LOST WITH LEEKS

This will be short and SWEET! 🙂

The second Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale is almost ready!

Argh! Twelve-year-old 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 compass and map 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!


Why read Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales?

Everyone knows the leaders of tomorrow will need lots of skills. Whether it’s speaking up at a feast, or reading a map in a strange kingdom, these Tales are all about finding more magic in your life.

For ages 9 to 12. Click HERE for more about the book, including where to order. Thank you!


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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.

Tame Your Revision Step-by-Step: 4 Steps to SORT-BY-SIZE

Infographic of 7 revision management tips battery icons

This post is part of a TAME YOUR REVISION series that started over at The Winged Pen. You can read the overview, find the links to all the posts, and download the infographic here.

As always, feel free to share your best revision strategies in the comments! I’d love to know how you manage.

SORT BY SIZE

  1. Read Rachel Aaron’s 2K to 10K: How to write faster, write better, and write more of what you love. It costs 99 cents and is one of the most useful things I’ve read about how to work smarter. Here’s her post on editing.

Note: Rachel’s a writer–not a marketer–and creativity researchers have followed up on her work because it’s smart. I have no connection to her. I just like her work.

Don’t have 99 cents this month? Read her excellent blog post about drafting more efficiently here. The graphic below is from Vicky Teinaki and is based on Rachel’s book.Triangle of Time, Knowledge, and Enthusiasm, the keys to getting more and better writing done.

2. Make a list ranked by size of mess. The list is your friend. You can cross things off and the illusion of progress will be yours. 😉 Set yourself free from endless revision cycles. Figure out what you want to do and check it off as you do it.

3. Do the big stuff first. You know: start with the story structure problems, like the thrilling final conflict that isn’t. Or the main character whose motivations need work. Then go on to the ticking clock correction, season adjusting, and setting consistency stuff. Save the lyrical language and typos for last.

Scrivener’s status menus can help you stay on track. The FEEDBACK FOLDER post has screenshots.

4. Please excuse the mess. Revision is much more efficient this way, but you may have to practice overlooking the fallen plaster until the heavy lifting is done. Tracking your progress helps your inner child see that you WILL arrive.

Happy Revising!

Got some tips to make revision go more smoothly? Feel free to share!

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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.

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Earning a Microphone: What 6th grade band taught me about audience

Band playing in a cupola. Conductor wears a jacket that says "ZOLL" which means Customs.
Customs officials play in a band performance in Aachen. Music informs my work as a writer and gives me a whole new perspective on customs officials. ©Laurel Decher, 2015.

In the sixth grade, my elementary school offered the chance to learn a band instrument. There must have been some kind of school assembly to introduce the instruments and I’d certainly been to classical music concerts so it’s hard to explain how the mix-up happened.

My parents offered to rent an instrument and we went together to pick it up.

“No, not that one,” I said when the open case revealed a silver and black instrument. “That one, the clarinet–” I pointed to a shiny, silver instrument hanging on the wall.

When I persisted in asking for the shiny, silver, flute, the shop owner and my parents all told me I should play the clarinet instead. “Don’t change your mind now. Everyone plays the flute. You should try the clarinet first.”

They seemed to think that I had changed my mind because a clarinet wasn’t flashy enough. In the end, I took the clarinet home. A kind and patient private teacher taught me about the reed and taught me to assemble the clarinet. He was a good teacher. He taught me to leave the mouthpiece with reed out of the case. “Try it every once in a while.” After three days, I got a duck-like sound out of it and was very pleased with myself.

I started to learn the notes on the staff. The one in the bottom space that everyone else called “F”, I called “K”. It just felt like a K to me. After six months, my darling mother returned the clarinet to the music store without asking me.

In the seventh grade, I got a shiny, nickel-plated, student flute and enrolled in Beginning Band. I can’t imagine I was a stellar flute player, but at least no one returned it without asking. I must have learned something, because I decided it was useful to call the notes by the same names as everyone else.  No conductor ever asks for a concert K. It just doesn’t happen.

My high school marching band (the land of flats) and orchestra (the land of sharps) took me on tour to San Francisco and to many, many basketball games. The Star-Spangled Banner is fairly deafening in closed spaces. We played for school musicals and for the American Fork Youth Ballet’s THE NUTCRACKER. I liked everything about it and raved about it until my own children signed up to learn instruments themselves.

If one of my former conductors happens by this blog, I must confess to setting up all 100 or so music stands so that they fell in perfect domino-fashion. It was a thing of beauty. Please forgive me for not setting them up again.

This last Sunday, I played my flute with a small combo and was offered a microphone. Being incurably metaphor-minded, it struck me that I had accidentally followed classic piece of audience-building advice. Serve a community until they offer to help your voice be heard.

What musical metaphors taught me about audience-building:

  1. Playing with a microphone amplifies your mistakes. The microphone made me want to deliver a better performance. It also made it easier to ask for help with technical details. Sheet music in the correct key might be the equivalent of good cover design, expert editing or other tech help.
  2. No one complained it was too loud. The others were in charge of amplification. I wasn’t. It was out of my control and that was fine with me. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
  3. I was playing the right instrument. I wasn’t playing a clarinet. If you love an instrument, you are much more likely to learn to play it well. Writing in the right genre, for the right audience, might make all the difference.
  4. It doesn’t really matter how many other people are doing what you love. If you keep doing it long enough, you’ll find a place. When I started the clarinet, at least a dozen girls played flute in my elementary school. A year later, they weren’t. Maybe they liked the flute’s shininess, but not its airy sound. Saxophone might have been better. When I play the flute, I can’t see how shiny it is, but I can feel its sound. It’s the voice of the flute that attracted me and holds me still.

Do you sing or play an instrument? What drew you to the kind of music you enjoy? How does music help you in some other part of your life?

 

Interested in books for readers age 8 to 12? Sample the adventure by clicking on the graphic below:

Adventure Awaits. Click here to enter your e-mail. See behind the scenes of THE WOUNDED BOOK.

 

How to make something invisible

Think how much writing–and reading–you could get done if no one knew you were there. This is eerily simple: just use 4 lenses to bend the light around the thing you want to “cloak.”

  Will we resort to deep sea fish later to help us find things in the “dark”?

Exploring: Hatzenport to Eltz Castle on the Path of Dreams

Grassy trail above Germany's Mosel river valley in a little bit of characteristic mist
Grassy trail above Mosel river valley in Germany.

One morning, in early spring, my husband and I decided to walk to Burg Eltz (Eltz castle) from the tiny village of Hatzenport. We had asked the innkeeper if he thought Burg Eltz was do-able and he said, “Why shouldn’t it be? It’s only 2 1/2 hours.” Oddly enough, that reassured me.

It was an unexpectedly sunny day with a cool breeze, miraculous after weeks of rain and gray skies. We set out on little goat trails and followed the course of the Mosel river, far below. We barely needed our topographic map because everything was so well labeled. That’s how many people live in this part of the world. The trail was called “Traumpfad”, the path of dreams.
We traversed the vineyards on a tractor-wide track, feeling like Heidi and Peter. A sign said goats were used to clear out overgrown vineyards when someone wanted to begin again. Abandoned, overgrown vineyards were called “Brazils” after their owners left for Brazil to start a new life.

In earlier times, wagons must have collected the grapes from the rows of vines. A rusty winch in one village must have been used to pull heavy loads of grapes up and down the steep slopes. In another, a tower near the Mosel supported the cables to run a ferry across. The ferry needed no power other than the river current.

At some point, we left the Mosel to turn into another valley. The path climbed gently until we found ourselves on a high plain. The Mosel cut a valley into the plain, so that the river bed was actually in a canyon. The broad meadow was just as inviting as the earlier paths and the sun was just as delightful. There was a ring of standing stones, either old or modern, in the distance. It was almost unreal.

A group of eight deer leapt across the meadow in front of us to cross a road in the distance. Seven made it across but the last one was spooked by a car and couldn’t find his way. He bounded back to the safety of the forest. The others didn’t come back for him, so maybe that was the beginning of his own adventure.

An older pair of hikers passed us. They didn’t seem to be going fast but they were soon in the distance ahead of us. We saw them much later, having a picnic by the trail side, just before we got to a lot of boring pavement. Experience must help people pick out picnic spots. Role models for adventure pop up in surprising places.

By the time we had walked a few hours, we had gotten less tired or had found our stride or felt virtuous because we didn’t need parking, because we felt we could walk forever. When I was 10, I used to explore with my brother in the same way. A peanut butter sandwich in a backpack, a walking stick, and eyes to see what is in front of you.

Burg Eltz actually has a longish–by American standards–hiking trail from the parking lot to the castle. On the trail, three miniature knights came toward us brandishing wooden swords and painted wooden shields. A baby in a stroller was teething on a wooden sword. We were getting close.

Stone castle on a hill surrounded by the river Eltz and more hills near the Mosel valley in Germany.
The Eltz castle

The castle gift shop was full of swords and shields and castle-related memorabilia. A hearty soup lunch at the castle and we were ready to continue down the valley. Here the trail looks down on the river Eltz below—a gray, green, glacier-colored river—but I think the color comes from algae, but not in a bad way.

We hiked down to the village and took the train back to the tiny village of Hatzenport. It was a dreamy day of talking, walking, taking things in, and spending time together becoming whole.

The next morning, I took a walk in our own neighborhood. At the far meadow, a black and white horse whinnied and trotted, then pounded the grass with his hooves and galloped the perimeters of electric fence. Was he going to leap over it? Did the sunny, cool weather make him long for wide spaces and adventure?

Then a shaggy, brown horse appeared on the trail and the black and white nodded his big black head up and down emphatically. He had been calling this friend.

My day with my husband was perfect for me. The weather and the availability of food made it a very convenient adventure, but not one I will forget. A perfect life is an adventure with a friend.