The Truth About Writer Moms and Deadlines

by Kristina Ludwig
Jul 20
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: July 20, 2015 at 10:28 am

It seems as though we live our lives by deadlines, and this is a good thing. After all, they keep us focused and productive, which is essential if we ever want to move forward in our chosen professions.

Deadlines are especially important for us writers–whether we’re writing an article for a major magazine or self-publishing a novella, it’s imperative to take our craft seriously, and that means sticking to deadlines–whether they’re self-imposed or not.

I never had a problem with deadlines; during my school days, my assignments were always done on time. During my stint as a pharmacist, I would stop at nothing to make sure that people had their prescriptions ready by the promised time. When I transitioned into my career as a self-published author, I created my own deadlines. Suddenly, I didn’t have teachers or patients breathing down my neck, and I was able to be totally self-directed, which I loved.

For the first year, I churned out one new book per month, sometimes two if I released a box set, and I stuck to my deadlines religiously. When Antonio and I were blessed with our daughter last October, I set slightly less aggressive deadlines, and was able to meet them all… that is, until about a month ago when I had to ask my editor for my first-ever extension.

Even if your clock is this cool-looking, it's still reminding you of the dreaded deadline. :)

Even if your clock is this cool-looking, it’s still reminding you of the dreaded deadline. :)

 

Every muscle in my body tensed at the mere thought of an extension. I felt like I had failed–my editor, my readers, and, most of all, myself. Yet there was no way that I could’ve submitted my book by the promised date. I’d been traveling, but I’d thought I’d have plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time while Xaviana napped. However, when she began teething, her naps (i.e., my writing time) became irregular, and I just couldn’t catch up.

The good news was that I set a new deadline with my editor, and was able to meet it. I released the book, and am now hard at work on the next one–and hoping to meet the next deadline haha. Xaviana is napping well again, I’m writing, and all is right with my world. :)

This made me think about how work for a writer-mom is constantly evolving–just like our babies themselves. As I’ve told myself so many times, we just need to be flexible, and I suppose our deadlines have to be, too. Writer-moms (and dads) out there, what do you think? What experiences do you have with deadlines? Do you always meet them, or do you find that it’s better to keep them a bit loose sometimes? What about those of you with older kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Kindle Unlimited New Pages Read Policy: What Do You Think?

by Kristina Ludwig
Jul 7
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: July 7, 2015 at 11:41 am

As of July 1st, Amazon has rolled out a brand-new policy, which affects authors with books in the Kindle Unlimited borrowing program. Check out the details here. In a nutshell, authors will receive payment based on pages read instead of number of downloads. There’s even an algorithm called Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC), which Amazon employed to determine the page count of each book.

Will we have to write books this thick to reap the benefits of the new Kindle Unlimited policy? Only time will tell ;)

Will we have to write books this thick to reap the benefits of the new Kindle Unlimited policy? Only time will tell ;)

Admittedly, I didn’t realize the new policy at first; I’d somehow missed that particular email from Amazon. When I saw my borrowed units jump well into the thousands–just in the first week of July–I was ecstatic. The news of the change burst my bubble, but once I really thought about it, I had to admit that it’s totally fair. I have removed some of my books from KDP Select, and may yank out a few more depending on how my sales are impacted–and how high they are in other markets. As always, the process of choosing where and how to publish is one of trial and error, and always being adaptable.

Authors out there, what do you think of Amazon’s new policy? Has it impacted your decision to place your books in the Kindle Unlimited borrowing program? As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts!

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!

My Version of NaNoWriMo

by Kristina Ludwig
Nov 3
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: November 3, 2014 at 9:00 am

It’s that time of year again: NaNoWriMo. Love it or hate it, we writers must admit that it’s an interesting–and motivating–challenge.

nanowrimo

I have never actually participated in NaNoWriMo. Last year, I was just beginning my career as an indie author, and I was so caught up in writing and promoting my new Amish novellas that the thought didn’t even cross my mind. And in previous years, I was working full-time as a pharmacist and wasn’t ready for the challenge.

This year, however, I’m doing my own, slightly modified version of NaNoWriMo, just so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on the fun yet again. :) I will be working on Book 2 of the California Mermaids series, tentatively titled The Mermaid’s Wedding. The awesome thing is that I have a head-start; I completed the first six chapters of the book before I gave birth to my daughter, Xaviana Rose. The hurdle will be juggling my writing and my newborn–not literally, of course–with my parents visiting and my hubby going back to work. It sounds crazy, but you only live once, so why shy away from a challenge? ;)

As NaNoWriMo progresses, I’ll keep you posted with my progress–and I’d love to hear how you’re doing, too! Writers, are you participating in NaNoWriMo, or a modified version thereof? If so, what project are you focusing on? I always welcome your comments and feedback!

It’s Here! The Mermaid’s Curse Has Launched!

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 26
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 26, 2014 at 8:30 am

I’m pumped to announce that my newest eBook, The Mermaid’s Curseis out and priced at only 99 cents! It was one of my favorite books to write–I found it immensely stimulating to delve into a brand-new genre after focusing completely on Amish fiction for the past year.

The Mermaid's Curse Slider

 

Mermaids have intrigued me ever since childhood, when I watched The Little Mermaid and visited Weeki Wachee Springs, home of the performing mermaids. I feel as though I never outgrew my fascination with these fanciful creatures. I also loved the element of historical fiction that I decided to weave into the book; writing about the vacation town of Monterey in the year 1912 was so much fun!

Here’s a free excerpt from the new book. Chapter One can be found at the end of Amish Awakening: Rebekah and Braeden’s Book, and Chapter Two can be found at the end of a previous blog post.

Chapter Three: Oceania

Over the years, Ula has regaled me with stories of humans, and told me that many human men are good-looking. However, her descriptions could never do this man justice. When I surface, he is the first thing my eyes land upon, and his handsomeness strikes me like a twenty-foot wave. His hair is dark and wavy, his skin swarthy. His body is muscular and powerful, his features so strong that they appear to be chiseled, like the rocks on which he sits.

As I pull myself out of the water and greet him, I’m surprised that I feel none of the shyness that I would normally experience when meeting a new merman, especially such an attractive one. Perhaps it’s because everything here is so new and different that I’ve forgotten all about my nerves.

Or perhaps it’s because there’s something about this man that puts me instantly at ease. He’s so nice, telling me that I have a wonderful singing voice. No one has ever told me that before. I decide that I like this Xavier Rose—such a strange, exotic name, just as he himself is strange and exotic.

When I ask him to show me around, however, he wrinkles his forehead. “I would love to,” he says. “But how? I could swim with you, I suppose, but—” He trails off as his eyes land on my fins. “—you’re not really equipped for land.”

I laugh. “I know it might seem that way. But we mermaids change into humans when we’re dry, and back into mermaid form when we’re wet.” Or so I’ve heard. I’ve never actually tried it myself.

Xavier’s long-lashed brown eyes widen, and I realize that I can see myself in their dark mirrors. However, there’s so much more in his eyes than my own reflection—there’s kindness, and a sparkle that tells me he has a passion for life. I wonder what this man does. I can feel a certain sensitivity behind all his strength. Perhaps he’s a poet, or a painter.

“So all I have to do is dry off,” I continue, shivering a bit as the cool night air whooshes over my skin.

Xavier grins. “In that case, let’s get you onto the beach.”

He stands on the rock, heaving me up into his arms effortlessly. My breath hitches as he carries me over the jagged boulders, finally setting me down on a dry spot in the sand.

“Here, Oceania.” He removes his jacket and helps me into it; it’s slightly damp, but guards me against the chill of the windy surface world. Plopping down on the sand next to me, he gently massages his hands up and down my arms from outside the jacket, and I feel my entire body heating up, starting with my arms and extending all the way to my heart.

I never want him to stop, but when he drapes his arm over my shoulder, I realize that this feels even better. I relax into his embrace, leaning my head against his broad chest. For a long moment, time stops. We gaze out at the ocean; it’s just as Ula had described it, with white-tipped waves rolling over each other and the rocks in tumultuous rhythm. Here, the moon is so brilliant and luminous, not at all like the filtered view I’d always had through the water. I hum lightly under my breath, a tune my mother taught me, called Song of the Sea.

“I could listen to you all night,” Xavier says in a husky voice, burying his lips in my hair.

I shiver at his touch, wondering what his lips would feel like on mine. He’s so masculine, but he has a softness about him, too. “I could sing to you all night.”

“Well, let’s do that,” Xavier says. “I know the perfect place to take you once you’ve transformed.”

He glances at my lower half, and I follow his gaze. My tail has begun to tingle as the breezy air wafts over it, and I wince when I feel a slight burning sensation. A moment later, my scales gradually begin to dull and fall away, revealing a layer of skin, as pale and white as the moon.

“Are you okay?” Xavier asks, tearing his eyes away from the transformation and staring at my face. “Does it hurt?”

“A little.” It’s not the worst pain I’ve ever experienced—once I was accidentally bitten by a playful baby shark, and that had hurt far worse. But just the same, I grimace as my tail and the remaining scales crack away and fall into the sand, revealing two smooth legs and two little feet with shiny, aqua-colored toenails. My only covering, besides my seashell top, is a light layer of green seaweed that reaches to my upper thighs.

Xavier’s mouth drops open as he stares at my legs, but a moment later he shakes his head and averts his gaze.

“Let’s walk,” he says quickly. He stands first, and then reaches down, helping me up with both hands. I notice that even when he’s looking at me from above, he keeps his eyes away from my bare legs, as though he’s embarrassed to see so much

flesh. Perhaps he is—Ula told me that humans, particularly the females, are very peculiar about exposing their bodies, and even their bathing costumes hardly show their legs.

I scramble to my feet a bit awkwardly, and scrunch my toes into the sand for stability. “This feels wonderful!” I exclaim, wriggling my toes through the sand. The tingling and burning feelings have subsided, but my legs do quiver a bit under the unaccustomed weight.

Xavier laughs and kicks off his own shoes, doing the same. “You’re right, Oceania. Feeling the sand between our toes is such a simple pleasure, and one that we can so easily forget. But it really does feel splendid, doesn’t it?”

A moment later, however, he stops laughing and asks, “So, do you think you can walk? I mean, you never tried it before, right?”

I nod. “Right. But I think, with your help, I can.”

Xavier laces his arm through mine, and together we walk down the beach by the light of the moon, wobbly at first, but soon falling into a nice strolling rhythm. Finally, I feel comfortable enough with my new legs to look up at the sky and walk at the same time. The stars glisten like mermaids’ tears, each different and perfect.

We walk to a spot where the sand meets the water’s edge, and I squeal in delight as the waves lap over my toes.

“I love it here,” I proclaim, but I jerk my feet out of the water as my toes begin to tingle.

“What’s wrong?” Xavier asks, tightening his grip on my arm.

“I just forgot that once I’m in human form, I can’t get wet or I’ll change back into a mermaid.”

“That’s important to know,” Xavier says, reaching down and drying my feet with his jacket. He glances toward some huge houses near the beach. Many of them are darkened for the midnight hour, but some still have lights in the windows that shine as brightly as the stars. “Come with me, Oceania. It’s time that I show you around.”

I hope that you enjoyed the excerpt, and welcome your comments and feedback about it. I love to hear from my readers!

Free Excerpt of Amish Awakening

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 12
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 12, 2014 at 9:40 am

I am finishing up the grand conclusion of my Amish Couples trilogy, Amish Awakening (The Finale): Rebekah and Braeden’s Book. I’ve had an awesome time writing the Amish Hearts, Amish in College, and Amish Couples series, and am gearing up for my new project, my first YA mermaid fiction novella–as yet unnamed–due out this fall!

I enjoyed writing my Amish series, but I'm ready for a hiatus. Next stop: Mermaids! (Photo courtesy of fineartamerica.com)

I enjoyed writing my Amish series, but I’m ready for a hiatus. Next stop: Mermaids! (Photo courtesy of fineartamerica.com)

I will keep you posted on the launch date of Amish Awakening here on the blog, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from the book. Note: Chapter One can be found at the end of Amish Bakery Challenge: Mercy and Samuel’s Book.

Chapter Two: Braeden

 Rebekah hurries out of the room, retreating into the hallway to speak on her phone. I groan and roll over, wanting to enjoy every last morsel of sleep. Yet, I can’t stop myself from listening to her conversation. Her voice becomes more and more agitated by the second. By the time she’s hung up with whoever she’s been talking to, she sounds so anxious that I can almost feel my own blood pressure skyrocketing.

I sigh and roll out of bed, pushing a handful of hair out of my eyes. I have to be the good boyfriend here, and find out what’s bothering her.

I find Rebekah hunched over the kitchen counter with her head in her hands, her long, coppery hair falling all around her face. As I step on the telltale creaky floorboard, she raises her head, and I can see that her eyes are swollen and puffy.

I slide onto the barstool next to her, and immediately drape my arms around her shoulders. “What’s wrong?”

Rebekah sniffles loudly, and says in a quivery voice, “My internship is off, that’s what’s wrong. I can’t believe that they’d have the nerve to call me, one week before I start—”

“Wait,” I interrupt, kneading the tense muscles of her upper back. “How is that even possible? I’m doing the same internship as you are, and they didn’t call me. At least, I don’t think they did.” I glance at my phone, my stomach doing a quick flip-flop. “Nope, no call. Are you sure this wasn’t some kind of prank? You know how Connor likes to mess with you.”

It’s true. My old roommate Connor is always ridiculing both Rebekah and me for being Type-A personalities. He calls us the Anal Twins, a moniker that Rebekah detests.

But Rebekah just shakes her head. “No way. It was a woman. And she told me that they cut all the sophomores because they over-hired and didn’t have the funds to pay us.”

Unbelievable. “Is that even legal?” I ask. “I mean, we signed papers when we were hired, right?”

Rebekah lets out a flat, joyless laugh. “We signed papers all right, but they don’t protect me. That job is at-will employment. The pay and the hours were in the contract, but the papers said that the intern or the vet could end the position at any time.” She exhales deeply. “The woman told me I could volunteer, but what good would that do? I can’t afford to stay here unless I earn some money.”

I massage my way down her spine, trying to work out all the kinks in her back. “It’s not as bad as you think. We have a whole week off to find you another internship, and even if you can’t find anything, I can cover your rent here. Don’t forget, my parents help out a lot. And the internship will be paying me well.”

I nearly bite my tongue in half after I utter the last sentence. Rebekah’s face falls, and she looks down at the ground. All the knots I’d worked out of her back return with a vengeance.

“Well, I’m glad at least one of us will be well-paid,” Rebekah says, her voice low and tinged with bitterness. “But I can’t take your charity. I pay my own way. You are right about one thing, though. I have a week to find an internship, and I’m going to have to make the most of it.”

She pushes herself up off the barstool, straightens her thin, cotton pajamas, and pads into the kitchen in her bare feet, pulling out two mugs and starting to brew the first cup of coffee in the Keurig. “Is it okay if I borrow your laptop? I need to find a new job, and fast.”

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?”

New Excerpt of Amish Bakery Challenge!

by Kristina Ludwig
Aug 21
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: August 21, 2014 at 9:34 am

It’s about that time… I’m currently engrossed in revisions of my newest book in the Amish Couples series, Amish Bakery Challenge: Mercy and Samuel’s Book. The story focuses on Mercy and Samuel’s struggles as they adjust to life as a married couple (living with Mercy’s family), eagerly await the completion of their new house, and build their own business, a general store and bakery. Mrs. Stoltzfus, Mercy’s old boss, accuses Mercy of stealing her recipes and her business, and organizes a boycott against the bakery, so Mercy and Samuel must be resourceful to keep the bakery afloat.

Check it out! There's an actual Stoltzfus Bakery in Lancaster, PA! Image courtesy of www.europeandme.eu

Check it out! There’s an actual Stoltzfus Bakery in Lancaster, PA! Image courtesy of www.europeandme.eu

Currently, I have a small reserve of titles for this book, and would love to hear your opinions about the catchiest and/or most appealing title. Here are the options:

  • Amish Bakery Challenge
  • Amish Bakery Boycott
  • Amish Bakery Battle
  • Amish Bakery Wars
  • Amish Mercy (because of themes of forgiveness throughout the book, and Mercy’s name, of course)

Also, I am going to reveal another sneak-peek excerpt of the book today! Chapter One, which is told from Mercy’s point of view, can be found at the end of Amish Baby (Amish Couples Book # 1). Here’s Chapter Two, which is told from Samuel’s vantage point. I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter Two: Samuel

 As I plop down next to Mercy at the dinner table, I can’t help but notice the way her pretty face has crumpled into a pout. She’d seemed to be in gut spirits earlier, but perhaps she’s annoyed with her maemm, who still insists upon treating us like bobbels even though we’re baptized and married. Or maybe her younger brothers and sisters have irritated her; sometimes, their energy and chatter can be overwhelming. She could be grumpy from hunger, too.

Yah, I have no idea what’s bothering Mercy, but I do know one thing for sure—if I don’t figure it out soon, things will rapidly decline from bad to worse. I love Mercy more than anything in the world, but she can be as unpredictable as the weather in March, calm one moment and raging and stormy the next.

I squeeze her hand under the table as the ever-bouncy Katie and Sarah help their maemm to carry over a steaming tureen heaped with hearty beef stew and dumplings.  I steal another sideways glance at Mercy as the stew is passed around. She’s no longer frowning; now she’s simply staring blankly into the distance, totally ignoring the chitchat of her younger brothers and sisters.

When the food reaches me, I ladle a healthy serving into Mercy’s bowl before dishing out my own, and she smiles at me gratefully.

“Thanks, Samuel,” she says. As soon as Katie has finished saying grace and we’ve all thanked Herr Gott for the abundance of food before us, Mercy devours her dinner. Okay, so maybe she was just hungry.

Afterwards, Mercy hops up from the table to help her maemm and sisters to clean up, while I adjourn to the living room with her vadder and younger brothers John and Daniel.

Mercy’s vadder buries his face in his Amish newspaper, while the boys invite me to play a board game. They groan when I politely shake my head.

“Sorry, guys. I have schoolwork to do.”

“On Saturday night?” Daniel whines.

I nod. “Every night.”

I pull my business notes out of my college backpack and concentrate hard, repeating each sentence under my breath. Finals start next week, and unless I start studying now, there’s no way I’ll ever have a chance to review all the information for my business and agriculture classes.

I’ve just lost myself somewhere in the midst of a lecture on supply and demand when Mercy says, “Wow, you’re really into those notes.”

I jolt back to reality with a start. Mercy stands before me, her eyes shining with amusement. I hadn’t even realized she was in the living room.

Yah, I guess I am.”

“You sure were. Your lips were moving and everything. Did you get a lot of studying done while we were cleaning up?”

“Not really.” I wink at her. “You’re fast, after all. I’ve probably been sitting here for less than fifteen minutes, so I got through four whole pages.” I hold up the three-ring binder to show her my progress, and then I pinch the thick remainder of notes between my thumb and forefinger. “Only this much more to go.”

Mercy wrinkles her nose. “That’s rough. Any chance you’re ready for a study break? It’s such a nice night. Don’t you think we can go out for a buggy ride or something?”

I shrug. “I’m not sure I really can take a study break at this point.  We have church bright and early tomorrow, and we’re visiting my family after that, so I’ll only have tonight and tomorrow night to study. Why don’t we just stay in tonight? You can read while I look over my notes—”

“Or you can play games with us,” John interrupts. “Come on, Mercy. Samuel won’t play, but we know we can beat you.”

Mercy shoots her brothers a tight smile. “Maybe next time.” Then, she looks at me, her cheeks flushing bright red. She opens her mouth to say something, but then she glances at her vadder and brothers and takes a deep breath. “I have a headache, and I need to talk to you, Samuel. Alone.”

She sails toward the stairs, her back straight and head held high. As I follow her upstairs, I’m reminded of the time when I was about nine years old and in big trouble with my teacher for throwing spitballs with Jakob. I still remember the way Mrs. Hersch had pulled Jakob and me out of the classroom, narrowing her eyes at us before lashing each of us five times with a hickory switch.

Right now, Mercy looks nearly as stern as Mrs. Hersch. Uh-oh.

Woohoo! Thoughts About Amazon Pre-order for Indies

by Kristina Ludwig
Aug 19
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: August 19, 2014 at 11:06 am

Last week, Amazon nonchalantly revealed an amazing breakthrough for indie authors: Now, we can make our books available for pre-order! Here’s a blog post with some useful info about the change. I was psyched to hear about this, because in the past, pre-order status was reserved for authors with publishing companies behind them. Some indie authors also had the privilege, but I was never entirely sure how to go about setting up and/or applying to place my books on pre-order. It was all very enigmatic.

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Now, there is no mystery–indie authors can set up their books for pre-order up to 90 days before the book’s release. This allows us to generate buzz and gives our books the opportunity to rank before they’re ever released, thus leading to increased discoverability and greater sales.

The process sounds fairly straightforward, and is outlined by Amazon on their Kindle Direct Publishing page. The biggest thing to remember is that the final version of the book or a draft manuscript (completed, but not copy-edited or proofread) must be finished by the time an author submits his/her book for pre-order. I’m sure that Amazon instituted this requirement to ensure that the books will actually be available on their promised dates.

I am planning to set up my next book in the Amish Couples series (tentatively titled Amish Bakery Challenge) for pre-order as soon as I have my cover and description completed, and I will be sure to pass on everything I learn! Uncovering the profitability of this new feature will be an ongoing experience, since indie authors don’t receive their royalties for final sales until the book is actually released and the pre-order customers have downloaded their copies–fair enough. However, the jump in rank will be apparent right away, and I can’t wait to see how it impacts my author discoverability and ranking.

Indies out there, what are your opinions on the new Amazon pre-order feature? Has anyone tried it yet, and if so, what results did you see? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Kindle Unlimited and Indie Authors: A Mixed Bag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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