Monday, April 16, 2018

Notable Indie Awards

Shelf Unbound’s April/May issue lists their 2018 Indie Best Award winners, and The Return has ben honored with a Notable Indie Award! Check out all the winners at

Monday, April 9, 2018

Seventh Quinquennial Hochstetler Family Gathering.

The Seventh Quinquennial Jacob Hochstetler Family Association Family Gathering is scheduled to take place this year in Berlin, Ohio, on July 27 and 28. Berlin is a center of Ohio Amish culture and offers all the sightseeing, shopping, eating, and visiting anyone could possibly want, so attendees may want to spend a few extra days in the area.

The Gathering begins with a dinner meeting at 6:30 Friday night at the Heritage Community Center. After dinner Gerald Mast, a historian and professor of communication at Bluffton (Ohio) University, will speak on “Building a Chair for Jesus and other Holmes County Stories from our Genealogy of Faith.”

Saturday’s events begin at 8 a.m. at the Hiland High and Middle School in Berlin and include not only numerous break-out sessions, but also genealogy and other resources, a general meeting, local tours and museum visits, a hymn singing, and more. Both Bob and I are attending and will present a session on “The Truth of Historical Fiction.”

Below are scans of the official brochure. When you click on the images, they enlarge. You can then right-click on the image, select “save image as” and save it to your hard drive. You can then print it if desired. For further information, email or call Paul Miller at 330-683-0596.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Voting Open for Christian Indie Awards!

Voting for the Christian Indie Awards is now open, and Bob and I covet your vote for The Return! Voting is open through March 31, 2018. To vote, go here, click on the link, scroll down to The Return, under Historical Fiction, and submit your vote. We greatly appreciate your help in spreading the word about this series, closely based on the inspiring true story of our ancestors!

Below are some of the latest 5-star reviews for the Northkill Amish Series. We thank all our readers for their encouraging feedback!

“This first book in the two-part Northkill Amish series was a reading experience unlike any other. What makes this novel even more gut-wrenching is that the story is based on true events that happened to the ancestors of the authors. In astonishing descriptions based on solid research, the authors bring to life the story of an Indian attack on an Amish family during the French and Indian War. It is brutal and painful to read, yet so astounding in the depth of the spiritual struggle of the captives that are forced to undergo suffering and separation from loved ones. It is a book I could not put down and will never forget. I am anxious to read the sequel.” —HistoryLover (Amazon)

“I stayed up till 2 am this morning so I could finish The Return ... This heartrending saga relates the story of an Amish family whose lives were shattered when Indians attacked their home and three family members were killed while three were kidnapped. This novel ... is based on true events. It was also written by descendants of the family, who obviously poured themselves into the research behind this book and produced a stellar series.

“I barely know where to begin with my review because this book is more than a historical tale. It is a life changing experience as you read about people of faith who must deal with the reality that God sometimes allows suffering. The why of it is not always plainly seen. Sometimes God’s truth and purposes in that suffering are revealed in time. Yet there are situations in life that make no sense from our earthly perspective and may never make sense in this life.

“Powerfully written and engaging, The Return is a must read for Christians who think that pain and suffering only happens to sinners. For indeed it does, because we all have sinned. Yet not all of us must go through such suffering. Read this series and be changed forever. Five plus stars.” —HistoryLover (Amazon)

“Beautiful story. It is like Swiss Family Robinson, The Odyssey, Daniel Boone and Light in the Forest all rolled into one.” —Bill Hostetler (Amazon).

“I have heard the stories about my Amish ancestors, but they always seemed more legend than reality. The authors have succeeded in filling in the gaps of the family folklore by giving flesh-and-blood reality to the characters in this drama. I was impressed with the thorough research that supported the narrative, and with the vivid description of frontier life for Amish immigrants. But I was most impressed by the quality of the writing that kept me engaged throughout.” —Arvilla (Amazon).

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Return Wins Award!

Interviews and Reviews Silver Award in Historical Fiction
The Return is being entered in a number of contests for 2017 book of the year in historical fiction. The first results are in, and book 2 of the Northkill Amish Series has won the Interviews & Reviews 2017 Silver Award! Thanks go to all the readers who voted for this inspiring story!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Pennsylvania German Barns

Do you like barns? I’ve always had this thing for these imposing structures. Which is probably to be expected since I’m the daughter of Mennonite farmers and grew up on a farm. You get a mystical feeling standing in an old barn with its huge hand-hewn beams and hay mows overhead, roof timbers soaring high above like the ribbed vaults of a cathedral, and dust motes lazily trailing down through the golden sunbeams that slant through the cracks between the weathered boards of the exterior walls. I even have a Pinterest board devoted to Barns and Farms. 

18th Century Swiss-style forebay bank barn
So today I’m going to indulge in my addiction and take a look at the barns of the Germans who settled in Pennsylvania during the 18th and 19th centuries. Descended from generations of farmers, the Germans who immigrated to Pennsylvania during the 1700s were among the best farmers in the colonies. The soil they found in this new land was unlike the over-farmed soil of their homeland in that it required little fertilization. So they went to work, and after building a house and clearing land for fields, they built immense Swiss-style bank barns like the one shown on the left of the James Barn, located in West Rockhill Township, Bucks County.
Berks County, c. 1820

The first log structures were soon replaced by barns built of stone, and later frame or even brick, with shingled, slate, or tin roofs. Most barns had 3 levels, with a threshing-floor and granary on the main floor and expansive mows for storing hay above. The lower level provided stalls for horses and cattle and a milking parlor. These buildings were anywhere from 50 to 60 feet wide and 60 to 120 feet long, and typically the main level protruded 8 to 10 feet beyond the lower level, as you can see in the picture at right from the Pennsylvania Historical Museum and Commission.

The classic Pennsylvania barn is most commonly found in the southeast and central parts of the state and was the most prevalent barn structure to around 1900. Most closely associated with the Pennsylvania Germans, it developed during the later 18th century with the spread of diversified grain-and-livestock farming that required efficient labor management to produce cash grain crops, primarily wheat; feed grain for cattle and horses such as oats, corn, and hay; and livestock that provided beef, dairy products, and pork to eat and to sell.

Barn at Carriage Hill
Some of these barns had stars, hearts, diamonds, quarter-moons, or other designs painted on their sides and ends. The picture above from my Pinterest board shows what we typically envision when we think of Pennsylvania German barns adorned with painted symbols. It’s of newer construction, and it has both plank and stone cladding.

Carriage Hill barn main level
Last summer I visited Carriage Hill Farm, an 1880s German Baptist farm in Huber Heights, Ohio. Although this farm dates to the late 19th century and is located in Ohio, the barn retains many of the features you’d see in earlier Pennsylvania structures. To the left is a shot I took of the barn’s main level. You can see the hand-hewn beams above the threshing floor. Obviously tobacco was a cash crop here. Below right is a picture of the grain bins along the right side of the threshing floor, each neatly labeled with the grain stored inside.

Grain bins
The last picture, below, is of the barn’s lower level, showing a walkway between one of the stalls on the left, with storage bins and feeding troughs for another stall on the right. Clearly these barns were designed for the greatest labor efficiency, with gravity allowing hay and grain to be fed down to animals on the lower level with the least amount of effort. Indeed the barn was the farmer’s most important tool for his work.
Barn lower level