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.

It’s Here: Amish Baby is Out!

by Kristina Ludwig
Jul 29
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: July 29, 2014 at 10:53 am

I’m psyched to announce that my newest eBook, Amish Baby: Hannah and Jakob’s Book, is out on Amazon! To celebrate the launch, I’ll be offering the book for only 99 cents for the first 3 days.

Amish Baby is full of memorable firsts. It’s the first in my brand-new series, Amish Couples, which features the characters we’ve grown to know and love from the Amish Hearts and Amish in College series. Also, it’s the first eBook I’ve written from a dual point of view; readers will see both Hannah and Jakob’s struggles with pregnancy, family, and love. And finally, it’s my first Amish book with a fan-chosen cover! Antonio and I had two promising cover concepts, which we posted on my Facebook page. Family, friends, and fans were then able to vote for which they liked better, and one concept won by just a hair. Check out the final cover reveal below. What do you think?

Here's the Amish Baby cover, designed by Antonio!

Here’s our reader-chosen Amish Baby cover, designed by Antonio! What do you think?

I’ve also decided to include another excerpt of the book. Here’s Chapter Two, told from Jakob’s perspective. Happy reading!

Chapter Two: Jakob

The buggy repair shop is suffering a slow season. And since my hours, and therefore my pay, are based on the volume of business, this is not gut. I almost wish more young simmies would take the corners too fast or hit some bad potholes, just so there are more broken buggies.

“Jakob, it’s awful slow today,” my boss Amos says, rubbing his greasy hands on the front of his work pants. “I can take it from here. Why don’t you go home for the day?”

“But we’ve only just had lunch. Don’t you think more people might come in between now and closing time?”

Amos shrugs, his shoulders slumping forward dejectedly. At that moment, he

appears much older than his forty-five years. “Likely not, son. Tough going here, lately.”

I fight to keep my own back and shoulders straight. If I’m only here for a half-day, I’ll only be paid for a half day. That’s certainly no way to provide for a family—and a growing family at that.

I also know that protesting is useless. Amos might be the kind of boss who allows employees to call him by his first name, but when he tells you to do something, you do it.

“Okay, Amos. I’ll see you tomorrow. Normal time, right?”

Yah, normal time. I don’t want to cut your hours just yet.”

I flinch at his choice of words. He might not be cutting my hours “just yet,” but if this slump continues, he’ll be forced to—there’s no way he’ll be able to pay me otherwise.

“But don’t worry about that. We should be back to business as usual soon,” Amos continues. “After all, it’s October. As soon as the weather gets worse, I guarantee we’ll have more buggies rolling in.”

“Or being dragged in,” I call over my shoulder as I head out of the shop and into the bright, early fall sunshine.

It does me gut to hear Amos’s hearty belly laugh. I certainly haven’t been hearing much of it in the last few weeks. Summer and early fall are always our slowest times; the spring rains have stopped, and the dry, hard roads are perfect for driving buggies without incident—bad for us, but great for everyone else.

I grimace as I tally up today’s pay. It’s just too little, especially considering that Hannah will be having our first bobbel in less than six months.

Today’s pay cut, combined with the fact that I was sent home early twice last week, makes me sure that this will be a lousy paycheck.

At least Hannah is making plenty of money at the bakery. Although she’s full of complaints about Sourpuss Stoltzfus, she’s got steady hours and nice, healthy paychecks.

Our finances won’t stay this way for much longer, though. Right now, slender Hannah is not showing at all. But once she starts, she can’t work any more. We Amish are very secretive about pregnancies, and it would be highly improper for her to appear every day in public with a growing stomach. And since Amish maemms don’t work outside the home, Hannah won’t be able to go back after our bobbel is born, either.

It’s a shame, because Hannah’s job really is better than mine. People might not be breaking their buggies, but they’ll always need bread and coffee, as well as the delicious cakes, cookies, and pies that Hannah and Mrs. Stoltzfus bake daily.

This gives me an idea. The bakery’s business is steady, regardless of season, because the products are in constant demand. By comparison, the demand for Amos’s service changes with the weather. Come to think of it, I don’t even know how he’s stayed in business for so long as only a buggy repairman. He needs to expand.

Perhaps he could become a handyman, fixing not only buggies, but other broken gadgets. Why, we could even make house calls.

As the idea takes shape in my head, I walk faster and faster. Soon, I realize I’m almost running, but I’m headed in the wrong direction. I have to tell Amos about this—sooner rather than later.

I dash back toward Amos’s shop. I have a feeling that I just might be hearing that belly laugh once again.

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.”

How to Know if You Love Your Job…and Other Reflections

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 27
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 27, 2014 at 10:25 am

I’m pleased to announce that my newest Amish YA eBook, Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book, is free today only! Download it if you’re looking for a fun new read.

And in other news… I celebrated my birthday earlier this week. I don’t know about you, but birthdays make me excited. I haven’t reached that point of thinking of my b-day as “just another day,” or, heaven forbid, hating it!

I doubt I ever will because, for me, birthdays have always been times of reflection as well as celebration. As my “year” draws to a close, I reflect upon how many things I’ve accomplished, and celebrate them. I also visualize my next year of life, setting goals and imagining new ways to evolve.

This past year was a huge one for me, since I experienced basically every major life change possible–I got married, moved cross-country, and switched careers. I remember back to my birthday last year, when I was working as a pharmacist. I did not want to work on my birthday, In fact, when my scheduler said that she might not be able to find coverage for me, I had every intention of calling in sick. Luckily, she was able to find an extra board pharmacist to work for me that day, so I didn’t have to resort to plan B. :)

I share this little anecdote with you because on my birthday this year, I did work–at writing. Much to my chagrin, it was a cloudy day, so the beach and pool were out. :( Luckily, I enjoy many indoor activities, and was able to do most of them during the day on my birthday: yoga, piano, shopping, and, of course, writing–my new career, which should be work, but feels like fun!

Snoopy knows what's up. Writing rules!

Snoopy knows what’s up. Writing rules!

The contrast between last year, when working on my birthday was something I eschewed, and this year, when I not only chose to work on my birthday, but enjoyed it, confirmed what I already knew: that my career change was the best possible one for me. Sure, there are “occupational hazards” that go along with a career in writing, but it’s my passion. If you had asked the “me of last year” whether I’d ever work on my birthday, I would’ve answered with a vehement, “No way!” But ask me now and I’ll say, “Sure. I love to work.” And it’s all because we might call it work, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

Is writing your passion? If so, go for it–you won’t be sorry! And if you have any questions along the way, don’t be afraid to ask me or another author. I think the best thing about the indie author revolution is how collaborative the formerly “closed shop” of publishing has become. There’s never been a better time to be a writer. :) Who knows, by this time next year, you might be working on your birthday…willingly!

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.

 

Creative Multi-Tasking: 5 Tips to Write Two Books at Once

by Kristina Ludwig
Feb 27
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: February 27, 2014 at 10:55 am

I am currently in the midst of writing two books at the same time, something I have not attempted since I was a kid. Back then, I would write and illustrate several “books” simultaneously because the story ideas just wouldn’t stop popping into my fertile young imagination. Now, I’m working on two books at once for much the same reason: I had two very different story premises that I just couldn’t ignore, and both begged to be written so stridently that it was impossible to neglect one in favor of the other.

One of my projects is Book 1 of a new Amish series. It’s weird that I’ve now released five Amish books and am working on more, because my original intent was to only write a short series and move on to something totally different. But my Amish books have become best sellers on Amazon, and I’ve become fairly addicted to writing them!

My next Amish series will feature the characters of the Amish Hearts books as they face adult life. Rebekah and Samuel are in college, Jakob is contemplating marriage, and Mercy is straddling both worlds, preparing to start her own Amish bakery but still spending time with Rebekah and Samuel in the worldly “English” college scene. There will be four books in this series, one for each of the main characters, and right now I’m writing Rebekah’s Book: Amish Faith.

My other project is a contemporary teen fiction novel based on the characters of my teen novel Winner. Aubree’s bestie Quentyn becomes an overnight celebrity when she is mistaken for Gemma Haley, the hottest teen pop star out there. The ensuing fame and glamour is every girl’s dream–until it starts disrupting her relationships with her family, friends, and smoky Latino love-interest.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been writing two chapters of my Amish novella every day (target release date mid-March) and one chapter of my contemporary novel every day (target release date some time in May), and both projects are blossoming like spring flowers!

Literary multi-tasking is hard work! Photo courtesy of www.thejanedough.com

Literary multi-tasking is hard work! Image courtesy of www.thejanedough.com

 

Here are 5 tips for writing two books at once:

  1. Recharge Before You Start – Make sure you’re feeling like your most imaginative self before you attempt to write two books at once. It’s imperative that you’re feeling fresh and inspired before you start this literary marathon. I started both projects in depth after I returned from a long weekend in Mexico City, and found that I was refueled, energized, and raring to go.
  2. Be Passionate About Both Projects – If you’re more excited about one project than the other, it’s going to show up in your writing. This strategy will only work if you’re feeling equally fiery about both books. If you find that you’re favoring one project, put the other on temporary hiatus. In writing, as in relationships, absence can make the heart grow fonder; you will return to the project later with an undeniable spark.
  3. Know Your Direction – It’s easy to lose enthusiasm for your project(s) if you feel like you’re lost at sea without a compass. That’s why, before I even start writing a new book, I write a “description,” similar to the back cover synopsis of a print book, or the Amazon description of an eBook. Once I’ve written my description, the plot unfolds more easily. And as you write, feel free to draft periodic chapter outlines. Sometimes, the events of the stories will flow smoothly and organically, while other times you’ll appreciate the structure and direction an outline will provide.
  4. Have a Timeline – If you set goals, your projects will succeed–it’s as simple as that. After my first week of working on both projects, I was able to set editor deadlines and release dates. My timeline has allowed me to pace my writing, completing the chapters accordingly.
  5. Compartmentalize – Sometimes, despite our best efforts, working on two projects simultaneously can just get mind-boggling. That’s why I always compartmentalize my books. The schedule that works for me is writing the Amish book in the morning, breaking for lunch and / or workout, and writing my contemporary book in the afternoon. It’s all about setting a routine that works for you!

So, ambitious and prolific writers out there, have you ever worked on multiple projects at once? What worked best for you? Feel free to share your experiences!

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!

Gearing Up for a Book Launch: 5 Things to Do

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 3
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 3, 2013 at 12:30 pm

I’m excited to announce that I will be launching the Kindle version of my new Amish YA fiction novella, Rumspringa Break, on October 10th. Long-time followers of my blog may recall this title in short story form. Since then, I’ve tweaked the storyline, added more drama, conflict, and intrigue, and changed the ending. (And the middle, for that matter — the beginning is the only part that’s somewhat similar to the original version.) The short story ran about 11 pages, and the novella is a whopping 54 — hopefully the ideal length for YA readers and adults looking for a relatively quick but satisfying read with crossover appeal.

Gearing up to launch an indie eBook is both energizing and exhausting. There’s so much that goes into it: promotion and marketing on the endless stream of social media, attending networking events to spread the word in person, putting together the book description, and editing and formatting the book. I recommend checking out this article by Nick Thacker about launching a book in three easy steps.

The cover of Rumspringa Break

The cover of Rumspringa Break, coming to you on 10/10/13!

Here are 5 things I’ve done to prepare for the book launch on 10/10, in no particular order. I hope it helps any writers out there who may be gearing up for their own book launches.

  1. Attended a Network After Work event, where I distributed flyers for the new book and met professionals in various areas of employment. I even connected with another author, who’d just published a book on Amazon.
  2. Signed up for a writing conference in LA. It’s called the Digital Author and Self-Publishing conference, and it will be the perfect place to connect with other authors and promote the new book, especially because it’s happening 2 days after my launch. There’s still time to sign up by the way, so any writers looking to hobnob with other indies should check it out!
  3. Prepared to launch my author website. The developers are still working a few kinks out of it, but my author website is officially up and running. As soon as it passes my test, I will post all the information on this blog, as well as my other social media accounts. Soon, this blog will be running from my author website! The website will have fun features like Free Book Fridays, where I will host giveaways for all my eBooks, especially Rumspringa Break. 
  4. Maintained social media presence. Authors’ platforms are important all the time, but especially before launching a book. I have been focusing on increasing my Twitter followers, posting regularly to Facebook and Google+, and blogging twice a week. I love these activities anyway, so it’s as much fun as it is work.
  5. Put together the most professional product possible. I enlisted the services of Katrina Joyner at Premade Covers 4U, and purchased the perfect book cover. And, of course, there’s editing, formatting, etc. It may seem tedious, but it’s so important for self-published authors to put their best work out there!