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.

New Excerpt of Amish Bakery Challenge!

by Kristina Ludwig
Aug 21
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: August 21, 2014 at 9:34 am

It’s about that time… I’m currently engrossed in revisions of my newest book in the Amish Couples series, Amish Bakery Challenge: Mercy and Samuel’s Book. The story focuses on Mercy and Samuel’s struggles as they adjust to life as a married couple (living with Mercy’s family), eagerly await the completion of their new house, and build their own business, a general store and bakery. Mrs. Stoltzfus, Mercy’s old boss, accuses Mercy of stealing her recipes and her business, and organizes a boycott against the bakery, so Mercy and Samuel must be resourceful to keep the bakery afloat.

Check it out! There's an actual Stoltzfus Bakery in Lancaster, PA! Image courtesy of www.europeandme.eu

Check it out! There’s an actual Stoltzfus Bakery in Lancaster, PA! Image courtesy of www.europeandme.eu

Currently, I have a small reserve of titles for this book, and would love to hear your opinions about the catchiest and/or most appealing title. Here are the options:

  • Amish Bakery Challenge
  • Amish Bakery Boycott
  • Amish Bakery Battle
  • Amish Bakery Wars
  • Amish Mercy (because of themes of forgiveness throughout the book, and Mercy’s name, of course)

Also, I am going to reveal another sneak-peek excerpt of the book today! Chapter One, which is told from Mercy’s point of view, can be found at the end of Amish Baby (Amish Couples Book # 1). Here’s Chapter Two, which is told from Samuel’s vantage point. I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter Two: Samuel

 As I plop down next to Mercy at the dinner table, I can’t help but notice the way her pretty face has crumpled into a pout. She’d seemed to be in gut spirits earlier, but perhaps she’s annoyed with her maemm, who still insists upon treating us like bobbels even though we’re baptized and married. Or maybe her younger brothers and sisters have irritated her; sometimes, their energy and chatter can be overwhelming. She could be grumpy from hunger, too.

Yah, I have no idea what’s bothering Mercy, but I do know one thing for sure—if I don’t figure it out soon, things will rapidly decline from bad to worse. I love Mercy more than anything in the world, but she can be as unpredictable as the weather in March, calm one moment and raging and stormy the next.

I squeeze her hand under the table as the ever-bouncy Katie and Sarah help their maemm to carry over a steaming tureen heaped with hearty beef stew and dumplings.  I steal another sideways glance at Mercy as the stew is passed around. She’s no longer frowning; now she’s simply staring blankly into the distance, totally ignoring the chitchat of her younger brothers and sisters.

When the food reaches me, I ladle a healthy serving into Mercy’s bowl before dishing out my own, and she smiles at me gratefully.

“Thanks, Samuel,” she says. As soon as Katie has finished saying grace and we’ve all thanked Herr Gott for the abundance of food before us, Mercy devours her dinner. Okay, so maybe she was just hungry.

Afterwards, Mercy hops up from the table to help her maemm and sisters to clean up, while I adjourn to the living room with her vadder and younger brothers John and Daniel.

Mercy’s vadder buries his face in his Amish newspaper, while the boys invite me to play a board game. They groan when I politely shake my head.

“Sorry, guys. I have schoolwork to do.”

“On Saturday night?” Daniel whines.

I nod. “Every night.”

I pull my business notes out of my college backpack and concentrate hard, repeating each sentence under my breath. Finals start next week, and unless I start studying now, there’s no way I’ll ever have a chance to review all the information for my business and agriculture classes.

I’ve just lost myself somewhere in the midst of a lecture on supply and demand when Mercy says, “Wow, you’re really into those notes.”

I jolt back to reality with a start. Mercy stands before me, her eyes shining with amusement. I hadn’t even realized she was in the living room.

Yah, I guess I am.”

“You sure were. Your lips were moving and everything. Did you get a lot of studying done while we were cleaning up?”

“Not really.” I wink at her. “You’re fast, after all. I’ve probably been sitting here for less than fifteen minutes, so I got through four whole pages.” I hold up the three-ring binder to show her my progress, and then I pinch the thick remainder of notes between my thumb and forefinger. “Only this much more to go.”

Mercy wrinkles her nose. “That’s rough. Any chance you’re ready for a study break? It’s such a nice night. Don’t you think we can go out for a buggy ride or something?”

I shrug. “I’m not sure I really can take a study break at this point.  We have church bright and early tomorrow, and we’re visiting my family after that, so I’ll only have tonight and tomorrow night to study. Why don’t we just stay in tonight? You can read while I look over my notes—”

“Or you can play games with us,” John interrupts. “Come on, Mercy. Samuel won’t play, but we know we can beat you.”

Mercy shoots her brothers a tight smile. “Maybe next time.” Then, she looks at me, her cheeks flushing bright red. She opens her mouth to say something, but then she glances at her vadder and brothers and takes a deep breath. “I have a headache, and I need to talk to you, Samuel. Alone.”

She sails toward the stairs, her back straight and head held high. As I follow her upstairs, I’m reminded of the time when I was about nine years old and in big trouble with my teacher for throwing spitballs with Jakob. I still remember the way Mrs. Hersch had pulled Jakob and me out of the classroom, narrowing her eyes at us before lashing each of us five times with a hickory switch.

Right now, Mercy looks nearly as stern as Mrs. Hersch. Uh-oh.

Brand-New Unpublished Excerpt from “Amish Baby”

by Kristina Ludwig
Jul 21
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: July 21, 2014 at 11:01 am

I’m gearing up to release my next Amish fiction novella, based on the characters of the Amish Hearts and Amish in College series. This book will be called “Amish Baby: Hannah and Jakob’s Book,” and will be Book 1 of my newest spin-off series, “Amish Couples.” These long novellas will be told from dual viewpoints, and I am planning at least two more books in the series, one from Mercy and Samuel’s point of view and one from Rebekah and Braeden’s perspective.

I’ll be reading the unreleased Chapter 1 of “Amish Baby” at the Hera Hub Authors’ Salon event tomorrow evening, but for those of you who can’t make it, I’ve also decided to post Chapter 1 here. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on the launch date for “Amish Baby,” but for now, happy reading!

Here's the comp photo I'm thinking of using on the cover of "Amish Baby." What do you think?

Here’s the comp photo I’m thinking of using on the cover of “Amish Baby.” What do you think?

Chapter One: Hannah

The new girl at Stoltzfus Bakery is no Mercy, that’s for sure.

Esther is Mercy’s “replacement,” if you can call her that, and I’m responsible for training her. Why, I’m not sure. After all, she is Mrs. Stoltzfus’s niece.

She’s fourteen years old, and has just graduated eighth grade, the end of our formal Amish education. However, she seems much younger, with her squeaky voice and bony, gangly limbs. She buzzes around like a little black fly, humming through her days with almost manic energy. She seems eager to please; the only problem is that she messes everything up.

“Oh, you need some flour?” Esther says as we stand side-by-side, rolling out pie crusts. “Here, let me.” She rises on her tiptoes to grab a fresh bag of flour from the top shelf, but she’s only able to reach it with her fingertips.

“Esther, wait,” I protest, but it’s too late. She has been inching the flour toward the edge of the shelf without any real grip, and a split second later, the entire bag tumbles down. The bag pops open as it hurtles through the air, and suddenly, the counter, Esther, and I all turn as white as snow on Christmas morning.

Esther fumbles for the now-empty bag, brushing flour out of her eyes. When she finally stands up, her face is flaming red under its thin dusting of white.

“Sorry, Hannah,” she says, looking downward at the mess. “I can’t believe I was so doplich.”

I can. But this is no time to talk; Esther and I have both been arriving at work early during her training period, and the bakery is not yet open. Mrs. Stoltzfus is busy in her back office, and will be out soon to open the doors. We need to clean this place up, and fast.

I take a deep breath, willing myself to be patient. Even though I want to yell at Esther, I know I can’t. Not only would it be unkind, I know she’d tell her aunt. “Come here, Esther. Let me dust you off.”

We brush the flour off each other’s clothes, hair, and faces. She reaches the front of my dress, and I tense slightly as she bats at my abdomen. I’m only three months pregnant, and I’m not showing yet. But the thought of Esther’s hand anywhere near something so precious makes me nervous somehow.

“Okay, Esther. Gut enough.” I hand her a wet rag to wipe down the floury counter. I figure this is safer than giving her the broom—the bakery is full of things to knock down, or perhaps to trip over.

Instead, I sweep the area myself, yawning. My pregnancy has been easy so far, but I do feel more tired than usual—and the earlier mornings of Esther’s training period aren’t helping out at all.

I’m just emptying the dustpan into the garbage and feeling pretty proud of myself, when the door of the back room opens and out lumbers Mrs. Stoltzfus.

Although it’s the first we’ve seen of her all morning, there is no, “Gute mariye,” at least not from her end. Both Esther and I say it, but Mrs. Stoltzfus simply frowns at us, her gaze fixed on the unfinished pies on the counter.

“I thought I told you two to come in early so Esther could learn to make pies—before the bakery opens.” She looks straight at me. “So if that’s what was supposed to be happening, why are there a bunch of half-made pies on the counter when I want to open the doors right now?”

Ugh. Ever since Mercy left, I’ve become Mrs. Stoltzfus’s favorite person to yell at. Sometimes, I wish Mercy would come back just so someone else could take a tongue lashing some of the time.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Stoltzfus,” I say, bowing my head. “The pies should’ve been in the oven by this time. But there was an accident.”

I glance over at Esther, waiting for her to confess to her doplichkeit, but she keeps her eyes focused on the freshly swept floor.

“An accident?” Mrs. Stoltzfus repeats. “I don’t even want to know. For now, you two have some pies to finish. Hannah, show Esther how to make lattice crusts, please. They’re quicker than the traditional ones, and the customers like them just as well.”

There is no room for further discussion. Mrs. Stoltzfus turns on her heel and flings open the front doors of the bakery.

Predictably, Esther shows no skill for creating a neat lattice crust on top of the pies. I make all the pie crusts in the time it takes her to do one. And her lattice turns out crooked, with bumps in the little overlapping lines. When she asks me how it looks, I struggle for a kind answer.

“It’s, um, a gut start. But do you see the way the lattice is much neater on these ones?” I gesture to the crusts I’ve made, then pull the sloppy lattice off her pie, roll it out, and slice it into strips once again. “Here, let me show you again.”

I’ve just begun demonstrating lattice-making techniques for the second time that day when Mrs. Stoltzfus’s voice booms from the front counter, “Hannah! Some help, please.”

“Keep trying, Esther,” I say, patting her on the shoulder. “I’ll be back to check how you’re doing soon.”

Esther nods, grunting in concentration as she bends over her pie crust, while I scramble out to the front of the bakery. The before-work coffee and pastry crowd has arrived, and a huge line snakes from the counter to the door. I paste a smile on my face and attack the line of customers, knowing that, as usual, it’s going to be a long day.

The Challenging World of Writing About Characters of the Opposite Sex

by Kristina Ludwig
Apr 17
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: April 17, 2014 at 11:11 am

I’ve just completed final edits of my eleventh eBook, Amish Wedding: Hannah’s Book, which will be released soon! Writing about an Amish wedding was a dream come true for me. I got married last September, and my wedding was so much fun to plan, and the happiest day of my life. For that reason, I had an easy time channeling Amish bride-to-be Hannah, even though her wedding planning process was much more dramatic than mine. :)

I guess I’m just hopelessly romantic, because I loooove all weddings, and am intrigued by various cultural wedding customs. Amish weddings are so different from those of us Englischers–they’re much more simple, as befits the plain, pure Amish lifestyle. There are no white dresses, bouquets, caterers, or splashy full-bar receptions. But there is an atmosphere of love, family, and community. The bride’s parents’ house is full of food, homemade decorations (especially centerpieces made of celery stalks), and happiness. I was sucked into my research on Amish weddings, and this made it very easy to channel Hannah.

Now, however, I’ve just started a much more difficult project–I’m writing Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book, which will be Book 3 of the Amish in College series. Samuel loves his family’s farm more than anything. He receives a scholarship to study agriculture and business at a local university, and plans to bring these skills home to the farm that has been in his family for generations. The only problem: farming is not as popular in the Amish communities as it once was. Up until the 1960s, most Amish were farmers. Today, however, only 10% of Amish are farmers.

Add in the drama of college classes, an English girl who’s totally into him, and Mercy’s pressure to start thinking about their own wedding, and you’ve got one stressed-out Amish scholar! I’m still developing the plotline, and I love to think up new twists and turns as I go, so I think Samuel’s Book should be pretty interesting.

Channeling an Amish farmer is not easy, but it's necessary for Samuel's character to come to life! Image courtesy of http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/

Channeling an Amish farmer is not easy, but it’s necessary for Samuel’s character to come to life! Image courtesy of http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/

But how to channel Samuel, a nineteen year-old Amish guy? Channeling Amish is not super-easy to begin with–when I first started writing the Amish Hearts series, my editor told me that many of the words and phrases I used were too English, poetic, and “literate” to be used by the Amish, who speak much more simply than the average college-educated Englischer. Since the books are told in the first person, plainer language is a must. But all the other books of Amish Hearts and Amish in College were told from the female perspective. In fact, I’ve only ever written from the female perspective. How do I write like a guy?

I realized that, in order to do this, I’d have to think like a guy, specifically Samuel. I know Samuel very well from the other six books in which he appears, at least in some small capacity. Before I even began writing Chapter One, I reviewed everything I knew about Samuel and filled in any character gaps that I hadn’t yet created. What are his hopes and dreams? What does he love more than anything in the world, and what is his greatest fear? By knowing Samuel inside and out–and creating more dimension to his character inside my mind–I was able to pinpoint not only a skeleton of the storyline, but some conflicts I will throw Samuel’s way, and how he’ll react to them.

Samuel uses simple language as well, and is motivated by different factors than the girls in the stories. True, his love for Mercy drives him, but he is also motivated by duty to his family and appreciation of the age-old Amish tradition of farming. He’s also forward-thinking enough to know that, although he wants to maintain his family’s proud farming history, he must be well-versed enough in the current agricultural and business doctrines to make it viable in today’s world. Being clear on Samuel’s motivations has made it easier for me to get inside his head while writing.

Another great technique I’ve employed to channel Samuel is–surprise, surprise–reading. I’ve been checking out books written by men about male characters, and books written by females about both male and female characters. I’m observing different writing styles, and taking home some ideas of my own in the process.

The last thing that has helped me channel Samuel is researching particular elements of the storyline. Looking into the Amish farming industry, for example, has helped me to better understand male Amish farmers. Just as I saturated myself in Amish wedding research for my last book, I’m immersing myself in Amish farming info while I write this book, and I think it’s helping a lot.

Do you write stories from an opposite-sex point of view? If so, how did you channel your characters while writing? I’d love to hear what you think!

Sneak Peek: Amish Wedding Excerpt

by Kristina Ludwig
Apr 7
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: April 7, 2014 at 10:29 am

I’ve been having a great time writing book 2 of the Amish in College series, “Amish Wedding.” Finally, Rebekah and Mercy’s sweet friend Hannah gets a book all to herself. Hannah is so excited when Jakob proposes to her, but planning for even a simple Amish wedding is not all that easy–especially with family complications, drama with the attendants, a drought that threatens the celery crops which are crucial to the wedding decorations and foods, and a mysterious stranger who catches Hannah’s eye.

“Amish Wedding” has been a delightful book to research, since there are so many interesting aspects to Amish weddings that I’d never known existed. Here’s a website that tells us all about Amish wedding customs.

I’d also like to share an excerpt of “Amish Wedding” with you. Chapter 1 is at the end of Amish in College book 1, “Amish Faith.” So, here is Chapter 2! Happy reading! I’ll share the release dates of the book with you here and on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Did you know that Amish women wear their wedding dresses over and over? The Amish wedding dress becomes the Amish woman's Sunday dress, and she is also buried in it when she dies!

Did you know that Amish women wear their wedding dresses over and over? The Amish wedding dress becomes the Amish woman’s Sunday dress, and she is also buried in it when she dies! Photo courtesy of quakerjane.com

 

Chapter Two

“What’s wrong, Jakob?” I ask as he steers the buggy into the dirt driveway in front of my parents’ house. He’s been silent for the entire ride, and I know that we won’t be able to say a proper good night unless we clear this awkwardness from the air.

I also know that Jakob, like most boys, doesn’t readily share his feelings, so I’m probably going to have to pull whatever’s bothering out of him with a pair of pliers.

Jakob clears his throat. “Nothing,” he replies, his voice coming out thick and husky. “I was just thinking. That’s all.”

“About what?” I lean closer to him, examining his face in the moonlight. It’s fairly dark, and I can’t see much except an ever-so-slight furrowing of his brow.

“Us, of course.” Jakob takes my hand and looks at me; for a split second, his eyes catch the light, glittering like water.

“Us?” I repeat. “If you’re thinking about us, you should tell me about it. It’s one of my favorite topics too, you know?” I giggle, and Jakob responds with a shaky laugh.

“But seriously,” I continue. “I thought you were mad at me when you got so quiet all of a sudden.”

“Why would I be mad at you, Hannah? That makes no sense at all.” His hand still rests in mine, but it’s awfully warm and sweaty and it’s trembling lightly, like a shell-shocked baby bird that tumbled from a tree.

“What is it then?” I wriggle my hand out of his clammy grasp and wipe some of the excess moisture on my apron. “Are you feeling all right? You’re scaring me.”

“Oh wunderbar,” Jakob mutters under his breath. “Now I’m scaring her.” A little more loudly, he adds, “I’m sorry. I’m just a little nervous. Do you think we can just—start over?”

I simply nod, wondering exactly what he wants to start over. I’d prefer not to relive this conversation any time soon; Jakob is acting too weird for words.

He takes a deep breath. “Okay, Hannah. The truth is, I was a little sore just now, but not at you. It was all this wedding talk that did it.”

“Why? You don’t like weddings?” I keep the tone of my voice cool and casual, but my stomach flops inside like a freshly hooked fish. I’d thought Jakob was The One. I am eighteen, after all—two years into Rumspringa. And there’s no other boy I’d rather be courted by. I’m ready to settle down and get married, and I’d always thought that Jakob was, too.

“Don’t be silly,” Jakob says. “I love weddings.” He pauses for a moment. “The reason I was so quiet was because I felt a bit annoyed that we were talking about everyone else’s weddings, but not our own. Asking you to marry me has been on my mind for a long time, and I was just trying to figure out the best way to say it. I wanted to ask you today, but then there we were talking about Abram and Samuel’s weddings.”

I gasp, my eyes filling with tears. I’ve waited for this moment for so long—my entire life, actually. But now that it’s here, I’m speechless.

Jakob clears his throat again. “Now I know that there is no best way. I just have to do it, without worrying about everyone else. Our marriage is about you and me, after all.” Slowly, he reaches to the back of the buggy, bringing out a glossy wooden clock that shines in the pale light. We Amish don’t propose with rings and flowers, but a man will present his betrothed with a clock or some china when he asks for her hand.

Jakob climbs down from his seat, circles the buggy, and drops to his knee right outside my door. I watch him silently, with my mouth hanging open and my heart pounding faster than a jackrabbit.

After a breathless moment, Jakob takes both my hands in his and says, “Hannah, will you be my Fraa? I love you, and I want to build a life with you.”

Introducing: Brand-New Vlog About Business, Publishing, and Life

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 24
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 24, 2014 at 11:27 am

Last week was an exciting one, with the launch of the Amish in College series and a weekend full of early birthday festivities for me! Antonio and I also started the project we’ve been talking about for months: our new YouTube show.

The show is called Business, Publishing, and Life (BPL for short), and we will be filming a short episode every week. We will interview special guests in a variety of fields, and each speaker will offer up his or her best tips on business, publishing, and / or life. BPL is an ideal show for writers because of its publishing flavor, but its heavy business and motivational components will make it a great fit for anyone looking for inspiration!

The idea of BPL came to Antonio and me during one of our reflective sessions in the hot tub. We’ve always found the hot tub to be the perfect place to come up with awesome new ideas, or even just to reset ourselves to conquer the week. We wanted to do a YouTube show that combined our areas of expertise: self-publishing and writing for me, and business and information technology for him. And voila: BPL was born!

Click here to watch Episode 1. In it, Antonio and I share our own tips for business, publishing, and life. I hope you enjoy it! If you’re interested in being a BPL guest, email me at info@kristinaludwig.com.

bpl pic

It’s Here: Book 1 of the Amish in College Series Has Launched!

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 20
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 20, 2014 at 10:22 am

I’m excited to announce that Book 1 of my new Amish in College series has just launched! Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book is all about Rebekah’s struggle to keep the faith she grew up with as she lives the competitive and secular college life that she chose.

Amish Faith book cover

The Amish in College series is a spinoff of the Amish Hearts series, which follows identical twins Rebekah and Mercy as they go on their Rumspringa, the rite of passage for Amish teens. In the four Amish Hearts books, both girls discover love. They also delve deeper into themselves to realize their hopes and dreams…and, ultimately, the girls arrive at very different answers to the ever-present Rumspringa question: to stay Amish, or not?

My original plan had been to write the four Amish Hearts books and leave it at that. But I realized that the characters still had more to tell–and fans expressed interest in reading additional books. They wondered how Rebekah was doing in college, and what was next for Mercy and Samuel. And I realized that there were some minor characters, like Hannah and Jakob, who also had fascinating stories hidden within them.

And voila! Amish in College was born. I’ve never heard of any series like it, which makes me happy. But in today’s highly-educated world, seeing some Amish in college is not farfetched. Although the Amish believe that too much worldly wisdom makes one proud, many sects are becoming more open to advanced education, especially if it can be brought back to benefit the community. Therefore, Rebekah’s career plans to be a veterinarian and Samuel’s aspiration to study agriculture and business could be accepted by their conservative elders and church congregation.

I hope that the Amish in College books will stimulate readers’ imaginations, and shed some light on the mysteries of the Amish. These books are meant to be more inspirational and spiritual than the Amish Hearts books, since the characters are growing up and facing new and ever-more-complicated challenges. Book 1 poses the question: to keep the faith or not? Book 2, which will be coming out in April, will be called Amish Wedding: Hannah’s Book, and poses questions about Amish baptism, choosing a life partner, and getting married. And I’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date as I prepare for Books 3 and 4, which will center on Mercy and Samuel.

For now, here’s a sneak peek of Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book!

Chapter One

 ”The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I don’t know where I heard that; my brain has been on overload ever since I’ve started college. But the saying is so true.

Here I am, exactly one year since I began Rumspringa, and so much has changed. I went to college parties, fell in love with an Englischer, and made the heart-breaking decision to leave my Amish community.

Yet, somehow, as my boyfriend Braeden and I climb out of his Jeep and walk hand-in-hand to the front door of my parents’ house, it feels as though nothing has changed at all.

The fence is still painted blue, because even though I’ve left, my twin sister Mercy is still here—and still unmarried. The fields, where I walked at night with dreams of leaving the farm, are still rolling and green. My favorite horse, Winnie, is still there in the pasture, and inclines her head toward me as if to say, “Oh, you’re home. Took you long enough.”

I’m still wearing traditional Amish clothes; I dress English at college, but always go back to the plain style when I return home. And as I knock on the door and it swings open, I can smell the delicious aroma of my favorite meal since childhood, slow-roasted beef and mashed potatoes.

“Happy birthday, Rebekah!” my mother cries. “I’m so glad you’re home.” With an ever-so-slight chilly edge to her voice, she adds, “And hello, Braeden. Nice to see you.”

My mother’s nose wrinkles a bit when she says the last sentence, as if she just caught a whiff of sour milk. I hope Braeden doesn’t notice. Of course she’s kind to him, but sometimes she sounds like she means the opposite of what she says.

My entire family is already gathered around the dining room table, and of course I hug everyone in turn, saving Mercy for last. She’s right next to Samuel; they’re courting, and I couldn’t be happier. My boy-crazy sister is finally settling down, and I couldn’t pick a better man for her than steady, smart Samuel.

Braeden and I slide into the seats of honor next to Mercy and Samuel.

“So, how’s the college life?” my father asks. He poses this question every month when I come home to visit—which means he’s said it four times already. He always studies my face carefully, with hope shining in his eyes.

Every month, I get the feeling that he thinks I just might have changed my mind about the whole college thing, and that I’m about to announce that I’ve decided to come home and become baptized Amish after all.

However, I give him the same answer as I have every other time. His face falls as I reply, “It’s demanding but I love it.”

This is a half-truth; the demanding part is accurate, but most of the time, I don’t love it. My classes contain hundreds of intelligent pre-med, pharmacy, dental, chemical engineering, and veterinary hopefuls. I’m constantly worried about getting knocked out, but, of course, I won’t admit this to my family.

The truth is, baptism has been looking better and better to me. I’d always taken my Amish faith for granted, but now that I no longer have it, I often feel lost in the competitive college world. Family and faith are totally absent there. I’d really needed to come home this weekend.

Braeden squeezes my hand under the table as I mechanically shovel roast beef and mashed potatoes into my mouth. I love my family, but my homecomings are always tinged with pain. I will always be the fallen Amish girl, the rebel, which, up until last year, was a title reserved for Mercy.

Now, however, Mercy is the obedient daughter, most likely the favorite. After all, she’s being courted by the good Amish boy, she’s working at the bakery and saving up to open one of her own, and even though she hasn’t mentioned it yet, I’m sure she has every intention of getting baptized.

I think I’m doing the right thing for myself, but as my parents beam at Mercy and Samuel, I feel a sickening twinge of jealousy. I used to get that look from them, while Mercy would get frowns of disapproval.

I choke down the last bit of my favorite birthday dinner, counting down the hours until I can return to my college life, the one I’ve chosen, instead of being stuck in this life—the one I was born into.

 

Valentine’s Day Books: Not Just for Kids

by Kristina Ludwig
Feb 14
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: February 14, 2014 at 9:47 am

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! V-day has always been one of my fave holidays. When I was little, I loved the heart-shaped cookies with shiny icing, conversation hearts, and valentine cards from my family and friends…and the beautiful cameo chocolate my dad brought home for me every year. As a teen, I adored the color scheme and overall sparkly, girly theme of the holiday, the surprise “love” notes and flowers from not-so-secret admirers, and, of course, the candy. V-day during my school years was always associated with a sugar high. And now, of course, V-day is the most special of holidays for my husband Antonio and me. What’s better than a celebration of love, after all?

Naturally, being such a V-day enthusiast, I searched Amazon for books related to the holiday, and most of the ones I found with direct Valentine’s Day themes were for children. However, in my opinion, Valentine’s Day books are not just for kids!

I have written about Valentine’s Day in two of my eight YA eBooks, which are read by teens and adults alike. My first-ever eBook, Unlucky 13, takes place over the course of a year in the life of thirteen year-old Jordyn, and has an entire chapter devoted to her Valentine’s Day hijinks. And as I wrote my Amish Hearts books, each of which are set in a different season, I decided that the best way to wrap up the series would be with a book taking place around Valentine’s Day.

First, I had to do some research about the Amish and Valentine’s Day. I wondered if, being relatively non-demonstrative people, they would celebrate a holiday of hugs and kisses. Luckily, there are a wealth of Amish blogs out there, and I found that Amish do celebrate the holiday, although differently than us Englischers. Here’s an interesting article about an ex-Amish woman’s recollections of V-day.

My research confirmed my first instincts about the Amish and V-day; they don’t go out for fancy dinners and movies, but they do have special Valentine’s Day treats (i.e. cookies, cakes), and their children exchange valentines and sweets in school. They also have many winter community activities, such as ice-skating and sled-riding parties, many of which are geared to teens on Rumspringa.

There, I had the foundation for Book 4 of Amish Hearts, Amish Valentine. It’s free today, 2/14/14! In it, sixteen year-old Mercy, an almost pathologically flirty Amish girl, decides she’s finally ready to settle down…with Samuel, the sweet, smart Amish boy she’s fallen in love with. The only problem: Samuel hasn’t forgiven her since he saw her kissing the English boy last fall, and he’s even starting to court another girl! With the help of her twin sister Rebekah, Mercy concocts a perfect plan  to get Samuel back in time for the Valentine’s Day sled riding party. But will her plan work? Will Mercy have the Amish Valentine of her dreams? If you love V-day as much as I do, be sure to check it out!

 

Amish Valentine is free Valentine's Day 2/14/14!

Amish Valentine is free Valentine’s Day 2/14/14!