New Vlog: Excerpt from Amish Gossip

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

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter weekend!

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

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

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

Screenshot 2015-04-06 10.01.19

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

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

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

5 Ways to Make Your Historical Fiction Sizzle

by Kristina Ludwig
Nov 26
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: November 26, 2014 at 8:55 am

I’ve been immensely enjoying my time writing The Mermaid’s Wedding, book 2 of my California Mermaids series! Not only does it allow me to stretch my imagination and indulge in my fascination with mermaids, it has also helped me to rekindle my love of history.

The Mermaid’s Wedding takes place in 1912, and Oceania and Xavier travel to San Francisco to meet with the conductor of the symphony, who has offered both of them positions. I’ve visited San Francisco twice, but I didn’t know much about its history. Therefore, I headed to the library to load up on books about the subject.

Here's a picture of early twentieth century San Francisco that I came across in my research. (Courtesy of timeshutter.com)

Here’s a picture of early twentieth century San Francisco that I came across in my research. (Courtesy of timeshutter.com)

As I began to read, I became enthralled in San Francisco’s rich history, and voila–I realized that I just had to share some awesome tips for writing historical fiction with you! So, here they are:

  1. Lose yourself - We write best when we’re entirely immersed in a subject, so by all means, hole up in your office amidst a pile of books. Or, if you’re like me, hang out in the library courtyard sipping an almond roca latte while–yes–being surrounded by a pile of books. Losing yourself in your research will allow you to pick up on the fine historical details and nuances that will bring your time period and setting to life.
  2. Remain accurate to the big picture but use your imagination for the rest - It’s important to know the key historical events and landmarks of the time, as well as how people talked, their modes of transportation, and what was fashionable. But for other things, feel free to use your artistic license. For example, I write about the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1911. I learned in my research that Henry Hadley was the director of the symphony at this time, but I’d already had a character in mind for the director. Therefore, I called him a different name and let myself go wild with my descriptions. Most readers won’t notice this discrepancy, but my imaginary director adds a lot of personality and flavor to the story.
  3. Only write about a period you’re passionate about – I’ve been interested in the turn of the century (the twentieth century, that is) ever since I was a little girl obsessed with Samantha, the “bright Victorian beauty” from the American Girls books. Therefore, deciding to set the first California Mermaids books in 1912 was a no-brainer. Originally, I’d wanted to set them in 1901, but I’d realized that I wanted them to take place after the San Francisco earthquake and fires of 1906, and after the symphony was established, so 1912 it was. But I digress… My point is that you should choose to write about a time period that has always interested you, and a place that you’ve either visited or dreamed of visiting. History can either be scintillating or terribly dry and boring, depending on your interests and personal preferences.
  4. Keep a “question notebook” during the writing process - I began researching my topic before I began writing the book, but realized that many of my questions arose as I was writing. For example, what was the most affluent area close to downtown San Francisco, where Xavier’s family would be likely to live? What was its proximity to cable cars? The questions went on and on. I actually began to write them down on a page of my inspiration notebook, since I didn’t want to thumb through my reference books right away and interrupt my creative writing momentum. After I’d finished writing, I would look up the answers and fill in the blanks, or change little details.
  5. Have a good relationship with your librarian - The librarians are awesome! They helped me to find the perfect nonfiction history books in two minutes flat. And not only have they proven helpful during my research, they’re amazing resources for all things literary in the community. As writers, we need to network with as many literati as we can, and librarians certainly fit the bill!

Writers out there, how do you research your topics when writing historical fiction? Did you find these tips useful? I’d love to hear your questions and comments!

Kindle Unlimited and Indie Authors: A Mixed Bag

by Kristina Ludwig
Jul 18
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: July 18, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Earlier this week, Amazon leaked its intentions to start a new program called Kindle Unlimited, which they touted as a kind of Netflix for eBooks. Today, the program has launched. In case you don’t know all the details, the program is available for $9.99 per month to U.S. customers only, and over 600,000 eBooks and 2,000 audiobooks are available to subscribers. The cheap price, combined with the 30-day free trial, makes it a no-brainer for voracious readers. In fact, I just signed up today!

Kindle Unlimited: good or bad? I think that, like most things in life, it's probably a mixture of both.

Kindle Unlimited: good or bad? I think that, like most things in life, it’s probably a mixture of both.

It truly seems that Amazon has a monopoly on eBooks. Here’s an interesting blog post with more facts about Kindle Unlimited, as well as reflections on the monopoly.

But what does this mean for authors, especially indies? Any books enrolled in KDP Select are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. I checked my book listings for confirmation, and found that this had indeed gone into effect this morning. However, authors are not forced into Kindle Unlimited; we have the option of contacting Amazon to remove our book(s) from the listings. Many books from large, traditional publishers are not available on the service, so any authors who decide to yank their books out of the program would be in good company.

Naturally, one wonders how this will affect authors’ royalties and payments. Amazon does a decent job of answering the question, stating that, “Once a customer reads more than 10% of your book, or a Kindle Owners’ Lending Library customer downloads your book, you’ll receive a share of the KDP Select Global Fund.” This, of course, raises the question of exactly how much of this fluctuating global fund we’ll actually be paid, and I suppose that remains to be seen. Here’s an awesome blog post that describes the global fund, and even includes some mathematical calculations.

I am excited to experience Amazon’s new experiment firsthand, and am curious whether Amazon’s algorithm will recommend Kindle Unlimited books more often than others. Although author payment is still a weird, gray area, the increased exposure could be an amazing benefit of the service. I’m also wondering how the availability of the service will affect eBooks’ success in the KDP Select free days. Free days have been invaluable for my books, increasing my readership and driving up sales of my paid books, and I’m hoping that they will still remain lucrative.

Readers and indie authors, what do you think about Kindle Unlimited? I’d love to hear your opinions!

5 Ways to Regain Your Writing Mojo After Vacation

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 12
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I’ve just returned from an amazing summer break in London and Lebanon, where I discovered new places, foods, and cultures. To make matters even better, the entire trip culminated with the beautiful wedding of two close friends–simply awesome!

Before I left on the trip, I scheduled this blog post with tips on how to keep writing during vacation, and I’m pleased to say that I implemented each and every one of  them! However, I concentrated on blogging and working on a new Business, Publishing, and Life episode. I put my latest book of the Amish in College series, Amish Baker: Mercy’s Book, on hold to focus on enjoying the vacay and keeping up my online presence.

I figured I could move this project to the back burner since I’d had a ton of momentum before I’d left on vacation, I had a clear vision of the plot line, and I was ahead in my writing quota; I’d actually done this on purpose so I could take more time off without feeling pressure. But when I returned, I was dismayed to realize that I’d been gone from the project for so long that I almost didn’t remember where I’d left off. I felt out of sync with the story, almost as though my writing itself was as jet-lagged as my body felt.

Luckily, I have recovered from enough writing vacays to realize that it’s totally possible to regain your writing mojo after vacation–and fast. Here are 5 foolproof tips that I’ve implemented over the last few days. Hopefully, they’ll help you next time you return from a writing vacay!

The stunning views and fun activities on vacation may be inspirational, but how to focus all that stimulation into your writing? Read on! This photo was taken in Harissa, at the top of a mountain in Lebanon.

The stunning views and fun activities on vacation may be inspirational, but how to focus all that stimulation into your writing? Read on! This photo was taken in Harissa, at the top of a mountain in Lebanon.

  1. Be realistic - Allow time for a good night’s sleep, unpacking, organizing your house, and recovering from that dreaded jet-lag. (I am very experienced with this, since I was 10 time zones outside my norm.) If you try to delve directly into writing, it may feel forced, and you’ll be distracted by all the other things you have to do. Plus, it’s a known fact that clutter–whether it’s physical or emotional–contributes to stress and actually saps creativity and productivity. So organize first, and write later. You’ll be glad you did.
  2. Write a mantra - Before you begin your writing session, compose a mantra for that day and/or week. It can be one word, one sentence, or an entire paragraph. Thinking of a mantra before yoga practice keeps you focused and goal-oriented the entire time, and devising a mantra before you begin writing does exactly the same thing.
  3. Write a checklist - After you’ve come up with a mantra, it’s time to get specific–with checklists packed with goals for the coming week. I wrote my mantra and checklist in the car on the way to the airport, since that was when I felt most inspired. Many times, when you’re traveling home, you’re actually looking forward to getting back to work, and this was the case for me–my brain was literally swimming with things I wanted to accomplish. Once I was settled in at home, I revisited the checklist, and began accomplishing goals from it one by one–woohoo! I’ve read over the checklist, monitoring my progress every day, and I’ve found that I’m right on track with what I’d visualized during that faraway car ride. Discipline is key, but the most important component is visualizing the checklist in the first place–and writing it down so you can use it to track your progress.
  4. Reread where you left off - Thus far, my tips have focused on ways to set yourself up for a productive writing session; now, I will tell you how to live it. The first step to getting back into sync with your writing project is to revisit it. Simply reread the last few chapters that you wrote before you left for vacay. As soon as you finish, chances are you’ll be back in the mind frame you were in before you left, and the story will flow naturally. But if you have a hard time with that, you can always try my last tip…
  5. Find inspiration from your experiences - Remember that inspiration notebook and journal I was talking about? Now, it comes in handy. If you’re not entirely ready to immerse yourself in your story yet, get the creative juices flowing by writing a blog post about things that inspired you during vacation, or write another journal entry, or perhaps a short story or poem. Writing begets more writing, after all!

Writers out there, have you faced a similar dilemma after vacation? If so, how did you deal with it? I’d love to hear your tips and reflections!

Business, Publishing, and Life Vlog Episode #6: Social Media for Authors in 2014

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 5
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 5, 2014 at 7:48 am

I’m excited to announce that we’ve taken BPL worldwide! Our first-ever international BPL episode took place in London this past weekend with special guest Mabelle Abi Ramia. Mabelle is a social media and marketing guru, and I can’t wait for you to hear her amazing social media tips for authors. Click on the image below to watch the video. Enjoy!

Screen shot 2014-06-05 at 5.40.43 PM

Writing on Vacay: 5 Tips to Write on the Run

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 2
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 2, 2014 at 9:00 am

It’s that time again…summer vacation season. As we writers jet-set across the globe (or maybe just road-trip to the next city over), inspiration often strikes. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I come up with a new idea for a book or blog post, I want to get it down right away before the Muse goes out to lunch.

But how do you write when you’ve already got a packed day of sight-seeing, visiting, and–oh yeah–some much-needed R & R? Here are 5 tips for writing on vacay. Follow them, and you’ll write inspired prose on the run. Plus, you won’t feel behind on your writing projects as soon as you’ve unpacked your suitcases. Win-win!

Next time you're flying, do some writing as well! Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Next time you’re flying, do some writing as well! Photo courtesy of Flickr.

  1. Use travel time wisely - If you’re flying, don’t waste the whole flight watching movies or sleeping. Get out your laptop and write a little! The same goes with road-trips; take turns driving, and when you’re not the one behind the wheel, do some journaling or write on your laptop.
  2. Carry an inspiration notebook - They’re little, they’re cute, and they can fit easily into your handbag. No I’m not talking about baby chihuahuas…I’m talking about inspiration notebooks! New story ideas often strike at odd times, and since our senses are so much more acute during travel, we’re likely to be more open-minded and creative than usual. Don’t forget those awesome ideas–write them down right away!
  3. Journal – Journaling about our reflections on the vacation, the places we’ve seen, and the people we meet is a great way to amp up creativity and keep in practice with our writing. You may not have time to journal every day of your vacation–and probably shouldn’t if you’re living it up. But journaling during your downtime just feels amazing!
  4. Talk to locals - This may not be a writing tip, but talking to new people on vacation is the perfect way to learn about new cultures and get ideas for characters in your books.
  5. Try something new. Then write about it. Use your inspiration notebook. Try to write about your new experience in a very descriptive, story-like way, and who knows–it might end up in your new book.

Writers out there, do you write on vacation? What are some of your best tips? I’d love to hear your opinions!

 

Blog Multi-Tasking: 5 Ways to Successfully Maintain More Than 1 Blog

by Kristina Ludwig
May 29
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 29, 2014 at 11:18 am

Blogging is so much fun that it can be addictive–literally. Once you start a blog and see it gain a following, it’s oh-so-tempting to start another. We writers are generally multi-faceted people with a wide range of interests, and blogging is an amazing form of self-expression. So why not write multiple blogs about various topics?

The challenge is maintaining the blogs.We don’t want our blogs taking over our lives, and ultimately detracting from other writing projects, yet a blog must be updated regularly to keep it relevant and grow a following. So what’s a blogger to do?

I have been writing my blog, Random Inspirations, for over 2 years. Posts started on a once-weekly basis (or sometimes even less than that if my work schedule was particularly demanding). Once I started writing full-time, I began composing 2 posts a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. I have followed this schedule for the last 8 months almost without deviation, and I have seen my readership  grow accordingly.

I also started a pregnancy blog, Prego in San Diego, last month, and have been posting once a week there. I really enjoy blogging about the things I learn as I advance in my pregnancy–especially health news, interesting studies about embryonic development, and nutritious and yummy recipes.

blogging

Based on my own experience, here are 5 ways to successfully maintain more than one blog:

  1. Define clear-cut goals for each blog - Keeping up with your blogs is largely about motivation–you have to feel like each is worth writing. So, for each blog, ask yourself questions like: What value do I hope to bring to readers? Do I bring a unique voice or perspective to my blog topic? Any time you feel demotivated or uninspired, remember why you wanted to start these blogs in the first place, and you’ll be more likely to maintain them!
  2. Set a regular posting schedule - Ask yourself how many times per week you would like to post on each blog, based on factors like how much time you have, how often readers are likely to desire new posts, and how much relevant material you can write about. For each blog, determine exact days of the week that you’ll post, and stick to them.
  3. Write when you’re inspired - One of the best features about blogging platforms like WordPress is that you can schedule posts in advance. Sometimes, inspiration strikes on a non-blog-posting day. If that happens, write your post ahead of time and schedule it for its regular day. Not only will you feel ahead of the game, chances are you’ll write a more engaging post than you would if you were forcing yourself to write.
  4. Be discoverable - Blogs are so much more fun to write when you feel like people are actually reading them. Because of this, you want to make sure your blog posts are discoverable. One thing I learned recently is the 15-rule on WordPress. For each of your posts, you must use only a total of 15 categories and/or tags. If you use over 15, your posts will be less discoverable because they will be flagged as irrelevant.
  5. Invite guest bloggers or do a vlog - Even the best time managers might feel overwhelmed by multiple blogs. If you start feeling bogged down, recruit other bloggers in your field to write guest posts. It’s great exposure for them, and easy street for you. Also, you can shoot vlogs. For example, I post episodes of my YouTube show, Business, Publishing, and Life on my blog as vlog posts.

Bloggers out there, do you have more than one blog? If so, what tips worked best for you? I’d love to hear what you think!

Business, Publishing, and Life Vlog Episode #5

by Kristina Ludwig
May 19
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 19, 2014 at 9:55 am

Yesterday, Antonio and I shot a brand-new episode of BPL. This is my favorite episode yet since we have our first-ever special guest, international business expert Edward Layoun!

Edward shares 2 awesome business tips that you’ll want to apply no matter what your chosen field, and one life tip that will inspire you to reach new heights. Edward has great energy, and I hope his tips will jump-start your week! Click here to watch. Enjoy!

Evolution: 5 Ways to Evolve as an Indie Author

by Kristina Ludwig
May 12
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 12, 2014 at 8:30 am

Being a self-published author is hard work. The industry is constantly changing, the author is responsible for his/her own marketing and promotions, and, like an old car, a career as an indie author needs constant maintenance.

I’ve found that one of the most rewarding parts of being an indie author is the fact that our careers are constantly changing, and there’s something new to learn every day. As is the case in many new industries, the field is wide open–to those who have the perseverance and drive to take it!

I’ve realized that the greatest key to success as an indie author is evolution. Just as our careers are constantly evolving, so must we, as writers and people. Here are 4 ways I’ve found to evolve as an indie author.

Evolution is key for a career as a successful indie author! Image courtesy of challenge2.com

Evolution is key for a career as a successful indie author! Image courtesy of challenge2.com

  1. Start a new blog -  Most of us have blogs centered on our expertise as writers, but what else lights up our lives? The more we blog–in different places–the more we build our author platforms, increase our discoverability, and, most importantly, practice our writing skills! Plus, starting a new project makes us more creative. It’s inevitable, with the surge of fresh new ideas. I just started a pregnancy blog, Prego in San Diego. I had an amazing time discovering a new WordPress theme, customizing it, writing my first post, and interacting with all the almost-mommies out there who commented on the blog. If you don’t want to start another blog, guest post on other people’s blogs, and encourage them to do the same on yours.
  2. Expand your services - It’s not enough to write and blog–ask yourself what else you could be doing to help other writers. Maybe it’s starting a YouTube show, or perhaps you’ve always wanted to get into writing coaching. I speak from personal experience on both matters; last month, Antonio and I started a YouTube show called Business, Publishing, and Life, and it’s been a great way to connect with friends and writers. I also joined a collaborative office called Hera Hub, and have connected with several women who are interested in meeting with me to discuss writing and self-publishing–hello, beginnings of writing coaching!
  3. Learn a new skill - There are so many different skills that go into a career as an indie author. Not only must we be awesome writers, we must know social media, business, marketing, editing, and book formatting. Learning any of these skills takes time, but it’s totally worth it. Think of the time and money you could save by doing these tasks yourself. Of course, editing is not something I’d recommend doing by yourself; an editor and/or a group of beta readers is essential. But many of the other skills can be accomplished alone. My latest example of skill building is learning to design an eBook cover. I have artistic background, but zero graphic design experience. To fill in the gaps, I took a cover design course on Udemy. Skillshare also offers a variety of courses. I’m finishing up the course soon, and am planning to design my own cover for my next book, “Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book.”
  4. Read - One of the best ways to become a better writer is to read more. Read fiction books, non-fiction books about writing or indie publishing, whatever you want. Reading is the perfect way to expand your mind and improve as a writer.
  5. Discover other publishing platforms - I’ve been singularly focused on KDP Select, and love Amazon as a platform for indie authors. However, I realized that it might be time to expand my reach by discovering other platforms. I’ve started researching Google Books and Apple Books, as well as Smashwords. So far, I’m still exclusive to Amazon, but I’m doing my research and, after all, that’s the first step. :)

Indie authors, what do you think are the best ways to evolve? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

“Write” Your Wrongs: 5 Ways to Write Yourself Out of a Corner

by Kristina Ludwig
May 8
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 8, 2014 at 8:30 am

I’m nearly finished writing Book 3 in the Amish in College series, “Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book.” This book follows Mercy’s boyfriend Samuel as he attends agriculture and business classes at a local university, in the hopes of finding a solution to save his family’s failing farm. The only problem: both Samuel’s father and Mercy think he should quit college because it’s taking too much time from the farm (his father) and from his free time (Mercy). Samuel struggles to not only find the solution to the farming dilemma, but to balance his love life, his studies, and his work on the farm.

The book was flowing along quite nicely until yesterday, when I wrote a little over half a chapter and then got stuck. Annoyingly enough, the more I tried to get un-stuck, the deeper I sank, as though I’d fallen into writers’ quicksand. Half an hour later, I put Samuel and friends away for the day, working on other projects instead.

Writers' quicksand can be hazardous. Here, I share some tips to get out! Image courtesy of horseandman.com

Writers’ quicksand can be hazardous. Here, I share some tips to get out! Image courtesy of horseandman.com

When I reflected on this later, I realized that my unusual case of writers’ block had occurred because I’d written myself into a corner the previous day. There was literally nowhere to go, so I was stuck on Chapter 26. Ugh.

Luckily, all I needed was some time away from Samuel, a good night’s sleep, and a little distraction, and I was able to write 4 full chapters today, back to back. Woohoo! Based on personal experience here are 5 ways to write yourself out of a corner.

  1. Distance Yourself - It’s great to be close to your characters, but don’t forget what happens when you’re too close–you get smothered! Once I gave myself a little time away from Samuel, I was able to write myself out of the corner and create a few new twists and turns along the way.
  2. Meditate - Sometimes, we write ourselves into corners simply because we haven’t thought enough about what happens next. In moments like these, it pays to turn off the computer and look out the window, or close our eyes and just think. And remember, meditation can happen anywhere–and it frequently occurs in unexpected places, like the shower.
  3. De-clutter - Your book, that is. I had to delete some scenes to keep things more open-ended and effectively set up the next few scenes. Even though no one likes to delete his or her hard work, responsible story decluttering can be the best way to move a story forward. To me, it feels like knocking down a wall in an old house to create an airy, open floor plan, full of possibilities.
  4. Outline - As an organic writer, I usually only outline once per book, right before I begin writing Chapter 1; even that outline is more like a rough synopsis. However, if I’m stuck, I turn to outlines to get my ideas flowing and organized. Remember, you can always deviate from your outline, but at least you’ll be out of the corner.
  5. Sleep on it - Sometimes, all you need to solve a plot problem is a good night’s sleep. Many times, I’ve only been able to write myself out of a corner after a nice long rest and a cup of morning coffee. A fresh start works wonders.

Writers, do you ever write yourself into corners? What’s your best tip to get un-stuck? I’d love to hear your experiences!