Random Inspirations

Welcome to my blog, full of fun inspirations and insights on writing, self-publishing, and more!

Business, Publishing, and Life Vlog Episode 2

This week has already been an exciting one. I was interviewed for the My Fire Point podcast, and will be sharing that with you as soon as it’s posted! This show is extremely motivational and fun, so I definitely recommend checking it out.

And, in keeping with my new Monday tradition, here’s the episode of BPL that Antonio and I filmed this weekend. We share 3 more tips in the fields of business, publishing, and life.

My publishing tip is about using free days on KDP Select, and I can’t tell you how valuable that has been for me. Here’s a blog post I wrote on the subject.

What do you think of BPL? Are you interested in being a guest? If so, feel free to comment below or email me at info@kristinaludwig.com. I’d love to hear your tips.

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How to Know if You Love Your Job…and Other Reflections

I’m pleased to announce that my newest Amish YA eBook, Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book, is free today only! Download it if you’re looking for a fun new read.

And in other news… I celebrated my birthday earlier this week. I don’t know about you, but birthdays make me excited. I haven’t reached that point of thinking of my b-day as “just another day,” or, heaven forbid, hating it!

I doubt I ever will because, for me, birthdays have always been times of reflection as well as celebration. As my “year” draws to a close, I reflect upon how many things I’ve accomplished, and celebrate them. I also visualize my next year of life, setting goals and imagining new ways to evolve.

This past year was a huge one for me, since I experienced basically every major life change possible–I got married, moved cross-country, and switched careers. I remember back to my birthday last year, when I was working as a pharmacist. I did not want to work on my birthday, In fact, when my scheduler said that she might not be able to find coverage for me, I had every intention of calling in sick. Luckily, she was able to find an extra board pharmacist to work for me that day, so I didn’t have to resort to plan B. 🙂

I share this little anecdote with you because on my birthday this year, I did work–at writing. Much to my chagrin, it was a cloudy day, so the beach and pool were out. 😦 Luckily, I enjoy many indoor activities, and was able to do most of them during the day on my birthday: yoga, piano, shopping, and, of course, writing–my new career, which should be work, but feels like fun!

Snoopy knows what's up. Writing rules!

Snoopy knows what’s up. Writing rules!

The contrast between last year, when working on my birthday was something I eschewed, and this year, when I not only chose to work on my birthday, but enjoyed it, confirmed what I already knew: that my career change was the best possible one for me. Sure, there are “occupational hazards” that go along with a career in writing, but it’s my passion. If you had asked the “me of last year” whether I’d ever work on my birthday, I would’ve answered with a vehement, “No way!” But ask me now and I’ll say, “Sure. I love to work.” And it’s all because we might call it work, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.

Is writing your passion? If so, go for it–you won’t be sorry! And if you have any questions along the way, don’t be afraid to ask me or another author. I think the best thing about the indie author revolution is how collaborative the formerly “closed shop” of publishing has become. There’s never been a better time to be a writer. 🙂 Who knows, by this time next year, you might be working on your birthday…willingly!

 

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Introducing: Brand-New Vlog About Business, Publishing, and Life

Last week was an exciting one, with the launch of the Amish in College series and a weekend full of early birthday festivities for me! Antonio and I also started the project we’ve been talking about for months: our new YouTube show.

The show is called Business, Publishing, and Life (BPL for short), and we will be filming a short episode every week. We will interview special guests in a variety of fields, and each speaker will offer up his or her best tips on business, publishing, and / or life. BPL is an ideal show for writers because of its publishing flavor, but its heavy business and motivational components will make it a great fit for anyone looking for inspiration!

The idea of BPL came to Antonio and me during one of our reflective sessions in the hot tub. We’ve always found the hot tub to be the perfect place to come up with awesome new ideas, or even just to reset ourselves to conquer the week. We wanted to do a YouTube show that combined our areas of expertise: self-publishing and writing for me, and business and information technology for him. And voila: BPL was born!

Here’s Episode 1. In it, Antonio and I share our own tips for business, publishing, and life. I hope you enjoy it! If you’re interested in being a BPL guest, email me at info@kristinaludwig.com.

bpl pic

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It’s Here: Book 1 of the Amish in College Series Has Launched!

I’m excited to announce that Book 1 of my new Amish in College series has just launched! Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book is all about Rebekah’s struggle to keep the faith she grew up with as she lives the competitive and secular college life that she chose.

Here's the cover of Amish Faith: Rebekah's Book

The Amish in College series is a spinoff of the Amish Hearts series, which follows identical twins Rebekah and Mercy as they go on their Rumspringa, the rite of passage for Amish teens. In the four Amish Hearts books, both girls discover love. They also delve deeper into themselves to realize their hopes and dreams…and, ultimately, the girls arrive at very different answers to the ever-present Rumspringa question: to stay Amish, or not?

My original plan had been to write the four Amish Hearts books and leave it at that. But I realized that the characters still had more to tell–and fans expressed interest in reading additional books. They wondered how Rebekah was doing in college, and what was next for Mercy and Samuel. And I realized that there were some minor characters, like Hannah and Jakob, who also had fascinating stories hidden within them.

And voila! Amish in College was born. I’ve never heard of any series like it, which makes me happy. But in today’s highly-educated world, seeing some Amish in college is not farfetched. Although the Amish believe that too much worldly wisdom makes one proud, many sects are becoming more open to advanced education, especially if it can be brought back to benefit the community. Therefore, Rebekah’s career plans to be a veterinarian and Samuel’s aspiration to study agriculture and business could be accepted by their conservative elders and church congregation.

I hope that the Amish in College books will stimulate readers’ imaginations, and shed some light on the mysteries of the Amish. These books are meant to be more inspirational and spiritual than the Amish Hearts books, since the characters are growing up and facing new and ever-more-complicated challenges. Book 1 poses the question: to keep the faith or not? Book 2, which will be coming out in April, will be called Amish Wedding: Hannah’s Book, and poses questions about Amish baptism, choosing a life partner, and getting married. And I’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date as I prepare for Books 3 and 4, which will center on Mercy and Samuel.

For now, here’s a sneak peek of Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book!

Chapter One

 “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I don’t know where I heard that; my brain has been on overload ever since I’ve started college. But the saying is so true.

Here I am, exactly one year since I began Rumspringa, and so much has changed. I went to college parties, fell in love with an Englischer, and made the heart-breaking decision to leave my Amish community.

Yet, somehow, as my boyfriend Braeden and I climb out of his Jeep and walk hand-in-hand to the front door of my parents’ house, it feels as though nothing has changed at all.

The fence is still painted blue, because even though I’ve left, my twin sister Mercy is still here—and still unmarried. The fields, where I walked at night with dreams of leaving the farm, are still rolling and green. My favorite horse, Winnie, is still there in the pasture, and inclines her head toward me as if to say, “Oh, you’re home. Took you long enough.”

I’m still wearing traditional Amish clothes; I dress English at college, but always go back to the plain style when I return home. And as I knock on the door and it swings open, I can smell the delicious aroma of my favorite meal since childhood, slow-roasted beef and mashed potatoes.

“Happy birthday, Rebekah!” my mother cries. “I’m so glad you’re home.” With an ever-so-slight chilly edge to her voice, she adds, “And hello, Braeden. Nice to see you.”

My mother’s nose wrinkles a bit when she says the last sentence, as if she just caught a whiff of sour milk. I hope Braeden doesn’t notice. Of course she’s kind to him, but sometimes she sounds like she means the opposite of what she says.

My entire family is already gathered around the dining room table, and of course I hug everyone in turn, saving Mercy for last. She’s right next to Samuel; they’re courting, and I couldn’t be happier. My boy-crazy sister is finally settling down, and I couldn’t pick a better man for her than steady, smart Samuel.

Braeden and I slide into the seats of honor next to Mercy and Samuel.

“So, how’s the college life?” my father asks. He poses this question every month when I come home to visit—which means he’s said it four times already. He always studies my face carefully, with hope shining in his eyes.

Every month, I get the feeling that he thinks I just might have changed my mind about the whole college thing, and that I’m about to announce that I’ve decided to come home and become baptized Amish after all.

However, I give him the same answer as I have every other time. His face falls as I reply, “It’s demanding but I love it.”

This is a half-truth; the demanding part is accurate, but most of the time, I don’t love it. My classes contain hundreds of intelligent pre-med, pharmacy, dental, chemical engineering, and veterinary hopefuls. I’m constantly worried about getting knocked out, but, of course, I won’t admit this to my family.

The truth is, baptism has been looking better and better to me. I’d always taken my Amish faith for granted, but now that I no longer have it, I often feel lost in the competitive college world. Family and faith are totally absent there. I’d really needed to come home this weekend.

Braeden squeezes my hand under the table as I mechanically shovel roast beef and mashed potatoes into my mouth. I love my family, but my homecomings are always tinged with pain. I will always be the fallen Amish girl, the rebel, which, up until last year, was a title reserved for Mercy.

Now, however, Mercy is the obedient daughter, most likely the favorite. After all, she’s being courted by the good Amish boy, she’s working at the bakery and saving up to open one of her own, and even though she hasn’t mentioned it yet, I’m sure she has every intention of getting baptized.

I think I’m doing the right thing for myself, but as my parents beam at Mercy and Samuel, I feel a sickening twinge of jealousy. I used to get that look from them, while Mercy would get frowns of disapproval.

I choke down the last bit of my favorite birthday dinner, counting down the hours until I can return to my college life, the one I’ve chosen, instead of being stuck in this life—the one I was born into.

 

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Reflections on a Writing Field Trip Part 2: College Trip Down Memory Lane

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, all! To celebrate the luck of the Irish (and to be a little ironic), I’m giving my humorous contemporary YA romance, Unlucky 13, away for free today. We may be having a lucky day, but thirteen year-old Jordyn’s year is anything but… She endures a string of crazy bad luck as she tries to score a date with her dream guy. Can Jordyn turn her luck around and win Andrew’s heart? Find out today…for free!

200348906-001

And in other news: Long-term followers of my Random Inspirations blog may recall my Writing Field Trip post from December, in which I reflected on a trip to Lawrence County, home of my Amish Hearts characters. Today, it’s time for part 2 of that post. Last weekend, I visited my family in Pittsburgh, and took a trip down memory lane to my old college campus, the University of Pittsburgh. This trip came at the best possible time, because I have been working hard on “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book,” Book 1 of my new Amish in College series, and Pitt is where Rebekah and Braeden go to college.

Writing “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book” has been an incredible experience, because I have fond memories of life at Pitt–especially my last two years of pharmacy school, when I met and fell in love with Antonio! I spent six years on that campus, and I know it inside out. The beautiful architecture that blends old and new styles, the brilliant collection of students from all over the world, and the way the entire campus seems to blossom and bloom in the spring just before finals… All of these are aspects of Pitt that I love, so of course I incorporate them into “Amish Faith.” 

“Amish Faith” will be released later this week (date coming soon). So, to get you psyched about some of the people and places in Rebekah’s book, here are a few pictures we took at Pitt. We owe these great shots to my dad. 🙂

A cheery sign by the famous campus landmark, the Cathedral of Learning, proclaims, “Welcome to Pitt.”

Welcome to Pitt

The Cathedral of Learning houses the nationality rooms, several classrooms, a computer lab, Starbuck’s, and food court downstairs, and a huge, open study area on the main floor. This is where Braeden and Rebekah like to study in “Amish Faith.”

Cathedral 1

During well-deserved study breaks, Braeden and Rebekah lay in the grass and gaze upward at the Cathedral of Learning. When the clouds move just right, the building almost looks like it’s falling on them.

Cathedral falling on you

Inside the Cathedral of Learning is a wrought-iron gate with the famous quote that inspired Rebekah to attend college in Rumspringa Break: “Here is eternal spring. For you the very stars of heaven are new.”

Cathedral quote with me

Rebekah lives with her funny roommate Allie in Litchfield Towers, the freshman dorm buildings. In Mercy’s Fall, Rebekah’s sister Mercy describes the towers as looking like silos.

Litchfield Towers

Braeden walks Rebekah to her least favorite class, Bio 1, at Clapp Hall. Her class consists of more than 300 students, which is very overwhelming to an Amish girl who grew up attending classes in a one-room schoolhouse.

Clapp Hall

When she and Braeden have a disagreement, Rebekah finds solace at the Log Cabin near the Cathedral of Learning. It’s a reminder of her simple roots amidst the bustling, competitive city environment.

Log Cabin

Braeden convinces Rebekah that God is everywhere when he takes her to a church service at St. Paul Cathedral. Although mass is much different than Rebekah’s Amish services, she feels as touched by Herr Gott as she does at home with her family.

St. Paul Cathedral Doors

St. Paul's cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral Angle

I hope these pictures and descriptions will help “Amish Faith: Rebekah’s Book” to come to life for you! Stay tuned on the blog and Facebook for release dates!

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Writing With Your Body, Mind, and Soul: 5 Ways to Incorporate Yoga into Your Writing Life

In the past six months, I’ve really gotten into yoga. I’ve always adored exercising, and in the past I enjoyed the occasional yoga class. However, I’d found regular yoga classes difficult to fit into my routine, so I’d usually work out alone at the gym at times that fit into my schedule.

Since I’ve begun to create my own work schedule, I’ve finally been able to give yoga the time and energy it deserves. I practice twice a week, and have realized that regular yoga sessions have enhanced my writing, as well as my attitude on life in general!

We write as complete people–the sum of our bodies, minds, and souls. Hate it or love it, the “write what you know” cliche holds some truth; our experiences and mindsets influence our writing. In order to write our best literature, we must know ourselves as complete people, and the breathing exercises, stretches, and moments of meditation in yoga all help us to reach inside ourselves as artists.

Yoga is also a great way to create focus, which is extremely important in writing, whether we do it professionally or as a hobby. We as writers must make every moment count, to increase our productivity, reach new fans, and make a living doing what we love.

Since I’ve gotten into yoga, I’ve found myself writing with my body, mind, and soul. Here’s how:

Body: Regular yoga practice is the perfect way to stay healthy as we write; many of the ailments affecting authors are related to sitting in the chair for long hours, being inactive, or having poor posture. The stretches and poses in yoga allow our muscles to function optimally, and the emphasis on straight spine and flexibility encourages us to sit straighter and more ergonomically in and out of class. Since I’ve started yoga, I’ve experienced no lower back pain, even when I’m sitting and writing for hours. The activity gets my creative juices flowing, and keeps my metabolism and energy level revved up all day. And I find that I sit straighter, creating less stress on my back and shoulders.

Mind: The focused nature of yoga, from awareness of each muscle to the emphasis on breathing, carries through to other parts of our day, including writing. Bringing that intense laser-focus we learn in yoga class to our writing sessions makes us much more productive and prolific.

Soul: Many of my yoga instructors begin class by asking us to create a mantra for our session, and encouraging meditation during and after practice. Mantras and meditation are wonderful techniques to achieve our goals in yoga class, and they can be equally helpful in our writing sessions.  We not only write with our minds, we write with our spirits.

Yoga is the perfect way to write with your body, mind, and soul.

Yoga is the perfect way to encourage writing with your body, mind, and soul.

Now that you know how to write with your body, mind, and soul, here are 5 specific ways to actually do it!

  1. Begin each writing session with a mantra–and defined goals.
  2. If your mind wanders during your writing session, do deep breathing techniques, such as counted breathing (inhaling and exhaling to the count of ten, for example). This technique works for anything from a stress headache to just having focus issues.
  3. Clear your mind. One of the cornerstones of yoga class is the decluttering of your mind–letting go of any stress or conflict that you may be feeling, and simply listening to your body. If you’re feeling distracted or mentally cluttered while writing, meditate to let go of these distractions. You will be much more inspired and focused if you do.
  4. Incorporate yoga into your writing routine. It’s different for everyone, but I personally find that I am more productive when I write in the morning, do yoga around noon or 1, and return to writing again in the afternoon. It’s a great way to break up my day, and I get more writing done both before and after yoga than I would otherwise. Other people may prefer yoga in the morning and focused writing afterwards, while still others might like evening yoga classes as a reward for a work day well-done.
  5. Do your sun salutations–literally. I’m not just talking about the yoga poses, either. Getting outside for a few minutes every day really does wonders to increase creativity and productivity, and it gets easier to do this as the days grow longer. It goes back to my last blog post about neurotransmitters like seratonin being activated by bright light. Bonus points for you if you meditate out there or do some yoga under the sun!
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The Science Behind Creativity: How Brain Chemistry Influences Us

Creativity is such an elusive feeling: some days, it’s there en masse, while on others writer’s block rears its ugly head, and it’s virtually impossible to get rid of it. Have you ever stopped to think why on certain days, you might feel more creative than others? When I asked myself this question, I realized that my creativity generally increases after a good night’s sleep, vigorous exercise, doing a rewarding activity, or meditating. And the chemist in me said, “Whoa, all of these activities influence your brain’s chemistry. Think there’s a connection there?” The answer, of course, is a no-brainer.

I have an extensive chemistry background from my “previous life” as a pharmacist; in pre-pharmacy Organic Chemistry classes, I spent hours poring over molecular structures and their reactions, and in pharmacy school I learned about biochemistry. I was particularly intrigued by the chemistry of the brain, and the way that certain behaviors and medications affect it.

Our creativity is directly affected by neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals native to our bodies that transmit signals from one neuron to another. The two neurotransmitters that affect our creativity the most are seratonin and dopamine.

There's a lot going on in these brains of ours, and being knowledgeable about our brain chemistry can make us more creative. Picture: toptenreviews.com

There’s a lot going on in these brains of ours, and being knowledgeable about our brain chemistry can make us more creative. Picture: toptenreviews.com

Seratonin is the neurotransmitter that regulates memory, learning, sleep, and mood, among other things. I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling happy and fulfilled, my creativity skyrockets.  Sometimes you just feel happy, but have you ever wondered why? If the sun’s out, you’ve just exercised, or you’ve slept well the night before, you’re generally much happier than you’d be if circumstances were the opposite. Guess what: bright lightexercise, and a good night’s sleep all increase the seratonin in your brain, leading to increased feelings of well-being and amped-up creativity. Check out this article, which explains ways to increase seratonin without drugs. Scientifically speaking, my advice to anyone who wants to pump up the creativity by manipulating seratonin is this: have a restful 8-hour sleep, exercise 3-5 times a week, and get outside every once in awhile. If it’s cloudy out, turn on some bright, cheery lights. Your creative writing project will thank you!

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is related to motivation, emotional arousal, and reward and pleasure centers; the more dopamine circulating in the brain, the more creative the person will probably be. Check out this article called The Mad Artist’s Brain: The Connection Between Creativity and Mental Illness. It may sound weird, but a study found that both schizophrenics and creative people who demonstrated unusually high abilities to think outside the box had lower dopamine receptor activity in their brains than average people. Dopamine, like seratonin, increases with exercise: just one more reason to get to the gym. Meditation and activities that feel rewarding also increase dopamine, so my best practical advice to fuel your creativity and increase your dopamine levels would be this: do yoga. It’s the perfect marriage of exercise, meditation, and rewards. I always feel more inspired after a yoga session… This will, in fact, be a topic of one of my future blog posts.

I hope this brief science lesson has inspired you to take your creativity to new levels…by manipulating it at the source. Best of luck on all your artsy endeavors!

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Passion, Patience, Persistence, and Practice: The 4 P’s of Self-Publishing and Life

Self-published authors are businesspeople…perhaps reluctant ones in some cases, but businesspeople nonetheless. Antonio is always calling my writing career my “startup,” and friends inquire, “How’s your business going?” almost as much as they ask,”How’s your writing going?” Writing is a fine art, but marketing and selling books are business skills–to succeed, authors have to do it all.

This past weekend, we visited one of Antonio’s old friends who started a consulting firm three years ago… Things are going well for him, and he has business contacts across three continents. He said that, with startups, you need a lot of patience; in the first year you’re setting everything up and concentrating on making a name for yourself. The second year is the hardest, but in the third year everything finally seems to fall into place.

I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed in various articles about starting a business. I’m just about midway through the first year of my “startup,” and I must say that choosing to work for myself has been the most rewarding decision I’ve ever made. I’m sure you’ve heard of the 4 P’s (passion, patience, persistence, and practice). They’re keys to success in any business. Here, I apply them to the small business of self-publishing…and life in general!

  • Passion: We’ve heard it said in a multitude of ways–if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, you’re going to make it a point to succeed. Doing what we love is the first step to success. If you love to write, don’t suppress that passion. Indulge in it. Businesses started with passion have the odds of success in their favor. If you’re passionate about your business, you will put in longer hours and accomplish so much more without even realizing you’re working. When I worked full-time as a pharmacist, a forty-hour week felt like an exhausting marathon. Now, I work about fifty hours a week on my writing and publishing, yet I finish my days feeling energetic and fulfilled. Why? Passion!
  • Patience: Pour yourself into your business with your heart and soul, but don’t expect to be a best seller right away. You have to give the rest of the world time to catch on to your creative genius, after all. 🙂 Patience is something I struggle with, and I’m sure you do, too. But if you keep working hard, great things will come. That brings us to our next point…
  • Persistence: “If at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again…” The late Aaliyah was so right. Persistence is key in self-publishing. Even if your books aren’t topping the charts at first, keep on writing. And always stay open to new ideas and projects–sometimes the results will surprise you. My Amish Hearts books, for example, started out as just one short story, and I thought I’d keep it at that. But soon, that short story blossomed into a novella, then a series of novellas, then a box set, and now a spinoff series. They’re my best selling books! If you stay persistent, you may surprise yourself; your first publication may enjoy modest success, but a subsequent project could be your X factor.
  • Practice: Hone your skills by interacting with other writers, attending conferences, and constantly working to polish your writing. Don’t stop practicing; you should be almost obsessed with evolving to the next stage. Also, read. A lot. It’s no accident that most successful writers are avid readers as well. Appreciating the work of other authors is paramount when practicing and honing your own craft.

Everything, from plants to humans to businesses, starts out small at first. But if you take the time and the effort to nourish and nurture your self-publishing business, it just might grow into something great and powerful! 😉

Businesses are like plants. This mint started out small, but a month later, look at how much it grew!

Businesses are like plants. This mint started out small, but a month later, look at how much it grew!

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