A Magical Return to Middle Grade Fiction

by Kristina Ludwig
May 2
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 2, 2016 at 9:00 am

My latest writing project has been a super fun one, as well as one that is dear to my heart. I’m revisiting a manuscript that has been twenty-some years in the making.

I’m pretty sure all you writers out there have a similar manuscript–one that you started writing as a child, and have been working on for years, a story that just won’t let you go and seems to evolve with your writing experience. I call these “lifetime stories” for obvious reasons. :)

My lifetime story just happens to be a middle grade fantasy about eleven year-old twins who can travel to a magical and timeless kingdom called the Aquamarine Isle. There they help the queen to catch a gang of gemstone robbers–and discover some important things about themselves as well.

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I first wrote the story when I was six. I entered an updated version in a writing contest when I was fourteen, and did massive edits at age twenty. Now, in my early 30s, I’m returning to it–and planning to publish it on Kindle.

Returning to middle grade fiction is so much fun, but it’s also quite a challenge. MG fiction must be sassy and smart like today’s kids, grabbing their attention and stimulating their brains. Yet it can’t be so sophisticated that readers become frustrated with the wording and the storyline. No doubt about it, writing MG fiction is an exercise in balance and really stretches us as authors.

With that in mind, here’s an excerpt from the book, tentatively titled “Dazzle.” Do you like reading or writing MG fiction? I’d love to hear about your feedback and experiences, and I hope you enjoy the chapter!

Chapter One: Discovery in the Attic

Wes and Raffie Bonifaze were having an extraordinarily ordinary day—not just dull, but epically boring. And the Bonifaze twins did not do well with boring.

They lounged by their backyard pool, eating red, white, and blue popsicles left over from the fourth of July. They had grown tired of swimming games after a whole morning of them, and were drying off in the sunshine. Even at rest, the twins fidgeted, their bodies as tightly coiled as the copper-colored curls on their heads.

“Wessie, I’m bored,” Raffie said, tilting her face to the sun. Although she and her brother were redheads with nearly translucent green eyes—usually a recipe for disaster in the sun—their skin didn’t burn, and instead glowed a tawny golden-brown.

Wes frowned at his sister, wondering whether he should wear a “Hello, My Name Is” nametag that said, “Wes, the boy formerly known as Wessie.” Even though he was a mature eleven, his whole family still clung on to his annoying babyhood nickname.

“It’s Wes now,” he said. “Get it right. How would you feel if I went around calling you Raphaela-You-Smella?”

Raffie giggled. “Hmmm. Guess you have a point.”

The twins finished their snacks in silence until Raffie said, “Why don’t we go exploring in the woods?”

The backyard forest was one of the best things about living at Bonifaze Acres, although there were so many great things. The twins’ house was an honest-to-goodness mansion. The only catch was that their parents were hardly ever around to enjoy it.

“Exploring,” Wes scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, right. That’s kid stuff.”

“Bet you can’t think of anything better.”

“Sure I can.”

Silence ruled until Raffie said with a twinkle in her eye, “I know! You can laugh at me if you want, but I’m still feeling adventurous. Let’s go upstairs—”

“—into the attic,” Wes interrupted, practically reading her mind. This was one of the good things about being a twin, although Wes frequently wondered whether it was a good thing to be on the same wavelength as his sister. “Great idea, Raffie.”

Raffie sprang up from her lounge chair, sweeping into a dramatic bow. “It’s about time you noticed my greatness,” she said with a dimpled smile. “Now let’s get Aura and go.”

“Do we have to?” Wes rolled his eyes as he hurried after Raffie, who was already bounding toward the house. “She won’t want to go anyway.”

“How do you know?” Raffie called over her shoulder, disappearing through the back door.

Wes shrugged, jamming his hands into the pockets of his still-damp swim trunks. “Just a hunch,” he mumbled. And to be honest, he hoped Aura wouldn’t want to go.

Sneak-Peek of Amish Blessings!

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 19
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 19, 2015 at 10:23 am

After a month of hard-core writing, I finally finished Book 3 of the Amish Friendships series. I’ve submitted it to my editor, and am targeting the launch date for the last week of June!

Amish Blessings centers around two new characters, Abram and Miriam. Up until now, they were minor characters who showed up every once in a while, mostly to annoy Mercy or Hannah. Miriam and Mercy have a rather unpleasant history–in Amish Valentine, Miriam and Mercy competed ferociously for the same boy, Samuel. However, Miriam is all grown up now and married to Abram, and the two have just started a bed and breakfast and buggy tour business. They receive an unexpected guest, a runaway boy who is different than what he seems. His identity–and the favor he asks of them–jeopardize their position in the community.

Before the book comes out, I’m excited to share an excerpt with you. Check out Chapter One of Amish Blessings. I’d love to hear what you think!

Amish Blessings takes place in the fall. Here's a beautiful picture of Amish country in the autumn to get you in the mood. :)

Amish Blessings takes place in the fall. Here’s a beautiful picture of Amish country in the autumn to get you in the mood. :)

Chapter One: Miriam

 Autumn in Amish country brings many blessings: freshly picked apples and warm cider, piping-hot pies smelling of cinnamon and sugar, crisp breezes through colorful leaves, and tourists who want to enjoy these things.

My mann Abram and I figured out a way to take advantage of this; we’ve just started a bed and breakfast and a tour business, charging for relaxing buggy rides through the country. When we’d visited family in Lancaster last year, I’d noticed the long lines of Englischers waiting for the Amish tours, and had suggested that we start something similar. However, we didn’t have the money to do so until recently, when Abram’s poor vadder died and left us an inheritance.

Setting up the business was the easy part; actually running it is another story. Sure, Abram is doing well with the tours, but the bed and breakfast seems as though it will take a great deal of work and patience to get off the ground.

I’ve always had an easy time keeping haus, first at home with my parents, bruders, and schweschders, and then later on with Abram and our growing family. However, English tourists are more demanding than I’d ever imagined.

This morning, I’ve just fed Henry, my one-year-old bobbel, and am starting to prepare a breakfast casserole and some coffee soup for the Quigleys, English guests who will be arriving soon.

The telltale crackle of thick tires on the gravel driveway tells me that they’re here. I tug aside the front curtains and peer out. A huge, truck-like vehicle, which I’ve heard Englischers call an SUV, has rolled in. Seconds later, a family emerges: a maemm, a daed, and twin girls who look about five years old. I have no idea why such a small family needs such a large car; I’d grown up packed into a buggy with my parents and eight bruders and schweschders, and I hadn’t minded at all.

No matter, though. Who am I to judge the Englischers’ worldly excess? Holding Henry in one hand and placing the other under my belly, I rush to the front door to greet the guests.

I fling open the door and smile brightly. “Hello. You must be the Quigleys. I’m Miriam, and I will be taking care of you.”

“Hi, Miriam,” the Quigleys chorus. The little girls hop up and down, peppering their parents with questions as they follow me into the living room. Abram hurries downstairs and carries in the family’s bags, dragging them up the stairs to the guest room. After we exchange pleasantries, Abram vanishes outside to prepare the buggy for today’s tour schedule.

As I lead the Quigleys back downstairs and motion for them to have a seat on the large couch in the living room, Mrs. Quigley gives Henry and me a quick once-over with narrowed eyes. I feel instantly self-conscious. Does she doubt my ability to run a bed and breakfast with a small bobbel and another on the way? I’ll just have to prove her wrong.

So, I paste on a broad grin. “Would you care for some coffee soup?” I ask. “And I have fresh apple cider for the little ones.”

“Is the cider organic?” Mrs. Quigley asks. “Mia and Sophie only drink organic.”

Thankfully, I know a bit about this because my neighbor Samuel is heavily into organic farming. So, I answer with confidence, “Jah.”

“All right then,” she says. “Two of those, please, and what is coffee soup?”

She screws up her face as I explain that it’s coffee made with plenty of cream and sugar, and either toasted bread or crumbled-up soda crackers floating inside. I prefer it with bread, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Everyone says my coffee soup is the best.

But Mrs. Quigley seems unimpressed. “Holy carbs,” she says. “Let’s skip that. Black coffee for me.”

“I’m having the coffee soup,” Mr. Quigley says. When his fraa raises her eyebrows, he throws up his hands and says, “What? I’m on vacation.”

“All right then,” I interrupt smoothly. “Two juices, a black coffee, and a coffee soup, coming right up. And perhaps after you’ve enjoyed your refreshments, you’d like to follow me into the dining room for breakfast.”

Before I’m even out of earshot, Mrs. Quigley says, “I don’t know about this place, hon. Let’s check it out before we commit to staying here. There’s a Holiday Inn not far away.”

When I return with the tray of drinks, I’m not surprised that Mrs. Quigley demands a full tour of the haus. So, I place a bleary-eyed Henry in his crib for his morning nap, and oblige.

Drinks in hand, Mrs. Quigley, her mann, and the girls follow me through the haus, commenting on each room. Unfortunately, they don’t have much gut to say.

“Where are the TVs?” one of the girls lisps when I show her the guest bedroom. I bite my tongue when I notice that she’s dribbling little drops of cider all over my grandmother’s hand-hooked rug.

“They’re Amish, Sophie,” Mrs. Quigley says. “They don’t watch TV.”

“Where are the potties?” Mia asks.

“Now that’s a good question,” her maemm says.

I point out the window. “When nature calls, we use that outhouse out back.”

“Then I’m afraid to ask about showers,” Mr. Quigley says with a laugh.

I gesture to our best claw-footed tub in the corner. “I can boil you some water if you’d like to wash up. And I made the soap myself.”

Mr. Quigley nods, but his fraa looks at him and says, “Jack, I just can’t do this. I mean, I knew we’d be roughing it, but this is crazy.”

The girls instantly begin to moan, and Mr. Quigley says, “Angela, can’t we talk about this?”

I slip out of the room and call from the doorway, “I’ll give you some privacy.”

I stop by Henry’s crib to check on him. The bobbel has rolled from his back to his stomach, and is sleeping soundly, snoring and making occasional happy coos. By the time I’ve tugged the quilt back around him, the Quigleys have appeared in the doorway.

“We won’t be staying after all,” Mr. Quigley says, clearing his throat and looking down at the ground as though he’s embarrassed.

I force my lips into a grin, hoping that I’m hiding my disappointment. “Won’t you at least stay for breakfast? I made authentic Amish casserole, with bacon and eggs—”

“No thank you,” Mrs. Quigley interrupts with a pinch-lipped smile. “We’re watching our diet. We’ll just get continental breakfast at the hotel.”

“But we still want the buggy tour,” Mr. Quigley says in an apologetic voice.

“Very well,” I say, leading them downstairs. “Abram will be happy to take you out.”

As the Quigleys tromp out the door, I head into the kitchen and cut myself a hefty slice of breakfast casserole, enjoying the first meaty, cheesy, salty bite. My portion fills an entire plate, but I’m stuck with the whole thing now, and besides, I am eating for two—three if you count Henry, who is still breastfeeding a few times a day.

However, when the pleasure of that first mouthful wears off, I drop my head into my hands. We need to figure out some way to make the bed and breakfast more attractive to the Englischers, but how?

Excerpt of Amish Shopkeeper

by Kristina Ludwig
May 5
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 5, 2015 at 12:43 pm

I’m excited to announce that my new eBook, Amish Shopkeeper, will be coming out early next week! Jakob wants to buy the buggy repair shop where he works, but how can he afford it? All he needs is time, and his boss, Amos, is willing to give him that. After all, he’s not planning to retire right away.

However, all that changes when Amos finds out that he needs an expensive knee surgery. Suddenly, he’s forced into selling. The problem: Jakob can’t afford to buy it yet.

With the help of Samuel and the church elders, Jakob and Hannah plan a fundraiser for Amos. But can they raise enough money to pay for Amos’s operation, or will he be forced to sell anyway?

I’ll keep you posted here and on Facebook and Twitter with release dates. Until then, here’s an excerpt of the book!

A real Amish buggy shop in Pennsylvania. Image from amishbuggypa.com

A real Amish buggy shop in Pennsylvania. Image from amishbuggypa.com

Chapter One: Jakob

I gaze across the fields by my haus, holding up one hand to shield my eyes from the bright sunrise. My bruder, Aaron, will be married this November, and every morning, I’ve been tending the celery I’ve planted for him.  Celery is a staple in Amish weddings; it’s used in the recipes, as well as the decorations.

The tall, green stalks are sprouting up faster than my younger brothers during puberty. There’s been plenty of rain this year, unlike the baremlich drought two summers ago, when I’d been preparing for my own wedding.

I stifle a yawn; this extra chore means that I have to rise half an hour earlier. However, I feel as though it’s worth it. After all, Aaron and my other bruders helped to grow the celery, meager as it was, for my wedding.

Besides, I’m hoping that the extra favor will make Aaron more likely to do one for me. I’ve been trying to talk him into going into business with me for the last month or so, and he’s still not sure about it. My boss Amos might sell his old buggy repair shop, and I really want to buy it. The only problem is that I don’t have enough money to do it by myself—I need a business partner.

Aaron is meeting me at the shop for lunch today. He’s planning to look around, and then he’ll stay for a while to see how the place runs. I really hope he likes it. He makes gut money at the table and chair factory where he works. Plus, he’s thinking of moving to the next town over with his fraa-to-be. I’ll have a lot of work to do to convince him.

Turning toward the haus, I push the wheelbarrow of mulch back into the barn and begin my next chore: milking the cows. As I complete all my other usual morning tasks, I think about the way I’d run the repair shop if it were mine.

I’ve worked there ever since I graduated eighth grade, and throughout the years, I’ve become the guy who can fix just about anything. Not only do I perform all the buggy repairs since Amos’s rheumatism has started to act up, I also suggested that we expand our business to include random household items. Now, we fix anything people bring in—and since Amos has problems seeing close-up, I do most of those repairs as well.

I gather a basketful of eggs and head into the haus. There, Hannah has already begun cooking breakfast. I can smell the coffee brewing, and she’s frying up some bacon. Waffles sizzle on the griddle, while our five-month-old bobbel, Grace, sits at her high chair, eagerly waiting for her feeding. She’s a gut eater, although she usually gets more food on herself than in her mouth.

Gute mariye, liebchen.” I give Hannah a quick kiss on her soft lips, and then plant a loud, sloppy one on Grace’s round cheek, causing her to burst into giggles.

Gute mariye, Jakob,” Hannah says with a smile. She places two fragrant golden waffles and four crispy slices of bacon on a plate in front of me, and pours me a tall cup of coffee. “I made you extra food, and coffee, too. You have a big day today, what with meeting your bruder. Do you think he’ll finally agree to go into business with you?”

I shrug, chewing on a piece of bacon. “I can’t be sure, but all I can do is pray.”

“Well, in that case, I’ll be praying, too. Herr Gott is sure to listen if we both pester Him.”

I laugh along with Hannah, hoping she’s right.

The Mermaid’s Secret Cover Reveal

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 20
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 20, 2015 at 9:28 am

Tomorrow is the big day… the launch of The Mermaid’s Secret! I’m putting finishing touches on the book before I hit “publish” on Amazon tonight, and I’ve narrowed the cover concepts down to two options. So, here they are. Which do you like better?

Here are the two over concept options. Which do you like better?

Here are the two cover concept options. Which do you like better?

And to get you excited for tomorrow’s release, here’s another excerpt from the book:

Chapter Three: Doria

 For a long moment, the words just hang there awkwardly, suspended in the water between us. I feel instantly horrible as Dylan chews his lip and clenches his jaw, awaiting my response.

But I have no response; I’m too shocked. I can’t believe that he would tell me he loved me right as I’m about to travel to the surface. What a dirty trick. I’d always suspected he did, but he’d never told me so. To be honest, I didn’t really want him to. After all, we’re young and he’s the only male—merman or otherwise—that I’ve ever been able to call my beau.

A mermaid can’t be expected to fall in love with the first merman she meets, can she? True, my mother and father did, but I don’t particularly want to follow their example; they have no sense of adventure whatsoever.

Finally, I clear my throat and say, “Dylan, you’re a wonderful merman, and I’m very fond of you. But this is a difficult time for both of us. I have twelve moons to make the most major decision of my life. Are you sure that you’re telling me this because you really love me, or because you’re afraid to lose me?”

Dylan clutches both of my hands so tightly that I can feel my coral rings cutting into my fingers. I wince and pull my hands out of his vise-like grip.

“How could you ask that question? I love you. I was just too cowardly to tell you before, but I had to do it now.”

He swipes furiously at his eyes, which have begun to fluoresce with tears. We mermaids and mermen cry tears of aquamarine, so there’s no way to hide our emotions. I quickly look away to spare him some embarrassment.

We’re silent again for a long moment. I have no idea what to say, and the silence becomes more and more uncomfortable.

I clear my throat again. “Dylan, I appreciate your honesty, and I’m glad that you told me your feelings. I’ll certainly consider them when I’m on land. But I think we should both meet others. You can talk to some mermaids, and I can meet new landsmen. And when I return back here, we’ll know whether your love is true.”

“I already know my love is true,” Dylan chokes out, his voice cracking on the last word. My heart breaks for him as he avoids my eyes, probably trying to cover up the fact that he’s crying again. “But I’ll do what you want.”

“Thank you. That’s all I ask.”

Dylan and I float side-by-side; we’re mere inches apart, but I’ve never felt further away from him. We’d always enjoyed an easy, happy relationship, and I know him almost as well as I know myself. Now, however, he’s as distant as the Celtic Sea from whence he came. I try to tell myself that this is what I want—the freedom to make my decision unencumbered by matters of the heart.

But regardless, my stomach feels as though it’s being gnawed from the inside out by a school of hungry piranhas.

“I guess this is goodbye,” Dylan says in a flat voice. “Take care of yourself, now.”

“Thank you.” Fighting back tears, I swim away from the familiarity of my home and my mer-beau, toward the dark, unknown land above.

***If you liked this excerpt, be sure to check out tomorrow’s blog post for the final cover reveal and links to the book. Also, there will be a Facebook launch party tomorrow from 5-9 PM EST, so if you want to join in the fun, festivities, and giveaways, click the link here.

Book Excerpt from The Mermaid’s Voyage

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 9
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 9, 2015 at 11:17 am

Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from my upcoming eBook, The Mermaid’s Voyage. This book follows Oceania’s niece, Doria, as she ventures to 1920s San Francisco and stays with Oceania and Xavier, who are now well-known jazz musicians. Doria discovers the wild life of the Prohibition era, visiting her first speakeasy and meeting a handsome but nosy reporter named Stanley. Meanwhile, her merman boyfriend Dylan is worried about her and follows her to land–undercover. Will Dylan blow his cover? Will Stanley discover that she’s a mermaid? Find out when the book is launched at the end of the month!

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two. Chapter One can be found at the end of California Mermaids Book 2, The Mermaid’s WeddingLook for more excerpts coming soon to the blog!

mermaid-wishes-leslie-allen

Chapter Two: Dylan

I can’t help but notice the way Doria stiffens and averts her gaze when I tell her not to spend too much time with land boys. I’d attempted a flippant tone, but I probably didn’t quite succeed.

There’s no way to hide it—sometimes I feel as though I love her more than I love myself, although I’m unsure whether she reciprocates that sentiment. We’ve never exchanged any declarations of love, mostly because I’m reticent to tell her how I feel. She’s always seemed to regard the ocean as something temporary, until she can travel to the surface to see her aunt, and I’ve always been afraid that she thinks of me as temporary, too.

Everyone in the village of Mar is well aware of the curse in her family, and the fact that her aunt chose to live on land. I’ve always supported Doria when she talks incessantly about visiting her Aunt Oceania, but I’m secretly terrified that she’ll follow in her aunt’s footsteps. I would be devastated if she chose land. True, I could still visit her, but I know I could never build a life there.

“When will you be back, Doria?” I ask. I gaze into her eyes, which glow a shade of blue as dark and mysterious as the deepest waters of the ocean. The filtered light of the moon glints off her burnished-gold hair, and I run my fingers through it, aching for answers.

But Doria just shrugs. “I’ll be staying for at least a few days, with Aunt Oceania and Uncle Xavier. Father told me that they were touring, but now they’re back in San Francisco, so they can host me.”

Doria’s aunt and uncle played in the symphony for years, but now her uncle is a composer and they tour independently to perform his works all over the world.

“I’ll miss you,” I say. I don’t want to sound desperate, but there’s no way to avoid it.

“I’ll miss you too, Dylan. But I haven’t seen my aunt in thirteen years. Do you know how many full moons it’s been, how much I’ve missed the sound of her voice? She was always so wild and free, and spirited—much different than my mother. I feel like there’s a lot of her in me, you know?”

I nod. Unfortunately, I do know. “You’re right, Doria. But please come back.”

“Of course I’ll be back,” Doria says with a slight edge to her voice. I stare at her, taken aback by her choppy tone.

She’s silent for a moment as she studies my face, then glances down at the abalone D that I spent hours carving for her. Finally, she says softly, “I hurt you. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped like that. But I feel as though I’m under so much pressure right now and you’re adding to it.”

“I never meant to do that.” My voice cracks, and I clear my throat in disgust. I want her to think I’m strong and capable, and mermanly, but I’m failing horribly so far.

“I’m sure you didn’t. But just remember that the decision of land or sea is one that I have to make for myself, and that means I need some time alone, all right?”

“All right.” It breaks my heart that Doria wants time away from me, while I know that she’s the only one for me. Suddenly, I realize that I have to tell her I love her. I can’t wait any longer. She needs to know the truth. If she knows how much I love her, it will temper her decision.

So, I gently cup her chin, turning it upward toward my face. “Doria, I respect the fact that you need time to make your decision, but there’s something you need to take into account while you’re making it.” I pause for a moment, swallowing hard. “I love you.”

7 Things You Might Not Know About the 1920′s

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 29
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 29, 2014 at 9:00 am

I’m currently in the midst of writing The Mermaid’s Voyage, the conclusion of the California Mermaids trilogy. In this series finale, Doria, Oceania’s niece, turns eighteen in the year 1925. Like her aunt, she must choose between living on land or in the ocean, but the decision is riddled with complications. Between her overprotective mer-beau, her aunt’s bizarre behavior, and the scheming landsman who threatens her safety and sanity, Doria is a bit overwhelmed. Can she break the mermaid’s curse that has been in her family for generations? And will she choose land or water? Look for the Kindle ebook in late January to find out!

The Mermaid’s Voyage has been incredibly fun to write so far, mostly because I loooove the Roaring 20s! I have always been fascinated by this time period: Prohibition, flappers, and the overall glitter and glamour of this party-filled, somewhat excessive era of American history. I’ve stumbled upon so many interesting facts throughout my research, so, naturally, I have to share them with you! Here they are: 7 things you might not know about the 1920s. 

Here's a fun picture of 1920s fashion, courtesy of Glamordaze.com.

Here’s a fun picture of 1920s fashion, courtesy of Glamordaze.com.

  1. Speakeasies, which cropped up all over the U.S. during prohibition, had many nicknames, such as “juice joint,” “drum,” and “ham & egger.”
  2. One of the most popular speakeasies in San Francisco was Coffee Dan’s. Patrons accessed the speakeasy via a slide into the basement level of the restaurant, and could hold their coffee cups under the table if they cared for some liquor from the wait staff’s hip flasks.
  3. San Francisco was also home to the Sir Francis Drake hotel, which had a “prohibition room,” where alcohol was stored and could be delivered to guests via small doors hidden in each room. The hotel is still there today, but the secret doors no longer exist.
  4. Radio was a huge form of mass communication in the 1920s, and America’s first commercial radio station was Pittsburgh’s KDKA in 1920. By the end of the decade, over 12 million households owned a radio.
  5. Jazz and ragtime were the popular types of music for the young generation, and people could be found in juice joints and dance halls doing dances such as the Charleston and the cake walk.
  6. The speakeasy crowd had many silly code-words for “drunk,” such as zozzled, splifficated, ossified, and hoary-eyed.
  7. Most movies of the 1920s were silent films, but all that changed with the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927. It was the first “talking picture” to feature a star singer and actor–and to attract huge crowds of viewers.

There you have it…a little slice of life from the 1920s. Authors out there, have you ever written historical fiction, and if so, what era did you write about? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

It’s Here: The Mermaid’s Wedding Has Launched!

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 16
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 16, 2014 at 10:45 am

I’m excited to announce that The Mermaid’s Wedding (California Mermaids Book 2) has launched, and is now available for Amazon Kindle here. To pump you up for the book, I will be including a free excerpt with today’s blog post!

The Mermaid's Wedding Launch

Also, I am celebrating the new release by offering a special 2 for 1 deal today and tomorrow. Book 1 of the California Mermaids series, The Mermaid’s Curse, will be free December 16th and 17th, so you can read the entire series for only 99 cents. I’ve got the hookup, dear readers. ;)

So, without further adieu, here is Chapter Two of The Mermaid’s Wedding. Chapter One can be found in this earlier blog post. Happy reading!

Chapter Two: Xavier – 1912

My heart breaks for Oceania as we stroll down the shore. She smiles tightly, keeping a running commentary of the birds, the beach, and the passers-by, but I can tell that she’s only putting on a brave face for my benefit.

When she’d first announced her decision to choose land, I believe that she’d been in a state of shock—and, of course, the pain had been dulled by our love. However, now that she’s had time to digest the full implications, she seems weighed down, as if an invisible anchor is dragging her spirits to the ocean floor.

As we head up the elaborate, flower-trimmed walkway of my family’s lavish summer home, I stop and turn to her.

“My love,” I say, gently tucking a stray lock of her silver-blond hair into the wide-brimmed hat Amelie has lent her. “You don’t have to force yourself to be cheerful just for me. I know how much you’re hurting right now, and I only wish I could heal your wounds. I wish I could be the part-merman who could break the curse, so you’d never have to say goodbye to anyone you love.”

Oceania’s eyes fill with shimmering aquamarine tears that fluoresce as they roll down her cheeks. I fumble for my handkerchief, and begin mopping her face with it.

“It’s sweet of you to say that,” she says in a tremulous voice. “But you shouldn’t wish for that. If you weren’t exactly who you are, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with you.”

She’s right. I must admit that I have thought—more than once—about how much easier life would be if I hadn’t fallen in love with a cursed mermaid. But if she wasn’t exactly who she is, I wouldn’t love her so desperately, either.

“Oceania, my dear, you’re as wise as you are beautiful.” I dry the last of her tears, planting a kiss on the tip of her delicate nose before we head into the house.

The summer house feels significantly lighter and airier without Father’s dark and lumbering presence; he has returned to San Francisco to resume work, and Mother, Amelie, and I are in the process of packing up and preparing the house for the end of the season.

Naturally, Father’s colleagues have left Monterey as well, and I breathe a bit easier knowing that not only is Mr. Simonsen gone, but so is his daughter, Victoria. Our fathers had been forcing us into a lukewarm courtship, and she didn’t take well to Oceania’s appearance in our lives. The past few weeks have been filled with uncomfortable encounters with her; the town of Monterey is much too small to avoid her entirely.

Oceania and I head toward the parlor, our shoes clacking on the glossy floors of the marble foyer. Mother and Amelie are perched on Mother’s long, red velvet fainting couch, poring over a bridal magazine. Their heads snap up in unison when they spot Oceania and me in the doorway.

Mother springs up and surrounds first me, then Oceania in a warm hug. “Darlings,” she says, kissing Oceania on both cheeks as she learned to do during a recent trip to Europe. “Amelie and I were having the best time planning out details for your wedding. Of course, we may have been getting a bit ahead of ourselves—you haven’t even set the date, after all. But I have the most fabulous idea. I hope you don’t mind my intruding.”

I glance over at Oceania, wondering what kind of reaction she will have to my mother’s exuberance, and am relieved to see that her smile seems genuine. Mother tends to have that effect on people.

“We don’t mind at all, Mrs. Rose,” Oceania says. “In fact, I’d love to hear your idea.”

“Fantastic,” Mother says, taking Oceania’s hand and pulling her down on the couch next to Amelie. After another round of hellos with my younger sister, I sink into Father’s hulking leather armchair, feeling small and out of place in it.

“So here’s my thought,” Mother continues. “What if you had your wedding ceremony on the beach and the reception here?”

“You could say your vows on Point Joe,” Amelie pipes up. “I read a book in which two lovers marry on a beach, but I’ve never known anyone who has actually done it.”

“What do you think?” Mother asks, leaning toward Oceania. “I know it’s not a common thing to do, but that’s what makes it so special. It will be as unconventional and unique as both of you are, a union of land and sea.”

Oceania and I look at each other, and her bright smile tells me everything I need to know. “That sounds absolutely perfect,” she says. “I can’t think of a better place to say our vows than on top of our special rock.”

I nod in agreement, but can’t help but ask Mother, “Do you think Father will approve? I’m sure he’ll want a traditional church wedding.”

Mother and Amelie exchange an uncomfortable glance. “I’m unsure whether your father will be attending, Xavier,” Mother says in a subdued voice, drawing her delicate brows together. “When I spoke to him on the telephone last night, he was still violently opposed to your future marriage. Then we lost our connection, and I couldn’t get him back on the line. The service out here really is dismal. That’s one thing I certainly will not miss.” She pauses, taking a deep breath. “I’ll do my best to convince him though, dear. After all, you are his only son.”

“Right,” I say, studying the intricate, swirling patterns on the red and gold Persian rug. Even though I should have expected this, I’m immensely disappointed.  I know that Father will probably never approve of Oceania, but some small part of me still wants him to. “I suppose we’ll just have to see what he decides.”

Oceania pushes herself up from the couch and crosses the room to my side. “It’s okay, Xav. My family won’t be there, either. They can’t be there.” She lowers herself into Father’s chair next to me, and I take her hand, squeezing it tightly.

Amelie fidgets in the corner, chewing her lip and looking as though she’d like to vanish down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. She probably has no idea what to say to comfort Oceania—or me, for that matter.

Mother’s face has taken on such a look of compassion and sadness that she seems ready to weep. Finally, she says, “I’m sorry that this is so difficult for both of you. But rest assured that we’ll do everything we can to ensure that your celebration will be as joyous as possible.”

“You can depend on us,” Amelie adds. “Mother is the best at throwing parties, and I’ve already checked some wedding planning books out of the library.”

This doesn’t surprise me. Amelie is a voracious reader, with a book—or twenty—for every occasion.

I paste a smile on my face, and Oceania does the same. “Thank you,” we chorus, both of our voices sounding just a little too bright.

“Fabulous!” Mother exclaims, clapping her hands. She picks up the bridal magazine and resumes flipping through it. “Let’s get busy. After all, we only have a fortnight to plan.”

The fake smile falls off Oceania’s face, and her eyes grow round with panic. “A fortnight? What do you mean? Isn’t that a bit soon?”

Mother gives a dainty shrug. “Perhaps it sounds that way, my dear. But if you want an outdoor ceremony, the beginning of September truly is the most temperate time of year in Monterey. And besides, we’ll only be here for two more weeks before we must return to San Francisco. We can’t very well plan the wedding from there, can we?”

The Mermaid’s Wedding Story Excerpt

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 5
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 5, 2014 at 8:30 am

Today, I’m psyched to share my NaNoWriMo project with you…or a chapter of it, anyway. I just submitted The Mermaid’s Wedding, Book 2 of the California Mermaids series, to my editor, and will be launching the book in mid-December. Until then, here’s the first chapter! I would love to hear what you think. :)

Gorgeous mermaid pic courtesy of fanpop.com

Gorgeous mermaid pic courtesy of fanpop.com

Chapter One: Oceania – 1912

 

In only ten full moons, my life will change forever, and the thought terrifies me.

I know I shouldn’t allow myself to be caught up in fear; after all, everything has already become drastically different since I turned eighteen two full moons ago. I left my mermaid home for the first time and ventured to the surface, where I fell in love with a land boy. I also uncovered the mermaid’s curse that has hung over the females in my family for generations.

If I survived all of these trials, I should be able to make it through anything, right?

From my vantage point atop Point Joe’s jagged rocks, I gaze out over the tempestuous waters of the Pacific, shivering as the breeze claws at my wet hair with chilly, damp fingers. When I visit the land, Xavier and I always meet in this spot, since it was here that we fell in love.

The view is different every hour of every day; sometimes, the white-capped waves glitter in the sunshine, rolling over each other like playful seal pups, but today, they’re a violent shade of dark teal under the steely, cloud-covered sky. The aura of foreboding suits my mood exactly.

Xavier wraps his jacket around my shoulders, encircling me with his strong arms. When I’d surfaced a few minutes ago, he’d patted my tail dry until I’d morphed into human form. Then, he’d held up a towel to shield me from the prying eyes of the distant fishermen and beachgoers, and I’d slipped into a borrowed dress from his sister Amelie. I must admit that, while I still find land fashions uncomfortable and confining, I’ve become much more adept at dressing myself in them.

Now, Xavier regards me with concern in his warm brown eyes. “What’s wrong, Oceania?”

“I was just thinking about tonight—it’s another full moon, and after that, I only have ten more moons until my choice between land and sea is made permanent.”

Most mermaids can travel freely between land and sea for life, but the women in my family cannot. This has been my family’s curse ever since Grandmer Genevieve spurned King Triteus’s son Kai in favor of Lucas, a land boy. Genevieve and Lucas proclaimed their undying love under a spray of sea mist, and Genevieve became pregnant with his child—my mother. Naturally, the king had been furious, and had called upon the sea witch Morwenna for punishment.

Morwenna took away Grandmer Genevieve’s immortality, and bestowed a curse upon future generations as well; all of Genevieve’s female descendants have only twelve full moons following their eighteenth birthdays to choose between living on land or in the ocean. After that, the choice is made permanent, and the mermaid can never visit the other realm again. To complicate matters further, if the mermaid chooses land, she becomes a human and loses her mermaid powers and her immortality.

The only way the curse can be broken is if the mermaid unites with a half-human merman. Then, they and all of their descendants will be able to travel between the two realms once again.

I chew on my bottom lip, glancing down at the antique diamond engagement ring that Xavier gave me when he proposed. Even in the gloom of the afternoon, each diamond sparkles like a mermaid’s tear. I should know; I’ve been crying a lot of those lately. I dread the day when I can never see my family again.

Xavier squeezes me tightly, lowering his forehead to mine. “I can’t lie to you; it’s going to be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. And I can only understand a fraction of what you’re feeling right now. But remember that you still have some time to go back and forth—savor that. And above all, know that I love you, and I’m here for you always.”

I give him a teary smile. “I suppose that’s all that truly matters. I love you, too.”

He kisses me, and the sunshine peeks through a tiny hole in the thick layer of clouds. The ray of light only lasts for a second, but it’s enough to tell me that everything will be all right—eventually.

“Besides,” Xavier says, “maybe someday the mermaid’s curse will be broken, and you’ll be able to travel freely once again.”

“Maybe.”

I’m about to add, “If I’m even still alive by that time,” but I bite my tongue, holding in the bleak thought.

I know that Xavier is trying his best to lift my spirits, but he’s right—he only can understand a fraction of what I’m feeling. His wealthy father did disinherit him when he refused to take up the family business and marry a “suitable” girl, but at least he can still see his family, and they’re in the same world.

“In the meantime, we have each other.” Xavier grins, his teeth bright white against the swarthy bronze of his skin. “Incidentally, my mother and Amelie have been so excited about our wedding plans. They want you to come over right away to discuss them.”

Xavier and I are planning a land wedding before we move to San Francisco together, where we’ve been offered positions in the symphony. I also want him to come under the ocean with me for a mermaid wedding, but I have yet to actually broach the subject with my mer-folks. I’m dreading their reactions.

But I shouldn’t think about that right now; it will only depress me. Taking a deep breath of the salty, cleansing air, I say, “Let’s do that. I look forward to seeing them.”

It’s Here! The Mermaid’s Curse Has Launched!

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 26
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 26, 2014 at 8:30 am

I’m pumped to announce that my newest eBook, The Mermaid’s Curseis out and priced at only 99 cents! It was one of my favorite books to write–I found it immensely stimulating to delve into a brand-new genre after focusing completely on Amish fiction for the past year.

The Mermaid's Curse Slider

 

Mermaids have intrigued me ever since childhood, when I watched The Little Mermaid and visited Weeki Wachee Springs, home of the performing mermaids. I feel as though I never outgrew my fascination with these fanciful creatures. I also loved the element of historical fiction that I decided to weave into the book; writing about the vacation town of Monterey in the year 1912 was so much fun!

Here’s a free excerpt from the new book. Chapter One can be found at the end of Amish Awakening: Rebekah and Braeden’s Book, and Chapter Two can be found at the end of a previous blog post.

Chapter Three: Oceania

Over the years, Ula has regaled me with stories of humans, and told me that many human men are good-looking. However, her descriptions could never do this man justice. When I surface, he is the first thing my eyes land upon, and his handsomeness strikes me like a twenty-foot wave. His hair is dark and wavy, his skin swarthy. His body is muscular and powerful, his features so strong that they appear to be chiseled, like the rocks on which he sits.

As I pull myself out of the water and greet him, I’m surprised that I feel none of the shyness that I would normally experience when meeting a new merman, especially such an attractive one. Perhaps it’s because everything here is so new and different that I’ve forgotten all about my nerves.

Or perhaps it’s because there’s something about this man that puts me instantly at ease. He’s so nice, telling me that I have a wonderful singing voice. No one has ever told me that before. I decide that I like this Xavier Rose—such a strange, exotic name, just as he himself is strange and exotic.

When I ask him to show me around, however, he wrinkles his forehead. “I would love to,” he says. “But how? I could swim with you, I suppose, but—” He trails off as his eyes land on my fins. “—you’re not really equipped for land.”

I laugh. “I know it might seem that way. But we mermaids change into humans when we’re dry, and back into mermaid form when we’re wet.” Or so I’ve heard. I’ve never actually tried it myself.

Xavier’s long-lashed brown eyes widen, and I realize that I can see myself in their dark mirrors. However, there’s so much more in his eyes than my own reflection—there’s kindness, and a sparkle that tells me he has a passion for life. I wonder what this man does. I can feel a certain sensitivity behind all his strength. Perhaps he’s a poet, or a painter.

“So all I have to do is dry off,” I continue, shivering a bit as the cool night air whooshes over my skin.

Xavier grins. “In that case, let’s get you onto the beach.”

He stands on the rock, heaving me up into his arms effortlessly. My breath hitches as he carries me over the jagged boulders, finally setting me down on a dry spot in the sand.

“Here, Oceania.” He removes his jacket and helps me into it; it’s slightly damp, but guards me against the chill of the windy surface world. Plopping down on the sand next to me, he gently massages his hands up and down my arms from outside the jacket, and I feel my entire body heating up, starting with my arms and extending all the way to my heart.

I never want him to stop, but when he drapes his arm over my shoulder, I realize that this feels even better. I relax into his embrace, leaning my head against his broad chest. For a long moment, time stops. We gaze out at the ocean; it’s just as Ula had described it, with white-tipped waves rolling over each other and the rocks in tumultuous rhythm. Here, the moon is so brilliant and luminous, not at all like the filtered view I’d always had through the water. I hum lightly under my breath, a tune my mother taught me, called Song of the Sea.

“I could listen to you all night,” Xavier says in a husky voice, burying his lips in my hair.

I shiver at his touch, wondering what his lips would feel like on mine. He’s so masculine, but he has a softness about him, too. “I could sing to you all night.”

“Well, let’s do that,” Xavier says. “I know the perfect place to take you once you’ve transformed.”

He glances at my lower half, and I follow his gaze. My tail has begun to tingle as the breezy air wafts over it, and I wince when I feel a slight burning sensation. A moment later, my scales gradually begin to dull and fall away, revealing a layer of skin, as pale and white as the moon.

“Are you okay?” Xavier asks, tearing his eyes away from the transformation and staring at my face. “Does it hurt?”

“A little.” It’s not the worst pain I’ve ever experienced—once I was accidentally bitten by a playful baby shark, and that had hurt far worse. But just the same, I grimace as my tail and the remaining scales crack away and fall into the sand, revealing two smooth legs and two little feet with shiny, aqua-colored toenails. My only covering, besides my seashell top, is a light layer of green seaweed that reaches to my upper thighs.

Xavier’s mouth drops open as he stares at my legs, but a moment later he shakes his head and averts his gaze.

“Let’s walk,” he says quickly. He stands first, and then reaches down, helping me up with both hands. I notice that even when he’s looking at me from above, he keeps his eyes away from my bare legs, as though he’s embarrassed to see so much

flesh. Perhaps he is—Ula told me that humans, particularly the females, are very peculiar about exposing their bodies, and even their bathing costumes hardly show their legs.

I scramble to my feet a bit awkwardly, and scrunch my toes into the sand for stability. “This feels wonderful!” I exclaim, wriggling my toes through the sand. The tingling and burning feelings have subsided, but my legs do quiver a bit under the unaccustomed weight.

Xavier laughs and kicks off his own shoes, doing the same. “You’re right, Oceania. Feeling the sand between our toes is such a simple pleasure, and one that we can so easily forget. But it really does feel splendid, doesn’t it?”

A moment later, however, he stops laughing and asks, “So, do you think you can walk? I mean, you never tried it before, right?”

I nod. “Right. But I think, with your help, I can.”

Xavier laces his arm through mine, and together we walk down the beach by the light of the moon, wobbly at first, but soon falling into a nice strolling rhythm. Finally, I feel comfortable enough with my new legs to look up at the sky and walk at the same time. The stars glisten like mermaids’ tears, each different and perfect.

We walk to a spot where the sand meets the water’s edge, and I squeal in delight as the waves lap over my toes.

“I love it here,” I proclaim, but I jerk my feet out of the water as my toes begin to tingle.

“What’s wrong?” Xavier asks, tightening his grip on my arm.

“I just forgot that once I’m in human form, I can’t get wet or I’ll change back into a mermaid.”

“That’s important to know,” Xavier says, reaching down and drying my feet with his jacket. He glances toward some huge houses near the beach. Many of them are darkened for the midnight hour, but some still have lights in the windows that shine as brightly as the stars. “Come with me, Oceania. It’s time that I show you around.”

I hope that you enjoyed the excerpt, and welcome your comments and feedback about it. I love to hear from my readers!

New Unpublished Excerpt from The Mermaid’s Curse

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 9
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 9, 2014 at 1:17 pm

I’m currently in the midst of revisions of my latest eBook, The Mermaid’s Curse, coming to Amazon Kindle in mid-October. I don’t know whether it’s Baby C’s impending due date or the mixture of So-Cal sun and my frequent trips to the ocean, but I’ve been so inspired to write this beachy paranormal/historical romance. So far, the writing process has been flowing like water. ;)

I included an excerpt of Chapter One at the end of my latest eBook, Amish Awakening: Rebekah and Braeden’s Bookand I’m psyched to share Chapter Two with you today. This is told from the point of view of Xavier, the hero of the story. Happy reading!

Here's a picture of the ocean and rocks from a trip to Monterey, where The Mermaid's Curse is set.

Here’s a picture of the ocean and rocks in Monterey, where The Mermaid’s Curse is set.

Chapter Two: Xavier

I close my eyes and sit back on the smooth-topped boulder by the ocean’s edge. The rocks here at Point Joe are my favorite spot of Monterey’s 17-mile drive; they’re the perfect place to come when I’m feeling moody. Every so often, a particularly vicious wave crashes against the rocks like a train wreck, splashing me from head to toe with salt spray. I don’t worry about it, though. I have always felt a deep and passionate affinity toward the sea, and I don’t mind the clammy feeling of my damp trousers or the way the tangy breeze whips pieces of my hair across my forehead.

My favorite moments are ones like these, when I’m alone and listening to the symphony of nature. The ocean has all the elements of a great musical masterpiece: gentle, rolling melodies when the water is calm, and the jarring, cacophonous roar of the high tide on nights like tonight, embellished by the raucous caws of the sea gulls. I can see why Debussy, one of my favorite composers, wrote La Mer, an entire piece of music, about it.

But now, there’s another sound, something different. Somewhere from the depths of the ocean comes a soft, sweet tune, like a siren’s song.

I force my eyes open and shake my head back and forth. Of course, this is only my imagination. It has been a long day, and I’ve only just escaped the dinner party with my father, mother, and all their friends. The mysterious strains of the siren’s song are most likely the fanciful product of the wine, whisky, and brandy that were flowing plentifully during our seven-course meal.

Yet, still, there is something odd tonight, something more than the pull of the full moon, more than the general vacation feeling that I’ve had ever since my family and I came to our summer house here in Monterey. I watch the water, the waves glittering like living things under the white light of the moon, the sea foam hissing over the rocks.

A particularly turbulent wave rumbles in; in its wake, I hear the song again and just barely discern a faint glimmer of aquamarine beneath the water’s surface.

The stunning light grows and the melody amplifies, rising to a fantastic crescendo that sends shivers up my spine. Then, the surface of the water breaks and the head of a beautiful woman emerges in a halo of silver and blue light.

I blink hard, rubbing my bleary eyes with the back of my hand. I’ve been able to make it twenty-one years without spectacles, but perhaps my vision is going. Or, more likely, it’s the alcohol I consumed earlier, playing tricks on me.

But all my blinking, squinting, and eye rubbing do me no good. This really is a woman, with fine, high cheekbones and cornsilk hair that shines as brightly as the moon itself. Her white skin glistens with water droplets, and seems almost incandescent.

My mouth drops open in disbelief as she glances over at me. She continues her song completely uninhibited, gliding toward me so fluidly that I wonder how she could possibly be kicking her legs under the water. Perhaps she’s not. She could be a mermaid.

Of course, I’ve heard tales of mermaids, luring sailors to their deaths with their lovely forms and dulcet songs. I’ve even heard that many sailors, practically delirious after months at sea, have mistaken manatees for mermaids—an error that I can’t fathom. This magnificent female is certainly no sea cow.

She continues her song until she has reached my side. Then, with a soft grunt of exertion, she hoists herself up onto the rock beside me. She smells of salt and sand, and her waist-length hair feels like seaweed as it brushes my arm.

I open my mouth to speak, but no words emerge. She is a mermaid, wearing some kind of crude brassiere fashioned of a mosaic of colorful seashells. Her long tail glimmers gold, silver, and blue in the moonlight.

“Hello,” she says, as calmly as if she were a friend of the family, coming over for a mid-afternoon luncheon and perhaps a round of golf. She smiles, her teeth as white and shiny as a strand of pearls.

“Hello,” I croak, clearing my throat. Suddenly, my whole mouth has gone dry. The mermaid and I stare at each other for what seems like eternity, and her dazzling aquamarine eyes search my face.

“That song—your voice—it’s so beautiful,” I stammer.

The mermaid giggles. “Really? Thanks. Maybe that’s my special talent. We all have one, you know, but I have no idea what mine is.”

“I would say it’s a special talent,” I say, nodding. “Not often do I get chills from hearing someone sing. A voice like yours belongs in the finest opera houses. I can’t believe that you’ve gone through life without knowing how incredible your voice is. You’re—how old?”

“I just turned eighteen. But all of us mermaids sing, so I didn’t think my voice was anything special. I’m Oceania, by the way.”

“Oceania,” I repeat, smiling. “It suits you.” I stare at her, suddenly feeling an almost elemental pull to both the ocean and her, but a moment later I mentally scold myself for forgetting my manners. Quickly, I hold out my hand, hoping desperately to redeem myself. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Oceania. I’m Xavier Rose, visiting for the summer from San Francisco.”

A small wrinkle forms on the delicate skin between her eyebrows as she stares at my outstretched hand, but a moment later, she takes her cue and shakes it. “It is a pleasure to meet you too, Mr. Xavier Rose. You are the first human I’ve ever met.” Then, grinning at me, she says, “I have come from the sea to celebrate my birthday under the full moon. Perhaps you can show me around?”