Shannon here: Patrick E. Craig shares the inspiration for his latest short story, The Amish Menorah, which is included in the anthology, The Amish Menorah and Other Stories along with an excerpt. Comment or answer the question in this post to enter the drawing for a print copy. Deadline: Sept 5th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Patrick:
Hello everyone, I’m Patrick E. Craig. I love writing for Shannon’s Blog because, believe it or not, I love writing romance. All of my Amish books, starting with A Quilt For Jenna and ending with The Mennonite Queen are stories about epic romances set in desperate situations that only God can fix. Now I have a new story out and it may be the most unusual romance of all. The story is titled The Amish Menorah, and is included in The Amish Menorah and Other Stories, an anthology by the men who write Amish fiction: Willard Carpenter, myself, Jerry Eicher, Thomas Nye, Murray Pura, and Amos Wyse.
When I was researching The Mennonite Queen I discovered an interesting fact. There are no more Amish communities in Europe and have not been since 1937. The last Amish settlement was in the small village of Ixheim, Germany, a town right on the border with France. In 1937 they closed down their church and joined with the local Mennonite church and the Amish ceased to exist as a church in Europe. As I pondered this fact, my mind began to race. I knew there was a story here somewhere. So I dug deeper. What was happening in Germany in 1936 and 1937, and especially on the border between France and Germany? Ah! Hitler was starting the roundup of the Jews and he also marched his army back into the demilitarized area called the Rhineland, right where Ixheim is located.
Bit by bit the story came to me. A young Amish man whose future will determine the fate of his community finds a Jewish girl hiding in his barn. She is trying to escape to France but the border the German Army has locked down the border. Gerd is Amish. He lives under the law of the Ordnung, the rules for living passed down verbally for centuries. He believes that following the Ordnung will give him right standing with God. Emily is Jewish. She believes that keeping the Law of Moses will save her. Both are under the law, but neither knows their Messiah.
Emily has a beautiful golden Hanukkah Menorah, the lampstand the Jews use to celebrate the Miracle of the Lights. When Gerd sees it, the Lord speaks to him for the first time in a long time. “I am the Light, Gerd.” As Gerd looks at Emily he realizes that God has brought her to him for a reason. He agrees to hide her until he can help her get across the border. But as they are together in the next weeks they fall in love. When Gerd goes to ask permission to marry her, he is shunned. The girl who wanted to marry him betrays them to the Nazis.
Do they escape? Do they come out from under the law and find life? Does their love survive the growing darkness all around them? That is the story of The Amish Menorah. Someone who reads this blog will win a signed copy from me. The book is for sale on Amazon. The links are below.
Here’s an excerpt from the story:
It was dusk and Gerd was walking his fields as he always did when he needed to think something through. To the east the twinkling lights of Ixheim sparkled like fireflies among the rills and swales that marked the sloping hills of the Saar valley. Below him spread the Amish farms of Ixheim. From his knoll he could see the lantern light coming on in the windows of the Oesch farm, and on the farm just below, Hans Gingerich led his team of black Friesians toward his ancient barn.
Hans’ blacks are a good team but my Gunnar can out-pull both of them together, Ja!
His steps turned toward his own barn for his nightly check of all his animals. The old door creaked open at his push and he stepped into the dark mustiness of the rambling structure. His great-great-great-grandfather Hirschberg had built the barn when Gerd’s ancestors first came from Switzerland almost two hundred years before to settle in the Rheinland-Pfalz. Huge, hand-adzed beams held up the walls and the loft, and many stalls and storage rooms stretched back into the darkness. He took the lantern from the shelf by the door, struck a match and lit the wick. The soft light spread into the gloom and he could see his cows chewing their cuds in their pen. Back to the left he saw Zwingli the goat’s horns peeking up over the boards of her stall and he heard the tiny bleats of the new kids as they nursed.
When he came to Gunnar’s stall, the great horse was standing still with his ears up. Instead of nuzzling up to Gerd looking for the apple Gerd kept in his pocket he snorted and stamped.
“What is it, Gunnar?”
Gerd looked around then reached up to stroke the animal’s neck, but Gunnar pulled his head up and stared into the darkness at the back of the barn.
Then Gerd heard a small sound, like the rustle of mice in the corn bin. “Mice again, Gunnar, Ja? I thought my traps had rid us of those pests.” Gerd turned and walked to the corn bin. He waited and then jerked open the lid, hoping to catch the little störenfriede at work, but the bin was clear, full to the brim with last fall’s harvest and not one dropping to mark the presence of field mice.
Hmmmm, what was that noise?
Then Gerd heard it again, a movement in the hay, back in the dark.
“Hansli? Hansli, are you hunting for dinner?” But no answering yowl came from his mother’s big tomcat.
He walked toward the back of the barn, lifting the lantern and looking in each stall. Nothing. He was about to turn back when he heard another sound, like the whimper of a small, trapped animal about to meet the hunter. Gerd walked around the last stall and lifted the lantern again. There—a movement in the hay mount, something dark, almost hidden by the pale straw. Gerd stepped forward, holding the lamp high.
“I see you in there, come out.”
There was a sigh of resignation and then the hay stirred and a face looked up at him. Long dark hair, with bits of straw stuck in it, large luminous green eyes, pale lips, a slender neck rising out of a dark sweater.
The girl stood. She drew her shoulders back. Gerd could see she was trying not to be afraid. Her chin lifted, her eyes blazed up as though a fire had been lit behind them. Her thick black sweater clung to her trim form, rolling down over her hips and hiding the top of her black skirt, which reached down to the tops of her walking shoes. She was lovely.
“Come out of there.”
The girl stepped into the light, her movements graceful…
Like a dancer!
“Who are you? What are you doing in my barn?”
“I am Emily. I am hiding.”
“Emily who? And who are you hiding from?”
“Emily Weissbach. I am hiding from the Gestapo.”
“I am a Jew.”
Gerd stared at the girl for a long moment. Christian’s words from the night before came back to him and he felt a strange rush of… fear… premonition?
At last he spoke, almost to himself. “A Jew! But I am forbidden to associate with Jews.”
A wince passed over the girl’s face and then she shrugged. “I know you are. That is why I am hiding.”
Amazon Best-Selling author Patrick E. Craig, is a lifelong writer and musician who left a successful music career to become a pastor in 1986. In 2007 he retired to concentrate on writing and publishing fiction books. In 2011, Patrick signed a three-book deal with Harvest House Publishers to publish his Apple Creek Dreams series. His self-published books, The Amish Heiress, The Amish Princess, and The Mennonite Queen, as well as the reprinted Apple Creek Dreams are now published by Patrick’s imprint, P&J Publishing. In 2017, Harlequin Publishing purchased The Amish Heiress for their Walmart Amish series and released it in April 2019.
Patrick and co-author Murray Pura have just released Far On The Ringing Plains, Book 1 in a nine book series that will take in the whole sweep of men and women at war from WW II to the current Desert Campaigns. They have also collaborated on an anthology of realistic Amish stories written with the four other men who write Amish fiction: Willard Carpenter, Jerry Eicher, Thomas Nye and Amos Wyse. The Amish Menorah and Other Stories was published by Elk Lake Publishing in May of 2020. He has also recently released two books in his YA mystery series, The Adventures of Punkin and Boo, with Elk Lake Publishers. They are The Mystery of Ghost Dancer Ranch and The Lost Coast. Patrick and his wife Judy live in Idaho. They have two daughters and five grandchildren. Learn more & connect:
About the Anthology – The Amish Menorah and Other Stories: Six short stories by the men of Amish fiction to entertain and educate you. You’ll journey with an Amish man and the Jewish woman whose life he saves, agonize with an Amish girl in love with an Englische man, fret with two sisters both in love with the same man, pray with the family whose child is injured in a fall, work with the Amish sheriff in a western town, and laugh at the girl forced to be Amish for the summer.
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Question for Readers: What is your favorite or least favorite period in history?
Come back Aug 28th for Kathy Harris!