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.
spine image of first three books in Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale series

If you’re a fan of Rheinfels castle, you might enjoy the next book in the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales!

Book 3 [title still secret!!] stars the Saffron twins: Princess Saffy and Prince Magellan.

If you’ve read LOST WITH LEEKS or TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS, you may remember the twins and their dragon.

If you want to know when Book 3 is ready, sign up for my Reader’s List.


_______________

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).

8 Ways Books are Better Than Scrolls: eBooks of the Ancient World

book cover of Libraries in the Ancient WorldWhile trying to figure out how ancient books were repaired, I came across the delightful Libraries in the Ancient World by Lionel Casson. It’s a small, friendly sort of book, clearly written and even the black and white illustrations are fascinating.

If you asked for a book in an ancient library, a page would bring you a bucketful of rolled-up parchment or papyrus with tags on them. You’d sit down and rummage through to find the chapter you wanted to read.

Chapter 8: From Roll to Codex is all about how a change in reading technology affects readers. What did the change mean for book lovers of long ago?

  1. Good for travel–no fragile edges to crumble, no tags to fall off and get lost.
  2. Space-saving–Carry more information in a smaller space because the writers can use both sides of the paper. Twice the capacity. 🙂
  3. Read with one hand–a scroll takes two hands: one to unroll and one to re-roll.
  4. Bookmarks–mark any page or even any line.
  5. Find information quickly–just flip to the page, no more endless scrolling.
  6. “Public libraries had to adjust” to the new format. Instead of cubbies holding three layers of scrolls max, books could be stacked up on top of each other.
  7. “Standard” took a while–Casson gives the example of a book that had quires–the smaller bundles of pages sewn together to make a book–in all different sizes: 5-sheet, 4-sheet, 1-sheet, 5-sheet, 5-sheet, 8-sheet.
  8. Authors had to advertise or explain the new format. Some things never change. 🙂

This little slender book, at Tryphon’s store,

costs just four coppers, and not a penny more.

Is four too much? It puts you in the red?

Then pay him two; he’ll still come out ahead.

–Casson, Lionel. Libraries in the Ancient World, Yale University Press, 2001, pg. 104.

Sound familiar?

Casson studied Egyptian literature by era to see how many were scrolls and how many were codices (books as we know them). Christians were early adopters of the new books. Bibles were made only as codices from the 2nd or 3rd centuries on.

bar chart showing % books versus scrolls by century in Egyptian 'finds'.
By studying Egyptian ‘finds’, Lionel Casson figured out how long it took Egyptian readers to adopt the ‘codex’–the book form–over a roll of parchment or papyrus: about 400 years.

Just for fun, compare to these e-book adoption percentages for U.S. readers (17%, 23%, 28%) and the increase in tablet use for reading:

 

There’s a great photo of a 7th century wooden writing tablet with ten leaves (pg. 127). It looks like a stack of pioneer school child slates fastened together. Here’s an example from Pinterest to give you the idea.

Heavy-duty.

If that’s what a notebook was like, no wonder everyone wanted parchment books instead.

Hope you enjoyed this field trip to the ancient world!

Happy reading and writing!

______________

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.

 

Growing into shape: A 1,000-year-old linden tree

Enormous linden tree with a green canopy that makes an almost perfect half-dome over its thick trunk.This 1,000 year old linden tree has such a perfect shape from the outside. A really old tree gives me a new perspective on life and how long it takes to grow something beautiful.Close-up of linden tree showing a trunk almost as wide as a compact car.

This one almost certainly saw a procession of Emperors passing by. It’s very near the open-air museum of Tilleda, a kind of “Emperor rest-stop” as old as the tree.

The sign says this tree stood in the cemetery of a Cistercian convent, in the village, Kelbra. The tree is still here, but there’s no sign of the cemetery.Sign in German Klosterlinde, Alter: ca. 1000 Jahre Standort: ehem. Friedhof des Zisterzierserinnen Klosters Kelbra.

Things look far from effortless on the inside. View up into the heavy branches. Some were braced against the trunk with huge straps.Looking up into canopy of linden tree. Thick branches and lots of green leaves.

It’s a comfort to see a tree loved so well. I recently went to a reading where the author said the content determined the shape of the book. A tree makes it really clear how much the shape of anything depends on the space around it.

If you love old trees, you might like this epic tree too.

______________

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.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

An Epic Tree

Battered oak with huge gall, blasted branches, lost bark and holes that shelter who knows what.
My husband visited this awe-inspiring oak thirty years ago. © Jan Decher, 2017

This weekend, my husband and I went looking for a half-circle of oaks he knew from thirty years ago. (No comments from the peanut gallery 😉 He said their group held hands around it because it was so big (nearly 8 meters around and 24 meters tall!). It’s gotta be old: 600-800 years!

We found six or seven oaks, but this one was the ruler of them all. There were hollow spaces big enough to house a small boy, like the one in Jean Craighead George’s middle-grade classic, My Side of the Mountain. I always thought the living in a tree part of the story was a bit of a stretch, but this oak could easily house a boy and a hawk. For all I know, it does.

A bumblebee flew into the boy-sized hole in the base of the tree and something brown and fluffy was in another large hole way over our heads. One of the huge, sawn-off branches was a hollow tunnel, like a giant elephant trunk.

Tragic, mighty, grotesque. An epic tree.

Even on a brilliant sunny day, you could feel the power and past destruction pent up inside this tree. Maybe it houses a million bees or will be struck by lightning and burst into flame or throw a few mighty branches down in the wind. It’s clearly a survivor waiting for the next adventure. And a refuge for all kinds of living things.

Note for writers: If places inspire you with story ideas, you might enjoy my post about Angela Ackerman’s and Becca Puglisi’s  The Rural Setting Thesaurus at The Winged Pen.

Oak with big hollow high up in the tree.
A refuge high in an ancient oak. Hüinghausen, Germany. © Jan Decher, 2017.

_______________

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.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Day the Wall Fell

Church and graveyard surrounded by green hills covered with vineyards.
A whole peaceful world in a tiny valley. The town of Mayschoß in the Ahr River valley. © Laurel Decher, 2016.

Yesterday, Germany celebrated the Tag der Deutschen Einheit, (literally, the “Day of German Unity.”) It’s the day when East and West Germany came back together after World War II.

Once as a student, I visited East Berlin while the Wall was still there. I’ll never forget the eerie passage through the restricted zone. Guards armed with machine guns stood their shifts in abandoned subway stops where you were no longer allowed to get off the train.

For me, this holiday is about the falling of the Wall. The Berlin Wall was on television in the U.S. when the first people were allowed out of East Berlin. Excited people were reaching down and pulling others up to stand next to them on top of the Wall. Guards waved tiny East German cars through. The razor wire was no longer relevant. People offered each other champagne and bananas in a violent place where peace suddenly and unexpectedly appeared.

Let’s help peace along wherever it appears. There are so many celebrations I’d like to see and smile about. So much healing and pain where we could help each other up instead.

_______________

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.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Over at the Winged Pen, we’re writing about “getting the words”

Vista of Rhine River valley with mountains in the distance.
You have to write a lot of words before you catch a glimpse of your story. View from Löwenburg, Rhine River valley, Germany. © Laurel Decher, 2016.

I’ve collected some tips from fellow Winged Pen writers about how they get words on the page. I was surprised at the variety of techniques almost all of us use: daily word counts (or not), planning to write, the open sentence technique, and more. As a writer-friend said once, “Sometimes I think writing is continuous behavioral modification.”

You can read their nitty gritty tips and the whole post here: 4 Ways Winged Pen Writers Get Words.

My fellow Winged Pen, Gita Trelease, goes deeper into the topic with her post Perfectionism and Pomodori.

 

_______________

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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save