Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Amish Firefighter and Laura Hilton

What a great idea for a story!
Check out Laura Hilton's novel, The Amish Firefighter...

Can they overcome their past?

Abigail Stutzman’s life is about to change – whether she wants it to or not. Her mamm is getting remarried to a widower with a large family. Abigail is sent to live with her aenti and onkle in Jamesport because she and her new step-brother had dated and their parents anticipate problems. (Her step-brother is needed on the farm.) Abigail launches a full-scale plan to return home to her family—and Mark—when she finds herself in over her head…and heart. When Abigail and her new “wrong crowd” get into significant trouble, her punishment includes helping a collection of crazy old maids with housekeeping. In the midst of her atonement, Abigail uncovers family secrets that run deep, and realizes she’s not the only one with a pain-filled past. Abigail must decide if she’ll continue her messed-up legacy or embrace a new beginning with the man who’s stolen her heart.

Sam Miller has trouble of his own. When Sam and his close friend Ezra Weiss are in a drug/alcohol-related car accident in Pennsylvania, Ezra is killed. Though Sam survives, he is deeply affected by the tragedy and vows to help other victims. Now a new Christian, Sam is a volunteer firefighter and a college student working to earn his EMT and paramedic license. But Sam has a past. When it comes time to confess his crimes, he finds that the truth may set him free—but it might also land him in some uncomfortably hot water. Will Sam and Abigail be able to find a future together?

But wait! There's so much more to this story! Here's another glimpse...

But now, just a week after her arrival in Jamesport, Missouri, Abigail finds herself at the scene of a barn fire. An intentional barn fire. And all fingers are pointed at her. She's desperate to prove her innocence and protect her reputation, but nobody's making that easy to do. And God certainly doesn't seem willing to help.

Sam Miller is in the process of turning over a new leaf. When local barn fires escalate, everyone suspects arson. And since the Miller family are among the victims, no one is more determined to see the perpetrators brought to justice than Sam.
A Kindled Flame Neither One Could Have Anticipated....
When their paths first cross, at the site of a barn burning, the emotional intensity rivals the warmth of the flames. Soon, they must decide whether this fire is one they should feed or extinguish. And they'll discover that the truth can prove more dangerous than a blazing inferno.

Right? You've got to read this one!

Not only is she an amazing author, she is also an amazing woman. Check out this tiny glimpse of her life...

Q. If you could have dinner with one person from today or history (except Jesus) who would it be? Why? 
A. My mom. I’d like to ask her questions about things I don’t remember and ask her advice about things. I really miss her.
(This answer gave me a lump in my throat. So many people will identify with it.)

Q. What is your favorite Bible verse?
A. I have so many favorite Bible verses, it is hard to pick just one. But for today, the one that is coming to my mind is “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

Q. What do you enjoy most about writing?  
A. Almost everything. I love the creating process, getting to know new friends (in my mind) and learning their story.

Q. What can your readers expect from you next? 
A. The Amish Firefighter is releasing in May and it will be followed by three more Amish books.
(Talk about good news! Laura has some amazing things on the horizon!)

Q. What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful? 
A. Review on your favorite online retail sites, tell your friends, libraries, and book clubs, and others about it. Word of mouth is the best way to support an author.

Just reading her bio should make you want to read her books...

Award winning author, Laura Hilton, her husband, Steve, and their five children make their home in Arkansas. She is a pastor’s wife, a stay-at-home mom and home-schools. Laura is also a breast cancer survivor.

Her publishing credits include three books in the Amish of Seymour series from Whitaker House: Patchwork Dreams, A Harvest of Hearts (winner of the 2012 Clash of the Titles Award in two categories), and Promised to Another. The Amish of Webster County series, Healing Love (finalist for the 2013 Christian Retail Awards). Surrendered Love and Awakened Love followed by her first Christmas novel, A White Christmas in Webster County, as well as the Amish of Jamesport series, The Snow Globe, The Postcard,  and The Birdhouse. Other credits include Swept Away from Abingdon Press’ Quilts of Love series. Laura is contracted for another three book Amish series set in the Jamesport area, with the first book, The Amish Firefighter releasing in May 2016, followed by two more Amish books and a Christmas story releasing in Fall 2016, Spring 2017 and Fall 2017 respectively.

She has self-published a Christmas novella, Christmas Mittens.

Laura is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and a professional book reviewer and blogs for Putting on the New and Seriously Write.

Twitter: @Laura_V_Hilton

Purchase her books:


Friday, April 15, 2016

German, or Something Similar

This was written by my daughter, Kaitie Elizabeth....It's very clever and I thought you might enjoy it. It's also a true story.
Kaitie, surrounded by a group of German tourists

German, or Something Similar

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was so socially awkward that she got herself stuck on a donkey. That girl was me. And that was the day that learned to speak German—at least, I think it was German.

 It all started on a European cruise that my family and I took. On this cruise, we stopped at Santorini, Greece. Santorini is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. With beautiful black beaches, spectacular scenery, ancient cities, and an active volcano, who wouldn’t have fun? But in order to see all these amazing things, you have to get to the top of the mountain village, and to get up there you can choose between cable cars or donkeys. My mom and brother wanted to take the cable cars, but my father and I wanted to have the traditional Greek experience. So, we opted for the donkeys. My mom was a little skeptical, being that she read every single horror story of people being tragically thrown off their donkeys down the mountainside and never seen again. But we assured her that we would be fine. I really should have seen this coming. This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten myself into an awkward situation, you know.

 Anyway, we stepped off the tender and the moment our feet touched the ground my mom says, “Oh look! There’s the donkey guy.” Thinking we were all on the same page, my dad and I rush through the sea of tourists and into the back alley where they were loading people onto the donkeys. 

Meanwhile, my mom has no idea that we'd left. She turned around, and in that split second we were gone! Vanished into thin air. My brother kept saying, “There’s no way that they would go get on the donkey without telling us first.” But we did. And after a while of searching, mother decided that we had gotten on the donkeys without telling her; she rushed to get on the cable cars.

 Back to my side of the story. We had already done our waiting in line, and a big Greek man picked me up and sat me on my donkey and off I went. These donkeys were trained. They knew exactly where to go. And there was no way to control them. They walked along a wide path all the way up the mountain. It was like a Disney ride. You could simply sit there and relax and take in the scenery. It was great. Except for about one minute into the ride, my donkey stopped walking. I sat there nervously trying to think of a solution. Nothing was coming to mind. So I just sat there awkwardly, rocking back and forth, sort of nudging my donkey with my feet, whispering threatening things into its ears, and petting it. Nothing. That stubborn donkey was not moving. Meanwhile, tons of other donkey riders passed by. Including my dad. They couldn’t help it. Like I said, the donkeys knew where to go. And they couldn’t be controlled. So, my dad was now way ahead of me, with no hope for return.

I’ve been sitting there for about five minutes now, and none of the workers noticed me. They were too busy lifting people up onto their donkeys. I continued to sit there mentally kicking myself. Then a group of about fifteen German tourists came along, and they were screaming something in German at the very top of their lungs, and their donkeys were moving. And I mean moving. Fast! So, I leaned down and quietly repeated whatever they were saying to my donkey. Nothing happened. I then nervously repeated it again, this time, a little louder. Still nothing. I was beginning to lose my patience. I then sat up, held on tight, and yelled that unknown German phrase as loud as I possibly could. And ZOOM!

My donkey started moving like it never had before, and it smashed into every single wall that stood next to us. And every pair of eyes in that area turned and stared at us, zipping up the mountain like mad men. Soon we ended up with the group of fifteen Germans, a woman wailing hysterically, and some person in the back who kept yelling, “HAW!” (and every time he would do that my donkey would ram as hard as he could straight into the wall that stood between me and a plunge down the mountainside). So, whenever my donkey got to close to the edge, I would have to scream in German again to get him to go the right direction. We were quite a sight, and this continued all the way up.

When I got to the top, a similar-looking Greek man picked me up off my donkey and sat me back down on the ground. I was relieved to be done. I said goodbye to my strange little group of fellow donkey riders and walked away to find my dad, who got dropped off at a completely different spot than me. Even after I found him, my troubles weren’t over. My father and I then spent an hour and a half searching all of Santorini for the cable cars. And my mom and brother did the same, only they were searching for the donkeys. After what seemed like ages, we all found each other and laughed about the whole ordeal.

So, next time that your mother says, “Hey, there’s the donkey man.” Maybe just take the cable cars instead.

The End

Saturday, March 26, 2016

16 Hours

I wrote a play and submitted it to American Lab Theatre and they were excited and immediately wanted to produce it.

And then a funny thing happened while I was at work….

Let me start from the beginning; what a proper place to start. In 1991, I was out adventuring with a handful of my fellow seminary students in South America. We stumbled across a Jewish settlement in the mountains near Cordoba, Argentina. The little town looked like a series of gingerbread houses and coo coo clocks. I learned that the community was full of Jewish refugees who fled Europe during the War and resettled in Argentina, which is why the settlement so strongly resembled Germany.

One particular thing deeply impacted me while I was touring the town square. There was a large tree with a rope hanging from its limbs. I asked them when they were going to repair the tire swing so the kids could have a place to play. The man shook his finger and said, “Not a toy. This was where they hung the Nazi who was hiding amongst us.” Several years before we got there, the villagers discovered that a former Nazi was hiding in their town, and they collected him and summarily hung him from that very tree. They left the rope as a reminder. And boy, do I remember.

Many years later, I wrote a play about a Holocaust survivor who lost his wife and children to the Nazis; a man who was determined to find the men responsible for their deaths and kill them. He tracks them down at a bank and takes the entire group hostage, fully intending on publically executing these murderers as an act of justice. Only, nothing goes according to plan. Rose and Mr. Cato, along with the bank president, Miss Kincaid, don’t cooperate with him.

The catalyst for change is Rose. Her presence and her story so profoundly impact the gunman, that he is conflicted to the point of hesitation.

And now I must introduce Jesus Quintero, the Director.

Jesus is a man of vision, and his mind works like a van Gogh painting. When I presented him the script, he saw an opportunity to do something significant. He stuffed the entire story into a cocoon and allowed the chrysalis process to transform that sleepy caterpillar into a work of art. What emerged was an incredible interpretation of my story, but with amazing theatrical elements that are almost impossible to describe.

For many months, I attended every rehearsal and offered rewrites and updates to the script, and then it happened. My work got in the way, and I was no longer able to attend the sessions. I could sense that something was going on with the play. Jesus was slyly leaving me hints that he was now interpreting the story. Now, I must say, he asked me for permission to take liberties with the script. I’m not fragile, and I immediately granted him discretion to take the story in any direction he chose.  And in the few weeks where I missed rehearsals, he took my script and “van Goghed” it. While I was disappointed that I was not able to participate, I think my absence was necessary for his creativity to be unfettered.

Keely Gray is Death
The first thing I noticed, he added a new character to the script: Death.

I know, right? DEATH! But it was brilliant! And his new character was smug and manipulative. And enchanting. And tempting. And I loved it.

Another thing to note is that Jesus chose to be quite unconventional in another regard: he wanted to direct the play from the stage while it was happening. It sounds like chaos, and in a way it is, but it’s controlled chaos. And it works.

So, Jesus chose to make the play a very intimate experience, and deliberately selected a venue where they could interact with the audience and actually make them unwitting participants (I’ll explain that in a few minutes…). Rather than working from an elevated stage, he found Monarch Mountain Coffee and transformed that small cafĂ© into an interactive theatre. The audience sits at their tables, and the play is performed all around them, from one end of the room to the other, and it goes back and forth for the entire performance. There is no perfect place to sit. At some point, your chair will be right in the middle of the action, and it happens without warning.

So, having Death as a character creates an unusual macabre atmosphere. But it’s not depressing. Rather, it’s quite intriguing. And I really wish I’d thought of it myself. How can you tell a story about the Holocaust without death? And once the audience figures out that the characters are dancing with Death, then the play begins to make sense. And the flashback sequences bring order from chaos. And the soliloquies from the characters are so powerful that you will be thinking about them long after the play ends. Perhaps for the rest of your life.

Okay, remember the audience participation? Well… Jesus and I worked out an idea where the play would have two possible endings: mercy or justice. Should the gunman execute the murderous Nazi, or should he grant mercy and allow him to live? Well, you, Mr. Audience Member, get to decide just that. You get to cast a vote and see whatever ending receives the popular vote. I know, right? And as soon as you see the ending you voted for, you want to see the alternate, but that won’t happen. You’ll be left wondering.

So, after I saw the performance and experienced the transformation of my story for the first time, many, many people approached me and asked if this was my original vision. Of course, I have to say, “no”. It’s not at all what I envisioned when I wrote it. But, it’s exactly the same story. And it’s told through dance, song, dialog, and acting. And it’s uncomfortable. There are some very painful moments that I won’t discuss. You have to experience it. Having said that, this story is a celebration of life, and is about the sanctity of life. And I’m so proud to be part of it. I wish I could take full credit, but I wouldn’t dare. Jesus and I worked together to make something that neither of us could do on our own. And from chaos comes art.

Find out more about American Lab Theatre at: 
Keely Gray, Cory Repass, Jeremiah Guidos, Haley Nicholson, and Mason Jones are our cast of characters.
Alex Cope and Savannah Stierle work behind the scenes