Reflections on Finishing a Series

by Kristina Ludwig
Feb 3
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: February 3, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Woohoo! I just finished writing Book 4 of the Amish Hearts series, Amish Valentine, and am currently immersed in final edits.

I couldn’t be more excited about this dramatic, satisfying end to the series, but at the same time, I have a feeling of emptiness. My brain, which has been caught up for months in the lives and loves of the Amish twins Rebekah and Mercy, is fairly reeling with questions like, “Is this it? But where do I go from here?”

It’s the “losing your best friend” feeling for sure.

Finishing writing a series often brings forth questions like, "Where do I go from here?"

Finishing writing a series often brings forth questions like, “Where do I go from here?”

Like many authors who have been sucked into writing a series, I started Amish Hearts with the idea of it being just one book. But by the time I’d written a few chapters of Book 1 (Rumspringa Break), I knew there was much more to tell. As I wrote Books 2, 3, and 4, the characters developed, secondary characters took on lives of their own, plot twists spun and wove their ways into the stories, and everything combined into a rich tapestry of Amish society. The books felt like life itself: I never would’ve imagined how the circumstances of the storyline would unfold when I was writing page 1 of Book 1, but looking back, I’m happy everything turned out the way it did–and the beauty was in the journey.

Now, I feel like I  know the characters as well as my family or friends. We writers really bond with our characters–and we have to, in order to make them multi-dimensional. Now, the only question is, “How do I immerse myself in other characters? And do I want to?”

The answer is, or course, yes. Writers have to constantly evolve. So, I’ve decided that my next project will be to write the teen fiction novel I’ve been psyched out of my mind about ever since the idea came to me last year. It will be called Starstruck, and it will center around Quentyn, Aubree’s best friend from my teen eBook Winnerwhich I released in December 2013. After the Amish fixation, it will be ah-mazing to immerse myself in contemporary culture once again!

But I loved writing my Amish novellas so much, and Amish Fiction is such an awesome niche genre. So naturally, even though Amish Hearts is finished, my work in the genre itself is not. I’ve decided to write a spinoff of Amish Hearts; familiar characters will be thrown into unfamiliar situations and new characters will have the opportunity to take center stage. I anticipate the first book of the spinoff will be out this spring…and knowing that my beloved characters will be able to come out once again kind of eases the pain of finishing the first series.

Authors, how do you feel once you finish that long-awaited series? I would love to hear your reflections!

 

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.

Reflections on Clean YA Fiction

by Kristina Ludwig
Jul 31
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: July 31, 2013 at 11:33 am

Is it just my imagination, or is Young Adult fiction getting more and more mature? And I’m not just talking about the sassy, wise-beyond-their-years main characters–I’m talking about the steamy sex scenes and adult language that seem to be pervading the genre.

I have no problem with these things, since they’re part of life. Nor do I have a problem with the writers who incorporate these elements into their stories, as they can be very entertaining for teens exploring a new side of themselves.

But, when I’m writing, I prefer to keep it clean. I grew up reading clean YA, and there’s something beautiful about keeping that innocence alive. When I write, I think not only of critics and book sales, but of the average reader: a fourteen year-old girl discovering herself, for example. I think of her motivations, her desires, her likes and dislikes. And my target reader is always on the innocent side, as many girls that age are.

Whenever I write a scene, I also ask myself: Would my parents be proud to read this? How about my grandparents? How about my future kids?

Asking myself these questions has always kept my writing clean. It also prompted me to end my two-week hiatus from the blogosphere and post my viewpoints on swearing and sex in YA fiction.

When I'm writing, I prefer to keep it clean. :)

When I’m writing, I prefer to keep it clean.

  • Swearing in YA: Teens swear–no doubt about it. And so do some school-aged kids, new adults, middle-aged adults, elderly people…the list goes on and on. But when I write YA fiction, I prefer to avoid profanities. As my great-grandpa always said, “People who swear have an insufficient vocabulary in which to express themselves.” I don’t mind swearing (in moderation) in everyday life or even in books. But when I’m writing, I take Great-Grandpa’s challenge and find other words to express myself–especially when my audience may include readers as young as a precocious age nine or ten.
  • Sex in YA: Erotica is everywhere, and it’s even creeping into YA fiction. (Hopefully, YA erotica is not the next big thing!) But I never include sex scenes in my writing. Although many teens are active, a lot of readers aren’t, and it’s great to preserve that innocence. Capturing the magic of a first kiss can be just as emotionally stirring as a sultry sex scene–and it’s infinitely more age-appropriate.

I did some research, and it seems like many writers are in my squeaky-clean corner. Click here to watch a super-fun video posted by the Parenthetical Chicks that drives my points home. Enjoy!

Book Review: Stealing Parker

by Kristina Ludwig
Apr 12
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: April 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm

One of the best things about writing for young adults is that I can read the super-fun new books of other YA authors and call it market research–how awesome is that?! But seriously, market research is crucial for writers. It inspires us and helps us to keep up with current trends in our genres of choice. Plus, it’s just plain entertaining.

With that in mind, I’m introducing a new category of my blog, “Readers’ Corner.” In Readers’ Corner, I will review my favorite new books, mostly YA and some NA (i.e. “New Adult,” which is geared toward an audience of 18 to 30 year-olds). Hopefully, Readers’ Corner will help you next time you want a great book to read!

Today’s Readers’ Corner review features the contemporary YA novel Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally.  This is Kenneally’s second book in the Hundred Oaks series, which chronicles the lives and loves of high school students in a small town in Tennessee. Her first novel, Catching Jordan, dazzled me with its fresh plot line, not to mention the humorous honesty of the main character, so I couldn’t wait to pick this one up. 

Stealing Parker

Stealing Parker centers around a seventeen year-old, ex-softball-playing, super-smart girly-girl named Parker. She becomes the manager of the boys’ baseball team because Drew, her best guy friend, talks her into it. Parker is incredibly feminine, partially because she likes things like painting her nails and flirting with guys. Mostly, however, Parker’s girliness is a reaction to her mother’s proclamation that she “bats from the left side of the plate,” so to speak. Her mom, an avid softball player, leaves the family to live with her girlfriend, which is social suicide for Parker both at church and at school. After that, Parker’s been out to prove to everyone that she’s not like her mom, hence the overt boy-craziness and her resignation from the softball team.

Parker’s fixation with the opposite sex reaches a whole new level when she falls for Brian Hoffman, the twenty-three year-old coach of the boys’ baseball team. Their late-night interludes in Brian’s truck are strictly PG (thank goodness), and both of them are aware that their relationship can’t be public. The romance with Brian lends a classic, forbidden-love twist to the storyline.

Meanwhile, Parker is struggling with her feelings toward Will (aka. Corndog), the ex-nerd who’s now cool, cute, and, just maybe, into her. She’s confused because of her feelings for Brian, and also because Drew has a crush on Corndog(!), and she doesn’t want to hurt her bestie. Add in a brother who’s been battling substance abuse (nothing hard, thank goodness, although he does drink a whole bottle of Robitussin. I’m guessing it was the DM formula, because plain guaifenesin wouldn’t mess anyone up.), and a dad who’s in total denial of everything, and you’ve got a volatile mix.

Things come to a head when Parker and Corndog are talking in the equipment shed, and Brian discovers them. He makes Corndog leave because the manager can’t be involved with the players, but of course, it’s also because he’s jealous. Then, Parker’s ex-friend Laura discovers Parker and Brian in the equipment shed, and pretty soon the rumors are flying. Naturally, Parker, Brian, and Parker’s dad are called to the principal’s office, and Parker’s dad says there’s no way she’s involved with Brian because she’s going out with Corndog. So, Corndog is summoned to the office to confirm this fact, and he finds out about Brian. Then, Drew discovers that Parker and Corndog were “messing around,” and he’s mad at her, too. On top of it all, Brian resigns and goes MIA.

Without ruining the conclusion for everyone, let’s just say the loose ends are tied up neatly. Naturally, Parker reconciles with her mom when she’s feeling at her lowest low, and, of course, she cleans things up with Drew and Corndog. She figures out her love life, too, because everyone likes a happy ending. :)

Overall, I’d give the book 4 and 1/2 stars. Kenneally crafts truly memorable, multi-faceted characters with authentic teen voices, and the plot line was innovative and forward-thinking. Although Parker kisses plenty of boys (and one man–yikes) throughout the book, she is portrayed as a “good Christian girl,” and there is no sexual activity. However, parents might find some mentions of alcohol (in one party scene), drugs (with Parker’s brother), and sexuality (since there are references to having sex, even though Parker doesn’t do it) to be too daring for girls under sixteen. Parker also barely eats anything, and mentions losing thirty pounds (She’s 5’7 and dropped from 140 to 110 pounds), so parents might also be concerned about the implication of eating disorders.

There is an interesting religious undertone to the book; Parker has frequent conversations with God. She even writes Him little messages, which she usually burns or throws out of windows. The hypocrisy and controlling nature of her church (which shunned her mom, and even discouraged her dad from dating a new woman Parker liked) was a little harsh, but probably realistic, because some small-town churches may tend toward that end of the spectrum. So, all in all, an intriguing and unusual read! If you want to check it out, here’s a link to the author’s web page.

http://mirandakenneally.com/

Chance to Dance Part 2

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 6
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 6, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Thanks to everyone who read the first section of my MG short story. And now, for anyone wondering how Arianna copes with her own personal hell, read on!

Arianna’s dance partner was Ethan, a gangly boy with dirty fingernails. Arianna concentrated hard on learning the tricky new moves Ms. Indyk demonstrated, while Ethan mimicked Arianna, laughing the whole time. Arianna whirled, and Ethan did an exaggerated whirl, even flicking an imaginary ponytail.

“Ethan!” Arianna hissed. “That’s mean!”

Ethan shrugged, and continued to imitate Arianna as she executed a series of bouncy dance steps. He was so busy mimicking Arianna that he wasn’t learning his own dance steps.

“Stop mocking me!” Arianna cried. “You should be focusing on your moves!”

 “Hey, gotta have some fun in this lame-o dance class,” Ethan said.

 “Dancing is not lame-o,” Arianna said. “Why are you even here?”

 “My mom makes me come,” Ethan replied. “I never dance unless I’m forced.”

  “Lighten up,” Arianna said. “If you give dancing a chance, you’ll love it.”

Ethan shrugged again, but at least he stopped making fun. He grabbed Arianna’s hands, and, with a resigned sigh, tried the footwork Ms. Indyk was demonstrating. For a moment, Arianna thought he was actually enjoying himself, until he spun her around and accidentally stepped on her toe.

“Ooooooow!” Arianna howled, jumping backward.

Ms. Indyk stopped the music. “Arianna and Ethan,” she said sternly. “What is going on?”

Arianna tried to explain, but Ms. Indyk interrupted her. “You need to learn teamwork. Your audition depends on it.”

 Arianna glared at Ethan, who started making faces the moment Ms. Indyk’s back was turned. From across the room, Meredith gave Arianna a snobby, superior smile. Arianna swallowed hard. She was close to tears, but she couldn’t let Ethan, Meredith, or Ms. Indyk know it.

Look for more coming soon!


Shaking it Up With Some Middle Grade Fiction

by Kristina Ludwig
Nov 29
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: November 29, 2012 at 11:33 am

I’ve finally (sort of) recovered from my Thanksgiving turkey coma and ensuing week of pure laziness…just in time to share my brand-new short story with you!

I usually write YA (Young Adult) fiction, but for the recent Writer’s Digest Short Short Story competition, I decided to shake it up a bit with an MG (Middle Grade) entry. MG readers fall between the ages of eight and twelve; they’re the adorable younger siblings of my usual readers.

There are some notable differences between YA and MG fiction. In MG, the stories revolve around problems as usual, but the problems are proportionally smaller, cuter, and more light-hearted than the more serious themes pervading YA fiction. Also, MG fiction is usually narrated in the third person. (i.e. “She did this,” as opposed to the usual YA first person, “I did this.”) As a child, I wrote my stories in third person, but as I grew up I leaned more and more heavily toward first person. It’s super-fun to return back to third person narration for a change!

One Last Chance to Dance centers around Arianna, a fourth grade girl who loves dancing more than just about anything. Her heart’s desire is to become the star of the spring dance recital, but it won’t be easy. She has to compete against Meredith, the class egomaniac who’s also the dance teacher’s niece. Plus, the girls must dance with boys during their try-outs, and Arianna’s uncooperative and annoying partner just might mess everything up!

Here’s an excerpt. What better way to rekindle your inner child this holiday season than by reading a little MG fiction? Or share it with an elementary school girl you know:) Look for the next excerpt coming soon!

Arianna took a deep breath. It was her big day: tryouts for the lead in the fourth grade jazz dance recital…and she was up next.           

Meredith was auditioning now. The bright overhead lights illuminated her bouncy ringlets, and she finished with a snooty smile. Everyone clapped as Meredith bowed dramatically.

“Good luck, Arianna,” Meredith said snidely as she flounced past and joined the other girls sitting on the glossy hardwood floor. “You’ll need it.”

“Just keep telling yourself that,” Arianna said, ignoring the butterflies doing plies in her stomach. She twirled to center stage, her long ponytail, silver hair ribbons, and favorite pink skirt swirling around her.

As the jaunty jazz number started, Arianna forgot about Meredith, the judges, and even her nerves, and became one with the music. She’d practiced the dance routine so much that it had become part of her. She whirled, leapt, and pirouetted, adding her unique flair to the routine that ten other girls had already performed. She finished with a flourish, and everyone except Meredith burst into thunderous applause. Arianna grinned. She loved dancing more than just about anything.

“That was awesome!” Arianna’s friend Bethany said. “You’ll be the lead for sure!”

But the judges’ opinion was all that mattered, and at that moment, they were talking intensely. Finally, Ms. Indyk faced the class. “Great job, girls!” she exclaimed. “I was impressed with all of you. In fact, we couldn’t pick our lead today! We will hold another audition next week, and four of you will have one more chance to dance.”

Who have they narrowed it down to? Arianna wondered, biting her lower lip. Hopefully me…but definitely Meredith.There was no way Meredith would be passed over. She was Ms. Indyk’s niece, after all.

“And our lucky girls are…Emily…Katie…Meredith…and Arianna!” Ms. Indyk said. “Your second audition will be a partner dance. Next class, you will rehearse with the boys from intermediate jazz!”

Arianna groaned, then clapped her hand over her mouth as Ms. Indyk frowned at her. She hated boy-girl activities. The boys in the jazz class were probably just like the annoying boys from school. They’d be stinky and grimy, and they’d probably tease her.

Uuuughh, Arianna thought. Dancing with boys will be a nightmare!

 

Rum-spring-a Break Finale

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 25
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 25, 2012 at 10:33 am

My apologies for leaving you suspended in time at Jakob’s awkward entrance for two whole weeks! But finally, here it is: the conclusion of Rum-spring-a Break. I hope Ethan’s advice to Rebekah will inspire you. Enjoy!

“Th-there you are,” Jakob stutters, flushing with embarrassment. His clear blue eyes cloud over to rainy-day gray as he studies Ethan and me. “Mercy’s not feeling well, so we should leave soon. But since you’re busy I’ll just…wait outside.”

Jakob nearly tramples Furball as he hurries from the room, and I laugh as Ethan’s eager lips take mine again.

“Are you on Facebook?” Ethan asks as our lips part. I shake my head no. “Do you have email?” I shake no again. “What about a phone? You must have a phone.”

“No, Ethan,” I say. “I’m Old Order Amish. We’re very traditional.”

“Will I see you again?” Ethan asks.

“I hope so.”

Ethan grabs a pen and scribbles his phone number on the back of the pre-vet curriculum in bold, strong strokes. He hands it to me, and his kiss is full of passion and promise. “So do I,” he says, his lips still on mine.

“Keep this, Rebekah,” Ethan says, reluctantly dragging himself, and me, off the bed. “And promise me you’ll remember something.”

“Anything,” I say.

“Don’t just hold on tight to your dreams,” Ethan says. “Actualize them.”

***

Ten Months Later:

I’m on the edge of my uncomfortable plastic seat as I wait for the SAT tests to be passed out. I’m glad I took Ethan’s advice. I still haven’t been baptized Amish, since I plan to earn my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree first. My hope is that, because my career will be useful to our community, the elders will overlook my worldly pursuit of education. In the meantime, though, I’ll just focus on enjoying rumspringa and the many benefits of the outside world.

I survey the other students in the room, a diverse group that, judging from the fidgeting, brow furrowing, and chair squeaking, is as nervous as I. A handsome young man in Amish suspenders and a straw hat sits across the room. I catch his eye and we exchange shy smiles as the tests are distributed. I’m dressed English today, but perhaps he recognizes a kindred spirit.

I close my eyes and visualize myself acing this test. I don’t know whether I’ll call Ethan and we will reunite, or whether the Amish boy will talk to me during break, or whether I will succeed as a veterinarian, or whether my family and community will accept me if I do. But I do know one thing: right here, and right now, I feel as though I’m exactly where I belong. Clutching my Number 2 pencil, I take a deep breath, open my eyes, and flip open my SAT booklet, ready for whatever comes next.