The Amish: Fiction and Reality

 Today, we have a guest post by Kelly Irvin. She is irvin - cthe author of the Bliss Creek Amish series and the New Hope Amish series, both from Harvest House Publishing.  With much research on those, she tells us about the fiction and reality to the Amish and where the two meet. And she’s giving away a copy of one of her books to one person leaving a comment.


 I’ve been writing Amish fiction for almost five years now and people frequently ask me how I decided to go down that road. I admit to having a fascination, like my readers, with a way of life that is far removed from what most of us live. While I have tremendous respect for the hard work and the focus on family and faith exhibited by most Amish people, I don’t idealize how they live. In my fiction, I try to honestly portray the challenges of living “off the grid,” while examining the benefits of doing so.

 I often see comments from folks who say they wish they could “be Amish.” Let’s take a moment to visualize what that means. Stand in your house and look around. Now imagine that everything you own that requires electricity is gone. No microwave. No washer and dryer. No central air and heat. No computers. No TVs. Nothing that has to be charged with a wall socket. I don’t know about you, but I’m not giving up my laptop!

 With ingenuity the Amish have retrofitted appliances such as wringer machines to run on propane. As a child I washed clothes for a family of seven using a wringer wash machine so I can vouch for the fact that washing clothes this way is only a few steps above doing them by hand. People wax nostalgic about hanging clothes on the line outside. They smell so good! I wonder if they’ve ever had to do it in the winter in sub freezing weather, then bring in the pants, towels and shirts, stiff as a board, to finish drying on a gas stove? Having done this, I’m not so excited about the prospect of line drying clothes.

 All this is to say I’m truly impressed and respectful of how hard the Amish choose to work. They choose not to buy into the world’s attitude of let’s find the easiest way to accomplish these tasks. Let’s make everything disposable. Let’s not cook from scratch. It’s much easier to buy it frozen and heat it in the microwave. They choose to do the backbreaking work of planting gardens, weeding, reaping, and canning their fruits and vegetables. Think about the heat in a kitchen in mid-July with no air conditioning. This is something else I experienced as a child and it was like cooking in a sauna. They sew their own clothes on treadle sewing machines. Some even make their own soap. All this to keep themselves apart from a world they don’t judge but neither do they care to participate in.

 They are willing to adjust to the world around them for purposes of survival. Individual districts have a set of rules, called an ordnung. They have meetings a few times a year when changes are discussed and voted on by church members. This can lead to phones being permitted in businesses or the use of computers in businesses. They recognize a need to make these adjustments in order to provide for their families, something harder and harder to do through family farming.

 Amish children leave formal education behind after the eighth grade. They then learn what they need to know from their parents in a form of vocational education.

 A particular prohibition that I find hard to imagine is no musical instruments. They believe playing instruments calls attention to the individual. It can lead to pride and a boasIrvin - Plain love song-ctful attitude, in their estimation. I examined this idea in A Plain Love Song, the last installment in the New Hope Amish series. My heroine, Adah Knepp, has to decide whether her dream of writing songs and performing is more important to her than her faith and family. She can’t have both. It’s such a different world view from the “American Idol,” and “The Voice,” way of looking at success and following our dreams at whatever the cost.

 While I might not agree with the Amish view on musical instruments or education, I respect the willingness to commit to a way of life that puts faith and family ahead of personal success. The world could use more selflessness. On that, I think we can all agree.

JIM:  A Plain Love Song, released July 1. Kelly is giving away a copy FREE to one of those  leaving a comment.  So, leave a short comment and maybe you’ll get a great book on the Amish.

Kelly has started on a new Amish series, the Bee County series which will be published by Zondervan/Harper Collins.  Leave a comment on what you  think about Amish life and maybe get a free book.  Thanks.


Book Publishing Continues to Change

Cleansed_by_Fire_cover blog 3
Last month, one of my mysteries,
Cleansed by Fire, was released as an audio book.  Oh, it had been released as a paperback book and then later as an e-pub.  But there was still a bit of excitement when it came out in audio.  Maybe it was because the narrator (Jonathan Mumm, an Emmy Award Winning TV journalist) seemed to capture the characters as I had heard them as I was writing the book.  Maybe it was a hope to make additional royalties on the same book.

 But, I think it’s more than that. A writer wants, most of all, to have his or her work read and enjoyed. I really like the book and this gives the book yet another avenue to reach readers, or listeners in this case.

 I had an earlier book of mine turned into an Audio book.  While it sold well, reaching number seven on the publishers list, the process was rather impersonal.  I had no say in who narrated it.  I had no say in what the cover looked like.  I had no say – in anything.

 That was not the approach at Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX.  As the name implies, it is an exchange that brings together the rights holders of books and producers/narrators. It is part of which is a subsidiary of Amazon.  

If you own the rights to a book, ACX will post information about the book and a short selection from the book (something that can be read aloud in less than five minutes). Prospective narrators can then submit their rendition of that short piece, giving you, the rights holder, a chance to hear how they sound reading your work, interpreting your characters.

 Please note, I am saying “rights holder,” not author.  If you have assigned the audio rights to a publisher, ACX cannot deal with you, even though you are the author.

 Having someone narrate a full length novel can be an expensive process.  What do I mean by that?  Of course, it depends on the length of your book.  It might cost $350 to $450 per finished hour of the book.  So, a 75,000 word book could cost between $2800 and $3600 for the narrator.  Keep in mind that the narrator and producer (could be the same person) will spend a number of hours to produce one hour of the finished product.

 ACX offers another path. You can offer to split the royalties with the narrator, 50-50. If ACX pays 40% royalty, then you would get 20% and the narrator would get 20%.  It’s a gamble for you and for the narrator.  Still, it offers the writer (rights holder) an opportunity to broaden her reach with no outlay of money.

 Of course, you may not find a qualified narrator who will go to the work of producing a quality recording (ACX demands high quality) unless you do a good job of selling your book.  This is much the same way you have to entice an editor or agent to work on your book for no guarantee of a return. 

 ACX does offer yet another possibility for you.  You can narrate the book yourself.  ACX does require a high quality finished recording and can return your effort with instructions of how to improve it. Their site even offers advice on how to set up a home recording studio. 

 ACX is trying to help authors get their book into audio. Once the product is released, ACX will make it available through Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.

 The point here is, in today’s changing publishing world, you have more choices than ever before. One of them is a different route to an audio book.  If you have a book on Amazon and you hold the audio rights, it is worth your time to investigate ACX and what they have to offer.  Go to and check out how they work to bring your audio book to the marketplace. I did and I’m glad I did.  Take a look at:  Mumm, the narrator, also produced a great trailer for the book.  You can see it here.

Leave a comment on your thoughts about audio books.  And ask for a code for a free download of the audio book Cleansed by Fire.




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The Six Most Difficult Things for a Novelist to Do


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Searching Her Ancestors Led to Historical Novels


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Our guest today is Cindy Thomson, a writer and an avid genealogy enthusiast. Her love of history and her Scots-Irish heritage have inspired much of her writing, including her new Ellis Island series. Cindy is also the author of Brigid of … Continue reading

Marni Graff Has Done It All


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Best Seller Cynthia Hickey

Thickey - author photooday’s guest is best selling Cynthia Hickey.  She has five books published through Barbour Publishing.  She has several historical romances from Harlequin’s Heartsong Presents.  She has sold over 160,000 copies of her books.

JIM:  Where all did you live during those growing up years?

Cynthia:   I was born in Redondo Beach, CA but moved from there when very long. We alternated our time between Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Germany, finally settling in Arkansas at the age of ten when my father retired from the Army and returned to his home state.

 JIM:  Did any of those places have a particular influence on your writing?

Cynthia:  Arkansas has. Most of my stories take place in the Ozark mountains. It’s the home of my heart.

 JIM:  ve never before known anyone who worked in a pickle factory.

Cynthia:  It was the perfect high school job. Football was so popular with the town residents, that we had Friday nights off work to attend the games during football season. I did a little bit of everything during the two years I worked there: tossed out hamburger pickle slices that had holes in them, worked the relish and spice line, flipped jars, and worked the conveyor belt when the cucumbers arrived from Texas, sometimes with a snake or two mixed in.

 JIM:  You have quite a few inspirational novels and a bunch of general novels.  When you finish a book, how do you decide what kind of a book to write next?

Cynthia:  A literary agent once told me that I have more story ideas than anyone they’ve ever met. I keep a file on my computer of these ideas and when I finish a book, I browse this list. Sometimes I choose something from the list, other times, I’ve got a brand new idea.

 JIM:  You said your first novel was Fudge-Laced Felonies.   How long did it take you to write it and then how long to get it published?

Cynthia:  I wrote this cozy mystery in three months on a dare. When a publisher started a new cozy mystery line, a friend told me I should write for it. I had no idea what a cozy mystery was. This friend dared me to write it, and voila … my first book was born. I rarely turn down a dare.

 JIM: What is your secret?

Cynthia:  Strong discipline, a daily writing goal, a wonderful imagination, and God’s help. My novels include everything from novellas to full length works of 90,000 words.

 JIM:  Wait, now.  You have seven children.  Where do you get the time?

Cynthia:  Luckily for me, all but one of my children are grown and moved out. The sixteen-year-old is busy with school and work. I didn’t start writing seriously until my children were independent.


JIM:  Tell us a little about your latest inspirational novel.

CyHickey- Unconventional Lady covernthia:  An Unconventional Lady is book two in a series based on the historical Harvey Girls. Annie Rollins is adventurous and wants nothing more than to lead tours into the Grand Canyon. Her widowed mother has other ideas and signs Annie up as a Harvey Girl to teach her refinement and a woman’s proper role in the world. What happens next, is a sweet, fun, little romance between Annie and the man her mother hired as the guide.

 JIM:  Tell us a little about your latest general novel.

Cynthia:  My latest general novel is actually a zombie novella. I started writing these because my son and grandchildren wanted to be main characters in my books. I had no idea they would be as popular as they are.

 JIM:  And what comes next?

Cynthia:  My next release, coming out July 1, is the third book in the Harvey Girl series, and I’m starting a new series for Harlequin’s Heartsong line that deals with finding love among natural disasters.

 JIM:  Lastly, where can we buy your books?

Cynthia:  My website at lists all of my published works. Come sit a spell an browse.