Free Excerpt from My Upcoming Amish Book

by Kristina Ludwig
Feb 26
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: February 26, 2015 at 9:00 am

February has flown by–what a short and action-packed month! Between trips to Mexico and San Francisco and completing the preliminary drafts of my upcoming Amish novella, I’ve had little to no blogging time, so my apologies for going missing for a bit. :)

 

A picture from my recent San Francisco trip--feeling inspired over excellent French roast coffee.

A picture from my recent San Francisco trip–feeling inspired over excellent French roast coffee.

I’m working on the final edits of my upcoming Amish book, which will be launching next week, and I’m psyched to share an excerpt with you today.

This book, tentatively titled Amish Bishop, centers on favorite characters Hannah and Jakob, the newlyweds who quickly became parents to beautiful bobbel Grace in Amish Baby. It is full of action; between Mercy’s surprise announcement, a new family with a mysterious secret, and ordinations for a new minister and bishop, change is in the air.

As always, I’ll be sure to keep you posted about release dates, promos, and giveaways on the blog! In the meantime, enjoy the excerpt and let me know what you think. :)

 

Chapter One: Hannah

 

This Sunday, church services will be held at my haus, and I’m not looking forward to them.

Preparations should be easy; after all, I’ve helped my mother and sisters so many times. I know the routine: scrub the haus from top to bottom, and clear the living room for the benches that will be hauled in on the wagon. And, of course, there are foods to assemble: cold cuts, sausages, bread, peanut butter and marshmallow church spread, baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I’ll need to bake pies for dessert, too. The blueberry crop has been wunderlich this year, so I’m planning to make ten blueberry pies, which should be simple. After all, I worked in a bakery for several years.

But this will be the first time I’ve ever hosted services in my haus since I gave birth to my new bobbel, Grace.

We Amish don’t talk much about the miracle of motherhood. As a child, my maemm often said nothing at all about her pregnancies—until she began going into labor, and sent my daed or one of us older children to fetch the midwife, that is. But now that I’m a maemm, I feel blessed every time I gaze upon my sweet little miracle, who is here with us through Herr Gott’s divine grace.

Bobblin are the most rewarding little creatures, but they’re so much work, too. I have no idea how my maemm was able to raise all of us, keep the haus spotless, and entertain visitors, too. Of course, we older kids helped out, but what did she do when she had her first little bobbel, namely me?

I have newfound respect for her, because right now, I’m feeling overwhelmed.

Today is Saturday, and after Jakob left for work this morning, I’d scribbled a quick list of preparations for tomorrow’s church services. I’ve been steadily checking tasks off the list since before sunrise. The floors are swept, the furniture polished, the window screens cleaned, and the shelves dusted. Now, it’s time to do the cooking—for tonight’s dinner as well as some advance cooking for tomorrow.

So far, it is not going well.

I’ve just finished mixing the pie crusts and pressing them into the pie plates when I hear Grace begin to wail. Wiping my greasy, doughy fingers on my apron, I rush into the bedroom and am greeted by a screaming, red-faced Grace, wriggling back and forth in her crib. At three-and-a-half months, she has a collection of cries for every occasion. This is her hungry cry—she coughs a bit and makes a noise that sounds like, “Ma-MA.”

“Oh, sweet bobbel, Mammi’s here,” I croon, hastily unpinning the top of my dress. As I do, the pin slips, its sharp tip pricking into my finger. Biting back a howl, I suck on my wounded finger and pick Grace up with my other hand, positioning her to eat.

Grace loves eating; she latches on easily, and for a moment, the only sound in the house is sucking—me on the injured finger, and Grace on my breast. After she’s fed, burped, and changed, she wants to play, so I place her on the bed on her belly, watching her roll back and forth as she coos in excitement.

I’d love to keep rutsching around here all day, but the thought of all my tasks propels me forward. So, I scoop up Grace and head into the kitchen to finish making the pies.

I try placing her on her little play blanket on the floor, but she whimpers to be held, her clear blue eyes glistening with tears. Sighing, I pick her up, cradling her in one hand while filling the pies with the other. I’ve just dropped a dollop of blueberry filling to the floor with a wet splat when I hear a knock on the door.

Rolling my eyes, I wipe my hands again and scurry through the haus to fling open the door. There, on the front steps, stands my best friend Mercy.

“Hiya, Hannah,” Mercy says with a glowing smile, stepping into the haus as though she lives here. “Neat as a pin. You truly are the perfect homemaker.”

I fight back the urge to flinch at the mere mention of the word pin; my finger is still throbbing, although immersing it in the cold blueberries helped a bit. “Thank you.” I lead her into the kitchen. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“No, thank you.” Mercy’s eyes widen at the sight of the kitchen—the only room in the house that is not neat. The pies are in disarray, half of them filled, the other half sitting there with sad, empty shells, and flour covers the countertop.  Unwashed mixing bowls litter the counter by the sink.

“I guess you’re not perfect after all.” Mercy giggles. “Would you like some help?”

I laugh, slapping her on the arm. “I’d love some. I’ve been having a baremlich time preparing everything for services tomorrow. There’s just too much to do, especially with Grace.”

Mercy grins at Grace, who gurgles and gives a sunny smile back. “How is the little bobbel?” Mercy asks, tickling her soft, rosy cheek.

Wunderlich, and growing every day. Unfortunately, she wants to spend all her time with her mammi, and it’s been hard to do my chores and the cooking, and take care of her.”

“It’s gut that I’m here, then,” Mercy says, her skillful baker’s hands filling the remaining pie crusts. “Lattice or traditional?” she asks.

“Lattice. I could only make enough crust for lattice. I ran out of flour—I forgot to buy it at the store yesterday because Grace started crying.”

“I’ll bring you some,” Mercy says, expertly rolling out the remaining crust and cutting it into strips while I begin making tonight’s dinner—one-handed.

“Thanks. I’m glad that you came by. But aren’t you usually at the bakery at this time?” Mercy and her mann, Samuel, own a general store and bakery, and she’s usually there until late in the evening, Monday through Saturday.

Ach, jah,” Mercy says. “But today, I didn’t feel well, so I left your sister Eliza in charge.” Her busy fingers stop weaving the lattice strips, and she looks at me with serious eyes. “Hannah, I have something to tell you, and Samuel is the only other person who knows. Promise you won’t tell a soul?”

Book Excerpt from The Mermaid’s Voyage

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

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

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

mermaid-wishes-leslie-allen

Chapter Two: Dylan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’re Here: Cover Teasers for The Mermaid’s Wedding!

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 11
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 11, 2014 at 9:30 am

I’m excited to announce that the cover teasers for my new eBook, The Mermaid’s Wedding (California Mermaids #2) are ready, so of course I’m sharing them with you. :) The book will be released next week, and I can’t wait for you to read about Oceania’s adventures as she and Xavier plan their wedding on land!

Now, I need your help… Which of these cover concepts do you like better, left or right? Let me know by commenting below, and thanks in advance for your feedback!

 

Which of these rough draft cover designs do you like... Left of Right?

Which of these rough draft cover designs do you like… Left or Right?

The Mermaid’s Wedding Story Excerpt

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 5
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 5, 2014 at 8:30 am

Today, I’m psyched to share my NaNoWriMo project with you…or a chapter of it, anyway. I just submitted The Mermaid’s Wedding, Book 2 of the California Mermaids series, to my editor, and will be launching the book in mid-December. Until then, here’s the first chapter! I would love to hear what you think. :)

Gorgeous mermaid pic courtesy of fanpop.com

Gorgeous mermaid pic courtesy of fanpop.com

Chapter One: Oceania – 1912

 

In only ten full moons, my life will change forever, and the thought terrifies me.

I know I shouldn’t allow myself to be caught up in fear; after all, everything has already become drastically different since I turned eighteen two full moons ago. I left my mermaid home for the first time and ventured to the surface, where I fell in love with a land boy. I also uncovered the mermaid’s curse that has hung over the females in my family for generations.

If I survived all of these trials, I should be able to make it through anything, right?

From my vantage point atop Point Joe’s jagged rocks, I gaze out over the tempestuous waters of the Pacific, shivering as the breeze claws at my wet hair with chilly, damp fingers. When I visit the land, Xavier and I always meet in this spot, since it was here that we fell in love.

The view is different every hour of every day; sometimes, the white-capped waves glitter in the sunshine, rolling over each other like playful seal pups, but today, they’re a violent shade of dark teal under the steely, cloud-covered sky. The aura of foreboding suits my mood exactly.

Xavier wraps his jacket around my shoulders, encircling me with his strong arms. When I’d surfaced a few minutes ago, he’d patted my tail dry until I’d morphed into human form. Then, he’d held up a towel to shield me from the prying eyes of the distant fishermen and beachgoers, and I’d slipped into a borrowed dress from his sister Amelie. I must admit that, while I still find land fashions uncomfortable and confining, I’ve become much more adept at dressing myself in them.

Now, Xavier regards me with concern in his warm brown eyes. “What’s wrong, Oceania?”

“I was just thinking about tonight—it’s another full moon, and after that, I only have ten more moons until my choice between land and sea is made permanent.”

Most mermaids can travel freely between land and sea for life, but the women in my family cannot. This has been my family’s curse ever since Grandmer Genevieve spurned King Triteus’s son Kai in favor of Lucas, a land boy. Genevieve and Lucas proclaimed their undying love under a spray of sea mist, and Genevieve became pregnant with his child—my mother. Naturally, the king had been furious, and had called upon the sea witch Morwenna for punishment.

Morwenna took away Grandmer Genevieve’s immortality, and bestowed a curse upon future generations as well; all of Genevieve’s female descendants have only twelve full moons following their eighteenth birthdays to choose between living on land or in the ocean. After that, the choice is made permanent, and the mermaid can never visit the other realm again. To complicate matters further, if the mermaid chooses land, she becomes a human and loses her mermaid powers and her immortality.

The only way the curse can be broken is if the mermaid unites with a half-human merman. Then, they and all of their descendants will be able to travel between the two realms once again.

I chew on my bottom lip, glancing down at the antique diamond engagement ring that Xavier gave me when he proposed. Even in the gloom of the afternoon, each diamond sparkles like a mermaid’s tear. I should know; I’ve been crying a lot of those lately. I dread the day when I can never see my family again.

Xavier squeezes me tightly, lowering his forehead to mine. “I can’t lie to you; it’s going to be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. And I can only understand a fraction of what you’re feeling right now. But remember that you still have some time to go back and forth—savor that. And above all, know that I love you, and I’m here for you always.”

I give him a teary smile. “I suppose that’s all that truly matters. I love you, too.”

He kisses me, and the sunshine peeks through a tiny hole in the thick layer of clouds. The ray of light only lasts for a second, but it’s enough to tell me that everything will be all right—eventually.

“Besides,” Xavier says, “maybe someday the mermaid’s curse will be broken, and you’ll be able to travel freely once again.”

“Maybe.”

I’m about to add, “If I’m even still alive by that time,” but I bite my tongue, holding in the bleak thought.

I know that Xavier is trying his best to lift my spirits, but he’s right—he only can understand a fraction of what I’m feeling. His wealthy father did disinherit him when he refused to take up the family business and marry a “suitable” girl, but at least he can still see his family, and they’re in the same world.

“In the meantime, we have each other.” Xavier grins, his teeth bright white against the swarthy bronze of his skin. “Incidentally, my mother and Amelie have been so excited about our wedding plans. They want you to come over right away to discuss them.”

Xavier and I are planning a land wedding before we move to San Francisco together, where we’ve been offered positions in the symphony. I also want him to come under the ocean with me for a mermaid wedding, but I have yet to actually broach the subject with my mer-folks. I’m dreading their reactions.

But I shouldn’t think about that right now; it will only depress me. Taking a deep breath of the salty, cleansing air, I say, “Let’s do that. I look forward to seeing them.”

5 Ways for Writers to Build Readership on Wattpad

by Kristina Ludwig
Nov 20
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: November 20, 2014 at 8:49 am

Recently, I joined Wattpad, a social media community that lets you read, vote for, and comment on the work of other writers, as well as post your own stories. Wattpad is the ideal platform for authors of YA fiction, since teens and young adults are the primary users. Once I checked out Wattpad, I knew that it would be the ideal medium to build my readership, allowing me to reach fans in my new genre, teen mermaid romances.

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With this in mind, I’ve spent a few hours a week on Wattpad, and have built up more than 50 followers in the past two weeks. I know this is just a start, and my goal is to reach at least 1000 by the end of the year. But here are 5 strategies I’ve implemented so far to increase my followers and build readership of my story, The Mermaid’s Curse.

  1. Search by keyword - I searched the keywords “mermaid,” “mermaid fiction,” teen mermaid,” and “merman,” just to name a few. These searches brought up stories as well as users with “mermaid” in their  usernames. I added all the stories to my library, and have been reading them as market research. I also followed all the users I could find related to mermaids. Many of these users followed me back automatically after I followed them, and still more followed me after I voted for and commented on their stories.
  2. Search by category -  I also searched by broad categories, such as “Paranormal,” “Teen Fiction,” and “Fantasy.” I joined some groups for users interested in these categories, followed several users, and added stories to my library. After I did this, my followers increased again.
  3. Follow users with large and small fan bases - I follow “big ticket” and “small ticket” users. The users with many fans are great, because I can study their profiles and works to ascertain how they became successful. However, I also like to follow users with small fan bases, since they’re more likely to have the time and inclination to follow me back, respond to my comments on their stories, and read my work. One strategy I found was to follow a very popular user and then check out the people who commented on his or her story and follow them, too. Many of these people have smaller followings, and I found that they follow me back and comment on my stories.
  4. Interact often - Comment on stories, message new followers or people you’ve followed, join groups, dedicate chapters to fellow Wattpad users, and vote on stories. Wattpad is a community of reciprocity, and if you give others your time, interest, and attention, it will come back to you. I have already had two chapters dedicated to me because I really connected with another user who incorporates celestial elements like the moon and stars into her stories, and liked the way I also did this in The Mermaid’s Curse. 
  5. Publish your best work - Wattpad is pretty raw, and many writers post first drafts with grammatical errors and punctuation issues. I like to give every story a chance, but when I stumble upon a work in which the author used “they’re” instead of “their” or some similarly offensive faux pas, I usually stop reading immediately. I know everyone is not so discerning, and many of the users are barely out of middle school, but I find that the works with the most views, votes, and comments are polished, with a sound plot structure and correct grammar. Sharing your best work on Wattpad can enable you to stand out. Another great strategy I’ve employed as I post The Mermaid’s Curse chapter by chapter is including a link to the book on Amazon at the end of the chapter. This encourages readers to buy it for only 99 cents. I also plan to message all my followers when I have a free promotional day on the book.

Other writers out there, are you a Wattpad user? If so, what strategies have you used to increase your readership? I’d love to hear about your experiences!

New Vlog: Reading an Excerpt of Amish Awakening

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 29
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 29, 2014 at 9:15 am

Is it just me, or are we never truly too old to be read aloud to? Whether it’s listening to Bible readings in church, attending poetry or book readings, or listening to Audible books, the ancient tradition of the storyteller is still alive and well! Here’s a recent blog post I wrote on the topic after doing a public reading of my eBook, Amish Baby.

This weekend, Antonio and I filmed a video of me reading an excerpt from my newest Amish book–and grand finale of my Amish series–Amish Awakening: Rebekah and Braeden’s Book. It’s the last Amish book I will write, at least for a while, so I’m super excited to share it with you. I hope that listening to this reading of Chapter One will bring the characters to life and set the stage for the story of Rebekah’s dramatic summer and re-awakening of her Amish roots.

Click the picture to watch the YouTube video of me reading an excerpt of Amish Awakening!

Click the picture to watch the YouTube video of me reading an excerpt of Amish Awakening!

Readers out there, do you still enjoy being read to? Writers, have you filmed reading videos and/or read your work publicly, and if so, what kind of reactions did you receive? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Libraries Going Strong: Trends in Libraries Today

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

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

 

The gorgeous interior of Chicago's Harold Washington Library.

The gorgeous interior of Chicago’s Harold Washington Library.

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

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

A view of the YOUmedia Center in the Harold Washington Library

A view of the YOUmedia Center in the Harold Washington Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Reading 30 Books a Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Here: Amish in College #3 is Out!

by Kristina Ludwig
May 21
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 21, 2014 at 10:14 am

Today is a very exciting day–my latest Amish in College novella, Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book, has launched!

Here’s the Amazon descriptionMercy’s boyfriend Samuel has accomplished a feat that he always thought was impossible: He’s won a full scholarship to a local university where he’s studying agriculture and business! He’s sure that his newfound knowledge will help him to save his family’s failing farm. 

As classes and demands on the farm intensify, Samuel finds himself struggling to balance the dual tasks of school and work. His brother John suddenly abandons his duties on the farm, opting instead for a higher-paying job at a factory. Meanwhile, both his father and Mercy pressure him to quit college. His father needs his help full-time, while Mercy thinks that college is taking too much time away from their relationship. 

As conflicts heat up, Samuel learns about an innovative new farming niche that might be the answer to his family’s woes. Can he apply what he’s learning in school to save his family’s farm, or will he succumb to the pressure and give up on college? Will his brother John return to the farm he once loved, or is he lost forever? And will Samuel and Mercy survive their relationship challenges?

Those of you who follow my blog may remember the post about channeling a male protagonist. It was definitely a challenge to get into an 18 year-old guy’s head, considering that I’ve always written from a female perspective. I think you’ll enjoy the way Samuel looks at things, especially the way our favorite Amish twins, Rebekah and Mercy, appear through his eyes!

Amish Scholar Cover

I also loooove the new cover above, courtesy of Antonio, man of many talents. :) He surprised me with an incredible mock-up of this design, which we tweaked one evening. What do you think of the new design? I think we’ll definitely be doing our own covers from now on!

And finally, here’s a free excerpt of the book, so you can try it before you buy it. Enjoy!

It turns out that we are able to repair the wheel ourselves, which makes my father very happy. I wince at the knowledge that the bounce in his step doesn’t only come from accomplishing a difficult task; it comes from saving a few extra dollars.

 And when I see my father’s books, I can completely understand why he’s worried about money.

“Wow,” I say without even thinking, as we sit in the living room poring over the farm’s numbers after dinner that night. “We definitely need to do something different.”

My father sighs. “That’s all you have to say? I was hoping some of that book learning would come in handy right now.”

I rub my left temple, feeling a headache coming on. “I’m thinking, Vadder.”

John passes through the living room. “Looking at the farm numbers?” He cranes his neck, peering over our shoulders. “Ooh-wee. You should just give up now.”

This comment doesn’t help my budding headache any. Nor does the way my father’s eyebrows draw together, his face etched with lines.

 I frown at my younger brother. “We can never give up, John. Just because you have doesn’t mean everyone else has to.” I turn to my father. “Don’t listen to him. We’ll figure out a way to keep the farm alive. I know our income is low right now, but I also know that things will look up in the spring. Farmer’s Almanac says it will be a favorable year for crops.”

“Hopeless,” John mutters under his breath, lumbering up the stairs.

“There’s not a lot we can do right now,” I continue. “But we have enough money to get through the winter. What we need is a new business niche, some kind of market that’s in demand, but not as competitive as organic. That should be our project this winter: coming up with a new business plan that will save our farm come spring. In school, we’ll be starting a unit about today’s trends in farmers’ markets. Maybe I’ll learn something there.”

“I hope you’re right, son,” my father says, but his voice sounds flat and lifeless, as though he’s given up already.

I drape my arm around my father’s shoulder. I can’t bear the thought of him letting go of everything he’s worked so hard for. I know, at that moment, that there’s no way I’m giving up. I will find some way to keep our farm afloat, and I can’t help but think that school will be the answer.

***

 The next day, I sit in the very front of all my classes, ready to soak up helpful information like a sponge. But all the agriculture professors seem to know is new farm technology, and all the business professors seem to know is how to make more money once you’ve already amassed a small fortune.

At least it’s Friday, and Mercy and I have planned a buggy ride for the evening. I pick her up at her house, chat with her parents for a few minutes, and then we drive around the empty, moonlit roads together. It’s chilly, so I’ve closed the top of the buggy and brought extra blankets; I know Mercy gets cold easily.

Mercy grins at me. She’s snuggled up in a blanket, with one small hand resting in mine. She looks so beautiful, and so womanly.

“You’re awfully quiet tonight, Samuel,” she says with a flirty smile, the same one that won the hearts of practically every Amish boy in our community, and many Englischers as well. But now, it’s reserved only for me, which makes me feel special. “You must be thinking hard, planning the next surprise for me, right?”

I laugh. “You know it.”

But a moment later, Mercy’s face becomes serious. “All joking aside, Samuel, I think something is bothering you.” She studies my face closely.

I take a deep breath. I don’t want to tell her what’s wrong. A man should never tell the girl he’s courting that he’s having money problems. Even though worldly wealth is not important to us Amish, we need a modest, comfortable income to live on. If Mercy knew that my family was counting dimes and even pennies to buy basic necessities, she’d probably run the other way like a spooked horse. After all, she can have any man she wants. I know she loves me, but I don’t want to risk losing her, either.

So I tell her what any self-respecting Amish man would say. “Everything is fine. I just had a long week.”

But Mercy is a smart girl. From the way she raises her eyebrows, I know she doesn’t believe me. 

Amish Wedding Launch

by Kristina Ludwig
Apr 24
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: April 24, 2014 at 8:30 am

I’ve been fairly obsessed lately with the writing and/or editing of Book 2 of the Amish in College series, “Amish Wedding: Hannah’s Book.” Now, I’m happy to announce that it’s live on Amazon!

Amish Wedding

“Amish Wedding: Hannah’s Book” was so much fun to research and write, and I was excited to give supporting character Hannah a place to tell her story. Plus, being a newlywed myself, I really found myself relating to Hannah!

Want to check out an excerpt before you buy it? If so, here’s Chapter 3. (Hint: Find Chapter 1 at the end of “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book,” the first book of the series, and Chapter 2 on a recent blog post.)

Chapter Three

 

Jakob remains there, gazing up at me as he balances on one knee. His hair shimmers in the moonlight, as pale as the moon itself, and a shiver runs through my entire body. I feel like I’m in one of those dreams where I can think but can’t talk—although those dreams are usually nightmares, whereas right now I’m literally frozen with happiness.

I finally manage to choke out, “Yah.” My voice becomes clearer and stronger, as I say, “I love you too, Jakob. And I want you to be my Mann, forever.”

Before I even know what’s happening, Jakob hoists me out of the buggy, swinging me around in circles. Clouds of dust swirl around us as he spins across the driveway, and I laugh and shriek in delight.

I should be worried that my parents will come out in their nightclothes, demanding to know what’s going on, but somehow I just can’t bring myself to care. I’m engaged at last—to the one that I love more than anything in the world.

Jakob and I will belong to each other forever. I’m so excited to start our married lives together, and we won’t have to wait long. It’s already July, and our wedding will have to take place in November or December, after the harvest. That means we could be Mann and Fraa in only four months!

Jakob finally lowers me to the ground, staggering a bit from the dizzying twirling. And as my body comes back to earth, so does my brain. Only four months until the wedding. There is a lot of work to be done, starting with some celery planting.

***

The next morning, Eliza and I awaken at 5 AM for chores; first, we gather eggs from the hens and milk the cows. Then, we help my mother prepare breakfast. As we fry up bacon and eggs, I ask my mother if we can invite Jakob over for dinner that night, and she says yes with a slightly raised eyebrow. I have a feeling that she senses my joy—she might even suspect the reason behind it.

I bite my lip, holding back the giddy desire to tell everyone in sight about Jakob’s proposal. I want to keep it secret from my parents until tonight, when Jakob and I will announce our intentions.

Now it’s 6:15 AM, almost time to head out the door for work at Stoltzfus Bakery.  I may not want my whole family to know about my engagement yet, but I know I can’t possibly wait all day to tell Eliza.

“Guess what?” I say as Eliza slips on her work shoes.

“What?” she asks. She must sense the energy in my voice, because she looks up at me, studying my face with keen hazel eyes.

I lower my voice to a whisper. My older brothers have married and moved out, but there’s still my nosy thirteen year-old sister Rachel and my twelve year-old brother Isaac to deal with.

“Jakob proposed to me last night.” I gesture to the delicate clock, which I’d placed on the dresser the night before. “He gave me this when he asked for my hand.”

“Wow, Hannah,” Eliza says. “I’m so dazed, I barely know what to say—except congratulations, of course. I knew it was coming, but a proposal is always such a wunderlich surprise.”

I smile. “It sure is. I can hardly believe that it really happened. And now there’s so much to do. Jakob and I will announce our intentions to Mammi and Daadi over dinner tonight. And then, I’ll have to start sewing my dress, and the newehockers’ dresses, too. Of course, you’ll stand up with me in the wedding, and so will Mercy and Rebekah, maybe cousin Ruth—”

Eliza laughs, clapping her hands over her ears. “Slow down, Hannah,” she chides me. “You’re only just engaged. Why don’t you enjoy that a little first before you go planning everything out?”

I roll my eyes as my mind continues to make lists of all the things I have to do. “I am enjoying it. But there’s also a lot to think about. Some day, you’ll understand.”

I flash Eliza a grin as we both straighten up and head out the door. Her reaction was fun to watch, but I’m really looking forward to seeing Mercy’s.