Sunday, April 6, 2014

New Northkill Website!

We now have a website devoted to Northkill and the Northkill Amish Series! It includes information about the first book, the true story it’s based on, resources we used in writing our fictional depiction, and upcoming events related to the book. To check it out, just click on the link here or on the sidebar! I’d love to hear your comments and any suggestions you may have for improving the site!

Bob and I will be at Gospel Book Store in Berlin, Ohio, on Saturday, April 12, from 9 to noon to greet readers and sign copies of Northkill. The store is located at 4900 Oak Street. If you’re in the area, we’d be delighted if you’d drop by and join us!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New Opportunity to Win Northkill!

Today and tomorrow I have a new interview up on the Novel PASTimes blog. Head over there and leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for a free copy!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Our Firm Foundation

We sang this hymn today at church. It spoke to me deeply of our ancestors firm foundation that carried them through their time of fiery trial, which is the legacy they handed down to us.

How Firm a Foundation
John Keith, 1787

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said—
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy trouble to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not harm thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

May your foundation be firm in Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Alone Yet Not Alone

I first heard about this film when the title song was nominated for an Academy Award for best song, then abruptly dropped. But I didn’t watch the trailer until today, and it immediately struck me how similar this story is to our ancestors’. Alone Yet Not Alone is scheduled for a limited release in June. Below is a synopsis of the storyline.

Alone Yet Not Alone tells the inspiring true story of Barbara and Regina Leininger and their journey of faith and survival during the French and Indian war in 1755. Fleeing religious persecution in Germany, the Leininger family seeks a new start in America. It is the mid-1700s and British and French forces are struggling for control of the abundant resources of this new territory.

Despite the escalating tension mounting around them, the Leiningers give thanks and praise for the sparkling streams and majestic forests around Penns Creek and above all, their freedom to worship. Carving out a homestead is arduous work, but the Leiningers labor joyfully. After all, what the land will not yield, the cherished family Bible would, providing the everlasting nourishment of God’s promise. 

Then the unthinkable happens. In a terrifying raid on their homestead, Delaware warriors capture the two young Leininger daughters and transport them across 300 miles of wilderness to Ohio. The sisters are sustained only by their abiding trust in God, and their hope of escape against all odds to be reunited with their family.

You’ll find the video trailer at the bottom of this blog. According to the description of the young-adult book by Tracy Leininger Craven, on which the movie is based, this family was also German and also settled along the Blue Mountain, as did our ancestors. This true incident, known as the Penn’s Creek Massacre, happened in the fall of 1755, at the beginning of the French and Indian War and almost exactly two years before the Northkill attack. You can find the book on Amazon

Below is the very positive Dove review of the movie. I’m anxious to see Alone Yet Not Alone not only because it sounds like an exciting and inspiring story, but also to see how it compares with our ancestors’ experience, how it develops the theme of this family’s faith, and how it portrays Native Americans. In my next post I’m going to share my thoughts on the latter topic in the video and book, an issue that Bob and I will be dealing with more deeply in book 2 of our series, The Return, as we depict our ancestors’ lives among their captors.

Dove Review

The film opens with a calming musical soundtrack and gorgeous landscapes. We learn that the time period is 1755 when America was considered a haven for families seeking freedom to worship in a land of opportunity. Barbara Leininger and her family just moved to Pennsylvania. They have a cabin in the woods and her father often reads from the family Bible. He tells the family that even during tests and trials God will never leave them nor forsake them.

As her mother and brother leave on a trip, Indians break in their home with devastating consequences. Barbara and Regina flee to the woods and are soon caught by the Indians. Barbara must remember her father’s words about God never leaving her because she is soon separated from her sister and taken captive. The Indians taunt her by dying her fair skin dark and her golden hair black. She tries to escape but eventually decides to be agreeable while keeping hope alive that she will one day be freed and reunited with her sister, mother and brother. The years pass and she grows into a woman but she keeps her faith in God, even witnessing to the Indian brave who wants to be her husband.

This film has it all! The music is wonderful, the cinematography is inspiring, the acting is superb and the screenplay and direction are top notch. Both Kelly Greyson as the older Barbara and Natalie Racoosin as a young Barbara are exceptional in their roles. The movie is based on a true story taken from the novel of the same name written by Tracy Leininger Craven.

This film has a bit of everything: action, drama, suspense and a fine ending. For those who love action, there are several battle sequences and fights, with many characters dying by tomahawks or muskets. Fortunately, there is little blood overall and the scenes are not gratuitous. It appears that the director held back enough so the film could be enjoyed by families without losing the intensity of the story. We commend this decision.

Without giving away the ending, it is worth noting that God’s promise to never leave nor forsake Barbara is clearly demonstrated in this story. The themes of this movie include loyalty, perseverance, forgiveness and the profound love of God. We are quite pleased to award this film five Doves, our highest rating. Watching this movie is time well spent!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Recreating the Northkill Amish World

Who were the real members of the Northkill Amish Church? And who were the people in the larger community around them? Was it possible to find real names and information about these people such as their ages, when they arrived in this country, and the names and ages of wives and children, which appear less often in the historical record? These were questions I asked as I developed the list of secondary characters who would appear in Northkill. As much as possible I wanted to use the names of real people in our story rather than inventing fictional individuals to play certain roles. I wanted Jakob and Anna’s friends and the friends of their children to be people they would actually have known and attended church with.

This posed research challenges, of course. However, I was able to find a number of names from the period of our story in Descendents of Jacob Hochstetler, Virgil Miller’s Both Sides of the Ocean, and articles in the Jacob Hochstetler Family Association Newsletter. These invaluable resources included much helpful information. But finding details about individuals’ lives and the names and ages of children who might have been friends of our ancestors’ children proved to be difficult. Not knowing exactly where any of these people lived in relation to our ancestors’ plantation also made it difficult to figure out how often they interacted with each other in their day-to-day lives.

Another concern that arose early on was determining which of the many Germans who lived in this area of the Pennsylvania frontier in the mid 1700s were actually Amish. German names are common on ship’s lists and in other records, but just because their names were German didn’t mean that they were Amish. Many belonged to Reformed or Lutheran churches. We needed to be careful not to include the names of our ancestors’ non-Amish neighbors among their fellow church members. For one thing, many families have recorded genealogies, and it would be embarrassing to be caught portraying someone as Amish when, in fact, the person was a devout Lutheran.

Early Amish Land Grants in Berks County, Pennsylvania, turned out to be a serendipitous find. As soon as I got my hands on a copy, I realized that it was a treasure-trove of the exact information we needed. This book includes plats of the counties around Reading with significant Amish populations during the period of our story and shows the boundary lines of the plantations where Amish families settled. That enabled me to form an idea of the daily interactions between different families.

What makes this book a true gold mine, however, is the wealth of information recorded about each individual who warranted land at some point, including short histories of known facts about their lives and relationships and a record of the known names, birth, and death dates of wives and children. It also notes several who had some connection with the community but were likely not Amish.

Eureka! From that detailed information was born every Amish secondary character in the book. So in the story, when you read about Melchior and Rudy Detweiler, Hans Blanck, Benedict Lehman, and the rest of Jakob’s neighbors, you know that, although their personalities and descriptions are necessarily the result of speculation, these people really were our ancestors’ fellow church members and friends.

The majority of non-Amish characters portrayed in the book are also real people, such as Conrad Weiser and his son Samuel. Lieutenant Humphreys who is depicted as being in command at Fort Northkill actually commanded there. Even some of the Native American characters were real people, Shingas, for one. And in book 2 other Native American people of that period will appear as well.

For me, this is what makes reading and writing historical fiction tremendously engaging in spite of the effort required to research and write stories from a distant time. In upcoming posts, I’ll share more about how we went about authentically creating the world of the Northkill community.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Today the Amish America Blog is featuring an interview with Bob and me and a drawing for 2 copies of Northkill! Check it out at!

On Friday be sure to stop by the Colonial Quills Blog for our Tea Party celebrating Northkill and also MaryLu Tyndall’s newest release The Ransom. We’ll be offering drawings for copies of both books and some other goodies too!

Monday, March 10, Laura Frantz is featuring Northkill on her blog, with a drawing for a free copy.

And don’t forget my interview and the drawing on the Novel Pastimes Blog on March 18 and 19! Lots of great opportunities this month to win a copy of this exciting and inspiring story!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

And the Winner Is . . . ta dah . . .

. . . Judy B.!

Congratulations, Judy! I’m assuming you want the print edition of Northkill, but if you’d prefer the ebook version, that’s available too. For the former I’ll need your mailing address, and for the latter I’ll need to know whether you want Kindle or Nook format and the email addy associated with your account. Please email me at jmhochstetler [at] msn [dot] com.

Thank you, everyone, for sharing why this story interests you and for entering the drawing! For those who didn’t win, be sure to stop by our Tea Party this Friday on the Colonial Quills blog, where we’ll be offering drawings for Northkill and for MaryLu Tyndall’s latest release, not to mention a few other goodies. The previous post, below, also has links to some other drawings, and I may offer another on this blog later in the month too, so check back from time to time and on my Facebook page for details.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Release Celebration!

This weekend turned out to be extra busy, and I wasn’t able to spend much time online. So today I want to celebrate Northkill’s official release date, which was Saturday, March 1. We’ll do a quick drawing—one day only! All you have to do to be entered is to leave a comment answering the following question. 

What interests you the most about this story? 

Below is a list of several other events coming up this month on other blogs where there will be drawings for a copy of Northkill.

Upcoming Events

March 7: Colonial Quills Blog Tea Party celebrating new releases for MaryLu Tyndale and me!

March 18 & 19: Novel PASTimes interview 

TBA: Feature on Laura Frantz’s blog

March 9-22: Giveaway on fReado. More details to come.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Finding Northkill

Hmm . . . the title of this post reminds me of a movie about a lost fish.

Seriously, for those who are wondering where to get a copy of Northkill, you’ll find it at all the major online retailers. See the sidebar for hot links to CBD, Deeper Shopping, Amazon, and B&N. Both print and ebook editions are available at each of these sites, except for CBD, which doesn’t have the ebook posted yet. Hopefully they’ll have it up soon.

Most local bookstores should be able to order copies as long as they have an account with Ingram, Baker & Taylor, or other wholesalers. If you don’t find it on the shelf, I greatly appreciate your asking for the book and encouraging the store personnel to order it.

Here’s a list of bookstores I recently supplied with stock.

219 Mill Road
Morgantown, PA 19543

Gospel Book Store
4900 Oak St
Berlin, OH 44610

Menno-Hof Bookstore
510 S Van Buren Street
Shipshewana IN 46565

Pathway Bookstore
2580 N 250 W
LaGrange, IN, 46761

Raber’s Boookstore
2467 CR 600
Baltic, OH 43804

I’m working on expanding this list. If you have any trouble getting a copy, I can handle some individual orders, so please leave a comment on this blog, email me at jmhochstetler @ msn dot com, or message me on facebook.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Barn Door Book Loft Spotlight!

Northkill is featured today and tomorrow in the Spotlight at the Barn Door Book Loft Blog! Come on over, read an excerpt from the 1st chapter, and join the conversation. All you have to do to enter the drawing for a free copy of Norhkill is to leave a comment, so click on the link and join us! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Northkill Now In Stock!

We just picked up our Northkill stock from the shipper this morning, and the books are all safely stowed here at the office now. This book is absolutely beautiful! These were printed by Pollock Printing, our favorite shipper in Nashville, Tennessee, and as usual I’m delighted with how they turned out. I just love this cover, and the quality of the interior printing is excellent too.

Now that stock is on hand, I’ve been busy all afternoon packing and invoicing individual and small bookstore orders and hauling them to UPS and the post office. Whew! You don’t realize until you do it how much time and effort processing shipments takes. But it’s really exciting to see this title finally going out the door.

If you have any difficulty getting a copy of Northkill, please contact me. You’ll find my contact information on the Contact Me page.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ordering Northkill

Northkill is now at the printer and should start shipping to bookstores the last week of the month. The book is currently available for preorder online at,,, and

I’m receiving a few orders from individuals, and I appreciate those greatly! Unfortunately, I can only accept a limited number of individual retail sales due to my workload and the necessity to charge and file sales tax for each state in which a sale is made. Collecting and filing sales tax for retail sales above each state’s limit for personal sales becomes a truly onerous task, and one that I simply don’t have the time to manage. 

If you’d like to buy a copy of the book, thank you! And if you can purchase it at your local bookstore or on one of the online sites, I would greatly appreciate it. That benefits Sheaf House the most. Immediate family members are an exception, of course; I’m very happy to handle those orders. Bob and I are also setting up local events, where the book will be available for sale. Be sure to check back here and on my Northkill blog for news about upcoming events. Our first one will be at The Gospel Bookstore in Berlin, Ohio, and I'll share the details about that soon.

If your local bookstore doesn’t have copies of Northkill available, they should be able to order them. Sheaf House books are distributed by STL Distribution and are carried by wholesalers such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor. I’m also glad to work directly with bookstores that don’t have an account with these companies, and I’d be delighted if you’d share my contact information with them if you encounter that problem. And if your local library might be interested in this title, I’d be especially grateful it if you’d recommend the book to them as well. 

To find my business contact information, go to Thank you so much for spreading the news about this exciting and inspiring new series!

Cross posted on my website.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

More Stellar Endorsements!

We’ve gotten in a whole flock of wonderful new endorsements, and we’re becoming more and more excited to see the awesome response Northkill is already receiving! You’ll find the latest reviews below.

The files are scheduled to go off to the printer at the beginning of next week. And we’re in the process of planning the national release early in March at the Gospel Bookstore in Berlin, Ohio, hosted by owners Eli and Vesta Hochstetler. Other events are in the works as well, and we hope we’ll see you at one of them!

After so many years in the planning and writing, this project is finally going to get into readers’ hands. Our prayer is that readers will be inspired, entertained, and encouraged by the testimony of
our ancestors’ faithfulness. All praise be to our most gracious God!

“There are few better ways to learn history than through the well-told story. Northkill is one such incredible story of my family torn asunder by massacre and kidnapping, barely patched back together by faith, fortitude, and sheer luck. Read this book if you love suspense and survival against the odds. Read this book to learn about the settling and unsettling of America at the time of the French and Indian War. Read this book to discover how one family’s commitment to peace was tested beyond measure, whose legacy lives on in a trail of descendants who still ponder what the cost of such peaceful convictions mean for us today. Read this book!” —James Hostetler Brenneman, President, Goshen College 

“I am pleased that the authors of Northkill have preserved a sense of the ancestral struggles experienced by settlers of the early American Peace Church tradition. Their story drew me in by its vivid imagery and fluid writing style.” —Perry White, President of Bethel College, Kansas

Northkill is a thoroughly riveting tale all the more powerful because it’s factually based on a real-life family drawn into actual events in American history. Once I began reading about the Hochstetler family’s successful endeavors in taming a wild, unforgiving land, I couldn’t put the story down. Their descent into tragedy through no fault of their own kept me reading, as well as aching for their suffering. When I finished the story, I longed for to know more about this remarkable, peace-loving family.” —Louise M. Gouge, award-winning author

“J. M. Hochstetler and Bob Hostetler have created a story and a world that took hold of my imagination and interest. To know that this involves their own family history was compelling and heartbreaking.  The research that has gone into this is astounding and will be a true delight for those who enjoy historical fiction.” —Rene Gutteridge, author of Misery Loves Company