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!!!


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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.

Prince Nero goes to Luxembourg?!?

We book people know that books are a doorway to adventure so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I got to visit a whole new country because of the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tales.

Unlike Prince Nero, I didn’t get lost. Because I had help from my friends at the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. *waves* That’s the purple SCBWI banner in the photo above.

The Prime Minister of Luxembourg strolled by our booth, evidently a book person too. Lots of families speaking lots of languages strolled by too. 🙂 I recognized English, French, Luxembourgisch, Italian, and German.

Luxembourg is full of orange and yellow trees at this time of year and nestles down into deep valleys in true storybook style.

As usual, I ran across bits and pieces of new stories:

the flame at the veteran’s memorial,

the glass roof over the historic train station where Jewish people were deported to concentration camps in World War II,

a mysterious stone building with a tower tucked into a deep valley,

and the French versions of “Bread Guys” that show up everywhere in honor of St. Nicholas’s Day. The stained glass window showing Luxembourg City is above the train arrivals and departures. Elegant, no?

If you live in or near Luxembourg and are looking for English language children’s books, check out the selection at Lucy Goosey. Lots of happy book buyers were browsing at their warm and friendly booth.

Find the Lucy Goosey bookstore here. Or if you’re not into Facebook, this helpful blog post might interest 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.

There’s more to explore!

The second book in the Seven Kingdoms Fairy Tale series is all about exploring–with a prince who has no sense of direction!

A map of the Seven Kingdoms from the Proclamation. The kingdoms in the Rhine and Mosel River valleys are: Cochem, Marigold, Indigo, Magenta, Saffron, Rose, and, of course, Blackfly! ©Laurel Decher, 2019

Just for fun, here are the real castles that inspired the Blackfly and the Saffron Kingdoms. LOST WITH LEEKS stars the Blackfly Prince Nero and the Saffron royal twins: Prince Magellan and Princess Saffy!

Nero’s a trouble-magnet–for compasses, maps and magical creatures. Worse, his royal mom has kidnapped St. Nicholas. Nero’s got to map out a rescue right away!

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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.

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”?