In the dungeon with the kids? You need books on Kobo? Here you go!

Have you got a Kobo ereader down there? I can get you some books. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

The Good News:

Kobo is having a wonderful sale on Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale books in time for the launch of the newest exciting adventure for kids ages 8 to 12!

Book 1 is free until October 31st.

Book 2 is 40% off if you use the top secret promo code: OCT40

It works for Canada, United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand!

Book 3 is full-price because it’s brand-spanking new!!!

The BAD News:

Today (October 28th, 2020) is the LAST Day for Book 2! So please hurry! I don’t want you to miss it! Especially if you are spending time in the dungeon with kids! You need stuff to read that’s good for the whole family.

P.S. I told you the dungeons in the Seven Kingdoms are famous for their hospitality. You didn’t believe me, did you?

P.P.S. Don’t forget the promo code for Book 2: It’s OCT40. It works on other books in the sale too, in case the grown-ups also need something.


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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.

Happy Birthday to the Queen! (And to a brand new winter squash!)

It’s a brand-new, baby squash seedling! Hooray!!!

Why all the excitement? I don’t know how things are going at your house, but I re-planted three times this year. I’d given up hope.

Wishing you lots of hope this summer–we’re getting lots of chances to re-plant our lives in 2020! May they bear good fruit for all of us.

Dear friends, 

You are invited to a royal tea party. . .with little boats carrying cakes, cream puffs, and eclairs for you to choose from!

It’s a challenge to celebrate, but we must be inventive together–like the nameless princess. 🙂 

Queen Elizabeth is very different from the Blackfly Queen! (Those Corgis would have been handy with the croquet fever.)

As a party favor, TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS will be discounted from June 11-16th on Kobo, Apple iBooks, Amazon, and many other stores in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.

Could you all help spread the word? Queen Elizabeth will be 94 this year. I’m planning a special surprise for you as a gift if we reach 94 downloads.

So, if you have friends in Commonwealth countries, spread the word! 🙂

Thanks very much for your help!


Happy Reading!

Laurel

P.S. The next Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale is getting underway! Keep reading below for more details and the beautiful submarine on the cover.

P.P. S. If you want to take the virtual Tour of the Saffron Kingdom, check it out here.

It’s the Queen’s* Birthday Sale!

Trouble With Parsnips tablet, phone and hardcover editions

To celebrate, the nameless princess’ got all dressed up in a brand new cover. (Print editions coming soon!)

How do you like her new outfit? 🙂

GO TO KOBO ‘s online store for the Birthday Party Sale!

*No, not the Blackfly Queen’s–her birthday parties aren’t safe.

If you don’t read on Kobo, you can choose your favorite online store here: https://books2read.com/TroubleWithParsnips

New book cover for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS ebook and Kindle editions. Print coming soon. Princess with toolbox on top of burning tower.

TA DA! The newest Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale is here: UNDER PRESSURE WITH A SQUASH

For eleven-year-old Princess Saffy, tests ARE the point. Her twin, Prince Magellan, thinks tests are pointless.

But when their beloved dragon gets them into trouble with the Fairy Kingdom. . . the Saffron twins must face the ultimate test–together!

How can they beat the pressure? Get on board the Hubbard submarine and find out!

Available Now! Click here for more.


_______________

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.

Tour the Saffron Kingdom: Burg Rheinfels

Burg Rheinfels is the next stop in our Tour of the Seven Kingdoms! The Saffron Kingdom!

The Seven Kingdoms fairy tale world is inspired by real castles in the Rhine and Mosel River valleys in Germany.

Stone castle walls with skinny steep wooden staircase (half-covered with wooden roof)
Burg Rheinfels (Fortress Rhine Boulder) is the inspiration for the Saffron Kingdom. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

Clip the map below to find all the tours:

Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.

Feel like playing hide and seek? Take a mini-tour of Rheinfels castle in Germany. Extensive tunnels, ruins, and a gorgeous view. It’s the inspiration for the Saffron Kingdom in the #SevenKingdomsFairyTales.

A terrible video by me. You can watch a more professional one below. (Mine is better than it was–I cut out a passing family’s long argument about ice cream cones. :)) It shows the Rhine River from the top of the Saffron Kingdom. Burg Rheinfels means “Castle Rhine Boulder”. ©Laurel Decher, 2020
If you want the feeling of flying over the Saffron Kingdom on a dragon–like Princess Saffy or Prince Magellan–here’s a professionally made video with twinkly music :). The first 3 minutes and the ending show close-ups of the castle and the part in the middle shows all the houses in the valley.
New book cover for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS ebook and Kindle editions. Print coming soon. Princess with toolbox on top of burning tower.

TA DA! The newest Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale is here: UNDER PRESSURE WITH A SQUASH

For eleven-year-old Princess Saffy, tests ARE the point. Her twin, Prince Magellan, thinks tests are pointless.

But when their beloved dragon gets them into trouble with the Fairy Kingdom. . . the Saffron twins must face the ultimate test–together!

How can they beat the pressure? Get on board the Hubbard submarine and find out!

Available Now! Click here for more.


_______________

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.

Click here for more about the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales (for ages 9 to 12).

Tour Magenta Kingdom: Festung Ehrenbreitstein in Koblenz

Koblenz is the next stop in our Tour of the Seven Kingdoms! This fairy tale world is inspired by real castles in the Rhine and Mosel River valleys in Germany.

When you take the train, you can look up and see the fortress as the train pulls into the station. The big, hulking rock towers way up above the city of Koblenz.

We took a “crooked elevator” [Schrägaufzug] up to the youth hostel in the fortress. *Entertaining but bring exact change*

In normal times, you can also go by aerial tram. This site is in German but it’s worth checking out for the overview photos. *Gorgeous!*

Gate in giant stone wall of Festung Ehrenbreitstein
Ehrenbreitstein Fortress guards the Rhine and Mosel Rivers from above. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

Clip the map below to find all the tours:

Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.

From the water, the Rhine valley feels like a river surrounded by high hills. But from the top, you can see that it was a meadow carved by a river. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

Feeling cooped up? Take a mini-tour of Ehrenbreitstein Fortress in Germany. People have been defending this rock for 5,000 years. It’s the inspiration for Magenta Kingdom in the #SevenKingdomsFairyTales.

The flat top of the fortress means there’s plenty of room for marching bands. From the air, the paths in the huge green field draw a lovely star-shape.

The real fortress is big enough for five museums and lots of gardens.

Plus the youth hostel. If you stay overnight, you wake up inside the museum. It’s a good idea to get the map the night before. 🙂 Because the museum might not be open yet!

Just for fun! Marching bands and people dressed up for Prussian Day at the Ehrenbreitstein fortress. I especially like the part with the merry-go-round. (starts at 12:00)
Book cover for bonus story Trouble at the Christmas Fair shows snow on German Christmas market

If you like Ehrenbreitstein fortress as much as I do, you might enjoy Prince Nero’s adventures at the Christmas Fair.

This short story is an appetizer for the full-length Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales.

And a way to spend a little more time in the Magenta Kingdom.

Happy reading!

Click here for more about the short story.


_______________

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.

Click here for more about the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales (for ages 9 to 12).

Tour Cochem Kingdom: the real home of TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS

Steep vineyards up to Reichsburg Cochem, the inspiration for the Cochem Kingdom in the Seven Kingdom Fairy Tales series. © Laurel Decher, 2020.
Want to take a mini-cruise on the Mosel River? I still have to learn how to delete the noisy audio so you get authentic boat cruise sounds and me getting my camera explained to me. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.
https://youtu.be/OKKnBqRCGOA
The trailer for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS, the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale that starts all the trouble in Cochem Kingdom! ©Laurel Decher, 2020.
book cover image for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS princess with toolbox standing on top of a burning tower

If you enjoy visiting Cochem castle as much as I do, you might like the story of this inventor princess.

It’s save-the-kingdom time. . .

Can she finally use the one tool that’s never worked. . .her quiet voice?

It’s a way to spend a little more time in the Seven Kingdoms.

Happy reading!

Click here for more about the book.

Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.


_______________

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.

Tour a Fairy Kingdom???

fairylike brook in the forest
What does fairyland look like to you? Clear, rushing water and green leaves under the trees.
Near Kell, Rhineland Pfalz. Germany. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

Yesterday, we walked for five or six hours and I got buckets of new ideas about the Fairy Kingdom.

I love the “Traumpfad” hiking trails that we’ve already been on. This one is special for its caves and variety! Here’s a virtual dream hike for you:

A carpet of flowers. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.
Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.

New book cover for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS ebook and Kindle editions. Print coming soon. Princess with toolbox on top of burning tower.

TA DA! The newest Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale is here: UNDER PRESSURE WITH A SQUASH

For eleven-year-old Princess Saffy, tests ARE the point. Her twin, Prince Magellan, thinks tests are pointless.

But when their beloved dragon gets them into trouble with the Fairy Kingdom. . . the Saffron twins must face the ultimate test–together!

How can they beat the pressure? Get on board the Hubbard submarine and find out!

Available Now! Click here for more.


_______________

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.

Tour the Blackfly Kingdom: Pfalzgrafenstein Castle

How about a tour the Blackfly Kingdom? My favorite castle on the Rhine: “Pfalzgrafenstein” is kind of a mouthful, so people call it by the name of the nearest village, Kaub. ©Laurel Decher, 2020.

When we travel these days, we often drive or fly.

In earlier times, the rivers were the highways. Big and long rivers, like the Rhine River in Germany were important for delivering people and things.

[Is that why Amazon is named after a river in Brazil? I don’t know, do you?]

If you visit, you can stay at the nearby youth hostel or the YMCA hotel in another castle, high up in the village of Kaub. Down at the Rhine riverbank, you take a small ferry across to the island.

This castle is the perfect place for collecting tolls from ships bringing cargo up and down the Rhine River. If you’ve ever seen a modern tollbooth, you’ll agree that this is about the fanciest tollbooth ever!

Modern tollbooth for cars.
Source: Shutterstock Royalty-free stock vector ID: 683431282

The first tolls were collected almost 800 years ago in 1257. The castle changed hands several times and new parts were added and reinforced. The Prussians finally stopped charging ships tolls here in 1866. Since 1946, the castle belongs to the state of Rhineland Pfalz in Germany.

Tired of the view from your window? Take a mini-tour of an 800-year-old tollbooth. #SevenKingdomsFairyTales

tablet phone ebook hardcover images of LOST WITH LEEKS

If you like the Blackfly Castle as much as I do, you might enjoy Prince Nero’s adventures in LOST WITH LEEKS

Click here for more about the book.

Cartoon drawing of the Seven Kingdoms with locations on Rhine and Mosel Rivers marked by colored towers
Click the map to tour the Seven Kingdoms: Cochem, Marigold, Magenta, Indigo, Saffron, Rose, and Blackfly.


_______________

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.

Happy Day-Before-St. Nicholas-Day!

Small bread baked in the shape of gingerbread men in a bakery window
These “Bread Guys” are in a Luxembourg bakery. ©Laurel Decher, 2019.

Would your family like to celebrate St. Nicholas’s Day this year? At our house, it’s always been a nice start to a busy month.

Making Stutenkerle or “Bread Guys” is a fun, easy, and reasonably healthy after-school activity on December 5th.

Afterwards, the kids can do what German kids are doing: clean their boots and put them out for St. Nicholas.

On December 6th, our kids’ boots were full of things to get their own presents organized.

  • Gift bows or
  • tags,
  • ribbon,
  • a roll of wrapping paper.
  • And a chocolate St. Nicholas.

And the Bread Guys!

Bread Guys make breakfast the next morning VERY cheerful.

In the Rhineland where I live, you can buy Weckmänner in the bakeries.The word sounds like “Men who wake you up.” I’m still waiting for someone to explain that to me. . .  🙂

What, no German bakeries?

The easy way to do this:

  • refrigerator biscuit dough from the grocery store* and
  • raisins,
  • sprinkles,
  • almonds,
  • red hots,
  • or whatever you have for decoration.

*Fun fact:Knack und Back” is the German name for those refrigerator rolls that you smack (“Knack”) on the counter and they pop open. “Back” means to bake.

Stuck for ideas for those shiny clean boots? How about a copy of. . . . [you saw that one coming, didn’t you? 🙂]


Boy holding leeks in a hot air balloon with dragon and fairy godfather overhead, sleigh chained to the hot air balloon basket

LOST WITH LEEKS

A Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale, Book 2

Argh! Crown Prince Nero is lost again. That’s what he gets for trying to fly a hot air balloon. Thanks to his fairy godfather’s gift, every map and compass goes kerflooey as soon as Nero touches it.

Even worse, his royal mom has just kidnapped St. Nicholas.

If Nero can’t find his true North in a hurry, he’ll never rescue him before St. Nicholas’s Day!

Ebook available at:

Kobo

Kindle

Tolino

Barnes & Noble

Apple Books

More stores coming soon!

Paperback and Hardcovers available at online stores and wherever books are sold (or borrowed!)

IndieBound

Amazon

Book Depository

Lucy Goosey

Wordery

Happy St. Nicholas’s Day!!!


_______________

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.

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 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.

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.

book cover image for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS princess with toolbox standing on top of a burning tower

If you enjoy visiting Cochem castle as much as I do, you might like the story of this inventor princess.

It’s save-the-kingdom time. . .

Can she finally use the one tool that’s never worked. . .her quiet voice?

It’s a way to spend a little more time in the Seven Kingdoms.

Happy reading!

Click here for more about the book.

What You Say Depends on Where You Come From

footbridge covered with white and purple flowers connects market square to stone church with onion steeple, and to the "red house"
View of the Protestant City Church of Monschau (Evangelische Stadtkirche Monschau) and bridge covered with flower boxes. Monschau’s “Red House.” Monschau, Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2018.

The charming village of Monschau is in Germany, but Americans and Belgians were filling it up the other day. It’s very close to the Belgian border and so charming that it draws Americans from much further away.

It’s a mix of cultures. I overheard this classic exchange in a café:

“Salt or sugar?” An American tourist picks up the glass dispenser from the café table and shakes it.

Her companion says, “Sugar. No one eats that much salt.”

My German husband and I have been married 29 years, so I’ve forgotten things I didn’t know when I first came to Europe. This exchange resonated with me. I’ve heard it many times before. We don’t realize how much our cultures influence us until we leave home.

When we were first married, we met someone who was researching communication and conflict among international couples.

“How do you know if it’s cultural or if it’s personal?” I asked.

“Couples from the same pairs of countries say the same things,” she* said, somewhat dryly. “When you hear the same thing again, you know it’s cultural, not personal.”

Obvious to anyone outside the marriage. Impossible to see inside an international marriage. Two mini-stories:

We hadn’t been married a month when I asked my new husband if he’d like to take out the trash. “No,” he said, taking what I’d said at face value.

Another time, we watched TV with relatives in a tiny living room. I didn’t realize I was blocking anyone’s view, so when someone asked if I could see all right, I said, “Yes, thank you” and sent the whole room into laughter.

Learning to ask for what you need is challenging in any culture and is less tied to language than we think.

My mom once pointed out how children change their tactics when they reach school age. Babies and toddlers can point at what they want without being impolite or use brand-new words to demand something.

But once we have language skills, no one gives us credit for plain words any more. Older children have to gaze longingly and hope someone notices and offers it to them.

We know children need help to learn language, but it’s easy to think that some kids are born knowing how to communicate and others are “shy” and will never learn.

My upcoming book**, Trouble With Parsnips, is a fairy tale for readers 9 to 12 about a girl who is puzzled that no one seems to hear the important things she has to say. She’s moved on to become an inventor instead.

**The book is taking up all my thoughts and leaking out into every conversation! If you’re remotely interested, you can find out more here. If you’re not, sorry for the accidental commercial!

*I really wish I knew this researcher’s name, because I’d love to read her work. If anyone else knows, let me know in the comments or send me an e-mail.

Stone tower with doorway through the middle.
Whoever built this Tower didn’t feel like chatting with strangers. 🙂 Monschau, Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2018.

_______________

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.

book cover image for TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS princess with toolbox standing on top of a burning tower

If you enjoy visiting Cochem castle as much as I do, you might like the story of this inventor princess.

It’s save-the-kingdom time. . .

Can she finally use the one tool that’s never worked. . .her quiet voice?

It’s a way to spend a little more time in the Seven Kingdoms.

Happy reading!

Click here for more about the book.