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 www.amishamerica.com!

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.