Cover Reveal & 5 Things You Never Knew About Amish Shunning

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 29
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 29, 2015 at 9:20 am

I am gearing up to release Book 3 of the Amish Friendships seriesAmish Blessings: Miriam and Abram’s Book, and I can’t wait to share it with you! Look for release date giveaways on the blog and my Facebook page this week.

Here are the two cover concepts for the book. Which do you like better, LEFT or RIGHT?

Here are the cover ideas for Amish Blessings... Which do you like better?

Here are the cover ideas for Amish Blessings… Which do you like better?

This book has many unexpected twists and turns. An ex-Amish runaway young man shows up at Miriam’s bed and breakfast, and asks Abram and Miriam to keep a secret.  Unfortunately, the elders don’t like this… Is an Amish shunning in the cards for Abram and Miriam?

Amish shunning, or Meidung, is an interesting and unusual subject, so I thought I’d share a few fun (or not so fun, for a person placed in the Bann) facts about shunning with you.

Image courtesy of sodahead.com

Image courtesy of sodahead.com

  1. Shunning occurs when an individual disobeys the rules of the Amish church, and refuses to change. Adult baptized members of the church can be shunned for offenses ranging from owning an automobile to drinking alcohol.
  2. Shunning is not done to be punitive or harmful to the offender. Rather, it is done to bring about repentance and rejoining of the fold. If a shunned person repents and shows that he/she will change, that person may return to the church.
  3. Elders speak with the offender and try to persuade him or her to change before the shunning is made official (announced in church).
  4. If one member of a married couple is shunned, the couple may continue to live together, but may not engage in sexual activity.
  5. Shunned members may attend church or family gatherings, but must sit separately from everyone else.

For more interesting facts about Amish shunning, check out this website. Readers out there, what do you think of these practices? Do you think the system of shunning and repentance makes more sense than the traditional system of crime, punishment, and labeling as a “convict?” I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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.

20 Fun Amish Words and Phrases

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 19
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 19, 2015 at 11:12 am

With each Amish book I write, I incorporate a little more Pennsylvania German into the story. This is partially by design; Amish words make the dialogue seem more authentic and animated. However, I also find that the more I research the Amish, the more Pennsylvania German words I learn.

Some PA German words are easy to figure out, since they’re so close to their English counterparts. Others are a little trickier. Here are 20 Amish words I used in my last book, Amish Gossip. Hope you enjoy expanding your vocabulary!

In one of my fave cartoons, Family Guy, Meg chats with an Amish guy.. Think she picked up a few of these words?

In one of my fave cartoons, Family Guy, Meg chats with an Amish guy… Think she picked up a few of these words?

ach jah – oh yeah

Ausbund – the Amish hymnal used in worship services

baremlich – terrible

bobbel / boppli – baby

bobblin – babies

daed – dad

fraa – wife

Grundsatzen – affirmations of beliefs in the Amish church

gut – good

gute mariye – good morning

haus – house

Herr Gott – God

liebchen – term of endearment, my love

maemm – mom

mammi – mommy

mann – husband

redd up – “ready up,” get ready

rutsching around – fooling around

schmunzla – kissing and cuddling

wunderbar / wunderlich – wonderful

It’s Here at Last–Amish Gossip Has Launched!

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 13
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 13, 2015 at 12:03 pm

My apologies… I promised that my new Kindle eBook, Amish Gossipwould be available on Friday, March 6th, but it took a bit longer than that. :(

This was not actually my fault; I hit the “publish” button on the evening of March 5th, but the book itself did not become available in the Kindle store until today because of a weird glitch. This is the 22nd Kindle eBook I’ve self-published, and I must say, I’ve never seen it take so long for a book to go live. But more about that in a later blog post. For now, let’s bask in the glory of the new release!

Amish Gossip - Final Cover

In honor of the launch, I will be offering free copies of the book to the first ten fans who are interested in giving me an honest review. If you like to make your opinions known on Amazon and Goodreads, comment below!

Have a great weekend!

How the Amish Choose their Ministers and Bishops

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 2
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 2, 2015 at 10:33 am

Awesome news! I now have a title and a release date for the upcoming Amish book that I mentioned last blog post. The book will be titled Amish Gossip, and will be released this Friday, March 6th!

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I decided upon the title because of all the various gossip that circulates throughout the story. Between Mercy’s secret, the new elder’s mysterious history, and his crazy proposed changes to the Ordnung (the set of rules governing Amish living), the rumor mill is churning out of control.

The story centers largely upon the selection and ordination of a new bishop and minister, which is an interesting process in Amish culture. The Amish have no concept of the separation of church and state; their church is their governing body, and the elders (ministers, bishop, and deacon) are their leaders.

While researching my story, I delved into the intriguing methods that the Amish use to choose their holy leaders. One of my favorite books was The Amish by Donald Kraybill–it’s a must-read for anyone interested in the multi-faceted life of the plain people.

In Amish Gossip, the old and esteemed Bishop Zook has a stroke, and must be replaced. Bishops are at the top of the pecking order for Amish elders, and like all other elders, they serve for life. When a bishop is unable to serve, one of the three ministers will take over–generally the most senior one. Once this happens, another minister must be chosen.

Church services on the day of the ordination are lengthy and solemn; in addition to the normal three hours of hymns and sermons, there is communion, after which the elders retreat into a private room for the nomination process. During this time, all baptized members of the congregation, male and female, pass by the cracked-open door in turn, whispering the name of the candidate they wish to nominate. Then, the elders tally the votes and return to the congregation to announce the names of the chosen lot. In order to be considered, each nominee must receive at least three votes.

The acting bishop calls the nominees forward, and each man grabs a copy of the Ausbund, the Amish hymnal. However, these are special Ausbund; they’re all sealed shut with rubber bands, and one of them holds a slip of paper with a biblical reading. One by one, each candidate hands his copy to the bishop; the man whose Ausbund holds the reading has been chosen by Herr Gott to be the next minister!

In Amish Gossip, Jakob and Samuel are both nominated, and the men have mixed feelings when they consider how their lives will change if Herr Gott chooses them. Ministers have no formal training, yet they must speak before the entire congregation. Also, being a minister is like a full-time job without the pay, so many of them struggle to perform their duties to their church, community, and family.

Did you know about these peculiar customs? It was all new to me, and I was stunned by what I learned. It was so much fun to incorporate these themes into my novella, and I’ll keep you posted on upcoming promos as the release date approaches!

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?”

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.

10 Things You Might Not Know About the Amish

by Kristina Ludwig
Jul 3
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: July 3, 2014 at 9:00 am

As I’ve written the Amish Hearts and Amish in College series, I’ve delved deeper and deeper into the Amish culture. My books touch on various facets of the Amish lifestyle, such as Rumspringa, courting, baptism, marriage, farming, and money matters, and I’ve learned that there is so much more to this world of buggies, bonnets, and old-fashioned charm than we commonly think.

Snowy Amish buggies last winter in Pennsylvania

Snowy Amish buggies last winter in Pennsylvania

Currently, I’m in the process of writing Book 5 of the Amish in College series, Amish Baby: Hannah and Jakob’s Book. It’s the first Amish novella I’ve ever written from two different viewpoints…and the first time I’ve ever written about pregnancy in the Amish community. Since I’m 6 months pregnant, I was incredibly curious about an Amish pregnancy and the birthing customs.

One thing that surprised me was how secretive the Amish are about their pregnancies; mothers don’t even tell their other children when they’re pregnant! Another interesting fact is that not all Amish give birth at home; some sects give birth in hospitals, just as we Englischers do. And although Amish may visit “English” doctors or midwives, most of them don’t receive the customary “English” prenatal care, such as vitamins and ultrasounds. If you’re curious about more Amish pregnancy and birthing customs, check out this great website!

After I read about Amish pregnancy, I started wondering what else I didn’t know about the Amish, and I stumbled upon this blog post written by an innkeeper in Holmes County, Ohio who deals with Amish regularly and receives many questions about them from curious “English” tourists. The innkeeper tells us 10 myths about the Amish; I had known most of these facts from my research, but I was surprised by #8: some Amish have indoor plumbing. The Amish I had seen in Pennsylvania used outhouses, and I had assumed they all did this.

Amish fiction lovers out there, which of these Amish myths surprised you? Have you learned anything mind-bending about the Amish through your readings or research? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts!