Random Inspirations

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

How Cuddling Skyrockets Your Productivity in Work and Life

I’m psyched to announce that the latest novella in the Amish in College series, “Amish Baker: Mercy’s Book,” will be launched tomorrow July 1st! Eighteen year-old Mercy is all fed up with working at Stoltzfus Bakery, and it’s not just because she’s had her fill of cakes and pies. She feels like everyone from her sister to her best friend is moving on in life without her–and to top it off, her boss has been just plain mean. But soon, she receives fabulous news: her boyfriend Samuel has found a building that will be perfect for the produce store/bakery they’ve been planning to start. Mercy is about to become her own boss!

However, Mercy soon learns that running a business is harder than it seems. She struggles to balance the demands of the store/bakery with those of her current work schedule. Then, she receives shocking news from both Hannah and Mrs. Stoltzfus that makes her rethink quitting work at Stoltzfus Bakery. Add to that her disapproving parents, who don’t want her going into business with Samuel before they’re married, and a botched marriage proposal from Samuel, and you’ve got one unhappy Amish girl.

A visit from her twin sister Rebekah, who lives among the “English,” causes Mercy to realize that what she needs is to escape everything for a while. But what repercussions will running away from her problems bring to Mercy’s professional life, family life, and relationship with Samuel? Check out the book tomorrow to find out! I’ll post the links here.

And now, onto today’s blog post. This weekend, Antonio and I joined our friends at the Leucadia Festival and had an amazing time. Leucadia is a fun beach community full of adorable local businesses and breathtaking vistas. At the festival, we heard great live music, posed with a “unicorn,” and…cuddled.

Let me explain. The cuddling took place not only with Antonio, but with some adorable dogs, who immediately surrounded me for a lengthy under-the-chin rubbing session. Even though I don’t own a dog, I’ve always been a dog person; I love animals in general and dogs in particular. Since canines are super-smart, they can always spot a dog lover, and we usually gravitate toward each other. Therefore, even though I’m not able to cuddle puppies at home, I live vicariously through dog owners and cuddle plenty of dogs out and about.

Feeling some oxytocin surges at the Leucadia Festival this past weekend.

Feeling some oxytocin surges at the Leucadia Festival this past weekend.

After the weekend’s puppy cuddling session (and the many husband-cuddling sessions, as well ;), I felt an incredible surge of well-being, and experienced improved attitude, motivation, and productivity. I awoke this morning ready to check items off my to-do list. The weekend of cuddling actually set the tone for my work-week!

It turns out that there is a known scientific basis behind this, and a lot of it heralds back to the blog post I wrote about brain chemistry and how it influences us in our professional and personal lives. In this case, the active hormone is oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone.” Oxytocin is pumped out of the hypothalamus in response to pleasant physical stimulation, such as cuddling, lovemaking, or breastfeeding. It also rises during a massage. Circulating oxytocin ignites feelings of relaxation, happiness, and heightened productivity. This recent article describes how owning a dog can lead to higher productivity because of the surge in oxytocin.

So, writers and student of life, my challenge to you this week is as follows: do some cuddling! Whether it’s with your significant other, a parent, a friend, your child, or your pet, physical contact is what makes us human, contributes to improved mental health, and skyrockets productivity–and creativity–in all facets of life. Happy cuddling! 😉

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5 Easy Ways to Make Your Kindle Countdown Deals Count!

Last week, I ran a 48-hour Kindle Countdown Deal on my Amish Hearts Box Set: Books 1-4. This is the complete collection of all my Amish Hearts novellas, and is normally priced at $3.79. It’s always been one of my slow sellers, hovering around a rank of 100,000 on Amazon; I’ve theorized that it’s probably because the $3.79 price point is a little odd, and might seem expensive to some. However, this box set offers a cheaper price per novella than buying the books separately at 99 cents apiece or purchasing the infinitely more popular Amish Hearts Box Set: Books 1-3 for $2.99 and picking up Book 4 separately. Weird, huh? But let’s save the topic of buyer psychology for a later blog post. 😉

Kindle Countdown Deals are a relatively new addition to the KDP Select family of promotions. With Kindle Countdown Deals, authors can offer their books at a temporary discount. Because the books are cheaper and are listed on the website http://www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals, they become more discoverable. Another benefit of Kindle Countdown Deals is that they allow authors to retain their usual royalty even if the price of the book is below $2.99 (the minimum price for a 70% royalty) during the promotion.

Kindle Countdown Deals sound great in theory, but even so, they’re kind of like the awkward adolescent cousin of KDP Select Free Days. They’re younger and newer, and no one seems to understand them very well yet. Before I set up my Kindle Countdown Deal, I combed other blogs to research the best ways to promote it, and I found very little–quite the contrast to the wealth of blogs about KDP Select Free Days, as well as the scores of websites and Facebook pages dedicated to advertising temporary or perma-free eBooks.

So, I devised my own promotion plan, and it worked well. I didn’t experience the runaway success of my first KDP Select Free Day promotion, but the box set did peak in the high 20,000s on Amazon–and that’s definitely a step up from 100,000. The report from Amazon showed that during the promotion, my royalty per hour on the box set rose by 240%, while my revenue per hour was hiked up by 257% since the previous week. In addition, sales on the books in my Amish Hearts spinoff series, Amish in College, rose during the promotion.

Kindle countdown deal image

So, here’s how I ran my Kindle Countdown Deal. As always, it’s a learning curve, and I’ll keep you posted as I become more successful and better acquainted with these beasts. 🙂

  1. I listed my book on select websites. Many websites that list “deals” (as opposed to freebies) charge for their services, but I didn’t want to use those. Instead, I promoted on a handful of websites that listed Kindle Countdown Deals for free. Some examples are eReader UtopiaKindle Books & Tips, and  Goodreads groups like the UK Amazon Kindle Forum. I let the sites know about the deal 4 days before it started, since many websites need a little time to compile their list of featured books.
  2. I promoted the book to Facebook groups. On the first day of the Kindle Countdown Deal, I posted links to the book on several Facebook groups geared toward Kindle deals and author promotion. Here are a few that I used: Indie Author Book PromotionAuthors and Book Lovers Discussion GroupKindle Freebies, New Authors, and other eBook InfoBook PromotionOnline Book Publicity GroupBooks, Books, and More BooksThere’s an eBook in the Room, and Books Gone Viral.
  3. I spread the word on social media. On the day the promotion began, I posted links to the book on my own Facebook author page, Google+, and Twitter. I also continued to post tweets throughout the promotion.
  4. I blogged about it. On the day the promotion started, I wrote a blog post about it. Blogging about your promotions is essential because it increases your searchability–it’s just one more place that your promotion can be found on the internet. Also, it allows you to reach an audience that already finds your work useful, and gives you fun new material for your blog!
  5. I sent out a newsletter. On the day the promotion began, I sent out my kristinaludwig.com newsletter. I was due to send one out anyway, and realized that this would be the perfect day for it. I kept my email conversational and non-spammy, and discussed other content that readers might find useful, such as my latest BPL episode on YouTube and the next book I’d be offering for free on Kindle. Then, after the free info, I pitched the Kindle Countdown Deal.

Other authors out there, have you tried Kindle Countdown Deals for your books? If so, did you find them useful, and what promotion techniques did you use? I’d love to hear your experiences!


Business, Publishing, and Life Vlog Episode #7: 3 Essential Tips for Indie Authors

The “lucky #7” episode of BPL took place in beautiful Pismo Beach, CA, home of best selling self-published author, blogger, writing coach, and speaker Jason Matthews. We were excited to interview Jason to find out his tips for success for indie authors! Jason shares awesome tips about platform building and preparing your book for publication. Plus, he gives an amazing life tip from his new book, “Better You, Better Me.” Click the image below to watch the video. Enjoy!

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They’re Here: A Kindle Countdown Deal and a Brand-New Box Set!

I’m excited to announce that I will be running a Kindle Countdown Deal on my Amish Hearts Box Set: Books 1-4. The deal will run from today until Saturday June 21st at 9 AM PST. Download the entire collection of 4 best selling YA Amish Romance novellas for only $1.99–that’s nearly 50% off the regular price! So, if you’re a fan of Amish fiction, YA romance, or you’re just looking for a fresh new genre to read, be sure to check out the box set while prices are low. And writers, if you’re wondering how effective Kindle Countdown Deals are and how to stage a successful one, we’ll find out together–I’ll post next week about my experiences with the promotion, and steps I took to get the word out about my Kindle Countdown Deal.

In other news, I’ve just released a new box set, the Amish in College Box Set: Books 1-3. In this dramatic series, Rebekah and friends face the challenges of growing up, and must answer difficult questions of faith, love, and career. I think you’ll love having Rebekah’s BookHannah’s Book, and Samuel’s Book all in one place–and you’ll be ready for Book 4, Amish Baker: Mercy’s Book, coming soon to Kindle! Check out the cover of the box set, designed by Antonio Challita. What do you think?

Amish in College Box Set 1-3 Cover

Finally, this Friday and Saturday, June 20th and 21st, my first-ever teen short story, A First Time for Everything, will be free! If you’re looking for a fun and quick beach read, this is it. Until next time, happy reading and/or writing. I’ll talk to you next week!


6 Life Lessons from Watching the NBA Finals

I’ll admit this up front: I’ve never been a big-time basketball fan–until this season. Although I was fairly decent at shooting hoops and even was a basketball cheerleader in high school, I used to sleep through the games on TV. However, once I gave basketball a chance and started watching games with Antonio, I gained an appreciation of this fast-paced sport and all the athleticism and agility that goes along with it. My favorite part of the game is the players themselves–their dramas and egos. Basketball is full of interesting characters, and for a writer who loves observing people, that’s golden!

There was a lot to observe this playoff season, and I was sucked in immediately. But basketball is not all about the drama or even the sport–we can learn important life lessons from the players and coaches by paying attention to their hardships and their successes. Here are 6 life lessons I learned from watching the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. Thanks to my brilliant co-author, Antonio, for coming up with the fresh new concept for this post, as well as the tips!

Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs celebrate their great victory. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs celebrate their great victory. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

  1. Use your failure as motivation – Last year, the San Antonio Spurs were on the verge of winning the NBA championship. They were up by 5 with 28 seconds left on the road against the Miami Heat. A yellow security tape was brought out to surround the court. The Heat fans started fleeing for the exit. Then miraculously, the Heat hit 2 incredible shots to tie the game and pull off an improbable comeback, and eventually win the title. Instead of pointing fingers and making excuses, the Spurs used the loss to fuel their fire. They came back stronger and more focused. And they won this year in decisive fashion.
  2. Trust your teammates – We’ve all heard it before: There is no “I” in Team. The Spurs showed this beautifully. They got all their players involved–not just their “Big 3.” Of course, the Big 3 were their excellent selves, but their role players made all the difference. They played selflessly and put on a clinic in passing, making one amazing assist after another. Patty Mills, the second-year man from Australia, was contributing with his relentless defense, quickness, and 3 pointers just as importantly as Tim Duncan, one of the all time greats.
  3. Believe in yourself – Kawhi Leonard, just 22 years of age, had arguably the toughest task in the Finals: guarding the best player on the planet, LeBron James. Not only did Kawhi match LeBron with his effort, intensity, focus, drive, rebounding, and chasing loose basketballs, he also in some cases outplayed him. Kawhi believed in himself, and so did his coaching staff and his teammates, who gave him the opportunity to play free, and shoot the ball. His hard work paid off, and he was rewarded with Finals MVP, becoming the youngest player to win the award since his teammate Tim Duncan did it in 1999.
  4. Diversity is key – The San Antonio Spurs are the most diverse team in the NBA. 8 of their core players are international. They have Tony Parker and Boris Diaw from France, Tim Duncan from the US Virgin Islands, Manu Ginobili from Argentina, Tiago Splitter from Brazil, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes from Australia, and Marco Belinelli from Italy. This mini-United Nations of players combined their diverse set of skills, experiences, and attitudes to create the most powerful team in the NBA. In life, diversity allows us to expand our viewpoints and become inspired by ideas outside our norm. Recipe for success!
  5. Work with what you have – The answers to the most difficult problems in life often reside inside of us. When the Spurs faced their heartbreaking defeat last year, they looked inside their team, buckled down, and worked harder. Most importantly, they never gave up believing in themselves. When we face setbacks in life, there is often no need to go outside to fix our problems. Many times, we can take a lesson from the Spurs: Look inside ourselves, work hard, and believe.
  6. Be humble – Success can often create unwanted side effects–specifically inflated ego and overconfidence. During the NBA finals, there was no better example of this than the comments of Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat. He told a Sports Illustrated reporter that the Heat were going to win Game 5, regardless of the odds, because, “Odds are for people that can’t do it.” The Spurs, on the other hand, went into Game 5 humbly, and their drive and persistence allowed them to come back from a 16-point deficit in the first quarter, and ultimately to win the game!

Other bloggers out there, what do you think of these tips? Did you watch the NBA Finals, and if so did you learn anything from them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


5 Ways to Regain Your Writing Mojo After Vacation

I’ve just returned from an amazing summer break in London and Lebanon, where I discovered new places, foods, and cultures. To make matters even better, the entire trip culminated with the beautiful wedding of two close friends–simply awesome!

Before I left on the trip, I scheduled this blog post with tips on how to keep writing during vacation, and I’m pleased to say that I implemented each and every one of  them! However, I concentrated on blogging and working on a new Business, Publishing, and Life episode. I put my latest book of the Amish in College series, Amish Baker: Mercy’s Book, on hold to focus on enjoying the vacay and keeping up my online presence.

I figured I could move this project to the back burner since I’d had a ton of momentum before I’d left on vacation, I had a clear vision of the plot line, and I was ahead in my writing quota; I’d actually done this on purpose so I could take more time off without feeling pressure. But when I returned, I was dismayed to realize that I’d been gone from the project for so long that I almost didn’t remember where I’d left off. I felt out of sync with the story, almost as though my writing itself was as jet-lagged as my body felt.

Luckily, I have recovered from enough writing vacays to realize that it’s totally possible to regain your writing mojo after vacation–and fast. Here are 5 foolproof tips that I’ve implemented over the last few days. Hopefully, they’ll help you next time you return from a writing vacay!

The stunning views and fun activities on vacation may be inspirational, but how to focus all that stimulation into your writing? Read on!

The stunning views and fun activities on vacation may be inspirational, but how to focus all that stimulation into your writing? Read on! This photo was taken in Harissa, at the top of a mountain in Lebanon.

  1. Be realistic – Allow time for a good night’s sleep, unpacking, organizing your house, and recovering from that dreaded jet-lag. (I am very experienced with this, since I was 10 time zones outside my norm.) If you try to delve directly into writing, it may feel forced, and you’ll be distracted by all the other things you have to do. Plus, it’s a known fact that clutter–whether it’s physical or emotional–contributes to stress and actually saps creativity and productivity. So organize first, and write later. You’ll be glad you did.
  2. Write a mantra – Before you begin your writing session, compose a mantra for that day and/or week. It can be one word, one sentence, or an entire paragraph. Thinking of a mantra before yoga practice keeps you focused and goal-oriented the entire time, and devising a mantra before you begin writing does exactly the same thing.
  3. Write a checklist – After you’ve come up with a mantra, it’s time to get specific–with checklists packed with goals for the coming week. I wrote my mantra and checklist in the car on the way to the airport, since that was when I felt most inspired. Many times, when you’re traveling home, you’re actually looking forward to getting back to work, and this was the case for me–my brain was literally swimming with things I wanted to accomplish. Once I was settled in at home, I revisited the checklist, and began accomplishing goals from it one by one–woohoo! I’ve read over the checklist, monitoring my progress every day, and I’ve found that I’m right on track with what I’d visualized during that faraway car ride. Discipline is key, but the most important component is visualizing the checklist in the first place–and writing it down so you can use it to track your progress.
  4. Reread where you left off – Thus far, my tips have focused on ways to set yourself up for a productive writing session; now, I will tell you how to live it. The first step to getting back into sync with your writing project is to revisit it. Simply reread the last few chapters that you wrote before you left for vacay. As soon as you finish, chances are you’ll be back in the mind frame you were in before you left, and the story will flow naturally. But if you have a hard time with that, you can always try my last tip…
  5. Find inspiration from your experiences – Remember that inspiration notebook and journal I was talking about? Now, it comes in handy. If you’re not entirely ready to immerse yourself in your story yet, get the creative juices flowing by writing a blog post about things that inspired you during vacation, or write another journal entry, or perhaps a short story or poem. Writing begets more writing, after all!

Writers out there, have you faced a similar dilemma after vacation? If so, how did you deal with it? I’d love to hear your tips and reflections!


Business, Publishing, and Life Vlog Episode #6: Social Media for Authors in 2014

I’m excited to announce that we’ve taken BPL worldwide! Our first-ever international BPL episode took place in London this past weekend with special guest Mabelle Abi Ramia. Mabelle is a social media and marketing guru, and I can’t wait for you to hear her amazing social media tips for authors. Click on the image below to watch the video. Enjoy!

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Writing on Vacay: 5 Tips to Write on the Run

It’s that time again…summer vacation season. As we writers jet-set across the globe (or maybe just road-trip to the next city over), inspiration often strikes. I don’t know about you, but as soon as I come up with a new idea for a book or blog post, I want to get it down right away before the Muse goes out to lunch.

But how do you write when you’ve already got a packed day of sight-seeing, visiting, and–oh yeah–some much-needed R & R? Here are 5 tips for writing on vacay. Follow them, and you’ll write inspired prose on the run. Plus, you won’t feel behind on your writing as soon as you’ve unpacked your suitcases. Win-win!

Next time you're flying, do a little writing as well! Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Next time you’re flying, do a little writing as well! Photo courtesy of Flickr.

  1. Use travel time wisely – If you’re flying, don’t waste the whole flight watching movies or sleeping. Get out your laptop and write a little! The same goes with road-trips; take turns driving, and when you’re not the one behind the wheel, do some journaling or write on your laptop.
  2. Carry an inspiration notebook – They’re little, they’re cute, and they can fit easily into your handbag. No I’m not talking about baby chihuahuas…I’m talking about inspiration notebooks! New story ideas often strike at odd times, and since our senses are so much more acute during travel, we’re likely to be more open-minded and creative than usual. Don’t forget those awesome ideas–write them down right away!
  3. Journal – Journaling about our reflections on the vacation, the places we’ve seen, and the people we meet is a great way to amp up creativity and keep in practice with our writing. You may not have time to journal every day of your vacation–and probably shouldn’t if you’re living it up. But journaling during your downtime just feels amazing!
  4. Talk to locals – This may not be a writing tip, but talking to new people on vacation is the perfect way to learn about new cultures and get ideas for characters in your books.
  5. Try something new. Then write about it. Use your inspiration notebook. Try to write about your new experience in a very descriptive, story-like way, and who knows–it might end up in your new book.

Writers out there, do you write on vacation? What are some of your best tips? I’d love to hear your opinions!