Book Excerpt from Amish Redemption

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter Two: Abram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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?”

Book Excerpt from The Mermaid’s Voyage

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 9
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 9, 2015 at 11:17 am

Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from my upcoming eBook, The Mermaid’s Voyage. This book follows Oceania’s niece, Doria, as she ventures to 1920s San Francisco and stays with Oceania and Xavier, who are now well-known jazz musicians. Doria discovers the wild life of the Prohibition era, visiting her first speakeasy and meeting a handsome but nosy reporter named Stanley. Meanwhile, her merman boyfriend Dylan is worried about her and follows her to land–undercover. Will Dylan blow his cover? Will Stanley discover that she’s a mermaid? Find out when the book is launched at the end of the month!

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two. Chapter One can be found at the end of California Mermaids Book 2, The Mermaid’s WeddingLook for more excerpts coming soon to the blog!

mermaid-wishes-leslie-allen

Chapter Two: Dylan

I can’t help but notice the way Doria stiffens and averts her gaze when I tell her not to spend too much time with land boys. I’d attempted a flippant tone, but I probably didn’t quite succeed.

There’s no way to hide it—sometimes I feel as though I love her more than I love myself, although I’m unsure whether she reciprocates that sentiment. We’ve never exchanged any declarations of love, mostly because I’m reticent to tell her how I feel. She’s always seemed to regard the ocean as something temporary, until she can travel to the surface to see her aunt, and I’ve always been afraid that she thinks of me as temporary, too.

Everyone in the village of Mar is well aware of the curse in her family, and the fact that her aunt chose to live on land. I’ve always supported Doria when she talks incessantly about visiting her Aunt Oceania, but I’m secretly terrified that she’ll follow in her aunt’s footsteps. I would be devastated if she chose land. True, I could still visit her, but I know I could never build a life there.

“When will you be back, Doria?” I ask. I gaze into her eyes, which glow a shade of blue as dark and mysterious as the deepest waters of the ocean. The filtered light of the moon glints off her burnished-gold hair, and I run my fingers through it, aching for answers.

But Doria just shrugs. “I’ll be staying for at least a few days, with Aunt Oceania and Uncle Xavier. Father told me that they were touring, but now they’re back in San Francisco, so they can host me.”

Doria’s aunt and uncle played in the symphony for years, but now her uncle is a composer and they tour independently to perform his works all over the world.

“I’ll miss you,” I say. I don’t want to sound desperate, but there’s no way to avoid it.

“I’ll miss you too, Dylan. But I haven’t seen my aunt in thirteen years. Do you know how many full moons it’s been, how much I’ve missed the sound of her voice? She was always so wild and free, and spirited—much different than my mother. I feel like there’s a lot of her in me, you know?”

I nod. Unfortunately, I do know. “You’re right, Doria. But please come back.”

“Of course I’ll be back,” Doria says with a slight edge to her voice. I stare at her, taken aback by her choppy tone.

She’s silent for a moment as she studies my face, then glances down at the abalone D that I spent hours carving for her. Finally, she says softly, “I hurt you. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped like that. But I feel as though I’m under so much pressure right now and you’re adding to it.”

“I never meant to do that.” My voice cracks, and I clear my throat in disgust. I want her to think I’m strong and capable, and mermanly, but I’m failing horribly so far.

“I’m sure you didn’t. But just remember that the decision of land or sea is one that I have to make for myself, and that means I need some time alone, all right?”

“All right.” It breaks my heart that Doria wants time away from me, while I know that she’s the only one for me. Suddenly, I realize that I have to tell her I love her. I can’t wait any longer. She needs to know the truth. If she knows how much I love her, it will temper her decision.

So, I gently cup her chin, turning it upward toward my face. “Doria, I respect the fact that you need time to make your decision, but there’s something you need to take into account while you’re making it.” I pause for a moment, swallowing hard. “I love you.”

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Changing Cover Designs of a Published eBook

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 18
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 18, 2014 at 10:35 am

You’ve written your eBook, had it professionally edited, finished your own spin on the edits, and composed a dynamite description. So you’re all ready to publish right?

Wrong! The book cover is one of the most important–and most often overlooked–aspects of an eBook. A professional-looking cover can make or break your sales. And furthermore, the cover must capture the unique flavor and mood of your book, as well as appeal to your audience. If the book is part of a series, the cover must create unity with the other books of the series. That’s a lot to think about!

Sometimes, no matter how polished and well-written a book is, it may not sell because its cover is just…wrong. Either it’s not eye-catching, the audience thinks it looks lame-o, or it appears amateurish. I have experienced this firsthand. Back in 2011, I designed the cover for my first ever eBook, Unlucky 13. At the time, I was writing and publishing as a hobby, and it showed. The book only sold to my family, friends, and a few totally random people who stumbled across it. This was due in part to the fact that I did zero promotion, but another huge reason was because the cover looked unprofessional. Last year, I had a new cover designed for the book; although Unlucky 13 is still far from a best seller, the sales are a whole lot better than they’d been with the first cover!

I encountered a similar problem with Book 1 of the California Mermaids series, The Mermaid’s Curse. I loved writing the book; in fact, I’ve never felt so inspired. Yet, when I published it, sales and borrows on Amazon were lower than I’d expected, despite the fact that I marketed it the same way as all my previous best selling Amish books. This was partly due to the fact that I was dabbling in a new genre, but Antonio, my hubby and expert professional cover designer, had another theory: perhaps the cover was turning people off.

I loooove the original cover of The Mermaid’s Curse. To me, it captures the essence of the book: the mermaid caught between two worlds under the full moon. However, when I evaluated it critically, with the target audience’s eye in mind, I realized that it is too dark; it draws your eye in, instead of popping out at you. Sales of Book 2 of the series, The Mermaid’s Wedding, have been much better than The Mermaid’s Curse. Since I’ve been promoting it the same way, I can only guess that the hike in sales is due to the more colorful, girly cover. The hot pink lettering and couple bathed in sunshine are vibrant, and very appealing to YA and NA mermaid fantasy romance readers.

So, Antonio and I decided to create a brighter, more beachy cover for The Mermaid’s Curse, using the same font and basic design as that of The Mermaid’s Wedding. I will be monitoring sales, and, of course, will keep you posted on how they are impacted by the change! Incidentally, I just changed the cover last night, and the rank of the book has already risen from around 100,000 to 84,000–still not where I want to be, but we’re taking baby steps here. :)

Here's the original cover of The Mermaid's Curse--very dark, and perhaps not as appealing to readers of the YA mermaid fantasy romance genre.

Here’s the original cover of The Mermaid’s Curse–very dark, and perhaps not as appealing to readers of the YA mermaid fantasy romance genre.

 

Here's the new cover of The Mermaid's Curse... What do you think?

Here’s the new cover of The Mermaid’s Curse… What do you think?

Authors out there, have you ever changed the cover of your already-published eBook, and if so, why? Did you see an increase in sales after you changed your cover? I’d love to hear your experiences!

It’s Here: The Mermaid’s Wedding Has Launched!

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 16
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 16, 2014 at 10:45 am

I’m excited to announce that The Mermaid’s Wedding (California Mermaids Book 2) has launched, and is now available for Amazon Kindle here. To pump you up for the book, I will be including a free excerpt with today’s blog post!

The Mermaid's Wedding Launch

Also, I am celebrating the new release by offering a special 2 for 1 deal today and tomorrow. Book 1 of the California Mermaids series, The Mermaid’s Curse, will be free December 16th and 17th, so you can read the entire series for only 99 cents. I’ve got the hookup, dear readers. ;)

So, without further adieu, here is Chapter Two of The Mermaid’s Wedding. Chapter One can be found in this earlier blog post. Happy reading!

Chapter Two: Xavier – 1912

My heart breaks for Oceania as we stroll down the shore. She smiles tightly, keeping a running commentary of the birds, the beach, and the passers-by, but I can tell that she’s only putting on a brave face for my benefit.

When she’d first announced her decision to choose land, I believe that she’d been in a state of shock—and, of course, the pain had been dulled by our love. However, now that she’s had time to digest the full implications, she seems weighed down, as if an invisible anchor is dragging her spirits to the ocean floor.

As we head up the elaborate, flower-trimmed walkway of my family’s lavish summer home, I stop and turn to her.

“My love,” I say, gently tucking a stray lock of her silver-blond hair into the wide-brimmed hat Amelie has lent her. “You don’t have to force yourself to be cheerful just for me. I know how much you’re hurting right now, and I only wish I could heal your wounds. I wish I could be the part-merman who could break the curse, so you’d never have to say goodbye to anyone you love.”

Oceania’s eyes fill with shimmering aquamarine tears that fluoresce as they roll down her cheeks. I fumble for my handkerchief, and begin mopping her face with it.

“It’s sweet of you to say that,” she says in a tremulous voice. “But you shouldn’t wish for that. If you weren’t exactly who you are, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with you.”

She’s right. I must admit that I have thought—more than once—about how much easier life would be if I hadn’t fallen in love with a cursed mermaid. But if she wasn’t exactly who she is, I wouldn’t love her so desperately, either.

“Oceania, my dear, you’re as wise as you are beautiful.” I dry the last of her tears, planting a kiss on the tip of her delicate nose before we head into the house.

The summer house feels significantly lighter and airier without Father’s dark and lumbering presence; he has returned to San Francisco to resume work, and Mother, Amelie, and I are in the process of packing up and preparing the house for the end of the season.

Naturally, Father’s colleagues have left Monterey as well, and I breathe a bit easier knowing that not only is Mr. Simonsen gone, but so is his daughter, Victoria. Our fathers had been forcing us into a lukewarm courtship, and she didn’t take well to Oceania’s appearance in our lives. The past few weeks have been filled with uncomfortable encounters with her; the town of Monterey is much too small to avoid her entirely.

Oceania and I head toward the parlor, our shoes clacking on the glossy floors of the marble foyer. Mother and Amelie are perched on Mother’s long, red velvet fainting couch, poring over a bridal magazine. Their heads snap up in unison when they spot Oceania and me in the doorway.

Mother springs up and surrounds first me, then Oceania in a warm hug. “Darlings,” she says, kissing Oceania on both cheeks as she learned to do during a recent trip to Europe. “Amelie and I were having the best time planning out details for your wedding. Of course, we may have been getting a bit ahead of ourselves—you haven’t even set the date, after all. But I have the most fabulous idea. I hope you don’t mind my intruding.”

I glance over at Oceania, wondering what kind of reaction she will have to my mother’s exuberance, and am relieved to see that her smile seems genuine. Mother tends to have that effect on people.

“We don’t mind at all, Mrs. Rose,” Oceania says. “In fact, I’d love to hear your idea.”

“Fantastic,” Mother says, taking Oceania’s hand and pulling her down on the couch next to Amelie. After another round of hellos with my younger sister, I sink into Father’s hulking leather armchair, feeling small and out of place in it.

“So here’s my thought,” Mother continues. “What if you had your wedding ceremony on the beach and the reception here?”

“You could say your vows on Point Joe,” Amelie pipes up. “I read a book in which two lovers marry on a beach, but I’ve never known anyone who has actually done it.”

“What do you think?” Mother asks, leaning toward Oceania. “I know it’s not a common thing to do, but that’s what makes it so special. It will be as unconventional and unique as both of you are, a union of land and sea.”

Oceania and I look at each other, and her bright smile tells me everything I need to know. “That sounds absolutely perfect,” she says. “I can’t think of a better place to say our vows than on top of our special rock.”

I nod in agreement, but can’t help but ask Mother, “Do you think Father will approve? I’m sure he’ll want a traditional church wedding.”

Mother and Amelie exchange an uncomfortable glance. “I’m unsure whether your father will be attending, Xavier,” Mother says in a subdued voice, drawing her delicate brows together. “When I spoke to him on the telephone last night, he was still violently opposed to your future marriage. Then we lost our connection, and I couldn’t get him back on the line. The service out here really is dismal. That’s one thing I certainly will not miss.” She pauses, taking a deep breath. “I’ll do my best to convince him though, dear. After all, you are his only son.”

“Right,” I say, studying the intricate, swirling patterns on the red and gold Persian rug. Even though I should have expected this, I’m immensely disappointed.  I know that Father will probably never approve of Oceania, but some small part of me still wants him to. “I suppose we’ll just have to see what he decides.”

Oceania pushes herself up from the couch and crosses the room to my side. “It’s okay, Xav. My family won’t be there, either. They can’t be there.” She lowers herself into Father’s chair next to me, and I take her hand, squeezing it tightly.

Amelie fidgets in the corner, chewing her lip and looking as though she’d like to vanish down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole. She probably has no idea what to say to comfort Oceania—or me, for that matter.

Mother’s face has taken on such a look of compassion and sadness that she seems ready to weep. Finally, she says, “I’m sorry that this is so difficult for both of you. But rest assured that we’ll do everything we can to ensure that your celebration will be as joyous as possible.”

“You can depend on us,” Amelie adds. “Mother is the best at throwing parties, and I’ve already checked some wedding planning books out of the library.”

This doesn’t surprise me. Amelie is a voracious reader, with a book—or twenty—for every occasion.

I paste a smile on my face, and Oceania does the same. “Thank you,” we chorus, both of our voices sounding just a little too bright.

“Fabulous!” Mother exclaims, clapping her hands. She picks up the bridal magazine and resumes flipping through it. “Let’s get busy. After all, we only have a fortnight to plan.”

The fake smile falls off Oceania’s face, and her eyes grow round with panic. “A fortnight? What do you mean? Isn’t that a bit soon?”

Mother gives a dainty shrug. “Perhaps it sounds that way, my dear. But if you want an outdoor ceremony, the beginning of September truly is the most temperate time of year in Monterey. And besides, we’ll only be here for two more weeks before we must return to San Francisco. We can’t very well plan the wedding from there, can we?”

Libraries Going Strong: Trends in Libraries Today

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 4
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 4, 2014 at 12:53 pm

This past weekend, Antonio and I traveled to Chicago to celebrate our first wedding anniversary, bond with friends, and revisit our favorite places. Naturally, we ended up in the Harold Washington Library, one of the most beautiful–and hugest–libraries I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.

 

The gorgeous interior of Chicago's Harold Washington Library.

The gorgeous interior of Chicago’s Harold Washington Library.

I’ve heard about the struggles of libraries to fit into today’s internet-centric world of eBooks, emagazines, and online resources, and this news always saddens me. I grew up in libraries, signed up for my first library card the summer before first grade, and checked out books by the armload all through my childhood. Back in the 90s, we had summer reading programs, in which kids could earn prizes according to how many books they read. For me, the prizes were just the icing on the cake; the real prizes were the books themselves.

Librarians were creative back then, dreaming up ways to recruit kids into the library in droves, but now they have to be even more resourceful. My trip to the Harold Washington Library showed me that libraries–and librarians–have stepped up to the challenge, and truly are evolving with the changing times.

A view of the YOUmedia Center in the Harold Washington Library

A view of the YOUmedia Center in the Harold Washington Library

As the surge in YA fiction’s popularity has demonstrated, teens are a huge group of readers, but it’s difficult to filter them into libraries, with their busy schedules and propensity to buy eBooks online as opposed to checking them out of the library. Harold Washington Library’s solution was building the YOUmedia Center, where youth can congregate, meeting with mentors who teach them about various 21st century skills like digital design, 3D printing, robotics, coding and digital music production. Antonio and I dropped in to the YOUmedia Center on a Saturday afternoon after sight-seeing at Millennium Park, and we were impressed with the turnout, as well as by the teens’ projects on display.

The "Maker Station" in the Harold Washington Library is where teens head to work on interesting projects, such as digital design.

The “Maker Station” in the Harold Washington Library is where teens head to work on interesting projects, such as digital design.

Our local library in Carlsbad also offers many interesting programs for teens, such as the homework zone and special events like talent shows, popcorn and board games, and pizza and movies. All of these events are the perfect way to draw teens and their friends to the library and steer them toward reading.

And great news: Libraries and eBooks don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Several libraries have now become “eBook lending libraries,” and there might even be a branch near you. Check out this link for a list of libraries that participate in this program.

Readers and writers, what do you think of today’s library trends? Have you noticed anything new and innovative in your local libraries? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

It’s Here: Amish Bakery Challenge is Out!

by Kristina Ludwig
Aug 28
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: August 28, 2014 at 10:16 am

I’m excited to announce that Book 2 of the Amish Couples series, Amish Bakery Challenge: Mercy and Samuel’s Book, has launched! To celebrate, I’ll be offering the book at an introductory price of $0.99 today through Sunday August 31st! After that, the price will go up to $2.99, so be sure to get it while it’s hot. ;)

Cover Reveal: Here's the new cover of Amish Bakery Challenge, designed by Antonio! What do you think?

Cover Reveal: Here’s the new cover of Amish Bakery Challenge, designed by Antonio! What do you think?

Amish Bakery Challenge was one of my favorite Amish novellas to write, not only because I adore Mercy and Samuel, but because there’s so much at stake for the young couple. They’ve worked hard to build the general store and bakery of their dreams, but Mercy’s old boss, Mrs. Stoltzfus of Stoltzfus Bakery, accuses Mercy of stealing her recipes and her business. Soon, Mercy must deal with a boycott of her beloved bakery, and Samuel, ever the problem-solver, must devise an innovative way to appease Mrs. Stoltzfus while still keeping the business intact. The book is full of high drama, and even a shunning. It’s also my longest Amish novella ever, so I hope you enjoy it!

Here’s an excerpt from the book. Chapter One is found at the end of Amish Baby: Hannah and Jakob’s Book (Book 1 of the Amish Couples series), and Chapter Two is found in this recent blog post. Happy reading!

Chapter Three: Mercy

 I flounce upstairs, and Samuel trails wordlessly after me. I can’t believe that he’s even considering studying on a Saturday night, when we’ve both worked so hard all week. And I can’t believe that he’d want to “stay in” this noisy house. I know I’ve only been home for a little over an hour, but I already feel the need to get out. It’s as though the walls are closing in on me.

I fling open the door of our bedroom, which I used to share with my twin sister, Rebekah. One small bed sits in each corner of the room; Samuel and I can’t even sleep together—not that we haven’t tried. Once, we pushed the beds together, which ended horribly. They’re not exactly the same height, and I rolled into the crack between them in my sleep, and woke up the next morning with my hand numb from being wedged in there for hours. We also tried cramming ourselves into one tiny bed, which seemed like a fine option until Samuel rolled off one night and crashed onto the floor. Then, of course, my entire family came barging into the room, demanding to know if everything was okay.

There’s no privacy here, and even the beds are conspiring to ruin our love life.  Hannah always tells me how beautiful it is to fall asleep in her mann Jakob’s arms; I can’t even imagine feeling that romantic about bland, serious Jakob, so I’ll have to take her word for it. However, I’m sure that sleeping in Samuel’s arms would be amazing—if I ever had the chance to do it.

I launch myself onto my childhood bed, and Samuel flops down next to me. His big brown eyes study my face. “Okay, Mercy. What’s wrong?”

“What’s not wrong? We work all week, and then have to put up with being ambushed by my brothers and sisters in this little house where everyone knows our business. And then you don’t even want to get out to escape it for a while.”

Samuel rubs his callused, work-roughened fingers over the back of my hands. “You’re wrong about that, liebchen. I would love to get out tonight, and I know it’s perfect weather for a buggy ride. The problem is, though, that I have to study all this material by next week.” He holds up a stack of notebooks. “There are business notes, and agriculture ones, too. How am I ever supposed to get through all this material?”

“You shouldn’t have to study a lot,” I protest, making a face. “You’re practicing business and farming every day. You probably know it better than the professors. Can’t you just take one night off?”

I flutter my eyelashes and try my best to add a sugary, wheedling lilt to my voice, like icing on a cupcake. “Come on, Samuel. I really want to spend some time with you, and only you.”

Samuel’s face softens, and for a split second, I think I just might be getting somewhere. A moment later, however, he rubs his left temple—a dead giveaway that he’s coming down with one of his stress headaches—and says, “So do I, but not tonight. Can we just stop talking about this, please?”

I study my mann’s tight, drawn face, and wonder what to say. I know that he has a demanding school schedule, and balancing that with chores, farming, and working in the general store is nearly impossible. But I also know that I need time with him. Between work and my noisy, nosy family, I feel as though I never see my mann alone.

I don’t want to fight with him, but I do want to get my way. So, I purse my lips into what I hope is a luscious pout. “Okay, then, I’m going to sleep. There’s no need to stay awake if my mann doesn’t even want to take a short ride with me.” I collapse backwards on the bed, closing my eyes, but a moment later I open one eye ever-so-slightly to gauge Samuel’s reaction.

Samuel is glancing out the window. “You’re sleeping now? It’s barely even dark outside.”

“Yah, I might as well. There’s nothing better to do, anyway.”

“Mercy,” Samuel says in a warning tone.

I simply lie there, squeezing my eyes shut.

“Come on, stop it,” Samuel says, his voice heavy with irritation. My eyes pop open, and I can see that his face has turned the same deep red as the beets that I canned for the general store last fall.

“You’re being selfish and immature, like a spoiled little bobbel,” he continues. “Do you have any idea how much I’ve been doing lately? I have classes at Slippery Rock three days a week, and finals are coming up. I’ve been doing chores here and helping out on the farm before school. And I work at the store after school and the other three days of the week. I’ve barely had any time to study. Can’t you just leave me alone for one night?”

What? Suddenly, I can almost feel my blood bubbling through my veins, hot with fury. I squint at my mann and hop off the bed, slipping on my shoes and fastening my bonnet on top of my head.

Samuel frowns at me. “Where are you going?”

I stomp toward the bedroom door. “To leave you alone, of course. I thought that was what you wanted.”

Samuel springs up from the bed, grabbing both my wrists. “Mercy. Don’t run off and do anything foolish. You’re not going to the city again, are you?”

I stare at Samuel with narrowed eyes. The truth is, I hadn’t really thought much about where I’d go to leave him alone. I wouldn’t mind a change of scene, but I know I couldn’t possibly go to the city. When I snuck off to visit Rebekah, I’d been single and on Rumspringa. Now, I’m baptized and married, and would be shunned for leaving the community without the approval of my mann and the elders.

“Of course not,” I tell him finally. “I’m just going for a walk. I need some air. Maybe I need to be alone, too.”

Samuel sighs, glancing from me to his notes, and then back again. His shoulders sag, and at that moment, he just looks tired. “This isn’t how I want things to go between us. I love you. I just feel like you don’t appreciate the load I’m under sometimes.”

That’s not true. I’m well aware of the load he’s under, because it causes us to have next to no time together. But I just can’t fight with him when he looks so dejected. So I say, “Okay, maybe I forget sometimes. I’m sorry. But I don’t think you realize how hurtful it is when you shove me aside for work.”

Samuel takes both my hands in his, swinging them back and forth. “I’m sorry liebchen. Look, why don’t you give me about an hour with these notes, and then we can take a short, late ride? It can be like a reward.”

I grin at Samuel, squeezing his hands. “Sounds wunderbar. You see, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”

The Benefits of Reading 30 Books a Month

by Kristina Ludwig
Aug 14
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: August 14, 2014 at 11:44 am

Ever since childhood, I was a serial reader–as soon as I finished a book, I’d immediately pick up another one. As a result, I never took a break between books. Sometimes, I would even read two at once. I was a great lover of fiction, but my parents had a rule in the summer that I had to read a non-fiction book for every fiction one. Luckily, I was a really fast reader, and could tear through the non-fiction quickly so I could move on to the “good stuff.” I would read first thing in the morning, sometimes during meals, and before bed to unwind. I also became a great multi-tasker, reading as I brushed my teeth, blow-dried my hair, or waited for a ride home from one of my numerous after-school activities.

Fast-forward to today, when I do pretty much the same thing. Now, however, being a book junkie is much easier because of awesome technological advances like Kindles and Audible Books. People often ask me how many books I read per week or per month, and I sometimes have difficulty finding an answer. Countless? I don’t even post every book I’ve read on Goodreads, although I probably should, to keep track of them all.

There are so many benefits to filling your brain with books!

There are so many benefits to filling your brain with books!

Last night, Antonio and I were discussing how many books I devour voraciously per month, and we boiled it down to about 30. This includes the books I agree to review for other authors, some of which are short self-help books (about 30-50 pages on Kindle), as well as Audible books and other eBooks that I read for pleasure. I love the library, but find myself reading eBooks most of the time because they’re inexpensive and super-convenient to download. Plus, I adore Kindle Unlimited and am always at my 10-book limit, since I like to think ahead. :)

There are so many benefits to reading 30 books per month, and here are just a few:

  • Continual learning - I’m over my aversion to non-fiction, and have started reading “factual” books in subjects that interest me, such as psychology and real estate investment. Once we graduate from college, it’s easy to let learning take the backseat to, well, life. The danger is that your mind will stagnate. Avid readers don’t have that problem, since they embrace the beauty of learning every day from books. Audible is my medium of choice for non-fiction, and I frequently listen to motivational books, like “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Guy Kawasaki, while working out at the gym.
  • Market research -  As a writer, I often read books in genres that I’m writing. Evaluating best sellers in the market allows us as writers to gauge where we fit into that niche. For example, when I decided to write my Amish series, I perused several Amish fiction eBooks. Right now, I’m writing an Amish teen novella and a contemporary teen novel about fame simultaneously, and I’ve been reading several YA books with themes of celebrities and overnight fame. Some of my favorites have been “Girl With Guitar” by Casey Quinn, “Relatively Famous” by Jessica Park, “The Accidental Movie Star” by Emily Evans, and “The Rock Star’s Daughter” by Caitlin Duffy.
  • Efficient use of time - Reading is the ideal way to kill a few minutes while you’re waiting in line or riding the train, and the fact that we can read on our mobile devices makes it so convenient! Audible books are great during a drive, or while running on the treadmill. And the best thing about reading while you wait is that the time passes so quickly and enjoyably, and your brain has grown in the process! It’s tempting to use all your “waiting time” for social media, but I always schedule some reading into the equation.
  • It’s entertaining - Reading is an awesome form of entertainment, and it’s more mentally engaging than watching TV or a movie. Antonio and I have a self-enforced 1-hour of TV per day rule, and sometimes we don’t even watch that much. Replacing some TV time with reading makes for a more active mind!
  • It expands your horizons - I love to travel, but on a day-to-day basis, reading is the next best thing. It’s incredible to immerse yourself in new worlds and become acquainted with interesting characters. And if you’re looking to learn something new, there are thousands of non-fiction books on any subject under the sun. Back to the subject of books and travel, I often enjoy reading books that take place in the region I’m traveling to, usually when I’m on the plane. For example, when I went to London, I read a book set there. Try it next time you’re going on vacation–you’ll be even more pumped when you reach your destination!

Avid readers out there, what would you say are the greatest benefits of reading? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

They’re Here: A Kindle Countdown Deal and a Brand-New Box Set!

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 19
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 19, 2014 at 12:27 pm

I’m excited to announce that I will be running a Kindle Countdown Deal on my Amish Hearts Box Set: Books 1-4. The deal will run from today until Saturday June 21st at 9 AM PST. Download the entire collection of 4 best selling YA Amish Romance novellas for only $1.99–that’s nearly 50% off the regular price! So, if you’re a fan of Amish fiction, YA romance, or you’re just looking for a fresh new genre to read, be sure to check out the box set while prices are low. And writers, if you’re wondering how effective Kindle Countdown Deals are and how to stage a successful one, we’ll find out together–I’ll post next week about my experiences with the promotion, and steps I took to get the word out about my Kindle Countdown Deal.

In other news, I’ve just released a new box set, the Amish in College Box Set: Books 1-3. In this dramatic series, Rebekah and friends face the challenges of growing up, and must answer difficult questions of faith, love, and career. I think you’ll love having Rebekah’s Book, Hannah’s Book, and Samuel’s Book all in one place–and you’ll be ready for Book 4, Amish Baker: Mercy’s Book, coming soon to Kindle! Check out the cover of the box set, designed by Antonio Challita. What do you think?

Amish in College Box Set 1-3 Cover

 

Finally, this Friday and Saturday, June 20th and 21st, my first-ever teen short story, A First Time for Everything, will be free! If you’re looking for a fun and quick beach read, this is it. Until next time, happy reading and/or writing. I’ll talk to you next week!