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.

Book Release Date Announcement and Excerpt!

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 5
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 5, 2015 at 12:13 pm

I’m excited to announce that Amish Friendships Book 4, Amish Redemption, will be launching on October 10th! It’s only fitting, since I released Rumspringa Break, the Amish novella that started it all, on 10/10/13. :)

Here’s the very last excerpt I will be sharing from Amish Redemption…until the book comes out. I hope you enjoy it!

Photo courtesy of lancasterpa.com

Photo courtesy of lancasterpa.com

Chapter Three: Miriam

I sink into Abram’s strong arms, suddenly disappointed in myself for this outburst—but not enough to stop crying. I’d been doing such a gut job of holding our family together, as a fraa should do. I know I can’t fall apart now; yet, it’s happening whether I like it or not.

Naturally, Henry starts crying, too, and I take him into my arms, cuddling and soothing him. For a long minute, our family huddles there in a triangle of grief: Abram comforting me as I comfort Henry.

Finally, Abram pulls away and gazes deeply into my eyes. “Look, liebchen, I’m glad that you told me your feelings. It would’ve been much worse if you’d held them in. And you’re right, by the way. We shouldn’t lie to each other. Lying, for whatever reason, is what got us into trouble in the first place.”

I let out a laugh, and hollow as it is, it somehow makes me feel just a little bit better.

“Let’s talk to Bishop Herschberger again,” he says. “He told us that our repentance will be long and hard, but I feel as though we’ve prayed a great deal. Why don’t we ask him if we can make our formal confession? The worst thing he can say is no—that we need to do something else before we can return to the fold. But at least knowing one way or the other will be better than this.”

I nod. Abram’s idea makes so much sense that I wonder why I didn’t think of it myself. I suppose I was feeling too sorry for myself to think clearly. “When should we go? Can we head over right now?” I ask, my voice picking up speed.

“Not right now, liebchen,” he says. When I groan, he says, “We should go tomorrow. It’s too late now; tonight is no gut. And we should talk to all the elders after church this week, too—not just the bishop.”

I flinch at that, even though I know he’s right. Somehow the thought of talking with Minister Eichler gives me a sour taste in my mouth. If it weren’t for his overreaction, we wouldn’t be in the Bann in the first place.

I ignore Abram’s comment about Sunday, and say, “All right. Tomorrow it is,” and we finally go back to eating dinner.

The next morning, Abram has a clear tour schedule until half past ten. This means we’re free to pay a visit to Bishop Herschberger. I know from his usual rousing church sermons that he’s energetic bright and early in the morning, so I hope we catch him in a gut mood today.

His fraa answers the door, leading us down the hall to his small office. We pause in the doorway, not wanting to disturb him. He’s sitting straight and tall at his desk, reading his dog-eared old copy of the Bible and making notes in a small book, which he snaps shut the moment he realizes he has visitors.

“The Millers,” he says with a half-smile, toying with his wiry brown and gray beard. “What brings you here?”

“We’ve been working on our repentance, just like you said,” Abram says. “We have been praying a lot, and we’re ready to make our confessions so that we may return to the fold.” He pats my stomach and adds, “The bobbel is coming soon, and being born into the Bann is no way to enter this world.”

I feel my cheeks heat up in mortification. Even though my pregnancy is obvious, it’s embarrassing to have it announced in front of an elder this way.

The bishop, however, doesn’t seem to care at all. He takes a deep breath, glancing at Abram, then at me, and finally back at Abram again. “I realize that you want your bobbel to be born in gut standing among our community, but I’m concerned that this is the only reason that you’re so concerned with your repentance. You certainly weren’t repentant before, when you talked back and argued with us.”

I stare at Bishop Herschberger, speechless, as a strangled sound escapes Abram’s throat. The bishop peers at us over his wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes round and large, like an owl’s. “I can’t accept your confession and let you rejoin the fold until I’m convinced that you’re truly contrite and sincere in your motives,” he continues. “You know that.”

 

Book Excerpt from Amish Redemption

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 28
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 28, 2015 at 10:56 am

This week, I’m excited to bring you another excerpt from my upcoming eBook, Amish Redemption. It’s the final book of the Amish Friendships series, and full of challenges for our young friends Miriam and Abram.

Missed the first excerpt? Check it out here on the blog. And, as always, I’d love to hear what you think of the book so far. :)

Beautiful autumn in Amish country. Photo courtesy of branhamphoto.com

Beautiful autumn in Amish country. Photo courtesy of branhamphoto.com

Chapter Two: Abram

 After I settle the horses in the barn for the night, I brace myself to head back outside into the cold. Even on drafty evenings like these, the barn always seems to carry a warmth of its own, from the animals and the soft hay lining the floors and walls.

I cringe when I step back outside and a blast of frigid air hits me. I usually love that chill that tells me winter is on the way, but I suppose that lately I’ve felt so frozen out by the people in our community that I just want to feel warm all the time.

I frown as I unload the groceries from the English market and carry them toward the haus. Everything cost nearly twice as much as it does at Samuel’s General Store. But I’ve had to stop shopping at the Amish stores ever since my fraa and I were placed in the Bann.

I still think that our punishment was unfair. When the scraggly runaway teen showed up at our haus one day, we took him in and let him earn his keep by working for us. He hid who he really was, telling us that his name was Lee, but it wasn’t long until I figured out that he was actually Levi, Minister Eichler’s long-lost son.

Levi asked Miriam and me to keep his secret until he was ready to talk to his parents, and we did. The only problem was that the Eichlers found out that he was here before he’d had a chance to talk to them. Instead of being angry with their son, they blamed everything on us for lying and keeping his secret, and we ended up Meidung.

Now it’s up to us to pick up the pieces. We talked to the bishop, and he told us there’s much to do before we can come back to the fold.

It’s just not right that Miriam and I were shunned, while Levi was allowed back into his parents’ haus and barely punished. As an unbaptized youth, he was given a bit more leeway. I hope that he returns to Ohio soon to see Sadie, the girl he was courting before he ran away. He compromised Sadie, and now she’s expecting a bobbel.

I think of my own bobblin, one born and one on the way, and shake my head. I try to tell myself that I should forgive Levi entirely, but I just can’t. I don’t think he’s a man of character. If I were in his place, I would be back in Ohio faster than a shot, waiting for the miracle of my bobbel’s birth.

But who am I to judge other people? Only Herr Gott can do that. Sighing, I heave the grocery bags upwards and drag myself inside to see my fraa.

I’m greeted by the smell of roast beef and buttery mashed potatoes, two of my favorite things. As Miriam rushes downstairs to help me unload the groceries, and then prepares plates for me, Henry, and herself—last as usual—I look at the rounded swell of her belly, and realize that the bobbel is not far away.

“How was your day, liebchen?” I ask, kissing her.

Gut,” she says in a falsely-bright voice. She plops down in her seat and begins feeding Henry mashed potatoes. “I redd up the haus, and played with Henry. We made cookies and pies, and went for a short walk outside.”

I can hear the strain in her voice; I know that she’s missing the time spent with friends, family, and neighbors, just as I am. Although Miriam doesn’t have many close friends, she’s always been actively involved in the community, taking Henry to play with other children and attending quilting circles. Now she can’t do any of that.

“That sounds nice,” I say without any enthusiasm, taking a mouthful of roast beef. “My day was gut, too. I gave one tour, and then shopped with the Englischers.”

A strangled sob escapes from Miriam’s throat, and Henry and I both stare at her. I’m horrified to see that her eyes are bright with tears.

“Let’s not lie to ourselves anymore,” she says. “My day was baremlich, and yours was, too. All the days will be like that until we’re back in the fold.”

I hop out of my seat and throw my arms around my fraa. “Everything will be all right,” I whisper into her hair, and I feel her relax into my arms.

I can only hope that I’m right, and not lying, both to Miriam and to myself.

New Book Excerpt From Amish Redemption

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 23
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 23, 2015 at 12:24 pm

I’m excited to announce that Book 4 of the Amish Friendships seriesAmish Redemption, will be coming out in early October! Young couple Abram and Miriam have been shunned after their idea to help out a runaway teen backfires. The road to redemption is a long one; they must prove to the elders that they’re truly repentant for lying about the youth’s identity. Can they find their way back into the fold before the birth of their new baby?

Until the release date, I’ll be posting free excerpts every week. So here’s the first one… Hope you enjoy!

Amish country is so beautiful in the fall! Photo courtesy of akronlife.com

Amish country is so beautiful in the fall! Photo courtesy of akronlife.com

Chapter One: Miriam

Hurrying upstairs with a basket of freshly-washed diapers in one hand and my one year-old son Henry in the other, I hear Abram’s buggy pulling into the driveway before I can see it. The horses whinny and the rubber wheels crackle over the gravel as I hear him shouting, “Yah.”

Setting down the basket, I yank aside the curtains and peer out the window, my breath puffing out and making little clouds on the glass. I rub them away with my free hand, flinching at the chill on my fingertips as I gaze at my mann. He tugs his coat tightly around his sturdy, stocky chest, and then unhitches the horses, leading them around back to the barn. As he trundles past, I notice that his teeth are chattering.

There’s no doubt about it: winter is coming, and so is the new bobbel.

Henry had become calmer as he’d grown inside me, but this little one kicks and twirls more energetically than ever, as though it can’t wait to get out and see the world.

I reckon the bobbel will arrive in about three weeks. This was what the midwife had told me—before we were shunned, that is. Now she can’t tell me anything. She’s Amish, which means that she can’t examine people in the Bann—or deliver their bobblin—unless she’s willing to risk Meidung herself. My maemm and schweschders are forbidden from helping out with the birthing, too. How baremlich that our innocent, unborn bobbel is being punished.

I drop my head into my hand, suddenly exhausted as I think of my family’s problems. Ever since we’ve been Meidung, we’ve had so many.

We can’t do business with anyone Amish, which is harder than it sounds in our small community. Samuel’s General Store is off-limits, and so is Stoltzfus Bakery. Today, Abram had to drive all the way to the English store in Volant to pick up food and necessities. English stores are much more expensive than Amish ones, and we certainly don’t have the money to spare.

Abram’s buggy tour business had been booming before the Meidung, but he had to let his employees go, since they’re Amish and can’t work for a shunned man. Now he’s short-staffed, and had to cut down the number of tours he runs. We also shut down my bed and breakfast, but that hadn’t been doing very well, anyway. Still, the amount of money coming in every week has slowed from a steady flow to a pathetic trickle.

Now I turn around and slog away from the cold window, squeezing Henry tight and inhaling the warm, sweet scent of his scalp. At moments like these, it comes in handy to count my blessings. I may be shunned, but I still have a beautiful bobbel and another on the way. I have a mann who loves me, and since he’s Meidung too, we can still talk to each other and even sleep together. And we already talked to the elders about the steps we will have to take toward repentance. Bishop Herschberger said that there will be a long road of reflection and prayer ahead, after which we must make a formal confession.

I just hope the road to redemption doesn’t take more than three weeks to travel. I remember how I’d struggled to give birth to Henry. My heart sinks as the harsh truth hits me: I don’t have the money to have this bobbel in a fancy English hospital, nor do I have the strength or knowledge to bring him or her into the world alone.

Amish Blessings Release + Giveaway

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 30
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 30, 2015 at 8:58 am

I’m psyched to announce that Amish Blessings has launched on Kindle… Check it out here. In this book, we catch a glimpse of the lives of Miriam and Abram, young business owners who, up until this book, have been minor characters. In past books, Abram and Miriam mostly cropped up in party scenes (Abram in the Amish Hearts series) or moments of annoyance for Mercy and Hannah (Miriam). However, I think readers will find love and compassion in their hearts for this surprisingly sweet couple as they take in a runaway boy…and face an unexpected shunning.

Interested in reviewing Amish Blessings? The first 5 people to comment here will receive free review copies!

Thanks to everyone who provided me with valuable feedback on the cover designs yesterday. Many readers commented on the Facebook post, and it helped so much! Here’s the finished version of the cover. What do you think?

 

You voted, we listened... Here's the Amish Blessings cover reveal.

You voted, we listened… Here’s the Amish Blessings cover reveal.

And, as always, I’m happy to share a free excerpt with you. Here’s Chapter 2. (If you missed Chapter 1, you can read it here.)

Chapter Two: Abram

 The brisk fall wind whips across my face, nearly blowing my straw hat off my head. I shiver, tugging my jacket closer around myself as I harness the horses to the buggy for the first tour of the day.

My Amish tour business is a relatively new one. Miriam and I started it, and the bed and breakfast, after my vadder passed away and left me, along with my bruders and schweschders, a bit of money. My dear maemm had died of cancer a few years before, and Vadder hadn’t taken it well. He’d simply stopped taking care of himself, despite the constant concern of the family.

The heavy gray clouds above make it the perfect day for gloomy thoughts, but I force the sadness out of my head and focus on the tasks at hand. Vadder and Maemm are with Herr Gott and each other in heaven, where they belong. At least, I hope they are. We Amish try our best to live purely and simply, and my parents were gut people. But even so, you can never be sure that you’re going to heaven.

I’m glad when the Quigleys, who will be staying at the bed and breakfast for the weekend, head out the front door. They’re scheduled for a morning tour, and it will be nice to be distracted from the turn my thoughts have taken. But I’m surprised to see that they’re not coming outside empty-handed; they have their bags, and the twin girls are pouting and whining.

I hurry over, wondering what could have possibly gone wrong. The tours are fairly popular, and I even hired two of my friends, Jeremiah and Aaron, to help out. They’ll both be coming in a little later today, when the tour schedule is full.

However, very few people have stayed in the bed and breakfast. So far, only a few families have visited, and all of them have either cut short their stays or canceled when they’ve found out that there’s no indoor plumbing.

Honestly, what do these Englischers think? We’re Amish!

I look down at the Quigleys’ overstuffed bags and ask Mr. Quigley, “Something wrong, sir?”

His cheeks flush pink under his light stubble. “We decided that we won’t be staying at your facilities,” he says, the timid tone of his voice making him sound rather embarrassed. With a little chuckle, he adds, “My wife can’t do without running water and indoor toilets.”

“Like you could, either,” Mrs. Quigley snaps. “We decided to skip breakfast, too, but we’d still like a tour around the neighborhood, if you’d be so kind.”

I raise an eyebrow. I’m surprised that they’d willingly miss out on Miriam’s breakfast casserole; it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted.

However, they’re paying customers, and they did reserve a tour. So I force a smile onto my face and say, “Of course. Why don’t you let me take your bags to the car, and we’ll be on our way.”

After I’ve helped the family to repack their huge SUV to Mrs. Quigley’s satisfaction, I load everyone into the buggy and start the drive around town. The route stretches from New Wilmington to Volant, and I usually stop to showcase the shops and Amish homes if the Englischers are interested. Often, we’ll run across other buggies on the way, and the English tourists generally try to snap pictures with their cell phones. This has led to some pretty funny episodes, since we Amish don’t believe in having our photos taken. Just last week, a man tried to take a picture of Minister Eichler as he passed by, and the minister placed a hand over his face and nearly steered his buggy into a ditch.

As I begin the tour, trying unsuccessfully to block out the whines of the little girls and Mrs. Quigley’s constant griping, my stomach gives a slow, long roil, and not just because I’m getting hungry from thinking of my fraa’s breakfast casserole.

We have to get this bed and breakfast off the ground, or the business may not be able to stay afloat.

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?

Amish Shopkeeper Release and Giveaway!

by Kristina Ludwig
May 26
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 26, 2015 at 9:20 am

I’m super excited to announce that Amish Shopkeeper is out! Download it here.

The cover of my brand-new book, Amish Shopkeeper!

The cover of my brand-new book, Amish Shopkeeper!

Interested in reviewing the book? The first 5 fans who comment below with their Amazon IDs will receive the book for free!

Want to check out the book before you buy it? Here’s an excerpt. Happy reading!

Chapter Two: Jakob 

That morning, there’s another slight snag that I need to work out before I talk to Aaron: whether or not Amos is actually selling, and when. Although he’s constantly hinting around about it, he’s been pretty vague about the specifics.

Amos had been prepared to sell right away when the new minister had told us that our rubber buggy wheels were too worldly and would need to be changed immediately. Unfortunately, the wheels were non-returnable, and we’d just ordered in a huge shipment. The shop stood to lose a lot of money, and Amos told me it was time for him to think about retiring early.

However, after I convinced Minister Eichler that the rubber wheels weren’t too Hochmut and were actually a whole lot more durable than the steel-rimmed ones he favored, Amos didn’t seem so eager to sell anymore. Since then, everything has been business as usual.

Now I finish up a repair on an old clock while Amos sips coffee at his desk in the corner, balancing the figures. I pause, trying to think of the best way to bring up the subject of selling, but I realize that I’ll just have to be blunt. I don’t have my fraa’s skills when it comes to talking to people.

“So,” I begin, clearing my throat as I shift my weight from foot to foot. “Given any more thought to selling?”

Amos shuffles a few papers around and peers at me over top of his glasses. “Things are looking pretty gut here, Jakob, so I don’t really need to sell. But that’s not to say that I wouldn’t be open to it for the right price.” Amos sets his papers down and leans forward. “Why, are you thinking of buying?”

I nod. “I would like to, and I’m hoping that I can offer you the right price. My bruder will be coming in at lunchtime today. I’m trying to talk him into going into business with me.”

Amos smiles. “Well, that would work out nicely. I must admit, I am looking forward to retirement, but I love the shop as well. I’ve worked hard to build it up over the years, and when I do sell, I’d much rather have you buy it than some stranger. I might as well retire soon; I’m no use sitting behind this desk all day. Don’t get old, Jakob, whatever you do.”

I laugh, wondering why old people always say that. “You’re not that old, Amos,” I protest.

He rubs his rheumatic knee. “Well, thank you, son, but right now it sure feels like I am.” Taking a deep breath, he adds,  “Bring your bruder in here, by all means. I’ll show him how things work, and hopefully, we can sweet-talk him together.”

I smile at Amos, praying that Aaron will realize how wunderlich it would be to work here. I don’t have much time to linger on the thought because we’re busy all morning. There’s a new shipment of parts to organize and display, one buggy repair, and a few random odds and ends to fix for a friend of old Mrs. Yoder.

Aaron arrives a little after noon, and Amos says, “Well, hello there. It’s gut to have you in my shop.” With a wink in my direction, he adds, “Your bruder here is a wunderlich worker. You could do worse than going into business with him.”

Aaron smiles. “Jah, I reckon you’re right, Amos. But there are other options for me, so I’ll have to choose wisely.”

I raise an eyebrow, wondering what Aaron means by “other options.” Is he referring to his job at the factory, or perhaps to taking a new job and moving out of town with Elizabeth after the wedding?

Shaking the thoughts aside, I focus on the present, demonstrating how to fix a buggy’s suspension, and telling Aaron about the other things we repair. Amos takes some time to go over the books with Aaron, and even lets him wait on a customer, a man from Volant who is looking for new buggy wheels.

Although Aaron isn’t used to working with customers, he does a pretty gut job waiting on the man, explaining the types of wheels we sell, and looking to Amos and me when he’s unsure of the prices.

“Thanks much,” the man from Volant says with a smile as he leaves with four new buggy wheels. “You helped me a great deal.”

Once the man has left, Amos pats Aaron on the shoulder. “Well, there you go, your first sale. I can tell you have a knack, son. I really hope that you and your bruder decide to buy the place. I’m in no hurry to sell, but I know the day is coming sooner than I think. I’d much rather sell to gut Amish boys than to English outsiders.”

Aaron gives Amos a tight smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “Well, thanks for the opportunity, sir. I’ll certainly think about it.”

I fight the urge to groan. I’d thought that coming in and seeing how smoothly the shop runs would make Aaron more eager to buy it, but he still doesn’t seem convinced. Then again, Aaron always was a stubborn one.

I sigh. It looks like my work isn’t done yet.

 

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.

New Vlog: Excerpt from Amish Gossip

by Kristina Ludwig
Apr 6
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: April 6, 2015 at 10:19 am

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter weekend!

My family and I celebrated Easter with a beautiful sunrise mass at the beach. I am not a morning person, and wasn’t sure how I felt about getting up before the sun like many of my Amish characters do. However, once I was up, ready, and sitting on the beach among the sand and surf, I was glad that I’d decided to go!

The other perk of getting up early was that I felt like I had so much more time than usual. We brunched and napped, and I prepared a banana trifle bowl for dinner with friends that evening. Plus, we shot this video!

So, here I am on Easter, reading an excerpt from my latest eBook, Amish Gossip. Click on the image to watch the YouTube video. My favorite part is when I’m interrupted by a cute surprise guest!

Screenshot 2015-04-06 10.01.19

The book also has a redesigned cover… In honor of the new cover, the book will be free today and tomorrow (April 6th and 7th), so be sure to check it out here: http://goo.gl/9q5LEL

The redesigned cover of Amish Gossip, courtesy of Antonio... What do you think?

The redesigned cover of Amish Gossip, courtesy of Antonio… What do you think?

Free Excerpt from My Upcoming Amish Book

by Kristina Ludwig
Feb 26
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: February 26, 2015 at 9:00 am

February has flown by–what a short and action-packed month! Between trips to Mexico and San Francisco and completing the preliminary drafts of my upcoming Amish novella, I’ve had little to no blogging time, so my apologies for going missing for a bit. :)

 

A picture from my recent San Francisco trip--feeling inspired over excellent French roast coffee.

A picture from my recent San Francisco trip–feeling inspired over excellent French roast coffee.

I’m working on the final edits of my upcoming Amish book, which will be launching next week, and I’m psyched to share an excerpt with you today.

This book, tentatively titled Amish Bishop, centers on favorite characters Hannah and Jakob, the newlyweds who quickly became parents to beautiful bobbel Grace in Amish Baby. It is full of action; between Mercy’s surprise announcement, a new family with a mysterious secret, and ordinations for a new minister and bishop, change is in the air.

As always, I’ll be sure to keep you posted about release dates, promos, and giveaways on the blog! In the meantime, enjoy the excerpt and let me know what you think. :)

 

Chapter One: Hannah

 

This Sunday, church services will be held at my haus, and I’m not looking forward to them.

Preparations should be easy; after all, I’ve helped my mother and sisters so many times. I know the routine: scrub the haus from top to bottom, and clear the living room for the benches that will be hauled in on the wagon. And, of course, there are foods to assemble: cold cuts, sausages, bread, peanut butter and marshmallow church spread, baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I’ll need to bake pies for dessert, too. The blueberry crop has been wunderlich this year, so I’m planning to make ten blueberry pies, which should be simple. After all, I worked in a bakery for several years.

But this will be the first time I’ve ever hosted services in my haus since I gave birth to my new bobbel, Grace.

We Amish don’t talk much about the miracle of motherhood. As a child, my maemm often said nothing at all about her pregnancies—until she began going into labor, and sent my daed or one of us older children to fetch the midwife, that is. But now that I’m a maemm, I feel blessed every time I gaze upon my sweet little miracle, who is here with us through Herr Gott’s divine grace.

Bobblin are the most rewarding little creatures, but they’re so much work, too. I have no idea how my maemm was able to raise all of us, keep the haus spotless, and entertain visitors, too. Of course, we older kids helped out, but what did she do when she had her first little bobbel, namely me?

I have newfound respect for her, because right now, I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Today is Saturday, and after Jakob left for work this morning, I’d scribbled a quick list of preparations for tomorrow’s church services. I’ve been steadily checking tasks off the list since before sunrise. The floors are swept, the furniture polished, the window screens cleaned, and the shelves dusted. Now, it’s time to do the cooking—for tonight’s dinner as well as some advance cooking for tomorrow.

So far, it is not going well.

I’ve just finished mixing the pie crusts and pressing them into the pie plates when I hear Grace begin to wail. Wiping my greasy, doughy fingers on my apron, I rush into the bedroom and am greeted by a screaming, red-faced Grace, wriggling back and forth in her crib. At three-and-a-half months, she has a collection of cries for every occasion. This is her hungry cry—she coughs a bit and makes a noise that sounds like, “Ma-MA.”

“Oh, sweet bobbel, Mammi’s here,” I croon, hastily unpinning the top of my dress. As I do, the pin slips, its sharp tip pricking into my finger. Biting back a howl, I suck on my wounded finger and pick Grace up with my other hand, positioning her to eat.

Grace loves eating; she latches on easily, and for a moment, the only sound in the house is sucking—me on the injured finger, and Grace on my breast. After she’s fed, burped, and changed, she wants to play, so I place her on the bed on her belly, watching her roll back and forth as she coos in excitement.

I’d love to keep rutsching around here all day, but the thought of all my tasks propels me forward. So, I scoop up Grace and head into the kitchen to finish making the pies.

I try placing her on her little play blanket on the floor, but she whimpers to be held, her clear blue eyes glistening with tears. Sighing, I pick her up, cradling her in one hand while filling the pies with the other. I’ve just dropped a dollop of blueberry filling to the floor with a wet splat when I hear a knock on the door.

Rolling my eyes, I wipe my hands again and scurry through the haus to fling open the door. There, on the front steps, stands my best friend Mercy.

“Hiya, Hannah,” Mercy says with a glowing smile, stepping into the haus as though she lives here. “Neat as a pin. You truly are the perfect homemaker.”

I fight back the urge to flinch at the mere mention of the word pin; my finger is still throbbing, although immersing it in the cold blueberries helped a bit. “Thank you.” I lead her into the kitchen. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“No, thank you.” Mercy’s eyes widen at the sight of the kitchen—the only room in the house that is not neat. The pies are in disarray, half of them filled, the other half sitting there with sad, empty shells, and flour covers the countertop.  Unwashed mixing bowls litter the counter by the sink.

“I guess you’re not perfect after all.” Mercy giggles. “Would you like some help?”

I laugh, slapping her on the arm. “I’d love some. I’ve been having a baremlich time preparing everything for services tomorrow. There’s just too much to do, especially with Grace.”

Mercy grins at Grace, who gurgles and gives a sunny smile back. “How is the little bobbel?” Mercy asks, tickling her soft, rosy cheek.

Wunderlich, and growing every day. Unfortunately, she wants to spend all her time with her mammi, and it’s been hard to do my chores and the cooking, and take care of her.”

“It’s gut that I’m here, then,” Mercy says, her skillful baker’s hands filling the remaining pie crusts. “Lattice or traditional?” she asks.

“Lattice. I could only make enough crust for lattice. I ran out of flour—I forgot to buy it at the store yesterday because Grace started crying.”

“I’ll bring you some,” Mercy says, expertly rolling out the remaining crust and cutting it into strips while I begin making tonight’s dinner—one-handed.

“Thanks. I’m glad that you came by. But aren’t you usually at the bakery at this time?” Mercy and her mann, Samuel, own a general store and bakery, and she’s usually there until late in the evening, Monday through Saturday.

Ach, jah,” Mercy says. “But today, I didn’t feel well, so I left your sister Eliza in charge.” Her busy fingers stop weaving the lattice strips, and she looks at me with serious eyes. “Hannah, I have something to tell you, and Samuel is the only other person who knows. Promise you won’t tell a soul?”