The Story Behind Linda Mueller by Leslie Gould

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The story behind Linda Mueller, the heroine of The Amish Quilter
(and what a fascinating minor character can lead to)

by Leslie Gould

When Mindy Starns Clark and I started writing the Women of Lancaster County series nearly a decade ago, Linda Mueller was an unnamed daughter of a midwifery client in the first book, The Amish Midwife.

Today, she’s the grown-up heroine of her own novel—The Amish Quilter, the fifth book in the series. She follows her sister Izzy, who was the heroine in The Amish Seamstress, the fourth book in the series. (All of the stories, although loosely connected, can be read on their own.)

What led to the two youngest Mueller daughters having their own stories in the series? The answer might surprise you.

Writing teachers will tell you to make your fictional characters, even minor ones, fascinating. Give them a past! Make them mysterious! And sympathetic!

Peggy Mueller, Linda and Izzy’s mother, was one of those minor characters who leapt onto the page. In The Amish Midwife, Peggy was close to forty and pregnant with her eleventh child. We find out Peggy was an unwed mother when her oldest daughter was born, and no one ever talks about the girl’s birth father. Peggy, who can be a little standoffish, enjoys time alone in her buggy, running errands without any of her children tagging along. After her last baby arrives, a boy named Thomas, her daughters care for her and take over all of the household chores.

Long after Mindy and I finished The Amish Midwife, Peggy and her girls stayed with us. So, in The Amish Bride, the third book in the series, it wasn’t surprising that the middle daughter—Izzy—played a supporting role.

Around that time, I had to know more about the Muellers and Peggy in particular. The best way, in the fictional world, to get acquainted with a person is to write her story, so I came up with “Lasting Love,” a short piece set nine months before The Amish Midwife. Besides finding out about Peggy’s backstory, I also wrote about her daughters: Sarah (called “Sadie” by her sisters), Becky, Izzy, Tabitha, and Linda.

By the time Mindy and I were ready to write our fourth book in the series, Izzy took the lead as the main character. Which brings us back to the fifth book in the series, The Amish Quilter, and to Linda.

Thanks to Peggy, a fascinating minor character, we now know her story along with the stories of her daughters. Authors can’t anticipate where a character, no matter how small her role, might lead!

You can download a free copy of my short story, “Lasting Love,” to find out Peggy’s story. (Click HERE to read it now!)

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leslie-gouldLeslie Gould is the bestselling and award-winning author of 26 novels. She received her master of arts degree from Portland State University and lives in Portland, Oregon. She and her husband, Peter, are the parents of four children.

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Would you like a chance to win this book series and a handmade quilt from Lancaster County? Don’t miss our giveaway, which ends in just a few days on May 31, 2018!

You can find the giveaway by clicking HERE, or by clicking the image below…

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*Photo in top image by sydney Rae on Unsplash

 

Art, Quilting, and Writing | An Interview with Mindy Starns Clark

We’re so excited to share this interview with Mindy Starns Clark on the AmishReader blog today! Mindy is the coauthor of the Women of Lancaster County series, and we’re chatting with her about The Amish Quilter, the latest release in the series. We hope you enjoy learning more about Mindy, this new book, and the Amish culture!

(If you’d like a chance to win this book series and a handmade quilt from Lancaster County, enter our giveaway, which ends May 31, 2018!)

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AmishReader: Welcome, Mindy! The Amish Quilter focuses on art, especially quilts and paintings. What do most Amish communities think of art? Why is it controversial?

Mindy: Many Amish see art as a pursuit that could lead to pride, which they’re careful to guard against. In a culture built around community, individual accomplishment and acclaim is to be avoided whenever possible.

Thus, at least in the past, art as an occupation was usually prohibited. Over time, however, restrictions relaxed somewhat, and nowadays it’s more likely for Amish communities to take the position that art is “allowed but not encouraged.”

Of course, that varies widely from district to district—including that of a young Amish woman I know in Lancaster County who regularly paints and sells beautiful artwork. When I asked if she had to get special permission to do so, she said no and even seemed surprised at the thought. So, as per usual with the Amish, there is no one hard and fast rule for every district across the board.

AmishReader: Do you personally enjoying creating or viewing art?

Mindy: Yes, both! I’m not all that good at it, but I really enjoy drawing and painting, and I actually do have one published sketch, the map in Secrets of Harmony Grove. I sent it in with my manuscript, assuming the publisher would have one of their people reconstruct it more artistically, but they ended up using my version instead. So that was fun and very gratifying!

I also love flipping through art books and going to art museums. My nephew, Andrew Starns, is an incredible artist, so it’s especially fun to go museum hopping with him. Andrew served as our art expert when we were writing The Amish Quilter, and he patiently answered all of my frantic texts with exactly the info we needed each time.

 

Andrew Starns painting

Photo: A portrait by Andrew Starns, who served as the art expert during the writing of The Amish Quilter

AmishReader: Do you or Leslie quilt? What kind of research did you have to do for that aspect of the novel?

Mindy: I believe Leslie quilted some when she was younger. I have not quilted at all, but in the writing of this book I found myself really wanting to try. I even went so far as to buy some batting and a pack of coordinated fabric squares, but once I sat down and got to work, I quickly realized that the best way to learn quilting is not via YouTube videos! I teach myself a lot of things that way, but I think quilting is a skill best learned in person. At least the supplies didn’t go to waste; I do sew, so I ended up using them for a different project.

For our story, Leslie took the helm on the quilting research, learning from interviews with quilters and supplementing that with various books and videos. Then, with that knowledge, she laid all of the groundwork for our various quilting scenes. On my end, once I gave up on my own teach-yourself-to-quilt experience, I headed to an Amish quilt shop instead and simply picked the owner’s brain to make sure any quilting stuff I’d added to the manuscript was correct.

That quilter was extremely friendly and helpful. And if I ever find room in the budget for an actual Amish quilt of my own (they run anywhere from $600 to $3000+), I’ll be sure to check hers out first as she had some of the most gorgeous quilts I’ve ever seen. At least I was able to purchase some smaller quilted items, two of which I’ll be giving away on my blog this month.

 

Photo: Mindy's favorite quilt in the Amish quilt shop where she researched The Amish Quilter

Photo: Mindy’s favorite quilt in the Amish quilt shop where she researched The Amish Quilter

AmishReader: Awesome! [Readers, I hope you’ll check out that fun giveaway!]

What was the best part about writing The Amish Quilter with Leslie?

Mindy: As always, the best part about writing with Leslie is simply getting to spend so much time with her. She’s such a special person and a dear friend. She’s also a tremendously gifted writer and a true pleasure to work with.

After eight books, we’ve gotten this thing down to a science, and it’s fun to see what a well-oiled machine we’ve become! Co-writing is such a unique endeavor, one that requires flexibility, ingenuity, compatibility, and much more. It also creates numerous practical and logistical challenges, especially when you live on opposite coasts, as we do. But because we’ve been doing this for so long, we’ve pretty much learned our way around whatever the book-writing process might throw at us.

Creating these books with Leslie has been a rewarding process from beginning to end, and I’m deeply pleased with what we’ve managed to accomplish together.

AmishReader: Your teamwork and enduring friendship are so admirable!

Do you have a favorite line or scene from The Amish Quilter that you can share with us? What makes it especially meaningful to you?

Mindy: One scene I really like is where Linda is chatting with her elderly friend, Ruth, about the Amish attitude toward art…

“I’m thankful things have changed,” Ruth said. “In the old days, such talents were discouraged.” She turned toward me. “Like your poor grandmother.”

“My grandmother?”

“Nettie used to paint. She was good too, but all it brought her was trouble.”

I looked at her, startled. “You always said Mammi Nettie was creative, but I didn’t realize you meant she was an artist.”

“Oh, yes. But she had to hide her skills under a bushel. I always felt so sorry for her. I remember discussing the matter with others more than once. I’d say, ‘Would the good Lord give a bird wings and tell it not to fly? Of course not. So why would He give Nettie such a gift and then tell her not to use it? Couldn’t she paint for His glory?’

That particular passage is meaningful to me because I’ve often said the same thing to aspiring authors who are doubting whether or not God wants them to write. I always respond the same way: If He’s given you the talent and the drive, then why wouldn’t He want you to write?

It was fun to express a similar sentiment in this story.

 

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AmishReader: Which book in the Women of Lancaster County series was the most fun to write? Which one was the most challenging (or rewarding)?

Mindy: The most challenging was probably The Amish Midwife, just because neither of us had ever co-written before and hadn’t a clue how it was done. We also didn’t know each other, so we were having to navigate this complicated process while also learning each other’s styles and rhythms and methods. We managed to figure it out as we went, and our friendship blossomed in the process, but it’s definitely gotten easier with each subsequent book.

As for the one that was the most fun, it’s impossible to say because they’ve all been enjoyable in their own ways. The Amish Nanny was fun because our characters got to travel to Europe. The Amish Bride was fun because I loved Ella so much and found her entire tale quite compelling. (It’s my favorite in the series). The Amish Seamstress was fun because I really enjoyed the Amish-and-the-Indians historical elements, something that I’d known nothing about prior to the writing of that book. Finally, The Amish Quilter was fun because the romance between Linda and Isaac was so intricate and satisfying to help construct.

If I’m really honest, the most rewarding moments of the entire experience came when The Amish Midwife hit #1 on the bestseller list and then went on to win a Christy Award! Somehow, sharing both of those high points with a co-author made them twice as nice.

 

Leslie and Mindy with their husbands, Peter and John, after winning the 2012 Christy Award for The Amish Midwife

Photo: Leslie and Mindy with their husbands, Peter and John, after winning a Christy Award in 2012 for The Amish Midwife

AmishReader: That’s wonderful!

Which heroine in the series is most like you?

Mindy: Great question! I’d have to say it’s a tie…

First, I’m a lot like Ada Rupp, the main character in The Amish Nanny, just because of her love of travel and adventure and her desire to see the wider world. She’s also very visual, as am I, and she delights in beautiful things, both man-made and in nature.

Second, I’d say I’m like Izzy Mueller in The Amish Seamstress, because she’s such an introvert, content to work the hours away in solitude, always feeling when she is in a crowd just a bit like a square peg in a round hole. Mostly, however, what Izzy and I have in common is that we both fell in love with our best friends.

When I was in college, my best friend was a guy named John Clark, and we just loved spending time together, hanging out, laughing our heads off, talking for hours, and so on. Then one day, after we’d known each other for more than four years, I realized to my astonishment that I was in love with him. (I also realized that he loved me too, he just didn’t know it yet!) So, like Izzy, I bided my time until he came to his senses—and the rest is history. We’ve been married for almost 30 years now, and he’s still my best friend and favorite person in the whole world.

AmishReader: What a sweet love story, and how perfect to end our interview with a true happily-ever-after! Thank you so much for joining us today, Mindy.

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Mindy Starns Clark is a bestselling and award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction, with over a million books sold. Mindy and her husband, John, have two adult children and live in Pennsylvania. Visit her online at MindyStarnsClark.com.

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Eager to read The Amish Quilter? You can pick up a copy today through your favorite bookseller, such as Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, or Christianbook.com!

 

The Amish Quilter Giveaway (You could win a quilt and books!)

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Happy first day of May, Amish readers! Today is the official release day for The Amish Quilter, book 5 in the Women of Lancaster County series by Mindy Starns Clark & Leslie Gould. (Its available now through favorite booksellers, such as Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and Christianbook.com, if you can’t wait to pick up a copy!)

We’re so excited to celebrate this much-anticipated release with you by giving away some awesome prizes!

Here are the giveaway details:

  • Grand prize: The grand-prize winner will receive a handmade quilt from Lancaster County and the Women of Lancaster County series (5 paperback books)!
  • Runner-up prizes: Three other winners will each receive a paperback copy of The Amish Quilter, a mug, and a kit for making their own mug mats!
  • How to enter: In order to make sure your name is entered in the drawing, you’ll need to use the Rafflecopter form below. Log in with your email address or Facebook account, then complete one or more of the tasks to submit entries!
  • Can I submit more than one entry? Yes! You’ll need to subscribe to Leslie’s or Mindy’s e-newsletters (or already be a subscriber) to get your first 3 entries. If you subscribe to both, you’ll see on the form that this will unlock additional ways to enter the drawing. The more tasks you complete, the more entries you’ll have in the giveaway.
  • Terms and disclaimer: Four winners (one grand-prize winner and three runner-ups) will be randomly chosen and announced on June 1, 2018. We apologize, but due to varying international giveaway regulations and shipping restrictions, this giveaway is open to US residents (age 18 or older) only. Void where prohibited. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Rafflecopter or Facebook.

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Q&A with Vannetta Chapman (Who the Bishop Knows)

Who the Bishop Knows (#AmishBishopMysteries) by Vannetta Chapman releases in a week! Discover more about this exciting Amish mystery series in this interview with the author…

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Q&A with Vannetta Chapman

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1. AmishReader: What inspired the setting for the opening chapter of Who the Bishop Knows? Do you enjoy attending rodeos yourself?

Vannetta: We do have a lot of rodeos here in Texas, but actually the setting inspired me to incorporate the rodeo into this plot. Monte Vista is famous for its rodeo, and when I learned that the Amish teens sometimes participate, well…the story sort of wrote itself.

2. AmishReader: Which of the three mysteries in this series was the most difficult to write? Which one was the easiest?

Vannetta: All three books have felt like seeing a string on a sweater and pulling on it…watching it unravel. Once I had my main character…once I “knew” Henry, the stories flowed quite naturally.

3. AmishReader: Which character in the series has become most dear to you? Which one do you think most resembles you?

Vannetta: Well, I would say that Henry is the most dear—he reminds me of every grandfatherly figure in my life—including my own grandfather. Henry has his problems and shortcomings like any other person, but his endearing quality is how much he cares for the people under his care. I suppose I’m most like Emma, though I see reflections of myself in Katie Ann as well.

4. AmishReader: What do you find most challenging about writing Amish mysteries?

Vannetta: I think there is an important line between respecting their culture and imagining what that life must be like. As Englischers, we can’t really know…we haven’t lived it, but visiting and speaking with the Amish certainly helps. What Amish readers have told me they enjoy about my stories (even my mysteries), is that I don’t put them on a pedestal.

5. AmishReader: What is one of your favorite scenes in Who the Bishop Knows?

Vannetta: I absolutely loved writing the end, when Henry and Emma are preparing to confront the killer. Without giving anything away, I had my Bible open to 1 Samuel 17:38-40 as I wrote the scene, and it was a delight to incorporate that age-old passage into Henry’s story.

6. AmishReader: What can readers take away from Bishop Henry Lapp’s story regarding their own God-given gifts?

Vannetta: I think we can learn not to be ashamed of the gifts that God has given us and to trust that He has made us the way we are for a purpose, that always His plan for us is a good plan and that His love for us knows no bounds.

AmishReader: Thank you so much for sharing with us, Vannetta!

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About Who the Bishop Knows

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What You Don’t See Might Hurt You

Every year, residents of the small Amish community in Monte Vista, Colorado, look forward to the Ski Hi Stampede, the state’s oldest professional rodeo. The rodeo is always good, clean entertainment for the hardworking farmers of the San Luis Valley. But this year, the Stampede turns deadly for one Amish man. Did rodeo fans see an unfortunate accident? Or something more sinister?

Amish bishop Henry Lapp is known far and wide for his uncanny ability to draw and remember the smallest details of anything he’s seen, skills that have served him well in past investigations. He was at the rodeo that day. The problem? He didn’t see Jeremiah Schwartz’s death.

With a murderer on the loose and members of his community being threatened, Henry must act fast. But can he solve a crime he didn’t see? This time around, Henry will have to rely on his keen sense of human character and observation, skills he’s honed in his role as bishop, if he hopes to crack the case.

Who the Bishop Knows is a story of accepting our talents, putting one another first, and trusting that God will care for His children.

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Vannetta Chapman writes inspirational fiction full of grace, including romantic suspense and Amish romance novels. Chapman was a teacher for 15 years and currently writes full-time. She lives in the Texas Hill Country with her husband, pets, and a herd of deer.

Visit her at www.VannettaChapman.com.

 

Host a Harvest Get-Together!

It’s the perfect time of year to gather your friends and family for a delicious feast! These three easy recipes from Amish country will wow your guests and fill your stomach with goodness. Try one or all three!

 

Quick Garlic Cheese Breadsticks – 99 Favorite Amish Breads, Rolls, & Muffins – Georgia Varozza
Potato Chip Casserole – 99 Favorite Amish Recipes – Georgia Varozza
Graham Cracker Fluff – The Authentic Amish Cookbook – Norman & Marlena Miller

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Meet Henry Lapp…

Vannetta Chapman’s newest book, When the Bishop Needs an Alibi, is available now!

But let’s start at the beginning…

What the Bishop Saw is the first book in The Amish Bishop Mysteries, and is one of seven books we’re giving away this month! Continue reading to meet Henry Lapp, the main character of the series, who has an intriguing ability that sometimes seems like a blessing, and sometimes like a curse…

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Henry Lapp needed an escape.

He sat at the kitchen table, his chin propped on his hands, staring out the window at his brothers and sister. That was where he should be, in the field, playing ball. One glance at his mother told him that was not going to happen, which didn’t stop him from arguing about it. At twelve years old, he’d learned parents could sometimes be persuaded if one nagged with determination.

“I promise not to bat.”

“Absolutely not.”

“I’ll stand in the outfield. No one ever gets a ball to the outfield.”

“It’s not going to happen. And baseball. I never want to see you playing baseball again. It’s not up for discussion, Henry.”

“And yet we are discussing it, ya? So maybe there’s a possibility.” He offered his crooked smile, the one that always made her laugh, but it did nothing to diminish the worry lines around his mother’s eyes.

“You’ve been home three days, Henry. Only three days after… what? Three weeks in the hospital?”

He gingerly touched the side of his head. The stitches were gone. As for the three weeks, he remembered very little of that time since he’d spent much of it in a medically induced coma.

His mother sat down beside him and waited until he turned his gaze from the window to look at her. “You almost died, Henry. Your dat and I sat by your hospital bed, not knowing if you would wake up.”

“I’m better now.”

“And we praise Gotte for that every night, but you will follow the doctor’s orders. She said for you to take it easy for a few weeks.”

“Weeks?”

“Getting sick is easy. Getting well is the trick.”

“Not a gut time for proverbs, Mamm.”

“The best time for a proverb is when you think you don’t need one.”

“But I’m bored.”

“How about you write your mammi?”

“I did that yesterday. Besides, writing feels like school, and it’s summertime.”

“I’ll have dinner ready in an hour. Until then, you can draw her a picture.” She stood and turned back to the stove, and he knew the discussion was over.

At least he’d given it his best try. He fetched a large sheet of construction paper and a pencil from the supply his mother kept near the table for school projects. He paused to consider what he should draw. Mammi was always asking about their church dinners. She missed the folks in Goshen since moving to Illinois to help one of his onkels. He would draw the picnic they’d had the day before. He bent over the sheet of paper and set to work.

And then his father was coming in the back door asking about dinner, and his brothers were trooping in the front talking about the baseball game, and his little sister was standing beside him.

“Look what Henry drew, Mamm. I can see me! And I can see my doll too.”

“That’s great, honey. Now wash your hands.”

Henry pushed the sheet of paper away and rubbed his eyes. Suddenly he felt tired, as if he’d been clutching the pencil for hours. How long had he been drawing? Before he could work out the answer to that question, his three brothers stepped behind his chair.

“Whoa.”

“That’s a little spooky.”

“Mamm, you’d better come look at this.”

Henry wasn’t entirely sure what they were talking about, but then his father reached over him and pulled the sheet of paper closer. Henry glanced down to see what looked like a photograph. Every person, every facial expression, every leaf looked real down to the smallest detail.

“Boys, take your sister outside.” Henry’s siblings left, and his father sat down next to him as his mother joined them. Her face paled when she looked at the drawing.

“You did this?” His father was still staring at what he’d drawn.

“Ya. I guess.”

“How—”

“I don’t know. Mamm told me to draw, so I did.”

“But this… you shouldn’t be able to do this.”

Henry touched the paper, and that was when he noticed that perhaps he’d been a little too detailed. A husband was berating his wife about something, his face wreathed in a mask of anger. Two boys were fighting over a volleyball. Henry could imagine the unkind words they were saying by the expressions on their faces. A teenage boy stood next to a tree with a girl, no doubt thinking they couldn’t be seen. In the drawing he was kissing her, one hand touching her face and the other hand resting on her hip. The look on their faces was one of complete happiness.

Anger and sadness and love. They weren’t merely words. They were played out over every inch of the sheet of paper.

“I didn’t mean to draw those things.” Henry picked up his pencil, flipped it over, and frantically began erasing.

His father slipped his drawing off the table as his mamm pulled the pencil out of his grasp. “Perhaps you should go rest,” she murmured.

Henry had made it to the sitting room when he noticed his shoes were untied. He squatted to tie them, not intending to eavesdrop.

“This is from the brain injury,” his father said. “It has to be.”

“I don’t understand. How could being hit in the head by a baseball cause… cause this?”

“Remember? The doctor said he could lose things—abilities, balance, whatever. And that he could gain things too.”

“This? He gained this?”

“Maybe.”

“And he drew it from his memory?”

“How else?”

“What do we do about it?” his mother asked.

“We’ll speak to the bishop, and we’ll pray.”

“It will frighten people if they see this. No one wants their actions, their every emotion recorded.” She paused, and Henry knew she was looking at the angry expressions, not the joyful ones.

“It’s a gift,” his father said, though his voice sounded anything but certain.

“It could be,” his mother agreed. “Or perhaps it’s a curse.”

 

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Continue reading What the Bishop Saw by Vanetta Chapman!

A Frame-Up Most Foul…

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Enjoy this excerpt from the newest book in

The Amish Bishop Mysteries by Vanetta Chapman:

When the Bishop Needs an Alibi.

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Bishop Henry Lapp crouched in a sea of bulrushes and cattails.

A light breeze tickled the hair at the nape of his neck as the distinctive rolling cry of cranes filled the morning. He recognized the call of a marsh wren, a night heron, and an ibis.

As he waited, dawn’s light splashed over the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east, crossed the San Luis Valley, and settled against the base of the San Juan Mountains in the west. Sunrise turned the marshland into a sea of gold and warmed the brisk fall air. Henry moved behind a clump of bulrushes, the ripened seeds temporarily filling the lens of his Nikon binoculars.

Henry again heard the flat, rattle call of a sandhill crane, a gar-oo-oo that never failed to quicken his pulse. He brought his binoculars around to the sound and adjusted his focus. Nearly four feet tall, with a wingspan of at least six feet, the male crane was a beauty to behold. Its gray color provided a perfect camouflage against the fall stalks, rendering the splash of red against its forehead all the more surprising.

The crane took several steps east, and Henry did the same, barely noticing the way his boots sank in the mud.

With his left hand, he calmed his dog, Lexi. With his right, he steadied the binoculars. Many people had abandoned binoculars altogether when bird-watching, opting for cameras instead. But Henry had no intention of taking photographs. Being Amish, he didn’t own a camera. No, for him the joy was in seeing the majestic creatures, observing them and appreciating the wonder of God’s hand in all things.

The male croaked, spread its wings, and jumped, neck stretched long—all for the benefit of its mate. Although he couldn’t see her, Henry knew the female was close. She must be among the cattails, searching for breakfast.

He crouched lower, continued to follow the male’s direction, and forgot about the arthritis in his knees or how he wished he’d eaten a bigger breakfast.

And then she was there, filling up his lens, slightly smaller and staying close to the juvenile.

“A family unit,” he muttered. He could have raised his gaze and seen hundreds, possibly thousands of the birds, but this chance to observe a family rewarded him more than watching an entire flock of birds ever could.

Henry crept forward, completely focused on the birds, and his foot struck against something. He lost his balance and began to fall. Lexi jumped out of his way, and Henry tried to focus on saving the binoculars, on not dropping them in the mud.

He was thinking of that, of how precious the binoculars were to him, when he landed on his backside, scaring away the family of three and causing an entire flock of cranes to take flight. He shook his head at his clumsiness and called Lexi closer, but the beagle was now emitting a low, menacing growl.

“Lexi, shush.”

The dog paid him no mind. Her growl turned to high-pitched barks, and more cranes rose into the morning sky.

Henry lurched for the dog’s collar, and he twisted, turning back in the direction he’d come. That was the moment he saw what made him trip, what Lexi was now backing away from, still alternately growling and yipping.

Hidden among the bulrushes and the cattails lay a woman’s body, facedown in the brush.

Stumbling forward, he knelt beside her, swept aside her hair, and placed two fingers to her neck. He couldn’t detect a pulse, and she certainly wasn’t moving. But then again, his own heartbeat was thundering in his ears, and his hands were shaking. He should get help, run to the visitor center, but first he had to be sure. Gently he rolled the body over, his heart sinking in recognition.

She wouldn’t be needing help. That much was for certain. Henry uttered a prayer for her soul even as his gaze froze on the bruise marks around her neck. His tears didn’t begin to fall until he looked at her face—unmarred and unlined in death, as if the worries of her life had slipped away and sailed across the vast Colorado sky.

***

Little did he know, Henry had just stumbled right into the middle of murder and cover-up. Will he be able to use his special skills to solve the mystery and save the people he loves?

When the Bishop Needs an Alibi is available for 50% off right now on the Harvest House website!

 

Shoofly Pie Recipe!

Enjoy this new recipe from Georgia Varozza’s 99 Favorite Amish Recipes! 

Don’t forget to soak in the last days of summer and jump into a good book!

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Free Excerpt from Mary’s Home!

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All Mary Yoder wants is for God to give her a wunderbar Amish husband and to start her own family. When her betrothed breaks her heart and a handsome, compassionate missionary comes to town, Mary is left feeling conflicted. Could she be falling in love with an Englisha man?

Willard is nursing his own wounds, both from a break-up with his fiance and the heartbreaking mission work he is doing in Kenya. He can’t help but be impressed by Mary’s heart and virtue. But a good Amish girl like Mary would never be interested in an Englisha man like him…would she?

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He grabbed the keys and hurried out of house. At the car door he paused to brush wood chips off his jeans. Maybe he would appear more like an Amish man if he left the fresh shavings on his pants. Willard snorted at the thought and climbed into the car. Moments later he arrived in front of the small co-op.

No buggies sat in the parking lot, but there were a few cars. What did he expect? A private audience with Mary? This was more than awkward. His first date with Carlene had been the epitome of smoothness. He had walked straight up to her, smiled, and whispered, “Any chance I could take you out somewhere tonight?” Destiny had been on their side. They had fit each other like a hand and a glove. Whereas this was…

Willard grunted and climbed out of the car, and then walked the short distance to the front door. When he entered, a small bell on a chain chimed above him. Mary looked up from behind the counter, and her mouth fell open.

“Sorry,” he said, stepping closer. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“Why did you come back?”

“I need bulk food products,” he teased. “Lots of them.”

Her lips moved, but no words came out.

He glanced around. The other customers appeared occupied at the moment, so he leaned forward. “I will be speaking about Kenya tonight at the Grandview Baptist, my grandmother’s church in town. Would you and your sister like to come and listen?”

“You know Betsy?”

“Grandma does. I didn’t think you would want to come alone. I can pick you up at your house if you wish.”

Alarm filled her face. “Oh, you shouldn’t.”

“But you would come? I’m not a great speaker, but Kenya is an interesting subject. How about it?”

She looked as if she wanted to say something, but her lips moved soundlessly.

“I would love to have you come.” He gave her his best smile.

“Think about it.”

“I…I can’t promise.”

“But you will think about it?”

Her face blazed.

“Please do,” he whispered. “I would love to see you there, but don’t run out without speaking with me. Okay?”

She stared at him in silence.

“It’s at seven thirty,” he added. “I won’t speak that long.”

He left the store and didn’t look back. There! He had done what could be done. Mary wouldn’t show up, and this would end whereit had begun. In other words, nowhere.

But what if she does show? he wondered. His heart quickened as he walked back to the car.

 

***

 

Will Mary and Willard find love with each other? Continue reading in the third book of Jerry Eicher’s Peace in the Valley series, Mary’s Home!

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Free Excerpt from Phoebe’s Gift!

phoebes-gift-sharable

In this exciting excerpt from the second book in Jerry Eicher’s Peace in the Valley series, Phoebe’s Gift, Ruth, the community schoolteacher, has been secretly developing a relationship with a man from the Englisha world. As this is highly forbidden, her reputation and job would be lost in an instant if her Amish community were to find out. One night, her boyfriend, Ethan, is supposed to pick her up under the cover of darkness. When he doesn’t show up, Ruth’s mind starts running wild—until she accidentally learns a secret that distracts her from her own pounding heart…

Ruth paced and waited. She walked down to the junction and back again. She dialed once more with the same result. How could he know she called from the phone shack? He wouldn’t know the number, so he would pick up. Unless…Ruth took a breath. The pain was too much. There must be some explanation. Ethan had never done this to her. His word was his word. They trusted each other. They were friends. They would work through this. Yet he wasn’t here. She must give him the benefit of the doubt. The dawn would arrive, and he would have an excuse that made sense.

The barn door across from the road burst open, and the lantern light spilled across the yard. Ruth gasped and threw herself behind the phone shack. Thankfully, the thin plywood sides kept out the light and could hide her securely. Unless she already had been seen? In which case, there was no ready explanation for why the community’s schoolteacher would hide behind the phone shack at ten thirty on a Friday evening. The Yoders would have a field of gossip about that, and Deacon Matthew would become involved.

There was no way she could talk herself out of this situation. Perhaps the hour for the truth had arrived. The moment would be a relief in a way. No more sneaking around. She would be out of a schoolteaching job on Monday morning, but she could join Ethan in his world without a backward glance.

Ruth held her breath as footsteps approached and entered the phone shack. Numbers were punched, and the faint ring of a phone reached her ears.

“Hi, sweetheart,” the youngest of the Yoder boys, John, said plainly enough.

Ruth stilled a gasp. Now she was listening to a private conversation. Could things get worse?

“Yah, I’m missing you too,” John cooed, “but I can’t get away tonight. Tomorrow night maybe.”

John wasn’t of rumspringa age yet. The boy couldn’t be more than fifteen. Maybe fourteen. Hadn’t he been in school last year in the eighth grade?

“What are you doing tonight?” John continued sweetly. “Thinking about me?”

There was soft laughter. Apparently John was having endearments whispered into his ear.

Did Emil Yoder approve of his youngest son’s early foray into rumspringa? Did Emil even know? Ruth’s mind swirled, and her anger stirred.

“You’ll be picking me up down at the junction then,” John was saying. “The usual time, yah? Dim your lights. Don’t forget.” There was silence for a few moments, then, “You’re sweet, dearest. The sweetest and the best.”

Young John had a sugar tongue for sure. He’d be able to talk milk out of a bull cow.
Ruth dug her fingers into the ground. She had to keep her anger in check. Nothing would be gained by an explosion, and no explanation would save her reputation—unjust though this all was.

John was wrapping up his conversation. “You sleep tight now, dear heart. Love you. Remember that. Always and forever.”

Ruth heard deep chuckles and a kissing sound coming through the receiver. She stilled a bitter protest as the phone clicked and young John laughed. “Isn’t she the sweetest? They don’t make Amish girls like that.”

Ruth’s fingers twitched. She wasn’t going to move. She couldn’t.

His footsteps faded away along with the glare of the lantern he’d brought with him. Ruth peeked around the edge of the phone shack, and when the light went behind a clump of trees, she fled down the road. Here she was, running away when John was at fault. But if he ever learned that she had listened in to his conversation, her reputation wouldn’t survive even though she was the community’s schoolteacher.

Ruth paused to catch her breath at the junction. There was still no sign of Ethan. He wasn’t coming. She might as well face the facts. She knew he answered his phone even when he was on emergency calls. He didn’t want to speak with her tonight. She might as well bear the pain. Right now there was only numbness from this rejection, this dashing of high hopes and dreams. Not once in her life had she known a man who truly loved her. Tears stung again as Ruth pushed her feet southward toward home. Only, Leroy Fisher’s place wasn’t home to her. Nowhere was home. Not really. The north, the south, the east, the west—what difference did it make?
Will Ruth find that her Amish community really is home—or will she give it up for a chance with Ethan in the Englisha world? Pick up your copy of Phoebe’s Gift today!