Archives for posts with tag: Shipshewana Series

We are in the dog days of summer here in Texas. The temp regularly hovers near or above the 100 mark. It just so happens our a/c went out yesterday. 🙂 But no worries! The repairman is on the way.

During summer days I always wonder why I haven’t scheduled a research trip up north somewhere. The truth is that our yard and all the plants would die if we left, so we’re sort of anchored down for the duration. I suppose I’ll have to “visit” virtually until fall arrives. Today I thought I’d share a few of my favorite photos with you from time spent in cooler locations.


Horse and biggie–Shipshewana, IN

This was taken during my first visit to Shipshewana!



J. Favres–Shipshewana, IN

I was signing books at J. Favres and some of my Facebook friends showed up!


ACFW Conference

Here I am with some lovely ladies. You’ve probably read their books!

I hope that you’re having a wonderful summer!




Phoebe, V's dog

Phoebe, V’s dog

Writing Amish Fiction

Sometimes readers ask me, “Was this story true? Did it actually happen?” You would think that would be a pretty easy question to answer, but not always. Parts of my stories are true. For example, in my Shipshewana Series, the quilt shop that Callie inherits is very much patterned after Lolly’s Fabrics. Have you been there? Once I stepped inside, I knew that it was the perfect setting for a story!

Other things, like the mystery which takes place, are completely fictional. For me, it’s a balance of rooting my stories in our actual lives, but then allowing my characters to have unusual and challenging things happen to them. Of course, the most important part of each of my stories is the focus on God’s grace–something available to each of us.

Leo, Vannetta's cat

Leo, Vannetta’s cat

For my newest mystery, Murder Simply Brewed, I borrowed a lot from my life. Amber drives a little red car (yes, I do), meets someone older than her who becomes a romantic interest (that’s my husband), and she has a hello cat named Leo (I happened to be cleaning out that cabinet and he jumped inside).

What surprises me is when something I’ve written about turns into FACT in my life. When I started writing Falling to Pieces, I knew that I had to give Callie a dog–she was so lost, without friends, and lonely. She needed the unconditional love of a pet, but of course she had no idea how to take care of one! Through the entire Shipshewana series, we see Callie mature in her faith, her relationships, and even her role as a pet-owner. At the end of writing those books, I was sad to say goodbye to everyone. Imagine my surprise when two years later, we received a call from a friend saying the animal shelter had a dog that we needed to go and take a look at. My husband and I had never owned a dog, though we both grew up with them. Our reasoning was that we travelled too much, and it wouldn’t be fair to a dog. One look at Phoebe, and there was no turning back though. We’ve learned to manage our travel and our dog (and cats) at the same time. And in my mind, she is exactly like Callie’s dog. I even put bandanas on her the way Callie did.

I am thankful each day, when I sit down at my computer, that God has allowed me to write the stories of my heart–incorporating facts, fiction, and God’s grace. And I want to thank each of you for taking the time to read them.





shipshe 1-3, rev and webAmish, Quilt and Retreats

There are many things to admire about the Amish way of life. One of the things that I am fascinated by is their quilting skill. Amish ladies seem to raise this to an art level. And to think they do it by hand or with a treadle machine is pretty amazing. I know women have been quilting by hand for many, many years – but in our day and age it’s become a rare thing. I admire the humble way Amish women will show you their quilts, how they pass this skill down to the next generation, and how quilts are used to raise money for benefit auctions.

My Shipshewana Series is set in a quilt shop called Lolly’s in Shipshewana. It only took one trip to Lolly’s and I was hooked. I bought a few kits, thinking that I could borrow my mom’s machine–which I did. But soon I was wanting my own sewing machine. Quilting is like that. It becomes something that you enjoy doing and want to do more of. I found a simple little Brothers Machine at my local Walmart for under $100. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a great machine for a beginner like myself.

photo-17     photo-18   photo-19

This past week I attended my first quilting retreat. What fun! It reminded me of the Amish sew-ins, where women gather to work on a quilt. In this case, we were all working on different projects, but it was a lot of fun to sew in a room with 20 other women. Everyone was a lot of help too. If you had a question or needed a certain color fabric, people pitched right in. The first quilt I made had rather large blocks. Remember, I’m a beginner. I love the bright colors though. The second quilt I made was a rag quilt. I liked this idea because it was very easy to “quilt” each block on my little machine. The  third quilt I made was the hardest, but I like the way it came together. I especially like that there was someone there to teach me how to get those little blocks to line up correctly.

Not everyone enjoys sewing, but whether you do or you don’t there are still many things about the Amish life that we can respect and emulate in our own lives–their focus on family, the way they live their faith out day-to-day, and the strong community bond between families. My prayer is that as you read Amish fiction, you will be blessed and find ways to incorporate these things into your life.



Amish garden

Amish garden

Sandwich Spread and Recycling Your Garden

I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two from visiting so many Amish communities. Of course learning is one thing and putting it into practice is another.

One thing we noticed while visiting farms in northern Indiana was that the family garden was often home to some oddly recycled things. For instance, the large ball of old wire in this picture. Isn’t that funny? It reminds me that my grandmother always said if you put something rusty in the ground, it would provide iron for your plants. Fact or fable? I’m not sure, but I like the way this looks. It seems like a good use of something you might throw away.

This year our entire garden is in something we might have thrown away. When we bought our home 6 years ago, there was an old dog kennel attached to the backyard fence. We JUST now acquired our first dog, and she does not need an outdoor kennel. Plus, we had already turned this old kennel into our vegetable garden.

Vannetta's garden

Vannetta’s garden

It works well for us. We have a lot of deer in the area, and they LIKE new vegetables. There’s no way they can get into this fenced area. Now the only question is whether we can provide enough shade and water to make things grow. It was my husband’s idea to use the old tires for the tomato plants. And the dirt we used came from our compost pile.

All this talk of gardens is making me hungry, so I thought I’d share one of my recipes from An Amish Garden.


Sandwich Spread



6 onions

6 mangoes

6 green tomatoes

6 cucumbers

6 carrots

1 pint vinegar

4 cups sugar

3/4 cup flour

1 cup prepared mustard


Directions:  Grind all of the above and put in salt water overnight. Drain, boil 25 minutes in 1 pt vinegar and 4 c sugar. Add 3/4 c flour and boil 10 minutes longer. Put in jars and seal.


Blessings and have fun with your garden!

Vannetta Chapman


DSCN8728The Amish Way – and Longing for Spring

How are you doing? I know many of you are caught in the “polar vortex.” As if that weren’t difficult enough, some of us get the winter blues. So what’s to be done about it? You might be tempted to do a little retail therapy (shop shop shop) or eating therapy (munch munch munch), but let’s talk about the Amish Way. What are a few ways the Amish handle the confines of winter, and how do they prepare for spring?

  1. Don’t fight the cold. Accept it as the natural rhythm of the seasons. There are things to be done during the winter months, and I’m thankful that the Lord gives us this time of year to take care of business–mending clothes, tidying up closets, cleaning places that are usually neglected. You may be “stuck” inside, but use the time wisely and be grateful for it.
  2. Plan your garden. Most of us don’t have a garden as big as those found on Amish properties, but we can still plan our gardens. Maybe you’re going to grow vegetables on a patio, or maybe you have a window box that you’d like to clean off and add some plants. Whatever your situation, go on-line and find a seed catalogue. Begin planning your garden now. Just looking forward to the days of spring can raise everyone’s mood.
  3. Step outside. There is beauty, even in winter. The Amish certainly don’t button up and stay inside for 4 months. Yes, you probably want to wait until the blizzard has passed. And you don’t want to walk when there’s ice on the sidewalk. But a sunny day will pop up eventually. When it does, put on a hat, scarf, and gloves and head outside. Even a few minutes in the sun can dispel the winter blues.
  4. Encourage someone else. Write a card, pick up the phone, step next door for a visit. Encourage someone around you during this season. It’s easy to feel isolated, but we’re called to care for one another. Reach out to a neighbor, friend, or family member.
  5. Search for verses in the Bible that speak to the seasons. I found this in the book of Psalms, chapter 74, verses 16-17:

The day is yours, and yours also the night;
you established the sun and moon.
It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth;
you made both summer and winter.

One of the things I most admire about the Amish is how they accept the rhythms of life. They don’t seem to struggle against it as I sometimes do. And there are things we can learn from their quiet, peaceful existence. Winter does not last forever. Before we know it, the new fawns will be born, the grass will once against sprout up through the winter leaves, and we will enjoy the blessings of spring. Until that time, I pray that this winter will be a time of grace for you and your loved ones.


Vannetta Chapman

I’m often asked if what I write about is REAL. The answer to that is complicated. My books are fictional, but the places I write Material_Witness_2about are real. I like to visit these communities. I take notes and lots of pictures, and I talk with everyone who has a moment to spare. This helps me when I’m back home, in the center of Texas, writing. I take those notes, look at the pictures, and remember my conversations with folks–Englisch and Amish. From that is born my stories–mysteries and romances, stories of love and friendship and grace.

A good example of this is Material Witness. This is the third book in the Shipshewana Amish Mystery series and it takes place at the beginning of Shipshewana’s Fall Festival. Yes, this is a real festival. Some of you may have even visited Shipshe during this special weekend. You can read about this year’s festival here. I’ve been to Shipshe so many times, that it was easy for me to envision this scene. Here’s a portion of the opening chapter.


Martha rushed to her side, cheeks pink and slightly breathless. “Mamm? Aaron and Matthew are going to watch the chain-saw carvers who are giving an early demonstration in the central tent. May I go with them?”

Deborah placed the bolt of cloth on the pile of items waiting to be reshelved and turned to help the next customer. “Your dat doesn’t need you?”

“No. He took the boys home.”

“Why would he take them home before we were ready to leave?”

“They fell in the mud. All three of them. Mary’s clean, but she wanted to go with them. She was tired.”

Deborah closed her eyes. She tried not to picture what happened all too often, but in a flash an image of her seven-year-old twins and two-and-a-half-year-old son covered in mud came to mind.

“They were watching the musicians practice for tomorrow, and the boys — ”

“Don’t tell me anymore.” Deborah held up a hand. “I’d rather not know the details. He took the large buggy?”

“Ya. I asked to stay and help with Max. Miss Callie said he needs a walk. We thought we’d take him along with us if you agreed we could go to where the booths are.”

Deborah glanced toward Callie, who was winding her way through the crowd in the shop, weaving her way toward Deborah. She was wearing the new dress they’d sewn together. Made of harvest-green fabric, a very popular color this season, it accented her dark hair and light complexion. Callie looked beautiful and more than a little harried. Had the shop ever been this full of people before? Market days were always busy, and the Labor Day sale had been very successful, but this was over the top, as her friend liked to say. Losing three children, a wheelchair, and one rather large dog would probably help.

“All right, but be back before dark.”

“Yes!” Martha bounced away, but Deborah snagged her arm before she was out of reach. Leaning down, she whispered in her ear, “Take special care with Aaron.”

“ ’Course we will.” Martha’s brown eyes turned solemn for a moment.

Deborah almost regretted robbing her daughter of that moment of sheer childhood delight. Then she glanced over at Aaron, realizing again how fragile the seven-year-old was. Nearly eight. He was nearly eight, and they would be celebrating that birthday with prayers of thanksgiving. She released Martha, knowing she’d done the right thing.

The setting is real, and the quilt shop is too. Have you been to Lolly’s Fabrics? It’s a lovely spot, and exactly what I envision when I’m writing about Callie’s shop. Fact, Fiction and Fall Festivals … yeah, a lot of it is real. And in this case, it’s a story of love and friendship and grace.






Me at my desk, with Butters (who helps by purring)

Every week or so someone asks me, “How do you write Amish fiction? Are you Amish?”

I’m not! I might have Amish in my family background. My grandfather was raised in Pennsylvania, and all the correspondence we have from his parents is written in German. I’m working on having that translated.

So how do I write Amish fiction? First of all, I research the place I’m writing about. I go on-line, read other books set in the area, and finally I go to visit! I try to spend a week in an area before writing the first book in a series. While I’m there, I meet with local folks–librarians, historians, store workers, and of course … Amish. It’s such a pleasure to be able to spend time with Amish families. Their hospitality reminds me of southerners in a small town.

What next? I go home and I start writing. Usually I have a PERSON in mind

Kris Stutzman, owner of Lolly's Fabrics. Lolly has been a big help to me.

Kris Stutzman, owner of Lolly’s Fabrics. Lolly has been a big help to me.

when I begin. This person might be based on someone I met, or a compilation of people I met. I always start with the person. My characters have no problem finding trouble, love, romance, and friendships. All of these things include a character’s spiritual journey too. It’s a natural part of their life, just as my journey with Christ is a natural part of my life. If I have questions during this part of my writing, I contact folks I met in the area. They’re always so willing to help, and if they don’t know an answer, then they’ll contact someone who does.

Now this part is strange. When I’m about 1/3 through a story, I skip forward and write the ending. I like endings! I like them to be satisfying and a little exciting. I want my characters to have moved forward. I definitely want that HOPEFUL moment that we all need to read about. When I’m done with the

Me with Kristy, one of my pre-readers

Me with Kristy, one of my pre-readers

ending, I go back and write the middle. This is easier for me now, since I know how the story is going to turn out.

The last few days of writing is when the middle meets the end. This is always fun, as I have to make sure everything jives.

And then I take a break! I send the story off to 3 gals who are my pre-readers. They’re friends that I have had for many years, and although they aren’t writers, they are avid readers.

The story comes back to me 2 weeks later. I read through the edits my friends have made, decide what to keep and what to toss, read through the manuscript one last time myself, and then off it goes! Straight to my editor’s

Me with Donna and Dorsey, my other 2 pre-readers

Me with Donna and Dorsey, my other 2 pre-readers

email box.

I try to take a week off between stories–rest, spend time with my family, and maybe work around the garden more than usual. Then I’m ready to start again!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek behind the curtain of the birth of a book. Thank you to each of you for reading Amish fiction!