca have done. This new edition has added 55 more emotions, bringing the total to 130.

There are other new additions to the book and in fact, it’s almost doubled in size! I recommend checking out the full list of emotions (and some sample entries) HERE.

And more good news: this book is available for preorder! You can find it on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, and IndieBound.

One last thing: go grab some free education!

Angela & Becca are giving away a free webinar recording of one of their popular workshops on Emotion, so head over if this is an area of struggle for you. It might really help!

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Veggie of the Week Challenge: French Lentils meet Indian Spices

palm trees with a white plaster railing and the mountains and ocean of Sicily behind
Need a little tropical feeling at the supper table? Sicily. © Laurel Decher, 2019.

The Veggie Challenge started because writing can be TOO absorbing. If the family writer is also the family cook, mutiny threatens!

The goal is to keep the family healthy while I draft the second Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale.

A brief word from our sponsor:

Trouble With Parsnips is part of a special Buy 3 Get 1 Free deal at Kobo Canada today through Monday (January 10-14, 2019). Yay! If you read on Kobo, check out the sale here. ad for Kobo Canada sale showing Trouble with Parsnips on an ereader and the High Water Tower at Cochem that inspired the Palace Agricultural Library

P.S. I didn’t want to leave anyone out, so my book is also discounted in Australia, New Zealand, other Canadian bookstores, and in the U.S. and U.K.  Click here for your favorite online bookstore. Thanks for spreading the word!!

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The Veggie of the Week Challenge

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No recipes will appear here in their entirety.

No holds barred. If the crew orders out for pizza, you’ll get the details here.

At least one inexpensive vegetable must appear in the meal. (Honor of an epidemiologist!)

Half-way healthy. An attempt at lower fat and whole grains will be made, but cream and cheese will inevitably appear. You’ve been warned.

Without further ado, this week’s vegetable is the:

French Lentil

I’ve never grown my own lentils, but the very first lentils I remember eating were given to me by my French aunt. (Thanks, Françoise!)

Our French Lentil supper was based on “Indian Lentils & Rice” from Whole Foods for the Whole Family and this Instant Pot recipe for Mujadara.

Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker version:

  • 1 onion, chopped (for lentils and rice) +
  • 2-3 onions, sliced (for fried topping)
  • 2 cloves Garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 C French lentils
  • 1 1/2 C Basmati Rice
  • 3 C Water
  • 1 tsp Coriander, ground
  • 1/2 tsp Cumin, ground
  • pinch of Cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 Bay leaf

Sauté chopped onion in oil and add spices and crushed garlic when onions soften. I added the French lentils before the rice to give them a head start for about 2 minutes. (Regular lentils cook faster and regular brown rice cooks slower, so adjust accordingly.)

Add Bay leaf. Cook the rice and lentils under pressure for 12 minutes. While they are cooking, sauté the 2-3 sliced onions until browned, then add:

  • 1 1/2 tsp Coriander, ground
  • 1 tsp Cumin, ground
  • pinch of Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Salt

Zucchini cubes and carrot slices sautéed with oil and salt and pepper went really well with this. We always eat it with yogurt and the cilantro is finally growing on the balcony after striking all summer, so we had cilantro.

Bonus meal: When I have leftovers, I toss the onions, lentils, and rice in the food processor, add an egg and bread crumbs and make “veggie burgers.” These are tasty fried in a pan and served with cheese and spinach or arugula or lettuce on a roll.

Regular version:

Cook the rice and lentils in a pot for about 45 minutes?????. Cool and refrigerate for later or sauté the onions and serve as above.

Half-way healthy: The healthy part is pretty obvious. 🙂 A plus is that a bean + a grain = complete protein. Half-way: If you have reluctant lentil and rice eaters, being generous with the oil and salt helps. We serve this with European “low-fat” yogurt which is basically American “high-fat” yogurt.

Cheap: French lentils generally cost more than ordinary brown lentils. Basmati brown rice costs more than ordinary brown rice, but it tastes much better. This recipe uses so many spices that you could get away with the less expensive lentils and rice.

Vote: Thumbs up! There’s something about lentils that is stress-relieving. It sounds strange but eating lentils is like popping bubble wrap. The crispy fried onions are popular. Everyone approved the colorful sautéed veggies.

 

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Veggie of the Week Challenge: 3 Ways to Fight a Dinner-Isn’t-Ready-Crisis

Homemade pumpkin pie with puffs of whipped cream
It’s a vegetable, right? © Jan Decher, 2018.

I’ve missed a few posts, so I thought I’d write about three panicky dinners and the tricks I used to get something half-way healthy with vegetables on the table in a hurry.

The good news: my family has noticed that I’m remembering to cook for them every once in a while. Even though I’m working on a new story. Families tend to be much more supportive of writers when they aren’t hungry.

Each week, I’ve been celebrating a vegetable in a Half-way Healthy supper.

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The Veggie of the Week Challenge

*****************************************************

No recipes will appear here in their entirety.

No holds barred. If the crew orders out for pizza, you’ll get the details here.

At least one inexpensive vegetable must appear in the meal. (Honor of an epidemiologist!)

Half-way healthy. An attempt at lower fat and whole grains will be made, but cream and cheese will inevitably appear. You’ve been warned.

 

Red Russian Kale

 

Half-way healthy: Inspired by the local Christmas market, I made a quick supper of sautéed kale, onions, garlic, rosemary, potatoes (and the inevitable kielbasa.)

Cheap: In German grocery stores, you can buy inexpensive kale and spinach chopped and frozen into Tator-Tot-sized “pellets”. (I know, it sounds like guinea pig food, but it’s really convenient.)

Vote: The family liked the kale the first night, but I needed a change for the second dinner with the same thing. *cough*

Three Ways to Conquer Dinner:

Use meat as seasoning. I’m sure you noticed how often the kielbasa sausage kept showing up. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t post–I could hear the groans! But one of the key techniques for “half-way healthy” dinners is to use meats as seasoning. This means that when you buy a “regular” size package of sausages (especially in Germany!), it’s going to make a LOT of meals.

Cook under pressure. Many people swear by slow cookers or crockpots, but I’ve always had uneven results with them. From a public health standpoint, it’s unwise to re-heat frozen soups in a slow cooker, so they aren’t useful in that way. When dinner is endangered, what I want is a Fast Cooker. People around the world have been using pressure cookers to save cooking fuel and, judging from the new books at the library, they are coming back into fashion in other parts of the world. Here’s my favorite Pressure Cooker Cooking Times chart. I just bought an electric pressure cooker because it was on sale and I needed a quick way to cook at my mother-in-law’s house when the whole gang was in the kitchen. See one in action with French Chef Jacques Pepín making Game Day Chili in this video.

Cloak your leftovers. My Fannie Farmer Cookbook talks about having frozen crepes in the freezer (as if!! Do you ever have leftover crepes??) so you can re-dress your leftovers, like adding an elegant cape to a simple dress. For example:

  • Transform leftover chili in a baking pan by adding spoonfuls of cornbread batter on top and baking it.
  • Quiche or even simpler–add a fried or boiled egg.
  • Put leftovers in a tortilla or flatbread.
  • Make “pies”
  • Fill cannelloni pasta or make the easy-to-fill big stuffed shells. (Speedy Tip: Fill them uncooked and bake them covered with extra water and tomato puree until tender. You don’t have to buy the “special” pasta for this. Just don’t tell my Italian friends!)
Meat pies with leftover kale, potato, sausage stir-fry filling
If life gives you leftovers, make pies. I added a few slices of fresh mozzarella to the leftover kale, potato, sausage stir fry and pretended that these were our beloved Kale Calzones.

–Make the Fastest Soup Possible:

Red lentils are the fastest protein in the West (and maybe in the East).

  • Sauté onions, garlic, and a generous hunk of ginger, peeled and minced, and sliced mushrooms in a couple tablespoons of oil (if your family likes them–they add a great flavor to the soup so consider a stick blender if you have people who don’t like “pieces” in their soups).
  • Slice carrots thin so they cook fast. Toss in the pot.
  • I added a quart of frozen chicken stock and a healthiest-possible bouillion cube.
  • The lentils will cook quickly–5 minutes or so–so if you want pasta, add it in EARLY. (Up to 1/2 Cup of rotini or a handful of spaghetti broken in half.)

Hope you and your families are staying healthy during the holidays!

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Surprise Visit to a Local Printer in Germany: Druckerei Paffenholz in Bornheim

A week or so ago, I went into a small toy and stationery store to make a photocopy. There was a huge sign over the door “DRUCKEREI PAFFENHOLZ” and since “Druckerei” means printer, I thought I’d find a copy shop. (LOL!)

“The office is in the back,” the salesperson told me, so we went through a door and walked past a row of large printing machines.

This wasn’t a mere copy shop.

But when I asked about a small print job, Mr. Paffenholz offered us a tour of the whole place.

Yes, please! 🙂

Later, I found out this family business has been active for 50 years! That’s a lot of paper and ink.

More than a tiny copy shop–this is a printing press! They are sitting on the machine that looks like a train that does the four-color printing. Source: https://druckerei-paffenholz.de/

The first step in producing a printed book is a shoot-out: the pages are “ausgeschossen” which means literally “shooting the pages out”. It’s not the wild west, it means the pages are laid out for printing on larger sheets. Some pages are right side up and other pages are printed “standing on their heads” so that the pages will all be in the right order and orientation in the finished book.

This is a shoot out–pages laid out for printing. Source: https://druckerei-paffenholz.de/

For this, the printer uses a digital printing machine that uses the same technology as “print-on-demand” and handles very short print runs, like groups of 50 or 100. I think they also use this machine to check the incoming InDesign files and print-ready PDF files that come directly from customers or from their in-house graphic designers.

Then we toured the off-set printing process.

Here comes Y for yellow! Source: https://druckerei-paffenholz.de/

The next step was a machine that creates the metal plates for the four-color printing process (CMYK or Cyan, Magenta, Yellow or Key–short for Black). One aluminum plate is etched with the design for each color. Later, the metal plates are recycled.

Of course, I was trying to imagine how I could make a coffee table or something out of them, if I ever had a book printed on an off-set press! Authors are a little strange.

The next machine was shaking a stack of pages together to make them even. It’s like what you do when you bang a ream of paper on the counter to make it “square.” Every so often, the machine operator added a heavier piece of construction paper to the pile. I’m not sure if that was to separate each edition of the book being printed or if it was to weigh the other pages down.

Another machine cuts the pages to size once they’ve been shaken together.

One of the older specialty machines that can punch or emboss (or create braille??). Source: https://druckerei-paffenholz.de/

Older machines in the back of the hall could still handle embossing, punching, glue-ing. I’m not sure if they can do Braille, maybe not.

Wouldn’t you love to have a Braille edition of your book? Oh, look what Google found for me: http://www.braillebookstore.com/Braille-Printing Now I have a new ambition. 🙂

Then we went back up to the room-sized machine that prints the CMYK colors using the metal plates created by the other machine. When the metal plates are wet, the etched design is the only thing that takes up ink. Each metal plate does one color.

The paper travels through four connected printing machines like a ticket collector going through the cars of a train. (See photo of company staff above.)

Dodging a small fork-lift, we looked at the control station where the printer adjusts the color settings until they get the effect they want.

“What do you think? A little more Cyan?”

The folding and stapling machines to make the finished brochures and booklets were last on the tour.

Coils of wire for stapling. Source: https://druckerei-paffenholz.de/
Folding machine in action. Source: https://druckerei-paffenholz.de/

NOTE: I didn’t have a camera so I couldn’t take photos even though Mr. Paffenholz gave me permission. The photos here are all from the Druckerei Paffenholz website.

When I got home, I found this book, a perfect combination for a printing family that runs a toy and stationery store!

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

I wonder if this Paffenholz is in the same family of printers? Definitely a book I want to check out! The title means: Bookbinding for Children: from simple lightning book to spy notebook.

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Until December 3, 2018, use this link to sign up, so you get your free copy of TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS. Thanks for your interest!

The Reading Wonder Giveaway for Middle Grade eBooks includes LOTS of middle grade authors, check it the whole giveaway here.

Another Veggie of the Week Challenge: Romanesco to the Rescue! Plus A Giveaway!

metal wok on table with butterfly pasta, red peppers, romanesco cauliflower that looks like tiny green Christmas trees
Red Pepper, Romanesco, Leek, and English Bacon Pasta. © Jan Decher, 2018.

After years of studying chronic disease epidemiology, I’m convinced that vegetables are hugely important (And delicious.)

But. . . .when I’m writing a story, I forget how much I like healthy food. Soooooooo. . . .

Each week, I’ve been celebrating a vegetable in a Half-way Healthy supper.

GIVEAWAY NEWSFLASH

Until December 3rd, you can sign up here for my email newsletter and get  TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS free (ebook or Kindle). Unsubscribe at any time.

Note: This is the complete book, not just the preview.

Why? PARSNIPS are humble root vegetables. This short giveaway is a little pizzazz to help make friends with new readers.

 

Back to our regularly scheduled program: (TA-DAAA!)

*****************************************************

The Veggie of the Week Challenge

*****************************************************

No recipes will appear here in their entirety.

No holds barred. If the crew orders out for pizza, you’ll get the details here.

At least one inexpensive vegetable must appear in the meal. (Honor of an epidemiologist!)

Half-way healthy. An attempt at lower fat and whole grains will be made, but cream and cheese will inevitably appear. You’ve been warned.

It’s a cauliflower! It’s a broccoli! No, it’s . . .

Romanesco

Whole head of pale green cauliflower with green minarets on a red napkin
I’m sure aliens must eat Romanesco. *makes note for sci-fi novel* © Jan Decher, 2018.

Half-way healthy: This supper starts off with a leek.

If you aren’t used to leeks, slice off the roots on the white end, and any wilty or tough parts on the green top. Lay it down and slice the whole thing length-wise. Wash each half well under the faucet (or you’ll have grit). After it’s washed, slice it thin across the grain. It is worth it–leeks have a nice mild-but-interesting flavor. (You can use an onion, if you don’t have a leek.)

Sauté: Sliced leek with a few chopped slices of English bacon (looked leaner than the American kind) in olive oil.

Core: Take off the outside leaves and core the Romanesco. My sous-chef a.k.a. photographer cut it into small pieces (Thanks sous-chef!). The florets don’t break off like regular cauliflower.

Even with the cover on, the Romanesco took longer to cook than I expected–about 15 minutes. It’s not as fast as broccoli. Red pepper wedges went in as the Romanesco was getting tender. I turned the heat down to keep the pepper peel tender.

Sauce: A spoonful of cornstarch dissolved in a cup or two of cold water plus a healthy bouillion cube. Add to stir-fry and heat gently until thickened.

Cooked separately: Cooked whole wheat pasta went in after the Romanesco was tender. Serve with grated parmesan cheese.

Cheap: I splurged on the Romanesco because I thought you’d enjoy how it looks. So, not cheap (under $5 or 5 Euros). But it makes a lot of food–easily supper for six adults.

Oddly, there was one head of Romanesco in the middle of a box of normal cauliflower at the local discounter (Aldi). So, it could have been cheap. If I hadn’t already splurged. Yes, I know, I’m weasel-ling.

Vote: Needs more pep. The Christmas-tree shape of the Romanesco is charming. Overall, the team went along with it, but they prefer “normal” cauliflower for flavor.

We all wished for the Chili-Garlic Puree from our grocery store in Vermont to pep things up. If you can get some, try it. 1/2 teaspoon would be perfect in this supper.

Years ago, I read in a library book (natch!) that Chili-Garlic Puree is the key to authentic Chinese cooking, but I can’t give you the source. 😦

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If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Until December 3rd, use this link to sign up, so you get your free copy of TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS. Thanks for your interest!

The Reading Wonder Giveaway for Middle Grade eBooks includes LOTS of middle grade authors, check it the whole giveaway here.