Book or Movie: Which Do YOU Like Better?

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 20
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 20, 2014 at 9:07 am

It’s an age-old debate, but one that never seems to get tired: When we read a book and then watch the movie based on it, we always ask each other or at least ourselves, “Which did you like better, the book or the movie?”

Book and movie

A lot of people say, “Oh, the book was so much better!” And why is that? My guess would be because books allow readers to use their imaginations to fill in the details of the scenes and characters. Reading the book is more of an active process that engages the mind, while watching the movie is a more passive one. As a result, readers have certain expectations of how the characters will appear and how the plot will unfold, and because everyone’s imagination works differently, many people will be disappointed in the way the movie represents the book. Think about how many times you’ve heard people say, “Why did they pick so -and-so to play that part? That wasn’t how I visualized him at all!”

Also, many movies fail to pick up on the subtle undertones and themes that permeated the books. “The Wizard of Oz” book, for example, was written as a political satire, but the movie portrays a more lighthearted version of the story, focused on beautiful images and dramatic action. Another example is “The Hunger Games” series. The movies capture some of the political themes of the books, but miss out on other important ones. As riveting as the movies are, the books have more depth and dimension.

However, some people prefer the movies to the books because they are more visual people and enjoy seeing the action unfolding before their eyes instead of reading about it. Another reason why some prefer movies to books is because the act of watching a movie, especially in a theater, is more of a social one, while reading a book is more of a solitary activity. And finally, some prefer the movie to the book because it’s fairly magical to watch the book they read come to life. In fact, I think that’s why we all want to watch the movies of our favorite books, even if we insist we always like the books better.

I love both the books and the movies, for all of the above reasons. Sometimes, I’m just in the mood for a movie, while other times I want to lose myself in a good book. I enjoy comparing the book and the movie, and eagerly anticipate the interesting new twists that Hollywood screenwriters sometimes incorporate into the movies.

Which do you prefer, the book or the movie, and why?

 

New Book Release: Book 3 of Amish Hearts is Here!

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 14
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 14, 2014 at 9:59 am

I’m excited to announce that my new Amish YA Romance novella, Mercy’s Fall, is now live on Amazon! Mercy’s Fall is Book 3 of the Amish Hearts series. To celebrate, I’m giving away Book 2, Amish Summer, for free today and tomorrow (1/14/14 and 1/15/14)!

Mercy's Fall, Book 3 of Amish Hearts, is now live on Amazon!

Mercy’s Fall, Book 3 of Amish Hearts, is now live on Amazon!

I wrote Mercy’s Fall after my “educational field trip” to two Amish communities in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania: Volant and New Wilmington. There, I admired the simple way of life and spoke to some Amish and “English” who had business dealings with the Amish. I noticed the relatively close proximity of several colleges to the Amish communities, which led me to devise the character of Chase, Mercy’s college-student crush. I also observed the Amish people’s avoidance of cameras and all things media and/or worldly, and incorporated these themes into Mercy’s dealings with Chase and the other Englischers who frequent the bakery where she works. Mercy’s Fall is equal parts love story, character study, and culture clash, so check it out if you’re looking for a romance eBook with some drama.

During my visit, the weather in Lawrence County was, in a word, snowy. This “winter wonderland” look continues to inspire me as I write the fourth and final book of the Amish Hearts series, Amish Valentine, due out next month. If you enjoy the Amish Hearts books, look for updates coming to this blog, as well as Facebook and Twitter, in the coming weeks!

Reflections on a Holiday in Lebanon

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 9
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 9, 2014 at 11:01 am

Remember when you were in elementary school, and you missed class to go on an “educational trip?” And then, when you came back, your teacher asked you to write all about it, just to make sure you’d learned something?

Back in the day, this felt wrong to me. My elementary school brain was like, “What? I just got back from vacation and have all this catch-up work, and now the teacher is giving me even more work?”

But now I realize it’s a helpful exercise, and that’s why I looove blogging about my reflections after I return from various trips. Call me a nerd, but I actually get excited to do it. After my vacay, I’m excited to get back to work!

My holiday in Lebanon was extremely restful…perhaps too restful (check out my recent blog post about dreams if you don’t believe me:) I enjoyed the gracious hospitality of my in-laws, who not only let us stay in their private downstairs guest suite, they also threw two parties to celebrate our wedding and Antonio’s birthday. And just to make our stay even better, Antonio’s mom cooks the most phenomenal Lebanese food I’ve ever tasted!

At a Lebanese Christmas party with my sisters-in-law, Aline and Danielle.

At a Lebanese Christmas party with my sisters-in-law, Aline and Danielle.

Because of the gut-wrenching Middle East situation and the perceived danger of visiting, Lebanon is not considered a tourist destination. That’s a shame because it is a truly unique and amazing place. The night scene is full of super-fun bar/lounge/club areas, like Jounieh and Uruguay Street, and the late-night dining is second to none. The night life is especially vibrant during the holiday season, when twenty- and thirtysomethings who work in other countries return “home” to celebrate.

 

Dancing the night away at Club Mad, part of Lebanon's night scene.

Dancing the night away at Club Mad, part of Lebanon’s night scene.

There are also plenty of nature activities: gorgeous, paradise-like beaches, awe-inspiring caves, hiking trails, and acres of forests. The snow-capped mountains are so breathtaking that they hardly look real, especially at sunset. And there’s even Faraya, the fun ski resort community where we spent New Year’s Eve at our friends’ chalet. I know what you’re thinking…skiing? In the Middle East? Not exactly what I’d pictured, either.

The people I met in Lebanon were friendly, and most were able to speak three languages, English, Arabic, and French. The food is fresh, and so packed with super-nutrients that I fought off the yucky cold I’d picked up in three days flat! The Lebanese cook with healthy olive oil and lemon, and definitely get their recommended dietary allowance of fruits and vegetables. My personal favorite exotic fruit was “ashta,” a sweet and succulent delicacy that I practically inhaled.

Ashta, my Lebanese fruit obsession.

Ashta, my Lebanese fruit obsession.

By the end of my holiday getaway, I’d immersed myself in this intriguing culture, and I’d even picked up some Arabic. My brain was swimming with words, and, strangely, I’d think of random Arabic phrases either at night after a few drinks or the next day when I woke up. Interesting how the brain works.

During my stay in Lebanon, I was desperately trying to complete Mercy’s Fall, my Amish fiction novella, but I was completely uninspired. I was fed up with myself until I realized that I couldn’t possibly think or write about the Amish when I was in this fascinating, relatively new (to me) foreign land. So, I focused on drinking in the unusual experiences and journaling, and two totally new story ideas came to me: the dream YA novel from my previous entry and a YA novel about a Lebanese-American girl discovering herself in her family’s ancient homeland. And on the flight home, my imagination was so ignited that I returned to Mercy’s Fall and finished writing it in two days!

The trip back to California was a long one (thirty hours to be exact, through Moscow, where it was dark until 10 AM), but now that I’m back, I’m feeling rested. The getaway was just what I needed. It broadened my horizons, and also made me thankful for the fast internet we have in the U.S. :)

Are you more inspired after you return from a particularly stimulating vacation? What kind of inspiration do you find in other countries, or even new cities in your own homeland? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Emo YA: Making Your Highs and Lows Work for You

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 19
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Young Adult fiction is full of epic highs and crushing lows, much like the teen years themselves. It is highly dramatic by nature, radiating with vivid emotions.

As I’ve written my own YA fiction, I’ve realized something that other writers might find useful: The mood of the author, and the circumstances in his / her life, will influence the moods of the characters and the atmosphere of the story. Therefore, if a writer is having a particularly turbulent or extremely happy time in life, he / she should try to have the characters’ lives mirror this, as it will paint a more vibrant emotional picture.

And sometimes, a writer may not even have to try. Often, writers may incorporate their highs and lows into the characters subconsciously. This was exactly what happened when I wrote my contemporary YA novel, which will be released in a matter of months.

Just like the skyscrapers of a great city (here, San Francisco), life has its highs and lows. Make sure to use them in your writing!

Just like the skyscrapers of a great city (here, San Francisco), life has its highs and lows. Make sure to use them in your writing!

In the novel, Aubree, the fourteen year-old heroine, starts out on top of the world. But a move to a new city and a huge, super-competitive school undermines her self-confidence. At a writing conference last year, I learned that one of the most important page-turning traits of all fiction, especially YA, is to really torture the heroine. The main character has to face a seemingly never-ending series of problems to keep readers engaged.

Since I was going through a rather difficult time of transition, stress, and emotional upheaval myself, I found it easy to translate my mood into the story. Aubree certainly was tortured as she navigated a maze of family, social, boy, and identity crises.

For me, torturing the heroine was therapeutic. I was able to pour my own strong and rather dramatic emotions into the tempestuous teenage heroine, and in the end, all that powerful passion translated into art. My mom told me that sometimes artists have to suffer for their art, and I truly believe that other writers going through hard times should use writing as therapy…and create a high-tension page-turner in the process!

As my own real life sorted itself out, so did Aubree’s fictitious one. It was easy to reconcile Aubree’s problems because my own life was also reconciling. The concluding chapters of the novel are decidedly more light-hearted. Aubree will always be a dramatic character, but her mood is more stable, as befits an ending.

So the take-away is this: When the going gets tough, the tough write fiction. If you’re feeling a little emo, write a story with high emotion!

But before you go paint the town with words, I should conclude the post with one caviat. It’s great to infuse your work with passion, but at times it may get a little too emo. At times like that, I recall a conversation that I had with my dad when I was about four and we were listening to Mozart. My dad told me, “Mozart’s music is so perfect because he never takes it too far.”

Take-home message: If you’re feeling a little too rambunctious, vent another way or you’ll take it too far and cross that fragile line into the melodramatic. It’s all about moderation. And furthermore, writing may be therapeutic, but it should never be used as sole therapy. Emo can backfire. So make sure to infuse emo into your writing responsibly. ;)

Cross-Country Road Trip: The Observations and the Inspiration

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 16
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 16, 2013 at 2:46 pm

Today feels like such a Monday…but not necessarily in a bad way. It’s a day to get back to work after an exciting wedding, honeymoon, and cross-country move to California. And by “get back to work,” I mean working on one of my favorite things: writing!

Antonio and I decided to do a cross-country road trip for our honeymoon. We both adore road trips, and we’d never taken a looong one together before. Plus, it eliminated the concern of shipping my car from Chicago to California — Why not just drive it? So, my new hubby and I took to the highway, and discovered America in a brand-new way.

We had no definitive plan of which stops we wanted to make; we brainstormed where we’d stay as we burned up the miles. Here are the places we visited, and my reflections on each one.

  • Omaha, NE: Home of epic steaks and Warren Buffett. We tried a whiskey-marinated steak for the first time, and believe me when I say Omaha steaks are pretty impressive. My biggest observation was how much open space there is in this great country of ours, as we cruised past miles of corn fields. After driving through Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, I can honestly say that I experienced the bread (and corn) basket of the nation firsthand!
  • Denver, CO: The mile-high city is truly a melting pot of interesting people, and its nightlife is vibrant. We hobnobbed with the fun crowd of Hamburger Mary’s, witnessed a game of Jenga using the world’s largest block set, and enjoyed drinks with fun names like “The Unicorn.” The view from our hotel was phenomenal, and the pool there was equipped with cabanas and a full bar…not too bad! ;)
Denver city view

Denver city view

  • Boulder, CO: I honestly think Boulder is one of the healthiest places on the planet. It’s so green, and everywhere you look, people are jogging and riding bikes. And let me tell you, physical activity is not easy here with the altitude. I was feeling blah as my body acclimated, but soon the mountain air invigorated me.
  • Beaver Creek, CO: This community is famous for its ski lodges and breathtaking views. I’ve never been to the Swiss Alps before, but Beaver Creek looks a lot like the pictures I’ve seen of them. As we drove through the mountains, Antonio and I mused about how man could never create something so incredible as those rugged mountains, canyons, and creeks. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our everyday lives that we forget how many things in this world are much bigger than us. This leg of the road trip was the perfect reminder.
Stunning mountains and gorges near Beaver Creek

Stunning mountains and gorges near Beaver Creek

  • Moab, UT: More marvelous beauty, this time in the form of tall mesas and multilayered red rock arches. We stayed a bit outside of Moab, however, and realized things were a bit too quiet for us. After all the natural wonders, we were ready for something dazzling and man-made, something vivid and commercialized. So, we drove toward…
Rock formations in Utah

Rock formations in Utah

  • Las Vegas, NV! An interesting side note: As we journeyed through the supposed deserts of Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, we were struck by some crazy thunderstorms. At some points, we could barely see out of the car. And the normally sunny Vegas was cloaked by thick, dark clouds. This didn’t stop us from getting out and enjoying the fine cuisine, bright lights, and boundless energy of Sin City. The weather cleared up and we had plenty of pool time. We saw a show and even won some money at roulette. We selected the numbers and colors on the board by what we felt in our hearts, not any set mathematical strategy. This could, in fact, be the theme of our honeymoon: choose your destination based on what you feel in your heart, and you will win!
Sunset at the Paris in Vegas

Sunset at the Paris in Vegas

5 Ways to Keep Your Writing Sharp

by Kristina Ludwig
Aug 22
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: August 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

Last week, I gave my two weeks’ notice at work. After six years of working as a full-time pharmacist, I’m making the leap to full-time YA author. It was exciting and freeing…but it also got me thinking. Working outside the home every day has provided me with many stimulating experiences that directly or indirectly influence my writing. How will I keep sharp when I’m focusing wholeheartedly on writing? And how will I keep the stimulation and creativity going?

It turns out that it won’t be too hard. While brainstorming on the treadmill, I thought of 5 ways to keep my writing sharp. Check them out–maybe they’ll work for you, too!

Sharpen your writing in five fun ways!

Sharpen your writing in five fun ways!

  1. Learn new words: As writers, we’re wordsmiths, and learning new words can revolutionize our work. Check out Merriam-Webster’s word of the day for ideas.  Another fun thing is to create your own new words and have certain characters use them. Made-up words or combinations of two words can make your characters stand out.
  2. Be a yes-man or -woman: Say yes to new experiences, especially ones outside your comfort zone. If friends invite you out, say yes even if you’re tired. Not only will you have more fun, you’ll be more inspired. And yes, I say this from personal experience. The concept of YOLO does wonders for your writing.
  3. Network online: There’s a huge online network of authors, and all of us love sharing ideas and generating new ones. Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+ are perfect places to connect with other writers.
  4. Attend (different) writing conferences: Conferences are the best way for writers to network with industry professionals face-to-face, because we all know live networking is sooo important. It’s tempting to go back to conferences sponsored by the same organization year after year. However, it’s more beneficial to attend different conferences every year, to meet new people and get new ideas.
  5. Write on location: Remember how inspired and energetic you were after a field trip in elementary school? Taking a writing field trip can do the same thing for you. I love writing “on location,” in the same city or area as the setting of my story–it really carries over into the mood. For example, I wrote much of my short surfing story, A First Time for Everything, in California. My upcoming novel is set in Chicago, exactly where it was written. And I’m pumped for my autumn field trip to Pennsylvania Amish country, where I’ll do research for the Amish fiction I’m working on.

Knowing Your Audience: How to Do It and Why It’s Important

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 13
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

So you’ve self-published an eBook. Woohoo! Now comes the fun part: selling some copies.

But who will buy your eBook? Your family and friends, of course, although they will not be the primary determinants of your sales. They may help to drive your sales in the beginning, but in the long run, the primary purchasers of your eBook will be people you don’t know at all, although you may have interacted with them via social media. They’re your target audience.

But how to reach them? Well, first you have to know them. My short story on Amazon has ranked at the top of the Teen Short Stories category for four weeks and counting, in large part because I have begun to reach my target audience. To reach them, though, I had to know them.

My target audience is YA: tweens and teens between the ages of nine and seventeen, although I tend to write for the middle of this range, a precocious ten-year-old or a reluctant-reading fifteen-year-old, for example. This audience, especially the younger end, devours books, as well as movies, TV shows, magazines, and music, so they’re a very easy audience to identify with.

A very diverse and interesting audience!

A very diverse and interesting audience … but rather challenging to identify with. Thankfully, mine is slightly easier. :)

Here are five ways I got to know my audience.

  1. Twitter – I searched popular hash tags for teens, then followed some users who tweeted about these trends. I also added some followers of YA reading groups, like Epic Reads and Harper Teen. And, of course, I added some followers of other popular teen phenomena: authors like Suzanne Collins, and celebrities like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, for example. Many of the users followed me back, and voila … many of my Tweeps are now teens in my target audience!
  2. Facebook ads - Antonio and I launched three Facebook ad campaigns: the first to mothers throughout the US, Canada, and the UK who had kids in the YA age range, and the second and third to teens in select states who liked reading and Amazon. My Facebook page gained many “likes” from the target audience, and substantially less from their mothers. I realized that Facebook ad campaigns are a great way to know your audience, because you can see which users “like” your content. This gives you a better idea of who your audience is and what their interests are, which in turn allows you to write about the things that they’re passionate about.
  3.  Magazines - I went to the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago this week, and perused some teen magazines to better understand my target audience. I enjoy doing this periodically so I can stay in touch with my audience, how they talk and dress, what their biggest fears are, what their most embarrassing moments are, etc. One magazine even advertised a “Summer Reading” section, so I was able to see what books they’re reading.
  4. Popular TV Shows / Movies - This goes along with #3. I’m always on the lookout for fun YA movies and TV shows, so I can better relate to my audience. One word of caution, though: I sometimes use trendy teen slang in “current” activities (i.e. social media, conversations, and even ad campaigns), but when I’m writing my short stories and novels, I steer clear of it. I don’t want to date my stories, and keeping out the slang ensures that teens will enjoy them for years to come.
  5. Real-life Interaction - Mingling with your target audience in real life is priceless. I know some teens through work, and I’ve met many more while handing out flyers to promote my short story. Interacting with your target audience benefits your readers because they can finally put a face and voice with your name, and it benefits you because you can get to know your audience firsthand! How’s that for win-win?

So those are my tips for knowing your audience. I also found a very relevant Facebook post from my author-hero Joanna Penn that addresses this subject even more. Enjoy!

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2013/06/13/identify-your-target-audience/

Vlogging for Authors

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 4
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 4, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Authors today have to be really techy — creating a successful platform demands it. Not only should we be blogging and connecting with our readers and fellow writers via Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+, we should also be posting videos on YouTube and doing video blogs, aka vlogs.

Vlogs are a great way to connect with your audience. People love videos, especially ones that are quick, useful, and fun to watch.

Luckily, shooting videos can be super fun if you’re prepared. To make sure you have an enjoyable experience shooting your video, it’s as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Prep Your Environment: Your background should be uncluttered, so viewers focus on you, not the pile of dirty socks or random oddities behind you. Online video expert Gideon Shalwick has a helpful video on how to create the ultimate clean, white, Apple-style background…in a garage! Watch his video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZP0qKVJOlc And don’t limit yourself to an indoor environment — parks or other picturesque outdoor venues work well too. Want an interesting change? Try shooting the video in a library with a bookshelf as your backdrop — very studious. :)
  2. Write Your Speech: Okay, so you’re not making a real speech, but you still want to know what you’re going to say, so you don’t freeze, deer-in-headlights-style, as soon as the “record” light goes on. I prefer to make a brief outline before shooting a video so I will remember the most essential points.
  3. Rehearse: Don’t expect a perfect video the first time. Do a few trial runs. If you rehearse your video two to three times with the camera on, you’ll find that you don’t even need to refer to your outline anymore. The words will flow out of your mouth naturally. Rehearsing will allow you to be more spontaneous and confident when you shoot the actual video.

Here’s my first-ever vlog. It’s an author introduction video I made with the generous help of my business partner and fiance Antonio. In it, you’ll learn a little about me and my mission to help other writers achieve their dreams.

Hope you enjoy it! :)

Why Writing is Like Acting: Characterization on the Page and Stage

by Kristina Ludwig
May 27
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 27, 2013 at 12:26 pm

I’m currently in the final revision stage of my novel, and I’ve been paying particular attention to characterization and consistency throughout the story. One comment my instructor made was that a certain sentence I wrote didn’t “sound like Aubree,” my fourteen year-old heroine. I reread it, and it really did sound like an adult, not Aubree, was talking. My instructor also said that one line in a romantic section sounded like something from a romance novel, and challenged me to write it “how Aubree would say it.”

For the most part, I’m very consistent with the voice of my precocious teen heroine, but now I realize that it can be easy to deviate from her voice without even noticing, especially when I’m caught up in the action of the story. We writers have to ensure that we’re getting–and staying–in the heads of our characters, never losing track of their voices. And this got me thinking about how similar writing is to acting, except that instead of staying in character on the stage, writers do it on the page.

Think about it: when an actor takes on a character, he or she must become that character. The actor’s thoughts, feelings, and vocal inflections are no longer his or her own. The actor’s life experience and pre-conceived notions must take the back seat to those of the character. “Breaking character” is the kiss of death for an actor; it could cost him or her the audition or the glowing review, and it could lessen the impact of the performance on the audience.

Actress Kristin Wansten Howarth getting in character in downtown San Francisco

Actress Kristin Wansten Howarth getting in character in downtown San Francisco

Writing, like acting, is a fine art, and writers must be as vigilant as actors about never breaking character. We writers must become our characters. Our passions, emotions, motivations, and life views must fade into the background, while those of our characters must jump off the page, grabbing readers with sheer vitality.

We writers can never break character, because it could cost us that literary agent, or that book deal, but most importantly, it could sever the fragile bond we have with our readers. People lose themselves in books just as they do in movies or stage productions, and we writers have to make sure the world we create stays consistent and never lets our readers down.

So writers out there, I challenge you to characterize on the page the way actors do on the stage. Your “audience” will love you for it!

Short Series: A New Trend in YA Literature

by Kristina Ludwig
May 9
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 9, 2013 at 11:39 am

YA series are certainly not a new phenomenon. I grew up reading them. First, it was Nancy Drew. Then, I moved on to the Baby-sitters Club and the Sweet Valley High books. YA series in the 90s seemed to go on forever, with literally hundreds of books following a similar formula. And we kids of the nineties simply devoured them!

One of the great series of yesteryear, The Baby-sitters Club!

One of the great YA series of yesteryear, The Baby-sitters Club.

Now, however, I’ve noticed a trend of shorter series in YA literature. The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games Trilogy are certainly the most well-known examples. But even outside the world of paranormal and dystopian YA fiction, there are tons of series. They’re becoming a trend in contemporary YA fiction as well. I just read two Stephanie Perkins books, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door, which feature a cast of recurring characters. I’m eagerly anticipating the next novel in the series, Isla and the Happily Ever After, which will center on a character who made a brief appearance in Anna and the French Kiss. Another example is Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oaks series; the characters go to the same school, and even though they’re not all from the same clique, they reappear in subsequent books.

These short series benefit readers and writers alike. Readers enjoy them because of the continuity–the characters become familiar, like old friends. And it’s interesting to see the development of a character who, in a previous book, may have only made occasional cameo appearances. Writers enjoy series because they can reuse characters and settings, saving the trouble of dreaming up a whole new batch. And, best of all, book sales spike as readers are drawn into the lives and loves of the characters. Series are the best way for authors to create the literary equivalent of customer loyalty, since a good series has readers coming back again, eagerly anticipating the release of the next book.

So, all you authors out there, YA or otherwise, think about giving series a chance. I know I’m kicking around some ideas in my head:)